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Memorial day, p.10
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       Memorial Day, p.10

         Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
 

  Rapp had explained the situation to General Harley, and the warrior had then said to the other officers in the command-and-control helicopter, "You know what to do." They all nodded. The mission's tapes needed to be erased, or at a bare minimum sanitized; the Delta boys would keep their mouths shut without ever having to be told; and the Rangers would know enough not to ask questions. That left the thousands of other personnel on the base they were headed for who were prone to gossip and rumor mongering. The mere presence of a character like Rapp was enough to get people going, so he was going to have to be careful.

  The five men who lay bound, gagged, and hooded on the floor of one of the Chinook helicopters no longer existed as far as the U.S. military was concerned. Rapp knew, however, that they were very much alive-at least for now, and that he would be the one who would decide if any or all of them remained that way. Based on the plan he was going to implement, it was almost certain that at least one of them was going to die, though.

  The sun was barely up when the command-and-control Blackhawk landed at the base back in Kandahar. Rapp saw the man he was looking for standing in front of a Toyota 4 Runner. As soon as the door to the Blackhawk was open, Rapp was out of the helicopter and running across the Tarmac.

  Jamal Urda was a former Marine and eight-year veteran with the CIA. The son of Iranian immigrants, and a Muslim by birth, he had exceptional language skills, and an intuitive understanding of the Persian and Arab cultures. Urda had been one of the first people to arrive in the Taliban controlled country after 9/11. He had entered from the north with a group of heavily armed former special forces operators and bundles of American cash. Over the ensuing months, Urda and several others just like him negotiated deals with Afghanistan's far-flung and powerful warlords. The warlords were presented with a simple choice: either get onboard and help destroy the Taliban, in which case Uncle Sam will provide you with a suitcase filled with crisp hundred-dollar bills, or say no, and we'll drop a 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb on your house.

  Urda had been very successful in his negotiations, and in turn the CIA's director of operations had made him his point man in Kandahar. Rapp had met him only briefly on several other occasions. Urda had a reputation as a man who wasn't always easy to deal with. The word was he did not like people from headquarters looking over his shoulder. Rapp hoped Kennedy had greased the skids, because he didn't have time to dance with this guy.

  As Rapp approached, Urda didn't move. He stood with his feet a shoulder width apart and his hands on his hips. He was short, a good five inches less than Rapp's six-foot frame, and a bit stocky. Rapp could tell by the look on his bearded face that he was not in a good mood.

  Rapp didn't bother offering his hand. "Jamal, thanks for getting out here on such short notice."

  "Cut the bullshit, Rapp. I heard you were in-country yesterday. Thanks for the fucking calling card." Urda folded his arms across his chest. The handles of his two.45-caliber pistols bulged beneath his biceps. "You know, professional courtesy among spooks and all that shit."

  Rapp suppressed his initial reaction, which was to tell Urda what he could go do with himself, and tried to look at it from his perspective. He needed Urda, and his people, and he'd rather have them as willing participants than have to threaten them with losing their jobs. Rapp was so used to running closed ops that the thought of alerting the Agency's man in Kandahar that he was going to be running an op in his backyard hadn't even occurred to him.

  In very uncharacteristic fashion Rapp said, "I'm sorry I didn't give you a heads-up, but this thing came down fast."

  "So fast you couldn't pick up the phone?" Urda scratched his heavy black beard and waited for a reply.

  Rapp had given it this one weak effort to act humble, and it wasn't working. He was hungry, tired, and not really in the mood for anything other than people following his orders. He looked over his shoulder and saw the base's medical staff racing forward to take care of the wounded. The one seriously injured trooper had been evacuated more than an hour ago and was already in surgery. The surgeon said he'd make it, but the young man's days as a Delta Force operator were probably over. There were nine others who were in need of medical treatment, though fortunately, none of the injuries was life threatening. Rapp, however, had planned on using the confusion of the postmission triage to quietly load the prisoners into Urda's two trucks. Which meant that he could ill afford to waste time arguing with this capable man who just might have a Napoleon complex.

