Bigot List: A Reckoning Cover

Part One

Chapter One

I’m losing them, he thinks. Always that way when we get to the Hanseatic League. Can almost see the scales descending as their eyes gloss over, the thousand-yard stare, a yawn here and there. Wannabe historians and they get bored with the Hanseatic League. Same every semester.

And as with every semester, he pulls a modern analogy out of his hat.

“Think of it as a precursor to the European Union,” Jake says. “Or NATO, even.”

But maybe it’s not the Hanseatic League that’s putting them to sleep, Jake begins to think, noticing that the clutch of students is chattering now, passing around a gigantic iPhone. Redfern in the front gets the phone next and his eyes go wide.

“Mr. Redfern, may I ask what the hell is going on?” His professor tone. “This is class, not a time for social media.”

Appositely named Redfern, red-headed and freckle-faced, has the good grace to blush.

“Sorry, Professor Jacobs. Maybe you should see this.”

“The only thing I would like to see from this seminar is concentration on the subject at hand.”

Abrasive young Michaels, seated behind Redfern, is, as usual, less diplomatic.

“Says on this site you were a spook, Professor Jacobs. That true?”

Jake feels a clutch in his chest. He swallows hard, trying to cover his confusion.

“Do not believe everything you read online, Mr. Michaels. A good historian is also a careful analyzer of sources.”

He tries for nonchalance; not sure it comes off that way.

“Really looks like your picture here,” Michaels says. “Younger for sure, but if not, you’ve got a doppelganger.”

“Let’s return to the Hanseatic League, ladies and gentlemen.”

He struggles through the rest of the seminar and piles on extra reading on Baltic maritime trade in the Middle Ages as a sort of punishment. He’s managed to rein in his curiosity to see what site would be running a picture of him.

But really, what the hell does it matter? he asks himself as he heads out of Social Sciences to his aged Mercedes. Who cares if I was an agent or not? Ancient history. He never brings it up; his job is education now. All that world of CIA is in back of him. Out of the agency for more than twenty years.

Reaching the faculty parking, he unlocks the car door, tosses his backpack filled with papers to grade onto the passenger side, slides onto the cold leather of the seat, inserts the key, and teases the car to life.

Rain starts halfway home, and he turns on the wipers. The left one allows a wide streak of moisture as it sweeps back and forth. He’s been meaning to change it for months.

By the time he gets to his condo, the rain—driven by a blustery wind—is coming down sideways.

And me with no raincoat. Sunny when he left this afternoon.

Getting out of the car and running for his door, he wonders for the hundredth time, Why the hell did I ever come to this evergreen, ever-wet freaking state?

And for the hundredth time he reminds himself: Because of my daughter. Because of Anne.

All grown up now and on her own, working in Silicon Valley. And me still here in Portland like a beached whale.

Shut it, Jacobs, he tells himself, unlocking the front door and bursting into the tiled entry, dripping water.

First thing he sees is the red light blinking on his phone. He doesn’t bother anymore with a cell. Jake Jacobs, landliner. Not a Luddite, just wants to control his own time.

He ignores the blinking light, sets down his briefcase, shakes out his tweed jacket, and heads for the drinks cupboard. An inch of Islay to allay the wet.

One inch leads to a second as he settles in the wingback and turns on the local classical station. Bach. He’s in the mood for Mozart, Mahler even. But he’s too lazy to look for a CD. Anne keeps telling him he needs to subscribe to Spotify.

He finishes his drink, does his nightly fifty pull-ups on the steel bar he bolted across the top of the door jamb to the closet, puffs his way through fifty push-ups and fifty sit-ups and is on the way to bed. He again notices the red light on the phone. Totally forgot about it. Could be Anne, he thinks, and presses the playback.

“Well fuck all, old boy. I thought I might get a bit of chin wag with you personally, but…”

Jake hits the playback button again, stopping it. Christ. He’d recognize that tony voice anywhere. Armitage. Bastard Lawrence Armitage from Directorate of Operations. What the hell does he want after all these years?

