Twelve Days by Alex BerensonTwelve Days by Alex Berenson

Twelve Days

byAlex Berenson

Paperback | January 26, 2016

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New York Times–bestselling author Alex Berenson is back with another gripping tale.
John Wells, with his former CIA bosses Ellis Shafer and Vinny Duto, have uncovered a staggering plot, a false-flag operation to drive the United States and Iran into war. But they have no proof and only twelve days to find a way to stop the headlong momentum. They fan out, from Switzerland to Saudi Arabia, Israel to Russia, desperately trying to tease out the clues in their possession. And meanwhile, the forces gather.
This is Alex Berenson’s ninth novel featuring John Wells. As a reporter for The New York Times, Berenson covered topics ranging from the occupation of Iraq—where he was stationed for three months—to the flooding of New Orleans, to the world pharmaceutical industry, to the financial crimes of Bernard Madoff. He graduated from Yale Unive...
Title:Twelve DaysFormat:PaperbackDimensions:544 pages, 7.5 × 4.25 × 1.13 inPublished:January 26, 2016Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0515155829

ISBN - 13:9780515155822

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Twelve Hours A good read with plenty of action.I think Berenson is getting better with each writing. I look forward to his next release
Date published: 2015-07-18

Read from the Book

PROLOGUETWELVE DAYS . . .MUMBAI, INDIAFor as long as he could remember, Vikosh Jain had wanted to seeIndia. His family’s homeland for a hundred generations. The world’slargest democracy. The birthplace of his religion.While his friends moved out after college, he lived at home, payingoff his loans and saving money for what he knew would be an epic adventure.The trip became an obsession. He mapped every train rideacross the subcontinent, Mumbai to Delhi, Kashmir to Madras. Finally,when he’d saved the twelve thousand dollars he’d budgeted for a ten-week trip, he bought his ticket.What a fool he’d been.After a month, he couldn’t wait to get home. He was sick of India.Sick with India, too. He’d stayed away from street food and drank onlybottled water. Even so, he found himself glued to a toilet a week after hearrived. The cheekier travel websites called what had happened to him“the Delhi diet.” It sounded like a joke, but by the time the doxycyclinekicked in, he’d lost ten pounds. He could hardly walk a flight of stairs.His skin let him pass for local, but his gut was suburban New Jerseythrough and through.Not just his gut. Coming here had taught him how American he reallywas. Every time he stepped into the streets, he was overwhelmed. Bythe dust coating his mouth. The shouting, honking, hawking crowds.The pushing and shoving and relentless begging. The way the menpawed women on buses and streetcars. He felt disconnected from all ofthem, even the ones who had money. Especially the ones who hadmoney. He’d planned to spend a week with his father’s family in Delhi,but he left after two days. He couldn’t stand the way his aunt screechedat her maids and gardeners, like they weren’t people at all.Before the trip, his parents had warned him his expectations were unrealistic.When he emailed home to complain, long paragraphs of frustration,his father had answered in one sentence: You need to accept it forwhat it is. And after another long screed: Don’t you see? This is why we left.Even as Vik read those words, his stomach pulled a 720-degree spin,like a reckless snowboarder had taken up residence in his gut. He wonderedwhat he’d eaten this time. He wasn’t scheduled to fly home foranother six weeks. But enough. Enough was enough. He clicked over and found that for only two hundred dollars he could changehis flight. He could leave this very night. He tried to convince himself tostay, that he would be quitting, betraying his heritage. But India wasn’this country. Never had been. Never would be.He reached for his credit card.Now, after an endless taxi ride to Chhatrapati Shivaji InternationalAirport, an hour-long wait to enter the terminal, three bag searches, twoX-rays, and a barking immigration officer, Vik was almost free. He hadmaybe the worst seat on the plane, 45A, a window in the cabin’s last row.So be it. He’d be close to the toilets.Nick Cuse had captained nonstops to Mumbai and Delhi for two years.After twenty-eight years at Continental—and he would always think ofCAL as his employer, never mind the merger or the name on the sideof the jet—he could choose his runs. Most captains with his senioritypreferred Hong Kong or Tokyo, well-run airports that weren’t surroundedby slums like the one in Mumbai. But Cuse had started as aNavy pilot, landing F-14s on carrier decks. He was keenly aware thatevery year commercial aircraft became more automated. Every year, pilotshad less to do. He wanted to end his career as something other thana glorified bus driver. Mumbai was a lot of things, but it was rarely boring.Twice he’d had to abort landings for slum kids running across therunway, airport cops chasing them like a scene from a bad movie.His co-pilot, Henry Franklin, was also ex-Navy, just young enough tohave flown sorties in the first Gulf War. They’d shared the cockpit threedays earlier, and Cuse was happy to have Franklin with him for the rideback. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, a civilian with a week of trainingcould have done what they were about to do. But the hundredth timedefined the job. A good pilot felt a crisis coming before his instrumentsdid, and defused it before it became serious enough to be a threat. Cusehad that sixth sense, and he saw it in Franklin. Though the guy was a bitsharp to the crew.Now they sat side by side in the cockpit making final preflight checks,their relief crew sitting at the back of the cockpit. A flight this long requiredanother captain and first officer. Their Boeing 777 was just aboutfull, making weight and balance calculations easy. Two hundred sixty-one passengers, seventeen crew members. Two-seven-eight human soulstraveling eight thousand miles, over the Hindu Kush, the Alps, the Atlantic.They would fly in darkness from takeoff to landing, the sun chasingthem west, never catching them.Every time you leave the earth, it’s a miracle, Cuse’s first instructor atPensacola had told him. You come back down, that’s another. A miracle ofhuman invention, human ingenuity, human cunning. Never forget that, no matterhow routine it may seem. Always respect it.“Captain,” Franklin said. “We’re topped up.” An eight-thousand-mileflight into the jet stream required the 777 to leave Mumbai with full tanks,forty-five thousand gallons of aviation-grade kerosene. The fuel itselfweighed three hundred thousand pounds, accounting for almost half thejet’s takeoff weight. They were carrying fuel to carry fuel, an inherentproblem with long-range flights.Cuse glanced at his watch, a platinum Rolex, his wife’s present to himon the day they signed their divorce papers. Nine years later, he stilldidn’t know why she’d given it to him. Or why he’d kept it. 11:36 p.m.Four minutes before scheduled departure. They’d leave on time. ByMumbai standards they had a good night to fly, seventy degrees, a breezecoming off the Indian Ocean to push away smog from trash fires anddiesel-spewing minibuses. He looked over his displays one more time.Perfect.Cuse liked to keep the cockpit door open as long as possible, a throwbackto the days when pilots didn’t regard every passenger as a potentialterrorist. Now the purser poked his head inside. “Cabin ready for push-back, sir.”“Thank you, Carl. You can close the door.”“Yes, sir.” The purser switched on the cockpit lock and pulled shutthe door.“Cockpit locked, Captain,” Franklin said. In aviation lingo, he was the“pilot monitoring,” with the job of talking to the tower and watchingthe instruments. Cuse was the “pilot flying,” responsible for handling theplane.“Thank you, Henry.”“Greetings, United Flight 49. I’m Carl Fisher, your purser. We’ve closedthe cabin door and are making final preparations for our flight to Newark.At this point, United requires you to put your cell phone on airplanemode. To make the flight more relaxing for you and everyone aroundyou, we don’t allow in-flight calls. But you are free to use approved electronicdevices once we’ve taken off. The captain has informed me thathe’s expecting our flight time to be sixteen hours. We do recommendthat you keep your seat belt fastened for the duration of the flight in casewe run into any rough air, as is common over the Himalayas . . .”Vik thumbed in one last text to his mother—On the plane, see youtomorrow—and then turned off his phone. Even if his stomach settleddown, he doubted he’d sleep. He was caught between the cabin wall anda chubby twenty-something woman wearing a Smith College sweatshirtand hemp pants. She smelled of onion chutney and positive thinking.She caught him looking at her and extended a hand, exposing a dirtyLivestrong bracelet. “We’re going to be neighbors for sixteen hours, weshould know each other’s names. Jessica.”Vik awkwardly twisted his arm across the seat to shake. “Vik. Let meguess. Yoga retreat?”“That obvious? How about you?”“I came to visit family.”“That’s so wonderful. Getting to see the place where you’re from.”“Sure is.” Despite himself, Vik liked this woman. He wished he couldhave seen the country through her eyes instead of his own.It was 11:50 p.m. by Cuse’s Rolex when he swung the jet onto 09/27. Foryears, the airport here had tried to operate a second, intersecting runway,a prescription for disaster. Complaints from pilots and its own controllersfinally forced it to stop. Now 09/27 was the airport’s sole runway. At thismoment, it was empty, two miles of concrete that ran west toward theIndian Ocean.“United Airlines four-nine heavy, you are cleared for takeoff on runwaynine. Wind one-two-zero, ten knots.” The air-traffic controllers herehad call-center English, clear and precise.“United forty-nine heavy, cleared for takeoff on nine.” Franklinclicked off.Like all new-generation jets, the 777-200 was fly-by-wire. Computerscontrolled its engines, wings, and flaps. But Boeing had designed thecockpit to preserve the comforting illusion that pilots physically handledthe plane. Instead of dialing a knob or pushing a joystick, Cuse pushedthe twin white throttle handles about halfway forward. The responsewas immediate. The General Electric engines on the wings spooled up,sending a shiver through the airframe.Cuse lifted his hand. “N1.” For routine takeoffs, the 777 had anauto-throttle system for routine takeoffs, though he could override it atany time.