From a Black Ops veteran and author of Termination Orders comes a nonstop thrill ride straight into the secret world of covert agents.
Four-star general James Collins has been accused of stealing a cache of Tomahawk missiles—and reaches out to his friend, CIA veteran Dan Morgan, for help. But Morgan is playing with fire. The Zeta Division, chasing down a black-market middleman, discovers a connection to a North Korean military officer—and one of his team winds up a prisoner in Pyongyang. As Morgan takes a series of escalating risks, it becomes clear that a global plot is already in motion—and if they can’t stop it, an unimaginable number of innocent civilians will be slaughtered…
Praise for Leo J. Maloney and His Novels
“Utterly compelling! Dan Morgan is one of the best heroes to come along in ages.”—Jeffery Deaver
“The new master of the modern spy game.”—Mark Sullivan
“Fine writing and real insider knowledge.”—Lee Child
“Everything a thriller reader wants.”—Ben Coes
“A ripping story!”—Meg Gardiner
“Rings with authenticity.”—John Gilstrap
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Dan Morgan stood against the stone back wall of the Church of Our Lady Before Týn, a lit cigarette dangling between his fingers.
He didn't smoke — couldn't stand the smell, really — but nothing gave him better cover to stand around in the street, out of the way of most people. So he let the reeking thing burn, pretending to puff every few seconds to avert suspicion, and shielding the ember from the wind. It was early October, and the sun was low in the sky even though it was 10: 30a.m., so none of its rays made it to the level of Prague's narrow streets.
He was in a tiny area reserved for parking, which held the sort of places that grow like weeds on the periphery of big tourist sites. They didn't catch torrents of tourists, just the runoff — selling cheap souvenirs and small necessities like water and smokes.
"Morgan, report in." It was Diana Bloch's voice coming over the wireless transmitter in his right ear. As always, she was terse and all business. Everything about Bloch, the head of Zeta Division, carried authority. She may have been a pain in his ass, but even Morgan, who could also be a pain in the ass, acknowledged it was mostly in a good way.
A group of four American college kids stopped as one of them took a picture of the back of the church. One of the couples stood close to each other, with a sort of awkwardness that told Morgan theirs was a new relationship. The other couple had been together long enough to be more interested in other things but shared a kiss before they moved along.
They didn't give him a second glance. Good. Being invisible had its perks in the business.
Morgan buzzed with energy, like he always did at the start of a mission. He felt the reassuring weight of his black Walther PPK in its shoulder holster, well hidden under his black trench coat. It wasn't a popular concealed weapon anymore — too heavy and not as much firepower as the polymer nine-millimeter pieces that many favored. But he was a man with classic tastes, and he had a soft spot for the gun. It felt solid in his hand, nicely balanced, with light recoil. That, and he could hit a fly at ten paces with it.
Morgan leaned back against the stone of the centuries-old Gothic church and feigned drawing in smoke from the Marlboro when he caught movement in his peripheral vision. Across the small parking lot, a man emerged from the front door of the Ventana Hotel. He had a coarse face, a receding head of blond hair, and a strong nose, but a weak chin that he hid, poorly,with a goatee.
"It's Pulnik," said Morgan. "Moving west from the hotel."
"Keep your distance," said Bloch over the comm. "Team, get moving. Stick to the plan. Morgan, do I have to remind you —"
"You don't. It's my damn plan. I'm sticking to it." Morgan tossed the half-burned cigarette and ground it against the pavement, then set off after the man.
Their quarry was Havel Pulnik, a sleazy small-time underworld businessman who happened to be the second cousin of Enver Lukacs, the evasive big fish they were really after. With no leads to Lukacs, Zeta Division had had Pulnik under surveillance for months while he had begged his family to have Lukacs contact him. His persistence, and theirs, had finally paid off when one of Lukacs's people set a meeting with him in Prague.
"We're on the move." That was Bishop, the leader of the Zeta Tactical Team, somewhere within a two-block radius.
