Abuse of Powerby Michael Savage
Abuse of Power
Former war correspondent Jack Hatfield rose to national prominence for his insightful, provocative commentary. But after being smeared as a bigot and extremist by a radical leftist media-watchdog group, his career came crashing down. Now an obscure freelance news producer in San Francisco, Hatfield is going about his/b>/b>… See more details below
Abuse of Power
Former war correspondent Jack Hatfield rose to national prominence for his insightful, provocative commentary. But after being smeared as a bigot and extremist by a radical leftist media-watchdog group, his career came crashing down. Now an obscure freelance news producer in San Francisco, Hatfield is going about his business one afternoon when, during a ride-along with the SFPD bomb squad, a seemingly routine carjacking turns deadly. When police find several pounds of military-grade explosives in the jacked carand the FBI urges Hatfield to look the other wayhe knows he's onto his next, big story…
Soon Hatfield finds himself following a shadowy trail that will take him across the globe, from Tel Aviv to London and Paris and back again, as he works with a stunning Yemeni intelligence agent and a veteran Green Beret to expose a powerful Islamist terrorist group with a plot to rival 9/11 and whose goal is nothing less than total political controlno matter what the cost…
Plans to turn San Francisco into the next Ground Zero go awry when Jamal Thomas, a kid hoping to join a gang, hijacks a Prius. The driver gets away, but Jamal commandeers the vehicle, speeds into an intersection, collides with another car and suffers serious injury. Enter SFPD bomb-squad officer Tom Drabinsky, on a FAM trip with Jack Hatfield, who lost his gig as a right-wing radio commentator after the "liberal media elite" labeled him an "Islamaphobe." (Author Savage is a conservative talk-show host.) Drabinsnky is killed when a bomb in the car explodes, a bomb later determined to be of "military grade." Hatfield sniffs a cover-up—and a story that might put him back on top—when police arrest a group known as the "Constitutional Defense Brigade" and charge them with the bombing. Convinced an Islamic cell is up to something big, Hatfield appoints himself to uncover what's really at stake, a decision that comes as no surprise after several digressive editorial passages in which he makes clear he puts little or no trust inpolice, government and, to some extent, the church. (Frequently recalling Bible verses he finds reassuring, Hatfield makes clear he believes in some sort of divine wisdom.) After a group of men in dark suits take out Jamal, lest he describe the man driving the Prius, Hatfield obtains footage of their getaway car. Spotting a parking decal linked to Great Britain, Hatfield has no compunction about bribing a computer hacker to find out who the men are. Details in hand, he sprints to Israel and then to Great Britain to learn—and stop—what's afoot.
Ten years after 9/11, the tropes of terrorism thrillers wear thin. For fans of Fox News, Savage's right-wing POV (but little else) may lend some distinction.
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Abuse of Power
By Michael Savage
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2011 Michael Savage
All rights reserved.
San Francisco, California
"Pump two," Leon said. "See it?"
"I see it," Jamal Thomas replied.
It was just after sunset and the battered old Camry was parked down the block from the Arco station on Mission Street. Jamal squinted through the dirty windshield at a shiny gray Land Rover that had just pulled up to the pumps. The driver had climbed out and crossed to the minimart, wallet in hand. Arab, from the look of him. Not just the skin color but the arrogance, the strut. He reminded Jamal of the movies he'd seen on YouTube of blacks in the 1960s, flexing their new legal rights, amped up by the power of numbers, ready for payback after centuries of being second-class.
"Why that one?" Jamal asked. "Why not a Benz or a Beamer?"
Leon shot him a frown. "This ain't about the car. It's about—"
"I know what it's about," Jamal said. "But we might as well wait for a sweeter ride."
Leon shook his head. Jamal continued to look out the window.
What this was about was Jamal and Leon trying to get the rest of the Sawyer Street crew to take Jamal seriously. Jamal was almost seventeen and even his brother, who was just three years older, still treated him like a wannabe. He'd spent two years selling apple jacks at school, but that wasn't good enough for them. It was time to prove himself. Show them he had a pair that clanged.
Jamal's hand was resting on his waistband, where he'd tucked the gun. Leon had given him a Glock 9mm for his birthday the week before, a bronze-colored beauty that came in a shipment smuggled from Vietnam, part of the old Ku gunrunning network. The weapon felt solid against Jamal's belly—not the weight of it but the coiled power, the right it gave him to enforce his will on some rich boy or a chump who looked at him funny or a blonde he just wanted because he wanted that blonde.
