Chapter 1

Jakarta, Indonesia

Thirty-five men, all dressed in black, walked hidden in the shadows of the evening light. They moved slowly, silently, but not as one. Their training had only gone so far, and the men were not of the highest caliber. Still, theirs was a simple task, one that even these less-adept fighters could handle.

Each man carried an AK-47 assault rifle and two, thirty-round magazines. They were ordered them to keep their rifles in semi-automatic mode, firing only one shot for each trigger pull. None were marksmen, but it didn’t matter—the mission didn’t require accuracy.

“Silence!” said Reja Sukarno, his face inches from a man after his rifle smacked against a signpost. “If that happens again, I’ll shoot you myself.”

They continued to their destination, a busy shopping complex abutting Thamrin Road. The area had recently been renovated, blocking off a side road to make way for a new pedestrian mall. Affluent people, mostly expats and tourists, milled about, shopping or dining at the outdoor cafes and bars. The mall was designed to keep people shopping and eating, offering little means for a quick escape.

Still hidden by the shadows as they neared the main entrance, Reja held up both hands, ordering the group to stop. Splitting into two teams, twenty men remained while Reja brought fifteen through a dark alley to the only other exit.

As his team got into position, two white vans pulled alongside. The drivers, also clad in black, got out and opened the rear doors, standing ready. Reja acknowledged their presence with a simple nod.

Keying his radio, Reja caused a small chirp in the earpiece of the other team’s leader. A reply chirp came through almost immediately. Proceeding. Holding his right hand up in a fist, Reja’s men lowered their masks and, raised their rifles, and stood ready.

Panic was nearly immediate as Reja heard the sound of gunfire reverberating over the din of the conversations and the noise of clinking glasses. Chairs were screeching against the pavement as they were hastily pulled back, competing with the noises of screams and shouts. Packages were dropped, and plates shattered as they hit the ground. In the distance, Reja could see the first team advance. Each man was shooting along the perimeter of the shop entrances, forcing the fleeing crowd away from the approaching gunmen and the protection of the buildings. The crowd swarmed together, rushing to the only means of escape.

Reja smiled. Lambs to the slaughter.

As the mass approached the opposite exit, they were quickly surrounded and forced on their knees, where Reja’s men handcuffed them with zip ties and shoved them into the waiting vans. Those that struggled were rewarded with a rifle butt to the head or stomach.

Filled to the brim with no way out, the drivers tossed a smoke pellet in each van, quickly locking the driver’s door. The smoke contained a powerful sleeping agent, and within two minutes the screams and pounding were replaced with the sounds of sirens and approaching helicopters in the distance.

There were four people left who would not fit into the crammed vans. Forced to their knees, each was shot in the head and left on the pavement.

The drivers put the front windows down to clear the air, got in, and drove away. As soon as they were gone, two more vans appeared. The fighters entered these vans, which took off in different directions.

Reja jumped into the passenger’s seat of the first van. After they were away, he sent a simple text: Mission complete. He checked his watch—seven minutes had elapsed since the attack started.

As they drove away, Reja could hear sirens in the distance, but the drivers were ordered to follow the flow of traffic. As they blended in, the sirens were replaced with the whine of helicopter rotors. Looking up, Reja watched as police helicopters circled overhead, but with no eye witnesses, the helicopter pilots were forced to circle around and look for anything suspicious. Their searchlights canvased the area, but the vans blended in with other traffic, and soon Reja could no longer hear.

***

The Jakarta Post cited unconfirmed reports that thirty-two hostages were taken, with seventeen people killed at the scene, including four shot execution style. No nationalities of the hostages were named, and no one knew of their fate, but the Post printed photos taken from the shopping mall’s surveillance cameras.

The vans were found in a warehouse a short time later. Next to the vans, they found a woman’s body, surrounded by a pool of blood, her hands still bound. The vans contained nothing but a few cut zip ties, pieces of torn clothing, and a smattering of blood and vomit.

No group had yet claimed responsibility.

© 2018 Michael Klapheke

Adrift

After killing his corrupt father-in-law during a drug raid, Colombian special forces soldier Paco Sanchez is forced to flee, leaving everything behind—including his wife. Paco slips into a new life, becoming Tomas (Tom) Finnegan, a Miami businessman.

Tom’s past catches up with him when his estranged wife is taken hostage with other tourists while on vacation in Jakarta. As she and the others are paraded in front of a camera, her life hangs on the whim of a ruthless man named Edi Vonco, demanding 100 million euros for their release. But Edi wants more than money. Using the ransom to pay off the military, Edi plans a coup, cementing his role as the new president of Indonesia.

With no one else to turn to, Tom forges ahead alone, following his wife’s trail.

Looking for clues in Jakarta, Tom finds a group financed by British billionaire Charles Devon, whose daughter Chelsea was also taken hostage. Following them to northern Indonesia, Tom is unable to help when the group is ambushed during a botched rescue attempt.

After learning that the hostages will be killed whether or not the ransom is paid, Tom and Charles team up for a second attempt. But with Edi and his military alliances on alert, monitoring every air and sea port, they need to find a new way into Indonesia undetected. Tom hatches a daring plan, but it could mean life in prison…and that’s if they succeed. The clock is ticking, and Tom knows it’s up to him to save his wife.

Tangse, Indonesia

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