—Dalton Fury, New York Times bestselling author
DEEPER THAN DEEP STATE
In this explosive new series, former intelligence expert J.T. Patten takes you deep inside the top-secret operations you’ll never see on the news: our deadliest weapons in the war against terror . . .
BURIED IN BLACK
In the clandestine world of shadow ops, he’s known as The Man From Orange. A master of surveillance, signals intelligence—and silent killing—special operative Drake Woolf has been groomed and trained by the old-guard intel community after his CIA father and mother were murdered in Tunisia. Now he works for Task Force Orange, handling cases the government doesn’t want its fingerprints on. Woolf can always be relied on to carry out an assignment with surgical precision—and exterminate a threat with extreme prejudice. But his latest mission is different. Woolf knows the targets personally. He trained them in Iraq to be the perfect killing machines. Known as the “Mohawks,” these Iraqi rebels know our secrets, our strengths, and our weaknesses. And they’re using this knowledge to launch the deadliest attack the world has ever seen—on American soil . . .
J.T. Patten’s Buried in Black takes readers deep into the shadows with an explosive narrative that could only have been written by a man who has been there himself. Buried in Black delivers on action, intrigue, and excitement!
—Mark Greaney #1 NYT Bestselling Author of Agent in Place
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Sidon District, Lebanon, Present Day
From under a dust-covered rough and ready tarp tent, Drake "Birddog" Woolf eyed the persistent stare camera feeds on his laptop monitor. No movement in the structure. The high-value target appeared to be literally sleeping in his "bed-down location." Others in the two-story refugee flat were also in deep slumber according to the four image panes on his computer's dust-caked display.
Drake blinked dry, bloodshot eyes to focus and wiped the screen with the back of an equally filthy hand. Americans like Drake, in this secret unit, were no strangers to the Levant, their periodic and established presence dating back to the 1980s when they started conducting human and signals intelligence against militant cell phones and other electronic communications. To Woolf, this ancient battleground was home to many of his non-official cover missions against Hezbollah and other targets of opportunity using classic espionage tradecraft and new high-tech bells and whistles.
Let's go, Drake. The dark voice prodded from within.
It's not time. Drake had more targeting preparation to do before rushing in and needed to keep focused on tasks beyond the kill.
His IBM ThinkPad was recycled from India and procured from the Middle East to fit a closer pattern of life to his indigenous cover legend and backstops. This meant he had to look the part to play the part if he was caught. The computer's screen cast a dim, hazy glow on Drake's tanned and chemically bronzed face. His foul breath passed through a four-year-old beard that hung like dark cloth from his emaciated cheekbones and flowed over cracked and blistered lips.
Woolf's tongue was swollen from dehydration. It made a slight clicking sound as he contemplated his move after days of surveillance. The quiet clicks had persisted since he was a young teen. Ever since that day, and even before he decided to speak again to the aunt and uncle who brought him back from a zombie-like state of mental purgatory.
Woolf knew he needed to take his meds, but he couldn't afford slowing down his mind. They could wait. He had business to attend to. But the voices would persist.
Drake switched screen views to his network and signal monitoring utility feeds for COMINT, or communications intelligence. He had to continue validating the target and ensure there was a strong connection if he was going to get what he needed for the job. And to get what he wanted for himself.
An internet protocol, or IP, address mapped to the house's location in addition to the other triangulated bearings that targeted the exact position of the known violent extremist. This showed the team supporting Drake from afar who was in the house and where the signals were coming from. It confirmed the baseball card, or BBC, as it was often called when the detailed descriptions of an adversary matched.
In addition, the National Security Agency's Global Access Operations brainiacs had pushed the highly classified Y-LOCKCHECK communications surveillance data to Drake's system fields, validating a bunch of other techie mumbo-jumbo that basically said in bits and bytes and data blips that, yes, the asshole is indeed in the house and plenty of his nasty pals are nearby.
