THE SPANISH REVENGE (Craig Page series)

BOOK: THE SPANISH REVENGE (Craig Page series)
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The Spanish Revenge

Allan Topol

Copyright © 2013, Allan Topol

For Barbara, with appreciation
to my partner in this literary venture.

“All the same, confrontations between the
Eastern forces of Islam and the Western forces of
Christianity have never completely abated.”

–FROM
MYSTERIES OF THE MIDDLE AGES
BY TOMAS CAHILL, P. 179, 2006

“This multicultural approach, saying that we
simply live side by side and live happily with
each other has failed. Utterly failed.”

–GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL,
OCTOBER 18, 2010.

Contents

Copyright

Prologue

PART ONE: OCTOBER, SIX MONTHS EARLIER

  
1  Paris

  
2  New York

  
3  Atlas Mountains, Morocco

  
4  Paris

  
5  Madrid

  
6  Atlas Mountains, Morocco

  
7  Madrid

  
8  Atlas Mountains, Morocco

  
9  Madrid

10  Paris

11  Cap D’ Antibes, France

12  Paris

13  Marrakech, Morocco

14  Marseilles

15  Atlas Mountains, Morocco

16  Atlas Mountains

17  Paris

18  Southern Spain And Paris

PART TWO: MARCH, SIX MONTHS LATER

19  Rome

20  Paris

21  Morocco

22  Langley

23  Washington

24  Paris

25  Paris

26  Rabat, Morocco

27  Marrakech

28  Atlas Mountains

29  Atlas Mountains

30  Atlas Mountains

31  Atlas Mountains

32  Atlas Mountains

33  Paris

34  Casablanca

35  Southern France

36  Paris

37  

38  Morocco, Atlas Mountains

39  Paris

40  Marseilles

41  Paris

42  Paris

43  Madrid

44  Paris

45  Paris

46  Paris

47  Marbella, Spain

48  Marbella

49  Paris

50  Marbella

51  Paris

52  Paris

53  Marbella, Spain

54  Paris

PART THREE: EASTER

55  Paris

56  Madrid

57  Rome

58  Marbella

59  Madrid

60  Rome

61  Rome

62  Rome

63  Rome

64  Rome

65  Marbella

66  Southern Spain

67  Southern Spain

68  Granada

69  Paris

Acknowledgements

PROLOGUE

MARCH, AVILA, SPAIN

At five minutes to midnight the heater in the battered gray Renault van died. Omar, in the front passenger seat, was astounded that the vehicle had made it all the way from Clichy-sous-Bois, the suburb of Paris.

They were parked outside the gate of the Franciscan Monastery. Thirty minutes ago, the last light had gone out.

“Cut off the engine,” Omar said to Habib, seated behind the wheel, puffing on a foul-smelling Turkish cigarette. “Time to move.”

Omar got out of the van, stretched his legs, and checked the pockets of his black leather jacket. Gun and map Musa provided in one pocket; knife and flashlight in the other. He grabbed the two shovels from the back and tossed one to Habib.

The air was cold for this time of year. The moon full in a cloudless sky. The light would make their job easier, but increase the risk of someone spotting them. It could only be one of the monks. The monastery was surrounded by woods.

With Habib at his side, Omar walked swiftly along the dirt road toward the monastery entrance. The black wrought-iron gate was padlocked. He reached for his gun, then reconsidered. The monks inside the building might hear the noise. He pointed to the six-foot stone wall. Habib nodded.

Omar easily scaled it, then moved away while Habib tossed over the shovels, following behind. No need to consult Musa’s map. He had committed it to memory. That bastard Tomas de Torquemada’s grave should be fifty meters away at the end of the road leading from the entrance gate. He walked swiftly along a narrow path bisecting ancient weather-beaten stones.

Approaching the spot, he recognized from pictures the large stone cross.

“We dig here?” Habib asked.

“One thing first.”

Omar unzipped his pants, pulled out his prick and peed on the cross. “For all those Muslims you killed cruelly and without mercy,” he said softly.

Then he grabbed a shovel.

Fortunately, it had rained yesterday, and the ground was soft. Still it was tough work. On one side, they created an incline to get out. Once they were down three feet, Omar’s face and shirt were soaked with perspiration. Drops ran down his cheeks and into his eyes.

He drew strength from the importance of his mission. The cause he and Musa had labored so hard for over many months was now at a critical point. With the parchment, their success would be assured. Europe and the world would be irretrievably transformed.

“The dead man’s spirits are talking to me.” Habib was trembling. “Telling me it’s wrong to disturb a grave.”

