The End Game
- Book info
- Author updates
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter, the explosive addition to the remarkable thriller series featuring Nicholas Drummond and Mike Caine.
FBI agent Nicholas Drummond and his partner, Mike Caine, are deep into an investigation of COE-Celebrants of the Earth-a violent group known for widespread bombings of power grids and oil refineries across the country. While investigating a tip from a civilian who's overheard about a possible bombing plot, the Bayway Refinery in New Jersey explodes. Nicholas and Mike race to the scene and barely escape being killed by a secondary device.
Returning to the civilian's home to continue their interrogation, they discover the tipster-and the FBI team left to guard him-dead. While Nicholas calls in the assassinations, COE strikes again, this time launching a cyber-attack on several major oil companies and draining their financial and intellectual assets.
But COE has been infiltrated by a deep-cover counterterrorism agent named Vanessa Grace. A bomb-making expert, Vanessa must leave COE and join forces with Nicholas and Mike to stop the organization's devious plan to assassinate the President. But there's an assassin on the loose who could tip the scales in COE's favor, and no one knows his ultimate target, or who has contracted his services.
Working with the CIA, the Secret Service, Mossad, MI-5, and even Savich and Sherlock, Nicholas and his team put their lives on the line to prevent another conflagration-and save the President.
Release date: September 15, 2015
Print pages: 464
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
The End Game
Knight to f3
Grangemouth Refinery, Scotland
Four Months Ago
Vanessa was crouched down, staring into the night, her muscles tense and cramping in the night chill. It was her first job with Matthew, her first bomb built especially for him. It would work, she knew it would, but deep down she had doubts, and hated it. She shook her head, knowing she'd produce a lovely explosion for him as she watched for Ian and his boys. The Firth of Forth was to her left, salt and brine mingling with the sharp scent of unrefined oil.
The darkness was broken only by the lights of the refinery, always running, even after the sun went down. The lighted metal poles mingled with security lamps and boom lights to halo the bobbing headlamps on the workers' helmets. The whole scene looked fantastical, a stage setting in an artificial gloom.
Vanessa looked at her watch. Five minutes to go. Ian was placing the bomb, and at his signal she should be the one to detonate it, but not this time. Matthew told her he was going to be the one to blow up the night sky.
Well, let him, if it gave him a kick. Or was it this particular refinery? Even though it was her job, she smiled at him as she handed over the trigger. It didn't matter, she knew her baby would work just fine.
Vanessa didn't yet understand him, but it was early days. She recognized his genius, his facility with ideas and each step they had to consider before moving ahead with his selected target. She also knew his amazing bomb wasn't yet perfected. If it was, surely he'd want to test it.
She looked at her watch again, said aloud to Matthew, "Where is Ian? He should be out by now. The security guard will circle back around in thirty seconds. He's cutting it too close."
Matthew Spenser, the Bishop, a moniker he'd been given by Ian a long time before, because, as Ian had explained to her, he'd learned that Matthew existed in a master's chess realm that was always ten moves ahead of everyone else, and so didn't he deserve the name? Why not King? she wondered, but didn't say anything. Matthew was tall, lean, and hyper, sharp as a poised knife, he liked to think. She felt the excitement coming off him in waves. He was about to score another win.
He said to Vanessa, "Ian's never failed me. He'll be along. He knows what he's doing."
Three minutes now. They couldn't use comms; radio frequencies could set off the bomb.
She saw movement by the perimeter, and her adrenaline spiked. No, it wasn't Ian. Where was he? She felt gut-wrenching fear that something had gone wrong, that he'd been caught. Or, almost as bad, that she'd messed up and the bomb was somehow defective. Or, at the very worst, she'd been found out. No, she had to calm herself. Her beautiful, powerful Semtex bomb would work and Ian was a master at this; he'd get it set in place and get himself and their guys out of the plant. All would go well.
She let out her breath. Since her prints were all over the bomb and Ian always wore gloves, the message would be clear and received. Her bosses would know it was her group who'd blown up Grangemouth.
Matthew squeezed her arm, gave her a quick smile. "Your first bomb for me." She could only nod. He felt to her like he was ready to jump out of his skin, or his brain, maybe both, but she felt it, too, this manic brew of emotions that roared through both of them. She wondered if in the aftermath of the explosion he would try to get her into bed, to celebrate scoring this victory by scoring her. She'd hold him off, waiting, waiting, trying to judge if she would have to go the sex route to find out what she needed to know.
She took one last look at her watch. "We're out of time."
"Vanessa, look there."
