Behind the Book
A theme in many of Vince Flynn’s books was his distaste for Saudi Arabia—a distaste that I wholeheartedly share. Despite America’s close ties, there’s just no getting around the fact that it’s a medieval dictatorship that supplied the majority of the 9-11 attackers, it continues to spread radical Islam throughout the world, and it withholds even the most basic rights from women. While our alliance with them might be expedient, it’s a deal with the devil.
It was that ‘deal with the devil’ sentiment that got me wondering about how far our politicians would go to keep our relationship with the Saudis on an even keel. And, more importantly, what would happen if the kingdom pushed us too far?
Those thought experiments eventually became Enemy of the State. If the President finally got fed up with the Saudi royalty, who would he call to give them an attitude adjustment? I can think of no better person than everyone’s favorite CIA assassin, Mitch Rapp.
Another interesting thing about Vince was his ability to create amazing characters and then just forget about them. Like most fans, I spend a lot of time wondering what happened to those people. Now that I’ve moved from fan to writer, I can find out. So in Enemy of the State, readers will get a chance to reconnect with an old friend who hasn’t been seen for years.
Finally, I wanted to continue to challenge Mitch. New scenarios, new relationships, new perspectives. This is probably my favorite part of writing the books—finding out how Mitch reacts to the things I throw at him!
IT was just after midnight and Rabat felt largely deserted. Prince Talal bin Musaid stared out at the densely packed residences built into the hills overlooking the city. His eye was attracted to a human outline ducking into an alley to his right, but through the glass of his Mercedes S-Class it didn’t seem real. The layer of dust covering everything, the cracked façades, the ragged laundry hung out to dry—none of it had ever been part of his existence. This was the world of the faceless masses. The people he became aware of only when they failed to do his bidding.
Four days short of his thirty-ninth birthday, his life had become a blur of private jets, beautiful women, and luxury homes. London, Monaco, Paris, New York—they were indistinguishable to him now, existing only to house the opulent nightclubs and shops that he and his companions required. Exclusive places that precious few people knew about and even fewer would ever be admitted to. He could still be coaxed back to Saudi Arabia when family politics demanded, but more and more it was a place to be avoided. A place of bitter memories, betrayals, and reminders of a birthright stolen from him.
His driver eased onto a side street barely wide enough to allow passage, and bin Musaid looked away from the concrete tenements lining it. The boredom and disdain he normally felt when surrounded with this kind of squalor had been drowned out by excitement and anticipation. No more waiting. No more words. This overwhelming sense of exhilaration could only be generated by one thing. Action.
He slid a suitcase filled with American dollars onto his lap and felt the satisfying heft. It was the unfamiliar weight of purpose, he knew. The weight of power.
He was the nephew of King Faisal, but had never been treated with the respect that position demanded. After his parents’ untimely death, bin Musaid had been sent to Europe, where he was forced to absorb the insult of Western schooling. His teachers—many women—had not only refused to defer to his station but had lorded their authority over him in a pathetic effort to obscure their own inferior birth. They’d given him poor marks and reported back to the king with stories of women, liquor, and violence.
All of this would have been of little consequence, but Faisal sided with them—with the British infidels who mocked both the House of Saud and Allah himself. Bin Musaid had finally been called back to Saudi Arabia after a meaningless incident with a female student. She had been a typical Western whore and he had treated her accordingly, no better or worse than required. In any event, he had welcomed the opportunity to take his rightful place in the ruling class.
It was not to be, though. Instead of a respected government post, he had been shuttled into an endless series of menial tasks and obscure, low-level positions. The king spoke enthusiastically of his bright future when they were together but never took steps to make that future a reality. Betrayed by his own family, bin Musaid had finally left the country of his birth and cut ties to the degree possible without jeopardizing the flow of family money.
He knew now that none of it was of any importance. The Saudi Arabia that had rejected him was doomed. King Faisal was old and weak, a puppet of America who was losing control of the forces gaining power within his borders. He didn’t understand the true destiny of his country. Instead of crumbling and besieged, the Saudi royalty should have been taking a place at the helm of the new caliphate. It was the House of Saud’s privilege and responsibility to lead the forces of Islam as they exterminated their enemies throughout the world. His driver leaned forward to search the darkness for a rare street sign.
“Left, you idiot,” bin Musaid said.
