Deadly Driver – Spy Driver


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CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

At the Catalunya race circuit just outside of Barcelona, the silver safety car, a sleek Mercedes AMG coupe, screamed down the front stretch. It was media day, twenty-four hours before any F1 cars would take the first lap of pre-season testing. As Bryce gave the car all it could take without spinning out, his shotgun rider held tight and laughed nervously to camouflage his panic. He’d challenged the F1 driver to scare the hell out of him, and Bryce was doing that and then some.
The G-forces of the sweeping turns, the acceleration, the heavy braking, the next turn coming on so quickly, and then another. Living on the edge was what Bryce loved to do, at least on the track. But he had no idea he was slowly killing the man riding with him.
As he brought the car back onto pit road, he looked to his right and raised his hand to give the VIP a fist bump. Then, shocked by what he saw, Bryce made an erratic turn and stopped in front of the silver Medical Car and the two trauma doctors leaning on its fenders. The man’s head was down, and his face a dark blue, starkly contrasting the shiny white of his open-face helmet.
It took only seconds for them to react to Bryce’s gestures and pull the man from his seat, and lay him out on the concrete. The team administered CPR and used their portable heart defibrillator as Bryce stood by, ready to help. From the primary doctor’s expression, Bryce knew the ride had been the man’s last.
Journalists and camera operators had converged on the scene, startled by the unexpected move by the American driver. Bryce had ignored their questions as he watched the medical staff do their work and spoke briefly to the safety car’s race-weekend driver expressing concern for the man. Once the body was placed on a stretcher and loaded into the ambulance, he turned to the crowd. Everyone was shouting questions, all of it going live and worldwide.
First, he explained that he didn’t know the man. He said he was just one of many VIPs scheduled for a hot lap, a thrill ride, around the circuit. He then offered his condolences to the man’s family and told the press he had nothing more to say. Journalists continued to call out questions as he headed for his team’s hospitality area. Still, then he caught himself and turned away from the newly branded Werner livery and quickly course corrected for his new one. Only two persistent journalists continued to pursue him. One caught his attention, slowing him from a fast pace.
“You said you don’t know the man who died while riding with you,” she said. “You didn’t know he was regarded as an enemy of the state, someone who challenged the government’s rule? He was also an ex-convict who used to deal cocaine across Spain and Portugal.”
Bryce kept walking but looked at her. “Nope, sure didn’t.”
She persisted. “This man had powerful friends and powerful enemies. Are you worried that some may find you at fault for his death?”
Bryce shook his head. “Lady, the excitement killed him. He was a big man; maybe he had heart problems. Maybe they should post warning signs as they do on roller coasters. That’s all I have to say on the matter.”
He suggested to her that he needed to get something to drink and time to decompress. By this time, one of the new team’s PR people had intercepted Bryce and escorted him into the private quarters they had set up for him on the second level of their hospitality area. Once inside, he drank an entire bottle of an orange sports drink and sat down to take in his new digs.
The three photos that followed him wherever he went were on the wall. Photographs of his father, Paul, his uncle Pete and his first and only girlfriend, Christy. All three were gone now. He looked to the Daytona photo of him standing alongside Max Werner in victory lane. Bryce shook his head. His relationship with Werner had ended, and he felt very lonely standing there in Spain.
A knock at the door brought him back to here and now. His two bodyguards, earpieces, and lightweight jackets to hide their hardware were on duty now that he was on-site in his suite. A member of the PR team, a cute brunette with a South African accent, knocked and then stuck her head in and advised him that a representative from the American Consulate in Barcelona was there to greet him.
“You saw their credentials? It’s not another journalist, you’re sure?” he asked. She nodded in the affirmative. “Do me a favor; find out how the hell I wound up driving around with a damn drug lord. Doesn’t anyone screen these people?”
She smiled, made the money gesture with her right hand, and stepped back and motioned for the diplomat to enter. A plain looking middle-aged man with, receding gray hairline, eyeglasses, a plain blue suit, and striped tie but with an American flag lapel pin in place. Someone wants a photo I’ll bet, Bryce thought. The man presented his identification, shook Bryce’s hand, and then looked to the staffer with an expression that told her she could go. She glanced at Matt, who nodded and closed the door behind her.
“Thanks for stopping by. I can’t think of—” Bryce began but was cut off in mid-sentence by a hand gesture from his guest. He watched as the man flipped the lock on the door and pulled an object from his coat pocket, placing it on the table in front of them. It was a small square black box, measuring perhaps 2” per side. A little red light on the top began to glow, confirming it was functioning.
“Not a problem, Mr. Winters. I’m not actually with the consulate.” The man reached inside his suit coat pocket and presented another form of identification. Jason Ryan, CIA.
“I was wondering when I would hear from you guys again,” Bryce said, gesturing for his uninvited guest to sit. “This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve seen those jammers before. But you need to give me more before we talk any further. I don’t know you.”
“Certainly. You used to report to Glen Gunn, and your handler was Joan Myers, codename Nitro – your choice, I’m told. Both were killed in Mexico. Back at the shop, we’ve all been waiting to see who would replace them and what they’d decide to do with you.”
Bryce let out of sigh. He had hoped somehow that the bureaucracy in Washington might lose him in the shuffle and forget about him, but this visit ended that dream.
“Who did I last meet, and where was it?” Bryce asked.
