Authors: Ben Coes
You make me proud every day.
I would like to thank the following people for their invaluable help:
At the Aaron Priest Agency: Aaron Priest, Nicole Kenealy James, Frances Jalet-Miller, Lisa Erbach Vance, Lucy Childs Baker, Arleen Priest, and John Richmond. At ICM, Nick Harris. Thanks to all of you, especially Nicole, for your hard work, patience, and friendship.
Thank you to all the wonderful folks at St. Martin’s Press: Sally Richardson, Matthew Shear, George Witte, Matthew Baldacci, John Murphy, Jeanne Marie Hudson, Nancy Trypuc, Anne Marie Tallberg, Judy Sisko, Kathleen Conn, Ann Day, Loren Jaggers, Stephanie Davis, and everyone I haven’t mentioned but who work hard every day on my behalf. A special thanks to Keith Kahla, my editor at St. Martin’s Press, for brilliant editing and a wonderful sense of humor. Heartfelt appreciation to everyone at Macmillan Audio, including Mary Beth Roche, Laura Wilson, Robert Allen, Brant Janeway, and Stephanie Hargadon. Thanks to Peter Hermann for his terrific narration.
Stephen Coonts, Vince Flynn, and David Morrell, three great American authors whose kindness to me is so very much appreciated. Edward Luttwak, author of the nonfiction book
the source for many ideas and the epigraph by Gabriel Naudé.
Mitt and Ann Romney, two people whose humility, kindness, and selflessness inspire me and many, many others, thank you.
Marc Gillinov and the amazing doctors, nurses, and staff of the Cleveland Clinic.
To my best friend, my little sister, Nellie Coes Edwards, sorry for eating the Twinkie. For their support, friendship, and patience, my business partners Carson Biederman and Bob Crowley. Special thanks to David and Mercedes Dullum, Chuck and Lisa Farber, Gary Foster, Melinda Maguire Harnett, Lee Van Alen Manigault, Teddy Marks, Patrick Mastan, Alex and Kelly Mijailovic, Darren Moore, Mike Murphy, Brian Shortsleeve, Ed Stackler, and Jim Windhorst.
Lifetime achievement award to Brian and Linda Bowman, who have done so much for me, the best parents-in-law any guy could ever hope for, especially a gun-toting, honky-tonk, whiskey-drinkin’ card shark like me.
To my wonderful children: Esmé, the future first female president of the United States and currently the most brilliant and beautiful princess known to Upland Road; Oscar, the actual gun-toting one, a soccer and hockey genius whose eyelashes already have the girls swooning; Teddy, whose piano playing, killer looks, sense of humor, and bravery amaze me, the one who, if you haven’t met him yet, I encourage you to be nice to, because someday we will
be working for him; and Charlie, who this book is dedicated to, my handsome, cool, brilliant, all-sport athlete and inventor, whose kind heart and gentle soul provide nothing but warmth to everyone around him. Thank you all for your love and support, it’s what I live for and it’s why I write.
To my wife, Shannon, my wonderful Irish beauty, who keeps me humble (or tries to, anyway), while at the same time making me feel like a king, thank you, sweetheart.
The thunderbolt falls before the noise of it is heard in the skies, prayers are said before the bell is rung for them; he receives the blow that thinks he himself is giving it, he suffers who never expected it, and he dies that looked upon himself to be the most secure; all is done in the night and obscurity, amongst storms and confusion.
JINNAH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
ONE YEAR AGO
With every plane descending from the sky at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, the enormous crowd gathered behind the high barbed-wire fence at the airport’s perimeter became fanatical, screaming and shouting at the top of their lungs.
CNN estimated the crowd to be more than 800,000; Al Jazeera, which had several reporters and cameramen on the scene, estimated the crowd to be at least 1.5 million.
They had begun gathering at the airport the night before, after the polls closed. Already, more than a hundred Pakistanis had died from the heat and more than a dozen had been trampled to death.
