I know when a book is working because I stop being the author and become a reader. This book, I like to read.
After an hour of pointless ranting, Hardesty had convinced me he thought everyone in Northern Africa was potentially part of a Muslim plot. I’d have considered that racist, but the man thought pretty much the same about everyone in North America too. To his reckoning, our little Seize Mai contingent was no more than a fingerprint away from an Al Qaeda plot. It’s one thing to be a racist. It’s another, wholly indigestible subhuman trait to be despicable simply because no one ever taught you not to be a schmuck. Kevin Hardesty was a schmuck.
“Cain, you and your partner are interfering in a United States Government Operation.” I was no synesthete like Dark, but I could hear the capital letters in that declaration. I almost saluted out of habit.
“Boss, I keep telling you, we aren’t working on or interfering with your case in any way. Rather than come back home, me and Dark took a holiday in beautiful Casablanca.”
He bellowed some epithets that I was glad Dark couldn’t hear through the glass door. He went silent then, except for slurping on what had to be his tenth cup of Joe of the day. Actually, it was a Starbucks Tall Latte Mocha Something-or-Other, but I was in Casablanca and found myself channeling Bogart’s Rick Blaine by the minute. To me, Hardesty was no longer my obese Government COR, he was Kev Hardass, my stout Fed Bureau Chief, sipping on his cuppa Joe and trying bring his rogue agent, namely me, in line. I sort of sympathized with the poor sap, especially since he was knee-deep in a D.C. snowstorm while we were luxuriating in a Mediterranean clime and I knew there was nothing he could do about our actions short of creating an international incident by sending the troops into a friendly country.
“Cain, for the last time, tell me the truth. What the fuck are you doing in Casa, and how the hell did you know to go there? If you have someone here leaking you TS-SCI info, friend or not, I will have your ass and theirs.”
That stopped me in my tracks. I had zero idea to that point that the man considered me his friend. I can be as stubborn an ass as anyone, but I’m a sucker when it comes to loyalty. I’d started to fold just as Dark reentered the room. “Kevin, I promise, no one on the inside told us anything. Dark figured it out from some clues that Danni Rudenko dropped us.”
“Oh là là là là,” Dark said, throwing up her hands.
“What clues?” Hardesty asked. I gave Dark the hush sign, received the fuck-you sign in return, and then recapitulated the highlights of our interview with Danni, while my partner stood scowling at the phone with her arms crossed. When I’d finished, Hardesty said, “You’re in central Casablanca based on that meager information?”
I looked at Dark who called Hardesty something that sounded unconscionably harsh in German before stalking out the room’s front door. “I will see you downstairs,” she said and slammed the door behind her. That made me reconsider. She flat out didn’t trust him; friend or no, if Dark was suspicious then I needed to tread lightly.
“Cain, did you hear me?”
“No, sorry. Dark just stuck her head in to tell me we have an appointment.”
“I was saying that I don’t know how that woman does it, but she hit the nail on the head. Tell her I said she can work for me anytime.”