Read Assassin's Code Online

Authors: Jonathan Maberry

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General, #Horror

Assassin's Code

 

This one is for the mothers of all nations and for the three Americans who were illegally arrested and jailed in Iran: Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sara Shourd. Glad you’re home safe and sound. Our children are not weapons of war or politics.

To the memory of John B. Maberry, who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor at the Battle of Gettysburg.

And, as always, for Sara Jo.

 

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Steve Yetiv; Philadelphia police officer Bob Clark; the men of the 1-111 Infantry Battalion, Recon Platoon, with 36th Brigade, Iraqi Army Recon; Michael Sicilia of California Homeland Security; Michael E. Witzgall; Ken Coluzzi, Chief of Lower Makefield Police Department in Pennsylvania; Ted Krimmel, SERT; folklorist Nancy Keim-Comley; Archaeological Museum of Aruba; social media consultant Don Lafferty; Javier Grillo-Marxuach; Emilia Filocamo; Victorya Chase; Danny Evarts of Shroud Publishing; and Father Joseph Bordonaro of the St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Warrington, Pennsylvania.

And, of course, my agents, Sara Crowe and Harvey Klinger; all the good folks at St. Martin’s Griffin, Michael Homler, Joe Goldschein, Matthew Shear, Rob Grom; M. J. Rose of AuthorBuzz; and Matt Snyder of Creative Artists Agency.

 

Contents

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Part One: Acts of War

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Part Two: By the Rivers Dark

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-one

Chapter Forty-two

Chapter Forty-three

Chapter Forty-four

Chapter Forty-five

Interlude One

Chapter Forty-six

Chapter Forty-seven

Interlude Two

Chapter Forty-eight

Chapter Forty-nine

Interlude Three

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-one

Interlude Four

Chapter Fifty-two

Chapter Fifty-three

Chapter Fifty-four

Chapter Fifty-five

Chapter Fifty-six

Interlude Five

Part Three: The Blood of Angels

Chapter Fifty-seven

Chapter Fifty-eight

Interlude Six

Chapter Fifty-nine

Interlude Seven

Chapter Sixty

Chapter Sixty-one

Chapter Sixty-two

Interlude Eight

Chapter Sixty-three

Chapter Sixty-four

Chapter Sixty-five

Chapter Sixty-six

Chapter Sixty-seven

Interlude Nine

Chapter Sixty-eight

Chapter Sixty-nine

Chapter Seventy

Chapter Seventy-one

Chapter Seventy-two

Chapter Seventy-three

Interlude Ten

Chapter Seventy-four

Chapter Seventy-five

Chapter Seventy-six

Chapter Seventy-seven

Chapter Seventy-eight

Chapter Seventy-nine

Chapter Eighty

Chapter Eighty-one

Chapter Eighty-two

Chapter Eighty-three

Chapter Eighty-four

Chapter Eighty-five

Chapter Eighty-six

Chapter Eighty-seven

Chapter Eighty-eight

Chapter Eighty-nine

Chapter Ninety

Chapter Ninety-one

Chapter Ninety-two

Chapter Ninety-three

Chapter Ninety-four

Chapter Ninety-five

Chapter Ninety-six

Chapter Ninety-seven

Chapter Ninety-eight

Chapter Ninety-nine

Chapter One Hundred

Chapter One Hundred One

Chapter One Hundred Two

Chapter One Hundred Three

Chapter One Hundred Four

Chapter One Hundred Five

Chapter One Hundred Six

Chapter One Hundred Seven

Chapter One Hundred Eight

Chapter One Hundred Nine

Chapter One Hundred Ten

Chapter One Hundred Eleven

Chapter One Hundred Twelve

Chapter One Hundred Thirteen

Chapter One Hundred Fourteen

Chapter One Hundred Fifteen

Chapter One Hundred Sixteen

Chapter One Hundred Seventeen

Chapter One Hundred Eighteen

Chapter One Hundred Nineteen

Chapter One Hundred Twenty

Chapter One Hundred Twenty-one

Chapter One Hundred Twenty-two

Chapter One Hundred Twenty-three

Chapter One Hundred Twenty-four

Chapter One Hundred Twenty-five

Epilogue

Also by Jonathan Maberry

About the Author

Copyright

 

Part One

Acts of War

Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.

—MOHANDAS GANDHI

 

Chapter One

Starbox Coffee

Tehran, Iran

June 15, 7:23 a.m.

She said, “Look down at your chest.”

I held the cell phone to my ear as I bent my head. Two red dots, quivering slightly, danced right over my heart.

“You are one second away from death,” said the caller.

 

Chapter Two

Starbox Coffee

Tehran, Iran

June 15, 7:25 a.m.

I didn’t know the voice. She was a stranger. I didn’t know her name. Didn’t know anything except that she had my cell number. Ten seconds ago I was about to go into Starbox—yes, they really call it that in Iran—for a cup of bold and a couple of pastries. The street outside was empty.

