Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Excerpt -Ghost Target by Will Jordan

From Marseille to Islamabad at breakneck pace… it’s kill or be killed for Ryan Drake and his team
Ryan Drake, once a decorated field operative, is now wanted for treason. On the run from the CIA’s corrupt Deputy Director Marcus Cain, he has spent the past six months in a remote French safehouse. Drake’s former life seems to be behind him, but the uneasy peace is shattered when Cain moves against him with startling force.

Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan is faltering in the wake of a devastating suicide attack. Cain though has a plan to find and destroy al-Qaeda’s top commanders. And nobody will stand in his way.

Backed into a corner, Drake turns to the deadly but unpredictable Anya – once Cain’s most promising agent, now his most bitter enemy. With tensions running high and their uneasy alliance threatening to tear itself apart, Drake’s hastily assembled team travels to Pakistan to intercept Cain.

With the fate of the War on Terror hanging in the balance, loyalties are tested and scores settled, as Drake embarks on the fight of his life. Only one side will survive…

From the bestselling author of Black List and Deception Game, Ghost Target is the sixth Ryan Drake thriller, and an incredible tale of deception, desperation, and ultimate betrayal.

Chapter 1
Marseille, France – three months later
Philippe Giroux hung back in the shadowy recess of the shop doorway, pretending to be texting someone on his phone as his target passed by on the opposite side of the street.
It was a quiet morning, the air just starting to warm up as the morning sun rose above the horizon. A light breeze wafted inland, carrying with it the salty tang of the Mediterranean Sea and the distant squawks of gulls circling the harbour. On a nearby road, he heard the rhythmic chug of a small van engine, perhaps a baker making his morning deliveries.
Aside from these minor distractions, the streets were almost deserted at such an early hour. Perfect for what he had in mind.
The secret of a good takedown was preparation. Most men in his profession were opportunists, taking action as soon as chance allowed, but Giroux was better than that. He took his time, observing his targets until he built up a picture of their habits, their awareness of the world around them, the possibility of them fighting back.
After patiently following and watching this one for the past few days, Giroux now felt confident enough to draw a few conclusions about him.
In his late-thirties, standing an inch or two over six feet by Giroux’s estimation, his target had the trim, athletic physique of someone with plenty of spare time to exercise. The hard, uncompromising muscles of real physical strength were visible beneath his tanned forearms, and his casual white shirt sat comfortably across his broad shoulders and firm chest.
His face was lean and sharp-featured, his hair dark brown, cut in a short and practical style, his jaw coated with several days’ growth of beard. Doubtless women found him attractive, especially his eyes. They were green; deep, vivid and piercing. The kind of eyes that saw much and gave away little.
But more than his appearance, it was the way he moved that marked him out as a man of means. It wasn’t quite an arrogant swagger, but rather the confident, measured tread of a man sure of his abilities and his place in the world.
His clothes did not speak of great wealth – just plain grey cargo trousers, a loose shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and inexpensive but practical walking shoes. But as Giroux knew well enough, rich men were often to be found in simple attire. They were confident enough to dress down, unlike those of lesser stature, who bought expensive clothes to feign the appearance of wealth.
This man belonged in the former category.
Each morning he walked into town early, before most people were up and about, and bought food from the same bakery. He never followed the same route through the old town, which spoke of a certain awareness, and an understanding that predictability and routine could lead to vulnerability.
But there were only so many different ways to reach the same destination, and even this man was constrained by the geographical layout of the city.
For the most part his route took him along La Canebière, the main thoroughfare leading from the old port, with its big luxury yachts moored side by side, all the way to the Reformes quarter to the east. But Giroux knew that at one point he would have to cut to the right, taking one of the narrow side streets that led uphill towards Notre Dame de la Garde cathedral.
That was where it would happen. That was where Giroux would take him down.
His contract hadn’t specified the manner or the location in which his target was to be killed, which was all to the good as far as he was concerned. Some people could be annoyingly particular, demanding a certain kind of weapon or a specific fatal injury, but this one had given him all the latitude he wanted. All he’d been asked to provide was photographic evidence of the kill.
