Edge of Apocalypse: pages 119-123 (Chapter Twenty-Three)
Since John Gallagher’s supposed to be a detective, this inspired my use of a slang term for such.
One thing you will notice is that Craig Parshall, unlike Jerry Jenkins, seems to realize you need to have people doing the jobs you’ve assigned their characters. It is well-established that Buck Williams does very little actual reporting for all that he’s the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time (GIRAT). But Parshall actually writes Gallagher doing the job of detecting where a fugitive might be.
Let’s follow along as he meets with a CIA man.
“‘I have clearance to share this with you.’
‘Of course. You think I’m lying?’
FBI Special Agent John Gallagher wasn’t taking any chances. So he asked again. ‘You sure?’”
Considering that strictly speaking, the FBI and CIA are supposed to stay out of each other’s respective realms of jurisdiction it’s a wise idea to make sure all one’s ducks are in a row.
The next dialog snippet is actually not bad, though it’s tinged with the usual macho scorn for people who’re perceived as hidebound and straightlaced:
“‘Come on, John. What’s going on?’
The look in Gallagher’s eye clearly indicated that he wasn’t kidding. CIA Intelligence Officer Ken Leary decided to probe a bit deeper. ‘Why so timid, John? It’s not like you. Where’s the bull-in-a-china-shop John Gallagher we all know and love?’
‘Yeah, well, my supervisor’s been breathing down my neck lately.’
‘You mean cardboard-cutout Miles Zadernack.’
‘Right. The guy who goes to bed every night wearing a starched white shirt and tie.’”
After discussing Gallagher’s “interrogation techniques”, there’s a snarky reference to the ZOMG the silly liberals as Leary jokes “Liberals are running the show now…no more waterboarding the suspects.” I remind people that Rush Limbaugh has made it acceptable to joke about torture, and make ridiculously bombastic claims about its usefulness. The above quote is an obvious dog whistle to a conservative readership. I might note that Christopher Hitchens underwent a pretty close equivalent to the full shot, and I’ll just leave it to you to read how fast it was over.
Now, I like to think Gallagher’s less crude than Leary, but LaHaye and Parshall have other ideas:
“That provoked a deep laugh from Gallagher. Leary was one of the guys in the intelligence community who shared Gallagher’s cynical dark sense of humor. Somehow, laughter always helped to buffer some of the horrendous stuff they had to deal with on a regular basis. Occasionally, Gallagher would trek over to CIA headquarters in the New York Agency station to drop in on Leary. Gallagher exercised oversight on multiple investigations. But he also maintained a short list of a few special terrorism subjects that were his own primary targets. Some of whom he’d been tracking for years.”
I’m not sure how much of the above is “standard” FBI agent procedure, i.e. how many FBI agents do personally keep case files and request international intelligence from the CIA. Assuming that it is, Gallagher’s a pretty focussed kind of guy. I won’t say “mission-specific” though.
Leary cuts to the chase and shows Gallagher the information they’ve met up to exchange:
Top Secret Clearance Required
Bucharest, Romania: A body found in room 417 at the Athenee Palace Hotel in Bucharest has been identified as Dr. Yergi Banica. The Romanian professor of international studies at the University of Craiova has been a person of interest to the Agency. The cause of death was strangulation. Dr. Banica is reputed to have associated with persons also of interest to the Agency, including persons making inquiries into international weapons systems and designs. Banica was not an Agency asset.
So we learn that the CIA was keeping tabs on this guy. How much do you wanna bet it was because Banica flapped his gums a little too much at one of those shindigs with his girlfriend’s friends?
And because they were keeping tabs on him, they know that his movements have been a little funny lately:
“[Leary said,] ‘We’ve been tracking Dr. Banica’s comings and goings. For the most part, just the usual stuff. Except there was one recent trip that was a bit odd. It seems our friend traveled from Bucharest to Glasgow. And from there to Iceland for a short stopover in Reykjavik. Then onto Quebec.’”
And sure as shootin’, the autopsy estimated time of death doesn’t agree with those flight times:
“‘Okay, what am I missing?’ Gallagher wondered. Had Leary called him across town just to go over the murder of a enemy informant?
We’ve got a reliable autopsy protocol on Banica along with an estimated time of death. The ETD is important.’
‘Well, you know the old saying…dead men don’t fly,’ Leary quipped with a twisted smirk. ‘At least not in first class.’
‘You tracked his passport?’ the FBI agent asked.
‘According to immigration, customs, and the airlines, Dr. Yergi Banica was in the air sipping white wine and eating microwaved chicken fourteen hours after he was strangled to death.’”
… I might add, being strangled to death after falling for the oldest trick in the book and turning his back on a guy he already had bad premonitions about.
Now we’re in for some more political button-pushing about how those weak-assed liberals are making the work of the RTPs soooooo haaaaaaaaaaaaaaard:
“‘Why wasn’t Banica’s passport on a watch list?’
Leary gave an airy laugh, the kind you let out when something really isn’t funny. ‘That’s a long, complex, and very sad story. Needless to say, travel watch-list procedures are not foolproof. And just because the CIA thinks someone is suspicious doesn’t guarantee that Homeland Security is going to agree. There are some rather intricate policy judgments involved.’
Gallagher threw Leary a dubious look. So the CIA official made it simpler. ‘To put it bluntly, the Corland administration has dumped a truckload of politics on top of the intelligence and counterterrorism business.’”
I could just roll my eyes at this kind of crap. Maybe I’ll make it a standard disclaimer that I am not responsible for peoples’ optic nerves feeling the strain of repeated eye-rolling at some of the stuff in this book.
After this we segue into the CIA-knows-stuff-but-is-not-officially-allowed-to-say aspect of the meeting. It’s supposed to be kind of cool and cloak and dagger but it just comes off a little silly after Leary’s practically spilled all the beans already:
“‘I get the picture,’ Gallagher remarked. ‘So, we’ve got someone, we don’t know who, using Dr. Banica’s passport–after he’s been murdered. Your bulletin says the professor may have been consorting with some guys with an unhealthy interest in weapons. Okay, so maybe one of them was using his passport. Have anything else?’
‘I can only give you this other thing on a verbal, no documents,’ Leary indicated. ‘This is Agency-only stuff, John. I’m treading on thin ice talking to you. So we’re going to have to play a little Q&A. Now, I can’t give you the answers. But nothing’s stopping me from asking you the right questions.’
[ ... ]
[Leary said,] ‘Here we go. How many special terror subjects do you still have on your personal roster over there at the Bureau?’
[ ... ]
Gallagher looked at Leary. Leary looked back and smiled. Then Gallagher started to shake his head. He had to know.
‘You mean Atta Zimler? Assassin-for-hire. Subcontract killer for Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Chechen rebels. Occasionally used by the old KGB, then flipped on a contract and turned around and killed some of them too. Did some murder projects for warring factions in Cyprus. Also skilled in intelligence theft, cyber crime, false identity. That Atta Zimler? Mother was Algerian, father was Austrian. Never caught. Never even close to being caught.’
‘Here’s what we know. According to a single source of ours, one of Yergi Banica’s contacts may have been Atta Zimler.’”
Gallagher then gets told there was a confirm on the passport’s entry into the United States, and dun-dun-DUUUUUUUUUUUUN.
So with that, Gallagher the Gumshoe’s going to be on the trail of this guy. Will he catch Zimler? Who knows…