Book excerpt

Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Out of the Ashes

Tom Clancy's Op-Center

Created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik; Written by Dick Couch and George Galdorisi

St. Martin's Press

CHAPTER ONE
 
 
New York City
(September 6, 2230 Eastern Daylight Time)
He didn’t particularly like being in America, and especially didn’t enjoy being in New York City. However, Abdul-Muqtadir Kashif was above all else a businessman and this was business.
Kashif was Arab, wealthy, and, from outward appearances, quite Westernized. He was in his midfifties, slim, fit, well-educated, and sophisticated. His eyes were alert but not predatory, and he had a disarming smile. Kashif wore his hair stylishly long but well barbered and kept his goatee and mustache neatly trimmed. He was Kuwaiti by birth and citizenship, but he kept elegant, if not lavish, homes in Paris, London, and Mumbai as well as a primary residence in Kuwait City. He had but a single wife and three children, all girls, who he shamelessly spoiled. He read the Koran often and found the teachings of the Prophet made for an ideal guide for a good and productive life, yet, by and large, he rejected any literal interpretation of the book. Abdul-Muqtadir Kashif was one of those men who his London and Parisian acquaintances never seemed to see as an Arab or a Muslim. If they did, they were quick to comment, “That Abdul, what a splendid fellow. Why can’t more of them be like him?”
He permitted himself the indulgence of bringing his wife, Jumana, along on this short, three-day, business trip. It hadn’t been his idea. Somehow she found the shopping in New York superior to that of even London. What harm could come from making her happy by allowing her to busy herself trolling through the high-end boutiques on Fifth Avenue while he hammered out a business deal? Her chauffeur and escort would look out for her.
That same chauffeur had delivered them from their hotel, the Intercontinental New York Barclay, to the penthouse condo of his new business associate, who was hosting a small dinner party in their honor. They had bid their host good-bye and were riding in the swiftly descending elevator when Jumana turned to Kashif.
“My husband, it is such a beautiful night, and our hotel is only a short walk away. Would you just dismiss the chauffeur? We can enjoy an evening stroll together.”
Kashif did some quick mental calculations. It was a mere eight blocks walk to East 48th Street where the Intercontinental enjoyed a prominent location between Park and Lexington Avenues. What harm was there if it pleased her? She had, as she always did, charmed his new business associates. It was their last night in New York, a beautiful Sunday night with a full summer moon, and he was feeling exceptionally good about the deal he had struck. Perhaps being in America wasn’t so bad after all.
“Of course, my dear. It is a lovely evening.”
As they exited the building Kashif dismissed his driver and they set out walking south on Seventh Avenue. Jumana pulled her hijab tightly around her head, feeling the need for more modesty walking the streets in an American city than she might elsewhere. Abdul-Muqtadir Kashif was happy they had left the dinner party a bit early. The oafish American men there talked about little else than the opening of their football season that weekend. They were even rude enough to keep incessantly checking their smart phones for the progress of one of their hometown teams, the “Giants,” who, apparently, would have to save the city’s honor that evening in their Sunday night game. Their other team, the “Jets,” had lost badly earlier in the day.
As they approached 48th Street and prepared to turn east to reach the Intercontinental, Kashif saw commotion ahead as a number of men poured out of a sports bar. The sign on the bar read TONIC. How apt, he thought as he pulled Jumana close to him. They quickened their pace.
Then he heard them.
“He choked! They had them. Then he throws an interception. What a piece of meat. They need to get rid of him.”
“He’s a complete fraud. God, this is going to be a long season.”
“What a punk.”
“The Giants suck so bad!”
More men tumbled out of the bar, all obviously inebriated and clearly angry their team had lost.
He pulled Jumana closer and accelerated their pace even more, intending to give the swelling crowd of men a wide berth. Their language was growing fouler and they were now pushing and jostling each other. What juveniles. America is as decadent as many of my friends say it is.
Kashif thought about crossing 7th Avenue to avoid these contemptible men entirely, but the traffic was heavy even at this time of night. Turning around and walking back north was not an option he considered. He didn’t run from scum.
