After a failed rescue mission in Mexico, Delta Force operator Lee McCloud, a close family friend of Sophia, finds himself forced to work for a secret agency that hacks into the bank accounts of mega-rich sponsors of terror.
With his partner Tally, a beautiful computer genius, they are soon on a collision course with Sheik Khalid, a billionaire Saudi exile who supports terrorist groups by shipping arms, drugs and slaves on his superyacht and has built a clinic on the island of Andaran to use healthy teenagers as live organ donors.
With time running out for Sophia and her best friend, McCloud and Tally try to penetrate Khalid’s fortress, only to find they’re pawns in a conspiracy that would see Khalid succeed with devastating consequences for an already unstable world.
“Were any of you aware of me tailing you?” Mac said.
“Huh?” said Tony.
“You’re not in the office now. You never know where the threats might come from. For example, in a restaurant you should never sit by the window.”
“Kabul,” Tally said leaning back in her chair.
The others looked at her.
“You’ve been in Kabul too long, Rambo.”
“He’s got a point, Tal.” Wisebaum looked sheepish as he unfolded his napkin. “That’s why the director asked me to team you two together on the next operation.”
Mac felt a growing irritation. “Kandahar, actually.” Had they been told of his Special Ops background? That much, at least, should have been kept secret. “So, what have you guys been told about me?”
“Not enough for you to kill us, I hope.” Tally said, laughing with the others. She crossed her arms on the table and leaned towards him. “How’s this sound: Special Ops soldier screws up unauthorized stakeout in Mexico leaving two girls and four cops dead and two American girls missing without a trace. Some red-faced General in Washington needs to get rid of the problem and sends it to us. That about sum it up?”
“Tal…” Wisebaum, stroking his beard, shot her a disapproving frown.
Mac wasn’t going to be provoked, and he held his voice steady. “You’ve just demonstrated how a little knowledge can be dangerous.”
“And now he makes threats.” She finished her wine and heaved a sigh. “Listen, Mac, we’ve tried this before with a soldier. Doesn’t work. All you people know is how to kill.” She refilled her glass and took another mouthful.
The bouzoukis started again, slowly with a rhythmic, metallic twang.
The waitress returned with their orders. “Bon appetit!” she yelled above the noise. Her cheerful Irish-accented French ratcheted the tension back a notch.
“Mmm, this looks magnificent. Let’s not talk shop, eh?” Wisebaum had ordered the restaurant’s specialty dish, astako makaronada—lobster with macaroni—and he attacked its soft white flesh.
Tally persisted with her attack. “Are we supposed to ignore the elephant in the room, Derek? No offense, but just so we’re clear, I think the world would be better off with fewer soldiers and more teachers.”
Tony and Rosco were watching them like it was a boxing match and one of the contenders was about to get knocked out of the ring. Mac sliced his swordfish steak and tried to ignore her. She was quickly getting under his skin. Still, with his training, he knew he could get the better of her. She’d be the one to lose her temper first. And then he wouldn’t need to work with her.
“To the glory of war!” Tally held up her glass in a mock salute, and took another gulp.
Mac held his emotions and lifted his eyes to meet her gaze. “No soldier thinks there’s glory in war. What you armchair critics don’t understand is that war is never totally in control. It’s frequently unfair… But then, life’s not fair either, is it? How fair is it that innocent people get killed when a plane’s flown into the building they just happen to work in?”
Tally stopped eating and shot a look at Wisebaum. There was more than a hint of color in her face.
“Tally’s parents were killed in the North Tower on 9/11,” Wisebaum said quietly.
There was a few moments’ silence. Mac glanced at the others, could see that he’d maybe gone onto shaky ground. He hadn’t been briefed on these people, so how could he be expected to know? It still didn’t excuse her attitude about servicemen and women.
“Nice fish,” Tony mumbled.
Tally quickly recovered, pointed her knife at Mac. “You think we’ve beaten Al Qaeda? Afghanistan’s more dangerous than ever, even post Bin Laden. And I’m not an armchair critic. I know what the military does. It screwed up the soldier I went out with.”
Mac swallowed his mouthful of fish. “You sure it was the army that did that?”
Tally’s mouth dropped, and she uttered a spluttering cough. Her face and neck flushed and she glared at him like he was the guy who couldn’t find Obama’s birth certificate. For a moment, Mac thought she was going to storm out. Good. That would solve his problems.
Wisebaum almost choked. He pulled off his glasses. “Guys…”
But clearly Tally wasn’t about to let it go at that. She spoke softly, but with an aim as devastating as a sniper. “So, what’s the military done for you, Mac? Where are your friends? Has it helped you to buy a home? Has it helped you get a wife and family? Your file says your former fiancée dumped you while you were serving with the Rangers. Ended up marrying your brother. That must have been tough. Then, of course, there’s the Mexico fiasco. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised you accepted Derek’s deal to get you off the hook. Terribly sad about those two little Mexican girls who—”
“Enough!” Mac slammed his fist on the table.
Tally’s glass tumbled off the table and shattered on the floor. Several customers turned towards the source of the commotion. The bouzoukis played louder. Rosco and Tony sat like frozen Arctic explorers.
“See how easily he loses it, Derek? I can’t work with this guy.” She stood up and walked out.
There was a moment’s silence. Mac reached over and stabbed his fork into the carrots on her plate. “No point letting them go to waste.”
Ian Walkley switched to thriller writing after a career as a social and consumer researcher and marketing consultant. He is a published travel writer and has previously authored and edited two books on small business. Ian's debut conspiracy thriller, NO REMORSE, is the first in a series, and he is currently working on a crime thriller titled BAIT and the sequel to NO REMORSE. He has also written a screenplay for NO REMORSE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
For more information visit www.ianwalkley.com