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Memorial day, p.11
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       Memorial Day, p.11

         Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
 

  Urda looked away, obviously uncomfortable.

  Rapp reached out and grabbed his arm. "I haven't told you the whole story yet. This is not going to be your typical interrogation. We don't have the time to do it properly."

  "Why?"

  "Because we have reason to believe these guys are planning to detonate a nuclear weapon in Washington, D.C., and we have absolutely no idea how close they are to doing it, or if the little raid we conducted last night will cause them to move up their timetable." Rapp watched the expression change on Urda's face, and he let go of his arm.

  "That's right a nuke," repeated Rapp. "We're talking casualty rates that you and I can't even begin to calculate and the clock is ticking."

  Urda's jaw hung slack for a moment and then he said, "My ex-wife and kids live just outside the city."

  Not for the first time Rapp thought how lucky he was that his wife was visiting her parents in Wisconsin.

  Urda shook his head as if struggling to comprehend the full enormity of the situation. "How big a bomb are we talking?"

  "I don't know. That's one of the things I need to find out, and we don't have a lot of time. I need your help. My Arabic and Farsi are good but my Pashto and Urdu are nonexistent."

  Rapp pointed toward the pen where the soiled prisoners were being dragged away from the squealing pigs. "I know two of these guys are fluent in Arabic, English, and Pashtu, and one of them speaks only Pashtu and a little bit of Arabic. I don't know what the other two speak. I'm going to need your help translating, but more importantly, I'm going to need your eyes and ears, because we are going to interrogate all five of them together."

  Urda turned his attention away from the prisoners and back to the notorious CIA operative. As far as Urda knew, there was only one reason why someone would want to interrogate all five of the prisoners at the same time. His lips twisted into a pensive expression. "There are people who will do this for us," he offered.

  Rapp began shaking his head before Urda had finished his sentence. "Nope. It's too important to trust to some warlord's thugs." He pointed at the bound prisoners as they shuffled single file into the building. "The fourth man in line is none other than Ali Saed al-Houri. He helped plan and execute the 9/11 attacks, and if he doesn't start singing like a bird I'm going to kill him right here and now, and I can tell you honestly that I won't lose a wink of sleep over it."

  Urda let out a long sigh and looked at the ground as if the burden of what was about to happen was too much.

  Rapp's jaw tightened. "I am going to do whatever it takes to get those men to talk. Make no mistake about it." Rapp moved his head to make sure Urda was looking directly at him. "And I mean whatever it takes, so before we go in there I need to know without a doubt that you're going to have the stomach for this, and that when all is said and done, you will never breathe a word of it to anyone."

  Urda's thoughts returned to his ex-wife and three children. He pictured all them in their beds, in the house that he used to live in before this job destroyed his marriage. He thought of the reasons why he'd picked his career over his family: his sense of duty, the feeling that he could make a difference in this crazy war on terror, and that someone had to man the ramparts. It was as if all of those previous decisions had led to this one defining moment. The moment where his actions really could make the difference. If there was ever a time to ignore the rule book, this was it.

  A resolute look crept onto his face, and Urda said with confidence, "I'm in."

  * * *

  Twenty

  The concrete floor could be seen only in patches, mostly where it was cracked and heaved upward. The rest of the floor was covered with a matted layer of gummy brown dirt. The building was approximately thirty feet wide by eighty feet long with large doors at each end to accommodate vehicles pulling in to drop off and pick up product. In this case the product was opium, both the bane and blessing of the Afghani people. Great wealth was derived from the opium poppy, and with that wealth came tribal rivalries that made the infamous prohibition-era Chicago gangland wars seem infantile. These people didn't simply use machine guns to settle disputes, they used heavy armor, as was evidenced by the Soviet-made main battle tank parked outside.

