Shadow Hunter (Paperback)

by Guy Morgan Galli, Jeffrey R. Galli

Shadow_hunter
Shadow_hunter

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Product Description

Stationed in Cairo, CIA agent Sam Ryker has one thing on his mind: capturing the Chameleon, an elusive terrorist whom he believes is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks across the region. But when his wife and twin daughters are killed during their vacation in Israel, Ryker takes early retirement and sinks into despondency. With his family gone and his faith in peril, he’s at his darkest hour when a summons comes from James Cannon, president of the Church and former ambassador to the Middle East: four LDS medical missionaries have been kidnapped in Egypt, and Ryker is the man to bring them home. Back in action, Ryker teams up with Mossad intelligence agent and long-time friend Manni Lubin and the Egyptian national police chief for the rescue effort, but the stakes are higher than they thought. Can Ryker stop the kidnappers before their next evil strike? And can he do so without succumbing to evil himself?

Product Details

  • Size:  6"x9"
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  2009
  • Number of discs:  8

About the Authors

ONE

Sam Ryker had the shot. His trigger finger tightened almost automatically in anticipation of the kill, but he restrained himself. He needed the man in his crosshairs alive, at least for now. The target’s name was Yousef Al-Mina, and he was wanted for the death of twenty-six tourists killed in a roadside bombing in the Sinai a month earlier. Eleven had been American, hence Ryker’s interest and personal attention to bring this criminal and coward to justice.

Ryker had taken his position atop a small, two-star hotel that catered to the more undesirable population that frequented the run-down corner of Cairo. Lying flat on the roof, a duffel bag under his chest for support, he looked down the barrel and telescopic sight of his U.S. Marine Corps M40 sniper rifle. Ryker was practically invisible, hidden behind the glare of the hotel neon sign, and it was there, clad from head to toe in matte black, that Ryker first spotted Al-Mina step from the flashing and deafening nightclub across the street.

“Target acquired,” Ryker said over the police radio.

A second later he was answered. “Confirmed. Teams Two and Three move to follow.” The voice on the radio belonged to Hasan al-Mohammed, chief inspector of Egypt’s National Police, and one of Ryker’s most trusted associates and friends. They had worked together on many assignments over the years, though most of them outside the official liaison channels put in place by their respective governments. Egypt and the United States were on friendly terms—allies, some would say—but each insisted on maintaining some secrets and working alone to further their national security. Ryker and Hasan, however, understood that more could be accomplished working together than covering the same ground twice, giving their targets double the chances to elude capture and swift justice. They had each been warned and reprimanded by their superiors for their dangerous and rogue behavior, but in the world of international counterterrorism, the ends often justified the means.

“Team Three?” Hasan’s calm, but authoritative voice broke the brief silence. “Status?”

The radio crackled with static. “In position.”

“Team Two?”

“Ready.”

“Sam,” Hasan said, switching to English, “you still on?” Hasan used English, not for Ryker’s benefit—Ryker spoke Arabic better than most natives—but to keep their personal exchange and comments from his men.

Ryker moved his earpiece mic down his face. “Are you kidding? Wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

“You did it again, my friend,” Hasan said. “Are you certain I cannot persuade you to share your source for Al-Mina’s whereabouts? I’m sure I could arrange a sizeable retainer.”

Ryker smiled beneath his dark ski mask. Hasan was nothing if not persistent. “Put the two of you in touch with each and miss all this? Not a chance.”

Hasan chuckled. “Then if you will not transmit my government’s generous offer, perhaps you will at least convey my thanks and gratitude.”

Ryker had no doubt that Hasan had a good idea what his source was, but he knew better than to communicate it over the air. Ryker’s undeviating moral compass had earned him the respect of everyone he had ever worked with, allowing him to forge strong and lasting friendships. One such friendship with an Israeli Mossad agent had evolved into a brotherhood of sorts. It was strange, Ryker had thought many times over the years, that a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew could work so well together despite their government’s continually strained relationships. It was a funny thing, the politics of man.

