Years after hijackers killed his father, an ordinary college student gets a chance to fight terrorists who have hatched a plan to destroy the United States
A ringing phone awakes Dan Lennigin, college student, in the middle of the night, and the caller baffles him with a stream of panicked gibberish. It is a code, meant for someone else’s ears, and it draws Dan inexorably into a tangled international conspiracy. Minutes after the call, an operative for antiterrorist agency Lucifer is killed, and his superiors come for Dan. He is the only one who heard the warning, and now that he knows what is happening, he can’t say no. Ever since his vacationing father was murdered by hijackers, Dan has dreamed about taking revenge on the world’s terrorists. But this threat is no fantasy. It has already claimed the lives of several professional terrorist hunters, and Dan is no professional. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Jon Land including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
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The Lucifer Directive
By Jon Land
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1984 Jon Land
All rights reserved.
THE VAN CREPT DOWN Mountain Terrace Lane at a jogger's pace. Stolen from a central lot just hours before, it wore the legitimate markings of the Fairfax County Gas Company, a regular enough sight on these roads even on a Saturday night. No one would miss it until Monday and by then the people of Alexandria, Virginia would have other things on their minds.
"You're going too slow," the big man in the passenger seat told the van's female driver, fingering the green cap that rested in his lap. "Take a right past the house and circle round the block."
The driver felt her toes twitch involuntarily as she pressed the accelerator downward. The temptation to jam it all the way to the floor and flee rose in her again, suppressed because the move bore all the logic of a mouse sacrificing its neck for a nibble of cheese. She considered several other strategies, chose none, stilled her toes but was helpless against the rhythmic chattering of her teeth.
The van edged past a white house with fronting pillars and rock music blaring from its backyard. She felt the big man's eyes digest the scene.
"How many guards?" she asked, sweeping the wheel to the right, reconciled to their task.
"Four, just as we suspected. Two with shotguns, two with side arms. Cake."
He pushed his blond hair under his ears and tucked the green cap over it with the plastic visor tilted low over his forehead. Two quick raps on the partition behind him signaled the four men in the van's rear to ready themselves as well.
The driver swung back onto Mountain Terrace Lane.
"Let's go," the big man instructed.
He lifted the Kalishnikov assault rifle casually from the floor. It was a magnificent weapon, capable of tearing one man apart or spraying a dozen others with automatic fire. The thought made the big man shudder. His mouth was dry but a familiar taste filled it. Chalky and hot. Pleasant.
He watched the van's high beams bite into the night, chewing the darkness and spitting it from their path.
Inside the large white house, Alexander Levine stood anxiously by the window of his second floor study, which overlooked the backyard. Below, friends of his son clustered in groups of varying sizes, the boys at this point conspicuously apart from the girls. Music from a rented stereo system was blasting. Two men in white jackets were at work on the refreshment table. Levine tried to pick his son Jason out of the crowd, failed, and became more anxious.
This was the day of his son's Bar Mitzvah, a day that should have seen him relaxed, proud, in a celebratory mood. It had started that way, all right, but one manila envelope delivered to his door had changed everything. And now he wished he hadn't let his son talk him into this party. At the age of fifty, though, he found himself giving in more and more to Jason's whims and desires. He was too old to be the father he desperately wanted to be and young enough to know it. So he compensated by spoiling the boy, aware always of his own shortcomings and hoping Jason wasn't aware of them, as well.
Levine dabbed at his brow with his jacket sleeve and gazed over the backyard scene: forty boys and girls, none over fourteen, having traded the suits and dresses of the morning for corduroys or jeans topped by sweaters or light jackets. Children at the magical crossroads of life when concerns amounted to little and cares to even less. How Levine envied them. He glanced at the manila envelope atop his desk, a message from The Doctor.
The Isosceles Project. ... He had to stop it. The future was at stake. His own, Jason's, everyone's.
His fears were quelled a bit as he watched one of the guards mingling with the kids. There were four of them in all, wearing the uniforms of a nonexistent agency. In fact, they were expertly trained combat soldiers.
A knock came on the study door.
"Come in," Levine said, forcing his eyes from the window.
His wife Susan, fifteen years his junior in age and ten younger than that in appearance, entered. "Going downstairs, Al?"
Levine moved toward her and forced a smile. "I thought I might leave the kids to themselves, Sue. I don't want to embarrass Jase by hanging around."
"What makes you think you'd embarrass him?"
"At the age of thirteen, all parents are embarrassments."
She moved forward and held him. "They grow up so fast."
"It's been a long day."
Levine sighed, his eyes darting from the manila envelope to the window and back again. "That's all."
The big man peered through the scope attached to his Kalishnikov. One of the four guards was captured between the cross hairs, escaped, and then was captured again. The fact that the van was moving provided but a minor inconvenience. He pawed the trigger, held the target with his eyes, and pulled.
