SEAL Team Six: Hunt the Fox


By Don Mann

By Ralph Pezzullo

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In war-torn Syria, the heroes of the SEAL Team Six series defuse an ISIS warlord’s explosive plot.

On the way to a meeting with a CIA source in Istanbul, Chief Warrant Officer Crocker noticed he’s being tailed. He suspects the men tracking his movements are members of Syria’s intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat – their presence a sign of the region’s increasing volatility.

Syria’s government is unraveling, with ISIS dangerously in the mix. Mohammad al-Kazaz, aka the Fox, leads the most threatening of the ISIS factions. The Fox has obtained a shipment of chemical weapons that would bring devastation to an already crumbling region. Crocker and his squad must set off deep into enemy territory with limited intel, no chance of rescue, and only one shot at saving thousands of lives.


Chapter One

Either I conquer Istanbul, or Istanbul conquers me.

—Fatih Sultan Mehmet

They sat on red-striped sofas in the Meşale Café in the Arasta Bazaar, just steps from Istanbul’s majestic Blue Mosque. Hundreds, men mostly, were shuffling out after morning prayers in groups of twos and threes, some whispering to one another, others lost in thought.

The crowd seemed dense and foreign to Crocker as he looked out the horizontal window and then across the table at the young CIA operative who called himself Jared. Under thirty, raised in Oregon, Jared had a father who worked in the logging industry. Minus the foot-long beard he could pass for a frat member at a midwestern university. Except, as far as Crocker knew, most U.S. grad students didn’t speak fluent Arabic, Urdu, and Persian. Nor had they spent the past two weeks in Syria huddling with leaders of the various anti-Assad rebel groups. According to Jared, the rebel groups were now too numerous to count—a polyglot of Sunnis, jihadists, former members of the Syrian Armed Forces, and young Syrians who hated President Bashar al-Assad and his family. Opposing them were Assad’s army and supporters, the Iranians, and the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.

Crocker had a hunch that Syria was where he and his men were headed, though he didn’t know the how, when, or why. What he did know was that this was their first mission overseas since the op in Mexico last fall that had resulted in all kinds of mayhem and trauma—including serious injuries to several members of his team. He himself had suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh, which had healed very nicely though he experienced tightness around it now.

What he also realized was that Jared’s jitteriness was adding to his own feeling of anxiety. Why, he wasn’t sure.

When a bell rang at the Hagia Sophia farther up the hill, the sharp sound raised the hairs on the back of his neck.

“Fascinating city,” Jared announced.

“Yeah.” Crocker had been intrigued by it since he’d seen From Russia with Love, his favorite Bond movie, at eight years old. Since his arrival yesterday morning, he had noticed how seamlessly past and present mingled here. Istanbul wasn’t a museum like, say, Florence. It was an active city bustling with tourists, merchants, peddlers, students, lovers, Islamic fundamentalists, secularist libertarians, anarchists, historians, and dreamers.

It had been at the nexus of a massive amount of world history. Nearby were streets and alleys where Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans had marched, where the blood of Armenians, Greeks, Georgians, and Gypsies had flowed. It was Europe’s largest city at fifteen million, twice the size of London, and technically the only metropolitan area to span two continents, Europe and Asia.

As Jared smoked, his eyes scanned the faces in the café—mostly tourists and middle-aged men. Then he checked his cell phone and bit his nails. Frowning at the bitter taste of the black tea, he announced, “War is fucking hell, Crocker. Make no mistake about that.”

“I don’t.” Crocker shook his head and smoothed his salt-and-pepper mustache. Last night after a dinner of grilled sardines and zeytinyağli dolma (grape leaves stuffed with rice) Jared had shown him photos he had taken in Aleppo—blocks upon blocks of middle-class apartments, schools, and stores reduced to rubble, burnt-out cars and buses, refuse piled in the broken streets.

Crocker had followed news of the Syrian civil war like other Americans, mostly on CNN. But what seemed distant and abstract to most people was more real to him. He had the experience to fill in the smells of death, the feelings of hopelessness and dislocation. He’d seen firsthand other societies coming apart at the seams in places like Bosnia, Somalia, and Iraq. What war did to the psyches of children, he could only imagine.

“First time I went in was the summer of 2012,” Jared said with a bitter edge in his voice. “Since then I’ve watched civilian deaths go from five to over a hundred thousand and the number of refugees rocket into the millions. It’s appalling.”

