Execute Authority by Dalton Fury is the fifth and final novel in the Delta Force series (available September 5, 2017).
Then, the unimaginable happens. Just as the president is arriving, an assassin’s bullet takes the life of the Greek prime minister. The president is safe, but Raynor recognizes the killer—Rasim Miric—by his grisly signature: a bullet through his target’s left eye.
The hunt for the assassin ends when Miric, to all appearances, blows himself up in an explosion that levels an apartment block, but Raynor refuses to accept that the sniper is really dead. Miric’s grudge is with America, and one American in particular—the Delta Force operator who cost him an eye, Kolt Raynor. Raynor believes that Miric’s killing spree is only just beginning, and his suspicions are proved true when Miric is photographed crossing the border into the United States.
Forbidden by law from operating on American soil, Raynor will have to bend the rules until they break, risking everything in order to run the assassin down before he can strike again.
But what Raynor doesn’t realize is that Rasim Miric is also hunting him.
A faint breeze rustled the branches at the edge of the National Garden, and as the air moved across the back of his naked neck, U.S. Army Delta Force Lieutenant Colonel Kolt Raynor—code name “Racer”—unconsciously shrugged his shoulders and adjusted the blank navy blue ball cap perched atop his head.
After more than fifteen years of “modified grooming standards”—an exception made for elite military commando units, who were often required to blend in to the local populations of hot spots around the globe—he was having trouble getting used to the idea of more frequent haircuts, but that was one of the consequences of pinning on the silver oak leaves and taking charge of a Delta sabre squadron. As a squadron commander, he now spent a lot less time in the shoot house and the sniper condo, and a lot more time in meetings with people who wore either tailored suits or stars on the shoulders of their Class A uniforms, men who were not at all comfortable meeting with a shaggy-haired, bearded operator in combat-tested Multicam. Raynor’s current hairstyle, while still nowhere within the regs, and considerably longer than the high and tight he had sported in his younger days as an Airborne Ranger captain, still managed to accentuate the fact that his hairline was in full retreat, which, perhaps more than anything else, made him self-conscious about his appearance.
It was by no means the biggest sacrifice he had made to stay in the Unit, and, trade-offs notwithstanding, he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Aside from what was mostly a reflex response, Raynor barely noticed the breeze. The reason for his latest haircut, and in fact the reason he was standing on a Greek sidewalk, had just arrived, and Kolt’s senses were now fully occupied with what was happening around him. He turned his head slowly, eyes sweeping back and forth, not focusing on any one detail but rather taking in the entire tableau as it unfolded around him.
From the corner of one eye, he saw the Secret Service agents emerging from the identical vehicles comprising the motorcade. They alone knew which vehicle actually carried POTUS—the forty-fifth president of the United States of America—and which were decoys. Raynor did not look directly at the vehicles or the men fanning out in front of him. That was the one place he knew he would not find an emerging threat. He was watching the crowd, and the trees behind them, and the buildings to the north and south of the Maximos Megaron, the official seat of the prime minister of Greece. Mostly, though, he was watching the faces of the Delta operators—his men … and women—who were dispersed throughout the crowd, and in the trees and nearby buildings. He could only see so much, but collectively, the Delta squadron saw nearly everything.
It was the “nearly” that kept Raynor on his toes.
His eyes briefly lit upon a face in the crowd, a big man with shaggy brown hair and a thick reddish brown beard. The man’s arms were crossed over his broad chest as he gazed serenely out over the assemblage, but then his gaze swung toward Raynor, and his lips puckered into a kiss.
“Right back at you, Slap,” Raynor murmured, and resumed his scan.
Slap was “Slapshot,” the code name of Jason Holcomb, Kolt’s friend and the sergeant major of Noble Squadron, two roles that were not always readily compatible. Despite his senior leadership position, Slapshot could be counted on to inject his own unique irreverent—and to Kolt’s way of thinking, not particularly funny—brand of humor into any stressful situations, which pretty much described all the situations Delta operators found themselves in.
