Some of you may have read FAST FORWARD. Some of you probably haven’t! My next individual release is going to be a modern re-telling of that story with a few different twists and characters. Below is the first chapter. I’d love to know what you think:
This mission required no witnesses.
The Range Rover’s beams stabbed through darkness and brightened the pothole-scarred road. To the left, the River Nile glistened under the bright moonlight. Tonight, Tom Steele had a single objective: to deal with a deadly threat to the western world, once and for all. And that threat lay less than a mile away.
Lights twinkled from a remote villa, marking his target.
Nothing had passed in either direction for the last ten minutes.
Everything had fallen into place and failure wasn’t an option. Steele turned down a short dirt track, killed the engine, then tugged a black balaclava over his face.
Twelve months of Secret Intelligence Service investigation, interrogations, and days of surveillance had led to this point. He thought about his team’s unrelenting pursuit of justice since last summer, immediately following a terrorist attack on London. Two explosions had ripped through Leicester Square, killing ninety-seven and injuring hundreds.
Steele’s hands tightened around the steering wheel.
Somebody was going to pay.
Finance for the attack traced back to an Egyptian construction magnate, Tarek Elfady, who even had the audacity to bid on two of the rebuilding contracts. The national government refused an extradition request, money in his accounts transferred to a black hole, and he dropped off the radar… until now.
Tonight, vengeance was coming in the form of Steele.
He quietly closer the Rover’s door and drew his pistol from a concealed hip holster, and headed along a stretch of undulating scrubland at a crouching run, careful not to silhouette himself on a ridgeline.
Elfady’s insatiable appetite for unique French wines had given him away. During the last month, the team tracked four deliveries from Giza to this location, checked it out, and discovered his Bentley under a carport at the side of the villa.
A two-meter-high whitewashed wall surrounded the property. Steele hauled himself to the top of it. The layout beyond matched the satellite image and he faced thick vegetation. He swung his legs over and landed in the back of a garden. His heart pounded against his chest as he scanned the immediate area for trip wires or sensors.
Crickets chirped around him. He dropped to a leopard crawl and moved to the base of a sycamore tree. Directly ahead, solar lights surrounded a neatly manicured lawn. A fine mist jetted from a central sprinkler to different parts of the grass. In front of the two-story villa, the unmistakable figure of Elfady, with his bald head and bushy black mustache, reclined in a bubbling hot tub. An unexpected bonus which avoided the need to hunt for him inside.
Steele waited, peering between the trees at the open windows and patio doors. Not a single person had entered or left the property during the last two days of surveillance. But with people like Elfady, goons were never far away.
After two minutes, Elfady lit a long cigar, leaned his head back, and puffed out a stream of smoke. Steele scowled at the idea of him likely doing the same thing after hearing news of the London bombing. He rose to a standing position, extended his pistol, and silently advanced through the cool sprinkler mist.
Wooden decking surrounding the hot tub creaked beneath his boots.
Elfady bolted stiff and his eyes widened. He reached back for a crumpled towel.
“Move another inch and I’ll blow your brains out,” Steele snapped.
“What the hell?” Elfady unsteadily raised his hands.
Steele kicked away the towel, revealing a revolver and tablet. “Paranoid about something?”
“Whoever’s paying you, I’ll double it.”
“Do you know how pathetic you sound? I want you to understand why this is happening, and I’ll give you a clue: Leicester Square.”
The bubbles in the hot tub stopped.
Elfady attempted a plastic look of confusion. “Somebody gave you false information, my friend.”
“I’m not your friend and don’t bother pretending. The flight tickets, hotels, and hire car were booked by a front company attached to one of your personal accounts. I caught one of the terrorists at Heathrow. He cut a deal and sold you out, but here’s the bad news: I’m nothing like him.”
“Multiple sources checked out. I can’t decide whether you’re greedy, evil, or both. Whatever the reason, you’re finished.”
Images of the London aftermath raced through Steele’s mind. The bodies, ambulances, crowds of relatives surrounding a hospital reception desk—all paid for by the man staring at his suppressor.
“What now?” Elfady asked. “You take me—”
Steele pulled the trigger.
Elfady’s head snapped back then slumped to the side.
Blood trickled from an entry wound in his forehead.
The cigar dropped from his open mouth and its glowing embers hissed into the hot tub. Ending someone’s life gave Steele no pleasure but doing so tonight terminated a significant future threat to national security—and to the lives of the public.
A pair of headlights appeared at the top of a distant hill and snaked down toward the villa. Steele grabbed the tablet and made his way to the back of the garden, maintaining his aim on the patio doors. He waded through the vegetation, clambered back over the wall, then jogged back to his vehicle.
The ongoing battle for permanent security had no end in sight, but this mission’s success meant people could sleep a little safer in their beds.
Blazing sunshine beat down, making quick work of Cairo’s morning haze. Steele wiped sweat from his brow and walked along one of Garden City’s quiet tree-lined streets toward the British Embassy. After handing over the tablet for shipping back to headquarters and a debrief via a secure video channel, he had an afternoon flight to London.
Nobody had given him a second glance since he changed back to jeans and a white linen shirt, returned to his hotel for a continental breakfast, and headed out to complete the final part of this mission.
So far, so good, but he never took anything for granted.
The embassy safety barrier loomed up on the left. Entering through the main entrance always gave a better guarantee of not having his picture taken. On a previous visit, a supposed tourist, looking as genuine as a Rolex watch sold on a Balearic beach, took pictures of the Nile while a camera at the top of his backpack captured the rear entrance.
Steele pressed a call button on a panel at the side of sturdy security gates and stared into a protected lens. They were expecting him and understood he couldn’t hang around. News of Elfady’s death would soon filter through to local authorities, increasing attention on anyone coming or going.
The left gate groaned open. One of the guards, wearing a blue short-sleeved shirt, waved him inside. Steele nodded his thanks and headed for the front doors of the large, colonial-style building.
A defeaning roar split the air.
He instinctively dived to his left.
The embassy’s four-columned entrance portico exploded in a ball of flames. The force of the blast hit Steele before he landed and shrapnel from the shattered masonry sliced his body.
Before he could react, a second mortar bomb erupted by the gates with an ear-splitting boom, and a blanket of hot smoke rushed over him.
Steele attempted to raise himself but flopped back down. Blood dripped into his left eye. Pain seared from the base of his severed thumb and index finger, and his mangled left ankle. A damp red patch soaked the side of his ripped shirt. He lay on the rubble-strewn concrete and watched dark gray smoke billow into the clear blue sky.
A fire bell rang inside the embassy. Car alarms wailed on the street. For the first time in his adult life, Steele felt helpless. He sucked in a breath through clenched teeth. He needed a way out. Somebody to see him, drag him to safety, and treat his injuries.
Minutes ticked by and the remaining strength drained from his body.
Sirens blared in the distance, gradually increasing in volume.
Steele gasped and his head thudded against the ground.
Daylight turned to darkness.