“N1.” Franklin tapped instructions into a touch screen beside thethrottle handles. “Done.”Cuse dropped the brakes and the three-hundred-fifty-ton jet rolledforward, at first slowly, then with an accelerating surge. They reachedeighty knots and Franklin made the usual announcement: “Eighty knots.Throttle hold. Thrust normal. V1 is one-five-five.”At one hundred fifty-five knots, the 777 would reach what pilotscalled V1, the point at which safety rules dictated going ahead with takeoffeven with a blown engine. Franklin spoke the figure as a formality.Both men knew it as well as their names.“One-five-five,” Cuse repeated, a secular Amen.Cuse’s gut and the instruments agreed: V1 would be no problem.The engines were running perfectly. Cuse felt as though he were wearingblinkers. The city, the terminal, even the traffic-control tower nolonger existed. Only the runway before him and the metal skin that surroundedhim.The markers clipped by. They passed one hundred thirty knots, oneforty, one fifty, nearly race-car speed, though the jet was so big and stablethat Cuse wouldn’t have known without the gauges to tell him—“V1,” Franklin said. And only a second later: “Rotate.” Now theTriple-7 had reached one hundred sixty-five knots, about one hundredninety miles an hour. As soon as Cuse pulled up its nose, the lift under itswings would send it soaring. Cuse felt himself tense and relax simultaneously,as he always did at this moment. Boeing’s engineers and United’smechanics and everyone else had done all they could. The responsibilitywas his. He pulled back the yoke. The jet’s nose rose and it leapt into thesky. A miracle of human invention.“Positive rate,” Franklin said.“Gear up.” Cuse pushed a button to retract the landing gear. Theywere gaining altitude smartly now, almost forty feet a second. In lessthan a minute, they would be higher than the world’s tallest building. Infive, they would be able to clear a good-size mountain range.“United four-nine heavy, you are clear. Continue heading two-sevenzero—”“Continue two-seven-zero,” Franklin said.“Good-bye,” Cuse said. That last word was not strictly necessary, buthe liked to include it as long as takeoff was copasetic, a single touch ofhumanity in the middle of the engineering, good-bye, au revoir, adios amigos,but no worries, I’ll be back.They topped four hundred feet and the city bloomed around them.“Flaps,” Franklin said.“Flaps up. Climb power.”Vik pressed his nose against the window, looking down at the terminal’sbright lights. He felt an unexpected regret. Maybe he should have stayedlonger, given the place another chance. He might see it again. Once hemarried, had children, a trip like this one would be impossible. Unlesshe married a wannabe yogi like Jessica and got stuck taking trips to Indiafor all eternity.“I miss it already,” she said, as if reading his mind.“What’s not to love?” He wondered if she knew he was being sarcastic.Second by second, the jumbled neighborhoods around the airportcame into view. At ground level, Mumbai hid its massive slums behindconcrete walls and elevated highways. But from above, they were obvious,dark blotches in the electrical grid, the city’s missing teeth. Some ofthe largest surrounded the airport. Vik had read a book about them. Heimagined rows of rat-infested mud-brick huts, children and adults jumbledtogether on straw mattresses, trying to sleep, plotting their next dollar,their next meal. So much desperation, so much bad luck and trouble.They pushed on. But then, what else could they do?Then, from the edge of the slum nearest the airport, Vik sawsomething he didn’t expect.Twin red streaks cutting through the night. Fireworks. Maybe someonedown there had something to celebrate, for a change. But they didn’tpeter out like normal fireworks. They kept coming, arcing upward—Not fireworks. Missiles.Following a failed al-Qaeda effort to shoot down an Israeli passenger jetin Kenya in 2002, the Federal Aviation Administration had consideredmaking American airlines retrofit their fleets with antimissile equipment.But installing thousands of jets with chaff and flare dispensers,along with radar systems to warn pilots of incoming missiles, would havebeen hugely expensive. Estimates ranged from five to fifty billion dollars.Worse, the engineers who designed the countermeasures couldn’t say ifthey would allow a passenger jet to escape. Passenger planes were far lessmaneuverable than fighter jets. Their engines gave off big, obvious heatsignatures. And major airports were so congested that the systems mighthave caused jets to fire flares in each other’s paths.The seriousness of the threat was also unclear. Despite their reputationfor being easy to use, surface-to-air missiles required substantialtraining. After a few months of memos, the FAA shelved the idea of aretrofit. And so American jets remained unprotected from surface-to-airattack.From the cockpit, Cuse felt the missiles before he saw them. Somethingfar below that didn’t belong. He looked down, saw the streaks. They hadjust cleared the airport’s western boundary. Unlike Vik Jain, he knew immediatelywhat they were.“Max power.” He shoved the throttle forward and the turbines whinedin response. “Nose down—” He dropped the yoke.