Every week or so I will be putting up an advance chapter or two of my newest International Thriller...
Murmansk! You can of course find the earlier chapters further down the page.The book should be
published around July of this year!
**Note this is first draft so be kind ;)
December 8, 2000
“Savior is here sir,” the man with the assault rifle muttered when he peaked around the door.
Horace Castile glanced up at the interruption, seemingly perturbed until the name rang a bell in his head.
“Really?” he exclaimed then, “Send him in!”
Hearing the exchange from the hallway, I pushed past the guard and into the study.
excitedly when he spied what was on the leash in my hand. Pushing himself to
his feet, he quickly made his way around the desk and strode toward me,
dropping to his knees when he reached the canine.
“Oh my God, Monte!”
His hands were cuffed around the dog’s head as the Bluetick happily licked the man’s face.
Looking up at me, I noticed that his glasses had been knocked askew…and that a tear was making its way down his cheek.
“How did you find her?” he implored before his face darkened. “Who did this to me?”
“I think we should sit down Mr.
I have a lot to tell you…or would you prefer Mr. Aiken?”
“So you know,” the man said after a few seconds.
Pushing himself to his feet, he took the leash from me and started toward his desk with Monte in tow.
“Have a seat Mr. Savior,” he called back over his shoulder. “Can I offer you anything?”
“Coffee would be great,” I replied as I sat in the same chair I had weeks before.
Nodding, he picked up his phone and punched a button.
“Brownie, would you mind bring coffee for two into the office?”
Nodding at the response of whoever he had called, he then set the receiver down without another word.
Taking his own seat, he then settled his soulful eyes on me.
“I’m not sure how I feel about you knowing my identity Mr. Savior. I had purposely kept my name from Timepiece as a matter of security.”
Annoyance flashed through me for a second before I reined it in.
“Let me assure you that our discovery of your true identity has and will stay within our group alone. Once we realized however that this couldn’t be a simple theft, it was imperative to learn who we were dealing with. It was, in point of fact, who you are that led to Monte’s abduction.”
I had his attention now, but our conversation was interrupted by a knock at the door.
“Enter,” Aiken called out while his eyes continued to rest on me.
“You coffee sir,” the man entering the room uttered succinctly, the same man I had seen briefly in the hallway on my first trip here.
The butler or whoever he was set the coffee service on the side table before bowing and leaving the room.
Aiken stood and moved toward the service. “You take anything in your coffee Mr. Savior?”
“Black’s fine,” I replied as I watched him pour two cups of the steaming brew. Setting down the pot, he then lifted one of the cups and moved toward me, the cup and saucer shaking slightly along with his hands.
He then lifted his own cup and moved back to his seat at the desk while Monte took the opportunity to lay her head on his lap.
I sipped at the strong coffee while I waited for him to speak.
“Who was it?” he finally asked nervously.
“A man named Jason Allen,” I replied while watching his reaction. “You know him?”
A blank look crossed Aiken’s face.
“No, should I?”
“Probably not,” I admitted, “He’s the new Deputy Comptroller at Jupiter Halifax. It looks like he probably started there about a year after you left.”
Nervousness crept into Aiken’s face, although he did a bang-up job of hiding it.
“I don’t quite understand Mr. Savior…a midlevel manager at my old company took my Monte? To what end?”
I sighed inwardly. I was tired of pussyfooting around with this asshole.
“He wanted a big chunk of your fortune Mr. Aiken,” I started, watching his face intently. “He wanted some of the money that you siphoned from Jupiter Halifax before you left.”
“Those are dangerous claims Mr. Savior,” he responded angrily, his eyes trying to pierce a hole in my head. “Even if it were true…how could you know such a thing?”
The edges of my mouth ticked up just a little.
“We have our ways…”
December 1, 2000
Seven Days Earlier
Abby felt the double clunk as the car passed over some railroad tracks.
It was the forth time that had happened since the trip had begun, although it did little to tell her where she was.
Feeling an itch on her cheek, she brought her hand up off of her lap and scratched at the mask that covered her head.
