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Authors: Geoffrey Archer

Fire Hawk

BOOK: Fire Hawk
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Contents

Also by Geoffrey Archer

Title Page

Epigraph

Dedication

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Copyright

ALSO BY GEOFFREY ARCHER

Sky Dancer

Shadow Hunter

Eagle Trap

Scorpion Trail

Java Spider

The Lucifer Network

The Burma Legacy

Dark Angel

Fire Hawk
Geoffrey Archer
 
 

Terrorism is perpetrated by individuals with a strong commitment to the causes in which they believe.

The widespread changes occurring within the last two decades have allowed international organised crime groups to become increasingly active worldwide.

Louis J. Freeh
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
28 January 1998

For Eva, Ali and James

Prologue

THE ENGLISHMAN WAS
naked. His hands were tied and his eyes were blinded by a rancid hood. His terror was unspeakable. They'd hurt him dreadfully and would hurt him again, searching for the moment when he could take no more.

The unseen interrogator stood close, smelling of tobacco and cheap after-shave. There were salivary noises from his mouth. The Englishman sensed his eyes on his bruised body, choosing which part to work on first.

Sam Packer struggled to close his mind to what was about to happen. Tried instead to picture something far away from this hell he was in. His mind focused on a face – the face of the woman he'd entrusted with his life.

Then they clubbed him behind the knees and brought him down.

Three days earlier.
Baghdad, Iraq.

They'd been friends for a long time – the middle aged Iraqi and the man he was about to double-cross. His decision to betray the secret they shared had been blocked by fear until now. The others would kill him
when they learned what he'd done. But if the loss of his own life saved the thousands that the Colonel planned to murder, it would not have been lost in vain.

He sat hunched in the rear of the new-smelling military saloon, heart thumping, sweat dripping inside his shirt. The car had left behind the dust and poverty of the souks, crossing the Tigris towards the administrative sector of Baghdad. His breathing hurt – from fear and from the bad chest that had forced his retirement from the army a year after the Kuwait war, where he had served under the same Colonel who would soon be ordering his death.

He would do it just as they'd told him to, handing over the letter with its cryptic warning. But he would do something else, something they couldn't suspect, whispering in the Englishman's ear a secret so shocking he would move mountains to get it to his masters.

The road widened to a broad avenue. Looming on the right was the Rashid Hotel where the foreigners stayed.

Haji Abbas clutched his knees. All along, they'd kept him on the fringes of the conspiracy. Little more than an extra pair of hands. A doubter, but one bound to the Colonel by a loyalty that had now been tested too far. His knowledge of the plan and his complicity in it had become a shame he could no longer bear. The men in the front of the car were also tense. Their loyalty to the Colonel was unswerving yet their lives too were on the line. The Major, black-haired and moustached like their president, and the broad-shouldered Lieutenant behind the wheel whom he hardly knew.

The hotel gate guard lifted the pole and the driver swung in to the right and parked. Stepping inside the hotel's grand entrance, the three men trod solemnly on the face of George Bush painted where visitors would walk on it. Beyond it and to one side, long-faced men from Iraq's impoverished middle-classes sat at tables
selling heirlooms to the few foreigners who ventured here.

They knew the Englishman was in the hotel. The Colonel had checked a short while ago. Abbas made for the elevators. Room 217, he'd been told. A room booked in the spy's cover name Terry Malone. As Abbas approached the lifts the Major touched his arm.

‘No,' he hissed. ‘Over there.'

Abbas looked across the lobby. The Englishman was sitting on a settee with a newspaper in his hands. Grey trousers, white shirt and dark tie. The British spy had a strong, square face with a determined chin, thick, dark hair and steady eyes that registered all they saw. The gritty face of a military man.
Ex
-military, though still in his thirties. Navy.

Abbas crossed the polished floor, tugging the envelope from his jacket. The Englishman looked up. Fear flashed in his eyes like an animal sensing a trap. The Arab's hand shot forward with the letter, the back of his neck prickling from the gaze of the men who'd driven him here.

‘For you, Mister Packer.'

Shock in the eyes then quick recovery. ‘That's not my name. I'm Terry Malone.'

But Packer
was
his name. His real one.

‘You read please.' Abbas spoke hoarsely, his throat dry. With the letter passed, his duty to his friends had been fulfilled.

‘Wrong man, old boy,' Packer insisted. ‘Malone's the name.'

Heart in his mouth, Abbas leaned forward for the unscripted act that would betray his Colonel. Trembling lips close to the Englishman's ear, he unburdened his conscience of its dreadful secret. Words that might yet save thousands from a dreadful fate, but which he knew would seal his own.

