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The Protector
by David Morrell
Warner Books, 2003


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Shoes and watches. Cavanaugh had learned a long time ago that one of the secrets of being a capable protective agent was to pay attention to shoes and watches. Loafers, for example. Somebody wearing them was unlikely to be a trained kidnapper or assassin because an experienced runner-and-gunner knew how easy it was to lose loafers in a chase or a fight. Only boots or lace-up shoes were acceptable. Thin soles were a further indication that someone was unlikely to be a serious threat, thick soles being mandatory in a fight. Of course, somebody wearing loafers or thin-soled shoes could still be a threat, but at least Cavanaugh would know he was dealing with an amateur.

Similarly, watches told Cavanaugh a lot. Many operators trained in the 1970s and '80s wore either Rolex diver's watches or Rolex pilot's watches. The rationale was twofold. First, those watches had a reputation for functioning under rugged conditions, an essential requirement for a runner-and-gunner. Second, in an emergency, a Rolex became portable wealth, easily sold for cash.

Not that everyone wearing a Rolex aroused Cavanaugh's suspicions. They had to be in their forties or older, fitting the age profile of someone who'd been trained during the seventies and eighties. Also, operators from that era tended to prefer sneakers, jeans, T-shirts, and windbreakers (often leather) for their casual street clothes. The windbreaker would be loose, capable of concealing a handgun. To the untutored eye, someone who fit that description wouldn't seem unusual, but to Cavanaugh, that person caused concern.

Operators trained in the 1990s and afterward had a different profile. They were younger, of course, and the watch they preferred was cheap and anonymous but capable of taking a beating, the sort of rubber-coated diver's watch that had a timer function and could be bought in any decent sporting-goods store. They preferred hiking boots (tough, thick soles), loose-fitting camping pants with baggy pockets (to conceal a weapon), a loose pullover (to conceal a weapon), and a fanny pack (to conceal a weapon). Given the poor fashion sense of most people on the street, anyone who matched this profile didn't stand out, except to a protective agent like Cavanaugh, who instantly placed them under suspicion.

Watches. So much could be revealed by them. Cavanaugh had once been on a protective detail in Istanbul. His assignment had been to help provide security for an American billionaire who had gone to Istanbul to negotiate a corporate merger, despite threats against the man's life because of his much-publicized financial support of Israel. Before the billionaire's jet arrived at Istanbul's airport, Cavanaugh had checked the busy concourse and the area outside. The variety of clothes that the crowd wore-traditional Arab robes as well as numerous types of Western dress- made it hard to find a telltale common denominator. But watches, Cavanaugh knew, seldom lied. When he noticed half a dozen men in their thirties who wore dissimilar but baggy clothes, who appeared not to have anything to do with one another but who all had similar thick-soled shoes and the same type of sturdy black rubber-coated athlete's watch, alarms went off inside him, warning him that he had to find another way to get his client out of the airport.

It wasn't something Cavanaugh did consciously. It was his reflexive way of seeing the world, much as the legendary security expert Col. Jeff Cooper advised everyone to maintain a state of vigilance that Cooper called "Condition Yellow" (White being the average person's lack of awareness, Orange being intense alertness in response to danger, and Red being a fight for one's life).

In Condition Yellow, then, observing shoes, watches, and other indicators, Cavanaugh got out of a taxi at Columbus Circle and walked into Central Park. The time was around two in the afternoon. The route he took through the trees avoided paths and was intended to let him know if he was being followed. He exited at West Seventieth Street and crisscrossed blocks at random, heading south, eventually climbing the steps from Columbus Avenue and starting across the huge open area in front of Lincoln Center.