“Captain—”Cuse ignored him, toggled Mumbai air-traffic control. “Mumbaitower, United four-nine heavy emergency. Two missiles—”“Repeat, United—”“SAMs.” The tower couldn’t help him now. He flicked off, snuckanother look out the window. In the five seconds since he’d first spottedthem, the missiles had closed half the gap with the jet. They had to bedeep in the supersonic range, twelve hundred miles an hour or more. Amile every three seconds. Of course, the Boeing was moving, too, atthree hundred miles an hour and accelerating. With a two-mile horizontallead and a thousand feet of vertical. If the SAMs were Russian, theyhad a range of three to four miles. At three miles, the jet would probablyescape.At four, it wouldn’t.The world’s deadliest math problem. Those beautiful deadly streakswould either reach him or not, and the worst part was he’d alreadyplayed his only card. He couldn’t outmaneuver the missiles, or hide fromthem. He could only try to outrun them.In 45A, Vik had felt the surge of the engines. Then the plane leveledoff, more than leveled off, started to drop. They know. They’ll do whateverthey do to beat these things and we’ll be fine. But the missiles kept coming,closing the gap shockingly fast, homing in on the jet, arrows from thebow of the devil himself.He grabbed Jessica’s hand.“Whoever you pray to, pray. Pray.”“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee—” The words tumbledout of her. Vik just had time to be surprised. He’d expected a yogicchant. One of the streaks flared out, fell away.But the other didn’t.The Russians referred to the missile as the Igla-S—igla being the Russianword for “needle.” NATO called it the SA-24 Grinch. The Russian militaryhad put it into service in 2004, updating the original Igla. They’d investedheavily in the redesign, knowing that man-portable surface-to-airmissiles had a wide export market. Armies all over the world dependedon them to neutralize close air support. A single SAM could take out atwenty-million-dollar fighter. The Russians more than doubled the sizeof the Igla’s warhead. They improved its propellant to allow it to catcheven the fastest supersonic fighter. They added a secondary guidancesystem.And they lengthened its range. To six kilometers.Twelve seconds after its launch, the Igla crashed into the Boeing’s leftengine. The warhead didn’t explode right away. Its delayed fuse gave ittime to burrow inside the casing of the turbine. A tenth of a second later,five and a half pounds of high explosive detonated.In movies, missile strikes inevitably produced giant midair fireballs.But military jets had Kevlar-lined fuel tanks. In the real world, missilesdestroyed fighters by shearing off their engines and wings, sending themcrashing to earth.This time, though, the Hollywood myth was accurate. The 777’s fueltanks weren’t designed to survive a missile strike, and the plane carriedfar more fuel than a fighter jet. It was a flying bomb, fifty times as bigas the one that had blown up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building inOklahoma City.The explosion started in the fuel tanks under the left wing and createda superheated cloud of burning kerosene that tore apart the cabinless than two seconds later. From Nick Cuse, in the cockpit, to VikoshJain, in the last row, all two hundred seventy-eight people on board wereincinerated. The ones nearest the fuel tanks in the wings didn’t die asmuch as evaporate, their physical existence denied.Despite his immediate action, Cuse couldn’t save his jet. Even so, hewas a hero. By getting the Boeing offshore—barely—before the missilestruck, he saved the city from the worst of the fireball. If the explosionhad happened over the slums, hundreds of people would have burned todeath. Instead, Mumbai’s residents lifted their heads and watched asnight turned to day. The tallest buildings were the worst damaged, so foronce the rich suffered more than the poor.The fireball lasted a full thirty seconds before fading, replaced with anunnatural blackness, a cloud of smoke that didn’t dissipate until themorning. By then, the toll of the attack would be clear. Besides the twohundred seventy-eight people on the plane, two people on the grounddied. One hundred sixty-five more suffered severe burns. Planes all overthe world were grounded.And the United States and Iran were much closer to war.PART ONE1WASHINGTON, D.C.The images were horrific. A man’s legs, brown skin sloughed off,exposing the yellow-red meat underneath. A layer of jet fuel burningon top of the ocean, charring a chunk of bone. Worst of all, bits of astuffed toy, blood smearing its white fur.The first reports of an explosion in Mumbai showed up on Twitterninety seconds after the jet was hit. A half hour later, 12:30 a.m. in India,2 p.m. in Washington, the Associated Press and Reuters confirmed aplane crash. The Indian navy had sent ships to search the waters west ofthe city, Reuters said. Two hours later, a bleary-eyed spokesman for theIndian Ministry of Civil Aviation identified the jet as a United Airlinesflight bound for Newark. “The situation is difficult. At this point, we cannotexpect survivors.”Almost immediately, Reuters broke the news that the jet’s captain hadreported missiles in the air seconds before the plane exploded. Then anIndian news agency reported that airport authorities had surveillancevideo that showed a missile striking the jet. By 8 p.m. Eastern, CNN andFox and everyone else had the video. The anchors murmured somberly,Disturbing, we want to warn you so you can have your children leave theroom . . .The video was silent, not even a minute long. The camera was fixedand faced west from the airport’s control tower. It didn’t capture the actuallaunch. The missiles were