The RESCUE of
My name is Cody Singleton, a mystery writer whose novels have been on the New York Times Best Sellers List. The Rescue of Liddie MacArthur is my story of a desperate journey to save Liddie from Central Intelligence Agency and Russian SVR assassins.
Her sister worked for the CIA and gave Liddie secrets. Secrets that could devastate the CIA, the president and lose the Middle East to the terrorists and Russians.
The story began innocently enough when I met Liddie, a waitress at an upscale restaurant. Hiding out from a nation-wide manhunt, she called herself Madison. I frightened her and she ran. She thought I wanted to kill her. I had to help. Finding her, we fled through the mountains and deserts of Southern California to escape from assassins ambushes and police dragnets. She had to give her sister’s secrets to the only man who could be trusted.
February 20, 2014, Wednesday
11:57 p.m., Standard Time
The Queen’s Garden Court Apartments
47 Gower Street, Apartment 4C,
Rachel MacArthur hated the night.
It was always the same. Her demons returned to plague her with fear and fitful sleep. Tonight was no exception. Lying in bed with the darkness and her demons surrounding her, she knew two things. She had learned too much, and they were going to kill her. The CIA had no choice. The best secrets remain in dark places, hidden away from prying eyes. After twenty-three years of service with the agency, she knew too many of them. Especially the tragedy in Syria. The death of the CIA operative in Syria was no accident or an act of war. He was murdered, the victim of damage control.
She was next.
Poor Richard, she thought. The London chief of station would follow the operative and her in death. She gave him three months before he would fall victim to a terrible accident. The agency would explain the three deaths as a tragic coincidence rather than a nefarious plot.
Alive, she couldn’t save the agency from itself. Maybe her death would achieve her dream. She had a plan. It had to work.
Turning on a small bedside lamp, she read again the letter to Liddie. Dear sweet Liddie. She hoped her sister would always remember how much she loved her. Sealing the envelope with its secrets, she placed it with her car keys on the nightstand. She’d mail it in the morning before the ride to work.
Death had to be hours away.
February 21, Thursday
The Daily Telegraph Newspaper
AMERICAN EMBASSY OFFICAL KILLED
London–Forty-four-year-old Rachel MacArthur died this morning in a motorcar crash on Waterloo Road. Metropolitan Police Service reported the 7:40 a.m. accident happened when a car ran a red light at a high speed and crashed into the driver’s door. Witnesses told police the driver fled on foot while waving a gun to frighten off pursuers. They described the unidentified driver as tall with a muscular build and a narrow patch of hair. One witness said he looked like a soldier with white hair.
Other witnesses, two blocks away, told police they saw a similar man slow down to a walk and jump into a waiting car driven by a middle-aged Hispanic driver. They quickly joined the morning rush hour traffic. Metropolitan Police Service officials reported that two men, with similar descriptions, were seen boarding a late-morning, British Airways flight to New York City.
June 4, 2014, Tuesday
7:00 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time
Desert Oasis Steakhouse
186 S Indian Canyon Drive,
Palm Springs, California
My expansive imagination could not construct a story when I read her nametag,
Nor could her cold eyes stir any concept of what she was hiding from me. Her face was empty, devoid of emotion, of life. A tight bun on the top of her head shielded the natural beauty of her auburn hair. Her oval face, bronze skin, and chestnut eyes remained hidden behind a mask of plainness. Any suggestion of makeup was noticeably absent. She wore dark-framed glasses that seemed out of place, out of character. Her loosely fitted silk blouse did not disclose any clues to her obviously statuesque figure.
Even her name was one I would have never guessed. Madison. Where in the hell did she get the name Madison? Who gave it to her? Why? There wasn’t even a hint of a smile on her face. Just a mechanical robot that wanted to take our order.
My secretary, Paige and I, were sitting in the Desert Oasis Steakhouse for dinner when Madison first rounded the corner and started walking toward us. The rich tones of mahogany walls, candlelight, and heavy alabaster linen tablecloths surrounded her, adding to the ambiance of the restaurant. Our table, hidden in a corner, was crowned with an original oil painting of the Spanish Steps in Rome .I imagined watching Madison’s toned, smooth, silky legs as she climbed the steps. Extending my fingers, I touched my crystal glass of ice-chilled water as she stopped at our table.
“Hello, Madison,” I said. How are you tonight?”
“I’m fine, sir,” was her flat response. “Are you ready to place your order?”
“It all looks good,” I answered, pleased with what I had reviewed on the menu. “What do you recommend?”
“You’ll find that all of the entrees are wonderfully prepared,” she said with her best mechanical voice.
“Okay, we’ll both have the New York steaks, medium rare, tossed green with bleu cheese on the side.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said. There wasn’t any hint of emotion in her voice.
“Excuse me,” I said, as she picked up the menus and prepared to leave. “I need to ask you a question. How long have you lived in Palm Springs?”
Madison’s face froze. She bit her lower lip. Said nothing.
“We need to find a shopping center. Thought you might be able to help us.”
She looked at me with a hard penetrating stare and then walked away without speaking.
“What the hell did I say to upset her?” I asked, puzzled at Madison’s abrupt departure.
“You didn’t see it?”
“You scared her,” Paige responded.
“What t are you talking about?”
“She was terrified when you asked how long she had lived in Palm Springs. She hiding something and thinks you’re a threat to her.”
A short matronly server name Edith returned later with our meal and remained with us through dessert.
Signing the receipt, I asked Edith, “What happened to Madison?”
“I’m sorry, sir. Madison left.”
I need to stop. Go back to where it all started.
“You’re a damn fool for what you just did.”
