I am very happy to be part of this year’s ThrillerFest Blog Tour and even happier to be posting about one of their spotlight authors, and one of my most favourite authors, Lee Child!
I have been reading Lee Child’s work for many years now, thanks to a lady at work introducing me to Mr Child’s wonderful writing, and right from the start I was hooked! I buy his books as soon as they come out, devour them as fast as I can and then eagerly await for the next installment. If you haven’t read one of his books then I suggest you get a hold of one as soon as you can – you won’t be disappointed!
The following information is from the ThrillerFest website:
Lee Child was born in 1954 in Coventry, England, but spent his formative years in the nearby city of Birmingham. By coincidence he won a scholarship to the same high school that JRR Tolkien had attended. He went to law school in Sheffield, England, and after part-time work in the theater he joined Granada Television in Manchester for what turned out to be an eighteen-year career as a presentation director during British TV’s “golden age.” During his tenure his company made Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect, and Cracker. But he was fired in 1995 at the age of 40 as a result of corporate restructuring. Always a voracious reader, he decided to see an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis and bought six dollars’ worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series. Killing Floorwas an immediate success and launched the series which has grown in sales and impact with every new installment.
To learn more about Lee Child, please visit his website.
And now, please enjoy the following:
Below is an excerpt from Lee Child’s latest book The Affair, who will lend his literary expertise to aspiring writers and industry professionals while at ThrillerFest VII. www.ThrillerFest.com.
The Pentagon is the world’s largest office building, six and a half million square feet, thirty thousand people, more than seventeen miles of corridors, but it was built with just three street doors, each of them opening into a guarded pedestrian lobby. I chose the southeast option, the main concourse entrance, the one nearest the Metro and the bus station, because it was the busiest and the most popular with civilian workers, and I wanted plenty of civilian workers around, preferably a whole big unending stream of them, for insurance purposes, mostly against getting shot on sight. Arrests go bad all the time, sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose. So I wanted witnesses. I wanted independent eyeballs on me, at least at the beginning. I remember the date, of course. It was Tuesday, the eleventh of March, 1997, and it was the last day I walked into that place as a legal employee of the people who built it.
A long time ago.
The eleventh of March 1997 was also by chance exactly four and a half years before the world changed, on that other future Tuesday, and so like a lot of things in the old days the security at the main concourse entrance was serious without being hysterical. I was unarmed, wearing my Class A uniform, all of it clean, pressed, polished and spit-shined, all of it covered with thirteen years’ worth of medal ribbons, badges, insignia and citations. I was thirty-six years old, standing tall and walking ramrod straight, a totally squared away U.S. Army Military Police Major in every respect, except that my hair was too long and I hadn’t shaved for eight days.
Back then Pentagon security was run by the Defense Protective Service, and from forty yards I saw ten of their guys in the lobby, which I thought was far too many, which made me wonder whether they were all theirs or whether some of them were actually ours, working undercover, waiting for me. Most of our skilled work is done by Warrant Officers, and they do a lot of it by pretending to be someone else. They impersonate colonels and generals and enlisted ranks and anyone else they need to. All in a day’s work for them to throw on DPS uniforms and wait for their target. From thirty yards I didn’t recognize any of them, but then, the army is a very big institution, and they would have chosen men I had never met before.
I walked on, part of a broad wash of people heading across the concourse to the doors, some men and women in uniform, either Class As like my own or the old woodland-pattern BDUs we had back then, and some men and women obviously military but out of uniform, in suits or work clothes, and some obvious civilians, some of each category carrying bags or briefcases or packages, all of each category slowing and sidestepping and shuffling as the broad wash of people narrowed to a tight arrowhead and then narrowed further still to lonely single file or collegial two-by-two, as folks got ready to stream inside. I lined up with them, on my own, single file, behind a woman with pale unworn hands and ahead of a guy in a suit that had gone shiny at the elbows. Civilians, both of them, desk workers, probably analysts of some kind, which was exactly what I wanted. Independent eyeballs. It was close to noon. There was sun in the sky and the March air had a little warmth in it. Spring, in Virginia. Across the river the cherry trees were about to wake up. The famous blossom was about to break out. All over the innocent nation airline tickets and SLR cameras lay on dressers, ready for sightseeing trips to the capital.
I waited in line. Way ahead of me the DPS guys were doing exactly what security guys do. Four of them were occupied with specific tasks, two manning an inquiry counter and two checking official badge holders and then waving them through an open turnstile. Two were standing directly behind the glass inside the doors, looking out, heads high, eyes front, scanning the approaching crowd. Four were hanging back in the shadows behind the turnstiles, just clumped together, shooting the shit. All ten were armed.
It was the four behind the turnstiles that worried me. No question that back in 1997 the Department of Defense was seriously puffed up and overmanned in relation to the threats we faced then, but even so it was unusual to see four on-duty guys with absolutely nothing to do. Most commands at least made their surplus personnel look busy. But these four had no obvious role. I stretched up tall and peered ahead and tried to get a look at their shoes. You can learn a lot from shoes. Undercover disguises often don’t get that far, especially in a uniformed environment. The DPS was basically a beat cop role, so to the extent that a choice was available, DPS guys would go for cop shoes, big comfortable things appropriate for walking and standing all day. Undercover MP Warrant Officers might use their own shoes, which would be subtly different.
