Night of the Cobra: New Excerpt

Night of the Cobra by Jack Coughlin is the 8th military thriller featuring sniper Kyle Swanson attempting to hunt a rival who's just set his sights on innocent Americans (available August 18, 2015).

Top-ranked sniper Kyle Swanson was a promising young Marine on a dangerous peace-keeping mission in Mogadishu when he first captured “the Cobra” and a life-long blood feud began.

Twenty years later, Kyle works for the CIA while the Cobra emerges from prison to become an efficient killing machine, and has never slackened his hatred for Swanson. To draw out his ultimate target, the Cobra launches a violent campaign against the United States and attacks the second-largest shopping mall in America.

Kyles teams with FBI agent Lucky Sharif, whom Swanson had saved as a child in Somalia, and they must fight through terrorists at home and abroad to stop his old enemy. The Cobra retreats to Somalia, where he is set to become a powerful warlord and leader of the bloody al Shabaab terror gang. To block him, Swanson must return to the daunting streets of Mogadishu-where he must face his personal nightmares, as well as the Cobra, who lies in wait.

Prologue

DECEMBER, 1992
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA

The evening call to prayer sounded from the Arba-Rucun Mosque in Mogadishu, Somalia. The temperature was coming down at the end of an early December day, and the first bright stars penetrated the new blackness of the Indian Ocean sky off the eastern coast of Africa. There was no commercial electricity in the destroyed city, so there was no wash of lights to drown that nightly spangle. A few portable generators buzzed as cook fires were stoked, and shadows moved and gunfire barked and people cried. The despondent residents called it the music of the night.

A large man, more than six feet tall and weighing over two hundred pounds, moved like a bad dream through the opaque northern streets and alleyways of Mogadishu, following a path imprinted on his memory. He was a giant among his people and carried an AK-47 with a thirty-round banana clip strapped across his chest, a razor-sharp machete riding in a canvas scabbard on his back. An old Beretta 92 pistol bulged in the rear of his belt. His real name was Omar Jama, but his vicious and deadly work had earned him the nickname “the Cobra.” Although young, he was the chief bodyguard and assassin for the most feared warlord in town, General Mohammed Farrah Hassan Aidid.

Omar Jama saw a clump of people on a corner and dodged to avoid being noticed. It was only some displaced family trying to find a safe hole, but he had to be careful, for tonight the Cobra was on the wrong side of the Green Line, a breezy area that once had been the business district where people of the different clans had lived in harmony. Ordinarily, if he had been caught over here alone at night, he would have been given a slow and painful death. This moment was different, and an opportunity had appeared that had to be seized. He moved warily, but with unusual confidence.

Somalia once had been a jewel colony for the Italians, and Mogadishu had maintained a seedy glamour even after World War II, when the Italians surrendered it to the British as a protectorate. The country was given its independence in 1960, the first coup d’état was attempted the very next year, and the nation fell apart as rival tribes emerged to battle for control. The only thing on which they agreed was their religion, Islam, but that alone was not enough to band them together in common cause.

Wars followed, and then came a monster famine that wiped out three hundred thousand people and killed 70 percent of all the livestock in the country. The only true crop left was fear, and vulture warlords and their thugs preyed on the helpless refugees that crowded into camps. Mogadishu became a lawless city in a lawless land.

The rest of the world tried to help and poured food and aid into dying Somalia. The warlords seized the distribution points and looted relief planes as soon as they rolled to a halt. Trucks were ransacked, and everything in them was stolen. The United Nations dispatched some of their Blue Beret peacekeeping troops to protect the humanitarian mission, but it wasn’t enough to stop the criminals, and starvation, disease, and the raging civil war gnawed at the decimated survivors.

The big fist was applied on December 4, when the United Nations and the United States agreed to launch a massive American-led military intervention and commit thousands of troops in Operation Restore Hope. At that point, the prime warlords had to move quickly, for whoever was in control when the Americans arrived would likely stay in control.

The Cobra’s boss, General Aidid, exchanged smiles and a handshake with his main rival, Ali Mahdi Mohammed, at a photo opportunity that announced both a truce between them and the elimination of the dangerous Green Line. Ten thousand supporters attended the ceremony and waved small leafy branches for peace as reporters, photographers, and television cameras recorded the historic moment. Roadblocks were torn down to demonstrate the new sense of unity. Somalia might be saved after all.