Omar pulled out his Glock and aimed it at Habib. “You fool. No Christian spirits are talking to you. You dig or this will be your grave too.”

Reluctantly, Habib resumed.

Forty minutes later, Omar’s shovel struck a metal box about a meter from the coffin, as Musa had said. He could barely contain his excitement.

The parchment will be in the box.

Suddenly, he heard the rustling of leaves. Footsteps near the building. Now getting closer. It might be an animal. Or …

“Stay in the hole and keep quiet,” he whispered to Habib. Then he climbed out and slipped behind the cross. A black-clad monk was approaching, lit torch in hand, making a beeline for the open hole. He shined his light down and looked into the hole. As he did, Omar, shovel in hand, circled behind him. He watched the monk calling to Habib, who was cowering in a corner of the hole, “Who are you?” Omar raised the shovel and swung it like a baseball bat, with all his might, striking the monk on the side of the head. He crumpled to the ground away from the hole, blood pouring down the side of his face. “Help me,” he mumbled. “Help me.” Omar ignored his pleas, lifted his shovel, and smashed the metal against his face. The monk stopped moving.

Omar stepped over the body and climbed back into the hole. He had to work fast, or others might come looking for the dead monk. He dug around the box, being careful not to damage the old metal. When he got closer, he handed his shovel to Habib. With his fingers, he clawed furiously, grabbing the soil, pushing it aside until he freed the box.

Cradling it in his arms, he climbed out and placed it carefully on the ground. The box was sealed shut. Using his knife, he pried the top open. Habib was leaning over Omar. He felt Habib’s hot garlic breath on the back of his neck.

He pulled the top off, then grabbed his flashlight and shined it inside. For an instant the light blinded him, the reflection from jewels and gold coins. He reached in and moved the contents around, searching desperately for the parchment. He came up empty.

“No,” he wailed. “No!”

I have to get the parchment. I can’t face Musa without it.

Musa didn’t tolerate failure. He won’t understand. There must be another way.

Eyes bulging, Habib was staring at the gold and jewels. “Let’s take what’s here and leave. Nobody will ever know.”

“We can’t do that, you imbecile. If we’re caught by the police with that stuff, we’ll be tortured. You’ll lead them to Musa, and all will be lost.”

“Then let’s just go.”

“No. Somebody inside must know where the parchment is. Musa said there are five monks altogether.”

Omar looked at the stone building. Dark inside. He raced toward the nearest door. Habib was right behind him. The door was ajar. He opened it carefully and shined his light inside. The room was deserted, its stone walls muting the reflection. They must all be asleep. He spotted a bell and rang it.

Minutes later, four monks stumbled out of the wing on the right, in night clothes. Omar held up his gun and herded them toward four wooden chairs in the reception area. One was praying. “Shut up and listen.” Omar called out.

“No comprendo,” one monk said in Spanish.

“Any of you speak French?” Omar asked.

A tall, thin, gray-haired monk said, “I do.”

“Good. I’ll talk to you. A parchment was buried in a box next to Tomas de Torquemada’s coffin. We dug up the box, but the parchment isn’t there. I want to know where it is.”

The tall, thin man was flabbergasted. “You disturbed his grave?”

“Someone already had. The parchment was gone. I want to know where it is?”

“I have no idea.”

“Then ask your colleagues in Spanish. One of them must know.”

The tall, thin monk said something to the others. All shook their heads in denial.

Omar didn’t believe them. He was becoming angry. “This monastery has been here since before his death in 1498. At some point one of your monks must have taken it and hidden it. This must be a secret passed down here through the ages.”

“How can you be sure it was buried with him?”

Omar raised the Glock and aimed it at one of the other monks. He fired at his head, blasting it apart. Two others wailed.

“Don’t you challenge me,” Omar said. “Tell me where it is.”

“You can kill us all,” the tall, thin monk said, “but you won’t get the information.”

“Because you don’t know—or because you won’t tell me?”

“That’s your riddle to solve,” he replied in a taunting voice.

Omar used his knife to gouge out the eyes of one of the other monks. Despite the man’s screams, nobody said a word.

Omar killed that one and the other, leaving only the tall, thin monk. “I’ll make you suffer more than you can imagine,” Omar said.

“I am a man of God. I have no fear of mere mortals.”

Omar knew it was hopeless. He shot and killed the man. Then he and Habib searched the building. Even the basement, beneath a concealed trap door. No sign of the parchment.

To extend the time before they were discovered and pursuit began, Omar decided to move the dead bodies down the stairs. “While I do that,” he told Habib, “Rebury the box. Toss the other dead monk in the hole and start to refill it. I’ll be out in a couple of minutes to help you.”

