As the Cold War winds down, former enemies on both sides of the Iron Curtain plot to retain power with a deadly stroke against top world leaders. The action moves swiftly from Tel Aviv to Hong Kong to an island off the Florida coast and up the Eastern U.S.
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Beware the Jabberwock
As the Cold War sputters to a close and the Soviet Union disintegrates, rogue elements on both sides of the Iron Curtain join in a deadly plot to maintain their hold on power. Months later, international telephone intercepts trigger a CIA investigation into the nebulous codeword "Jabberwock." Cameron Quinn, a veteran clandestine officer with a drinking problem, draws the task of tracking it down. After his superiors doubt Jabberwock's importance, Quinn turns for help to a former FBI buddy, Burke Hill, whose tarnished career ended years earlier. For Hill, it becomes a quest to prove his own worth after an accident forces him to continue the investigation alone, without CIA sanction. With the help of Quinn's daughter Lori, a former CIA operative, he discovers a multinational team of killers rehearsing on an island off the Florida coast. As official and unofficial forces work to stop them, Burke and Lori realize they hold the only hope of stopping a plot to assassinate the American and Russian presidents.
The General’s feelings were clear. Under the infamous banner of perestroika, the Soviet and Russian Republic presidents and their cohorts had disfigured the face of communism, dismantled the achievements of the revolution. Over seventy years of struggle to build a bastion of socialist power was being discarded like a broken toy in the rush to embrace a bastard form of capitalism.
"You aren't alone," said the Foxhunter, now openly sympathetic with his longtime adversary. Without a formidable foe to contend with, he and his colleagues would face a bleak future. "The bleeding-heart liberals of America are going to ruin us in the same damned way. And they seem to be gaining the upper hand."
"It appears to me that we share a common problem," the General said, his voice that of a businessman on the brink of a deal. "Would not both our interests be much better served if our governments were in more friendly hands?"
"You're damned right about that."
His own inner circle, led by a few titans of American industry who formed his power base, was irate over the way the current administration had refused to stop the drain of America's energy and might. The unprecedented military build-up in the Middle East, which had successfully thwarted a power-hungry Iraqi dictator, had ended predictably in new moves to balance the budget at the expense of the Defense Department and the CIA.
What both men were thinking, but neither dared put into words, was that the thawing of the Cold War had placed the arch-conservatives of both East and West in jeopardy. They saw misguided men seizing the opportunity to demand less money for military and intelligence-gathering capabilities, more for the frivolities of social programs and questionable methods of restructuring the economies. So-called "reformers" moved openly to eliminate a tradition of leadership that had been responsible for raising the superpowers to their lofty pinnacles. The ebb tide of change was sweeping the old guard toward a watery grave. Their response was to demand that the General and the Foxhunter produce lifeboats. To such men, power was everything. It meant authority, control, influence. It was a way of life, and to lose it was a tragedy to be avoided at any cost.
"The question is," the Russian said, emphasizing each word, "what can be done about it?"
The Foxhunter gave a shrug of resignation. "Very little, from my standpoint. Unfortunately, we won't have the opportunity to get rid of this President for a good while to come. I don't know that you're much better off. Your leader seems to live a charmed life. He avoided a pretty highly-placed coup."
"Yes," said the General with a bitter smile, "but now he plays second fiddle to the head of the Russian Republic."
"So, what's the answer? Impeachment is out of the question for us. Short of a resignation, of which there is zero possibility, we're stuck with him, unless he should obligingly die in office."
The General's eyes widened. He rubbed his chin, as if deep in thought. Then he spoke. "You bring up an interesting possibility. A death in office, eh?"
"You're not thinking—?"
"I'm only considering what you suggest could happen." The General raised his eyebrows, lining his forehead with deep wrinkles. "You have had several presidents die in office. And, we, of course, once had a succession of short-lived chairmen."
The American pondered the thought, a grim look on his face. The President was in obvious good health. His death could only come at the hands of an assassin. A rather severe solution. But, under the circumstances, was it unthinkable?
The information he had received from the General confirmed his belief that this President was allowing things to move in a direction that threatened the very existence of the nation. In a way, this was war. A war of survival for the United States of America. What was it Barry Goldwater had said? Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice...moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. The man in the White House had become the most dangerous of enemies. He held the power to destroy two hundred years of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He had to be stopped, and there was only one sure way of doing it. He would have to become a casualty of war.
“You have placed the problem in its proper perspective,” the General said. “Nothing short of a dramatic removal of the men at the top would shock our people back to their senses."
The Foxhunter stared at him. Conspiracy at the top had been a staple of Russian rule since the time of the czars, but was America all that different? "We would have a much more conservative vice president moving up," he said, adding to himself, one we should be able to manipulate with much greater success.
"My country most assuredly has more suitable men ready to step into the breech."
The more the American thought about it, the more appealing the idea became. The system had its checks and balances, but sometimes it could get so far out of balance that the checks acted more like roadblocks, deterrents to effective action. This Congress was far too liberal, and the executive branch appeared unable to cope with it. Should something happen to the President, his more conservative replacement would enjoy a wave of popular sympathy, plus the traditional "honeymoon" accorded a new chief executive. It could provide just the thrust needed to turn things around.
Yes, he agreed with the Russian's assessment. There appeared to be no other choice. Even so, he knew he was not the final arbiter. He would take back the recommendation, but it would be up to others to make the decision. His job was that of a quarterback, calling the signals, putting the ball in the hands of those who would score.
As the General poured more coffee, the Foxhunter’s voice turned almost playful, something quite out of character. "You don't happen to have a couple of Lee Harvey Oswalds stashed away in Lefortovo, do you, General?"
"No Oswalds. This will require the greatest degree of sophistication. It should be a single stroke." The Russian's words came in bursts, like automatic rifle fire. "Done with the leaders together. Somewhere outside our own countries. With traces leading away from us. Pointing toward a third party."
"You're talking about a major operation. Multiple resources. It would take time to set up."
"Without doubt. We will have to wait for the right opportunity. Hopefully my people will be able to hold things together until then. It will require innovation. Absolute surprise. I am sure my patrons would be willing to commit whatever human resources are necessary. As for monetary resources." He winced. "We are somewhat limited."
"Money will be no problem if my backers like the idea. We'd want people intimately involved in the operation, of course."
He didn't trust the General and his communist cohorts any more than they trusted him. They would require close scrutiny all the way. He looked back at his co-conspirator. "We're talking about pretty drastic measures, General. I can't say for certain they'll buy it, but when I relay the information you've just given me, I believe they will agree this is really the only way to go."
He knew their patience with the White House had moved well beyond the breaking point. A joint operation with the Russians should scotch any fear that the other side might take advantage of the chaos to make some treacherous move. Or so it seemed.
When the meeting was ready to break up around two forty-five, the General's voice took on a note of caution. "This will require the greatest of secrecy, my friend." The "my friend" was slipped in as naturally as if they had been old college chums meeting after a long-delayed reunion. "We have taken great pains to conceal this meeting. When you are ready to proceed, and I trust that you will, place an advertisement under 'Happy Days' in the Announcements category of the Sunday Washington Post classified section. It will say, 'A. You must run at least twice as fast as that! Queen.' I'll promptly contact you to determine our future course."