An excerpt from

A Long Gray Line

Mike Walton’s knees buckled under him, and the three Coronas and the two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc he had ingested weren’t the reason why.

 

“Say that again?” he said into the receiver.

 

“We have a lead on your father,” Charles Mapother repeated from his office in New York.

Mapother was the director of the International Market Stabilization Institute, a privately funded organization operating outside official channels but sometimes in concert with the needs of the United States government.

“Where is he?”

“Somewhere inside Syria. That’s all we know for now.”

 

“I’ll jump on the next—,” started Mike before Mapother interrupted him.

“No you won’t. What you’ll do is stay right where you are and enjoy some time off with your wife. I’ll call you as soon as we have something more substantial.”

Mike sighed. Mapother’s right. There wasn’t much he could do until they had more intelligence. Ray Powell, his father, the former Canadian ambassador to Algeria, had been kidnapped by the Sheik three years ago. Mike closed his fist as he remembered the grief the Sheik had forced his mother to endure for more than two years. By sending her pictures of her tortured husband, the Sheik had gotten into her head and had made her life miserable. Since the kidnapping, the Sheik’s network had gained wide notoriety within the terror community. Known to be merciless, the Sheik had been able to climb the terror ladder to the point that he was now—one of the top three most wanted men on the planet.

 

The good news was that Mike was now convinced his father was still alive. They had proof. Being totally honest, spending another couple of days in Miami could really do him some good. The last operation hadn’t been an easy one and they had lost a colleague.

And a damn good one at that.

There was no doubt in Mike’s mind that Jasmine Carson’s death would come back to haunt him at night, just like his two-year-old daughter Melissa did.

That’s not fair. She isn’t haunting me. She’s visiting my dreams.

Melissa, his mother and his wife’s parents had been killed in a terrorist attack orchestrated by the Sheik at the Ottawa train station last year. The unborn child his wife Lisa had been carrying in her belly for eight months had also been stolen from them. An IMSI team led by Mike had conducted a raid on the Sheik’s mobile headquarters —a large Azimut yacht— two weeks ago in Benalmádena, Spain. Thinking they had cornered the terrorist mastermind, they had launched a pre-emptive strike against the yacht. Even though they had failed at killing or capturing the Sheik, Mike’s team had delivered a devastating blow to his terror network by killing his right-hand man, Omar Al-Nashwan, as well as Mohammad Alavi, the man responsible for the assassination of the Canadian environment minister. Searching the yacht for additional intel, the IMSI team had successfully retrieved a ton of information pertinent to the Sheik’s upcoming terror attacks. Charles Mapother had quickly shared the newly acquired intelligence with the Director of National Intelligence, Richard Phillips, President Muller’s close friend and one of the only federal officials to know exactly what the IMSI actually was. Mike knew Mapother had kept some of the good stuff for himself, though, and wouldn’t be surprised if he’d hear from his boss soon regarding a follow-up operation.

“Mike?”

His wife’s voice brought him back to the here and now. Lisa was looking at him, her curiosity apparent.

“It was Mapother,” Mike replied. “He has a lead on Dad’s whereabouts. He believes he’s in Syria.”

 

“When are we leaving?” Sanchez asked. His friend was standing next to Lisa. He drank the last of his wine. “I’m ready.”

“We aren’t going anywhere,” Mike said. “At least not yet. Mapother doesn’t have much information for us to work with at this point.”

 

“When then?” Lisa asked.

 

“He’ll let us know,” Mike replied, accepting the fact he might not have the chance to go after his father for a while.

“So that’s it?” Sanchez said. “That doesn’t sound like you, brother.”

“We have nothing to go on. Syria is such a mess that it won’t do us any good to head out there looking for him if we don’t have any clues of where he is.”

His phone chirped in his hand before his friend could add anything. It was Mapother. Again.

“Come back to New York, Mike,” the IMSI director said.

“What changed in the last thirty seconds?”

“As you know, our analysts have been combing over the data you retrieved from the laptop seized aboard the Sheik’s yacht.”

“And?”

 

“We’ve pinpointed the location to one of the Sheik’s associates.”

“Where?”

“He’s in Syria.”

Mike hung up and said to his wife, “Pack your bags, honey. We might head to Syria after all.”