And then he remembers the seminar tonight. “You were a spook?”

He lets the message run again.

“… I guess I’ll just have to satisfy myself with a recording. And what the hell, Jacobs? You too cheap to buy a cell? Or just stuck in the past? The grand historian. But I haven’t called to berate you. Much too easy, that. Perhaps you are not so stuck in the past that you don’t own one of those tube thingies that connect you to the great wide world. If so, I highly suggest a visit to a site called Reckoning. Warm up the old tubes and take a gander. Looks like chickens may be coming home to roost. By the by, you’ll want to know that Peter Driscoll met with a tragic accident earlier today. Seems he drowned in his pool in Florida. Peter was a hell of a swimmer. Took early retirement to devote himself to triathlon. A little back-watching might be in order, but I leave that to you, old boy.”

Armitage and his stupid, mincing locutions. Old boy. Screw you.

But the name Peter Driscoll does send a worm of unease in his guts. And this makes him want to check out Reckoning.

In fact, Jake does own a computer, a flashy little Apple laptop that Anne gifted him last birthday. He told her he wasn’t celebrating them anymore—you get over fifty and it’s just not fucking funny anymore. But, the laptop.

He keeps it in the spare bedroom he’s converted into an office, on the desk amid a sprawl of files, hand-written notes, and books he’s researching for a work on what he calls ‘The Fourth Mole.’ Espionage activities not attributable to the three big moles of the 1980s: Edward Lee Howard and Aldrich Ames of the CIA, and Robert Hanssen of the FBI. The project started as a funky sort of hobby, but now consumes him so that he has trained himself not only in the grinding work of research, but also in the layered depths of the cyber world. Still refuses to let on to his tech-savvy daughter that he is quite comfortable in her world—with limitations.

The more he delves into the hits the CIA took in the 1980s, the more it seems obvious to him that there had to be a fourth mole in the very guts of the U.S. intelligence community. Someone else beyond that infamous trio of Howard, Ames, and Hanssen passing on inside information to the KGB and GRU. Even to the KGB successors, the FSB and SVR. Someone at the very heart of U.S. intelligence, and someone perhaps still active.

But now he fires up the laptop and keys in Reckoning and up pops a very cluttered website with a row of five photos made to look like most-wanted mugshots at the post office. His is third from the left, after Lawrence Armitage and his old colleague from Vienna days, Will “Sandy” Sanderson. The fourth picture is of Yuri Vosenko, former station chief for the Sovs in Vienna.

Jake takes a deep breath. He doesn’t like where this is going.

The fifth picture is of Peter Driscoll. Recently deceased.

Under each of the photos is the CIA title and in Vosenko’s case, his title as KGB Rezident.

The tag line to the photos reads: “Remember Vienna 1988? Justice is coming. A Reckoning is at hand. I spy you. You are all on my personal Bigot list.”

As Jake finishes reading it, a thick, black X suddenly appears over Driscoll’s face.

He slams the laptop shut, his heart racing, his fingers drumming hollowly on the desk.

Remember Vienna 1988? Fuck all, he’d spent the better part of three decades trying to forget it. A piss poor revenge op at the tail end of the Cold War.

Yeah, Jake thinks. I remember Vienna 1988…

There were three of them in the parked Mercedes, waiting for the meet. Waiting in the dark night. Reni was in the back seat and held out a filter-tipped Dames to be lit. Jake, sitting in the front passenger seat, searched in the dark for the dash lighter, finally found and pulled it out, then held it over the back of his seat. She nudged the cigarette into the glowing socket and sucked deeply. An orange glow lit the car interior momentarily.

“Keep it low,” Sanderson, the driver, said. His usually gruff voice was nasal and muffled from a cold. Sandy did not take his eyes off the windshield as he spoke, as if he were still driving instead of parked at curbside.

Jake shrugged at Reni to show how comical he thought Sanderson’s precautions were; to put her at ease. It didn’t work. She took one puff, then crushed the cigarette in the ashtray on the car door, raking fingers through her loose blond hair.

