When the CIA is tipped off that one of its most wanted men is going to be in Bologna, Italy, Ferg and the First Team are tasked to apprehend him at any costbut under no circumstances can Italian authorities be made aware. There is just one problem: no one has seen the man in over ten years, and he is only known by a decades-old code-name: T-Rex. This assassin has been involved in the murder of at least a dozen prominent western leaders, and the grapevine reveals he's been called out of a long, silent hiding for one more major strike.
Ferg and the Team arrive in Italy, where they recruit the help of a beautiful French Samaritan named Jane Foucoult. Her knowledge leads them on a search that goes behind the scenes of a conference on genetics and onto a trail to a sinister Russian scientist, a leader at the forefront of biological-weapons research.
Splitting the team in two, Ferg and Guns go after the ghosts they speculate could be T-Rex, and Rankin and Thera get on the scientist's tail. But what they uncover is way beyond a single assassination attempt, and they find themselves about to go head-to-head with the most lethal terrorist cells known to man.
About the Author
Larry Bond is the author of several bestselling military thrillers, including Crash Dive, Cold Choices, Dangerous Ground, Red Phoenix and the Larry Bond's First Team and Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising series. He was a naval officer for six years. He's also worked as a warfare analyst and antisubmarine technology expert, and he now writes and designs computer games, including Harpoon and Command at Sea. He makes his home in Springfield, Virginia.
Jim DeFelice is the author of thrillers including Leopards Kill and Threat Level Black. He has also collaborated with Stephen Coonts and Dale Brown. He lives in New York's Hudson Valley region.
Read an Excerpt
Larry Bond's First Team: Soul of the Assassin
By Larry Bond, Jim DeFelice
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2008 Larry Bond and Jim DeFelice
All rights reserved.
O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;
What goddess was provok'd, and whence her hate;
For what offense the Queen of Heav'n began
To persecute so brave, so just a man;
Involv'd his anxious life in endless cares,
Expos'd to wants, and hurried into wars!
Can heav'nly minds such high resentment show,
Or exercise their spite in human woe?
—Virgil, The Aeneid (Dryden translation)
Death had never particularly interested Bob Ferguson as a subject of study. It was a fact in and of itself, without nuance. His religious instruction — Ferguson had gone to parochial schools and a Catholic college — taught him to view death as a necessary passage, but the nuns, brothers, and priests who had instructed him tended to focus on either side of the gateway, rather than death itself.
As a CIA officer assigned to the Agency's covert Special Demands team, Ferguson had had a great deal of experience with death; he had often been its agent and provocateur. Still, his relationship was purely professional; he remained neither intrigued nor moved by any aspect of the subject itself. The end of life was simply the end of life. The manner of its coming rarely interested him.
Ferguson's nonplussed expression as the video played on the small screen at the end of the study bothered his host, CIA Director Thomas Parnelles. Unlike Ferguson, Parnelles contemplated death a great deal. It bothered him, especially in its most brutal forms, and particularly when it involved someone he knew. The fact that the death on the screen involved both was particularly upsetting; it had happened to a man who worked for him, and required justice, if not vengeance.
Parnelles had known Ferguson for a very long time — since Ferguson was born, in fact. He had been Ferguson's father's closest friend, and on more than one occasion served in loco parentis when Ferguson Sr. was out of the country. Parnelles assumed because of these things not only that he knew the young man well, but that Ferguson shared his feelings on any matter worthy of having one. So the half smile on Ferguson's face, the completely unmoved expression that was characteristic of the young man, annoyed Parnelles greatly. He finally reached over and clicked the laptop key to end the video just as it focused on the dead man's battered skull.
Unsure why the video had stopped, Ferguson took a sip of bourbon from the tumbler Parnelles had given him earlier. The liquor burned pleasantly at his throat as it went down.
"Technical problems, General?" Ferguson asked.
"There's not much more," said Parnelles. He flipped off the laptop, momentarily shrouding the study in darkness. When he turned on the light, Ferguson had the exact same expression on his face. "Are you feeling all right, Bobby?"
"North Korea was difficult, I know."
