Then came 9/11. After a career as a street cop, he went to war-and put his skills to work in a secret army within an army. Part detective, con man, spy, and soldier, DeLuca is now hunting a Saddam loyalist Centcom thought was dead. To catch his prey, he'll have to outmaneuver him using microscopic forensic evidence, high-tech espionage tools, and gut instincts. But as he follows a deadly trail out of the Sunni Triangle into Iran, a horrifying picture is coming clear to DeLuca and his elite "red" team: a terrorist group already has its fangs in the USA -- and needs to be hunted down and eliminated right now . . .
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CI: Team Red
By David DeBatto Pete Nelson
Warner BooksCopyright © 2005 David DeBatto and Pete Nelson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIT WAS ONE OF THOSE DAYS THAT STARTED lousy and went rapidly downhill, beginning when DeLuca was called in to meet with Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Reicken in a conference room at the Tactical Operations Center for a briefing. The desert sun had yet to rise, but even at that predawn hour the TOC was jamming, a fifty-foot-square canvas enclosure ringed by armored transports and Bradley fighting vehicles backed up to form a protective cordon, the whole structure roofed with heavy dark green canvas tarps dating back to the Korean War, full of techies, aides, assistants, staff flunkies, translators, and brigade combat team leaders, as well as a handful of DeLuca's fellow counterintelligence agents. He paused before entering to blouse his boots, because Reicken cared deeply about such things, grabbed a cup of coffee from the five-gallon pot by the door, then made his way to the brightly lit room at the far end of the expansive hall, taking care not to trip over any of the cables duct-taped to the floor. The "Star Wars Tent," as some people were calling it, was always impressive to him, perhaps because he was something of a technophobe, with banks of computers crunching numbers and accessing databases, the latest communications equipment with satellite uplinks, electronics of all kinds, the walls alive with real-time UAV imagery sent from drones no bigger than model airplanes, streaming 24/7 on an array of flat-screen plasma televisions, the main screen a four-by-six-foot job hanging at the far wall. A tech officer had told him they had more computer power than NASA had when they put a man on the moon. DeLuca had been led to believe he was going to meet to discuss security needs for the day's mission. Instead, Reicken surprised him by throwing a crude wanted poster down on the table, a photocopy of a pencil drawing of DeLuca that, to his mind, wasn't all that close a resemblance, with the words "MR. DAVID" and "$10,000 AMERICAN" and "CIA" written in inch-high block letters.
"Apparently you're a marked man, DeLuca," Reicken said with a kind of smirk on his face. "Looks like you're doing your job a bit too well. Take it as a compliment. Probably put out by some Ba'ath party poohbah who's getting tired of you arresting all his boys."
DeLuca picked up the drawing and looked at it. The drawing took a good fifteen or twenty years off him. His hairline was wrong, his jaw a bit squarer, his nose not bent where an angel-dusted punk he'd arrested in Chelsea had broken it, and it wasn't an accurate enough rendering that anybody could pick him out of a crowd from it, but it gave him the willies all the same.
"Where'd you find this?" he asked. It would make a nice keepsake, assuming he got home in one piece. Something to frame for the study, assuming he still had a home, back in the world.
"Somebody brought it in," Reicken said casually. "You know, I wouldn't get a big head about it, but I think ten thousand may be a new record for a guardsman." Reicken hated guardsmen. Most of the guardsmen DeLuca knew found the feeling mutual. DeLuca had half a mind to call his old friend Phil-General Phillip LeDoux, to Reicken-and tell him what a horse's ass Reicken was, though that would be operating outside of channels, and he'd gotten in trouble for going outside channels on both his previous enlistments. DeLuca had known the general since the two of them had sat in a freezing cold Quonset hut on the German border back in the late seventies, listening to frantic East German government officials making telephone calls about how the Americans were going to call off the Olympics. DeLuca had joked, over the years, that Phillip only got into Officer's Candidate School because DeLuca turned them down. LeDoux was an excellent example of what good a man could do committing his life to the military. Reicken was a paper-pushing bureaucrat who couldn't carry LeDoux's shorts.
"Anyway," Reicken said, "I thought you should have a heads-up. It's up to you if you want to go out or ride a desk for a few days until we find out who's doing this."
DeLuca decided not to react to the insult. As MacKenzie had told him before, "You're older than him, you're smarter than him, you're better looking and you're six inches taller than he is-he's totally jealous of you, and if you let him get to you, he pulls you down to his level." She was right, at least the part about not letting Reicken get to him.
"No thanks, but I'd appreciate it, Colonel, if we could keep this between ourselves for as long as possible. I wouldn't want to worry anybody on the team."
