“Plenty to enjoy here.”—Booklist
A school under siege. A shooter in the classroom. An all too common American nightmare unleashed again. But this time, former Delta Captain Jake Mahegan happens to be on the schoolgrounds checking in on the daughter of a colleague. Instead he’s staring down a suicidal gunman rigged to blow. During the standoff another attack begins outside the school. The gunman goes down, Mahegan is knocked unconscious, and a twelve-year-old autistic girl is kidnapped. Mahegan knows his mission before the smoke clears, but where it takes him is unimaginable—deep into a widespread conspiracy that threatens the nation’s very core. Treason in the highest halls of government. And only one man is prepared to stop it—or die trying . . .
“Foreign and Domestic is absolutely fantastic . . . pulse‑pounding . . . a brilliant, cutting‑edge plot that will keep you on the edge‑of‑your‑seat until the very last page.”
—New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor
“Gripping and gritty.”
—#1 New York Times bestselling author Richard North Patterson
“Topical, frightening, possible, and riveting.”
—James Rollins on Sudden Threat
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Jake Mahegan saw the shotgun beneath the young man's coat, a Western-style duster that swirled in the fall breeze just enough for him to see the weapon's barrel.
Mahegan approached the elementary school building from the parking lot. The school had narrow rectangular windows that looked like firing ports in a German pillbox and dull red bricks that placed the structure in the forty- to fifty-year-old range. The aggregate on the full parking lot was showing through the asphalt like weatherworn pebbles in a mountain desert. There were three cracked and sinking sidewalks: one up the middle, where Mahegan was now; one from the right; and the other from the left, where the man with the shotgun was. Above him was a rusty corrugated metal awning, which led back to the parking lot.
The young man wearing the duster was moving quickly, with his eyes cast downward, perhaps believing that if he couldn't see anyone else, the inverse would be true. By his long, rapid strides, Mahegan could tell he had a clear objective in mind. Maybe it was to protect someone, but he didn't think so. While concealed carry was lawful in North Carolina, it wasn't lawful on school grounds. School systems in North Carolina banned any weapons on campus, unless, of course, someone chose to violate the law and shoot children.
Plus, Mahegan had seen this look a million times on crazed enemy combatants in too many countries to count. And while every foe with a weapon was different, they all seemed to possess the same inner fear cloaked like a thin veil in false bravado. Where some saw the confident warrior, he saw the fearful enemy, the man or woman scared of what he or she would do next but paradoxically still driven to perform the evil task.
Mahegan knew before reaching the door that this person intended to shoot people in the school, perhaps even children. When the young man looked up, Mahegan saw his eyes dart left and right. The shooter didn't notice Mahegan, at least not at first. And Mahegan was hard not to notice, not because he was special in any one way, but because he was almost six and a half feet tall and a Native American. Also, he was wearing board shorts, a wet rash-guard long-sleeve T-shirt, and slip-on Vans, not typical PTA attire.
Just before he had received the text message to come to the school, Mahegan had been at Wrightsville Beach, surfing a smooth five-foot swell with offshore winds. The ground swell was the leading edge of a push coming from a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. There was not yet any threat of landfall, so Mahegan and some others had enjoyed the silky waves. But the text had come as soon as he was out of the water. It was from a former Delta Force teammate, who wanted him to meet with Promise White, the daughter of one of their killed-in-action unit members. They had lost several good men in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his team had made a vow to always to take care of their own. That included families, who often bore the hardest burdens of combat.
Even though Mahegan was no longer in the unit, his responsibilities to his fellow operators and their families would live on as long as he did, even beyond that, as far as he was concerned.
No broken promise.
