Please say hello to Christian Beck and
The Last Enemy
Agents Of Influence #1
Highly decorated Delta Force operator and Iraq war hero Simon Monk loses everything when his romantic partner defects to Beijing after being caught selling US secrets to Chinese Intelligence. Monk is drummed out of the Army from the blowback but gets a second chance at a career when he is recruited into a covert group within the CIA.
Years later Monk’s latest assignment sends him to Cairo, where the head of station has disappeared amid a highly publicized sex scandal. But things are not what they seem. When the base chief turns up dead and the Egyptian government looks the other way, Monk and his team hunt down the assassin.
All roads lead to a ruthless and lethal cult from Egypt’s ancient past who discard every unwritten rule of espionage to win. Monk is forced to take to the shadows to find and destroy his most dangerous adversaries yet, as a chain of events threatens to ignite war in the Middle East.
Colonel Murad Hajjar sat in the luxurious private lounge of the Four Seasons Hotel, the same as he did every morning, enjoying a quiet breakfast of figs, yogurt, and toast with black coffee. He gazed out the enormous glass window before him, beyond the Nile and the glimmer of Cairo’s modern skyline to the surreal monolithic shapes of Giza’s pyramids, made more so by the heat.
It was the same view Hajjar saw every day, yet he still found its simple, quieting beauty a gift. He took his time with breakfast. As the head of the General Intelligence Directorate, his days typically offered no such pauses for quiet reflection. It was a simple pleasure that he had come to relish.
“Colonel Hajjar?” a male voice said in a level, reverent tone.
The words startled him out of his thoughts. The hotel staff knew well enough not to disturb him. Murad looked up and met the gaze of the tall, lean American who stood over him. The man radiated a powerful magnetism. He recognized the woman with him from his action reports. But the man, undoubtedly the new station head, was a stranger to him, and Murad was not a man who enjoyed a mystery.
Murad’s gaze played across Monk. He found the man striking, casually dressed in a short-sleeve navy Henley and white chinos, rounding off the look with brown leather brogues. The woman wore a white blouse with the sleeves rolled up and a knee-high skirt. The top two buttons were undone, exposing substantial pale, freckled cleavage. It was nothing that would offend the social sensibilities of the Egyptians. He had come to expect such behavior from the white whores of the West. And Murad was immune to such things.
“My name is Simon Monk, Colonel.” He held out his left hand.
The man had the grace to smile. Even if it was false, the colonel found the effect stunning.
“Yes, American CIA, if I am to judge by the company you keep.” Hajjar clasped Monk’s hand firmly.
“This is my colleague, Jenny Freeman. May we join you?”
As if he had a choice, Murad thought. Monk’s sudden, unannounced appearance suggested the Westerner was not a man to take no for an answer even had the words left his lips. He would enjoy being topped by such a man in bed. The colonel indulged in his mental perversions a moment, then nodded, giving the pair permission to sit.
They sat across from the fit, slightly built Arab, a few years older than Monk. His hair was black and cut short, almost to the scalp. His skin light, as was common among the region’s people. There was no softness to the man, owed largely in part to the rigid military uniform he wore with great distinction.
“I’m afraid I have no coffee to offer you, but I can flag a waiter.”
Monk held up his hand. “No, thank you. I’m more of a tea man, myself.”
“So tell me, Mr. Monk, what does the CIA want of me?”
Monk placed his Apple device on the table between them. Amr Faraq’s face filled the device’s 4.7-inch HD display.
“I’m looking for this man. Amr Faraq. I’m told he’s one of yours.”
Murad’s gaze shifted to Faraq’s face, but he continued to eat his breakfast. “No. He is not proper GID. We often subcontract work to local talent when necessary. If he had been used, it is in that capacity. I suspect it is the same with the CIA, yes?”
Monk nodded. The CIA’s reach, though considerable, could not touch every country. They often relied on local boots already on the ground with the lay of the land.
“Why is this man of interest to you?” Hajjar asked.
“I have a few questions for him regarding my predecessor.”
“The gay playboy? What about him?”
“He’s dead. Murdered, in fact, by your man.”
Monk saw the sudden uncertainty that flickered for a minute in Hajjar’s dark eyes. But then it was just as swiftly masked as he pushed his reaction to the background. It was the only crack in the man’s armor.
“My intelligence reports have suggested Mr. Truly is alive. On a yacht somewhere in the Red Sea on holiday, if you read the papers.”
