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China Crisis [Stony Man Series] [Secure eReader]
eBook by Don Pendleton

eBook Category: Suspense/Thriller/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: Stony Man.... When talks and negotiations stall, when rampant violence goes unchecked, the covert arm of the U.S. Justice Department enters the fray at Presidential command. United by an unspoken bond of commitment and patriotism, Stony Man operates for a just cause: the sanctity of the free world, even if keeping it safe demands the ultimate sacrifice. China Crisis.... When a Chinese test missile crashes inside the Afghan desert, a conspiracy of global proportions explodes. The missile is fitted with stolen American technology and Beijing will be caught in diplomatic crosshairs unless they can retrieve the hardware. A Stony Man team is dispatched to get it first--and bring tough justice to the shadow organization deep within the U.S. government selling America's biggest military secret to the world.

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Worldwide Library, Published: 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2007

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CIA Field Surveillance Unit

Agent Arnie Trickett was starting to get nervous. It showed in the way he was pacing back and forth in the surveillance truck, constantly peering at the monitors. He was downing paper cups of black coffee as if the stuff was going to go on ration.

"Arnie, sit before you wear a hole through the bottom of the truck," his partner Jack Schofield said. "It's going to go down."

"Yeah? Well we're going to look like a pair of prize dicks if it doesn't. We only got the go-ahead because of our input. All the intelligence is ours."

"And it's sound." Schofield swung his seat around. "Arnie, what's wrong? Why the jitters?"

"This isn't the first time we've tried to catch that bastard Townsend with the goods. Every time he's slipped through the nets free and clear. We can't touch the guy without evidence that's one-hundred-and-one-percent solid. I don't see that happening. The guy is laughing all the way to the bank, and there's nothing we can do about it."

"Patience, my boy, patience. We'll catch him. Even Townsend has to slip up sooner or later. When he does, it's payday."

The third member of the observation team snapped his fingers.

"We got contact," he said. His name was Zach Jordan. He was younger than both Trickett and Schofield, with only a few years' field experience. "Looks like Riotta. Yes. Confirmed. Joseph Riotta."

Trickett leaned over to scan the monitor.

He saw that a dark sedan had parked outside the deserted warehouse where the exchange had been arranged. A man was already out of the vehicle, standing beside the front passenger door, gazing around the abandoned industrial site. Jordan zoomed in with the camera and brought the man's face into full view. Even in the gloom Trickett was able to recognize Joseph Riotta. He had looked at dozens of images of the man over the past few weeks, along with other members of the group Riotta was in with.

"What'd I tell you," Schofield said. He leaned forward to open a switch and spoke into his headset mike. "First contact made. Stay alert, people. We should be getting more visitors anytime now. Will advise. Nobody moves until I give the word. Let's get these people in one spot before we net them."

There was more to it than that. Getting Townsend's people and the sellers in one place was nothing on its own. They needed an actual exchange to take place, with goods and money in evidence before a conviction could be guaranteed. Schofield's years with the Agency had taught him one thing: total, unbreakable evidence was required before any case could progress. They needed more than simple knowledge of a crime. They had to have the whole package, which was why he understood Trickett's nerves were strung so tight. His partner was a born worrier. He liked every detail nailed down before he could relax. That wasn't a bad thing in their line of work. It was only that it made life difficult for anyone working with him. Trickett's insistence on overplanning sometimes bordered on the irritating.

"Hey, this looks like what we've been waiting for," Trickett said, pointing at one of the monitors. It showed a dark-colored SUV cruising along the service road that would bring it to the warehouse where Riotta had parked.

"Be advised," Schofield said. "Second party has shown up. Be ready."

He left his mike open to avoid any delay when he gave the order to move in. Now he turned his attention back to the monitors, studying the people under the eye of the CIA cameras.

"They going ahead?" he asked.

Jordan shook his head. "All they seem to be doing is standing around talking."

Something stirred the back of Schofield's mind. Both parties were present. There was no logical reason why they should stand around passing the time of day. Unless they were waiting for something else to happen.

But what?

The faint stirring took on an uneasy edge as Schofield allowed his mind to permutate the options, and even as he did, a disturbing thought entered his consciousness.

In was then that he heard the door to the surveillance truck click as the handle was turned. He felt a rush of chill air and he turned to look over his shoulder…. THE PEOPLE LISTENING to the tape later heard Schofield say, "What are you doing here? I didn't see your name on the roster for—"

There was a subdued cough of sound, easily identified as the chug of 9 mm bullets exiting the muzzle of a sound suppressor. It was stated in the written report that the weapon had most probably been a 9 mm Uzi on full-auto, expending its entire magazine in seconds. The end result was inevitable. Arnie Trickett, Jack Schofield and Zach Jordan were all killed in those fleeting moments. They weren't given a chance to draw their own weapons, and from the way Schofield had greeted the assassin, it was obvious he knew and recognized the individual.

What the killer hadn't realized was that Schofield had left his com line open and everything said in those final moments was relayed back to the field office and caught by the tape machine monitoring the entire operation.

By the time the office contacted the tactical team waiting for Schofield's go and ordered them to check out the truck, the killer had left the scene, the buyer-seller had been alerted and fled. Nothing was found at the rendezvous point, but at the surveillance truck the tactical team found bloody slaughter.

White House—three days later

"I'M REACHING THE POINT when I don't trust my own shadows," the President said. "Trust. Hal, that word is becoming a joke around here. I get a new version of events depending on who I talk to. The CIA excludes the FBI. The NSA has the lead when it comes to paranoia. None of them wants to cooperate with the others, and they only give me versions they believe I can handle."

Copyright © 2007 by Worldwide Library.

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