Hello, all! Please welcome the fabulous Christian Beck, author of The Last Enemy as he chats a little about Army Captain Ben Namajunas!
Why a post about the book’s secondary character? Ben Namajunas is also a badass who kicks ass and takes names. He’s also the other half of the love story in The Last Enemy. Profession vs. love is a poignant theme in the book, and Ben’s had the distinct misfortune of loving and being loved by Simon Monk. Yes, love can be an extreme hardship, and like any of us who seldom see it as a curse when it becomes one, Ben is no different. It’s through his eyes we see both men’s struggle to find a place in their worlds that allows them to be in love. More, where that love can survive, maybe flourish even. That place doesn’t exist at the beginning of the novel.
Monk and Ben’s relationship was doomed from the start, neither man having the clarity to see it. Ben was the rebound relationship for Monk after his last partner was outed as a spy for the Chinese Intelligence service—a man that Monk hunted down and killed, along with his handler for their betrayal against the United States. Despite that, Monk was still drummed out of the service, even having been twice awarded the Bronze star for valor. He was ruined by betrayal and certainly in no stable place emotionally for the relationship he entered into. Ben was the “fix you” guy, and we all know how that typically plays out. A career soldier, Monk needed to be relevant and Ben didn’t see how much that defined him until it was too late.
When the CIA came calling, Monk saw a way to be of service to his country again which was hard wired into is DNA. It was the choice of profession over love again for Monk, and like before with his former traitorous partner, he chose profession. Though, in that scenario, his profession—being the Army— betrayed him as well. This time, however, the CIA had open arms. I’ve said it before; I don’t believe in happily ever after for spies. So few get to ever leave cleanly, let alone enjoy a quiet life. But Ben is the hope in their future. And hope, I do believe in. So I worked hard to create a scenario for Monk and Ben where happy for now could exist and they had a chance when profession vs. love, like before, resurfaces again for them.
The trio of deadly serious men launched themselves at Monk and Morena with a frightening suddenness. Monk had been trained in various types of close combat, but his first choice was Krav Maga. He threw a left jab into his opponent’s solar plexus, doubling him over, then brought down an elbow behind the man’s ear. The man fell like a tree. As he went down, he slammed hard into the woman, knocking her to the floor with him.
“Stay the hell down,” Monk barked. Arwa nodded and did as she was told, cowering behind her desk. For the next minute and a half, Monk and Morena sparred fiercely with the two remaining cops. Morena took a couple of hand punches but held her own using jujitsu to put down her aggressor.
The final assailant engaged Monk with hard Dutch-style kickboxing, but his leg work was hampered because of the furniture that crowded the large office. Monk was grateful for the cluttered conditions after the man delivered a solid snap kick to his face that rocked him. His defense system gave him the upper hand in the close quarters, ending the fight with an elbow strike to his attacker’s throat, followed by another to the temple that put the man to sleep.
“Nice moves. What the fuck was that?” Morena asked.
“Krav Maga,” he answered amiably, wiping the blood off his lower lip. “You?”
“Brazilian Jujitsu, baby,” she teased, winking at him.
Yes, he thought, they were going to be fine friends.
Monk turned to Arwa, who scrambled out from beneath her desk, getting to her feet. “Are you all right?” he asked.
“Yes,” she answered breathlessly. “What do we do now?”
“What happens next depends on you. I can get you to a safe location, but I will need the names of your contact in the Mukhabarat that gave you my colleague’s identity.”
She nodded. “Of course, here.” In near hysterics, she scribbled a name on a notepad and handed the paper to Monk.
“Why are they after you?” Morena asked.
“I don’t know.” Her fear seemed genuine enough. “I started to ask questions after the doctor’s family reported he was missing. I fear that he might even be dead—”
The words died on her lips. There was a sharp pop, no louder than a bubble being burst, as a sniper’s bullet pierced the window, vaporizing everything above Arwa’s eyebrows in a wet, pink cloud that misted both Monk’s and Morena’s faces a faint, pale crimson.
Morena recoiled in revulsion. “Holy fuck!” she muttered, diving for cover.
Arwa’s body stood for a full minute, not realizing it was dead, then lurched over like a puppet with severed strings. Monk leaped at the blinds to close them. As they fell, another round perforated the glass pane.
“You realize we’re parked on the other side of that wall,” Morena said, pulling her Glock 19 from her hip, covering the door. “We’ll be right in his fucking sights.”
Monk nodded, his mind already formulating an escape plan. “Do you have a compact?”
“Do I look like a girly girl to you, sir?”
Monk looked at her full lips and dark eyes—both untouched by cosmetics. “No, I suppose not.” He grabbed Arwa’s sizable designer handbag and dumped the contents on the floor in front of him. He quickly rifled through her belongings, snatching up the four-inch makeup mirror and address book that lay among her things. Morena cursed herself for flinching involuntarily as another sniper round rang out.
Monk looked at her and saw her curt nod. He held out his hand and their palms met. The door swung wide and they raced from the office, shoving people out of their way as they barreled hard down the corridor. They stopped at the station exit.
“He’s taken up tactical position on that roof there. Ten o’clock,” Monk said.
Morena took his word for it rather than making an attempt to steal a glance, providing the talented sniper an easy target. As Monk calculated, the shooter was perched where the sun fell behind him, so as not to impede his shot. Monk twisted the mirror until he caught the sunlight in the looking glass and shone it at the sniper’s nest. The glare temporarily blinded the shooter—and then they were running.
Bullets zipped by Monk’s ears as the sniper squeezed off rounds in their direction. Monk and Morena sprinted full speed to their embassy car, staying only half a second ahead of the gunman’s volley of bullets. They didn’t have far to run, Morena thankful she had parked the car so fucking close. Monk leaped into the driver’s seat, Morena the back. He stabbed the key into the ignition and threw the sedan in reverse as a bullet broke out the back window. Monk slammed the shifter into drive and peeled away. He didn’t slow as they careened wildly into traffic, crashing into another car—Monk kept the accelerator floored, pulling away.
Morena looked back and saw two Peugeot turbo sedans in pursuit, gaining fast.
“I see them,” Monk shouted. “Put on your seat belt.”
Christian Beck saw Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia when he was a wee boy on a giant white drive-in screen in Super Panavision 70 amid the dusty Iowan cornfields, shaping his idea of what storytelling was. It stuck. Seldom does he write anything less than sweeping, epic adventures that pit his characters against some instrument or agent of death, pushing them beyond their every limit to survive. Simply put: Cinema put in words. He does that on a Surface Pro tablet sitting somewhere in the desert with his family – far, far away from those cornfields of the American Heartland.