“You sure you want us to go through with this, Jake?”

I’m not sure of anything anymore, he thought, replacing the lighter. Not my wife, not my job, for sure not this snatch.

“Go through with what?” He looked her square in her blue eyes, turning half way round in his front seat to do so.

“Jake.” Her voice went down at the end, reprovingly, but she smiled at him. He wished she wouldn’t.

“You take me for the silly little farm girl from Styria still? How long have I worked for you? I know when you plan something big. You always wear your Loden coat.”

“It’s cold.” And the stupid sods in Washington have no idea of the field. They just order a snatch; a snatch it is. Make up for Iran-Contra; the Marine guard in Moscow compromised by Soviet swallows; the Walker spy ring; Howard hot-footing it to Moscow, one step ahead of the F.B.I.; Pollard spying for the Israelis. Fucking defectors all over the map and a goodly number of the Agency’s Soviet moles rolled up, victims of the 9mm solution.

So, the CIA needs a win.

“We’ve been taking hits, my friend,” Armitage from the Directorate of Operations had told him on his fact-finding tour last week. “The President doesn’t like it. Casey doesn’t like it. They want to hit back for a change.”

And so, this snatch. So, this stupid, got-you-last game.

He bundled deeper into the folds of the Loden coat.

“Such a silly coat, Jake. You look like a bookkeeper in it.”

“You’re going soft on this one, Reni.” He turned his attention to the side window now, absently gazing at the back-lit silhouette of the Votivkirche. It shimmered in the darkness, a beautiful, eerie Gothic structure. He’d been bitterly disappointed to learn it was a fake: built late nineteenth century in thanks for a failed assassination attempt on Emperor Franz Joseph. Reni had told him that.

Reni, the debunker of myths.

“He is sweet, Jake. A big Russian bear. I think he loves me. He says he does. But he knows nothing you cannot read in Pravda. A functionary, Jake. Just like you.”

“I don’t know what the hell you think is going on, Reni. It’s a meet, just like always. A simple meet.”

“With back-up?”

Shit, he thought. So, she’s noticed. He’d wanted to keep her in the dark; keep it natural. He said nothing.

The silence was broken by the jangling of a tram bell on the street nearby. Number 38 from Grinzing.

It’ll be the last one of the night, he thought. Midnight soon. No pedestrians, no witnesses. All the good Viennese tucked under eiderdown for the night. He kept staring at the silhouette of the church.

“It’s stupid, Jake. Let me tell you that. Cowboys and Indians. There’s no need. The Cold War is over.”

“Tell that to Moscow.” But he knew she was right. The Soviets were broke. We’d outspent them. Going bankrupt ourselves in the process. Better I’m at home repairing the damage with the wife and baby Anne. But they want results in Washington. Armitage with his English suits and transatlantic accent made that painfully clear. Results. Something to get the media off our backs. Got you last. And so, he was using Reni just like they told him to. The dutiful deputy station chief.

Reni sighed heavily. Jake could hear the zipper close on her down ski jacket.

“So, I guess it’s time to go. I shouldn’t make him wait in the cold.”

He kept his back to her as she opened the door and got out. A blast of night air made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.

“He is sweet, Jake,” she said before closing the door. “And this is not necessary.”

“Everything’s going to be all right,” he said, looking at a chipped thumb nail now. “You just get to the church before he does a scamper.”

She closed the door lightly and he watched as she crossed Roosevelt Park toward the church, so small and fragile-looking in jacket and jeans.

“Who’ve we got in the bushes?”

Sanderson wiped a drop from the end of his nose. “New boy, Driscoll. Peter Driscoll. Seems okay. But there’s not going to be any trouble. No way Vosenko’s bringing along back-up to meet his lover.”

There was an edge to Sanderson’s voice; a tiny reprimand.

“What is it, Sandy?”

Sanderson’s pudgy hands gripped the wheel. “Nothing.”

“Bullshit. Something’s stuck in your gizzard.”

“We having sensitivity training now, Jake?”

“Fuck you.”