He’d been poring over the maps and satellite images on Google for days, anticipating this moment. They would drive straight for another kilometer, where the street would dead end. From there he would continue on foot into the dark maze of souks that climbed even higher above the city. The journey would take approximately seven minutes at a pace designed not to attract undue attention from anyone he might pass. Finally he would arrive at his destination: a nondescript apartment building where an ISIS representative was waiting.
The money in the suitcase would be used to finance a large-scale attack inside the United States—something ISIS saw as critical to advancing their already wildly successful propaganda campaign. The lone-wolf attacks that they had inspired were unquestionably glorious but lacked sufficient weight in a country where mass shootings were a daily event.
It was critical that America’s Muslims join the fight, but thus far they had been reticent—lulled into complacency by their prosperity and integration into the patchwork of immigrants and mutts that made up their adopted country. Cracks were beginning to form, though. America was already turning against its Muslim population. It just needed a final push for it to go from shunning Mohammed’s followers to isolating, attacking, and discriminating against them. When that came to pass, there would be millions of young disaffected men ready to be recruited into the army of God. Saudi Arabia’s leadership had taken similar actions in the past.
In fact, two of bin Musaid’s older cousins had been directly involved in the financing and planning of 9/11. While bin Laden had become the face of that attack, it would have been utterly impossible without the support of other powerful men familiar with America’s vulnerabilities. The prince smiled in the darkness, remembering the video footage of the burning towers and the terrified Christians throwing themselves to their deaths. It wasn’t those glorious images that lifted his spirits, though. It was that the American politicians had known about Saudi Arabia’s involvement but had been too cowardly to take action. Instead, they had made a hasty backroom deal with King Faisal. He would crack down on the subversives and keep the oil flowing. In return, the Americans would ignore the fact that the attack had been carried out almost entirely by Saudi nationals and instead divert their people’s attention with the punishing quagmires of Afghanistan and Iraq. Those wars and the lingering effects of the West’s financial collapse had divided the American people to a degree not seen since the Civil War. America was a wounded animal. And he had become the lion.
MITCH Rapp tried to find a more comfortable position, but none was available. His helmet was jammed against the top of the fuselage and there was something sharp poking through the mesh seat just to the right of his spine.
Not exactly the CIA’s G550, but then this aircraft hadn’t exactly been designed to ferry government VIPs. Its only purpose was the insertion of select teams behind enemy lines, and in order to do that effectively it had to be small, fast, and stealthy. There was no pilot or cockpit, no cabin pressure or heat, and no light other than the dim glow from a computer screen to his right. He glanced over and scanned the data it contained. Four hundred knots at 25,000 feet on a south-by-southeast heading. An infrared map moved lazily beneath the compass and numbers, tracking the ground. Near the bottom of the display, his target began to appear.
Despite everything he’d lived through—everything he’d done— there were very few places that held memories bad enough to make his palms sweat. In fact, only two. The place his wife had died and al-Shirqat.
A green light over the door flashed and he disconnected his mask from the aircraft’s oxygen supply, immediately reattaching it to a low-volume tank on his wingsuit. Slipping out of his chair, he sat on the carbon fiber floor and lashed a small pack between his legs. The countdown had started and he waited until the door began to retract to lower his goggles. The outside air temperature was thirty below zero and it lashed at him as he fought his way to the inky black opening. When the countdown in his earpiece reached zero, he threw himself out, struggling to maintain a stable position as he accelerated into his free fall.
After a few seconds he was steady enough to glance at the screen strapped to his wrist. Along with altitude, it indicated direction and horizontal distance to his drop zone. Not that hitting it exactly was all that critical—it was a more or less randomly chosen spot about a mile from the edge of the ISIS-controlled city. His old mentor Stan Hurley had beaten precision into him during jump training, though. Rapp could still picture the man standing in the middle of the landing circle, staring skyward.
If you don’t kick me in my head, I’m going to kick the shit out of yours.
Who would have thought he’d miss the old cuss so much?
Everything below him was dark, creating a disorienting sensation of floating in space. Saddam Hussein’s former officers were becoming increasingly prominent in ISIS leadership and with their rise came a commensurate improvement in discipline. They’d completely blacked out al-Shirqat in an effort to reduce the effectiveness of U.S. bombing runs. Worse, a few mobile SAM units were being moved around the battered streets. Their functionality was unknown, but the knowledge that they were there was enough to prompt him to jump from altitude and come in sideways.