His buddy Patch Owens had texted Mahegan those words from Charlotte, North Carolina, as he was storing his surfboard at South End Surf Shop, across from Crystal Pier. Because that was their signal that Promise might need help, Mahegan had driven in his government-issued Cherokee SUV to rural New Hanover County, where she taught fifth grade. Mahegan hadn't seen her since her father's burial three years ago, when she was twenty-one. He first met her when she was a gangly fifteen-year-old kid back at Fort Bragg. Her dad, Thurgood "Judge" White, had been a longtime unit operator and was nearly twice as old as most of Mahegan's team. As a senior noncommissioned officer, Judge had been an informal leader of Mahegan's outfit, even though Mahegan had been a captain and the commander.
He had watched her grow up over the years, and when she'd broken down at Judge's funeral, she'd chosen Mahegan to latch onto and cry with. He hadn't minded, because it had given him an excuse to hold his emotions in check, something he had a hard time doing, especially when he was angry.
That image of Promise as a heartbroken twenty-one-year-old young lady about to graduate from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington was what Mahegan had had in his mind as he approached the school.
The kid walking fast with the shotgun poking at his duster looked in Mahegan's direction again. This time the presumptive shooter noticed him and quickened his stride. Mahegan got a better look at what he might be carrying when he saw the menacing front end of a sawed-off shotgun hanging just below his right hip. He must have had it slung over his shoulder beneath the coat.
On the shooter's left side Mahegan couldn't see anything but the possible outline of another weapon, perhaps a pistol. He did detect something heavy in the coat pockets, probably shotgun shells.
He was about twenty yards in front of Mahegan when he made the turn to the main door. As Mahegan began to run toward him, he wondered if the door was locked. Mahegan scanned the entryway and didn't see any PUSH TO TALK button on the side, and his concerns were confirmed when the shooter yanked open the green metal door, casting a glance at Mahegan over his shoulder as he sped up his pace.
Mahegan carried a Sig Sauer Tribal nine-millimeter pistol in his Cherokee, but the vehicle was fifty yards away, in the parking lot. He hadn't anticipated an active school-shooting scenario. For that, Patch's text would have included a different code phrase: en fuego, which is Spanish for "on fire."
As the shooter opened the door, Mahegan saw beyond him that teachers were leading lines of children in each direction. He remembered Promise talking about "specials," which meant art class, physical education, or music. The children were smiling and excited, so he guessed some of them were getting ready to go out for recess.
Mahegan caught up with the door before it closed, but the shooter already had the pistol and shotgun out from beneath his coat as he shouted, "Misha!"
He was aiming the weapons at the line of children when he whirled around and trained his guns on Mahegan.
"You don't want to do that," Mahegan said.
The shooter was sweating. Nervous. Beads of perspiration slid down his acne-scarred face like skiers navigating rough terrain. The kid was maybe twenty years old, possibly even went to the university in town. His hair was matted to his forehead, and Mahegan was looking for the tell that he was going to pull the trigger. He aimed a twelve-gauge shotgun and a nine-millimeter pistol at Mahegan's heart from a distance of fifteen feet. Five yards in a football game could be a long expanse. Mahegan wanted the shooter closer so that he could maneuver on him. Already the teachers had noticed the dangerous situation and had begun moving the children quickly in each direction. Mahegan heard some squeals and screams, but so far the teachers and students were acting professionally, as if they had rehearsed the drill.
"Seriously. Don't do it," Mahegan reiterated.
"Why not?" the kid asked and then snickered. "I'm the one with the big guns."
Mahegan's combat-honed gallows humor kicked in, and he thought, Obviously, he isn't looking at my arms, but the kid did hold a sawed-off shotgun in his right hand and a pistol in his left hand. On average, 80 percent of people were right-handed, and Mahegan figured the shooter held the heavier weapon in his dominant hand.
The shotgun had been badly sawed, as if the shooter had done it with a hacksaw the day before. Mahegan noticed its jagged edges. The metal was blue and scarred. The kid had sawed at an angle, as if the gun had kept moving away from him when he was doing the job. The barrel to Mahegan's right was about a half inch longer than the barrel on his left. It also had a slightly turned-in bevel across the opening of the bore. Didn't matter, he thought. The spray would be lethal at this distance.