A member of Mahdi’s inner circle, a dog named Abdiwel Godah Hamud, had attended the truce ceremony. Hamud was an educated man with a smooth tongue and often made accusations to the press about General Aidid. Following the event, Hamud took advantage of the ceasefire to visit relatives in his old family home, which lay close to the line.

Aidid gave the Cobra an order to carry out an immediate strike, and the young gunman went out alone as darkness fell. The city was full of thieves slinking around in the night, fueled with catatonic khat dreams, stealing and killing at random. Omar did not fear of such trash. He moved with purpose.

He stepped slowly through the charred ruins of the collapsed Cathedral of the Croce del Sud, careful to avoid tiles that might snap beneath his weight. An alley went left, and he edged around the corner, then quickly loped down the short street and hid in a deep doorway, where he waited to be sure he was not being stalked. A noisy truck rumbled toward him, so he turned right and went east for two blocks, then north for another two, and closed in on the bullet-pocked whitewashed walls of his target’s home, owned by the Hamud family. It stood in stark, bright relief from the rubble all around. A single guard was at the front gate, and the lights were bright inside, powered by a generator that growled within the compound.

The Cobra had been to this house numerous times in the previous months, scouting the approaches, mentally drawing the layout, and designing three escape routes. There had been no doubt that someday he would have to use that knowledge, and now the time had come for a final visit.

He jumped, grabbed the top of the rear wall, and levered over, then paused as still as a rock until he was certain that he had not been seen. Everything was as he remembered. The house was in relatively good condition. It had two stories that were connected by a set of exterior stairs, and he went up two at a time and carefully opened the unlocked door at the top. It put him in a short hallway. Voices and laughter rose from downstairs, where the Hamud family was enjoying this rare evening together. Omar unlimbered his Kalashnikov and thumbed off the safety.

Four women and five men of varying ages, the eldest being the warlord’s adviser, Abdiwel Godah Hamud, were seated on pillows and carpets in the main room, drinking tea and eating from stacks of food on bright trays. The Cobra stepped out, and his first steady sweep of bullets went left to right in a fusillade that killed or wounded most of them. Omar swapped out magazines, went to single shot, and caught one that was trying to crawl away, and another stupidly trying to hide behind a pillow. Then he flipped the selector back to full automatic fire when the front door opened and the guard dashed in, only to be hammered down in the second long, sustained sweep of the room.

In no hurry, the Cobra reloaded again, and then shifted the AK to his left hand while he pulled the big machete from a scabbard on his back. He stepped methodically through the pack of victims and chopped the big blade down on anyone who still seemed alive. Once he was sure that he had them all, he positioned the head of Abdiwel Godah Hamud to expose the long neck and chopped the knife with more than enough power for the decapitation stroke. He sliced out the dead man’s tongue and threw it into the pile of food.

Omar knew that neighbors would have been alerted by the gunfire, but he seemed to have a clock in his head that counted off the seconds he had allotted, which included a margin of safety. He still had time enough to go through the pockets of the dead men and found several hundred U.S. dollars and European currency. After that, he had to go. He retreated fast up the stairs and threw an American M67 hand grenade back into the room that was stacked with dead people. The explosion worsened the carnage even more and would give any would-be rescuers a moment of doubt before rushing inside.

Unexpectedly, a thin boy about ten years old appeared in the final doorway of the upper hall. Omar smiled down with a smirk that contained no pity. He kicked the kid hard in the face and stomped his ribs twice, then walked away. He would allow the child to live as a warning to others. No. The Cobra changed his mind in midstride, pulled the Beretta, turned slightly, and fired a single shot back at the crumpled boy, who jerked on the impact.

Satisfied and refreshed by the blood of his enemies, the Cobra was not even winded as he climbed back over the compound fence. People were rushing through the front gate and into the house, and screams came when the butchered bodies were seen. The noise faded far behind as Omar Jama vanished into the familiar alleys that would take him safely back across the Green Line. He reported to General Aidid within thirty minutes. It could have been sooner, but he had stopped along the way to buy some banana leaves filled with khat twigs from a late-working vendor. The drug would help him relax.

The truce was over.

*   *   *

There are no clocks in hell, and time was equally meaningless in the chaotic Irish Aid Society clinic on the south edge of 21 October Road. The suffering never stopped in the rickety set of little buildings that huddled behind a head-high wall that had been scoured and chipped by dozens of bullets. Inside, weary doctors, nurses, social workers, and volunteers were trying to run a combination feeding station, medical facility, and school. The building compound suffered as much as the people.

Molly Egan, the clinic administrator, wiped her hands on her blood-smeared smock and rubbed sweat from her face with a dirty towel. She was a tall, slim woman with a tanned face that could have been fashionista pretty in some other city, at some other time, if she wore just a little bit of makeup. Who had time for that? A sprinkle of freckles crossed the nose and dappled the cheeks, and her thick red hair was chopped severely to collar length against the heat. Her green eyes had seen too much misery.

She had hoped the agreement between the warlords and the promise of a foreign security force might finally provide a chance for some peace to come to Mogadishu. Now the administrator of the center realized that her thought had been an utterly foolish fantasy. The conveyor belt of misery had not even slowed.

The guard at the front gate shouted, and Molly stepped into the courtyard as a small pickup truck slid to a halt. For a moment, she worried that it might be carrying a bomb, but then two men leaped from the back and lifted out an unconscious child.

“Deqo!” Egan called as she broke into a run. She pronounced the African name as Deck-oh. “I need you out here!”

She pointed to a bare plywood table, and the men carefully placed a little boy on it. One man had a rifle on his shoulder, and tears creased his face. They started shouting and waving their arms, but she did not understand a word they said and concentrated her attention on the bleeding child. Suddenly, Deqo Sharif, a dark-skinned Somali nurse, was with her, calming the excited men.

“This child was caught up in a massacre up on the Green Line just a little while ago. The rest of his family was wiped out,” Deqo explained to Molly while she did a brief triage examination, probing with gentle, experienced fingers. The boy was in bad shape, his intestines pushing out like sausages. “He has a gunshot wound in the stomach. Superficial head lacerations, but the broken ribs may have punctured a lung.”

Molly Egan cringed. Children were not exempt from the savagery of Mogadishu. Between starvation and bullets, they died by the dozens every day. She helped carry the wounded boy inside to a small cluttered operating room as Deqo prepared for the emergency surgery and sent someone to fetch her husband, an overworked Soviet-trained surgeon named Lon Sharif. The gray-haired doctor and Deqo were both in their fifties. As badly hurt as the child may have been, he was just the latest patient to be placed on that bloodstained slab in the operating room.

As the doctor and nurse got to work, Molly Egan turned away and almost collided with another little boy who was struggling to carry in a five-gallon bucket of clean water to help wash away the soiled aftermath. It was his job. At the clinic, everyone worked. The tall and gangly boy was Cawelle Sharif, and he was the eight-year-old grandson of Doctor Lon and Deqo Sharif, his only living relatives. His parents had been killed more than a year ago. Egan took away the bucket, then grabbed Cawelle’s hand and pulled him from the room, speaking in a low, soothing voice. “Come along with me now, Lucky. Let’s go out and look at some stars. We don’t need to watch any more of this tonight.”

 

1

MOGADISHU

DECEMBER 4, 1992
TWENTY-NINE PALMS, CALIFORNIA

“I understand the United States alone cannot right the world’s wrongs.” President George H. W. Bush was addressing the American people on television, and Marine Corps Sergeant Kyle Swanson listened from his perch on a high stool in a bar in Twenty-Nine Palms, California. An unusual moment of quiet settled throughout the popular watering hole as other strong young men stopped playing pool, clinking beer bottles, and hustling girls. They had all seen the ongoing television reports on the horrors in the faraway African country of Somalia, where life was less than cheap and merciless warlords ruled. A United Nations peacekeeping force had failed to halt the spiral of violence, and talk of possible American intervention had been sweeping through the Palms training areas like a hot desert wind. The president looked anguished, and spoke like he meant business. “But we also know that some crises in the world cannot be resolved without American involvement, that American action is often necessary as a catalyst for broader involvement of the community of nations.”

The off-duty marines crowded into the bar cheered. “Damned right!” one called. “Got that straight!” yelled another, and calls of “hoo-ah!” bounced from the walls like excited echoes.

“He’s talking about us, right, Sar’nt Swanson?” asked Corporal David Delshay, a chunky sniper who was finishing off a longneck bottle at the little table. Delshay, a Native American known as the Apache, held a pool cue in his free hand, ready to resume his game against Corporal Mike Mancuso.

“Yep,” said Swanson. Everyone on the big sandy base in the Northern California desert had known this was probably coming. Somalia needed help, and from the TV that was clamped high above the bar the president was saying that the United States was going to be the lead dog in this hasty coalition. That meant that the First Battalion, Seventh Marines, would be the lead dogs for a 28,000-man U.S. ground force, and Kyle Swanson and his Scout/Snipers would be the lead dogs for the marines.

Big Mike Mancuso, another one of Swanson’s sniper team members, looked a little puzzled. “Hey, this dude just lost the election. So how can he send us off to a war?”

“Bill Clinton doesn’t take office for another month, you moron,” piped a brunette in tight jeans who was leaning against Swanson’s side. “George Bush is still president until then. You guys are going on safari.”

Kyle gave her shoulders a gentle squeeze. Chicks loved snipers, and Swanson loved them right back. They came and went like tides, and any relationship could end without so much as a telephone call if Swanson was dispatched on a mission he could not disclose to anyone. Four weekend dates seemed like a lifetime. He was satisfied with that arrangement. Ladies around the bases knew the drill.

“Marines go where they are told, when they are told, and fight who they are told to fight,” he said.

It was that time again. By the time Bush had finished announcing Operation Restore Hope, a computer was sending out auto alerts and the beeper on Swanson’s belt began to vibrate. He turned it off and saw others in the saloon were also touching their own beepers, finishing up, paying their bills, stealing good-bye kisses, and drifting outside, heading back to the base. The parking lot was almost empty within fifteen minutes.

The One-Seven spent the next week packing its gear, then hauled ass out of the States, with stops in Maine and Germany. Sergeant Kyle Swanson was boots-on-ground in the Horn of Africa on Friday, December 11, 1992, just days before Christmas.

*   *   *

He slapped on his floppy boonie hat as he stepped to the tarmac of the small airport of Mogadishu, Somalia, and shaded his eyes with his polarized Oakley sunglasses to look out over the tumbledown, broken metropolis that was still steaming and stinking after a rainy-season squall. In his mind, the place seemed to be singling him out, glaring directly back at him, reaching out to stake a claim. The sniper immediately felt an internal surge of adrenaline that meant this was where he belonged. This was new territory, but not new ground to him. Swanson had seen plenty of combat in other rotten places, so while Mogadishu promised to be mean, he knew it was nothing he couldn’t handle. He was mean, too. In fact, Swanson, all in all, felt pretty good about being out here, back at the sharp point of the spear. Right where he belonged.

Kyle Swanson shouldered his rifle and joined his company as more planes disgorged more marines into the hot sun. Two thousand were coming in as part of the initial contingent of a military buildup that eventually would rise to tens of thousands of troops from the United States and other nations. Swanson was not here to feed people. His unique task was to hide, to observe, and, when necessary, to kill.

Within a few hours of landing, he was about a thousand meters from the airport, concealed in a jumbled pile of rubble that once had been a building with his right cheek resting comfortably against the fiberglass stock of his Remington bolt-action M40A1, which was loaded with 7.62 × 55 mm rounds and rested on a bipod. He used the sharp Unertl 10× fixed-power scope to visually crawl over the landscape while his spotter, Corporal David Delshay, lay alongside him, doing the same with powerful binoculars. They used a laser range finder to paint distances to fixed objects. It was standard sniper fare. Behind them, more planes landed with the steady rhythm of a metronome, and the anchored ships of the Marine Expeditionary Force off-loaded gear and supplies at the obsolete port. Swanson ignored all of that, for his practiced eyes were pointed the other way, toward the city, and he and Delshay sketched a map of what lay before them. They had only just arrived but were already far out front as a dangerous, but expendable, tripwire. Any offensive move against the airport would have to come through them. Both Swanson and the Apache were cool with that.

The sniper team stayed out all day, immobile while in the scorching sun and drenched by an afternoon deluge. Swanson saw plenty of enemy soldiers running around with guns, but the rules of engagement kept him from firing unless they shot at him first. He prayed that they would, but they didn’t. It was hard not to pull the trigger on the thugs that were the reason he was here; they stole everything they wanted, beat people mercilessly, and used starvation and disease as weapons.

When the sun finally went down on that first day, the two weary snipers returned to the air base, where more marines had arrived. The place was filling up fast. Swanson cleaned his weapons, pulled fresh supplies, had something to eat, washed his face and hands, and immediately fell asleep amid the noise. For now, Somalia was home.

By Monday, the secured area was bursting at the seams, and still more soldiers came in by planes every hour: mean-looking Turks and solid Saudis, laid-back Canadians, chatty Pakis, French soldiers, and Kenyans, and ever more marines, until hundreds of troops were penned like cows at the port and airfield. Swanson and his sniper teams extended their overwatch out to two thousand meters and began providing protection for foot patrols that probed into the built-up areas. The newness of being in a foreign land had already worn off, and they settled in for what had all the markings of being a long haul.

*   *   *

By the end of his first week, Mogadishu had him. The place the marines now called “the Mog” hit him in the face the moment he opened his eyes every morning and rode him like a broken-down horse all day. If he got up to pee at night, it was still there. His morale sank almost with every passing hour as his world became all Mog, all day. When he turned on the radio, the Mog topped the BBC World Service. The feeling of despair was fueled by the heart-rending sights of hunger and deprivation all around, and even that grew stale. There was just too much misery out there for any individual to assimilate. It sapped the energy and soul. Staying sharp and keeping his snipers alert was getting harder to do. There was very little fighting beyond the warlords dealing with each other’s forces at night, as if a little secret war was going on right under the nose of a giant.

Political wrangling had staved off open confrontation, and he could see the bad guys; he just couldn’t shoot them until they were dumb enough to shoot first. It was frustrating. The obviously outmatched gunmen of the warlords in Mogadishu avoided confrontation in the city and spread like rats to seek weaker prey elsewhere. In response, the operations people of Task Force Mogadishu at the airport fanned troops into the countryside as fast as they could to counter the moving bands of thugs.

The tedium finally broke on Sunday morning, December 20, when Swanson was called to the battalion headquarters tent and told to draw equipment and pick a half dozen of his snipers. An American army unit in the town of Afgoye, twenty-five miles west in the Shabelle Valley, was receiving intermittent gunfire and wanted help. Kyle turned out his marines, and they sailed off in a pair of Humvees, all of them happy to get away from the Mog for a spell, and maybe even find a fight.

They rolled into an oasis of peace, a lush green belt of mature agriculture that followed a river. The army officer in charge told Kyle that shots had come from a stand of trees that walled the western side of the town, so Swanson and his men spread into the area with their weapons hot. Nothing. People were going about their daily routines, and the crowded refugee feeding station was running like a machine. Army troopers were relaxed in the shade with their equipment scattered on the ground. Nobody was shooting at anybody. Swanson went back to the officer in charge.

When the major insisted that there had been an attack, Kyle went up to a rooftop to get a better angle into the jungle. He discovered a half-dozen American women soldiers sunbathing in bras and panties. They were very unhappy that he had invaded their private space on a Sunday morning, and he was equally unhappy that he and his team had rushed twenty-five miles to answer a false alarm. Seeing the near-naked bodies of the G.I. Janes did not impress him at all. Swanson stalked back downstairs, barked a bit at the officer about lax discipline, and took his snipers home, back to the big city.

Mogadishu had waited patiently while Swanson was gone and was ready for another round when he returned.

*   *   *

Swanson met the enemy face-to-face two days later on a dawn patrol that went into the city. By then, the foreign armed forces had grown to become the biggest gang in town, and more marines and U.N. troops were still arriving. They owned Mogadishu.

The marines followed a familiar street to a private compound, and the sergeant leading the patrol winked at Swanson. “You get to do the honors. I did it yesterday. He’s getting annoyed.” Swanson knocked on a door of hard dark wood. It was exactly seven o’clock in the morning on Tuesday, December 22.

It was opened by a slim man with graying hair and a mustache, sleep still in his eyes. The warlord General Mohammed Farrah Hassan Aidid was consumed with obvious frustration. The marines had come by at this time every single morning for the past week, demonstrating that they could do as they wished in an area that he had supposedly controlled.

“Good morning, General,” said Swanson, removing his sunglasses to give the Somali warlord a good look. He controlled a desire to smirk, and spoke with an even, polite tone. “We are just checking in with you. Is everything okay here today, sir?”

The warlord whined through gritted teeth, “Each morning you people do this to me. Why? Why is it always me and not the others?”

Kyle ignored the comment and touched the brim of his helmet with a mock salute. “You have a good day, sir. Please let us know if we can be of assistance.”

The patrol moved out, leaving the warlord standing alone in the doorway. The sun rose to scald the earth, was followed by the usual afternoon rains, then a night of gunplay downtown.

*   *   *

General Aidid was not helpless, although he was being forced by circumstances to bide his time. The morning call by the marines was bothersome, but it was just another part of the greater game.