Ian was running across the field toward them, his now-empty backpack flying like wings behind him, a crazy smile stretched across his face, three of their men behind him.
She put in her earplugs.
Matthew was watching her as he stuffed in his own earplugs. Then, without a word, he grinned down at her and handed her back the trigger with a flourish. "Have at it, Vanessa, have at it."
Why had he changed his mind? What did it prove? Had he planned to see if she'd lose her nerve, not be able to detonate the bomb? Well, it hardly mattered.
Vanessa looked up at him as she depressed the trigger, a button on her cell phone.
A fraction of a second later, she felt the explosion. It started in the soles of her feet, pounded up her legs as the ground began to shake and an earsplitting roar tore through the silence. The night sky became day.
The concussion knocked both of them backward. They landed hard, their breath knocked out of them. When Vanessa managed to pull air into her lungs, she scrambled to her hands and knees, facing the heat of the blaze raging in the refinery. It looked like a bonfire on steroids, much stronger than she'd expected. She saw Ian and his men crouched down behind distant refinery trucks, did a quick head count. Everyone was accounted for.
So fast, all of it, so fast. The bomb had done its job, and she'd been its builder. She'd proven herself, established herself once and for all. Now she would be in with Matthew Spenser; now he had to accept her into his inner circle. After all, she was the one who'd engineered this marvel for him, and he would know there were more marvels to come. He had to trust her now.
He was screaming something at her, his voice wild, filled with alarm.
She couldn't hear him, pulled out her earplugs, but it didn't help much. The bomb's concussion had deafened her.
Then he leaped on her, rolling on top of her, slapping at her head.
"Your hair is on fire!"
Her hair was on fire? She knew she should be panicked, she should freak out, but she didn't move, and let him worry about it. Matthew jerked off his shirt and smothered her head in it.
When he pulled his shirt off her head, he stared down at her. "It's only the ends of your hair. Are you all right?"
She stared up at him, smelling her burned hair, listening to the roaring flames, and she started to laugh. She rolled away from him and dropped her singed head to the scrubby, ancient land and laughed and laughed.
Matthew lay beside her, panting, watching her. He rolled up on one arm, raised his hand and fingered the ends of her burned hair. "Vanessa, are you all right?"
"Oh, yes, I'm perfect," and she laughed again.
Ian, his dark hair coated in ash, his men behind him, appeared to their left. "What a blast that was, Van! Wasn't expecting it to roar like a dragon. What are you two waiting for? It's time to go. Coppers will be here in a flash. Van, what'd you do to your hair? I told you never to stand so close, and look what you've done."
Vanessa stood, ran a hand over the crispy ends of her hair, brushed the dirt from her jeans. She looked at the two men-one dark, one light, both crazy like foxes, both grinning at her.
"Satisfied, Mr. Spenser?"
Matthew rose slowly, wiped off his hands on his jeans as she had, and smiled down at her. "Oh, yes," he said, his voice filled with pleasure. "I'm more than satisfied." And he stared down at her, at her mouth, his eyes hot and manic.
11 p.m.-4 a.m.
Knight to f6
Bayonne, New Jersey
FBI Special Agent Michaela Caine drove the black Crown Vic with one hand, tucked a hank of loose hair back into her ponytail with the other, then shoved up her glasses.
It was late and she was tired, ready to go home and crash. But no chance, since they'd gotten a credible tip off the hotline. She looked over at her partner, Special Agent Nicholas Drummond, tapping on a laptop balanced on his knees, doing a background check on their tipster.
She said, "I'm praying with all my might we're not on a wild-goose chase and this guy isn't a thrill chaser."
Nicholas looked up. "I'm inclined to think he isn't. Ben said the man was convinced he had information on COE, and a possible bombing. At this point, I'm willing to listen to anyone, even if it means missing one of Nigel's dinners. He called me earlier, said it was prime rib."
Mike laughed. "Oh, my, that sounds even better than the scrumptious three-day-old chicken salad sandwich I was planning to have at home." She paused, then sighed. "We've been working this case for two weeks now, Nicholas, and gotten nowhere. I hate that. Several oil refineries out west and no leads. I only wish we could keep the frequent-flier miles earned from flying all over the country. And what do we have? This group's mission statement, over and over, the same thing: No more oil from terrorist countries or you will pay the price.
"And now, out of nowhere, this guy pops up in our own backyard with information on COE? On a possible bombing? Do you really think this Hodges character is for real?"
He looked over at her. "My gut is starting to agree with my brain and say yes. You know what else? I think it's also about time that we have our turn at bat."