"Change of pace." Ferguson tilted the glass. The bourbon was Johnny Drum Private Stock, a well-aged small-batch whiskey more distinctive than such standards as Maker's Mark or Jim Beam. That was one thing about Parnelles — he did not have standard anything.
"Ordinarily, I would tell you to sit down for a while, and take some time off," said Parnelles. "More than the few days you've had. But this is a priority. This is important."
"Not a problem."
"After this, maybe you should take two or three months off. Lay on the beach."
"I'll just get bored." Ferguson leaned forward, stretching his back and neck. "So Michael Dalton was killed in Puys, France, two years ago. Then what happens?"
"Then we spend two years trying to figure out who did it." Parnelles took his own drink from the edge of his desk and walked over to the chair near Ferguson. He told himself he was seeing the younger man's professional distance, nothing more. "We found this video from the bank's surveillance camera. We re-created Dalton's movements. We checked everyone who had stayed in the hotels nearby for up to two weeks before."
"Why was he there?"
"No, really, he was taking a vacation," said Parnelles. "This is an out-of-the-way town on the Channel. He liked France, and he'd just spent a year in Asia. So it was different."
"What did the French say about the murder?"
Parnelles settled down in his seat and took a sip of his drink — Scotch — before answering.
"The local police, of course, were incompetent. They believed it was a terrorist attack."
"Just because a car blew up?"
"I really don't know why you're being sarcastic, Robert. You're not taking this seriously."
Ferguson took another sip of the bourbon. Generally Parnelles wasn't quite this worked up. In fact, Ferguson couldn't remember the last time Parnelles had briefed him personally on a mission — let alone asked him up to Maine to do so.
"Yes, it did look as if it were the work of terrorists," admitted Parnelles. "But why terrorists would blow up a car at that place and time — of course the police had no answers. A small village on the French coast? Terrorists would never operate there. Clearly, Dalton was the target. We went to the ministry, of course, but they got it into their heads that we were lying."
"That Michael was working, instead of being on vacation."
"You're being very contrary tonight, Robert. I just told you he wasn't."
Bad publicity about the CIA's secret rendition program had caused a great deal of friction in Europe just prior to Dalton's death. The French believed that the Agency was withholding information about what Dalton had been working on — they thought it involved something in France — and in Parnelles's view had been less than cooperative out of spite.
Ferguson — who admittedly had never cared much for anything French, let alone their spies — knew that the French security service seldom displayed anything approaching alacrity, even when pursuing their own priorities. But he let that observation pass.
"If Dalton was targeted, then something must have happened in Asia," Ferguson told Parnelles. "What was it?"
"Unimportant, Bob. The point is, what I'm getting to — we know who killed him. He was a contract killer known as T Rex."
"Like the dinosaur."
"Exactly. He kills everything in his wake. He's extreme. T Rex."
Actually the name had been used in a text message intercepted by the National Security Agency just before another assassination, this one of a wealthy businessman visiting Lisbon. Ferguson had already seen the information in the text brief of his mission. There had been other "jobs" as well: T Rex had been implicated in the murder of a That government minister and a suspected fund-raiser for Hezbollah, to name just two. Parnelles ran down the list of known and suspected victims, impressive in both length and variety.
Tired of sitting, Ferguson began bouncing his right leg up and down. His foot was just touching the fringe of a hand-woven wool rug Parnelles had retrieved from Iran toward the end of the shah's reign — bad days, Parnelles had said once. It was all he said, ever, on the subject to Ferguson.
"You seem distracted, Bobby." Parnelles glanced at Ferg's foot, tapping on the carpet.
"Foot fell asleep." Ferguson bounded up from the chair. "Can't sit too long."
He did a little jig in front of the chair. "So what's the real story, General? Who is T Rex?"
"We don't know."
"The Israelis hired him, and we can't figure it out?"
"The Israelis didn't hire him," said Parnelles. "Hezbollah has a lot of enemies. Including Hezbollah itself."
"So what do you want me to do?"
"Figure out who he is. Apprehend him. Bring him here for trial."
"That's what Slott told me this afternoon." Ferguson glanced at his watch. "Yesterday afternoon."
He got up from the chair and walked around the study. It was as familiar to him as his own condo — more so. He'd played hide-and-seek here as a kid.
