Year of the Dog

The following material represents the first chapter in the third book in the Sleeping Dogs series, The Year Of The Dog. If you enjoy it and want to read more of the book, the complete novel can be purchased in print or ebook formats here.


You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.

Winston Churchill

 

PART ONE: IT’S A DOG EAT DOG WORLD

 

Chapter 1—Dingle, Ireland

Soothing New-Age music wafted softly from the massage suite’s hidden speakers, filling the room with relaxing sounds of acoustic flute, sitar, tabla, and tamboura. The air was redolent with the scents of lavender, eucalyptus, and jasmine oils. They almost smothered the odor of the disinfectants used to sterilize the facilities every night. The experienced hands of the masseuse moved in perfect rhythm with the music, stroking smooth, hot river stones along the thick ridges of muscle flanking Brendan Whelan’s spine. He breathed slowly and deeply, feeling more relaxed than he had in recent memory. Or as relaxed as a man gripping a fully loaded, chambered SIG 226 could feel.

Whelan had long ago lost count of the number of men he’d killed. First it had been in the service of his adopted country, the United States, as a member of the deadliest black ops unit in history. They had been known as the Sleeping Dogs. The stuff of myth and legend, they were the most feared hunter-killers on the planet. To threaten America was to ‘wake the Dogs,’ and the body count would soar. Later, after a U.S. president had ordered the assassination of Whelan and his black ops colleagues, they had continued to kill America’s enemies for a shadow government known as the Society of Adam Smith. The leader of the SAS, Cliff Levell, was his mentor, more like a second father. Whelan was deeply grateful to America for all it had done for his family when they emigrated from Ireland. But he had a family of his own now, including his stunningly beautiful wife on the massage table next to his. Now, his interest in killing focused solely on one person—his older brother, a man who wanted Whelan, his family members, and the remaining Dogs dead.

If Whelan’s weapon or the presence of three heavily armed men just outside the massage room alarmed the two masseuses, they gave no sign of it. They and the other employees at the Sláinte Mhaith resort and spa knew Whelan and his wife Caitlin well. They were regular customers of the spa, whose name in Irish Gaelic meant “Good Health.” It was located on the eastern edge of Dingle Harbour less than three hundred meters from the Whelans’ bed and breakfast, the Fianna House. Like everyone on the Dingle Peninsula, the spa’s staff had heard the rumors that a while back several men had broken into the B&B and tried to kill the Whelans. The rumors also had it that those men all had met violent, painful deaths.

While Whelan was Irish-born, he had grown up in America and had no direct family in Ireland. But Caitlin’s family had resided on the Dingle Peninsula for countless generations.  Ever since the break-in, her extensive family together with friends and neighbors had organized round-the-clock protection for the family. It didn’t hurt that Caitlin’s father, Tom, was the District Superintendent for County Kerry of An Garda Síochána (the Irish National Police force). Her brother, Pádraig, was the Sergeant in Charge of the Garda station in Dingle. The protection would continue until Whelan succeeded in finding the one man responsible for the threat, his brother.

Everyone in Dingle and the lands surrounding it on the peninsula knew of Brendan Whelan. His freakish strength, speed, and intelligence were the stuff of legends. Some of the locals even believed the ancient Celtic gods might have sent him, the reincarnation of the mythical hunter/warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill. Others believed the popular legend that Fionn never died, but has been asleep for centuries in a cave, surrounded by the loyal members of the fierce band of Fianna that he led. Legend has it that Fionn and his warriors one day would awake and defend Ireland in her hour of greatest need. At one point following the break-in at the bed and breakfast, five other men had come from America and stayed for a while with the Whelans at the Fianna House. These men also had Whelan’s inexplicable strength and quickness. Some of the locals had wondered if Fionn and his warriors indeed had awakened from their long slumber and that Ireland, and perhaps the world, faced some dire catastrophe.

Whelan had purposely turned the massage table to face the closed door to the room. He lay on the table on his stomach, gun in his right hand, eyes closed, breathing slowly, calmly. But his ears were tuned to every sound in the room and beyond. With Maksym Kozak, his long-lost older brother—born Conall (the “powerful one” in Gaelic) still at large, Caitlin and their sons were not safe. For years, Whelan had believed, as his late parents had, that Conall had been kidnapped and killed when Brendan was only two years old. His parents went to their graves still believing that was true. But Whelan had learned recently that the man, who now called himself Maksym, was alive.

To Whelan’s deep sorrow, his brother was not a good and decent man. Maksym—he preferred the name given him by the Ukrainian man to whom his Gypsie abductors had sold him—had Whelan’s same genetic gifts of strength and speed. But Maksym chose to use these gifts in the employ of the highest bidder. These men always were criminals, misanthropes, dictators, and far worse. The one thing they had in common, besides their inherent evil, was the financial ability to secure Maksym’s services. One of these men had been the billionaire arbitrager Chaim Laski. Laski had served the interests of the Russian president, himself an unknowing pawn in the one-world plans of a global organization of bankers and financiers known as the Alliance for Global Unity or AGU.

