Keep the faith. Trust no one.


In Thailand, the CIA thwarts an arms deal between Iran and North Korea—but it can’t stop a terrorist plot that threatens the world.

Eugene Sokolov, a Russian rescue officer sent to Asia, becomes entangled in the conspiracy.

Fighting for his life when his mission turns into a trap, Sokolov must protect his only ally. Aussie model Stacie Rose holds the key to her family’s mysterious past—and a multibillion-dollar treasure.

To survive, they must unravel the darkest secret of the Russian Church.

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Excerpt





The CIA man swore profusely as the Iranian fired the first shot.

From his position, Tom Frey observed the SWAT team move in with lightning speed against the backdrop of multi-colored containers and towering cranes. For the Texas-born intelligence officer, several months of intense work was now concluding in Laem Chabang Port.

Located between Bangkok and Pattaya, Laem Chabang ranked as one of the busiest commercial ports in the world. The container traffic passing through Thailand’s main sea hub measured in the millions, but Frey only wanted twelve specific units stacked amid the endless rows of the B1 terminal. On the verge of busting a weapons-smuggling deal between Iran and North Korea, he was leading the joint operation personally. It was a chance he couldn’t miss. The North Koreans had chosen Laem Chabang as a transit point in an elaborate deception involving multiple vessels en route from Nampho to Bandar Abbas. Frey had known the date and place of shipment for weeks, but an anonymous tip-off had indicated that the respective envoys from both sides would be present to hand over the containers. He was going to catch them red-handed as they met to conclude the transfer.

Frey frowned as he tightened the grip on his Beretta, watching the action unfold. Deep lines etched his forehead. His receding hair and growing gut conspired to make him look a decade older than his real age. He was entering the twilight of a career which had begun years ago in Seoul, and he was desperate to end it on a high. He would not let it slip.

The casually dressed suspects, three Iranians and two North Koreans, panicked as they found themselves surrounded by Arintharat-26, the Special Operations Unit of the Royal Thai Police. The Iranian higher-up barked a command in Farsi to his two subordinates as he whipped out a handgun and opened fire at the advancing Thai team. A North Korean also drew his semi-automatic as his comrade took flight.

None of them stood any chance against the special unit. The armor-clad members of Arintharat-26 scythed them down with a storm of bullets from Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns. The Iranians dropped dead, their skulls cracking open like ripe melons from the well-placed head shots. A salvo killed the gun-wielding North Korean even before he could pull the trigger. His running comrade stopped in his tracks and crashed down as slugs tore into his back.

The firefight had ended in a flash. The Arintharat-26 men secured the area in the vicinity of the containers and their team leader gave the all-clear signal.

“Dammit,” Frey muttered as he came over to inspect the carnage.

All five arms-traffickers lay in pools of blood. The grisly sight coupled with the thick, smoggy air made Frey feel like he was suffocating. The armored vest on top of his long-sleeved shirt and tie didn’t help, either.

“You okay?” asked a Thai-accented voice behind him. “You don’t look too happy. Lots of blood, eh?”

Chatchai, the liaison from Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation, joined Frey on the scene. At six feet tall, Frey towered over the short Asian. The Thai cut a portly figure and his soft, chubby features made him a man of indeterminate age. Perspiration on Chatchai’s shaved scalp glistened in the sun. With his fleshy cheeks and protruding ears, Chatchai reminded Frey of a laughing Budai figurine sold in souvenir shops.

“Yeah,” Frey admitted. “I wanted to catch at least one of them. Alive.”

Chatchai shrugged. “We won.”

For a small fish in a small pond like Chatchai, seizing the arms shipment was more than enough. It constituted a domestic triumph that would propel his DSI career further. The global war on terror appeared to be peripheral to his personal glory.

Frey nodded, but in his mind he rued the outcome of the operation. His gut feeling told him that the shipment was merely a piece of the puzzle. Now all possible links to the grand scheme had ended up sprawled on concrete, pumped full of lead and very much dead. Standing over the body of the lead Iranian, Frey identified him as Hossein Azizi of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Just where and when Azizi’s terrorist group had intended to use the weapons, and for what purpose, Frey would never learn. Yet witnessing Azizi’s death had provided a measure of consolation.

Chatchai gave the order to open up the first twenty-foot-long container, splattered with Azizi’s blood. The Arintharat men cut the metal locks and inspected the cargo labeled as drilling equipment. Inside one of the crates, they uncovered a batch of grenade launchers, fresh off the production line of a North Korean arms factory.

Chatchai beamed like a Cheshire cat. “Tom, just look at this!”

Cheering, he shook Frey’s hand.

Just then, a harried Arintharat officer addressed Chatchai.

“Sir, one of the perpetrators is alive!”

Frey spun around and rushed toward another Thai operator who was keeping an eye on a prostrate North Korean several meters away from the containers.

The runner.

Covered in blood, peppered with slugs, he was still breathing, groaning in agony.

“Hot damn.”

Frey couldn’t believe his luck. Snatching the North Korean spy could blow the lid off the arms deal and expose the entire terrorist network.

He turned to Chatchai.

“Listen carefully,” he told the DSI man. “You and your men will make no mention of this bastard’s existence in your reports. You’ve only seen four bad guys. Three Iranians, one North Korean. Not this one. No big deal. Nothing else changes. Understood?”

Chatchai’s black eyes darted from the wounded Korean back to Frey.

“I have no idea who you are talking about. I never saw him.”

“Good. Now get me your car over here before he kicks the bucket.”

“Do you think he’s transportable?”

“He’d better damned well be. The hell I will let him die without telling me everything he knows first.”

Then, in a last-gasp act of desperation, the North Korean summoned whatever stamina he had left. He sprang to his feet and launched himself at the Arintharat officer. A strike with the stock of the MP5 knocked the wind out of the resilient smuggler in an instant, and the officer zip-cuffed him.

“On the double, Chatchai!” Frey commanded. “Looks like the bastard's got some beans to spill. He’d rather get shot than start talking. But I’ll make him talk, whatever it takes. He’s mine now.”



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