Taking T Rex in Italy was sensitive. The Agency was still smarting over a well-publicized trial of several of its members, fortunately in absentia, for the rendition of a suspected terrorist a few years before. The Italian court had found that the man was not a terrorist and had been kidnapped by the CIA, albeit with help from the Italian secret services. The political situation argued for the use of the elite First Team — officially, the Office of Special Demands — a small group of highly trained operatives headed by Ferguson and occasionally assisted by a Special Forces army group.
But the job might have been done by other CIA agents, including a special paramilitary team trained in renditions.
"So when I bring back T Rex," said Ferguson, "what happens? You put him on trial?"
"If a situation develops where he can't be brought to trial," he said, picking his words very carefully, "that would be something we could all live with."
It was simply and finally about the money, nothing else. Early on the assassin believed it was about the challenge, the chase and kill, but that was a lie. There was an element of that, certainly, but it was no more than an element, a small part, not the main motive.
The real motive was greed. Money. There was no denying that, not after all these years.
Many people lied to themselves; it was necessary in this business. But as he grew older, the assassin made it a policy to be honest when assessing personal motives and vices. Once begun, the practice had been liberating. It saved considerable time, and created clarity.
And clarity was of the essence.
The person they called T Rex pushed back the curtains, watching the dawn come over the city. Bologna would be the perfect place. The assassin already knew it well, spoke Italian fluently, and envisioned an easy time at the borders.
Everything was already moving toward its resolution. It was like an opera, complicated and beautiful.
But again, it wasn't about aesthetics; it was money.
This one would be the last. The payoff would be sufficient to guarantee that. Retirement waited in Thailand. The papers were already prepared.
There was more risk here than in any of the other jobs he had done, but that seemed only fitting. A capstone, a challenge at the endgame.
But really, it was about money, not the pleasure of killing people.
NEAR HAMPTON FALLS, MASSACHUSETTS
Ferguson woke around five a.m., and helped himself to the coffee the night watch team protecting Parnelles had made in the kitchen. The coffee was bitter and burnt, but it was enough to get him going. He went out onto the deck, nodding at the surveillance camera before carefully closing the door behind him. The high-tech security gear — not to mention the CIA detail — had been added only in the past two years, necessary precautions, though Ferguson knew Parnelles chafed at them.
As did he. If he'd been in a different mood, Ferguson would have spent a bit of time goofing on them — making faces for the camera, whispering Russian and Arabic curse words to the listening devices. But last night's unofficial briefing had left him in a serious mood. He ignored the sensors and walked to the beach, guided as much by memory as the gray twilight. He wasn't exactly alone — two lowlight cameras and an infrared recorded his every move — but it was as close as he could get.
Kill an assassin?
Morally, Ferguson supposed, there was plenty of justification. He hadn't known Dalton but assumed he was a good officer, on the right side. Probably not perfect, but good enough to be hated by the bad guys. Getting T Rex would mean doing justice for Dalton. And surely that was what Parnelles wanted; clearly Ferguson had been assigned the case not so much because of his ability, but because the Director of the CIA knew he could talk to him freely without fear of repercussion.
Yet he hadn't spoken freely, had he? Even Parnelles, who wanted it done, had hesitated to speak openly of murder.
Would it be murder if T Rex resisted?
That would depend on the circumstances, thought Ferguson.
He laughed at himself. "I'm thinking like a Jesuit," he told the waves.
There was plenty of reason for that, as he had been educated by them.
What would Father Francis have said? Intention, boys. That makes the difference. And it is known by God.
Yes. The Jesuits were always with him.
"Rest easy, Father Francis," Ferguson told the waves.
He intended to take T Rex alive, if possible, despite his unwritten orders. He'd bring the bastard to justice, but in his way.
Ferguson looked out at the water and sky. He loved the ocean in muddy gray — "fisherman's dawn," his father called it, and though he wasn't a fisherman, it was the elder Ferguson's favorite time of day.
"Anything is possible then," he used to tell Bob. And then he would smile, smirk really, and add, "Not really. But it feels that way."
