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Divide & conquer

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DIVIDE & CONQUER

by

Murray McDonald

Publisher Information

Published by Murray McDonald

Copyright © 2012Murray McDonald

All rights reserved. This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and should not be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Thank you to ‘my Emmy’ and Jim Veinot for all their help

Divide & Conquer

Chapters

1  | 2  | 3  | 4  | 5  | 6  | 7 

8  | 9  | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

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78 | 79 | 80 | 81

Other Books by Murray McDonald

Chapter 1

The crinkle underfoot sent a shiver down his spine. The wall-to-wall plastic sheeting was a sinister addition to the hotel room décor. Sean reached for his gun but was too late. The club landed at the base of his skull and sent him crashing to the floor.

He opened his eyes and looked straight into the eyes of his boss. Fat Jake Lombardi, the Texan drug lord, stared back. The disappointment in his eyes was evident. Sean, his bodyguard, had failed him.

Sean counted at least six Mexicans in the room where he and Jake were gagged and bound by the ankles and wrists to the legs and arms of their chairs.

He watched helplessly as the disappointment in Jake’s eyes turned to panic. Jake struggled wildly against his bindings as an ear splitting scream filled the room. Sean turned his head as far as he could in an attempt to see what Jake was looking at, just in time to see the final breath of Jake’s other bodyguard. Sliced from navel to throat, it was not a pleasant sight, particularly as he was the only other person in the world who knew where they were and was, in effect, their last hope.

Once a month, they had crossed the border into Nuevo Laredo and met Jake’s Mexican supplier without incident. Up until they had stepped onto the plastic sheeting, everything had been exactly as normal, even down to the suite they always used. It was normally the highlight of the month. Once the cash had changed hands, the Mexican supplier would arrange for a number of young and beautiful Mexican women to join them and celebrate the deal.

Sean watched the Mexican who had just slit his friend wide open, wipe his blade on his trousers and walk towards him and Jake, with a grin on his face.

“Gentlemen,” he offered, in a heavily accented voice, the G almost an H. “I need some information.”

Jake nodded his head frantically. The sight of one of his bodyguards lying cut wide open in front of him was more than enough persuasion. The five other Mexicans and their automatic weapons didn’t even figure in Jake’s equation. The Mexican with the knife was a lunatic. Jake had watched him lick his lips and smile as he worked the razor-sharp knife through the bodyguard’s torso.

Jake talked for his life. The Mexican listened coolly as Jake detailed the route used to move the drugs across the border and his distribution network beyond. He offered assistance on an ongoing basis should they require it and offered up Sean as an excellent operative. Even detailing his credentials - martial arts expert, ex Special Forces and CIA Special Operations Group operative. The Mexican looked at Sean with interest, an eyebrow rising as Jake detailed Sean’s accomplishments as a highly trained killer.

When Jake finally stopped talking, the Mexican turned to one of the other Mexicans and received a nod and a “ I have it all, El Jefe.”

Sean knew that 'El Jefe’ meant 'The Boss’, which was pretty evident in any event; the rest of the Mexicans were extremely deferential to the knife-carrying Jefe.

El Jefe looked into Jake’s eyes and smiled before turning around to face Sean. As he turned, he swept his hand around and, almost as an afterthought but with total disdain, he slit Jake’s throat from ear to ear. The razor sharp knife sliced through the bone and cartilage as though they were paper and Jake’s head lolled back, barely clinging on to the body.

Sean’s stomach churned at the horrific sight before him and struggled to hold down its content. He had to stay strong. El Jefe raised his knife and slit Sean’s bindings, first at the ankles and then at the wrists before removing the tape from his mouth. Sean inwardly thanked Jake. His sales pitch had worked after all. Sean stood up at El Jefe’s behest and was relieved when the men were instructed to lower their weapons and remove the two bodies that were cluttering the room.

Sean remained stationary as Fat Jake’s body, together with the other bodyguard’s body, was tossed unceremoniously into the bathroom, also joining their old Mexican supplier’s body.

“So, you’re ex-delta Force?” asked El Jefe, once the room was finally cleared.