There was little to no risk of a technical blink occurring that would allow the target to vanish. Billions of dollars' worth of American technology pointed at a two-bit shithead in a shithole location to ensure he was the right guy and staying under watchful eyes. This wide-reaching system surveillance captured personal details, pattern of life, communication linked associates, and stored media. A comprehensive electronic snare locked the target to Drake, call sign Birddog, the digital assassin who'd stalked his prey for nearly a month in the region.
Drake's direction-finding and ranging Amberjack antennae also ensured the proximate lockdown. Once all the electronics and intelligence gave undisputable validation, then it would be old-school, roll up the sleeves, hardware meets flesh time. Of course, the latter was outside of his current mandate but well inside of Drake Woolf's comfort zone and the professional expectations of his uncle Robert.
As Murphy's Law would have it, the signal on Drake's feed stuttered for a moment. "No, no, no, no, no, no." Drake refreshed his setting with the last few hours' worth of technical signal bearings, pummeling frequencies to recapture the trace. The cell phone data indicated the target was spoofing a device MAC address to hide traceability. "You tricky little shit," he whispered with a self-assured smirk as the IMSI phone ping responded to his Harris Hailstorm stingray cell-site simulator and surveillance intercept tool. He reconnected.
Check, check, checkmate ... motherfucker. Not sneaky enough. Drake gave the screen a middle finger. Nearing prep work completion, he keyed and pasted the code script for a payload hack to the phone that would remotely extract calls, contacts, and anything else from the target's phone to a cloud database.
His secondary tasking was to digitally capture bank transfer routing numbers that would also be swept up by the program written to search the target's device remotely. But personally, Drake needed a certain photo recognition from the crow, as he and his crew called terrorists. He'd handle that personally, and against orders. Drake knew the likelihood of a positive identification of the photo would be a million to one shot. Although, considering Drake's unofficial body count of those he'd shown the picture to, it was more like a million to upward of sixty when totaling all the up- close and personal terminations in the past decade. None of those men recognized the photo he presented at their time of final interrogation. And so he continued on his quest.
"Birddog to Halo Actual," Drake whispered. "Do you copy? Over."
"Halo Actual to Birddog. Good copy. Ready to come home? Over."
"Target handhold is locked. Just sent verification package to the mother ship. I'm clear to go say hello for final confirmation," Drake whispered. The tan skin-colored ear device and its four-millimeter boom microphone captured the fidelity and catapulted the communication up to the secure satellite relay.
"That's a negative, Birddog. You are red. Confirm. You are not green to shake hands. Stick to your script as fragged. You just help us develop the picture and confirm the BBC. Time to bug out. Do you copy? Over," the Operational Detachment Delta G Squadron commander, Blake Touhey, directed from the Beirut safe house over forty kilometers away.
Blake muted the mike and leaned to his right. "Man from Orange is on target. Chief, call our flyer. Temp hold payload on objective until he's outta there."
"Roger that. Not cleared hot on our end. I'll let 'em know," the chief validated.
"If they ask, tell 'em pre-strike HVI assurances are potentially compromised. We just need a minute to get him off the roof and headed for pickup," said the commander with a grin. He had referred to Orange as Drake Woolf's unit — the Intelligence Support Activity, known as Orange, Centra Spike, Grey Fox, and a host of other terms to mask the true identity of one of the most secretive military elements in existence.
"Move the boys in for extraction. This crazy Activity bastard got closer to this crow in a week than we did in a year of deployments. Let's get 'em out before he does something stupid."
The channel to Birddog opened again. "Negative, Halo," Drake responded after the long pause, catching the commander off guard. Woolf continued, "I need to confirm. Getting a conflicting signal. Don't have near certainty anymore. Going dark and heading into the house for positive ID. Out."
