The Blue Widows (Ben Kamal and Danielle Barnea Series #6)by Jon Land
In today's terrifying new world, in which small groups of individuals with unlimited resources can wreak incredible havoc and catastrophe, the task of stopping them becomes all the more urgent and compelling. Jon Land's latest topical thriller finds Ben Kamal and Danielle Barnea facing just such a threat: an obsessed fanatic plotting nothing less than the total
In today's terrifying new world, in which small groups of individuals with unlimited resources can wreak incredible havoc and catastrophe, the task of stopping them becomes all the more urgent and compelling. Jon Land's latest topical thriller finds Ben Kamal and Danielle Barnea facing just such a threat: an obsessed fanatic plotting nothing less than the total destruction of America.
Danielle, now the head of Israel's National Police, still relies on her Palestinian-American partner, detective Ben Kamal, currently working for a private security firm in Boston. When a raid on a terrorist hideout in Gaza yields flame-charred pages written in Arabic, she sends the document to Ben for his inspection. Shockingly, his translation reveals that the pages are actually a fatwa, a religious edict, granting permission to bring about a biblical prophecy known as the End of All Things.
Layla Aziz Rahani, embattled daughter of a powerful Saudi Arabian billionaire, is the mastermind behind this insidious plot, whose apocalyptic scope and magnitude are almost beyond comprehension. Now Danielle and Ben, working both separately and together, must track Rahani along a deadly trail of shadows and subterfuge that spans three continents-before an ancient prediction becomes a very real and irreversible disaster.
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"Sweeps along at mach-Ludlum speed."-Kirkus Reviews on Blood Diamonds
"Blood Diamonds couldn't be timelier. [Land] deftly weaves a complex plot involving Palestinians, Israelis, Russians, South Africans, and none other than the world's number one terrorist, Osama bin Laden, into a fascinating thriller."-Providence Journal
"Land packs a load of info and action into his fifth thriller. . . . Kamal and Barnea [are] touching and accessible characters. . . . There are also some sharp political insights into how prospects in the Middle East have deteriorated."-Publishers Weekly on Blood Diamonds
"Jon Land shows a true feel for detective work and the irony of pursuing elusive principles of justice in a region torn by ancient strifes. . . . But Land has grander designs for his story, which whisks off to Rome and turns into a full-bore thriller involving secret armies and a 2,000-year-old conspiracy. Land is comfortable on this turf, too, bringing a terrible conviction to the religious war he envisions."-The New York Times Book Review on A Walk in the Darkness
"Ben Kamal is rapidly becoming one of the best and most unique crime serial characters in all the genre. . . . A Walk in the Darkness is even more slick and tight than its predecessors."-The Boston Book Review
"The trail is as a torturous as a John LeCarré tale. . . . Land's writing is slick and the action is swift."-The Denver Post on The Walls of Jericho
"Better than anything by Tom Clancy."-The Hartford Courant on The Walls of Jericho
"The fuse is burning, and the Middle East is ready to explode in this gripping roller-coaster ride of crime and intrigue . . . has the impact of a punch to the solar plexus."-Stephen Coonts on The Walls of Jericho
Read an Excerpt
The Blue Widows
By Jon Land
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2003 Jon Land
All rights reserved.
Danielle Barnea felt the submachine guns clacking against her as she ran through the woods.
Bramble scraped at her face. Exposed roots and fallen logs tried to trip her up, but she rushed on through trees wet with the residue of a quick-moving storm.
She had no firm plan of action set in her mind. She had earlier committed to memory the plans of the People's Brigade compound in the central-Idaho community of Pine Valley on Heydan Lake. The best way of getting inside without being detected, she had noted, was through a culvert, a long drainage pipe that bypassed the security sensors, trip wires, and booby traps that otherwise dotted the woods surrounding the compound. The culvert originated within the barbed-wire security fence, so that once inside Danielle would have only perimeter guards to contend with.
"America's lost her fucking spine," came a voice through her headset, which she recognized as that of Hollis Buchert, leader of the People's Brigade. "You think the government would have learned from 9/11, but it hasn't learned a goddamn thing. So you know what, son? If Washington can't do the job, then we will. Gonna teach this country a lesson she'll never forget. That why the FBI sent you to snoop around here? "
"I told you," she heard Ben Kamal's voice insist. It sounded raspy and nasal, as if his nose had suffered the first brunt of Hollis Buchert's ire. "I'm not working for —"
A heavy whapping sound ended Ben's words.
"We don't like Arabs and we don't like liars and you're an Arab liar, son. Means we'll have to kill you twice. Or make the first time last twice as long. You from the F, B, I?" the man repeated, drawing out the letters.