“Okay. It’s this snatch. Reni’s right. Not necessary.”

“Vosenko’s their head of goddamn station.” Say it often enough and you’ll convince yourself.

“So, great. He can tell us where the toilets are in the Lubyanka. Big deal.” Sanderson fished out a crumpled handkerchief from his coat pocket and blew his nose. “We start lifting the opposition and we’ll have turf wars like you’ve never seen.”

“He’s their expert on the Warsaw Pact.”

“Oh, sorry. Where the toilets are in Poland. We want information on troop movements, we look at the satellite photos. Humint’s a thing of the past, for Christ sake. You know it and I know it. This is a frigging dinosaur action. And the meteors are falling, Jake. Bad time for dinosaurs.”

Which was essentially what Jake himself had told Armitage last week, with no results.

“You trying to tell me my job?”

Sanderson gripped the steering wheel harder, the muscles in his jaw working.

“It’s a simple snatch,” Jake said again without conviction. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you two.”

“Okay.” Sanderson threw his hands off the wheel as if giving up. “I’ll see what the hell’s going on.”

He scooted out of the car and into the darkness. Jake’s stomach was acting up again, bile burn in the throat. Dug around in the glove compartment for his antacids. No luck. Always this way on an op. Sanderson once told him some guys are just not made for ops. Desk jockeys, he called them.

Truth was, at this moment in time, Jake would much rather have been riding his desk chair.

It took a moment for Jake to register the first cracking sound. Then it sank in. Gunfire. Coming from the church. He dug his gun out of the glove compartment and moved out of the car, avoiding the shrubbery-lined paths of the tiny park in front of the church. Instead, he raced around the perimeter of the park to his right. The back-up was to his left; Sanderson in the middle. He wanted no crossing fields of fire. The coat wrapped around his legs as he ran; his heels clacked on the sidewalk.

Fly, damnit. Move.

A simple snatch. What the hell’s gone wrong?

A second round of shots made him race even faster. His heart pounding in his chest, his mouth was dry, and the gun was dead weight in his hand. He rounded the corner of the park and saw two men standing at the bottom of the wide arc of steps to the church, their shoulders slumped. Jake dropped to one knee, holding the pistol in a triangle from his body. One of the men on the steps turned around. It was Sanderson. He shook his head at Jake.

As he approached, he saw her hand dangling over the bottom step. A bad movie; not real. She’s having me on. Teasing like she always does.

Got you last.

But when he reached the steps, he could see this was no game. Blood pooled beneath her head, or what was left of it. He thought he would be sick. Bile still burned in his throat.

Lights went on in apartments over the park. A shade was pulled up in a cupola window just next to the church. A dog barked in the distance. The looping two-tone siren of the Viennese police sounded in the night.

Sanderson tugged at his arm. “We got to get out of here, Jake.”

He wanted to grab her, to shake her awake. “We can’t leave her like this.”

“She’s dead, Jake. Get it? We don’t want to be found here.”

He was only vaguely aware of the other man, Driscoll, the backup from the bushes, never looking at him until he suddenly moved off, tall and lithe-moving, blending into the darkness.

His mind swirled. What the hell went wrong?

Reni looked so cold on the steps that Jake took off his Loden coat and floated it over her body. Her broken body. Reni the debunker of myths.

The sirens grew louder.

“Come on, Jake. Move.”

He let himself be pulled away, looking back once. So small under the coat. Like she was not there at all.

Chapter 2

He scheduled office hours in his classroom. Redfern arrives early. He’s the sort of serious student to actually use the office hour.

But it’s not the Hanseatic League that’s on his mind today.

He looks sheepish as he takes a seat at Jake’s desk. “What’s a Bigot list, Professor Jacobs? Is it like racism?”

Jake cups his chin in his palm. He’s been trying unsuccessfully most of the day to forget about the stupid website. Somebody’s pulling a prank. Trolling.

“Not quite sure what you are referring to, Mr. Redfern.”

“It was on that site. Reckoning. Said you were on somebody’s Bigot list.”