Morgan walked thirty feet behind Pulnik. The streets were teeming with tourists from all nations — he could tell the people from warm climates, who were bundled up as if they were in the Himalayas in the dead of winter. As he passed a souvenir shop, Morgan caught sight of Spartan. She had a good four inches on him, her close-cropped blond hair hidden by a dark gray beanie. She was looking through postcards on a rack, positioned so she could catch glances of their quarry.
Morgan then caught sight of Bishop, walking a ways ahead of Pulnik. Spartan set off a few seconds after Morgan had passed, walking on pace with a group of Germans who seemed to be going out for a stroll rather than gaping at the sights.
"Looks like he's moving toward the plaza," Spartan said. "Good call."
Morgan walked on the cobblestones, worn smooth over the years. Prague had old-world elegance, with a picturesque hodgepodge of architectural styles — but all, unlike the utilitarian bent of American engineering, with an eye for beauty. The condition of the buildings, however, betrayed its Soviet past. They did not have the polish, the fresh paint, or the recent renovations found in England or Germany.
Morgan liked it, though. The city had character. A gloomy, character, sure. Nothing more appropriate for the city of Franz Kafka. But anywhere he went, at least in the old city, there was no mistaking that, yes, he was in Prague, all right.
It was a short walk before Morgan followed Pulnik into the historic Old Town Square. The perimeter of the sprawling tourist attraction was lined with restaurants with outside tables, where tourists braved the cold with hot drinks. Many others sat right on the ground. One girl was drawing the Old Town Hall — its gothic spires reaching toward the sky. Most were standing around, listening to guides, studying their smartphones, or just milling about, taking pictures of the old buildings that marked the square's edges. A band was setting up, a standing bass, a clarinet, a banjo and a washboard, with a half-dozen people already sitting in a semicircle, waiting for them to begin. A handful of protesters were there too, demonstrating about refugees from the Middle East. The younger and more diverse crowd was for, the older and local against. They kept a tense peace, but Morgan had a feeling things could break out in violence quickly.
Pulnik was making his way toward the green bronze statue of Czech philosopher Jan Hus at the center of the square.
"Fan out," Morgan said. "I want people on all sides. We need to see Lukacs coming."
"Moving in, northwest corner." The voice belonged to Peter Conley, code name Cougar — Morgan's old partner from his CIA days. There was no one Morgan would sooner trust with his life.
Morgan walked to the middle of the east side of the square and watched as the others got into position. He surveyed the tourists, who were oblivious to the importance of this moment. The wheels of their world turned, and they were none the wiser. They didn't know anything about the silent machinery hidden deep in the bowels of their world. All they saw was the surface.
Morgan was here today to stop one of these cogs from turning. Enver Lukacs was the name of this particular cog — a shadowy underworld player with a finger in every poison pie. His currency was contacts, linking people who were selling black-market items and services with those who wanted them. Weapons, drugs, mercenaries, slaves — Lukacs had it all. If they got him to turn over even a fraction of what he knew, they could bring down dozens of illegal operations. But that depended on today.
"Hello! American!" It was a slight young man with a local accent. His baby face was draped with scraggly hair, and he had on a dirty red coat over a stained T-shirt.
Shit. This was all he needed. "I don't have any money."
He smiled with mock offense. "No! Come on, American friend! I just want to have a conversation!"
"I don't have any of that either. Good-bye."
He went off to bother someone else. Morgan looked at Pulnik, standing by the statue with his hands in his pockets, looking around at the crowd for the man he was there to meet.
It was Conley who spoke first. "I have eyes on the target. Approaching from my corner."
"Keep your distance," said Bloch. "I want confirmation before we do anything."
Morgan leaned against a lamppost and looked at the man now crossing the plaza. He looked more like a fashion designer than anything, with a svelte silver-fox thing going on and a stylish designer suit.
"Positive ID," Morgan said. "That's Lukacs."