Sean realized he had to show his mettle and replied forcefully.

“Yes,” he said, pulling himself up to his full 6 foot 3 inches and pushing out his powerful and muscular 46” chest. The Mexican stood a good 4 inches shorter but was an intimidating figure in his own right. His face was battle hardened and his white t-shirt strained over the muscles underneath, revealing the toned physique of a man in his prime. The sprays of red that now decorated the crisp whiteness of the t-shirt added to his manic grin and evidenced the deranged killer within.

“I was GAFE myself!” he offered.

Sean looked at him blankly.

“Mexican Special Forces,” he explained angrily, realizing that Sean had not understood what he meant.

Sean watched as the five other Mexicans backed up and created space in the room. El Jefe stepped back and spoke to his men in Spanish so quickly that despite understanding enough Spanish to get by, Sean caught little of what was said.

“I was just saying,” he said, in his heavy accent. “That should you beat me in a fight, my men will let you go.”

Sean raised his hands. “Wait a minute, there’s been some mistake here!”

El Jefe was done with talking and threw the first punch which he was surprised to land as he had expected Sean to deflect it. Sean took the punch on the chin and rocked backwards. El Jefe spun and delivered a roundhouse kick, again to Sean’s head. Sean fell to the floor.

El Jefe screamed in frustration. As a champion fighter, he thrilled at the competition but so far, the ex delta Force soldier was putting up absolutely no fight. On hearing Jake’s description of Sean’s exploits, he had been excited at the prospect of a real fight, something he had not had for years. Of course, he was well aware of Sean’s background. The operation to take over Jake’s drug business had been well planned and his companions’ and bodyguards’ histories checked. El Jefe knew all the details of Sean’s illustrious background, his decorations, his work for the CIA, his martial arts trophies and championships. What he had not known were the stories that Fat Jake had told of Sean’s exploits, the details of his missions and they had just added to the anticipation of the fight he would have, to the death, with one of America’s greatest warriors. It was not by luck that Sean had been spared and the other bodyguard slaughtered, it was by design.

El Jefe looked down as Sean struggled to recover from the two blows that had floored him. The anger welling inside him, he had spent the last week training night and day for this moment and the warrior lay at his feet like a sniveling child. Sean struggled to his knees and again raised his hands in an attempt to stop the fight.

El Jefe had had enough. He pulled out a knife from its sheath and advanced on Sean. His men called him El Jefe but everyone else called him El Carnicero, 'The Butcher’ and Sean spent the next six hours experiencing just how skilled El Carnicero was with a knife. El Carnicero had once managed to keep a man alive for ten hours and by that point there had been little left but torso and head. Fortunately, Sean’s heart stopped beating after six hours when he could take no more.

Chapter 2

New York, Newark AirportThree months later

As he walked into the Immigration Hall, he breathed a sigh of relief. The queues were minimal. To the surprise of his fellow travelers, he selected the US Passport Holders’ line and began to think of the hotel suite that awaited him. After six months in Afghanistan, living and breathing like a local, all he could think of was a steak, a bath and a shave. The much-needed haircut would wait until later.

“Next!”

The shout from the immigration officer brought him one step closer.

“Good morning, Sir,” offered the deadpan official.

“Good morning,” he replied, handing over his passport. His American accent surprised the official.

As the official swiped the passport, a look that did not equate to a welcome home crossed his face.

“Is there a problem, Officer?” he asked, suddenly aware of exactly that.

“No, Sir. Just routine,” lied the officer as two of his colleagues approached the passenger, having been alerted the moment the passport had been swiped.

He felt the two colleagues before he saw them, each grabbing an arm.

“Would you mind coming with us please, Sir?”

The question was rhetorical; the grip on his arm and the guiding motion allowed for no other option. A locked room awaited, with three chairs, one table, one camera and four blank walls. After thirty minutes of sitting facing two empty chairs, the door opened and two men entered the room. One was middle aged and held himself half-heartedly, shuffling into the room as though it were the last place he wanted to be. The other was younger, brighter, more alert, larger but moved like a man half his size. The older guy was the man, thought the passenger.

