INCLUDES A BONUS MP3 CD OF BRAD THOR'S THE LIONS OF LUCERNE
Master of suspense and #1 New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor returns with his most riveting international thriller yet.
A new administration and a new approach to dealing with America's enemies have left covert counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath without a job. But when American doctor Julia Gallo is kidnapped in Afghanistan, the terms of her ransom leave the president with only one course of action.
In a dangerous assignment that the United States government will deny any knowledge of, Scot Harvath must secretly infiltrate Kabul's notorious Policharki Prison and free the man the kidnappers demand as ransom - al-Qaeda mastermind, Mustafa Khan.
But when Harvath arrives, he quickly learns that there is more to the kidnapping than anyone dares to admit. And as the subterfuge is laid bare, Harvath must examine his own career of hunting down and killing terrorists, and ask himself if he has what it takes to help one of the world's worst go free.
Brimming with the kind of ripped-from-the-headlines authenticity Brad Thor's internationally bestselling novels are known for, The Apostle doubles down on the blockbuster success of The Last Patriot and reaffirms Thor's status as the master of the political thriller.
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Brad Thor is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Black List, Full Black, The Athena Project, Foreign Influence, The Apostle, The Last Patriot, The First Commandment, Takedown, Blowback (recognized by NPR as one of the “100 Best Thrillers of All Time”), State of the Union, Path of the Assassin, and The Lions of Lucerne. Visit his website at www.BradThor.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. :
Monday (Three weeks later)
Dr. Julia Gallo sat on a dusty carpet and eyed the cracked mud bricks and exposed timbers of the tiny room. She didn't need to look at her interpreter to know that he was watching her. "Ask again," she said.
Sayed cleared his throat, but the question wouldn't come. They were in dangerous territory. It was bad enough that the young American doctor dragged him to the most godforsaken villages in the middle of nowhere, but now she was openly trying to get them killed. If the Taliban knew what she was doing, they'd both be dead.
The five-foot-six Afghan with deep brown eyes and black hair had a wife, three children, and a not-so-insignificant extended family that relied on him and the living he made as an interpreter.
For the first time in his twenty-two-year-old life, Sayed had something very few Afghans ever possessed -- hope; hope for himself, hope for his family, and hope for the future of his country. And while what he did was dangerous, there was no need to make it any more so by taunting the specter of death. Dr. Gallo, on the other hand, seemed to have a remarkably different set of priorities.
At five-foot-ten, Julia was a tall woman by most standards, but by Afghan standards she was a giant. And although she kept her long red hair covered beneath an Afghan headscarf known as a hijab, she couldn't hide her remarkable green eyes and the fact that she was a very attractive woman. She was a graduate of the obstetrics and gynecology program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and ten years her translator's senior. And while she might have shared Sayed's vision for the future of Afghanistan, she had her own opinions of how best to bring it about.
In a country where most parents didn't name their children until their fifth birthday because infant mortality rates were so high, Dr. Gallo and others like her had made a huge difference. Infant mortality was down more than 18 percent since the Taliban had been ousted. That meant forty thousand to fifty thousand infants who would have died under the old regime were surviving. She should have been thrilled, but for some reason she wasn't. She was unhappy, and that made her push harder to bring about change.
Gallo knew she wasn't just rocking the cultural boat on these visits out into the countryside, she was shooting holes in the stern and reloading, but she didn't care. The Taliban were a bunch of vile, misogynistic bastards who could rot in hell, as far as she was concerned.
"Ask her again," she demanded.
Sayed knew the answer and was certain Dr. Gallo did too. It was embarrassing for the women to have to answer, yet she pressed her point anyway. It was the setup for a message she had taken to proselytizing on a regular basis. Gallo had become a zealot in her own right, no different from the Taliban, and as much as Sayed admired her, this was going to be their last trip out of Kabul together. He would respectfully ask their NGO, CARE International, not to assign him to her anymore. He wasn't going to die because of her.
Dr. Gallo had always been complicated. She never spoke about her family or personal life, no matter how many hours they spent driving together or how many opportunities Sayed offered her. She either turned the conversation back to him, asking questions she already knew the answers to, or she simply sat in the passenger seat staring out the window. Sayed had given up trying to connect with her and now was done trying to understand her.
Two pairs of eyes lowered toward the floor as Sayed capitulated and asked the women Dr. Gallo's question once more. A long silence followed. The translator was tempted to fill the uncomfortable void, but Gallo held up her hand to quiet him. Finally, the elder of the two women responded in Pashtu.
Julia listened, and when they were finished, Sayed translated.
"They traded the girl to pay off her father's debt," he said.
"Like some sort of farm animal," Gallo replied. "Tell them they don't have to live like this. I don't care what kind of arrangement the men of this village have with the Taliban, women have rights, even in Afghanistan. But unless they know their rights, they can't begin to exercise them. The first step is for them to get educated. There is a school less than five kilometers from here. Why aren't they going to it?"
