FROM AWARD-WINNING USA TODAY & MILLION-COPY BESTSELLING AUTHOR J. ROBERT KENNEDY
THE BALANCE OF POWER IS ABOUT TO SHIFT.
CAN DYLAN KANE STOP IT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE?
When a nearly bankrupt Russia is forced into a corner by an outraged world, abandoned by its traditional allies concerned with economics rather than ideologies, it plays its final card.
A card that could relegate it to middle-power status and make one of America’s greatest enemies an unrivaled superpower.
CIA Operations Officer Dylan Kane and his team are in a race against time to expose the deal before it’s completed, otherwise the world will never be the same.
In The Arsenal, award-winning USA Today and million-copy bestselling author J. Robert Kennedy once again delivers a torn-from-the-headlines suspense-packed thriller that will have you staying up late into the night to see what happens next. If you enjoy Bond, Bourne, and Hunt, you’ll love Dylan Kane.
Get your copy of The Arsenal now, and discover if Kane can save the world from a terrifying future…
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE DYLAN KANE SERIES
★★★★★ “The action sequences are particularly well-written and exciting, without being overblown.”
★★★★★ “I love how the author explains what’s needed but doesn’t just ramble on in narrative.”
★★★★★ “The events in this adventure are so real and so heart pounding you can’t put it down. Mr. Kennedy is by far my favorite writer.”
★★★★★ “Don’t mess with Kane, he takes no prisoners, especially when you target his friends.”
★★★★★ “This is one of the best stories I have ever read. The action and plot is believable and exciting and of course the climax is nail biting stuff. This author sure knows his stuff - if not, he does a great job of convincing his reader that he does!”
★★★★★ “Fast paced international spy thriller with good old American values among its main characters. I’d like to think we really do have agents like Kane.”
Release date: March 28, 2023
Publisher: UnderMill Press
Print pages: 288
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J. Robert Kennedy
Five Days From Now
CIA Operations Officer Sherrie White cocked an ear toward the heavy gunfire to her left. She recognized the distinctive rattle of AK-74 assault rifles and the crisp report of a Makarov pistol over the clapping of helicopter rotors. The Russians had obviously caught up to her colleague, and she said a silent prayer for him.
There was no way he could survive.
Not against those odds.
Her partner in this, her friend, and her country, were losing the best of what America had to offer the world. He was the quintessential hero and he was dying, sacrificing himself to give her a chance to survive.
And the guilt that knowledge filled her with was overwhelming.
She had to survive, she had to escape, she had to live on so that the gift of life he had given her at the expense of his own wasn’t wasted.
Then the gunfire stopped.
The chopper continued to pound at the air and she closed her eyes, saying goodbye to her fallen friend.
CIA Operations Officer Dylan Kane.
Five Days Earlier
CIA Operations Officer Dylan Kane peered around the corner and spotted his target standing one block away. Ansary Firouz leaned on the hood of his idling car, puffing on what was likely a Cuban cigar. The vermin was an Iranian businessman, an arms broker who not only sold weapons to the highest bidder, but also served as an intermediary between Iran and other foreign powers. He had been on the Agency’s watch list for years. Kane had wanted to take him out since the first time he had heard of him, but had been overruled. Because the man was so overconfident, so arrogant, he went to little effort to hide his activities, and Langley felt that could be advantageous at some point.
And perhaps they had been right.
Rumors were flying that Beijing might provide weaponry to Russia, and if they did, it could change the tide of the war and the balance of power. In fact, it could change the entire future of Western Europe. If Russia won in Ukraine, it was only a matter of time before it pushed into additional bordering territories like Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, and other former Soviet republics, and the West would stand by as a rearmed, resupplied Russia would be too expensive to fight.
His question had always been, where was Russia getting the money? As the sanctions continued to bite, their revenues were dropping, though not by as much as the West had hoped, because countries like India and China and others were happy to buy their oil at a discount, despite the innocent blood it represented. Every barrel of oil that a country like India or China bought from the Russians meant the authoritarian regime in Moscow could buy more bullets, more guns, more bombs, to kill the innocent. It disgusted him, and he personally felt it was time for sanctions to be levied against any country that continued to buy Russian resources.
But none of that mattered right now. Right now, he had been assigned to figure out just what the hell Firouz was doing. He had been spotted in Beijing two days ago then in Baghdad yesterday, entering the House of Leadership where the Iranian Ayatollah resided. And today he was in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, Moscow’s puppets in their Ukraine offensive. China was well aware that if they did directly sell weapons to Russia, the West might finally grow a backbone and bring in crippling sanctions, so they would likely use an intermediary. Sell the weapons to Iran then Iran sells them to Moscow. But if he could prove the connection before the deal was made, Washington would be able to warn off Beijing.
An SUV pulled up and Firouz pushed off the hood, stubbing out his cigar on the windshield.
