Larry Bond

Day of Wrath

To Katie and Julie Bond and Olivia Larkin

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


We would like to thank Mennette Masser Larkin for all the hard work, skill, and sound, shrewd advice she put into this book.

Thanks also go to Matt Caffrey, Dwin Craig, Steve Hall, Dave Hood, Don and Marilyn Larkin, Colin Larkin, Duncan Larkin, Greg Lyle, Eleanore Neal Masser, Bill Paley, Tim Peckinpaugh and Pam McKinney-Peckinpaugh, Jeff Pluhar, Jeff Richelson, and Thomas T. Thomas for all their help, advice, and support.

Thanks also to the Defense Weapons Agency Special Operations for the reality check.


After five books, high-school English teachers now ask me to come into their classes and lecture on how to collaborate. It’s supposed to be the hardest way to write, but I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

It’s not perfect, of course. When creative ideas are blended, there are always points where they don’t mesh smoothly. The conflicts can be the result of different viewpoints, different visualizations of the story or characters, or even basic philosophies.

Resolving these conflicts is a day-to-day part of any collaboration, and the vital thing to understand is that nobody has a monopoly on good ideas, and that almost any idea can be improved.

If you keep the focus on the story as a whole, and making it as good as it can possibly be, then you’re willing to change or even abandon an idea when a better one comes along. Professionals don’t become emotionally attached to a plot twist.

There’s also an old saying that collaborations succeed only if each partner does 60 percent of the work. It’s funny and a little true, but even if it’s entirely true, it’s still a lot better than doing 100 percent of the work.

And imagine doing all that work alone — without anyone to bounce ideas off of, receive encouragement from, or commiserate with when problems arise.

If I can teach others how to make a partnership work, it’s because I’ve collaborated with Pat Larkin for ten years now. It’s interesting that even as our styles and skills have grown, the rules for working together haven’t. And we’re still doing it all on the basis of a handshake.

As a partner and friend, Pat Larkin has both created and molded our stories. Sharing an intimate creative vision, crafting the books chapter by chapter, sometimes word by word, his contribution is the best 60 percent of this story.


MAY 20 O.S.I.A Inspection Team, 125th Air Division Base, Kandalaksha, Northern Russia

The twin-engined Antonov-32 turboprop roared off the runway and climbed sharply before banking right. Within minutes, Kandalaksha’s barbed-wire fences, watchtowers, camouflaged aircraft shelters, and SAM sites dwindled and then vanished astern.

John Avery waited until the Russian military airfield was completely out of sight before allowing himself to relax even to the slightest degree. He shivered, still chilled by what he had seen.

He checked his watch. They had a little over three hours left in the air. Three hours to safety. Three hours before he could make his report to the proper authorities in the U.S. Embassy at Moscow.

Until then, he and his team members were at risk.

Avery glanced out the window again. They were flying southeast over the White Sea at ten thousand feet. Red-tinged light from the setting sun reflected off the cold gray water below.

He turned in his seat, surreptitiously checking out the other people aboard the plane. The An-32 transport plane’s passenger compartment was almost empty. Fewer than half the aircraft’s thirty-nine seats were occupied — eight of them by his joint Russian-American weapons inspection team. The other passengers were a few Russian Air Force officers flying home to Moscow on leave.

Avery’s eyes narrowed. The Russian officers were a bedraggled bunch — unshaven and poorly dressed. Some of them were plainly fighting massive hangovers after a day spent knocking back vodka in the mess.

All in all, the assembled Russians were a far cry from the proud, square-jawed pilots portrayed on old Soviet propaganda posters.

It was like that all across the fragments of the old Soviet empire.

Like the U.S. military, Russia’s armed forces were being cut back. But where the American downsizing was deliberate, the Russian reductions were chaotic and uncontrolled — the result of not enough money and not enough support from Moscow. Utility companies had cut the electric power supply to bases because of unpaid bills. Other units were left without regular food deliveries.

Tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, and airmen had not been paid in months.

Kandalaksha had proved no exception.

Seen up close, much of the Russian air base had resembled a ghost town.

Trees killed by the harsh arctic weather had fallen across the rusting perimeter fence — tearing gaps that were left unrepaired. Few of the guard towers were manned. Fewer than half of the 125th Air Division’s one hundred and twenty Su24 Fencer fighter-bombers were combat-ready. Many of the aircraft shelters, maintenance hangars, headquarters buildings, and barracks were boarded up, or stood abandoned, with doors and windows gaping open and empty. Grass grew wild through cracked sidewalks and concrete runways.

It was an environment that invited corruption.

Avery grimaced.

After spending three years in Russia as the leader of a treaty compliance team for the U.S. government’s On-Site Inspection Agency, the O.S.I.A, he’d thought he’d run across every form of graft and crime imaginable. He’d met officers who stole their men’s paychecks and others who sold their units’ arms and equipment.

He’d found bordellos, gambling clubs, and bars being run out of barracks, armories, and headquarters buildings.

But Avery had never stumbled into anything remotely as dangerous as what he feared was going on at Kandalaksha. And he’d seen a lot of danger in his time.

Before joining O.S.I.A four years before, he’d served in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, first as a demolitions man and then as a “special weapons” expert. Very few people meeting him for the first time would have believed that.

The tall, lanky ex-soldier knew his open, round face, thinning brown hair, and thick glasses made him look more like a mildmannered professor than a former Green Beret. Others were often surprised at the intensity that

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