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Damage Control (Jonathan Grave Series #4)

Damage Control (Jonathan Grave Series #4)

4.5 33
by John Gilstrap

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"One of the finest thriller writers on the planet." –Tess Gerritsen

"Gilstrap pushes every thriller button." –San Francisco Chronicle

The hostages are young: a bus full of teenagers on a church mission. The ransom demands are explicit: deliver three million dollars—with zero involvement from law enforcement—or all captives


"One of the finest thriller writers on the planet." –Tess Gerritsen

"Gilstrap pushes every thriller button." –San Francisco Chronicle

The hostages are young: a bus full of teenagers on a church mission. The ransom demands are explicit: deliver three million dollars—with zero involvement from law enforcement—or all captives will be executed. But rescue specialist Jonathan Grave doesn't believe in ultimatums. For him and his elite team at Security Solutions, it's all about protecting the innocent. Now Grave must face the chilling possibility that someone within the U.S. government has a deadly secret to protect—one that could jeopardize national security like never before. . .

Praise for John Gilstrap's Thrillers




Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of Thriller Award–finalist Gilstrap’s rousing fourth novel featuring hostage rescue specialist Jonathan Grave (after 2011’s Threat Warning), Grave and his partner, Boxers, set out to save four adults and six teens ages 15 to 17, part of a church group that went to Mexico ostensibly to help with earthquake recovery, who have now been held for five days by kidnappers who seized their bus in Ciudad Juarez and are demanding a million ransom. Grave and Boxers succeed in killing five kidnappers who step outside the bus in a jungle ambush, but they can’t stop someone inside the bus from shooting dead all but one of the hostages, teen Tristan Wagner. Grave, Boxers, and Tristan flee for their lives, sought by officials in Mexico and denounced by law enforcement in the U.S. Meanwhile, a CIA traitor back home tries to ensure Grave and crew don’t survive. Readers will anxiously await the next installment. Agent: Anne Hawkins, John Hawkins and Associates. (June)

Product Details

Publication date:
Jonathan Grave Series , #4
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2012 John Gilstrap, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7860-2493-3

Chapter One

Pacing her huge office high atop the Crystal Palace Cathedral in Scottsdale, Arizona, Reverend Jackie Mitchell checked her watch for the fifth time in half as many minutes. Three-oh-five. The unpleasantness was supposed to have ended an hour ago. Mr. Abrams had promised that she would know that her parishioners were safe within moments of the rescue's final outcome.

As soon as we have anything to report. That's how he'd put it. As soon as we have anything to report.

She tried not to worry—Abrams had assured her that everything would go well, that it had to go well—but given the stakes, it was hard not to harbor doubt.

Certainly, the children would be traumatized emotionally, and perhaps the adults as well, but that was to be expected under the circumstances. They'd been taken hostage. Of course there'd be trauma.

Jackie refused to dwell on the events that had brought her to this point. That was the past, and the end was finally in sight.

Abrams had sworn that this would be a seamless operation. Without that assurance, she'd never have gone along.

In the end, Jackie knew that the Lord would forgive her. The Crystal Palace was a testament to Him, after all. He had to understand. Why else would He have led her here? This ... opportunity had come at too fortuitous a time for it to be anything but guidance by His hand. Abrams's call had been a sign, a clear message that the Crystal Palace was destined to survive despite all the tests and the scandals. God knew Jackie's heart.

We are all sinners. It's God's greatest desire to forgive us.

And forgive her He would.

When the phone rang, Jackie let out a yelp. She turned from the window and its panoramic view of Arizona's rolling hills and walked across the plush baby-blue carpeting to her six-by-eight-foot glass-topped desk to lift the receiver from its cradle.

"God bless you," she said. It was her standard greeting for any caller who got past her assistant.

"Would've been nice if he did," Abrams said. With his thick New England accent, there was no need for him to introduce himself. "Unfortunately, it's as bad as it can get."