“Trust me; he was all too happy to help.”

“Perhaps when we finally admit that we are no longer young men and decide to leave this work in the hands of men half our age, you could arrange a chance for me to thank him in person.”

“He would like that very much.”

The leader of Team Two cut in. “Target on the move.”

Ryker immediately refocused his attention on the street below. Flanked by half a dozen bodyguards, Al-Mina stepped out from beneath the nightclub’s awning and toward the street, drunk and laughing, women of the night on each arm. From the line of cars parked along the street, a four-door black Mercedes-Benz pulled out and stopped at the curb in front of him. Even at this late hour, other club patrons arrived and departed in symbols of Western wealth and affluence, no one paying particular attention to the killer who stood among them.

“Team Three?”

“We see him.”

Ryker looked further up the street, noting that Hasan’s principal surveillance team sat ready, disguised in their dull, nondescript French Citroën.

“Team Two?”

Out of sight, Ryker knew they were there to pick up the secondary tail. “Ready,” they answered.

The sound of a loud engine, grinding gears, commanded Ryker’s attention, and he watched as a large delivery truck jerked and sputtered as it rounded the corner and headed his way. A twinge of panic seeped into his stomach. It was an irrational fear, losing sight of a target moments before apprehension, but there were so many elements in the field that he couldn’t control. A good agent could only do his best, prepare for the worst, and roll with whatever came his way. Controlling the flow of traffic was one of those elements.

“Hasan,” Ryker said. “Blackout approaching. Confirm target.”

“Team Two?”

“Confirmed.”

“Are you sure?” Ryker interrupted. “Don’t lose sight of him.”

“Don’t worry,” a member of Team Two replied. “He’s not going anywhere.”

“Famous last words,” Ryker said under his breath.

“There is nothing to fear,” Hasan assured him. “Once he is clear of civilians, we will have him.”

The truck passed in front of Ryker’s line of sight, and immediately Team Two reported in.

“Target on the move.” Up the street the French Citroën pulled out into traffic. “We’re on him.”

Al-Mina’s entire entourage was gone, women and all, as the Mercedes pulled away.

“Team Three?”

Further up the street the reply came. “We see him.”

“Keep it tight,” Hasan instructed, “but don’t spook him until he’s in the open. No mistakes, men. We need him alive.”

“Relax,” came the confident voice of Team Two’s leader. “You are almost as bad as the American.”

“That’s enough!” Hasan barked over the radio. “Move to frequency beta. Say again, beta.”

Both teams confirmed the radio frequency change and then the line went dead.

“Sam?” Hasan asked once they were gone.

“Still here.”

“I apologize for my men. For some of them, national pride sometimes overshadows their better judgment.”

“No worries. Besides, you were starting to sound like me.”

Both men chuckled but quickly resorted to an uncomfortable silence.

“I wish you could come with us,” Hasan finally said.

Ryker didn’t answer right away. “Like the old days.”

“I could make room in the backseat. What’s one more?”

Ryker shook his head. “I think we’ve broken enough rules for one night.”

Hasan chuckled softly again. “Always the voice of reason.”

“You will get him, won’t you?”

“If the Koran permitted it, I would swear to you I would.”

“I know you will. Now, go. You have a terrorist to catch.”

“I will call you the minute we have him.”

“Thank you, my friend. Out,” Ryker said.

Ryker watched as a second car, this time a four-door BMW, pulled into the street. Ryker raised his hand in acknowledgment as Hasan drove past and in pursuit. An anxious regret washed over him. If his own CIA has been half as quick to act as the Egyptian National Police, it would be him following Al-Mina and Hasan relegated to the role of consultant.

