Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

MI6 had retrieved scores of deleted emails, many of them encrypted.

Frank Dorrien had read them all.

His upper lip curled with distaste now at the pornographic images in front of him. All were of deviant young men in various stages of sexual abasement. What was wrong with the world? Disgusting.

A female journalist had been sniffing around the barracks in the last few weeks, asking questions. No doubt another bleeding-heart liberal who expected the British army to conform to civilian rules, while somehow magically keeping the country safe from harm. Didn’t people realize there was a war on? Not a war between nations, but a war of ideologies, a war of right and wrong?

Frank Dorrien was aware of Miss Faiers. For now he had bigger fish to fry. But he would not tolerate anyone who tried to come between him and his duty. Miss Faiers had better watch her back.

Turning his attention back to the emails, Frank stared transfixed at the top left-hand corner of Achileas’s last deleted message.

There, hovering cheerfully, was a solitary red balloon.

AGENT MILTON BUCK WAS having a bad day.

It was about to get worse.

The British were lying to him. He was sure of it. They claimed to have made no progress tracking down either Apollo or Althea, and to have heard nothing about Hunter Drexel’s fate. But from the tone of General Dorrien’s voice alone, Agent Buck knew the man was lying through his teeth. They’re closing the net. They’re going to make fools of us all!

Of course, two could play at the concealing-information game. The problem was that U.S. intelligence had made no progress of their own to withhold from MI6. Tracy Whitney’s trip to Geneva had been a bust, a total dead end. Group 99 were dancing on Henry Cranston’s grave and there was nothing the FBI or the CIA could do about it. Tracy’s failures reflected directly on Milton Buck. He loathed having to work with her, but Althea’s bizarre connection had left him no choice. He was sure Tracy was lying to him too—she must know who Althea was, or at least have her suspicions—but of course he had no way to prove it.

On top of which, Milton Buck had Greg Walton breathing down his neck day and night. Presumably because the president was breathing down Walton’s neck, but Agent Buck didn’t care about that. He cared about the fact that, once again, a chance for major career advancement was slipping through his fingers thanks to Tracy Whitney’s ineptitude. And to top it all off, his wife was on her period and bit his head off every time he walked through the door. Which explained why Milton Buck was still at his desk in his office, staring mindlessly at his computer screen, at eight o’clock at night.

Clicking open his documents folder, Milton’s screen suddenly went blank.

What the hell?

He tried a few other applications. One by one, they all shut down like dominoes.

He picked up the phone. “Jared. Get up here,” he barked at the systems manager. “My laptop just died.”

“Everybody’s has, Sir,” the technician replied. “It looks . . . it seems we’ve had a breach. Something . . . Oh shit.”

Milton Buck looked back at his own screen.

One by one, the blackness was being filled with red balloons.

Greg Walton picked up on the first ring.

“I know,” he told Buck. “The same thing’s happening at Langley as we speak. Our guys are on it. We’re tracing the attack.”

He hung up.


“The hacker’s in London.”

“Are you sure?” Milton Buck asked.

“Positive. Tracy managed to trace her there.”


“Uh-huh. It’s Althea. Less than a minute after Tracy got a location, she messaged us directly, claiming responsibility.”

“But that’s impossible,” Buck ranted. “How the hell did she get in again? We rewrote the entire system after the last breach. Every firewall, every password, every line of code.”

“I know what we did, Milton,” Greg Walton snapped. “Evidently it wasn’t enough. This virus is a lot more powerful than the last one. Three-quarters of my files have been corrupted. And it gets worse.”

“Worse? How?” Milton Buck’s head was starting to throb.

“According to Tracy, the virus originated from 85 Albert Embankment, SW1.”

“Albert Embankment?” The throbbing got worse. “Isn’t that . . .”

“Uh-huh.” Greg Walton sighed heavily. “MI6 headquarters.”


THERE’S NO WAY IT originated here. No way. To be frank, Miss Whitney, I can’t believe we’re even discussing this.”

