FOG OF WAR, the third spy thriller in Justin Hall series, is coming out on June 18, 2013.
In FOG OF WAR, Justin Hall is in northern Iran to bring out a nuclear scientists defector, when his mission is compromised. Barely escaping the ambush, Justin needs to find out who has put him in their crosshairs and why. His new operation takes him across the globe, hunting for terrorists and traitors until he discovers the bitter truth.
Advance review copies of FOG OF WAR will be available at the end of April or early May. Please let me know if you are interested in receiving a free copy in the Kindle or e-pub format. My new e-mail is: Ethan.Jones@shaw.ca
For now, enjoy the prologue of FOG OF WAR.
“Once you have decided to hit someone, then hit them hard
because the retribution will be the same whether you hit hard or not.”
“When anger and revenge get married, their daughter is called cruelty.”
Afmadow, Southern Somalia
Monday, September 20, 3:30 a.m. local time
Bullets hammered the MH-60 Black Hawk. Navy SEALs squad leader Alex Roberts glanced at the control panel in front of him. The last mud-brick shacks of the village were falling behind, but the hail of bullets was relentless. It seemed like everyone on the ground was taking aim at their helicopter. People were shooting from the streets, from their trucks, from the rooftops of this stronghold of al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s branch in southern Somalia. Rocket-propelled grenades ripped through the night sky with their amber streaks, missing their target by sheer luck. The Black Hawk could withstand small arms fire, but not RPGs. Their warheads could disable the helicopter’s rotors and force a crash-landing.
Roberts looked at two squad members shattering the night with their M134 machine guns. The weapons were pouring forth a torrent of bullets at two thousand rounds per minute. He could not see it, but he was sure some of those bullets were shredding Al-Qaeda militants engaged in this firefight.
Seconds later, the Black Hawk veered to the right, and the Islamic bastion disappeared into the darkness. The helicopter was no longer taking fire. The hail-like sound of bullets died down. Roberts looked back at the gunners falling into their seats and then at the other five members of his squad, who were securing their “cargo,” the targets of this operation, in the back of the helicopter. Two high-ranking leaders of al-Shabaab lay tied, gagged, and blindfolded on the cabin floor.
“What’s our status?” Robert asked.
“We’re clean. All systems fully functional,” the pilot replied, glancing at Roberts in the co-pilot’s seat.
Roberts nodded. “You all did well down there. In and out in fifteen.”
The snatch-and-grab operation was executed with the assistance of the Joint Task Force Two, the elite Canadian counter-terrorism unit. The Canadian Intelligence Service had obtained actionable intelligence about the target, and the CIA had engaged one of their local assets. Their man on the ground had confirmed the target’s location thirty minutes before the start of the operation.
The SEALs dropped into the outskirts of Afmadow, neutralized the guards, and plucked the two militant leaders out of their safe house. The SEALs actions had awakened the terrorists’ fury, but their backlash was weak and easily counteracted. Hellfire missiles and machine gun fire had kept them at bay. The SEALs were now on their way to extract the CIA’s man, Mussad Weydow. Their meeting point was another village twenty miles to the west. Then the squad was to proceed to the safety of Dhobley, a village close to the Kenyan border in the safe hands of the African Union peacekeepers.
“Will we be late?” asked Roberts.
“Negative,” replied the pilot. “We’ll make up for the lost time.”
One of the militants jerked, kicked up his feet, and rolled against the cabin door. Walker, one of the gunners, leaned over and lifted the man’s blindfold. “We said don’t move, so don’t you move,” he shouted in Arabic.
The militant’s gray eyes burned against his dark face. He mumbled something, but the rag stuffed deep into his mouth made his words inaudible.
Walker pulled down the blindfold and pushed the man back to his original place next to the other detainee. “What a prick,” Walker spat out his words, “luring kids into this kind of a shithole life.”
“Chill out, man,” said Green, the other gunner. “They’ll pay for their actions.”
“Yeah, but how many innocents have their brainwashed followers killed so far?”
Green nodded with a sigh. Al-Shabaab had recently stepped up its aggressive recruitment campaign. US- and Canadian-born Somalis joined it in droves. The name al-Shabaab meant the “boys” in Arabic, and they lived up to it. The terrorist network kidnapped children as young as ten from all over Somalia and forced them to fight. Many foreign fighters from Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria had also joined al-Shabaab’s army, which claimed around fifteen thousand fighters.
“Green, is our contact in place?” Roberts asked.
“He should be. Last time I checked, five minutes ago, he was a few miles away from the pickup point. I’ll call him to confirm his current position.”
Green dialed Weydow’s number on his satellite phone. He talked for a few seconds then hung up. “Weydow’s waiting for us at the abandoned warehouse, a mile east of the village. Everything’s going according to plan.”