Ryker sighed and started cleaning up his eagle’s nest, stripping his sniper rifle and packing away his tripod. Even before the attack in the Sinai, Ryker had followed the bloody career of Yousef Al-Mina. But until the attack, he and his “Will of God” had been a pathetic footnote in the volumes of international terrorism. Born in Syria, Al-Mina had joined the Lebanese-based Hezbollah, or Party of God, but didn’t distinguish himself in any way. After a few years of mediocre service, he quit Hezbollah and joined the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, and served a few years fighting the Palestinian fight, again just blending in with the rank and file, until he denounced all other militant Islamic groups and founded the Will of God. A two-bit, hack organization, the Will of God was slow to make any real noise in the world of Islamic terrorism but was quick to claim responsibility for acts the world over, whether they had committed them or not, making eloquent and angry speeches for the press to clip on the evening news.

Until two weeks ago. Intelligence confirmed that Al-Mina had planned and executed the tour bus bombing, which just didn’t fit his profile and modus operandi. Which naturally started Ryker thinking that perhaps—

A loud and unruly laugh from the street below sent a shock of alarm through his entire system. Ryker dropped to his stomach again and crawled to the edge of the rooftop. He looked just in time to see Al-Mina step into the backseat of another black Mercedes, calling for a giggling woman who was stumbling out of the club entrance.

Hasan is following the wrong car!

Ryker fumbled with the radio, trying to reach Hasan, but all he got was the static of dead air. He ripped the earpiece out and grabbed the cell phone on his belt, dialing Hasan’s office number as he ran for the building’s back fire escape. Halfway down, the dispatch operator answered his call. He knew it would be useless trying to explain who he was and why he needed to reach the chief inspector, so he counted on urgency and brevity to carry the message quickly to Hasan’s attention.

“This is an urgent message for Hasan. He is following the wrong car! Repeat, he is following the wrong car. Target made the switch. Have him call me at . . .” Ryker left his local cell number before hanging up. If the dispatch operator followed protocol, she would reach Hasan via the radio and play back Ryker’s message.

Ryker rounded the hotel just as the Mercedes pulled away from the curb.

His own car was parked almost three blocks away. There wasn’t time to get it. Ryker looked up and down the street. Parked five or six cars up from the club was a taxi. Sprinting across the street, Ryker watched as the taxi began to pull away. Unwilling to let it go, he lunged in front of the car and slammed his hands on the hood. The taxi stopped suddenly, the driver’s face wide with fear. Ryker quickly slipped in the back door.

“Follow that car!” he ordered, pointing to Al-Mina’s Mercedes.

Ryker reached into his jacket and removed his Glock nine-millimeter semiautomatic and checked the clip. Full. Fifteen rounds. But it was a false sense of security. This was not American soil; he had no authority to carry—let alone fire—a weapon. Diplomatic immunity only went so far, and Egypt had strong and harsh gun laws. Any shot would have to be seriously considered, and every shot would have to count.

He holstered his gun, leaned forward, and tapped the driver on the shoulder.

“Follow the Mercedes at all costs,” Ryker said in flawless Arabic. “I am working with the National Police. You will be greatly rewarded for your help tonight.”

The driver looked back at Ryker and sized him up.

“You are American?” he asked in broken English.

“Just drive,” Ryker said, this time with an edge of authority in his voice.

The driver held Ryker’s stare for a beat and then turned his attention back to the road. He stayed about four car lengths behind the Mercedes, matching its speed and even running a stoplight to keep up with it. They were headed northeast, out of the city, heading toward one of two airports servicing Cairo. He figured he had, at most, fifteen minutes to stop him. Without the help of Hasan or his men it was going to be difficult. Even if he could call in CIA reinforcements, it would take longer than that to cut through the red tape and explain why he was working with the Egyptian National Police without the proper authorization.

Sam Ryker was on his own.

Without any warning, Al-Mina approached the next intersection, drove halfway into it, and then made a hard left. Ryker’s heart began to race. They had been spotted! Ryker reached up and touched the taxi driver’s shoulder and gestured to stay with them. The driver was the big unknown in this whole impromptu operation. The thought had crossed his mind back at the club to eject the taxi driver and just take his car to follow Al-Mina, but he never expected to do anything but follow him and let Hasan apprehend him.