"Because word is they've been trying to set us up. Why, I've even heard it told they got somebody on the inside. Maybe trying to learn something, you ask me. Shit, can you believe that?"
The whap! that followed sounded like a strap striking flesh.
Danielle shuddered and quickly checked her watch. The interrogation was eleven minutes old. She wondered how much time she had left before Hollis Buchert tired of the process and simply used his gun.
Hold on, Ben, she willed, picturing the man she had known for seven years and wondered if she could live without. Just hold on. ...
The assignment undertaken on behalf of their company, Security Concepts, had gone horribly wrong. Ben and Danielle had been retained by one of Detroit's most influential Arab businessmen, Victor Rantisi, to surveil the compound and provide proof that his kidnapped son was inside. Rantisi had sought out their private security agency after being repeatedly rebuffed by the FBI, settling upon Security Concepts specifically because an ex-Palestinian-American detective, Ben Kamal, was in the company's employ.
Danielle had been against the job from the start. Her missions for the elite Sayaret, the commando teams forming the Israeli Special Forces, had invariably been accompanied by firm intelligence on the positioning of targets. Not so this time. She loathed the notion of undertaking even a simple reconnaissance mission without intelligence on where the People's Brigade's guards were posted, or how many she and Ben would have to confront.
The plan was for her to infiltrate the lake side of the compound, while Ben entered from the land side to the north. She had just begun her sweep along the shoreline when Ben's jaw-mounted microphone broadcast the sounds of his capture. Fearful there would be too much open ground to cover from that point of entry, Danielle had looped around to the eastern side of the compound and located the culvert from memory, a bit distressed to find it was smaller than the scale map had indicated. She had no other choice but to shimmy inside on her stomach and pull herself along through the rank-smelling muck that had accumulated inside the pipe.
The culvert was no longer functional, just a leftover relic from a time when the People's Brigade's twenty-acre compound had been a farm. Danielle shifted her submachine guns so they rode atop her back, stilled now. But her pistol dug into her side and she tried to reposition it as well, to no avail. Fortunately she had clipped her knife sheath far enough back on her hip to keep it out of her way.
Reaching the other end of the culvert, she peered out and found herself just inside the tree line on the compound's eastern perimeter. She guessed the barbed-wire fence would be a hundred to a hundred and fifty feet back. Beyond her, trails sliced through the thick woods hiding the open stretch of land that led to the complex of buildings noted on her schematic.
No guard stood in her line of vision. Danielle pulled herself from the culvert and dropped in snakelike fashion to the moist ground, pushing forward until she heard the booted footsteps of the first guard patrolling. She stayed prone, camouflaged by a thick patch of brush adjoining the trail down that he was striding. An M-16 dangled from the guard's shoulder, too far from his grasp to cause Danielle much concern. His combat boots crunched the twigs and underbrush scattered along the path, and she waited for him to pass her position before lurching to her feet, knife in hand.
Danielle swept the blade forward at the same time she wrapped a hand around the guard's head, closing her palm over his mouth as she jerked the killing knife through his ribs into his heart. The man thrashed briefly, then stilled. Danielle lowered him softly to the trail and dragged him into a thick patch of underbrush, where his body was likely to remain hidden.
Her hand was soaked with the guard's blood and she wiped it off on her pants. The coppery stench hung with her as she dashed along the line of the trail, drawing deeper into the compound. The barbed-wire fence ran inward at an odd angle here, and Danielle found herself pressed against it briefly before the woods widened again and she heard a branch snap ahead.
A second perimeter guard stood facing away from her. A plume of smoke lifted over his head as he shook a match free and began puffing away on a cigarette. Drawing closer, Danielle could see he wore headphones over his ears, the muffled din of rock music wafting up lightly when she closed.
This guard's frame was slighter than that of the first, his fatigues a bad fit, as if he had not yet grown into them. She knew as she made her final lunge he was young, barely out of his teens. But the gun on his back and walkie-talkie clipped to his belt concerned her more. She had killed for the first time herself when she was not much older than he. Still she blocked his youth from her mind, focusing instead on Ben, whose plight denied her the luxury of conscience. Danielle used her hands this time, breaking the guard's neck. But she avoided looking at his face when she dragged him into the damp overgrowth that rimmed the fence line.
Danielle drew the first of her Heckler and Koch submachine guns around in front of her and made sure the silencer was screwed in properly. After so many years using an Uzi, the heft and added length of this gun discomforted her. But it was well balanced and carried a reputation of shooting truer at moderate distances than any other gun in its class.
