The President turned and looked at Critz. "He's offering five million for a pardon?"
"Yes, and he needs to move quickly. The money has to be wired out of Switzerland. It's three in the morning over there."
"Where would it go?"
"We have accounts offshore. It's easy."
"What would the press do?"
"It would be ugly."
"It's always ugly."
"This would be especially ugly."
"I really don't care about the press," Morgan said.
Then why did you ask? Critz wanted to say.
"Can the money be traced?" the President asked and turned back to the window.
With his right hand, the President began scratching the back of his neck, something he always did when wrestling with a difficult decision. Ten minutes before he almost nuked North Korea, he'd scratched until the skin broke and blood oozed onto the collar of his white shirt. "The answer is no," he said. "Fifteen is too young."
Without a knock, the door opened and Artie Morgan, the President's son, barged in holding a Heineken in one hand and some papers in the other. "Just talked to the CIA," he said casually. He wore faded jeans and no socks. "Maynard's on the way over." He dumped the papers on the desk and left the room, slamming the door behind him.
Artie would take the $5 million without hesitation, Critz thought to himself, regardless of the girl's age. Fifteen was certainly not too young for Artie. They might have carried Kansas if Artie hadn't been caught in a Topeka motel room with three cheerleaders, the oldest of whom was seventeen. A grandstanding prosecutor had finally dropped the charges-- two days after the election -- when all three girls signed affidavits claiming they had not had sex with Artie. They were about to, in fact had been just seconds away from all manner of frolicking, when one of their mothers knocked on the motel room door and prevented an orgy.
The President sat in his leather rocker and pretended to flip through some useless papers. "What's the latest on Backman?" he asked.
In his eighteen years as director of the CIA, Teddy Maynard had been to the White House less than ten times. And never for dinner (he always declined for health reasons), and never to say howdy to a foreign hotshot (he couldn't have cared less). Back when he could walk, he had occasionally stopped by to confer with whoever happened to be president, and perhaps one or two of his policy makers. Now, since he was in a wheelchair, his conversations with the White House were by phone. Twice, a vice president had actually been driven out to Langley to meet with Mr. Maynard.
The only advantage of being in a wheelchair was that it provided a wonderful excuse to go or stay or do whatever he damn well pleased. No one wanted to push around an old crippled man.
A spy for almost fifty years, he now preferred the luxury of looking directly behind himself when he moved about. He traveled in an unmarked white van -- bulletproof glass, lead walls, two heavily armed boys perched behind the heavily armed driver -- with his wheelchair clamped to the floor in the rear and facing back, so that Teddy could see the traffic that could not see him. Two other vans followed at a distance, and any misguided attempt to get near the director would be instantly terminated. None was expected. Most of the world thought Teddy Maynard was either dead or idling away his final days in some secret nursing home where old spies were sent to die.
Teddy wanted it that way.