The Third Option

Тема

Аннотация: Mitch Rapp, the CIA's top counterterrorism operative, is sent on his final mission, to eliminate a European industrialist who has been selling sensitive equipment to one of terrorism's most notorious sponsors. But he doesn't know that the ultimate target of this mission is himself. Set up by forces within the US who do not want the next Director-elect of the CIA to take over, and therefore need a disaster for the present regime, Mitch refuses to die… the conspirators have made an awful miscalculation. They have enraged one of the most lethal and efficient killers the CIA has ever produced. Now they will pay.

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Vince Flynn

The second book in the Mitch Rapp series

Prelude

There exists in America a silent and invisible order made up of former soldiers, intelligence officers, and diplomats. In Washington, they are everywhere and they are nowhere. The average person never sees them, never pauses to think about them, never notices the hand they may have had in a seemingly ordinary death. Most people never stop to think twice about the drug overdose of a lobbyist reported on page B-2 of the Washington Post's Metro section, or the suicide of a colonel in the United States Army, or the fatal mugging of a White House staffer.

Average Americans are too busy living their lives to look beyond the headlines and wonder what secrets these people may have taken to their graves. Among those in the know, eyebrows are raised and even a few quiet questions asked, but ultimately a blind eye is turned, and life goes on. To seek answers from this dark community is a very dangerous thing. It is the world of covert operations, a very real but unseen part of our government's foreign and sometimes domestic policy. It is bigger than anyone person. It is the third option, and it is one that is not always used by wise and honorable men.

1

Through the darkness the man moved from tree to tree, working his way toward the large house.

The nineteenth-century estate, forty miles south of Hamburg, Germany, spanned one hundred and twelve acres of beautiful rolling forest and farmland and was designed after the Grand Trianon at Versailles in France. It had been commissioned by Heinrich Hagenmiller in 1872 to win further favor with William I of Prussia, the newly crowned German emperor. Portions of it had been sold off over the years as it became too expensive to maintain so much land.

The man walking silently through the woods had already studied hundreds of photographs of the property and its owner. Some of the photos were snapped from satellites orbiting the earth thousands of miles up, but most were taken by the surveillance team that had been in place for the last week.

The assassin had arrived from America only this afternoon and wanted to see with his own eyes what he was up against. Photographs were a good start, but they were no substitute for being there in person. The collar of his black leather jacket was flipped up around his neck to ward off the bite of the cold fall evening. The temperature had dropped twenty degrees since sunset.

For the second time since leaving the cottage, he stopped dead in his tracks and listened. He thought he had heard something behind him. The narrow path he trod was covered with a fresh bed of golden pine needles. It was a cloudy night, and with the thick canopy above, very little light reached the place where he stood. He moved to the path's edge and slowly looked back. Without his night-vision scope, he could see no more than ten feet.

Mitch Rapp had been trying not to use the scope. He wanted to make sure he could find his way down the path without it, but something was telling him he wasn't alone. Rapp extracted a 9-mm Glock automatic from his pocket and quietly screwed a suppresser onto the end of it. Then he grabbed a four-inch tubular pocket scope, flipped the operating switch on, and held it up to his right eye. The path before him was instantly illuminated with a strange green light. Rapp scanned the area, checking not only the path but his flanks. The pocket scope penetrated the dark shadows that his eyes could not. He paid particular attention to the base of the trees that bordered the path. He was looking for the telltale shoe of someone who was seeking to conceal himself.

After five minutes of patiently waiting, Rapp began to wonder if it wasn't a deer or some other creature that had made the noise. After five more minutes, he reluctantly gave in to the conclusion that he had heard an animal of the four-legged variety rather than two-. Rapp put the pocket scope away but decided to keep his gun out. He had not made it to the ripe old age of thirty-two by being careless and sloppy. Like any true professional, he knew when the time was right to take chances and when to cut and run.

Rapp continued down the path for another quarter of a mile. He could see the lights of the house up ahead and decided to go the rest of the way through the underbrush. Silently, he maneuvered through the thickets, bending branches out of his way and ducking under others. As he approached the edge of the forest, he heard the snap of a twig under his foot and quickly moved to his left, placing a tree directly between himself and the house. A kennel of hunting dogs, not more than a hundred yards away, erupted in alarm. Rapp silently swore at himself and remained perfectly still. This was why he needed to check things out on his own. Amazingly, no one had told him that there were dogs. The canines grew louder, their barks turning to howls, and then a door opened. A deep voice yelled in German for the beasts to be quiet. The man repeated himself two more times, and finally the dogs settled.

Rapp slid an eye out from behind the tree and looked at the kennel. The hunting dogs were wired, pacing back and forth. They would be a problem. Not as bad as trained guard dogs, but their senses were still naturally keen. He stood at the edge of the forest listening and watching, taking everything in. He didn't like what he saw. There was a lot of open space between the forest and the house. There were some gardens that he could weave his way through, but it would be hard to stay silent on the paths of crushed rock. The dogs would make approaching from the south very difficult. Surveillance cameras covered the other avenues, and there was twice the open space to traverse. The only good news was that there were no pressure pads, microwave beams, or motion sensors to deal with.

Officially, Mitch Rapp had nothing to do with the U.S. government.

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