“Are we talking about the material you wanted to show me last night?”

Redfern nods, eyes wide.

“And why are you so interested, Mr. Redfern?”

“It sounded like a threat. And now I see there’s an X over one of the faces. Wasn’t there last night.”

“It’s the internet, Redfern. People love to play games.”

Redfern chews on the side of his mouth as he considers this. Then, “But what is a Bigot list?”

“That’s something I’m sure you’ll cover next semester with Donaldson in modern history. It’s from World War Two. Officers gathered in Gibraltar to plan for the invasion of North Africa. Their orders were stamped TO GIB, shorthand for Gibraltar. Later, when those same officers were sent back to Gibraltar to plan for the invasion of Normandy, their orders were simply stamped backwards from the first time, BIG OT.”

Redfern scratches his head. “Yeah, so…”

Jake sighs. He can feel himself being sucked back into the secret world and does not like it.

“So Bigot list became the informal name for all the persons involved in some intelligence operation vetted to see secret material. It’s got nothing to do with prejudice.”

Well, he thinks. Extreme prejudice, maybe. Black humor. Not helpful.

Redfern nods. “But it doesn’t sound like that online. More like a hitlist. That means you really were a spy, then. So, what happened in Vienna in 1988?”

Michaels and two others come into the classroom. Saved by the bell.

“Trolls, Redfern. Somebody’s having fun at other people’s expense. I am a humble historian.”

Horseshit, Jake thinks, sitting in the wingchair in his condo after class, sipping on a single malt.

Somebody’s read bloody Vosenko, the former Sov Rezident’s tell-all memoir from twenty years ago. Some punk hacker out for a lark read it, got some inside information, and is trying to spin us.

Except that scenario can’t be.

Vosenko knew the Vienna opposite side, even knew of Armitage. Tradecraft. And he used those names in his memoir.

But the new boy on the snatch, Driscoll? No way Vosenko could have known about him. And Driscoll was spirited out of Vienna next day. Fucking trigger happy amateur. Reni’s death was put down to Driscoll, though the kid denied it. Said he was returning fire after initial shots.

But no mention of Driscoll in Vosenko’s tell-all.

So how does this troll know about Driscoll?

Maybe internal gossip. Maybe the troll is one of ours. Was one of ours. Pissed off for some reason and so set this little game. Most likely he got the site up and running after Driscoll’s death, to make it look like one of the Bigot list had been dealt with. There was no posting date on the page. More games, or just forgetful?

Warped fucking morbid bastard.

Jake takes another sip. And another.

He couldn’t sleep for shit, tossing and turning all night, trying to figure out what the hell is really going on. Needs to see if in fact that Reckoning site went online after or before Driscoll’s death. But first he wants to reach out to Sanderson, the guy he was closest to in the Vienna days.

They’ve stayed in intermittent contact over the years. Jake has a phone number for him somewhere. This morning he spends an hour digging through files and cluttered drawers until he finally finds the yellow Post-it. A number in Illinois. Sanderson was living outside of Chicago last time they’d talked.

Jake stares at the ten-digit number for several moments before finally lifting the receiver.

He punches in the numbers, the phone rings on the other end. And rings and rings. No answering machine for Sandy, obviously. He lets it ring for several more seconds and then sets the receiver down. Well, at least it’s still in service, he thinks.

“Dad! What a pleasant surprise.”

But there’s an edge to the voice on the other end of the line that lets him know Anne is none too pleased.

“Right, I know you’re at work, so I’ll make this short. I need you to do a little researching for me. Find out who runs a certain website.”

“I thought you were the one with the spook skills.”

“Very funny. But those kinds of skills were refined only after I left the Agency. Got time to do your old dad a favor?”

“Don’t be a silly bugger. Sure. Maybe later in the day when things slow down around here. We’re releasing the new watch today.”

“That’s great, love. Sorry to bother you. Just let me get you the url.”

He keys in Reckoning on his laptop.

“Just email it to me, Dad.”

The site pops up. His breath catches and he makes an audible gasp.

“Dad? You alright?”