One benefit of this cautious frame of mind was that it kept him solidly in the moment, appreciative of each second, not only aware of the crowd that was typically in front of Lincoln Center but also aware of the unusually clear sky, of the pleasant feel of the sun on this splendid May afternoon. He crossed to the famous fountain, sat with his back to it, and considered what was going on around him. Two young men threw a Frisbee back and forth. Students, presumably from nearby Juilliard, sat on benches, reading textbooks. Busy-looking people crossed back and forth from the various buildings. Couples chatted. Turning, Cavanaugh saw a businessman sitting behind him on the edge of the fountain. The man had a briefcase in his lap and glanced at his watch.

Out of habit, Cavanaugh shifted so he could pay closer attention. The man was in his thirties, of medium height and weight, with short dark hair. Any number of businessmen fit that profile. His black suit looked expensive and fit him perfectly. No place to hide a weapon. The man's black briefcase also looked expensive and was shiny enough to be brand-new. When the man crossed his legs, Cavanaugh was able to study one of his shoes. A sturdy black Oxford, so new that the sole was barely scraped. And as for the watch . . .

Cavanaugh didn't mind that it was one of those shiny types with all sorts of dials and buttons. True, a certain level of businessman preferred to be unostentatious, but others liked to indulge themselves with gadgets, and a watch capable of being a timer while it also indicated the hour, minute, and second in two different time zones could be amusing for a certain type of mind. No, what bothered Cavanaugh was that the watch was so thick, the shirtsleeve around it had to be unbuttoned, looking sloppy in contrast to the man's otherwise-impeccable appearance. The man checked his watch again, then directed his attention to the left, toward the entrance to Avery Fisher Hall, one of the buildings in the complex.

At that moment, Cavanaugh sensed someone coming toward him and peered up at a tall, slender man who had a slight mustache and a wide-brimmed hat that Cavanaugh knew hid thinning gray hair. Although the man was in his fifties, he exuded the wiry strength of someone much younger. His shoes were so polished that they reflected the movement of people walking past. His gray pinstriped suit gave the impression of a uniform. His white shirt was heavily starched. The only colors were the red and blue of his tie, which didn't relieve his pallor. "Duncan." Cavanaugh smiled and shook hands with him. "You look pasty. You need to get outside more."

"Bad for my health." The brim of Duncan's hat cast his face in shadow. His last name was Wentworth, and because he'd spent much of his life outdoors as a member of Special Forces and later as the head instructor for Delta Force, he'd had three operations for serious skin cancer. "You're far too tan. Put on more sun-block." "Yeah, the ozone layer's getting thinner. One more thing to worry about." Cavanaugh glanced again toward the man in the black suit sitting behind him on the edge of the fountain. "Anyway, it's too nice a day to be indoors. I figured since you were supervising the new security arrangements at Lincoln Center, we could meet here instead of at your office." He referred to the Madison Avenue headquarters for Global Protective Services, a security agency Duncan had established when he'd left Delta Force. After only five years, the agency had branches in London, Paris, Rome, and Hong Kong, with another soon to open in Tokyo. Its reputation had spread because of the quality of the protective agents Duncan hired, all of them having been special-operations personnel, many of them Duncan's former students.

"How are your injuries?" Duncan asked. "Healed." "The ambassador sends his regards." "He's very lucky." "Yes. To have had somebody as good as you running interference for him." Cavanaugh couldn't resist grinning. "Anytime you start buttering me up, it means you want something." Duncan gave him a "guilty as charged" look. "Do you think you're ready to go back to work?"

Taking another glance over his shoulder, Cavanaugh noticed that the man in the black suit looked more intense as he checked his watch yet again and continued staring toward Avery Fisher Hall. The open cuff around the thick watch became more bothersome. At once, the man saw something that made him sit rigidly. With the briefcase on his lap, he placed his hands on the buttons that would open it.

"Excuse me a minute," Cavanaugh said to Duncan. He stood and rounded the fountain, following the man's gaze toward Avery Fisher Hall and a red-haired woman who had just stepped out. In her thirties, well dressed and pleasant-looking, she was with a man, whom she gave a "see you later" kiss on the cheek. Then she started across the open area. In ten seconds, she would pass through the crowd and be close to where the man in the black suit sat staring at her.