“The three musketeers, that’s what we call them back at Langley. You met them in Indianapolis in December. They’re old-school, knuckle draggers as far as I’m concerned, but they come in handy when that sort of medicine- outside of the United States, of course, is prescribed. What they lack in stealth capabilities, they make up for with effort. They were pretty tight with Myers, so I’m surprised they didn’t have someone take you out or at least have you roughed up. Some people don’t think that happens, that it’s not that easy to make someone disappear. But it happens every day. Sometimes it’s a car crash; sometimes – like today – it looks like a heart attack.”
Bryce did a double-take at his guest.
“Yes, we did it – you and the CIA. We’ve had eyes on that fat bastard for some time. When we saw he was on your ride-along guest list, we had someone drop something extra in his orange juice this morning at the media breakfast. Then you took him out and scared him to death. His heart was on the edge already. We tuned it up, and you put the finishing touches to it. The coroner will rule it a heart attack with contributing factors like his obesity and high blood pressure. The case will be closed before the casket is. Much more creative than just blowing the lid off a Russian animal in a bathroom, don’t you think?”
“But you’ve put me at risk. A journalist suggested I should be concerned - that someone might have a hard-on for me since I was driving when he stroked out.”
“I doubt you’re in danger, except for the musketeers. They’ve been known to go off book from time to time. Once you’re back in the States, the new boss wants to meet you; the sooner, the better. Until then, I’ll be your go-to. Now tell me about Jack Madigan. I understand you two are at odds. From what I’ve read in the file, he's been a good resource. His being on another team, he stayed with Werner, I understand, makes your working together much less convenient. But we can work with it if you two can. Is the relationship repairable?”
Bryce shrugged. “Time may heal those wounds, but you’d have to ask him. He’s not talking to me.”
Ryan looked around the quarters that would be Bryce’s mini-suite, his sanctuary, whenever Formula One was racing in Europe over the next three years. Then his focus turned toward the three photos on the wall. He stepped to them and stared.
“He didn’t call you after your uncle died?”
Bryce shook his head. “Listen, you know what really got this started, don’t you?”
It was his guest’s turn to shake his head.
“I never killed anyone,” Bryce began. “Uncle Pete was a great guy, former military, raised me like a son and taught me volumes, but he also had his flaws. He was nomadic, coming and going as he pleased. Hell, half of that was my fault since I put fifty grand in his bank account every year and got him an all-access credential so he could come to the races whenever he wanted. He also had a temper and a zero tolerance. I’m talking not an ounce of tolerance for assholes. Jack and I cleaned up after him four times, and somebody caught us on tape dumping bodies. We never killed anybody – at least not until your employer, my government, blackmailed us into it.”
Ryan just listened but didn’t respond. Bryce was lying and realized he might be better at driving than acting. The guy sitting across from him was a professional, and Bryce didn’t want to give any indication there might be dirt on him they knew nothing about. Nothing to look for, like the death at the speedway in New York all those years before.
“There was no way I could let Pete go to jail, especially in some of the countries where he lost his temper.”
“Okay, if all that is true and he’s dead now – I assume that really happened, and he’s not hiding on some island you bought somewhere – why not just refuse to help us anymore?”
Bryce felt his temper start to rise. “Don’t insult my intelligence. You guys have had me by the balls for years. You have incriminating videos of me and Jack. Other than me just asking to be cut loose, I don’t have much leverage. We’re about even on that score.”
His guest smiled. “Bingo. I can’t tell you everything that we’ve discussed about you, but I can tell you this – if you had retired at the end of last season, they probably would have forgotten about you. When your new contract was announced, the agency went back to reviewing the race schedule and discussing operations.”
Bryce sat quietly for a moment. “You just can’t make this shit up.” He reached back for a bottle of water and tossed one, fast and without warning, to his guest and then reached for another for himself.
“Let’s get one thing straight right here, champ. I’m here doing my job but don’t think I won’t shove the next thing you toss at me up your ass if you show an ounce of aggression towards me again.”
Bryce laughed and checked his watch.
“It’s a date.” They stared at each other, sizing things up.
“So, I’ll play along. Guess I have to, for now, like the patriot I am. But only as long as you brief me on why someone needs to be terminated. For the record, Pete is dead and buried. Also, for the record, I’ve been keeping notes on all the shit the CIA has asked me to do, forced me to do. If anything does happen to me off the track, the international media will get it all.”
“You’re watching too much television. That’s a bluff. Remember, we have a file on you, too.”
“I feel like we’re playing chess, so here’s my checkmate. The next time I’m at the White House posing with the president and a championship trophy, I may have to mention this little arrangement you’ve boxed me into.”
“I’ll let you share those thoughts with the new boss once you meet. You can direct your hostility toward her, too, if you’d like, but from what I’ve been told, she has something better in mind for you. For now, we need to talk about Max Werner. We’ve intercepted enough of your conversations to know you are clean. But Werner, he’s another story. Perhaps we can get together in Barcelona before you fly out, and I can share some information you might be interested in.”
“You’re kidding?”
“About Werner?”
Another knock at the door interrupted them. Bryce cracked the door and spoke with someone without letting them enter. He turned and refocused on his guest.
“Time to get back to work. I’m sure I’ll hear from you again. You guys always seem to know how to find me.”
The man smiled, handed Bryce his card, and assured him he would be in touch. Bryce took a minute to check his hair in a mirror and then looked at the man’s card again before sliding it into his money clip.
JASON RYAN
OPERATIONS
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
Bryce followed the staffer down the circular steps and then toward pit lane to resume the VIP and Media Day activities. In the distance, he saw Max Werner giving an interview and shook his head as he walked. What have you gotten yourself into now?

