Read The Last Line Online

Authors: Anthony Shaffer

The Last Line

 

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For Alex—my oldest son, who has helped me see, as he has grown, the world through his eyes, with wonder and appreciation.

—Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer

As ever, for Brea.

—William H. Keith

 

Acknowledgments

 

Mr. Shaffer would like to acknowledge the following individuals directly:

Curt Weldon
—a former Congressman and outspoken leader who sacrificed a great deal in his personal and professional life in maintaining his support for me and who convinced me to come forward to tell the truth and change an inaccurate rendering of our nation's history. He has boldly worked to find solutions to challenges that have plagued this country's national security for decades.

Curt—you sir, are a patriot and I am sure our Founding Fathers would be proud of your legacy.

—
You will
know the
truth
and the truth will set you free.

—John 8–32

Walter Jones Jr.
—Congressman. A man who's soul and integrity is more important to him than political party or reputation. I am awed by the grounding in honor of his actions and his ability to focus on what is real and important, while those around him focus on the temporal and banal.

Walter—The good grace of honor you bring to your office has served your constituents well, brightened the gray halls of congress, and has made our nation a better, stronger place for your efforts. God bless you, and your family, in all things.

—Send me.

—Isaiah 8

Mark Zaid, Esquire.
One of the best lawyers on the planet. When it come to the First Amendment, it is clear that freedom of speech is often not so, and that in the battle, between the government's wish to control information and the right of the individual to exercise their right of same, he has become a fierce warrior.

Mark—the road to truth is full of potholes of process, boundless rules, and roadblocks of government bureaucrats. Thank you for your hard work to keep the traffic flowing.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

—Winston Churchill

Lt. Col. (Ret) David Johnnson and Dr. Newton Howard
—the executive director and founder of Center for Advanced Defense Studies, respectively.

You have both been the foundation of rock in a world of shifting sands. Thank you for your undying support.

Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.

—General George S. Patton Jr.

There are others, field operatives, brave men and women of the intelligence and defense community who do the hard and often thankless job of defending this great nation in shadows and always at great political risk and physical danger. They are all too often only held up when it is convenient for politicians to use them to score political points, who often have to be creative and dynamic well beyond their training to accomplish real things and to protect us all. These brave men and women sign up not for glory or for recognition; they sign up for honor and the simple but highly satisfying accomplishments in doing real, often impossible things. It is in simply being able to accomplish those things they find their reward. It is to their efforts we hope this novel will help bring some light and entertain them (and the public) in homage to the necessity of protecting the American people from its enemies—both foreign and domestic.

 

Contents

 

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Epilogue

Also by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer

About the Authors

Copyright

 

Prologue

 

U.S.-MEXICAN BORDER

2 MILES EAST OF NOGALES, ARIZONA

1650 HOURS, MST

12 APRIL

Even here, the screams were too loud to allow him to pray.

Saeed Reyshahri remained kneeling, facing east, trying again to recite the Surat al-Fatiha, the seven opening verses of the Koran.
“In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful, all appreciation, gratefulness, and thankfulness are to Allah alone, lord of the worlds…”

A dry wind whispered across the sere and barren landscape. Behind him, on the other side of the ridge, a woman was begging, desperately pleading. Reyshahri did not speak Spanish, but he could guess easily enough what she was saying.

“¡No! ¡No! Por favor … ¡Lárgate! ¡No me chinge!
¡No me chinge!

Filthy dogs. No respect for women—but worse,
far
worse, no concern for the importance, the
urgency
of his mission. Why had Colonel Salehi insisted on using these … these
animals
for Operation Shah Mat? The Sinaloa Cartel's coyotes were … ruthless. Mercenary. Reliable enough if you met their price, but vicious and dangerous.

They had their own agenda.

Reyshahri was an officer in the Vezarat-e Ettela'at va Amniyat-e Keshvar—VEVAK as it was commonly known, the state security service of the Republic of Iran. His rank was
sarvan,
equivalent to a captain in the U.S. Army; he'd been a member of the Sepah for ten years, and with VEVAK for three more. For most of that time he'd helped train Hezbollah militias for their struggle against the Zionists.

VEVAK was known neither for sentimentality nor for squeamishness when it came to operations in the field. There were times when raw brutality was absolutely necessary—to fulfill a mission, to make a point, to send a message.

This,
however, was not one of those times.

The other women were screaming now, pleading, sobbing.

