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Saving Faith by [David Baldacci]
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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Saving Faith

By David Baldacci

Time Warner AudioBooks

Copyright © 1999 David Baldacci
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781570427695

Chapter One

The somber group of men sat in a large room that rested farbelowground, accessed by only a single, high-speed elevator. Thechamber had been secretly built during the early 1960s under theguise of renovating the private building that squatted over it. Theoriginal plan, of course, was to use this "super-bunker" as a refugeduring a nuclear attack. This facility was not for the top leadersof American government; it was for those whose level of relative"unimportance" dictated that they probably wouldn't be able to getout in time but who still rated protection afforded no ordinarycitizen. Politically, even in the context of total destruction,there must be order.

The bunker was built at a time when people believed it possible tosurvive a direct nuclear hit by burrowing into the earth inside asteel cocoon. After the holocaust that would annihilate the rest ofthe country, leaders would emerge from the rubble with absolutelynothing left to lead, unless you counted vapor.

The original, aboveground building had been leveled long ago, butthe subterranean room remained under what was now a small strip mallthat had been vacant for years. Forgotten by virtually all, thechamber was now used as a meeting place for certain people in thecountry's primary intelligence-gathering agency. There was some riskinvolved, since the meetings were not related to the men's officialduties. The matters discussed at these gatherings were illegal, andtonight even murderous. Thus additional precautions had beennecessary.

The super-thick steel walls had been supplemented by a coppercoating. That measure, along with tons of dirt overhead, protectedagainst prying electronic ears lurking in space and elsewhere. Thesemen didn't particularly like coming to this underground room. It wasinconvenient, and ironically, it seemed far too James Bondish evenfor their admittedly cloak-and-dagger tastes. However, the truth wasthe earth was now encircled with so much advanced surveillancetechnology that virtually no conversation taking place on itssurface was safe from interception. One had to dig into the dirt toescape his enemies. And if there was a place where people could meetwith reasonable confidence that their conversations would not beoverheard even in their world of ultrasophisticated peekaboo, thiswas it.

The gray-headed people present at the meeting were all white males,and most were nearing their agency's mandatory retirement age ofsixty. Dressed quietly and professionally, they could have beendoctors, lawyers or investment bankers. One would probably notremember any of the group a day after seeing them. This anonymitywas their stock-in-trade. These sorts of people lived and died,sometimes violently, over such details.

Collectively, this cabal possessed thousands of secrets that couldnever be known by the general public because the public wouldcertainly condemn the actions giving rise to these secrets. However,America often demanded results-economic, political, social andotherwise-that could be obtained only by smashing certain parts ofthe world to a bloody pulp. It was the job of these men to figureout how to do so in a clandestine manner that would not reflectpoorly on the United States, yet would still keep the country safefrom the pesky international terrorists and other foreigners unhappywith the stretch of America's muscle.

The purpose of tonight's gathering was to plot the killing of FaithLockhart. Technically, the CIA was prohibited by presidentialexecutive order from engaging in assassination. However, these men,though employed by the Agency, were not representing the CIAtonight. This was their private agenda, and there was littledisagreement that the woman had to die, and soon; it was criticalfor the well being of the country. These men knew this, even ifAmerican presidents did not. However, because of another life thatwas involved, the meeting had become acrimonious, the groupresembling a cadre of posturing members fighting on Capitol Hillover billion-dollar slices of pork.

"What you're saying, then," one of the white-haired men said as hepoked the smoke-filled air with a slender finger, "is that alongwith Lockhart we have to kill a federal agent." The man shook hishead incredulously. "Why kill one of our own? It can only lead todisaster."

The gentleman at the head of the table nodded thoughtfully. RobertThornhill was the CIA's most distinguished Cold War soldier, a manwhose status at the Agency was unique. His reputation wasunassailable, his compilation of professional victories unmatched.As associate deputy director of Operations, he was the Agency'sultimate free safety. The DDO, or deputy director of operations, wasresponsible for running the field operations that undertook thesecret collection of foreign intelligence. The operationsdirectorate of the CIA was also unofficially known as the "spyshop," and the deputy director was still not even publiclyidentified. It was the perfect place to get meaningful work done.

Thornhill had organized this select group, who were as upset as heabout the state of affairs at the CIA. It was he who had rememberedthat this bloated underground time capsule existed. And it wasThornhill who had found the money to secretly bring the chamber backto working condition and upgrade its facilities. There werethousands of little taxpayer-funded toys like that sprinkled aroundthe country, many of them gone to complete waste. Thornhillsuppressed a smile. Well, if governments didn't waste theircitizens' hard-earned money, then what would be left for governmentsto do?

Even now, as he ran his hand over the stainless steel console withits quaint built-in ashtrays, sniffed the filtered air and felt theprotective coolness of the earth all around, Thornhill's mindwandered back for a moment to the Cold War period. At least therewas a measure of certainty with the hammer and sickle. In truth,Thornhill would take the lumbering Russian bull over the agile sandsnake that you never knew was out there until it flung its venominto you. There were many who wanted nothing more in life than totopple the United States. It was his job to ensure that neverhappened.

