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"You got him?" President Durling asked.

"Less than half an hour ago," Ryan confirmed, taking his seat.

"Nobody hurt?" That was important to the President. It was important to Ryan, too, but not morbidly so.

"Clark reports no friendly casualties."

"What about the other side?" This question came from Brett Hanson, the current Secretary of State. Choate School and Yale. The government was having a run on Yalies, Ryan thought, but Hanson wasn't as good as the last Eli he'd worked with. Short, thin, and hyper, Hanson was an in-and-out guy whose career had oscillated between government service, consulting, a sideline as a talking head on PBS-where you could exercise real influence and a lucrative practice in one of the city's pricier firms. He was a specialist in corporate and international law, an area of expertise he'd once used to negotiate multinational business deals. He'd been good at that, Jack knew.

Unfortunately he'd come into his cabinet post thinking that the same niceties ought toworse, didapply to the business of nation-states.

Ryan took a second or two before replying. "I didn't ask."


Jack could have said any one of several things, but he decided that it was time to establish his position. Therefore, a goad: "Because it wasn't important. The objective, Mr. Secretary, was to apprehend Corp. That was done. In about thirty minutes he will be handed over to the legal authorities, such as they are, in his country, for trial in accordance with their law, before a jury of his peers, or however they do it over there." Ryan hadn't troubled himself to find out.

"That's tantamount to murder."

"It's not my fault his peers don't like him, Mr. Secretary. He's also responsible for the deaths of American soldiers. Had we decided to eliminate him ourselves, even that would not be murder. It would have been a straight-forward national-security exercise. Well, in another age it would have been," Ryan allowed. Times had changed, and Ryan had to adapt himself to the new reality as well. "Instead, we are acting as good world-citizens by apprehending a dangerous international criminal and turning him over to the government of his country, which will put him on trial for drug-running, which is a felony in every legal jurisdiction of which I am aware. What happens next is up to the criminal-justice system of his country. That is a country with which we have diplomatic relations and other informal agreements of assistance, and whose laws, therefore, we must respect."

Hanson didn't like it. That was clear from the way he leaned back in his chair. But he would support it in public because he had no choice. The State Department had announced official American support for that government half a dozen times in the previous year. What stung worse for Hanson was being outmaneuvered by this young upstart in front of him.

"They might even have a chance to make it now, Brett," Durling observed gently, putting his own seal of approval on Operation WALKMAN.

"And it never happened."

"Yes, Mr. President."

"Jack, you were evidently right about this Clark fellow. What do we do about him?"

"I'll leave that to the DCI, sir. Maybe another Intelligence Star for him," Ryan suggested, hoping that Durling would forward it to Langley. If not, maybe a discreet call of his own to Mary Pat. Then it was time for fence-mending, a new skill for Ryan. "Mr. Secretary, in case you didn't know, our people were under orders to use non-lethal force if possible. Beyond that, my only concern is the lives of our people."

"I wish you'd cleared it through my people first," Hanson grumped.

Deep breath, Ryan commanded himself. The mess was of State's making, along with that of Ryan's predecessor. Having entered the country to restore order after it had been destroyed by local warlordsanother term used by the media to give a label to common thugsthe powers-that-be had later decided, after the entire mission had gone to hell, that the "warlords" in question had to be part of the "political solution" to the problem. That the problem had been created by the warlords in the first place was conveniently forgotten. It was the circularity of the logic that offended Ryan most of all, who wondered if they taught a logic course at Yale. Probably an elective, he decided. At Boston College it had been mandatory.

"It's done, Brett," Durling said quietly, "and nobody will mourn the passing of Mr. Corp. What's next?" the President asked Ryan.

"The Indians are getting rather frisky. They've increased the operating tempo of their navy, and they're conducting operations around Sri Lanka"

"They've done that before," SecState cut in.

"Not in this strength, and I don't like the way they've continued their talks with the 'Tamil Tigers,' or whatever the hell those maniacs call themselves now. Conducting extended negotiations with a guerrilla group operating on the soil of a neighbor is not an act of friendship."

This was a new concern for the U.S. government. The two former British colonies had lived as friendly neighbors for a long time, but for years the Tamil people on the island of Sri Lanka had maintained a nasty little insurgency. The Sri Lankans, with relatives on the Indian mainland, had asked for foreign troops to maintain a peace-keeping presence. India had obliged, but what had started in an honorable fashion was now changing. There were rumbles that the Sri Lankan government would soon ask for the Indian soldiers to leave. There were also rumbles that there would be some "technical difficulties" in effecting their removal. Concurrent with that had come word of a conversation between the Indian Foreign Minister and the U.S. Ambassador at a reception in Delhi.