  "Jamal, I have five prisoners in the back of that Chinook over there." Rapp pointed to one of the large twin rotor birds. Six tired and dirty Delta Troopers were standing guard at the ship's aft ramp. "One of those men is Ali Saed al-Houri."

  Rapp watched Urda's demeanor change instantly at the mention of one of al-Qaeda's top lieutenants. "I flew eight thousand miles and, in one day, did what you've been trying to do for almost two years. So don't give me this shit about professional courtesy. I don't know you, and I don't give a shit if I get to know you. All I care about is whether or not you're good at your job and whether you get me the results I'm looking for. Now, if you have a problem taking orders from me, let me know right now, and I'll make sure your ass is on the next plane back to the States. I'm sure I can get the director to find a nice desk job for you somewhere."

  Rapp paused long enough for Urda to get a clear picture of himself sitting at the desk in question, and just how embarrassing it would be for him to get sent packing back to Langley, and then he offered the man an out. "I admire the sacrifice you've made, and I'd prefer to have you involved in this especially since we don't have a lot of time. So do me a favor. Take your two trucks, pull them around to the back of that Chinook, and let's load these prisoners up and get the hell out of here."

  Urda looked at the helicopter and then back at Rapp. "I heard you could be a real prick."

  "I heard the same thing about you." Rapp gave the man a wry grin and said, "Let's go."

  * * *

  Eighteen

  Finding a CIA station in a new town was a little bit like looking for a Catholic cathedral. Scan the horizon for the highest point and that was most likely where you would find it. Kandahar was no different, except there were no cathedrals, or even churches-only mosques. The Agency had set up shop at a villa that overlooked the entire town. The place had been built and occupied by a wealthy Afghan family who had fled like all the other well to do families when the Soviet Union had invaded their country. During the eighties the compound had been occupied by the Soviets and then in the nineties by the Taliban, and now it was the Americans.

  The recently paved road to the station snaked its way up the hillside to a checkpoint manned by U.S. Marines. The Toyota 4 Runners did not turn off on the road, though. Rapp had told Urda of his plans, and his fellow CIA officer thought it best if they steered clear of both official and unofficial types of U.S. installations. There was a place a little further down the road that Urda knew of. Rapp didn't bother to ask him how he knew of it, or if he'd actually used it. There was no need to ask prying questions in their profession. They only led to liabilities and answers that one was better off not knowing. At the CIA the attitude toward torture was a little bit like the military's policy on homosexuality: don't ask, don't tell.

  Rapp was perhaps more comfortable with this state of intentional ignorance than anyone at the Agency. His entire recruitment into the CIA was part of a plan launched by the then director of operations Thomas Stansfield. Stansfield had been a member of the CIA's precursor, the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS. He'd distinguished himself during WWII when he became a highly effective and decorated operative, serving behind enemy lines in both Norway and France. After the war, when the CIA was formed, Stansfield became one of the Agency's first employees.

  Stansfield was on the ground in Europe during the Cold War and had been the strategist behind some of America's greatest intelligence coups. During the Church Commission hearings on Capitol Hill in the seventies, when some of the CIA
's biggest dunderheads were exposed, he was grateful to be ensconced behind the Iron Curtain. He was hopeful that the Agency would rebound from the hearings as an organization more focused and clear in its mission, but it was not to be. Stansfield watched his once great spy organization slide further into decline during the Iran-Contra fiasco, and saw long before anyone else what political correctness would do to the effectiveness of the CIA.

  In the late eighties he reacted by creating a covert organization called the Orion Team. Its mission was to take the war to the terrorists. Stansfield understood, possibly more than any person in Washington at the time, that fighting religious fanatics by civilized means was a doomed endeavor, and ignoring them simply wasn't an option.

  The twenty-two-year-old Rapp had been Stansfield and Kennedy's prized recruit. An international business major fluent in French, Rapp was an All-America Lacrosse star for the Syracuse Orangemen. During his junior year thirty-five of his fellow classmates were killed while returning from a semester abroad. The Pan Am Lockerbie terrorist attack had changed Rapp's life irrevocably. His high school sweetheart, the woman he planned on marrying some day, had been on the plane.

  The pain from that tragedy had fueled Rapp's motive for revenge, and over the next decade he was honed into the most effective counterterrorism operative in America's arsenal. All of this was done without the official knowledge of either the Executive or Legislative branches of the government. There were certain key people in Washington who knew of the Orion Team, several esteemed senators and congressmen, but the specifics had been known only to Stansfield. These elder statesmen knew a full decade before the rest of their colleagues that there was a war on terrorism, and they also understood that neither their colleagues nor the American public had the stomach for what it would take to fight the rise in fanaticism.

  Calling Rapp a counterterrorism operative was essentially a polite way of ducking the truth. When everything was stripped away, the reality was that he was an assassin. He had killed, and killed often, for his country, and in his mind 9/11 was proof that he hadn't killed enough. These zealots would stop at nothing to impose their narrow interpretation of the Koran, and that included the detonation of a nuclear warhead in the center of a civilian population. Rapp did not look forward to what he had to do, but he certainly wasn't squeamish about it either. There was a very real possibility that the men he had taken from the village possessed information that could save thousands of lives-possibly even hundreds of thousands, and Rapp would do whatever it took to ferret out what they knew.

  * * *

  Nineteen

  The vehicles turned onto a rutted and dusty road. After several minutes they came upon a series of ramshackle buildings. Rapp was a little taken aback to see that the place was occupied, but not as surprised as he was when he spotted a Soviet-made T-72 tank parked next to the largest of the buildings.

  Sensing Rapp's unease, Urda turned to him and said, "Northern Alliance. My allies in this crazy war against the Taliban."

  Rapp nodded and looked through the smeared and pitted windshield. "They going to be all right with this?"

  "They hate these religious nuts more than you can possibly imagine. My boys," Urda pointed to the other vehicle that his two Afghani bodyguards were in, "are fiercely loyal to me. Good kids who lost their parents in the war. The Taliban did a lot of nasty shit to a lot of people. Consequently, they have no shortage of enemies."

  Rapp had already noted that Urda's two locals looked as if they were still in their mid-teens, which didn't do a lot to instill confidence.

  Urda gripped the wheel and brought the SUV around the side of one of the buildings. "Whenever I have someone who doesn't want to do things the nice way I bring 'em out here, and let these guys get it out of them."

  Rapp chose not to respond. This was not a part of his job that he enjoyed.

  The two Toyota 4 Runners stopped next to a fenced-in pen of some sort. Rapp stepped out of the vehicle and was hit with the pungent smell of animal waste. He looked over the top of the fence and saw several dozen pigs lying in their own excrement.

  Urda lifted the tailgate of the SUV, revealing three bound and hooded prisoners. He looked at his two Afghani bodyguards and said, "Hoods off and up and over the top."

  The two Northern Alliance mercenaries grinned at each other and slung their rifles over their shoulders.

  Rapp looked at him, somewhat puzzled.

  "Pigs!" said Urda. "They freak these guys out. They think if they touch one before they die they won't go to heaven. You know, the whole ninety-nine virgins and all that shit."

  Rapp grinned, "You mean seventy-seven houri." Rapp used the Arabic word for the beautiful young virgins who supposedly awaited the Muslim martyrs when they arrived in heaven.

  "Yeah whatever."

  Rapp actually laughed for the first time in days. He watched as they tore the hood off the first man and tossed him over the fence with no care whatsoever as to how he landed. Rapp turned to Urda. "Tell them not to drop them on their heads. Especially the old man. I need them alive at least for a while."

