A tall man wearing a dark business suit stood at the open rear door of the Cadillac Escalade waiting for his clients. He was a Saudi intelligence special operations subcontractor whose code name was Nassr, “the Eagle.” And he was very good at killing people because he was well trained and he had absolutely no conscience.
He had done other jobs around the world, for other intel agencies, But for this specific op he was working directly for a Saudi intelligence officer, whom he suspected was in turn a paid operative of ISIS. It was the only thing that made sense to him.
But he didn’t care. The money was good, and the thrill of the hunt and the kill were even better.
The Alouette III helicopter coming from JFK appeared low over the East River as it made its way to Atlantic Aviation’s East Thirty-fourth Street Heliport, shortly before eight-thirty in the evening, thirty minutes past the facility’s closing time. No one had given the slightest thought of denying the incoming flight. The passenger, Khalid Seif who owned PSP, Dubai’s main offshore bank, had an estimated net personal worth in excess of thirty billion dollars. People in his category were never denied anything.
Eagle, whose real name was Kamal Al-Daran, had come to kill the man, along with his mistress Alimah, and as many as three or four dozen other billionaires in the AtEighth penthouse on Eighth Avenue and West Fifty-seventh, and one thousand or more on the ground at Carnegie Hall.
The blame would go to ISIS, of course, as would the downing of a second pencil tower here in Manhattan with even more devastating results than this evening’s act of terrorism. Bringing down the two towers would be a copy of al-Qaeda’s destruction of the Twin Towers, only this time airplanes wouldn’t be needed.
It was thought by his control officer that the attacks would be even more devastating to New Yorkers and to the entire nation than the ISIS attacks in Paris and Brussels and elsewhere. The U.S. military would be ordered to take out the entire ISIS war machine as Operation One, saving Saudi Arabia the bother.
Kamal was a handsome man, with a skin tone light enough, and facial features Western-looking enough, so that he could pass for just about anyone from Europe, but especially England because of his cultured British accent. With hazel contacts in his naturally black eyes, makeup, a five-hundred-dollar haircut, and a mustache, he was a close enough match to Khalid to fool anyone at the penthouse party this evening. He’d done his research. None of the other multibillionaires had ever met the banker, though just about all of them had done business with him.
The helicopter flared neatly, the pilot rotating it ninety degrees to the left so that its passenger hatch would open toward the terminal building.
Two line crewmen in white coveralls came across in a run as the chopper set down, one of them chocking the wheels while the other opened the luggage compartment and took out three matched suitcases.
The supervisor came out of the terminal as Khalid and the young woman, who was an Egyptian movie star, were helped out of the machine by the pilot.
They were too far away for Kamal to hear what they were saying, but their body language seemed cordial.
He opened the Caddy’s hatch as one of the crewmen hustled over with the luggage and put the bags inside.
The manager brought Khalid and the woman, who Kamal guessed was in her early twenties and stunning-looking, over to the car. The mid-May weather was cool, and she was dressed appropriately in an attractive white pantsuit, a cashmere sweater over her shoulders. The banker was dressed in a white linen suit and a black T-shirt. But he had shaved his mustache.
“This gentleman will take you to your condo, Mr. Seif,” the manager said.
“Who sent you?” Khalid asked, not harshly, but demanding.
“Mr. Callahan, sir,” Kamal said.
George Callahan was the developer of the Tower, as well as one of the leading private equity creators in the U.S. His worth was estimated above twenty billion dollars. He was one of the players.
Khalid chuckled. “One hundred fifty million for my penthouse, sight unseen, he could have sent me a Maybach.”
“I can arrange that, sir,” Kamal said.
Khalid waved it off. He handed Alimah into the back seat of the Cadillac, and as she got in, he stared at Kamal for just a beat. “Eton?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. Interesting school.”
Khalid laughed, but without humor, and got in the car.
Kamal closed the door. “Thanks for holding your people for Mr. Seif,” he told the manager.
Kamal went around to the driver’s side and got behind the wheel. He’d rented the Cadillac because it was roomy, and because its windows were so deeply tinted that no one from outside could see the rear-seat passengers.
Rush hour was finished and traffic was relatively light even on the FDR Drive, which they had to cross under to reach East Thirty-third, which was a one-way west.
As they entered the tunnel, Kamal took out a Glock 29Gen4 subcompact pistol, which fired 10mm rounds, half turned in his seat and shot Khalid and the woman in the forehead.
He glanced at the road, and turned again. They had slumped over in the seat, only a small amount of blood oozing from their wounds. He fired insurance rounds into their heads.
Turning back to his driving he holstered the pistol, as he came out onto Thirty-third Street. At Fifth Avenue instead of taking a right up to Fifty-seventh, he waited for the light to change and went left.
His only regret to this point was the girl. He would have loved to fuck her before he killed her, but that would have added an unnecessary complication.
“No need to tell you, my friend, that you are merely a tool,” his control officer had told him six months ago.
The briefing was conducted at a private compound outside of Riyadh that Saudi intelligence used from time to time as a safe house for interrogations of politically sensitive people. The CIA officer Landon Jones had been questioned here, before he was taken to the vicinity of the border with Iraq and set free. Within the hour ISIS fighters had captured him, and had videotaped his beheading two days later.
Kamal was not impressed. In his estimation most of the upper-level Saudi princes were crazy. One of them even had a series of strokes recently that had all but crippled the man’s ability to think rationally. But he was at a high enough level within the family so that his word was practically law.
And yet he couldn’t bring himself to believe that the Saudi royals were so insane that they would risk the destruction of their country if the U.S. ever got wind of the fact that they had ordered the attacks on the two pencil towers in New York.
He’d had the definite feeling at that meeting that something else was going on. ISIS was his best bet, but at that point he couldn’t fathom the reason behind the over-the-top dangerous plan.
He was a contractor, nothing more, and totally deniable. For each success he’d been paid handsomely enough to maintain an elegant lifestyle in a seaside house in Monaco, and travel as a wealthy man—not a billionaire, but with more money than he could use in an ordinary lifetime.
But his was not an ordinary life, and in a large measure he was an assassin for hire because killing was one of the few acts that meant anything to him. Eating gourmet meals at the Jules Verne on the first level of the Eiffel Tower, attending operas at La Scala, gambling in Las Vegas, and spending weekends with geisha whores at exclusive Ryokans outside of Kyoto were nothing by comparison.
They had met in a small room that was used as a torture chamber. A steel table with leather restraining straps was the only furnishing. The control officer spread a dozen eight-by-ten photographs on the table. Half showed an area south of what was obviously Central Park and the others near the United Nations complex on the East River. In each of the shots extremely slender skyscrapers towered over every other building.
“The New Yorkers call them pencil towers, with names like 111Fifty-seventh, or One57. Elegant but arrogant. One hundred million dollars or more for the penthouse condominiums. One of our princes owns one of them. Playgrounds for men of talent when it comes to making money,” said Sa’ad al-Sakar, his control officer.
Kamal knew of the towers, as well as the name of the Saudi royal family prince who had bought one of the condos. He’d learned very early on, during his training at Sandhurst, to be very careful not only with his skills and his tradecraft, but especially with his homework. He’d graduated near the top of his class ten years ago, received his commission, and three months later faked his own death, apparently falling or jumping overboard from the QM2 in the middle of the Atlantic. Nobody had ever been found, and he finished the crossing as an unimportant passenger on the ship in its cheapest inside cabin.
He’d known from the beginning what he wanted to do with his life. At the age of eight he’d been taken to London, along with his sister and mother, where his father, a Jordanian banker, had been transferred.
They lived in a Knightsbridge tony neighborhood near a park, the name of which he couldn’t remember, except there were a lot of trees and a pond. One late afternoon he saw one of the boys from school urinating behind some bushes.
No one else was nearby, and on an impulse he came up behind the younger, slighter boy and strangled him. It seemed like it had taken forever before the boy collapsed, and Kamal went down with him, not releasing his grip for a long time.
Two things had left deep impressions on him that day. The first was how hard it was to actually kill someone, and second was how much he had enjoyed it. He’d gotten an erection, and that night in bed he’d relived the killing as he masturbated.
Within the week his father had moved them to another part of the city, because of the murder. The neighborhood was no longer safe.
Copyright © 2017 by David Hagberg