printed copy

Termination Orders: A Dan Morgan Thriller

Leo J. Maloney

ISBN 9780786029891
Publish Date 8/28/2012
Format
Categories Thriller/Suspense, Pinnacle

Leo Maloney at THE THRILL BEGINS. Read Now

In this explosive novel of world-class suspense, former Black Ops veteran Leo J. Maloney traces a lethal conspiracy from the frontlines of battle to the backrooms of Washington to a single assassin’s bullet…

Termination Orders

Once a trained killer for the CIA, Dan Morgan has built a new life for himself. But when he receives a desperate plea from his former Black Ops partner—reportedly killed in a foreign battle zone—he flies to help. It should be a routine mission, extracting a human asset from the region. But it’s not routine; it’s an ambush. Now Morgan is running for his life, holding crucial evidence. With his contacts dead and family in danger, Morgan must take on a full-scale conspiracy in the highest echelons of a vast global network that plays by its own rules—when it suits them.

For Dan Morgan, it’s about to come to an end in Washington, D.C., on a national stage, in the crosshairs of a killer…

“Leo J. Maloney is a real-life Jason Bourne.” —Josh Zwylen, Wicked Local Stoneham

“A must-read thriller of torture, assassination, and double agents, where nothing is as it seems.” —Jon Renaud, author of Dereliction Duty

“A high-powered thriller…tense and terrifying!” —Hank Phillippi Ryan

“An outstanding thriller that rings with authenticity.” —John Gilstrap

Chapter One

Three sharp raps at the door yanked young Zalmay Siddiqi from uneasy dreams, and the adrenaline hit him like a kick in the face. He froze with the primitive instinct of a rabbit cornered by a fox, hoping against hope that whatever predator had come knocking would go away of its own volition. He listened. The knocks came in a familiar pattern of three shorts and three longs: Cougar’s signal. As his blazing panic subsided, he realized that he had been holding his breath. He exhaled, but the smoldering dread remained. Even friendly knocks were unwelcome in the middle of the night.

He rolled nimbly out of bed and pulled the lanyard on the light fixture above him, spilling the bulb’s dim yellow glow onto the sparsely furnished room: a lone mattress on the floor, a plastic chair draped with his clothes, his few possessions huddled in a corner where cracked plaster walls exposed the concrete underneath.

Tugging on a plain Afghan khameez tunic and sal- war trousers made of rough cloth, he hurried out of the bedroom to the hallway door. The knocks were still coming intermittently in their steady pattern. Zalmay gingerly turned the lock, and no sooner was the dead bolt released than the door was flung open, nearly knocking Zalmay back into the wall. A tall, wiry American, a man he knew as Cougar, rushed into the apartment, also wearing Afghan garb and carrying a black duffel bag. His movements were jerky, his voice breathless.

“Grab your things. You’ve got thirty seconds.”

Zalmay’s thoughts were forming a protest at Cougar’s abruptness, but the urgency in the American’s speech stayed his tongue. With a sudden clarity, he asked only, “Am I coming back?”

“No,” Cougar responded, and he looked over his shoulder. “Pack only what you can’t live without.”

Cougar stood at the door, his head cocked like that of a prey animal listening for stalking predators. Zalmay threw his single other outfit and his prayer mat into a canvas knapsack. From under his mattress, he took out a slim roll of cash tied with a rubber band. He reached in again, pulled out a creased old photograph, and hid it, along with the money, in the folds of his shirt. Then he turned to face Cougar, doing his best to look brave.

“I have been expecting this,” he said. “I am ready.”

Fear and anxiety had marked Zalmay’s life since he’d met the American and agreed to help him. Zalmay was well aware of the consequences of being caught. The thought usually kept him awake and tossing on his mattress at night. And on this particular night, his nightmare had finally come calling. He could only feel glad that it was his friend and not an enemy assassin at his door.

“Good,” said Cougar, “Now let’s . . .” Cougar trailed off and turned his head as if listening for something. Then Zalmay heard it, too, and it stopped him cold. It was the rumbling motor of an approaching car, which came to a halt down below the open window. Zalmay walked to the window to see who it was. Looking down, he saw a black sedan with two men climbing out of it, Americans in Western suits, each with a submachine gun in his hand.

“No, get away from there!” said Cougar.