From a snack-sized plastic Ziploc bag, Drake retrieved a small square of paper and placed it on his tongue. The microdose of lysergic acid diethylamide, a lesser fix of the recreational LSD hallucinogen, would heighten his senses and make him more productive for the hour. It was cool though, because the military gave it to him just as they used to give him performance-enhancing amphetamine "go pills" like Dexedrine. Oddly, he would have been discharged if they knew of his legit medical needs.
Birddog pinched the acoustic device out from his ear cavity and dropped it into a streamlined, discreet, zippered pocket within the seams of his customized button-down shirt.
Can't stop me if you're not here.
Now it's time to get some.
"Shit! He's going in. I knew he'd go in. Dammit." Blake was half frustrated and half tickled. "Birddog, do you copy? That is negative. You are not to engage."
Blake leaned back with a suppressed grin, "Fuck. Mister Sandman's going into that house. If it goes south, we're screwed."
"We were going to kill the crow anyway, your guy just didn't know it," quipped the large Native American Delta warrant officer nicknamed Taco.
"Pssht," he scoffed. "The video game boys were going to get the kill. I could give two shits about what Birddog does. At this point, we're observers — and a ride." Blake didn't hide his frustration. "Fucking drone strike in a refugee camp. We're so outta the game. Only the Pentagon could think this stupid shit up as an op worthy of green-lighting. Blame locals or some bullshit cover-up scheme." His face contorted in distaste of the plan as if Taco had farted. "Wait until someone puts the missile fragments up on social media." The commander kicked the chair next to him. "Birddog knew what was going to happen even if no one told him. All these joint task force ops are finishing with a push-button video kill. But not today."
* * *
Drake pulled the black-and-white cotton keffiyeh scarf down to his dusty brow and draped fabric around his face to cover his nose and mouth. With a few taps on the Arabic character laptop keypads the hum of electrical generators immediately fell silent. Remaining lights in the surrounding hundred meters extinguished their glow in and out of the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. Anyone awake would consider it a usual power failure. The reality, of course, was a remote power disruption device in the bag of tricks tradecraft from Drake's playbook.
Woolf inserted the USB port "brain killer" and waited for the loaded code scripts to destroy the digital content of the laptop's hard drive. Upon closing the tattered computer screen, he secured a small, sticky explosive charge on its underbelly and set the timed charge for thirty minutes. Drake slowly emerged from the hidden tarp and filled his lungs with the fresh albeit scorching hot Lebanese night air. First, he would give his fatigued eyes ample time to adjust. Then he would climb down from the rooftop. And then it was snuff the bad guy time. His favorite part. He whipped the antennae as far as he could onto another rooftop.
With eyes growing more attuned to the darkness and his senses getting a chemical tweak for high performance, Drake dashed across the narrow street. He hoped the lubricant he had put on the door hinges of the home earlier in the week had sufficiently quieted the wicked squeak. He took painstaking efforts to ensure an op would go down as planned. Even if it took days.
A dog barked in the distance. The LSD gave him an edge that could nearly hear the guttural canine growl from blocks away.
The sentry stationed at the door would be gone for another forty-minutes and the rest of his surroundings were silent. Three a.m. wasn't a busy time in the encampment. If a roach would have farted, he could have heard it.
Birddog inserted a shallow hook and lifter pick into the imported European door lock of the home. He manipulated the pins while using the centering fulcrum. Just like flossing teeth.
"What are you doing?" the voice from behind Drake asked in Lebanese.
Drake felt something hard pressed on his back. Not good. Woolf didn't turn. "You left your post," he scolded in the same tongue. "There was a noise coming from the house." Drake bent the lock picks into his palm, the steel long enough to jut from his clenched fingers.
"What noise? Who are you?"
"My mom called me Warren," he replied switching to Palestinian Arabic then spun catching a rifle barrel with his left and sending the lock pick fist into the man's throat. Like a tight rubber band, Drake's arm snapped back and then straight into the throat again while guiding the rifle out and away.
