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 those 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 watchlist and let’s see if anything pops up.
Copyright © 2012 by Stuart Wood
Stone Barrington is back in action! New York Times bestselling author Stuart Woods combines nonstop adventure, pulse-pounding suspense and an intriguing mystery in Severe Clear.
Two muffled words—“the Arrington”—intercepted by NSA intelligence analysts among a torrent of terrorist communications have all-too-clear resonance for attorney Stone Barrington. The newly built, breathtakingly luxurious hotel was named for Stone’s late wife, Arrington Carter, and it’s constructed on the former grounds of her mansion home. The star-studded VIP list for the hotel’s grand opening includes society bigwigs, business tycoons, socialites, movie stars, sundry glitterati, as well as the president of the United States—who will meet Mexico’s president at the hotel for a crucial summit.
As the enigmatic Algernon briefs his three terrorist subordinates—codenamed Wynken, Blynken and Nod—about a horrifically lethal plot, Stone takes charge of security preparations at the Arrington and CIA director Holly Barker consults a trusted source overseas. But time is ticking away: Wynken, Blynken and Nod are already inside the hotel—and if Stone can’t stop them, it will be lights-out for half the population of L.A.
Hardcover Book : 320 pages
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group ( September 18, 2012 )
Item #: 13-606499
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.75inches
Product Weight: 12.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
You take with a grain of salt that all women remove their clothes for this Stone Barrington within minutes of meeting him.The same goes his friend Herbie.I have been reading this series since the beginning and it's amazing that the rewards that people work their whole lives for , fall into Stone,s lap.His son, Peter a drama student, gets a multimillion dollar deal for an amatuer film.If you ignore all the tripe,this book is passable escapism from the real world. Like fantasy island.
I have read all of SW's books and love everyone of them. Can't wait for the next one to come out!
I always like his books. This one did seem like he may have rushed to write it...but overall good. Fast read.
Reviewer: Debbie Z
I have been a big fan of SW for 15 years, but another book with terrorists as the bad guys? I think not. Am sick of the genre; gave it to the library without going past 25 pages. He is way better than this. Of course, not even Babe Ruth hit a home run every time at bat. Will await the next one with open mind and heart. Best one ever. . . . .? Deep Lie.
Reviewer: Ann R
I've loved all his novels and am always waiting for the next one to come out. This one was no exception gripping from the beginning! Ending was a little disappointing, but didn't ruin it for me.