What he liked about Jared was that the kid had balls. He also had a conscience. You saw a wrong or a problem, and you tried to do what you could to help solve it. He also understood that being in a war zone added a special incandescence to life that you couldn’t find anywhere else.

The trick was to get close enough to feel the sparkle, but not come back brain-dead or worse.

“It haunts me constantly,” Jared continued. “We could have done something to stop it back in 2012, but we sat on our hands for political reasons.”

“Sad,” said Crocker. He’d heard about the various UN diplomatic efforts to put pressure on the Assad regime to either step down or reach some kind of settlement. None of them had been successful. Didn’t people in the administration know that a strongman like Assad had to be backed into a corner and have a gun pointed at his head before he conceded? Sometimes Crocker wondered whether the people who made foreign policy were so removed from on-the-ground experience that they didn’t understand the nuts and bolts of human psychology—especially of people in power.

“The truth is that nobody really cares about what happens there,” Jared continued, “because there’s no possible upside financially.”

“You mean Syria has no oil like Libya and Iraq.”

Jared leaned on the little table and nodded. “Yeah.”

Crocker didn’t feel qualified to judge.

“Don’t you feel sometimes that we’re really mercenaries hired to protect the interests of Wall Street and the corporations?” Jared continued. “Like they’re the ones really calling the shots?”


“And they don’t give a shit about the plight of people in a place like Syria, normal families?”

“Could be,” Crocker answered. “But I can’t think like that and do my job.” It was the main reason he avoided politics, which was a messy, cynical business as far as he was concerned and rarely resulted in good solutions to real problems. He remained, in the end, a practical-minded man who focused on the specific missions he had to perform.

Maybe, as his wife claimed, it resulted in his not seeing the bigger picture.

“Hey, you want a real drink?” Jared asked, leaning forward on the cushioned seat. “I could use a scotch.”

“You’re not gonna get one here,” Crocker responded, pointing to the sign in English, French, and Arabic on the wall behind them: “Our apologies. No alcohol served because of the proximity of the mosque.”

“Maybe we can order a narghile and ask the waiter to mix in some hashish,” he said with a mischievous grin.

Crocker laughed. “I thought you guys weren’t allowed to smoke that stuff,” he responded, reaching for the Turkish coffee, which was sweet and thick on his tongue.

“You’re right. Yeah. I’d have to bribe the polygraph dude. Ha ha. Won’t be the first time.” Jared was referring to the Agency practice of periodically and unexpectedly administering lie detector tests to its case and ops officers. The CIA did this to keep tabs on questionable sexual liaisons, the money the officers handled, and their use of illegal drugs.

As the leader of Black Cell, which was a special unit of SEAL Team Six (a.k.a. DEVGRU) assigned to the CIA, Crocker was subject to Agency protocol himself. The last time he’d been polygraphed, which was three weeks ago, he’d been questioned about breaking into an apartment in Fairfax, Virginia, which he didn’t deny. The circumstances were complicated and involved a woman who was squeezing money out of his elderly father. Despite the fact that he’d caught her smoking meth with a Fairfax County police officer, he knew he’d probably be facing charges when he returned to the States.

Maybe the judge would cut him some slack because of what he did for a living. Maybe he wouldn’t. Crocker wasn’t going to worry about it now.

“They’ve got dervishes here at night,” Jared announced as he stubbed out his cigarette and checked his cell again.

“What’d you say?” Crocker asked, sensing that they were being watched.

“You know, the dudes in the white peaked caps who spin. I was watching ’em one night when I met this cute Turkish girl named Zeliha. Real warm, with toffee-colored eyes. She explained the meaning of the whole ritual to me.” His voice trailed off.


“Great girl. I wanted to keep seeing her, but I had to disappear for two weeks for work. When I got back, I found out she had taken up with an old boyfriend she’d told me she wasn’t crazy about.”

“Sounds complicated.” It reminded Crocker of his own problems with women, including his wife, Holly, who had threatened to leave him if he went overseas again.

Here he was.

She wanted him around, but she needed space. She wanted stability, until she got bored and craved adventure. She wanted a family that included Crocker’s daughter from his first marriage, but now she was asking for more independence.

He loved her completely and knew that she’d been through hell—including almost being killed by cartel hit men and losing everything when they had torched their home. He and she had even attended several sessions of marriage and grief counseling together, which he’d found somewhat helpful. He wasn’t sure that she had, though, he thought, as he scanned the café again.

Jared’s burner cell phone pinged. He read the coded message and said, “That’s us.”



“Where are we meeting?” Crocker asked.

