Just as Washington, DC, prepares for a grand Memorial Day tribute to the veterans of World War II, the CIA receives intelligence about a potential major terrorist attack. Racing to Afghanistan, Mitch Rapp leads a commando raid on an Al-Qaeda stronghold in a remote border village—and defuses plans for a nuclear strike on the nation’s capital. But Rapp knows, in the face of a new kind of enemy, nothing is what it seems—and it’s up to him alone to avert a disaster of unimaginable proportions.
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By Vince Flynn
AtriaCopyright © 2004 Vince Flynn
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Mitch Rapp stared through the one-way mirror into the dank, subterranean cement chamber. A man, clothed in nothing more than a pair of underwear, sat handcuffed to a small, ridiculously uncomfortable-looking chair. A naked lightbulb hung from the ceiling, dangling only a foot or so above him. The stark glare of the light combined with his state of near total exhaustion, caused the man's head to droop forward, leaving his chin resting on his chest. He was dangerously close to losing his balance and toppling over, which was exactly what they wanted.
Rapp checked his watch. He was running out of time and patience. He'd just as soon shoot this piece of human refuse and get it over with, but the present situation was more complicated than that. He needed the man to talk, that was the point of this endeavor. They all talked eventually, of course, that wasn't the problem. The trick was to get them to tell you the truth. This one was no exception. So far he was sticking to his story, a story Rapp knew to be an outright lie.
The CIA counterterrorism operative hated coming to this place. It literally made his skin crawl. It had all the charm of a mental hospital without the barred windows and the beefy orderlies stuffed into their white uniforms. It was a place intentionally designed to starve the human mind of stimuli. It was so secret, it didn't even have a name. The handful of people who knew of its existence referred to it only as the Facility.
It was off the books, not even listed in the black-intelligence budget submitted in secret to Congress every year. The Facility was a relic from the Cold War. It was located near Leesburg, Virginia, and looked just like all the other horse farms dotting the countryside thereabouts. Situated on sixty-two beautiful rolling acres, the place had been purchased by the Agency in the early fifties, at a time when the CIA was given far more latitude and discretion than it was today.
This was one of several sites where the CIA debriefed Eastern Bloc defectors, and even a few of the Agency's own who were snared in the net of James Angleton, the CIA's notoriously paranoid genius who was in charge of rooting out spies during the height of the Cold War. Very nasty things had been done to people in this crypt. This was where the CIA would have likely taken Aldrich Ames if they had caught him before the FBI did. The men and women who were charged with protecting Langley's secrets would have given almost anything for the chance to put the screws to that traitorous bastard, but they were unfortunately denied the opportunity.
The Facility was not a pleasant place, but it was a necessary evil in a world chock-full of sadistic deeds and misguided, brutal men. This was something Rapp was more than aware of, but that didn't mean he had to like it. He was neither delicate nor squeamish. Rapp had killed more men than he could even attempt to count, and he'd employed his craft in a variety of imaginative ways that spoke to the sheer depth of his skill.
He was a modern-day assassin who lived in a civilized country where such a term could never be used openly. His was a nation that loved to distinguish itself from the less refined nations of the world. A democracy that celebrated individual rights and freedom. A state that would never tolerate the open recruiting, training, and use of one of its own citizens for the specific purpose of covertly killing the citizens of another country. But that was exactly who Rapp was. He was a modern-day assassin who was conveniently called an operative so as to not offend the sensibilities of the cultured people who occupied the centers of power in Washington.
If those very people knew of the existence of the Facility they would fly into an indignant rage that would result in the partial or complete destruction of the CIA. These haters of America's capitalistic muscle wanted to analyze what we had done to evoke such hatred from the terrorists, all the while missing the point that they were using the logic of a seedy attorney defending a rapist. The woman had on a short skirt, sexy top, and high heels - maybe she was asking for it? America was a rude and arrogant country run by selfish, colonialist men who were out to exploit the resources of lesser countries - maybe we were asking for it?
Under their narrow definition the Washington elite would call this place a torture chamber. Rapp, however, knew what real torture was, and it wasn't this. This was coercion, it was sensory deprivation, it was interrogation, but it wasn't real torture.