“We’ll be there in five,” the pilot said.
* * *
The warehouse was a one-story cinder block building smaller than a school bus. It had a tin roof and was surrounded by a thatched fence with large holes and an open metal gate. Green had switched on his night-vision goggles and was looking down from the helicopter. Everything had a greenish tinge with a grainy feel. He spotted a small acacia tree behind the warehouse, the hulk of a large truck, and other debris scattered around in the yard. Weydow’s white van was nowhere in sight. “Where is Weydow?”
“Don’t see him,” Walker replied. He was also scanning the warehouse and its surroundings.
“Maybe he’s inside the warehouse,” Green said.
Roberts pondered their options. At the relatively safe altitude of one thousand and five hundred feet, he could not observe the situation on the ground with accuracy. But he did not want to land until they had a visual on the CIA’s man. On the ground, the helicopter was a sitting duck. They had carried out their operation so far with barely a scratch. He did not want to put his men needlessly in harm’s way.
“Call him again,” he ordered Green.
Green dialed Weydow’s number. No signal. He tried again. Again no signal.
“He’s not answering. It seems he turned off his satphone.”
“Why?” Roberts asked.
“He’s afraid someone will trace him?” Walker said.
“Who? Al-Shabaab? They don’t have that kind of gear,” Green said.
Roberts shrugged. “You never know. Weydow didn’t last this long in this hell of a place by being careless.”
“We’re landing?” Walker asked.
Before Roberts could reply, the warehouse’s metal doors swung open.
“Wait. There’s movement,” he said.
A white van zoomed outside the warehouse. The driver swerved around the acacia tree and headed toward the gate. Something resembling a spare tire was strapped to the front of the van.
“What? Where’s he going?” Roberts asked.
“I’m sure he can see us. He knows we’re coming for him. What’s going on?” said Walker.
An RPG warhead rushed toward them. Roberts saw it at the last moment, too late to do anything to avoid it. The warhead flew past them. It missed the Black Hawk’s main rotor by about three feet. A plume of gray smoke engulfed the helicopter.
“Ambush!” Walker shouted.
The pilot tilted the helicopter to the left, dropping out of the smoke cloud. Another RPG tore up the dark sky. This one widely missed its mark.
Walker pushed the cabin door to the side and rushed into position behind his M134 machine gun. Muzzle flashes lit up the left side of the warehouse. He focused his firepower at that target and kept his finger on the trigger. The bullets tore chunks out of the cinder block walls. Casing after casing fell out of the machine gun and into a canvas bag, preventing them from ending up in the Black Hawk’s rotor blades.
The pilot turned the helicopter around. Two shooters came into Green’s line of fire, and their muzzle flashes soon died. “I got the shooters by the acacia.”
“I nailed the three on the left side,” Walker replied.
Roberts looked at the white van. It was quickly disappearing in the distance. He made a swift decision. “We’re going after them. Green, advise the command about the ambush, and tell them we’ll be late.”
“Right away, sir.”
Green got through to the command center in Nairobi, Kenya and updated them on their status.
“How did they know we were coming?” asked one of the SEALs from the back.
“They’ve gotten to Weydow and made him talk,” Roberts said in a tense voice.
“You think he’s in the van?” asked Walker.
A loud bang rattled the back of the helicopter, almost jolting Roberts out of his seat. A moment later, the control panel beeped a sharp sound of alarm.
“We’re hit,” the pilot said. He studied the screens in front of him. “An RPG clipped our rear rotor.”
“We’re going down?” Roberts asked.
“We’re going down,” the pilot replied.
The Black Hawk overtook the white van. Roberts squinted but could not make out the driver. The ground sped toward them fast and hard. The pilot slowed down and sealed the helicopter’s fuel lines to avoid an explosion on impact. Roberts braced for the crash landing, a sick feeling forming in the pit of his stomach. His team was going down on his watch. He muttered a short prayer.
The helicopter swerved in a large circle. It tilted to the left and began another turn. The pilot struggled with the system controls. He tried to level the helicopter and execute a somewhat controlled crash landing. The main rotor stopped turning. The Black Hawk fell into gravity’s clutches. It completed another 360-degree turn.
Then it crashed on its starboard side.
The impact rolled the helicopter over. The main rotor blades crumpled as if made of tinfoil, the metal crunching and the glass shattering all around them. The cabin walls closed in. Everything unfastened to the Black Hawk’s airframe was hurled around the cabin like balls in a bingo blower. The pilot’s crashworthy seat protected him from the direct impact, but the windshield folded in as it hit the ground, killing the pilot and Roberts instantly.
The Black Hawk exploded into a million fiery fragments.