Chapter 1 Counterspy by Matthew DunnBeing drowned was not part of the deal, but the victim put up with it because so much was at stake.
And even though drowning sucked, the victim had survived it before, when he was five years old and couldn’t stay afloat in the deep end of his parents’ ornate swim- ming pool in their palatial Rajasthan residence. Then his distraught mother had yanked him out of the pool and summoned a kind Sikh doctor, who’d held him upside down to get the water out of his lungs.
Now, age twenty-two, the diminutive Indian was being pinned down by four CIA men who were the antithesis of the Sikh doctor. They were in a bare cell in a top-secret U.S. military base in Afghanistan, and the CIA men were using a towel and a bucket to put water in his lungs and make his body convulse in agony. They called it waterboarding.
It sounded like a kind of sport the Indian’s rich friends played on the shores of Goa.
But there was nothing sporting about this. It was torture of the very worst kind—just one splash of water onto the towel convinced you you were going to die. Most people broke at this point, and that’s why the Agency used the technique. But today the CIA officers were cursing, shouting, and red faced with impatience because the victim was being drowned for the fourth time and showed no signs of breaking.
Their anger was exacerbated by the fact that the Indian hadn’t uttered a word to his captors in the two days since they’d grabbed him in a remote farm in Kapisa province, put a hood over his head and shackles on his sinewy arms and legs, thrown him into the back of a jeep, and driven fast over ground that had been rough enough to toss the man’s body up and down. Since that agoniz- ing journey, the victim had been kept in isolation on the base, stripped naked, blasted with a power hose, slapped around the face, struck in the gut with socks filled with wet sand, and forced into agonizing stress positions.
Throughout his brief but excruciating period of incar- ceration, the only people he’d seen were the four men. He didn’t know their names; all they’d told him about them- selves was that they answered to no one aside from the head of the CIA, the president of the United States, and God. The Indian thought that the introduction had been somewhat presumptuous, because when he was ten his Muslim father had given him a copy of the Bible and told him to read it cover to cover so that he could understand that Christianity wasn’t a bad religion. As far as he could recall, there was no reference in the Bible to CIA officers being authorized agents of God.
And right now he wasn’t sure his father was right, be- cause the four men didn’t seem like good people. On the contrary, they looked like the bad guys he’d seen in the old Hollywood movies his wealthy father had projected onto a huge screen so that the poor kids in their local village could get ninety minutes of escapism. Wearing matching white shirts, sleeves rolled up, suit trousers, and smart wingtips, the CIA men could have been gang- sters, corrupt detectives, or contract killers.
When the men had raced into his home while he’d been kneeling toward Mecca and asking Allah for for- giveness, they’d smashed his face against his prayer mat. He’d had no doubt that it wouldn’t be the last act of vio- lence inflicted on him by the officers. But he’d known that he had to stay strong if he was to survive, so he’d tried to pretend the bad things that had been happening to him had not been real, and instead he was in a 1950s movie that would end very soon.
To help him perpetuate the mind trick, he’d secretly ascribed each CIA officer a name.
Jack Palance, Lee Marvin, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum.
Their eyes held hate, and they swaggered with the physicality of men whose bodies were naturally chiseled and tough and didn’t need to spend one minute in a gym. They were bruisers who could tear someone twice their size into pieces.
And yet the Indian was half their size but physically and mentally far superior to the CIA officers. They were huffing and puffing, and all the while they didn’t know that they were in a movie of the victim’s choosing and that he was waiting for the moment when he could say something of vital importance. A moment when they thought he was a broken and truthful man.
That would happen after the fifth drowning, the victim had decided at the commencement of the water- boarding.
At that point, the four heavies would believe anything that came out of his waterlogged mouth.
Palance grabbed the Indian’s hair, pulled his head to within inches of his V-shaped jaw, and used the same menacing tone. “We hate you.”
Mitchum toweled the sweat off his arms and face and shoved the stinking rag back over the victim’s face.
Fonda leaned in close, his piercing blue eyes identi- cal to those of the psychopathic gunman in Once Upon a Time in the West. “We know you understand English because of all the English books we found at your home. So listen to me carefully. We’ll keep waterboarding you until you die.”
Marvin nodded at his colleagues, took a swig from a liter bottle of mineral water whose label proclaimed Water Gives Life, spat the mouthful onto the Indian’s face, and poured the remaining contents onto the rag. Marvin’s spit and the water went the wrong way down the victim’s gullet and made him think he was back in his family’s swimming pool; head throbbing, limbs thrash- ing, lungs in agony.
Mitchum let out a loud belch and laughed before asking, “Who are you?”
When the rag was removed and the Indian stopped
gagging, he decided that Mitchum’s question was the only reasonable one he’d heard since being imprisoned.
Because he wasn’t a victim at all. He was a man whose base of operations in Kapisa had guns, bomb-making equipment, and numerous cell phones containing the numbers of known terrorists. After someone had tipped off the Agency, he’d been caught red-handed with the equipment by men who knew what he was but didn’t know his name.
Mitchum waved the dripping rag in front of the Indi- an’s face. He no longer looked angry and held an expres- sion that momentarily perplexed the Indian. Mitchum sighed, glanced at his colleagues, and returned his atten- tion to the captive. “This is your choice, not ours. Best we get this over with.”