A passport was placed on the table as the two men sat down. No words, just the passport placed carefully on the table, the writing facing the passenger. It was his passport; he recognized the creases on the bottom right corner.

“I’m Mr Smith,” announced the older man. He didn’t bother to introduce his younger colleague. “So, Mr…” he stopped, waiting for the passenger to confirm his name, a first test. Did he even know the name on the passport?

“Fox, as my passport no doubt has informed you,” replied the passenger. He wasn’t going to be intimidated.

“Your passport has informed us of many things, Mr Fox,” he emphasized sarcastically. “Most importantly that it ain’t yours!”

“Sorry?” he asked, incredulous. Having used many passports over the years that weren’t his, to be accused of his legitimate one not being real, was rather ironic.

Smith held out his hand to his colleague and received a file which he opened and laid in front of him. “Were you in the army, Mr Fox?”

“Yes.”

“Any particular branch?”

“Yes but that’s classified, above your pay grade,” smiled Mr Fox. He would play them at their own game.

Smith did not react. Not good. A low-level immigration official would have risen to the bait. Smith was obviously not immigration and he was probably way above the pay grade.

“Any other branch of government?” Smith moved on.

“Yes,” replied Mr Fox simply.

“Which one?”

“Can’t remember.”

“Are you still employed by the government?”

“No.”

“Who do you work for now?”

“Myself.” He was tired and his hotel suite was beckoning. “What is this all about?” asked Mr. Fox.

“Any siblings, brothers or sisters?” clarified Smith, ignoring the question.

“No, none.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely, only child, my mom struggled to even have me. What the hell is this all about?”

Smith put out his hand and three sheets of paper were delivered by his young colleague. Smith selected one of the sheets before laying it in front of Mr. Fox.

It was a printout of the front page from the Laredo Morning Times. 'Medal of Honor Winner Slain By Drug Gangs’ was the headline.

A fellow winner had been slain. Mr. Fox was instantly outraged and read on. Captain Sean Fox’s (retired) mutilated body was delivered to his young widow…

A Medal of Honor winner with his name had been murdered, shocking but no relation, at least as far as he knew. His parents had died in a car crash when he was fifteen so he wasn’t great on knowing his extended family. He read on.

…by UPS. The gruesome contents of the parcel were identified by DNA as formal identification of the remains was not possible. The son of ex Chief of Staff General James Fox…

Sean’s head shot up at his questioner. That was his father!

As Smith gathered that Mr Fox had hit the point of realization, he pushed a second page across the table. The photo of Sean Fox in uniform next to a very attractive young woman stared up at him.

“Yep, that’s me but I don’t know who she is, don’t remember this one being taken,” he offered.

“Your wife on your wedding day?”

“I’m not married.”

A third sheet was a wedding certificate. His wife’s name was Katie.

“Doesn’t look much like you, no beard, well groomed hair and I’d say this guy was a good thirty pounds heavier.” The questioner pointed to the wedding photo and opened the passport to the photo page; it matched the wedding photo.

“Six months in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban,” offered Sean, tugging at the beard and ruffling his unkempt hair. The weather-beaten skin that was not otherwise hidden by facial hair was brown and leathery. His clothing, straight from Kabul, didn’t help prove his identity as the handsome clean-cut all-American hero he was claiming to be.

Smith shook his head. “Honestly, after everything I’ve just shown you, you’re still seriously claiming to be Sean Fox who died three months ago? And looks nothing like you?”

Sean nodded his head vigorously. “That is me,” he pointed at both photos. “And that’s obviously not me,” he said pointing to the headline proclaiming his death. “I’ve heard of identity theft but this is ridiculous!” shouted Sean, now outraged.

Smith stood up. “I tried,” he turned to his younger colleague. “Your turn,” and left the room. Sean noted the red light on the camera go out as the door closed.

The young man stood up. At 6’8” and 280lbs, he was a formidable sight, even to Sean.

As he reached down into his briefcase, Sean braced himself. Expecting the worst, he positioned himself in his seat ready to retaliate to any attack. He relaxed as the young man pulled out a small plastic tube, removed its stopper and retrieved a wooden swab.

