Authors: Brad Taylor
Tags: #Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller
Also by Brad Taylor
One Rough Man
All Necessary Force
Enemy of Mine
The Widow’s Strike
The Polaris Protocol
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Copyright © 2014 by Brad Taylor
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eBook ISBN 978-0-698-15981-5
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To my wife, Elaine, my own personal Jennifer
In 1946, Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Manhattan Project, was asked in a closed Senate hearing room “whether three or four men couldn’t smuggle units of an [atomic] bomb into New York and blow up the whole city.” Oppenheimer responded, “Of course it could be done, and people could destroy New York.” When a startled senator then followed by asking, “What instrument would you use to detect an atomic bomb hidden somewhere in a city?” Oppenheimer quipped, “A screwdriver [to open each and every crate or suitcase].” There was no defense against nuclear terrorism—and he felt there never would be.
The Armageddon Test
, Belfer Center Discussion Paper, Harvard Kennedy School, 2009
Send forth the boys.
Prime minister of Israel Golda Meir initiating
Operation Wrath of God
Summer Olympic Games, Munich, Germany
September 5, 1972
akov Freidman felt the skids to the Bell helicopter touch down, and knew they had reached the first leg of their destination. Next stop: Cairo. Seeing only darkness behind the blindfold cinched to his head, he rubbed the leg of the Israeli athlete next to him, using the rope around his wrists to make contact. A small effort at solidarity. A reassurance that everything was going to turn out okay. That they would all be released alive from the maniacal Palestinian terrorists that had captured them.
He didn’t believe it. And neither did the man he rubbed. The Palestinians had already killed enough people to prove that wouldn’t happen.
The engine whine began to decrease, the shuddering of the frame growing still. He heard the terrorist in the hold with them shout at the German pilots, screaming in English to keep their hands in sight. He only assumed the pilots had, because the shouting stopped.
He sat in silence for an eternity, waiting, straining his ears to hear something. Anything to indicate what was transpiring. He hunched his shoulders and rubbed the knot of the blindfold on his back, causing it to shift a millimeter. Enough to let in a sliver of light and a small piece of vision.
He saw two of the terrorists walking to an unlit Boeing 727, parked off to the edge of whatever airfield they had landed within. They went up the stairs, took one look inside, then began running back down.
He felt a cold fist settle around his heart, his body tensing at the sight. The athlete to his left shifted, understanding something had occurred, but not knowing what. Yakov wished he were still in blessed ignorance. He knew they were dead. All that remained was the action.
The two terrorists made it halfway back to the helicopters before the first round cracked through the air, sounding like a pop from a child’s firecracker. It was followed by another, then another, until at least four rifles were firing from the roof below the airport control tower.
The terrorists began screaming and firing back in a wild display. Yakov saw two crumple to the ground, flopping grotesquely in the harsh mercury lighting. The remaining killers hid underneath and behind the helicopter he was in, firing back toward the roof.
Pushing through the noise of the gunfire was the low groan of a diesel engine. Yakov saw two armored personnel carriers splice through the darkness, rolling toward the helicopters and the terrorist hidden underneath. He knew the armor would force an endgame.
He yelled to the bound men in the helicopter and began to frantically chew through the rope bindings on his wrists. He saw a terrorist rise up on the other side of the Huey, his face a mask of rage. The terrorist raked the inside of the cabin with an AK-47, puncturing the Israelis inside. Yakov ripped off his blindfold, shouting at the man to stop. He was hit twice in the leg, snapping him upright in pain.
The terrorist tossed something inside, then began running across the tarmac, firing at the men spilling out of the armored carriers. Yakov focused on the device the terrorist had thrown, his vision coalescing on a spinning round metal egg. A hand grenade.
Yakov screamed, and the grenade exploded, sending fire and shrapnel throughout the cabin, igniting the Huey’s fuel and turning the helicopter into an inferno. Incinerating all inside.
The world received the news in horror and shock but managed to recover soon enough, not even stopping the Olympic games from continuing. For Israel, it was much, much worse. The 1972 Olympics already had them on edge, as it was the first time Germany had hosted the games since the fateful ones in 1936, when Hitler was the chancellor. For the fledgling state, returning to the land of the Holocaust held special significance, and now it was met with special horror.
The earth continued turning, and, like all tragic stories that have no concrete linkage with the person listening, after a couple of weeks the images of death faded from public consciousness. But that hand grenade had special significance to some. A terrible line had been crossed, and, as often happens in the toil of human events, the Israeli reaction was a precursor of things to come.
It would be three decades until 9/11. But the grenade’s pin lit more than just the fuse. It ignited the original Global War on Terror.
January 22, 1979
have a birthday party to go to, then off to Damascus. I don’t have time to sit here blathering on about the revolution with you. Was there something in particular you wanted?”
Vladimir Malikov leaned back from the steering wheel, wondering if the Palestinian in the passenger seat had grown soft. Possibly fatally so. Vlad glanced out the window, seeing the Land Rover full of hired guns. Men with bandoliers and mirrored sunglasses, but little skill. Ali Salameh’s protection. Aka the Red Prince. Aka Abu Hassan. The Palestinian went by many names, but none worked as a cloak to protect him. He was the most wanted man on the planet, and had been since September 5, 1972.
Vlad said, “You really should take your protection a little more seriously. The Zionists have long memories.”
