Read Duplicity Prologue: House of Cards Meets Jason Bourne



By Newt Gingrich and Pete Earley

(Copyright 2015) Published by Center Street/ Hachette Book Group


The city of Dera Ismail Khan

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan

“You’re here, I assume, to tell us everything we do wrong?”

Prison Superintendent Shaukat Abbas’s words were posed as a question, but the irritated tone of his voice turned them into an accusation. Abbas leaned back in a shabby office chair behind a worn, gunmetal-gray desk inside the drab, institutional walls of the warden’s office at the provincial prison and lit a Morven Gold cigarette. He did not offer one to the guest seated before him.

Christopher King was not offended. An avid jogger, King didn’t smoke. He considered it a nasty, dangerous habit and tended to worry about damage from secondhand smoke. Abbas noticed King fidget and began amusing himself by blowing a series of perfectly formed smoke rings toward his visitor. King already wasn’t feeling well, having recently contracted a bout of bacterial diarrhea while touring the prison in Bannu, a town northwest of Dera Ismail Khan that bordered the so-called lawless area of Pakistan. The strong smell of tobacco mixed with the stench of human sweat and unrecognizable odors that seemed to ooze from the walls of the ancient prison did little to calm his churning stomach or improve his darkening mood.

“Tell me again about this organization of yours,” Abbas said.

King had already gone through his spiel, but he robotically repeated the description that he had given every superintendent whose jail or prison he had visited in Pakistan during the past two weeks.

“The International Equal Justice Project,” he said, “is a nongovernmental, nonpolitical, nonprofit, international organization that monitors living conditions in jails and prisons worldwide. We were invited to Pakistan by your nation’s new internal security director.”

“I’m correct, then,” Abbas hissed, flashing a smug half grin that revealed crooked and cigarette-stained teeth. “You’ve come here to tell me everything I’m doing wrong.”

Abbas was correct, but King was not about to admit it. If he did, Abbas might turn him away without letting him inspect the compound. “I’ve come to observe what you are doing correctly and also suggest possible ways to do things better.”

“I thought you said your group was nonpolitical,” Abbas replied dryly. “Yet you’ve given me a very cagey political answer.”

King thought to himself, This superintendent is not as stupid as he looks.

For a moment, the two men exchanged forced smiles. King was rail thin, tall, and in his early thirties. His shaggy blondish-brown hair needed a trim. He wore a light-blue short-sleeved shirt, black denim jeans, and black loafers. Abbas was in his late fifties, rotund, bald. A thick black moustache served as a bridge between his hound-like jowls. He wore a uniform: khaki pants with a dark green shirt. A Pakistani governmental seal was embroidered on his shirt pocket, topped with a brass name tag.

They were seated in a sweltering office on the second floor of the prison’s administration building. It was as if the room had trapped the afternoon heat when temperatures outside had peaked at 107 degrees. A single window air-conditioning unit rattled as it spewed out air only a few degrees cooler. King, who’d arrived in Pakistan six weeks earlier from his group’s headquarters in Helsinki, was still trying to adjust to the heat. Tiny beads of perspiration dotted his forehead. Abbas seemed completely unaffected by the temperature.

With his stomach rumbling, King wondered if he had made a mistake leaving his cushy job in Helsinki for fieldwork, which had sounded exciting when he’d volunteered but was proving to be both difficult and unpleasant. The International Equal Justice Project had sent him to Pakistan after receiving hundreds of letters from prisoners and their families alleging abuse. So far, King’s personal observations had confirmed those claims. Corruption, torture, sexual abuse, and diseases were the norm. There was no pretense of safeguarding even the most basic human rights. The seriousness of a prisoner’s crime seemed insignificant. What did matter was money. If a prisoner had it, he could survive and even live well behind bars. Those who didn’t faced physical abuse and starvation. Guards routinely demanded bribes—either money or sex—from visitors. Even after someone made it past the guards into a facility, if they brought food or some creature comfort to a prisoner, that inmate would have to fight for it. King had seen as many as fifty men in a group cell swarm toward the bars with outstretched hands like a swarm of flesh-eating piranha whenever a visitor appeared. Weaker prisoners were immediately stripped of any items handed them while guards watched amused, sometimes placing bets on who would end up with items shoved through the bars. King suspected his tour at Superintendent Abbas’s prison would not be any different from the others, with one exception: This facility was reputed to be the most secure in the region, having originally been built by the British during the colonial period. From the outside, it looked impenetrable.