already airborne when they entered theframe. From left to right, twin red streaks rose toward an invisible target.After five or six seconds, they faded, too far away for the camera tocatch. But they hadn’t stopped their chase. The proof came with the explosion,a white flash tearing open the night, resolving into a mushroomcloud. The shock wave hit seconds later, rattling the camera as the cloudin the distance grew.HORROR IN THE SKIES, the crawl under the video said, and this timeCNN wasn’t exaggerating. India’s navy would call off its search by morning.No one could have survived.The inevitable next act would be assigning blame.The video ended. CNN cut to a serious-looking man in a gray suitwith a white shirt. Fred Yount, Terrorism Analyst at RAND Institute—John Wells flicked off the screen before he had to hear Yount. A mansqueezed a trigger in the dark. A few seconds later, almost three hundredpeople were dead. Whatever Yount had to say wouldn’t change thosebare facts.Wells had quit the Central Intelligence Agency years before. But he’dnever escaped the secret world. He knew now he never would. He feltlike a swimmer fighting a whirlpool. He was strong enough to avoidbeing sucked down, but not to reach land. He could only tread water,knowing that one day his body would fail.He was in his early forties, but his chin was still sturdy, his shouldersthick with muscle. Only the patches of gray hair at his temples and thepermanent wariness in his brown eyes betrayed his age and his too-closeacquaintance with the world’s sins.Now he lay back on his bed, stared at the ceiling. He was in room 319in the Courtyard by Marriott at the Washington Navy Yard, a hotelfavored by randy congressmen for its nearness to their offices. More thananything, Wells wanted to close his eyes. Sleep. But he had a plane tocatch in less than four hours. He had arrived in the United States only thenight before. Now he was going back the way he’d come, over the Atlantic,bound for London and Zurich. To meet with a man who didn’t muchwant to see him. Then, maybe, to Mumbai.Wells understood. He didn’t want to see himself either. Not at themoment. He was carrying himself around like a rain-soaked cardboardbox about to burst. Too many miles. And too much death. Wells blamedhimself for the downing of the jet. A few days before, he’d discovered thetruth about a plot to maneuver the United States into war with Iran.He’d nearly found a way to stop it. But his enemies had outplayed him.He’d failed.Wells turned out the bedside light. He closed his eyes, and for sixtyseconds thought of the jet’s passengers. Then he made himself forgetthem. Nothing else to do.A light knock stirred him. The room door swung open. “Nice opsec.”Ellis Shafer’s gravelly, mumbly voice. The lights flicked on.“If it came to that, I could kill you in my sleep, Ellis.”“Hitting you hard?”“I’m all right.” Wells pushed himself up.“Of course you are.” Shafer sat on the bed next to Wells. “They probablydidn’t even know what hit them. Except the captain. Obviously.”“You should be a grief counselor.”“Should I tell you they’re in heaven with seventy-two million virginseach?”“Ellis—”“Too soon?”Wells had been raised Christian but converted to Islam more than adecade before, in the mountains of Pakistan. Shafer was a Jew who haddeclared his atheism at his bar mitzvah more than fifty years earlier. UnlikeWells, he still worked for the CIA. Barely. Until one of the new director’snew men got around to dropping off a letter of resignation for him.Over the years, Wells and Shafer had worked together on a half-dozenoperations.But they had never faced a mission as tricky as this one.A few weeks before, Iran had begun a secret campaign against the UnitedStates. Assassins working for the Quds Force, the foreign intelligenceunit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, killed a CIA station chief. Then theGuard smuggled radioactive material onto a Pakistani ship bound forCharleston, South Carolina. Fortunately, a rogue Guard colonel tippedthe CIA to Iran’s efforts, enabling the Navy to intercept the ship in theAtlantic.Then the colonel gave the agency an even more disturbing piece ofintel. He said Iran had moved three pounds of weapons-grade uraniumto Istanbul. The uranium was ultimately destined for the United States,according to the colonel, who called himself Reza.Wells and Shafer knew that the truth was very different. Iran hadnothing to do with the killing of the station chief, or the smuggling.Reza wasn’t a Revolutionary Guard colonel at all. He worked for a privategroup trying to trick the United States into attacking Iran. A billionairecasino mogul named Aaron Duberman had paid for the operation.Duberman hoped to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon that itmight use against Israel. Iran regularly threatened to annihilate the Jewishstate, and a nuclear weapon would make the threat real. Even if Irannever used the bomb, its mere existence would give the country newfreedom to launch terrorist attacks against Israel.Since the fall of the Shah in 1979, the United States had stood firmlywith Israel against Iran. Now the relationship between Washington andTehran was warming. The White House had recently agreed to looseneconomic sanctions against Iran. In turn, Tehran promised to stop workon its nuclear weapons program. But those promises in no way satisfiedDuberman and the mysterious woman who