Chapter Two

Jonathan Grave ignored the drop of sweat that tracked down his forehead and over the bridge of his nose. It made no sense to wipe it away when there'd just be another to follow. What was it about jungles, he wondered, that made them so attractive to bad guys? Perhaps it was a kind of insect-borne mass psychosis.

The same variety of sickness that kept bringing him back to the stifling heat time after time. He'd long ago stopped telling himself that he'd get used to it after a while. He concentrated instead on getting past it, and he did that by focusing on the misery of the people whose rescue was his responsibility.

The bud in Jonathan's left ear popped to life. "Scorpion, Mother Hen," said the voice that had guided him through way too many difficult moments. "The satellite picture just refreshed. You have what appears to be a squad of five soldiers approaching your location from the west. I've only got heat signatures because of the canopy."

Jonathan pressed the transmit button in the center of his ballistic vest. "Range?"

"Close. Quit talking."

They moved cautiously, but still made too much noise. His mind raced to make some sense out of it. They could not be reinforcements because no one outside his very small circle knew he was here. That made them bad guys until proven otherwise, and their presence made this operation vastly more complicated.

"I see movement but no faces." Jonathan heard Boxers' unmistakable growl through the same earpiece. Closer to seven feet tall than six, with a girth that made him look bulletproof, Boxers had been born as Brian Van de Meulebroeke, and had been Jonathan's right-hand man from back in their days in the Unit when they'd toiled under the supervision of Uncle Sam and his surrogates. His position on the opposite hill gave him a good view of Jonathan's location. "Looks like they might be here for the same reason we are. They're taking positions next to you."

Jonathan acknowledged by tapping his transmit button once to break squelch. They might be in the same place, Jonathan thought, but he doubted that they were here for the same reason. Jonathan's plan was to let a group of kidnappers take a bag loaded with three million dollars in return for leaving behind their hostages. Now it seemed that there'd be competition for the money.

"One is very damn close to you, Boss," Boxers went on. "I give it twenty feet of separation, and he's settling in. There's enough brush between the two of you that as long as you don't sneeze, you'll be invisible." After about ten seconds, Boxers finished with, "I've got his range dialed in. If he makes an ugly face, I'll take him out."

In Boxers' world, there were no problems so great that they couldn't be solved with the appropriate application of firepower. In this case, the firepower in play would be Hechler and Koch's HK417, a lightweight cannon chambered in 7.62 millimeter that could send ten rounds per second downrange with needle-threading accuracy. As far as Jonathan was concerned, it was the best marksman's rifle since the M14, and he had every confidence that as long as Boxers was within a thousand yards (he was actually within a quarter of a thousand yards), his closest visitor posed no physical threat.

But why had he been joined by soldiers, and where had they come from?

His earbud popped again. "Look sharp, guys," Mother Hen said. "I've got vehicles approaching from the south. Looks like a school bus followed by an SUV. School bus, maybe, but definitely not a late model. Estimate a half mile from the drop."

Moving carefully, Jonathan flexed his shoulders and prepared himself. With his back braced against a leafy, foul-smelling tree and his elbows braced against his raised knees, he pressed his M27 carbine into his shoulder and scanned the area through his scope.

The backpack with the ransom remained at the base of the tree where he'd placed it twenty minutes ago, at the edge of the rutted path that looked more like a hiking trail than the road that it was supposed to be. The same canopy of leaves that trapped the humidity to the ground also filtered out much of the sunlight, casting this part of the world in a kind of perpetual twilight during the day. He'd done his best to make the backpack stand out in a shaft of light.

The instructions for this op were as simple as they were objectionable. Jonathan was to be a bagman. He and Boxers were to allow the bad guys to collect their millions and get away. In return, the bad guys would release their hostages, four adults and six children aged fifteen to seventeen. Jonathan knew little about their condition, but after a week in captivity, mobility was not going to be their long suit.

If Jonathan had been allowed to write the script, this drop-off would have been made in the wide-open desert regions of northern Mexico, where everything and everyone would be in the open, but the bad guys had insisted on a jungle transfer in the south. That was a mistake that played to Jonathan's strengths. While the wide vistas of the north played to their paranoia of not being able to get away quickly, this kind of thick foliage screamed ambush opportunity.