He pulled his chute about a thousand feet above the ground, releasing the pack between his legs and letting it drop onto the lanyard connected to him. With a few deft pulls on the chute’s toggles, he came down directly on top of the planned target—a sandy knoll that offered him the high ground.
Rapp gathered the chute quickly and pulled off his goggles and helmet. He lay still for almost two minutes, listening. When he was satisfied that his arrival had gone unnoticed, he stripped down to a grimy pair of jeans and T-shirt, then dragged his pack to him. It didn’t contain much more than a shoulder holster with a Glock and silencer, two extra mags, some dried meat, and a shovel to bury everything else. Once done, there was little that would identify him as anything more than a local Iraqi who had been caught in the desert after sunset.
Without the screen on his wrist, he was forced to use the stars for navigation. Fortunately, they were just as effective now as they had been when explorers first set out to discover the world. He followed a southerly course, rubbing at his face to remove any marks left by his goggles. Based on weeks of overhead surveillance, he didn’t expect to run into any security forces as he entered the city, but there was nothing certain in this business.
When Rapp reached the bombed-out buildings at the edge of town, he dropped to his stomach again. The men he was there for were farther toward the interior and he mentally reviewed the path through the city laid out by the Agency’s cartographers.
When he’d escaped al-Shirqat last time, he’d been posing as an American ISIS recruit. The former Iraqi general controlling the area had devised a plan to use dirty bombs to take out Saudi Arabia’s oil-producing capacity, destabilizing the world economy and leaving the Saudis vulnerable to a takeover by Islamic radicals. Rapp had managed to stop the plot, but not without the help of the local resistance.
Now the identities of those men had been discovered and ISIS was closing in on them. Most of the people at Langley thought he was crazy to come back, arguing that the risks far outweighed the rewards. And they were probably right. With one exception, the five young men Rapp was there to extract weren’t good fighters. None were much use at gathering intelligence, either. Mostly they sat around making long political speeches that the others then heartily agreed with. But when he’d needed them, they’d stepped up. Fuck if he wouldn’t do the same.
Unfortunately, that decision had forced him to put a reluctant Joe Maslick in charge of the Rabat, Morocco, operation. In the end, it was probably a good thing. The op wasn’t all that complicated and Maslick needed some command experience whether he liked it or not. Rapp closed his eyes for a moment, acknowledging that he was just stalling. He’d hoped never to have to return to this place, going so far as to try to convince the military to mount a major assault to take back the city. Predictably, they’d pushed back. It wasn’t that they didn’t think they could do it. With U.S. support, the Iraqi army was strong enough now to recapture it. The problem was that the locals didn’t really see the Iraqi army as much different than ISIS. Just another occupying force to fight an endless guerrilla war against. Welcome to the Middle East.
Rapp stood and moved forward, slipping between two buildings and navigating by the light of a full moon. This area of town had taken a lot of battle damage and was largely uninhabited now. He’d been through it once before but hadn’t bothered to commit it to memory.
After about five minutes of generally southern travel, he came to a collapsed building with little more than the east wall surviving. It was one of the landmarks he’d identified from a photo at Langley and he turned left, cutting diagonally across a cratered square.
By the time he made it to the far side, he was certain he was being tracked. There was a natural rhythm to the debris dislodging from the structures around him and now it was off just enough to stand out. The footfalls were random and careful, but to the practiced ear they were unmistakable.
He kept his pace casual, climbing over a burned car to gain access to the alley behind it. When he was certain he was obscured from view, he sidestepped into a gap in the wall to his right.
Whoever was behind him was disciplined—Rapp would give him that. It was a full two minutes before he was able to pick out an intermittent shadow inching toward his position. He dug a shard of concrete from around a piece of rebar and threw it, creating a nearly inaudible clatter twenty yards to the south.
The footsteps faltered for a moment. Rapp retrieved his Glock and waited, barely breathing. A few seconds passed before the silhouette reappeared. The man it belonged to was an inch taller than him and a good six inches wider at the shoulder. He had an assault rifle strapped across his chest and was moving in a manner that suggested he was more than just another ISIS dipshit.
Rapp remained motionless in the darkness where he’d taken refuge, watching the man approach. When he walked past, Rapp stepped out and pressed his gun to the back of his head.