Real torture was causing a person so much unthinkable pain that he or she begged to be killed. It was hooking alligator clips to a man's testicles and sending jolts of searing electricity through his body, it was gang-raping a woman day after day until she slipped into a coma, it was forcing a man to watch as his wife and children were sodomized by a bunch of thugs, it was making a man eat his own excrement. It was monstrous, it was barbaric, and it could also be wildly ineffective. Time and time again such methods proved that most prisoners would say or do almost anything to stop the pain, sign any confession, create terrorist plots that didn't exist, even turn on their own parents.
Rapp was a practical man, however, and the prisoner sitting cuffed to the chair on the other side of the glass knew firsthand what real torture was. The organization he worked for was notorious for its treatment of political prisoners. If anyone was deserving of a good beating it was this vile bastard, but still there were other things to consider.
Rapp didn't like torture, not only because of its effect on the person being brutalized, but for what it did to the person who sanctioned and carried it out. He had no desire to sink to those depths unless it was a last resort, but unfortunately they were quickly approaching that point. Lives were at stake. Two CIA operatives were already dead, thanks to the duplicitous scum in the other room, and many more lives were in the balance. Something was in the works, and if Rapp didn't find out what it was hundreds, maybe thousands, of innocent people would die.
The door to the observation room opened and a man approximately the same age as Rapp entered. He walked up to the window and with his deep-set brown eyes looked at the handcuffed man. There was a certain clinical detachment in the way the man carried himself. His hair was elegantly cut and his beard trimmed to perfection. He was dressed in a dark, well-tailored suit, white dress shirt with French cuffs, and an expensive red silk tie. He owned two identical sets of the outfit, and in an effort to keep his subject off balance, it was the only thing he had worn in front of the man since his arrival three days ago. The outfit was carefully chosen to convey a sense of superiority and importance.
Bobby Akram was one of the CIA's best interrogators. He was a Pakistani immigrant and a Muslim, who was fluent in Urdu, Pashto, Arabic, Farsi, and, of course, English. Akram had controlled every detail of every second of his prisoner's incarceration. Every noise, variation in temperature, morsel of food and drop of liquid had been carefully choreographed.
The goal with this specific subject, as with any subject, was to get him to talk. The first step had been to isolate him and strip him of all sense of time and place by immersing him in a world of sensory deprivation until he craved stimuli. Akram would then throw the man a lifeline; he would begin a dialogue. He would get the man to talk, not even necessarily to divulge secrets, at least not at first. The secrets would come later. To do the job thoroughly and properly took a great deal of time and patience, but those were luxuries they did not possess. Intelligence was time sensitive and that meant things had to be expedited.
Turning to Rapp he said, "It shouldn't be much longer."
"I sure as hell hope not," grumbled Rapp. Mitch Rapp was many things, but patient was not one of them.
Akram smiled. He had great respect for the legendary CIA operative. The two of them were on the front line of this war against terrorism, allies with a mutual enemy. For Rapp it was about protecting innocent people against the aggressions of a growing threat. For Akram it was about saving the religion he loved from a group of fanatics who had twisted the words of the great prophet so they could perpetuate hatred and fear.
Akram checked his watch and asked, "Are you ready?"
Rapp nodded and looked again at the exhausted, bound man. He mumbled a few curses to himself. If word got out about this, all of his accomplishments and connections wouldn't be able to save him. He was way off the reservation with this little hunt, but he needed answers and running things through the proper channels was sure to get him bogged down in a quagmire of politics and diplomacy.
There were too many varying interests at play, without even getting into the issue of leaks. The man bound and drugged in the other room was Colonel Masood Haq of the dreaded Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI. Without telling anyone at Langley, Rapp had hired a team of freelancers to snatch the man and bring him here. The brutal murders of two CIA operatives, and a growing fear that al-Qaeda had reconstituted itself, had given Rapp the impetus to take action without authorization.
Akram pointed at their prisoner as he began to nod off. "He's going to fall over any second. Are you sure you want to go forward with your plan right now?" Akram crossed his arms. "If we wait another day or two I'm very confident I can get him to talk."
Rapp shook his head and answered firmly. "My patience has run out. If you don't get him to talk, I will."
Akram nodded thoughtfully. He was not opposed to using the good cop/bad cop technique of interrogation. On the right person the results could be quite satisfactory. Akram himself, however, never resorted to violence, he was careful to leave that to others.