Baseball metaphor from a Brit? No, he probably meant cricket. Were you at bat in cricket? She didn't know. She grinned. Either way, he was right, it was their turn, and if Hodges was for real, it was possible they'd have a chance for a home run.
Nicholas looked back at his laptop. "Mr. Hodges appears solid, an accountant for a local Bayonne engineering firm. His wife died three years ago, breast cancer."
She took a left into an older residential neighborhood, thick with trees and small, well-manicured lawns. Mr. Richard Hodges's house was on a quiet dead-end cul-de-sac that backed up to the Hudson River. To Nicholas, the block looked like any other older development in a small eastern American town-thirty-year-old single-story houses, comfortably settled in with their neighbors. Amazing how quiet it was, considering its proximity to Manhattan. He supposed the lapping water dampened the sound.
They saw the curtains twitch.
Nicholas closed his laptop. "I see we're expected."
Mike turned off the engine. "Okay, I'm thinking positively. I'm up at bat and Mr. Hodges is going to give me a perfect pitch."
The door opened before they had a chance to ring the bell. A man dressed in jeans and a white polo shirt waved them in and closed the door quietly behind them, as if he didn't want to wake someone. A habit from when his wife was ill?
The interior of Mr. Hodges's house was neat, looked clean, but it smelled musty, somehow sterile, and Mike doubted there'd been another woman living here since his wife's death. She didn't see any photos or knickknacks on any surface, only piles of newspapers and newsmagazines. The house, she realized, was now only a place where a lonely man lived off his memories.
"Mr. Hodges? I'm Agent Caine, and this is Agent Drummond. We were told you have some information about the terrorist group known as Celebrants of Earth, or COE, and a possible bombing."
Hodges was a smallish man with a bald spot and a heavy five-o'clock shadow. He looked solid, calm, no indication that he was an alarmist or a wild-hair. Maybe they had finally caught their break. She smelled bacon and toast, a single man's dinner. She felt a punch of pain for him.
"It's nice to meet you," he said. "Thank you for coming. Shall we sit? Can I get you coffee? I have some already brewed."
"We wouldn't say no to a cup, sir. Thank you."
He gestured toward the kitchen.
Mike and Nicholas took a seat at an ancient table with one leg shorter than the others, held steady with a pile of magazines. Moments later, they both had mugs of coffee and a plate of chocolate-mint Girl Scout Cookies. Nicholas took one to be polite; they'd been floating around the office for the past few weeks and tasted like wax to him.
Nicholas sipped his coffee, then set the cup on the table. "So, Mr. Hodges, tell us what you know."
Hodges blinked at him. "You're British? I didn't know people from England could be in the FBI. Are you some sort of special case?"
Mike nodded, grinning. "Yes, sir, he is indeed a special case."
Nicholas sat forward. "My mother was American. The story, sir, please."
Mr. Hodges nodded. "I was at the Dominion Bar tonight, having a drink after work. There was a man there-I don't know his name, but I've seen him around before. He's works at the Bayway Refinery-doing what, exactly, I don't know. He'd obviously been drinking a while, looked pretty drunk to me, and I wondered why the bartender, that's the owner, May Anne, hadn't cut him off. He was shooting his mouth off, you know the kind of person, they get loud when they've had too much to drink and, well, lose all sense. I heard him tell his friend he was celebrating. He'd gotten a big payoff, a lot of money, and more to come, and he was going to retire and move to an island somewhere and have women in bikinis wait on him, and not take his wife and whiny kids with him.
"I thought that was a pretty crappy thing to say-I lost my Miriam three years ago and I miss her every day-and I didn't want to listen to him, so I tried to tune him out. But he was sitting in the booth directly behind my stool, and I couldn't help but hear. His friend asked where the money came from, and he shushed him and lowered his voice like drunks do, whispered real loud that he couldn't tell, it was top secret. But something really big was going to go down, like what had happened to that oil refinery in Scotland a few months ago-Grangemouth, he said.
"His friend asked if he was breaking the law, and he started to laugh, sounded like a hyena, so drunk he couldn't keep it together. I paid for my drinks and left, but all the way home I couldn't help thinking about what he said. I knew this group COE claimed responsibility for the Scotland refinery bombing, they'd sent their statement to the news media, and it's the same as the one they always use here in the U.S. And like I said, I knew this drunk guy worked at Bayway Refinery. That's why I called your FBI tip line. Thank you for taking me seriously. Do you think this is a real threat?"
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...