Diplomacy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Case in point, an hour ago I was babysitting the wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel en route to five days in a luxury hotel while she attended an international women’s conference. Then, five minutes after wheels down, I was waylaid by three Marines from the Ukraine embassy. I was really looking forward to some light duty, but now the Regional Security Officer in Kiev, the RSO, had a job for me. Technically he’s my superior and I couldn’t say no. As it turned out, People’s Republic Flight 91 had gone down in eastern Ukraine with a Diplomatic Service Special Agent onboard.
That’s what I do. I’m a DSS Agent.
A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it is to earn the badge. First, you have to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited university. It could be a B.A. in Underwater Basket-weaving for all they care, but you have to prove you graduated. After that you have to pass a physical, obtain a Top Secret Security Clearance, a medical clearance, and then be determined to be capable, stable, resourceful, trustworthy, and able to assume responsibility by a Suitability Review Panel.
Once you clear all of those hurdles, you’re sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) where you must prove proficiency in job-related subjects that include criminal law, federal court proceedings, use of firearms, personal defensive tactics, driving skills, security techniques and criminal investigation. And it doesn’t hurt if you can speak multiple languages.
That’s what I do. My official title is ARSO-I, which stands for Assistant Regional Security Officer-Investigations, and I speak five languages.
Most people think all DSS Agents do is check for visa and passport violations and oversee the Marine details protecting our embassies. But, in fact, we are the Department of State’s security and law enforcement arm abroad—the only law enforcement agency with representation in nearly every country in the world. Among other things, we investigate the activities of foreign intelligence agencies, look into terrorist incidents and threats, and assist in apprehending fugitives who have fled the United States.
That’s what DSS Agent George McClasky was doing on board PR Flight 91. He was escorting a U.S. citizen wanted for treason out of China, along with a packet of sensitive documents. My job is to secure the package and ensure the Top Secret information isn’t compromised. Much easier said than done.
So why become an agent? you ask.
When I was eleven, my father was shot dead in St. Petersburg Square. I am the daughter of a highly acclaimed Russian hockey player and an American mother. They met while she was attending the Russian Academy of Arts. Eleven years and two kids later, he was murdered during a botched assassination attempt on the U.S. Ambassador to Russia. That’s the official story, anyway. I never believed it, and I’ve made it my life’s mission to find out the truth.
I tend to be a “color inside the lines”-kind of girl. As a rookie agent, I was serving my requisite three years in a domestic post when my boss opened fire on a terrorist. The only problem was the man’s feet were firmly planted on the grounds of the Lebanese consulate. When asked what happened, I told the truth. My boss was demoted, while I was promoted and shipped overseas. I’m still on the fence about whether it was punishment or a reward.
Just weeks after my arrival in Tel Aviv, my predecessor was gunned down in Dizengoff Square. I was tasked with finding out why he was still in Israel instead of back home in Washington D.C., and why someone had shot him. The answers were complicated and I learned a few things I’d rather not know. I also learned that sometimes, in order to get to the truth and nail the bad guys, it’s necessary to color outside the lines.
The case in Israel was difficult, but I worry it’s nothing compared to what I’m facing. Parking the car, I can see the remains of PR Flight 91. Small fires still flare in the rubble, and the stench and devastation are overwhelming. Fragments of the plane’s fuselage along with luggage, computers, pillows and clothing are strewn across the ground for miles. Bodies litter the wreckage, scattered like rag dolls on the scorched earth. When my gaze falls on an orange teddy bear propped against a tangle of twisted metal, I can’t check my tears.
Behind me I hear a voice, speaking a language I don’t know. Ukrainian? Brushing away my tears, I turn around to find a soldier. I get the gist of what he’s saying. He thinks I’m a member of the press.
“Vy govorite po-russki?” Do you speak Russian, I ask. I lift the card and lanyard hanging around my neck. “Ya ne is pressy. Ya zdes’ po gosudarstvennym delam.” I’m not press. I’m here on government business.
It’s what I do.
You can read more about Agent Raisa in Red Sky, the second book in the “Raisa Jordan” thriller.
When People’s Republic Flight 91 crashes in northeastern Ukraine with a U.S. diplomatic agent onboard, U.S. Diplomatic Security Service Agent Raisa Jordan is sent to investigate. The agent was escorting a prisoner home from Guangzhou, China, along with sensitive documents, and it quickly becomes apparent that the plane was intentionally downed. Was it to silence the two Americans onboard?
To avoid a diplomatic incident, Jordan must discover what the Americans knew that was worth killing hundreds to cover up. With Russia deeply entangled in the Ukraine and the possibility that China could be hiding reasons to bring down its own plane, tensions are high.
As international relations and even more lives hang in the balance, Jordan races to stop a new Cold War. Red Sky, Chris Goff’s pulse-pounding follow-up to Dark Waters, is yet another white-knuckle joyride for fans of Gayle Lynds.
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Meet the author
Chris Goff is an award-winning author of eight novels. Her most recent, Red Sky, is an international thriller set in Ukraine and Asia where DSS Agent Raisa Jordan tests the boundaries of diplomacy as she races to prevent the start of a new Cold War. Goff’s series debut, Dark Waters, was nominated for the 2016 Colorado Book Award and Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook. For more information, visit christinegoff.com.
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