Memorial Day, p.6Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
Master Sergeant Todd Corrigan was in charge of the sixteen-man assault platoon. The stocky thirty-four-year-old Corrigan was an eight-year veteran of Delta Force. Before joining Delta he'd done two tours with the famed 101st Airborne Division. He was one of the most respected and decorated NCOs in the entire armed forces. Tonight General Harley was relying heavily on Corrigan and his men. The sixteen troopers were being dropped into the middle of a hostile environment where they were guaranteed to draw heavy enemy fire.
As soon as his bird touched down, Corrigan yanked free his Velcro restraint and was off, his weapon up and trained on his specific area of responsibility. His men all moved swiftly into their preplanned positions without uttering a word. All sixteen of the soldiers were able to talk via a secure internal radio link consisting of an earpiece and lip mike, but any communication was to be kept to an absolute minimum.
The Little Birds did not loiter. They were too vulnerable on the ground, so as soon as the shooters were clear each bird increased power and climbed back into the dark night, kicking up a maelstrom of dust and rocks.
The team's demo man rushed to the front of the target house and slapped two thin adhesive ribbon charges on the front door. He carefully linked them together with a loop of orange Primadet cord and stepped back, pressing his body up against the wall. "Breaching charge ready."
Corrigan listened as the other two elements of his team checked in and then gave the thumbs up signal to his door breacher.
"Fire in the hole!"
The eight troopers in front of the house lowered their heads as the charges were tripped, blowing the wooden door off its hinges. The point man already had the pin on his flash-bang grenade pulled and wasted no time. He chucked the pyrotechnic through the open, smoking doorway and yelled, "Flash-bang away!"
Every trooper sealed his eyes shut in anticipation of the blinding white hot light of the grenade. At the sound of the thunderous explosion the team moved, storming the house in a well-orchestrated maneuver. The point man entered the house first and immediately swept the room to the right as the second man came in and swept it to the left. Both men found tangos and let loose a single round, striking their targets in the head. The third man pressed through the doorway with Corrigan right on his heels. They went straight for the back of the house not knowing the exact layout, but assuming that's where the bedrooms would be.
A man came out of a room on the left with a rifle in his hand and let go a poorly aimed burst. The trooper in front of Corrigan hit the man with two rounds in the face and they both kept moving. As the trooper peeled off into the open doorway that the gunman had come out of Corrigan moved quickly for the back of the house knowing that four more of his troopers were right behind him, and that the other two elements were covering the back of the house and the street. The only hope they had of getting live prisoners was to take the building down fast.
At the end of the hallway a man crossed from one room to another. Corrigan squeezed off a burst and kept moving. He wasn't sure if he'd hit his mark or not. Assured that his back was covered he ran down the hallway and swung his weapon into the room where the man had just gone. Looking through the narrow tunnel of his night-vision goggles, Corrigan was surprised to find the man with his back to him and standing only a few feet away. He had his weapon raised in the firing position. Without hesitation the master sergeant sent a round into the back of the man's head, killing him instantly.
Corrigan's muzzle did a quick sweep of the room and settled on an old man in the corner. Even with the relatively grainy image provided by his NVGs, Corrigan had a good idea that this was one of the men they wanted to talk to.
The old man suddenly lunged from the bed and let out a banshee-like scream.
Corrigan almost fired, but at the last second took a quick step to the side and dispatched the charging man with a butt stroke to the temple. One of the other team members joined the master sergeant in the bedroom.
Corrigan turned to the man and said, "Slap a pair of flex cuffs on this one."
"What about the other guy?" asked the trooper as he pointed to the second man lying face down on the floor.
"Dead. Secure his weapon and take up a position on that window." As Corrigan turned to leave the bedroom, he toggled the transmit button on his radio and called out for a situation report. The two teams outside reported the perimeter secure, and the team inside reported two more prisoners in addition to the one that Corrigan had just knocked unconscious.
He'd already noted the absence of shots being fired, but that wouldn't last long. His men all knew what to do. The easy part was over. Now it was time to dig in and wait for the cavalry.
"Remember what the general said," Corrigan said into his lip mike. "Anyone out wandering the streets at three in the morning is probably not looking to welcome us. Engage targets at will and don't be shy."
* * *
The black limousine pulled up to the curb and a man with a moppish head of brown hair got out. It didn't matter if it was a Monday night or a Friday night, the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse on 19th Street NW was always crowded, and not with just any clientele. This was where D.C.'s big hitters came to eat red meat and drink booze and wine. In a town filled with influential people, many of them millionaires, or about to be millionaires as soon as they left their government jobs, Pat Holmes was at, or near, the very top of the totem pole. He'd made his money running Merrill Lynch's bond department during its heyday in the nineties. His net worth was conservatively estimated at a billion dollars.
Holmes paid a small army of accountants and lawyers to keep his complete financial picture a mystery from both the government and the prying press. His real net worth was actually in excess of two billion dollars, much of that tied up in land deals on four of the seven continents and large holdings in banks and insurance companies. Holmes subscribed to the creed that information was power, and that was why he went to such lengths to hide the intricacies of his significant fortune.
