His Spy at Night Chapter One
His Spy at Night, Book 3 Spy Games Series
For love of the game.
You win some, you lose some.
Intelligence officer Marlies Wiersma plays hard and loves harder—sometimes with disastrous results. After falling for a man who wasn’t who he pretended to be, Lies is anxious to prove to her boss that she won’t make the same mistake twice. She accepts an assignment which pits her against a charming crime lord—and alongside a diplomat with no patience for spy games, particularly feminine ones.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
When a national security threat results in Trade Commissioner Harry Jordan harboring a spy in his embassy office, his instincts scream that Lies Wiersma is a woman not to be trusted. The two of them are supposed to be on the same team, but Lies is a little too good at these games for Harry’s personal comfort. He’s been burned by a woman before.
Harry’s reluctance to play along proves to be too much temptation for fun-loving Lies to resist, and once again, she finds herself in over her head with a man. This time, however, he’s exactly who he claims to be.
Now Lies has to convince Harry that, no matter who she pretends to be during the day, at night she’s all his.
Excerpt. © 2016 Paula Altenburg Reprinted by Permission. All rights reserved.
Being called into the director’s office and forced to relive her humiliation wasn’t how Marlies Wiersma had anticipated starting her Monday morning.
That Dan, her team leader, had filed a report on her stung. Lies had gone to him the minute she’d figured out she’d made a serious mistake. He’d thrown her under a bus in return. While she should have expected it, there was a high level of trust between a Canadian Security Intelligence Service officer and his or her team leader that included discretion. Deep down a part of her believed that if she’d been a man Dan would have kept her affair to himself.
On her lap perched the case file she’d been handed when she walked in the door and told to take a seat. She wondered if she was about to be demoted or fired.
CSIS Director John Carmichael was retired military and a well-preserved sixty-three, if his assistant was to be believed, meaning he had plenty of experience in intelligence behind him. If he wanted to know how she felt about being broadsided this way, she planned to make him work for it. She held herself as steady as a living statue, refusing to give up any personal tells, keeping ramrod straight with her knees together and feet tucked neatly under her chair. She summoned her best I don’t give a damn smile. As soon as she got home that evening she could let it all out, but not before then.
“You can relax, Marlies,” John said. “I know what you’re thinking.” Through the window beside his desk she could see the tops of the trees that lined the parking lot three stories below. He settled deeper into his chair and crossed one knee over the other, swinging the toe of his polished black leather loafer. Thoughtful gray eyes examined her, making it hard not to squirm. “You think Dan sold you out because you’re a woman.” She couldn’t hold onto her smile any longer and her shift in expression must have made him think she was closer to tears than she was. The thought of crying in front of the CSIS director was too horrifying to contemplate. “I was a team leader once, so yes, I know he could have kept this to himself.” He gestured toward the file folder in her lap. “I asked him point blank if there was any reason you shouldn’t be given this assignment and he told me about your affair with Michael Ajam. Then he said he didn’t believe it would affect your ability to do your job. He had nothing but complimentary things to say about your professionalism.”
She wasn’t nearly as confident about that as she’d been a few weeks ago. At twenty-eight she’d been with CSIS for three years, but she’d only been in the field for a little more than three months, and getting involved with Michael had been a huge mistake straight out of the gate. She was young, she was blond, and she was pretty enough to catch most men’s interest. She’d thought she was so smart too. She’d intended to use Michael as a way to get closer to the people he worked for. Instead, like a teenage girl, she’d fallen head over heels. She thanked every deity she could think of that she’d figured out he was far more experienced at this game than she was before she’d given everything away. He’d assumed she was a low-level bank teller who’d gotten cold feet after he’d asked her—on his boss’s behalf—to make one too many wire transfers for him. Each of those transfers had been highly illegal, but small potatoes compared to what she’d really been looking for. He’d set her up, wanting to see what she would do with the information he fed her. As far as he knew, she’d done nothing with it.
And now John and Dan were giving her a chance to redeem herself. Heady relief bolstered her resolve to do better next time. She’d learned her lesson.
“Thank you.” She smoothed a palm over the file. “What’s the assignment?”
