The Last Man
Author:Vince Flynn

Chapter 56


KENNEDY entered Air Force General Ahmed Taj's office with Mike Nash, who had flown in from Bagram. She had briefed him on Kassar back in the embassy's secure conference room. Taj, Durrani, and Nassir were all decked out in their military uniforms, while Ashan was in a suit. Kennedy was pleased to see that Ashan was there, but noted that he did not look well.

The office was a grandiose affair, left over from the Brits, no doubt. It was easily four times bigger than Kennedy's. The walls and ceiling were paneled in a dark wood and there were three large stone fireplaces. Bookcases dominated every wall and there were two flat-screen monitors, one by the large conference table and the other one by Taj's desk. Taj and his three deputies were standing near the fireplace to their right. Kennedy walked over and said hello to each man.

When she got to Ashan she said, "Nadeem, I am sorry to hear of your difficulties. One of the things I would like to clear up today is your situation."

"It's a travesty," Durrani announced passionately.

Kennedy looked at the Judas to her left. She had had ample time on the plane to review the entire Rickman affair and analyze the various motives of Rickman and Durrani. As for Rickman, she had a few guesses about why he'd decided to become a traitor, but Durrani was clear-cut. He wanted Taj's job and he wanted Ashan and every other moderate out of his way. He would use Rickman's information to bolster his status, and within a year or two he would be running the ISI and all of its clandestine operations.

Taj stepped forward with a pained expression on his face. "Director Kennedy, I must caution you. Nadeem is only here as a favor from our president to yours. He no longer works at the ISI and has no official capacity here today."

"Yes, I find it all rather interesting. I think your intelligence agency may have been played the same way mine was, but we will discuss that later."

"Yes," Taj said, not having a clue what Kennedy meant. "Please sit." Taj directed her to a massive leather couch that could seat six adults. It was centered on the fireplace, with couches that ran perpendicular off each end. Durrani and Ashan sat on the couch to the right and Nassir and Nash sat on the other couch.

Taj asked Kennedy if she'd like some tea. She declined and withdrew a briefing folder, signaling to everyone that this was all about business.

"This problem with your embassy," Taj winced, "is very bad for our relations."

"I agree," Kennedy offered quickly.

"Then you should hand those four men over," Durrani said, as if it was the only option.

Kennedy ignored Durrani and directed her remarks at General Taj. "I don't like this strife between our two countries, but something is afoot here, and until we figure out what is going on, those four men will be afforded the safety of the sovereign territory of the United States of America."

Durrani laughed at the preposterous claim.

"General," Kennedy said, turning to Durrani, "surely you don't dispute the fact that the American Embassy is sovereign U.S. territory?"

"No, but I don't think the clerics will acknowledge the fact."

"Then why don't you explain it to them rather than use your political affairs officers to whip them into a frenzy?"

Durrani kept his cool. "I'm sorry, Director Kennedy, but you are misinformed."

"I don't think so, General, but you and I will agree to disagree, as we usually do." Kennedy opened her file and pulled out a series of photos. Like a card dealer, she tossed three sets on the table, one in front of Durrani and Ashan, the second in front of Taj, and the third in front of Nash and Nassir.

"You are all familiar with the abduction, interrogation, and murder of one of my men last week in Afghanistan?" They all nodded and Kennedy said, "A second attempt was made on the life of another one of my people. This was the episode in which twenty-one police officers were killed. It turned out they had been ordered to attack my men by General Qayem, who has since disappeared." Kennedy pointed at the photos. "These two men, one of them was killed in the attack and the other we are unable to locate. Do any of you recognize either of them?"

No one answered, so Kennedy said, "According to Afghan intelligence, these two men are ISI assets."

"What are you trying to imply?" Durrani asked angrily.

"I'm not trying to imply anything. I'm just trying to get some answers. Please, by all means show these photos around and see if any of your assets have gone rogue on you."

"This is preposterous," Durrani said. "You are merely trying to distract us from the fact that despite being our supposed ally, you hold four Pakistani citizens whom you have recruited to spy against us in your embassy."

"I'm not arguing that point, General, I'm just trying to find out who launched a coordinated attack against my Clandestine Service last week."

Durrani threw his hands up in frustration while Taj said, "I'm sorry, Director Kennedy, but we have no knowledge of what you are talking about."

"Maybe . . . maybe not. I have another interesting piece of information for you." Kennedy retrieved the copies of Special Agent Wilson's affidavits with Herr Obrecht. She doled out three sets of copies and said, "Have any of you heard of the Swiss bank Sparkasse Schaffhausen?"

Ashan's face lit up. "That's the bank where I supposedly have a million dollars deposited courtesy of your government."

"I thought I'd heard that. Well, apparently this same bank has accounts for the now deceased Mr. Rickman, and another one of my key people, even though I know for a fact that my people never opened any accounts at this bank, or I should say I know Mr. Rapp never opened an account at this bank, but I can't say the same for Mr. Rickman."

"Why is that?" Durrani asked.

"Because he's dead. I have no way to prove that he didn't." Kennedy turned her attention back to Taj, saying, "The point is, we think this bank has been used to make certain people at the CIA look corrupt when in fact they are not. This disinformation was passed on to the FBI in an effort to jump-start a criminal investigation against the CIA. Fortunately, other elements within the FBI believe this is part of the same plot that involved kidnapping Mr. Rickman and the attempted murder of Mr. Rapp. I find it more than a little strange that this is the same bank that Deputy General Ashan was supposedly storing his ill-gotten gains in."

"I've never heard of this bank." Taj said. "Have any of you?" The three deputies all shook their heads. "It is a rather strange coincidence. Why would someone want to frame Mr. Rickman, Mr. Rapp, and Ashan?"

"That's a very good question, General."

"Have you been able to talk to the bank?"

"No, we have not. I sent some people to Zurich late Friday, and they have had a very difficult time tracking down Herr Obrecht, the man whose name is listed on all three accounts." Kennedy paused and then added, "There was one strange development, however." She opened her file for the third time and pulled out more photos. "My people were parked in front of Herr Obrecht's country villa when a car with four men pulled up. The details are a little sketchy, but a chase ensued and then a gunfight." Kennedy tossed the photos of three dead men on the table. "A fourth man escaped and we were unable to track him down, but we have a good description of him. He had black hair, was dark-skinned, with dark eyes, and he, well - " Kennedy pointed at the photos, "he looked like these three men." Kennedy cocked her head to the side and asked, "What nationality would you say these men are, General Taj?"

The director general of the ISI scooped up the photos and stared at them while a layer of perspiration formed on his forehead. After several painful moments he cleared his throat and said, "They look Pakistani."

"And why would they be in Switzerland trying to talk to Herr Obrecht? Did you send men to talk to Herr Obrecht?"

Taj was embarrassed beyond anything he had ever experienced. "If you will excuse me, Director Kennedy, I think we will need to continue this tomorrow. I need to speak in private with my deputies right now."

"By all means, General. If you need me, I'll be at the embassy."