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Authors: Suzanne Brockmann

Tags: #Romantic Suspense

Into the Night

BOOK: Into the Night
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Into The Night
TroubleShooter
5
Suzanne Brockmann
For the brave men and women who fought for freedom during the Second World War, and for the brave men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces who continue that fight today. My most sincere and humble thanks. Let freedom ring!
Prologue
Afghanistan
Operation Enduring Freedom
Lieutenant Junior Grade Michael Muldoon held up his hand and signaled for his squad to stop.
Dark took on an entirely new meaning on a moonless night in a desolate country too poor and too war-torn for electricity. He sensed more than saw his men behind him, hugging the cold, rocky ground as intimately as he was.
He moved his hand again. Listen.
The sky overhead was worthy of a beach blanket and a bottle of wine, the Milky Way thick with the billions of stars he didn't have a prayer of seeing from his city apartment a half a world away.
It was breathtakingly beautiful, but Muldoon had no time to give it more than a cursory glance as he focused all of his attention on the distant hum.
Of a generator.
Hoo -yah.
It was always reassuring to know that they were, in fact, in the right place.
The coordinates marking the main entrance of the cave on their map were correct—a map that was one of the somewhat dubious bonuses that came from the United States having helped build these allegedly indestructible compounds many years and several different political regimes ago. Not only did the SEALs have maps and specifications, but those maps were proving to be accurate.
His men knew what they had to do, and when Muldoon gave the signal they went silently to work.
Their job tonight was to verify that the two known entrances to this cave were still where the map said they'd be—to verify coordinates for the "bunker buster" missiles that were scheduled to be launched from a Navy sub in less than two hours. The SEALs were to add additional explosives to various vulnerable points to give those bombs even bigger teeth.
The mission was to seal this cave so that no one could get out, but more importantly so that no one could get in.
Cosmo Richter had gotten right down to the bottom line during their briefing when he'd asked in his no-frills, telegram manner of speech, "Osama inside?"
They'd all looked up from the maps. It was the question of the hour.
Muldoon hated to disappoint them, but his answer had been no. Not according to Navlntel. However, this cave was being held by Taliban fighters with al-Qaeda ties. And the U.S. goal was to cross this compound off the list of potential safe havens bin Laden could come to to hide.
It was an important mission.
It just wasn't the one they particularly wanted.
He knew what his men were feeling. Each and every one of them—himself included—wanted to be part of the op that took down the terrorist leader. They all wanted to go memo a mano with the man, like some hokey Hollywood movie, and blow that bastard off the face of the earth.
But the real world wasn't anything like Hollywood. Victory wasn't won by being Rambo. It came from being a team player.
So tonight they'd tuck their anger back inside and follow their orders. They'd help clean up this little piece of enemy-held territory. They'd do their job, and they'd do it well. And when the word came down that bin Laden was no longer a threat to the United States, they would get together and have a beer and silently acknowledge the part they'd played in his demise. No discussions, no bragging, no news broadcasts, and most importantly, no feelings of inadequacy because none of them was the one who pulled the trigger.
Muldoon used infrared glasses to watch the two heat blobs that were the al-Qaeda guards as Gillman and Cosmo rigged enough explosives to take off the top of the mountain. There was no doubt in his mind that, before the sun rose, this cave was going to be history.
The only slightly snarky moment came when one of the guards—the bigger one, about Muldoon's own height and weight—left his post to take a leak, heading right for where Cosmo was hidden.
Their orders tonight included a warning not to let the enemy know that they were on the ground. The fact that they were going after this specific target would be concealed by carpet bombing in the area scheduled to begin at 0353.
The intent was to make it look as if the cave had been taken out by a couple of lucky hits from a random air strike, rather than as a result of Spec Op ground forces. The terrorists didn't have any patrols venturing far outside of their cave entrances, and the U.S. commanders didn't want to give them a reason to start.
Muldoon's team had to be covert.
Right now that guard was answering the call of nature literally feet from Cosmo's hiding place.
But it was Cosmo, the King of Invisible, so Muldoon didn't worry. He just watched as the SEAL blended even more completely into the night. The guard could've peed right on his head, and Cosmo wouldn't have moved an inch.
Finally, after an interminable amount of tune—what had that guy been drinking?—the guard went back to his post and to stomping his feet to keep them warm.
The rest of the op went like a dream. The second entrance was just where they'd expected it to be. Natural fissures and cracks used for venting the cave were marked. No other entrances were found.
This was going to work. They were going to help put this cave permanently out of business.
At just before 0300, with nothing left to do save get their butts back down the mountain—Wildcard approached.
Even in silence, the chief had a ferocity that made Muldoon want to smile. He was glad—not for the first time that night and probably not for the last—that he'd chosen Wild-Card Karmody for this op.
But one look at Wildcard's face, and he knew there was trouble.
Problem? he signaled.
Wildcard responded with an obscene gesture that more than conveyed his opinion that not only was this a problem, it was a big problem.
Muldoon jerked his head, and the chief followed him back away from the guards.
Wildcard cut to the chase. "Silverman reports heavy movement coming up the trail. About thirty tangos. ETA at the cave about forty minutes."
"Okay." That was not anywhere near the complete reaming Muldoon had imagined. "We'll take a different route down." It would take a little longer because these hills were littered with land mines, but it was certainly doable in the time they had left.
"We could," Wildcard agreed. "But they've got a prisoner-looks like that stupid ass French reporter, that photojournalist who went missing from Kandahar last night."
Oh, man, that hurt. Dream op to nightmare, in two small words. Prisoner and reporter. Muldoon gritted his teeth and considered his options.
"Holy fuck," Wildcard said. "When I tell you that a stupid-ass French photog is going to turn this perfect op into a total clusterfuck, what you say, sir, is Oh, holy fuck. If this isn't the time to use your full adult vocabulary, Lieutenant, I honestly don't know what is."
"Not helping," Muldoon said shortly.
"The guy's an asshole for putting himself in harm's way in the first place," Wildcard pointed out.
Thirty terrorists, eight SEALs. The odds were in then-favor. They could set up an ambush and take them out, no sweat. The problem would be keeping the prisoner alive while the bullets flew.
Oh, yeah, and maintaining their covert status.
Covert meant K-Bar knives instead of assault weapons.
But it was hard to be effective in a group ambush when using only knives. Of course, they could take the terrorists out quietly, one at a time, but at some point one of them would notice their forces dwindling and shots would be fired.
"Actually, the guy's just an asshole, period. Look at what he chooses to do for a living." Wildcard believed there was a separate level of hell reserved especially for reporters and news photographers. His wife was Savannah von Hopf, a fact that never failed to amuse Muldoon, particularly when the foulmouthed chief went on a rant. Along with the Kennedys and the Rockefellers, the von Hopfs were the closest thing America had to royalty. They were frequently targeted by paparazzi, hence the Card's strong negative opinion of the press.
"What we should do," Wildcard continued, "is go invisible while they pass us on the trail. Our mission is not to rescue some dickhead reporter and risk letting the entire al-Qaeda network know we were out here tonight. Am I right?"
He was right. And yet...
"We let them get into that cave, that reporter's not coming out." Muldoon told his chief the obvious. "Not ever."
Wildcard was silent then, no doubt thinking what a hideous way that would be to die, even for a reporter. Buried alive with a mob of angry terrorists...
"Get me Jenk," Muldoon ordered. Mark Jenkins had the radio. It was time to break silence and talk to some of the pilots of those F-18s that were constantly patrolling at high altitudes with full payloads. "Get Izzy and Cosmo. Send Gillman and Lopez down the trail. I want to know the location of every rock, every outcropping, and particularly every open area. There was one spot we passed coming up where there wasn't much cover, where the trail opened up. Find out how far the tangos are from there."
"Aye, aye, sir." Wildcard didn't have far to go before dispensing Muldoon's orders, sending Lopez to fetch Jenk. He was back in a matter of seconds, with Izzy and Cosmo in tow. "I assume this means you have a plan to fuck these fuckers first."
That was one way of putting it. "Yeah."
"Knew you would, sir," Cosmo said.
"Do we have enough explosives left to rig something that'll sound like a land mine going off?" Muldoon asked.
"Piece of cake." Wildcard was absolute.
"Do it, Chief." Muldoon turned to Cosmo and Izzy. "I need some clothes. One of those guards was about my size."
"About my size, too," Izzy said. "Back in California, the senior chief ordered me to remind you, with utmost respect, to delegate, Lieutenant. So I'm reminding you, sir. With utmost—"
"Yeah, and how's your French?" Muldoon asked, already knowing the answer. Izzy spoke fluent street Spanish. He knew only enough French to order a meal, provided the restaurant had big golden arches. "Use your utmost respect to get me the clothes, Zanella. I'll be down the trail."
Muldoon could hear the terrorists approaching, moving slowly but steadily up toward the cave. They were quiet, not talking at all as they climbed through the night, but he still could hear the crunch of the cold earth beneath all those feet.
Silverman had told him that the prisoner—the French journalist—was wearing a burqa, the traditional Afghan woman's robe and hooded veil.
It was an effective means of transporting captives since it concealed them completely from public view.
Jenk was crouched beside him, plugged into the radio. He gave Muldoon an affirmative, then held two fingers to his watch. The first wave of bombs from the F-18s would hit their targets, with the utmost precision, in two minutes.
Seconds ticked by as the tangos slowly got closer, as somewhere overhead those smart bombs were cutting their way through the night sky. Muldoon breathed with the knowledge that the coordinates they'd given the Navy pilots were accurate. Those bombs were going to hit so close the SEALs were going to feel the ground shake and be able to warm their fingers from the heat.
But if those coordinates were off...
Yes, of course there was a chance of human error. Yes, it was possible that the air strike Muldoon had ordered Jenk to call in would land directly on top of his team.
But until that happened, he wasn't going to waste his time worrying about it.
And then there they were, rounding the corner and coming into view.
Their point men, three of them, came first, leading the way and checking for booby traps—much in the same way the SEALs had come up the trail mere hours earlier.
BOOK: Into the Night
12.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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