“I’m sorry for all of the cloak and dagger Abby,” McGruder mentioned from the driver’s seat, “I hope that one day you will better understand my need for such secrecy.”
Abby turned her masked head toward the voice. “And I hope that one day you will not feel such a need with me.”
Although she did understand McGruder’s need for security, Abby still rebelled against the idea that he couldn’t yet trust her!
“It is not trust that I lack Abby my dear,” McGruder spoke as the car slowed to a stop. “In part, it is protection for both you and me. If you are captured, your lack of knowledge may prevent untold torture being brought upon yourself. Should you be tortured anyway, your lack of knowledge will protect me in the process.”
Abby’s head turned toward the voice again. “That’s a lovely thought Patrick! Thanks for that!”
“It is likely that I would be the only one able to mount a rescue in such a circumstance Abby. It would extremely complicate matters if I were to be in hiding from the enemy at the same time.”
“Point taken,” Abby muttered when his logic set in.
Patting her leg, “Let’s not dwell on that remote possibility Abby,” he continued as the car suddenly moved forward again, albeit slowly. “We have arrived at our destination.”
Hearing a motor running overhead as McGruder shut off the car, Abby waited in her seat as he got out of the vehicle. When the motor stopped running, she could hear the clicking of McGruder’s leg braces as he made his way around the car.
“You can get out now my dear.”
Opening the door and stepping out of the car, her nose was assailed with the scent of old oil and dust.
A garage! Then the motor noise overhead was probably a garage door opener.
“If you would lay your hand on my shoulder, I will show you to the elevator,” McGruder said then, starting forward once he felt her hand.
Abby was silent as she obediently followed McGruder, first across the uneven floor of the garage, and then into the elevator. When the lift finally started rising McGruder spoke again.
“You can take your mask off now.”
Removing her mask, Abby watched as floor after floor of old brick and concrete passed by the slatted, wooden gate of the freight elevator.
Nothing high-tech about this place, Abby mused to herself.
Arriving finally at their floor, Abby waited while McGruder lifted the gate and then pushed open the metal door to the floor.
“Holy crap!” she breathed when she saw what was before her.
Row after row of computer racking, every slot filled with switches, routers and servers.
“Holy crap!” Abby repeated as she stepped off the elevator and saw the extent of the room.
The building appeared to be an old warehouse. If she had to guess, she would have to say that the room they were in was at least fifty feet by a hundred…with almost every square foot occupied by some sort of computer equipment.
“This is amazing,” she uttered under her breath.
The day before, Gabe had called McGruder, asking for some help in tracking some of their suspicions on the case. Unfortunately, McGruder had explained, he was neck deep in another project. As an alternative, he had offered to bring Abby to his operations center.
She had readily accepted, excited at the prospect of working on a real computer system.
She’d had no idea that McGruder’s resources would be so extensive!
“I’m a little in awe here Patrick, I gotta tell ya,” Abby finally got out when she could speak again.
McGruder laughed heartily. “Yes, it is an extensive system, but such a pain when I have to move it.”
Abby’s jaw dropped, “You move all this?” She exclaimed, her hand sweeping the room, “How often?”
McGruder shrugged, “Sometimes several times a year.”
Before Abby could comment however, McGruder was moving past her. “Let me show you to your terminal Abby, I must get back to my other project.”
When he got close, McGruder pointed her along with his crutch.
“That’s your terminal there Abby, let me know if you need help with anything.”
Turning to head back, Abby noticed the pain and exhaustion starting to show on his face.
“Sure thing Patrick, I’ll try not to bother you.”
Nodding in reply, McGruder clicked off to another part of the room while Abby made herself comfortable in the small, rolling chair in front of the keyboard. Interlacing her fingers, she flipped her palms away from her and stretched her fingers.
“Ok!” she whispered then, “Let’s see what we can did up about Gerald Aiken’s life.”
December 8, 2000
“You’ve made some very dangerous assumptions Mr. Savior. You do know that this compound is surrounded by armed men, don’t you?”