John didn’t answer straightaway, but gazed out the window, the lines around his eyes made more noticeable beneath a beam of bright morning sunlight. It was late summer in Ottawa and the day promised to be as hot and humid as the past eight had been. The city was experiencing a heat wave. Thank you, climate change.
“It’s sensitive,” he finally said, swiveling his attention—and his chair—back to her. “And for the most part unofficial. Any reports will come straight to me, not through Dan.”
He proceeded to fill her in. Canada’s aerospace and defense trade commissioner in the Netherlands had received intelligence from a reliable source suggesting a prominent businessman and Canadian ex-pat named Bernard Vanderloord was laundering money from the Middle East through European Union defense contractors. Vanderloord had been a person of interest to CSIS for some time now. They knew he operated primarily out of the Netherlands, where he had dual citizenship. They’d also linked him to the theft of Canadian military weapons systems parts that had ended up in countries with nuclear capabilities that Canada didn’t conduct military business with. CSIS also had reason to believe he had connections to the Russian Business Network, a known cybercrime organization. He was currently doing his best to get closer to Canada’s defense trade commissioner because of an upcoming shipbuilding contract. The Dutch had an established shipbuilding industry that Canadian defense contractors, with less experience behind them, would like to tap into. They were actively seeking strategic partners in the Netherlands through the current trade agreement between the two countries.
This was where Lies came in. Her parents were Dutch immigrants with family still in the Netherlands, and Lies spoke both Dutch and Frisian fluently. She knew the country well, having spent most of her summers with cousins while growing up. And she’d just spent the past three months working on a money laundering case so she knew what to look for.
“We’d like you to go to the Netherlands, where you’d work in the trade commissioner’s office as his personal assistant. We want you to get as close to Vanderloord as possible. He already knows Harry isn’t much of a mark so he’ll be looking for another way into the trade agreement.”
Lies knew how fraud worked. If Vanderloord was a crime boss he’d either go for the top of the food chain or the bottom. Harry Jordan, the trade commissioner, sat at the top. Since Jordan wasn’t willing to play Vanderloord’s game, Lies would come in at a low level position, someone new who hadn’t yet formed any loyalties, and become a prime mark. Her pulse quickened. She’d assumed that, after her last failure, she’d be given insignificant assignments until she’d built up her team leader’s confidence in her again. This, however…
This was her wheelhouse. She was equal parts thrilled and terrified. But last time she’d gotten too close to her own mark and the wound was still raw. While the Michael Ajam she’d fallen in love with had never existed, that didn’t mean she wasn’t mourning his loss. The real Michael, too, had an element of excitement inherent in him that she’d been drawn to. The criminal side to him had been the deal breaker however, and the fact that she’d misjudged him so completely tossed her confidence in herself to the wind.
“There’s one more thing,” John went on. “It’s a big one. I want no one—and I mean not even Dan—to know what you uncover. We’ve already got enough on Vanderloord to put him out of commission. We aren’t trying to do that. He and the Minister of National Defence are old friends. They went to university together. Intel we’ve received suggests Vanderloord and the minister are conducting business together. We want to find out how they’re managing to keep it off the radar.”
Lies couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “To clarify—you aren’t after Vanderloord. You really want to take down the Minister of National Defence?”
“I never liked him. His eyes are too close together.”
It was an old and tired profiling joke but she was too stunned to appreciate that the director of CSIS had a dry sense of humor. Her last field assignment had ended in disaster. She’d hoped for a chance to redeem herself and this investigation would definitely do that, but botching it could ruin her career.
“You can do this, Marlies,” John said, again reading her mind. His eyes sparkled with empathy. “Don’t let one misstep throw you off your game. We’ve all been in your shoes. It’s an occupational hazard to sometimes trust the wrong people. Trusting yourself is more important. Learn from it and move on.”
“Of course I can do this,” she said automatically, mentally crossing her fingers. Her job involved having to lie. If she couldn’t convince John and Dan, and the trade commissioner, of her ability to get the work done, how could she expect to fool someone like Bernard Vanderloord—who as far as liars went, would make Michael look like a kid caught with his hand in a cookie jar?