The taxi driver reached the intersection and made a hard right.

“Hey!” Ryker shouted. “What . . .?”

The taxi pulled to the side of the street and came to a sudden stop, throwing Ryker into the back of the front seats. When Ryker bounced back, he found himself looking down the barrel of snubbed-nose Smith & Wesson. The driver was shaking and had a wild, nervous look in his eyes.

How could he have been so careless! He should have seen it, but he had underestimated the enemy. The taxi—pulling away at the same time as Al-Mina. The cab driver was a watchman, falling in behind to watch for any sign of a tail, and Ryker had just burst in and handed them the whole operation. Sloppy, he thought to himself. Just plain sloppy.

“Get out!” the driver blurted. He waved the gun again. “Get out!”

The taxi’s back door opened, and two hands reached in and jerked Ryker out of the cab and onto the ground. Rolling with the momentum of his assailant, he got to his feet and quickly assessed his situation, dire as it was. His back to a wall, he stood facing three large men, each armed with a club of one kind or another. As intimidating as they each tried to be, smiling with anticipation of the attack and gently thumping their weapons in their hands, Ryker knew that none of them were professional or even experienced fighters. These were what he called “heavies”—enforcers, bullies, posing as bodyguards to scare and intimidate. Under the right set of circumstances, and with a frightened victim, they could be deadly, but their actions, for the most part, were driven by a need to show strength instead of actually use it. True to form, the men circled around, forcing Ryker to move from the wall and back up against the cab, cursing him and the entire Western world as they did.

Ryker didn’t have time for this. Al-Mina was getting away, and every second he spent there, waiting for Al-Mina’s lackeys to make their move, was just going to make his apprehension that much harder. It was time to take control of the situation.

Ryker faked a lunge to his right, drawing one the heavies’ attack. He swung his club—a weathered baseball bat—striking the side of the cab. But instead of pulling back as an experienced street fighter would have done, he let it remain pressed against the dent he had made in the car door. The show of force was enough for Ryker to grab the wooden bat, pushing and pulling quickly to dislodge it from his attacker’s grip. Stunned at the sudden lost of his symbol of power, Ryker pulled back and delivered a heel kick into his abdomen. Ryker winced at the pain associated with executing a kick like that without stretching first but dismissed it and took up a ready fighting stance.

It had been years since he had faced real attackers, and he was a little surprised to watch as his body took over, instinctively moving from attacker to attacker, quickly and efficiently, blocking and striking with enough force to disable the gang of heavies, taking each of them in turn to the ground.

Ryker turned back to the cab driver in time to see him bring the gun to bear, shaking, and pull the trigger. The shot went wide, missing him and hitting the far wall behind him. Not wanting to give him the time to steady his shot and fire again, Ryker shoved the wooden Louisville Slugger in the passenger-side window, connecting with the driver’s chin. He dropped the gun as his hands reached for his broken jaw. Ryker jumped and slid across the hood of the car, threw open the driver’s door, and pulled him to the ground. The driver did little but plead for his life in the name of Allah as he fell to the ground, spitting out teeth and wailing in dramatic pain.

“Maybe you should consider a new line of work,” Ryker said to the driver, stepping over him and behind the wheel, flooring the accelerator. The cab fishtailed on the sandy road, turning around and speeding through the intersection in the direction he had last seen Al-Mina’s BMW. He glanced at his watch. Nearly three minutes had passed. It would take a miracle to pick up the trail and stop him now.

Ryker settled into the calm he experienced as the hunter. Well, then, he thought, he’d just have to make the miracle.

Ryker quickly laid out the grid of Cairo in his mind, only half aware of the blur of city streets racing past him as he sped to make up for lost time. Al-Mina was supposed to have already left the country, no doubt headed for Syria until the next attack. If it were not for Ryker’s Israeli contact and his willingness to share Al-Mina’s change in plans, they would have missed the chance to apprehend him before he disappeared. But now, due to a colossal error of judgment, Ryker was going to miss that opportunity again. But if Al-Mina’s extended stay in Cairo for one more night of pleasure and sin was just a delay in his overall escape plans, then he would still need a quick way out of the country. Cairo International Airport offered too much exposure—his name and face were still making the evening news. Which left a smaller airport with a private jet.

Ryker mentally worked his way through the city and then found it.

Almaza.

Situated just south of Cairo International, Almaza airfield serviced many of the smaller charter aircraft that swept the world’s tourists to the many cities of antiquity that lined the Nile. Where Cairo International brought them in from afar, Almaza moved them around while they were there.

Al-Mina’s hard left back at the intersection must have been a diversion. Ryker stomped on the brakes and took the next right, backtracking until he hit Elthawra Street and a straight shot to Almaza.

As he made the last turn in the road, he caught a set of taillights turning into one of the many private entrances to the airfield.

I have him!

Ryker floored the accelerator, pushing the taxi cab to new speeds.

As he drove along the south side of Almaza, Ryker took notice of the many private entrances to the airfield. Each were secured with fences or gates, and running the length of the road was a roll of razor wire to deter any unauthorized, over-the-top access. He tried to push the cab even faster, but greater speed was just not possible. As he approached the entrance he had seen Al-Mina’s BMW used, Ryker saw a thick metal gate closing. He didn’t have much time, and his options were limited. In a split second, Ryker reasoned that his best option was the direct approach, using the car’s speed and momentum to ram through the barrier. Besides, he thought with a cynical smile, it always works in the movies.

Ryker kept the accelerator pressed as far as possible and braced for impact. With a scream of crashing and twisting metal, the taxi sailed through the gate with seemingly little effort, tearing the doors from their hinges and throwing them to either side and up and over the roof of the car.

Ryker’s triumphant yell, however, caught in his throat as he spotted the line of jagged metal claws protruding from the ground just inside the airfield entrance. A fraction of a second later, the tire shredder caught hold of the cab and ripped the rubber from the rims, sending the car skidding across the asphalt. The thought only briefly lit on his mind that the remote for the gate must have also lowered the tire shredder as the exposed wheel rims protested and gave up their forward momentum.

Two hundred meters ahead of him, Al-Mina’s car slowed and stopped next to a twin-engine, twelve-passenger Learjet, ready for takeoff. Knowing the cab’s obvious limitations, and not seeing any other options before him, Ryker threw open the car door and started off after them on foot, removing his Glock and chambering a round. It was bad enough to discharge his weapon in the city, but to start shooting on airport property spelled almost certain arrest, detainment, and deportation if he was lucky. But Al-Mina was not going to get away—not on his watch.

About fifty meters into his sprint, the BMW’s driver spotted him, yelling into the car for Al-Mina to hurry and then producing a handgun and opening fire on him. Ryker could tell that the driver was a chauffer first and bodyguard second as his shots went wide.

Ryker’s, however, did not.

Never one to take a life unless it was absolutely necessary, Ryker aimed for and hit the man’s shoulder, throwing him backward over the hood of the car. The woman Al-Mina had picked up outside the nightclub dove out of the car, falling to the ground before standing up, off balance in her studded high heels, screaming and running away from the exchange of gunfire.

Another man emerged from the car, drawing his gun and leaning on the roof of the car to steady his aim. By his calm and deliberate movements, this bodyguard proved to be the first professional he had encountered that night. Ryker had just enough time to dive behind a luggage taxi as three slugs with his name on them whistled by his head and embedded in the metal trailers behind him.

Ryker could hear the jet engines begin to whine to life. He peeked around the corner. True to his training, Al-Mina’s genuine bodyguard had refused to move, waiting for a clear shot to take Ryker out. Al-Mina hadn’t yet left the safety of the BMW, but Ryker knew that wouldn’t last for long. The sooner he got on board, the sooner he would be in the air and free. It was now or never. For both of them.