  The warlords who oversaw the growth, production, and distribution of opium were fabulously wealthy, ruthless men who had proven time and time again that they would use whatever force they had at their disposal to settle disputes. And that force was significant. Each had his own militia comprised of seasoned fighters, and almost endless funds to resupply his troops with the best that the former Soviet Union and her satellites had to offer, including guns, artillery, armor, and even helicopters in a few cases.

  For now a partnership of sorts had been struck with the Americans. For their part, the warlords had agreed to join forces with the Americans to rout the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In return the Americans were to turn a blind eye to the once again burgeoning opium trade. As always the CIA had been asked to take the lead on making and maintaining this Faustian alliance. Kennedy felt that this arrangement would eventually bite the CIA in the ass, but for now it was the most reasonable course.

  Despite the inevitable criticism and probable Congressional investigation that would someday be launched by political opportunists, the alliance had worked. The Taliban had been thrashed in just months, and with minimal loss of American lives, and the country, while still not safe by Western standards, was as secure as it had been in over twenty years.

  As Rapp stood in the dark corner of the poorly lit warehouse, he had accepted all of this and more. He eyed the bags of opium stacked to the rafters and briefly wondered how much it was all worth. He quickly decided he didn't want to know the answer. The potential for corruption among government-salaried CIA operatives was enormous. They worked in an alluring world of opium, cash, spies, drug lords, illegal arms shipments, and blackmail. Simply being in this building could cause him problems he didn't need.

  Rapp wondered if this was the right place to conduct the interrogation, but he knew he had neither the time nor the resources to do anything else. The job had to be done and done quickly. Immediate results were paramount. Any fallout, he would have to suffer later.

  America was at a distinct disadvantage in this war. International aid groups and reporters were keen to jump on any story about Americans committing atrocities, while they were seemingly numb to the day-today horrors perpetrated by the holy warriors on the other side. In the safe and sterile newsrooms, in the marble halls of Congress, it was easy to second-guess decisions and find fault. Out here on the field of battle things were far less certain. Moral ambiguity, rather than clarity, was the norm. What Rapp was about to do would be seen as barbaric by many of the same people whose lives he was trying to save. This was the sad irony of his life-that he would have to kill to save.

  At his request the five prisoners were lined up on their knees in the middle of the warehouse. They were still bound and gagged. Rapp asked Urda to tell the two guards to wait outside, then retrieved a pair of earplugs from his black bulletproof tactical vest. He compressed the soft foam and inserted one plug into his left ear. Then he stepped from the shadows.

  As he approached the five kneeling men he wondered if any of them would recognize him. During Kennedy's confirmation hearing, Rapp's cover had been blown by a senator who was seeking to derail Kennedy's nomination by exposing Rapp as a freelancing assassin in the employ of the CIA. The president stepped in and let much more be known. For the first time, Rapp's role in several major counterterrorism operations was acknowledged, most notably one that had saved the lives of hundreds, including that of the president himself. The president had dubbed Rapp America's first line of defense in the war on terror, and the press bit hard, publishing and broadcasting countless stories, replete with photographs. The fanatical Muslim clerics in turn dubbed Rapp enemy number one and demanded that he be killed.

  As Rapp stepped into the faint light, he could tell by the expression on one of the younger
man's faces that he did indeed recognize him. Rapp removed the man's gag and in Arabic told him to tell the others who he was.

  The prisoner looked to the ground, afraid to stare into the eyes of the man standing before him. Rapp repeated his order, this time more firmly.

  The man vacillated and then after clearing his throat and gaining some courage said,"Malikul Mawt."

  Rapp smiled. The man had just told the others that Rapp was the angel of death. "That is right. My name is Azra'il, and today isYaumud Deen." The day of judgment.

  Urda had joined him in front of the five captives. Rapp pointed to one of the men and said, "Take his gag off."

  Urda did so and then remained standing next to the gray-bearded man.

  Having looked forward to this day for some time Rapp studied the grizzled face and said, "Ali Saed al-Houri, I have seen theSijjin and your name is on it." TheSijjin was a scroll where the names of all those who will be sent to Hell are recorded.