Kolt next spotted Major Brett Barnes, one of his subordinate troop commanders. The twenty-nine-year-old West Point graduate was a recent addition to the squadron, and so far hadn’t screwed up majorly enough to earn a nickname from the sergeants. Barnes was still adjusting to Raynor’s style of leadership, which bore no resemblance whatsoever to what he had learned as a cadet or in any subsequent mandatory military schooling. To his credit, the young Delta troop commander had quickly grasped the most critical lesson of being an officer in the army’s premier counterterrorism unit, and that was to always trust his NCOs. Barnes’s team leaders were, without exception, the most capable operators Raynor had ever had the privilege of working with.
Barnes, like Raynor and a handful of the other operators, was wearing a loose-fitting blue windbreaker, blue ball cap, khaki chinos, and dark aviator-style sunglasses. The ad hoc—and highly visible—uniform served a broad range of purposes. The loose-fitting jackets concealed lightweight body armor and tactical rigs with chest-holstered semiautomatic pistols, or short-barreled and suppressed MP5SDs with folding stocks under their strong side armpit. The easily recognizable ensemble marked them as part of the presidential protection detail for the benefit of both the American Secret Service agents and the HP—Hellenic Police, the national law enforcement service of Greece—who were providing an additional layer of security. If the shit hit the fan and they had to draw the weapons hidden under those windbreakers, being readily identifiable would be of paramount importance. For similar reasons, the conspicuous attire would serve as a passive crowd control measure, while at the same time refocusing the attention of spectators away from the Delta operators’ facial features. Last but not least, the “work uniforms” would also distract attention from Slapshot and the rest of the operators in civilian attire, making it easier for them to mingle with the crowd and spot potential threats up close.
Not five steps away from Slapshot stood “Shaft,” otherwise known as Master Sergeant Ken Knight. The Boston-born African-American operator was one of the team leaders in Barnes’s troop, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from looking at him. Shaft’s hair was braided in cornrows, and he wore baggy denim jeans and a cast-off T-shirt with a faded silkscreen image of Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. A large bag crocheted in Rastafarian red, green, and yellow hung over his shoulder. Slapshot had taken to calling the bag Shaft’s “murse.”
Although he was an assault team leader, Shaft was also the most experienced medic in the entire Unit—he was working his way through med school in between deployments, which was no mean feat—and so pulled double duty as lead medic. The bag contained a full combat lifesaver medical kit—bandages, tourniquets, several rolls of Kerlix gauze, packets of QuikClot, and three bags of saline solution—but no weapons. That did not mean Shaft was unarmed, however. His loose-fitting jeans concealed a Glock 23 in a Thunderwear holster right above his crotch. However, like the other undercover operators, his primary role was to identify threats so that others—ideally the HP, so as to avoid a diplomatic incident—could intercept and deal with them.
Right behind Shaft was Sarah Bell. Sarah was one of a handful of females assigned to Delta’s augmentation cell—often shortened to simply aug cell—whose job it was to provide advance target reconnaissance and gather site intel. Sarah wasn’t an operator, meaning she had not gone through Delta selection and the Operator Training Course. To date, only one woman had that distinction: Sergeant First Class Cindy “Hawk” Bird.
Kolt resumed searching the crowd. He didn’t see Hawk, but he knew she was there, somewhere.
A voice sounded from the earbud in Raynor’s left ear. “Champ is in the open.”
The voice belonged to Secret Service Special Agent Jess Simmons, the SAIC—special agent in charge—of the presidential protection detail. “Champ” was the Secret Service code name for the current POTUS—Gerald Noonan, who was now six months into his term—and the update signaled that Champ had emerged from his up-armored Cadillac and was now standing out in the open.
Simmons was a typical by-the-book leader, which meant he and Raynor—who had little use for “the book”—had butted heads at first. Simmons kept trying to tell Kolt’s people what to do, and Kolt had to keep patiently explaining to him why that wasn’t going to work.
Well, maybe not that patiently.
Once they had cleared the air between them—more or less—things had gone a little more smoothly. The Secret Service agents, who were all a little high strung, seemed genuinely grateful to have some help, and Kolt’s people were as good at making friends as they were at getting rid of enemies. Digger—Master Sergeant Pete Chambliss—was bromancing an eager young special agent, a former soldier who had “almost tried out for Delta,” and Hawk practically had her own fan club.
Days of preparation and coordination with Simmons and his people had all been leading up to this: forty-five seconds—the amount of time it would take for Champ to shake hands with the Greek prime minister, pose for a photo or two, and move inside the Maximos Megaron—when the leader of the free world would be at his most vulnerable.
A change in the pitch and volume of crowd noise confirmed Simmons’s statement—as if such confirmation was needed. The boisterous reception was not by any stretch of the imagination warm and welcoming. President Noonan was, it seemed, as unpopular in Athens as he was back home, though for vastly different reasons.
* * *
Over the course of his time in service, first as an enlisted infantryman, then as a commissioned officer, and now as the leader of a Delta sabre squadron, Kolt Raynor had served under four different presidential administrations. Some were better than others, none had been perfect, but not once had Raynor been tempted to resign his commission in order to avoid serving under a commander in chief with whom he was at odds, politically speaking. It was the duty of every soldier to follow orders, orders that originated with elected officials, regardless of whether the soldier personally agreed with the orders or supported the people who issued them. Raynor took this commitment seriously, steering clear of policy debates and keeping vocal criticism of the POTUS and other elected leaders to a bare minimum in the squadron. A little bitching and moaning was to be expected, but anything more than that could be a career-ender.
Raynor had no particular issue with President Noonan, a career politician and former speaker of the House of Representatives. The man had the experience and potential to be a capable if not exactly outstanding chief executive—by no means the worst in Raynor’s personal experience. But Noonan had the misfortune of taking office at a moment in history when decades of festering political, social, and economic unrest had erupted in a gigantic shit volcano.
Things had reached a head during the primary season. Frustrated by years of gridlock and political “business as usual,” voters from both parties had gravitated to revolutionary candidates who, while at opposite ends of the political spectrum, had enormous populist appeal. One of those political outsiders had narrowly lost the nomination after a divisive primary season that had left his party irreparably fractured. His opponent in the contest, a deeply flawed career politician who had waged a scorched-earth campaign through political proxies, was not only loathed by the opposition party but mired in scandal, and deeply in the pocket of wealthy elites and multinational corporations.
The turmoil on the other side of the fence was even more alarming.
Their populist candidate had driven his outspoken, outrageous personality like a stake through the heart of the party machine, knocking off more than a dozen rivals, many of whom had been considered a lock for the nomination. Against all odds, and to the utter dismay of party power brokers and news pundits alike, he had won.
And that was when things had taken a truly bizarre turn.
Faced with two deeply unpopular and controversial candidates, the congressional leadership had conspired to place a spoiler candidate on the ballot in all fifty states—former speaker Gerald Noonan. As expected, Noonan had siphoned off votes from both major party candidates. Not nearly enough to win outright, but just enough to prevent either of his opponents from reaching a majority of electoral votes, which was exactly what the architect of the conspiracy—the current speaker of the house—had been counting on.
As outlined in the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, when no candidate receives a clear majority of electoral votes, it falls to the House of Representatives to select a president from the top three candidates in the general election. The clause had been invoked only once in American history, following the election of 1824, when Congress had chosen John Quincy Adams to be president despite his second-place finish in the general election. Now, for a second time, the United States Congress had used a Constitutional technicality to set aside the will of the electorate in order to place their own man in the White House, and, in so doing, touched off a powder keg.
One unexpected outcome was that the fractured electorate now found something upon which they could agree: Congress had hijacked the election. Millions of voters who already felt disenfranchised by a rigged system weren’t interested in being lectured about the Constitution or the inner workings of a republic. They were ready for bloody revolution.
Raynor had known it was bad, but hadn’t realized how bad until Jess Simmons revealed that there had been a four-fold increase in actionable threats against President Noonan, the face of this alleged corrupt bargain. Simmons had confided that his agency, already weakened by several very high-profile scandals during the closing years of the previous administration, was now stressed to the breaking point.
As bad as the domestic situation was, things were even worse overseas. A growing national sovereignty movement, which called for, among other things, an end to the European Union and the dissolution of NATO, was spreading like wildfire across Europe. President Noonan’s European tour, designed to shore up support for NATO, seemed to be having the opposite effect, fanning the flames of anti-American sentiment in countries that had once been staunch allies.
