Maguire asked Richter to let him stay on in London. He was happy there, enjoying what is known in Foreign Service parlance as an “accompanied tour” with his wife and two daughters. Maguire told Richter he hoped to continue his vital work in Iraq, where he had developed locals -- sometimes with trunks of cash -- to gain secrets from inside Iraq’s seats of power.
Richter hadn’t flown to London to negotiate. He urged Maguire to take the assignment and report to the CIA station in Karachi. That’s when Maguire played his last card. He told Richter that his wife, a registered nurse, had long told him there were only two countries on the planet so full of filth and disease that she refused to raise their girls in them: India and Pakistan. For those reasons, Maguire told his boss, he would have to politely decline the job in Karachi. Richter wasn’t accustomed to being told no. He left Maguire in stony silence.
Soon after, Maguire got the cable letting him know he was being called back to Langley to work in human resources, his requests for posts in the Middle East denied.
Now he found himself standing in front of Richter’s desk.
Maguire’s boss, not known for warm and fuzzy moments with subordinates, didn’t invite him to take a seat. It would be a short meeting. “I have an assignment for you,” Richter said. “I can’t tell you anything about it.” He told Maguire that he needed an answer then and there, and that a yes would be good for his career. If he said no, all he had to do was go back downstairs and never utter a word about the conversation. “You have to give me an answer now,” Richter said. Maguire, flummoxed, glanced to his right. A stranger sat on the couch. The man wore a nice suit and a blue badge denoting him as a CIA staffer. Maguire figured he was a senior agency man. He planted his eyes on Richter’s face to read his reaction to his next words.
“Can I ask a question or two?”
Richter peered at Maguire sourly. “You can ask,” he said.
Maguire turned to the man on the couch.
“Who’s this guy?”
“I’m Ed Curran,” the stranger said. “I’m the highest-ranking FBI agent assigned inside the CIA.”
F**k me, Maguire thought.
His mind flew back to Iraq and the troubles there. The FBI was still investigating the CIA’s role in organizing an unsuccessful coup that March against Saddam Hussein by his own military. Maguire and his team had rotated into northern Iraq during that covert action (code-named DBACHILLES), which failed. Saddam executed at least eighty of his officers involved in the attempted overthrow.
“F*** it,” he said. “I’ll take it. Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”
Maguire feared that the new “assignment” Richter was offering might be a ham-handed setup for questioning by the FBI. The appearance of Curran only deepened his anxiety. Maguire’s choices seemed clear. He could turn down a potentially choice assignment, whatever it was, and retreat to the cubicle dungeon and the slow immolation of his soul. Or he could do as the paratroopers say in that instant before leaping out of airplanes: Pull the cord, trust the Lord.
“F**k it,” he said. “I’ll take it. Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”
“Wise choice,” Richter said.
Maguire could sense by the tone of his boss’s voice that the meeting was over. Curran, no doubt amused by the exchange, gave Maguire orders: Go downstairs to the lobby. Do not talk to anyone, and tell no one where you’ve been. You’ll meet a couple of FBI agents at the front door, who will give you instructions.
Maguire nodded along.
“OK,” he said.
Outside Richter’s office, he shot a glance at Anna. She winked. Moments later, Maguire walked off an elevator on the first floor, turned a corner, and trudged down a half-dozen steps, where he badged through the security turnstiles. He walked past the statue of William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan, a figure who stood literally and figuratively on a pedestal in the agency. Donovan had created the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner to the CIA, which helped win World War II. Maguire stepped across the agency’s iconic lobby, with its massive seal -- the head of an eagle atop a sixteen-point compass -- laid into cold granite. There he found two men standing in business suits. They flashed their credentials and asked Maguire to follow them. All moved for the front doors.
Maguire found himself seated in the rear of a plain-Jane bureau car, which rolled out of the Langley compound into the northern Virginia suburbs. The ride was a blur of bright green tree canopies, the engine’s drone, and a pair of FBI agents attempting to break the tension with small talk.
Maguire heard one of them ask him, “Whattaya think?”
“Well,” he said, “I’m not used to riding in the back of a police car. It doesn’t fill me with confidence. But I’m not cuffed yet.”
The agents told him to relax. But Maguire, who had served on some of America’s most dangerous streets in Baltimore, didn’t feel fine. When he was a cop, he’d been the one putting perps in squad cars for the free rides to jail.
Soon the car pulled up to a house deep in the suburbs, in a neighborhood Maguire didn’t recognize. The FBI agents led him inside, where he spied a few others. Only then did he fully understand where he’d been taken. He was in a bureau safe house. Agents brought him to a bedroom, where he found an older man sitting behind a desk. The man hooked him up to a polygraph with a confidence that only contributed to Maguire’s unease.