American assassin, p.1
American Assassin, p.1Part #1 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
Also by Vince Flynn
Pursuit of Honor
Protect and Defend
Act of Treason
Consent to Kill
Separation of Power
The Third Option
Transfer of Power
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Copyright (c) 2010 by Vince Flynn
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To the victims of the
Pan Am Lockerbie terrorist attack
and their families
WRITING is by necessity a solitary process. Fortunately, my wife, a beautiful, stoic Scandinavian from Northern Minnesota, understands this. Lysa, you are an amazing partner. Every year you bear the brunt of these deadlines. Even when I am physically around, I am mentally elsewhere ... trying to figure out the twists and turns of the story. I can never say thank you enough.
Publishing, on the other hand, has very little to do with solitude. It is a dynamic, exciting industry where things can go wrong, or right, at countless junctures. I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by some of the best people in the business. From Sloan Harris and Kristyn Keene at ICM, to Emily Bestler, Sarah Branham, Kate Cetrulo, Jeanne Lee, Al Madocs, David Brown, and Judith Curr at Atria, to Louise Burke and Anthony Ziccardi at Pocket Books, to Michael Selleck and Carolyn Reidy at Simon & Schuster, and the entire sales force ... you are all top-notch. For twelve straight publications, most of it during the most tumultuous times the industry has ever seen, you have managed to make each launch better than the previous.
To Lorenzo DiBonaventura and Nick Wechsler for continuing to push the boulder up the hill--I do not know how you do it. To my friend Rob Richer, who helped give me the flavor of Beirut in the early nineties, to Ed Schoppman for facilitating the hardware, to Dr. Jodi Bakkegard for straightening me out, and to all those who choose to remain in the shadows, thank you. To those whom I may have forgotten--my sincere apologies.
And last, to you, the reader. I have wanted to tell this story for fifteen years. How did Mitch Rapp become Mitch Rapp? Crafting this novel has been one of the greatest thrills of my writing career. Thank you for your support and enjoy the read.
MITCH Rapp stared at his reflection in the dusty, cracked mirror and questioned his sanity. There was no shaking, or sweaty palms. He wasn't nervous. It was just a cold, calculated assessment of his abilities and his odds for success. He went over the plan once more from start to finish, and again concluded it was likely that he would be severely beaten, tortured, and possibly killed, but even in the face of such prospects, he couldn't bring himself to walk away, which brought him right smack dab back to that part about his mental health. What kind of man willingly chose to do such a thing? Rapp thought about it for a long moment and then decided someone else would have to answer that question.
While everyone else seemed content to sit on their hands, it was not in Rapp's nature to do so. Two of his colleagues had been grabbed from the streets of Beirut by a nasty little outfit called Islamic Jihad. They were a tentacle of Hezbollah that specialized in kidnapping, torture, and suicide bombings. The jihadis had, without question, already begun the interrogation of their new prisoners. They would expose the men to unthinkable pain, and they would begin to peel back each layer of the onion until they got what they wanted.
That was the savage truth, and if his colleagues could delude themselves into thinking otherwise, it just meant they had consciously or unconsciously gravitated toward convenient conclusions. After a day of watching the very people who said they would handle the situation do nothing, Rapp decided to look for a solution on his own. The bureaucrats and foreign service types back in Washington might be content with letting things take their natural course, but Rapp was not. He'd been through too much to allow his cover to be blown, and beyond that there was that nagging little thing about honor and the warrior's code. He'd been through the wringer with these guys. One he respected, admired, and liked. The other he respected, admired, and hated. The pull for him to do something, anything to save them was strong. The gang back in Washington might be able to simply write off losing the faceless operatives as a cost of war, but to the guys who were in trenches it was a little more personal. Warriors don't like leaving their own to die at the hands of the enemy, because secretly, they all know they might be in the same position one day, and they sure as hell hope their country will do everything in their power to get them back.
Rapp eyed his fractured reflection; his thick, uncombed head of black hair and beard, his bronzed olive skin and his eyes, so dark that they were almost black. He could walk among the enemy without attracting so much as a suspicious glance, but that would all change if he didn't do something. He thought of his training and everything he'd sacrificed. The entire operation would be exposed, and that meant his career in the field would be over. He'd be stuffed behind some desk back in Washington where he'd rot for the next twenty-five years. He'd wake up each morning and go to bed each night with the nagging thought that he should have done something--anything. And ultimately he would emasculate himself by questioning the size of his balls for as long as he lived. Rapp shuddered at the thought. He might be a little crazy, but he'd read enough Greek tragedies to understand that a life filled with that kind of recrimination would eventually lead him to the psych ward. No, he thought, I'd rather go down swinging.
