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 6: Onward

The newest prisoner of the War on Terror watched the CNN coverage in stunned silence as he – or rather the CIA operative playing his part – accepted a medal from the President of the United States.

Editor's note

Congratulations to Miel_Heron, a.k.a. Gina "Miel" Ard of Pamplico, S.C.! She is the winning author of Chapter 6, the final chapter of the Summer Spy Serial contest. Her entry earned 72 reader recommendations and David's admiration. He writes:

"The clock has tolled, the dead drops are all emptied, and our 60 minutes of summer espionage is over. So many good entries in this last round, it was hard to choose. But I am going to go with the readers' favorite, Miel_Heron, whose submission came in untitled, but I will call "Onward!" (stealing the last line). This is a clean, smart ending to the story--and I like the fact that it's Sarah who triumphs in the end--and the agency that has the last laugh. Among the other entries, I like normitarv1's "The Homecoming," in which the CIA also outfoxes its antagonists.

"This was a fascinating spectator sport for me as a writer: You all delivered a sinuous, provocative story that turned more somersaults than Cirque de Soleil but stuck a sure landing. Thanks to everyone who participated. Let's take the rest of the summer off...and maybe come back in 2012."

Our other Chapter 6 finalists included psitoxin with 62 votes, ptrcpmclaugh with 57 votes, and senmcd and janetj442, each with 56 votes. (Congrats to psitoxin, who was a finalist in each and every round of the Summer Spy Serial.)

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

"I'm Gina 'Miel' Ard, and I'm from the big little town of Pamplico, S.C. In the daylight hours, I work as a Sr. Project Mgmt Specialist and serve as mommy extraordinaire to my little people, Caleb and Aislyn. All other hours I'm writing, running, or dreaming about writing. That said, this contest has been a great exercise and so much fun! I'm flattered and excited to have my entry chosen from such a strong field. Thanks to David, the WP Staff, and the other writers for making it a great experience!

"Thanks also to everyone who took the time to vote, and to J for insisting I give it a shot. I look forward to a future round of thrills!"

Thanks Miel, we had fun too. Thanks to all of you for your fabulous writing and your enthusiasm. We'll try to do this again soon.

Earlier that day, when two masked guards dragged him from the dark pit of his cell, he assumed the time had come for interrogation. He'd welcomed the thought of it, in spite of certain physical torture, if it would offer a break from the isolation, a glimpse of daylight, or perhaps some insight into how much the Americans knew, and if he had any chance of recovering his mission.

But as the scene played out before him, he lost grip of those frayed shreds of hope. The Council had trusted his planning, had trusted him to deliver Jihad to the White House lawn. Now they could only watch this imposter break that trust in a show of solidarity with the enemy. There would be no blast, no victory today. He choked down his disgust as the Westerner, wearing his clothes, stood side by side with the President, beaming at the cameras. He was receiving – and accepting – a hero's welcome from the Americans, or so they'd made it appear. The Americans had stripped him of martyrdom and made him into a traitor.

Sarah Mancini smiled inwardly as the prisoner's face crumpled beneath waves of rage and anguish. His cries and curses reached through the two-way glass, and she nearly let a smile break the serene surface of her face. Nearly.

"Excellent work, Agent Mancini," Adnan, her Jordanian counterpart at the GID, congratulated. "I cannot put into words my admiration of your ability to improvise in the field."

"Thank you. The training kicks in under pressure," she replied flatly, never taking her eyes off the man who had forced her improvisation and cost her a partner. She wanted to remember the broken look of him in this moment.

"Still, to come up with such a plan on your own, under such duress – "

"I didn't do anything extraordinary," she broke in. "I hid, observed, and pretty much followed his lead. And I got lucky. They all assumed I died in that blast."

"Indeed," he smiled. "And that mistake has cost them dearly. The lost $25 million will cripple their network even further, not to mention the chaos today's defection will create."

"These guys believed they'd take a big fat check from the US, buy a nuclear bomb, and deliver it on a government Gulfstream straight to the White House undetected. That, my friend, is an unbelievable load of arrogance. And they choked on it."

Sarah's phone buzzed in her pocket. "Hey, boss," she answered, not bothering to check the display.

"Nice work, Mancini. Are you done basking yet? I need you back at headquarters. You still have a job, ya know."

"I'm overjoyed to hear it, Howard."

Sarah broke the connection over his laughter, took a last look through the glass, and started down the hall.