was his chief lieutenant.They had decided to force the United States to act by fooling the WhiteHouse into believing that Iran was trying to smuggle the pieces of a nuclearweapon onto American soil.Wells and Shafer had unraveled the scheme in the last couple ofweeks, after Wells tracked down Glenn Mason, an ex–CIA case officerwho had betrayed the agency to work for Duberman. Senior CIA officialsrefused to consider that Mason might be involved, for a reason thatat first seemed airtight. Mason had been reported dead in Thailand fouryears before, and the death report appeared genuine. Mason hadn’t usedhis passport or bank accounts since. In reality, Wells discovered, Masonhad undergone extensive plastic surgery, so he could travel without settingoff facial-recognition software.After chasing Mason across three continents, Wells finally found himin Istanbul. But Mason turned the tables, capturing Wells and imprisoninghim in an abandoned factory. Wells spent a week in captivity beforekilling Mason and escaping. Wells assumed that the Turkish policewould find Mason’s body at the factory, setting off an investigation thatwould unravel the plot.Instead, Duberman’s mercenaries disposed of Mason’s body andcleaned up the factory, leaving police with nothing to find. Wells andShafer had no other evidence to prove that Duberman was involved.Meanwhile, the plot was close to success.Tests conducted by the Department of Energy had shown that theweapons-grade uranium the CIA found in Istanbul didn’t come from anyknown stockpile. The DOE and CIA agreed that Iran was the only logicalcandidate to have produced it. Kilogram-size chunks of highly enricheduranium didn’t exist in private hands. And Iran had worked onnuclear weapons for decades, doing everything possible to hide its effortsfrom international inspectors. The United States and Israel had repeatedlyunearthed hidden enrichment plants over the years. But Iran wastwice as big as Texas. No one could say for sure that every plant had beenfound. In fact, Iranian exiles had told the CIA of rumors that the governmenthad opened a new plant deep under central Tehran.Despite his fears of starting another war in the Middle East, the Presidentdecided he had to accept the reality of the Iranian threat. In an OvalOffice speech, he gave Iran two weeks to end its nuclear program or facean invasion. To support his threat, he ordered drones and stealth fightersto bomb Tehran’s airport. Congressional leaders in both parties backedthe President. Ironically, the earlier deal with Iran increased his credibility.A man who wanted an excuse to invade Iran wouldn’t have spentyears trying to end sanctions.China and Russia protested the American attack on Tehran, but neithercountry offered any military aid to Iran. Afghanistan and Turkey,which had long-standing rivalries with Iran, agreed to allow the UnitedStates to use their territories as bases for American forces who mighteventually invade. The rest of the world stayed on the sidelines. Mostcountries seemed to think the United States and Iran deserved eachother. One was a fading empire that used its military too often, the othera dangerous theocracy that couldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons.Iran responded furiously to the American threat. Its supreme leader,Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gave a two-hour speech accusing the UnitedStates of lying to justify an invasion: “Iran shall never open its legs to thefilthy Zionist-controlled inspectors. Our people will gladly accept martyrdom.The Crusaders and the Jews will suffer the fury that they have unleashed . . .”Now someone had shot down an American plane. Iran was the obvioussuspect. And the Islamic Republic had a history of terrorism againstthe United States.Shafer turned on the television. CNN was replaying the explosion yetagain.“Think it was Duberman?”“A couple hundred civilians wouldn’t stop him, if he thought it wouldfuel the fire.”“On the other hand . . .” Shafer didn’t have to finish the thought. TheIranian government might also have downed the jet. The fact that it wasinnocent of the nuclear plot made it more rather than less likely to lashout. From Iran’s point of view, the United States had created fake evidenceas an excuse for an invasion. Iran was not likely to wait for Americantroops to cross its borders before it took revenge.“We have any idea where Duberman is?” Wells said.“Probably Hong Kong,” Shafer said. “When not starting a war, he’sgot casinos to run. Those rich Chinese want to see the man who’s takingtheir money.”Wells wondered if Duberman was cold-blooded enough to glad-handwealthy gamblers while goading the United States into war. He’d nevermet the man. But the sheer boldness of Duberman’s scheme suggestedthat the answer was yes. And Duberman was not just an ordinary billionaire,if such a creature existed. He was one of the richest men in theworld, with a fortune of almost thirty billion dollars. He had mansionsall over the world, a small fleet of private jets, his own island. He hadspent $196 million on ads in the previous presidential election, makinghim the largest political donor ever. Some analysts believed that the Presidentwouldn’t have won without his help.“You talk to Evan and Heather?” Shafer said. Wells’s son and ex-wife.