The prison was surrounded by fifteen-foot-high mud-brick walls topped with razor wire and shards of broken glass. Its main entrance was a thick steel door, only large enough for one person to enter at a time. On either side stood a guard. The prison’s two-story administration building had been built just inside that doorway. Beyond it were five buildings that resembled army barracks, each in a separate row, each holding three hundred men in six large group cells. Guards paid more attention to separating prisoners based on their religious beliefs than on whether they were first-timers or hardened criminals.

Because this was the region’s most secure prison, it was where captured radical Islamists were kept. King was especially keen on observing if they were being treated differently from other prisoners. His organization classified them as political prisoners.

Before he could begin his tour, however, he needed to get past Superintendent Abbas.

“If you come into a man’s house, especially to cast stones,” Abbas said, “you should bring him a gift or token of your appreciation.”

So this was why Abbas was stalling. He expected a bribe. King couldn’t believe the gall. Part of his task was to identify corrupt superintendents, and Abbas was so corrupt he didn’t seem to understand that his thinly veiled demand was against the law. Either that or he simply didn’t care.

Glancing to his right, King noticed an eight-by-ten-inch color photograph hanging on the office wall. It showed Abbas arm in arm with several men wearing numbered athletic jerseys. Nodding to the picture, King asked: “You play football?”

Abbas followed King’s glance to the snapshot. “No. Kabaddi. Do you know the game?”

“Anything like rugby?” King asked.

The chair underneath Abbas squeaked as he leaned forward to smash out his cigarette in an already butt-filled black plastic ashtray on his desk.

“You’re an American, aren’t you?” he asked.

“Canadian, actually, but I get mistaken for an American all the time.”

“Let me ask you this, Mr. Canadian: How do you expect to tell me how I should manage a Pakistani prison when you don’t even know about kabaddi?”

Without waiting for an answer, Abbas barked an order into his desk phone and then told his guest, “One of my wardens will give you a tour now.”

King was about to thank Abbas when the wall behind the superintendent exploded. Shards of mud bricks and plaster flew toward the Canadian, who was blown off his chair by the blast. King flew backward into the wall behind him, slamming into it hard before falling face-first onto the dirty tile floor. Struggling to remain conscious, he felt a jarring pain in his leg and saw bone poking through his right pant leg. The ringing in his ears temporarily deafened him. Obviously, someone had detonated a bomb outside the building.

Superintendent Abbas had fared worse than King. The Pakistani was buried under rubble and wasn’t moving. King crawled toward him and pushed two chunks of fallen wall off the prison official’s body. Abbas was dead. There was a hole where the back wall had been. King crawled toward the gap so he could see into the prison yard.

The explosion had blown a hole through the outer wall that men armed with AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades were now scrambling through. The gap was so large that several of the attackers were able to ride motorcycles through it. One drove the bike while the second rider fired his weapon. The intruders quickly killed the guards standing watch in the prison’s corner towers. They were the only guards who had guns. The prison officials who worked inside the cellblocks were armed only with clubs—a precaution meant to keep prisoners from obtaining firearms if they rioted and overpowered guards. The cell-house guards quickly realized they were no match against the intruders. They tossed down their clubs and dropped to their knees, voluntarily locking their fingers together behind their heads in hopeful submission. Within minutes, prisoners were being freed from their cells and escaping into the prison yard.

By now, King’s hearing was returning, and he spotted a slender black man with a megaphone in the prison yard calling names. Those prisoners hurried toward him.

King heard voices outside the superintendent’s office and knew the intruders were about to enter the room. He thought about crawling to Abbas’s corpse to retrieve the pistol strapped to his belt but quickly rejected that idea.

It would be impossible for him to shoot his way out of the prison, especially with a compound fracture. If the attackers saw him armed, they would shoot first. King’s best chance of surviving was to surrender and seek mercy. After all, he wasn’t a prison official. He was a guest, a foreigner, someone who had come to Pakistan to help its people.