Gazing around the table, Thornhill gauged each man's devotion to hiscountry and was satisfied it matched his own. He had wanted to serveAmerica for as long as he could remember. His father had been withthe OSS, the World War II-era predecessor to the CIA. He had knownlittle of what his father did at the time, but the man had instilledin his son the philosophy that there was no greater thing to do withone's life than to serve one's country. Thornhill had joined theAgency right out of Yale. Right up until the day he died, his fatherhad been proud of his son. But no prouder than the son had been ofthe old man.

Thornhill's hair was a shining silver, which lent him adistinguished air. His eyes were gray and active, the angle of hischin blunt. His voice was deep, cultured; technical jargon and thepoetry of Longfellow flowed from his mouth with equal ease. The manstill wore three-piece suits and favored pipe smoking overcigarettes. The fifty-eight-year-old Thornhill could have quietlyfinished out his time at the CIA and led the pleasant life of aformer public servant, well traveled, erudite. He had no thought ofgoing out quietly, and the reason was very clear.

For the last ten years, the CIA's responsibilities and budgets hadbeen decimated. It was a disastrous development, for the firestormsthat were popping up across the world now often involved fanaticalminds accountable to no political body and possessing the capabilityto obtain weapons of mass destruction. And while just about everyonethought high-tech was the answer for all the ills of the world, thebest satellites in the world couldn't stroll down alleys in Baghdad,Seoul or Belgrade and take the emotional temperature of the peoplethere. Computers in space could never capture what people werethinking, what devilish urges were lurking in their hearts.Thornhill would always choose a smart field operative willing torisk his or her life over the best hardware money could buy.

Thornhill had just such a small group of skilled operatives withinthe CIA, completely loyal to him and his private agenda. They hadall worked hard to regain for the Agency its former prominence. NowThornhill finally had the vehicle to do that. He would very soonhave under his thumb powerful congressmen, senators, even the vicepresident himself, and enough high-ranking bureaucrats to choke anindependent counsel. Thornhill would see his budgets revive, hismanpower skyrocket, his agency's scope of responsibility in theworld return to its rightful place.

The strategy had worked for J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. It was nocoincidence, Thornhill believed, that the Bureau's budget andinfluence had flourished under the late director and his allegedly"secret" files on powerful politicians. If there was oneorganization in the world that Robert Thornhill hated with all hissoul, it was the FBI. But he would use whatever tactics he could tobring his agency back to the forefront, even if it meant stealing apage from his most bitter foe. Well, watch me do you one better, Ed.

Thornhill focused again on the men clustered around him. "Not havingto kill one of our own would, of course, be ideal," he said."However, the fact is, the FBI have her under 'round-the-clockstealth security. The only time she's truly vulnerable is when shegoes to the cottage. They may place her in Witness Protectionwithout warning, so we have to hit them at the cottage."

Another man spoke up. "Okay, we kill Lockhart, but let the FBI agentlive, for God's sake, Bob."

Thornhill shook his head. "The risk is too great. I know thatkilling a fellow agent is deplorable. But to shirk our duty nowwould be a catastrophic mistake. You know what we've invested inthis operation. We cannot fail."

"Dammit, Bob," the first man to protest said, "do you know what willhappen if the FBI learns we took out one of their people?"

"If we can't keep a secret like that, we have no business doing whatwe do," Thornhill snapped. "This is not the first time lives havebeen sacrificed."

Another member of the group leaned forward in his chair. He was theyoungest of them. He had, however, earned the respect of the groupwith his intelligence and his ability to exercise extreme, focusedruthlessness.

"We've only really looked at the scenario of killing Lockhart toforestall the FBI's investigation into Buchanan. Why not appeal tothe FBI director and have him order his team to give up theinvestigation? Then no one has to die."

Thornhill gave his younger colleague a disappointed look. "And howwould you propose going about explaining to the FBI director why wewish him to do so?"

"How about some semblance of the truth?" the younger man said. "Evenin the intelligence business there's sometimes room for that, isn'tthere?"

Thornhill smiled warmly. "So I should say to the FBI director-who,by the way, would love to see us all permanently interred in amuseum-that we wish him to call off his potentially blockbusterinvestigation so that the CIA can use illegal means to trump hisagency. Brilliant. Why didn't I think of that? And where would youlike to serve your prison term?"

"For chrissakes, Bob, we work with the FBI now. This isn't 1960anymore. Don't forget about CTC."

CTC stood for the Counter Terrorism Center, a cooperative effortbetween the CIA and the FBI to fight terrorism by sharingintelligence and resources. It had been generally deemed a successby those involved. To Thornhill, it was simply another way for theFBI to stick its greedy fingers into his business.

"I happen to be involved in CTC in a modest way," Thornhill said. "Ifind it an ideal perch on which to keep tabs on the Bureau and whatthey're up to, which is usually no good, as far as we're concerned."