One of Laski’s tasks had been to arrange the assassination of the sitting American president. He had failed, but just barely. Whelan and the five surviving members of his special operations unit, the Sleeping Dogs, had foiled the attempt and killed Laski in the process. Maksym, as head of Laski’s security, had taken the event as a failure on his part and vowed to find Whelan and the other Dogs and kill them and their family members. He almost had succeeded. And he wasn’t giving up. Hence the weapon in Whelan’s hand and the armed men outside the door to the massage room.

Caitlin and Whelan returned to the Fianna House to find a surprise visitor waiting for them. Whelan sensed it immediately and gently but quickly nudged Caitlin into a small alcove. He had the SIG 226 in his right hand, a round chambered and hammer cocked, as he glided silently toward the kitchen area. Whoever the intruder was, he had to be among the best, because none of the armed men patrolling the area seemed to be absent or harmed.

As he eased up to the entrance to the kitchen, he heard someone say, “You wouldn’t shoot a guy in the middle of his lunch, would you?”

Sitting at the kitchen table with his back to the doorway was Marc Kirkland. He had made a sandwich and was washing it down with a cold bottle of O'Hara's Celtic Stout. He turned,  smiled at Whelan, and raised the bottle in salute.

Whelan smiled knowingly and shook his head. “Should have figured it was you. Or Stensen.”

Caitlin was shocked. “Marc,” she said as she entered the kitchen. “How did you get in here? There are armed men protecting the Fianna. You could have been killed!”

“Piece of cake,” Kirkland said. “It’s what Brendan and I and the others were trained to do, and we do it better than anyone else in the world.”

“Did you hurt anyone?” There was a strong element of concern in her voice. “These people are family and close friends. If anyone was harmed….”

Kirkland cut her off with a wave of his hand and a big smile. “Everyone’s fine and none the wiser. I’m sure they’re doing the best they can, but the truth is there’s nothing that can keep us out, not humans, animals, electronics. Nothing.”

Whelan laughed and grabbed two more bottles of stout from the refrigerator. He snapped the caps off with a thumbnail. They weren’t twist-off caps. Handing one to Caitlin, he said, “What Marc says is true.”

“But,” she said, “if he can do it, so can that damned Maksym. He’s the same as you are. Genetically.”

“I’m sure Maksym’s good, but he wasn’t trained by Cliff Levell and his team. We were,” Whelan said reassuringly. “It does make a difference.”

Kirkland nodded in agreement.

Caitlin shuddered. “Not to be a poor hostess, but I think this just undid all the good of the massage.” She took a small sip of the stout and sat down at the table across from Kirkland.

Whelan took another chair between them. The aroma of Caitlin’s fresh baked bread still lingered in the air from earlier in the day. It was homey and comforting. “I’m sure you didn’t just happen to be in the neighborhood, Marc. What’s up?”

“I’m on my way to the Middle East and thought I’d stop off. Spend an evening with you guys.”

“Lot of shit happening in the ME. Which hot spot has your attention?”

“Qatar.”

“Why Qatar?”

Kirkland smiled enigmatically. “I’m working on a personal project.”

“I’m sure the news media will eventually fill us in, except your name will never be associated with it.”

“Not if I do my job right.”

The three of them sat quietly for a while, working on their beers. It had begun to rain and the soft, steady rhythm of the falling drops encouraged a false sense that all was clean, fresh, and right in the world. After several minutes, Kirkland went to the refrigerator and started to remove three more stouts.

Caitlin covered the top of the bottle she was holding with her hand, signaling that she didn’t want another one.

With a beer in each hand, Kirkland walked back to the table popping the caps with his thumbnails. He put one down in front of Whelan and slid back into his chair. “Remember the last time we were together?”

“Yeah, Cliff’s place in Georgetown; when he got shot.”

“You talk to him since then?”

“Right after I got back. He was just home from the hospital. With the pain of the GSW and the loss of Slash, he was in a nasty mood. But he’ll recover just fine.”

“Probably back at work already,” Kirkland said and laughed. “He’s easily the toughest Norm I’ve ever known.” He used the term that he, Whelan, and the other members of their old black ops unit had for those who didn’t have their freakish genetic makeup.

“I’m sure he hasn’t missed a day since he convinced the medics to release him. In fact, I’m surprised he hasn’t contacted me yet.”

“With some new high-paying, higher-risk challenge?” Kirkland said.

“And the expectation that I’ll agree to reassemble the unit.” Whelan looked at his wife.

Caitlin’s eyes were slightly narrowed, and her head was moving slowly from side to side in disapproval.

As if on cue, Whelan’s cell phone pinged. He fished it out of a pants pocket and looked at the screen. It was a text message from Levell: “I need to speak with you and Kirkland. Call me. Now.”

Whelan showed it to Kirkland, who said, “I swear that old bastard’s psychic. How could he know I’m here? No one ever knows where I am.”

Whelan laughed and shook his head. “Probably had tracers planted in us when we were dead tired and sleeping off the exhaustion of a mission.”

Now it was Kirkland who shook his head. “Nothing he does would surprise me. But the question is, what do we do about it?”

