Home > End of Days (Pike Logan #16)

End of Days (Pike Logan #16)
Author: Brad Taylor

 

Chapter 1

 


Long haired, olive skinned, and with a scraggly beard, Mustafa stood out from the other paragliders laying out their kit for the first flight of the morning. He was most definitely not of the Nordic stock who usually took tourists over the landscape of Interlaken, Switzerland. The men around him glanced curiously, but didn’t broach any questions, because Interlaken itself had become a hub of tourism for rich Arabs around the world. He was just a sign of the times as far as they were concerned, like the Halal menus and prayer mats offered at the hotels. The other pilots belonged to individual tour companies, and as such, knew each other well. Mustafa belonged to no company, but he’d taken the place of an individual operator who did.

High on a hill in Beatenberg, about twenty minutes from the town of Interlaken, it was one of the most popular places from which to launch. Overlooking the twin lakes of Thun and Brienz, plenty of tour groups used it, with the excited patrons driven by bus from the town. Mustafa knew his customer wasn’t coming on a bus. His fare was special, with unique requirements.

Content with the layout of his equipment, he took a sign not unlike a realtor’s, with the name of the company for which he’d supposedly worked, and jammed it in the ground uphill of the canopy, where it could be seen from the road. He turned to go back to the harness when he noticed a splotch of red on the corner, like someone had flung a strip of paint on it. He glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed, but the other operators were too busy with their own rigs. He hurriedly wiped it off with his glove, finding it had congealed enough for him to have to use force.

For the life of him, Mustafa couldn’t fathom how a splotch of blood had ended up on the sign. When he’d shot the man who owned this canopy, he was across the room from where it had been leaning against a wall. It was a head shot, and messy, but how could the blood have splattered that far?

The mess he’d left behind was of no consequence now. No matter what they found of his passing—DNA, footprints, fingerprints, whatever—it didn’t matter, as he wouldn’t be alive to be caught. He was going to die in the next hour, along with the man strapped to him.

An expat from Iraq, Mustafa was ostensibly in Switzerland as a political refugee, but in reality he had another agenda. He was a sleeper, sent out into the world to wait until activated for a strategic attack. He’d lived in Switzerland for six years without a whisper from his higher command, until three months ago, with a plan that was so audacious it gave him chills.

Unknown by the intelligence infrastructure in Switzerland that had granted him asylum, he was a member of Keta’ib Hezbollah, a Shia militia in Iraq. Funded by Iran, they’d fought the United States early on in the Iraq War, killing soldiers with explosively formed penetrators provided by that theocratic state. Later, ISIS began to rampage throughout the country and the militia had been given sanction by the Iraqi government as a “Popular Mobilization Unit,” as anyone who could fight was needed to stop the slaughter.

They’d actually fought remarkably well against ISIS, even after the United States returned. While ISIS had given both a common foe, the militia had never forgotten the real enemy. Once ISIS was driven back underground, they’d returned to attacking the Great Satan, rocketing bases with impunity and killing with roadside bombs. They’d felt they were invincible—and had been told so by the very commander of the Iranian Qods Force, General Soleimani, who provided them with training, equipment, and expertise. They were the vanguard of a new Iraq, driving out the infidels of the Great Satan, the goal being a Shia-dominated country under the watchful eye of Iran.

And then the Great Satan had slaughtered the leader of Keta’ib Hezbollah with an air strike inside Iraq. Even worse, along with him they’d blown apart the Qods Force commander, General Soleimani. The strike came out of nowhere, the Americans killing with impunity.

The spasm of rage had been intense, but the revenge had been slow in coming. Iran had sworn vengeance, but other than a pathetic show of force involving rockets against Al Asad air base—where the Americans were stationed—nothing else had been done.

Until now.

Mustafa saw a minibus approach the turnaround point at the top the hill, then disgorge eight people, four passengers and four pilots. Even though it was early June, all were dressed for the weather, as it was crisp at eight in the morning, and would be even colder on the flight.

They spread out on the hill, giving each room to take off. Within minutes, the passengers were in the harnesses and the first pilot was screaming, “Run, run, run!”

Down the hill they went, the canopy lifting gracefully behind them. It caught the wind and their feet left the ground, the paraglider soaring out over the valley below, the passenger shrieking with delight. As soon as the first one went airborne, the next was running down the slope, then the third, and finally the fourth. Mustafa watched intently, ensuring he could get airborne.

Like the pilots on 9/11 who’d learned to fly but not take off or land, he’d had some instruction on paragliding, but he was by no means an expert, and the worst thing that could happen was face-planting his target on the slope without getting airborne.

Another bus pulled in, and this time it was only passengers. They went out to meet their designated pilots already positioned on the hill, and within a few ticks of the clock, he was alone again.

He waited another seven minutes, then saw a two-car caravan headed toward his location. The cars stopped and a swarm of men exited, taking positions of security. An older man, looking to be about eighty, exited the car and stood, waiting.

The target. One Gideon Cohen. A former head of the Mossad—otherwise known as the Ramsad—he was the man who had killed many, many of Mustafa’s clan, from patriots in the Gaza Strip to nuclear scientists in Iran. He had nothing to do with the killing of Soleimani, but he was a symbol. A powerful one.

It had been known that he summered in Switzerland, and apparently a plan had been developed the year before to assassinate him, but then COVID had struck, and made any such attack impossible. There was no way to conduct surveillance for an operation or develop any type of infrastructure necessary because of the shutdown. A year later, COVID was still rampaging about, but the vaccine was available, and various parts of the world were slowly coming back to life.

The biggest obstacle to targeting Gideon had been his security detail. They were very thorough, and very skilled. The only way to kill him was to separate him from them without a fight—and that had proven impossible, right up until they’d learned that Gideon had taken an affinity to paragliding.

Once every two weeks, he used the same company to take flight. A pastime he enjoyed, but also something that gave the security detail fits. And perhaps, that was part of the enjoyment. Being free from the chains of his past.

But those chains would follow him into the air on this day.

 

 

Chapter 2

 


After Mustafa had been activated, he’d spent three months learning the skills required to paraglide. He had no idea where the funding had come from to take the courses, believing it was from his masters in Iran. He was wrong on that point, but the death would come all the same.

The security man who’d talked to Gideon marched down the hill to him, his tie flapping over his shoulder in the breeze, a distinct bulge on his hip. A large man wearing sunglasses and a black mask, he had no humor in him whatsoever.

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