"Come on, we're all on the same team, Bob."

Thornhill's eyes focused on the younger man in such a way thateveryone in the room froze. "I request that you never say thosewords in my presence again," Thornhill said.

The man paled and sat back in his chair.

Thornhill clenched his pipe between his teeth. "Would you like me togive you concrete examples of the FBI taking the credit, the gloryfor work done by our agency? For the blood spilled by our fieldagents? For the countless times we've saved the world fromannihilation? How they manipulate investigations in order to crusheveryone else, to beef up their already bloated budget? Would youlike me to give you instances in my thirty-six-year career where theFBI did all it could to discredit our mission, our people? Wouldyou?" The man slowly shook his head as Thornhill's gaze bored intohim. "I don't give a damn if the FBI director himself came down hereand kissed my shoes and swore his undying allegiance to me-I willnot be swayed. Ever! Have I made my position clear?"

"I understand." As he said this, the younger man managed not toshake his head in bewilderment. Everyone in this room other thanRobert Thornhill knew that the FBI and CIA actually got along well.Though they could be ham-handed at times in joint investigationsbecause they had more resources than anyone else, the FBI was not ona witch hunt to bring down the Agency.

But the men in this room also understood quite clearly that RobertThornhill believed the FBI was their worst enemy. And they also knewthat Thornhill had, decades ago, orchestrated a number ofAgency-authorized assassinations with cunning and zeal. Why crosssuch a man?

Another colleague said, "But if we kill the agent, don't you thinkthe FBI will go on a crusade to find out the truth? They have theresources to scorch the earth. No matter how good we are, we can'tmatch their strength. Then where are we?"

Some grumbling rose from the others. Thornhill looked around warily.The collection of men here represented an uneasy alliance. They wereparanoid, inscrutable fellows long used to keeping their owncounsel. It had truly been a miracle to forge them together in thefirst place.

"The FBI will do everything they can to solve the murder of one oftheir agents and the chief witness to one of their most ambitiousinvestigations ever. So what I would propose doing is to give themthe solution we desire them to have." They looked curiously at him.Thornhill sipped water from his glass and then took a minute toprime his pipe.

"After years of helping Buchanan run his operation, Faith Lockhart'sconscience or good sense or paranoia got the better of her. She wentto the FBI and has now begun telling them everything she knows.Through a little foresight on my part, we were able to discover thisdevelopment. Buchanan, however, is completely unaware that hispartner has turned against him. He also doesn't know that we intendto kill her. Only we know."


Excerpted from Saving Faithby David Baldacci Copyright © 1999 by David Baldacci. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition. Review

It sounds like a movie pitch: "The story is like Tom Clancy crossed with John Grisham set in the Washington D.C. political world." But David Baldacci's Saving Faith successfully fuses elements from both of these chart-busters in this political thriller spiced with techno-wizardry.

The villain is a classic spy caricature: cold-war CIA super-patriot Robert Thornhill wants to reclaim the glory days of the Central Intelligence Agency--when money flowed like the Mississippi during a flood, and the FBI watched helplessly from the sidelines. Working from his secret underground bunker, he blackmails Danny Buchanan, one of the great Washington lobbyists, to front an enormous bribery scheme that will force Congress to bend to the CIA's whims. But Thornhill's plan springs a leak: Buchanan's assistant Faith Lockhart discovers her boss's dirty dealings, and she intends to expose the whole mess to Thornhill's nemesis, the FBI. Thornhill's associates attempt to assassinate Faith, but their bullet kills her FBI escort instead. Faith finds herself on the run with Lee Adams, a fit-and-trim PI who had been shadowing her at the behest of Buchanan.

If all this sounds a bit confusing, it is at times. Baldacci works hard to keep the tension steadily rising, but it is sometimes difficult to remember why Faith and Lee can't just stop running and go for help. Nevertheless, they are very likable heroes, and Baldacci's depiction of the world of lobbyists and the internecine warfare of the FBI and CIA (complete with state-of-the-art spy gadgets and transmission-proof chambers) elevates the novel with details that can come only from careful research. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to the paperback edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B001GUXJQU
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Grand Central Publishing (September 1, 2000)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ September 1, 2000
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1940 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 466 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,829 ratings

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David Baldacci has been writing since childhood, when his mother gave him a lined notebook in which to write down his stories. (Much later, when David thanked her for being the spark that ignited his writing career, she revealed that she'd given him the notebook to keep him quiet, &quot;because every mom needs a break now and then.&quot;)

David published his first novel, ABSOLUTE POWER, in 1996. A feature film followed, with Clint Eastwood as its director and star. In total, David has published 41 novels for adults; all have been national and international bestsellers and several have been adapted for film and television. His novels have been translated into over 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries, with 150 million copies sold worldwide. David has also published seven novels for younger readers.

David received his Bachelor's degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, after which he practiced law in Washington, D.C.

David is also the cofounder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across the United States.

David and his family live in Virginia.

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