When he entered the steakhouse, there was a flurry of activity. Holmes was tall, just under six and a half feet, and in relatively good shape, considering how much he liked food and drink. He was in his early fifties with a slight double chin and a bit of gut that was well disguised by tailored dress shirts and handmade suits.
The ass kissing ensued almost immediately. The general manager was on hand at the front of the restaurant as well as the head chef, the wine steward, and a buxom blond hostess who was Holmes's favorite. It was nothing for Holmes to drop five or ten grand in an evening. He liked his wine and he liked it expensive.
"Patrick," the general manager thrust his hand forward, "thank you for gracing us with your presence."
"My pleasure, David." Holmes had a gift for remembering people's names. He said hello to the other two men and then gave the hostess a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"Still only two of you tonight?" asked the general manager.
"Yes, in fact here comes my dinner partner right now."
Peggy Stealey came walking across the bar in high-heel shoes, chic black pants, and a sapphire blouse. She held a glass of chardonnay in one hand and her purse in the other. Her blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail that called attention to her high cheekbones and aqua blue eyes. Practically every guy in the place stopped what he was doing and watched her move across the room.
Holmes extended his hands and placed them on her cheeks, as Stealey pursed her lips and offered them to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Holmes gave her mouth a quick peck and then turned to make sure his guest had met everyone. She had, on at least three other occasions, but it didn't bother her that Holmes didn't remember. It was his nature to bring people together as part of the Pat Holmes festival of life. He befriended everyone from the busboys to the president. Holmes loved people and they loved him back.
The hostess led them to Holmes's usual table. It offered just enough privacy while still affording the
The man did not know how to have a bad time. People were drawn to him. There were some, for sure, who disagreed with his party of choice and thought him a bit gluttonous, but his champions far outweighed his detractors. Holmes was a breath of fresh air for a party that was desperately in need of new ideas and new leadership. Unfortunately, that was not why he'd been pegged to oversee the upcoming national election. First, and foremost, running the DNC was about raising money, and Holmes had both New York and L.A. covered. Secondly, it was about settling disputes and massaging egos, and there were no bigger egos than the ones on Capitol Hill. Holmes knew how to make people feel valuable. Lastly, the job involved kicking some ass, and although Holmes was a pretty level-headed guy, he was results-oriented and if you didn't get him what he wanted he showed you the door.
Holmes sat down and looked at Stealey's nearly finished glass of wine. "Am I late?"
"No. It was a long day, and I needed a drink, so I got here a little early."
"Nothing wrong with that." Holmes loved to imbibe. On cue a waiter showed up at the table with the chairman's usual; a lowball glass filled with ice, Belvedere vodka, and three olives. Holmes thanked the man graciously and then raised his glass. Stealey followed suit. "To you and your continued success."
"And to a successful national campaign this year," added Stealey.
Holmes rolled his eyes and took a big gulp of the smooth Belvedere. This year was a presidential election. In addition to that, one third of the Senate was up for reelection, as well as the entire House of Representatives and a handful of key democratic governors. Fortunately, he had already hit all of their financial targets. Unfortunately, the Republicans had raised more money than they'd projected, so now he had to go back around and start asking the unions and the big hitters for further contributions.
"Aren't things going as well as you'd like?" asked Stealey.
Holmes took another sip of vodka and tried to think of the most positive way to put it. "Our opponents keep raising the bar on fund-raising but that's not the problem."
Holmes looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping. "The party hacks are driving me nuts. They would rather sit around and piss and moan than go out and do something about it."
With a knowing nod Stealey said, "They've never worked in the private sector."
Holmes pointed at her and said, "Bingo. They have this trench warfare mentality, and they're deathly afraid of change or new ideas. All they want to do is kiss the unions' asses and beg me for more money."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, the other side is the same way. They've both been running off the same playbook for a hundred years."
"Except we have more fun, right?" Holmes recited the party's line and held up his drink.
Stealey laughed. "Correct."
The wine steward approached the table with his extensive list, but before he could open it, Holmes stopped him. Looking at his guest he asked, "Are you going to stick with white or have some red?"
"I'll drink red with my meal."
"Good. George," he said to the wine steward, "You know what I like. Why don't you go ahead and select something on the lighter side." The man gave a half bow and retreated.
When the two of them were alone, Holmes leaned in and asked, "Let's get business out of the way. Why did you suggest we have dinner tonight?"
Stealey gave him a coy smile. "Do I have to have a reason to want to have dinner with a handsome, fabulously wealthy, powerful man?"
Holmes's response was a mix of primal grunt and laughter. "Oh, Peggy, you know I'd screw your brains out in a New York minute, but we both also know you're a dick tease. So unless you've decided that tonight's the night we consummate this little friendship, let's just keep our attention above the table."
"That won't be any fun." She gave him a pouty look.
"Seriously, I can't afford another set of sore balls from all your games. I've got too much to do tomorrow."