"You know," the Minister had said after a few too many, but probably purposeful drinks, "that body of water to our south is called the Indian Ocean, and we have a navy to guard it. With the demise of the former Soviet threat, we wonder why the U.S. Navy seems so determined to maintain a force there."

The U.S. Ambassador was a political appointeefor some reason India had turned into a prestige post, despite the climatebut was also a striking exception to Scott Adler's professional snobbery. The former governor of Pennsylvania had smiled and mumbled something about freedom of the seas, then fired off an encrypted report to Foggy Bottom before going to bed that night. Adler needed to learn that they weren't all dumb.

"We see no indication of an aggressive act in that direction," Hanson said after a moment's reflection.

"The ethnic element is troubling. India can't go north, with the mountains in the way. West is out. The Pakis have nukes, too. East is Bangladeshwhy buy trouble? Sri Lanka has real strategic possibilities for them, maybe as a stepping-stone."

"To where?" the President asked.

"Australia. Space and resources, not many people in the way, and not much of a military to stop them."

"I just don't see that happening," SecState announced.

"If the Tigers pull something off, I can see India increasing its peace-keeping presence. The next step could be annexation, given the right preconditions, and then all of a sudden we have an imperial power playing games a long way from here, and making life somewhat nervous for one of our historical allies." And helping the Tigers to get something going was both easy and a time-honored tactic. Surrogates could be so useful, couldn't they? "In historical terms such ambitions are most inexpensively stopped early."

"Thai's why the Navy's in the Indian Ocean," Hanson observed confidently.

"True," Ryan conceded.

"Are we strong enough to deter them from stepping over the line?"

"Yes, Mr. President, at the moment, but I don't like the way our Navy is being stretched. Every carrier we have right now, except for the two in overhaul status, is either deployed or conducting workups preparatory for deployment. We have no strategic reserve worthy of the name." Ryan paused before going on, knowing that he was about to go too far, but doing so anyway: "We've cut back too much, sir. Our people are strung out very thin."

"They are simply not as capable as we think they are. That is a thing of the past." Raizo Yamata said. He was dressed in an elegant silk kimono, and sat on the floor at a traditional low table.

The others around the table looked discreetly at their watches. It was approaching three in the morning, and though this was one of the nicest geisha houses in the city, the hour was late. Raizo Yamata was a captivating host, however. A man of great wealth and sagacity, the others thought. Or most of them.

"They've protected us for generations," one man suggested.

"From what? Ourselves?" Yamata demanded coarsely. That was permitted now. Though all around the table were men of the most exquisite good manners, they were all close acquaintances, if not all actually close friends, and all had consumed their personal limit of alcohol. Under these circumstances, the rules of social intercourse altered somewhat. They could all speak bluntly. Words that would ordinarily be deadly insults would now be accepted calmly, then rebutted harshly, and there would be no lingering rancor about it. That, too, was a rule, but as with most rules, it was largely theoretical. Though friendships and relationships would not end because of words here, neither would they be completely forgotten. "How many of you," Yamata went on, "have been victims of these people?"

Yamata hadn't said "barbarians," the other Japanese citizens at the table noted. The reason was the presence of the two other men. One of them, Vice Admiral V. K. Chandraskatta, was a fleet commander of the Indian Navy, currently on leave. The other, Zhang Han Santhe name meant "Cold Mountain" and had not been given by his parentswas a senior Chinese diplomat, part of a trade mission to Tokyo. The latter individual was more easily accepted than the former. With his swarthy skin and sharp features, Chandraskatta was regarded by the others with polite contempt. Though an educated and very bright potential ally, he was even more gaijin than the Chinese guest, and the eight zaibatsu around the table each imagined that he could smell the man, despite their previous intake of sake, which usually deadened the senses. For this reason, Chandraskatta occupied the place of honor, at Yamata's right hand, and the zaibatsu wondered if the Indian grasped that this supposed honor was merely a sophisticated mark of contempt. Probably not. He was a barbarian, after all, though perhaps a useful one.