“Perfect.” John reached for the phone on his desk. He lifted the receiver and punched a button on speed dial. “Can you send Harry in, please?” he said to his assistant on the other end of the line.
Lies’s ears perked up. Harry? As in Harry Jordan, the aerospace and defense trade commissioner who she was supposed to go to work for in the Netherlands?
Why was he in Ottawa?
Before she could speculate, or ask for clarification, the door cracked open behind her. She stood, gripping the file in her left hand as she turned to greet the man who’d be her boss for the foreseeable future.
* * *
Harry Jordan wasn’t used to cooling his heels in an outer office, waiting on other people’s schedules. Under normal circumstances people jumped to accommodate him—mostly because they wanted something.
This time, however, he was the one seeking a favor, and John Carmichael had never been the type to cater to ego to begin with. That was one of the reasons they’d stayed friends over the years.
So Harry was content to organize his thoughts and sip at the fresh cup of coffee he’d been handed. It wasn’t as good as the Dutch brand he’d gotten spoiled on, but it was close.
The assistant hung up the phone.
“You can go in now, Mr. Jordan,” she chirped. She was perky, personable and bright, and even though he was only thirty-six, she made Harry feel old and none of those things.
Nothing about CSIS made him comfortable. He hated intrigue and didn’t like having to be here. If not for the complete faith he had in John as a human being, he probably wouldn’t be. He’d have ignored the problem and hoped it went away.
That last part wasn’t true. Harry might wish he could ignore it, but he’d have dealt with it somehow. Knowing John as a personal friend made for a much easier decision. Harry had come to Ottawa to discuss Bernard Vanderloord with him in person because he hadn’t trusted the normal channels for passing on information.
It turned out he’d been right to be cautious. He was about to have an intelligence officer dumped on him, meaning he’d have to watch everything he said or did from now on because it would all end up with CSIS and then shared with God only knew who. The intelligence business worldwide relied on an exchange system. If anyone at the Canadian embassy gave John’s agent information that could be used to buy better information from another organization, John wouldn’t hesitate.
A man couldn’t trust anyone in this business, not even his friends, and it made Harry tired.
He left his empty coffee cup with the assistant and opened John’s door.
A woman rose from the chair in front of the gleaming mahogany desk at the sound of Harry’s entry and turned in a smooth, graceful motion to face him. She was tall and slender, with short blond ringlets and side-swept bangs that curled over one of her very direct, long-lashed blue eyes. She had the pale skin, rosy cheeks, and full red lips of the stereotypical Dutch women gracing the country’s tourist brochures. The only things missing to complete the picture were the curly-tipped white cap, peplum, and plain wooden shoes. Instead, she wore a short-sleeved white blouse and a narrow gray pencil skirt that stopped an inch shy of her knees.
She was stunning. Harry could think of no better word.
“Harry.” John greeted him with genuine warmth as he came from behind the desk to take Harry’s proffered hand in both of his. “I want you to meet Marlies Wiersma, the intelligence officer I’ve assigned to your case.” He stepped aside to include her in the conversation. “Marlies, this is Harry Jordan.”
Her self-assured, dazzling smile revealed equally dazzling teeth. She shook his hand, her grip as firm as any man’s. She seemed to be memorizing his face, no doubt well aware that she left him tongue-tied. Restless energy oozed from her pores. John’s assistant had made him feel old and unimpressive, but this woman made him feel every inch the dull fuddy-duddy Alcine, his Italian ex-girlfriend, had accused him of being.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Jordan,” Marlies said. “Call me Lies.” She pronounced it Lees, with a soft s on the end.
He released her hand and regained his power of speech. “Harry.”
John picked up a stack of papers and tucked them under his arm. “I have another meeting about to start. Harry, Lies is available as of today. I’ll have Penny book her on the same flight as yours back to Amsterdam tonight, only she’ll be flying economy, not business. These are taxpayer dollars I’m spending. Feel free to use my office while you two work out the logistics. I’ll be back in an hour.”
John left. Harry claimed the visitor chair next to Lies’s and shifted it sideways so they were facing each other. She crossed those long legs, an action that slid her plain, narrow gray skirt up her thighs.
