Table of Contents
“What happens when the courts spring a bunch of bad guys? A retired Navy SEAL has to clean up the mess. This fast-paced thriller ranges from the Hindu Bush to northwest Connecticut in a plot as relevant as tomorrow’s news.”
—Rich Lowry, editor of the
is a fun read. . . . A good book for a summer evening on the front porch swing. . . .”
“. . . an exciting action packed. . . . The story line is fast-paced throughout . . . readers will be hooked. . . .”
is definitely a page turner . . . Readers who are fans of Vince Flynn’s novels would likely find this a book worth reading.”
New Mystery Reader
is a fabulous action-packed thriller. . . . Mack [Bedford] is terrific as an obstinate hero . . .”
Midwest Book Review
“The plot is as fresh as today’s news.”
Cape Cod Times
Praise for Patrick Robinson
“One of the crown princes of the beach-read thriller.”
New York Times
bestselling author of
San Jose Mercury News
“Patrick Robinson has tapped into our fear.”
“Robinson [crafts] a fast-paced, chilling, yet believable tale.”
San Francisco Examiner
“If you like your techno-thrillers in ripping yarn form, you’ll love . . . [Patrick Robinson].”
OTHER BOOKS BY PATRICK ROBINSON
The Shark Mutiny
To the Death
(written with Marcus Luttrell)
Horsetrader: Robert Sangster and the Rise and Fall
of the Sport of Kings
One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle
(written with Admiral Sir John Woodward)
(written with Daniel Topolski)
Born to Win
(written with John Bertrand)
The Golden Post Decade of Champions: The Greatest Years
in the History of Thoroughbred Racing, 1970–1980
Classic Lines: A Gallery of the Great Thoroughbreds
A Colossal Failure of Common Sense:
The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers
(written with Lawrence G. McDonald)
HE MOST REVERED SQUARE OF BLACKTOP IN ALL THE UNITED States military somehow looked even blacker beneath a pale, quartering moon, which was presently fighting a losing battle with heavy Pacific cloud banks.
Its name, “the grinder,” could give a man the creeps. It was a place where men had, for generations, been crushed, their spirits broken, their will to succeed cast asunder. It was a place where dreams were ended, where limitations were faced. It was a place where tough, resolute military men threw in the towel, publicly, and then slipped quietly away.
It was also a place that represented the Holy Grail of the US Navy SEALs, the place where their battle had begun and ended with the awe-inspiring moment when the fabled golden Trident was pinned on the upper left side of their dress uniform.
No member of the US Navy SEALs has ever forgotten that moment. And for all their lives, the holders of the Trident strive to live up to its symbolic demands. Everyone who receives it expects to earn that honor every day throughout the entire tenure of their service.
Such a man now stood alone on the north side of the square. Commander Mackenzie Bedford was back where he belonged, right here on the grinder, the place where he had once stood as his entire class voted him Honor Man, the young officer most likely to attain high command in the world’s toughest, most elite fighting force.
There were only twelve of them—the survivors of a six-month ordeal, which had seen 156 applicants crash and burn, most of them DOR, or Dropped On Request. They were good guys who just couldn’t make it—couldn’t take the murderous training, the endless pounding along the beach, the cold Pacific, the swimming, the rowing, the sleep deprivation, the log-lifting, the elephant runs. Not to mention the stark SEAL command,
Push ’em out—
shorthand for a set of up to eighty eye-popping, muscleburning, brutal nonstop push-ups. For most of them it was just too much.
But the SEAL instructors do not want most of them. They want only the elite, the young iron men with the indomitable will to excel, the guys with the strength, speed, and agility, who would rather die than quit.
Not to mention the brains. There are no stupid SEALs. Seventy-five percent of them have college degrees, and they fight and struggle their way through outrageously demanding courses: weaponry, marksmanship, Sniper School, navigation, map reading, unarmed combat, mountaineering, parachute jumping, even medical courses, in preparation for battlefield duty.