Waiting until his target was a good distance ahead, Giroux pushed himself away from the doorway and followed him, still pretending to be absorbed in his phone just in case the man glanced back. His well-worn trainers made no sound on the cobbled road as he walked.
The key to following people was to look confident and relaxed, as if you had every right to be going where you were. Like an actor playing a role, you had to assume the identity of someone who was just out for a casual stroll, a man who had no interest in what was going on around him.
His appearance helped. Of average height and build, with a rounded and unthreatening face, Giroux had always found it easy to blend in. Few noticed him, and even fewer saw him as a threat. More fool them.
His target gave no hint that he was aware of being followed. He continued to walk with the same relaxed, measured pace, glancing occasionally left or right at things of interest, but for the most part just enjoying his morning stroll without a care in the world.
Keep walking, my friend, Giroux thought. That will change soon enough.
About a hundred yards further on, the side street came into view, and sure enough his target angled across the road to make for it. Giroux followed, still keeping his distance, waiting until his target had disappeared around a corner before picking up his pace. He would close the distance as quickly as he could now.
The side street was mostly used as a service entrance for the line of shops and restaurants that backed onto it. Flanked by three-storey buildings on both sides, it was nearly always in shadow. The road itself was littered with big steel bins set beside the rear doors of kitchens and other work places, many overflowing with plastic bags.
The place reeked of spoiled food. Still, it was a perfect place for a takedown. The unsavoury odours meant that few pedestrians came this way, the shops and restaurants were still closed, and the shadows and big steel bins meant that he would be hidden from prying eyes on the main road. Not that he expected anyone to be passing so early in the day anyway.
As Giroux approached the corner, his hand reached inside his jacket and gripped the moulded handle of the police baton hidden within. It was an old-fashioned wooden weapon, the kind that had long since been superseded by the lightweight telescopic night sticks used by today’s police officers. But it was simple and reliable, and he knew from experience that a good solid blow to the base of the skull would drop a man like a brick. And if that failed, he also had a knife concealed in a sheath at the small of his back.
Some men in his profession carried guns, but what was the point? Guns were expensive, not always reliable, and needed to be carefully looked after. Most importantly, guns made noise, and noise attracted attention. Takedowns were supposed to be quick and quiet, and in that regard he’d yet to find a better tool than this sturdy wooden baton.
He was almost there now. He removed the baton from his coat pocket and pushed it up into his sleeve so that it was hidden from casual view. His target wouldn’t even know what had hit him. He took a deep breath, ready for another profitable day.
He never expected what happened next.
Rounding the corner, he suddenly found himself face to face with his target. The man was just standing there, hands by his sides, staring at him with those vivid green eyes.
‘Why are you following me?’ he demanded, speaking in accented but perfectly understandable French.
Giroux had been wrong. This man wasn’t as blissfully unaware as he’d thought. Maybe he’d heard something during the approach, maybe he had noticed him before and grown suspicious of his reappearance today. Either way, he had lost the element of surprise. But Giroux still had the baton, his opponent was unarmed, and he was already psyched up for what he was about to do.
No way was he losing this contract.
Reacting instinctively, he loosened his grip on the baton, allowing it to fall down into his hand. At the same moment, he launched himself forward, swinging the club around to strike his opponent a sharp, vicious blow across the jaw. Perhaps this takedown wouldn’t be as quick or clean as he’d planned, but the end result would be the same.
But the man was no longer there. Moving with frightening speed, he had ducked aside just as Giroux swung, throwing him off balance. He tried to adjust his posture for another swing, but even as he did so he felt the baton yanked out of his hand. Turning right to face his opponent once more, he was just in time to see a clenched fist coming right at him.
There was a sickening crunch and an explosion of white light as the punch connected. The impact sent Giroux, already off balance, sprawling on the ground in a heap, stars flashing across his vision and blood streaming from a broken nose. He had landed in a pool of fetid water, strewn with discarded trash. Within moments it had soaked into his jeans and jacket.
