Friday, April 24, 2015

"Existential Threats" by R. Lawson

Existential Threats
(CIA International Thriller Series Book 4)
by R. Lawson

Existential Threats is the fourth book in R. Lawson's CIA International Thriller SeriesAlso available: Cabo Caper, Killing Time (read my blog post), and Retribution.

The CIA’s incoming Director of Counter Terrorism, Biff Roberts, is inheriting a multitude of challenges. For starters, there is the existential threat of a nuclear Iran. Added to that, the Middle East has become enmeshed in a surge of radical religious extremism ranging from fanatical Muslims of the Islamic State to the Taliban, groups who commit unspeakable atrocities using violence to pursue their atavistic goals. Syria’s civil war could result in Assad’s weapons of mass destruction getting into the hands of the splintered groups of Islamic Jihadists fighting there. This radical ideology has now spilled over into Africa with furious intensity.
And as if these international problems were not enough imminent threats to confront, Iranian mullahs have issued an Islamic death warrant fatwa on Biff, and those hoping to see it through are chasing him to the ends of the Earth.
Things move closer to home when CIA intelligence discovers that Iran has dispatched Mahmoud Abu Javari, the notorious IED bomb maker to the U.S. Biff now faces a Homeland threat of 9/11 proportions and has to thwart a bomb plot in San Francisco without knowing the target or timing for the planned act of terror.

Chapter One
New Year’s Day
The assassins hid behind a huge boulder above the timberline, giving them an excellent view of the ski slopes below.
“In the red parka at the top of the Tofana piste,” the handler, Rashid, said, spotting the target first. He spoke in Arabic with a distinctive French inflection, his calm voice belying his excitement. “Look to the right side of the slope. He’s just inside the tree line, leaning on his ski poles and talking with the woman and her children. See him?”
Beside Rashid, Mustapha frowned as he peered through the scope of his rifle. “Your binoculars have a wider field of view,” he complained. His accent was foreign to Rashid, an African version of Arabic that fell heavily on Rashid’s ears. In addition to disliking his accent, Rashid found Mustapha’s facial tattoos - tribal markings apparently - distasteful. But Mustapha had a reputation as a skilled shooter and he seemed dedicated to their mission.
“Big guy, blond hair,” Rashid said as he laid his Bushnell binoculars on the hood of their snowmobile and pointed. “About six hundred meters down to the right. Use my binoculars if you can’t spot him.”
“Okay, now I have him,” Mustapha said, grinning. “He’s much bigger than I imagined, good target. But there’s a tree branch in the way now. I’ll wait until he skis out to the first mogul, then I’ll have him in my crosshairs.”
Biff Roberts stopped at the top of the Tofana run, enjoying the rest and the magnificent early morning view of Cortina below. The gondola had dropped them off at over ten thousand feet, and after traversing over to the piste, they were even higher. It was easy to get winded at this altitude.
“Let the youngsters go first, Patricia,” Biff said. “I doubt we can match  their pace.”
“Okay, Biff,” Patricia said, smiling warmly. Patricia DeBartola was in her fifties, but Biff thought she looked better than most women thirty years younger. Like him, she kept herself in great shape, another reason they were a great match.
Biff was enjoying a rare break from work before the next big step in his career. After four decades in the CIA, he was about to take on his most challenging role yet - as the head of Langley’s clandestine Counterterrorism Division. He was looking forward to getting started, but first he wanted to spend time with Patricia and get to know her kids better.
“Watch out for ice on the downside of moguls at this hour,” Patricia told him. “It’s so easy to catch an edge when you check and turn downhill. And although it’s a black diamond run, it’s really not too difficult if you control your speed. That’s essential. Rest if you start to tire.”
Patricia could see from Biff’s smile that he didn’t mind her advice. But she realized she might be overdoing it.
“Don’t do anything crazy trying to impress me, okay?” She smiled to try and hide her concern. “I know how you are sometimes.”
Less than a year ago, Biff’s wife and childhood sweetheart, Mary Beth,  had been gunned down by an assassin, in place of Biff. Many years ago, Patricia’s husband, the Italian ambassador to Israel, had been assassinated by Hamas while visiting Gaza on a peacekeeping mission. It was that shared experience of traumatic grief that had brought Biff and Patricia together so quickly and so intensely. His children, rather than angered at his finding love again so soon, seemed to understand all the more that life was short and precious, and should be lived to the fullest. Patricia’s kids seemed to want the same happiness for their mother.
“We better catch up with them,” Patricia said. “I see them waiting downhill for us, joking around. Look, they’re waving to us to come on. Let’s go. Try and keep up.”
“Keep up with them?” He grinned. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Well, let’s try and not let them out of sight. You’re next, I’ll follow.” She smiled, thrilled at the positive start to their vacation and family introductions. After her family tragedy, she’d doubted if she’d ever be deeply happy again. Yet in Biff, she’d found someone to spend the rest of her life with, someone who had experienced a similar misfortune. Empathy drew them together, and the whole was greater than the parts that bonded them.
“Be patient,” Biff said. “It’s been a while since I last skied at Tahoe. And I’m not in your kids’ class, believe me. But it’s just like riding a bike,” he added, smiling. He took off, bouncing off the first mogul, trying to imitate her kids’ skillful execution of a check turn and hot-dogging it.
Despite Patricia’s warning, he immediately caught an edge on the mogul’s icy downhill side. Biff lost his balance and began to fall.
His fall was a fortunate event as it turned out. Just as he began to slip, a .223 caliber bullet ripped through his left shoulder, sending red fragments of his insulated parka flying. Groaning in pain, he crashed head over heels downhill between the steep moguls.
Patricia noted the muffled sound of a gunshot fired through a suppressor from uphill an instant before Biff fell. Despite the silencer, the rifle’s resonance followed instantly through the clear mountain atmosphere. She had heard that unforgettable “bap” sound before, and her years of  association with Mossad conditioned her response. She glanced furtively uphill at the ridge. She saw no one, but suspected more incoming fire. Had the shot caused Biff’s awkward spill? It all happened too quickly for her to tell.
“Biff!” she called as she immediately skied to his assistance, not fearing exposing herself to danger. He could be shot, and she had to help him.

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 Thriller Series featuring Biff Roberts, veteran CIA agent, as he travels the globe thwarting threats to the United States and its allies.