quietly. He sounded like a teacher, one with patience to burn, no need to raise his voice. The last two interrogators screamed at me. Howell’s calm was scarier, like a still blade held an inch above the throat. You don’t know when the cut will be made. “Always. Usually it’s the husband who turns traitor and the wife learns about it and then keeps her mouth shut. Either because she likes the money or because she doesn’t want to see her husband go to jail. Was Lucy recruited first? Or you? Or did they hook you together?”

“Neither. Neither of us is a traitor.” I couldn’t believe this of Lucy. I couldn’t. Not my wife. I didn’t care what evidence they showed me, it could not be real. To believe it was to commit treason against the woman I loved. My brain pounded with exhaustion; my chest felt thick. Air in my lungs felt coarse as sand.

“Beyond hope. Do you know that term, Sam?”


“It’s what’s used to describe the state of being a traitor’s spouse. We want to hope that the spouse is innocent, that they don’t know that their loved one has betrayed their country. But we know, realistically, that they probably know about the treason. They are therefore beyond hope. Right now, Sam, that is you. Only I can help you. Tell me the truth.”

“I did nothing wrong. I knew nothing about this money.”

“I’ve made it easy, Sam.” He held up a slip of paper. “A confession, short and to the point. You only need to fill in who you worked for. Sign it and we’re done.”

“I won’t. Ever.”

He lowered the paper. “One of you is a traitor, Sam. Either her or you. Tell me about this money, Sam. The money.”

“I don’t know.” The coldness spread to my skin.

“You and Lucy are both alive and everyone in your office is dead and she warned you out.”

“The scarred man hit her. She hadn’t gone willingly. I could tell.”

“Who’s the money from? The Chinese or the Russians? A crime network like the ones you were investigating? Did you get turned while you were undercover? Who are you working for?”

“No one. No one.”

“You were giving a presentation to a team from Langley on the work you were doing.”


“Tell me about it.”

I tried not to laugh. My notes for my talk were still vivid in my mind because of the terrible thought that maybe my work had gotten our office targeted. “We’re looking for a Russian criminal I call the Money Czar. He cleans funds for various networks. I worked undercover for a few months last year, making contacts in these networks, mostly posing as an ex-Canadian soldier based in Prague who could provide smuggling routes for everything from knockoff cigarettes to guns bound for warlords in Africa. An informant in our employ in Budapest got the job to courier cash and gold from the Money Czar to a Russian scientist. Five million equivalent.”

“What was the scientist being paid for?”

“We don’t know. This scientist was kicked out of the Russian military’s research programs because of his heroin addiction; he set up shop as a brain for hire in Budapest, doing contract work. The informant was the one who told us that this Money Czar had a Russian accent.” I paused. “The informant and the scientist were both found dead a week later.”

“What kind of scientist was this man?”

“He used to work on nanotechnology.”


“Yes. The study of the control of matter on an atomic or molecular level. Most of the research today has beneficial commercial applications-such as more effective means of delivering medicines into the body, or to specific organs. It could have huge implications, for instance, in the fight against breast cancer or brain tumors. Or we could create medicines geared to specific people’s DNA, or much more sophisticated sensors to detect serious illnesses in our bodies, or we could vastly expand the number of hours a computer battery can be charged.”

“And there are military and weapons applications to this?”

“Absolutely,” I answered. “Nanotech builds machines or materials on an incredibly small level and makes them powerful. Theoretically. Creating new kinds of armor to repel bullets, or much stronger tanks, or much more efficient guns. Creating bullets that could self-correct on a course once fired. Smaller nuclear weapons that have incredible guidance systems and produce virtually no fallout. Or imagine a bomb that releases a swarm of miniaturized robots that aim for human flesh or body temperature and inject a fatal toxin into every person in a two-mile radius.”

Howell swallowed and his throat made a dry click. “So this Money Czar could have been financing weapons research?”


“And maybe whoever killed the scientist and the informant to protect your Money Czar came after you.”


“Or, more likely, you got turned by the people you were chasing. You’re good at your job, Sam. You could have found this Money Czar. And maybe he offered you and Lucy all that cash in this Caymans account.”


“They didn’t want you and Lucy talking and they’ve taken her and you decided to keep your mouth shut, maybe to protect her. I can see the thoughts going across your tired, beat-ass face, Sam.”

“No.” I wanted to drive Howell and his insane theories through the stone wall.

“Your only hope, Sam, is to deal with me. Tell me everything.” Howell leaned in close to me and he put a large hand on my shoulder. “Think how easy it will be. All the weight will be gone, Sam. And then we can work on finding your wife. Your child. You want to be there when your child is born, don’t you? Lucy’s due date is in six weeks’ time. Tell me where we can find the people you work for and we’ll find Lucy. You can see your wife, hold your child.”

He leaned back. “We checked with her doctor. You and Lucy didn’t want to know what you’re having but I know. It’s a boy, Sam. Don’t you want to see your son?”

My son. I was going to have a son, if Lucy was still alive. Howell was laying brutal trumps on the table, one after another: this unknown money, my child. Maybe Lucy… No. I could not believe it of her.

Each word felt like a pebble in my mouth, spit out one by one. “I can’t tell you anything because I am not a traitor.”

Howell studied me in the long silence. “Then you’re a fool, because your wife is the traitor and she’s left you to take the blame.”

“No. No. She wouldn’t. She loves me.” The words sounded weak in my throat but I remembered that last morning with my Lucy, her shuddering atop me, my hands on the curve on her bottom, her breath warm against my throat. Talking to me about not taking chances running parkour, and telling me she loved me, and reminding me of dinner with the nice couples. Calling me monkey, to soften her criticism of my running. That was not a woman preparing to vanish from her own life.

He looked at me as though he were a teacher disappointed with his student’s performance. “She doesn’t love you. She left you holding the bag. Happy Thanksgiving.” Howell got up and left, the lights went out, and I sat in total blackness.


Time,unmeasured, passed. My throat was molten, parched, like I’d reached in and raked the flesh with my own fingernails. A knot of hunger tangled my stomach and I felt like I had fever. I slid from the chair and lay on the cold floor. I ate bread and water when it was brought to me. I slept and I awoke, unsure if minutes or hours had passed, shivered against the stone. I dreamed I was running parkour, vaulting over walls, flying between buildings, every muscle afire with glory, my mind clear and clean and precise. Then the wall where I was to land was gone, and I plummeted toward a pavement covered with burning wreckage, helpless, out of control.

The lights snapped back on and Howell was sitting in his chair, as though he’d been there the entire time in

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