  The weathered features twisted with defiant rage and let loose a gob of spit. Rapp had expected nothing less and stepped effortlessly out of its way.

  "You are a liar," al-Houri yelled in Arabic. "You are not even a true believer. You are nothing more than an assassin."

  Rapp shook his head sadly. It was all part of an act he planned for the other four men. The CIA had an extensive file on al-Houri, much of it compiled by the Egyptian secret police back in his days as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. His faith was unshakable even then, and it was sure to have been strengthened over the years. That meant he would be exceptionally difficult to break, even if Rapp had all the time in the world to work on him.

  "I am not a liar," Rapp replied without malice. "Allah does not hold in favor men who kill innocent women and children. Your name is on the list, and I am here to send you to Hell."

  Al-Houri laughed in Rapp's face. "The tide is turning. We are about to strike a great blow for Allah, and you will pay dearly."

  Rapp dropped to a squat so he could look al-Houri directly in the eye. "I found your little room under the house." Rapp paused to let this little surprise sink in. "Interesting plan it's too bad it won't work."

  The old man smiled. "You cannot stop us. There is not enough time."

  Rapp could tell the smile was not false bravado. Out of fear, he almost asked a question, but stopped himself. There was no way the old man would answer it. No matter what Rapp said to al-Houri, his faith and confidence in his chosen path would remain unshaken. This made him dangerous. His conviction would give the others strength. He had to be removed to get the rest to talk.

  Rapp stood and slowly walked around behind the prisoners. He approached Urda and whispered something in his ear. Urda nodded and handed over one of his Kimber.45-caliber pistols. Rapp took the heavy and exceptionally loud pistol and stood behind al-Houri who was trying to make eye contact with the other prisoners. With the weapon in his left hand he pulled the hammer back into the cocked position and covered his right ear with his free hand.

  Rapp placed the stainless-steel barrel a mere two feet from his head and said, "Ali Saed al-Houri, your deeds have dammed you to Hell, and that is where I am sending you." There would be no last-minute confession, only orders for the others to stay true to their cause, so before al-Houri had a chance to utter a single word, Rapp squeezed the trigger.

  * * *

  Twenty-One

  Mitch Rapp wasn't sure if he believed in hell, but if such a place truly existed, Ali Saed al-Houri was on his way. Rapp rolled him over so the others could get a good look at what was in store for them. The force of the hollow-tipped.45-caliber round had punched a fist-sized hole through the terrorist's head, leaving a gaping wound where his nose and upper lip once were.

  As Rapp looked down at him he didn't feel the slightest bit of regret or guilt. Al-Houri was one of the organizers of the worst terrorist attack in American history. He had cheered and gloated over the deaths of 3,000 peaceful men and women, and he was planning to kill thousands more. He was a vile and demented religious zealot, deserving of the bullet that had just ripped a large portion of his brain from his head.

  Rapp paced back and forth in front of the remaining four prisoners. Not one of them dared raise his eyes and look at him. He knew their ears were ringing from the blast of the powerful.45-caliber Kimber so he shouted in Arabic, "Which one of you wants to go to hell next?"

  Rapp told Urda to repeat everything he said in Pashtu. He went on to talk about theSirat; the bridge over hell that all Muslims walk to find out if they will make it toJannah, or paradise. He recited verses from the Koran that condemned the killing of innocent civilians. He screamed about the need to be in a purified state to be accepted into heaven. He spat verse after verse at them to drive doubt into their narrow minds that they were true martyrs and thus deserving of paradise. He got right in their ears and shouted that they were about to spend the rest of their days in endless torment, and then he offered them a chance to repent. A chance to be cleaned and purified. When he had set everything up as best as time would allow, it was time to separate the prisoners and begin questioning them one by one.