But the solution to Ryker’s problem wasn’t just a few steps away, as it was for Al-Mina. He was pinned down with no backup and no bigger plan to implement. He checked his gun. A full clip, for what it was worth.

Ryker checked his situation. He was still over a hundred meters away, with nothing between him and Al-Mina but the empty tarmac, and the many flood lights dispelled the cover of night—CIA training at Langley couldn’t have come up with a more difficult field agent testing scenario. He had to come up with something. And fast.

Ryker stole another glance but pulled back almost automatically as another bullet sailed dangerously close to his head. In that brief moment, however, he did see that the jet’s stairs had been lowered to the ground. He had to act! Now!

Ryker laid his own cover fire, squeezing off about a round each second. He sprinted toward the car and jet, zigzagging to keep out of the brightest lights. After he had expelled ten rounds, Ryker stopped shooting and running, took a deep breath, and waited. As he had expected, Al-Mina’s man had take cover behind the car, waiting out Ryker’s volley and the chance to finish off the job. As soon as the shots ceased, the bodyguard popped up to return fire, only to be met with Ryker’s dead-on aim. The bullet glanced off the bodyguard’s weapon and traveled into his arm. He dropped his gun and screamed in pain.

Keeping his Glock at the ready, Ryker ran cautiously the rest of the way, looking for any sign of movement behind the tinted glass. There wasn’t any, and that worried him. He had been careful not to shoot the car and risk hitting Al-Mina, so where was he? Ryker made his way around the back of the car, keeping himself low and out of view of the back window. Ryker knew that it wouldn’t fit Al-Mina’s profile for him to attack an armed lawman, but then again, the attack in the Sinai didn’t fit his profile either.

The back passenger door was ajar. Ryker thrust his gun inside.

“Don’t move!” he yelled in Arabic. But there was no one there to obey his command.

The pitch of the jet engine whine changed as the plane behind him began to move. Ryker turned around to see the jet’s retractable stairway folding up as it turned away.

Al-Mina was already on the plane!

A shot rang out from the jet’s closing door as it continued to turn away from him, but Ryker didn’t even flinch. It wasn’t meant to hit him, and at that angle it was all but impossible. No, Al-Mina was just giving Ryker something to remember him by as he made his escape, a little memento to ring in his ears and haunt him long after he was gone.

But Ryker wasn’t about to let that happen. He had run out of patience with this chase and decided to end it before things got out of hand. Standing and leaning over the roof of the car, Ryker took careful aim and shot out the plane’s front tire. The nose of the plane dropped sharply a few inches as the pressurized gas escaped in a small explosion of air. The pilot, however, panicking and thinking somehow that he could still get his aircraft in the air, throttled the engine higher. Without the smooth front tire to carry the plane forward, the small metal wheel hub caught on the asphalt, collapsing the front landing gear, bringing the front of the plane smashing to the ground.

The engine whine died down, and Ryker sprinted after the downed plane. Afraid that Al-Mina might feel trapped enough to take drastic measures, Ryker knew he had to get inside and secure the plane as quickly as possible. As he neared it, he could see that the door had not yet completely shut and sealed itself. Wedging his fingers in the small gap, he braced himself with one foot on the fuselage and pulled with what little strength he had left. The door refused to move much at first, but then the hydraulic system gave way and the door folded open enough for Ryker to squeeze his way inside.

“Police!” Ryker yelled in Arabic, not so much for Al-Mina’s benefit but for the pilot. Quick movement from the cockpit caught his eye, and he trained his weapon on the cowering pilot. He had dropped to his knees, hands interlocked behind his head, clearly having been through this routine before. Not wanting to turn his back on him, Ryker motioned with his Glock toward the door.

“Get out!” he ordered, and the pilot was only too willing to comply.

Ryker turned his full attention to the cabin. There were three rows of seats—six seats on each side of the aisle, all of them empty. Broken glass littered the floor near Ryker, a wide assortment of alcohol having been jolted to the floor from the mini-bar at the front of the plane during its sudden stop. At the rear of the cabin was the lavatory, but there was no trace of Al-Mina.

