The Last Spymaster
“Today’s finest espionage writer unleashes an instant classic.” – Lee Child
“This classic espionage thriller … strikes a perfect balance between the private lives of the characters and the blood and betrayal of their professional adventures…. vivid.” – Publishers Weekly
Charles “Jay” Tice was a spy’s spy. The chief of the CIA’s elite Clandestine Services, he was a legend throughout the world of international intelligence. But secretly he was also a traitor, reputedly selling information that would seriously compromise the security of the United States for decades to come.
Since his treachery was exposed, Tice has been kept under strict surveillance in a maximum security prison.
Then one morning, his cell is discovered empty. Jay Tice has vanished — without tripping an alarm or leaving any trace of his passing.
Elaine Cunningham is a hunter — a CIA operative who specializes in finding people who don’t want to be found. Young, gifted, and a maverick, she is assigned to track Tice and bring him to ground before he disappears forever.
But as she matches wits in a perilous game with one of the greatest spymasters of all time, she discovers there is far more at stake than an old spy’s last run for freedom.
Lurking in the shadows are other hidden players with their own lethal agendas, and from Geneva to Washington, Berlin to New York City, a deadly conspiracy is coalescing. With only a few hours to go and the future of millions in the balance, Cunningham must uncover the truth behind the legend of the last spymaster.
With THE LAST SPYMASTER, New York Times best-selling author Gayle Lynds has created her masterwork, a compelling thriller of loyalty, betrayal, and the wheels-within-wheels world of modern espionage. Once again she proves herself to be one of the most original and exciting writers in the field today.
November 16, 1985
Glienicke Bridge, between West Berlin and East Germany
The darkness seemed colder, more bitter, at Glienicke Bridge when a spy exchange was about to begin. Jay Tice shoved his hands deep into his topcoat pockets in a futile attempt to warm them as he scanned the forested hills and the steel-and-iron bridge, black and forbidding in the first rays of dawn.
Dusted with snow, two stone centaurs flanked the long expanse, towering over Tice’s armored sedan and the two battered U.S. Army trucks. On high alert, a dozen soldiers carrying M-16s and wearing pistols over their belted overcoats moved like shadows across the road and among the skeletal trees. The night’s snowfall had been light; still, it muffled the sounds of distant traffic.
Tice missed nothing, not the tension in his people’s faces, certainly not the Kalashnikov-toting East German soldiers on the far side of the bridge, who patrolled slowly, menacingly, in the gray light. They guarded Pavel Abendroth, the renowned dissident and Jewish refusenik, and his warden—Stasi officer Raina Manhardt.
Tice moved his gaze away. He was a rumpled man of thirty-four, just shy of six feet tall. His nose was straight, his hair brown and of average length, his mouth wide and implacable. Depending on the light, his eyes were blue or brown. His one distinctive feature was the deep cleft that notched his chin, which was dramatic. Still, Tice had perfected the art of appearing almost bloodless, clearly boring. Seldom did anyone remember him or his cleft chin—unless he wanted them to.
“Issa’a kaem?” the voice beside him demanded.
With a sharp movement of his head, Tice peered at his half of the predawn swap— Faisal al-Hadi, a twenty-year-old Muslim militant caught in an arms deal Tice had busted. Standing motionless and straight as a knife, he was Tice’s height but narrow, with a high-bridged nose and bony features, dressed in American jeans and a duffel coat. According to his dossier, he spoke English, but no one in the command had heard him use it. Oddly, al-Hadi had yet to look at the bridge. Those waiting to be traded tended to stare across it with raw hunger.
Tice checked his wristwatch. “Issa’a 5:12. Da’ayi’ hidashar.” The trade must begin in just eleven minutes so it would be finished by 5:42 a.m.—sunrise.
This was Glienicker Brücke, “Bridge of Spies,” witness to many of the Cold War’s most crucial exchanges. It was a bridge leading nowhere, unused except for the infrequent official vehicle on a military mission between the Free West and the Communist East and the occasional vital spy swap. Some exchanges were notorious and covered by the press; others were secret, as was this one.