1
Wednesday, 25 September 1996
Odessa, Ukraine

IT WAS A
little after seven in the morning when the two black Mercedes SL500 limousines sped through the elegant, tree-lined boulevards of Odessa. The sleek machines swept past the grey-green edifice in vulitsya Evreyska that used to house the KGB headquarters, the cars' heavy-set occupants giving it barely a glance. They'd feared the place in the old days. Feared the authority it represented. But today in this much-changed land it was they who held the power.

Gliding past two rattling Volgas and a packed bus belching soot, the limousines turned left by the Shevchenko Park. Then, tyres drumming on the cobbles, they pounded down the long, straight avenue to the Memorial to the Great Patriotic War, its obelisk set between a V of trees like the needle on a gun sight.

In the first car, two bodyguards rode up front, silently respectful of the man behind them dressed in a dark grey Armani suit and an expensively tasteful silk tie. Vladimir Filipovich Grimov sat on the central squab, keeping his distance from the armoured side windows. His close-cropped hair had the stiffness of a brush and his dark eyes were out of line with each other because one was made of glass.

The cobbled avenue ended in a paved circle. Parking
was forbidden here, but these men had nothing to fear from the Militsia. The two Mercs pulled up a couple of metres apart in front of a red marble tablet engraved with the dates 1941–1945. Beyond lay a small flower bed bursting with red geraniums, and beyond that a narrow, well-trimmed lawn flanked by flagstones stretched two hundred metres down the slope to the monument itself.

The doors of the second car were the first to open. Four men in black got out and spread through the trees, looking for shadows that moved. But at this early hour there was no one else here, as Grimov had expected. He strode down the slope to the terrace where the obelisk stood, ignoring the eternal flame flickering at its foot. He wasn't a man who paid homage. The terrace was edged by a waist-high wall. Like a preacher in a pulpit, he gripped its rim and looked down. Below and to his left lay the ugly sprawl of the docks. Beyond the cranes, most of them idle, a breakwater reached into the Black Sea, a small, white lighthouse at its tip.

The morning was clear and bright. He searched for the pier where the vessel had been due to dock. He held out a hand and an aide pressed binoculars into it. He raised them to his eyes, adjusting focus for the good one until he could read the names of the vessels below. He smiled. The container ship had arrived. As an ex-military man, it pleased him when things ran to plan. He lowered the glasses and watched the containers being swung from the deck to the quay, taking pleasure in knowing that those huge, powerful cranes were in part working for him. There was just one rust-red container on that ship that concerned him. It was his box, although his name and that of his organisation could never be linked with it.

The vessel had come from Piraeus, picking up cargoes there that had been gathered from ports all over the eastern Mediterranean. His container had been shipped from Haifa, packed with cartons of Israeli fruit and
vegetable juices that were well past their sell-by dates and had been bought for next to nothing. The great plan he'd evolved for his foreign clients was going to make him very rich indeed. Their motives concerned him not one jot. Responsibility for the gruesome deaths would be his clients', not his. The one thing that
did
concern him was the complexity of the plan. Too much scope for things to go wrong.

He began to run through in his mind what lay immediately ahead.

In a few hours, if all went to schedule, the container would be delivered to a warehouse. A customs officer would turn up, to be greeted by the warehouse manager, who knew him well. The two men would drink tea together in the site office and talk about football, the customs man quoting from the match report in the morning paper which he would leave folded on the table when they went back outside. In the yard they would break the Israeli customs seals on the forty-foot steel box and open the doors.

Both men would recoil from the stench erupting from inside. Naturally. Both would click their tongues at the sight of the bursting cartons. The warehouse manager would curse the Israelis for sending them such rubbish, giving vent to his deep-rooted anti-Semitism. The load would have to go back. No question. But first the customs official would want it fully unloaded, to check for hidden drugs. Once that was done, and the box was found to contain nothing but rotting juice, the two men would retire to the site office again for a shot of pepper vodka. The customs official would agree to return in a few days' time to reseal the container, once a ship had been found for its return to Israel. There'd be no need to inspect the foul-smelling contents again, he would say. Of course not. No need at all. Then, after another shot of Pertsovka, the customs officer would pocket his folded
newspaper – heavier now there was an envelope inside it – and be on his way.

Usually it was stolen icons that slipped out of the country this way. What it was to be this time the customs man would neither know nor care.

Vladimir Filipovich Grimov brushed imagined dust from the sleeves of his Armani suit and cast a last glance down at the harbour. He sniffed the crisp morning air. He had a good feeling about this one. A confidence that, despite its complexity, the plan would work.

He turned away from the view, handed the binoculars to his aide and strode back up the slope towards the cars.

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