Your chance to write a spy novel

"Body of Lies" author David Ignatius and other Post readers teamed up this summer to write a spy novel. Ignatius wrote the first chapter and challenged espionage fans to continue the story. Over eight weeks, readers sent in their versions of what befalls CIA agents Alex Kassem and Sarah Mancini and voted for their favorite entries. Ignatius (who doubles as a Post columnist) chose the winning entry for each round. The result: a six-chapter Web serial and a fast-paced trip through a secret world. Details.

Chapter 3: Abu Talib

"Do it yourself?" Sarah asked. "Kill your own brother-in-law?"

"I must," the visitor began. "To protect my wife."

"From what?"

A noise from the floor above, Alex and Sarah's floor, interrupted the questioning. A barely perceptible knock on the tiled floor -- perhaps a footstep or a dropped pin. The faintest of sounds. One that Alex and Sarah were not meant to hear.

Editor's note

Congratulations to Jill Borak of Woodbridge, Va.! She is the winning author of Chapter 3 of the Summer Spy Serial contest. Her version of what happens to deep cover CIA officers Alex Kassem and Sarah Mancini earned the most reader recommendations as well as David's admiration. He writes:

"I am dazzled by the inventiveness of our respondents--and your creative noms de plumes. (Especially you, Mr. York Harding, fictional child of my literary god, Graham Greene.) I have to agree with readers that the best of the many good entries is "Abu Talib," by jb1511. Very twisty and smart, with cultural resonance. (jb1511, call you agent.) So we're off and running for another week. Next week I will be in Kabul (actual fact) but I hope email will let me monitor the next round.


Our other Chapter 3 finalists included Eagle101 with 28 votes, RunnerGuy2 with 23 votes, psitoxin with 15 votes, returning champ ColinFlaherty with 12 votes, and YorkHarding, the Post favorite.

Here's what Jill had to say about her win:

I'm the mysterious jb1151, aka Jill Borak of Woodbridge, Va. I believe in dark protagonists, serial commas, and that blowing things up is a great way to move a plot along. When I'm not writing about blowing things up, I'm home with my kids Sam, Addie, and Eli -- and working on my second novel.

I'm thrilled to have won! Thanks to all my friends and family (and friends of family) who voted for my entry. I can't wait to find out what further twists and turns this story takes ... though I admit I have a couple of ideas.

"Who else is here?" Alex demanded.

"I told no one. No one followed me," the visitor said, scrambling to catch up with Alex and Sarah, already in motion. Sarah drew her gun. Alex sailed toward the front door.

"You expect us to believe you?"

Before the visitor could answer, a deafening boom ripped through the quiet Quetta evening.

Alex knew he had only moments before neighbors and, even worse, police forces would arrive. He tried to shake off the effects of an explosion that had ripped away half of the CIA safe house. He dug through the rubble. No sign of Sarah. Alex lifted broken sheetrock off the spot where their unwelcome guest had landed.

"Look who's running out of time now," Alex said before turning away from the visitor, who sputtered and strained from a wound to his chest.

"Abu Talib," the Pakistani said, gripping his chest and breathing heavily.

Alex froze. Abu Talib. The only words that would stop him in his search for Sarah.

Abu Talib, the Prophet Muhammad's uncle, was the code name for an informant who had delivered crippling information against al Qaeda over the previous six months. The kind of inside information so damaging, the higher-ups began to boast it would lead to the end of al Qaeda. Maybe even the end of the War on Terror. As far as Alex knew, no one in Langley knew Abu Talib's identity.

"Al-Zawahiri has found out about Abu Talib. When he leaves tonight, he is taking my wife with him. Please. We are running out of time."

"You're Abu Talib?" Alex asked, incredulous.

"No," the visitor said, his voice fading. "My wife is."

Congratulations to to Vineet Daga of Tucson, Arizona! He is the winning author of Chapter 4. His version of what happens to deep cover CIA officers Alex Kassem and Sarah Mancini earned the most reader recommendations as well as David's admiration. He said his entry "puts Alex Kassem on the doorstep of world's Number One Bad Guy. That makes me eager to see next week's entries!"

Read Vineet's chapter here.