Paladine, p.1
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       Paladine, p.1

           Kenneth Eade
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Paladine


  PALADINE

  KENNETH EADE

  To George Gonzalez, First Sergeant, Ret., the inspiration behind this remarkable character

  “Whenever men take the law into their own hands, the loser is the law. And when the law loses, freedom languishes.”

  ― Robert Kennedy

  FOREWORD

  I know about war and how it is waged at the operational and tactical levels. I served 22 years as an active duty soldier in the United States Army. After retiring with honors due to medical reasons I continued to serve the Department of the Army as a civilian. I held various positions starting as an Operations Officer in a Logistics Operation Center, a Battle Captain, and then as the Chief of Operations. I also served as a Process Improvement Specialist and ended my career as a Logistics Strategic Planning Analyst. In all I served the Army for 34 years.

  On 11 September 2001, while stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma I watched the terrorist attack on the twin towers on television as did all Americans, and the entire world. We witnessed the horror of terrorism and knew in our hearts that life, as we knew it, would never be the same. Being a New Yorker it hit as close to home as if I had been in actual combat. As a soldier I also thought: "We must now change the way we fight. We will also need a new breed of soldier to do whatever must be done to ensure what I am looking at will never happen again." In Kenneth Eade's book "Paladine" Mr. Eade gives us one of the "new breed," former soldier Robert Garcia.

  In reality men like Robert have been used by the United States’ intelligence community as far back as the mid-eighties. The American government was fearful of what was happening in Central America with the Sandinistas in power in Nicaragua and with El Salvador mired in internal conflict which lasted into the early 90s. The domino principle came into play. Since Nicaragua fell to the communists how much longer before Honduras falls, then Guatemala, El Salvador...

  The 'Vietnam Syndrome' was the phrase used to define the American citizens’ hesitation to involve our country in foreign affairs. The public refused to send its young men and women into war again so soon after the Vietnam debacle, fought by the brave military personnel whose names adorn the Vietnam Memorial. Yet, the American intelligence organizations showed no hesitation at all. They recruited, trained, and deployed that new breed around the world to ensure America's strategic interests were protected by any means necessary.

  In this book Kenneth Eade takes you through a chapter in the life of Robert Garcia, a character originally introduced in Kenneth's book, "Beyond All Recognition." Garcia was formerly Malik Abdul who rose to existence when US Army Captain John Richards was called upon to sacrifice all that he knew, all that he loved to serve his beloved country and its corps. He was a patriot of the highest order and when he came out of the cold to help a former commander, a fellow soldier, he became persona non grata, a man who held too many secrets in his head, secrets that Pennsylvania Avenue wanted to keep hidden from the world. He was marked.

  What happens to men like Robert Garcia when they are no longer in the field, when the rush of combat is no longer available, when the country they love and have fought for is no longer a safe haven? There is no 'on/off' switch for these highly trained individuals. They have been given a rash by their handlers, a rash with a constant itch that can only be relieved by doing what they do best. They must create their own agenda to survive. In the absence of targets previously given to them by the agency they must create their own. They were made by desperate men for desperate times and now will not simply go away into that good night. They are the government's nightmare. Simply put, they are America's assassins.

  This is a work of fiction based on extensive research by Kenneth Eade. He hits the mark. Men like Robert Garcia exist, their dossiers spread across the desks of nervous intelligence directors. Enjoy the book and give thanks you're not in Robert's crosshairs.

  First Sergeant George Gonzalez (Ret)

  US Army

  CHAPTER ONE

  The apartment obviously belonged to a bachelor, but it was neat and orderly, like a military man’s freshly made bed. The cushions on the couch were soft and comfortable and the Colonial style furniture practical and functional, rustic but not antique. The décor was earth tone and neutral, and the walls were peppered with tasteful framed prints, replicas of art that said nothing about the occupant. They were just hanging there so the walls would not be bare. There were no framed family photos on the tables, no stacks of well-worn books and no magazines. It was almost as if nobody lived there.

  Robert Garcia finished putting all his essential things in his backpack and took one last look around, not for sentiment, but to make sure he left no evidence of his real identity behind. He was an unremarkable man. Other men, the exceptional types, could never be forgotten. Men of striking, imposing persuasion, or those with a certain superior intellect or cleverness. Robert held none of those attributes but, if you had the misfortune to have him touch your life in any way, and were fortuitous enough to live after the experience, he would be indelibly etched in your memory.

  Robert’s characteristics were fine-drawn, precise. He could drift in on the night air with only a whisper of the wind, and then disappear into the shadows, the only place where he ever felt secure and content. At five-foot-eleven, dark-haired with a touch of grey around the edges, he was a chameleon that blended in with most crowds. But under the ordinary clothing he wore he had the body of a herculean powerhouse, chiseled and ripped. Née John Richards, Jr. to an American military career man who had taken a Lebanese wife. Since Robert had been old enough to walk, he had marched in the footsteps of his father, a military man. When his country came calling, John Richards, Jr. proudly answered that call and served with pride as his father’s son, the nephew of his Great Uncle Sam. There was never any question of it. Working up the ranks the hard way, he made Captain, and it wasn’t long before his special traits and abilities landed him his first secret assignment, along with his first alias – Malik Abdul.