But I couldn’t see their shoes. It was too dark inside, and too far away.
The line shuffled along, at a decent pre-9/11 clip. No sullen impatience, no frustration. Just old-style routine. The woman in front of me was wearing perfume. I could smell it coming off the nape of her neck. I liked it. The two guys behind the glass noticed me about ten yards out. Their gaze moved off the woman and onto me. It rested on me a beat longer than it really needed to, and then it moved on to the guy behind.
Then it came back. Both men looked me over quite openly, up and down, side to side, four or five seconds, and then I shuffled forward and their attention moved behind me again. They didn’t say anything to each other. Didn’t say anything to anyone else, either. No warnings, no alerts. Two possible interpretations. One, best case, I was just a guy they hadn’t seen before. Or maybe I stood out because I was bigger and taller than anyone within a hundred yards. Or because I was wearing a Major’s gold oak leaves and ribbons for some heavy-duty medals including a Silver Star, like a real poster boy, but because of the hair and the beard I also looked like a real caveman, which visual dissonance might have been enough reason for a long second glance, just purely out of interest. Sentry duty can be boring, and unusual sights are always welcome.
Or two, worst case, they were merely confirming to themselves that some expected event had indeed happened, and that all was going according to plan. Like they had prepared and studied photographs and were saying to themselves: OK, he’s here, right on time, so now we just wait two more minutes until he steps inside, and then we take him down.
Because I was expected, and I was right on time. I had a twelve o’clock appointment and matters to discuss with a particular colonel in a third-floor office in the C ring, and I was certain I would never get there. To walk head-on into a hard arrest was a pretty blunt tactic, but sometimes if you want to know for sure whether the stove is hot, the only way to find out is to touch it.
The guy ahead of the woman ahead of me stepped inside the doors and held up a badge that was attached to his neck by a lanyard. He was waved onward. The woman in front of me moved and then stopped short, because right at that moment the two DPS watchers chose to come out from behind the glass. The woman paused in place and let them squeeze out in front of her, against the pressing flow. Then the woman resumed her progress and stepped inside, and the two guys stepped outside and stopped and stood exactly where she had been, three feet in front of me, but facing in the opposite direction, toward me, not away from me.
They were blocking the door. They were looking right at me. I was pretty sure they were genuine DPS personnel. They were wearing cop shoes, and their uniforms had eased and stretched and molded themselves to their individual physiques over a long period of time. These were not disguises, snatched from a locker and put on for the first time that morning. I looked beyond the two guys, inside, at their four partners who were doing nothing, and I tried to judge the fit of their clothes, by way of comparison. It was hard to tell.
In front of me the guy on my right said, “Sir, may we help you?”
I asked, “With what?”
“Where are you headed today?”
“Do I need to tell you that?”
“No sir, absolutely not,” the guy said. “But we could speed you along a little, if you like.”
Probably via an inconspicuous door into a small locked room, I thought. I figured they had civilian witnesses on their mind too, the same way I did. I said, “I’m happy to wait my turn. I’m almost there, anyway.”
The two guys said nothing in reply to that. Stalemate. Amateur hour. To try to start the arrest outside was dumb. I could push and shove and turn and run and be lost in the crowd in the blink of an eye. And they wouldn’t shoot. Not outside. There were too many people on the concourse. Too much collateral damage. This was 1997, remember. March eleventh. Four and a half years before the new rules. Much better to wait until I was inside the lobby. The two stooges could close the doors behind me and form up shoulder to shoulder in front of them while I was getting the bad news at the desk. At that point theoretically I could turn back and fight my way past them again, but it would take me a second or two, and in that second or two the four guys with nothing to do could shoot me in the back about a thousand times.
And if I charged forward they could shoot me in the front. And where would I go anyway? To escape into the Pentagon was no kind of a good idea. The world’s largest office building. Thirty thousand people. Five floors. Two basements. Seventeen miles of corridors. There are ten radial hallways between the rings, and they say a person can make it between any two random points inside a maximum seven minutes, which was presumably calculated with reference to the army’s official quick-march pace of four miles an hour, which meant if I was running hard I could be anywhere within about three minutes. But where? I could find a broom closet and steal bag lunches and hold out a day or two, but that would be all. Or I could take hostages and try to argue my case, but I had never seen that kind of thing succeed.
So I waited.
The DPS guy in front of me on my right said, “Sir, you be sure and have a nice day now,” and then he moved on past me, and his partner moved on past me on my other side, both of them just strolling slow, two guys happy to be out in the air, patrolling, varying their viewpoint. Maybe not so dumb after all. They were doing their jobs and following their plan. They had tried to decoy me into a small locked room, but they had failed, no harm, no foul, so now they were turning the page straight to plan B. They would wait until I was inside and the doors were closed, and then they would jump into crowd control mode, dispersing the incoming people, keeping them safe in case shots had to be fired inside. I assumed the lobby glass was supposed to be bulletproof, but the smart money never bets on the DoD having gotten exactly what it paid for.
The door was right in front of me. It was open. I took a breath and stepped into the lobby. Sometimes if you want to know for sure whether the stove is hot, the only way to find out is to touch it.
© Lee Child
Don’t forget to visit the ThrillerFest website at www.ThrillerFest.com