Authors: Andy McNab
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Crime, #Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Military, #Suspense, #Thriller, #Thrillers
1993: Under deep cover, Nick Stone and a specialist surveillance team have spent weeks in the jungles and city streets of Colombia. Their mission: to locate the boss of the world’s most murderous drugs cartel – and terminate him with extreme prejudice.
Now they can strike. But to get close enough to fire the fatal shot, Nick must reveal his face. It’s a risk he’s willing to take – since only the man who is about to die will see him. Or so he thinks . . .
2012: Nick is in Moscow: semi-retired; semi-married to Anna; very much the devoted father of their newborn son. But when the boy falls dangerously ill and the doctor who saves him comes under threat, Nick finds himself back in the firing line. To stop his cover being terminally blown, he must follow a trail that begins in Triad-controlled Hong Kong and propels him back into the even more brutal world he thought he’d left behind.
The forces ranged against him have guns, helicopters, private armies and a terrified population in their vice-like grip. Nick Stone has two decades of operational skills that may no longer be deniable – and a fierce desire to protect a woman and a child who now mean more to him than life itself.
29 November 1993
The Nazi eagle and swastika were still stamped under the Mauser bolt housing. Its sniper sight looked like a pointy fence post. Most novices aimed where a thin horizontal line crossed it, about two-thirds of the way up, but that was only there so you could check for canting – weapon tilting. The correct aim was right at the pinnacle.
I squinted into the very basic x4 magnification Second World War Zeiss optic. The target building in the valley below us was a blur. Torrential rain stung my face and battered the lens; the wipe I gave it with my thumb only made things worse.
‘One shot, one kill – still sure you can do it,
I nodded a yes to the black-and-white western piss-take he’d been dishing out since we’d first met, but in fact, you know what, I wasn’t sure. I was soaked to the skin, covered with mud and leaf litter, and bitten to fuck by every insect in Central America that could fly, crawl, or sit and wait for you to put your arse down alongside it.
Worse still, I felt jumpy. This was my first job for the Secret Intelligence Service. It might have been same shit, different boss,
but my whole future with them could hang on this one shot, and the dickhead I’d had to drag along with me was a millstone round my neck.
I eased my head away from the weapon. Dino was partially submerged in mud; the rest of him was covered with big lumps of rainforest. His eyes were pressed against what looked like a pair of binos on steroids. For the hundredth time since we’d got there he pressed a button on the casing and fired off a beam of invisible infrared light, in case the shack might have legged it further down the valley in the last few minutes.
‘Four hundred and forty-seven metres.’
‘I know, Dino. I know.’
The range was adjusted via a dial on top of the casing. I had it at 450.
Dino had shaved his head to a number-one for this job, and dyed what was left blond. To look at him, you’d think that the Mauser had belonged to his granddad. Maybe it had. ‘Need-to-know’ didn’t seem to be high on the DEA’s standard operational procedure: Agent Zavagno had already told me way more about his background than I needed to know.
His Mexican grandparents had swum the Rio Grande with their kids after watching too much
. Dinner with JR and Joan Collins never materialized, but little Dino had begun to live the American Dream in the shack next door to them in some shit-kicking town just inside the border.
I was no linguist, but he sounded more Italian to me than Mexican, and there was definitely a touch of European in Dino’s DNA. Hundreds of Mussolini’s old mates had joined the flood of Nazis to Central and South America immediately after the Second World War – which probably went some way towards explaining his
Boys from Brazil
Dino might have been in his mid-twenties with a wing forward’s physique, but I felt like I’d had to drag him every centimetre of the twelve Ks from town. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be there; I was sure his passion and enthusiasm ticked all the boxes at the DEA’s Washington HR department. But he operated out of New Mexico, the land of tacos and dustbowls.
He’d never spent time in the rainforest. He’d had no operational experience in the field, come to that, and didn’t know how to pace himself.
That wasn’t his only problem. He’d got it into his head that Brits liked a brew, and insisted on Lipton’s – the bags in the little yellow packets.
To make things worse, the one-horse town we’d hung out in was crawling with hippies, who’d gone there for the Summer of Love, and swathes of young surfer dudes, who’d come to catch a wave or two in recent years and also forgotten to leave. The girls looked tanned, fit and up for a party. Dino wore his cock on his dyed-blond head and had been reluctant to up sticks before he’d even received an invitation.
It had taken us ten long, sweat-soaked, mosquito-bitten hours to locate Jesús Orjuela’s latest hideaway. It had then taken us three more to crawl undetected into our fire position on the high ground to its south. We’d been lying there ever since in a tropical downpour while the Wolf – as he liked to be called, these days – sat and drank coffee in the dry. The thing about wolves is that they’re bold in packs but super-cautious on their own. This one knew that concealment was his best weapon.
The hardwood bungalow I could see through the Mauser sight was a far cry from the Mayfair apartments, Swiss ski chalets and Malibu beach houses that comprised the rest of his property portfolio. It stood on tree-trunk stilts, with a wiggly tin roof that also stretched across a veranda. There was a shuttered window on each gable end and a badly fitting door at the front, between two more windows with shutters, but at least everyone inside was sheltered.
The only giveaway was the chunky, all-American Ford F150 pick-up parked outside. It would have been up to its axles in mud, had it not boasted the kind of lifted suspension that any redneck would have been proud to show off at the local monster-truck fest.
A rusty barbed-wire fence encircled about half an acre of long grass that drifted to the edge of the canopy. A swollen stream the
width of a road snaked along the valley a hundred metres or so beyond it; I could see several other shacks spread out on its bank, each with its own patch of mud for the pigs to have fun in. Half a dozen crocodiles lazed nearby, jaws propped open as if they were playing raindrop catch or waiting for some fresh pork to wander in. They looked as laid-back as the country they called home.
Big government had protected this place from the nightmare civil wars and American-backed insurgency that had contaminated most of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s. Costa Rica didn’t even have an army. All it cared about was developing tourism and protecting the rainforest. Hardwoods towered forty metres above us, man-made buttresses a couple of metres high supporting them like stabilizers on a Christmas-tree stand.
I felt a little sorry that some of the shit spreading from the south was about to stick to this garden paradise.
I focused once more on the view through the blurred optic. I had the door and windows covered. Wherever the Wolf emerged, I’d have him. One good shot and he’d be flat on the veranda floor, victim of an old-fashioned assassination by a rival drugs cartel based beyond the horizon.
The Wolf was Colombian to his lizard-skin loafers. I couldn’t help smiling when I was shown photographs of him at the briefing in MI6’s Vauxhall HQ. I’d always associated wolves with lean and hungry; this boy could have fitted a whole pack into the waistband of his jeans. But there was no mistaking the sharpness of his teeth – or those of the cartel he ran in conjunction with his old schoolmate, Pablo Escobar.
Both born in 1949, they had grown up together in the hills around Medellín; right place, right time – if your career of choice happened to be drugs baron. Colombia has direct sea access to both the west and east coasts of the United States, and that puts you in the box seat when you’re shipping illegal gear on an industrial scale.
Jesús and Pablo had started out as debt collectors and gang enforcers in their early teens. They soon developed a reputation for casual and lethal violence. Kidnap for ransom was one of their favourite tricks. If the family refused to pay or couldn’t come up with the cash, the dynamic duo would torture their captive, then kill them. Sometimes they’d do it anyway, just to make a point. ‘
Pour encourager les autres
,’ Jesús liked to say. ‘That means to encourage the others.’ According to an associate turned DEA informer, he was never without a book, and had a particular weakness for Voltaire, another great defender of civil liberties.