As his mind raced with options, Mahegan considered that every second the shooter was staring at him was a second more that the children and teachers could escape to their safe rooms.
"What do you want here?" Mahegan asked.
The shooter's eyes scanned him. They flickered nervously without any pattern. He was conflicted. The long coat he wore looked new, as if he had bought it just for this mission. The pockets appeared full of ammo, and he was ready for slaughter. But he was nervous.
"I've gotta do this, man, so just get out of here!"
Then Mahegan noticed it. Beneath the shooter's sweatshirt was a layer of bulges that he had seen too many times on suicide bombers. He also saw a pair of flex cuffs zip tied awkwardly to his belt, their only purpose being to take a hostage.
"Who are they?" Mahegan asked. "Can they detonate you in here?"
The shooter looked at him with confused eyes, probably wondering how Mahegan knew, or guessed, that he was rigged with a bomb. The shooter was reluctant. If he had been eager to kill Mahegan, he would have already pulled the trigger.
In his periphery, Mahegan continued to watch the children and the teachers move swiftly and quietly, mouths open in silent screams. Ten seconds had passed, and that was ten seconds those kids didn't have before. Mahegan needed another ten. He asked him again.
"Who's controlling you?"
The shooter started shaking and opened his mouth. Mahegan was assessing him fully, watching his face, his hands, his eyes, his feet, and the tension in his neck. Just above his neck Mahegan saw the shooter had a nearly invisible wire leading to an earbud. Someone was talking to him.
"Ain't no one controlling me," he said.
That was when Mahegan knew the shooter had been told he had maybe thirty seconds to kill him and snatch whoever Misha was. Otherwise, everyone was going to die. The shooter needed to act before his handlers killed him by remotely detonating the bomb he was wearing. Mahegan imagined that the man initially had about five minutes total to do what needed to be done before the cops arrived. He was sure that every teacher and principal had dialed 911 and every law enforcement officer in the county was on the way.
And Mahegan wondered who Misha was and why she might be valuable as a kidnap target.
The macro problem, as Mahegan saw it, was that Promise worked in a small town in coastal North Carolina where the density of police officers was not what he would find in a big city, like Charlotte or Raleigh. He didn't hear any sirens yet, which made him think that perhaps this was a larger operation and there was a cell phone blocker turned on. Whoever was controlling the shooter might have been using a portable jammer that allowed transmission on the bandwidth he needed to detonate or talk to the shooter but blocked all other signals.
Mahegan saw the kid's face flinch and knew that he was about two seconds from being shot. The shooter had his duster, and Mahegan had his skintight rash guard and board shorts. His Vans had good traction on the freshly buffed floors.
Three things happened at once. First, Mahegan remembered his Slow is smooth; smooth is fast motto from his combat days and deliberately slid to his right, lowered his body mass, and closed the distance between himself and the shooter. All those actions were designed to avoid the more open barrel from the bad saw job, get below the upward kick of the gun, and make him react nervously. Mahegan didn't think the kid could shoot the pistol and the shotgun at the same time.
The shooter was not a trained marksman. In fact, it was clear he had not done this before. He was a one-and-done disposable killer, perhaps a kidnapper, being controlled by someone else.
Mahegan used a wrestling move he had learned in high school called a single-leg takedown. Usually, he started from two feet away, not fifteen, but Mahegan had a decent wingspan and began gliding along the slick waxed floor.
Second, in his periphery, Mahegan noticed Promise was running around the corner. Even with everything happening in front of him, seeing her brought every memory he'd ever had of her as she grew from a rebellious teenager to the beautiful young lady she was today. Slender and athletic, she was wearing a sleeveless top and a practical pair of slacks atop even more practical flats. Her black hair was bunched into her signature ponytail. She was carrying something in her hand. Dark skin covered finely honed arm muscles, which were flexing as she was lifting her arms.