Ferguson walked toward the dock, intending to go out on the long pier. But he tripped a sensor as he climbed up the three steps; the lights switched on, destroying the mood. For a long minute, he stood staring at the edge of the darkness on the water, waiting impatiently for the floodlight to turn itself off. Finally he gave up and went back to his car.
That's what you get for being nostalgic, he told himself, waving at the CIA bodyguard as he drove through the gate.
Three hours later, Bob Ferguson pulled off the highway to look for a diner and a pay phone. A place right off the interchange advertised itself with a flashing neon, but he didn't want to make the call from a phone so obviously close to an interstate. He took a right onto the local county highway, following it for about ten miles before finally coming to a village. There was a diner on the main drag, a fifties-era bullet building that called itself The Real McCoy. It was a bit too self-consciously cute, but it also looked like the only place to eat in town. Ferguson parked in the lot, then went inside, where his instincts were confirmed — the old-style diner fronted a consciously kitschy place with a fifties theme. But it was too late to turn back.
"Good hash browns?" he asked the girl at the cash register as she retrieved a menu.
"Best. Booth or table?"
Ferguson ordered breakfast, then took his coffee to the phone booth near the men's room. He took a phone card from his wallet, checked his watch, then dialed the number of his doctor in suburban Virginia.
"This is Bob Ferguson," he told the receptionist. "I'm looking for Dr. Zeist."
"He's with a patient."
"I can wait a bit. He wanted to talk to me. I'm out of town and may not get a chance to call back."
The receptionist clicked him onto hold. Ferguson took a sip of coffee. He suspected that she'd told a white lie; the doctor generally didn't see patients for another half hour.
"Hey, Ferg, how are you?" said Zeist, coming on the line.
"You tell me."
"The results are the results," said the doctor. "You know. My suggestion would be to have another treatment. The odds are good. I've only had two patients since I've started practice who, um, had flare-ups."
Ferguson hadn't heard Zeist use the word flare-ups before. Ordinarily, the doctor was extremely precise, even clinical, when talking about cancer. He was also generally upbeat, at least about thyroid cancer. The odds greatly favored a positive outcome — even for third-stage patients like Ferguson whose cancer had "escaped the thyroid capsule before detection," the statistics favored a "full, or close to full, lifetime survival rate without recurrence."
Problem was, the cancer didn't seem to be listening. A recent set of tests had discovered the cells in different parts of his body.
"So the treatment here is to poison me, right?" said Ferguson.
"Well, not precisely, Ferg."
"I swallow the baseball and sit in the hotel room for a couple of days," said Ferguson. He'd undergone the treatment before.
"It's not that bad, is it?" said Zeist.
"Nah, it's not that bad," Ferguson said. "Just was the worst five days of my life."
Ferguson, who hated to be cooped up, wasn't exaggerating, though Zeist thought he was.
"We have to do a little surgery first. Take out the adrenaline gland."
The adrenaline gland was where the most cancer cells had been located on the scan; it was also relatively easy to remove and to do without.
"That's really the best odds," said Zeist. "The combination — a one-two punch. You'll beat it. Let's see. I'd like to set this up for next week —"
"Next week's not going to be good."
Zeist sighed. "Listen, Ferg, waiting a few days, even a few weeks maybe, won't be a big deal. But we really do want to move ahead. The best —"
"Yeah, I'm not putting it off. I'm just kind of booked for the next week to two or three. Hard to tell right now. How much advance notice do you need?"
"I can get you to see the surgeon at the end of the week."
"Too soon. What about Ferber?"
"I was thinking of Dr. Ferber since he knows you."
"Good. Tell him I'll be in touch."
"Ferg, he's going to have to see you himself. You know that."
"I trust him. I've seen his work." Ferguson turned toward the glass door to the restroom area, glancing at his neck in the reflection. "As a matter of fact, I'm looking at it now. Very nice work. No scars."
"Ferg, this has to have a high priority. Really. As optimistic as I am, realistically, the sooner the better."
"Looks like I have to go," Ferg said, spotting the waitress carrying his food.
"Gotta run. Have a date with the world's best hash browns."
Excerpted from Larry Bond's First Team: Soul of the Assassin by Larry Bond, Jim DeFelice. Copyright © 2008 Larry Bond and Jim DeFelice. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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