“I am aware,” I replied, hoping that I was hiding my own nervousness better than he had.
“But is this the way you usually treat someone that has helped you…by threatening them?”
A small smile spread across Aiken’s face. “Just being cautious, please continue your story of Mr. Allen.”
I crossed my right leg over my left as I got comfortable in the chair.
“It seems that Jason Allen is somewhat of a bulldog when it comes to digging into numbers. His position allowed him access into the books of all of the divisions of the company…including the black ones buried deep in the bowels of company gossip…even the one no one was supposed to know about…even one buried as deep as Blue Lightning.”
“Are you expecting me to admit to something here Mr. Savior? Is this the part where you threaten to expose me unless you too are paid a…bonus shall we say?”
My jaw tightened at his accusation, but I held my peace until I could speak calmly.
“Unfortunately, I’m not the law Mr. Aiken, at least not any more. You hired us with a certain expectation of privacy, and as long as someone’s life isn’t threatened, why would I care what you have done to some huge corporation…or the government for that matter?”
Another smile graced his lips then. “You are well informed Mr. Savior. Of those few that worked on that project, even fewer knew the truth about the source of the funding.”
“And again…I don’t care,” I reiterated. “I was hired to find your dog. Whether the government does or doesn’t find you is none of my concern.”
Aiken seemed to relax a little in his seat…finally.
“Very well, continue please.”
“As I was saying, Jason Allen is a scrapper when it comes to numbers. Seems he can sniff out inequalities in his sleep…which in your case was not a great thing. When he realized what you had done…he got greedy too.”
“Assuming all of this is true, why’d he steal my dog? Why not just send a threatening letter…or an email?”
“According to him, he was scoping out your life in an effort to figure out precisely how to get money from you. He went as far as to walk by your house one evening when he happened across the dog alone in the yard. I assume that your present level of security was not present at that time. Apparently she came right up to him, so he led her to his car and took her home with him.”
Aiken closed his eyes for a few seconds, relief showing on his face.
“You are correct about the security at that time. But why didn’t he contact me after he had the dog? It’s been over two weeks?”
“Basically,” I started, “He’s a coward. He couldn’t figure out a way contacting you…or even bringing her back without exposing himself.”
Nodding quietly, Aiken seemed to be taking it all in.
“I can assume that your…intrusions into the company database can’t be traced back to me?”
“Timepiece assures me that they won’t be traceable to anyone.”
“So the only loose end is this Mr. Allen then,” Aiken replied worriedly.
“He’s been handled. He has accepted a bribe, with the understanding that we hold information on him that would threaten his job…and his freedom.”
“The bribe will be added to your bill by the way,” I added with a smile.
The sneer on Aiken’s face told me he didn’t appreciate my humor.
“Maybe I’ll just handle Mr. Allen on my own,” he stated then.
“We also have enough on you to put you away for the rest of your life Mr. Aiken,” I smiled at him again. “We have assured the other party that no threat will be forthcoming from you.”
This riled him plenty. “Maybe I’ll just have you shot then Mr. Savior…somebody needs to get shot!”
I sighed, getting fed up with this asshole’s attitude.
“If I were you Mr. Aiken, I’d just be glad that you got your dog back. If anything happens to me or my crew the same thing goes as before…Timepiece buries you…and you never see the light of day again.”
With that I stood and turned for the door, enjoying the quiet coming from the man behind me.
“Timepiece will send you the bill,” I exclaimed as a parting shot as I left the room. Making my way out of the house, I skipped down the steps to the car and let myself into the passenger seat. Glancing at Preacher, I noticed the red dots on his chest for a few more moments before they disappeared.
Starting the car, Preacher pulled down the shifter and started making his way out the driveway.
“How’d it go?” he questioned as he pulled out on the road and accelerated.
“Ok,” I uttered, “But there’s one part of this job I don’t think I’ll ever get used to.”
“Oh yeah?” he replied as he grinned at me, “And what would that be?”
I shook my head before looking back up at him in frustration.
December 8, 2000
“Sweet!” Abby gushed excitedly as we walked back into the kitchen.