"All right. When I get up and leave that's your cue."
Rapp acknowledged the plan, and kept his eyes on the bound man as Akram left the room. The prisoner had no idea how long he had been here, how long he had been in the hands of his captors, or who his captors even were. He had no idea where he was, what country, let alone what continent. He had heard only one man speak, and that was Akram, a fellow Pakistani by birth.
He would, of course, assume that he was being held in his own country, probably by the ISI's chief competitor, the IB, and because of that he would hold out as long as he could in the belief that the ISI would come to his rescue. He had been drugged and deprived of all sense of time and routine. He was an exhausted man awash in a sea of sensory deprivation. He was ready to break, and when he saw Rapp enter the room, his hopes would crumble.
As Akram had predicted, the man had finally dozed off long enough to lose his balance and topple over. He hit the floor fairly hard, but didn't bother attempting to get up. Having been in this hopeless position countless times during his incarceration, he knew it was impossible.
Akram entered the room with two assistants. While they righted the prisoner, Akram pulled up a chair and told his assistants to remove the man's restraints. When the prisoner was free to move his arms and legs, Akram handed him a glass of water. The two assistants went and stood in the shadows by the door in case they were needed.
"Now, Masood," Akram said in the man's native language, "would you like to start telling me the truth?"
The man glared at his interrogator with bloodshot eyes, "I have been telling you the truth. I am not a supporter of the Taliban or al-Qaeda. I deal with them only because it is my job to keep tabs on them."
"You know that General Musharraf has made it very clear that we are to stop supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda." Akram had maintained the fiction that he was a fellow Pakistani from the moment he'd met Haq.
"I keep telling you," the man replied firmly, "the only reason I still meet with my contacts is to keep tabs on them."
"And you're still sympathetic to their cause, aren't you?"
"Yes, I'm ... I mean no! I'm not sympathetic to their cause."
Akram smiled. "I am a devout Muslim, and I am sympathetic to their cause." He tilted his head to the side. "Are you not a devout Muslim?"
The question was a slap in the intelligence officer's face. "Of course I am a devout Muslim," he blurted indignantly, "but I am ... I am an officer in the ISI. I know where my allegiance lies."
"I'm sure you do," said a skeptical Akram. "The problem is that I do not know where your allegiance lies, and I'm running out of patience." There was no malice in his voice as he said this, merely regret.
The man buried his face in his hands and shook his head. "I don't know what to say. I am not the man you say I am." He lifted his head and stared past the bright light at his interrogator. His eyes were glassy and pleading. "Ask my superiors. Ask General Sharif. He will tell you I was following orders."
Akram shook his head. "Your superiors have forsaken you. You are nothing but a plague to them. They claim to know very little about what you've been up to."
"You are a liar," spat Haq.
This was exactly what Akram was after. Uncontrollable mood swings. Desperate and pleading one second and then angry and antagonistic the next. Raising his hands in surrender, Akram's expression spoke of a sad resolve that he could do no more. "I have been very patient with you, and all you do is reward me with more lies and insults."
"I have told you the truth!" Haq said far too quickly.
Akram gave him an almost paternal stare. "Would you say that I have been kind to you?"
The lack of sleep and drugs caused Haq to slip. He opened his arms and looked around the room. "Your hospitality leaves much to be desired." In a defiant tone he said, "I want to speak with General Sharif immediately!"
"Let me ask you, Masood, how do you treat your prisoners?"
The Pakistani intelligence officer lowered his eyes to the floor, deciding it was better to ignore the question.
"Have I laid a hand on you since you've been here?"
Haq shook his head reluctantly.
"Well ... all of that is about to change." This was the first time Akram had threatened violence, either implicitly or explicitly. Their conversations up until now had consisted of Haq talking about his contacts, and going over and over the same well-rehearsed story, Haq slipping up on a few details here and there, but for the most part holding his ground.
Akram studied his subject intently and said, "There is someone here who would like to see you."
Haq looked up, his eyes glimmering with hope.
"No," Akram shook his head and laughed ominously. "I don't think you want to see this man.
Excerpted from Memorial Day by Vince Flynn Copyright © 2004 by Vince Flynn . Excerpted by permission.
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