He cleared his throat and tried not to stare. He’d conduct this exchange as if it were a job interview, which in a way it was. “Have you ever worked as a personal assistant before?”
She hooked a short blond ringlet behind one ear, revealing a row of piercings with tiny diamond studs in them that winked in the sunlight.
“I’ve worked at a lot of things,” she assured him. “Don’t worry. I’ll do my homework. That’s what the Internet is for. I also trust you’ll point out to me anything I do that might draw unwanted attention.”
She was going to draw attention by breathing. John had to be out of his mind to think a young woman such as Marlies Wiersma, simply because she could speak the language, would be the right intelligence officer to handle someone like Bernard Vanderloord. In his late forties, Vanderloord was what could best be described as a player when it came to the opposite sex. Alcine had fallen for him and she should have known better. Lies, while strikingly beautiful, gave off the air of a varsity athlete, not a sophisticated femme fatale. Vanderloord, a shark, would take one look at her and spot prey.
And then Harry realized how much of a dull fuddy-duddy he really was, because no doubt that was John’s objective. Lies—young, pretty, and ambitious—was bait.
Did Harry approve?
Not in the least. It left a bad taste in his mouth. But it wasn’t his call. All he had to do was satisfy himself that she could pull off her role as his personal assistant. The rest was John’s problem.
He fired a barrage of questions at her, most of which she answered either to his satisfaction or with skillful evasion, and he was impressed. She was smart. He made note of the areas where she’d need to be coached.
Then, it was her turn to grill him.
“Can you tell me a little about how the trade commission functions?” she asked. “Who works in your defense department? How many people come through in the run of a day? What is your client base?”
As far as his entire client base was concerned, he wasn’t going there. The only one who concerned her was Vanderloord. The rest didn’t need CSIS nosing around in their business.
“One of our clients is the reason I’m here.” He’d already told John his story, and John had no doubt filled her in, at least in part, but Harry would repeat it to make sure Lies understood what she was getting into. “Bernard Vanderloord is a Canadian ex-pat who does business all over the world, primarily with military contracts. Basically, he acts as a third-party broker, buying and selling manufactured parts for maintenance and repair. I have reason to believe that some of those aircraft parts in particular are being purchased for one purpose, then modified, re-categorized, and sold for a secondary purpose. Europe’s open borders are convenient for moving re-purposed goods from one country so they can be shipped from a second or third country to circumvent trade embargos. It works a lot like money laundering.” John had said Lies was an expert on that subject, and she was nodding, so Harry continued. “The euro is fast becoming the currency of choice for money laundering, surpassing the American dollar, because of the number of countries that use it and because it can move across borders without being traced. So, not only has Vanderloord been trafficking in military goods, but he’s also exchanging currency. He’s set up a sort of hawala system in at least ten different countries, including Canada. You know what that is?”
“Yes. It’s an informal value transfer system. Money is given to a broker in one country, who calls a broker in a second country to release that amount to the intended recipient, minus a percentage. The brokers have a system in place where they either exchange equal value goods or services for the cash, or hold a credit against a future cash exchange. And since a hawala system operates on a high level of trust, I’m assuming Mr. Vanderloord is using companies he’s either invested in or has a working relationship with.”
“For the most part.” He was trying to establish working relationships with Harry’s connections to further his networks and Harry wasn’t having it.
“How did you find out all of this?”
The tips of his ears began to burn. “The wife of an Albanian diplomat. She took me aside at an art event at their embassy in The Hague to tell me.”
Lies dissected that piece of information and came to the same conclusion he had. “She was sleeping with Vanderloord and he ended the relationship.”
“That would be a reasonable assumption, yes.” His face had to be matching his ears by now. The Albanian diplomat should have known better than to marry his mistress. If she’ll do it with you, she’ll do it to you, to paraphrase Dr. Phil. “It also means her information is suspect. She could be trying to get even with him. To be honest, she’s dramatic and politics isn’t her strong suit. She might have misunderstood something she overheard and blown it out of proportion.”
But he didn’t believe that, and he could tell by the slight inward, thoughtful drawing of Lies’s pretty red lips that she knew he didn’t.