Accordingly, he and Boxers had poised themselves for a classic ambush, to be sprung if the kidnappers decided to break the rules. As long as they drove into the clearing and off-loaded the hostages to be counted, they would be allowed to pick up their ransom and drive away in the follow car, leaving the bus behind. Just about any other scenario would result in a very, very bad day for the kidnappers.

Then these new guys showed up. If they started shooting, the kidnappers would panic, and then there'd be a bloodbath.

"I've got eyes on the precious cargo," Boxers said into his radio. He was in position to see the approaching vehicles before Jonathan could. "I can't count heads through the windows, but it looks like a full load."

Jonathan acknowledged with a tap on his transmit button.

Ten seconds later the flat nose of an ancient bus turned the sweeping corner into the kill zone, its engine wheezing like an old man. To his right, he heard the interlopers reacting with movement. "It's here," the close one said in Spanish, perhaps into a radio, or perhaps just to himself. From this range—call it fifty yards—Jonathan could see the silhouette of the driver, even though he couldn't make out his features.

"Looks like the follow car is hanging back," Boxers advised. "It is an SUV, and it appears to have only a driver inside."

The newcomers had fallen silent. As Jonathan settled behind his rifle scope to track the action in and around the bus, he tried to ignore the tingle in his spine that told him trouble was coming.

"They're going to kill us, aren't they?" Allison asked.

If they don't, I might, Tristan didn't say. He'd been handcuffed to her for nearly five days now. What was that, a hundred twenty-five hours? That's how many hours she'd been whining. Honest to God, it didn't matter if he was trying to sleep or if he was in the middle of a conversation with someone else, Allison Bradley never shut up.

This ordeal had offered up too many cruel twists to even keep up with anymore, but none had been crueler than the kidnappers' decision to handcuff him to Miss Bubbly Cheerleader-Turned-Doomsayer. For five long days, they'd done everything together—including the humiliation of biological chores—and at every turn, Allison had featured herself at death's door. They were all scared, for God's sake.

"Seriously," she repeated, "I think they're going to kill us."

From behind: "Allison, shut up!"

For an instant, Tristan thought that he'd inadvertently spoken his thoughts aloud. Instead, the words had erupted from Ray Greaser, who, back in the world, had been Ken to Allison's Barbie, the clichéd quarterback-cheerleader Homecoming royalty. The resulting photo in the yearbook exuded the kind of perfection that every high school student dreamed of, yet Tristan would never achieve. He told his friends that the photo looked like an Aryan recruitment poster.

"Don't tell me to shut up!" Allison snapped. "In fact, don't even speak to me."

"Cállate," snapped the nameless man up front with the machine gun. Shut up.

Great, Tristan thought. Now I'm channeling a terrorist.

Like all of the gunmen on the bus, the one up front wore military fatigues, but of a style that Tristan didn't see in the States anymore. The green and black camouflage appeared more as smears of color than the precise digital patterns of modern warriors. The clothes didn't matter as much as the rifles, though. Or the pistols. Or the hand grenades.

Tristan sensed that this was the beginning of the end. After all the days and nights of anger and agitation among these murderers, the past twelve hours had brought a lighter mood. Whatever the endgame was, it had apparently been achieved because the guys with the guns had been a lot more cheerful.

Assholes. Every time he thought about what they'd done to Mr. Hall and Mrs. Charlton, he wanted to kill them. He wanted somebody to kill them. Especially for Mrs. Charlton.

The bus slowed by half—if that was even possible, given the snail's pace they'd been traveling for the last three hours—and as it did, the terrorists became more agitated.

"We're almost there," one of them said in Spanish. "It should be just around this curve."

"What are they saying?" Allison asked. Why she'd decided to come on a trip to rural Mexico without knowing a word of the language was beyond Tristan.

He ignored her. A better option than punching her.