As they walked close to the curb to avoid the crowd of agitated fans, a large man on the outside of the pack bumped into Jumana.
“Ouch,” she said instinctively as she fought to keep her balance, still clutching her hijab.
Reflexively, Kashif stuck out his left hand to fend the man off as he tried to steady his wife with his right.
In his drunken stupor the man fell to the ground. “Shit,” he cried.
That got the attention of some of the other men and they tried to pick him up. Instinctively, Kashif attempted to go around the crowd, but instead he bumped into another man.
The man pushed back at him, looked at Jumana, and shouted, “Hey, watch it, you fucking ragheads.”
“You watch your mouth,” Kashif protested.
By now, the other men had been attracted to the commotion and surrounded Kashif and Jumana.
“Back off! You’re in our country, you stinking Arab. She part of your harem?”
“Get out of our way or I’ll call the police,” Kashif yelled as he pulled Jumana in a tight grip and he tried to push their way through the now roused pack of men.
“Good luck with that, camel jockey,” another man shouted.
From behind Jumana, a man grabbed her hijab. “So, let’s see what’s under here. What you hiding there, bitch?”
Kashif wheeled and threw a right roundhouse punch and staggered the man.
That was all it took. With one blow another man knocked Kashif to the ground. Jumana tumbled down with him. The enraged mass of men began stomping the two Kuwaitis. Fit and agile, Kashif was able to fend off many of the blows with his arms. Jumana was not so lucky. The men continued to stomp them, cursing and swearing at the two now-helpless people.
Suddenly, one of New York’s ever-present yellow cabs screeched to a stop right at the curb and the driver began honking his horn while shouting, “Hey, stop. Get the hell away from them.”
“Mind your own business,” one of the men shot back.
“I said, stop it!” the cabbie replied as he emerged from the cab, a gun in his right hand and a cell phone in his left. That he was white and overweight, and wore a Jets sweatshirt, meant nothing; all they saw was the big automatic. That was all it took for the men to turn and run.
The Good Samaritan rushed over and helped Kashif lift himself up. Jumana remained inert on the ground, a pool of blood spreading from under her head.
*   *   *
It had all been a blur for Abdul-Muqtadir Kashif. A New York Police Department cruiser had appeared minutes after the cabbie had called 911. Shortly after that, an ambulance had arrived. The EMTs placed Jumana on a gurney, started an IV, and put her in the ambulance. Lights flashing and siren blaring they raced south on 7th Avenue and east on 31st Street to reach the New York University Langone urgent care center on 1st Avenue.
Despite his protests, the doctors would not let him in the OR. He was put in a waiting room for those who were with critically injured patients. There he sat for over three hours, the worst three hours of his life, but the next few minutes were about to be more awful than those hours.
“Mr. Kashif?” the man with the green scrubs asked softly. He had coal black hair, soft brown eyes, the smooth olive skin and broad handsome features that marked him as of the upper caste. It was 0430, and in his state Kashif saw only the physician.
“Yes, yes, Doctor?”
“Sir, your wife will be wheeled into ICU recovery in a bit, but it may be some time before you can see her. Does she have an advanced directive?”
“Advanced directive?”
“Yes, an advanced directive. Sir, your wife has severe internal injuries and major head trauma. We’ve already removed her spleen and she has at least four broken ribs. I’m sorry, sir, but you must be prepared for the worst.”
Abdul-Muqtadir Kashif just gasped, but what would follow would be worse.
“Sir, would you sit down, please?” the doctor asked, gently taking Kashif’s arm and helping him into a chair.
“Mr. Kashif, I’m sorry to say your wife has suffered major head trauma and is in a deep coma. We have taken an initial MRI and based on those results we’ve woken up our chief neurologist and he’ll be arriving in less than an hour. We’ll know more then, but I can’t tell you with certainty your wife will ever wake up. That’s why I asked you if she had an advanced directive—in the event her injuries are irreversible.”
“I want to see her.”
“Sir, you can’t see her. She wouldn’t know you were there anyway, and she’s surrounded by doctors, nurses, and life-support equipment.”
“Please, I want to see her,” Kashif implored.
Something in his pleading eyes moved the doctor. “Only through the ICU glass, all right?”
“Yes.”
Kashif hardly even remembered the doctor steadying him as if he were a tottering old man as they walked the short distance to the ICU room that contained his once-vibrant wife.
His eyes went wide with horror at the sight of Jumana. He broke free from the doctor and ran back the way he had come, weeping bitterly. The doctor followed closely behind.
Kashif collapsed in a chair in the waiting room, still sobbing openly, as the doctor sat down with him, putting his steady hand on his shoulder. “Sir, is there someone we can call for you?”
“No.”
“Are you staying nearby?”
“Yes.”
“Sir, can I get you something; a sedative perhaps?”
“No. No. I just need to make some calls. You’ve been very kind. I will be all right here.”
Reluctantly, the doctor had left Kashif alone in the waiting area. An hour had passed and Kashif had sat doing nothing but thinking. He knew he should call his oldest daughter, now sixteen, back in Kuwait City, tell her what had happened, and have her break the news to her two younger sisters. Yet what news? That their mother might be a vegetable for the rest of her life? He couldn’t find the right words, so that call would have to wait.
Kashif felt the bile building and his rage simmering. He had led a good and righteous life and followed the teachings of the Prophet—to a point. What had just happened to them would not stand. Their life had been so blessed. Now it was all but ended and ended by drunken Americans angered by nothing more than the fact their sports team had lost. This was worse than Europe and their stupid soccer! They needed to pay and they needed to pay as dearly as he was now paying.
Most Americans shared the misconception that all Arabs who had wealth were distant cousins of some Middle East monarch, but Abdul Kashif was more than just another wealthy Arab, though few who knew him thought of him as anything more. He was too quiet, too reserved, and not showy as were most Arabs who had money. Kashif had taken his family’s modest funds, his degree in finance from the London School of Economics, a work ethic that would have won approval from Warren Buffett, and the underworld connections of an unsavory uncle from his wife’s side of the family, and had amassed a considerable fortune. It now amounted to several hundred million dollars. He was wealthy and now, for the first time in his life, he was consumed with rage—rage and the desire for revenge.
Some Arabs with the financial resources of Abdul-Muqtadir Kashif contributed to radical Arab causes. Those who did secreted these funds to Arab charities from which a good portion of the money found its way into the offshore accounts of those who ran the charities. Those monies that did find their way to a serious terrorist organization like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were used by Arabs aligned with AQAP to kill other Arabs. Kashif had no intention of spending his hard-earned money that way.
While he was consumed by rage and the need for revenge, he was not blinded by it. If America was to be punished for what had just happened to him and his beloved Jumana, then it needed to be done professionally and with some precision. A strike like the one Osama bin Laden and Mohammad Atta had brought about on 9/11 was no longer possible. The Americans were too well prepared to allow a repeat of that event. However, there had to be a way, Kashif thought. He was a businessman, and there was always a way.
He picked up his cell phone and called a particularly capable and discreet Lebanese who sometimes worked for his wife’s uncle and arranged for him to fly to New York. With that single call, he had set in motion the events that would once again bring America to its knees.

 
Copyright © 2014 by Jack Ryan Limited Partnership and S&R Literary, Inc. DICK COUCH graduated from the Naval Academy in 1967 and served as a Surface Warfare Officer and SEAL Platoon Commander in Vietnam. Dick has enjoyed a unique relationship with the US Special Operations Command and has been allowed to document the special operations training venues for SEALs, Army Special Forces (Green Berets), Rangers, and Marines. He has been a professor at the US Naval Academy where he taught ethics and is often called on to speak to issues of character, moral battlefield conduct, and training and deployment of American military special operations forces. He lives with his wife Julia in central Idaho.

GEORGE GALDORISI is a career naval aviator. His Navy career included four command tours and five years as a carrier strike group chief of staff. He has written eight books, including (with Dick Couch), the New York Times best seller, Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor; The Kissing Sailor, which proved the identity of the two principals in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photograph; and over 200 articles in professional journals and other media. He is the Director of the Corporate Strategy Group at the Navy’s C4ISR Center of Excellence in San Diego, California. He and his wife Becky live in Coronado, California.