She smelled wood smoke burning on the wind and angled toward it. She clung to the trees as much as possible, knowing she would have to take the next guards from a less comfortable distance.
The first one saw her an instant before Danielle saw him, M-16 leveled straight and ready instead of slung. But he hesitated for a second, and that was all the time she needed to fire a silenced burst into his chest. A mist of blood sprayed into the air, settling atop his body.
Danielle ran on, took the next two guards as they walked side by side. Her heart felt strangely quiet in her chest after the initial thundering against her rib cage. Her brain had settled in, found the zone she recalled so well from her tenure with the Sayaret.
As the woods dipped, Danielle found herself nearing a slight hill beyond which she could now see clouds of wood smoke floating into the sky. She heard voices, laughter, multiple footsteps slashing through the brush. Five men, maybe six or even more, lumbered unsuspectingly across the compound. Too many and too far away to rely on any submachine gun's limited range of accuracy. And she was out in the open, no viable cover to rely on before they crossed the ridge.
Danielle tossed her nearly spent Heckler and Koch to the ground and tore open her shirt to expose her sports bra. She staggered forward, moaning, muttering, clinging to branches to pull herself along when the men reached the crest of the hill.
"What the fuck," she heard one of them say.
Six, Danielle counted as she collapsed to her knees, making sure her second submachine gun was hidden behind her. The men above froze briefly before starting down the hill en masse. She whipped the second Heckler and Koch around the moment they drew within her killing range and emptied its clip into them.
Danielle slammed a fresh clip into the submachine gun and charged upward, the men's bodies tumbling past her to the foot of the hill. It dipped slightly at the top, offering a clear view of the buildings comprising the center of the People's Brigade's sprawling compound.
The farmhouse and barn were covered in weathered silvery shingles, standing out amid the dull brown bunkerlike buildings, barracks, and storage depots that were products of more recent construction. Danielle clung to the cover provided by the last of the trees, watching a few men in military uniforms traipsing about between buildings. She knew the bodies she'd left in the woods wouldn't go undiscovered for long, meaning she had to act fast. So she studied the activity coming to and from the various buildings, ultimately focusing on the barn, where three men stood before the heavy door as if to guard it.
THE STRAP had left Ben's jaw swollen, the teeth on the right side of his mouth loose, and one eye puffy and closing. Ben coughed and spit out blood. He closed his eyes and thought he might have passed out briefly. When he opened his eyes, Hollis Buchert was still standing before him. Buchert was short and stocky. He had a thick neck, straw-colored hair oiled to his scalp, and a face like worn shoe leather crisscrossed with prune-deep wrinkles. He was wearing jeans, boots, and an army fatigue jacket.
Buchert took a step forward and stooped down close enough for Ben to catch the stench of dried sweat rising off him. He grabbed a chair that was a twin of the one Ben was laced to, spun it around, and sat down leisurely. "See, here's the thing. You're gonna tell me what I want to know. Everybody I bring into this barn does. I'm making it my mission to send anybody the government sends after me back to them in pieces. Whether I do it while you're alive or dead, well, that's totally up to you."
Buchert dragged his chair a little closer.
"So what do ya say, son? How we gonna play this?"
Ben remained silent.
The wrinkles on Buchert's face seemed to stretch a little. "Ain't nobody coming to your rescue, son. You best put the possibility outta your mind. Only one thing you gotta concern yourself with now and that's how much you wanna take. You thirsty?"
Ben wet his lips.
"Yeah, you're thirsty all right."
Buchert drew a nine-inch hunting knife from a sheath on his belt and cut Ben free of the chair, though his arms remained bound. The man had an iron grip, his body hard and densely packed with muscle. Buchert effortlessly dragged Ben to the water trough and shoved his face down so it rode just over the ripples on the surface.
"Here, son, have a drink."
Buchert pushed his head under the water, Ben straining his neck to fight him, to no avail. His chest heaved and his lungs begged for air. His brain clouded up, felt as if it were going to explode, when Buchert jerked him back out. Ben gasped for breath, managed to catch it an instant before Buchert plunged him under again. He waited a little longer this time before yanking Ben back out and letting him catch his breath again. Rancid water pasted Ben's hair to his scalp. His stomach quaked. He retched and coughed up a stream of greenish trough water. Then he smelled Buchert's stench looming over him once more.
"Man," Buchert said, jerking Ben back into his chair, "you're a fucking mess. Washington oughtta be able to do better."
He launched a boot into Ben's chair and it tipped over backward. Ben's head smacked against the hard barn floor. A series of flashes exploded before his eyes. He was upside down, half in the chair and half out, arms still bound behind him.
