Always on the cutting edge of global political and military events, Robinson offers his most epic stunner yet. A rogue Saudi Arabian prince, disgusted by the royal family’s profligate ways, plans a coup d’etat. He surreptitiously enlists the help of the French, who appoint Le Chasseur (the Hunter) to do the dirty work. Assisting him will be the world’s most wanted terrorist, HAMAS’s Ravi Rashood, arch-enemy of the United States.
With the French and Muslim fanatics on the verge of controlling Saudi oil, and the world economy and oil industry nearing collapse, America must act. Admiral (Ret.) Arnold Morgan faces an unparalleled challenge, not to mention mounting international opposition, as he marshals the forces to discipline a wayward “ally” and crush the terrorist menace. Failure is not an option.
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By Patrick Robinson
Chapter OneTUESDAY, MAY 5, 2009 KING KHALID INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT SAUDI ARABIA
The black Cadillac stretch limousine moved swiftly around the public drop-off point to a wide double gate, already opened by the two armed guards. On each wing of the big American automobile fluttered two pennants, the green-and-blue ensigns of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces. Both guards saluted as the instantly recognizable limo swept past and out toward the wide runway of terminal three, the exclusive enclave of Saudia, the national airline.
Inside the limousine was one solitary passenger, Crown Prince Nasir Ibn Mohammed, deputy minister of the armed forces to his very senior cousin Prince Abdul Rahman, son of the late King Faisal. Both sentries saluted as Prince Nasir went by, heading straight for the take-off area where one of the King's newest Boeing 747s was awaiting him, engines idling in preparation for takeoff. Every other flight was on hold until the meticulously punctual Prince Nasir was in the air.
Wearing Arab dress, he was escorted to the outside stairway by both the chief steward and a senior naval officer. Prince Nasir's own son, the twenty-six-year-old Commodore Fahad Ibn Nasir, served on a Red Sea frigate, so his father was always treated like an Admiral wherever he traveled in the kingdom.
The moment he was seated in the upstairs first-class section, the door was tightly secured and the pilot opened the throttles. The royal passenger jet, reveling in its light load, roared off down the runway and screamed into the clear blue skies, directly into the hot south wind off the desert, before banking left, toward the Gulf, and then northwest across Iraq, to Syria.
He was the only passenger onboard. It was almost unheard of for a senior member of the royal family to travel alone, without even a bodyguard. But this was different. The 747 was not going even halfway to Prince Nasir's final destination. He used it only to get out of Saudi Arabia, to another Arab country. His real destination was entirely another matter.
A suitcase at the rear of the upstairs area contained his Western clothes. As soon as the flight was airborne, Prince Nasir changed into a dark gray suit, blue shirt, and a maroon print silk tie from Hermès, complete with a solid-gold clip in the shape of a desert scimitar. He wore plain black loafers, handmade in London, with dark gray socks.
The suitcase also held a briefcase containing several documents, which the Prince removed. He then packed away his white Arabian thobe, red-and-white ghutra headdress with its double cord, the aghal. He had left King Khalid Airport, named for his late greatuncle, as an Arab. He would arrive in Damascus every inch the international businessman.
When the plane touched down, two hours later, a limousine from the Saudi embassy met him and drove him directly to the regular midday Air France flight to Paris. The aircraft already contained its full complement of passengers, and although none of them knew it, they were sitting comfortably, seat belts fastened, awaiting the arrival of the Arabian prince.
The aircraft had pulled back from the Jetway, and a special flight of stairs had been placed against the forward entrance. Prince Nasir's car halted precisely at those stairs, where an Air France official waited to escort him to his seat. Four rows and eight seats, that is, had been booked in the name of the Saudi embassy, on Al-Jala'a Avenue. Prince Nasir sat alone in 1A. The rest of the seats would remain empty all the way to Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, nineteen miles north of Paris.
They served a special luncheon, prepared by the cooks at the embassy, of curried chicken with rice cooked in the Indian manner, followed by fruit juice and sweet pastries. Prince Nasir, the most devout of Muslims, had never touched alcohol in his life and disapproved fiercely of any of his countrymen who did. The late Prince Khalid of Monte Carlo was not among his absolute favorites. The great man knew, beyond any doubt, of the antics of that particular deceased member of his family.
They flew on across Turkey and the Balkan states, finally crossing the Alps and dropping down above the lush French farmland that lies south of the forest of Ardenne, over the River Seine, and into northwest Paris.
Again, Prince Nasir endured no formalities nor checks. He disembarked before anyone else, down a private flight of stairs, where a jet-black, unmarked French government car waited to drive him directly to the heavily guarded Elysée Palace, on Rue St. Honoré, the official residence of the Presidents of France since 1873.
It was a little after 4 P.M. in Paris, the flight from Damascus having taken five hours, with a two-hour time gain. Two officials were waiting at the President's private entrance, and Prince Nasir was escorted immediately to the President's private apartment on the first floor overlooking Rue de l'Elysée.
The President was awaiting him in a large modern drawing room, which was decorated with a selection of six breathtaking Impressionist paintings, two by Renoir, two by Monet, and one each by Degas and Van Gogh. One hundred million dollars would not have bought them.
The President greeted Prince Nasir in impeccable English, the language agreed upon for the forthcoming conversation. By previous arrangement, no one would listen in. No ministers. No private secretaries. No interpreters. The following two hours before dinner would bring a meaning to the word privacy that was rarely, if ever, attained in international politics.
"Good afternoon, Your Highness," began the President. "I trust my country's travel arrangements have been satisfactory?"
"Quite perfect," replied the Prince, smiling. "No one could have required more." The two men knew each other vaguely, but were hardly even friends, let alone blood brothers. Yet ...
Excerpted from Hunter Killer by Patrick Robinson Excerpted by permission.
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