Heart racing, instant dry mouth. Son of a bitch. There’s a black X over Sandy’s face now.

“Yeah, yeah. Fine. I’ll get that url to you. Thanks.”

He hangs up before Anne can ask more questions.

His nervous fingers keep hitting the wrong keys and it takes him more than ten minutes of googling ‘Will Sanderson Illinois’ to come up with the story in the Naperville Daily Herald from two days ago. Same story was picked up in the Chicago Tribune yesterday.

The badly disfigured body of a 65-year-old man was discovered in his Naperville home after neighbors called the local utility company complaining of a gas leak. Attempting to inspect the premises at 635 Larch Street, utilities employees entered the unlocked front door after repeatedly knocking and receiving no answer.

Employees were horrified to discover the badly burned and partially mutilated body of William Sanderson, resident of Naperville for the past ten years, tied in a chair.

Police are investigating the death as a homicide following a home invasion. It appears Mr. Sanderson had been dead for at least a week, bodily decomposition explaining the noxious odor that alerted neighbors.

Jake doesn’t bother finishing the article. He breathes deeply, trying to calm his racing heart.

Home invasion, sure. By some fucker who tortured Sanderson until he got what he wanted.

Like what? he asks himself. Like all the names on the Bigot list.

Focus, asshole. Which means Sanderson, dead at least a week, was the first to go, giving up the name of Driscoll, who later died in his pool.

So, no more coincidences, Jake knows. No trolling.

This is for real.

Which leaves Armitage, Vosenko, and me on the hit list, he thinks.

He needs to find out who’s posting Reckoning before it’s too late. Track the bastard down and take him out.

He copies the site url, pastes it in an email to Anne, and then wonders if he should give Armitage a call. Wonders if the asshole knows about Sanderson yet.

He finally manages to track down a number for Armitage when the phone rings, startling him.

“Jesus, Dad. What the hell’s going on? And tell me those black X’s don’t mean what I think they do.”

“Hey punkin, slow down. It’s all good.”

“Don’t shit me, Dad. And don’t ‘punkin’ me, either. I’m a grown woman and I am damned worried about you. Is this your old life catching up with you?”

He thinks of a couple of ways to prevaricate, but finally says, “Maybe.”

“So, what the hell happened in Vienna in 1988?”

There was that question again. And a vision of Reni, splayed out on the cathedral steps, flashed through his mind like an electric shock.

“Somebody got killed. I need you to trace that site.”

An audible sigh from the other end. “Well, that’s going to be a problem. This sucker’s got no hosting information. No IP so there’s no way to do a reverse lookup. The site’s using a VPN and it’s going to take some time to track it. It’s not deep web or dark web, so that makes things easier. But these virtual private networks hide the IP address. Sorry, too technical?”

“No, no, that’s okay punk—Anne. So, no tracking it, is that what you’re saying?”

“No. It’s just going to take some time. A search warrant could help. Are you in danger?”

Prevarication this time. “No, no. Looks like some idiot ex-CIA guy is having a bit of a troll, that’s all. Get his own back on folks he thinks screwed him over.”

“What about the black X’s?”

“Just bullshit. I wanted to track him down and tell him he’s not funny. … So, how’s the new computer going?”


“Yeah, the one you released today.”

“Watch, Dad. It’s a new smart watch.”

“Right. Of course it is. Mind’s a complete mess today.”

“You cut back on the booze like the doc said?”

“A blessed teetotaler. You’d find me very boring.”

“But healthy, right?”


“And you’re sure about this Reckoning thing? Just a stupid joke.”

“Couldn’t be more idiotic. You get back to work now. Sorry to bother you.”

“Love you, Dad.”

“Me too.” He holds the receiver in his hand after Anne hangs up, listening to the dial tone. It’s almost reassuring.

So, two down, three to go.

But Jake has no intention of waiting for his black X.

He dials the number he found for Armitage. It’s picked up on the fourth ring.

“Armitage,” his former boss says.

Jake feels a sense of relief in hearing the bastard’s voice. Still alive.