“Can you open your mouth, please?” he asked very courteously.

Sean opened his mouth and the swab was run along the inside of his cheek. The swab was re-inserted into the tube along with the stopper.

“Thank you,” he offered before leaving and closing the door behind him. The door clicked after closing; it was locked again.

Sean figured it would be a few hours for the results to come through and another couple of hours while they re-checked them. Whoever was in that photo looked like Sean Fox but it obviously wasn’t. Sean was alive and well and sitting in an interview room at Newark. How they messed up the DNA check he didn’t know but it would be cleared up soon enough. All Sean knew was that the wife he didn’t know was in for a hell of a shock.

Chapter 3

CIA HeadquartersLangley, Virginia

Vincent Black couldn’t have had a more apt surname if he had been able to pick it himself. He was Director of the National Clandestine Services (NCS) Division within the CIA; assassinations, political action, covert operations, pretty much anything the US wanted to influence, but deny knowledge of, fell under Vincent Black. Or, as he was more affectionately known, due to his being the Master of the Dark Arts, 'V’. Whether he knew the reference to Voldemort from the Harry Potter novels or not, he appeared to be more than happy with the acronym.

Black had personally approved every man that had entered his service since his appointment over 15 years earlier. In that time, he had had to make many phone calls and pay visits to many grieving families. He took all of them personally. There was nothing more devastating to Vincent Black than losing one of his men; they were the cream of the crop, the most complete warriors available to the US Government in its fight against terror. His men were the front line. His men made America strong.

Losing his men in the fight against terror was devastating. Losing one of his men, even a retired one, to a Mexican druglord was unthinkable. The news, three months earlier, of Sean Fox’s death at the hands of a drug cartel had resulted in a rage never before seen by his staff. The details, when they had come through, had not helped. The remains consisted of a brutally beaten torso and a head. The head was detached and was devoid of pretty much everything a head should have; eyes, teeth, nose, ears had all been removed before death. Genitals had been removed from the torso and recovered from the stomach, partially digested, suggesting death had occurred some hours after their consumption. Horrific did not begin to describe the death that one of his most decorated men had gone through. Sean Fox was a legend within the division; one Distinguished Intelligence Star and two Intelligence Stars; he was the man that would never say no; the man that when the chips were down, you could rely on and most importantly to Vincent Black, he was the son he had never had.

The revelation that Sean had been married was surprising. To discover he had been acting as a bodyguard to some two-bit hoodlum was too shocking to believe. However, the more he looked it into and checked, the more it appeared to be true. Nobody could deny the evidence. The body was that of Sean Fox. The DNA was checked and triple checked at Black’s insistence and proved it beyond doubt. Sean Fox, one of the CIA’s best, was dead, mutilated by scumbags unfit to tie his shoelaces.

In the three months since Sean’s death, not a day had gone by that Vincent Black had not thought of Sean and wished vengeance upon his killers. It was within his power. He could order a squad of men and equipment into Mexico but it would be his last act as Director of NCS. Black had been overlooked for promotion many times and for one simple reason, he was the best man for the job. He truly was a master and America could not afford an apprentice in a role so crucial. Above all, Black was a patriot and he could not and would not let his personal vengeance affect America’s ability to defend itself. Black was a modest man but he knew America needed him exactly where he was.

Black’s phone buzzed. He had left instructions not to disturb him.

“It better be important, Jane,” he threatened.

Jane ignored the threat. She had worked for him for every one of his fifteen years as Director. She knew the hard man exterior was only a façade. She also knew the death of Sean Fox was the reason for the mood and all the more reason she was ignoring the threat.

“I have an Agent Smith from New York on the line. I think you’ll want to talk to him.”

“What’s it …” he didn’t get a chance to finish asking. The line clicked, she had just connected him.

“Hi, is that NCS admin?”

“I think you’ve got the wrong line, who is this?”

“Agent James Smith, I’m part of the joint counter terrorism task force based in New York.”

“Hold on, I’ll put you back to my assistant.” Outwardly calm, inwardly seething, he reached for the button to transfer the call back to Jane.