He nodded to himself and took a deep breath before walking over to the window. Rapp gently pulled back the tattered curtain and looked down at the street. The two foot soldiers from Islamic Jihad were still positioned across the street keeping an eye on things. Rapp had dropped a few hints around the neighborhood about what he was up to, and they had shown up barely an hour after he had pressed his seventh hundred-dollar bill into the willing hand of a local merchant. Rapp had considered killing one lackey and interrogating the other, but knew word would spread so fast that his colleagues would be either moved or killed before he could act on whatever intel he could gather. Rapp shook his head. This was it. There was only one avenue open to him, and there was no sense in delaying what had to be done.
He quickly scrawled a
Within half a block, Rapp's nervous system began sending his brain alarms, each more frantic than the previous one. It took every ounce of control to override his training and millions of years of basic survival instincts that were embedded like code into the human brain. Up ahead, the familiar black car was parked across the street. Rapp ignored the man behind the wheel and turned down a narrow side street. Just thirty paces ahead a rough-looking man was stationed in front of a shop. His left leg was straight and firmly planted on the pavement and the other bent up behind him and placed against the side of the building. His big frame was resting against the building while he took a long drag off his cigarette. There was something vaguely familiar about him, right down to the dusty black pants and the white dress shirt with the sweat-stained armpits.
The street was otherwise empty. The survivors of the bloody civil war could smell trouble, and they had wisely decided to stay indoors until the morning's sideshow was concluded. The footfalls from behind were echoing like heavy shoes on the stone floor of an empty cathedral. Rapp could hear the pace of his pursuers quicken. A car engine revved, no doubt the black BMW he'd already spotted. With every step Rapp could feel them closing in from behind. His brain ran through scenarios with increasing rapidly, looking for any way out of the impending disaster.
They were close now. Rapp could feel them. The big fellow up ahead threw his cigarette to the ground and pushed himself away from the building with a little more spring than Rapp would have guessed him capable of. He filed that away. The man smiled at him and produced a leather truncheon from his pocket. Rapp dropped the map in feigned surprise and turned to flee. The two men were exactly where he expected them to be, guns drawn, one pointed at Rapp's head, the other at his chest.
The sedan skidded to a stop just to his right, the trunk and front passenger door swinging open. Rapp knew what was next. He closed his eyes and clenched his jaw as the truncheon cracked him across the back of the head. Rapp stumbled forward and willingly fell into the arms of the two men with pistols. He let his legs go limp, and the men struggled with his weight. He felt the arms of the big man wrap around his chest and yank him upright. His 9mm Beretta was pulled from the back of his waistband and he was dragged the short distance to the car's trunk. Rapp landed headfirst with a thud. The rest of his body was folded in on top of him, and then the trunk was slammed shut.
The engine roared and the rear tires bit through a layer of sand and dirt until they found asphalt. Rapp was thrown back as the vehicle shot away. He slowly cracked open his eyes, and as expected, he found himself enveloped in darkness. His head was throbbing a bit from the blow, but not too badly. There was no fear on his face or doubt in his mind, though. Just a smile on his lips as he thought of his plan. The seeds of disinformation that he had spread over the past day had drawn them in just as he'd hoped. His captors had no idea of the true intent of the man they now had in their possession, and more important, no idea of the violence and mayhem he was about to visit upon them.
SOUTHERN VIRGINIA (ONE YEAR EARLIER)
MITCH Rapp removed the blindfold from his face and raised his seat back. The brown Ford Taurus sedan rocked its way down a rutted gravel road, twin plumes of dust corkscrewing into the hot August air. The blindfold was a precaution in case he failed, which Rapp had no intention of doing. He stared out the window at the thick wall of pines that bracketed the lane. Even with the bright sun he could see no more than thirty feet into the dark maze of trees and underbrush. As a child he'd always found the woods to be an inviting place, but on this particular afternoon it had a decidedly more ominous feel.
A foreboding premonition hijacked his thoughts and sent his mind careening into a place that he did not want to go. At least not this afternoon. Still, a frown creased his brow as Rapp wondered how many men had died in this particular forest, and he wasn't thinking of the men who had fought in the Civil War all those years earlier. No, he thought, trying to be completely honest with himself. Death was too open-ended a word for it. It left the possibility that some accident had befallen the person, and that was a convenient way to skirt the seriousness of what he was getting himself into. Executed was a far more accurate word. The men he was thinking of had been marched into these very woods, shot in the back of the head, and dumped into freshly dug holes never to be heard from again. That was the world that Rapp was about to enter, and he was utterly and completely at peace with his decision.