The silenced barrel uttered a soft spit. The guard collapsed, a bullet neatly impacted in his brain. Another guard emerged from the side of the spacious yard drenched in floodlights. The big man squeezed the trigger again only when the second guard had entered a sphere of moderate darkness. The van pulled to a halt. He rapped on the partition.
The back doors opened. Four figures leaped onto the road, all dressed identically in green slacks and olive-drab polyester shirts with a red badge emblem embroidered over the pocket, their caps tipped low to shield their faces. The big man and the van's female driver joined them. They fanned out stealthily over the yard, each with an assigned area and task. Two edged to the sides of the house en route to the backyard. Two more stayed in the front. The final two sprinted for the door, the blond leader shattering it with a burst from his Kalishnikov.
Upstairs, something shook Alexander Levine from his desk and brought him to the window. It wasn't a sound so much as a feeling. Something cold poured through his veins. His bowels loosened.
Below him the scene was no different, nothing out of the ordinary to cause worry.
But Levine was worried. His soldier's eyes scanned the perimeter in search of his Special Forces guards, found two of them and continued on.
Wait! Both men held automatic weapons, clip loading. Minutes before they had been holding shotguns.
The icy grip of fear found Levine's insides and knotted them. The sharp soldier's edges in him tightened, honed. He moved for the desk and pressed a concealed button that triggered an emergency signal at a half-dozen stations across Washington and Virginia.
The light next to it didn't flash on.
The line had been cut!
Levine didn't even bother with the phone.
Instead, he lifted his .45 automatic from a drawer and moved for the door. He fought against panic, realizing what had already happened and dreading what might be about to.
The series of soft spits and strangled scream came just as he reached the head of the staircase.
Levine realized the wail was his own as he leveled his .45 at the uniformed figure hovering over the crumpled heap that had been Susan. The figure whirled but too late. Levine squeezed the .45 twice, the first finding the figure's throat, the second its chest. Levine had learned his trade in Israel, where he had spent the first forty-two years of his life, had learned to control fear and make it work for him. They had killed his wife. They would not kill his son. He had ten bullets left and unless there were more than ten of them, they didn't stand a chance.
He had started down the steps when the second figure, much larger than the first, appeared out of nowhere. Levine saw it, fired, but then it was gone. Rolling, spinning, a blur before his desperate eyes, the figure moved faster than he thought humanly possible. He fired wildly again, then caught the flash at the end of his killer's barrel and felt the bullets slice through his abdomen and empty his stomach onto the carpet. He tried to fire the .45 but he'd lost it, lost everything except a grinning face framed by blond hair spilling out from a perfect replica of the green caps worn by the men he had hired to protect his family.
The big man moved through the house quickly, proud of his handiwork. He passed through a set of sliding glass doors into the brightly lit but now silent backyard. The members of his team had already herded the young party guests into a tight mass and spread out about them in a semicircle. The big man sensed his victims' terror, felt their desperate sobbing bring a smile to his lips.
His eyes sought out Jason Levine and found the boy standing bravely in the front with trembling fingers squeezed into fists. The big man stepped forward, grinned at him. The boy's mouth dropped. His stance wavered.
The big man drew the bolt of his Kalishnikov all the way back.
The children screamed.
The big man nodded at the other four uniformed figures, coiled his finger and held it against the trigger.
Five barrels blazed until there was nothing left to shoot at.
Nothing left at all.
The limousine pulled to a halt amidst the chaos in front of the house on Mountain Terrace Lane. Revolving blue lights stung the eyes of the man in the backseat, and the sight of news hounds thrusting microphones or notebooks into the faces of anyone with a uniform sickened him. Then again, who could blame them? They were here to do their jobs just as he was here to do his. The massacre was certainly big news, but to the limousine's passenger it meant so much more. He opened the door and stepped out.
His appearance was at best mundane. He stood a handful of inches below six feet and wore a white trench coat over his sagging frame. His hair was gray and thinning. The face it framed, though, was sharp and angular, alert and sensitive. His eyes were steel blue, emotionless, seeming to blink at intervals as regular as the ticking of a clock. He moved toward the backyard without drawing so much as a single glance from the news people, noticed only by a few official types emerging from the back with their stomachs tucked in their mouths.
"Good evening, Major."
"Nice to see you again, Major."
"Damn glad you're here, Major."
The remarks were cursory and the man they called "Major" didn't bother to acknowledge them. He reached the backyard, still ablaze with temporary lighting, and froze in his tracks. The carnage found his eyes at the same moment the stench reached his nostrils. He fought most of the bile back down his throat and leaned over to spit the rest up.
"You all right, Major?" asked a man in a tweed sports coat with an FBI badge pinned to his lapel, though he had never worked a day for the Bureau. He was one of the major's men.
"No, Mr. Goldman, I'm not."
Goldman echoed the statement with his eyes. "I've never seen anything like it myself. Not even in Nam."
Beyond him, uniformed men wearing protective masks and suits were lifting the corpses from the bloody pile and loading them into shiny black bags. They didn't seem to be making a dent in the heap.