"Like a terrorist, man," Jamal said softly.
"What are you talkin' about now ?"
"I was just thinkin' about how those guys feel when they know somethin' big is going down while everybody else worries about their own shit. That's got to be some heavy power trip."
"Yeah, well, you only have to worry about that Land Rover and not some damn 9/11."
"I'm on that," Jamal said. "Just sayin'."
Jamal was getting excited. Leon was right, but if power was the lesson of jacking a random car, he was ready to learn it.
They watched the Arab pump his gas, then get in and start the engine. The swarthy man fussed with the side-view mirror, adjusting it this way and that, then grabbed the wheel and rolled toward the exit.
Leon popped his transmission into gear, glanced at Jamal. "You ready?"
Leon shifted his foot from the brake to the accelerator and eased after the Land Rover.
* * *
They followed the Rover straight to the Loin—the part of the city that had long ago given itself over to liquor stores and strip clubs, where anything and everything was bought and sold, twenty-four/seven.
Jamal wondered what a well-off Arab was doing down here. If he was looking for action, all he had to do was pick up the phone. He didn't have to cruise through wine country. Maybe he had holdings here, invested some of that oil money in hookers and crack dealers.
An' the government tells us businessmen are responsible for everything that's wrong, he thought.
"Next red light," Leon said.
Leon's voice was soft, steady. It pumped Jamal up, like the gun. He wanted to impress his brother, win his respect.
A few seconds later the car came to a stop at Eddy and Larkin. The red light burned like the devil's own eye, fueling Jamal's own sudden, intense focus on the moment, the gun, the target—
Leon's voice broke through the near-hypnotic state. Jamal didn't think. He pushed open the door and jumped out, ripping the Glock from his waistband as he went, holding it against the driver's window, shouting, "Out of the car!"
The light turned and Leon roared past them, the Camry's tires shedding rubber. The Arab looked at the gun in horrified disbelief. Jamal slammed the window with the heel of his other hand, angled the gun menacingly.
"I said out ! Do it now or you're a dead man!"
The Arab popped the lock and opened the door. He seemed resigned to losing his car. Jamal stepped back to let him out. Cars were beginning to pile up behind them. Jamal turned slightly so they wouldn't have a good look at his face.
"Don't shoot!" the Arab pleaded. "Take the car but don't kill me!"
"Shut up!" Jamal snarled as he drew back his arm and pistol-whipped the Arab.
The man fell to the asphalt, his arms fluttering like bird wings, his white button-down shirt a coat of feathers. The Arab wasn't so tough now, Jamal thought, however much money he might have. The young man sighted the gun on the man's forehead, above his big, frightened eyes.
Jamal heard more horns as well as people shouting. He should have just shot him—no talk, no knock-down, no thinking. Now, too many people were watching. He heard a siren in the distance. Maybe it wasn't for him, or maybe someone had already called the cops—
Jamal looked up the road, saw the Camry had pulled into an empty space curbside. It was too far to run. And he didn't want to leave empty-handed.
Okay, you didn't kill the guy but you can bounce with the car. He could still score points by leading the cops to the Embarcadero and putting the Rover in the bay, or maybe driving it into the hot new lounge of the Phoenix Hotel—
Shoving the gun back in his waistband, Jamal jumped into the Rover, slammed the door, and stomped on the gas. He shot through the intersection, unaware that the light had changed back, clipping a Prius and spinning it ninety degrees. Jamal caromed off into a double-parked yellow panel job with the words WONDER BREAD painted across the side. He saw the R and the B grow large and then the world got very loud as the sound of the impact, the screech of twisting metal, and Jamal's own scream blended into a single roar. He felt himself flying against the windshield as the rear end of the Rover went airborne and the thing flipped.
Jamal threw his hands out, felt his arms go through the suddenly liquid glass, felt countless pinpricks as the shards raked his hands and face and scalp. It seemed to take forever for the Rover to crash to the ground and everything to go still. In the cottony quiet that followed, all Jamal could hear was his own strained, wheezing breath and the throbbing blood in his ears. He was lying on his back, half out of the Rover, his head resting on the blacktop. He was looking back toward the front seat, which was upside down. Peripherally, he could see people ducking, shifting, reaching into the tangled metal that shielded him from the outside world. He couldn't move his head, couldn't feel his body, so he continued to stare ahead.