“The Sultanhan Hotel. Room 732. It’s about a seven-minute cab ride from here, or a fifteen-minute walk.”

“If we have time, let’s hump it. I could use the exercise.”

“You got it, friend,” Jared answered. “I’ll exit first. I’m gonna walk down to Torun, turn right, continue to the opposite corner, cross the street, buy a magazine at the newsstand, and turn back. Watch my back and let me know if I’m being followed. I’ll meet you on the corner of Torun Sokak and Mehmet Ağa.”

He was proposing that they run a routine SDR (surveillance detection route), which was standard in clandestine operations on foreign soil. The kid wasn’t sloppy. Crocker liked that.

“Torun Sokak and Mehmet,” he repeated. “Copy.”

“Torun’s that narrow, busy street that runs parallel to the Kabasakal.”

“I remember. They tell you who we’re going to meet at the hotel?” asked Crocker.

“I’ll fill you in on the people as we walk. You ready?”

“Yeah. You go ahead. I’ll pay the check.”

Jared stood, smiled quickly, and hurried off. He was slight and about five nine with an awkward bounce in his step, the result of an injury sustained from an IED attack near the Afghan-Pakistani border. According to what Crocker had heard, he had been through a lot. Assignments in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria, one after the other. A nervous breakdown after a rough op in Pakistan. The pressures on clandestine officers like Jared were intense.

Crocker’s eyes followed him through the windows down the pedestrian walkway in front of the bazaar to the corner. He tossed sixty Turkish liras on the table, exited onto the pedestrian Kabasakal, and saw Jared standing on the corner lighting a cigarette. Nothing unusual so far. Catching sight of Crocker, he zipped up his blue jacket, which was their prearranged signal that all was clear. Then he hung a right.

Both he and Jared were devoid of marks—in other words, anything that might cause them to stand out in a crowd, like long hair, jewelry, or unusual facial hair. With his beard, Jared could easily pass for a Turkish student on his way to the nearby Istanbul International University, and Crocker looked like a very fit tourist—black pants, black polo, black jacket, black Nikes.

The streets and alleys were jammed with people of all ages and ethnicities, merging and parting like a stream.

As Jared disappeared past the far end of the bazaar, two young men emerged from a jewelry stall and followed him. One of them carried a black motorcycle helmet under his arm. He looked determined and focused.

“Trouble,” Crocker muttered under his breath, then reached for his burner cell and texted *87, which meant “surveillance detected.” He thought he had seen one of the young men—the one not carrying the helmet; short and wiry with the pillar of dark curly hair—pass through the café when he and Jared were there.

Had Jared expected this? He didn’t know.

Aware that unfriendly eyes might be watching him, too, Crocker pushed through a group of German tourists to the opening of the bazaar near the perpendicular street, Mehmet Ağa, and turned right. The minarets of the Blue Mosque glistened beyond his shoulder. No way to know if this was routine surveillance by Turkish MiT (their intelligence service) or something more ominous. Istanbul was considered a hot site—active with foreign agents of various affiliations.

He paused among shoppers, worshippers, and tourists to scan the crowd for Jared, who wore a white oxford shirt and a blue zip-up jacket, and to check in the reflection of the glass entrance to a luggage shop to see if anyone was following him. A one-eyed man pushed in front of him, offering to sell cigarettes.

Crocker shook his head, remembering not to make eye contact with a possible pursuer.

“American and French brands, sir. Very gud price.”

“No thanks.”

As Crocker juked around him, he heard a screech of tires from the direction of Torun Sokak, the shout of a driver, followed by a woman’s shrill shout. A burst of pigeons tore into the air. His senses focused even tighter on sounds and movement.

What was that?

Considered a major thoroughfare, Torun Sokak consisted of two narrow lanes, both of which were clogged with traffic. Cars were honking. Drivers and pedestrians were hurrying away from the middle of the street and frantically dialing their cell phones. He caught a glimpse of someone crossing between the cars.

Where’s Jared?

Crocker continued right along the constricted sidewalk to where a group had gathered. A man shouted something in Arabic. An older man pointed at a gray van stopped along the curb. He turned.

Through the open side door he saw two men grappling inside. One of them wore a blue jacket. Jared! He quickly intuited that someone had pushed the young CIA officer into the open door of the van to try to abduct him, and he was resisting.

Without calling for help, Crocker slammed into action. Ducking inside the van, he saw a huge man with a black beard and a spider tattoo on his neck squeezing Jared in a headlock, while a man in the driver’s seat tried to hold something over his mouth. Without saying a word Crocker rammed his fist into the back of the big man’s neck, causing him to grunt and gasp for breath. He punched the man again in the face, and this time the man let go of Jared, who scrambled into the front seat and swung at the driver.

