Terrorism became personal for Mike Walton on his last missiona mission that resulted in triumph...and devastating tragedy. Now the stakes have been raised again.
Mike and his wife Lisaboth covert assets of the International Market Stabilization Institute, a privately funded organization operating outside official channels to protect North America's financial interestsare sent to Russia after an attempt on their superior officer's life. It is a mission fraught with peril and one that becomes exponentially more dangerous when their covers are blown within hours of setting foot in Moscow. Now, they are being hunted down by the Sheik, the terrorist mastermind behind the kidnapping of Mike’s father, Ray Powell, and to the treachery that turned Mike and Lisa's lives upside down.
To make matters worse, there are clues that Biopreparatthe former Soviet Union biological warfare agencyhas been resurrected and is about to launch a strike against the United States. This forces Mike and Lisa to make the most difficult choice of all. With Ray Powell's life hanging in the balance, and the slightest mistake potentially igniting the next World War, nothing is what it seems.
And the line between friend and foe is blurring.
A stunning experience by one of the hottest voices in thriller fiction, A Red Dotted Line takes readers on an unforgettable ride.
PRAISE FOR SIMON GERVAIS' INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER THE THIN BLACK LINE:
"Realistic, vivid, dramatic, this is a story told by someone who knows what he's talking about. I offer a bow to this exciting debut and to the newest member of the thriller-writing community. Make a note: in the years ahead Simon Gervais is a name you'll be seeing on many more book covers.” – Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author
“When Simon Gervais writes about the world of high-stakes global security, he knows what he's talking about. His world-class security expertise shines through in THE THIN BLACK LINE, a high-speed, break-neck, turbo-charged thriller that takes readers behind the scenes of the war on terrorism." – David Morell, New York Times bestselling author
"THE THIN BLACK LINE is a refreshingly smart and blisteringly original tale that's equal parts financial thriller and cat-and-mouse game with the survival of the United States economy hanging in the balance. Simon Gervais puts his own law enforcement background to solid use in hitting a home run his first time at the plate. A major debut that places him on the level of Nelson DeMille and Brad Thor." – Jon Land, USA Today bestselling author
“THE THIN BLACK LINE takes a fascinating look into Canada's covert operations, complemented by loveable and heroic characters you will find yourself rooting for. For a thrilling spring read, check out The Thin Black Line!” – Ottawa Life
About the Author
Simon Gervais is a former federal agent who was tasked with guarding foreign heads of state visiting Canada. Among many others, he served on the protection details of Queen Elizabeth II, US President Barack Obama, and Chinese President Hu Jianto. He has also protected the families of three different Canadian prime ministers. Prior to this, Gervais spent five years in an anti-terrorism unit and was deployed in many European and Middle Eastern countries. He now writes full-time and is a member of the International Thriller Writers organization. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children. He is the author of one previous novel, the international bestseller The Thin Black Line, and the novella A Long Gray Line. He is currently at work on his third Mike Walton thriller, which The Story Plant will publish in spring 2018.
Read an Excerpt
A Red Dotted Line
By Simon Gervais
Studio Digital CT, LLCCopyright © 2016 Simon Gervais
All rights reserved.
IMSI Headquarters New York City, NY
Zima Bernbaum threw up a little bit in her mouth.
"Did you hear what I just said, Zima?" Charles Mapother asked.
Zima met his gaze. Mapother, like a stereotypical Zurich banker, was dressed in a custom-made Armani suit. His deeply tanned skin contrasted with the full head of silver hair he had combed back. His deep blue eyes, she knew, didn't miss much.
"Zima? Are you with me?"
"What do you mean I didn't make it?" she asked just loud enough to be heard by Mapother. The taste of her own bile in her mouth disgusted her. Get a grip, Zima.
"I'm sorry; you just weren't good enough," Mapother said, reading the final report his trainers had forwarded him the day before. "You missed too many benchmarks."
"I left CSIS for this job," she said, anger creeping into her voice when she thought about the chance she had taken leaving the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. "You know I can't go back."
Mapother closed the report and pushed it back toward the middle of his desk. "You knew the risks involved, Zima. The deal was that you had to go through the same training the others did last year. They were successful; you weren't."
Zima sank back in her chair, frustrated. She had sacrificed so much, had gambled everything. And now she had nothing to show for it.
