There were a lot of things he still didn’t know about that night in Mukalla. And a few things he did. 

For example, he knew he and Paulie had been set up from the start. 

When Finn’s group blew the door and rushed in, Finn himself at the head of the stack, they found nothing but an empty compound. They stood there, hoods and zip ties at the ready, sounds of the breaching charge and flash bangs still echoing through their earplugs, and had nothing to look at but each other. 

Meanwhile, five klicks to the east, an entire farm community was being massacred. 

By a crew of his own guys. 

They’d planted false intel to set up the bogus raid in order to get Finn, Paulie, and Kennedy out of the way so they could go execute their mission of death. 

Finn knew the crew who’d done it. 

He even knew why. 

Some unfortunate Yemeni farmer had witnessed the SEALs killing an American journalist who’d stumbled onto their little criminal enterprise. Maybe a whole group of farmers had seen it. Or maybe just one. Either way, everyone on that farm compound had paid for it with their lives. Every last one, from toddlers to great-grandparents. Tortured, defiled, slaughtered. 

Trophies were taken. 

Some of this, Finn had known, or guessed, at the time. Some he’d learned in the intervening months, with the help of Stan L. and a few other deep contacts. None of it was public knowledge. In fact the number of other humans alive who knew about any of it could probably be counted in the single digits.

Command kept the whole thing bottled up, quietly blamed the deaths on a fictional al Qaeda terrorist cell. The press never knew about it. The locals weren’t about to say anything. All of Finn’s local intel network went dark on him. 

And when the story started to show cracks, Finn, Paulie, and Kennedy were already set up to take the heat.

Kennedy was their OIC—officer in charge—and Finn was platoon chief, the highest-ranking enlisted, which meant he was Kennedy’s right-hand man. In fact, when it came to operational planning, Kennedy often deferred to him. 

And then there was Paulie, their AOIC—assistant officer in charge. The AOIC typically played a relatively minor support role, but Kennedy and Paulie had known each other forever, grew up together in South Boston. 

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Paulie’s name wasn’t actually Paul at all, it was Beck. But Beck had two loves in life, aside from being a SEAL: German beer and busty blondes. “Like the St. Pauli Girl,” he’d explained one day in BUD/S, whereupon Kennedy pointed out that St. Pauli Girl beer was in fact brewed at the Beck’s brewery in Bremen—and bingo. A name was born. 

Kennedy and Paulie were inseparable; Paulie was the Affleck to Kennedy’s Damon. 

Also the class comedian. 

Legend had it that during BUD/S, an especially sadistic instructor had kept Paulie out in the freezing surf for hours one morning, doing eight-count bodybuilders while the guy screamed at him and kicked sand in his face. When the instructor finally let him up and onto his feet, Paulie looked up at him and said, “Sir?”


“What is it, you worthless pile of pig shit?”


Paulie reached both hands out toward the man and said, “Sir, you . . . complete me.” 

Finn had no idea if it was true or not, but either way, nobody could repeat the story without both teller and audience laughing so hard they cried, imagining Paulie’s earnest Jerry Maguire hand gestures and the instructor’s apoplectic expression. 

And that was Paulie: he could keep the other guys in the platoon laughing even under the most wearing circumstances—which was as useful in the field of war as any combat or reconnaissance skills. Paulie was a master at it.

And a hell of a solid second O.

They were all solid, all three of them: Kennedy, Paulie, and Finn. Best leadership troika in the Teams. 

Which made the whole scenario even more of a gut punch.

That night, the platoon was divvied up into three squads. Paulie was with Finn, leading first squad, breaching and clearing the compound, Kennedy ran second squad, covering their six. Third squad was under Dixon’s command.

It was a classic tactical move. 

Finn should have seen it ten klicks off. 

Isolate the leadership with the bulk of the platoon, tied up on a wild-goose chase, while Dixon led his gang of renegades off to the farm to do their dirty work. And blame it all on some nonexistent terrorist cell they’d cooked up as their boogeyman. 

Except that Finn had somehow shown up at the farm compound later that night. 

Which must have thrown a hell of a wrench in their plans. 

They’d had to get messy to cover their tracks. 

They threw suspicion on Finn as the massacre mastermind, got him shipped home to take the fall. 

Then killed Kennedy. 

And probably killed Paulie, too, or else he was on the run like Finn himself, holed up in some other far-flung location on the planet. 

All that, Finn knew. 

But how exactly had Finn known where to go that night? How did he know what they’d done? 

How did he end up at that farm family compound, sitting in the midst of the slaughter?



Order your copy of “Cold Fear” today!

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Brandon Webb is founder of SOFREP and the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Circle and Benghazi: The Definitive Report. A former U.S. Navy SEAL whose last assignment was Course Manager for the elite SEAL Sniper Course, he was instrumental in developing new curricula that trained some of the most accomplished snipers of the twenty-first century. Webb has received numerous distinguished service awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Commendation Medal with a “V” for “Valor,” for his platoon’s deployment to Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks.

John David Mann is coauthor of more than thirty books, including four New York Times bestsellers and five national bestsellers. His writing has won multiple awards and been featured in American ExecutiveFinancial TimesForbesLeadership ExcellenceHuffingtonWired, and CrimeReads. His bestselling classic The Go-Giver (with Bob Burg) has sold over 1 million copies and won the Living Now Book Awards Evergreen Medal for its “contributions to positive global change.”

John and Brandon have coauthored ten books together. Steel Fear, the debut novel in their Finn series, was nominated for a Barry Award and hailed by Jack Reacher author Lee Child as “an instant classic, maybe an instant legend.” Cold Fear is the second book in the series; the third, Blind Fear, comes out summer of 2023.

Visit Webb & Mann here.