Excerpt from Last Man Standing by David Baldacci, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Last Man Standing

by David Baldacci

Last Man Standing
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2001, 548 pages
    Aug 2002, 656 pages

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When the explosive blew the door, Web and his team would invade the target and throw their flash bangs. The device was aptly named, since the "flash" would blind anyone watching, and the "bang" would rupture the unprotected eardrum. If they ran into any more locked doors, these would yield quickly either to the impolite knock-knock of Davies's shotgun or to a slap charge that looked like a strip of tire rubber but carried a C4 explosive kicker that virtually no door could withstand. They'd follow their rote patterns, keying on hands and weapons, shooting with precision, thinking in chess maneuvers. Communication would be via touch commands. Hit the hot spots, locate any hostages, and take them out fast and alive. What you never really thought about was dying. That took too much time and energy away from the details of the mission, and away from the bedrock instincts and disciplines honed from doing this sort of thing over and over until it became a part of what made you, you.

According to reliable sources, the building they were going to hit contained the entire financial guts of a major drug operation headquartered in the capital city. Included in the potential haul tonight were accountants and bean counters, valuable witnesses for the government if Web and his men could get them out alive. That way the Feds could go after top guys criminally and civilly from a number of fronts. Even drug lords feared an IRS full frontal assault, because seldom did kingpins pay taxes to Uncle Sam. That was why Web's team had been called up. They specialized in killing folks who needed it, but they also were damn good at keeping people alive. At least until these folks put their hands on the Bible, testified and sent some greater evil away for a very long time.

When TOC came back on, the countdown would begin: "Five, four, three, two..."

Web opened his eyes, collected himself. He was ready. Pulse at sixty-four; Web just knew. Okay, boys, pay dirt's dead ahead. Let's go take it. TOC came through his headset once more and gave the okay to move to the front door.

And that's precisely when Web London froze. His team burst out from the cover heading for green, the crisis site, and Web didn't. It was as though his arms and legs were no longer part of his body, the sensation of when you've fallen asleep with a limb under your body and wake up to find all the circulation has vacated that extremity. It didn't seem to be fear or runaway nerves; Web had been doing this too long. And yet he could only watch as Charlie Team raced on. The courtyard had been identified as the last major danger zone prior to the crisis site, and the team picked up its pace even more, looking everywhere for the slightest hint of coming resistance. Not a single one of the men seemed to notice that Web was not with them. With sweat pouring off him, every muscle straining against whatever was holding him down, Web managed slowly to rise and take a few faltering steps forward. His feet and arms seemingly encased in lead, his body on fire and his head bursting, he staggered onward a bit more, reached the courtyard, and then he dropped flat on his face as his team pulled away from him.

He glanced up in time to see Charlie Team running hard, the target in their sights, seemingly just begging them to come take a piece of it. The team was five seconds from impact. Those next few seconds would change Web London's life forever.

Copyright © 2001 by Columbus Rose, Ltd.

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