It’s a new year, and I’m excited to be working on a new book—the next Riley Forte thriller. I’ve been waiting a long time to write this sequel to Nocturne In Ashes and I can’t wait to get started!
If you’ve read Nocturne, you may remember that in the last scenes of the book, my concert pianist heroine, Riley, is being recruited by a private security organization seeking to send her undercover during her travels on tour. This sequel finds her not exactly sold on the idea, but willing to start their training program to see if it feels like a good fit. Of course, something dire and unexpected happens (I’m not saying what!) that locks in her commitment and sends her down a path fraught with danger and discovery.
Spies in Training
I’m in the research stage of preparing to write the book and I’m learning a lot of fascinating things about the world of spies and undercover operators. I thought I’d share some of what I’m learning along the way. I think you’ll find it interesting and you might get a kick out of seeing which bits I tweak and shape to include in the new book.
In Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy, former agent Lindsay Moran shares some of her experiences while at The Farm, the CIA’s training facility. One exercise I found particularly hair-raising, yet intriguing, involved blindfolding budding agents and taking them at night on a high-speed cruise in the passenger seat of a car. Lindsay wrote that her trainer stopped the car and ordered her to switch places with him. Still blindfolded, she was told to drive and was instructed when to turn, stop, and so on. I can only imagine how terrified I’d be in her place, even knowing it was just a drill.
She was ordered to stop at a simulated border station and remove the blindfold. Guards with weapons shone bright lights on her and made demands in a foreign language. She supplied the mocked-up passport she’d been given upon entry into the program and sweated it out while the guards debated with each other and searched the car.
This sparked a memory from my own nighttime experience at a border crossing years ago.
My own scary night on the Polish border
In 2007, my husband and I spent several days in eastern Europe. We stayed in a little apartment in a quaint Hungarian village and made day trips to Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, and so on. During one of those trips, we went to Auschwitz and Birkenau, the labor and concentration camps near Krakow, Poland. That was a long and grueling day, physically and emotionally, and it was well after midnight when we approached the Polish/Slovakian border on the way back to our apartment.
We produced our passports and the border guard took them into the little hut at the gate where he conferred with another guard. We sat in the car and watched them page through our documents and gesticulate at each other animatedly while my imagination ran wild with what might happen next.
Time passed. Five minutes. Then ten. Twenty minutes went by and my nerves were stretched raw when the guard finally returned our passports and motioned us through the gate. Whew!
I prefer to keep that kind of excitement in the books and movies, folks!
And then what happened?
Returning to Lindsay Moran’s experience, she fell back on the training that had been drummed into her head. (1) Keep your wits about you. (2) Talk your way through difficult situations. (3) Avoid rash or unnecessary maneuvers.
One of the guards held up a plastic bag filled with white powder which he claimed to have found in her car. She calmly denied any knowledge of the drugs and they eventually let her pass. Some students in the training lost their nerve and ran the barrier, failing the exercise.
If you think the test was over at that point, you’d be wrong. Rattled or not, Lindsay’s night had just begun. Maybe I’ll tell you the rest of the story in my next post.
In the meantime, I’m taking notes and imagining how Riley Forte might fare during such a training exercise. Will she face a drive test like this? I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see!
How about you? Have you every had an unnerving experience at the border? Tell us about it in the comments.