Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Killing Time: The CIA International Thriller Series Part 2" by R. Lawson

Killing Time:
The CIA International Thriller Series Part 2
by R. Lawson

Killing Time is FREE 25-29 December, so grab your free copy while you can. Also available: Cabo Caper (Part 1) and Retribution (Part 3).

In this second novel of the series, Veteran CIA field officer Biff Roberts collaborates with Mossad in a clever, cyber-warfare attack designed to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Iran has been stalling, buying time to develop a nuclear bomb, but targeted assassinations of key nuclear scientists critically hinder Iran’s efforts.
The assassinations trigger a vicious cycle of retaliation and "Killing Time" becomes a double entendre.

“What was that thump, Abdul?”
“Two youngsters on a motorbike sideswiped our right rear fender, weaving in and out of traffic, sir” replied his limo driver. “A bit careless.”
“No damage, sir. Look, they’re up the road about fifty meters ahead, on the right, still maneuvering in and out of the congested traffic. Look at them go! They’re fearless!”
Mostar Ahmadi Roshan was tense, apprehensive. The traffic was horrendous, worse than usual. His chauffeur and bodyguard, Abdul, was carefully driving him to a crucial meeting at the atomic energy ministry with Ferreydoon Davanni Abbassi, the director of the AEOI.
Things had not been going well with the Iranian nuclear program lately. Ahmadinejad and his clique, SAVAMA, representatives of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, and select mullahs expected him to get the Fordow Uranium enrichment program back on tract. Roshan sensed the mounting pressure. The minor scrape by the motorbike irritated him. Normally, he would have paid it little or no notice. And, the dreadful, heavy morning traffic in downtown Tehran frustrated him.
Was there an accident up ahead? He did not want to be late for this important conference with Abbassi. His boss did not tolerate tardiness.
A series of assassinations of three key Iranian nuclear scientists over the past two years, plus the recent devastating cyber invasion by an unknown, extremely virulent computer virus had dealt a serious setback to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Everyone expressed frustration, searching for a new strategy. He was the man on the spot, assuming the role of the ‘lead scientist’, an expert in Uranium enrichment. These political meetings hindered his task, his goal. He was a chemical engineer, not a politician. Just let him get on with his valuable work.
“Look at them! The western cinemas have contaminated our Islamic society, Abdul. Just witness their reckless behavior, imitating a movie ‘chase scene.’ This younger generation assumes no responsibility. Their secular nature will destroy our sacred Persian culture from within, long before Israel strikes a fatal blow. Recall that Rome fell from within, not to a foreign army! ”
He vented his frustrations. Abdul noted Roshan’s loss of his characteristic formality and composure. He had never seen the nuclear scientist so annoyed over such a trivial incident. The Professor could be in for a long, tedious day at the AEOI ministry. The anticipation of an unpleasant, drawn out meeting full of recriminations probably accounted for the scientist’s aggravation.
“I agree, sir,” he replied, hoping to calm him down.
Abdul stopped the silver Peugeot at the red street light of the busy intersection of Kargar Avenue, in the left turn lane which would allow them to take the main city thoroughfare to the northern Amir Abad district, about twenty minutes away, if the traffic abated. Heaven forbid, if they were late.
“Look! There they are now. Across the intersection, Professor.  About one hundred meters up by the sidewalk, on the left, talking on a cell phone.” Abdul pointed in the direction of the motorbike culprits.
“Can you believe that? After all that reckless driving, endangering others, just to beat a street light!  Now chatting casually on a cell phone, another western invention. A perfect example of what I mean, Abdul. Our society is going to the dogs!”  Mustafi Roshan declared emphatically.
Those would be the last words exchanged this morning on the way to the AEOI ministry.
“Dial the code now!”
“OK, you’ve got it.”
The phone signal immediately triggered the detonation of the magnetic car bomb that they had attached to the scientist’s limo rear fender in a “drive by’’ just minutes earlier.  The massive explosion of C-4 rocked the intersection, blasting the limo to smithereens, instantly killing the occupants. A dozen vehicles in a fifty meter radius suffered serious destruction and injuries – collateral damage.