Still, a sliver of doubt sliced through the curtains of his mind and caused a flash of hesitation. Rapp wrestled with it for a moment, and then stuffed it back into the deepest recesses of his brain. Now was not the time for second thoughts. He'd been over this, around it, and under it. He'd studied it from every conceivable angle since the day the mysterious woman had walked into his life. In a strange way, he knew where it was all headed from almost the first moment she'd looked at him with those discerning, penetrating eyes.
He had been waiting for someone to show up, though Rapp had never told her that. Or that the only way he could cope with the pain of losing the love of his life was to plot his revenge. That every single night before he went to sleep he thought of the network of faceless men who had plotted to bring down Pan Am Flight 103, that he saw himself on this very journey, headed to a remote place not dissimilar from the woods he now found himself in. It was all logical to him. Enemies needed to be killed, and Rapp was more than willing to become the person who would do that killing. He knew what was about to happen. He was to be trained, honed and forged into an ultimate precision weapon, and then he would begin to hunt them down. Every last one of the faceless men who had conspired to kill all those innocent civilians on that cold December night.
The car began to slow and Rapp looked up to see a rusted cattle gate with a heavy chain and padlock. His dark brow furrowed with suspicion.
The woman driving the vehicle glanced sideways at him and said, "You were expecting something a little more high-tech perhaps."
Rapp nodded silently.
Irene Kennedy put the car in park and said, "Appearances can be very deceiving." She opened her door and stepped from the vehicle. As she walked to the gate she listened. A moment later she heard the click of the passenger door, and she smiled. Without an ounce of training he had made the right decision. From their very first meeting it was apparent he was different. She had audited every detail of his life and watched him from afar for several months. Kennedy was exceedingly good at her job. She was methodical, organized, and patient. She also had a photographic memory.
Kennedy had grown up in the business. Her father had worked for the State Department, and the vast majority of her education had taken place overseas in countries where an American was not always welcome. Vigilance was a part of her daily routine from the age of five. While other parents worried about their kids' wandering out into the street and getting hit by a car, Kennedy's parents worried about her finding a bomb under their car. It was drilled into her to always be aware of her surroundings.
When Kennedy finally introduced herself to Rapp, he studied her for a long second and then asked why she had been following him. At the time Rapp was only twenty-two, with no formal training. If Kennedy had a weakness it was with improvisation. She liked things plotted out well in advance, and being so thorough, she had gone in assuming the novice would have no idea that she had been running surve
Later, in her motel room outside Syracuse, she retraced her every move over the past eight months and tried to figure out where she had slipped. After three hours and seventeen pages of notes, she still couldn't pinpoint her mistake. With frustration, and grudging admiration, she had concluded that Rapp had extremely acute situational awareness. She moved his file to the top of her stack and made a bold decision. Rather than use the normal people, she contacted a firm run by some retired spooks. They were old friends of her father's, who specialized in handling jobs without creating a paper trail. She asked them to take an objective look at Rapp, just in case she had missed something. Two weeks later they came back with a summary that sent chills up Kennedy's spine.
Kennedy took that report straight to her boss, Thomas Stansfield. Midway through reading the file he suspected what she was up to. When he finished, he slowly closed the two-inch-thick biography of the young Mitch Rapp and made her plead her case. She was concise and to the point, but still Stansfield pointed out the potential pitfalls and obvious dangers of leapfrogging the initial phase of training. She countered perfectly. The game was changing. He had said it himself many times. They could not sit back and play defense, and in this ever more interconnected world they needed a weapon more surgical than any guided bomb or cruise missile. Having spent many years in the field himself, Stansfield also knew this person would have to be uniquely autonomous. Someone who conveniently had no official record.
Kennedy ticked off eight additional reasons why she felt this young man was the perfect candidate. Her logic was sound, but beyond that there was the simple fact that they had to begin somewhere. By Stansfield's reckoning this was an endeavor they should have started a good five years earlier, so it was with a heavy sigh and a leap of faith that he decided to proceed. He told Kennedy to forgo the normal training and take him to the only man they knew who was crazy enough to try to mold a green recruit into what they needed. If Rapp could survive six months of schooling at the hands of Stan Hurley, he might indeed be the weapon they were looking for. Before she left, Stansfield told her to eliminate any connection: Every last file, surveillance photo, and recording that could ever tie them to Rapp was to be destroyed.
American Assassin by Vince Flynn / Thrillers & Crime / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes