In the eighth action-packed thriller in the New York Times bestselling Pike Logan series, ISIS, the most maniacal terrorist organization the modern world has ever seen, is poised to make their most audacious strike yet.
The United States has anticipated and averted countless attacks from terrorist groups—thanks in large part to the extralegal counterterrorist unit known as the Taskforce. But now, a much more insidious evil is about to shatter the false sense of safety surrounding civilized nations.
While world powers combat ISIS on the battlefield, a different threat is set in motion by the group—one that can’t be defeated by an airstrike. Off the radar of every Western intelligence organization, able to penetrate America or any European state, they intend to commit an act of unimaginable barbarity.
Only Pike Logan and the Taskforce stand in the way of an attack no one anticipates, a grand deception that will wreak unthinkable chaos and reverberate throughout the Western world.
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BRAD TAYLOR is the author of the New York Times bestselling Pike Logan series. He served for more than twenty years in the U.S. Army, including eight years in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment–Delta, commonly known as Delta Force. He retired as a Special Forces lieutenant colonel and now lives in Charleston, South Carolina.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Jacob Driscoll watched the four men, fascinated that they showed no resistance whatsoever. Completely resigned to their fate. A fly landed on the forehead of the nearest one—the one he was to kill—and the captive let it crawl about, tasting his sweat.
Jacob listened to the spokesman continue to rail in Arabic, a small crowd gathered in the square, outnumbered two to one by the gunmen. He didn’t understand the language but could guess at what was being said.
These men are traitors. This is the fate that befalls all who oppose the Kalipha. Stand with us, or suffer the same.
Far from cheering, the small grouping of people looked cowed, as if they wanted to be anywhere but there. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. They’d rather be on the outside watching than on their bellies with their necks stretched out.
The spokesman droned on, building toward a grand spectacle, his black tunic covered in dust, the AK-47 swinging about with his body language, and Jacob knew it was coming close. Execution time. His first.
In the seven months he’d been inside the cult of death known as the Islamic State, he’d witnessed many, many executions, acting as a gunman on the periphery, but he’d never done one on his own.
Not that he minded killing. It hadn’t bothered him in the past, but the action had always been at the barrel of a gun, and he wondered how this would feel. In a detached, almost scientific way, he wondered if it would be different from carving the carcasses of the rabbits he’d killed in his youth. When he’d literally had to hunt for survival.
He looked at his partners, seeing Hussein fidgeting, the nervous tics growing more pronounced. He wasn’t built for this cauldron, and Jacob thought it ironic that Hussein was the one who had recruited them. Convinced them to come to this faraway land.
Not that they had many alternatives after fleeing the cesspool of “rehabilitation” they’d been placed within. Killing the guard had ensured that.
Carlos and Devon, now known as Yousef and Talib, showed no such hesitation. They had embraced the cult of death completely, changing their names and fervently soaking up the Salafist ideology like a cactus in the rain. They were on board one hundred and ten percent, considering this day a sacred one.
Jacob played the role, but he’d long since lost belief in religion. Any religion. He’d had that whipped out of him by the pious Christian guards in the white house.
No, it wasn’t the religion. It was the power. In this land, from Mosul to Raqqa, all that mattered was the courage of the battle-axe, and he’d found a skill that he didn’t realize he possessed. He knew he would die here, but it caused no angst. In truth, he had died long ago. All that remained was for him to slip the coils of his mortal frame. The difference was a cause. He wouldn’t end up as a page-two news story, caught stealing hubcaps and gunned down in the street. And neither would the men he had brought.
Hussein may have recruited him, and the other two may have changed their names, diving headlong into the myth of the Islamic State, but he was the leader of their small group. Just as he had been inside.
With that mantle came a responsibility.
A man in black, completely covered from head to toe, like something out of a Star Wars movie, began walking his way. Jacob inwardly grimaced.
His name was Abu Yabba Dabba Do, or some other unpronounceable Arabic crap, but Jacob called him Ringo. As in the Beatles. An Islamic fighter from England, he and others like him considered themselves above Jacob and his band because they were of Arabic descent. Ringo was Yemeni. Jacob was a mutt.
“So, Jacob, are you ready for your first kill?”
He drew out the name Jacob, showing his disdain for the Biblical reference and the fact that Jacob refused to take an Arabic one.
Jacob said, “It isn’t my first, you shit.”
Ringo smirked and said, “Death with a gun is not killing. You’ll see. This is absolute control. Absolute. As Mohammad dictated. But your little band of Lost Boys wouldn’t know about that.”
He was being tested, which was what he expected. Ringo had beheaded many men, and had developed a cult following on Twitter and other social media, but he was an ass. A small man who gained importance after the fact. After the fighting was done, using his knife and a camera to become famous. At his core, Jacob knew Ringo felt a challenge from him and his friends.
Four tightly knit brothers, forged by a fire outside the Islamic State, with—except for Hussein—no attachment to any Arabic or Islamic heritage, they were an anomaly. True foreign fighters in a foreign land. They called themselves the Lost Boys because of the iconic ’80s movie, but the analogy was apt. They lived in a world of the shadows.
And they killed better than most.
Jacob said, “Ringo, step away.”
That was all.
And Ringo did.
Ringo had seen the punishment the Lost Boys had endured. With two blond Caucasians, one African American, and Hussein, the one who had recruited them, their arrival had been anything but welcoming. Convinced they were spies or, at best, journalists, the emir had subjected them to inhuman conditions and cruelty. And they had thrived.
Because of the white house.
Ringo said, “You are not the future. We are the future. Kafir.”
Jacob looked up, catching Ringo’s pompous eyes with the dead ones he possessed, and said, “The future is dictated by the man who isn’t afraid to die. Is that you?”
Ringo said, “I am not afraid. I have proved that multiple times.”
“Do you wish to die today? Without fear?”
Jacob knew his reputation from Mosul preceded him. Knew that Ringo hated the fact that he was a blond-headed, blue-eyed American, with no ancestral ties to the coming caliphate, but he also knew that Ringo couldn’t get past the stories that had grown into legends.
Ringo snarled and said, “We’ll see, Lost Boy. We’ll see.”
And walked away.
The man on the square finished his speech, which was like every other one, and not unlike speeches given by the blowhard preachers Jacob had heard every night in the reform school. There was a flourish at the end, then a knife placed in his hand.
He looked at the four men prostrate in front of him, and felt the hatred.
They were snitches. People who’d sold out the clan for money, giving information to the enemy for targeted air strikes and intelligence on how the Islamic State functioned. Jacob would have had qualms about killing someone for eating pork or not wearing a head wrap, but he had none for traitors.
They were the ones who had caused the pain in his past. Had caused the trips to the white house.
He looked at his man, a Kurd. Strange that such a person had been able to penetrate so deeply, given the fight against the Peshmerga, but he had. And he’d given massive information about the Islamic State to the Americans. Now he would die.
But the fly on his forehead would live.
He swished the man’s face and saw it buzz away. Then leaned down, wrapping his hand into the hair, pulling it up.
As he had as a child, when the next “new” father had come into the room, stinking of whiskey and taking off his belt, he let his humanity float away, flying on a cloud. Gone.
He became a man of stone.
He looked down the line, seeing the ubiquitous cameraman recording the killing, then Carlos and Devon eagerly snatching up their own heads and looking to him for guidance. He waited on Hussein.
He caught the tears on Hussein’s cheeks and wondered if the man would go through with it. He saw Ringo advancing and shouted, “Hussein!”
His friend looked at him and Jacob said, “For the white house. Do it for the white house.”
Hussein rapidly nodded, then pulled up the head.
Jacob turned to his own man, seeing his eyes rolling back, feeling the shaking in his body, the bright orange smock soaked in sweat.
The first swipe brought a gout of blood. He reached bone, and began sawing.
Omar al-Khatami watched the tape without a shred of revulsion, technically looking for the propaganda value. His media specialist described how he had enhanced the image, optimizing it for YouTube, and said, “This will show the Americans what happens to their spies, and prevent others from following in their steps.”
Omar said, “Yes. Post it tonight. End with the heads on the bodies.”
The door opened and the emir of northern Syria entered.
Mildly surprised, Omar exchanged greetings and said, “Adnan, I thought you weren’t returning for two days. What is happening with the oil?”
Adnan smiled and said, “It’s coming along. We only have the wells pumping at a quarter of capacity because of a lack of technical skill, but we have found men to change that. Soon, we will double our output and our revenues. As long as you don’t lose the fields.”
Omar said, “No chance of that.”
“Good, because I have some news. The caliph has bestowed a great honor on you. He has promoted you to the emir of external operations.”
The mention of the leader of the Islamic State brought a pause. Confused, Omar said, “External operations? I am the military commander here. I still have work to do. Aleppo to take. Damascus to burn.”
“The caliph has heard of your Lost Boys, and he thinks it is time to use them.”
“Then do so, but don’t pull me from my men. They fight because of me. The time is growing short for victory. This will be a setback we can’t afford, given the American attacks.”
