Secretary of State Frank Malone has been kidnapped from his Cairo hotel—his security detail wiped out. President Natalie Cohen is left with several unacceptable options. It's time to think outside the box, and that can only mean one thing: the revival of the Presidential Agent program.
Cohen calls for Charley Castillo to come out of retirement to direct a new Presidential Agent, one Captain P. K. "Pick" McCoy, USMC. Charley may be too old to kick down doors and take names, but Killer McCoy is just the man to get the job done.
Together, they will track the kidnapped secretary from Cairo to sub-Saharan Africa. The only problem is that one man can't hope to win against an army of terrorists...good thing there are two of them.
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About the Author
Brian Andrews is a U.S. Navy veteran, Park Leadership Fellow, and former submarine officer with a psychology degree from Vanderbilt and a masters in business from Cornell University.
Jeffrey Wilson has worked as an actor, firefighter, paramedic, jet pilot, and diving instructor, as well as a vascular and trauma surgeon. He served in the U.S. Navy for fourteen years and made multiple deployments as a combat surgeon with an East Coast-based SEAL Team. He and his wife, Wendy, live in Southwest Florida with their four children.
Read an Excerpt
Marriott Mena House Hotel
March 15, 10:11 p.m.
"You Americans and your conspiracy theories," the Egyptian ambassador to the United States said through a laugh. "I don't know how these crazy rumors get started, but I can assure you extraterrestrials were definitely not involved. Ingenuity and manpower-that's how the pyramids were built."
U.S. Secretary of State Frank Malone, who at six-foot-four and two hundred and forty-five pounds towered over the ambassador, smiled at the comment as he looked past the manicured courtyard and palm canopies at the four-thousand-year-old marvels in the distance. From the outdoor balcony of his Pyramid Suite at the Mena House, he could see both the Great Pyramid and the Pyramid of Khafre atop the Giza Plateau. He shifted his gaze from the pyramids to Ambassador Gamal. Malone had thrown out the "Did aliens really build the pyramids?" comment to see how the man would react. The comment was clearly a joke, but it was also a test. The fifty-nine-year-old Malone, a self-made millionaire and the retired CEO of Malone Construction Ltd., had come to believe that everything in life was a test. Every task, every conversation, every interaction-no matter how insignificant or mundane-was an opportunity to rise or fall. Gain or cede. In this case, the Egyptian had proven himself to be affable, quick-witted, and someone who knew how to handle a curveball.
"As a former construction man, I can appreciate more than most why the Great Pyramid is the Seventh Wonder of the World," Malone said, contemplating how in the hell the ancient Egyptians had managed to stack more than two million limestone blocks, each weighing two-and-a-half tons, forty stories in the air without cranes and excavators. Blood, sweat, and bone built the pyramids, and he wondered how many slaves had died to fulfill the grand narcissistic desire of a man who believed himself a god.
Thousands? Tens of thousands? More?
"Minister Pasha is very much looking forward to meeting you this afternoon," Gamal said, referring to Malone's domestic equivalent-Egypt's newly appointed minister of foreign affairs. Pasha was Gamal's predecessor, serving as ambassador to the United States before being promoted. This was the typical diplomatic career progression in many countries, where the U.S. ambassadorship served as the ultimate litmus test and stepping-stone for promotion to the head of a nation's international affairs.
"I'm looking forward to meeting him, too," Malone said. "I understand he and my predecessor did not see eye to eye on most issues."
Gamal laughed politely. "It is true-there was great tension with the last administration, but now, with President Cohen's commitment to global diplomacy, Egypt is looking forward to renewed opportunities for dialogue and mutual prosperity."
Mutual prosperity? Malone thought, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. Translation-the reestablishment of the United States' historically generous Egyptian foreign aid package that the previous administration unceremoniously gutted.
"I'm glad to hear the minister feels that way. Egypt offering to host this summit to discuss the Middle East becoming a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone demonstrates-"
A hand forcefully grabbed him by the upper arm, stopping him mid-sentence.
"We've got a problem, Mr. Secretary," his security lead, Jack, said. "Time to go."
Movement in Malone's peripheral vision caught his eye-fast-moving, black-clad shapes flooding the courtyard outside his balcony.
"Jack, what's going on?" he asked as Jack pulled him away from the window.
The explosion knocked Malone off his feet and his enormous body hit the hotel room floor hard. He groaned, dazed, body alit with pain. The last time he'd felt like this was in the Rose Bowl, when Oklahoma University All-American defensive end Lamar Goodall had bulldozed him from the blind side and given him a concussion headache that lasted for a week.
Squinting, he coughed and scanned the room. Debris was strewn everywhere. Gray smoke and plaster dust swirled all around him, while tiny burning embers floated lazily toward the ground, reminding him of dust motes illuminated in a shaft of sunlight. Where a wall had once been, separating his suite from the one next door, now stood a charred and gaping maw. Had somebody been in that room? He tried to remember . . . wasn't that supposed to be Boaz Sharon's room, the Israeli minister of foreign affairs?
Automatic weapons fire reverberated outside and he heard shouting, but it all sounded funny-muffled, like his ears were filled with cotton. He rolled onto his stomach, then tried to press up to his hands and knees.
"Secretary Malone, are you injured?" a voice said, urgent and yet very far away.
"I don't think so," he tried to say, but what came out was a hoarse, pathetic croak.
"We've got to go, Mr. Secretary," the voice said, this time closer as strong hands gripped him under the armpit and pulled him up. "Right now."
Malone channeled his younger, college quarterback self, grunted, and got to his feet. As he did, a surge of adrenaline dumped into his veins-burning off the brain fog and making his lethargic body suddenly feel ten years younger. He looked right, where the Egyptian ambassador had been standing just seconds ago.
The Egyptian was now on all fours, crawling toward the bathroom.
"Gamal!" Malone shouted.
The ambassador froze and looked at Malone with wide, panicked eyes.
"You're coming with us," he said in a tone that left no room for debate.
Gamal nodded, scampered to his feet, and fell in behind Malone as Jack scanned over his weapon. They backpedaled away from the wide-open balcony doors toward the hotel room door leading to the inside hallway. A second explosion, this one farther away than the first, reverberated outside.
"Get low and hold here," his security lead said, gesturing quickly with his non-shooting hand to the space next to the door. "I augmented your detail with some shooters, former SOF and Ground Branch guys. They know how to handle themselves in combat and put together an emergency exfil plan for situations like this."
Malone nodded, crouching as instructed beside the doorframe.
While Jack conducted a rapid-fire tactical exchange over the radio-packed with acronyms and terms unfamiliar to Malone-a gun battle erupted outside. From his current vantage point, he could no longer see the courtyard, but the shooting sounded like it was just outside the balcony.
"We're going now," Jack said, opening the hotel room door.
Two vaguely familiar looking bearded Americans in plain clothes flanked the door. Both men were in tactical kneeling postures, wore headsets with boom mikes, and were sighting over assault rifles with optics packages. Seeing their steely, battle-hardened composure and slick tactical hardware, Malone suddenly felt a helluva lot better than he had just two seconds ago.
"One has the package," the younger of the two operators said, chopping a hand forward. "Maverick is moving toward the rally point."
They moved as a five-man, diamond-shaped unit-with one shooter front, Jack, Malone, and Gamal in the middle, and a shooter in back covering their six. The lead operator advanced in a tactical crouch, quickstepping so rapidly that Malone had to run to keep up. Viewed only from the waist up, the operator looked like he was riding on a conveyor belt, his torso gliding at uniform speed and elevation down the corridor.
"Just got a report the tangos are dressed as security personnel," the operator said over his shoulder.
"Shit," Jack said with a grimace.
"How you want to play this, boss?" the operator came back, the meaning of the query not lost on Malone.
"Kill house rules," Jack said, his voice a hard line.
"Roger that," the operator called back, and an understanding born from blood and brotherhood was reached . . . one that Malone decided could only mean I trust you.
Something exploded behind them, sending Malone instinctively into a squat-and-cover posture. He risked a backward glance and saw a hotel room door blown off its hinges and smoke pouring out into the hallway. The rear shooter sighted on the door, while the lead operator advanced toward a T junction ahead.
"Keep moving," Jack said, tapping Malone on the shoulder.
Malone nodded and scrambled to catch up to the lead shooter, who had reached the junction and was now pressed up against the right-hand wall just shy of the corner. Jack fell in behind him, against the wall, and Malone and Gamal followed Jack's lead. The lead shooter popped his head out for a half-second glance around the corner, then pulled back. Malone saw him take a deep breath, then repeat the maneuver, this time looking down the left-side hallway.
"Let's go," the operator said, over his shoulder.
A loud double crack behind Malone made him jump, as the rear shooter fired two rounds down the hallway behind them.
"We're being flanked-go, go, go!" the operator hollered, backpedaling in a tactical crouch.
Muzzle flashes strobed at the far end of the corridor as lower-pitched machine gun fire erupted at them. Fresh adrenaline surged in Malone, and he ducked and ran around the corner, following the lead operator out of the line of fire.