The man's throat wheezed but not loud enough to cause a disturbance. Woolf dropped the picks and gripped the rifle butt then came back with a hammering blow to the man's head. The cracking feel confirmed sentry down. For good.
Drake scanned the streets. All was still clear.
He dragged the sentry into the home and left the body in a sitting room corner before moving to the modest kitchen. Drake found a half-full pitcher of water on a table, which after adjusting his scarf at a frantic pace, he brought up to his broken lips and gulped the cascading warm liquid of life. It was salty and foul-smelling but welcome, nonetheless. Drake guzzled it to the point of breathlessness. He wiped his dripping lips with his dusty shoulder sleeve only to smear water into mud.
His adhesive covered hands were sticky with blood but he gave them no thought. He was not going to make a clean exit regardless of what happened next.
A cleaver lay just as he had seen it on the camera feeds hours ago. To its right, a thick six-inch cutting knife. The latter was his quest.
In addition to Woolf and his unit entering a country under commercial cover, he was most always unarmed. At least conventionally.
Knife in hand, Drake continued up the narrow staircase.
Ho, ho, ho.
As the flooring beneath his feet creaked, his belly gurgled in seeming protest of the long-lost aquatic friend that had just invaded the withered cavity. It had been almost two days since he had had to piss. Add pissed-off kidneys to the list of furious bodily organs constantly pushed to limits.
Drake pressed at his gut, hoping it would recognize the need for silence. Santa's not liking that eggnog. Woolf was pleased with neither the sounds of his digestive tract nor the floor alarming anyone within lucid earshot.
The first room was the children's. That was off-limits. Personal code. Next.
The second chamber was the host's and his wife's. Later. Maybe. This was a flexible code determined by operational constructs. Namely, if shit went south it was cool to smoke them. He'd feel bad, but he'd be alive.
The third room, as the story goes, was just right and held the shady little Goldilocks — Syrian jihadi rebel leader and Iranian-sponsored moneyman Ali al-Hamad, a dude on the lam who the Israelis did not want to gain a foothold of influence within the camp. Somehow the Americans got the task. Tier one target for tier one troops. An opportunity gained was an opportunity seized.
Woolf crept up to the sleeping man's bedroll. He knelt down and gently put his latex liquid skinned hand over al-Hamad's snoring mouth. Ali stirred a bit but succumbed to deep slumber and breathed through his nose until the blade passed through shirt to skin.
Ali al-Hamad's eyes shot open, and forced air expired from his lungs, captured in the palm of Woolf's filthy rubberized hand.
Drake held out his mobile device, showing a glowing image of a man in his mid-to-late forties. The picture itself was dark and somewhat distorted.
The bright glow made the target squint and blink until he could focus on the bearded man in the image before him, maybe Caucasian or a Turk.
Al-Hamad showed no apparent emotion at the sight of the picture save for the fear in his eyes of being awoken under duress.
Drake flipped to a sketched image saved on the device.
"Do you know this man? Both could be the same man. Have you ever seen him?" Drake asked in Arabic. "Think!"
Al-Hamad struggled and closed his eyes for a moment. He moved under Drake's hand, turning his head back and forth, signaling a denial of any knowledge of the photographic image before him.
"Asking again. For your life," Woolf whispered in a more than passable local accent.
Again, his subject denied knowing and moved his shoulders in an apparent shrug. Nothing. Another dead end.
Drake Woolf pushed the knife between the man's ribs, the pericardial cavity, to the heart. Woolf's nostrils flared in frustration of the continual dead end with the photo. He took a deep breath and bent forward. "Sorry, pal," he whispered. "You're no help to me." Woolf's face was stone as he pushed the knife deeper before pulling it out with al-Hamad's passing life. He wiped the knife three times across the man's nightshirt. His thumb was not on the top of the handle. Drake had developed his own style over the years.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Buried in Black"
Copyright © 2018 J.T. Patten.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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