Read an Excerpt
24 Declassified: Storm Force
The following takes place between the hours of 5 A.M. and 6 A.M. Central Daylight Time
The Golden Pole, New Orleans On the third Saturday morning in August, with dawn breaking over New Orleans, CTU agents Jack Bauer and Pete Malo were staked out in an observation post across the street from a Bourbon Street strip club, waiting for a Venezuelan killer colonel to emerge from the love nest where he'd been spending the night with an exotic dancer.
Jack and Pete were top field agents for the Counter Terrorist Unit, a branch established in 1993 by the Central Intelligence Agency in response to the first bombing of the World Trade Center. Its mission was to deter and prevent acts of terrorism in the United States.
Jack Bauer was in his mid-thirties, athletic, blond, with a clean-shaven, agreeable face whose seeming openness was offset by a keen, restless, blue-eyed gaze. He was ex-Army, a former member of Delta Force.
Pete Malo was fortyish, of medium height, burly, with short-cropped black hair and a wide, thick-featured face and eyes so brown that they appeared black. He had a Navy background, having transferred out of the Office of Naval Intelligence some years ago to join CTU.
Ordinarily neat and clean in appearance, the two men now had a wan, wilted, hollow-eyed look, the result of having spent most of the night in the stifling hot box of the observation post, keeping watch on their quarry.
Colonel Martello Paz, a high-ranking hatchet man in the secret police apparatus of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, was a subject of intense and continuing interest to CTU,but he was not the subject of the two agents' ongoing surveillance. Their primary objective was to secure an interview with his paramour, dancer Vikki Valence.
Vikki kept an apartment on the second floor of the building housing the Golden Pole, the strip club where she headlined. The building fronted the north side of Bourbon Street. Vikki's apartment was on the long, east wall of the site, facing Fairview Street, a side street. She and Paz had been closeted there for some hours now.
The observation post was located on the opposite side of Fairview Street, facing the club. It was a tiny convenience store that had gone out of business several months ago and had remained empty ever since. A one-story, shotgun-shaped structure, it was one of a row of small, marginal shops and stores lining the west side of Fairview.
Bourbon Street lay at the heart of the French Quarter, a district whose high-ground location had spared it from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina several years ago. It was one of the first locales to make a comeback after the big storm.
Earlier, at a little past midnight on this Saturday morning, the area had been bustling with activity, its streets, squares, and sidewalks teeming with people looking for a good time.
At that time, Jack and Pete had been in a garbage-strewn alley, making a forced entry into the rear of the shuttered shop. Pete was a skilled lock picker, and with his pocket-sized case of specialized tools, it had taken him little more than a minute or two to unlock and open the back door.
The duo's arrival had gone unnoticed by all but the rats infesting the store, who had grudgingly given way to the intruders, squealing and chittering their resentment as they scurried into the corners, their red eyes glaring.
Inside, the shop had been picked clean down to the bare bones, long ago stripped of every item that could be pried off and carried away by repo men and thieving drug addicts. Electricity and water had both been shut off. The place was stark, dark, dirty, and stifling. But it made a good observation post.
Up front, a narrow street door stood beside a showcase window. The window was covered over on the inside with brown paper. The upper third of the door also featured a window, a square pane of reinforced glass that had been opaque with dirt. By tearing strategic holes in the window paper and rubbing some of the door pane clean, the agents had managed to provide themselves with solid sightlines on the street outside, allowing them to monitor it for relevant activity.
After that came the waiting, the long hours of the night watch.
At two A.M. a big black limousine with diplomatic plates had rolled up, parking in a yellow curb no-parking zone beside the club on the east side of Fairview Street. It had disgorged Colonel Paz and two bodyguards. Paz had gone inside the club just in time to catch Vikki's last set. Afterward he and the dancer had gone upstairs to her second-floor apartment, while his bodyguards waited outside, loitering around the limo while waiting for their chief to finish his dalliance.
Located on the Gulf Coast, New Orleans is generally hot and humid during the best of times. Whenever those times were, their opposite was now, in late August. The atmosphere on the street was not unlike that of a sauna, minus the health benefits.
Adding to the oppressive discomfort was the imminence of Hurricane Everette, a major storm several hundred miles out at sea whose present track was putting it on a collision course with the city.
It was worse in the observation post. The store's interior was greenhouse-hot, steamy, with moisture beading up on the windows. The agents' clothes hung on them like wet laundry, and every breath they drew caused them to break a fresh sweat.
Now, with night giving way to dawn, it could only get worse.
From time to time the two men spoke, soft-voiced. Now Pete Malo said, "The Colonel's making quite a night of it, the dirty so-and-so. He's up there in a cool, air-conditioned apartment with a hot blond, while we're stuck down here in this sweatbox."
"Let the good times roll," Jack said. "That's the city's official motto, isn't it?"24 Declassified: Storm Force. Copyright © by David Jacobs. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>