He shifted the conversation off his clients and onto the daily operations of his office. Lies had a number of language skills besides Dutch that might come in handy, although when it came to sharing the details of her educational background, she was understandably vague.
After that, the conversation started to drag. A surreptitious glance at his watch warned Harry that John was overdue from his meeting. Harry couldn’t simply walk out of the office. He worked with the military and this wasn’t his first trip to National Headquarters in Ottawa. Someone had to escort him downstairs to security so he could sign out and turn in his visitor pass.
Besides, he had a few things to discuss with John in private. The diplomat’s angry, sobbing, mistress-turned-wife left him unconvinced that a female intelligence officer handling Vanderloord was the best approach to be taking. Things could get messy and ugly, and he didn’t want an international incident unfolding on Dutch soil. Their shipbuilding industry had strong connections to Canada. Not to mention, this whole setup made him feel like a pimp.
And he hadn’t given John the whole story either. He’d left Alcine out of it. She swore she’d told Vanderloord nothing about the trade commission’s business and Harry believed her. There’d be very little for her to tell anyway. He wasn’t into pillow talk.
“If you have work to do, I don’t mind waiting for John alone,” he hinted to Lies.
“I can’t leave you alone, especially in the director’s private office.”
“Of course not. I wasn’t thinking.” Now he felt like an idiot. But he was struggling to find a casual topic of conversation with a beautiful woman in a context that was outside his usual frame of reference. If this were a social setting, he’d have no problem. At work, also not an issue. This wasn’t either of those. “I take it you’re familiar with the Netherlands already. What’s your favorite place?”
She flashed him that dazzling smile. It warned him she knew how uncomfortable he was and she’d use it as leverage if he gave her half a chance.
“The whole country is beautiful,” she said. “I do have to say, though, I have a particular attachment to Friesland. My family owns property there.”
They’d found common ground. He relaxed, although he didn’t let down his guard. “One of our biggest shipbuilding clients has offices in Friesland. I’ve taken a tour. For my own personal preference though, I like Leiden.” He shrugged. “There’s something about the youth and the enthusiasm of an international university town I find fascinating.”
“Because you forget what it’s like to be young?” She lifted one dark blond eyebrow and rubbed the tips of her long fingers along the tubular steel arm of her chair, a sparkle in her eyes making their blue depths appear even more vivid. “You aren’t such an old man.”
Her gentle teasing came from nowhere, changing the pattern his thoughts had been making from a straight line to a tangled maze he couldn’t decipher. In any other situation he’d almost think she was flirting with him, and because he didn’t know how to classify her, he wasn’t quite sure where to take the conversation from here. She wasn’t a social acquaintance, employee, or friend.
Since she was CSIS, however, he’d sure as hell never be able to trust her enough to let down his guard. Their interactions, if he couldn’t convince John to replace her, were going to fall somewhere between informal and official. That translated to awkward and she’d take full advantage of it, as she was trying to do now.
She was a spy. He’d do best to remember it. Whatever game she was planning to play, he’d sit on the sidelines and mind his own business. Unfortunately, he couldn’t warn anyone else in his office or circle of acquaintances that she’d come in contact with. He hoped there wouldn’t be too much collateral damage.
“Not so much old,” he conceded dryly, “as wise. I do have a few years of experience behind me.”
Before she could comment on that, John reappeared. He strode into the room and tossed his papers on the desk. “How’d we make out?” he asked, his manner suggesting he believed the planning he’d left them to do had gone off without any hitches.
“I’d like a few words with you,” Harry said to him.
* * *
Lies knew when she was being dismissed. She gathered the file John had given her earlier, shuffling the loose pages inside it so they were lined up neat and tidy with the edges, then stood.
“I’ll read this before I leave the office,” she said to her director, holding it up in one hand. “I’m going to head home this afternoon to pack.”
She wondered if she’d still need to do so after Harry had John alone. She’d definitely picked up on a vibe that said he didn’t want her working with him. She suspected he was going to try and talk John into handing this assignment to another intelligence officer, most likely a man. In retaliation, she’d had to poke him a little by teasing him about his sober personality.
Get with the times, Mr. Jordan. Women work in espionage, too. In fact, they’ve done so for centuries.