"Get in position," Bloch instructed. "Diesel, on alert. You need to arrive with the van just as they reach the street with Lukacs. Lily will provide a distraction." Lily referred to Lily Randall — young, green-eyed, eminently distracting to any heterosexual male with a pulse.
Morgan caught sight of her coming in from the far side, her auburn hair glistening in the morning sun. "We need to attract as little attention as possible," he muttered.
The band incongruously broke out into a Dixieland rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In." The singer had a voice that suggested he'd been a heavy smoker since age five. The effect wasn't exactly beautiful, but, hell, if it didn't work.
A small semicircle of tourists formed, but some went about their business without a glance at the musicians. That nagged at the corner of Morgan's mind.
"Hold positions," he said. "Lukacs's got company."
"Where?" Bishop asked.
"Tall, bearded guy by the church. Short and stocky next to the tour group on the north side. Red hair by the lamppost, near the southwest corner. And another likely suspect sitting on the far side of the statue."
"The bastard brought a security detail."
"Bishop. Conley." It was Bloch. "Scan the windows for snipers. If he brought this much backup, it's doubtful he'll be stopping there."
Morgan joined the scan, looking at the rows of windows that surrounded the plaza. Two churches, two hotels, a museum, and a government building. All old and elegant.
"Got one," Bishop said. "White building, north side, fourth floor. Third window from the left."
"That's bad news," Lily said.
Morgan shifted his gaze to the band as they launched into a rollicking rendition of "Mack the Knife." "The sniper's in a hotel," he said and called on one of Zeta Division's resident computer geniuses. "Shepard, can you get me room access?"
"Already working on it," came the man's clipped, assured, even cocky, voice.
"On my way." Peter Conley moved toward the hotel entrance. One good thing about working together so many years was that they had a connection that seemed, at times, nearly psychic.
"I don't like this." It was Bishop. "This is getting hairier by the second. I suggest a reassess."
"You're running point on this, Morgan," Bloch snapped. "Your call."
Morgan squinted into the cloudless blue sky. Then he looked at Lukacs, who was talking closely with Pulnik.
"Stay in position," Morgan ordered. "Move in as soon as Lukacs breaks away from Pulnik."
"And Lukacs's people?" Bishop demanded.
"Fan out with the team. I want one of us on every guard. Cuff and drop them. Lily, you go ahead with the diversion on my mark. We're going to need perfect timing on this."
"And Lukacs?" Bishop asked.
"I'll take care of Lukacs," Morgan said. "Extraction van ready?" "I'll move out on your mark," Diesel answered. "Pick you up on the southeast corner."
Morgan watched as the team moved through the crowd as naturally as any tourist, betraying no sign of their purpose.
"I'm in position at the sniper's door," Conley said. "Shepard, how close are you to getting access?"
Shepard scoffed. "I'm in, big guy."
"Morgan, awaiting your signal," Bloch said.
"Hold. Not yet." Morgan kept his eyes on Lukacs and Pulnik, who were still having their conversation. But then Lukacs pulled him close. Morgan watched, silently swearing, as Pulnik's mouth popped open, his eyes widened, and he grabbed at his own belly.
Morgan couldn't see the stabbing clearly, but he did see blood as Pulnik bent double. Lukacs casually eased him down to sit against the low ledge around the statue.
"Damn," Bishop seethed. "Morgan, call it off."
"The mission doesn't change." Morgan was not going to let Lukacs get away. "Target's moving out. Lily, that's your cue."
On the far side of the plaza, Lily pulled a megaphone from her pack and turned it on with an earsplitting whine.
"Wake up, sheeple!" she screeched, her voice amplified and flattened by the megaphone. "The Illuminati run your lives!" Lily was really selling the insanity, and people took notice. "The reptilians have invaded the highest level of government!" Tourists moved toward her or rubbernecked to get a look at the crazy girl. "They want us for our blood!"
