Authors: Frederick Forsyth
Tags: #Thrillers, #Fiction, #Suspense, #General
ALSO BY FREDERICK FORSYTH
The Day of the Jackal
The Odessa File
The Dogs of War
The Devil’s Alternative
The Fourth Protocol
The Fist of God
The Phantom of Manhattan
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Published simultaneously in Canada
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Forsyth, Frederick, date.
The kill list / Frederick Forsyth.
1. Undercover operations—Fiction. 2. Islamic fundamentalism—Fiction. 3. Terrorism—Prevention—Fiction. I. Title.
PR6056.0699K55 2013 2013015342
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For the United States Marine Corps,
which is a very large unit.
And to the British Pathfinders,
who are a very small one.
To the former, Semper Fi.
And to the latter, rather you than me.
To all those who helped me with the information contained in this book, my grateful thanks. As so often, some half would prefer not to be revealed. But to those who live in the light and to those who work in the shadows, you know who you are, and have my gratitude.
n the dark and secret heart of Washington, there is a short and very covert list. It contains the names of terrorists who have been deemed so dangerous to the United States, her citizens and interests, that they have been condemned to death without any attempt at arrest, trial or any due process. It is called the kill list.
Every Tuesday morning in the Oval Office, the kill list is considered for possible amendment by the President and six men; never more, never less. Among them are the Director of the CIA and the four-star general commanding the world’s biggest and most dangerous private army. This is J-SOC, which is supposed not to exist.
On a cold morning one early spring, a new name was added to the kill list. He was so elusive that even his true name was not known, and the huge machine of American counterterrorism had no picture of his face. Like Anwar al-Awlaki, the American/Yemini fanatic who preached hate sermons on the Internet, who had once been on the kill list and who was wiped out by a drone-launched missile in North Yemen in 2011, the new addition also preached online. So powerful were his sermons that young Muslims in the diaspora were converting to ultra-radical Islam and committing murders in its name.
Like Awlaki, the new addition also delivered in perfect English. Without a name, he was known simply as the Preacher.
The assignment was given to J-SOC whose CO passed it down to TOSA, a body so obscure that ninety-eight percent of serving U.S. officers have never heard of it.
In fact, TOSA is the very small department, based in North Virginia, tasked with hunting down those terrorists who seek to hide themselves from American retributive justice.
That afternoon, the director of TOSA, known in all official communications as Gray Fox, walked into the office of his senior manhunter and laid a sheet upon his desk. It simply bore the words “The Preacher. Identify, Locate, Destroy.”
Under this was the signature of the commander in chief, the President. That made the paper a Presidential Executive Order, an EXORD.
The man who stared at the order was an enigmatic lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps of forty-four who also, inside and outside the building, was known only by a code. He was called the Tracker.
f he had been asked, Jerry Dermott could have put his hand on his heart and sworn that he had never knowingly hurt anyone in his life and did not deserve to die. But that did not save him.
It was mid-March, and in Boise, Idaho, winter was grudgingly loosening its grip. But there was snow on the high peaks around the state capital, and the wind that came down from those peaks was still bitter. Those walking on the streets were huddled in warm coats as the state congressman came out of the Legislative Services Office at 700 West Jefferson Street.
He emerged from the Capitol’s grand entrance and walked down the steps from the sandstone walls toward the street, where his car was parked in readiness. He nodded in his usual genial way at the police officer atop the steps by the portico door and noted that Joe, his faithful driver of many years, was coming around the limousine to open the rear door. He took no notice of the muffled figure that rose from a bench down the sidewalk and began to move.
The figure was clothed in a long dark overcoat, unbuttoned at the front but held closed by hands inside. There was some kind of fretted skullcap on the head, and the only odd thing, had anyone been looking, which they were not, was that beneath the coat there were no jeans-clad legs but some kind of a white dress. It would later be established the garment was an Arab dishdash.
Jerry Dermott was almost at the open car door when a voice called, “Congressman.” He turned to the call. The last thing he saw on Earth was a swarthy face staring at him, eyes somehow vacant as if staring at something else far away. The overcoat fell open and the barrels of the sawed-off shotgun rose from where they had dangled inside the fabric.
The police would later establish that both barrels were fired simultaneously and that the cartridges were loaded with heavy-gauge buckshot, not the tiny granules for birds. The range was around ten feet.
Due to the shortness of the sawn barrels, the shot spread was immediately wide. Some of the steel balls went past the congressman on both sides, and a few hit Joe, causing him to turn and reel back. He had a sidearm under his jacket, but his hands went to his face and he never used it.
The officer atop the steps saw it all, drew his revolver and came running down. The assailant threw both hands in the air, the right hand gripping the shotgun, and screamed something. The officer could not know whether the second barrel had been used and he fired three times. At twenty feet, and practiced with his piece, he could hardly miss.
