Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

“So you planned to expose Havers?” Tracy asked.

“Among other people.”

“You knew enough to end his presidency?”

“For sure. I noticed unmarked cars parked outside my apartment. All of a sudden I couldn’t take a shit without the CIA knowing about it. Nobody had read my piece. It was all in my head at that point. But the government knew what questions I’d been asking and to whom. They wanted me dead.”

Tracy frowned. “That’s a pretty wild accusation. This was the same government who tried to rescue you in Bratislava, let’s not forget. If they wanted you dead so badly, why go to the trouble?”

“They wanted me dead,” Hunter repeated. “But they wanted it to look like an accident. So there were no shootings, no abductions. Instead there was a gas leak in my building.”

“Come on,” Tracy said. “Gas leaks happen all the time.”

“Exactly. Except this one happened only in my apartment—nowhere else in the building. Enough carbon monoxide to kill a man three times my body weight in under an hour. I know this because that’s how much they found in my cat’s bloodstream when he died that night instead of me. I stayed over at a girlfriend’s place.”

Clearly Hunter was the one with the nine lives.

“A week later, I almost drove my car off the Atlantic City Expressway.”

“What happened?”

“My steering wheel jammed. Next thing I know I’m shooting up an exit ramp and into a tree. I was lucky. Broke my collarbone, got a few bangs on the head, that was it. But if I hadn’t made that ramp I’d have been dead for sure. Probably taken out a bunch of others with me. Afterwards, the guy in the shop told me someone had messed with my steering column, and put a slow leak in my brake fluid. Deliberate sabotage.”

A nerve began to twitch in Tracy’s jaw.

Deliberate sabotage. To the steering column.

It was exactly what Greg Walton told her had happened to Blake Carter’s truck, the night of the accident. The night Nicholas died.

“The Americans weren’t the only Western government playing dirty in the Shale Gas Wars,” Hunter went on. “Everyone was at it. The British, the French, the Germans, the Russians. Opponents were silenced, taxes waived, and all the while the rich at the top of the industry grew richer, like fat mosquitoes gorging on the blood of some hapless animal. It was the sheer scale of the corruption that really shocked me. That and the fact that no one was reporting on it.”

“Why do you think that was?” asked Tracy.

“I have no idea.” Hunter refilled his wineglass. “Maybe no one else was looking. Or maybe people were looking, but someone was shutting those people up.”

“Killing them, you mean?”

“Sometimes,” Hunter said. “I’m sure that’s what happened to Sally, by the way. She’d worked out a lot of this on her own, while I was on the run. Somebody decided it was time to stop the questions. Somebody with less concern for appearances than your masters at the CIA. But sometimes people were paid off. Which leads me to the next chapter in all this: Group 99.”

Tracy leaned forward. This was what she’d waited for. This was where it all came together, where the pieces of the puzzle began to fit.

“So I’m writing my piece, uncovering all this dirty money and dirty politics around fracking, trying not to get killed. And as I’m doing my research I run into a bunch of different anti-industry groups. Most of them are environmentalists—well meaning, badly organized—doing their best to be a thorn in the side of the shale gas giants and the governments helping them to line their pockets. But then all of a sudden this one group pops up, and they’re different from all the others.”

“Group 99,” said Tracy.

Hunter nodded. “Group 99 got interested once shale gas fields were discovered in Greece. Rumors were flying around that some former Greek royals had signed a vast, private deal to sell swaths of land for fracking. The family stood to make a mint, as did one or two corrupt government officials, and the frackers themselves of course. But there was to be no public benefit from exploiting this natural resource. Things were pretty bad in Greece at that time. The poor were at breaking point. That’s when I first started hearing about Apollo—Alexis Argyros—and Althea, a Western woman, supposedly an American, who was raising money for this group, and maybe even running the show.

“Group 99 were a game changer. They had a totally different agenda from all the other antifracking groups. They didn’t care about the environment. They wanted wealth equality, and to punish the greedy at the top of the tree. They also had a totally different MO. Remember, they were nonviolent at that time. They were smart, super smart, and tech savvy. They were well funded. They were highly organized but non-hierarchical. And they had global reach. The way I saw it, that put them in a unique position to attack the fracking industry, maybe even to bring it down, but at a minimum to end corruption at least in Greece.”

Hunter drew breath for the first time in minutes. Tracy noticed for the first time how tired he looked. He’d waited a long time to tell his story, but now that it was finally happening, the effort seemed to drain all the energy out of him.

“Tell me more about Althea,” Tracy said. “About Kate. You knew her identity all along?”

Hunter rubbed his eyes. “No. Not at the beginning. I knew Althea had been to visit Prince Achileas at Sandhurst. The Prince knew about his family’s deal with Cranston and it clearly pricked his conscience. Althea got him interested in Group 99. I think the idea was that he was going to help them expose or sabotage the arrangement in some way. But he got cold feet. Anyway, I went to England. To meet him.”

“You met Prince Achileas?” It was the first time Tracy had openly expressed surprise.

Hunter nodded. “Sure. I interviewed him for my piece.”

“Did you meet Bob Daley then too?”

“Nope. Just the prince.”

“Well, what did he say?”

“Not much, as far as fracking was concerned. He was very depressed by then. He hated Sandhurst. The boy was obviously gay, and having a tough time with that. Plus he was estranged from his father. And his commanding officer hated his guts.”

“Frank Dorrien . . .” Tracy murmured under her breath.

“I was sad when I heard Achileas had topped himself,” Hunter said, staring down at the wine dregs in the bottom of his glass. “Sad but not surprised. Bob Daley said the same thing about him, when we met later in the camp in Bratislava. The kid was a tortured soul. They were friends, believe it or not.”

“I know,” said Tracy.

“Anyway, Achileas never did tell me much about that Greek fracking deal. But he did talk to me about Group 99. He was quite fascinating on that subject, as it happened. And he showed me a picture while I was there, of the handler whom he’d met with: Althea. Not the greatest picture as you know. Grainy and her face is half in profile. But it was enough to shock the hell out of me.”


“Because I realized then that I knew her. And that my story was about to get bigger than I’d ever imagined.”


HER REAL NAME IS Katherine Evans.” Hunter looked at Tracy, propping his elbows on the table. “Kate. As soon as I saw Achileas’s picture of her I knew. We were at school together.”

“At school?” Tracy frowned. “But I thought you said she was CIA?”

“She was. But I knew her before that, at Columbia,” Hunter explained. “We were in the same graduating class.”

“So you were friends?”

Hunter took on a nostalgic expression. “More than friends. Kate was probably my first really big love.”

Tracy was fascinated. “What was her background? Was she a radical in college?”

Hunter laughed. “Radical? Hell, no. If you could have picked one girl out of the yearbook least likely to get involved with an organization like Group 99, it would have been her. Kate’s family were from Ohio. Good people, Christian, Republican. And rich. Her dad owned a local newspaper, but he’d made most of his money on Wall Street. Needless to say, he didn’t approve of me one bit.”

Tracy asked the obvious question. “So how does a nice, rich, Midwestern girl end up on the CIA’s Most Wanted list?”

Hunter’s face suddenly darkened. “She loses everything,” he said bitterly. “That’s how. The CIA destroyed Kate’s life, so she figured she’d return the favor.”

Tracy waited for him to explain.

“After Kate and I broke up she started dating a guy called Daniel Herschowitz. About a year later, she married him. I didn’t know the guy well, but everybody said Dan was a great person. Solid, reliable. Everything I wasn’t, basically.” He smiled briefly. “He was also crazy smart, just like Kate. She was brilliant with computers—that’s why they brought her in to track you—and Dan was some kind of math prodigy. They both got recruited into Langley before they even finished grad school.”

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon