Home > Oath of Loyalty (Mitch Rapp #21)

Oath of Loyalty (Mitch Rapp #21)
Author: Vince Flynn

 


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


When I took over this series (oh so many years ago) I did it with a lot of trepidation. All completely unwarranted, as it turns out. Not only have I had a terrific time, I’ve learned a lot from Vince’s fans and his amazing team.

So, once again, my sincere thanks to (in no particular order) Kim Mills, Emily Bestler, Sloan Harris, Lara Jones, Simon Lipskar, Dina Williams, David Brown, Ryan Steck, Elaine Mills, and Rod Gregg.

None of it would be possible without you.

 

 

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

—ABRAHAM LINCOLN, 1838

 

 

PRELUDE


SOUTHWESTERN UGANDA

RAPP nodded, though he doubted the subtle movement would be visible in the moonlight. Mike Nash had managed to get their SUV through the river but then bogged down on the muddy bank only a few yards from dry land. The former Marine was still in the driver’s seat, bathed in the glow of the dashboard gauges and dangling a winch remote control through the window.

Beyond that, everything was still. Even the breeze had died, leaving nothing but the hum of insects beneath the idling motor. What little evidence of humanity that existed in this part of Uganda had been left behind a good hour ago when rolling farmland had given way to empty wilderness. Above, the Milky Way was smeared across the sky, creating a false sense of peace and anonymity.

In his younger days, Rapp wouldn’t have given his surroundings much thought beyond analyzing their tactical nuances. He’d have obsessed over identifying potential ambushes and escape routes, judging the speed with which he could run across the unpredictable surface, and staying outside the beam of the headlights. Now, though, he could almost trick himself into believing it was a safe moment to take a breath.

“Mitch! What are you doing, man? Irene’s waiting.”

With no trees available, they were having to use a ground anchor to secure the winch. Rapp looked around and found a patch of dirt soft enough to drive the shovel-like blade into. When the hook was sufficiently buried, he raised a hand and Nash started taking in cable. By the time it went taut, Rapp had retreated another twenty feet into the darkness.

He watched his old friend feather the accelerator while working the remote, breaking the tires’ suction while being careful not to put too much pressure on the anchor. Satisfied that Nash would soon have the vehicle back on terra firma, Rapp returned his attention to the sky.

Six weeks ago, Irene Kennedy had asked him to take a job protecting Nicholas Ward, history’s first trillionaire. Someone with high-level access to the CIA’s mainframe had downloaded sensitive information on him and prompted a desperate mole hunt that only five people in the world were privy to. Since then, the situation had gone steadily downhill. The stolen information had found its way into the hands of the Saudis, who had used it to try to kill Ward, a man whose work in alternative energy threatened to make their oil reserves worthless. Rapp had thwarted their attempt, but in a way that made it appear that the Saudis had succeeded. At that moment, the world believed that Ward was in the hands of one of history’s most brutal terrorists and that Rapp, Scott Coleman, and most of his team were dead.

It was an all-or-nothing strategy that had been enough to shake the major economies but not enough to identify their mole. With a little luck, though, that would soon change. Ward was using his international telecommunications holdings to track the burner phones utilized by the mole to communicate with his Saudi masters. It was only a matter of time before he came up with a name.

Without that name, though, they still had no idea how deep the mole was burrowed into the Agency’s communications. Because of that, Irene Kennedy had sent Mike Nash to Uganda so that he and Rapp could meet face-to-face in order to coordinate their next move. Simple, low-tech, and secure.

Or so he’d thought.

When Nash arrived, he’d handed over a password-protected tablet that contained a video of Kennedy saying that the plot against Ward went much higher than the Saudi royal family. Apparently, the risks were significant enough that, unknown to Nash, she had come to Uganda to talk to Rapp personally. The video ended with directions to a rendezvous point that was about as close to the middle of nowhere as you could get.

The sound of the SUV’s engine grew in volume, and Rapp turned his attention back to the man behind the wheel. He was unquestionably courageous, patriotic, and smart as hell. But was he loyal? Yesterday, that would have been an easy question to answer, but a text Rapp had received a few hours ago made him wonder.

Paranoia? Probably. In fact, almost certainly. But no one had ever died from being too paranoid.

 

“Which way?” Nash said.

The predicted two hours had been turned into a five-hour ordeal that included two more river crossings and one more opportunity to test the winch. Finally, they’d dead-ended into a paved road.

“Right. We’re back on track. This is the same road we turned off of after the gas station.”

By the time they passed through a small village that was their last landmark, it was late morning. Rapp reached over and reset the vehicle’s odometer. “In twenty-seven point three kilometers there’ll be a dirt road on the right. Easy to miss in the dark, but we should be okay now that the sun’s up.”

According to Kennedy’s video, that dirt track would take them to a wooded area too steep and rocky to be useful to the farms that once again surrounded them. A clearing near the middle was where she’d be waiting.

As expected, the turn was obvious, and they began climbing a rough track that penetrated the forest. After a few more hard-won miles, Rapp pointed to a small break in the foliage. “There.”

Nash pulled in and stopped. “This is it?”

Rapp responded by opening his door and stepping out. Nash did the same, using a hand to shield his eyes from the sun’s glare. The clearing was roughly a hundred yards in diameter and ringed by densely packed trees. The ground rolled a bit, broken by a few rocky outcroppings, but was otherwise unremarkable.

Rapp stayed near the vehicle while Nash walked away from it, finally turning when there was about twenty yards between them.

“Care to tell me what we’re doing here, Mitch?”

“We’re supposed to meet Irene.”

“Irene? What the hell are you talking about?”

Rapp came out from behind the vehicle and began moving away from it. “The message on that tablet was to meet her here.”

Nash’s expression turned skeptical with just a hint of caution. “I left her looking pretty comfortable in her office, Mitch. And why would she send me if she was planning on coming herself? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

Rapp didn’t have time to answer before the men appeared from the trees. Three of them, covered head to toe in camo, eyes invisible behind goggles, assault weapons in hand. Their positions were perfect, allowing them to keep their guns trained while avoiding any potential crossfire.

Rapp stopped and watched the way they moved for a moment but didn’t reach for the Glock hanging beneath his right arm.

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