“You think so?” I responded.
“Yeah, I do,” the owner replied as he wiped the grease off his hands. The roar of freeway traffic made it difficult to carry on a conversation.
We had been standing just inside the auto repair bay at his ancient service station on a side street adjacent to a freeway. Only a handful of the outside cement building blocks were free from dirt or stains of oil and grease. Windows with smudges and thick cobwebs showed they hadn’t been cleaned in years.
I like old service stations. They reminded me of my dad when he took our car down to the neighborhood station for a tune-up. I’d sit on a box licking a sucker the owner Charlie had given me while Dad watched him drain the oil. Time wasn’t important because Charlie needed to tell Dad all of the latest gossip in the neighborhood. Where could anyone go today to relax while someone serviced their car and told them stories?
“I can appreciate,” the service station owner continued, “you paying the guy’s pump bill. But giving him twenty-five dollars spending money? We both know he’ll go down the street and buy drugs.”
“I’m an optimist,” I replied. “I like to think he’s going to buy food for the kid that’s with him.”
“Yeah, like the kid looks well-nourished. Whatever, it’s your money. I’ve got work to do. Later.”
Maybe he was right. The guy will buy drugs instead of food. But maybe the kid will come first. I’d like to think so. That’s my problem. I think the best of people. A lot of people can’t relate to my attitude. They’ve been burned once or twice in their dealings with people so all bets are off. Trusting no one will always keep them safe. It’s a lousy attitude. They’ll never touch a life. Never make a difference. They’ll never see the joy and tears in a person’s face when the person realizes someone does give a damn about what happens to them. That there is someone whose love for humanity extends beyond self.
Okay, I admit it. My attitude about people makes me different, perhaps a bit peculiar. But I’m comfortable with myself, with being different. We all have to live with ourselves. Sometimes people aren’t happy. They feel cheated, denied their destiny. They’ll either fight the injustices in their lives or become resigned to their fate. Life never matched their dreams.
For me, it was neither. I was lucky. My parents loved me. Their only child, I was encouraged to decide for myself what I wanted out of life. And they stood beside me all the way to help me achieve my dreams.
I can still recall my father’s words on our last fishing trip before he died of a heart attack. “Live the life you want for yourself, son. And the hell with anyone who is uncomfortable with your decisions. They wouldn’t have been your friend anyway.”
Now I know being different can carry a heavy price tag. There can be consequences. People will question your motives. “He can’t be that noble. He’s after something. I trust him about as far as I can throw him.” How often have you heard that? Hell, I’ve heard it all my life. Or they want to take advantage of you. Grab some of what you got, especially money, of which I have more than I will ever spend.
Women are especially a problem for me. They want what I won’t give them. Globetrotting while spending an obscene amount of my money. I have to be very careful with casual relationships. I don’t hang around if they come on to me with a smile and the promise of unending sex. I know, I’ve been there. The sex was always beyond the sphere of my unrepressed imagination. But that was just setting the hook. She’d kiss me till my lungs cried for air and then whisper, “Sweetheart, I just love Paris. Let’s go to the Paris Fashion Week.”
No, I want a woman who enjoys mechanical sex. She desperately needs release and then get the hell out of her face. You can find them. You just have to know where to look. On second thought, that isn’t entirely true. After a while, we’d find each other. They were always professional unmarried women who commanded a legion of staff, money and a potpourri of satellite offices. Their only companion was a lonely neurotic cat. They didn’t want my money or companionship. They just wanted sex, good sex. Living in a cocoon of wealth and power, the sex has to equal their station in life.
Now I don’t like to brag, but I’m good. I’m very good. I don’t know what came first in my life, sex or the urge to write. I was fourteen when I wrote my first story. Looking back, the story was awful. No, I’m too generous with myself. It was God-awful. I was also fourteen when Gabrielle Rivera and I did it behind her father’s garage, hidden away by a boxwood hedge. I still don’t know if we actually did it, but that’s okay. It was fun and years later, we talked about it at a party while her husband was getting a drink. She squeezed my hand. I think she wanted to try again. Obviously, she had improved her technique. A part of me wished I had taken her up on it. We remain the best of friends who share a special secret that we both treasure. We were the first one, there behind the garage, hidden from view.
The writing got much better and so did the sex. Writing gave me financial independence, travel and liaisons with rich and beautiful women. Women like Brittany, CEO for the United States division of an Italian pharmaceutical conglomerate. We could only put our schedules together a couple of times a year. Knowing I was in Palm Springs, she arranged a meeting with her west coast managers to coincide with my stay at the desert oasis.
Brittany’s approach to sex was an extension of her management style. Foreplay was simply a distraction from the task at hand. Just get naked and do it, again, and again, and again. I left her two hours later seriously crippled. My back refused to allow me to stand up straight and my lungs begged for more air. My head considered exploding from drinking straight shots from a $500 bottle of Johnnie Walker Scotch while we rested between rounds.
Sipping Perrier mineral water, Brittany teasingly asked if we could meet again the next evening. I told her I loved her but not that much. Kissing me lightly as I left, she whispered that I was the best of all of her gentlemen. Damn, that made me feel good. I could sense my pain dissipate a notch or two.
I truly hate seven in the morning, especially after the two hours with Brittany. But the phone wouldn’t quit ringing. I tried to extend my arm out from under the covers and throw the damn thing across the room. I couldn’t even find the edge of the bed. Dammit. I knew who was calling. She wouldn’t stop until I picked up the phone and grunted. The problem was I had no choice but to get up, shower, shave and get dressed with a matching pair of socks. She had arranged for an early morning conference call with my agent and publisher, the two most impatient people in the world.