“Wait a minute, will she be able to get me Sean Fox’s records?...”

Black’s finger hovered over the button. On hearing Sean’s name, it retracted immediately.

“…I feel I’m getting the run around here!” exclaimed Smith, frustration clear in his voice.

“Why?” he asked, not letting his hopes rise. Sean Fox was dead.

“We’ve got some guy, looks like a Taliban fighter, with Sean Fox’s passport, claiming to be him!”

“Where are you?”

“New York!” said Smith.

“You said that already, where in New York?” an impatient tone cut through Smith.

“Who is this?” demanded Smith.

“Director Vincent Black, now where are you?!!”

Smith, a long in the tooth CIA agent, was well aware of Vincent Black and who he was.

“Newark Airport, Sir,” he responded quickly, sitting a little straighter in his chair.

“I’ll be there shortly.” He hit the button that ended the call and was immediately reconnected to Jane.

“Get…”

She cut across him. After fifteen years, he didn’t need to ask, she pretty much read his mind most of the time.

“Car’s waiting, jet’s fueled and ready to go.”

Chapter 4

Sean woke up as the door opened. Vincent Black entered, took one look at Sean, saw through the hair and broke into a huge smile.

“I knew it! I fucking knew it!”

As Sean stood up to greet him, Black pushed past Sean’s outstretched hand and uncharacteristically embraced him. Had Sean been able to see behind him, Black was wiping a small tear from his eye.

“Are you going to tell me what the fuck is going on?” Sean pulled back from the embrace and looked at the inane grin on Black’s face.

“You’re not fucking dead is what’s going on!”

“Obviously!”

A knock at the door, followed by the appearance of Smith, interrupted the re-union.

“We have a problem.”

“My DNA checked out!” replied Sean stating the obvious, smiling at Black.

“Yes…”

Sean walked towards the door. He’d hung around long enough, his suite was waiting.

“Not so fast. As I said, we have a problem,” repeated Smith firmly.

Black looked at Smith, surprised at his forcefulness.

“So the guy that’s dead wasn’t me, not my problem, goodbye.” Sean opened the door, followed closely by Black.

“That’s the problem. It was you in the headlines. According to the DNA, you are definitely dead.”

Both Sean and Black stopped in their tracks and looked back at Smith. Sean had the door half open.

“Sorry?” asked Black, struggling to comprehend why the obvious error had not been resolved.

“The DNA from the murder victim matches that on your records and the sample you gave us today. Three separate techs have confirmed it.”

“Impossible!” exclaimed Sean. “What’s the chance of a DNA match?

“One in six billion but I think a match with someone who looks like you and takes your identity would be around, oh, one in no fucking chance,” explained Smith succinctly.

Sean thought about what Smith had just said. It didn’t change anything. “Not my problem. I’m out of here!” He opened the door fully.

“Wait a minute,” said Black, turning back towards the small table, wanting to see the results for himself.

Sean was tired and frustrated. He wanted to get to his suite. The bath, steak and comfortable mattress were calling. But with Vincent Black sitting back down, he was left with little option.

“Just check the fingerprints,” offered Sean, taking a seat.

“Not that simple,” replied Black, fully aware of the dead Sean’s lack of digits, hands, arms, feet and legs for that matter. He passed the file that sat in front of Smith to Sean.

Sean opened and witnessed what somebody had done to him. He was immediately incensed. “Holy shit!”

“Not a pretty sight,” agreed Black.

“No,” agreed Sean. “But not just that,” he pointed to a mark on the side of the torso and lifted his shirt - the same mark.

Smith just looked from one to the other. “That’s seriously weird!”

Black looked at the mark and considered the evidence. “There are two options Sean. That’s you or there’s another, sorry, was, another Sean out there exactly like you. You must have had an identical twin.”

“For God’s sake V, you knew them better than me! My mother was desperate for kids and having me was difficult enough. She was desperate for more and trust me, if I had a brother, twin or not, my mother would have kept him.

“I know, I know, it just doesn’t make any sense!” replied Vincent staring at the evidence.