The bus took the curve at slower than a walking pace, its engine screaming and transmission rattling as if someone had thrown rocks in the gearbox. Finally, they stopped, and the men with the guns started moving and chattering quickly.

"They're saying we're here," Tristan translated, hoping to get ahead of the inevitable question. "'Positions, everyone.'"

"What does that mean?" Allison whined.

"How the hell do I know? They're not talking to us."

"I see it," said the driver, pointing through the windshield to a spot ahead of them.

The other five terrorists abandoned their spots among the hostages and surged forward to get a look. In Tristan's mind, the gunmen were essentially one person. He'd made an effort to avoid eye contact, or even to look at their faces. He knew that if he ever came out of the other end of this thing alive, he didn't want their malignant eyes haunting his dreams. He prayed that there'd be some kind of hypnosis he could undergo that would erase this nightmare forever.

"Get ready to take your positions," said the gunman who'd staked out the front of the bus as his own territory. Tristan figured that guy to be the one in charge because he was the one who gave the most orders. "Keep watch for any sign of soldiers or police. Are you ready?"

The answer came more as an enthusiastic roar than a verbal response.

The bus rocked as four soldiers streamed out of the fanfold front door and formed a circle around the vehicle. They kept their rifles at their shoulders, pointed out toward the jungle. Seated where he was on the right-hand side of the bus, Tristan couldn't see any details of what they were doing, but he noted that everyone in the bus had stopped talking.

If it hadn't been so quiet, he probably would not have heard the tick of the windshield breaking and the wet thwop of the driver's head exploding as two distinct sounds.

Chapter Three

Jonathan tightened his grip on his weapon as the bus's folding door opened and four armed men rushed out. All of them wore ancient M81 woodland cammies, and were armed with MP5 submachine guns, no doubt courtesy of a happy gun store owner in Texas. They moved with choreographed precision that demonstrated they'd been trained, albeit to a level that didn't concern him much. The four took up defensive positions on each corner of the bus, and waited while a fifth guy—the driver of the van—hurried forward to join them. The bus driver remained in place behind the wheel.

With everyone in position, they held for a few seconds, and then the fifth guy moved forward, his weapon pressed to his shoulder, his eyes scanning for threats. He clearly had spotted the backpack.

He'd walked maybe a half dozen steps when a high-caliber rifle shattered the silence of the afternoon and brains spattered the interior of the bus's windshield. The shot came from the guy on Jonathan's right, and half a second later, he heard the whip crack of Boxer's incoming round as it sheared the shooter's head from his shoulders.

Then the world erupted in gunfire.

In the space of a heartbeat, the five kidnappers opened up on the jungle, firing randomly at targets they couldn't see. Farther away on Jonathan's right, the rest of the newly arriving shooters returned fire, proving that whatever their skills might be, marksmanship did not rank among them.

Jonathan fired a three-round burst and dropped the terrorist at the right front bumper. Two seconds later, he was under fire from his right, his position being raked by the late arrivers. He slapped his transmit button. "I'm under fire," he said.

He'd barely released the transmit button when Boxers started stitching the area with .30-caliber rounds. Whoever they were, they didn't have the stomach for a protracted gun battle. As loud as they had been coming in, they made a hell of a lot more noise as they ran away.

In a perfect world, Jonathan would have caught them in a cross fire to keep them from escaping; but today those people were just a distraction. His real targets were down there on the ground below.

Jonathan's worst nightmare would come true if the soldiers on the ground turned their attention to the bus. In the twisted logic that was hostage negotiation, they had every right to do so. They no doubt felt both betrayed and doomed. It only made sense to take the hostages with them.

As if on cue, two of them turned their weapons on the bus and opened fire. Boxers was already a beat ahead. Jonathan couldn't hear the Big Guy's rifle, but he recognized the marksmanship. On the far side of the bus, a spray of blood marked the demise of one gunman, and before his buddy could even react, he, too, dropped dead.


Excerpted from DAMAGE CONTROL by JOHN GILSTRAP Copyright © 2012 by John Gilstrap, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. 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.