His three slugs took the shouting man in the center mass of the chest and threw him backward. He hit the trunk of the limousine, bounced off, fell forward and died facedown in the gutter. Figures appeared from the portico doorway, saw the two bodies down, the chauffeur staring at his bleeding hands, the policeman standing over the assailant, gun double-hand-gripped, pointing downward. They ran back inside to call for backup.
Two bodies were removed to the city morgue and Joe to the hospital for attention to the three pellets that had lodged in his face. The congressman was dead, chest penetrated by over twenty steel balls that had entered his heart and lungs. So also the assailant.
The latter, stripped naked on the morgue slab, gave no clue to his identity. There were no personal papers and, oddly, no body hair save his beard. But his face in the evening papers yielded two informants. The dean of a college on the edge of town identified a student of Jordanian parentage and the landlady of a boardinghouse recognized one of her lodgers.
Detectives ransacking the dead man’s room took away many books in Arabic and his personal laptop computer. The latter was downloaded in the police technical lab. It revealed something no one in the Boise police headquarters had ever seen before. The hard drive contained a series of lectures, or sermons, by a masked figure, staring at the screen with blazing eyes and preaching in fluent English.
The message was brutal and simple. The True Believer should undergo his own personal conversion from heresy to Muslim truth. He should, within the confines of his own soul, confiding in and trusting no one, convert to Jihad and become a true and loyal soldier of Allah. Then he should seek out some notable person in the service of the Great Satan and send him to hell, then die as a
, a martyr, and ascend to dwell in Allah’s paradise forever. There were a score of these sermons, all with the same message.
The police passed the evidence to the Boise office of the FBI, who passed the entire file to the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington. At the national HQ of the Bureau, there was no surprise. They had heard of the Preacher before.
Mrs. Lucy Carson went into labor on 8 November and was taken straight to the natal wing of the Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton, California, where she and her husband were based. Two days later, her first, and as it turned out only, son was born.
He was named Christopher after his paternal grandfather, but since that senior U.S. Marine officer was always called Chris, and to avoid confusion, the baby was nicknamed Kit, the reference to the old frontiersman being entirely coincidental.
Also fortuitous was the birth date: November 10th, the date of the birth of the United States Marine Corps in 1775.
Captain Alvin Carson was away in Vietnam, where fighting was ferocious and would remain so for a further five years. But his tour was close to its end, so he was permitted home for Christmas to be reunited with his wife and two small daughters and to hold his firstborn son.
He returned to Vietnam after the New Year, finally returning to the sprawling Marine base at Pendleton in 1970. His next posting was no posting, since he remained at Pendleton for three years, seeing his boy grow through toddler stage to four and a half.
Here, far from those lethal jungles, the couple could live a customary “on base” life between the married quarters’ home, his office, the social club, the PX commissary and the base church. And he could teach his son to swim in the Del Mar Boat Basin. He sometimes thought back to those Pendleton years as the days of wine and roses.
The year 1973 saw him transferred to another “with family” posting at Quantico, just outside Washington, D.C. Back then, Quantico was just a huge mosquito- and tick-infested wilderness where a small boy could chase squirrels and raccoons through the woods.
The Carson family was still on base when Henry Kissinger and the North Vietnamese Le Duc Tho met outside Paris and hammered out the accords that brought to a formal end the decade of slaughter now called the Vietnam War.
The now-major Carson returned for his third tour in Vietnam, a place still seething with menace as the North Vietnamese army poised itself to break the Paris Accords by invading the south. But he was repatriated early, just before the last mad scramble from the embassy roof to the last aircraft out of the airport.
Through those years, his son, Kit, went through the normal stages of a small American boy—Little League baseball, Cub Scouts and school. In the summer of 1974, Maj. Carson and family were transferred to a third enormous Marine base—Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
As second in command of his battalion, Maj. Carson worked out of the 8th Marines HQ on C Street and lived with wife and three children in the sprawl of married officers’ housing. It was never mentioned what the growing boy might like to be when he grew up. He was born into the heart of two families: the Carsons and the Corps. It was just assumed he would follow his grandfather and father into officer school and wear the uniform.
From 1978 to 1981, Maj. Carson was tasked to a long-overdue sea posting at Norfolk, the great U.S. Navy and Marine base on the south side of Chesapeake Bay in northern Virginia. The family lived on the base, the major went to sea as a Marine officer on the USS
, the pride of the carrier fleet. It was from this vantage point that he witnessed the fiasco of Operation Eagle Claw, also known as Desert One, the forlorn attempt to rescue the U.S. diplomats being held hostage in Tehran by “students” in the thrall of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Major Carson stood with long-range binoculars on the bridge wing of the
and watched the eight huge Sea Stallion helicopters roar away toward the coast to back up the Green Berets and Rangers who would make the snatch and bring the liberated diplomats back to safety offshore.