I looked up. The shooters had to be in the building across the street, maybe the fifth floor. Didn’t really matter, the range was a hundred yards and even a sloppy marksman could punch my ticket at that distance. I doubted these guys were sloppy. And there were two of them. I was also pretty sure I knew why they were after me.

“Okay,” I said.

“I need you to confirm your name,” she said in Persian. She had a very sexy voice for a psycho killer. Low and smoky.

“Why?”

“Because I have to be certain.”

“Geez, sister,” I said, “if this is how you ID your targets then I don’t think you’re going to get that contract killer merit badge.”

The joke didn’t translate well but she made a sound. It might have been a laugh. Glad she was amused. Sweat was pouring down my spine. The two little laser sights gave me no chance at all to run.

“If this was simply a matter of killing you,” she said, “then we’d have done it and taken your wallet for identification.” She had a European accent but she was hiding it by trying to speak Persian like a native. Kind of weird. Not the weirdest thing going on at the moment.

“Um … thanks?” I said.

“Tell me your name,” she said again.

There had to be three of them. Two shooters and her. Was she the spotter? If not, there could have been one or two others, spotting for the gunmen. Or it might have been the three of them.

“Ebenezer Scrooge,” I said.

“No games,” she warned. “Your name.”

“Joe.”

“Full name.”

“Joseph.”

One of the laser sights drifted down from my chest and settled on my crotch.

“Once more?” she coaxed.

“Joseph Edwin Ledger.” No screwing around this time.

“Rank?”

“Why?”

“Rank?”

“Captain. Want my shoe size?”

There was a pause. “I was warned about you. You think you’re funny.”

“Everyone thinks I’m funny.”

“I doubt that’s true. How often do you make Mr. Church laugh out loud?”

“Never heard of him,” I lied.

Now I was confused. Up till now I thought she was part of a team looking to take me down for the little bit of nastiness I got into last night. Echo Team and I went into a high-security facility and liberated three twentysomethings who had been arrested a year ago while hiking in the mountains. The
Iraqi
mountains. An Iranian patrol crossed the border, nabbed the hikers, and started making noise in the media that the three hikers had illegally trespassed and therefore they were spies. They weren’t. One was a former Peace Corps team leader who was there with his animal behaviorist girlfriend who wanted to take photos of a kind of rare tiger to help her with her master’s thesis.
Acinonyx jubatus venaticus
. Asiatic cheetah. Also known as the Iranian cheetah. No, I’m not making this up.

The hikers had been used as pawns in Iran’s ongoing policy of stalling and disinformation regarding their nuclear program. Normally we’d let the State Department and world opinion exert pressure on the Iranian government … but the third member of the hiking party was the only son of one of America’s most important senators. The real twist is that the senator was a key player on several committees crucial to the U.S. war effort. Everyone with a spoonful of brains knew that the Iranians staged the whole thing to be able to turn dials on Senator McHale.

And it was starting to work. So the president asked Church to make the problem go away. We were Church’s response.

“So, who gets to slap the cuffs on me?” I asked.

This time she did laugh.

“No, Captain Ledger,” she said, “here’s how it’s going to work. As soon as I am done speaking you will turn off your cell phone and remove the battery and the SIM card. Put the SIM card and phone into different pockets. Walk to the curb and drop the battery into the culvert. Then I want you to go into the café. Order a coffee, sit in the corner. Do not reassemble your phone. Do not use the store’s phone. Write no notes to the staff or other customers. Sit and enjoy your coffee. Read the newspaper. Ahmadinejad is insisting that the dramatics at the prison last night were the result of a boiler explosion. You should find that amusing. Do not make any calls. Maybe have a second cup of coffee.”

“Do you work for Starbox? If so, I can’t say I dig your new marketing strategy.”

She ignored me. Her resistance to my wit was almost as disconcerting as the laser sights on my junk. Almost.

She said, “In a few minutes a person will enter the café. A man. He will recognize you and will join you. The two of you will have a conversation and then he will leave. Once he has left, you will wait another ten minutes before you reassemble your phone. You are on your own to find a new battery. You are supposed to be resourceful, so I imagine you will solve that problem without my advice.”

“Then what do I do?”

“Then,” she said, “you will do whatever you judge best.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“When do I meet you?”

“You don’t.”

“I’d like to.”

“No,” she said with another little laugh, “you would not.”

“Tell me something, miss, why go to these lengths? This could have been arranged with a lot less drama.”

“No it could not. If you are smarter than you appear, then you’ll understand why in a few minutes.”

“These laser sights going to be on me the whole time? It’s a lousy fashion statement and people
will
talk.”

There was a moment’s silence on the other end and then both sights vanished. I had to control myself from collapsing against the wall. I was pretty sure it would be two or three weeks before my nuts felt safe enough to climb down out of my chest cavity. My heart was beating like a jazz drum solo—loud, fast, and with no discernable rhythm.

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