Excerpt: McGarvey by David Hagberg

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McGarvey is the next book in the Kirk McGarvey series!

When Kirk McGarvey investigates the mysterious death of his parents so many years ago, he uncovers long-buried secrets that put him head to head and mano a mano with… Vladimir Putin.

After Mac calls Putin out, the Russian dictator decides he wants him dead. Battling Russian hit squads as well as enemies at home, McGarvey must fight like the devil to save the himself, his friends, and the US of A in this engrossing international thriller from David Hagberg.

McGarvey will be available on November 24, 2020. Please enjoy the following excerpt of the first two chapters!


John McGarvey, pushing sixty-five, the age at which he and his wife, Lilly, who was the same age, planned to retire, sat back at his desk, scanning for a third time the results he’d just received from the Cray supercomputer.

It was late on Friday, and except for a few techs across the way in the cavernous Building F, which was the workshop for the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s high energy and applied physics department, he was alone. But it was midsummer and still light out. He was excited by the results that the Cray had been chewing on for nearly three weeks—and vindicated. The concept was viable. The damned thing would work. And it was due in large measure to Lilly’s progress with quantum information systems.

They’d met in their senior year at Garden City High School, in southwestern Kansas, she a town girl and he a rancher’s son living ten miles northwest. They’d fallen instantly in love, both of them dubbed the school’s brainiacs. She went to Caltech, where she earned her PhD in mathematics, while he went to MIT, on the opposite coast, earning his PhD in advanced computer design and applied physics.

They never took summers off, only snatching a week or so here and there to get together, and despite the strong advice of their major advisers, they got married in a brief ceremony in Garden City, followed by a one-week honeymoon in Paris, after which they went back to school for two more years of study and then two years of postdoc work. Both of them were hired by Los Alamos during the same week in 1956 and had worked there continuously, on a variety of projects, for more than thirty years. Eight years ago, the facility was renamed the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and John knew that, in a lot of ways, after they retired they would miss the science, the day-to-day interactions with some of the brightest minds on the planet.

“Where to next?” Lilly had asked him a few years ago, when they’d decided to retire at sixty-five.

“The ranch, full-time.”

“I hoped you’d say something like that,” she told him, and he didn’t think he’d ever loved her more than at that moment.

“Farmers at heart?”

She’d laughed. “What do you suppose the kids will think?”

“Joanne has her own life with Stan and the two grandbabies in Salt Lake, so I don’t think she’d want to come back to help out when we get doddering.”

“And Kirk’s got a start at the CIA, so it’s not likely he and his wife and the baby would come home.”

“Spies retire early,” John had told her. “So we leave the ranch to him?”

“I think so.” “Me too.”

Locking the printout in his safe, John went to the window of his third-story office and looked across what, in the past thirty years, had become a vast campus that no longer specialized in nuclear weapons design and testing but had branched out to a host of other disciplines, including Lilly’s quantum mechanics, chemistry, energy systems, super-conductivity, and all the earth sciences.

It was going to be strange to leave it, and yet some of the kids coming up were doing work that, five years ago, he’d never even dreamed about. Some of it was almost science fiction.

At six three, with a lean, almost lanky figure and a narrow face with what Lilly called the kindest, most expressive eyes on the planet, he looked more like a rancher than a scientist. And his wife liked that, too. “We’re just a pair of Great Plains country bumpkins, and that’ll never change,” she’d said just last week, when they were sitting on the porch of their ranch house having their usual sundowners—pinot grigio for her, a gin and tonic for him.

She was right, of course. As usual, he thought, turning away from the window. But they would miss the lab.

Her office was on the opposite side of the complex. When he phoned, she answered on the first ring.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“It’s better than I thought it would be.”

“I’m looking at it now, for the umpteenth time, and I think it’ll work.” “Because of you.”

“And it scares me just a little. The Russians get hold of this, they’ll go even crazier than in eighty-three when Reagan came up with SDI. And God only knows what they’ll do.”

“That’s up to the politicians.”

“You mean the ones we elected?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said. Sometimes they would agree about something— especially politics—when anyone around them would swear they were having a knock-down, drag-out argument. “You ready to pull the pin?” The Fourth of July was on a Tuesday, so a lot of people were taking four-day weekends.

“Give me five minutes to lock up.” “I’ll meet you out front.”