"They are not as formidable as they once were, I admit, Yamata-san, but I assure you," Chandraskatta said in his best Dartmouth English, "their navy remains quite formidable. Their two carriers in my ocean are enough to give my navy pause."

Yamata turned his head. "You could not defeat them, even with your submarines?"

"No," the Admiral answered honestly, largely unaffected by the evening's drink, and wondering where all this talk was leading. "You must understand that this question is largely a technical exercisea science experiment, shall we say?" Chandraskatta adjusted the kimono Yamata had given him, to make him a real member of this group, he'd said. "To defeat an enemy fleet, you must get close enough for your weapons to reach his ships. With their surveillance assets, they can monitor our presence and our movements from long distance. Thus they can maintain a covering presence on us from a range of, oh, something like six hundred kilometers. Since we are unable to maintain a corresponding coverage of their location and course, we cannot maneuver them out of place very easily."

"And that's why you haven't moved on Sri Lanka yet?" Tanzan Itagake asked.

"It is one of the considerations." The Admiral nodded.

"How many carriers do they now have?" Itagake went on.

"In their Pacific Fleet? Four. Two in our ocean, two based in Hawaii."

"What of the other two?" Yamata inquired.

"Kitty Hawk and Ranger are in extended overhaul status, and will not be back at sea for one and three years, respectively. Seventh Fleet currently has all the carriers. First Fleet has none. The U.S. Navy has five other carriers in commission. These are assigned to the Second and Sixth fleets, with one entering overhaul status in six weeks." Chandraskatta smiled. His information was completely up to date, and he wanted his hosts to know that. "I must tell you that as depleted as the U.S. Navy may appear to be, compared to onlywhat? five years ago? Compared to five years ago, then, they are quite weak, but compared to any other navy in the world, they are still immensely strong. One of their carriers is the equal of every other aircraft carrier in the world."

"You agree, then, that their aircraft carriers are their most potent weapon?" Yamata asked.

"Of course." Chandraskatta rearranged the things on the table. In the center he put an empty sake bottle. "Imagine that this is the carrier. Draw a thousand-kilometer circle around it. Nothing exists in that circle without the permission of the carrier air group. In fact, by increasing their operating tempo, that radius extends to fifteen hundred kilometers. They can strike somewhat farther than that if they need to, but even at the minimum distance I demonstrated, they can control a vast area of ocean. Take those carriers away, and they are just another frigate navy. The difficult part of the exercise is taking them away," the Admiral concluded, using simple language for the industrialists.

Chandraskatta was correct in assuming that these merchants knew little about military affairs. However, he had underestimated their ability to learn. The Admiral came from a country with a warrior tradition little known outside its own borders. Indians had stopped Alexander the Great, blunted his army, wounded the Macedonian conqueror, perhaps fatally, and put an end to his expansion, an accomplishment the Persians and Egyptians had singularly failed to do. Indian troops had fought alongside Montgomery in the defeat of Rommeland had crushed the Japanese Army at Imphal, a fact that he had no intention of bringing up, since one of the people at the table had been a private in that army. He wondered what they had in mind, but for the moment was content to enjoy their hospitality and answer their questions, elementary as they were. The tall, handsome flag officer leaned back, wishing for a proper chair and a proper drink. This sake these prissy little merchants served was closer to water than gin, his usual drink of choice.

"But if you can?" Itagake asked.

"As I said," the Admiral replied patiently, "then they are a frigate navy. I grant you, with superb surface ships, but the 'bubble' each ship controls is far smaller. You can protect with a frigate, you cannot project power with one." His choice of words, he saw, stopped the conversation for a moment.

One of the others handled the linguistic niceties, and Itagake leaned back with a long "Ahhhh," as though he'd just learned something profound.

Chandraskatta regarded the point as exceedingly simpleforgetting for a moment that the profound often was. However, he recognized that something important had just taken place. What are you thinking about? He would have shed blood, even his own, to know the answer to that question. Whatever it was, with proper warning, it might even be useful. He would have been surprised to learn that the others around the table were churning over exactly the same thought.

"Sure are burning a lot of oil," the group-operations officer noted as he began his morning brief.

USS Dwight D. Elsenhower was on a course of zero-nine-eight degrees, east by south, two hundred nautical miles southeast of Felidu Atoll. Fleet speed was eighteen knots, and would increase for the commencement of flight operations. The main tactical display in flag plot had been updated forty minutes earlier from the radar of an E-3C Hawkeyc surveillance aircraft, and, indeed, the Indian Navy was burning a good deal of Bunker-Charlie, or whatever they used now to drive their ships through the water.

The display before him could easily have been that of a U.S. Navy Carrier Battle Group. The two Indian carriers, Viraat and Vikrant, were in the center of a circular formation, the pattern for which had been invented by an American named Nimitz almost eighty years earlier. Close-in escorts were Delhi and Mysore, home-built missile destroyers armed with a SAM system about which information was thinalways a worry to aviators. The second ring was composed of the Indian version of the old Russian Kashin-class destroyers, also SAM-equipped. Most interesting, however, were two other factors.

"Replenishment ships Rajaba Gan Palan and Shakti have rejoined the battle group after a brief stay in Trivandrum"

"How long were they in port?" Jackson asked.

"Less than twenty-four hours," Commander Ed Harrison, the group-operations officer, replied. "They cycled them pretty fast, sir."

"So they just went in for a quick fill-up. How much gas do they carry?"

"Bunker fuel, about thirteen thousand tons each, another fifteen hundred each of JP. Sister ship Deepak has detached from the battle group and is heading northwest, probably for Trivandrum as well, after conducting un-rep operations yesterday."

"So they're working extra hard to keep their bunkers topped off. Interesting. Go on," Jackson ordered.

"Four submarines are believed to be accompanying the group. We have rough positions on one, and we've lost two roughly here." Harrison's hand drew a rough circle on the display. "The location of number four is unknown, sir. We'll be working on that today."

"Our subs out there?" Jackson asked the group commander.

"Santa Fe in close and Greeneville holding between us and them. Cheyenne is in closer to the battle group as gatekeeper," Rear Admiral Mike Dubro replied, sipping his morning coffee.

"Plan for the day, sir," Harrison went on, "is to launch four F/A-18 Echoes with tankers to head east to this point, designated POINT BAUXITE, from which they will turn northwest, approach to within thirty miles of the Indian battle group, loiter for thirty minutes, then return to BAUXITE to tank again and recover after a flight time of four hours, forty-five minutes." For the four aircraft to do this, eight were needed to provide midair refueling support. One each on the way out and the return leg as well. That accounted for most of Ike's tanker assets.

"So we want them to think we're still over that way." Jackson nodded and smiled, without commenting on the wear-and-tear on the air crews that such a mission profile made necessary. "Still tricky, I see, Mike."

"They haven't gotten a line on us yet. We're going to keep it that way, too," Dubro added.

"How are the Bugs loaded?" Robby asked, using the service nickname for the F/A-18 Hornet, "Plastic Bug."

"Four Harpoons each. White ones," Dubro added. In the Navy, exercise missiles were color-coded blue. Warshots were generally painted white. The Harpoons were air-to-surface missiles. Jackson didn't have to ask about the Sidewinder and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles that were part of the Hornet's basic load. "What I want to know is, what the hell are they up to?" the battle-group commander observed quietly.

That was what everyone wanted to know. The Indian battle groupthat was what they called it, because that's exactly what it washad been at sea for eight days now, cruising off the south coast of Sri Lanka. The putative mission for the group was support for the Indian Army's peace-keeping team, whose job was to ameliorate the problem with the Tamil Tigers. Except for one thing: the Tamil Tigers were cosseted on the northern part of the island nation, and the Indian fleet was to the south. The Indian two-carrier force was maneuvering constantly to avoid merchant traffic, beyond sight of land, but within air range. Staying clear of the Sri Lankan Navy was an easy task. The largest vessel that country owned might have made a nice motor yacht for a nouveau-riche private citizen, but was no more formidable than that. In short, the Indian Navy was conducting a covert-presence operation far from where it was supposed to be. The presence of fleet-replenishment ships meant that they planned to be there for a while, and also that the Indians were gaining considerable at-sea time to conduct workups. The plain truth was that the Indian Navy was operating exactly as the U.S. Navy had done for generations. Except that the United States didn't have any ambitions with Sri Lanka.

"Exercising every day?" Robby asked.

"They're being right diligent, sir," Harrison confirmed. "You can expect a pair of Harriers to form up with our Hornets, real friendly, like."

"I don't like it," Dubro observed. "Tell him about last week."

"That was a fun one to watch." Harrison called up the computerized records, which ran at faster-than-normal speed. "Start time for the exercise is about now, sir."

On the playback, Robby watched a destroyer squadron break off the main formation and head southwest, which had happened to be directly toward the Lincoln group at the time, causing a lot of attention in the group-operations department. On cue, the Indian destroyers had started moving randomly, then commenced a high-speed run due north. Their radars and radios blacked out, the team had then headed east, moving quickly.

"The DesRon commander knows his stuff. The carrier group evidently expected him to head east and duck under this stationary front. As you can see, their air assets headed that way." That miscue had allowed the destroyers to dart within missile-launch range before the Indian Harriers had leaped from their decks to attack the closing surface group.

In the ten minutes required to watch the computerized playback, Robby knew that he'd just seen a simulated attack on an enemy carrier group, launched by a destroyer team whose willingness to sacrifice their ships and their lives for this hazardous mission had been demonstrated to perfection. More disturbingly, the attack had been successfully carried out. Though the tin cans would probably have been sunk, their missiles, some of them anyway, would have penetrated the carriers' point defenses and crippled their targets. Large, robust ships though aircraft carriers were, it didn't require all that much damage to prevent them from carrying out flight operations. And that was as good as a kill. The Indians had the only carriers in this ocean, except for the Americans, whose presence, Robby knew, was a source of annoyance for them. The purpose of the exercise wasn't to take out their own carriers.

"Get the feeling they don't want us here?" Dubro asked with a wry smile.

"I get the feeling we need better intelligence information on their intentions. We don't have dick at the moment, Mike."

"Why doesn't that surprise me," Dubro observed. "What about their intentions toward Ceylon?" The older name for the nation was more easily remembered.

"Nothing that I know about." As deputy J-3, the planning directorate for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Robby had access to literally everything generated by the U.S. intelligence community. "But what you just showed me says a lot."

All you had to do was look at the display, where the water was, where the land was, where the ships were. The Indian Navy was cruising in such a way as to position itself between Sri Lanka and anyone who might approach from the south to come to Sri Lanka. Like the U.S. Navy, for example. It had practiced an attack on such a force. To that end, it was clearly prepared to remain at sea for a long time. If it was an exercise, it was an expensive one. If not? Well, you just couldn't tell, could you?

"Where are their amphibs?"

"Not close," Dubro answered. "Aside from that, I don't know. I don't have the assets to check, and I don't have any intel on them. They have a total of sixteen LSTs, and I figure twelve of them can probably operate as a group. Figure they can move a heavy brigade with them, combat-loaded and ready to hit a beach somewhere. There's a few choice sites on the north coast of that island. We can't reach them from here, at least not very well. I need more assets, Robby."

"There aren't more assets to give, Mike."

"Two subs. I'm not being greedy. You can see that." The two SSNs would move to cover the Gulf of Mannar, and that was the most likely invasion area. "I need more intelligence support, too, Rob. You can see why."

"Yep." Jackson nodded. "I'll do what I can. When do I leave?"

"Two hours." He'd be flying off on an 8-3 Viking antisubmarine aircraft. The "Hoover," as it was known, had good range. That was important. He'd be flying to Singapore, the better to give the impression that Dubro's battle group was southeast of Sri Lanka, not southwest. Jackson reflected that he would have flown twenty-four thousand miles for what was essentially a half hour's worth of briefing and the look in the eyes of an experienced carrier aviator. Jackson slid his chair back on the tiled floor as Harrison keyed the display to a smaller scale. It now showed Abraham Lincoln heading northeast from Diego Garcia, adding an additional air wing to Dubro's command. He'd need it. The operational tempo required to cover the Indiansespecially to do so deceptivelywas putting an incredible strain on men and aircraft. There was just too much ocean in the world for eight working aircraft carriers to handle, and nobody back in Washington understood that.

Enterprise and Stennis were working up to relieve Ike and Abe in a few months, and even that meant there would be a time when U.S. presence in this area would be short. The Indians would know that, too. You just couldn't conceal the return time of the battle groups from the families. The word would get out, and the Indians would hear it, and what would they be doing then?

"Hi, Clarice." Murray stood up for his luncheon guest. He thought of her as his own Dr. Ruth. Short, a tiny bit overweight, Dr. Golden was in her middle fifties, with twinkling blue eyes and a face that always seemed on the edge of delivering the punch line of a particularly good joke. It was that similarity between them that had fostered their bond. Both were bright, serious professionals, and both had elegant intellectual disguises. Hearty-fellow and hearty-lady-well-met, the life of whatever party they might attend, but under the smiles and the chuckles were keen minds that missed little and collected much. Murray thought of Golden as one hell of a potential cop. Golden had much the same professional evaluation of Murray.