  He glanced into the pen and watched the man struggle against his bonds as pigs sniffed and licked him. His eyes were wide with fear rather than anger, and his shouts were stifled by his filthy gag. Rapp thought he'd seen it all, but this took the cake. He shook his head and walked away from the pen, fishing out his satellite phone. After flipping the large antennae into the upright position he punched in the number General Harley had given him.

  A duty officer answered and Rapp asked for the general. Five seconds later Harley was on the line. "Mitch."

  "General, have you ID'd the other two prisoners?" With reasonable certainty Rapp had already identified Hassan Izz-al-Din, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, and Ali Saed al-Houri.

  "Not yet, but we're working on it."

  "What about Langley?"

  "As per your request, we're scanning documents as fast as we can and sending them back to the CTC."

  "Have your guys, or Jamal's guys, found anything I can use?"

  "Oh, there's stuff here," Harley said confidently, "it's just a question of getting it organized. We've got financial records, names, documents on WMD, plans for terrorist attacks my J2 is telling me we hit the mother lode."

  "Good." Time was critical, however. Word would get out quickly that al-Qaeda's command structure had been compromised. Bank accounts would be emptied, people would disappear, and plans would change.

  "Listen, General, I can't stress enough how time-sensitive this information is. Have your people made any progress on the computers?"

  "Not yet."

  "Shit." Rapp ran a hand through his thick black hair. "Does the CTC have Marcus Dumond on it?"

  "Let me check."

  Rapp looked back at the pen in time to see another body tossed in. Marcus Dumond was the little brother he'd never wanted. A bona fide computer genius and hacker extraordinaire, the social misfit had been personally recruited by Rapp to work for the counterterrorism center at Langley.

  The general came back on the line. "They haven't been able to track him down."

  Rapp's face twisted into an irritated frown. It was approaching midnight back in the states, and knowing Marcus he was probably hanging out at some cyber café with his friends. "Listen, General, I have to start interrogating these guys, so I need your people to work really fast. The second you learn anything, I want you to call me."

  "Roger."

  Rapp put the phone away and went back to the pen. His five prisoners were all on their backs writhing in agony as the dirty swine defiled their supposedly purified martyred bodies. He looked to Urda and said, "Have your boys bring them inside."

  Rapp then gestured for Urda to follow him. The two men walked a safe distance away from any prying ears. Rapp looked around at the dusty hardscrabble landscape, and asked, "Off the record, how rough have you had to be?"

  Urda shrugged. "Afghanistan is a rough place hell, it shouldn't even be a place. It should be fo
ur or five countries. We've got communists, war lords, or drug dealers however you want to describe them, we've got the Taliban, we've got people who want democracy, and we have a lot of nice men and women who just want to live their lives, and the other assholes who won't let them do it, so what we've got is one gigantic fucking mess."

  "You didn't answer my question." Rapp kept his eyes fixed on Urda's. "How rough have you had to be?"

  Urda returned his stare with equal intensity. "You mean have I tortured people?"

  "Yeah."

  He looked back toward the warehouse, obviously not wanting to answer the question. "There have been times where I have let the locals get physical, but I prefer to stay out of it as much as possible."

  Watching every twitch of the man's bearded face, Rapp decided he was lying to him, or at least not telling the whole story. A notoriously impatient man, he said, "Jamal, let's cut the shit. I'm guessing you're a pretty straight shooter, but you don't want to say too much because I'm a little too high up on the totem pole."

  Urda shifted his weight from one foot to the other, clearly uncomfortable with this line of questioning. Finally he said, "Those pricks back in Washington have no idea how ugly it is over here. They want us to act like we're cops everything by the book." He spit on the ground, then threw his arms out gesturing at the harsh landscape. "There is no fucking rule book over here."

  Rapp nodded. He understood. Having worked in the field for so many years he had very little affinity for the people back in Washington who tried to tell him how to do his job. Before he took this next step, however, he needed to make absolutely certain that he and Urda were of the same mind. "Listen, I'm about to go in there and do something that is so far off the reservation it can never be discussed with anyone and I mean anyone."

 
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