Cavanaugh came up on his blind side as the man opened the briefcase just enough to reach inside it. The woman came closer and glanced in the man's direction, amazing Cavanaugh, inasmuch as most people never noticed anything around them. She froze as the man dropped the briefcase, revealing a pistol in his hand.

Several things happened almost at once. The woman screamed, the man moved toward her, and Cavanaugh darted behind him, shoving his arm into the air. He wrenched the pistol from the man's hand, dragged him backward, tipped him into the fountain, and pressed his head underwater.

Duncan came over to him. "Yes, you're certainly feeling better." "Are you just going to stand there enjoying yourself, or would you mind calling a cop?" Duncan pulled out a cell phone. "Don't you think you should let him breathe?"

"Not really, but I guess we'll never hear his story otherwise." "She told him she wanted a divorce-something like that- and he couldn't take the rejection, of course," Duncan said. "Of course. But I want to know why he dressed up. He doesn't normally wear a suit. You can tell, because his watch is too big for the cuff on a dress shirt."

"If you don't let him breathe pretty soon, you'll never know." "Spoilsport." Cavanaugh pulled the man's face from the water, watched him splutter, and demanded to know about the suit. With a little more submersion, the man was persuaded to explain. After shooting his wife, who had indeed asked for a divorce and who'd been going to meet him at her lawyer's office, he had planned to shoot himself. The black suit, like the shoes, was new. He had left instructions that they were to be his burial clothes.

"Just when you think you've heard everything," Cavanaugh said.

But there was more. The man had kept checking his watch because he'd known when to expect his wife to leave work and go to her appointment with her attorney. One of the three dials on his watch indicated the current time. Another dial showed the amount of time that had elapsed since she'd told him she wanted a divorce; a third counted down the remaining seconds that she'd had to live.

Cavanaugh shoved the man's head underwater again. "So what do you think?" Duncan asked. "About?" "Are you ready for another assignment?"

Shoes and watches. Cavanaugh had learned a long time ago that one of the secrets of being a capable protective agent was to pay attention to shoes and watches. Loafers, for example. Somebody wearing them was unlikely to be a trained kidnapper or assassin because an experienced runner-and-gunner knew how easy it was to lose loafers in a chase or a fight. Only boots or lace-up shoes were acceptable. Thin soles were a further indication that someone was unlikely to be a serious threat, thick soles being mandatory in a fight. Of course, somebody wearing loafers or thin-soled shoes could still be a threat, but at least Cavanaugh would know he was dealing with an amateur.

Similarly, watches told Cavanaugh a lot. Many operators trained in the 1970s and '80s wore either Rolex diver's watches or Rolex pilot's watches. The rationale was twofold. First, those watches had a reputation for functioning under rugged conditions, an essential requirement for a runner-and-gunner. Second, in an emergency, a Rolex became portable wealth, easily sold for cash.

Not that everyone wearing a Rolex aroused Cavanaugh's suspicions. They had to be in their forties or older, fitting the age profile of someone who'd been trained during the seventies and eighties. Also, operators from that era tended to prefer sneakers, jeans, T-shirts, and windbreakers (often leather) for their casual street clothes. The windbreaker would be loose, capable of concealing a handgun. To the untutored eye, someone who fit that description wouldn't seem unusual, but to Cavanaugh, that person caused concern.

Operators trained in the 1990s and afterward had a different profile. They were younger, of course, and the watch they preferred was cheap and anonymous but capable of taking a beating, the sort of rubber-coated diver's watch that had a timer function and could be bought in any decent sporting-goods store. They preferred hiking boots (tough, thick soles), loose-fitting camping pants with baggy pockets (to conceal a weapon), a loose pullover (to conceal a weapon), and a fanny pack (to conceal a weapon). Given the poor fashion sense of most people on the street, anyone who matched this profile didn't stand out, except to a protective agent like Cavanaugh, who instantly placed them under suspicion.

Watches. So much could be revealed by them. Cavanaugh had once been on a protective detail in Istanbul. His assignment had been to help provide security for an American billionaire who had gone to Istanbul to negotiate a corporate merger, despite threats against the man's life because of his much-publicized financial support of Israel. Before the billionaire's jet arrived at Istanbul's airport, Cavanaugh had checked the busy concourse and the area outside. The variety of clothes that the crowd wore-traditional Arab robes as well as numerous types of Western dress- made it hard to find a telltale common denominator. But watches, Cavanaugh knew, seldom lied. When he noticed half a dozen men in their thirties who wore dissimilar but baggy clothes, who appeared not to have anything to do with one another but who all had similar thick-soled shoes and the same type of sturdy black rubber-coated athlete's watch, alarms went off inside him, warning him that he had to find another way to get his client out of the airport.

It wasn't something Cavanaugh did consciously. It was his reflexive way of seeing the world, much as the legendary security expert Col. Jeff Cooper advised everyone to maintain a state of vigilance that Cooper called "Condition Yellow" (White being the average person's lack of awareness, Orange being intense alertness in response to danger, and Red being a fight for one's life).

In Condition Yellow, then, observing shoes, watches, and other indicators, Cavanaugh got out of a taxi at Columbus Circle and walked into Central Park. The time was around two in the afternoon. The route he took through the trees avoided paths and was intended to let him know if he was being followed. He exited at West Seventieth Street and crisscrossed blocks at random, heading south, eventually climbing the steps from Columbus Avenue and starting across the huge open area in front of Lincoln Center.

One benefit of this cautious frame of mind was that it kept him solidly in the moment, appreciative of each second, not only aware of the crowd that was typically in front of Lincoln Center but also aware of the unusually clear sky, of the pleasant feel of the sun on this splendid May afternoon. He crossed to the famous fountain, sat with his back to it, and considered what was going on around him. Two young men threw a Frisbee back and forth. Students, presumably from nearby Juilliard, sat on benches, reading textbooks. Busy-looking people crossed back and forth from the various buildings. Couples chatted. Turning, Cavanaugh saw a businessman sitting behind him on the edge of the fountain. The man had a briefcase in his lap and glanced at his watch.

Out of habit, Cavanaugh shifted so he could pay closer attention. The man was in his thirties, of medium height and weight, with short dark hair. Any number of businessmen fit that profile. His black suit looked expensive and fit him perfectly. No place to hide a weapon. The man's black briefcase also looked expensive and was shiny enough to be brand-new. When the man crossed his legs, Cavanaugh was able to study one of his shoes. A sturdy black Oxford, so new that the sole was barely scraped. And as for the watch . . .

Cavanaugh didn't mind that it was one of those shiny types with all sorts of dials and buttons. True, a certain level of businessman preferred to be unostentatious, but others liked to indulge themselves with gadgets, and a watch capable of being a timer while it also indicated the hour, minute, and second in two different time zones could be amusing for a certain type of mind. No, what bothered Cavanaugh was that the watch was so thick, the shirtsleeve around it had to be unbuttoned, looking sloppy in contrast to the man's otherwise-impeccable appearance. The man checked his watch again, then directed his attention to the left, toward the entrance to Avery Fisher Hall, one of the buildings in the complex.

At that moment, Cavanaugh sensed someone coming toward him and peered up at a tall, slender man who had a slight mustache and a wide-brimmed hat that Cavanaugh knew hid thinning gray hair. Although the man was in his fifties, he exuded the wiry strength of someone much younger. His shoes were so polished that they reflected the movement of people walking past. His gray pinstriped suit gave the impression of a uniform. His white shirt was heavily starched. The only colors were the red and blue of his tie, which didn't relieve his pallor. "Duncan." Cavanaugh smiled and shook hands with him. "You look pasty. You need to get outside more."