"To what do I owe this honor, ma'am?" Dan asked in his usual courtly voice. The waiter delivered the menus, and she waited pleasantly for him to depart. It was Murray's first clue, and though the smile remained fixed on his face, his eyes focused in a little more sharply on his diminutive lunch guest.

"I need some advice, Mr. Murray," Golden replied, giving another signal. "Who has jurisdiction over a crime committed on federal property?"

"The Bureau, always," Dan answered, leaning back in his seat and checking his service pistol. Business to Murray was enforcing the law, and feeling his handgun in its accustomed place acted as a sort of personal touchstone, a reminder that, elevated and important as the sign on his office door said he was today, he had started out doing bank robberies in the Philadelphia Field Division, and his badge and gun still made him a sworn member of his country's finest police agency.

"Even on Capitol Hill?" Clarice asked.

"Even on Capitol Hill," Murray repeated. Her subsequent silence surprised him. Golden was never reticent about much. You always knew what she was thinkingwell, Murray amended, you knew what she wanted you to know. She played her little games, just as he did. "Talk to me, Dr. Golden."


Murray nodded, setting the menu down. "Okay, first of all, please tell me about your patient."

"Female, age thirty-five, single, never married. She was referred to me by her gynecologist, an old friend. She came to me clinically depressed. I've had three sessions with her."

Only three, Murray thought. Clarice was a witch at this stuff, so perceptive. Jesus, what an interrogator she would have made with her gentle smile and quiet motherly voice.

"When did it happen?" Names could wait for the moment. Murray would start with the barest facts of the case.

"Three years ago."

The FBI agenthe still preferred "Special Agent" to his official title of Deputy Assistant Directorfrowned immediately. "Long time, Clarice. No forensics, I suppose."

"No, it's her word against hisexcept for one thing." Golden reached into her purse and pulled out photocopies of the Beringer letter, blown up in the copying process. Murray read through the pages slowly while Dr. Golden watched his face for reaction.

"Holy shit," Dan breathed while the waiter hovered twenty feet away, thinking his guests were a reporter and a source, as was hardly uncommon in Washington. "Where's the original?"

"In my office. I was very careful handling it," Golden told him.

That made Murray smile. The monogrammed paper was an immediate help. In addition, paper was especially good at holding fingerprints, especially if kept tucked away in a cool, dry place, as such letters usually were.

The Senate aide in question would have been fingerprinted as part of her security-clearance process, which meant the likely author of this document could be positively identified. The papers gave time, place, events, and also announced her desire to die. Sad as it was, it made this document something akin to a dying declaration, therefore, arguably, admissible in federal district court as evidentiary material in a criminal case. The defense attorney would objectthey always didand the objection would be overruledit always wasand the jury members would hear every word, leaning forward as they always did to catch the voice from the grave. Except in this case it wouldn't be a jury, at least not at first.

Murray didn't like anything about rape cases. As a man and a cop, he viewed that class of criminal with special contempt. It was a smudge on his own manliness that someone could commit such a cowardly, foul act. More professionally disturbing was the troublesome fact that rape cases so often came down in one person's word against another's. Like most investigative cops, Murray dislrusted all manner of eyewitness testimony. People were poor observersit was that simpleand rape victims, crushed by the experience, often made poor witnesses, their testimony further attacked by the defense counsel. Forensic evidence, on the other hand, was something you could prove, it was incontrovertible. Murray loved that sort of evidence.

"Is it enough to begin a criminal investigation?"

Murray looked up and spoke quietly: "Yes, ma'am."

"And who he is"

"My current jobwell, I'm sort of the street-version of the executive assistant to Bill Shaw. You don't know Bill, do you?"

"Only by reputation."

"It's all true," Murray assured her. "We were classmates at Quantico, and we broke in the same way, in the same place, doing the same thing. A crime is a crime, and we're cops, and that's the name of the song, Clarice."