And he watched most of them limp back. First the two that broke down over the Iranian coast because they had no sand filters and had run into a dust storm. The others carrying the wounded after one of the choppers had flown into the windshield of a Hercules, causing a fireball. He remained bitter about that memory, and the foolish planning that had caused it, for the rest of his days.
From the summer of 1981 to 1984, Maj. Carson was posted with his family to London as the U.S. Marine attaché at the embassy in Grosvenor Square. Kit was enrolled at the American School in St. John’s Wood. Later, the boy looked back with affection on his three London years. It was the time of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and their remarkable partnership.
Charlie Price was made ambassador and became the most popular American in town. There were parties and balls. The Falklands were invaded and liberated. A week before British paras entered Port Stanley, Ronald Reagan made a state visit to London. In a lineup at the embassy, the Carson family was presented to Queen Elizabeth. And fourteen-year-old Kit Carson had his first crush on a girl. And his father reached his twenty-year mark in the Corps.
Alvin Carson was promoted to command the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, as a lieutenant colonel, and the family transferred to Kaneohe Bay in the Hawaiian Islands, a considerably different climate from London. For the teenage boy, it was a time of surfing, snorkeling, diving, fishing and taking a more-than-active interest in girls.
By sixteen he was developing as a formidable athlete, but his school grades also showed he hosted a very fast-moving brain. When a year later his father was promoted G3 and sent back to the mainland, Kit Carson was an Eagle Scout and a freshman in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. The presumption made years before was coming true; he was on an unstoppable glide path to follow his father into the ranks of U.S. Marine officers.
Back in the States, a college degree beckoned. He was sent to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he resided on campus for four years, majoring in history and chemistry. And there were three long summer vacations. These were devoted to jump school, scuba school and Officer Candidates School at Quantico.
He graduated in the spring of 1989, aged twenty, and simultaneously got his college degree and his single shoulder bar as a second lieutenant in the Corps. His father, now a one-star general, and his mother, both bursting with pride, were at the ceremony.
His first posting was to Basic School until Christmas, then Infantry Officer Course until March 1990, emerging as the Distinguished Honor Graduate. Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, followed, and with his Ranger tab he was shipped to Twentynine Palms, California.
There he attended the Air/Ground Combat Center, known as the Stumps, and was then posted to the 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, on the same base. Then, on August 2, 1990, a man named Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The U.S. Marines went back to war, and Lt. Kit Carson went with them.
Once the decision was taken that Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait could not be allowed to stand, a grand coalition was formed, and ranged along the Iraqi/Saudi Arabian desert border from the Arabian Gulf in the east to the Jordanian border in the west.
The U.S. Marines came in the form of the Marine Expeditionary Force under General Walter Bloomer, and this encompassed the 1st Marine Division, commanded by General Mike Myatt. A very long way down the pecking order was 2nd Lt. Kit Carson. The division was posted to the extreme eastern end of the Coalition line, with only the blue waters of the Gulf to its right.
The first month, stupefyingly hot August, was a time of feverish activity. The entire division, with its armor and artillery, had to be disembarked and posted along the sector to be covered. An armada of freight ships arrived at the hitherto sleepy oil port of al-Jubail to discharge the impedimenta required to equip, lodge and keep supplied an entire U.S. division. It was not until September that Kit Carson got his assignment interview. It was with an acid-tongued veteran major, probably passed over at that rank and not happy about it.
Major Dolan read slowly through the new officer’s file. Finally, his eye caught something unusual. He looked up.
“You spent time in London as a kid?”
“Weird bastards.” Maj. Dolan completed his perusal of the file and closed it. “Parked next door to our west is the British Seventh Armoured Brigade. They call themselves the Desert Rats. Like I said, weird. They call their own soldiers rats.”
“Actually, it’s a jerboa, sir.”
“A jerboa. A desert animal like a meerkat. They got the tag fighting Rommel in the Libyan desert in World War Two. He was the Desert Fox. The jerboa is smaller but elusive.”
Major Dolan was less than impressed.
“Don’t get smart with me, Lieutenant. Somehow we have to get along with these Desert Rats. I am proposing General Myatt send you over to them as one of our liaison officers. Dismiss.”
The Coalition forces had to spend five more months sweltering in that desert while the combined allied air forces achieved the fifty percent “degrading” of the Iraqi army that Commanding General Norman Schwarzkopf demanded before he would attack. For part of that time, after reporting to the British general Patrick Cordingley, commanding the 7th Armoured, Kit Carson liaised between the two forces.
Very few American soldiers were able to establish either interest in, or empathy with, the native Arab culture of the Saudis. Carson, with his natural curiosity, was an exception. In the ranks of the British, he found two officers who had a smattering of Arabic and from them memorized a handful of phrases. On visits to al-Jubail, he listened to the five daily calls to prayer and watched the robed figures prostrate themselves time and again, forehead to the ground, to complete the ritual.