Providing personal protection details for diplomats abroad was a normal part of the Delta mission, and this wasn’t the first time Raynor had been called on to backstop the Secret Service, but it was the first time he could recall where the threat felt so real.
Ironically, it was also the first time he felt like he had a personal stake in the outcome of the PPD assignment. Despite Raynor’s staunchly apolitical work ethic, the man who was presently a heartbeat away from the presidency—retired Admiral William Mason—was the one man whose ascension to the office of president would prompt Raynor’s immediate resignation.
It wasn’t merely that Raynor couldn’t stand Mason, or that the feeling was mutual. In truth, if given the chance, Raynor wasn’t entirely certain he would be able to resist the temptation to kill Mason himself.
His first collision with Admiral Mason had occurred only a few years earlier, when Mason—then the commanding general of JSOC—had ordered him to abort an operation to extract Shaft following an undercover singleton mission. Raynor had flatly ignored the order to turn back. His decisiveness had saved Shaft, bagged the HVT, and retrieved some critical intel about terrorist operations on American soil in the process. Technically, the abort order was invalid, since they had already passed the point of no return and Raynor already had execute authority—permission to carry out the mission as he saw fit without interference from higher—but technicalities rarely won arguments with men who wore stars, and as a way of saying thank you, Mason had tried to have Raynor court-martialed.
Back then, Bill Mason had been merely an incompetent asshole, but a more recent incident had upgraded the former JSOC commander to top-tier threat. Although he couldn’t prove it—not yet, at least—Raynor was 99.97 percent certain that Mason was guilty of treason—specifically, revealing highly sensitive information about Unit personnel and operations to a known enemy of the United States, and helping that enemy set an ambush intended to kill Raynor and his squadron.
As living proof that shit floats to the top, after leaving the navy, Mason had received a series of political appointments, culminating in his being tapped to run the State Department. From there, it had been a short hop to the number-two slot on the dark-horse independent presidential ticket headed by Gerald Noonan.
Admiral Mason was now Vice President Mason, and if something happened to Noonan, Mason would become president of the United States.
There was no fucking way Kolt Raynor was going to let that happen on his watch.
* * *
Raynor resisted the urge to look where everyone else was looking. This was the critical moment. If there was an assassin in the crowd, he would reveal himself now.
Kolt scanned the faces, some hopeful and eager, awed at the chance to catch a historic glimpse of a famous world leader, some twisted with snarls of righteous indignation as they shouted taunts and accusations. He didn’t linger on the latter. He was looking for quiet, subdued faces, someone who might be silently working up the courage to act. People who appeared jittery or hyperfocused, or, alternately, completely serene, as if the violence they were contemplating was the ultimate narcotic.
There were hundreds of faces and Raynor knew he would never be able to check every single one, but none of those in the foreground, those close enough to pose a real threat, exhibited any of the signs he was looking for.
Champ had been in the open for almost ten seconds now, though still mostly concealed from the crowd behind the bulk of the armored Caddy.
Simmons called out another update. “Midas is moving.”
Raynor risked a quick glance at the street, spotting Noonan at the center of a small knot of ever-vigilant Secret Service agents. “Midas”—the code name for the Greek prime minister—was surrounded by his own security detail, moving out to greet his American counterpart. As he drew close, the bodyguards from both contingents repositioned, like two small drops of water touching and combining into one larger mass around both men, while still allowing enough space for the television cameras to capture a permanent record of the meeting at the center.
Champ and Midas extended their hands toward each other simultaneously, as if they had rehearsed the moment, and then in unison turned and smiled at the cameras …
Just as a halo of red mist appeared behind Midas’s head.
Copyright © 2017 Dalton Fury.
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Dalton Fury was the senior ranking military officer at the Battle of Tora Bora. As a Delta troop commander, he helped author the operation to hunt and kill Bin Laden. He told his tale of that mission in the book Kill Bin Laden, which went on to become a national bestseller. Execute Authority is the fifth and final novel in his New York Times bestselling Delta Force series. Dalton Fury passed away in 2016.