Sayed shook his head. "You know why."
Julia fixed him with her intense green eyes. "Because it's dangerous?"
The interpreter didn't reply.
"More dangerous than being beaten by your husband or sold off because your father's opium fields failed to produce?" Julia waited for an answer and when none was offered, she stated, "We need to explain to them that they have options."
"You say this even though the Taliban ride by on motorbikes and spray children and teachers who dare go to school with acid. It is easy for you to demand that these women exercise their 'rights,' as you say. But I'm sorry, Dr. Gallo," said Sayed as he stood. "I can't do this anymore."
"Can't do what?"
The young man didn't have the energy to explain. He had told Dr. Gallo repeatedly that what she was doing was dangerous for both of them.
"I'll wait for you outside at the car." Turning, he exited the room and closed the door quietly behind him.
Julia felt a stab of regret. Sayed was the best interpreter she had ever worked with. They had spent countless hours together in some of the wildest, most remote regions of the country. She had learned that she could trust him and he was invaluable to her. She had contributed money out of her own pocket to make sure he was paid better than any of the other translators CARE used, and she had also spearheaded the effort to get the organization to pay to send him to medical school. He couldn't leave her. Not now. She wouldn't let him. They had a long drive back to Kabul. She would talk to him. She'd promise to relax her rhetoric a bit.
Shifting her attention back to her patients, Julia employed her limited Pashtu medical vocabulary and completed the exam. Copyright © 2009 by Brad Thor
Twenty minutes later, with the sun beginning to sink low in the sky, Dr. Gallo exited the mud-walled kwala with her olive-drab medical bag slung over her shoulder and her hijab tightly wrapped around her head. Afghan men, many with AKÂ€‘47s propped nearby, squatted in a circle chatting. They fell silent and stared at the American woman as she walked past.
Julia found Sayed leaning against the hood of their faded Nissan Patrol smoking a cigarette. "Ready to go?" she asked.
Sayed nodded as Julia opened the rear passenger door, tossed her bag onto the backseat, and climbed in front.
Taking one last drag, Sayed tamped out his cigarette on the bumper and slid the remainder into the pack for later.
It took several slams before the latch caught and his door would stay shut. After starting the engine, the interpreter ground the vehicle into first gear and pulled out.
Julia tried to read his face as he picked his way down the dusty road from the village. If Sayed felt any anger toward her, he didn't show it.
As she tried to come up with the right words to say, he beat her to the punch. "I'm going to ask to be reassigned."
Julia didn't know how to reply. After everything she had done for him, she felt betrayed. But she knew she was being selfish. She had met his wife and his children. She understood. She had been putting him at greater and greater risk. In all fairness, it actually said a lot about their friendship that he had kept going into the countryside with her for as long as he had.
With no words that seemed to suit the moment, she said what was in her heart. "I understand."
Sayed smiled again. "I will pray for you, Dr. Gallo, and for your work."
The redheaded American was about to respond when they came around a bend and she noticed three green Afghan National Army pickup trucks blocking the road ahead.
"Roadblock," said Sayed.
Julia retrieved her bag from the backseat with her ID. "Why would they have a roadblock out here? We're in the middle of nowhere."
"I don't know," he replied, eyeing the soldiers manning the 7.62mm machine guns mounted atop the vehicles' roll bars. "We'll have to stop."
Julia nodded. Running the roadblock was out of the question. ANA soldiers were poorly disciplined and would open fire with the slightest provocation -- stopping only when they had exhausted their ammo.
"Don't worry," he said as he rolled down his window. "I'm sure it's just routine."
Julia looked at the soldiers. They seemed keyed up, tense. "Keep the car running," she said quietly.
The interpreter nodded and fished his ID out of his pocket. As their vehicle slowed to a stop, they were surrounded by the heavily armed soldiers.
Sayed placed his hand over his heart, nodded, and bade the men, "Salaam alaikum."
No one returned the greeting.
A captain appeared at Sayed's window and snapped his fingers for his ID. The young Afghan complied and handed over his papers.
Without even looking at the documents, the captain ordered him out of the SUV. Julia put her hand upon his arm. Something definitely wasn't right.
Sayed smiled at her and gently pulled his arm away. When he had trouble opening his door, the captain got angry and wrenched it open from the outside.
Sayed tried to explain that the door was unreliable, but the captain wasn't listening. He grabbed the young man by the back of the neck and threw him to the ground.
Inside the truck, Julia gasped and covered her mouth. What was going on?
Sayed tried to rise to his feet, but the captain kicked him in the ribs. Wheezing, the Afghan fell back to the ground.
Julia had seen enough. She began to open her door, but it was kicked shut by one of the soldiers, who then seated his rifle in his shoulder and pointed the m...
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