"Sorry if I appear disinterested in your war stories, Goldman," the major said abruptly. "I just want to know what the hell happened here."
Goldman consulted his notes. "Things are still sketchy at this point but we can fix the time of the raid at approximately nine-thirty. Footprint measurements tell us either six or seven people were involved. Mr. Levine pressed his panic button upstairs but the wire had been cut along with the phone line. Sabotage obviously. Anyway, it probably didn't matter, because the killers were out of here by nine thirty-eight and it's doubtful help could have arrived in sufficient numbers before that time."
"Any security guards?"
"Four. All dead. But we did get one break."
"It seems Levine was able to nail one of the killers before he bought it. We should have a make on him by morning and a lead to go with it."
"Make it soft."
Goldman closed his notebook. "The killers' weapons were high velocity and caliber. Russian, I'd guess, probably in the Kalishnikov family. Not the kind of weapons you can buy at the local pawn shop. They had silencers as well, strictly a professional job all the way, nothing left to chance. Hell, nobody in the neighborhood's been able to tell us a damn thing yet. And the killers must've been top of the line to boot. The four guards Levine hired were from the Special Forces and they were cut up like candy. But I'll be damned if I can find a motive for ..." Goldman's eyes swept the area around him, "... this. I mean from what we can gather they killed Al Levine before—" Goldman watched the major's eyebrows flutter. "You knew him?"
"I knew him."
"Well, he was certainly political enough to be a decent target for terrorist execution, but why kill forty kids who couldn't even tell you the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?"
Goldman shook his head. "I told you it was professional."
"So you did."
Back in the limousine, the major ran his hands over his face and wondered how long it would be before sleep would come easily to him again. The memory of the bodies piled one atop another with lifeless eyes and brutal holes punctured in their young flesh stayed with him the more he tried to block it out.
That was justification enough for his next action.
He reached for a red phone that lacked a dial and picked it up. Across the country similar phones rang on bedsides, in drawers, even in briefcases. A coded sequence of computer signals sped through his ear followed by a final beep. He took a deep breath.
"This is Major Bathgate. Clear all lines." A pause. "I am calling a Lucifer alert...."CHAPTER 2
THE LAST THING Dan Lennagin needed was to get wakened up in the middle of the night. What with midterms coming and papers piling up, he needed all the sleep he could get even if his waking hours weren't always spent doing the work he was supposed to. So his first reaction was to silence the ringing phone by ripping its plug from the wall. But his second was to answer it out of anxious curiosity, because middle-of-the-night phone calls often signaled an emergency.
Dan fumbled blindly for the receiver before finding it.
"Hello." His digital clock showed 3:07 in bright red letters.
"This is The Doctor," came a muffled, straining voice.
"No time. Don't talk. Just listen. Levine got the message and they got Levine. I'm next ... soon."
"The massacre—just the beginning." Two raspy, agonized breaths. "Must ... get ... word ... in. All other priorities rescinded. Standard channels bypassed. Sterilize your line."
Dan shook himself awake, groped for the light switch. "Look, I—"
"Message follows, top priority. Black is Lucifer and Lucifer is black. Tell Zeus it's Code Oscar. Repeat, Code Oscar. Destroy the Isosceles Project. Request message read back and line expulsion."
Dan cleared his throat, found the light switch. "Hey, is this—"
There was a crash on the other end, then a horrible scream. Or was it a scream? It could have been anything. Dan pressed his ear firmly against the receiver.
He heard a shuffling, scratching sound followed by breathing. But it was different breathing than before, long and heavy, turning his blood cold.
The line went dead.
Dan replaced the receiver and pushed himself out of bed. The spring night had turned cold and he closed the window, shivering slightly. His mouth felt dry and he pulled a quart of orange juice from his small refrigerator and gulped some down. Then he moved across his room and turned on the desk lamp.
The call was a crank. It had to be. Then why did it seem so, well, real? What if—
Dan grabbed a pen and ripped a sheet of paper from a barely used notebook. He started writing, pulling as much of the call from his mind as possible before it drifted away.
Black is Lucifer and Lucifer is black. Tell Zeus it's Code Oscar. Repeat, Code Oscar. Destroy the Isosceles Project.
Gibberish, nothing more. It made no sense, not to him anyway. But what of the speaker? There had been desperation lacing his voice. No, more than desperation, it was closer to hopeless resignation.
Resignation to what?
Levine got the message and they got Levine....
Who was Levine?
The massacre—just the beginning....
Dan longed for rest but somehow he wasn't tired. What had happened on the other end of that line after The Doctor had spoken his message? Who had picked up the receiver?
Questions without answers. Dan felt himself nodding off and climbed back into bed.
A crank call surely or some twisted fraternity joke.
But what if it wasn't?
The possibility set him trembling as he fell into an uneasy sleep.
Excerpted from The Lucifer Directive by Jon Land. Copyright © 1984 Jon Land. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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