The man didn’t cry out or even speak, instead coming to a halt and raising his hands. Rapp moved slowly around him, brushing the barrel of his Glock through the man’s hair until it came to rest against his forehead.
“I remember you being less sloppy,” Rapp said in Arabic.
“And I remember you looking like the wrong end of a goat.”
Rapp pulled the gun back and the big man embraced him.
“Hold your face to the sky, my friend. Let me see you.”
Rapp raised his chin to catch the moonlight and the Iraqi gripped Rapp’s beard, moving his face around to see better.
“It’s miraculous what you Americans can do,” he said sincerely.
In order to not be recognized on his prior operation in al-Shirqat, Rapp had been forced to let Joe Maslick beat his face into something resembling raw meat. That was the only face Gaffar had ever seen—the broken, bleeding, and swollen one Maslick had created.
“More surgeries than I care to remember.”
“Yes, but still . . . it’s incredible.”
“How are the others?”
“They’re managing, but they aren’t soldiers. Fear is a good motivator, but this . . .” He waved a hand around him. “The cold, the boredom, the lack of food. It is hard.”
“How long have you been hiding out here?”
Rapp nodded. Often it wasn’t the terror and exhaustion of combat that beat people down. It was everything in between.
“Come,” Gaffar said. “I’ll take you to them.”
What was left of this part of town appeared to be uninhabited and of no interest to ISIS forces, but still it made sense to proceed carefully. They finally arrived at a massive concrete slab that had tipped against a crumbling wall. Gaffar picked up a rock and tapped it three times against what had once been a lamppost. A moment later the people Rapp had come for appeared at the entrance of the artificial cave.
On the left were two thin men who looked like computer geeks. One seemed to have lost his glasses and was squinting uselessly into the darkness. Mohammed, their leader, didn’t seem too much worse for the wear and neither did his brother.
The Iraqi siblings were the only two men in the world that Rapp had a hard time looking in the eye, so he adjusted his gaze to the woman pressed against Mohammed’s side.
“You got married?” Rapp said. “Interesting sense of timing.”
“Shada was being auctioned off by ISIS. I’ve known her since we were children. I sold everything I had and used the money to buy her.”
Rapp looked into her dark eyes, taking in the unlined face and black, tangled hair. He had purchased Mohammed’s sister under similar circumstances. This girl was younger and more fearful, but otherwise no different than Laleh had been.
The memory was accompanied by a painful constriction in Rapp’s chest and he pushed her image from his mind. It would come back, though. It always did.
“If there isn’t room for me, I’ll stay behind,” she said as the silence drew out.
“No,” one of the geeks said, a little too loudly. “If anyone is going to stay here, it should be him. He got us into this.”
“Shut up!” Gaffar said in a harsh whisper. “We got ourselves into this. It’s our country to fight for. Our people who have destroyed it. Not his.”
He raised his hand to strike the man, but Rapp caught it.
“Look, all you have to do is hold it together for a little longer. Then this’ll all be over.”
He retrieved the food he’d brought and divided it among them.
“Now eat up and gather your gear.”
“Then she can come?” Mohammed said.
Rapp nodded. “Five minutes.”
JOE Maslick looked through the dirty windshield at the neighborhood around him. It was better lit than he would have expected but there were still plenty of shadowy corners to park in. At six foot one and 220 pounds, his ability to blend into this part of the world—hell, any part of the world—was crap.
Reason number forty-eight that he shouldn’t be here.
Fortunately, it was late, and human activity was at a minimum. That wouldn’t last forever, though. Before he knew it, early risers would start searching for their morning coffee, kids would begin the march to school, and vendors would begin positioning themselves to pick off the customers who preferred not to shop in the full heat of the day. Someone from that last group would undoubtedly bang on his window and ask him to move his car. But he wouldn’t really know for sure, because he didn’t speak Arabic.
Reason number forty-nine.
“Mas?” Bruno McGraw’s voice over his earpiece. “You copy?”
“We’ve got a car bearing down on your position. Kinda unusual. Makes me think it might be our guy.”
“Shiny new Mercedes S-Class. Two men in front, one in back.”
“So now terrorists are driving hundred-thousand-dollar cars?” he cracked to cover his nervousness. “Maybe we’re fighting for the wrong side.”
This whole op was fucked. His commander, Scott Coleman, was still recovering from almost being killed in Pakistan, and Rapp was off screwing around in Iraq. That left him squinting into the glare of the misplaced confidence of everyone from the director of the CIA down.
“Might be a false alarm, but he’s coming up on the Bani Street turn,” McGraw said. “We’ll see if he takes it.”
Maslick had never wanted to be in charge of anything. When he’d joined Army Delta, he’d decided the way to live a happy life was to pick good leaders and do what they said. It’s why he’d followed Coleman into the private sector and spent most of his career backing up Mitch Rapp. They did the thinking, he did the shooting. It was the fucking natural order of things.
“Yup. He’s turning. Game on.”
Maslick checked his fuel gauge. An eighth of an inch past full, just like it had been five minutes ago. He’d become obsessed with blowing this operation over something stupid and having to tell Rapp that he’d forgotten to charge his phone, or run out of gas, or brought the wrong map. It had gotten so bad that it was starting to interfere with his ability to think straight.
“Did you get any pictures?” he asked.
“Of the car, but nothing decent of the people inside. Too much reflection off the glass.”
“Copy that,” Maslick said, trying to calm down. This was a simple job, which was why it was given to him. A few months ago Rapp had gotten his hands on a rising ISIS star from Crimea. Hayk Alghani had been a con artist his whole life, spending most of his time in and out of jail or on the run. After one of his banking scams had gone bad, he’d run to Sevastopol and holed up in a tenement run by local gangsters. The European authorities got wind of it, though, and in a panic he’d bought a copy of Islam for Dummies and hightailed it to Syria. His history of financial and Internet scams had made him an instant hit and he’d moved up quickly. Unfortunately for him, so quickly that he’d attracted the attention of the CIA.
Rapp had snatched him outside of Berlin and he’d cracked after the first face slap—giving up everything he’d ever done and pledging his undying loyalty to America. Now he was in a run-down apartment less than a mile from where Maslick was parked, waiting for one of ISIS’s top money couriers. A man known only as the Egyptian.
All Maslick had to do was stuff the Egyptian into his trunk and get him to an Agency black site in one piece. By all reports, the man always worked alone, was getting up there in years, and never carried a weapon. Ops didn’t get much easier than that.
Now, though, they were looking at a guy in an S-Class with what sounded like bodyguards. Pretty much the fucking opposite of easy.
Headlights appeared at the end of the empty street and began to approach. Maslick ducked down in the cramped seat, waiting for the vehicle to pass before rising again. Definitely a late-model S-Class. Even worse, it was riding a little too low on its shocks. Armor.
The brake lights came on and it eased left, disappearing from his line of sight.
“Wick,” Maslick said into his throat mike. “They’re coming your way.”
“Roger that. I’m in position.”
Wicker’s vantage point was from the top of a building across from the one where the meeting was scheduled to take place. While Wick was undoubtedly one of the best snipers on the planet, his job at this point was just to observe. The goal was to capture and interrogate this asshole, not to kill him.
Maslick waited, noting that his heart rate was higher than it normally would be during a firefight. He didn’t know shit about logistics, and while this op would have been a cakewalk for Coleman or Rapp, it had too many moving parts for him to keep track of. Instead of one target, there were three. Instead of a conventional vehicle, there was an armored Mercedes. Was it possible that these sons of bitches had backup? Maybe Wick wasn’t the only shooter on high ground right now in Rabat.
Maslick was starting to sweat so badly it was going to be hard to hold a gun, something that had never happened to him before. Not in Afghanistan. Not in Iraq. Not even in that disaster in Pakistan.
Reason number fifty he shouldn’t be running this op. Or was that fifty-one?
“The target’s stopped,” Wicker said. “One man getting out of the back. Doesn’t look Egyptian to me. Full Saudi getup—ten-thousand-dollar suit and a tablecloth on his head.”
Maslick swore under his breath.
“I didn’t copy that, Mas. Say again.”
“Did you get a picture?”
“Yeah. Not perfect, but probably good enough for the cover of Terrorist Prick magazine.”
Maslick slammed a hand against the steering wheel and then wiped at the sweat running down his forehead. Everything he’d been told by the analysts was now officially complete bullshit. This had just gone from a by-the-numbers rendition to an on-the-fly improvisation.
“Send it to Langley. See if we can get anything off facial recognition.”