Too late—one of the men below looked up, called to the other, and pointed right at Zalmay. Both black- suited men dashed for the door of the building. Zalmay’s apartment was on the corner, all the way down the hall; the men would have no trouble at all finding them.

“Come on!” said Cougar, motioning for him to go out the door. Zalmay dashed out and was halfway down the hall, past a row of silent, closed doors on his right, when he noticed that Cougar had stayed behind to shut the door to the apartment. He waited, nervously, as Cougar caught up, and they hurried to the stairs. From there, he could already hear the footsteps of the two men scrambling up, closing the distance with each footfall. Zalmay’s apartment was only three floors up, so it wouldn’t take them long to get there. And there was no other way out.

Cougar drew his weapon from its shoulder holster. “Upstairs,” he whispered. “Quietly.” He took the lead, and they tiptoed up a flight of stairs, keeping their footsteps as light as possible. Cougar crouched behind the bend of the fourth-floor corridor, and Zalmay ducked behind him, breathing heavily, his mind blank with panic, the way a rabbit must feel when confronting a tiger. The American kept his Glock pointed toward the stairwell as the sound of the men’s shoes on the steps grew louder and louder, and then they heard the footsteps receding down the hallway toward Zalmay’s apartment.

“Zalmay,” whispered Cougar, pulling a set of keys from his pocket, holding them tightly in his palm so they would not jangle. “Take these. I’m going to hold them off. While they’re searching your apartment, you run down as fast as you can and start the car. If I’m not the first one down, you take off without me, understand?”

“But . . .”

“Don’t argue, just go. Now, after me!”

Cougar walked back down the flight of stairs, quickly and silently, leading with his shoulder, arm extended and gun pointing down, at the ready. They heard a crack as the men kicked in Zalmay’s door. Before reaching the landing on the third floor, Cougar motioned for Zalmay to jump over the rusting railing onto the next flight down, so he wouldn’t be seen from the hallway. Zalmay clambered over and vaulted down, but his foot slipped on the metal, and his arm smacked painfully on the railing below. A hollow, metallic sound echoed up the stairwell. They heard voices and then the sound of the two men running out of the apartment.

“Go!” said Cougar. “I’ll hold them off!”

Zalmay nodded and started down. He leapt down the stairs two steps at a time, one hand clutching the keys and the other the strap of his knapsack, which was slung over his shoulder and slammed against him with every step.

Gunshots, three sets of them, blasted through the hallway upstairs; the single reports from Cougar’s Glock were answered by volleys of fire from the two men’s semiautomatics. He slowed down and for a split second considered going back to help his friend. Honor demanded it. But no; Cougar had told him to go on ahead, so that is what he would do. He had learned that the honorable thing to do was not always the right thing. He pressed on, and an inchoate, wordless prayer for his friend’s survival formed in his mind.

Zalmay raced into the dusty night air, easily spotting Cougar’s beat-up jeep, parked at a hasty angle to the building, the headlights left on like the still-open eyes of a dead ox. He pulled the door open and swung into the driver’s seat, tossing the knapsack onto the seat beside him. He fumbled to slide the key into the ignition and then turned it; the engine rumbled to life. Gunshots reverberated from inside, but now they came from much closer. Cougar had made his way down the stairs. Zalmay leaned over to unlatch the passenger door and then kicked it wide.

Cougar burst out of the building. He stopped just long enough to shoot out one of the front tires of the men’s sedan. Then he ran over and hurtled into the jeep’s passenger seat, pulling the door shut as he did in one fluid motion, yelling, “Go, go, go!” Zalmay saw the two men appear at the door as he hit the gas. They sped off under a barrage of bullets. Several slammed into the back of the jeep, making dull, metallic thunks, and one shattered the rear window. Zalmay mashed the pedal to the floor. The sound of gunfire slowly faded in the distance and then stopped altogether.

About Leo J. Maloney:

Leo J. Maloney is a proud supporter of Mission K9 Rescue, missionk9rescue.org, which is dedicated to the service of retiring and retired military dogs and contract dogs and other dogs who serve. Mission K9 rescues, reunites, re-homes, rehabilitates, and repairs these hero dogs. Leo donates a portion of the proceeds from his writing to this organization. To find out more about Mission K9 Rescue, or to make your own donation, please visit www.missionk9rescue.org or go to www.k9gala.org

Photo Credit: Carrole Photography


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