Adnan scowled and said, “The caliph believes in you. And your American cell. He chose you.”
“Why? We have many men who could do this. You, for instance.”
“Because of your skill, for one. And because you are Chechen. You have traveled in Europe. You know the contacts. You can build the attack he desires.”
“These Lost Boys are untested. I’m unsure of their commitment.”
Adnan looked at the computer screen, the video paused with four men slicing and cutting. “Is this not them?”
“They show commitment here.”
“It could be simple fear. Hussein, the Jordanian, cried throughout.”
“And the others?”
Omar grudgingly admitted they showed no qualms, but said, “The leader of these so-called Lost Boys hasn’t even taken a proper name. He still goes by Jacob.”
“But you tested him, yes?”
Omar nodded. Adnan said, “The name is why we want them. They will all revert back to their true names. They are gems buried in the sand. Four Americans with no ties to America. No families, no Facebook, no Twitter. They are unknown. Unlike the others who brag to their friends back home, nobody knows they exist. No authorities are fervently tracking their moves. True?”
“Yes. We instructed them on methods of recruitment, but they have shown no interest.”
“Good. Keep it that way. Their mission will be the greatest recruitment drive we have ever seen.”
The media specialist fidgeted, getting Adnan’s attention. He said, “Emir, they are on this video. The one we’re going to post for the world to see.”
“Don’t. Broadcast the stills of the verdict, but keep the executioners out.”
Omar said, “We lose the impact with our own people. They need to see. They need to fear.”
“Then let our men see it, but obscure the faces, and do not put it on social media. The Americans must be protected, and those kafirs in the United States have ways of determining the tiniest things.”
Omar nodded. “It will be done. What about me?”
Adnan looked at him with a question, and he said, “When do you wish me to start, and what will the target be?”
“Targets. Plural. Every attack attempted by that windbag Zawahiri and his diseased al Qaida has resulted in failure because the kafirs managed to hear about it before execution. We have to assume the same will happen here, so we will plan two attacks. One for them to chase, and one for you to execute.”
Omar went through the ramifications in his mind. Having fought in Grozny against a barbaric Russian army, he recognized the wisdom. He said, “Just preparation for the false flag attack?”
“No, no. A real attack. One that you will plan from start to finish. You pick the target and the method. The only parameter is that it must be outside of the caliphate. Outside the borders here. If it succeeds, so much the better, but its primary mission is to protect your American cell. Obviously, don’t tell the other team about that. Let them think they are the chosen ones.”
Omar absorbed the words, glancing away and nodding, thinking through the possibilities. He said, “And the real target?”
Adnan smiled and said, “The real one will destroy the heart of the kafirs.”
Waiting on the president to finish, eyes glued to a television, Colonel Hale sat with the rest of the Oversight Council, watching him getting raked over the coals in the White House James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. Kurt heard a little exasperation escape President Warren, a sign of the pressure he was under. Kurt felt for the president, but was glad it wasn’t him on the stage. The conversation would have been much less civil.
“Kathy, I don’t know how to make it any more plain. None of the men in the picture are either American or working for United States intelligence. They are not in any capacity agents of the United States. Clearly, those barbarians will kill anyone just to prove a point. And that point is fear.”
The hands in the pressroom rose again and President Warren said, “Thank you,” then walked off, hearing a chorus of shouted questions. Sitting in the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House, Kurt knew it would be a good ten minutes before he arrived for their meeting.
He looked around the room. Only half of the thirteen members of the Council were present, the other half most likely getting castigated right now in the Oval Office over the scourge of the Islamic State.
Kurt knew how President Warren felt: impotent.
For nearly a decade he’d been hunting terrorists with a unique counterterrorist organization that had unparalleled success; yet despite its efforts, a greater threat had appeared. Not only appeared but had thrived like the spread of Ebola in a ward of children. And his unit could do nothing about it.
The thought made him sick, driving home the fact that the application of military force would never be decisive in this fight. The roots were too deep, and the siren call too sweet. No matter how many terrorists he prevented from individually killing, there was a pervading ability for ideology to transcend logical thought, spreading like a cancer through whole societies he would have otherwise thought normal, civilized humans.
Because of it, the Islamic State had become the most powerful terrorist organization on the face of the earth.
Encompassing broad swaths of terrain across Syria and Iraq, the group possessed a brutality unheard-of in the modern world. But it was not unlike the history of the past. The Islamic State cowed its opponents with an unparalleled ability to instill fear, using new social media grafted on twelfth-centu...
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