—Mark Greaney, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Agent in Place
THE MAN FROM ORANGE
Intelligence and counterterrorist expert J.T. Patten uncovers the ultra top-secrect war against terror in his explosive black-ops series …
NO MISSION IS IMPOSSIBLE
Drake Woolf is the perfect throwaway agent—a deadly, invisible force able to handle the blackest of black-ops missions. No one’s better when it comes to search and destroy. But his lethal drive feeds a relentless hunger. It’s all his handlers at Task Force Orange can do to point him at the right targets. This time he’s up against a massive, global conspiracy. In his deadly crosshairs are a Venezuelan terrorist, hordes of elite Iranian assassins, and a beautiful and wily FBI counterintelligence agent. Drake’s aim is flawless but his judgments are all over the place. If he doesn’t get it right this time, it will be Hell on Earth.
Raves for J.T. Patten
“J.T. Patten has done all the research. All you need to do is hang on for the ride.”
—Sean Naylor, Bestselling Author of Relentless Strike and Not a Good Day to Die
"Primed Charge reads like a throwback to when action movies didn't suck. J.T. Patten, with his penchant for been-there-done-that authenticity, remains an author to watch closely."
—The Real Book Spy
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
H Canyon, Savannah River Nuclear Reprocessing Facility
There is a moment of silence that exists when you are about to kill a man. Drake Woolf didn't experience that quiet or the whisper of silent judgment before dealing death. In fact, he heard three distinct competing voices, and that sound was deafening in his mind. It was a trifecta of agitating inquiries and orders assaulting his consciousness as the creeping Iraqi target entered his scoped night vision view.
Among the voices, Drake's tongue clicked three times, a tic that had followed him since early childhood. Often the muted sound was a subconscious signal that his body was switching to full operational autopilot like a virtual private network tunnel shielding itself from every unwanted viral thought assaulting his connection. Depending on the situation, it could be in an isolated triad or could continue in a sequential pattern until he could control his wits.
Woolf's Armalite .300 Winchester Magnum rifle rested securely atop a Leatherback bulletproof rucksack. He pulled the buttstock tighter to his shoulder, feeling the stiffness in his body from the latest of battle wounds that had decimated his flesh. Drake willed his body to stay motionless despite the discomfort. The ground was hard; the air was East Coast–heavy but still.
He focused on the distance, target movement, his non-optimal elevation, and the fact that his head was a circus show of sounds that he rucked in his fractured mind. Focus be damned, he had trigger-time work to do and difficult conditions weren't an impediment.
His obsessive-compulsive disorder required him to recheck his range — yet again — and while he was going over the ballistic data in his head, his concentration was shattered by the newest surge of voices.
"Do you have a shot?" squawked Sean Havens, the team leader of Task Force Orange, hoping for a positive sitrep as they prepared to take out the last of the Iraqi Special Operations assaulters that had been wreaking havoc on America for the past weeks.
"Roger. I've got the shot," a chill Drake confirmed, his boss's voice resonating through an encrypted bone-conduction headset.
Kill him, Drake, ordered the neuropsychic voice that medicine still failed to subdue in Drake Woolf's diseased brain. Kill them before they get away. Don't screw it up. You screw everything up.
All of you shut the fuck up, Drake's inner voice of reason cursed as he fought to maintain target viability and presence of mind.
He filled his lungs and pushed the voices, both real and imagined, to the far corners of consciousness. Then, Drake slowly released his breath and eased his heart rate to rebalance mental equilibrium from the cognitive overload that was his minute-by-minute nightmare every damned moment of the day.
The Iraqi, an Iranian-run surrogate exported from Mosul, headed toward the ten-foot razor-wire-topped fence, came back into Drake's scoped view, the reticle moving in time with his heart.
Woolf steadied his eager anticipation of the kill shot.
Not yet. Wait.
Do it. Kill him now. You may need to take a second shot when you miss.