"Bad for my health." The brim of Duncan's hat cast his face in shadow. His last name was Wentworth, and because he'd spent much of his life outdoors as a member of Special Forces and later as the head instructor for Delta Force, he'd had three operations for serious skin cancer. "You're far too tan. Put on more sun-block." "Yeah, the ozone layer's getting thinner. One more thing to worry about." Cavanaugh glanced again toward the man in the black suit sitting behind him on the edge of the fountain. "Anyway, it's too nice a day to be indoors. I figured since you were supervising the new security arrangements at Lincoln Center, we could meet here instead of at your office." He referred to the Madison Avenue headquarters for Global Protective Services, a security agency Duncan had established when he'd left Delta Force. After only five years, the agency had branches in London, Paris, Rome, and Hong Kong, with another soon to open in Tokyo. Its reputation had spread because of the quality of the protective agents Duncan hired, all of them having been special-operations personnel, many of them Duncan's former students.

"How are your injuries?" Duncan asked. "Healed." "The ambassador sends his regards." "He's very lucky." "Yes. To have had somebody as good as you running interference for him." Cavanaugh couldn't resist grinning. "Anytime you start buttering me up, it means you want something." Duncan gave him a "guilty as charged" look. "Do you think you're ready to go back to work?"

Taking another glance over his shoulder, Cavanaugh noticed that the man in the black suit looked more intense as he checked his watch yet again and continued staring toward Avery Fisher Hall. The open cuff around the thick watch became more bothersome. At once, the man saw something that made him sit rigidly. With the briefcase on his lap, he placed his hands on the buttons that would open it.

"Excuse me a minute," Cavanaugh said to Duncan. He stood and rounded the fountain, following the man's gaze toward Avery Fisher Hall and a red-haired woman who had just stepped out. In her thirties, well dressed and pleasant-looking, she was with a man, whom she gave a "see you later" kiss on the cheek. Then she started across the open area. In ten seconds, she would pass through the crowd and be close to where the man in the black suit sat staring at her.

Cavanaugh came up on his blind side as the man opened the briefcase just enough to reach inside it. The woman came closer and glanced in the man's direction, amazing Cavanaugh, inasmuch as most people never noticed anything around them. She froze as the man dropped the brief-case, revealing a pistol in his hand.

Several things happened almost at once. The woman screamed, the man moved toward her, and Cavanaugh darted behind him, shoving his arm into the air. He wrenched the pistol from the man's hand, dragged him backward, tipped him into the fountain, and pressed his head underwater. Duncan came over to him. "Yes, you're certainly feeling better." "Are you just going to stand there enjoying yourself, or would you mind calling a cop?" Duncan pulled out a cell phone. "Don't you think you should let him breathe?"

"Not really, but I guess we'll never hear his story otherwise." "She told him she wanted a divorce-something like that- and he couldn't take the rejection, of course," Duncan said. "Of course. But I want to know why he dressed up. He doesn't normally wear a suit. You can tell, because his watch is too big for the cuff on a dress shirt."

"If you don't let him breathe pretty soon, you'll never know." "Spoilsport." Cavanaugh pulled the man's face from the water, watched him splutter, and demanded to know about the suit. With a little more submersion, the man was persuaded to explain. After shooting his wife, who had indeed asked for a divorce and who'd been going to meet him at her lawyer's office, he had planned to shoot himself. The black suit, like the shoes, was new. He had left instructions that they were to be his burial clothes.

"Just when you think you've heard everything," Cavanaugh said.

But there was more. The man had kept checking his watch because he'd known when to expect his wife to leave work and go to her appointment with her attorney. One of the three dials on his watch indicated the current time. Another dial showed the amount of time that had elapsed since she'd told him she wanted a divorce; a third counted down the remaining seconds that she'd had to live.

Cavanaugh shoved the man's head underwater again. "So what do you think?" Duncan asked. "About?" "Are you ready for another assignment?"

Excerpted from The Protector by David Morrell. Copyright © 2003 by David Morrell. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of TWBookmark.com. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.











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