  Malik was a name that had fit Robert well. He never did look or behave like a John Richards. That was a name his Anglo Father, John Richards, Sr., had insisted on giving the child and his mother dutifully went along with it. Eventually, it was adept profiling that helped Malik recognize his destiny. His swarthy skin and his second language – Arabic – made Malik a valuable asset to his country. Beyond his language prowess and physical attributes, Malik possessed a unique set of special skills, forged by intensive training and honed to perfection with experience. Malik and his band of assassins were utilized only in the most extreme of circumstances – covert operations for well-known agencies who called themselves by three-letter acronyms – and the unknown ones as well.

  He had tried to retire, tried his hand at transforming his life into the “normal” one of Robert Garcia, and had dutifully taken the number 4 train Monday through Friday, from his little apartment in El Barrio to Two Penn Plaza, where he worked at a “regular job.” But Malik’s past had beckoned. It was a call he could not resist. He had come out into the open to testify for a fellow soldier in a court-martial trial who had been given a bum rap. About the only thing Malik had left which resembled a conscience was the soldier’s creed. He had no morals, no principles, except for those which were burned into his hardwiring like a brand on a cow: The mission comes first; never accept defeat; never quit; and never leave a fallen comrade.

  Robert had come back from the court-martial trial on the coast a ball of nerves, constantly looking over his shoulder. Now that the record had been set straight, Robert’s life was in a state of distress and disquietude.

  I can’t go back to the job. They’re probably watching for me there.

  Robert also couldn’t return to the woman he had been seeing regularly, and who had given him hope that he actually cou
ld rejoin society after all that he had seen and done, and he couldn’t go back to this quaint little brownstone on 118th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Spanish Harlem that he had called home for the past five years.

  I only have to come back one last time, he thought, as he shut the door behind him.

  ***

  Now that Robert had exposed himself and his new identity to set the record straight it was, once again, time to slide back into the shadows. Without a glimpse of emotion, he left everything behind that he had collected over the years –the furniture, the clothing, the little knick-knacks reminiscent of the life he had simulated. He also left something in the apartment that had never been there before, a product of his life’s work – something that he had not produced for the past five years – the body of a dead man, five-foot-eleven, olive-skinned and dark-haired, a dead-ringer for Robert. He took one last look at the life of Robert Garcia as he threw the match on the floor and then slipped away.

  CHAPTER TWO

  Robert checked his wallet and leafed through the bills that he had saved up.

  Need to think, need a plan.

  No operation, including the one he called his own life, could ever move forward without one. His stash would only last so long, and he would need money. He had spent a good chunk of the currency he had saved on his new driver’s license and passport. He pondered the idea of using the passport to go to war zones or conflict areas – anywhere he could pick up some mercenary work – the kind of jobs he was really good at.

  Robert looked at the passport and chuckled as he thought of his new name – Julio Ignacio.

  Sounds like two first names.

  Now that he had a Spanish name, he made a mental note to perfect his Spanish, and considered his next move as he sat in the orange, molded plastic bench, hunched over his Big Mac at the greasy, sticky orange table at McDonald’s.

  It was the busiest hour of the day, full of the laughter and shrieking of children, the wailing of babies, and the shuffling of businesspeople trying to fit a quick bite into their busy workday. He watched a young mother push her toddler down into his seat and spoon-feed him bites of a hamburger while he was playing with the action figure that came with the happy meal.

  Another baby was crying and banging the metal tray of his high chair, but Robert only heard one sound, – the metallic click of a weapon being cocked back.

  In a fraction of a second, in one well-oiled motion, Robert withdrew his 9mm Glock, which he kept on his person at all times, turned in the direction of the sound with lightning speed, and fired three shots at the young man standing between the glass doors who was holding an AK-47 assault rifle aimed at the crowd – one in head and two in the chest. The man crumpled to the floor before he was able to shout “Allahu Akbar” and the AK-47 clacked down in front of his lifeless body.

  Amid the screams and frantic movements of the throng, Robert again slipped away into oblivion. He would soon discover there would be no need to think about a plan anymore – in that one twist of fate, it had been made for him.

  ***

  While the conventional news media was trying to get a handle on what had happened, dozens of people were texting and tweeting their version of what they had witnessed. Instagrams of the dead terrorist and videos of his body on the floor with the assault rifle in front of it went viral.

