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Change of Heart by Jack Allen

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Change of Heart by Jack Allen
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As an officer in an obscure, under-funded branch of U.S. Navy Intelligence, Josh McGowan is given the leftover jobs, the scraps, the lousy missions that no one else wants. Josh is given the job to escort a former KGB informer from Russia back to the United States, where she will be debriefed by the CIA at the request of Colonel Mironov, a former Soviet Army officer.

Caught in the middle of a bad mission that gets worse at every step, Josh must decide if he’s falling in love with Valeria, or if he has to kill her himself.


It started with a phone call. Walt Bergene held his wife’s hand. They waited together by the sign with the words: Please Wait To Be Seated, inside the doorway of Rottelli’s, just six blocks from the White House. Walt was six foot five with wispy, receding black hair and a mustache. Miriam, his wife, was a petite woman with hazel eyes and auburn hair.

Walt’s cell phone rang the moment the waiter set a steaming platter of pasta in front of him.   His big, hungry grin fell and    he avoided his wife’s eyes as he fished the small phone from his pocket.

“Yeah?” he said.

He had a deep, booming voice that could be intimidating when he was annoyed. He listened to the person on the other end. His eyes finally came up to meet Miriam’s, and he found he was unable to decide whether she was irritated or concerned.

“Tell her I’ll be at my office in fifteen minutes. I’ll call her from there,” Walt  said.

He flipped the phone shut and looked at his wife again. She was clearly disappointed.

“Care for a picnic?” he said, but his voice did not sound as cheerful as he hoped.

He stopped a waiter and asked him to wrap their meals.

Half an hour later they unlocked the door of his office on the third floor of a small building tucked behind the Treasury building in downtown Washington. Painted on the glass of the old door were the words “U.S. Navy Intelligence” and below it the words “Criminal Investigations Division”. Walt cleared a spot on his desk for the styrofoam trays and sat down in his tall, black leather chair and picked up the phone. From the reception area outside his office, where Walt’s secretary had her desk and miscellaneous supplies, Miriam found a couple of plastic forks, some napkins and a couple of bottles of tea from a small refrigerator.

Walt dialed a direct line. It was answered on the first ring. “Special Ops,” said the woman’s voice on the other end, and

Walt could picture the short, stout figure of Rear Admiral Kath- erine Filmore holding the receiver to her ear.

“It’s me.  Fill me in.”

Walt listened while she gave him details. Miriam handed him his tray of mostaccioli and a fork and he picked at it, occasionally putting the fork down to scribble notes on his desk blotter.

“Hawkins is in town. I’ll put him on it,” he said when Filmore finished.

“I don’t have time for that. I need to know this job’s gonna get done. I have orders from very far up the chain.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I need the mechanic for this one.”

Walt sighed. “Katherine, I’ve got him on a job right now. I can’t pull him out right in the middle-”

“Walt, I’m not asking you for a favor here. Get Josh and send him here, now.”

She hung up. Walt set the phone down. Miriam ate her Caesar salad and fettuccine alfredo in small bites. Walt’s brow creased with deep furrows.

“Sounds big,” Miriam said, raising the fork to her mouth. Walt nodded.  “I think it is.”

Josh McGowan set the spoon in his styrofoam cup of egg drop soup and shifted in the seat. His body was cramped from sitting in the confining seat of the car for three hours. He wore a gray double breasted suit, a white shirt with a dark red tie, and a long overcoat, which was great for the dinner party they attended, but was terribly uncomfortable for sitting in a car for long periods. He brushed his hand through his short, dark hair and adjusted the earpiece in his left ear. He hated wearing those things. It was impossible to ever make them fit. Walt was always telling him his gadgets would make his job easier, but Josh never bought that. The only time he needed a radio was when he worked with a team, and on most jobs, he preferred to work alone.

For some reason, though, Walt believed Josh needed a partner on his assignments. Even worse, he wanted Josh to take part in the training of some of his newer recruits, no matter how much Josh objected.

Josh was six foot three with broad shoulders, deep, dark eyes, and a regular face, except for a small scar on his chin and one over his right eye. He looked straight ahead through the windshield into the blackness of the quiet alley and the street onto which it opened. He sat in a black Crown Victoria parked in the shadows of an alley looking out on West 47th in downtown Baltimore with Jerry, his partner on this mission and Walt’s latest whiz kid.