“Yeah. They agreed to hang out a few more days. Though they aren’thappy about it.” “Hang out” translated into stay in FBI protective custody.Before Wells killed him, Mason had threatened Evan and Heather. Wellsdidn’t know if Mason had been serious, but he couldn’t take the risk.  “Where are they?”“Provo. Heather told me the biggest risk was death by boredom. AndEvan says I’m going to get him kicked off the team. He just cracked therotation and now this.” Evan was a shooting guard on San Diego State’snationally ranked basketball team.“We all have problems. You mention you killed five guys three daysago?”“We had a nice conversation about it.”The room door banged open. Vinny Duto walked in. Strode in.The former Director of Central Intelligence, Duto was now a Pennsylvaniasenator. He’d crash-landed in the Senate after the Presidentpushed him out of the CIA. He was an old-school politician, unpolishedand raw with power. No one would call him handsome. He had stubbyfingers, a heavy Nixonian face. But his intensity had resonated withPennsylvania’s flinty voters. He had dominated the debates.As DCI, Duto had saved Wells’s life more than once. Now they wereworking together to stop Duberman. But Wells could barely stand Dutoat the best of times. He saw Duto as the worst kind of Washington opportunist.And he knew that Duto pegged him as an adrenaline junkiewho took unnecessary risks.They were both right.Duto offered Wells a thin-lipped smile. “Gentlemen. Hope I haven’tinterrupted anything.” Duto liked to irritate Shafer by accusing him ofhaving an old man’s crush on Wells.Wells felt the itching in the tips of his fingers that meant he was readyto fight. Three hundred people dead and Duto was cracking jokes. Wellsknew exactly what Duto thought of the downed plane. Not a tragedy. Amoment. One that might help his career if he played it right.“Imagine you lost a donor on that plane,” Wells said. “Then youcould pretend to care.”“Life lessons from you, Johnny? Definition of irony.”“Boys. Already?” Shafer clapped his hands like a cheerleader trying todistract a drunken crowd from a blowout. “Same team here. Same team.We have bigger fish to fry, n’est-ce pas?”Shafer’s horrendous French broke the spell. “Did you just say n’est-cepas?” Duto said.“He did,” Wells said.“You two ready to be grown-ups?”They both nodded.“Then let’s move on. Please tell us you have something CNN doesn’t,Vinny.”The new CIA director, Scott Hebley, had tried to freeze Duto out. ButDuto still had sources in the National Clandestine Service, the formerDirectorate of Operations.“Video analysis says the missiles traveled at least five kilometers fromlaunch, maybe six. Based on distance and speed, the betting is they’relate-model Russian SAMs. Possibly SA-24s. Which only came into servicein 2004. Unfortunately, they’re pretty much untraceable. The Russianshave sold them all over, including Libya. After Qaddafi went down in2010, we had a report that both Iran and Hezbollah agents got theirhands on a bunch.”“And could easily have moved them to India,” Shafer said.“The White House will see it that way for sure. At this point, I don’tthink we have any way to know whether this is Duberman pushing buttonsor the Iranians firing across the bow.”“Anything on the ground?”“The Indian security services have responded with their usual efficiency,”Duto said.Meaning none. In 2008, terrorists had attacked hotels, a synagogue,and the central train station in Mumbai. The police didn’t respond inforce for hours, allowing ten attackers to kill 166 people and wound hundredsmore. “Good news is that the Bureau”—the FBI—“has a five-manforensic team permanently in Delhi. They’ve flown in, along with someof our guys. Bad news is that there are a bunch of slums around the airport.Very dark at that hour, no security cameras. It’s just possible whoeverdid this was dumb enough to leave the firing tube on the ground.Otherwise.” Duto raised a mock missile to his shoulder. “Drive in, pow-pow, drive out.”“Pow-pow,” Wells said.Shafer grunted at him: You made your point, now lay off.“White House planning anything?”“If they are, they’re not telling me. But at the moment, I don’t thinkso. They suspect Iran, but they’ve got no evidence. I think for us the bestbet is to stay away from Mumbai, stick with the original plan.”That morning, before the attack, the men had met at Duto’s office inPhiladelphia and agreed that finding the real source of the Istanbul uraniumwas their only chance to stop the plot. They were caught in theworld’s worst game of chicken-and-egg. With the President already havinglaunched a drone strike against Iran, the CIA wasn’t about to chasenew theories. Especially one that accused the President’s largest campaigndonor of treason.Wells, Shafer, and Duto would have to find their own proof. But theywere stuck on their own. They couldn’t have NSA crack open the serversat Duberman’s casino company. They couldn’t go to the CIA for surveillanceor Special Operations Group help.But if they could prove that someone other than Iran had suppliedthe uranium, then the President and CIA would at least have to considertheir theory about Duberman. And no matter how careful Dubermanand his operatives had been, the agency and NSA could unravel whathe’d done if they focused on him.Unfortunately, at the moment they had no idea who might have suppliedthe uranium. They faced the same blank wall that had led theagency to conclude that Iran had been the source. And they were shorton time to find out. The President had given his speech, with its two-weekdeadline, almost three days earlier. They had less than twelve daysleft, if they were lucky.Wells saw that Duto was right. Mumbai was a blind alley. Let the FBIand CIA work it. Their first plan was still their best option.