A Knife Edge

Acknowledgments

I'd like to thank a number of people who helped me out on this book with their time, expertise, and encouragement. First and foremost, there's Lieutenant Colonel Keith, U.S. Army. The colonel came on board for The Death Trust, and stayed around for A Knife Edge. He's out of the military now, editing a music magazine. I wish him all the best of luck with it. It's a wonderful thing to be doing what you love.

Then there's Richard “Woody” Woodward, a man who knows a thing or two about the USAF because he used to be in it. Woody's another longtime helper whose e-mail and phone lines never close.

I'd like to thank Lieutenant Colonel Mike “Panda” Pandolfo. He has both an amazing eye for detail, and infinite patience to go with it. I met Panda when I toured Elgin AFB in 2007. He has given a lifetime of service to his country and I admire him enormously.

Elizabeth Richards, a special agent with the AFOSI, has also been enormously helpful and generous with her time.

I'd like to thank Dave Millward and Manly Fight Gym for teaching me some moves that I've passed onto Special Agent Cooper. Hopefully they'll help keep the guy alive for a few books to come.

Thanks also to my friend and fellow author Tony Park, who read the proofs and gave me some great tips on Afghanistan, where he served with the Australian Army.

I'd also like to thank Dr. Malcolm Parmenter, Tricia and Michael Rollins (my parents), Andrew Sargant, and Kelli Anderson, who all read early proofs. And Craig “Moose” Moore for a few NFL tips.

Saving the best till last, I'd like to thank Sam, my wife, for continuing to believe in my promises, even though she has heard them all before.

Prologue

The shark's back was the width of a boardroom table and crosshatched with countless battle scars. It cruised a foot and a half beneath the surface, dorsal fin knifing the oily blue swell above. There was little apparent caution in the way it meandered back and forth alongside the Natusima. If the cook didn't know better, he'd have said it seemed to be waiting for something. The inevitable theme music from the movie Jaws playing in his head, he took a final drag on his cigarette, then flicked the butt into the water. He glanced left and right and, satisfied the coast was clear, motioned at the kitchenhand to tip the pot containing what was left of last night's stew over the railing. The pot was heavy and the young man grunted with the effort required. The cook knew he was risking his job. The damn tree-huggers aboard ship would have his balls if they found out about this. “Don't feed the animals,” one of them had said when someone had suggested throwing scraps to the shark. All the other guy wanted was to bring it in close to get some cool snapshots for the wife and kids.

“Now, that there's a goddamn fish,” the cook said to the kitchenhand as he lit another Chesterfield and watched the shark glide past with its mouth open.

“Fuckin' A,” agreed the young man.

The massive shark broached as it turned back toward the splash made by the stew hitting the water, displaying multiple rows of white teeth set in red, pulpy gums. But then the fish appeared to change its mind, resuming its original course. It circled back for a pass beyond the stern, trailing a wake like a boat with an outboard motor. The cook experienced the cold realization that the brute seemed more interested in the meat moving around up behind