Meet the Author

John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling author of Threat Warning (July, 2011), Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Nathan's Run, At All Costs, Even Steven, Scott Free and Six Minutes to Freedom. In addition, John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris. Most recently, he has signed two movie deals for his books. He will write and co-produce the film adaptation of his book, Six Minutes to Freedom, and executive produce the film adaptation of Scott Free.

A frequent speaker at literary events, John also teaches seminars on suspense writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to The Smithsonian Institution. Outside of his writing life, John is a renowned safety expert with extensive knowledge of explosives, hazardous materials, and fire behavior. He currently works as the director of safety for a large trade association in Washington, DC. John lives in Fairfax, VA.

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Damage Control 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
VictoriaAllman More than 1 year ago
Once again John Gilstrap demonstrates his command over pacing, suspense, tension, and really likable characters. Damage Control throws us into Digger and Big Guy's lives again in a new hostage extraction adventure set in the hot sticky jungles of Mexico. The enemy this time--a drug lord AND a church! You can't ask for a better set-up than that. When a bus load of teenage missionaries is kidnapped for ransom, Digger and Big Guy must go in and retrieve the kids and bring them to safety. Of course, it is never as easy as that and throughout the course of the rescue things go terribly wrong. My favorite thing about Gilstrap and Damage Control is the characters, not only the recurring series characters, but the new "precious cargo" they must extract from the tense situation. Tristan is a thirteen-year old boy who shows not only a lot of spunk, but a lot of tender humanity. You can't help but root for him. Damage Control is one of the best thrillers/action adventures I've read this year. You will not be disappointed. Victoria Allman author of: SEAsoned: A Chef's Journey with Her Captain
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the series, but sometimes the great storyline is overshadowed by the descriptive brutality. Still recommend as an intense action read. Once you start reading, hard to find a stopping place!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Digger and Boxers to the rescue again! I love this series, and Damage Control is the best by far. Who wouldnt love Boxers wry sense of humor and Diggers strong sense of right and wrong? I look foward to more of the same by John Gilstrap. Definitely recommed, but you should start with the first in the series to fully appreciate. Buckle up, its a bumpy ride!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Five stars. It was amazing writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Again, I couldn't wait to turn the page to see what happens next. Keep telling myself I'll go to bed after this Chapter. Can't do it. I have to force myself to put this author's books down & get to bed. Absolutely love this series with Jonathan Grave & his team. I love all the characters. Great reading! Can't get enough!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love his books. Lots of action. Very little bad language or Sex. The violence can get pretty bloody. Love the hero's
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first Gilstrap book I have read. It was OK. I found the pacing to be very good as it moved along well. The story was also somewhat interesting. The characters are what killed it for me. They were all a bit too perfect to be believable. Maybe it was just the authors writing style, but I had difficulty being absorbed by the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gilsraps DIgger Grave series books keep getting better. Damage control is a very entertaining read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book got me started on reading John Gilstrap who I never read before.
bigt3 More than 1 year ago
Gilstrap does it again with damage control kept me on the edge of my seat cant wait for the next digger installment.
Spurs4life More than 1 year ago
The Jonathan Grave series is another series that I don't want to put down as soon as I read the first page. This book never lets up and is fantastic to the end. I look forward to many more adventures from Digger and Boxers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great page turner, as always in John Gilstrap's book. My only complaint is that I had to read it in one setting after waiting months for him to come out with a new book....write faster! (lol). John Gilstrap is one of my favorite authors and this book met and exceeded all of my expectations!
Oronoco More than 1 year ago
Damage Control is the best of the Jonathan Grave series, so far. Digger kicks ass though much of Mexico before exacting some well earned revenge back home…I really didn’t want it to end. This book won't disappoint!
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1dachsmom More than 1 year ago
HIGHLY RECOMMEND! Have read all of this author's books. Love the characters. Can't wait to read his next book. Don't miss them.
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Not your cookie cutter book, well thought out and well written.
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MAV4749 More than 1 year ago
I love the Jonathan Grave series!
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