He stood with her, all gentlemanly politeness. At five foot ten, or maybe an inch more, he was around the same height as she. He had nice brown eyes with lashes almost as long as a girl’s. He wore his brown hair almost military-cut short. So far, there were no touches of gray or hints of male pattern balding. He wasn’t heavy or thin, handsome or homely. His suit and shoes screamed understated but expensive, and fit him very well. It was obvious he kept in good physical condition. Lies had already decided that, even though vanity was the more powerful motivator for most people, he worked out to fend off stress. Harry wasn’t the most Zen person she’d ever met.
The definition of both staid and nondescript, he didn’t give the impression of a man who made many mistakes. He also knew how to keep his cards close to his chest, evading any questions she’d posed that he’d deemed too personal when it came to either him, his staff, or his business associates. She itched to find out what he was hiding. His personal secrets wouldn’t be deep and dark—he practically glowed with integrity—but she suspected they might prove interesting, because as staid and nondescript as he appeared at first glance, Harry had something deeper going for him. He was charismatic in a quiet way that had encouraged a woman who’d been jilted by a lover to entrust him with a secret that could cost her life. Arms dealing—for that was what Vanderloord was doing—and money laundering weren’t things nice people did, no matter how they tried to dress it up. Lies had learned that the hard way.
The pain of loss and humiliation, still fresh, squeezed her heart. She wasn’t ready to take on another assignment where she was expected to get close to a man. That was the real reason she’d helped sabotage herself by poking fun at Harry. He’d be presenting his case against her the second she walked out the door and a part of her hoped for his success. Mind games were one thing. Games of the heart quite another, and hers was more fragile than she’d anticipated.
He extended his hand. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Lies.”
He didn’t say he’d see her at the airport, or in The Hague, or that he looked forward to working with her, confirming her suspicions that he planned to have her replaced. She murmured something equally polite, nodded to John who was watching their interaction and not missing a nuance, and slipped out of the office, closing the door behind her with a soft snick. A clock on the cream-colored wall of the outer office shouted that it was already almost time for a coffee break, and so far this morning, she hadn’t even made it as far as her desk.
She spoke a few words to John’s assistant Penny as she passed her desk, then, out in the common area of the department, worked her way through the maze of cubicles to her own. She dropped the file in her top desk drawer, grabbed her empty coffee cup, and went to fill it in the break room before returning to her workspace for a few hours of light reading.
Before she was completely settled in, a tiny paper Canadian flag mounted on a wooden stick popped up over one wall of her cubicle, followed by a head. Dan, her team leader.
He came around the partition and made himself at home in the tiny plastic visitor’s chair.
“Truce?” he asked.
“That depends on if you brought chocolate.”
He passed her a small white bag from a nearby specialty store. “I wouldn’t do this kissing up for just anyone, you know.”
Of course not, because most of his team members were men smart enough not to sleep with one of their targets. Granted, that was because most of their targets were also men. Plus, Dan had sold her out. She hadn’t forgotten that part, no matter how good he believed his reason for it to be. There was a double standard at play here.
That didn’t mean she wasn’t taking his chocolate. At the end of the day, double standard or not, Lies was the one who’d made the mistake. How Dan chose to address it was his prerogative. She loved her job and she wanted to keep it.
“Thank you,” she said, opening the bag and peeking inside. “I’m not sharing it with you.”
“I know you think I treated you differently, and maybe I did,” Dan began, diving right in. “But there’s a lot at stake on this assignment. I don’t want anyone’s overpaid lawyer calling your integrity into question.”
So Dan knew about the defense minister’s involvement, even if she wouldn’t be reporting to him.
Did she really want to take on the Minister of National Defence?
She popped a milk chocolate, hazelnut praline into her mouth, mulling his words over. No one’s lawyer would have any reason to come gunning for her. She gathered information which CSIS then passed on to the appropriate authorities. It wasn’t up to CSIS, a civilian organization, to prove the value of her information in court. That was a problem for law enforcement officers.
And the Minister of National Defence wasn’t above the law.
She could do this.
“Your kissing up is accepted,” she mumbled around a mouthful of sweet, gooey goodness, hoping Harry lost his argument with John after all.