The Towers: A Dan Lenson Novel of 9/11by David Poyer
After surviving the attacks on September 11, 2001, Dan Lenson finds himself quickly drawn into a covert SEAL team in search of the terrorists responsible. Their mission: kill Osama Bin Laden.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Commander Dan Lenson is visiting the Pentagon, and his wife is at a job interview at the/b>/i>… See more details below
After surviving the attacks on September 11, 2001, Dan Lenson finds himself quickly drawn into a covert SEAL team in search of the terrorists responsible. Their mission: kill Osama Bin Laden.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Commander Dan Lenson is visiting the Pentagon, and his wife is at a job interview at the World Trade Center. In the action-packed scenes that follow, Dan fights his way through flames and destruction to safety, and tries to reach his wife on her cell phone, but the terrifying few seconds before they're cut off do nothing to calm his fears.
Dan immediately becomes involved in the military reaction to the attack. His SEAL team is assigned to Task Force Rhino, a mission that takes him to Afghanistan and the borders of Pakistan in order to hunt down, capture, or kill Osama bin Laden and other senior members of the Taliban government and al Qaeda leadership.
The 13th Dan Lenson novel, The Towers is a fascinating, accurate depiction of the events of September 11 and the military response, informed by sources in the Navy, the SEALS, the NCIS, and the author's own military experience. Full of fast-paced sequences and heart-pumping drama, David Poyer takes the reader into the center of the action and face-to-face with the terrorist enemy.
After barely surviving the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, and having his wife maimed while escaping the attack on the World Trade Center, U.S. Navy officer Dan Lenson reconsiders retiring and becomes embroiled in the search for Osama bin Laden.
Poyer, who has drawn on his considerable experience as a naval officer in crafting the popular Lenson series (The Weapon, 2009, etc.), likely had no reason when he was writing this book to believe it would be upstaged by the actual discovery and disposal of bin Laden. That Obama administration triumph unavoidably takes some of the edge off this story. But plot isn't what drives the bookas much as procedure. It still succeeds as a detailed examination of how the government and the military work together, or don't, in such pressure-backed situations—and in such hostile territory as the frigid expanse of Afghanistan, urban Bagram and pre-revolt Yemen. Poyer couldn't be more authoritative in imparting chains of command, strategy, weaponry and terrain. On September 10, 2011, Lenson is in the Washington suburbs licking his wounds, having been passed over for captain despite his Navy Cross and Silver Star. His superiors don't like his independent streak. Former SEAL sniper Teddy Oberg is in Los Angeles, having left the Navy to produce war movies. The 9/11 attacks draw both men back to the Middle East. Meanwhile, federal special agent Aisha Ar-Rahim, an Arab-American working counterterrorism in Yemen, discovers the racial stereotyping she had to deal with a day earlier are nothing compared to the nastiness after 9/11.The book is short on suspense, and the opening descriptions of the World Trade Center disaster add nothing to our understanding. But with its sure characterizations and blow-by-blow descriptions, it does a great job putting you in the middle of the action and conveying the vast odds against military success in Afghanistan.
An involving, skillfully told tale of the after-emotions of 9/11 and the internal conflicts experienced by U.S. personnel in the hunt for bin Laden.
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A Dan Lenson Novel of 9/11
By David Poyer
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2011 David Poyer
All rights reserved.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 5:15 A.M., ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA
IT was still dark. Yet not so long before sunrise that Dan couldn't make out the trees through the window by the breakfast table. The back of the house overlooked the creek that ran through the ravine above which the home had been built.
They lived across the river from Washington, in the suburbs that had grown up along the Metro. A brick colonial with flagstone walks and three bedrooms and a family room in the basement, though they didn't really have a family, aside from his daughter. Nan was grown up now, in grad school. Maples and elms and yellow poplars shaded the lawn. Blair had furnished it, mostly from the antique shops she made him stop at whenever they drove east to visit her parents. Other pieces were from her family's estate, things her mom and dad had let go when they'd redecorated.
A far nicer home than he'd grown up in, and it felt strange having so much room, so many things he didn't need. But when he felt this, he reminded himself of those who'd sacrificed so much so he could have this excess, this luxury, this safety. He still kept a pistol in the house, but didn't need it in arm's reach anymore.
"They really want you there this early?" he asked his wife.
Blair sipped coffee and looked at her watch. She was in a severe suit and black pumps. A light coat hung over the back of her chair. "They want me at National at six sharp. But I won't be flying commercial."
Dan grinned. She always called it National, never Ronald Reagan. "Charter?"