He sat up straight. It was no use. He'd hoped to combine that day's Dhuhr prayer at noon with this one, a practice called Jam'bayn as-Salaatayn allowed on long journeys. Instead, today he would miss both.

Ernesto Jesús Mendoza topped the rise, grinning, full of swaggering
machismo
, his thumbs hooked in his belt, his assault rifle slung carelessly muzzle down behind one shoulder. “Hey, Arab! You want some of this?” He spoke English, the only language they had in common. “You'd better hurry!”

Reyshahri scowled, despising the man. Reyshahri was
Persian,
not Arab. The trafficker knew the difference, he was certain; either the pig was deliberately goading him or he simply did not care.

Mendoza and his gang were coyotes, human traffickers skilled in smuggling human cargos north across the border into the United States. They were also, he knew, members of the dangerous Sinaloan drug cartel, but this day they were escorting fifteen migrants north—nine men, six women—plus Reyshahri. An hour ago, they'd stopped here beside a dry arroyo. Mendoza's men had herded the immigrants into the gully at gunpoint, separated out the three pretty, younger women from the rest, and dragged them to a patch of bare ground beside a huge velvet mesquite tree nearby, leaving one of their number to guard the rest and keep them quiet.

The coyotes had used this place before. The mesquite tree was festooned with women's underwear—a rape tree, they'd called it. Reyshahri had heard the term before but thought it was either exaggeration or anti-Mexican propaganda.

Reyshahri had not been able to watch what had happened next. It had been time for Asr, the afternoon
salah,
or prayer, so he'd found a private place behind the ridge, ritually washed himself with sand, and attempted to pray.

It had been useless. Those poor women …

“We should keep moving!” Reyshahri said, angry. “We could reach Phoenix tonight! If the Americans find us here they—”

Mendoza spat on the sand. “The American
gilazos
could not find their asses with their hands. Don't worry about them!”

It was Reyshahri's
duty
to worry about the Americans, though. Mendoza's cavalier attitude was not helping.

“Leave me alone,” Reyshahri growled. He listened to the screams a moment more. “You … shouldn't be doing this.”

“Hey, the boys just want a little fun, you know?” Mendoza laughed, an unpleasant sound, and then shrugged. “We needed the halt. We have a long way to go after sunset.”

Reyshahri wished he could pray, wished that God could give him the guidance he so desperately needed.

The obligatory daily prayer was called
namaz
in Reyshahri's Farsi, a word that meant roughly “to bow.” In Arabic, however, the word was
salah,
meaning “connection,” a believer's connection with Allah. Here, on the desolate international border between Arizona and Mexico, Reyshahri knew that he'd lost that vital connection, that he was cut off now from his God.

Perhaps it would be better once he reached the American capital and Operation Shah Mat had properly begun.

He listened to the screaming in the distance and hoped so.

 

Chapter One

SECTOR CHARLIE 1-1

SECRET CIA TRAINING FACILITY

0225 HOURS, EDT

13 APRIL

Night—as impenetrably black as only a moonless and overcast night in the woods can be. Captain Chris Teller lay full-length on the ground, probing the smothering darkness around him, every sense alert. There'd been no sound to warn him, nothing but the usual chirp and whir and peep of insects and lovesick amphibians at the pond just up ahead, but there was something …

There, he caught it again as he inhaled—the faintest whiff of cigarette smoke just perceptible above the mingled scents of leaf mold, earth, and stagnant water. His pursuers wouldn't be stupid enough to smoke in the darkness; he was probably smelling it on someone's uniform.

Someone very, very close now …

Yes … just ahead, a shadow against shadows. Using averted vision, looking to one side of the figure instead of straight at it, he could make out the shape of a man leaning against the trunk of a massive tree. The head was heavy and misshapen beneath the brim of his boonie hat.

A Klingon, wearing NVD—night-vision device.

Teller waited, not moving, scarcely breathing, not even looking at the man standing nearby. Play sneak-and-peek with the bad guys long enough and you became convinced that the opposition could
feel
you staring at them. The answer was not to stare at them, and to make the mental noise of a rock.

Patience. Steady nerves. He was prepared to outwait the guy, however, to lie on the chilly ground for an hour if need be. He'd done this before …

Christopher Thomas Teller had been with the Department of Defense for eight years now, as a case officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency's Intelligence Directorate. A captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, he'd seen action in both Afghanistan and Iraq, in combat zones where it was sometimes tough to figure out who were the good guys and who wore black hats.

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