Racing with the Devil Ch. 05-06

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Chapter Five: The Ambassador, Hunter Sean Caldwell II

Ferdinand looked over at me, a question in his eyes, as I revealed my irritation—and, yes, my fear—with a grunt and threw down my pen in exasperation. I was sitting at the desk in my bedroom at the ambassador’s residence in the embassy compound, in my dressing gown, signing documents that needed to be taken care of before I left for the secret conference in Sharm El Sheikh. Ferdinand, my Filipino manservant, was packing my suitcases for the trip. He would be going with me.

“But Sean won’t be going with me—not under any circumstances,” I muttered. I must have spoken it too loudly, because Ferdinand looked up, startled. I tried to cover my outburst by taking a sip of my coffee, but the move was unsuccessful, because my hands were shaking and the cup rattled in its saucer even though I was holding it in two hands.

Then the object of both my ire and my fear, my son, Sean, was standing at the door of my bedroom, here, but obviously unsure whether he wanted to enter the lion’s den—to hear me roar.

“Come in, Sean,” I said in a clipped tone, feeling no need to cover my irritation. “Thank, you, Ferdinand. You may leave us for a few moments. You might as well pack yourself and come back to finish my packing later.”

A questioning look went from Ferdinand to Sean as the servant left the room and Sean hesitatingly entered. I felt a stab of concern, but couldn’t quite locate it. It was only later that I realized that Ferdinand had been keying into the atmospherics in the room, which was strange to consider. He was just a servant. Why did he think on these things with the slightest interest at all?

“Alison said you wanted to see me,” Sean said when we were alone. Alison was my personal secretary.

“Yes, I checked with her earlier today, and she said that she had air tickets and hotel reservations in your name as well as mine in Sharm El Sheikh.”

“Yes. I want to go. I came out here to see the region—to inform my Middle East studies. I want to see Egypt too. I see no reason why I should stay here and not go to Sharm El Sheikh with you.”

“I’m going on business. And it’s not public-knowledge business. I doubt I’ll get out of the convention center at the Four Seasons at all. And the place will be crawling with security. Going to Sharm El Sheikh is not ‘seeing Egypt.'”

“I can have Alison route me back through Cairo after the conference for a couple of weeks. I know an academic who will be at the conference and then staying in Egypt for a while.”

“I won’t have the aggravation of wondering where you are and what you’re doing. You won’t be going. I’ll have Alison cancel your reservations.”

* * * *

He simply didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand. My fear—my fear for him—far outweighed any irritation of him deciding for himself that he would travel to Sharm El Sheikh with me. He simply didn’t understand.

This had been eating at me, pulling me down, for months. Ever since that conference in San Francisco, where that professor from Sanford had approached me. Josef Garfeh. This was all because of Garfeh. I had been surprised when he had asked if we could have a private dinner during the conference, but I was totally shocked after we sat down in the quite corner of the restaurant. He knew about Chris Carter, about Chris Carter and me—and all of those other lovely young blond men. I was up for the ambassadorship to Morocco, a cushy assignment I had been vying for for years. Garfeh threatened to expose my sexual proclivities—not directly but in rumors. It would put paid not just to the Morocco assignment, but to my career as well.

He had asked three things of me to keep his silence. They didn’t seem ominous at the time—at least I had done what I could not to think of them as ominous. He wanted me to switch my assignment preference to this esmer porno emirate. A lesser assignment. More easily attainable than Rabat. A disappointment, but not a large one. This was an easy assignment and would add to my résumé for a Morocco posting later. Then he wanted me to arrange an assignment for Chris Carter here. I didn’t see much wrong with that at the time either. Garfeh noted that Carter was a student of his at Stanford and he simply wanted to help the young man get established in the foreign service. A benefit to me would be to have Chris here and available for my bed. It would actually help me dispel any tensions I found with the job. Garfeh gave me a wink when he said that, making it seem more of a plum he was dropping in my lap than a chore for me to fulfill. He made me believe, at the time, that it was that.

The last demand, though, should have warned me—but I was in too deep already to give it the credence it deserved. He wanted me to keep him apprised on the rumors there would be a secret peace talks conference brokered by the Americans between Israel and Egypt. Egypt was just now coming out of an internal crisis period that had been undermining stability in the Middle East, long kept in balance by an understanding between the Egyptians and Israelis not to rattle each other’s cages. The new Egyptian leadership wanted the backing of the United States. Washington wanted to solidify the stability between these two key states in the region. And Garfeh wanted an invitation to these secret talks if and when I heard about them. He had the credentials to serve with the American delegation as an area specialist.