That was the Zeta team's cue. They moved in on Lukacs's security. Lukacs had left Pulnik on the ground and was moving back from the direction he had come from. As he turned, Lukacs' eyes met Morgan's, and they held his stare long enough for the message to come across as clear as a New York glass of water.
"Goddamn it!" Bishop exploded. "I told you this was a bad idea. Didn't I goddamn tell you?"
"Too late now," Morgan snapped. "Move!"
They had lost the element of surprise, but Pulnik was losing his life. Morgan heard the sound of Conley kicking the sniper's hotel door in as Lukacs's security drew their guns. Morgan couldn't spare the attention to see what was going on. He heard gunfire, then screaming, as he ran straight for Lukacs.
There was just one problem. Two guards were converging on him, fast, from the left and right. Morgan turned his run evasive, reaching for his Walther.
Lily, having cast off her megaphone, came dashing from the left and tripped one of the men, sending him reeling to the ground. This gave Morgan the opening he needed to fire at the other guard. Three bullets perfectly placed in the man's chest, and he was down. Although there was the risk of him having a bulletproof vest, Morgan couldn't chance a head shot causing collateral damage on any innocent bystander.
He took the man's gun and tossed it to Lily, who had come weaponless.
"I owe you!" she said and ran off to help out Spartan, who was struggling to fight off two of Lukacs's security guards. Then Morgan took off running again toward Lukacs, who was by now at the edge of the square.
Morgan charged as hard and fast as he could. Someone crashed into him, sending his Walther flying. Morgan rolled to his feet to face his new attacker. It was the young man in the red coat. But instead of flashing an annoying smile, he was pointing a Beretta M9 directly between Morgan's eyes.
"I always give my enemy a moment to think," he said, "of their last words."
Morgan darted his gaze all around the smugly grinning killer. His team was scattered. None of them could help. The man was too close for him to run, but too far for him to attack and survive.
"Think of any?" the man in the red coat sneered.
Morgan turned his hand and raised his middle finger.
"Eloquent," the man chuckled and shrugged, tightening his finger on the Beretta's trigger.
Then the sound of a gunshot filled Morgan's ears.
Dan Morgan knew he wasn't dead. The dead never hear the sound of the gun that shoots them.
His daughter, Alexandria "Alex" Morgan, however, grimaced at the sharp smell of gunpowder. Body still humming from the Heckler and Koch MSG90 sniper rifle recoil, she watched through the scope as the man in the red coat fell to the ground. The blood from his chest wound mingled with the color of his outerwear and started spreading onto the cobblestones.
"Hell of a shot, Alex," she heard her father saying in her ear.
"Compliments later, Dad," she murmured. "We got to spot Lukacs."
As people drained from the square, Alex scanned the space, looking for their target or his other men, but the survivors had disappeared from sight. She'd taken out two others before nailing Red-Coat, as Morgan and his team were discovering.
Morgan sniffed in appreciation of his daughter's burgeoning skill and his superior's previous doubts. Bloch had been concerned about putting Alexon on this mission. She had hedged her bets by ordering Alex to nest in the hotel room overlooking the square, where Bloch did not expect the younger, female Morgan to see any action.
Both father and daughter would have enjoyed seeing Bloch eat crow ... if the rest of the assignment hadn't become such a hash.
"Anyone got eyes on him?" Morgan asked.
A chorus of negatives came over the radio. Alex made one last survey of the square. "I'm no good up here anymore. I'm moving out."
"You stay where you are," her father said.
"Make me." She set the rifle on the hotel room carpet and wiped her fingerprints from it — not expecting any retort from her father and not getting it. After stowing her 9mm Taurus compact automatic in its holster and a stun gun in one of her pockets, she pulled on her coat, pulled up the lapels to obscure her face, and left the room, the hall, the stairway, and the hotel — all the while remembering his advice.
Excerpted from "Rogue Commander"
Copyright © 2017 Leo J. Maloney.
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.
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