SPECWARCOM commanders have one everlasting comment about the dreaded BUDs course that bars entry to their establishment:
It’s harder to get in here than to Harvard Law School. Different, but harder
Commander Bedford, dressed in dark blue for the first time in more than a year, walked quietly across the grinder, relishing every step. He’d dreamed of this moment since his court-martial on a charge of mowing down innocent, unarmed Iraqi civilians on the banks of the Euphrates River.
The officers who presided over the legal proceedings did not believe the Iraqis were innocent, unarmed, or even civilians. And the SEAL commander was found not guilty. However they had issued an “officers’ reprimand,” which finished him in the United States Navy.
There was not one member of the SPECWARCOM community who believed this could possibly be fair. But it took a year to reinstate him under the most extraordinary circumstances. Last night, he dined with
Rear Admiral Andy Carlow, the newly promoted commander-in-chief special operations command, and had agreed he should begin the second half of his career as a senior instructor.
And now he was on his way to a meeting in the office alongside the grinder with six of the instructors, including the chief, a Southerner named Captain Bobby Murphy, a veteran of the Gulf, and a man who would always hold a special place in Mack’s heart.
The instructor had stepped forward to shake his hand when Mack received his Trident. He’d said simply,
I’m proud of you, kid. Real proud
Since then, they had become friends, trained together, and served together on the front line in Baghdad. And now he was going to see him, to take up his new appointment, a six-month stint as a senior BUDs instructor.
It was slightly unusual for a newly promoted SEAL battlefield commander to work as an instructor. But Mack had requested the position to test his fitness and to bring his vast combat knowledge to a new generation of SEALs who might one day serve under his command in another theater of war.
Bobby Murphy was awaiting him in the brightly lit office across the veranda, where the DOR guys leave their helmets and ring the bell before leaving Coronado. The grinder, the veranda, the hanging brass bell, the line of helmets. This was a place of SEAL folklore. Just the sight of it caused Mack’s heart to miss a beat.
He entered the office and was taken aback when all six of the instructors stood up and applauded. Each one of them shook his hand and welcomed him home.
Captain Murphy had already formulated a game plan. “Mack, old buddy,” he said, “I think you should start as proctor to the next BUDs class when they begin INDOC. It’ll be useful for them to start their training with a decorated combat veteran. Let ’em hear some real words of wisdom.”
“Fine with me,” said Mack. “But right after that I’d like to take a different set of guys through Phase Three, if there’s no objection.”
“Mack, there’s no one I’d rather appoint, if you’re certain about your own fitness.” Bobby Murphy was very serious, considering, of course, that Phase Three BUDs—Demolition and Tactics, Land Warfare—was the most demanding ten weeks in the program. And the instructors were revered as the toughest, fittest men on the base.
“I’m good for it,” he said modestly.
“You’re good for anything,” grinned Murphy. “Matter of fact, I very much like the idea of you coming in to finish them in Phase Three. Especially if you stay with them ’til Sniper School at the end. If I recall you were pretty good at it yourself.”
“Yup, not too bad,” replied Mack, both of them knowing full well he had been voted Sniper Class Honor Man unanimously and to this day was reckoned to be one of the greatest SEAL stealth marksmen there had ever been.
“Anything else?” asked Captain Murphy. “Like how do you want the students to address you?”
would be fine,” he said. “I’m a SEAL, and I’m well known around here. I prefer first names among the brotherhood.”
“I agree,” said Bobby Murphy. “I’ll make it known that from now on, you’re
AND SO, THREE DAYS LATER, at 0500, Commander Mack Bedford jogged down to the grinder where Captain Murphy introduced the new class going into INDOCTRINATION—prior to the start of BUDs proper. He told them that Commander Bedford was a decorated SEAL combat commander in Iraq and Afghanistan and, as their proctor, would guide them through the first weeks of their training.
He then formally handed over the students to the care of his old friend, the teak-tough officer from Maine. “One hundred and seventy two assigned,” said Captain Murphy.