"We gotta move, people!" the lead shooter barked, accelerating from his quickstep shuffle posture to a full-on run.
Malone's fifty-nine-year-old knees protested loudly as he lumbered down the hallway after the much younger and much more fit operator ahead. He could hear Gamal panting next to him and Jack's footfalls behind him as he'd somehow pulled ahead of his security lead. A security guard stepped into the corridor five meters away, sighting over an assault rifle. The lead American shooter dropped the man with a double-tap to the chest without even breaking stride. As he ran past the fallen guard, he put another round into the man's head and kept on going. Malone meant to avert his eyes, but his gaze went straight to the split-open skull and the bloody, clumpy gore spattered all over the tile floor.
"Don't look," Jack said, putting a hand on Malone's shoulder. "Keep moving."
They reached the next junction, a dogleg this time, and the lead operator cleared the corner blind-shrinking into a low tactical crouch and rounding the bend while sighting over his rifle.
"Clear!" he shouted.
Jack put pressure on Malone's back to get him moving around the corner. The five-man escape party moved down the hallway with speed and purpose, although Malone found himself getting winded. A mental image of his wife playfully scolding him the other day for eating too much red meat and not exercising popped into his head. I know, I know, I'll try to do better, he remembered promising, and now he wished he'd heeded her advice years ago.
"Coming up on the south stairwell," the lead operator announced. "We take the stairs down to the ground level, out the emergency side exit to where we have two vehicles ready to exfil in the circle. Secretary Malone, you're in the rear SUV. Do you understand?"
"Jack, help me clear this stairwell," the lead operator continued. "I'll take down, you clear up."
"Check," Jack said.
"On three, two, one, go," the operator said, barreling through the metal door and into the fire escape stairwell. Jack followed a split second behind and Malone heard the crack of gunfire followed by return fire a heartbeat later.
"Shit, I'm hit," he heard Jack say just before the door slammed shut with a resounding metallic thud.
"C'mon, c'mon, let's go!" the lead operator barked, pulling the door open and sticking his head out.
Malone ducked across the threshold, with Gamal and the rear operator in trail. As he entered the stairwell, he saw an Arab man sprawled prone and facing them on the landing above, his lifeless eyes peering off into space through the metal railing bars.
"Move!" the rear operator shouted, herding them down the stairs. "You guys are too fucking slow."
Malone shuffled his feet faster, catching up to Jack, who was hobbling and bleeding from his right side. "You okay, Jack?"
"Took one in the gut. Just outside my Kevlar," the Secret Service man said, his voice a little ragged now.
The lead operator stopped them at the emergency exit door, took a knee, and peered out the glass window at the circle drive a mere fifteen yards away. "Maverick is ready to load," he said into his boom mike.
Malone wasn't wearing a headset of his own, so he couldn't hear the reply, but through the rectangular pane of glass he saw two shooters with long guns step out of the passenger-side front doors of two idling black SUVs. The shooters opened the rear passenger side doors on their respective vehicles and started scanning over their rifles.
"Secretary Malone, you're in the rear vehicle," the lead shooter reiterated. "Jack, you and the ambassador are in the lead truck. I'll ride with the secretary."
To Malone's surprise, his security lead didn't argue and instead simply nodded. Jack didn't look good. His face had gone completely gray and his forehead was dappled with perspiration.
"Keep your head low," the operator said, and shouted, "Go!"
Malone exhaled and went. Just like his college football days under center, he imagined he'd taken the snap and was running the option. Only this time, instead of a fullback running at his flank, he had a kitted-up operator with a machine gun alongside. And instead of running for the end zone, this time he was running for his life.
Twelve yards . . .
Staccato pops of gunfire erupted around him.
Nine yards . . .
He ducked his head, lowered his shoulder, and mustered more speed.
Six yards . . .
He heard bullets hitting the pavement behind him.
Four yards . . .
I'm almost there.
Two yards . . .
One . . .
Malone dove into the backseat like he was catapulting a goal line pile for a touchdown. He landed half-on, half-off the rear bench seat, his face buried into the lap of the terrified U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Jillian Hendricks. He scrambled quickly off her and into the middle seat as the lead operator jumped in beside him and slammed the door. A bullet plowed into the tailgate back window, leaving a starburst pattern but not punching through.
"Ballistic glass," the operator said, as the big SUV roared to life, tires laying rubber as the driver piloted them away from the Mena House with extreme haste and prejudice.
As they turned onto Al Haram Road, a building exploded a mere hundred yards in front of them, erupting in a giant fireball before imploding and sending a chimney column of black smoke and dust skyward.
"What the hell was that?" Malone said, gawking through the windshield.