  The final story was pieced together from bloggers, who reported that the attempted “McDonald’s massacre” had been foiled by a miracle man, a lone, armed soldier who had somehow spotted the 22-year-old terrorist, neutralized him before he could deliver his deadly payload, and slipped away like a super hero without claiming any of the accolades. Internet reports melded with the eyewitness accounts and social media gossip. The mysterious rescuer was hailed as a hero, a paladin in the urban folklore culture of the Millennials, whose minds infused what most people knew as real with the virtual reality of video gaming.

  Robert’s identity was unknown, but that didn’t stop a prominent blogger from giving him the name of: Paladine. It was an honorable name, but Robert didn’t deserve it. In the underground pop culture of the lost generation, a paladin was a holy knight, a class of warrior that was fully devoted to kindness and ridding the universe of evil. Paladins are said to fear nothing because evil fears them. That much may have been true about Robert, but he would never be this person, this Paladine. He would never be the man in the white hat or the knight in shining armor. A warrior, yes, that he was, but he could not be one of the “good guys.” Robert had seen too much, done too much. Killing had turned into just a way of life for Robert. He simply killed whomever his instincts told him to. He had tried to fit into society, and what did it do for him? He was disillusioned and discouraged, and that made him even more dangerous than he normally was. Robert was an assassin, plain and simple, a killer who could waste five police officers while going after his target without batting an eye and chalk it up to “collateral damage.”

  But there was something else that made Robert even more treacherous. He had this itch that he had not scratched in a very long while. With the McDonald’s shooter, Robert had scratched that itch until it had festered and burned, and now the only remedy was to kill again.

  CHAPTER THREE

  The conference room at the NCTC, the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia, was filled with the suited chiefs of the “who’s who” of government alphabet soup – the heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense were all there. The only one missing was the president, who had issued an order to examine the nation’s readiness against “homegrown” terrorist attacks, and the McDonald’s attack was right on the top of the list. Getting them to talk to one another was no small task for NCTC Director Nathan Anderson.

  Anderson did not look like any of his acronymic counterparts. Except for his G-Man style grey suit, which one usually expected to see worn by an FBI agent, he could have passed for a businessman in any executive office in New York. He was a career bureaucrat who had come originally from the State Department, and had served in various capacities at the center since its inception after 9/11. He had also done a stint advising the president and the National Security Council on counterterrorism. Under Anderson, the agency had built the best database of suspected terrorists in the world, but there was one problem with it – they could not go after terrorists themselves. They had no enforcement capability. All they could do was pass the data on to appropriate enforcement agencies, like the FBI and the CIA, who considered the NCTC to be superfluous, and Anderson no more than a data manager.

  Tall and with an imposing frame, Anderson had a permanently serious look on his face. After all, his work was vital and indispensable to the security of the United States of America, and he felt emasculated to have all this data and be powerless to do anything with it. Once again, in the meeting, he tried to impress upon his colleagues the need to make regular use of the data to sweep up suspected terrorists for questioning and step up surveillance. The McDonald’s attack showed that the United States was vulnerable to the so-called “homegrown” lone-wolf terrorist attacks, where, instead of being planned by ISIS or Al-Qaeda, a young, recently radicalized jihadist would take matters in his own hands to kill as many infidels as he possibly could, finishing the act with his own death. Traditional law enforcement methods did not encompass looking for and apprehending these new domestic jihadists, who were either recruited by or answered the 2014 call of ISIS to:

  “Kill any salibis you can find. You can use anything. For example, a car. Process your target. The bigger the better. But if it’s difficult, it’s more important in jihad to simplify it and to do it sooner… Video the process. Run over them while passing… If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever … including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner
or way however it may be.”

  “Didn’t you have a file on this kid – Abdul Moussef?” asked Bill Carpenter, Director of the FBI.

  Anderson sighed, and ran his hand through his grey moustache and beard, then shook an accusatory hand at the group. “That’s the problem with our procedures, Bill. We do have a report on Moussef and it went out to everybody, including the FBI and local law enforcement in New York. He’s listed in TIDE[1] and in your own TSDB

  [2].”

  That accusatory hand came crashing down on the table.

  “God damn it, doesn’t anyone pay attention to these things?”

  Anderson could see that his outburst was not well taken. Each of the men at the table had been appointed by the president, and each thought his own job to be the most important. They did not take kindly to being criticized by a man they considered to be nothing more than a data collector.

  As the meeting proceeded, Anderson became more and more impatient. This show and tell wasn’t going to help him with his directive – to lead the nation’s effort to combat terrorism and integrate all instruments of national power to ensure unity of effort. Pointing fingers and passing the buck were not going to ensure any kind of unity – only dissension.

  “You got anything on this ‘Paladine’ fella?” asked Carpenter.

  “Our databases are coming up with nothing. He’s a ghost.”

  “Well, he’s a ghost we have to catch. We don’t want vigilantes out there running around with guns, shooting down suspected terrorists. We’ll get him. I’ve got my best agents assigned to the job.”

 
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