“Fine,” Wells said. “Zurich it is.” Zurich was home to Pierre Kowalski,an arms dealer, both friend and enemy to Wells over the years. Kowalskiwas dirty enough to know who might have been sitting on a stashof weapons-grade uranium. Wells could only hope he was clean enoughto want to stop this war.“You going tonight?”“Through London.”“He know you’re coming?”“He knows.”“He gonna help?”“He said he’d see me. Not sure he knows anything.” Must we do this?Kowalski had asked when Wells called. To which Wells had said, Yeah.We must. And hung up before Kowalski could object.“But he’ll see you? How sweet.”Before Wells could swipe back, Shafer intervened. “You talk to Rudi,Vinny?” Ari Rudin, who had run the Mossad until two years before, whenthe Israeli Prime Minister forced him out.“Yeah. He tried to tell me he was too sick to meet.”“Sick?”“He has lung cancer. Been keeping it quiet. Told him I’d come to TelAviv. I’m not expecting much. I fly out tonight. Twenty-two-hour round-trip for a ten-minute meeting.” Duberman’s wealth and his importancein Israel meant that the Mossad must have watched him over the years.“Too bad you don’t have lung cancer, too,” Wells said. “You couldmake him meet you halfway.”“What about you, Ellis?” Duto said. “You going to look for the leak?”The final thread. Duberman’s team seemed to have a source insideLangley. Wells, Shafer, and Duto weren’t sure whether the leaker knewthe truth about the plot or had simply been fooled into giving up bits ofinformation that Duberman could use. In any case, they saw the leakeras an opportunity as well as a threat. He was another potential avenue toDuberman. But they risked alerting Duberman to what they knew ifthey went after him.“At this point, no. Ice is too thin. I’m just going to go into my office,keep my head down for a couple days. May try to talk to Ian Duffy. Mason’sstation chief in Hong Kong. He’s back in D.C. now. Lobbying.Maybe he knows something about how Mason connected withDuberman.”The move was a long shot at best, but all they had right now werelong shots.“So we go our separate ways,” Duto said. “John, in terms of ”—Dutomade a pistol with his thumb and forefinger—“I know you’ve had difficultiesgetting hooked up.” Without access to a diplomatic pouch, Wellshad trouble getting weapons across borders. “Some places, I still havefriends. Russia, for example.”Wells wasn’t entirely sure why Duto was working so hard. Gettinginvolved with this mess carried serious risk. Duto wouldn’t bother unlesshe smelled a bigger payoff.Then Wells realized. “You think this is your ticket, don’t you?”Duto must have expected the Senate seat would be his last stop. Hehad won his race as a conservative Democrat, a breed that rarely survivedpresidential primaries. But now he had a chance at the biggest prizeof all. If he could prove that the President’s largest donor was trying tolure the United States into war, he could demand whatever he wantedfrom the White House. A promotion to Secretary of State or Defense.Done. The President’s endorsement in the next election? Absolutely.Duto had used Wells and Shafer before. But never for stakes this high.And Wells had never seen the con so early in the game.“La, la, la,” Wells said. Arabic. No, no, no.Duto nodded. “Nam.” Yes. “Unless you prefer the alternative.”He tapped his wrist. “Come on, you can ride with me to Dulles.”“I’ll get there myself.” Wells couldn’t bear sharing a car with this man.“As you wish.” Duto walked out.Wells and Shafer sat side by side on the edge of the bed.“We can’t,” Wells said.“Can’t what?”“He’s not fit.” Wells wasn’t one hundred percent sure about much,but he was sure that Duto shouldn’t be President. Part of him wanted toflip on the television and watch ESPN for the next eleven days. Let Dutosolve this, if he could.“You want another war, John? Me neither. Take a minute so you don’trun into him in the elevator. Then go. You have a plane to catch.”Wells had nothing left to say. He went.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Twelve Days “Lots of thriller writers know how to work a ticking clock, and lots more come to the genre with some experience in international politics, but few put the two together as effectively as Berenson does in this compelling, globe-trotting time bomb of a novel. Action fans will get all they came for . . . but those looking for genuine insight into the subtleties of the geopolitical chess game will be equally satisfied.” —Booklist (starred review)   “This well-written and fast-moving novel delivers more than a good plot. It illustrated how in the midst of regional chaos, a great power can jump to calamitous conclusions. This one is well worth the thriller enthusiast’s time, which holds true for all the novels Berenson has written to date.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)   “A fast-paced, enthralling fight to the finish . . . the sort of spy thriller that locks you in a fast and ferocious grip and won’t let you go.” —Associated Press   “An extremely suspenseful read that fans will not forget any time soon.” —Suspense Magazine   “All espionage thrillers should be this good. This is a series that you should—must—be reading.” —