You're going to miss, the head voice taunted in the echo chamber of opinions.
Never. Drake pressed the trigger. The round was sent.
A metal mechanism clink, a subdued subsonic pop, and a dissipated flash of light emitted from the Holy Trinity of discreet ops pipe hitting: the rifle, its sound suppressor, and flash hide.
The Iraqi Special Operations Forces, or ISOF, soldier tumbled forward like a stack of toy blocks, followed by a full face-plant before reaching the fence line.
Drake chambered another round and trained the rifle on the next scampering man, a blur in his view, but Woolf knew the Iraqi was headed in only one direction — in retreat from the dead body that just flopped to the ground.
Drake pressed again.
The second man fell to eat the earth in a heavy thump.
A third ISOF assaulter, also a long way from home, was in full sprint desperate to flee from his falling comrades.
Drake delivered his final judgment in the form of 180 grains of metal a couple hundred yards out.
The Iraqi operator had to have known how this would go down, and such was likely his last thought before all streams of consciousness evaporated like the exploding pink mist from his bullet-ruptured head.
"All secure," Drake announced to his team. Woolf scanned the fallen bodies again for good measure.
Shit. The second Iraqi was fumbling with his chest. Woolf suspected he had popped the man's chest cavity but perhaps spared the heart. The Iraqi was a goner, but why let Murphy's Law have a say in the final verdict. Last thing they needed was a man screaming like a dying rabbit in the quiet of the night.
Drake's weapon coughed out a final message in the international language of assaulters: "You're dead, shithead. Stay down."
The ISOF operator's wounded body hiccupped on impact, and he became motionless upon receiving the deadly news from Drake in a ripping translation that ended his traitorous life.
"Belay last. Enemy suppressed. Targets all down. Had to send a security round. You're clear to approach," Drake confirmed on the closed-circuit channel before Havens could radio in whether a fourth bogie had appeared. "Now maybe we can finally call it quits before the FBI gets a lock on us," he muttered to himself.
Unless there's someone else we trained who's waiting to kill us.
You did what had to be done, the voice of Drake's deceased father chimed in to the chorus of voices refilling the Man from Orange's head. Can't talk now, Pop. And with that, Drake Woolf popped four lithium, the last of the mania-reduction pills, to quell the voices in his head and relax his OCD tendencies. He prepared to move his shit to cover the rest of his domestic killing squad from a tree line as they collected the dead bodies for disposal.
While grabbing his kit, he checked the status of his earlier launch of an autopilot drone feed. Drake examined the real-time video confirming no additional movements from the facility or fence line. Once the team was safe and sound, he could get to his other electronics gear, and Drake would see if the cell phone signals on the Iraqi target list died like their owners. Maybe then the killing spree that had gone on for weeks would stop. But with the Iranian Republican Guards Corps General Shirazian, a Qods Force spy runner on the lam, and new intelligence coming in from the NSA to the team, Woolf knew hunting season remained open and the bag limit endless. Especially since Drake's task force was sanctioned and fully funded, and there was literally no stopping it now from hunt-and-destroy missions across the fifty states. Even if someone wanted to, they would have to find the team first.
That would be no easy feat.
FBI Special Agent Tresa Halliday was learning that challenge the hard way, ever since she was tasked as a counterintelligence ghost to hunt these military lawbreakers down. Fortunately, she was over five hundred miles from their whereabouts and not the wiser of their mission or all of their names, save for the name of Warren Drake Woolf. And that was because she had hunted the hunter and nearly snared him on a couple occasions. It was inconvenient for Woolf because, as dangerous as she was, somehow Tresa Halliday had found a small opening in Drake's humanity. Like the persistent voices in his head, he couldn't shake her from his mind.
He knew a life no different, and he sure as shit was no redeeming Ernest Hemingway character. He had no drive for honor, self-interest, or sense of purpose. War weariness, however, he had plenty of. But routine held him hostage to continuously going through the motions on the gerbil wheel of combat life.