There was blood in his right eye. It swirled the driver's side in a ruddy haze, but his left eye was clear. That was how he saw the strange object that had been upended and was resting on the roof. It consisted of four ... five ... six two-liter bottles full of liquid and tied to one another with duct tape. They were anchored to a pair of propane tanks with more tape. Wires were strung from one of the tanks to a cell phone taped to its side.
A bomb. It was a bomb.CHAPTER 2
"You feel it?" Drabinsky asked. "The rush?"
Freelance TV producer Jack Hatfield barely heard the man. As they blasted toward the crime scene, the former firebrand talk show host—defrocked by a fearful, powerful few—found himself thinking about those long-ago days in Baghdad, days that were little more than a distant wash of sounds and images. All he really had left of the place was the shrapnel in his right thigh and an instinctive reaction, a gut-tensing alertness, to any sign or image that had Arabic or Kurdish writing.
"I feel it," Jack said in a dry monotone. It reeked of insincerity but Drabinsky didn't seem to notice. He was in the moment, psyched and impatient. Jack understood; these were the times they'd trained for. For Drabinsky, it was a chance to test himself. For Jack it was part of a larger, frustrating picture of bailing water instead of being able to get to the source and stop the damn flood.
They were barreling along Mission Street in a white Chevy Tahoe, the siren blaring, Officer Tom Drabinsky at the wheel—a lean cowboy with a leathery, sunbaked face.
Drabinsky was commander of the SFPD bomb squad, part of the city's Homeland Security Tactical Company, and Jack had been profiling the squad for nearly a week now. His time with them had been pretty uneventful so far—mostly interviews, each member of the team recounting past glories and talking him through the "what-if ..." white papers they had studied.
"They're kind of like role-playing games, y'know?" one man had told him about those scenarios. "They let you think about problems you might encounter and solve them before you have to."
Sure, Jack thought. As long as you don't factor in the stuff that hits you square in the face when you're in the field: fear, pressure, the media watching you, and the fact that at the very least your job is on the line, at the most your life....
Then just before dinner, Jack was putting together footage for the local CBS affiliate, something to help make the public aware of its role in watching and informing, when he got the call telling him it was time to saddle up.
"We're on," Drabinsky had said. "Where are you?"
Jack's heart had kicked up a notch. "At the marina, editing footage."
"A little out of my way but I don't want you to miss this. Be at the lot in twenty."
After he hung up, Jack immediately contacted his photographer Maxine and told her to meet them at the accident scene.
As Drabinsky maneuvered impatiently through traffic, Jack's mind went back to the first time he had been rushing somewhere, that morning in Baghdad when everything went wrong.
He was remembering Riley's face.
He saw that face in his sleep sometimes. The slack jaw, the glazed eyes, the dust-caked laugh lines around them. A dust that could neither be tamed nor conquered and had permeated every facet of their lives back then—two hotshot network news monkeys riding shotgun with the Second Marine Division, Riley always complaining that the desert was wreaking havoc on his video equipment.
Not that it mattered much.
Richard Edward Riley had the tragic distinction of being the second journalist killed during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Jack had been right there when it happened. He could just as easily have been the third. One minute they were bumping along a deserted road and the next they were on the ground bleeding, their Humvee in pieces around them, Jack staring into the open, lifeless eyes of his best friend.
The details remained hazy, defensively isolated and contained by his mind, leaving the event with as much clarity as a half-remembered dream. Only the emotional and psychological pain were clear. Maybe that's why his mind occasionally returned to it for no apparent reason, with no apparent trigger. It was his subconscious trying to remember, trying to hide the hurt among some cold facts. Like putting ice on a swollen eye.
Of course, the company he was keeping could have something to do with it. Drabinsky's go-get-'em attitude reminded him of the marines who died that day. Tough, dedicated, counterintuitively marching into hell. Only the uniform was different. The SFPD bomb squad was full of that kind of men and women, the ones willing to risk their lives to keep Americans safe. And the people of San Francisco needed to know just how courageous they truly were. Instead, the rabid left wing harassed him endlessly.
Maybe they'd find out tonight. It was just too bad that a journalist's dream was often indistinguishable from the stuff that nightmares were made of.
"You alive over there?"
Jack smiled. "Sorry, Tom. I was off in the woods."
"Hunter or stag?"
"Hah. Good question."
"Well, come back home, Jack. We've gotta stay focused, top of our game. If something goes wrong, you need to know right away."
"Why? You ever see anyone outrun an explosion?"