"Their own jet. A limo'll meet me at JFK."
"Sweet. And — when'll you be back?"
"Day after tomorrow. Maybe I'll see a show, if I can get tickets."
They drank coffee and gazed out the bay window at the backyard. The hollyhocks and peonies were long gone, the four-o'clocks wouldn't open till afternoon, but the white blooms of nicotiana seemed to glow even in the half dark.
"What are you doing today?"
"Headed in to the Building. See a classmate. Then I'm supposed to look in on Barry Niles."
She wrinkled her nose. "The one who shot you down for your promotion?"
Dan shoved eggs around on his plate. No one was guaranteed promotion, especially at the O-6 level. But he'd hoped. "He didn't shoot me down."
"Oh, he stacked the deck. With the other admirals on the board. He's always spoken against you, right? Kept you from getting another command, after Horn?"
"The proceedings are sealed."
"Dan, you're the most decorated officer in the Navy. Navy Cross. Silver Star. And the Congressional, for God's sake. You've pulled their chestnuts out of the fire time and again. And they pass you over for captain." She raised a finger. "Wouldn't have happened if I was still at OSD."
"That would not have helped. The Navy keeps outsiders out of promotion. SecNav, just maybe. SecDef, no." But he kept his tone nonargumentative.
Blair had taken the November election hard. It meant she was out in the cold; a new administration, a new party in charge. That was why she was going to New York.
"What precisely do these Cohn, Kennedy guys do, again?"
"I told you. Global financial services. Specialized equity and capital markets for institutional clients. Real estate private equity." She eyed him humorlessly. "None of which means squat to you, right?"
"It sounds like ... it should pay."
"Oh, it will, Dan. I could cubbyhole at SAIC until the next election, but this'll build our net worth. We may not see much of each other, unless you decide to come to New York with me. But we'll come out of it with significantly enhanced personal value."
"You're sure they're hiring?"
"Good people are always hard to get," she said without a trace of modesty, false or otherwise. "How much longer do you have? Now you've been passed over?"
"June fifteenth is my punch-out date."
"Have you thought about my suggestion?"
She'd told him to call his old teacher Dr. Edward Ferenczi, the new president's national security adviser. Which would make it interesting, Dan working for one party while she was biding her time waiting to come back with the other. "I don't know. I'm still thinking about it."
"Don't wait, if you want a responsible position." Her tone was tentative, as if she didn't want to jab a tender place. "Good God, is that the time?" She grabbed her coat, kissed his cheek, gave his chest a quick raking scratch through the open bathrobe. "See you Thursday."
He was about to let her go with that, but something made him get up. A faint unease out of nowhere. "I'll go to the door with you."
The garage door groaned as it rolled up. He eyed the chains, thinking, grease. He caught her smile, a lifted hand as she backed down the drive, then craned around, checking her six before rolling out into the street. A pale rose glow fanned slowly out beyond the trees, like a peacock's tail.
When she was gone he stripped the plastic wrapper off the Post, looking at the weather first. Clear skies; she should have a nice flight. The headlines. The new SecDef had declared war on bloat at the Pentagon. He was trimming the staff fifteen percent to start with and twenty percent more in a year. Page two, more criticism of the new missile defense program. He read this article to the end.
Judges and prosecutors were being murdered in Colombia. NATO was pulling out of Macedonia amid predictions of sectarian massacres. He shuddered, remembering a concrete shed filled with corpses, the buzz of fat flies nestling into mutilated eye sockets. When the Balkans went, they went all the way, tumbling straight through war into the abyss of savagery. More deaths in Iraq too.
He lifted his gaze, thoughts freezing behind gray eyes. Whatever he read, faces floated up. Images, smells, tastes of numb terror and desperate hope and, sometimes, incredible heroism.
He'd worn a uniform since he'd been seventeen. The Navy had been home, career, profession ... everything. But it ate its young. Destroyed marriages. Relationships. The years had shot past one after the other at sea, or busy ashore. He'd done everything he'd set out to do. Even commanded a destroyer, though not for long enough.
You could stay in for a few years, after being passed over. But what was the point? Might as well do desk work somewhere they'd actually pay. Maybe not as well as they were going to pay Blair, but better than the Navy.
The trouble was, he'd never wanted to do anything else.
3:15 A.M., PCT, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Theodore Harlett Oberg jerked awake, knowing as he did it was going to be bad. Another shit night. He stared up into the glowing dark and blotted his slick face with the sheet.