Drake simply existed in the morass of black operations. And technically, as a US citizen identity, Warren Drake Woolf existed no more. He was fully buried in black.CHAPTER 2
Woolf's main job was technical intelligence, specifically SIGINT, but shooting was second nature. His Ranger tab, if he wore anything standard issue, would show that he had earned the ability to kill silently. His body count proved it.
Intel was Ops and Ops was Intel. He was the wish-list vision of special operations leadership who wanted a shooter to be a Harvard grad who could win a bar fight. They'd have to settle for MIT distance learning Computer Science classes with Drake.
Operating on US soil, however, was still new, and it came with its own challenges, such as not getting caught and landing on death row. Hence, Drake Woolf's new uniform was whatever he needed to wear to get the job done and disavow himself from the buried-in-black unit. It was similar to when he formally worked for the Intelligence Support Activity. Orange. At least before it was decommissioned by President Ross and tucked under yet another highly classified Special Access Program and code-named ICEPICK. Even on the black books, Task Force Orange no longer existed.
Drake lifted his mini-binoculars for a moment while he packed things up. He was curious as to what was taking the big man, Lars, so long, despite the fact that the Scandinavian was an overweight retiree.
Ex-Chicago detective Lars Bjorklund was the third man on Project ICEPICK's disavowed domestic assault team's forward element. As the subject matter expert in forensics and how not to get caught by authorities, he had the dirty work of cleanups, cover-ups, and discreet logistical planning. The role served him well as a former dirty cop. He was also the brother-in-law to Sean Havens, making him both kin and in constant danger, which was okay for the recent retiree who found a renewed sense of purpose with the crew doing "God's work" to keep America safe. Or so they told themselves as they broke the US Constitution and most laws known to man, with the exception of kinky stuff.
* * *
Lars tried to key the fist microphone confirming his readiness to body snatch the dead Iraqis while he fought to keep from busting his ass down the hill. As his over three hundred pounds jiggled with every jarring step, his wired earpiece flopped freely over his shoulder while a small backpack and large canister with hose and nozzle bounced from side to shoulder. The big Swede tried to control his descent, but his aged knees weren't having it.
Should have kept my ass in Scottsdale, he thought as his foot clipped a rock, sending him ass over teakettle.
He came to a rolling halt at the bottom of the hill, right next to the bodies.
"Lars, Lars, what the hell?" a tiny voice yelled.
Lars grabbed his earphone and shoved it into his ear. He was breathing heavy from the fall, and when he finally caught his breath said, "You are going to have to bring the truck to me."
Fortunately for the team, the three Iraqis had chosen a part of the fence line along a wooded service road that was obscured from guard towers securing the K Area Material Storage facility that housed excess plutonium.
"Did you just bust your ass?" Havens demanded, his laughter pouring through the earpiece.
"Got it all on camera," Woolf said a moment later. "Got a good shot of his ass crack too."
Lars grunted to his feet, tugging at his pants before raising his hand high, middle finger extended. He wasn't sure exactly where Drake was but knew the man saw him from his overwatch position.
Lars ran his hands over the first dead Iraqi, cataloguing what he found in the man's pockets aloud. "Got a cheap-ass Hi-Point 9 mil, some bolt cutters, burner phone, Chicom grenades." Each item went into a bag, just like it had when he was a cop in Chicago.
Out of all the stuff he pulled, oddly enough it was the wallet that gave Lars pause.
"What the hell?" he muttered.
"Whatcha got, Lars?"
"This shitbag brought his fake DL, credit card, and room key," he said.
"So, what? He's a dumbass, what can I tell you?" Havens replied.
Something wasn't right. While Lars wasn't an experienced operator, he had done his time on the streets and knew when something didn't smell right.
No way in hell a guy breaks into a nuclear materials management facility with a ghetto blaster and a wallet full of ID.
There was something tugging at his mind that he couldn't place. Something about the scene just wasn't right.