“Jacobs here. You know about Sanderson.”


No mincing locutions today, no smart-ass replies. Sounds like Armitage is well and truly spooked.

“We got to trace that fucking website. My tech daughter tells me its address is hidden.”

A pause on the other end. Finally, Armitage speaks: “Old boy, it’s called a virtual private network. It’s a private network that uses a public one to connect a bunch of remote sites together. Obscures the IP address so it makes it a shit-storm to track down.”

He’s had time to put the mask back on, Jake figures. That’s the old Armitage I know and hate. The superior, nasal, patrician act.

“Sounds like you might have already put something in action, then.”

A sigh from Armitage as if made impatient by tolerating the less intelligent. “Right, Jacobs. The very minute I learned of Driscoll’s untimely death I approached some old friends at the Agency who might be able to facilitate things. They are working on it. But Jesus, what have we wrought with this internet tube thing?”

Jake tries to ignore the tone, the forced humor. Armitage could be a life-line here. “Keep me posted on the location when you find out.”

“Absolutely. Like the good old, bad old days, eh? You in the field following my orders.”

Jake ignores this. “I figure Sanderson was tortured for the names on the Bigot list. Those not mentioned in Vosenko’s memoir.”

“That fucking commie,” Armitage hisses.

Enough venom in that to let Jake know the guy was still fighting the Cold War.

But Armitage controls himself once more: “And yes, Jacobs, that is my surmise, as well. You always did have a sense of man’s more devious side. Even as a graduate student.”

Which is a place Jake does not want to go now, his recruitment out of grad school. His stupid freaking vanity falling for Armitage’s pitch about the greatest generation and how he could be part of a new great generation fighting the Soviet menace. An interview set up by his doctoral advisor, Baxter Streat, formerly with the OSS and a personal friend, as it turned out, of Bill Casey, then Director of Central Intelligence.

Ancient history, but it still rankles. His years with the Agency were not the best in his life. Wasted time. Both a marriage and child lost.

The surprise—almost an ambush—as he went to his regularly scheduled appointment with Streat to go over a new section of his thesis on Habsburg agency in the Low Countries. But instead, there was this tall, slim fellow sitting with Streat, dressed like a character out of Wodehouse. Streat—Jake could never call him Baxter—introduced the guest, Lawrence Armitage, and emphasized that Jake was among the best and brightest. And the Habsburgs were never again mentioned.

A bit old for the role, but Jake looked upon Streat as a father figure. Lord knows his own parent was no role model. He trusted Streat, trusted his judgment. And truth be told, Jake also had something to prove to his actual father. He didn’t take much convincing. Exhausted with the antics of the fucking Habsburgs anyway. Why not give the Agency a flyer?

But he forces himself to put it out of his mind for now. Concentrate. “So what next?” he asks Armitage. “You have any plans?”

Silence from the other end for a long moment. Then, “I plan to keep on living, old man. Whatever it takes.”

“And what does that mean?”

“Any means necessary. Despite my retirement, I still have friends in high places. Folks who will look after me.”

Retirement? God, what a prick. More like he was driven out of the Agency after dropping the ball on 9/11.

“Glad to hear it,” Jake says. “Guess I need to find my own friends, then.”

“I would strongly advise it, old sport. Looks as if we have a loon bird after some sort of revenge for perceived wrongs. Very erratic, loon birds can be.”

The line suddenly goes dead; then comes the dial tone.

No good-bye, no kiss my ass. Armitage, true to form.

Jake knows his next course of action. Take it to the bastard tracking them. Turn from prey to hunter. But who? Where?

Work through the obvious: who the hell would want revenge for Reni three decades after her death?

Two murders happened in the U.S., but the motive has got to lie in Vienna. Or in Ireland. He knows from Vosenko’s book jacket blurb that was where the former KGB man had holed up.

What Jake does not know is if Vosenko is a potential ally or enemy in this. A simple enough KGB trick to slap his own face on the Bigot list.

What if Vosenko is the avenger, not one of the hunted?

One way to find out.