But even us his mouth proclaimed the creed of his agency, his mind was saying. Holy shit. There was a great big political dimension to this one. The President didn't need the trouble. Well, who ever needed this sort of thing? For goddamned sure, Barbara Linders and Lisa Beringer didn't need to be raped by someone they'd trusted. But the real bottom line was simple: thirty years earlier, Daniel E. Murray had graduated from the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, had raised his right hand to the sky and sworn an oath to God. There were gray areas. There always would be. A good agent had to use his judgment, know which laws could be bent, and how far. But not this far, and not this law. Bill Shaw was of the same cut. Blessed by fate to occupy a position as apolitical as an office in Washington, D.C., could be, Shaw had built his reputation on integrity, and was too old to change. A case like this would start in his seventh-floor office.

"I have to ask, is this for-real?"

"My best professional judgment is that my patient is telling the truth in every detail,"

"Will she testify?"


"Your evaluation of the letter?"

"Also quite genuine, psychologically speaking." Murray already knew that from his own experience, but someonefirst he, then other agents, and ultimately a juryneeded to hear it from a pro.

"Now what?" the psychologist asked.

Murray stood, to the surprised disappointment of the hovering waiter.

"Now we drive down to headquarters and meet with Bill. We'll get case agents in to set up a file. Bill and I and the case agent will walk across the street to the Department and meet with the Attorney General. After that, I don't know exactly. We've never had one like thisnot since the early seventies, anywayand I'm not sure of procedure just yet. The usual stuff with your patient. Long, tough interviews. We'll talk to Ms. Beringer's family, friends, look for papers, diaries. But that's the technical side. The political side will be touchy." And for that reason, Dan knew, he'd be the man running the case. Another Holy shit! crossed his mind, as he remembered the part in the Constitution that would govern the whole procedure. Dr. Golden saw the wavering in his eyes and, rare for her, misread what it meant.

"My patient needs"

Murray blinked. So what? he asked himself. It's still a crime.

"I know, Clarice. She needs justice. So does Lisa Beringer. You know what? So does the government of the United States of America."

He didn't look like a computer-software engineer. He wasn't at all scruffy. He wore a pinstriped suit, carried a briefcase. He might have said that it was a disguise required by his clientele and the professional atmosphere of the area, but the simple truth was that he preferred to look neat.

The procedure was just as straightforward as it could be. The client used Stratus mainframes, compact, powerful machines that were easily networked-in fact they were the platform of choice for many bulletin-board services because of their reasonable price and high electronic reliability. There were three of them in the room. "Alpha" and "Beta"so labeled with white letters on blue plastic boardswere the primaries, and took on the front-line duties on alternate days, with one always backing up the other.

The third machine, "Zulu," was the emergency backup, and whenever Zulu was operating, you knew that a service team was either already there or on the way. Another facility, identical in every way except for the number of people around, was across the East River, with a different physical location, different power source, different phone lines, different satellite uplinks. Each building was a high-rise fire-resistant structure with an automatic sprinkler system around the computer room, and a DuPont 1301 system inside of it, the better to eliminate a fire in seconds. Each system-trio had battery backups sufficient to run the hardware for twelve hours. New York safety and environmental codes perversely did not allow the presence of emergency generators in the buildings, an annoyance to the systems engineers who were paid to worry about such things. And worry they did, despite the fact that the duplication, the exquisite redundancies that in a military context were called "defense in depth," would protect against anything and everything that could be imagined.

Well, nearly everything.

On the front service panel of each of the mainframes was an SCSI port. This was an innovation for the new models, an implicit bow to the fact that desktop computers were so powerful that they could upload important information far more easily than the old method of hanging a tape reel. In this case, the upload terminal was a permanent fixture of the system. Attached to the overall system control panel which controlled Alpha, Beta, and Zulu was a third-generation Power PC, and attached to it in turn was a Bernoulli removable-disk drive. Colloquially known as a "toaster" because its disk was about the size of a piece of bread, this machine had a gigabyte of storage, far more than was needed for this program.

"Okay?" the engineer asked.

The system controller moved his mouse and selected Zulu from his screen of options. A senior operator behind him confirmed that he'd made the right selection. Alpha and Beta were doing their normal work, and could not be disturbed.

"You're up on Zulu, Chuck."

"Roger that," Chuck replied with a smile. The pinstriped engineer slid the cartridge into the slot and waited for the proper icon to appear on the screen. He clicked on it, opening a new window to reveal the contents of PORTA-I, his name for the cartridge.

The new window had only two items in it: INSTALLER and ELECTRA-CLERK-2.4.0. An automatic antivirus program immediately swept through the new files, and after five seconds pronounced them clean.