At the end of the dinner, when Garfeh had returned to all smiles on his handsome face and I, though stunned, was trying to remain cordial on the surface, he had said, “And now for dessert.”

Standing beside the table was one of the most beautiful young blond men I’d ever seen. I immediately went hard and was breathing shallowly.

“I have discovered that you have a special affinity for young, blond men. It’s something we share.” Garfeh gave me an intimate “we share this fetish” look. “This is Eric, one of my prize students, a very accommodating young man. To show how close our working relationship is going to be, yours and mine, I would be happy for you to take Eric back to your room with you. Eric knows what to do—and how to please a man.”

I looked at Eric and he hadn’t flinched. He was as much under Garfeh’s control as I was—and probably under his thrall as well. Garfeh’s handsome features, good build, dark eyes, and mesmerizing speech left little doubt of his allure to younger men. I had to admire him as much as, under it all, I hated and feared him. But he knew me well. I accepted his “take Eric for dessert” offer. It was just another nail in the coffin of being completely under the control now—and at the mercy—of Josef Garfeh.

The secret peace talks were set for the coming weekend in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El Sheikh, at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, where it jutted into the Red Sea. I was going to the talks. So, because of me, was Josef Garfeh. It was only when I found that Chris Carter had now been dispatched to Sharm El Sheikh, to the Four Seasons resort there, to help set up the technical needs of the conference, that the ominous nature of what I had been asked to do—what I had done to keep from having my sexual proclivities exposed—set in.

Something terrible was going to happen at the conference. I knew it. And I didn’t want my son, Sean, to be there in the middle of it. More shocking—brought directly home when Sean just now mentioned meeting up with a professor in Egypt—was a new fear that Sean’s desire to go to Sharm El Sheikh had been maneuvered by Garfeh too. Sean had studied at Sanford, just as Chris Carter had. And Josef Garfeh taught at Sanford. fantazi porno Had he suborned both my young lover and my son? Was he behind Sean’s desire to go to Sharm El Sheikh? Were Sean and Chris pawns in Garfeh’s plan for what I still was expected to do for him?

I shuddered at the thought of those possibilities. No, those probabilities. It would be too much of a stretch to consider everything that converged at Josef Garfeh to be mere happenstance.

* * * *

All of this flashed through my mind as Sean stood there, drinking in my vehement insistence that he would not be going to Sharm El Sheikh with me. He was taking the refusal calmly, so calmly that I wasn’t sure he understood me, so I repeated my rejection.

“You aren’t going to Sharm El Sheikh with me. This is not a vacation trip. I am having Alison cancel your reservations.”

“Very well,” Sean answered in a “who cares?” tone and a shrug of his shoulders. “I’ll go myself now and tell Alison to cancel.”

“Yes, do that,” I said. But in a calmer tone, I added. “This is all business. When I return, I’ll set up a trip for us—just the two of us—for Egypt. It will be good for me to get away and for us to travel together. I’m interested in learning what they are teaching in Muslim studies these days—and it will be time we can be together.”

“I’d like that, thanks,” Sean said and turned toward the door to the bedroom.

“And, please, before you go over to the chancery, go to Ferdinand’s room and tell him he can come back and finish up my packing.”

I thought that had gone well, but something was nagging at the back of my mind that Sean had given in too easily. I made sure when I went to the chancery later to take with Alison.

“Did Sean come by and ask you to cancel his reservations for Sharm El Sheikh?”

“Yes, Ambassador,” she answered. “I canceled his flight.”

Chapter Six: The Iron Lady, Penny Haskell

“Tyler, Tyler, Tyler, what have you done? What are you doing?” Penny Haskell murmured the words in a weak, defeated voice as she sat heavily down on the side of the bed in her embassy residence among the clothes she was packing into a suitcase. No one had ever seen the hardnosed CIA station chief look this unhinged before, and if Penny Haskell had anything to say about it, no one would ever see her this way. She heard movement downstairs and struggled to get control of herself before Tyler came upstairs.

This had come as a body blow to her. She’d known about Chris Carter, of course. She’d known even before he’d been assigned to the station. And she had told Hugh Strong to keep an eye on Chris and report anything peculiar about his activities. She hadn’t told Hugh any more than that, though. She wished she’d told him that it wasn’t just a request that a new employee be watched and guided. If she had, maybe Hugh would have been on his guard better and would be alive today.