“Take a glance at this classified communication that just came in from Tel Aviv. NSA deciphered it, Admiral.”
“Thank you, Harry.”
Admiral Delaney smiled, and said nothing for a minute. Obviously he was impressed with his colleagues’ efficiency in pulling off the operation in broad daylight in midtown Tehran. Nothing short of sensational actually. And, the CIA had plausible deniability. Now, a total of four key Iranian nuclear scientists assassinated with professional precision over the last two years. Another surgical strike at the heart of their Uranium enrichment program, frustrating Iran’s ambitions.
“When it comes to methods and sources, Mossad excels at their covert craft. This will really hamper Iran’s nuclear program, let me tell you, Captain. Mustafi Roshan was a key player in getting their uranium enrichment program back up and running after the Stuxnet virus infected and disabled their computers. The cyber-attack set their endeavors back at least a year, maybe six months to a year more, judging from our satellite photos indicating that 984 P-1 centrifuge machines were put out of action at Natanz. That’s about twenty times the usual ‘change out’ rate according to IAEA inspection data. That number represents one-sixth of their centrifuges. Took them awhile to figure it out.  Called in Chinese hacker geeks to help sort it out, I understand.”
“Let the Director Hayden, and Biff Roberts know, OK?”
“Right away, sir.”
When the Admiral was happy, Capt. Harry Rundgren and his entire NSA section were happy. The old sailor could be crusty.

British intelligence chief, John Sawyers, gazed out of his upper floor office window at the barges slowly cruising, or being tugged up and down the Thames River below.  A morning ritual for him.  He somehow found the daily scene fascinating, or possibly an escape from his ponderous duties. His deep thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a brief knock, followed by the rushed, excited entry into his office by his deputy director, Graham Ashton. Not at all characteristic. He sensed something of great consequences had occurred, nothing routine.
“Good morning, sir.”
“Good morning, Graham. You seem excited.”
“They pulled it off, John, without a hitch! They are on a plane to Dubai, as we speak. No one questioned their British student passports. Pretty smooth op, I’d say!”
“Wonderful!” The director exclaimed. “A masterful job by ‘the boys’. Their intensive training paid dividends. A quite proficient performance. I love to collaborate with Mossad. They have perfected ‘hit jobs’. Personally, I find it a nasty business.”
“Nobody does it better. Masters of the clandestine craft.  I believe that is four scientists down now.”
“That’s correct, Graham, my man.” The director was exhilarated at the successful operation. “Black op’s at its best.  Absolute perfection!” 
He tweaked his aristocratic handlebar mustache.  “A British classic,” Graham reflected.” Always does that when he’s pleased.”
The director was nattily attired his country manor tweed jacket, wearing a heavily starched white shirt featuring a colorful paisley bow tie.
“Fits everyone’s cinema concept of what a MI6 director should look like”, Graham mused.
“Beats the Hell out of a bloody military confrontation. With the Israeli’s, I always fear we are just one step away from a nuclear intervention. They will not abide Iran developing a nuclear capability.”
“Do you blame them, John?  A small nation in the midst of fourteen hostile countries...”
“No, not a bit. They are certainly not paranoid, rather, profoundly realistic. But, I worry that patience is not their long suit.”
“Iran is still recovering from the coordinated cyber-attack. The Stuxnet virus crippled Qom and Natanz. Today’s action will slow them down again. But, we still need a long term solution to unresolved conflicts.” 
“Do you really believe the problems in the Middle East will ever be resolved, John?”
“Good Lord, I hope so!” 
“Perhaps I’m cynical, but I do not see any substantial settlement to their ingrained disputes and tensions in our lifetime. Their divergent worldviews, grievances, real and perceived, and often fanatic religious beliefs portend a continuing struggle, as well as a threat to democracies with a third world war.” 
Graham Ashton was the heir apparent as director of MI6, being groomed as Sawyer’s, protégé. Graduating at the top of his class at Eton, he was recruited and intensively trained by the British Intelligence service, the oldest in operation, the Godfather of the CIA and Mossad. A brilliant analyst, he often joisted intellectually with his boss, taking contrarian positions just for the Hell of it. Their mutual respect allowed such spirited exchanges. His conservative pinstriped, Regent Street suits and mannerisms suggested that he was a banker, or a bean counter, not a master spy. Angular features, granny spectacles, nimble build, Graham did not fit the stereotype. Even his appearance was a subterfuge, an artful deception. Outside of MI6 circles, Graham was virtually unknown,, in contrast to the director, his idol, who received a lot of positive press coverage and mingled socially with the elite of the British Isles.  Graham Ashton preferred it that way,  a low profile suited him just fine.
 “You make a cogent observation, Graham. But, I maintain that timely, judicious interventions may influence the outcome. I’ve always been a strong proponent of a covert war in the region. The unrest is widespread. Too many factions. Too many schisms.  Clandestine action on our part is far preferable to military action, especially one risking a disastrous nuclear confrontation to which you allude. Those two Arab youngsters you trained performed admirably, a testimony to my concept .Today’s well-orchestrated, stealthy action most assuredly will throw a ‘monkey wrench’ into Iran’s nefarious nuclear ambitions, as the Yanks say. ”
“I believe it will, John, for sure.”