Meanwhile, the big dude turned to reach for a backpack on the metal floor of the van. Fearing that he was about to detonate an explosive device, Crocker grabbed a fistful of his hair, planted his knee in the small of the man’s back, and ripped back his right arm until it popped out of the shoulder socket and the man screamed bloody murder.

The noise filled the tight, hot space and hurt Crocker’s ears. He silenced him with a swift forearm to the temple, which sent the assailant sprawling over the floor and rendered him unconscious, his eyes staring at the ceiling. Taking two hard, quick breaths, he saw Jared with blood streaming down his face from a cut on his forehead. Heads bleed a lot. As a corpsman, he knew that.

Enraged that the attackers had drawn blood, he elbowed the driver hard in the Adam’s apple and heard a crack. The man fell back against the passenger-side door with a bang.

As he leaned over the big man to check to see whether he was armed and Jared took a moment to wipe the blood away from his eyes, the driver reached into the glove compartment.

Crocker saw the glint of metal out of the corner of his eye.

“Weapon!” he shouted, reaching for the driver’s arm. Two quick shots went off before Crocker grabbed hold of the man’s wrist and slammed it hard against the dashboard three times until the pistol dislodged and slid to the floor.

Aware that Jared had been hit and was struggling to open the driver’s door, he slammed the driver’s head against the passenger-side window until he stopped moving. Blood covered Crocker’s hands.

“Jared, wait!”

The kid was already out. Part of the fight-or-flight response. People were screaming and seeking cover. Almost simultaneously, Crocker heard a screech of tires and the sound of a vehicle slamming into another. Glass rattled across asphalt.

“Hey, Jared!”

A gasp from the onlookers, followed by a moment of silence that gave him a chill as he slid across the front seat and out the driver’s-side door.

What the hell had happened?

He quickly took it all in. On the opposite sidewalk he saw a crowd of people, one of whom was shouting into a cell phone. He followed their eyes to the front of a blue-and-yellow bus stopped in front of him. Some were pointing.

Why isn’t it moving?

Hurrying around the side of the bus, he spotted a figure lying on the ground. Legs first, then a torso in a pool of dark blood, then a face. Jared’s light-brown eyes were open, a wry smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, but he wasn’t moving, because the back of his head had been crushed. Brain matter spread onto the pavement.

Fuck! Oh, fuck….

Crocker knelt and checked his pulse. None. Around him onlookers muttered and prayed. He pulled off his black jacket and was using it to cover Jared’s head when he heard a motorcycle start up across the street. The sound reverberated up his spine like an alarm.

Time to move!

Someone was pushing through the crowd behind him.

He didn’t stop to look at who it was or consider where he was going to go. There was nothing he could do for Jared now. He stepped over his body, ran along the far side of the stalled bus with his head down, crossed at its rear through the traffic, and reentered the crowded bazaar.

Blood pounding in his temples, adrenaline surging, he had no time to stop and text an alert to Istanbul Station. Nor did he know the city well. Nor was he armed.

He had to exit the area, lose the assassination team, or kidnappers, or whoever the fuck they were.

Running for his life, he hurried through the bazaar. Grabbing a white cap with a red Turkish crescent and star embroidered on the crown from one of the stalls, he handed a fifty-lira bill to the boy manning it and continued on instinct honed through years of training.

Keep moving. Change your profile. Lose them. Contact Istanbul Station.

From the bazaar, he reentered the Meşale Café and strode directly to the men’s bathroom. Blood covered his right hand and wrist. He washed it off and removed his black polo, exposing the white crewneck T-shirt underneath. Stuffed the polo in the trash, fixed the cap on his head backward, took a deep breath, and exited through the kitchen.

The space was tight and crowded with boxes and employees. A man in a white apron was smoking.

“Hey. Ne yapiyorsunuz?” the man shouted.

“Tourist. No problem.”

“Yes, problem!”

He pushed through a greasy screen door to an alley. His heart beating fast, he ducked his head, turned right, and hurried back onto Kabasakal and into the open-air parking lot at the back of the mosque. There was more space here. He paused to take a look around and think.

Nothing but tourists and locals going about their business. Hearing a motorcycle engine behind him, he hopped a cement planter and entered a little shop that sold scarves, tourist mementos, and pottery. Didn’t catch the name.