Each arriving plane led to a frenzied, almost panicked roar from the crowd. It didn’t matter where the plane was arriving from; every thobe-clad man and burqa-clad woman gathered in the scorching afternoon sun knew that sooner or later one of the planes would be the one. Every few minutes, as a PIA, Air Arabia, Etihad, Iran Air, or another airline’s jet began its descent, the crowd began screaming and waving small makeshift white flags with a black dot in the middle.
In the distant azure, a white jumbo jet appeared.
Inside the chartered Airbus A321, the rows of seats were mostly empty. The first six rows had exactly one person per row, all Pakistani, all male. They were part of a security detail and wore military uniforms. In the overhead compartments, automatic weapons were stored. As the plane descended, each man moved to the window at the end of the row and tried to get a glimpse of the crowd they knew would be waiting.
A few rows behind the security detail, more men were dispersed. They were all campaign staff members. There were a dozen men, mostly in suits, a few in ties. Some of them chatted quietly, while others typed on laptops. Several pored over newspapers.
More than twenty-five rows back, separated by row after row of empty seats, two men sat quietly across the aisle from each other in the last row. Both men were dressed in bishts. The man on the left, Atta El-Khayab, had on a dark blue bisht with white piping. His beard was flecked with gray. His eyes darted about nervously, belied somewhat by the infectious smile on his wrinkled, kindly face. The other man, in the aisle seat of the right-hand row, wore a plain white bisht. On the chest was a black circle the size of a tennis ball; similar to the flags being waved by the waiting Pakistanis on the ground below. This man also had a beard, though his was completely white. He was taller than his companion, his dark skin deeply creased and covered in hideous black moles. His blind eyes were covered by large black-lens glasses. He did not smile. This man was Omar El-Khayab.
“We’re going to land soon,” said Atta. He reached his hand across the aisle and patted the back of El-Khayab’s hand. “I’m told there will be a crowd.”
El-Khayab took his right hand and moved it on top of his brother’s hand, gently patting it. But he said nothing.
“It’s been a long flight, Omar,” said Atta.
“Tell me, Atta, will you miss Paris?” asked El-Khayab quietly. El-Khayab reached up and removed his glasses. Beneath, the sight was grotesque. The eyeballs were balls of murky green and rolled around in the sockets like fish eyes. The skin around both sockets was badly scarred despite the more than sixty years since the accident, the fire, that had destroyed Omar El-Khayab’s vision forever.
“Yes, I will,” said Atta, looking away from his brother’s face and trying to smile. “I’ll miss the food. But I’m happy to go, Imam.”
“I’m glad to hear it.”
“Will you miss Paris, Omar?”
“No.” He reached his hand up and stroked his white beard. “The French are a vile filth. But I will miss the madrasa. I will miss the boys. I will miss the moment.”
“There is a moment when it happens,” said El-Khayab. “When the education of a young boy truly begins.”
“What do you mean?”
“There is a moment when a boy accepts jihad for the first time. When Allah turns a young boy’s blood into an angry fever. I cannot see it in their eyes, of course, but I’ve learned to recognize it in their voices. Once it happens, there is nothing that can bring them back. It’s unstoppable. That moment, for me, is like nirvana. That is what I will miss the most.”
The plane arced left as the rumble of the landing gear being lowered could be heard.
“But instead of a few hundred boys, brother, you now have a nation of more than two hundred million,” said Atta. “You have been elected
A smile creased El-Khayab’s lips. He nodded his head up and down while stroking his beard.
“Yes,” said El-Khayab calmly. “Allah works in wondrous ways, does he not?”
HARDWICK’S CAFÉ AND BISTRO
Josiah Glynn walked briskly through the air-conditioned suburban mall, calmly surveying the shops, restaurants, and people. Jamison Centre was a dump. Out-of-the-way, tired, lousy, lower-middle-class shops; half-empty, badly lit restaurants. The only people he saw ambling about the musty-smelling, windowless mall were blue hairs, too old to remember what good food tasted like.