Before al-Hadi could respond, a car’s motor pierced the silence. Tice spun. Rifles lashed around. The engine was a deep purr—large and expensive, its timing impeccable. A Mercedes. As soon as Tice read the license plate, he waved an arm backward in a wide swing that those on both sides of the bridge could see, signaling everyone to stand down.
Wearing a camel-hair overcoat, Palmer Westwood stepped from the luxury car. His hair was thick and pepper gray, his features angular and grave. Fifty-two years old, Westwood was the CIA’s new Associate Deputy Director of Operations, the ADDO, just in from Langley. He was late.
As Westwood hurried toward them, he pulled out his pocket watch. The fob was a small gold triangle—flat, with two jagged edges. He checked the time, then glanced at the terrorist. “Any trouble?”
“Quiet so far,” Tice told him. “We should go.”
Westwood nodded, and Tice signaled. The soldiers closed in. They advanced as a group, passing the sign that warned ominously in four languages: You Are Leaving the American Sector. The old steel bridge was radiant, ablaze in arc lights, stretching ahead more than four hundred feet.
For the first time, al-Hadi looked across. Then he stared as if he could not tear his gaze away, his black eyes burning with fury he could no longer hide. As Tice followed his line of sight, he began to understand the terrorist’s silence and apparent lack of interest. “Come over here,” Tice ordered as they stopped at the edge. “Stay on my left.” The terrorist was right-handed.
Tice turned away so al-Hadi could not see as he unbuttoned his coat, pulled his pistol from the holster, and slid it into his waistband. He put another item into his left pocket. When he turned back, al-Hadi was in place. On either side, the dark forest was hushed, still, almost predatory.
Tice checked his watch again and gazed across just as Raina Manhardt peered up from hers. They nodded and stepped forward alone, two enemy intelligence officers doing their duty. Al-Hadi caught up with Tice, while Raina Manhardt slowed for Abendroth to join her. Jailed nine years in the gulag, the Jewish doctor had lost a third of his body weight from starvation rations and illness. Dressed in baggy clothes, he pressed his earmuffs close and smiled as he matched Manhardt’s steps.
The walk had begun. As an icy wind gusted off the river, Tice moved close to al-Hadi and spoke in English: “You’re damn lucky. If Dr. Abendroth weren’t a cause célèbre, you wouldn’t be going home.”
Al-Hadi’s eyes snapped. His molten gaze was locked on the small man in the distance. He said nothing.
“That’s it, isn’t it,” Tice said softly. “A Jew is saving your life. Worse, a human-rights Jewish activist the West reveres.”
“Mabahibish khanzeereen.” Al-Hadi sneered. His right hand twitched.
Immediately, Tice used both hands to slap a handcuff on the wrist and squeeze it tight enough to inhibit circulation. “Keep walking. Now I’ve got a gun pointed at you under my coat, too. Dammit, don’t pull away. You don’t want anyone to see this. Ala tool. Ala ikobri.”
“Kufr. Infidels! The Jews are the enemies of Islam. Jews are the source of all conflicts! They are liars. Murderers. If I am defending my home, no one can call me a terrorist. All infidels must die!”
“If you hadn’t behaved yourself in lockup, I never would’ve been able to talk Langley into letting you go—even for someone of Abendroth’s stature. Up to now, you’ve been smart. But you’ll never make it home alive if you don’t drop whatever you’re carrying in your right hand.”
Al-Hadi’s head jerked around. “What? How did you know?” His pinched face showed the pain caused by the handcuff.
For the past month, ever since his capture in the shoot-out in West Berlin, al-Hadi had tried to hide his intelligence behind a mask of indifference. But Tice had noted his watchful gaze, the small advantages he created for himself, and his ability to perceive routine in an apparently randomized interrogation schedule. His intelligence would argue against self-destruction.
“Experience. Keep walking.” Tice tightened the handcuff. “Get rid of the weapon, or you’ll never see Damascus again.”
For the first time, doubt flickered in the young man’s face.
“Drop it, son,” Tice said. “You’d be insane not to want to go home, and this is the only chance you’ll get. Drop it.”
The fire that had burned so feverishly in al-Hadi’s eyes died. His fingers opened, and a razored metal file fell silently into the snow, a weapon of close assassination. Al-Hadi peered away, but not before Tice saw his humiliation. He had failed.
Then al-Hadi’s lips thinned. He seemed to gather himself. “Release me!” he ordered. Tice considered then reached over and unlocked the handcuff.
Al-Hadi gave no acknowledgment. Instead, he lifted his chin defiantly. Neither spoke as they closed in on the bridge’s center. A gust of bitter wind needled Tice’s face. Following protocol, he stopped a yard from the four-inch-wide white line that marked the border between West and East. But his prisoner bolted toward it.
“Halt!” Tice made a show of grabbing for his arm.
“La’a!” Without a glance at Dr. Abendroth, al-Hadi hurtled past.
As clouds of brittle snow exploded from the youth’s heels, Tice focused on Raina Manhardt. A half-head taller than the diminutive doctor, she wore a fur hat and a stern expression.
“I wish I could say it was a pleasure.” He spoke in German. The Stasi officer’s eyes flashed. She responded in English with a perfect American accent: “So we meet again, Comrade Tice.” She spun on her boot heel and followed her charge.
Tice stared after her a few seconds then greeted Dr. Abendroth. “It’s an honor, sir.” “Spaseeba!” Abendroth was excited. He took two large steps into the West and pumped Tice’s hand. “My knees ache, or I would fall down and kiss this old bridge.”
They turned in unison and strode off. The cold seemed to settle into Tice’s bones. He inhaled a deep breath.
“You were worried?” Dr. Abendroth asked curiously. He had the wrinkled skin of a seventy-year-old, although he was only in his forties.
“Of course. And you?”
“I gave that up long ago.” The dissident’s smile deepened. “I prefer to think of pleasant things.”
The return trip seemed longer to Tice. Ahead, the dawn rose slowly, almost reluctantly, above the bleak hills. The waiting party of armed Americans resembled a still life from some military album. Only Palmer Westwood seemed real. In his camel-hair overcoat, he stalked back and forth, furiously smoking a cigarette.
As soon as they stepped onto land, Tice introduced the two men.
The small, shabby pediatrician took the hand of the tall, genteel CIA official. “You came just to welcome me, Mr. Westwood? You are so civilized. I have shaken no one’s hand in friendship in years, other than another prisoner’s. And now I have done it twice within minutes.” He gestured toward the stately Mercedes, where the driver stood at the open rear door, waiting. “My chariot?”
Tice gazed at it. “Yes.”
With a crisp nod, Dr. Abendroth marched off alone, his head turning as if he were memorizing the world. While Palmer Westwood followed, Tice paused and glanced over his shoulder. On the other end of the bridge, Raina Manhardt and al-Hadi were approaching their Zil limousine.
When Tice looked back, Westwood had stopped to grind out his cigarette beneath the toe of his wing tip. Tice shifted his focus to Abendroth, monitoring his approach to the open door of the sedan. It was time. Taking a small step backward, Tice squared his shoulders and gave an almost imperceptible nod.
The percussive noise of a single rifle shot splintered the quiet. Blood and bone fragments exploded into the air, and Pavel Abendroth pitched forward, the back of his skull shattered by the bullet. His right arm bounced off the doorframe and landed hard inside the sedan.
For an instant, the escort of American soldiers froze, their faces stunned. Then their rifles slashed up and moved violently, searching for a target. At the same time, Raina Manhardt shoved a grinning Faisal al-Hadi into the limo and dove in after him.
Tice ran to Abendroth, bellowing at his people to alert headquarters and find the sniper. With the stench of hot blood filling his nostrils, Tice crouched. The pediatrician lay crumpled on a patch of dirty snow. Tice picked up the hand that had fallen inside the car. Thick calluses and ragged scars covered the palm, showing the brutal labor and torture Abendroth had endured.
Tice found a faint pulse in the frail wrist, growing weaker. When it stopped, he closed the dead man’s staring eyes and lifted his head to watch across the length of Glienicke Bridge. Tires spinning on the snow, the Communist limo shot off toward East Berlin.