So I went in, and the door slid closed automatically behind me. I was now in what appeared to be the reception area of an airline travelers' club. Why there'd be such a club in a building that's not near a passenger terminal is, you can be sure, a question I'd asked, and I'm still waiting for an answer. But I know the answer, which is that when the CIA culture is present, you get this kind of smoke-and-mirrors silliness. These clowns waste time and money on stagecraft, just like in the old days when they were trying to impress the KGB. What the door needed was a simple sign that said keep out.
Anyway, behind the counter was Nancy Tate, the receptionist, a sort of Miss Moneypenny, the model of efficiency and repressed sexuality, and all that. She liked me for some reason and greeted me cheerily, "Good afternoon, Mr. Corey."
"Good afternoon, Ms. Tate."
"Everyone has arrived."
"I was delayed by traffic."
"Actually, you're ten minutes early."
"Oh . . ."
"I like your tie."
"I took it off a dead Bulgarian on the night train to Istanbul."
Anyway, the reception area was all leather and burled wood, plush blue carpet, and so forth, and on the wall directly behind Nancy was another logo of the fictitious Conquistador Club. And for all I knew, Ms. Tate was a hologram.
To the left of Ms. Tate was an entranceway marked conference and business area that actually led to the interrogation rooms and holding cells, which I guess could be called the Conference and Business Area. To the right, a sign announced lounge and bar. I should be so lucky. That was in fact the way to the communications and operations center.
Ms. Tate said to me, "Ops Center. There are five people including yourself."
"Thanks." I walked through the doorway, down a short hallway, and into a dim, cavernous, and windowless room that held desks, computer consoles, cubicles, and such. On the big rear wall was a huge, computer-generated color map of the world that could be programmed to a detailed map of whatever you needed, like downtown Islamabad. Typical of most Federal facilities, this place had all the bells and whistles. Money is no problem in Fedland.
In any case, this facility wasn't my actual workplace, which is in the aforementioned 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan. But this was where I had to be on this Saturday afternoon to meet and greet some Arab guy who was switching sides and needed to be taken safely downtown for a few years of debriefing.
I kind of ignored my teammates and made for the coffee bar, which, unlike the one in my old detective squad room, is neat, clean, and well stocked, compliments of the Federal taxpayers.
I fooled around with the coffee awhile, which was my way of avoiding my colleagues for a few more minutes.
I got the coffee the right color and noticed a tray of donuts that said NYPD and a tray of croissants and brioche that said CIA and a tray of oatmeal cookies that said FBI. Someone had a sense of humor.
Anyway, the coffee bar was on the operations side of the big room and the commo side was sort of elevated on a low platform. A lady duty agent was up there monitoring all the gidgets and gadgets.
My team, on the operations side, was sitting around somebody's empty desk, engaged in conversation. The team consisted of the aforementioned Ted Nash of the CIA, and George Foster of the FBI, plus Nick Monti of the NYPD, and Kate Mayfield of the FBI. WASP, WASP, Wop, WASP.
Kate Mayfield came to the coffee bar and began making herself tea. She is supposed to be my mentor, whatever that means. As long as it doesn't mean partner.
She said to me, "I like that tie."
"I once strangled a Ninja warrior to death with it. It's my favorite."
"Really? Hey, how are you getting along here?"
© 1999 by Nelson DeMille.
Excerpted with the permission of Warner Books.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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