Emotionally and physically, the last eight weeks had been the toughest of her life. The first four weeks, eighteen-hour days filled with weapons manipulation drills followed by geopolitics and foreign languages classes, had drained her energy. The next two had nearly killed her. The bruises all over her well-toned, five-foot-seven-inch frame were a testament to the countless hours spent in the dojo with Greg, the in-house Krav Maga expert. But it was the last two weeks — the ones spent learning a dozen ways to kill someone without leaving a trace — that had altered her forever. There was simply no way a sane human being could go through this training without suffering a psychological backlash. Fully aware of the potential repercussions it might have on her life, she had held nothing back and given her all. The worst thing about all of this was that she'd convinced herself that she was doing okay.
Heck, I thought I was doing great!
Two months ago, she had left her job as a CSIS operative to join the International Market Stabilization Institute — IMSI — following the successful takedown of a terrorist cell in Edmonton, Canada. As a privately funded organization run by Charles Mapother, the IMSI could do things that government agencies just couldn't. Her friend Lisa Walton, who was a trained emergency physician, and Lisa's husband Mike were part of the IMSI. They were field operatives, or "assets" in the IMSI's jargon. They had gone through the same training she just did.
They did better than me, obviously.
It wasn't difficult to understand why Mike had aced everything. He always did. A former Canadian Special Forces officer and Royal Canadian Mounted Police counterterrorism specialist, Mike was used to these sorts of things. But Lisa? Even though Lisa had done her medical training with the military, Zima didn't believe Lisa had any real experience handling a gun or shooting at a live target. One that fires back, that is.
How the hell did she pass the IMSI training? It doesn't make any sense! How come I failed and she passed? Not that I'm better than her ... Actually, yes I am. For this type of work, I'm the best.
Charles Mapother must have known what she was thinking because when she looked at him, he was smiling.
"Oh, you bastard," she said, her voice a mixture of frustration and relief.
"Don't doubt yourself again, Zima," Mapother said, rising from his chair. "You passed everything with flying colors. Welcome to the team."
She rose, too. They shook hands. "Thank you, sir."
"You earned your place, Zima," Mapother said. "Glad to have you aboard. Now, let's celebrate."CHAPTER 2
Grand Central Station, New York
Mike Walton laughed out loud. His wife Lisa, seated next to him, did the same. So much so that water came out of her nose. That made Mike laugh even harder.
"I can't believe you did that to Zima, Charles," he said, after he had regained control of his breathing.
"I knew he was kidding," Zima replied before Mapother could chip in. "I didn't believe it. Not for a second."
Mapother coughed, and then said, "If you say so, Zima."
"What are you talking about?" Zima said between sips of her Chardonnay. "I was playing along, that's all."
"Sure you were, dear friend," added Lisa. "But that doesn't matter one bit; you're in now."
"Cheers to that," Mike said, raising his glass. The others did the same.
When Mike's eyes met his wife's, he smiled. So much had changed in the last two years. The tragedy they'd faced should have been enough to tear them apart. And it almost did. But they had regrouped, found a common goal, and moved on. That didn't mean he didn't think about the terrorist attacks that had wiped out most of his family.
Far from it.
The gentle spirit of his two-year-old daughter Melissa visited his dreams almost every night as a stark reminder. Killing the Sheik, the murderer who'd orchestrated the attacks, was the first thing he thought about every morning. He wouldn't say that to anyone, not even to his wife, but recently, his thoughts about killing the Sheik weren't limited to simply putting a bullet in his brain. He aspired to skin him alive. He wanted the Sheik to feel the pain he had inflicted on his family.
Mapother's voice brought him back to the present. "Did you decide on your main course?"
"Not yet," Mike said, chasing the images of the Sheik out of his mind.
The four of them were having lunch at the Oyster Bar. Located inside Grand Central Station, it was Mike's favorite oyster place and the oldest business within the terminal. He had discovered the restaurant years ago while staying at the nearby Grand Hyatt during a training exercise between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — the Canadian federal police service — and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He loved the Guastavino tile vaults and the old-school charm of the restaurant. It was always buzzing with people, it was loud, and the waiters did their best to provide pleasant and prompt service. The restaurant had a killer clam chowder, and the oysters were always fresh and tasty. Mike made a point of having lunch here at least once a month. Sometimes more. Plus, they had his favorite beer, Chimay Red, a high-end, dark-brown Belgian beer with a sweet and fruity aroma he couldn't resist.