Salameh scoffed and said, “Not since Lillehammer. Not since they killed an innocent man. The world hates them more than me. Besides, I have protection from my new friends. Friends who seem to care more about our cause and less about just causing trouble. They would tell me if the Jew dogs were planning something.”
Vlad felt a slow boil. He knew exactly whom Salameh was talking about. Knew Salameh was now playing him.
“Don’t fuck with me,” he said. “I’m the man who made you who you are. I’m the one who gave you Munich. I got you the passkeys to the Israeli dorm. I’m the one who provided the layout, provided the clear path, reduced the police presence. You’re the one who screwed it up. You sit here now, convinced you’re a celebrity, but it’s on the sweat of my country, and you’d do well to remember that. Black September would not exist without the USSR.”
Salameh studied him for a moment, clearly feeling secure with the Land Rover full of muscle in front of them. He said, “Perhaps I should let the Zionists know that. Maybe such information would help my future. At least get them hunting someone else, since you seem to fear them so much.”
The words raised a warning in Vlad’s mind. A sense that he was losing control of his most valued asset. He’d been working the backwater of the Middle East for more than a decade, and had achieved many, many successes, but few were higher than Salameh. He was the heir apparent to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and Yasser Arafat’s number two. Because of it, Vlad considered him the crown jewel, but only as long as he was worth it. Talking with enemy intelligence agencies or threatening to reveal secrets was a step on the road to destruction.
Maybe he’ll have to be dealt with.
Vlad shook his head, the weariness creeping out of his voice, “Salameh, believe me when I say this: We help you because you help us, but the people I work for are just as vicious as the Zionists. Why do you insist on antagonizing us? Why are you talking to the CIA?”
Salameh laughed and clapped Vlad’s knee. “I’m just teasing. You Russians are so serious. I understand how much you have helped my people. Arafat understands. But the CIA can help us as well, and that is all I care about. Don’t be jealous. Be more helpful.”
“What have you told them?”
“About you? Nothing.”
Vlad sensed a niche. An angle that could prove helpful in the future. “How long have you been talking to them? I know it’s been years, so don’t pretend.”
been years, but they’ve done nothing to help me, unlike your people. Don’t worry. I use them for information only. You don’t have an inroad into the Zionist state, and they do.”
“Do they know about Munich?”
“Of course. Everyone knows about Munich. It’s why I have to live with such security.”
“No, no. I mean, did they know about Munich before it happened? Were you talking to them then? Did they know and do nothing?”
Salameh remained quiet, understanding the answer was critical, but not understanding why. He chose to ignore it. He opened the door to the beat-up Datsun and said, “I’m late for my niece’s birthday. We can talk again next week.”
Vlad clamped his hand on Salameh’s arm and said, “Did they
Salameh said, “Yes. They did. And they did nothing to stop it.”
Vlad let him exit the vehicle, spinning the ramifications in his mind. Wondering how he could use the information for the USSR. He glanced once more at Salameh, watching him talk to his security, then enter the drab station wagon, sandwiched between two bodyguards and followed by the Land Rover full of meat. Israel wouldn’t be getting him today, but it was good for Vlad to study his security. In case Israel would need to be blamed for something in the future.
He put his car in gear and jumped ahead of them, not wanting to be bogged down with the circus that always surrounded Salameh. In his rearview mirror he saw the two-car protective detail pull in behind.
He drove down Rue Verdun, barely conscious of the ebb and flow of life in Beirut. Even with the nascent civil war, this area maintained an image of calm. An island of protection in a land splitting apart at the seams, this section had yet to feel the effects of the fighting.
He passed an apartment, glancing at a woman on the balcony, painting the setting sun with a bevy of cats walking to and fro. Erika Chambers. A British eccentric that the KGB had long ago dismissed as a reclusive nut. All she did was paint on her terrace and feed her pride of felines. Day after day.
The sun caught her hair and he saw her drop her paintbrush, opening her mouth as if she was screaming. Confused, he focused intently. When she brought both hands to her ears, he knew exactly what she was doing. Opening her mouth to equalize the pressure.
A bomb is going off.
He saw Salameh’s convoy draw abreast of a parked Volkswagen Golf, and he floored the engine, his little Datsun jumping forward with a complaining whine.
He saw the light of the explosion before he felt the heat, a brilliant flash that caused him to swerve to the right and lie down on the seat, opening his own mouth like the little old lady on the balcony.
The shock wave shattered his rear window, coating him in sparkling glass and causing his ears to pop, then ring from the noise. He sat up in a daze, shaking his head to clear it.
To his rear he saw twisted metal and flame, the explosives in the Volkswagen crushing both the station wagon and the Land Rover following. He saw a body in the street, lying inert, then another staggering about on fire. Running and screaming, his face a mass of melted tissue, he no longer resembled a human visage.
He put the Datsun in gear, not even considering checking on Salameh. He knew the man was dead, and he knew it was Israel who had done it.
Their dedication was astounding. Munich had happened more than seven years ago, and yet they hunted still. If they found out about his help to Salameh, he knew they would come after him. They held nothing sacrosanct. Being from the USSR meant zilch.
Driving away, he reflected that it was a good thing the Zionists preferred to kill instead of capture. Had they interrogated Salameh, he would be next on the target deck. He regretted losing his finest asset, but maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that Salameh was dead.
The trail of Munich would end with him.