“They are safely on the ground in Dubai, Benny. Our contacts met them at the UAE terminal and will escort them to the safe house.”
“Well done, Rafi. Thank you for coordinating this operation. It went just as we planned. Congratulations. ”
“Thank you, sir. That will get the hornets buzzing!”  He laughed congenially, proud of the covert action’s resounding success.
“We will deny any responsibility, of course. And, disseminate information indicating the action was that of a home grown, rebel malcontent. “
His boss joined in the mirth, and gave him a high five, very out of character for the ex -paratrooper General. His pleasure was obvious to Rafi Dayan. The General had worried a lot about this operation and had expressed some reservations at its boldness in the strategic planning staff meetings. But, now it was over and done with, a successful, well executed ‘black operation’.
“Instruct them to ‘lay low’ for a while until things quiet down. Act like the students indicated on their British passports that MI6 issued. The Brits trained them to be indistinguishable from Arabs raised in the UK, so request that they pursue educational activities if they venture out, so as not to arouse suspicion. Remind them to alter their appearance. Shave their beards and get a haircut just in case some random surveillance camera in Tehran spotted them in the vicinity of the explosion. I assure you that SAVAMA will be checking all the photos closely, as well as all passport departures this morning and coming days at the Khomeine  International Airport,  and the old Mehrabad terminal.”
“Yes, sir” Rafi replied.
“Just in case, I suggest we consider issuing new passports, as a backup, to obscure their identity in case the Iranian secret police have gotten smarter. SAVAMA may have photo shopped the surveillance tapes and compared them with all recent passports presented at the airports in Tehran for their secret service tracking agents. Remind them to take no chances and take nothing for granted. I hope we’ve trained them well enough to distinguish between appearance and reality. Instruct them to trust no one outside of our UAE assets.”
“Yes, sir.”
“I worry. They are young. Tell them we will bring them home when the heat dies down. I plan to reward them with a short vacation at our secure beach house, not far from here.”
“I’m sure they will love that, Benny.”
“They deserve it for their great service to our nation. Iran poses an existential threat to Israel.”
“OK, Benny. I’ll get right on it. We fortunately have some reliable assets in Dubai. ‘Belts and suspender’ guys who leave nothing to chance.”
“I’m certain they are well compensated through discrete, convoluted channels. No traces? No trails?”
“Not a chance…”
Lt. General Benny Gantz smiled. “2012 will be a critical year for Iran. In part, because of things  that  happen to it unnaturally.”
An ominous prediction coming from the commander of the Israeli Defense Force , the IDF. 
Mossad’s mastermind had let him in on a little secret.

The sudden, intermittent beeping coming from the top of the O.R. table indicated a cardiac arrest. The alarm jolted Roe MacDonald and his assistant surgeon who were closing the patient’s abdomen after a successful two hour, middle of the night operation for a ruptured aortic aneurysm.
“Not now! Not after all this good work!  So close to a ‘save’ for a condition with a mortality rate of around sixty percent.” Roe thought to himself. The operation had gone well to this point. What happened?
The patient was rushed across the city code-3, in shock to the ER where an alert resident made the correct diagnosis, instituted resuscitative measures, typed blood, and immediately consulted the surgeons-on-call. The young Doctor had a rosy future in medicine. His rapid diagnosis would be duly noted.
In emergency surgery, Dr. MacDonald had skillfully stopped the internal hemorrhage and repaired the aorta with a bypass graft. The operation had gone smoothly. The patient was stable following blood transfusion. It was unusual for a patient to arrest at this late stage of the emergency surgery.
“Where the HELL IS THE ANESTHESIOLOGIST ? Go find Lindsey, Tom,” Roe instructed the auto-transfusion tech.
“We are dealing with a cardiac arrest here, Dammit!”
“Sue, give an amp of bicarb and calcium IV , STAT”
“C.C., squirt a vial of epinephrine down the endotrachial tube now.”  He instructed the circulating OR nurses.
“What happened to Lindsey?”
No one seemed to know.
“I’m opening the right chest and pericardium to perform open cardiac massage. We have a full blown CPR on our hands, people... Hop to it.”
“And a potential international diplomatic crisis!  This patient is a top rank official from Iran visiting our San Francisco consulate…” Roe reflected.

This was a very thrilling and well written book that I had a hard time putting down. Lawson sure knows how to weave a tale and keep the reader captive till the last page. I thoroughly enjoyed the author's other book, Cabo Caper, so I knew Killing Time would be just as good. It did not disappoint! There so much intrigue, suspense and excitement that espionage lovers will feel right at home within the pages of the book.

About the Author
R. Lawson is a retired vascular surgeon and served as a captain in the United States Air Force as a flight surgeon. With over 120 academic works under his belt, he moved into the fiction genre and began writing thrillers with a focus on terrorism, cyber spying and more.
He hopes that you enjoy his CIA International Intrigue series featuring Biff Roberts, veteran CIA agent, as he travels the globe thwarting threats to the United States and its allies.