Fiction can often tell the truth better than nonfiction. And there is a lot of truth that needs to be told.-Richard A. ClarkeFrom the noted counterterrorism expert and #1 bestselling author comes an astonishing fiction debut-a novel of terrorism, warring nations, and political treachery... that could happen tomorrow.
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November 30, 2005
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Excerpt from The Scorpion's Gate by Richard A. Clarke
The Diplomat Hotel
The waiter flew through the lobby caf?.
Behind him came a blizzard of glass shards, embedding ragged-edge daggers of shattered windows in arms, eyeballs, legs, brains. The concussion wave bounced off the marble walls with a mule-kick punch he felt in his stomach. Then there was the deafening sound of the explosion, so loud it surrounded him with a physical force, shaking every bone and organ in his body.
Brian Douglas dove for the floor, behind a tipped table. His response was automatic, as if muscle memory had told him what to do, innate reflexes from those terrible years in Baghdad when this had happened so many times. As he flattened his body on the plush carpet, he felt the floor of the Diplomat Hotel shake. He feared the fourteen-story building would collapse on top of him. He thought of New York.
Now there were long seconds of silence before the screams began, cries to Allah and God's other names, in Arabic and English. Once again there were the shrieking voices of women, painfully high-pitched and piercingly loud. Once again there were men moaning in pain and crying out as glass continued to shatter onto the floor around them. An alarm rang needlessly above it all. Just a few feet away from Brian, an old man wailed as the blood streamed down from his forehead and spilled across the front of his white robes, "Help, please! Help me, please! Oh God, please, over here, help . . ."
Although Brian had been through bombings, it chilled his bones, knotted his stomach, made his head throb, blurred his vision, and caused him to choke, gasping for air. His eardrums were ringing and he had a sense that he was somehow disconnected from the reality around him. As he tried to focus, he sensed something was moving inches to the left of his head. With a chill shudder, he realized it was the twitching fingers of a hand severed from a body. Rivulets of blood ran down the upended tabletop to his right, as though someone had thrown a bottle of red wine against it.
Sofas, chairs, carpets, the palm plants in giant ceramic pots were burning in the rubble of what had been elegant, the soaring lobby of a five-star hotel. Then Brian focused on the overpowering scent, a smell that made him gag again as he struggled to roll over. He coughed and spit as he inhaled the vile, heavy stench of ammonia, nitrate, and blood. It was a retching smell he hated but knew all too well. It was the stench of senseless death that brought back painful days of friends lost in Iraq.
Through the shattered glass that opened onto the driveway in front of the hotel came another sound he recognized as automatic gunfire. "Brrrrt, brrrrt . . ." Seconds later a cacophony of sirens blared, the European-made ones going up and down in singsong, the American-made sirens wailing their imitation of space aliens landing.
Suddenly, Alec, one of Brian Douglas's bodyguards, was over him. He wondered how long he had been down. Had he been out? "Does it hurt anywhere, sir?" Alec asked.
Brian now noticed that blood was dripping down from his scalp, matting his sandy hair. "No, Alec, somehow my luck has held once again," he said, getting up on one knee, grabbing the overturned table for support. Brian's head spun like a carnival ride. He tried to wipe away some of the blood and dust and rubble from his face. "Where's Ian?" For the three years that Brian Douglas had been Bahrain station chief of SIS, British intelligence, the staff at the station had insisted that he take two bodyguards with him wherever he went, driving to and from his house on Manama's northern beach, going on trips elsewhere in the little country, or visiting the subordinate posts in the other Gulf states. For the last year it had almost always been Alec and Ian, two former Scots Guards sergeants. They had watched over him with a mix of professional polish and personal attention, as if he were a favorite nephew.