But this—what she had been told about Tyler—had come as a body blow. Now that she looked back on recent months, she knew it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise—that there had been signs—but she had let her love for the man—her husband—blind her to reality. Not even discovering his weakness for young men had affected her this way.

She had struggled with Langley on Carter, had wanted to take him down before now. She certainly hadn’t wanted to send him off to Sharm El Sheikh. But she’d been told she wasn’t looking at the big picture—that they wanted to see who was above him in this. Well, she wondered, how did the brutal murder of Hugh Strong fit into the bigger picture? Was running elements of al-Qaida to ground worth the sacrifice? Was the death of Hugh enough, or was it worth the risk to the lives of world leader and, more important to her, multiple Agency operatives, as well?

She’d known underneath her surface reaction porno filmler that Chris Carter had murdered Hugh. But there was the smidgen of doubt. Tyler providing an alibi for Carter that was just wild enough to be believable. Her own husband. Who isn’t duty bound to believe her husband? “A chief of station,” she muttered under her breath in an answer to her own question. But try as she might, she hadn’t been able to muster another explanation for Hugh’s death from her local contacts. There just weren’t any hints of actions planned against American embassy personnel here at the moment. So, why did it happen? What triggered it? Now she knew. It all fell together with the intel briefing she had received this morning. And it all fell like a ton of concrete squarely on her marriage.

Carter wouldn’t get away with it, of course. She would see that he got his somewhere down the road no matter what Langley wanted to do with him. No one did this to one of her people without being punished for it. But Tyler? What to do about Tyler?

And then he was there, standing in the doorway to her bedroom. Not their bedroom, only hers. There had been no intimacy between them since she had discovered what he did with young men. But that didn’t mean she didn’t love him anymore. It only meant there was an ache in her heart that an iron woman like her couldn’t tolerate—and a career ambition not to reveal something seedy like that in her household. She had let it blind her, though. No matter what happened to Tyler out of this, she had to cut him loose and take her lumps with the Agency clearance people. But she couldn’t be seen to have done so . . . not yet . . . not for a few more days. Operations always came first. She knew that, and now she had to reassert that mantra.

“You’re packing?”

“Yes,” she said, trying to make her voice sound cheery and doing what she could not to look him in the face—but not to make him aware that she was avoiding doing so. “A flash trip to Washington. I should be back by the end of the week. I trust you’ll be able to—”

“That will work into my plans well,” Tyler interjected. “I’ve been called away too. Problems with the operations in the Sinai. I’m flying over to At Tur tomorrow afternoon for a few days. Taking a corporate jet. And I’ll have to go back to the office this evening. I’ve got a lot of paperwork I’ll have to do before I leave.”

And a young male secretary to say good-bye to in your favorite way too, Penny mused bitterly. Of course. At Tur was only fifty miles from Sharm El Sheikh. Tyler was in it even deeper than she thought. “Well, then you’d better go pack,” she said, trying to keep her voice from wavering. Trying to keep her whole being from wavering. “I guess this means you won’t be at the prince’s reception and dinner this evening.”

“No, sorry, I can’t. I’ll be up to my eyeballs in paperwork by then. Chances are I’ll just sack out at the office tonight.”

But not alone, Penny thought. How could I have tolerated this for so long? But she knew why she did. She loved him and probably always would.

“And I’ll be taking a flight out to the States in the morning,” she said. “I guess this is . . . good-bye then.” She hadn’t been able to keep the catch out of her voice on the “good-bye.” She knew that had a finality about it that she assumed he didn’t realize.

“It’s just for a week,” he said, obviously having caught the emotion in her voice. He came over to the bed, and she turned her cheek to him for a farewell kiss. There was nothing unusual in that. It didn’t reveal how distressed she was at being in his presence after the briefing she’d gotten earlier on his activities. They hadn’t shared a more heated kiss than that since his sex with young men had been revealed to her. But it didn’t mean that she didn’t love him still—in spite of everything.

She turned sad eyes on him as he turned and left her bedroom. Only now, with his back turned to her, could she let all of the misery she now felt be revealed in her face. It would be the last time she let her guard down like that—ever. “Tyler, Tyler, Tyler,” she murmured, “what have you done? What are you doing?”

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