Fuck, he thought. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
It was Sumo again. Not the only dream he had over and over, but in some ways the worst. He rolled his head to see if he was alone. Someone lay next to him. The starlet. The blonde. Laurne? Loreet? Not Loreeta. Loreena? Something that sounded like cheap cheese. He listened to her breathing. Asleep. Fuck her. Obviously he had, but what else? He'd promised himself before the party he wasn't going to drink. But by the way his mouth felt ... actually he couldn't remember. Like a black sheet over everything. Which couldn't be good.
He inspected the hump again. No, Loreena had left weeks ago. This couldn't be her. Well, didn't matter. Long as it wasn't a guy. Then it'd be time to reach for the Mossberg under the bed. Nibble on some double ought.
He turned the satin sheets back and slid out. Padded to the window, the hand-laid tile cold against his bare soles.
His grandmother had bought land on Lookout Mountain after Clara Bow and Harry Houdini but before the cookie-cutter developments with hokey names like Dona Lisa or Zeus Drive had bookended Laurel Canyon. Somehow this little pocket from the twenties and thirties had stayed almost unchanged, a throwback to the hip, cool, funky days when his mom used to see Jim Morrison and John Holmes at the Canyon Store. Back then the guy who ran it was named Bill, and many, many deals had been made at the pay phone in front. Teddy and his friends, kids then, used to sneak into Frank Zappa's yard and light fires behind the log cabin. There were still stars and musicians around — Jennifer Aniston, Marilyn Manson — but now the Canyon was all fences and development, retaining walls gradually obliterating the chaparral-dotted gray of the slopes like concrete mold. The glow from the city was bright as dawn at midnight.
But he still had two acres of dense chaparral, and the tunnels under it he'd used to play in. A carport, down by the access road, with low-water plantings. A pool, though it was covered now. The house looked down from under huge live oaks, and standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows that had been the wonder of the architectural magazines back in the forties, Teddy reached behind the drapes until his fingers brushed the flash hider of the full automatic M4 he'd left leaning where glass met brick. The drapes stank of mildew. His headache throbbed. Behind him the woman grunted, rolled over, and began snoring.
His chest rose and fell. He stared down at the shimmering glitter, the scattered house lights and moving headlights of Laurel Canyon. But he wasn't seeing it.
A green spheroid. His peripheral vision made it as a grenade.
And Kaulukukui gave him that look. "War's a motherfucker, ain't it?"
Yeah, Sumo. It's a motherfucker, all right.
But us ... we were supposed to be the meanest motherfuckers in the valley.
"You bastard," he muttered, wiping his nose on his hand. "You fat bastard."
The insurgents had pinned the SEALs in the kill zone. Four shooters, pushing muzzles over the catwalk so they could fire down without exposing themselves. He'd snap-shot back. Beside him Kaulukukui was hugging the wall, returning fire. Bullets ripped rock walls, spewing chips. Hot brass spun through the air. Dirt flew, and something hard cracked into his goggles.
"Obie! Y'in there?" The SEALs behind them, yelling past the machine gunner who'd cut them off.
"They got us stone, babe," Oberg had shouted back. "Set us up righteous. Some fucking assistance here!"
"Can't get to you, man. Got us cold."
Teddy groped for a grenade, then remembered: not even a flash-bang. Gone, used up fighting their way down from the roof to assault the hide site of the man behind this whole insurgency. Or so Higher'd said.
A shooter stuck his Kalash over the railing and emptied it like a garden hose. A bullet clipped Teddy's boot, another his harness. "Shit," he'd muttered, backing toward a corner as he kept the front sight on the balcony, waiting for the next weasel. "Pop the fuck up, fuckers." But they didn't, just kept sticking rifles over the rail and spraying lead. Sooner or later —
He'd been slamming in another mag when something flew down. It struck the ground and took a lopsided bounce. A green spheroid. His peripheral vision made it as a grenade at the same moment it struck the wall beside him.
It rolled, spinning, and rocked to a halt midway between him and his partner. The drill was to duck or roll, but there was nowhere to go. Or kick it away. But there was nowhere to kick it to. This whole end of the room was open ground.
His eyes had met Kaulukukui's across four feet of space. And the big Hawaiian said, "War's a motherfucker, ain't it?"
Before Teddy could react, he stepped over it and crouched, putting himself between Teddy and the grenade.
"No! Sumo —"
The shattering crack of high explosive. Kaulukukui had shuddered. Half-turned, a smile still curving his lips.
Then he'd toppled, exposing the raw bleeding mass that had been his back.