Lilly, wearing jeans, a white, military-style shirt with the sleeves rolled up and fastened above her elbows, and a safari hat at an angle on her head, came out of the advanced mathematics building, jumped in the open-top Jeep, and gave her husband a peck on the cheek. She was all smiles.

She was tall for a woman. Though she was six inches shorter than John, she had the feminine version of his lean and lanky build. Her pretty face was oval, with green eyes so brilliant they almost looked unreal, and a short-cropped mop of blond hair with which she seldom did much of anything except run her fingers through it.

Even after more than thirty years of marriage, he couldn’t keep his eyes off her. And for a longish moment or two, he just sat there.

“If we want to get home before it’s time to get back here, you might think about putting it in gear and driving us over to the airport,” she said.

“I called Tommy and told him to pull the plane out of the hangar and top off the fuel. We’ll be in the air thirty minutes from now.”

They had a ten-year-old Beechcraft Bonanza V-tail 35B that cruised in excess of one hundred seventy miles per hour, with a range of more than five hundred miles, plenty to get them to the well-lit, two-thousand foot paved strip on the ranch, with a healthy reserve—and in time for sundowners.

A stocky man of medium height, who worked as a day shift maintenance man in the administrative and mathematics buildings, watched from Lilly McGarvey’s office as she and her husband drove away in the Jeep.

All of the offices in which classified information was handled were swept for electronic bugs once per week. But in a typical American effort at efficiency, the sweeps in the math buildings were conducted only on Mondays.

Every Tuesday, the maintenance man, whose work name was Peter Lester but whose real name was Petr Lestov, an agent for the Russian KGB’s First Chief Directorate, installed the Theremin bug in a half dozen offices here. He then usually took them away at the end of the work-week, but always before Monday.

His high-value target for the past three months had been the McGarvey woman, who automatically gave them access to her husband’s work. “You are to drop everything else and concentrate on these two.” His control officer’s order had arrived at the drop box in Santa Fe. “They are expecting results from a computer search. The moment that happens, you are to make contact at the emergency telephone number.”

Lestov removed the bug from one of the electrical outlet plates, put it in his toolbox, and left the building by the rear entrance, near where he’d parked his battered Ford F-150 pickup truck.

In eight minutes, he was through the main gate and, taking great care not to exceed the speed limit on highways 502 and 64, made it to the phone booth outside a supermarket two miles from his apartment, where he made the long-distance call to a woman in Denver. It was answered on the first ring.

“Hi, sis,” he said.

“Peter! It’s nice to hear from you. It’s been so long, I was starting to get worried.”

“I’m thinking about taking the long weekend off, maybe come up to see you and the kids.”

“Are you bringing presents for them?”

“You bet. And this time they’re really good.”



Kirk McGarvey had been lucky to snag an exit row seat aboard the Boeing 747 from Moscow, which made traveling coach only slightly more palatable. But then, the Central Intelligence Agency never sent its agents first class. And especially not new recruits.

At twenty-seven, McGarvey—Mac to his few friends in the Company— was in superb condition, in part because of the luck of the genetic draw but also because he’d worked out just about every day of his life since he was old enough to help on the ranch. Then the air force’s tough Officer Candidate School physical training, and then the much tougher physical demands that he aced at the Company’s training facility, the Farm.

He was a little under six feet, and considered handsome in some circles, though that opinion had begun to sour somewhat in the past year for his wife, Katy, who had begun to complain that he was just a “bit over the macho edge.”

“I almost hate to take you to any decent function,” she’d told him, before he’d left for Moscow, where he’d set up an American dollar account at Arvesta Bank. The CIA wanted to funnel hard currency into the country, right under the noses of the KGB, to be used at first to fund relatively low-level intel ops. If that much went without a hitch, the level of operational sensitivity would be increased a bit at a time.

It was a little after three in the afternoon when they touched down at Washington’s Dulles Airport, a light drizzle falling from a deeply overcast sky.

He’d called Katy yesterday from his hotel in Moscow, giving her the flight number and arrival time, but she was just heading to the private aviation terminal at National Airport, where her father’s jet was to fly her and their two-year-old daughter, Liz, up to New York for the day.

“I’ll try to make it back in time, but I can’t guarantee anything, Kirk. You know how Daddy can be, and he and Mom haven’t seen Elizabeth in ages. They want to show her off a little. Ed and Mario will be there for dinner, of course.”

Ed Koch was the mayor of New York and Mario Cuomo was the governor. They were friends of Katy’s father, who was the senior partner in one of New York’s most prestigious law firms.