King removed his shirt and formed a tourniquet above the break in his right leg. A part of him simply wished he could play dead and let whatever was going to unfold happen.

Someone kicked on the office’s door, which was blocked by rubble. Another strong kick opened the door wide enough for the barrel of an AK-47 to poke through it. A man’s voice yelled in Urdu, Pakistan’s most common language.

“Foreigner!” King hollered back in English. “No guns!”

The owner of the AK-47 peeked through the crack. King raised both hands.

The gunman yelled again.

“I don’t understand,” King replied. “Canadian.”

With a final shove, the door opened wide enough for the gunman to enter. Two more fighters followed him. All were dressed in police uniforms—the same khaki pants with dark green shirts that Superintendent Abbas was wearing, although King doubted any of the men were actual guards.

The first intruder jerked the barrel of his rifle up and down, which King took as a signal for him to stand. King lowered his hands from above his head and pressed both palms against the floor, trying to lift himself, but he couldn’t. One of the other attackers shouldered his rifle and grabbed King by his right arm, pulling him up onto his good left leg. The third gunman quickly frisked King. Satisfied, he took King’s left arm and the two of them half-carried King from the office into the prison yard.

It was well after seven o’clock by now and the afternoon sun had set. There were no lights—a sign the attackers had destroyed the prison’s generators. The motorcycle riders had formed a circle and were using their bikes’ headlights to illuminate their leader. He was still using his megaphone to call prisoners’ names.

King was carried into the circle and dumped at the leader’s feet. Another man was already kneeling there. Apparently he was a prisoner, because he was not dressed like a guard.

The leader handed his megaphone to an underling and took a long knife from one of his men. Stepping forward, he raised it above his head and yelled something about Allah. He then swung it hard against the kneeling man’s neck, partially decapitating him. After the man’s body struck the ground, several more chops severed his head completely.

King vomited.

Before arriving in Pakistan, King had read that Taliban fighters were carrying out raids to free radical Islamists from jails and prisons. During some of those attacks the Taliban had executed Shia Muslims by publicly beheading them. He could feel his body shaking. It wasn’t shock. It was fear. King was keenly aware of how ISIS had beheaded an aid worker and foreign journalists. No one was safe from the radicals’ brutality.

King had been dropped face-first onto the ground. He tried to push himself up, but he couldn’t. Instead, he rolled onto his back as the knife-wielding leader stepped toward him. King immediately lowered his eyes, thinking it was best not to challenge the attacker by staring at his face.

The leader was dressed in a shalwar kameez—a traditional Pakistani outfit worn by men composed of a long shirt that could reach to the knees over pants sewn from the same material. Despite the man’s apparel, King suspected the figure now towering above him was not a Pakistani. He looked as if he was from Africa, and the cadence of his voice didn’t match what King had become accustomed to hearing since his arrival.

“Canadian,” King said. “N-G-O. Equal Justice Organization. Prison inspection. Not military. Not fighter. Observer. Pacifist. Not a soldier. An attorney. A lawyer. Not a soldier.”

“A lawyer?” the man repeated in English and then chuckled loudly. He began addressing those around him in Farsi. He spoke slowly, as if Farsi was not his first language, and because he was speaking slowly, King was able to understand several key words. Injured, prisoner, ransom.

King was going from someone who inspected prisons to becoming a prisoner. The two men who had brought him down into the courtyard stepped forward and lifted him onto his left leg while the leader started to walk away.

“You’re not a Pakistani!” King blurted out. “You’re not even an Arab.”

His words seemed to come from his mouth on their own, surprising even him.

The leader spun around and stared at King’s face.

For reasons that he could not explain, King said, “My God, you’re an American.”

The man handed his sword to a subordinate and returned to where King was now standing, stopping inches from the terrified captive’s face.

“What makes you think I’m American?” he demanded.

“Something about your voice. The way you carry yourself.”

The man drew a pistol from his belt and pressed it under King’s chin.

“You are very insightful,” the leader said. “Too much so for your own good.”

He squeezed the trigger, sending a round through King’s brain and out his skull into the evening sky.

The two men holding King released their grips and the Canadian aid worker fell lifeless onto the ground.

“You were wrong,” the man said, looking down at King’s corpse. “I was an American.”

You can continue enjoying Duplicity by purchasing it here!

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.