Two hours later, DeLuca was riding in an up-armored Humvee next to a man who apparently hadn't showered since the first Gulf War. They were fifteen klicks from base, headed for a compound on the outskirts of the town of Ad-Dujayl. The raiding party, operating out of the Balad Army Air Field, popularly known as Camp Anaconda, fifty kilometers north of Baghdad, consisted of three Bradley fighting vehicles and seven Humvees. Each Humvee carried five MPs, two in the front and two in the back, armed with M-16s and 9mm Beretta semiautomatic pistols, and a Squad Automatic Weapon or SAW gunner protruding from a hole in the roof, seated in a canvas sling between the rear passengers with only his upper torso exposed, manning a roof-mounted M-60 machine gun. DeLuca reached across his flak jacket to check his revolver, hoping he wouldn't have to use it. He wasn't one of the gunslingers. Counterintelligence didn't do security. That's what the MPs and the Bradleys were for.
"Eyes on," he radioed to MacKenzie in the lead Humvee.
"Gotcha," she chirped back. "Too bad Doc and Dan have to miss the party," she added, referring to the two other members of DeLuca's team, currently interviewing the mayor of Balad to see if he could explain why they'd found two hundred mortar rounds in the basement of the police station. It was called a THT, or Tactical Human-Intelligence Team, though sometimes he thought Strategic Human Intelligence Team might have made for a more apt acronym. He didn't like it when the team was split. They'd been working well together for months, and had started to anticipate each other's thoughts and needs. He'd said it a million times, beginning when he'd been the top instructor at Intelligence School at Fort Huachuca: "Counterintelligence is a state of mind." Splitting the team disturbed the collective state of mind.
DeLuca thought about the wanted poster. Maybe he could turn it into a positive-having a little celebrity status might help, the next time he was negotiating with a sheikh or tribal leader. MacKenzie had told him he was better looking than Reicken. Was that a flirt? Colleen was attractive, no question, but she was also twenty years his junior, and half the time, he pissed her off. Doc was probably right. "Dave," he'd said, "if you knew half as much about women as you know about counterintelligence, your marriage wouldn't be in the trouble it's in."
"Is bad road," interrupted the man with a thick Arab accent sitting next to DeLuca. The man's name was Adnan, and he'd been with the battalion since they'd left Kuwait, an Iraqi exile and former Intelligence Service liaison with the Republican Guard who'd surrendered during the first Gulf War, after Saddam Hussein's regime had killed his wife and family. He'd worked for the past ten years as a houseboy for a wealthy Kuwaiti family, but he'd jumped at a chance to go back as an informant. Adnan was filled with hatred for the regime, that was clear, but that didn't mean DeLuca trusted him.
"What?" DeLuca could hardly hear Adnan over the din of the Humvee's engine and the rocks and gravel pounding beneath the vehicle.
"Bad road," Adnan shouted again. "The people who live here are all thieves, I think."
DeLuca checked his weapons again. He was armed with a regulation 9mm fifteen-round Beretta model 92S, which he carried in a "Mr. Mike" leg rig, but just in case, he also carried, in a shoulder holster, the same six-inch stainless-steel Smith and Wesson model 66 revolver, loaded with .357 magnum full-jacketed hollow points, that he'd carried during his twenty years on the Boston police force. He carried the revolver because he knew it worked, and because he had a relationship with the piece, a feeling something like, "We've done this before, and we can do it again."
"They're all bad roads," he told Adnan.
The countryside was actually rather lovely, the road lined with date palms and vineyards, and irrigation canals with their water pumps sounding a steady chik-chik-chik. Every house they passed made him nervous, because you never knew who was peeking from the windows, or what sort of arms they might be aiming at you.
"I am ready to die," Adnan said, more or less out of the blue.
"Oh yeah?" DeLuca said.
"Well I'm not," DeLuca told him. "I'm still paying off a dining-room set we got at Filene's."
DeLuca saw women harvesting crops under the hot sun, cultivating with hoes, swinging sickles, even wielding shovels to dig trenches while covered head to toe in full burquas, with only the faces of girls under twelve showing. He saw young boys in shorts or dishdashas herding goats or sheep. Everybody had ugly feet. It was a nation of people with ugly feet.
"Commence waving and smiling, everybody," he said into the radio. "Sunglasses off if you're looking at anybody. Pearly whites, front and center. Hug hug hug ..."
Two of the younger boys working in the field waved back at him. It was silly to a lot of people, to Doc and to Dan in particular, but DeLuca firmly believed in presenting a friendly face to the people whose hearts and minds it was their task to win over. Getting tough only created more enemies, and as his mother used to say, "You catch more flies with sugar ..."