“No problem, Katy. I can take a cab,” McGarvey said.

“Kathleen,” she corrected him. This was also something new she’d been doing over the past six months or so. “It might be easier.”

He was passed through customs and immigration with a single suitcase and a garment bag under the work name of James T. Parker, with a bulletproof CIA-generated passport. Outside, he’d half hoped that Katy would be there, but she wasn’t, and he was disappointed but not surprised. He joined the queue for a cab, and when it was his turn, the cabbie, a tall heavyset black man, got out and put the bags in the trunk.

McGarvey gave him the address in Chevy Chase.

“Yes, sir,” the cabbie said, pulling away. “And welcome home.”

“Do I know you?” McGarvey asked. He’d packed the Walther PPK in his luggage, in a container secured with a diplomatic seal. He wished he had it now.

“No, sir. Don Parker. I’m with Housekeeping.” The reference, borrowed from the British MI6, was the insider’s term for CIA security, which was under the Directorate of Management and Services. “Mr. Danielle’s office asked that you be picked up.”

Lawrence Danielle was the deputy director of operations, answerable only to the deputy director and director of the agency. “They must want something,” McGarvey said. It was the first thing that came to mind.

Parker laughed. “No free lunch these days. Anyway, I was told to tell you ‘Job well done and you don’t have to be back until Tuesday.’”

“Now I am worried,” McGarvey said, but he laughed too, his mood a little lighter than it had been the past twenty-four hours. Three and a half days. Time enough to mend some fences.

McGarvey let himself in, dropping his bags in the entry hall, tossing his dark blue blazer on the padded bench, and headed back to the kitchen.

Katy was behind the center island, just finishing a glass of wine, and she looked up with a momentary flash of guilt behind her eyes.

“Oh, good, you made it in one piece,” she said. “I just now walked in the door myself.”

It was such an obvious lie, McGarvey didn’t bother with it. Besides the wine, she was wearing lounging pants and a light sleeveless top, an outfit in which she would never travel.

He went around to give her a kiss, but she turned slightly away so it landed on her cheek.

“There’s beer in the fridge,” she said.

“Where’s Liz?” McGarvey asked. He got a snifter from the wet bar and poured a Napoleon brandy, drank it straightaway, then poured another before he turned back to her.

“In New York with my mom and dad.” “For how long?”

“They haven’t seen her in ages.” McGarvey said nothing.

“Look, you leave for weeks at a time with absolutely no explanations, so what are we supposed to think? We know that you work for the CIA, but you’ve never told us what you do. Or if you’re in some sort of danger.”

“Who is we?”

“You could be killed, and then what the hell am I supposed to do?” Katy demanded, her voice rising.

“Katy, it’s important. Who is the we you’re talking about?”

“My father. Who do you think I’m talking about?” she said. “He pulled some strings—important strings—but all he could come up with was that you were a spy. A fucking spy!”

“For Christ’s sake, Katy, you could get me killed.” “My name is Kathleen,” she screeched.

McGarvey put down his drink, picked up the phone, and started to dial.

“Who are you calling?” “Your father.”

“He’s not in New York. He and Mother took Elizabeth to Grenada for the holiday.”

McGarvey put down the phone and just looked at his wife. He thought, at that moment, that he didn’t know who she was. What she had become.

Because of her father, and his money, and the financial support he’d given her all her life, she was independently wealthy. She sat on the boards of a half dozen charities, such as the Red Cross and the Easter Seals, plus the Smithsonian and a couple of other museums, including the Met in New York. She was a somebody, a distinctly separate person from her husband.

“You’d never send our daughter away without talking to me first,” McGarvey said, taking great care to keep a reasonable tone.

“You were gone. What was I supposed to do?” “Wait for me to come back.”

“You’re always gone. And one of these days you’ll come back, but in a coffin or a fucking body bag! Then what do you want me to do? Write a letter to hell?”

McGarvey held up a hand. “Okay, let’s call a truce. I’m going to unpack and take shower. Maybe you can change and we’ll go somewhere to get a bite.”

“I’ve already eaten.”

“I thought you just got home.”

“I had something to eat at the airport,” she said. She was very wound up, her obvious lie showing on her face.

“Truce anyway, Kathleen. We need to get a few things straight.” “More than a few,” she said.

He nodded.

“Go clean up and I’ll fix you something.” “Let’s talk first.”


Copyright © 2020 by David Hagberg

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