She reached out for his hand. "I've been very up front with you. Sleeping with men in this town can be very dangerous. Women's careers have a way of petering out, so to speak, right after the man has his last orgasm."
Holmes squeezed her hand and then quickly let go. "That's fine. I'm not that hard up that I'm going to beg for it. Either we sleep with each other, or we don't, but no more jerking my chain."
Stealey acted as if her next words were heartfelt, but they weren't. She'd used the same excuse hundreds of times to keep men at bay, but also keep them interested. "I'm very attracted to you, it's just that there's someone else right now, and it's kind of complicated."
"Anyone I know?"
"No. He doesn't travel in your circles."
Holmes grinned. "One of those gun-toting G-men you've been working with?"
"I would prefer not to talk about it."
"That's fine." In truth, Holmes thought Stealey was a bit of a nutbag, but he was too far into this game to lose interest, even if he was trying to act like he didn't care. He'd sealed more business deals by getting up and walking away from the table than by any other tactic. Stealey would come around sooner or later, and until then, she offered great insights into how Washington worked and what was going on at the Justice Department.
"So back to my question. What's on your mind?"
She frowned and shook her head. "That damn Patriot Act."
"What about it?" asked Holmes.
"I know you like to joke that the only reason you became a Democrat is that they have more fun, but you need to be more aware of the issues that affect the base."
"And you think the Patriot Act is one of them?"
"Yes," Stealey answered forcefully.
Holmes, unconvinced, rolled his eyes.
"Pat, I'm serious. This entire war on terror has been blown out of proportion. A gang of ragtag militants got lucky, and now we've picked a fight with half the damn world to prove that we're not going to take it, and in the process we're crapping all over our Bill of Rights. It doesn't matter if its the Republicans who dreamed this thing up, we're the ones who are defending it."
He took a sip of Belvedere. "I'd say you're simplifying it just a bit."
"Am I?" she asked sarcastically. "You're way up here, Pat." Stealey put her hand above her head. "I'm down in the trenches. I hear what the foot soldiers at the Justice Department are saying. I see the briefs that are filed on a daily basis challenging the constitutionality of that deeply flawed piece of legislation. I see the fear in the eyes of the people who are going to have to go before the Supreme Court and defend it."
"And how," asked Holmes a bit underwhelmed, "is this going to affect the election?"
"You don't want any bad press the last four months before the election, and that is exactly when these challenges are going to go before the court."
"Peggy, I know you're passionate about this, but the majority of the voting public could give a rat's ass if some suspected terrorist doesn't get read his Miranda rights and is denied a lawyer."
"But the base does."
Holmes had learned the hard way that the base of his party meant the 10 percent who were so far to the left they were completely out of touch with the values of the vast majority of middle America. If they had it their way, they would lead the party right over the edge of a cliff and into the great abyss of fanatical liberalism.
"What are they going to do go vote for whoever the Republicans put up?"
"No, they just won't vote, and you know what happens if the base doesn't turn out."
He had to reluctantly admit that she was right. It was an unnerving reality of his job. Holmes was a pro-business Democrat, and if he had it his way he'd jettison the crazy lefties and send them packing to the Green Party, but that was an untenable solution.
He shook his head. "You're ruining a perfectly good
Stealey remained intense. "I'm telling you right now the activists who are steering these challenges over the constitutionality of that stupid piece of legislation are going to time this so they get maximum exposure. They're going to beat this drum all the way up to the election. And you and I both know who's going to take the hit."
"No," Stealey frowned. "He may eventually, but it's going to start with my boss AG Stokes and I'm not going to sit back and let it happen." As a not so subtle threat she added, "and neither will he."
Holmes was slowly beginning to see that he might have a problem on his hands. Attorney General Martin Stokes was a rising star in the Democratic Party. There was even talk of having the president dump his worthless vice president and replace him on the ticket with Stokes. The man came from big money, and like Holmes he was pro-business and pro-defense. He was the type of man who could neutralize the Republicans.
"Peggy, I'm not going to say I agree with you on this, but you've at least piqued my interest." He looked down into his glass and snagged an olive. Holmes popped it in his mouth and said, "Knowing you as well as I do, I assume you have a plan of action."
"I do," said Stealey confidently, "but it's not going to get us anywhere unless you can get the president to play ball."
Holmes had significant pull with the president, and he had to admit as of late he thought the pendulum was swinging a bit too far in favor of the law enforcement, defense, and intelligence communities. "Let me hear your idea and I'll see what I can do."
* * *
The two AH-64 Apache helicopters arrived on station one minute after the takedown. One began flying cover over the village while the other moved to secure the landing field. The two attack helicopters carried a combined total of 120 rockets, 16 hell-fire missiles for hardened targets, and their eviscerating 30mm nose cannons. In addition to their firepower they were equipped with the most advanced navigation, weapons system, and electronic countermeasures of any helicopter in the world. They were General Harley's solution to not being able to use fixed-wing air cover.
Memorial Day by Vince Flynn / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes