Stone Barrington is in Bel-Air, overseeing the grand opening of the ultra-luxe hotel, The Arrington, built on the grounds of the mansion belonging to his late wife, Arrington Carter. Read more...
- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Sept 2012
From the cover
Scott Hipp turned off I-295 South in Fort Meade, Maryland, at the dedicated exit entitled "NSA Employees Only" and drove to the mirrored black building that is the headquarters of the National Security Agency. The NSA was that part of the United States intelligence community responsible for communications surveillance and code breaking, and Hipp was its deputy director for cryptology, so he could park in the underground garage instead of in one of the eighteen thousand parking spaces surrounding the building.
Feeling smug that he would return to a cool automobile instead of one baking outside, he inserted his ID badge in the elevator panel and rode up to his office on the top floor, which he entered at the stroke of eight a.m., as he did every day. Four people awaited him at his conference table, drinking his coffee.
Hipp set his briefcase on the conference table and sat down. "Tell me something I don't know," he said without preamble.
The four exchanged some glances and shuffled through their papers.
Hipp watched them with satisfaction, since he knew they knew there was not much he didn't know.
"How about a cryptology joke?" asked one of them, removing a sheet of paper from a stack.
"Amuse me," Hipp said.
"Overnight down at Fort Gordon, one of our computers picked up a twenty-two-second cell phone conversation between someone in Afghanistan and someone in Yemen. The conversation was too brief to pinpoint locations, and much of it was garbled. The funny part is that, in the middle of the conversation, two English words were clearly spoken: 'the' and 'Arrington.'"
"That is terribly amusing," Hipp said with a straight face. "It's also very common, since English is a worldwide language, and foreigners often use phrases from or fragments of English."
"Does anyone at Fort Gordon, or for that matter, anyone here, have any thoughts on what the words mean?"
"Well," the man said, "I Googled it and there were essentially four hits, among a lot of duplication: first, there's some techie businessman named Arrington who's apparently famous in that world; second, there's an old Virginia family by that name; third, there's an Arrington vineyard; and fourth, there's a new hotel opening in Los Angeles called The Arrington. I like that one best because it has the 'The' in front of it."
"Tell me about the hotel," Hipp said.
"You remember the movie star Vance Calder, who was murdered some years back? The hotel is being built on the grounds of his former home, something like twenty acres, in Bel-Air, a top-scale residential community in L.A."
"Home of the Bel-Air Hotel, I believe," Hipp replied.
"Right," the man said. "The hotel is being named for his widow, née Arrington Carter, who herself was murdered early last year. Curiously, both Mr. and Mrs. Calder were murdered by former lovers."
"Any apparent significance there?" Hipp asked.
"Not really, just a coincidence. The hotel is having a grand opening soon—apparently it's a hot ticket out there."
"If it's a hot ticket in L.A.," Hipp observed, "there are probably not many invitations circulating in either Afghanistan or Yemen."
"That occurred to me, sir."
"In what language did the cell phone conversation take place?"
"A combination of Urdu and Arabic. Not enough was captured to make any sense of it."
"All right," Hipp said. "Put 'The Arrington' on the phraseology watch list and let's see if anything pops up. I don't think a single mention of the name is grounds for any sort of alert at this point."
"Yes, sir," the man said, scribbling a note on the message and setting it...
Praise for SEVERE CLEAR by Stuart Woods:
"While Stuart Woods has proven time and time again that he's a master of suspense who keeps his readers frantically turning the pages, he has even managed to top himself with SEVERE CLEAR."—Bookreporter.com
"Bestseller Woods's 50th novel, the 24th entry in his Stone Barrington series, boasts an all-star lineup...Woods expertly mixes familiar ingredients to produce an intoxicating cocktail that goes down easily."—Publishers Weekly - Praise for SEVERE CLEAR by Stuart Woods:
"While Stuart Woods has proven time and time