An op like this required more sophisticated gear than what the first dead man possessed. Having attacked and been attacked by jihadist killers in the past weeks, he expected his adversaries to have better gear. He brushed the thought aside and concentrated on using the UV light to scan the ground for exposed blood.
When he found a puddle, Lars sprayed the area with a chemical foam designed to break down the blood proteins after the bodies were removed. There would still be minute traces, but the FBI forensics were going to have to bring their A game to find it.
But if Special Agent Halliday learned of it, she'd be back on their scent, and Sean would definitely not get a chance to put her in another sleeper hold.
The longer Lars worked the cleanup area, the stronger the feeling in his gut grew. It wasn't so much what he was seeing, but what he wasn't seeing that had him on edge. Finally, he gave up and pressed the mic.
"Alpha-3 to ..." — he fumbled with the protocol — "to ... you guys, over."
"Whatcha got, Alpha-3?" Havens responded, his Chicago accent coming through. "I'm about two hundred meters out."
There was a brief pause. "Something isn't right here," Lars started. "If our intel said these guys were targeting building 105-K, that plutonium would be sealed in a welded container. And then nested in larger containers."
"What are you thinking?" Havens asked, probing for more.
"I don't know," Lars said, standing straight and panning the light across the scene. "Where's their semi truck, and big-ass army of mercenary goons, and blow torches, not to mention a lifting hoist? This asshole tried to knock off a DOE nuke site with a hundred-dollar pistol and a pair of Harbor Freight bolt cutters. It's like amateur hour."
"Just tag 'em and bag 'em. We will figure the rest out on the road."
"Copy that," Lars said, unrolling the black heavy vinyl body bag and stuffing the first dead terrorist inside.
He laid a second bag beside his dead compatriot and restarted his pat down. There was no wallet on this one, but there was a mobile device in the jeans back pocket. "They aren't even giving you guys 5.11 tactical digs. Iranian sanctions must be working somewhat," Lars muttered to himself.
Bjorklund pulled the dead man over and began searching inner front pockets and a small pouch with a grenade, as well. It was dark but close enough to the fence perimeter's security lighting that he could see a shadowy sphere rocking to a standstill on the ground. Two grenades. The second had rolled out, and it took Lars a moment to realize the safety pin was likely removed and the spoon released to initiate the fuse assembly.
Detective Bjorklund had seen enough action movies in his day to know that he had likely already lost two to three seconds of his now-fleeting final moments of life. He couldn't escape the roughly five-meter fatality radius, and Sean was driving inwards of twenty meters of the explosive device.
Lars tried to wave off Sean while rolling the dead Iraqi back over the M67 fragmentation grenade. Lars fumbled his grip in both fear and frenzy, and lost his balance, falling closer to the device.
A deep boom sounded. White sparks spit from the ground like a fountain, and a bright flash ruptured the night sky.
* * *
Sean braked the Ford Transit hard and moved to shield himself, arm across his forehead. In the blink of an eye, however, he had watched his brother-in-law tossed over like a rag doll surrounded by the exploding light, and a large chunk of the big Swede separated and sailed through the air.
As if on cue from the booby trap's detonation, the woods came alive, spitting fire at Sean Havens's vehicle.CHAPTER 3
A quarter mile away but still on the Savannah River Site, Iranian General Shirazian stood at the bank's edge listening to the unfolding firefight across the man-made cooling pond. He turned with a continuous nod of approval to the man standing at his side, Waleed El Aissami — Hezbollah's South American External Security leader.
"You see, Waleed, as I told you earlier, it is not the FBI following our soldiers. They would never come with so few men. This is something new. Something we have never seen from the Americans," he said in Lebanese Arabic. "And now it will be no more."
The staccato salvo ensued as a dramatic backdrop to the conversation.
"General, I do not understand why you baited them here?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Presence of Evil"
Copyright © 2019 J.T. Patten.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.