A few tables over to their right sat a tall, broad-shouldered black man wearing a tailored gray suit. His name was Sam Turner. Turner was charged with the personal protection of Charles Mapother, and Mike knew him as a loyal and capable operative. Mapother had handpicked Turner, a former member of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, to be his personal bodyguard after Turner had sustained a back injury during an FBI training exercise.
The waiter, a thirty-something named Chuck, brought their appetizers. He put a huge portion of Cajun-style fried popcorn shrimp in the middle of the table next to a bowl of broiled Blue Point oysters. Chuck took their entrée orders before disappearing again.
Mike made sure the plates were passed around and that everyone had served themselves before digging in. In his opinion, the smooth and meaty texture of these particular oysters placed them in a category by themselves, but they really became divine with a touch of anchovy butter melted on top. Mike was about to taste his first oyster when his smartphone vibrated inside his jacket pocket. It was Jonathan Sanchez, the IMSI's newly appointed second-in-command and a longtime friend of Mike's.
"This better be good, buddy," Mike said. "I'm about to indulge ..."
"It is," Sanchez interrupted. "We've heard from the Syrians. They have your father."
Mike stopped breathing. Dad. The oyster he was holding in his left hand fell onto his lap, soiling his pants. His father, a former Canadian ambassador to Algeria, had been kidnapped by the Sheik three and a half years ago.
"That's what Charles told me almost three months ago," Mike said.
"I know, brother," Sanchez replied. "But this time is different. We got this tip directly from the White House."
Mike's mind was spinning with the implications. "You didn't tell him?" he asked.
"No, I wanted you to hear it from me first," Sanchez replied. "I'm calling him now."
Mapother had his eyes fixed on Mike. "Everything all right?" he asked, his mouth half-full with popcorn shrimp.
"Just pick up your phone, Charles," Mike said.
Mapother raised an eyebrow when his smartphone started vibrating on the table. He wiped his mouth with a napkin and tried unsuccessfully to remove the grease from his fingers before answering his phone.
"Okay, we'll be there shortly," Mapother finally said before hanging up.
"Are you still hungry?" he asked Mike.
"What do you think?" Mike replied, standing up. He left four twenty-dollar bills on the table. "Let's go."
His wife was looking at him, a question mark on her forehead.
"It's my father, honey," Mike said. "Jonathan got a tip from the White House. You guys can stay and enjoy yourselves. I'll call you if this is serious."
But the two women operatives were already grabbing their purses and coats.CHAPTER 3
Grand Central Station, NY.
Mike's mind was racing. His phone conversation with Jonathan Sanchez had only lasted a few seconds, and he couldn't wait to get back to IMSI headquarters to hear the rest of the story. Could this be it? The thought of seeing his father again was overwhelming. How would he react after all these years? So much had changed. For him and for his father.
Sam Turner was the first out of the restaurant's door. He kept it open for the others and took his position behind Mapother. With Zima and Lisa leading the way, they started on the ramp toward the upper level. Turner gave instructions to Mapother's driver, another former FBI agent named Frank, who was circling around the block in the modified black Yukon Hybrid Mapother used for transportation, to pick them up on 45th Street.
With people sprinting to catch their train, shoppers and diners converging in and out of the shops, and tourists taking pictures of the terminal's magnificent architectural details, Grand Central Station was a hectic place to be at this hour.
"We'll get him, Mike," Mapother said.
"I thought I had him four months ago. I'm not holding my breath," Mike replied. Four months earlier, he had led Lisa and Jasmine Carson, an IMSI support team leader, on a raid to seize and take control of the Sheik's mobile headquarters, an eighty-six-foot Azimut yacht located in Spain. He had been sure his dad was aboard the boat, but that wasn't the case. Instead, Alexander Shamrock, also known as Omar Al-Nashwan, murdered Jasmine Carson before Mike shot and killed him. To make matters worse, Mike discovered that Alexander Shamrock wasn't only a former US Special Forces officer; he was also the son of Steve Shamrock, a close friend of President Robert Muller and CEO of Oil Denatek, one of the larger publicly traded oil-and-gas companies in the United States.