"I think you should ask the CIA for a raise," Adnan said. DeLuca operated "sterile" on CI missions, in a uniform devoid of any insignia that might indicate name, rank, or even branch of service. Most of the people he met, including American officers, assumed he worked for the CIA, calling him only "Mr. David." It was a common misconception that invariably worked in his favor.
"Maybe if we find Saddam's fortune, we can split it," DeLuca said in jest.
"I would spit on Saddam's money," Adnan said.
"So would I," DeLuca said. "Then I'd wipe it off and spend it."
He checked his weapon again. On his very first raid, DeLuca had compulsively double-checked his automatic to make sure he'd chambered a round, imagining fedayeen gunmen with RPGs popping up from behind the stone walls and palm trees like the bad guys in the Desert Storm video games his son played during his sullen teenager period. He was slightly more used to it now.
"Hey Joan-Claude," he radioed to VanDamm, using his nickname for her. "Ask Khalil there how much farther." Khalil was a Kurd, younger than Adnan by ten years and smaller, thin and wiry where Adnan was more solidly built. Khalil was from Sulaymaniyah, on the Iranian border, and a bit of an entrepreneur who'd worked for his uncles smuggling cigarettes and alcohol into Iran as a teenager, leading pack trains through the Zagros mountains, but he'd come south after Operation Iraqi Freedom made it safe for him to do so, looking for opportunities. Khalil supposedly knew the area and had been to Ad-Dujayl before. DeLuca looked ahead, where Mack ("Miss Colleen") and his translator, Sergeant Linda VanDamm, rode in the lead Humvee.
"You should have thought of that before we left," she radioed back. "I'll ask him." She'd served in Frankfurt at the same time DeLuca had, though he hadn't known her there. She was in many ways a seasoned professional, yet she hadn't brushed up on her Arabic since graduating from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. She was married with three kids and should have been home making sandwiches, not pounding down a dirt road between Iraq and a hard place, DeLuca thought.
"He's not sure," she finally said.
"He's not sure how much farther it is?"
"That's what he just said," she replied.
"Ausgezeichnett," DeLuca said. "Sagt wir sind nicht verloren."
"Wir sind nicht verloren," VanDamm radioed back, matching his pidgin German. "Nur ein bischen upgefucked. Look at it this way-we don't know where we are, but at least we're making good time."
It was too hot to laugh, nearly 115 degrees in the shade, with a wet-ball of 96 on a 1-100 scale, according to the weather station set up opposite the circle of tents they called home. Everybody had to carry extra water if the wet-ball was above 85. One of the MPs, an undersized kid with a bad complexion, had already taken a bag of glucose just to get himself started. DeLuca had worked as a cop in Yuma, Arizona, after getting out of the service the first time, and thought he knew heat. He didn't. He was dark enough that he didn't sunburn easily, but Colleen, with her fair Scotch-Irish complexion, had to slather on sun block four or five times a day, which made her smell surfer-girlish and reminded DeLuca of all the hotties he'd lusted for as a kid at Jones Beach during summer breaks. The flak vest DeLuca wore only made it worse, adding another fifteen to twenty degrees.
He wiped the sweat from his eyes with his sleeve and opened the Velcro strips on the front of his vest to let the marginally cooler air blow across his drenched DCU blouse. It was standard operating procedure to keep your flak jacket closed on missions, but nobody did. It was also SOP that everybody was supposed to wear their seat belts, but nobody did that either, the common wisdom being that if your vehicle were to come under attack, the faster you could get out of it, the better.
They turned off the main highway and vectored south on a dirt road that paralleled an irrigation canal that drained the Tigris. DeLuca studied his map, trying to figure out where they were. He was tempted to use the sat phone to call his son at IMINT and ask him where they were. Lieutenant Scott DeLuca led a team monitoring imagery collected by one of the many surveillance satellites the Defense Department had quietly placed in orbit above the Middle East after the first Gulf War, and could give DeLuca a precise fix if he wanted one, but DeLuca didn't want to abuse the privilege.
"You look a bit like Tony Orlando," DeLuca told Adnan. "Anybody ever tell you that? You remember Tony Orlando and Dawn? Tie a yellow ribbon ... No? You ever been to Branson, Missouri?"
"No," Adnan said, shaking his head apologetically.
"You'd love Branson," DeLuca said. He'd taken a vacation there with his wife and hated every minute of it, a fake smile plastered to his face the entire time. "Tony Orlando has his own theater there. People would treat you like a big shot, but you'd have to wear a tuxedo."
Excerpted from CI: Team Red by David DeBatto Pete Nelson Copyright © 2005 by David DeBatto and Pete Nelson. Excerpted by permission.
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