"Of course not," Drabinsky said. "The survivors are the ones who smell things before they go bad. Any dope can run when it's too late."
Jack nodded. The commander wasn't talking out of his ass. In his nearly forty years, he had known soldiers, cops, pilots who had the Spidey sense he was talking about, an instinct for things that were slightly off center. During a visit to southern China, Jack had seen a demonstration in which a blindfolded Shaolin kung fu master defeated two much younger men because he felt what they were about to do. When Jack asked the sensei, through an interpreter, how he did that, the man replied with a smile, "The gray hair."
Experience. There was nothing like it.
* * *
As Drabinsky pulled up to the nearest barricade, Jack raised the Steiner Marine Binoculars he'd brought. It was an ugly, surreal, yet strangely tranquil sight.
Big flatbed-mounted spotlights towered twenty feet on either end of the street and illuminated the scene. The bread truck lay angled toward the sidewalk. It rested against a streetlight, half of one of its panels caved in. Bisecting it was an overturned Land Rover, its roof crumpled under its weight.
The street was empty, the cops maintaining a by-the-book two-block radius from the site. All the buildings and stores in a one-block radius had been evacuated, though most were empty already due to the hour.
Twenty-seven-year-old Maxine Cole showed up while her boss was still studying the scene. Her press pass was swung onto her back—where the camera wouldn't hide it—and her video camera was already hoisted onto a shoulder, floodlight on. Of Somali descent, she was a tall, city-born triathlete and one of the best hose-n-go shooters Jack had ever known. She wet-kissed everything with her camera, missed nothing, and made editing a breeze.
"Sorry I'm late," she said. "Cops at the outside barrier didn't want to let me through. I tried calling you but couldn't get a signal."
Jack lowered the field glasses. "They've activated a cell phone jammer. Standard precaution."
"Oh. Right. Duh," she said as she shot.
Jack gestured toward the overturned vehicles nearly a block away. "The money shot is at the rear of that Land Rover. Can you manage it?"
"Not from this angle."
He turned to Drabinsky. "Can we go closer?"
"Only if you're suicidal. We're sending in the BDR."
As if on cue, the rear doors of a newly arrived van flew open and one of Drabinsky's men climbed out, put down a ramp, and started playing with the joystick in his hands. Jack saw a bright white light, heard a soft electronic whir as the bomb disposal robot glided out of the van and down the ramp toward the blacktop, looking like a RoboCop prototype on steroids.
Max got some footage of it making its descent. "So what's the story here? Somebody said something about a carjacking."
"Carjacking that went a little south," Jack told her.
"Some fool EMTs went in and got him," Drabinsky said. He had been pacing back and forth, eyeballing the crash. "They've got him at General. I don't know anything else. One of the medics also tried to pull the tag number off the Rover, but it was buried in the bread truck."
"They get anything at all from the car?" Max asked. Her questions weren't just for her own information; she was running sound and the bites were often invaluable.
"You mean about the owner?" Drabinsky asked.
"That—or anything else."
He shrugged. "If they have, no one's told me. We're just the garbage collectors. Last to know unless it blows, as we say."
"Charming," Max said.
Drabinsky gestured to a portable computer stand where a laptop had been set up. They walked over, Max following everything through the eye of her camera. The screen showed the view from a small video camera mounted on the robot.
"We use the robot to tell us what we're up against. If it's the real deal, we either blow it or I go in with the suit to disarm the thing."
"What's the deciding factor?"
"Size. We'd just as soon not take out half a city block if we can help it. If that thing is too big to blow, I have to break out my suit and get all Hurt Locker on it."
Excerpted from Abuse of Power by Michael Savage. Copyright © 2011 Michael Savage. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Dr. Michael Savage is a multimedia icon in the conservative movement. The Telegraph in the U.K. ranked him as one of the most influential conservatives in the United States, and with 10 million weekly listeners, the Berkeley Ph.D. is the third most listened-to conservative talk-show host. Recently featured in The New Yorker and Playboy, Dr. Savage is the author of twenty-five books, including four New York Times bestsellers. His media presence and profile earned him the coveted Freedom of Speech Award from Talkers magazine in 2007.
Dr. Savage holds a master's degree in medical botany and a second in medical anthropology. Additionally, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in epidemiology and nutrition sciences. He is an ardent conservationist, is dedicated to his family, and is a proud patriot of his country.
Visit his Web site at www.michaelsavage.wnd.com.
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