He searched one more time, then dragged the bodies across the floor, flung them down the wooden stairs, and closed the trap door.

After leaving the building, he crossed the grassy swale back to the graveyard. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Habib was stuffing gold and jewels into his pockets. Omar stood behind a tree and watched. Once his pockets were full, Habib ran toward the wall. As he began scaling it, Omar raised his gun and fired, dropping Habib with a single shot. Enraged, Omar raced over and pumped three
more bullets into Habib’s dead body. Then he removed Habib’s ID, dragged him back to the hole, and kicked him in.

For the next two hours, he worked until he was so exhausted he could barely lift his arms. But it was all done. Habib, the monk, and the metal box all buried.

Walking back to the car, he had an overwhelming sense of gloom. With the parchment, they could change the map of Europe—even the world alignment between Muslims and Christians. But he had failed. They would have to find another way to get the parchment.

1

PARIS

When Craig Page agreed to become Director of the new European Counterterrorism Agency a year and a half ago, he persuaded the EU to put the agency’s headquarters in Paris. That choice was fortunate right now, he decided, as he waited for Jacques Dumas, the head of the French Intelligence Service to arrive at his office.

Craig got up from his desk and walked over to the double-glass wall with a view of the concrete courtyard, fifteen floors below. The building was part of the complex of modern commercial office buildings known as La Defense, at the end of the Avenue de la Grande Armée, shooting out like a spoke from the Arc de Triomphe. In the dim late afternoon light, he spotted heavyset Jacques, mid forties, with a shaved head, walking fast, almost racing from his limo toward the building. And indeed he should be. Craig had told him on the phone, “We have an urgent situation involving the American President.”

This won’t be easy, Craig realized. Jacques, reluctant to cede any authority, had been opposed to the creation of a European counterterrorism agency. And the idea of an American as director had made him nearly apoplectic with rage.

Immediately after Craig’s appointment, he had arranged a dinner with Jacques, just the two of them at L’Ami Louis, to break down Jacques opposition. At the beginning of the meal, Jacques told Craig he appreciated that Craig’s twenty years as a CIA field agent, fighting terrorists in the Middle East, dwarfed his own experience. He understood that Craig’s bitterness toward his scheming CIA masters and the American bureaucracy led him to resign from the CIA and open a private consulting firm in Italy, where he had roots. Despite all that, Jacques bluntly declared, “We don’t need a pan-European agency, and if our brilliant leaders insist on it, then the director’s job should have gone to one of us, not some American.”

But they kept talking, eating, and drinking in the noisy bistro, with gargantuan portions of outstanding food and rude waiters. By the second bottle of Bourgogne Rouge, and midway through their thick steaks, as they traded war stories, Craig believed he had Jacque’s grudging respect. One professional for another. That was as much as he hoped for.

Now Jacques pushed passed Craig’s secretary and barreled into the office. “What’s the great crisis?”

“I’ve learned from an informant that an Iranian group is planning to assassinate President Dalton when his motorcade goes from the American embassy to the Elysee Palace for dinner with the French President. I told Agent Bardolino, my liaison, who’s traveling with Dalton, and asked him to brief the American President, to find out whether Dalton wants to change his plans for this evening.”

“What’d he say?”

“The answer was a resounding ‘No.’ In Dalton’s words,’that’s why we pay you guys. To keep me safe.’”

“Nice.”

“Yeah.”

“Who’s the informant?”

“His name’s Hakim. An Iranian. A holdover from my CIA days.”

“I don’t know him.”

“He’s proven extremely reliable in the past.”

Still feeling prickly, despite their peace dinner and moderate cooperation ever since, Jacques said, “And I’m supposed to take your word in blind faith?”

“We’re on the same team. Aren’t we?”

“Humph,” the Frenchman snarled. “Everybody in Europe hates your President Dalton.”

Craig didn’t argue. Six months ago, when President Brewster died of a sudden heart attack and his Vice President, Owen Dalton, succeeded him, Craig had been appalled at his neo isolationist statements. Dalton’s much-heralded trip to Paris was to advise the French President that the old Atlantic alliance was over.

“He’s not my President.”

“Well, you are an American.”

“I haven’t lived there for years. C’mon, Jacques. We have to act on what Hakim told me.”

Jacques waited a long minute before responding. “Let’s assume Hakim is right. What do you want me to do?”

Craig was ready for the question. His title sounded impressive, but, in a typical EU compromise, he had no troops of his own. He was dependent for fire power on the country in which a terrorist attack would occurr.