Shuddering, Teddy drew clawed fingers down his cheeks. Over the ridges of old scars. The cool air crawled over his skin like leeches in a Mindanao rain forest. He turned on a heel and walked naked into the next room, then down flagstone steps. A light glowed over the bar, in front of another floor-to-ceiling window. The bottle's neck rattled on the glass as he poured Grey Goose. His mouth felt stale and raw, his head slammed and his lips stung, but he got the first slug down.
He stood again before the lights, looking down. He knew this house. Had let go of that faux bamboo end table to take his first steps, or so his mother had always said. But he didn't belong here. He wasn't sure where the fuck he belonged.
"You got to catch up on your sleep," he told himself. "Important meeting this morning." He looked at the neon-circled clock over the bar. Three twenty-four.
The Movie. He'd left the SEALs to make it. A film that told the truth about combat, about men, about honor, about death. Not Sands of Iwo Jima, not Apocalypse Now, no heroes and no fools, just the sweat and blood and the kind of man it took and the kind it left once the fighting was over. He and Loki had hammered the script out over a year, endless meetings with the writers and the money people, Germans looking to move funds into the United States. He didn't understand it, but Loki said the European tax laws were such that even if you lost millions on the film, they made money anyway.
He'd said, Why do we need them? I can front this, mortgage the beach house and all that land. But Loki Dittrich had said no. Rule Number One: Never use your own money. Erase your risk. Get foreign distributors to cover half your production costs. She'd been his mother's friend. They'd gone to bed once, eons ago, "Just to get that out of the way," she'd told the then fifteen-year-old Teddy. She'd hooked him up with Breakbone Pictures. Found a million from a hedge fund. Teddy had called one of the guys who used to set fires with him — now an A-list agent — and they had Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell attached. Russell Crowe, a firm maybe. Teddy wanted Ridley Scott, but Loki said she wanted to do the financing first, have it wrapped up before they signed a director; that would give them leverage.
That was what the meeting was about: nailing down the Germans. They'd seen the script, made suggestions, read the rewrites. Now they were flying in. They'd meet in the garden of the Polo Lounge, to lock in the memorandum of understanding.
In Hollywood, it always came down to "credit" and "money." Since he didn't need the money, he wanted "A Teddy Oberg Production" above the title. Loki said it was outrageous to ask for it on his first film. But if he produced, it'd get made the way he wanted. If he let the money people drive the train, he might as well just pick up that Mossberg and see what an ounce and a half of buckshot tasted like.
He felt a small, distant thrill; almost the way a normal person might feel when it looked as if his movie, about combat and manhood and what it did to you when a friend died, might get made.
He picked up the bottle again. Weighed the glass in his hand, one of the heavy cut-glass tumblers his grandmother had served Cary Grant and Bette Davis out of. Discipline, he thought. Duty. Above all, teamwork. All those words pounded into you at Coronado.
But what about when the team was dead? Where did a guy go then?
The first words on-screen would be the names. The dedication.
Sweat broke out over his back. He looked at the tumbler again, forced his hand to put it down. Weighed the bottle too. Throw it through the window? No. No, Obie. Set it down too. Gently. There.
The bed creaked as it took his weight. The mattress stank of mold. He needed new furniture. Tear out the seventies shag. The woman flinched when he threw the covers off. Silvery hair. Smooth shining breasts. Large, dark nipples. Oh yeah. A songwriter; just another wannabe.
"Hey there," he said, and pushed her over on her back.
"I don't want to. You're too rough. I was asleep —"
"Nobody asked if you wanted to," he grunted, twisting a fist into her hair. Get them by the hair, they didn't fight long. Pulling her head back as his hand clapped between her legs and twisted. He set his knees and followed his fingers with his prick, driving it in with his full weight. She cried out and fought, striking his back with hard little fists. She connected with a lucky blow to his ear and he started to choke her, but restrained himself just in time.
Holding her down, his other hand over her mouth, Teddy Oberg plowed toward the only personal forgetting left. Knowing even as he triggered, pale neon lancing behind his eyes, that as soon as it was over, the images would return.
6:05 A.M., EST, PORTLAND, MAINE
Two Middle Eastern men check in to their flight to Boston, with a connection to LA. One, an Egyptian architect, sets off an automated screening system as a flight risk. Security holds his bags until they confirm he's actually boarded.
In Boston, one flier takes a cell call from a traveler at Logan waiting to board another aircraft. As he and other men check in for the next flight, the security system flags more of them. Again, the security people hold their bags. But they all pass through the metal detectors and security checkpoints and quietly enplane.
Excerpted from The Towers by David Poyer. Copyright © 2011 David Poyer. 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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