The People's Brigade soldiers surrounding him laughed hard and kept laughing, until the gunshots sounded outside and suddenly the barn went dead quiet.
A MAN had emerged from the barn. Another had gone in. Danielle estimated there was a hundred feet of open ground to cover between the tree line and the barn. She waited until there were three men standing in view before she charged.
Danielle began her charge across the ground and opened fire the moment they spotted her. Her bullets punched them backward, and the barn door opened a crack from the force of one of them crashing into it. Danielle kept firing until the submachine gun clicked empty. Then she drew her nine-millimeter pistol and kicked the barn door open all the way, crouching as she entered and measuring her shots at shapes partially lost to the dim light of the barn.
A soaked figure stirred on the dusty brown floor near a trough of water.
Ben! she thought, as a shape near him lunged for a shotgun leaning up against a beam.
A fissure of dirt and wood burst up at her feet before she managed a shot, and Danielle spun to find a man steadying a hunting rifle on her from a raised perch in the loft above her. She fired at him fast, her first bullet missing, but her second taking the man in the leg and pitching him over the side.
She heard but never saw him land, swinging back just in time to see Ben, hands tied behind his back, slam into a man she recognized as Hollis Buchert an instant before Buchert managed to steady his shotgun.
Ben kicked his leg out and landed atop him. His wrists ached as he pummeled Buchert, his laced hands smashing into the leathery face now even with his.
"Ben!" he heard Danielle scream just before a fresh hail of fire from the doorway forced him to spin off the People's Brigade leader and roll for cover.
Across the barn, Danielle clacked off single rounds toward the new gunmen as she rushed toward Ben.
"Let's get out of here," she told him.
"Buchert," Ben gasped between labored breaths. "Where's Buchert?"
Danielle grabbed Ben by the sopping shirt and lifted him to his feet, pistol poised in her free hand. "I don't know. We can't worry about him now."
She sliced the rope binding Ben's wrists with her knife and led him through a side door. Behind them they could hear a commotion as more People's Brigade soldiers rushed the barn. Danielle tried to plot the best route back to the culvert, but any route in that direction would mean confronting the converging force head on. That left the Heydan Lake side of the compound, to the west, as their best option for escape, despite the stretches of open space with which they would have to contend.
Danielle had started to lead Ben in that direction when the first of the helicopters appeared overhead.
"Federal agents!" a voice hailed over an amplifier. "Drop your weapons!"
Some of the People's Brigade members began shooting up at the choppers, bullets dinging off their steel skin. The choppers fluttered into a rise while gunmen perched in the open cabin doorways returned fire. Danielle drew Ben away from the lingering sounds of the battle into the woods, which quickly gave way to thinner brush. She could hear the sound of water lapping at the lake's edge, mixed oddly with the heavy whir of helicopters flitting over the compound.
Excerpted from The Blue Widows by Jon Land. Copyright © 2003 Jon Land. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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Meet the Author
Jon Land is the acclaimed author of many bestsellers, including The Last Prophecy, Blood Diamonds, The Walls of Jericho, The Pillars of Solomon, A Walk in the Darkness, Keepers of the Gate, and The Blue Widows. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
JON LAND is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 37 novels, including Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), and Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller). He's a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
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Palestinian¿American detective Ben Kamal and former Israeli police official Danielle Barnea work in America for Security Concepts. A powerful Arab businessman hires the duo to extract his kidnapped son from the People¿s Brigade. The mission goes terribly wrong and to save Ben¿s life, Danielle is forced to kill a number of men including a FBI agent. Unable to stay in the country after that debacle, she accepts the post of Commander of Israel¿s National Police. Leading a raid on a terrorist enclave in Gaza, she discovers a document written in Arabic that she faxes to Ben in America for translation. They learn that it is a plan to bring about the bible prophecy to cause the end of all things. meaning the destruction of America. A supply of small pox is stolen from a military fort and ends up in the hands of the leader of the People¿s Brigade. Layla Aziz Rahani who is the daughter of a Saudi Arabian billionaire is the mastermind behind the plot to destroy America. Her plan is even more diabolical than what it first seems because she plans to unleash a biological weapons a million times worse than smallpox. When Ben and Danielle realize what her fiendish ploy is, they vow to stop her or die trying. Jon Land is an insightful, creative and colorful storyteller who has a grasp of the politics and the divisiveness that exist in the Middle East. Readers also gain a fascinating glimpse into the culture of Saudi Arabia as seen from the perspective of the women. THE BLUE WIDOWS is an action-packed provocative tale that has more curves than a twisted pretzel. The plot is action-pack and the two protagonists are easv to admire. Harriet Klausner