Jamie MacIntosh seemed like a decent man. But Tracy could see that his nerves were frayed to breaking point over this latest Group 99 cyberattack. He constantly worried at his fingernails and his left foot tapped an anxious rhythm as he listened to Tracy talk.

Tracy thought, No wonder he’s worried. Not only had Althea devastated and deeply embarrassed U.S. intelligence, but she had successfully managed to implicate British intelligence in what happened, thereby setting the two allies at each other’s throats at precisely the moment that cooperation was vital.

“I agree with you,” Tracy said placatingly. “No one’s suggesting that Althea is one of yours.”

According to Tracy’s research, less than 12 percent of MI6 employees were women, and the vast majority of those were in lowly administrative or secretarial positions. Of the women educated or senior enough to have the wherewithal to plan a sophisticated cyberattack, none came close to fitting Althea’s profile.

“But she did compromise your systems, just as she compromised ours. She deliberately set this up to make it look as though this hack came from within. That tells us things about her.”

Major General Frank Dorrien looked at Tracy suspiciously. “Such as?”

From the little he knew of Tracy Whitney, Frank Dorrien wasn’t a fan. Thieves and con artists were not people to be trusted, no matter how reformed they claimed to be.

“Such as the fact that she knows how Western intelligence services operate. My guess is she’s either a former spy, or she knows someone on the inside.”

“She knows you, Miss Whitney,” Frank Dorrien reminded Tracy. “I suppose it’s too much to hope that your memory has been jogged? That some connection has suddenly come back to you?”

Tracy’s eyes narrowed. She resented the general’s implication that she was lying about not knowing Althea. That she was hiding something. She also resented the way the general had looked down his superior, patrician nose at her from the moment she walked in.

“She knows of me,” Tracy corrected him. “But so would anyone else who worked here fifteen years ago.”

“OK.” Jamie MacIntosh rubbed his eyes. “We’ll look into the former spy angle. Greg Walton should do the same, although I’ll admit I think you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“Any alternate suggestions?” Tracy asked him.

“I have a suggestion,” the general piped up. “There’s a journalist at the Times, a young woman by the name of Faiers. Sally Faiers. She’s been up to Sandhurst, asking questions about me and about Prince Achileas’s death. She seems to be pursuing some preposterous conspiracy theory that I did the young man harm in order to silence him.”

“Silence him over what?” Tracy asked.

“I have no idea.” Frank sounded bored. “But I do know she’s been asking about Captain Daley as well, and whether he and the prince knew each other.”

“Did they?”

Frank looked Tracy right in the eye. “No. They may have passed in the corridor or on the parade ground but it was no more than that. Captain Daley was an exemplary soldier. Prince Achileas . . . was not. The idea that they were friends is frankly insulting.”

Dorrien’s dislike of the young Greek was palpable. It struck Tracy as odd that he made no attempt to hide it. The boy was dead, after all.

“It turns out Miss Faiers is also an ex-girlfriend of the elusive Mr. Hunter Drexel,” Dorrien continued.

Tracy’s eyebrows shot up.

“And she’s written a number of influential op-eds in the past, arguing against hydraulic fracturing, including a withering article about Henry Cranston’s company. That’s rather too many connections to Group 99 for my liking.”

And mine, thought Tracy. She remembered what Cameron Crewe had told her, about Henry Cranston having a deal with the Greeks to extract shale gas that got shelved after Achileas’s suicide. Crewe Oil had that deal now. Not for the first time, Tracy felt as if there were dots swirling before her eyes, dots that revealed a clear picture if only she could look at them in the right way.

Tracy didn’t warm to Frank Dorrien. The man was arrogant, rude and wildly judgmental. But she had to agree with him on this one. Miss Faiers sounded interesting.

“Have you spoken to her?”

“Frank’s not the right person,” Jamie MacIntosh jumped in. “Clearly this Faiers woman already distrusts him. As she may be our only link to Hunter Drexel, we can’t afford to alienate her. We thought perhaps you might try?”

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon