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Impressions of North Korea:
Cold. Crappy food. Cheap booze.
Great place to hunt. Especially if you're with the world's cruelest dictator.
Not a good place to be shot, especially by said dictator.
But let me start at the beginning . . .
It was springtime at Rogue Manor:
The snow had melted, the crocuses and whatnot were pushing their pointy buds up through the turf, and there was a lovely scent in the air.
Gunpowder, that is.
It was the first week of April. Trace Dahlgren had just finished working with some new recruits for Red Cell International-the security company I run with a little help from my friends. Trace had spent the morning running the kids through a makeshift obstacle course on the back forty, trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. This was just a preliminary trial, so we gave them a nugget break-there were only two sections of live-fire exercise involved, and in both cases the shooters were instructed to keep their aim a good six inches from anything moving.
Any recruit who stopped, of course, was fair game.
"No casualties," said Trace, reporting in at lunchtime. She sounded disappointed.
Red Cell is an equal opportunity employer-we hire ex- army as well as ex- SEALs, and I think we even have an old air farcer on the payroll. As a former blanket hugger and a member of the female persuasion herself, Trace Dahlgren gives the company that well- rounded culture the human resources department Richard Marcinko and Jim DeFelice 16 would love to brag about, if we had a HR department. She learned how to break in new recruits while working with Delta Force, the army's counter-terror unit. (If you're a faithful reader-and you sure as hell better be-you'll recall that Trace was a member of Delta's female squadron.2) At five- eight and 130 pounds, Trace has assets male shooters don't, which makes her deadly in the field as well as undercover, both literally and figuratively. Her real love, though, is busting humps during training-even I have trouble keeping up with her PT routines-which is why she's in charge of what we call prerecruitment month at Red Cell.
¹ You like these Roman numerals and mini- chapter breaks? Yeah, neither do I, but it was the editor's idea. We have to do something he wants, or he won't spring for drinks next time we see him.
The participants call it hell, along with some other choice terms of endearment-high compliments from guys and gals who have survived SEAL training and the like. Basically, if you make it through the month at Rogue Manor with all of your limbs intact, we offer you a job. The pay's great and the bennies can't be beat, though rumor has it that the boss is one mean son of a bitch.
We were in the process of gearing up for some new business ventures in Eastern Europe, and I was more than a little interested in finding out about what the new crop of recruits looked like. But before I could ask for a detailed report, Rogue Manor's early- warning radar began sounding an intruder alert.
No, it wasn't a high- tech burglar alarm-my dogs were hounding a black Lexus LS 460L as it sped up the driveway. Yappy, being male, took up the lead, with Macey and Rosie right behind him. Abbey hung back a bit, surveying the scene; she was the oldest, and had to present a dignified demeanor. I went out on the porch and watched the car fishtail around the curves and then slam to a stop in the muddy gravel in front of the house. The driver jumped from the front of the car as it stopped and tried to run around to open the rear passenger door. The dogs intercepted him, pinning him against the car. They weren't being malicious, nor were they hungry; they hadn't had a chance to play all day.
² Officially, Delta's "funny squadron" doesn't exist, and hasn't since it was created in 1993. Then again neither does Delta.
"Meomcheseyo!" shouted the man, and right there I had a feeling that the day was going to be more interesting than usual. Because not only was he speaking Korean-loosely translated, "Meomcheseyo!" means "God damn it, stop this bullshit right now!"-but he had a North Korean accent.
The problem was, in dog speak "Meomcheseyo!" means something like Come on and jump on my car, sniff my crotch, and hump my leg. The dogs were happy to comply. They were so excited I had to whistle three times before they remembered who kept their food dishes filled.
"Inside, now," I told them when they finally looked in my direction.
They gave the air a sniff, decided they didn't like what they smelled, and retreated.
With the dogs gone, a gorgeous woman emerged from the car. When I say gorgeous, I don't mean drop- dead gorgeous-I mean kick you in the throat, douse you with kerosene, burn you to a crisp with no trace of remorse gorgeous. She was Asian, and as I gathered, Korean. Black hair, red skirt-short, short skirt-and a figure that demanded you do politically incorrect things in public.
"Annyeonghaseyo," I told her, bowing my head, both in respect and to get a closer look at her legs.
"Enough with the Korean," she said sharply. "Your accent is terrible. You are Richard Marcinko, Mr. Rogue Warrior?"
"Dick to you," I said. "I love a woman who gets to the point."
Not to mention one who was holding a Smith & Wesson revolver six inches from my head. I can't imagine where she'd been hiding it; there sure wasn't any extra room in the dress.
"Nice pistol," I said.
"It's loaded, Dick."
"So are you."
"You are a very funny man, Mr. Marcinko."
The gun was a nice little S&W Chief 's Special, a Model 37 I believe, with the blued J frame. Manufactured by S&W back in the day, it was a .38 caliber snub- nose, still a nasty little customer if you're not expecting it.
The chauffeur, meanwhile, had recovered from his encounter with the dogs and was reaching into his jacket.
"You can point anything you want at me," I told the woman. "But if he takes a gun out of his pocket he's going to eat it. And then the dogs are going to eat him."
She said something to him in Korean. The chauffeur frowned, but kept what ever weapon he had holstered.
"So, Mr. Marcinko, you do not seem as brilliant in real life as you are on the page," said the woman, returning to English. "There is a little bit of fiction in your accounts, no?"
Everybody's a critic these days.
"Why don't you come inside and we can discuss that. My study is always open."
"You want to get me in bed, is that it?"
"If that's what it will take."
She moved the Smith & Wesson so that it was no longer aimed at my head, though I've often been accused of having my brains where she pointed it.
"I am not here to sleep with you," she told me.
"Who said anything about sleeping?"
She finally smiled. But that was the extent of our budding romance-Trace interrupted our tête-à-tête with a flying jump from the side roof, landing on my Korean guest. I grabbed the Smith & Wesson as it flew into the air.
"Meomcheseyo!" I told the chauffeur as he started to reach for his gun. "One more inch and you'll have a new hole to eat kimchi out of."
Red Skirt was beautiful, tough, and highly skilled in Korean kickboxing. Trace is just as beautiful, twice as tough, and is an Rogue Warrior: Dictator's Ransom 19 expert in Jeet Kune Do, the martial art that Bruce Lee made famous.
Wasn't much of a match. Trace had her pinned inside of ten seconds.
"All right, let her up," I said as the dust settled. "It's not every day the most hated dictator in the universe sends a personal representative to visit Rogue Manor."
Trace and Red Skirt gave me a funny look, but it was pretty obvious who she worked for. The only other people who would have been so rude were members of the Christians in Action- otherwise known as the CIA-and no intelligence officer was going to drive a Lexus limo this close to the Langley accounting staff.
"I am here to deliver an invitation," said Red Skirt.
"At the point of a gun?" asked Trace.
"In America, doesn't everyone travel with guns?" asked Red Skirt. "It is required by your Constitution."
She reached back into the limo and pulled out a leather briefcase. Trace tensed behind her as she opened it, but all she produced was an envelope. It was made of thick, fancy paper and had a wax seal at the back. It looked like the invitations I get when one of the great- aunt's grandchildren decides to get hitched.
"Mr. Rogue Warrior, hand- deliver" was written on the outside.
"Sealed with a kiss?" I asked, turning it over.
"Maybe we should check it for a bomb," said Trace.
I broke the fancy seal on the back and slipped open the envelope. There was an invitation inside, engraved of course, written in both English and Hangul, the Korean script.
At least I assume that's what those squiggly characters were about.
Dear Mister Marcinko: Your honorable presence for drinks and dinner is humbly requested by the great one, Kim Jong Il. Ms. Chimdae will make the arrangements.
There's something about being called "Mister"-especially when it's spelled out-that always gets me in a special place.
Usually my wallet.
"Thanks, but no thanks," I told Red Skirt, handing back the invitation. "Have a pleasant day."
Ms. Chimdae gave me a blank look. Obviously no one in her experience turned down a request from the Great Dictator.
I cracked open her pistol and slipped the bullets out, giving the cylinder a good spin before handing the gun back. "The dogs will be back out in a minute. Your chauffeur will probably feel more comfortable if you're off the property by then."
"You do not understand, Mr. Marcinko. This is a great honor," said Chimdae.
"You be sorry for this, Rogue Warrior," chirped the chauffeur. "Very sorry."
"Words to live by," I said, turning around and heading for the door.
Excerpted from Rogue Warrior: Dictator's Ransom by Richard Marcinko and Jim Defelice
Copyright © 2008 by Richard Marcinko and Jim Defelice
Published in October 2008 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.