The Lion's Game
You'd think that anyone who'd been shot three times and almost became an organ donor would try to avoid dangerous situations in the future. But, no, I must have this unconscious wish to take myself out of the gene pool or something.
Anyway, I'm John Corey, formerly of the NYPD, Homicide, now working as a Special Contract Agent for the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force. I was sitting in the back of a yellow cab on my way from 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport with a Pakistani suicide driver behind the wheel.
It was a nice spring day, a Saturday, moderate traffic on the Shore Parkway, sometimes known as the Belt Parkway, and recently renamed POW /MIA Parkway to avoid confusion. It was late afternoon, and seagulls from a nearby landfill-formerly known as a garbage dump-were crapping on the taxi's windshield. I love spring.
I wasn't headed off on vacation or anything like that - I was reporting for work with the aforementioned Anti-Terrorist Task Force. This is an organization that not too many people know about, which is just as well. The ATTF is divided into sections which focus on specific bunches of troublemakers and bomb chuckers, like the Irish Republican Army, Puerto Rican Independence Movement, black radicals, and other groups that will go unnamed. I'm in the Mideastern section, which is the biggest group and maybe the most important, though to be honest, I don't know much about Mideastern terrorists. But I was supposed to be learning on the job.
So, to practice my skills, I started up a conversation with the Pakistani guy whose name was Fasid, and who for all I know is a terrorist, though he looked and talked like an okay guy. I asked him, "What was that place you came from?"
"Islamabad. The capital."
"Really? How long have you been here?"
"You like it here?"
"Sure. Who doesn't?"
"Well, my ex-brother-in-law, Gary, for one. He's always bad-mouthing America. Wants to move to New Zealand."
"I have an uncle in New Zealand."
"No kidding? Anybody left in Islamabad?"
He laughed, then asked me, "You meeting somebody at the airport?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Hey, you're good."
"So, you're meeting somebody? I could hang around and take you back to the city."
Fasid's English was pretty good - slang, idioms, and all that. I replied, "I have a ride back."
"You sure? I could hang around."
Actually, I was meeting an alleged terrorist who'd surrendered himself to the U.S. Embassy in Paris, but I didn't think that was information I needed to share with Fasid. I said, "You a Yankee fan?"
"Not anymore." Whereupon he launched into a tirade against Steinbrenner, Yankee Stadium, the price of tickets, the salaries of the players, and so forth. These terrorists are clever, sounding just like loyal citizens.
Anyway, I tuned the guy out and thought about how I'd wound up here. As I indicated, I was a homicide detective, one of New York's Finest, if I do say so. A year ago this month, I was playing dodge-the-bullets with two Hispanic gentlemen up on West 2nd Street in what was probably a case of mistaken identity, or sport shooting, since there seemed to be no reason for the attempted whack. Life is funny sometimes. Anyway, the perps were still at large, though I had my eye out for them, as you might imagine.
After my near-death experience and upon release from the hospital, I accepted my Uncle Harry's offer to stay at his summer house on Long Island to convalesce. The house is located about a hundred road miles from West 2nd Street, which was fine. Anyway, while I was out there, I got involved with this double murder of a husband and wife, fell in love twice, almost got killed. Also, one of the women I fell in love with, Beth Penrose by name, is still sort of in my life.
© 1999 by Nelson DeMille.
Excerpted with the permission of Warner Books.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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