"Looking good, Chuck," the sys-con told him. His supervisor nodded concurrence.

"Well, gee, Rick, can I deliver the baby now?"

"Hit it."

Chuck Searls selected the INSTALL icon and double-clicked it.

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO REPLACE "ELECTRA-CLERK 2.3.1" WITH NEW PROGRAM "ELECTRA-CLERK 2.4.0"? a box asked him. Searls clicked the "YES" box.

ARE YOU REALLY SURE???? another box asked immediately.

"Who put that in?"

"I did," the sys-con answered with a grin.

"Funny." Searls clicked YES again.

The toaster drive started humming. Searls liked systems that you could hear as they ran, the whip-whip sounds of the moving heads added to the whir of the rotating disk. The program was only fifty megabytes. The transfer took fewer seconds than were needed for him to open his bottle of spring water and take a sip.

"Well," Searls asked as he slid his chair hack from the console, "you want to see if it works?"

He turned to look out. The computer room was walled in with glass panels, but beyond them he could see New York Harbor. A cruise liner was heading out; medium size, painted white. Heading where? he wondered. Someplace warm, with white sand and blue skies and a nice bright sun all the time. Someplace a hell of a lot different from New York City, he was sure of that. Nobody took a cruise to a place like the Big Apple. How nice to be on that ship, heading away from the blustery winds of fall. How much nicer still not to return on it, Searls thought with a wistful smile. Well, airplanes were faster, and you didn't have to ride them back either.

The sys-con, working on his control console, brought Zulu on-line. At 16:10:00 EST, the backup machine started duplicating the jobs being done by Alpha, and simultaneously backed up by Beta. With one difference. The throughput monitor showed that Zulu was running slightly faster. On a day like this, Zulu normally tended to fall behind, but now it was running so fast that the machine was actually "resting" for a few seconds each minute.

"Smokin', Chuck!" the sys-con observed. Searls drained his water bottle, dropped it in the nearest trash bucket, and walked over.

"Yeah, I cut out about ten thousand lines of code. It wasn't the machines, it was the program. It just took us a while to figure the right paths through the boards. I think we have it now."

"What's different?" the senior controller asked. He knew quite a bit about software design.

"I changed the hierarchy system, how it hands things off from one parallel board to another. Still needs a little work on synchronicity, tally isn't as fast as posting. I think I can beat that in another month or two, cut some fat out of the front end."

The sys-con punched a command for the first benchmark test. It came up at once. "Six percent faster than two-point-three-point-one. Not too shabby."

"We needed that six percent," the supervisor said, meaning that he needed more. Trades just ran too heavy sometimes, and like everyone in the Depository Trust Company, he lived in fear of falling behind.

"Send me some data at the end of the week and maybe I can deliver a few more points to you," Searls promised.

"Good job, Chuck."

"Thanks, Bud."

"Who else uses this?"

"This version? Nobody. A custom variation runs the machines over at CHIPS."

"Well, you're the man," the supervisor noted generously. He would have been less generous had he thought it through. The supervisor had helped design the entire system. All the redundancies, all the safety systems, the way that tapes were pulled off the machines every night and driven upstate. He'd worked with a committee to establish every safeguard that was necessary to the business he was in. But the quest for efficiencyand perversely, the quest for securityhad created a vulnerability to which he was predictably blind. All the computers used the same software. They had to. Different software in the different computers, like different languages in an office, would have prevented, or at the very least impeded, cross-talk among the individual systems; and that would have been self-defeating. As a result, despite all the safeguards there was a single common point of vulnerability for all six of his machines. They all spoke the same language. They had to. They were the most important, if the least known, link in the American trading business.

Even here, DTC was not blind to the potential hazard. ELECTRA-CLERK 2.4.0 would not be uploaded to Alpha and Beta until it had run for a week on Zulu, and then another week would pass before they were loaded onto the backup site, whose machines were labeled "Charlie," "Delta," and "Tango." That was to ensure that 2.4.0 was both efficient and "crash-worthy," an engineering term that had come into the software field a year earlier. Soon, people would get used to the new software, marvel at its faster speed. All the Stratus machines would speak exactly the same programming language, trade information back and forth in an electronic conversation of ones and zeros, like friends around a card table talking business. Soon they would all know the same joke. Some would think it a good one, but not anyone at DTC.

1 Alumni | Debt of Honor | 3 Collegium