Intel sources at the airport had been receiving reports that he had been stockpiling weapons within a walled compound during the ceasefire, in violation of the truce agreement. That the warlord had lied surprised no one; the big question was whether he would fight for the arms stash. The marines decided to seize those guns.

The day after he had knocked on the warlord’s front door, Kyle Swanson and two of his teams went out before first light on Wednesday, December 23, and wiggled into a watch position at the walled enclosure. They were glassing for threats, and after they reported all was still at the site, a full marine platoon came in, shepherded by helicopter gunships and modified Humvees that bristled with firepower and were known as combined anti-armor teams, or CAATs. The big force that appeared as if out of thin air looked unstoppable to Swanson as he watched through his scope from a thousand yards away.

Only it did stop—right in the shadow of the front gate. The buck lieutenant leading the patrol was brought up short by the challenge of a single Somali policeman in a light blue shirt and cap, dark slacks, and desert boots. The cop stood there with his hands on his hips, shouting that the area was private property of General Aidid and was therefore off-limits to the marines and everyone else. Swanson couldn’t believe it. The momentum had been checked and all the implied power was nullified. The gunships above did figure eights and the CAATs idled on the fringes.

The lieutenant had been a stateside substance abuse counselor and was new to the field, but Swanson believed that was no excuse not to have blown right through this single cop. And the veteran platoon sergeant with him had let it happen!

Swanson erupted out the hide and stormed forward, arriving almost out of breath after running the thousand yards. He ignored the reasonable lieutenant and the temporizing sergeant and yelled for the marine squad leaders to get their men going, to get inside of that walled compound with weapons ready and their eyes up. This was no friendly visit.

A pickup truck rushed through the gate, and General Aidid jumped out and began shouting at the lieutenant while Swanson screamed for the platoon to get inside. Only when the marines started moving again did Kyle turn to where Aidid was snapping at the twenty-two-year-old lieutenant. The platoon sergeant was standing back with his thumb up his butt.

There was a flash of recognition when Aidid saw the face of Swanson, who had awakened him only a few days earlier, and then the sniper snatched the general by the shirtfront and threw him to the dirt.

“Down on the ground! Get your ass down there! Now!!” Swanson bellowed.

Omar Jama, who had driven the pickup truck, had stayed with it as he watched his general screech at the lieutenant, but when the other marine came up and abruptly flopped Aidid onto the ground, the Cobra broke into a run. Swanson saw him coming, dodged with a hip fake, and kicked the Cobra behind the knee as he went by, then shoved with a hard shoulder. Knocked off-balance, Omar Jama felt his collar being yanked, and then he also was chewing dirt. “You get down there, too. Both of you stay down!!” Swanson snarled as he pointed his M-16 rifle at their backs.

Other Somalis in and around the compound watched in disbelief as their leaders sprawled ignominiously in the dirt. They were unused to any challenge, and this was unthinkable. But any idea of doing something brave vanished as the marines stormed into the compound and grabbed them, the big CAATs closing in tight and the helicopters hovering with cannons and rockets at the ready.

The argument was over. The Somali militiamen, their toppled warlord, and his fearsome bodyguard, the Cobra, had their wrists lashed with plastic cuffs.

Swanson took a knee beside Aidid and leaned on his rifle. “You listen to me close now, General,” he said. “There is no government in Mogadishu, but there is a new sheriff in town—and it is the United States Marine Corps. Best that you understand that right now.”

Aidid exchanged a sharp look with the Cobra. The two powerful men had been disgraced in public, rendered helpless in mere seconds, and that rough handling might have planted seeds of doubt among some of their fighters, who either had seen or would hear about the episode. Such a disgrace could not be tolerated. This man would have to pay.

They had read the black letters stitched to the name tag sewn on the tunic of the marine—SWANSON—and they silently vowed to remember this particular invader. When the chance came, their lost honor would be redeemed in his blood.

Swanson knew they would hate him. He did not care.

Copyright © 2015 Jack Coughlin.

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Gunnery Sgt. Jack Coughlin's autobiography, Shooter, describes his experiences as the top-ranked marine sniper in the Iraq War. Coughlin is also the author, with Donald A. Davis, of the Kyle Swanson Sniper Novels Kill Zone, Dead Shot, Clean Kill, and An Act of Treason. Coughlin grew up in Waltham, Massachusetts, and joined the Marines when he was 19. He served with the Marines during the drive to Baghdad and has operated on a wide range of assignments in hot spots around the world.

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