Kane activated his comms. “Control, Wild One. We’ve got activity, over.”
His best friend’s voice replied in his earpiece. “Copy that, Wild One. We’re trying to get an angle on the new arrival. We’re repositioning the drone now. Can you get audio?”
“Stand by.” Kane reached into his pocket and retrieved a collapsible mic. He fanned out the cone as he activated it, the device automatically pairing with his phone. He aimed it toward the two men as he ducked back behind the corner, staring at the screen, a small red dot indicating where the device was centered.
All he heard was static.
He adjusted slightly as the two men shook hands, and their pleasantries came through loud and clear.
“The new arrival is Dimitri Peskov. He’s the Russian president’s chief of staff,” reported CIA Analyst Supervisor Chris Leroux.
Kane whistled. “In other words, he’s the type of person who shouldn’t be out alone in this part of town, at this time of night, in this country.”
“Stand by,” said Kane as the business side of the conversation began.
“I assume you were successful?”
Firouz nodded. “Extremely. They’ve agreed to supply everything that you’ve requested. It’ll be hidden through their regular weapons sales to various countries including Iran, and then redirected to you. The payments will follow the same route. There’ll be no direct communication or paper trail between Moscow and Beijing.”
“Excellent. And the personal message from the president?”
“Delivered, however, I didn’t receive a response before I left.”
“So you have nothing for me on that?”
“Only that my contact in Beijing said your president could expect a personal response in the next forty-eight hours, and that was yesterday, so I suspect you’ll be hearing something tomorrow.”
Firouz stepped closer. “Just what was this personal message?”
“That’s none of your concern
“It is if it involves money. I deserve my commission.”
“You’re being paid very handsomely. Now’s not the time to get greedy.”
Firouz chuckled. “Greed is expecting more than what was promised. I merely expect what I agreed to and nothing more. Ten percent for the first six months. If you have some side deal going, all I want is the same.”
Peskov regarded the man. “Ten percent of the deal that’s currently being negotiated will be enough money to buy your damn country. What could you possibly need more money for?”
“It’s not about the money. It’s the principle. If I can’t trust you, then I can’t work with you. And I have a feeling you’re going to need my help to make sure the Chinese don’t take advantage of you.”
Peskov grunted. “Trust me, if they do accept the president’s offer, the Chinese won’t be a problem.”
“So then, there is a deal?”
“You ask too many questions. You know what the Americans say about curiosity.”
Firouz stared. “What?”
“It killed the cat.” Peskov raised a finger over his right shoulder. A moment later a shot rang out and Firouz collapsed.
Kane pressed against the wall, his eyes immediately surveying the rooftops, searching for the sniper. “Control, any idea where that shot came from? I’m a sitting duck out here.”
“Stand by, Wild One. We’re reviewing the footage.”
Kane folded up the directional microphone, shoving it back in his pocket as he slowly retreated, his back pressed against the building as cover. He reached a doorway and stepped into it, hopefully reducing any angle a sniper might have on him. “Come on, guys. What’s the story?”
“Wild One, we’ve reviewed the footage. He was hit from behind. That sniper should have no angle on you, but that assumes there’s only one.”
“What’s Peskov doing?”
“Looks like he’s searching the body and taking Firouz’s wallet and other personal items, probably to make it harder to identify him. Okay, he’s returning to his SUV. He’s heading in your direction.” Leroux cursed. “He’s turning left. He’s going to be crossing right in front of you.”
Kane dropped, yanking his jacket up over his head and pulling it over his face as he curled into a ball, huddling in the corner of the door frame, attempting to appear homeless. The SUV passed, the engine fading into the night, and his heart settled.
“You’re clear,” reported Leroux.
“Am I? What about that sniper?”
“We just spotted another vehicle leaving about half a klick away. We’re tracing back where its occupant came from, but he’d be in the right position for the shot that was taken. Stand by.”
Kane maintained his homeless pretense, playing out the scenario for himself. If he were Peskov, what size team would he bring? It would be Russian, it would be government. A deal like this couldn’t risk outside contractors, no matter how much in bed they were with the regime. Probably Spetsnaz. They typically worked in teams of at least four. The fact that Peskov had come alone without a driver or bodyguard meant he didn’t even trust his security team to be exposed to what could be going on.
If it were a CIA op, he would position his team to cover him from all angles, which on this road, bordered on either side by four or five-story buildings, meant two snipers positioned north and south to cover the entire area. Two more would be on the ground so they could rush in should something go wrong that required a more hands-on response. He couldn’t see them with less than four, but more risked containment.
“Wild One, Control. We traced the driver to a building just south of you. Computer projection indicates it’s likely where the shot came from. He just picked up a second man who we’ve traced back to a position north of you.”
“So just the two?”
“Look for two more, probably on the ground, probably very nearby, in a vehicle.”