Caitlin answered the question. “Call him and get it over with. There’s nothing to be gained by delaying it. Find out what he wants and tell him ‘no’.” She paused momentarily, then added, “Firmly.”

Forty minutes later Whelan reached Cliff Levell by special satellite communication. The phone was a product of a special lab owned by a series of international straw corporations ultimately controlled by the three billionaire Mueller brothers, Alfred, Hermann, and Tomas. It enjoyed contributions from the top tech people in the NSA, CIA, FBI, Military Intelligence, and two of the five deputy directors of National Intelligence, all of whom also were members of Levell’s Society of Adam Smith, or SAS. The lab developed communications gear for the American government’s top security agencies. But what the government got wasn’t the latest cutting edge encryption technology. The pre-beta stuff went to Levell and a carefully chosen few members of the SAS. Whelan, as Levell’s special ops golden boy, always had access to the latest equipment. Levell assured him that their encryption methodology stayed ahead of the curve at all times. In this particular instance, the communications traveled via satellites that operated commercially, but also harbored highly encrypted communications equipment accessible only by persons specifically designated by the Muellers. To the rest of the world, the satellites broadcast music for commercial radio operations. But digitally encrypted into the streams of music were the messages between Levell and the chosen few. The system utilized a newly developed 4096-bit asymmetric encryption that would require hundreds of billions of MIPS-years to crack it. MIPS is one million instructions per second.

Whelan and Kirkland were in the tiny office just off the B&B’s kitchen. The sat phone was set on speaker mode. After a few rings, the two men heard Levell pick up on the other end.

“What the hell part of ‘now’ don’t you understand?” His voice had its usually raspiness, aggravated by his obvious irritation.

Whelan and Kirkland looked at each other and grinned. Same old Levell.

“We were finishing a couple of cold ones,” Whelan said.

 “Must be all that humidity in Ireland; your sense of priorities is fucked up. Both of you.”

“Enough of the pleasantries, Cliff. How’s the arm?”

“How the fuck do you think it is? I got shot. It hurts like hell.”

“Yeah, but there must be some satisfaction in knowing you killed Federov in the exchange.”

“That son of a bitch; I owed him that for Buster.”

Kirkland said, “Sorry about Slash. He was a good man.”

“The best,” Levell said.

“Found anyone to replace him yet?” Whelan said.

“Yeah, I hired a guy named Nando. It looks like he’s going to work out. Now, if you two are through wasting my time, shall we get down to the reason for this call?” Levell’s voice reminded Whelan of boulders passing through a rock crusher.

He smiled at the old Marine’s irascibility. It was vintage Levell. “It’s your dime, Cliff,” Whelan said.

“Something’s coming up, and we need you two and your colleagues to stop it.”

“The loss of blood must have addled your memory, Cliff. Did you forget that the Dogs have gone their separate ways?”

“Kirkland’s there with you. That’s a start.”

“No, I’m just passing through,” Kirkland said quickly. “I’ve got things to do.”

There were a few moments of silence before Levell said, “Is there anything more important than the country that fed you, nourished you, gave you access to more opportunities than you ever would have gotten anywhere else?” After a brief moment, Levell added, “That goes for you, too, Whelan.”

“I believe we’ve all more than repaid that debt over the years,” Whelan said. Kirkland nodded his assent.

“That’s not the point,” Levell said snappishly. “Are all of you so selfish that you think you can quit when you get what you want? What about the other three hundred and twenty million Americans? Don’t they deserve a safe and free environment to pursue their dreams, too?”

“Why is that our concern?” Kirkland said.

“Because,” Levell practically shouted, “globally society is on the verge of collapsing into anarchy and terror, and you six are the only ones who might be able to make a difference at this point.”

“Because we’re genetically different.”

“Yes!”

“What exactly is it you think we can do, Cliff, that the SEALs, Green Berets, Deltas, Recon Marines, or Rangers can’t do?”

“For one thing, this country’s Marxist-jihadist friendly administration won’t commit these units. That wouldn’t comport with its handlers’ efforts to crush nation-states and replace them with a self-serving one-world government. Even if that weren’t the case, things have reached the stage where we can’t chance the fate of the free world on the frailties of normal human beings. Consider the state of the military after all the firings, forced retirements, and RIFs involving experienced personnel. Add to that the careful avoidance of even small engagements where junior officers could gain valuable combat experience. Then there’s the cuts to defense spending.

“The six of you move faster, think faster than normal humans can comprehend. You communicate silently and instantly, like a wolf pack. And, when you’re focused on a target, you’re the most ruthless, bloodthirsty killing machine this world has ever known.”

Whelan looked at Kirkland and shook his head. Kirkland shrugged. Turning back to the sat phone, Whelan said, “Look, Cliff, even if I was of a mind to get involved, I have no idea where the other four are.”

“I do,” Levell said sharply.

“So you’re asking me—and Marc—to put the unit back together?”

“Yes.”

“For what purpose?”

Levell’s voice was low and measured. “There’s an attack on the homeland coming soon. If it can be stopped at all, you’re the only ones who can do it..”

© John Wayne Falbey 2016 All Rights Reserved