“We have an hour until the motorcade leaves the American embassy. I want you to station sharpshooters on the roofs of the buildings lining the route, set up video cameras to monitor the entire area, and send the feed into my IT center.”

The Frenchmen linked his fingers together, closed his eyes, and scrunched up his large, round face. “You’re asking quite a bit, based on one informant. If nothing happens, I’ll look like an idiot.”

“You can put the blame on me. But if you thwart an attack, you’ll be a hero.”

“I just don’t know.”

Craig thought it wise to remain silent. He had made his case. Finally, Jacques whipped out his cell phone. “OK. I’ll do it.”

Forty-five minutes later, Craig and Jacques were in the IT center of Craig’s counterterrorism agency. Eight thirty-inch screens lined one wall. A dozen computer geeks, whom Craig recruited from across the EU, manned workstations in cubicles. When they weren’t responding to a crisis, they were analyzing and digesting information forwarded from intelligence agents around the world.

Hans from Amsterdam was monitoring the video feed. “All the cameras are in place,” he said. Craig’s eyes ran from one screen to another, seeing French army sharpshooters on the roofs lining the fashionable Rue Saint-Honoré—home to some of the most expensive boutiques in the world.

Craig checked his watch. Then called Bardolino. “What’s your status?”

“We’re moving in ten minutes. You ready for us?”

“Good to go. We have the whole route covered. If the troops see a sniper, they have orders to shoot to kill.”

Craig had divided the route into eight segments, each with a separate camera and screen. Now he studied the screens one by one. Nothing out of the ordinary. Tourists, shoppers, business people walking along the sidewalk. The flow of traffic looked normal.

What if Hakim’s wrong?

Craig realized he’d look like a fool, creating so much disruption and cost for nothing. And Jacques would make sure information of Craig’s failure was widely known throughout the EU.

On the first screen, Craig watched President Dalton leave the American Embassy and walk toward the black Cadillac limousine. Supposedly bullet proof. That was a joke, with powerful new weapons like grenade launchers.

“Close up,” Craig said to the technician working the screen. That made Dalton big as life. Thin lips and a wart on his right cheek. Christ, doesn’t that guy ever smile?

Craig watched Dalton climb into the car. It began moving slowly out of the driveway from the American Embassy compound.

Jacques was standing next to Craig, intently studying the screens.

Craig was moving his eyes from one screen to the next, looking for any tiny movement. Not a thing.

On the fifth screen, the Presidential motorcade turned on to the Rue Saint-Honoré. That began the area of greatest risk. If I were positioning a sniper, Craig thought, I’d put him in the window of one of the buildings lining the street. Craig didn’t see anything in a window or on screens five through eight. He looked at the street. Traffic had been halted on the cross streets. The motorcade had the Rue Saint-Honoré to itself. Pedestrians stopped walking, waiting for the motorcade to pass, hoping to catch a glimpse of the American President. Craig studied the pedestrians. Their faces. What they were holding.

A man, Middle Eastern-looking, an Iranian or Arab, in a suit and tie, was standing alone, a cell phone on his hand. “Close up on the guy with the cell phone,” Craig cried out. The man was looking at the approaching motorcade at a distance of fifty yards. His eyes moved from the motorcade to an old, battered motorcycle parked on his side of the street, about twenty yards away. Seated on the motorcycle was a man in a brown leather jacket, collar raised in the back. Face barely visible behind the guard of a heavy helmet. The Middle Eastern man raised his hand almost imperceptibly at the motorcycle rider, who climbed off and walked away.

Craig said to Jacques, “Have your men follow the guy in the brown leather jacket and motorcycle helmet.”

“Will do.”

“Don’t arrest him. See where he leads us.”

Hooked to the back of the motorcycle, Craig saw a large Hermès
box with its distinctive orange color. Messengers delivered those on motorcycles all the time, but not on motorcycles this battered. And a real messenger wouldn’t walk away from his package with several thousand dollars of merchandise.

Craig looked back at the man with the cell phone. Now fingering it nervously. Starting to raise it. The motorcade was only twenty yards from the motorcycle with the Hermes box.

“What do you think?” Craig asked Jacques anxiously.

“Your call.”

Craig picked up his cell phone and called Bardolino. “Halt the motorcade right now. Hold it in place.”

He turned to Jacques. “Tell your nearest man to order the guy with the cell phone to drop it on the ground. If he refuses, shoot to kill.”

“Are you certain?”

Of course I’m not certain.

“Yes.”