He had to try to get his bearings and use his burner cell to alert the Station. Jared was dead; he was on the run, possibly being pursued by unidentified assassins.

He peered out the front window looking for pursuers. An attractive middle-aged woman approached from his right, bringing with her the scent of oranges. Thick, dark-brown hair parted in the middle, a full-lipped smile.

“Can I help you, sir?” she asked softly.

“Uh, yes. I’m looking for a scarf for my wife.” His heart jumped in his chest. He was sweating through the brim of his hat.

“Okay. Silk, cotton, or pashmina?”

“Pashmina, I think.”

He struggled to appear normal, but the woman could see his chest heaving and sweat dripping down his neck.

“Are you okay, sir? Are you feeling all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“Some water, maybe. Would you like a cup of water?”

She called to someone in back. Past the display in the front window, he spied a young man wearing a black motorcycle helmet parking his bike across the street near the mosque. He looked closer. Another young man—the one with the curly black pompadour—ran up to the motorcycle man and pointed vehemently toward the shop.


As they jogged across the street, Crocker turned to the woman, who was carrying a plastic cup of water. He grabbed her by the shoulders, causing the liquid to spill, and said, “You need to leave, immediately. You hear me? It’s an emergency!”

The shopkeeper’s expression quickly changed from concern to alarm. “What?” her eyes practically popping out of their sockets. “I don’t understand. I—”

Crocker pointed to a sleepy young woman behind the cash register counter. In a stern voice he said, “Take her with you and leave by the back. It’s important.

“Who are you? What are you talking about?”

Crocker squeezed the woman’s shoulders and said, “Something bad is about to happen. I need you to go out the back, now!”


He turned her toward the exit, pushed her, and barked, “Go!”

The woman jumped back, spilling the rest of the water over her blouse, and glared at him, hands on hips. She was about to say something when a skinny man in jeans and a black motorcycle jacket and carrying a helmet burst through the door. Crocker spun to face him, saw the dark-haired man reach for something in his pocket with his free hand, and in one continuous motion raised his right leg and kicked him in the chest. The man grunted, flew into a display shelf of ceramic jars and plates, and as his back hit it, let go of the helmet, which smashed into the counter.

The shopkeeper screamed. She and her assistant scrambled away. Crocker grabbed the kid by the front of his jacket, reached down with his free hand and grabbed the helmet, and used it to smash him in the mouth. One, two, three times. Blood, teeth, and saliva flew everywhere. The man grunted.

That’s for Jared!

He smashed him one last time to be sure he was out and was about to relieve him of whatever he was carrying in his pocket when the second man approached the front door, pistol drawn. Looked like a Russian-made APB—the silenced version of an APS. Nickel-plated and nasty. He had his finger on the trigger.

Crocker reacted instinctively, pushing a display of pink pashminas onto him and diving at the young man’s ankles. A bullet tore through the cascading scarves and grazed Crocker’s back.


A split second later, Crocker’s shoulder hit the man’s legs two inches above his ankles—just like his high school football coach had taught him—and the man fell backward and crashed back-first through the glass door. His head hit the pavement hard.


Split like a fucking coconut; his hair still perfectly in place. Crocker saw the young man’s pained expression and a trickle of blood. Neither attacker was moving.

He was already pulling himself up, looking to see if anyone else was coming, ignoring the shards of glass embedded in his forearm, the pain from his back, and the alarmed shouts of passersby and the proprietress in back.

Slipping on the wet floor, he quickly rifled through the first man’s pockets. A folding knife, a chambered Glock 9mm, a thin leather wallet with 200 liras inside, the ignition key for a Kawasaki Ninja Sport. No license, no ID, no picture of his family or girlfriend.

A trained professional on a mission.


On Sale
May 12, 2015
Page Count
320 pages
Mulholland Books

Don Mann

About the Author

Don Mann (CWO3, USN) is the author of the national bestseller Inside SEAL Team Six and a former Navy SEAL. He lives in Virginia.

Ralph Pezzullo is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning playwright, screenwriter and journalist. His books include Jawbreaker (with CIA operative Gary Berntsen) and Zero Footprint (with military contractor Simon Chase).

Learn more about this author

Ralph Pezzullo

About the Author

Don Mann (CWO3, USN) is the author of the national bestseller Inside SEAL Team Six and a former Navy SEAL. He lives in Virginia.

Ralph Pezzullo is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning playwright, screenwriter and journalist. His books include Jawbreaker (with CIA operative Gary Berntsen) and Zero Footprint (with military contractor Simon Chase).

Learn more about this author