“Yousef,” Ryker called out in flawless Arabic, “there is nowhere else for you to run.” He listened for the sounds of his elusive prey, but only silence prevailed. In that silence, though, Ryker heard the first signs of relief approaching with their sirens wailing in the distance. He only hoped it was Hasan and his men, otherwise he’d have a great deal of explaining to do.

“Do you hear that? It will be better for you if you are already in custody by the time they get here. The police will only need the smallest excuse to skip the trial and carry out your execution. Let me bring you in safely.”

No response.

“Don’t do this, Al-Mina,” Ryker said, creeping his way down the aisle. “This is not like you. You don’t—”

A sudden sound from the lavatory gave Ryker all the direction he needed as he leapt to his feet, lunged for the door, and yanked it open hard enough to tear it off its top hinge. Al-Mina’s back was pressed up against the lavatory wall, arms extended, gun aimed and ready to fire. Without time to think about his next move, Ryker instinctively ducked and shot his left hand up, deflecting the gun the moment Al-Mina pulled the trigger. Knowing from years of training that the quickest way to control an opponent’s weapon is to control the opponent, Ryker put his weight behind his right fist and connected squarely with the man’s midsection. Al-Mina dropped to the floor the same time the gun did, and almost before it had started, the fight was over.

Ryker dragged the beaten terrorist out of the bathroom and pushed him toward the front of the plane. Al-Mina stumbled to the ground, coughing and wheezing, trying to get his breath back. Outside, red and yellow lights flashed and cut through what was left of the darkness as the Egyptian cavalry arrived. Ryker twisted his arm and applied pointed pressure to the web of flesh between his thumb and finger. Al-Mina winced in pain.

“Now we’re going to walk out of here with no problems,” Ryker said with more than a hint of threat in his tone. “Don’t give them any excuse to open fire, and you just might live to see another sunrise.” He applied more pressure for emphasis. “Are we clear?”

Yousef Al-Mina, self-appointed head of the Will of God, and coward down to his core, just nodded helplessly and cursed under his breath.

“Let’s go.”

Ryker grabbed the back of Al-Mina’s shirt and push him through the open door. In an unexpected display of courage, Al-Mina reached around and grabbed Ryker’s arm, using the momentum to pull Ryker off balance. They tumbled out of the plane together. Ryker released his grip for only a second, but it was enough for Al-Mina to break free and make a run for it. Ryker scrambled to get to his feet but a heavy boot to his back pushed him back down to the pavement.

Al-Mina didn’t get more than three steps away before he was assaulted by two National Police officers and roughly and unceremoniously thrown to the ground. Both men were surrounded by ten men, guns drawn and aimed. Three more officers approached them, gun trained and unflinching. Ryker looked up but didn’t recognize any of the faces as belonging to Hasan’s men.

“My name is Sam Ryker,” he said. “I am an American citizen working with Chief Inspector Hasan al-Mohammed of the National Police. If you will—”

“Arrest that man!” a voice called out from beyond the perimeter of the police car headlights. Ryker looked up but couldn’t see past the glare. Then a figure stepped into view. “Help him up and bring him to me.”

Ryker smiled. He recognized the voice now. He was helped to his feet by Hasan’s lieutenant. “What took you so long?”

“It would seem our dispatch security protocols may be in need of revision to better handle . . . certain emergencies.” Hasan smiled. “Hey, I tried calling you. Twice. But you didn’t pick up.”

Ryker pulled the cell phone out of his pocket. The cover was cracked and the LED display dark. He tapped it a few times then shrugged. “They don’t build them like they used to.”

Hasan nudged his arm. “You or the phone?”

Ryker stretched his arms and neck, feeling the pain of pushing his arguably aging body to young man limits. Both friends laughed, though Ryker’s was underscored with stiffness and soreness through his body. “Both, it would seem.”

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