Craig watched a French soldier in a helmet and bulky body armor approach the man. He raised his gun and shouted in French to the Middle Eastern man. “Drop the cell phone now and put up your hands.”

The man looked mystified.

What if he doesn’t understand French?

The man lifted the cell phone and began punching in numbers. The soldier cut loose with a barrage that blasted into the man’s chest. The cell phone fell to the ground. His body next to it. His whole body gave a sudden jolt. Then he was motionless.

Gun in hand, the soldier rushed over and checked the man. “Dead,” he said and began searching for ID.

Craig turned to Jacques. “Get the bomb squad to examine the Hermes box.”

Bardolino was on Craig’s cell. “What the hell’s going on?”

“I’m worried about a bomb further down the road. Turn the motorcade around, go back to the embassy compound, and hold until I give you an all clear. Also tell Dalton he doesn’t have a choice. This isn’t his country.”

“Roger that.”

Watching the screen, Craig held his breath while the bomb squad opened the Hermes box. What if a dress was inside and nothing else?

They worked slowly with meticulous care to avoid setting off the bomb—if there was one. Craig felt moisture forming under his arms.

After several minutes, they lifted off the orange top. The video camera peered inside. Craig saw a metal object. Unquestionably a bomb. Using precision tools, they disassembled the bomb. Jacques’s cell phone rang. “Yes,” Craig heard him say. “Yes.”

Jacques turned to Craig. “A powerful bomb laced with nails and broken glass.”

“What’d they find on the dead man?” Craig asked.

A few seconds later, Jacques had the answer. “No ID on his body. Fingerprints removed.”

Craig watched them load the pieces of the bomb into a van and drive away.

He called Bardolino: “The bomb’s disabled. The terrorist’s dead. You’re clear to go.”

Then Craig and Jacques turned back to the video screens to follow the motorcade’s progress.

Once they passed through the gates into the Elysee Palace, Jacques was on the phone. “What happened with the guy in the brown leather jacket?” Craig heard him say.

Jacques put it on speaker.

“He walked two blocks then got into a car. He’s alone and driving. We’re following in an unmarked car. You want us to stop him?”

Jacques looked at Craig. “Negative. We’re hoping he’ll lead us to the planners of the attack.”

“Got it. We’ll keep you posted.”

Fifteen minutes later, they received an update. “Suspect is on the A-1. proceeding north. Very fast. We have a chopper in the air. I’ll give you real-time feed.”

Craig watched the suspect cut in and out of lanes, driving recklessly. He had to know he was being followed, particularly with the chopper overhead. The pursing car kept pace.

The suspect was in the center of three lanes. They were approaching an exit. Suddenly, without a signal, he cut to the right trying for the exit ramp. At a hundred and forty kilometers an hour, he missed it and smashed into a concrete retaining wall. His car exploded in flames. Craig knew they wouldn’t find any hints of his identity by the time they pulled his charred body from the wreckage.

“What now,” Jacques asked.

“While Dalton and your President are feasting in the Elysee Palace, I’ll have a secretary order take-out for us. At the end of the evening, we’ll watch Dalton’s motorcade go back to the American Embassy.”

“You think they’ll make another try?”

“Hakim didn’t say that,” Craig shrugged. “But who knows, after they struck out?”

They were finished eating ham and cheese stuffed into baguettes, washed down with Perrier, when Craig’s cell phone rang. Caller ID flashed: “Elizabeth Crowder.” He moved into an adjacent empty office.

“I just got off the plane at JFK and saw the news on TV about the attack on President Dalton’s life. I assume you were the one who thwarted it.”

“Working with Jacques and the French military.”

“Was that skinhead actually helpful?”

He smiled. “You have a great way of expressing yourself.”

“Come on. I don’t like him because he’s done everything to sabotage you.”

“I’m prepared to cut him some slack. Lately, he and I are doing better.”

“So what happened?”

He responded in a low voice, “I got a tip from an informant that an Iranian group planned to assassinate Dalton on his way to the Elysee Palace. We killed the assassin before he could activate the bomb.”

“Well done. Do I get the details, so I can write it up for tomorrow’s International Herald?”

“It’s still a work in progress. We have to get Dalton home and tucked into bed safely after dinner. Besides, you have something else to worry about in New York.”

“For sure. I’m having dinner with Harold this evening. We have a meeting at Wellington Books, tomorrow morning at eleven. With Virginia Tolbert, the Publisher.”

“That’s a good sign.”

“I hope so. I’d like to lock this up tomorrow and get back to Paris.”

BOOK: THE SPANISH REVENGE (Craig Page series)
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