“We’re reviewing footage now of another vehicle that was parked one street over. Stand by, something’s happening.”
Kane tensed. “Care to elaborate?”
“Looks like all three vehicles in question are now heading in the same direction. One of them has already reached Peskov’s SUV and taken up position ahead of him. Looks like they’re setting up to be his escort.”
“Understood. Track him. Let’s see where he goes, but my guess is he’s heading straight back to Moscow. Any sign of further activity?”
“Negative, Wild One, but I recommend you get out of the area. Somebody probably heard that shot and that body will be spotted sooner rather than later.”
Kane rose, straightening his jacket. “Or the Russians will send in a cleanup crew. Either way, you’re right. Heading back to my vehicle now. Arrange transport for me to Moscow, and let the Chief know what we just heard. From the way Peskov was talking, it sounds to me whatever side deal they proposed to the Chinese could be even bigger than the weapons deal we’ve been worried about.”
“Any thoughts on what that could be?”
Kane grunted. “Nothing good.”
Presidential Executive Office, The Kremlin
Victor Stepanov folded yet another stick of gum in half before popping it in his mouth. He had drunk far too much the night before, and his mouth was ridiculously dry. In between repeated trips to buy bottled water and the inevitable bathroom break that would follow, he was getting little done, though he supposed that wasn’t necessarily true.
He was never very busy.
The only reason he had this job was because of who his father was. Alexei Stepanov was what the Western world liked to call an oligarch. His family controlled a huge amount of Russia’s mining operations, and they were worth billions, their operations allowed to function smoothly thanks to generous financial and vocal support of the president.
He couldn’t count the number of times he had actually met the man growing up, and he, like most Russians, was a huge admirer. When he was nearing graduation, the president had asked him what he wanted to do, and Victor had shrugged, uncertain as to what to say, but because of who had asked the question, he found himself spouting what he expected the man wanted to hear. “I’d like to serve my country in some capacity. I have a knack for languages, perhaps that could be useful.”
His mother had seized on his statement. “He’s fluent in six languages and can read, write, and speak them all. He might prove invaluable in your office.”
The president had politely smiled, merely saying, “Perhaps.”
But the day after graduation, he had received an email inviting him for an interview, and a week later he was a junior translator, a position he was certain was created for him. Why would you have a junior person working in the president’s office? It meant he rarely had important work to do, beyond translating news articles from various countries someone had flagged might be of interest to the president or his staff.
Today, he hoped the load would be light after last night’s outing. One of the senior translators had turned fifty, and despite being relatively new to the office, Victor had been invited out with the group. He had matched the old guard drink for drink, which had proven foolish. If there was one skill Russia’s older generation possessed, it was the ability to drink the younger generation under the table with ease.
He had returned home to his luxury apartment provided by his parents, the building mere steps away from the Kremlin where he worked, and had spent much of the night hugging the toilet bowl. Despite that, he had forced himself to arrive at work on time. 8:00 AM. He was rather disa
ppointed to find that his supervisor and guest of honor at last night’s outing had called in sick. So had half the damn staff, the other half rolling in late.
The outer door opened and the president’s deputy chief of staff, Anton Kozak, entered, gripping a file folder. “Where’s Sergie?”
Victor rose at the reference to the birthday boy. “I’m sorry, sir, but he called in sick.”
Kozak cursed. “That fat bastard thinks he can hold his liquor, but he can’t.” He growled, shaking the file folder. “I need a Chinese translator.”
“I can translate Chinese.”
Kozak regarded him with a frown. “I need someone more senior with a higher security clearance.”
Victor shrugged. “I’m sorry, sir. Right now, I’m the only one who can translate Chinese. I think Mr. Shalkov is coming in at noon if it can wait.”
“No, it can’t.” A string of colorful curses erupted before Kozak slapped the file on Victor’s desk. “Translate this, paper only, no copies, your eyes only. As soon as you’re done, you come directly to my office with it. Understood?”
“Yes, sir.” Victor had to pee.
“How long do you think it will take?”
Victor opened the file, flipping through the half-dozen pages. “If it’s as important as I think it is, sir, I believe the accuracy of the translation is critical. Two hours?”
“I hope that’s an overestimate.”
Victor gulped. “I hope so too, sir.”
“Fine. Just get the job done as quickly as you can.”
Kozak marched out of the office, slamming the door shut, rattling the photo of the president on the wall and causing Victor to flinch. His bladder released slightly and he bore down then raced for the bathroom, leaving the highly confidential file on his desk, a fact he didn’t realize until he was
hanging out in front of the urinal.
He sprinted back to his desk, finding the file untouched and the office still mostly deserted. He sat and pulled a pad of paper from his desk and a pencil to allow for easier editing. He opened the file folder and flipped past the cover sheet indicating it was a response to a specific message number, ...
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