Of course—Mitchum’s expression was one that some men have when they realize that every other option had been fruitlessly pursued and all that was left was death.
The Indian could not and would not let that happen. He shook his head, hoping he looked petrified even though in truth he felt calm and very much in control.
It was the same feeling he’d always had as a teenager when amazing his fellow students and teachers by per- forming acts of escapology on the stage at his boarding school. Padlocked metal boxes, water tanks, chains and ropes lashed around him—he’d escaped them all and had never once felt fear or doubt that he would succeed. Now was no different, although he had to look and sound like a wretched and terrified victim in order to be convincing. “Please . . . please, I beg you to stop.”
“Begging’s of no use to you.” Fonda pointed at him. “All it does is prove to us that you’re weak scum.”
The Indian wished he could tell the American that his observation was wholly inaccurate, because after the swimming pool accident he’d spent the rest of his life honing his physical and mental skills so that he would never be weak again. “I . . . I will tell you anything you need to know. But please, please, no more water.”
Palance yanked the Indian’s arm to sit him upright. “That’s more like it. Talking’s good. We need your name, who you work for, and details of your targets.”
The Indian lowered his head.
He did as he was told, looking at the other men before
returning his attention to Palance. This was the moment he’d been waiting for, the time for the words that he’d been reciting in his head ever since he’d been imprisoned. “I’m an Indian intelligence officer, code name Trapper. My role in Afghanistan has been to operate deep cover to infiltrate terrorist cells.”
All of the men frowned.
“Indian intelligence?” Mitchum looked unsettled. “Research and Analysis Wing?”
The R&AW was India’s primary external intelligence agency.
Trapper nodded. “My cover’s been intact for three years since I’ve been in the country. Now I’m not so sure. Who sold me out to you?”
Fonda answered, “We got ourselves a source. Says you’re a bomber, among other things.”
“Yeah, but you ain’t getting his name.” Mitchum looked at the rag he was holding. “If what you’re saying is true, it sounds like your cover’s still intact. People still think you’re a terrorist. But I’m thinking you could be spinning us a crock of bullshit. We’re going to need to check you out with R&AW.”
Trapper had anticipated this and responded care- fully. “Only R&AW senior management is cleared to know my code name and what I’m doing here. They’re going to be very pissed you grabbed me. You could call them. But if I were you, I’d send someone in person to smooth waters.”
Marvin leaned closer to Trapper’s face. “That could take hours to arrange, maybe days.”
“I’m prepared to wait; I urge you to do the same.”
The room was silent. The four men were clearly think- ing through options.
Fonda broke the silence. “Alright.” He pointed at the bottle of water. “No more of this stuff while we get your story checked out.” He said to his colleagues, “Put him back in his cell.”
When the Indian was on his feet, he said in an implor- ing tone, “Would whoever you send to R&AW headquar- ters please be kind enough to relay to my bosses that I didn’t break cover until the fifth waterboarding?”
Fonda nodded. “I’ve not seen anyone hold out this long. I respect that. We’ll make sure your management knows you kept your mouth shut longer than we thought possible.”
By the time his captors had received confirmation from R&AW that Trapper’s claim was a complete lie, Trapper would have escaped his cell and vanished.
“There’s one more thing.” Trapper looked directly at Fonda, deciding that he was the highest-ranking officer in the room. “I know from one of my terrorist affiliates that a senior CIA officer is being targeted for assassi- nation. It’s revenge for the officer’s assassination of a high-ranking Taliban leader. I was about to relay that to R&AW so that they could pass on the intelligence to you guys, but then,” he shrugged, “you guys stormed my house and brought me here.”
Fonda, Palance, Mitchum, and Marvin stared at him. Fonda asked, “Does the CIA officer have a name?” Trapper rubbed water off his face, hair, and chest
while wondering if the Agency torturers would grab him for doing so without their permission. Instead, they were motionless and expectant. Just as he’d imagined they would be when, weeks ago, he’d constructed his plan to get to this moment, had made an anonymous call to the Agency’s headquarters in Langley, and had given the secret location of an Indian Muslim terrorist who was hiding in Afghanistan and who happened to be him. Nearly everything the Agency operatives in the room thought was real was in fact an almighty sleight of hand. But two things were not false: the very real threat to the CIA officer and his name.
Trapper was motionless in the center of the room, water still dripping off his thin but strong body. Heimagined his captors’ surprise when they realized he’d escaped from his cell using a penknife he’d stolen from Mitchum’s pocket while the agent had been pouring water down his throat. “His name is Will Cochrane.”
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About the Book
Author: Matthew Dunn
Publish Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Impulse an imprint of HarperCollins
~ Synopsis ~MI6 agent Will Cochrane, now living in Washington, D.C. with his fiancée, has decided to leave the spy game for good. But when a dangerous terrorist, codenamed Cipher, escapes from a top secret CIA military base, Will learns that his former enemy has been nursing a deadly vendetta against him. T hen Will receives a letter from Cipher detailing everyone he plans to kill—and the names of Will’s friends and family are on it.
Now Will’s only hope is to uncover Cipher’s true identity, hunt him down and neutralize the threat or risk losing everyone he’s ever cared about.