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 4: Go Hard or Go Home


Editor's note

Congratulations to RunnerGuy2, aka Vineet Daga of Tucson, Arizona! He is the winning author of Chapter 4 of the Summer Spy Serial contest. 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 writes:

"I go with the readers again, endorsing their choice of RunnerGuy2, but first, indulge me: I have the pleasure of judging this week's entries from Kabul, where Taliban insurgents last night attacked the Inter-Continental Hotel. (Happily, your correspondent had other lodgings.) Driving around the city today, it was weirdly back to normal, as if a calamitous tornado had blown through, scared the heck out of everyone, and then gone. What will tomorrow bring?

Now, the entries. This week's batch was thinner, but RunnerGuy2 kept the saga rolling with "Go Hard or Go Home," which puts Alex Kassem on the doorstep of world's Number One Bad Guy. That makes me eager to see next week's entries!"

Our other Chapter 4 finalists included psitoxin with 19 votes, jameswormold with 19 votes, ThrillerWriter with 7 votes and Bob48109 with 6 votes.

Here's what RunnerGuy2 had to say about his win: My name is Vineet Daga from Tucson, AZ. I am an International Program Manager by day and an aspiring writer by night. Thanks to The Post for putting this contest together and everyone who voted. This has been a great contest and I can't wait to see how it ends.

By all accounts Alex Kassem was having a bad day. The informer who had promised the CIA a chance at killing Zawahiri was dead. So was his partner, most likely because of the mysterious informant. His cover was clearly blown and the Pakistani Army and ISI would be crawling over what was left of his safe house. He didn't think there were any documents or anything incriminating left behind, all information was immediately transmitted to Langley and destroyed. But he hadn't had a chance to scrub the house and good spooks could always find something useful.

Alex had managed to pump the Pakistani informant for information as he was bleeding out. When Alex agreed to save his wife the man started talking. He revealed Zawahiri's location and his security arrangements. He also described Abu Talib, the CIA mole and the man's wife. He implored Alex to succeed in saving her where he had failed.

As Alex sped through Quetta on a beat up motorcycle he weighed his options. His trim beard and dirty shalwar kameez would offer him some anonymity, but the ISI would be looking for him. Could he trust what the informant had said?

He didn't have much time to decide. There were only 23 minutes left until Zawahiri left. There was no time for help, no backup to rescue him. Alex checked his mirrors again as he approached the intersection. To the left was the US Consulate. A hot shower and a plane ticket home. To the right was the road that would take him on a potential suicide mission to Zawahiri's safe house. He faced certain death or capture if it was a trap. Or potential victory if the informant was telling the truth.

Alex looked left and then thought of Sarah and her family back home. He couldn't stand the thought of telling them their daughter died and he had done nothing. This war had taken too many good people and he had a chance to end it. No matter the odds, he couldn't quit.

He gunned the engine and turned right.

Congratulations to Colin Flaherty of Wilmington, Del.! He is the winning author of Chapter 5. His version of what happens to deep cover CIA officers Alex Kassem and Sarah Mancini earned 32 reader recommendations and David's admiration. He said Flaherty "has scripted a neat double-bluff that spins the previous episodes in a clever way--and pitches us toward a tense finale."

Read Flaherty's chapter here