Snorting and coughing the blood out of his throat, tears streaming from his eyes, Giroux looked up at the man who only moments before had seemed like such an easy mark. He was standing a few yards away, looking as calm and relaxed as when he’d strolled out of the bakery.
This was a new and very unwelcome experience. Giroux was no stranger to violence, but he was used to inflicting it, not receiving it. He was used to ambushing people, catching them unawares and subduing them before they knew what was happening. He wasn’t used to his targets fighting back. But this one was.
Anger and fear flared up in him, the former magnified by the latter. He wasn’t used to being afraid of people, and he didn’t like it.
Clenching his teeth, he scrambled to his feet and reached for the knife at his back.
‘You’ve already made one mistake today,’ his enemy warned. ‘Don’t make another.’
But Giroux wasn’t hearing him. His hand went for the knife, fingers closing around the haft. Just as he yanked it out and swiped in a wide arc to catch his opponent across the midriff, the man took a step backward, swung the police baton down and knocked the blade right out of his hand, breaking a couple of Giroux’s fingers in the process.
Giroux had no time to register the injury. Before he could recover, his opponent closed in, placed one foot behind his and gave him a single powerful shove in the middle of his chest. He tripped and went down a second time, hitting his head on the rough cobbled road as he fell.
A moment later, he gasped as he felt the blade of his own knife pressed against his throat. His vision was blurred by blood and tears, but he knew his fearsome opponent was kneeling on top of him, one knee pressed into his chest. He could kill him whenever he wanted. Fear, sheer and absolute, charged through him.
‘Now you’ve made two big mistakes. You tried to kill me, and you tried to do it alone,’ he said, his voice low and menacing. ‘Don’t make another mistake by forcing me to ask a third time. Why have you been following me?’
‘T-to steal from you,’ Giroux stammered.
He gasped as the knife was pressed in harder, causing blood to well up.
‘Are you working for someone? Think carefully before you answer, my friend.’
‘It is the truth! I swear it!’ Giroux pleaded. There was no pretext of playing tough now; he was begging for his life, and he knew it. ‘You s-seemed like an easy mark. I thought you were just a rich tourist.’
The man’s intense green eyes were locked with his own, seeming to penetrate his very soul. Finally, with some reluctance, the pressure of the blade eased.
Keeping him pinned to the dirty ground, the man rifled through his pockets until he found Giroux’s creased, grubby and disappointingly empty wallet. Still, even he possessed a few cards and scraps of identification that his erstwhile victim had no problem rooting out.
‘Philippe Giroux, right?’ he remarked, comparing the battered and bleeding face before him with the far more youthful one on his expired driver’s licence.
‘Right then, Philippe. Obviously you’re not the brightest guy, so I’ll keep this simple. If you try something like this again, I’ll kill you. If you follow me, I’ll kill you. In fact, if I ever see your face again in Marseille, or anywhere else for that matter, I’ll kill you. If you understand what I’ve just said, say yes.’
Giroux stared at him. The look in his eyes told him this was a man who had made good on such threats before, and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
‘Yes,’ he said at last.
‘Good.’ The knife was removed from his throat and tossed into a walled courtyard nearby. ‘Don’t forget to wash up.’
Without saying another word, the man stood up, picked up his bag of goods from the bakery, and walked off as if nothing had happened.

Will Jordan is a British thriller writer, born in Fife, Scotland in 1983. For more information on Will and the Ryan Drake series, go to willjordanbooks.co.uk or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillJordan83.

Will's works to date include:

Redemption (Ryan Drake 1) - 2012
Sacrifice (Ryan Drake 2) - 2013
Betrayal (Ryan Drake 3) - 2014
Black List (Ryan Drake 4) - 2015
Deception Game (Ryan Drake 5) - 2015
Ghost Target (Ryan Drake 6) - 2016

After graduating high school he moved on to university, gaining an Honors Degree in Information Technology. To support himself during his degree he worked a number of part time jobs, one of which was as an extra in television and feature films. Cast in several action/war movies, he was put through military boot camp and weapons training in preparation.

Having always enjoyed writing, he used this experience as the basis for his first thriller, REDEMPTION. He was able to supplement this with visits to weapon ranges in America and Eastern Europe, as well as research trips to Washington DC, London and New York.

For his second thriller SACRIFICE, he was able to interview members of the British armed forces who had served tours in Afghanistan. His fifth novel in the Ryan Drake series, DECEPTION GAME, was released in November 2015.

He lives in Fife with his wife and two sons, and is currently working on the sixth book in the Ryan Drake series.

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