Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Martyr's Curse by Scott Mariani

An extract from the new Ben Hope novel The Martyr's Curse.

Undisclosed location

North Korea

3 June 2011

Not long after his entry team had penetrated the inner core of the building, Udo Streicher 
knew it was over.

His information had been first-rate. The materials he’d been looking to acquire were exactly where his sources had said they would be, and he’d come within a hair’s breadth of having them. Millions had been spent on intelligence and equipment. An entire year had been devoted to planning. Twelve-hour days. Sometimes sixteen. Checking every possible detail. Obsessing over the layout of the hidden complex. Analysing the security systems. Evaluating the risk. Assessing their chances of making it out alive.

And for all that meticulous planning, now the raid had gone badly wrong. The mission was blown. The ten-strong group was down to nine. The equipment was lost. They’d ditched everything they’d brought with them, except their weapons.

Behind them in the white-walled, starkly neon-lit corridor, three dead bodies lay sprawled in pools of blood. Two of them belonged to the armed Korean security personnel who’d surprised the intruders just as they were about to make it through the final set of doors that separated them from their objective. The third belonged to an Austrian called Dieter Lenz, a follower of Streicher from the beginning. But Dieter wasn’t important any more. What mattered was getting out of here. Streicher refused to consider the alternatives. He’d rather die by his own bullet than face a lifetime of incarceration in the roach-infested hellhole of a North Korean prison camp.

The nine remaining members of the team ran in tight formation, their clattering footsteps all but drowned out by the shriek and whoop of alarm sirens that were sounding off all through the facility. Hannah Gissel had her pistol drawn and her teeth bared in a kind of animal ferocity. Torben Roth was clutching the Uzi he’d gunned the guards down with. Bringing up the rear were the Canadian, Steve Evers, and Sandro Guidinetti. Guidinetti looked like he was losing it under the pressure. ‘Which way did we come?’ Wolf Schilling yelled as they reached a fork in the corridor. Every door and wall in the lab complex looked the same.

‘This way,’ Streicher said, pointing left. He gripped Hannah’s arm and they raced on. The sirens seemed even louder, a wall of sound that permeated everything. Another door. Another bend in the corridor.

A side entrance swung open, and suddenly the way ahead was blocked off. A four-man security patrol, dressed in khaki paramilitary uniform and wielding Chinese-made assault rifles. Screaming at them in Korean. Streicher knew little of the language but the message was clear: DROP YOUR WEAPONS! SURRENDER OR WE WILL SHOOT!

The stand-off lasted less than two seconds. Torben Roth was the first to open fire, shooting from the hip and hosing nine-millimetre rounds up the corridor. Hannah snapped off three, four, five shots from her Glock. The guards crumpled up and fell. Streicher shot the last one with his own Heckler & Koch. He did it without hesitation or compassion. It wasn’t the first time he’d shot a man. ‘Come on!’ Hannah yelled. Her eyes were flashing with a mixture of aggression and terror and pure adrenalin. She leaped over the heap of dead men. The other eight followed.

A Martyr’s Curse
Can Ben Hope find peace at last in a remote medieval monastery in the French Alps? His wanderings through Europe might have led him to this refuge but salvation is to be short lived for wherever he goes, trouble is never far behind.

When a team of merciless killers invade his newfound sanctuary and slaughter the innocent monks, Ben’s revenge quest quickly draws him into a bewildering mystery of stolen treasure, deception and murder.

What is the truth behind the cache of gold bullion apparently hidden for centuries under the monastery? What is the significance of an ancient curse dating back to a cruel heretic burning in medieval times? What are the real ambitions of the enigmatic leader of an organisation of doomsday ‘preppers’ calling themselves Exercitus Paratorum: the Army of the Prepared?

As he works to unravel the mystery, Ben is confronted with a terrifying reality that threatens to devastate the world and reshape the whole of our future. The race is on to prevent the ultimate disaster and there’s only one man who save us. His name is Hope, Ben Hope.

The Martyr's Curse by Scott Mariani is published on 4 June by Avon (£7.99)

You can find more information about Scott Mariani and his work on his website.

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