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REVIEWS

“Deadly Driver has more twists and turns than Monaco, all of which keep it interesting until the chequered flag. Could be considered a gateway to F1 for non-race fans.” AUTOSPORT

Captivating from the start. What an adventurous, suspensefuland intense story, laced with sardonic wit and intriguing characters. A great read!” KELLY WADE, WinLight News

“It was gritty, brutal, propulsive, and had an American James Bond feel to it. A well-crafted thriller. I loved it.” CE ALBANESE, U.S. Secret Service, Retired

“Enjoyed it a lot. Very interesting plot and themes and very different to most, ‘racing books.’” DAVID HOBBS, F1 Commentator for NBC and former driver.

“The book is hard to put down. I enjoyed it.” HURLEY HAYWOOD, 5X winner Daytona 24, 3X winner LeMans 24

“I loved the mixture of racing and the roller coaster mystery while intertwined with the travel,” RON CAPPS – NHRA Funny Car Driver, 2016 World Champion.

“Deadly Driver” is a well-written adventure story with a dashing protagonist cast in the James Bond mold – a mouth-watering, jaw-dropping, mind-bending world tour of F1.” LACAR.com

“This thriller provided exciting and unexpected intrigue from behind the scenes in Formula 1. It captivated me and I couldn’t wait to turn every page.” JUDY STROPUS, 2021 Inductee of Motorsports Hall of Fame – America

“A true original among spy thrillers and a must-read for race fans.” BestThrillers.com