  Urda's bodyguards came back into the warehouse and dragged three of the men out, leaving behind the one Rapp had chosen. He was the youngest of the lot, the man who had recognized Rapp. He was one of two wild cards. Rapp did not even know his name. It would have been ideal to know exactly who he was, to have a full briefing on him so he knew where to apply pressure and probe, but that was out of the question.

  Rapp grabbed a couple of empty white five-gallon buckets and turned them upside down. As he walked around behind the prisoner, the man flinched. That was a good sign. Rapp took hold of him under the arms and hefted him onto the bucket. Moving the other bucket a little closer, he sat and looked into the eyes of the young man only a few feet away. The lifeless body of al-Houri lay beside them, the blood draining from his head and snaking its way toward the bare feet of the prisoner. It served as a vivid reminder of where this interrogation could lead.

  For the first time, Rapp scrutinized the man's face. He had a beard, of course, and on the surface did not look Arab or Persian. The young man was probably Afghani or Pakistani and looked to be in his mid-twenties.

  "Do you speak English?" Rapp asked in an easy tone.

  The prisoner would not raise his head and look at him. "Yes," he offered quietly.

  The answer was more telling than one would think. It was common for English to be taught as a second language in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not in the mountainous border region. That meant the young man was more than likely from a larger city. "What is your name?"

  "Ahmed."

  "Do you have a last name?" Rapp asked.

  The prisoner did not answer at first.

  "It is only a name," Rapp prodded gently. "You know mine."

  He answered reluctantly, "Khalili."

  "How old are you?" Rapp wanted to start with the basics.

  "Nineteen."

  Rapp was surprised to hear how young the man was. It spoke to the harsh life that they lived that he could have easily passed for someone ten years older. Rapp looked up at Urda and held his hand up to his ear as if he was making a phone call. Urda nodded and started for the door. Rapp doubted they'd find the nineteen-year-old's name in their data base, but it was worth a try.

  "Are you married, Ahmed?"

  "Not yet."

  The boy still wouldn't look him in the eye.

  "Where are you from?" Rapp maneuvered his head to try and get him to look at him.

  He chose not to answer, and kept his eyes fixed on the floor before him.

  Rapp got up and walked behind the man, adding to the already tense mood. "I said, where are you from?"

  "Karachi," the man answered, his shoulders tense with fear.

  The large city in southern Pakistan. The young man was likely the product of one of the many Saudi-funded religious schools where children were indoctrinated into the strict Wahhabi sect of Islam
.

  Rapp continued walking around the man until he was once again standing in front of him. "Were you an orphan?"

  The young man nodded.

  It was an all-too-common occurrence in the region and beyond. The Wahhabis were taking in the orphans and street children of these large impoverished cities and filling their heads with their firebrand rhetoric.

  Rapp felt a slight touch of sympathy for the person sitting before him. He no longer saw a young man, he saw a child who had been brainwashed. Rapp nudged the bucket forward even farther and sat again. He reached out and lifted the boy's face. "I am not the angel of death, Ahmed, and I am not going to kill you." Rapp noted the gleam of intelligence in the boy's gaze.

  Ahmed's hazel eyes began to fill with tears, and he pulled his chin away from Rapp. "You are a liar." His gaze rested on the dead body lying on the dirty floor. He closed his eyes tightly and shook his head in defiance.

  "I did not say you won't die, you just won't do so by my hand." Rapp nodded toward the door. "Those two Afghanis who threw you in the pigpen their entire families were murdered by the Taliban. They wanted to do awful things to you, even before they knew you were a Pakistani. Things that I wouldn't even dream of."

  Pointing to the bloody corpse on the floor, Rapp said, "That is the easy way out. He will be tormented in Hell for eternity, to be sure, but at least he didn't have to suffer the indignity of being forced to eat his own genitalia."

  The young man began to whimper.

  "If you do not talk to me," continued Rapp, "I will have no choice but to turn you over to them, and then you will lose any hope of setting things straight before you pass."

  "I have done nothing wrong," the boy said defensively.

 
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