Storm Front: A Derrick Storm Thriller
real fast.”
    “Yeah,” Whitmer said. “Yeah, you know, I like the sound of that. Tell people he’s Jewish. Airbrush a yarmulke on him. Better yet, Muslim. Or gay. How much do I need?”
    “How much do you have in your war chest?”
    “A million two.”
    “Not enough,” Porter said. “You’re talking about a double-digit disadvantage. You’ll need at least five million to move the needle.”
    “Jesus,” Whitmer said.
    Forget vodka. Whitmer went over to the highball glasses he kept in the bookcase along the far wall. He opened up a cabinet, pulled out a bottle of Clyde May’s Conecuh Ridge Alabama Style Whiskey, poured himself three fingers, and downed it in one gulp.
    “Want some?” he asked.
    “No, thank you, Senator.”
    “You got any
news to tell me?”
    “No, Senator.”
    “Then you best be moving on.”
    As Porter departed, Whitmer paced around his office, unable to believe this turn of events. It was six weeks to go until the primary. Whitmer hadn’t even bothered paying for polling before this, because there seemed to be no point—surely, no one was taking this Tea Party asshole seriously.
    And now it looked like Whitmer’s political life was at stake. Was his constituency really turning on him like this? Was he really going to have to pack up his life in Washington and head back to Alabama in shame and defeat, a four-term senator whipped in a primary by a some small-town deacon? Was he really going to be another in a long line of victims of this Tea Party nonsense?
    No. Not Donny Whitmer.
    He gripped the Clyde May, practically ripped off the cap, and didn’t bother with the formality of a glass this time. He poured a long swallow down his throat.
    He just had to think of a way to come up with five million dollars.
    His mind soon struck not on an idea but a man. He was a man who owed him a favor. A big favor. A five-million-dollar favor, perhaps.
    Whitmer was so excited, he sat down and wrote the man’s name down on a legal pad. Lately, he had been getting more forgetful—particularly when he was agitated—and he found that writing things on his legal pad, in neat block letters, helped him keep his thoughts straight, especially when he came back to them later.
    He looked down at the name and smiled.

PARIS, France
    T he reporter could only be described as ruggedly handsome, with dark hair and eyes, a square jaw, and muscles toned in a way that no working journalist’s ever had been. He was just hoping no one would notice that part.
    In keeping with his cover, his outfit consisted of a well-worn tweed blazer, khaki pants that just barely missed matching, a white shirt with faint stains from a lost battle with a long-ago chili dog, and scuffed oxfords. He kept a spiral-bound reporter’s pad in his left pocket and two pens in his right: a primary pen and a backup in case the first one failed. A reporter could never be too careful.
    If he bore a striking resemblance to a man who had once been a Venetian gondolier—to say nothing of scores of identities that might or might not have come before it—it was surely a coincidence. From the moment Derrick Storm landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport, his passport and press credentials identified him as Cleveland Detroit of
Soy Trader Weekly
    He was a serious reporter for a serious soy-related trade publication, one that could not dare blink in its protracted circulation battle with the much-hated
Soybean America
. If any curious party decided to Google him, they would find an elaborate website with a host of articles on the subject of soy, carefully constructed to appear to be the work of a small cadre of fair, balancedsoy-knowledgeable journalists—really the handiwork of some of the CIA’s more agriculturally savvy interns. The website contained links one could click to contact
Soy Trader Weekly
’s editors, to read about
Soy Trader Weekly
’s history, to advertise in
Soy Trader Weekly
, even to subscribe. The CIA interns were

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