“Another story spun by your state-run press house,” Monk said. “I’ve seen the evidence that proves otherwise.”
“Surveillance video of Faraq killing Truly and his husband in their residence, then disposing of the bodies.”
“Video can be manipulated, Mr. Monk.” Murad shrugged, unconvinced. “As easily as eyewitnesses can be corrupted.”
“Yes, well, it’s your country that’s waging a pretty one-sided war against Truly in the media. Almost as if there were some plot to embarrass the US.”
“You Americans and your conspiracy theories. I’m afraid this truth will leave you disappointed, Mr. Monk. There have been no closed-door meetings to conceive of that which your countrymen seem more than capable of doing on their own.”
“Perhaps. Still, I think CNN or the BBC would find the alternative viewpoint compelling.”
“Is there a question in there somewhere?”
“Yes. When Faraq murdered Jack Truly, was it under your orders or someone else’s?” Monk asked flatly, of serious face.
Hajjar’s gaze swept over them, astounded at the question. Monk’s boldness shocked even Jenny.
Murad locked eyes with Monk, his gaze focused and intent. “Is this what the much-lauded American diplomacy looks like? I was led to believe it was more tactful.”
Monk’s mouth flashed a razor-thin smile. “Tact is a politician’s tool, Colonel. I only see two soldiers sitting at this table.”
The dark, teasing gleam in Monk’s pale olive gaze, combined with his strong jaw and steely voice, stirred Murad’s groin. The colonel gave himself a firm mental shake back to reality.
“Answer me something, if you would, Mr. Monk,” Murad asked.
“Of course.” Monk put on a thoughtful expression.
“By all indication, yes.”
“Then would it not stand to reason that an accomplished man in the murder trade would potentially have many employers who make use of his particular talents?”
Monk’s phone vibrated. He checked the display, typed a quick text, and placed the device back on the table, display down. His gaze returned to Hajjar, and he said, “It does. And when I find him, I intend to squeeze him real hard and see what names he gives up.”
“Your organization’s interrogation prowess is something of much repute among my people. But my experience with such men is they tend to be found only of their own volition.”
With a set, cold face, Monk said, “Well, we killers tend to know what rocks to look under, now don’t we, Colonel?”
There was a moment of awkward silence. Murad did his best to assume a calm demeanor.
“Good day to you.” Monk flashed an icy smile and stood up. Jenny followed suit, and they left the room.
“And to you, Mr. Monk.” The colonel looked emptily back at him.
Get the book:
Writing a killer
The most challenging part about writing Simon Monk is Monk himself. The man is brutal, ruthless and deadly and he is the good guy. I didn’t pull any punches with him because Monk had to be harder and if necessary crueler than the enemy. Ten minutes on any international news channel tells you the state of the world. It’s never been more dangerous and that is where Simon Monk exists with the rest of us. So, there won’t be any hollowed out volcanoes housing madmen surrounded by buxom women threatening the world with nuclear annihilation. Not sorry about that omission. Also, of the challenges Monk faces, an internal struggle with who is his and what he does, isn’t among them. He doesn’t relish in it, but if Monk is sent to terminate an enemy operative, or threat to the Homeland or her citizens, he does it and quite dispassionately.
But a blunt instrument is quickly boring, which meant that Monk had to have equal counter balance to be interesting. Not an easy thing in a story where your hero is constantly surrounded by enemies—that’s a hell of a lot of killing on the page. So I introduced people from Monk’s past that he had helped. So, despite the constant bloodletting, his inherent goodness to those he cares about is always present. Monk has a code and you learn early on that he’s particularly sensitive to the victims of the world he operates in, even taking it upon himself to expand his orders. He is fiercely loyal to any who serve under him, the credo “leave no man behind” is his motto. Perhaps even more so, given his own abandonment by the Army, despite being an honored war hero who served with distinction. So, yes, the man’s a killer, but he’s one you can root for.
Meet the author:
Christian Beck saw Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia when he was a wee boy on a giant white drive-in screen in Super Panavision 70 amid the dusty Iowan cornfields, shaping his idea of what storytelling was. It stuck. Seldom does he write anything less than sweeping, epic adventures that pit his characters against some instrument or agent of death, pushing them beyond their every limit to survive. Simply put: Cinema put in words. He does that on a Surface Pro tablet sitting somewhere in the desert with his family – far, far away from those cornfields of the American Heartland. You can find Christian on Facebook.
Promotional post. Materials provided by the author.