"Did you hear from Richard Phillips?" Mike asked as they were reaching the main concourse. Richard Phillips was the director of National Intelligence and, with the president, one of the only bureaucrats to know the true purpose of the IMSI.
"They didn't find him."
Damn it. Following the raid on the Sheik's yacht and the death of Alexander Shamrock, Steve Shamrock had disappeared. That had made a lot of people nervous, including Charles Mapother. Steve Shamrock was one of the three billionaires who'd helped create the IMSI. Mike couldn't wrap his head around the reasons the oil executive had financed the IMSI if his plan had been to sink the United States all along.
"Maybe he's dead," Mike suggested. "The Sheik might have killed him."
"That would put many minds at ease," Mapother said.
"No, not mine, Mike. We have no idea what the Sheik knows about us. Are we compromised? What kind of intelligence did Steve Shamrock leak before he disappeared?"
"Did he have access to all of our classified information?"
"He didn't," Mapother said. "But he knew about the IMSI. He financed it, goddamn it!"
Mike opened his mouth to reply but just then Sam Turner's powerful voice reverberated through the main concourse, "Threat to the rear!"
Then the first shot rang out.
* * *
Louis Wall wasn't the best shot, but it was hard to miss when you were so close to your target. He had expected Charles Mapother to be alone. He wasn't. Big deal. He'd deal with Mapother first and if the others caused him any trouble, he'd deal with them, too.
Acquiring the Beretta 92 FS had been easy. Eight hundred dollars had been enough to convince a former contact to hand over his pistol. Two magazines of thirteen rounds were acquired for an additional two hundred dollars. A bit on the expensive side, but Wall didn't mind. He was a rich man now. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
Wall drew the Beretta from its holster and brought it up to eye level, its muzzle pointed at Mapother's back. That was when the tall black man walking behind Mapother turned around and scanned his rear. For a fraction of a second, they made eye contact and Wall hesitated. It was enough for the man to sidestep to his left, effectively blocking Wall's view of his target. The man yelled something unintelligible at the same time Wall pulled the trigger.
* * *
Mike Walton reacted intuitively. Pivoting toward the sound of gunfire, his left hand found the compact Taurus pistol holstered in the small of his back. By the time his eyes acquired his target, less than two seconds had lapsed since Turner's verbal warning. The man on the other side of his iron sight was built like a bulldozer. He was in a stable shooting position twenty meters away, and Mike could see the man's pistol go up and down as he fired rounds in quick succession.
No time to aim.
Mike's first round hit the man in the abdomen while his second shot nicked his shoulder. The man dropped his weapon and took a few steps back before collapsing. Mike scanned left and right, looking for more targets — difficult to do with all the commotion the firefight had generated. Suitcases and other luggage were left on the spot as their owners ran for their lives. A woman, standing next to a baby stroller, screamed at the top of her lungs.
Did a stray bullet hit her baby? Mike saw Zima sprint to her. He continued scanning but a pit formed in his stomach when he saw Sam Turner sprawled on the floor, blood pouring out from under him. Lisa was already next to him with Charles Mapother, dragging Turner to safety, out of sight. The man Mike had shot was now less than ten meters away. He moved and managed to get on his knees, his eyes searching for his weapon.
"Don't move! Police!" Mike yelled.
A shot was fired. Then another. The man yelled, his hands clutching his neck in a failed attempt to stop the bleeding.
There's another shooter! Friend or foe?
Mike dove to the floor and then rolled to his left just as another round ricocheted to his right.
Definitely not friendly.
Where was the shooter? There were still dozens of people left in the terminal. Some had found concealment while some others simply lay down on the floor with their hands on their heads.
There. On the East Side balcony, right under the Apple Store, a short man with a gray hood jumped the last few steps and dashed toward the Lexington exit. It was hard to say from this distance, but the man seemed to be holding a small submachine gun.
Mike looked behind him. Lisa, Mapother, and Turner were nowhere in sight. Zima had grabbed the baby from its stroller and was running back toward the restaurant, the toddler's mother in tow.
Satisfied that Sam Turner was in the capable hands of his wife, Mike sprinted across the main concourse in pursuit of the man who had just shot at him.
Excerpted from A Red Dotted Line by Simon Gervais. Copyright © 2016 Simon Gervais. Excerpted by permission of Studio Digital CT, LLC.
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