Third, the shooter pulled the trigger as Promise shouted, "Jake!"
Mahegan felt the heat from the shotgun blast blow past his face. He had gotten far enough away from the muzzle alignment, and the shooter had jerked far enough to his right, a natural tendency for right-handed shooters, that none of the pellets found him.
Mahegan heard them smack into the metal door about the same time he heard Promise's pistol fire.
The shooter's head kicked forward, presumably from the bullet Promise had put there using the aim her father had taught her. Mahegan had the man's leg snatched tightly to his chest as he stood and lifted him from the floor. Unsure if his adversary was dead, Mahegan drove his foot into the man's right knee from a ninety-degree angle, cracking it.
"Open the door!" he shouted to Promise, who was next to him now. She pushed the door open with her hip and scanned the exterior for any other shooters. Mahegan lifted the man's lifeless body into a fireman's carry and ran through the front exit until he was at least twenty yards away, in the parking lot. He dumped the body and charged back toward the school.
He felt the heat from the blast lick at his neck as he dove through the door opening. Promise used the heavy metal door as protective armor against the bomb. She slammed the door shut as he flew through the gap as if stealing second base with a headfirst slide. Promise was blown back onto the floor next to him, and they both lay there. Her eyes were wide and unblinking, and for a moment he thought she had been injured or worse.
Smoke wafted through the shattered glass and the wire mesh, which had probably saved Promise's life. The windows were fractured, and some flecks of glass had sprinkled onto the floor, but there was nothing that could have seriously harmed anyone. When Mahegan had dumped the body, he'd made sure the shooter was facing the parking lot, which meant most of the explosives had been directed away from the school.
"Aren't you glad I don't follow the rules?" Promise said. She was talking, of course, about her having a pistol on school grounds. It would have surprised him if she didn't, actually. He remembered her being an enterprising person and an expert marksman. Her father had taught her well and had been her mentor. Judge White had also been a mentor to Mahegan and the rest of his team.
"How much ammo do you have? I think others are coming," he replied.
"Jake Mahegan. You never did have time to say hello," Promise said.
They were lying there on the floor, with her on her right side and him on his left. Pain bore down on his left deltoid, where two years earlier a portion of his best friend's vehicle had exploded along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and had sent a chunk of metal into his arm, just below his Ranger tab tattoo. He swam and surfed in an effort to rehabilitate the shoulder, and it was improving. He had recently had the word Teammates tattooed on his right bicep to honor all his men lost in combat.
"Hello," he said to Promise. Her face was inches from his, and he could smell her light and citrusy perfume, despite the cordite hanging in the air like a searching ghost. The contrast of scents was stark, a metaphor for so many things in his life, especially violence and love. All of about ten seconds had passed since the bomb detonated, and a total of about two minutes since he saw the shooter walking into the school. That was the difference between life and death, he remembered. Combat had taught Mahegan that hesitation killed. He could see that Promise had learned from her father that same creed.
He studied Promise for another second, noticing the flaring of her nostrils as she pulled in oxygen to steady her heart rate.
Excerpted from "Besieged"
Copyright © 2017 A. J. Tata.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 4 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 5 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 6 - MISHA CONSTANCE,
CHAPTER 7 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 9 - MISHA CONSTANCE,
CHAPTER 10 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 12 - MISHA CONSTANCE,
CHAPTER 13 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 14 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 15 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 16 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 18 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 19 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 20 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 21 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 22 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 23 - MISHA CONSTANCE,
CHAPTER 24 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 25 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 26 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 27 - MISHA CONSTANCE,
CHAPTER 28 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 29 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 31 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 32 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 33 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 34 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 35 - MISHA CONSTANCE,
CHAPTER 36 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 37 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 38 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 39 - JAKE MAHEGAN,
CHAPTER 40 - DARIUS MIRZA,
CHAPTER 41 - JAKE MAHEGAN,