I thought maybe she was just happy to see us…until I noticed her grinning at a sheet of paper in her hands.
“We’re back,” I uttered then, “Dog delivered and customer happy…sort of.”
“I know!” Abby exclaimed, “We already got the check!”
May brought me a fresh cup of coffee and a smile. Kissing me on the cheek, she then handed me the cup.
“She’s been staring at it for five minutes,” she grinned, “I don’t even think she would notice Josh if he were here at the moment.”
Josh was the fine young man Abby had been seeing for over a year. The pilot of Raven’s plane during our European excursion last year, he inevitably volunteered to work with us on the case after we had landed. His contribution in distracting Wolf’s flying demons had been instrumental in helping us to overcome the self-proclaimed King of the world.
He was also a welcomed addition to our growing family, as he too now lived in the house with us.
“Is there enough in there to spring for supper at Lenny’s?” I asked with a smile, the taste of one of his famous
Stromboli’s already on my
Abby finally took her eyes off of the check when I mentioned food. “I do believe we can spring for that tonight,” she replied with a wide grin. “All of this cloak and dagger makes me hungry!”
“Why don’t you call Josh and see if he can come,” I mention before noticing Abby shaking her head.
“He’s still in
California with Raven
and Snake…I think they’re coming back late tonight.”
“Well I can’t wait that long…how about we just load up and go now!”
As if on cue the secure cell phone twittered on the table.
Sighing at the interruption, I unfolded the phone and held it to my ear.
“Hello Gabriel!” McGruder responded to my hello, “I see you made it back from
Lancaster in one piece.”
“No thanks to Mr. Aiken, I think he wanted to shoot me!”
“Ah yes,” McGruder soothed, “Some customers are hard to satisfy.”
“Speaking of customers,” he continued hurriedly, “I have a new one for you…a rather urgent matter as a matter of fact.”
“Do we have time to eat supper first?” I asked halfheartedly.
McGruder actually laughed at that. “Yes Gabriel, but I will need you ready to catch a plane first thing in the morning if you accept the assignment. I will have the details couriered over to you place in a couple of hours. You would need to pack enough for three or four days, including your warmest cold-weather gear as it is very frigid there.”
That last part got me a little worried, as I could think of no place colder than where I was at that moment.
“Any other clues you can give me as to where we might be heading?” I asked then, hoping for something I could tell the others over supper.
“Well…there is one thing,” McGruder replied after a few moments of thought.
“How’s your Russian?”
December 8, 2000
The man easily picked the lock on the back door of the house.
Having to wait until it got fully dark, he would now have to hurry to make sure he got done before they returned.
As he let himself in, he felt cloaked in warmth, the scent of good coffee still in the air. Taking a moment to enjoy the homey surroundings, he gave a quick thought to the cold, empty apartment across the street.
Sighing at his plight, he quickly made his way to the stairway. He always started at the top and worked his way down if he could. He would much rather leave by the back door as opposed to being caught upstairs if they came home early and having to crawl out of a window.
It was harder to make it look like no one had been there if you had to use a window. Trying to close a sash while hanging on the side of a house was perilous, especially if you were afraid of heights!
Moving quietly, he was up the stairs and entering the master bedroom in seconds. Using a small penlight, he scanned the room for useful places for his equipment. Finding an air vent on the wall over the bed, he decided that was his only choice.
From there he would be able to see most of the room except for the bed. He smiled with the thought that he would prefer a location where you could actually see the bed…if for no other reason than entertainment.
Stepping up on the mattress, he removed a screwdriver from a pocket of his backpack and set about loosening the screws on the grill. Once he had the grill off, he pulled out a wireless camera and battery pack. Connecting the battery, he initialized the camera and set it in place on a little ledge in the wall.
The camera was good to a thousand feet, and the receiver across the street was much closer than that. His only worry was whether the on-board microphone would work at that distance, as he had never used this model before.
Laying the grill against the wall, he started the screws into the plaster, holding the penlight in his teeth.
Stepping off the bed, he spent a few moments straightening the comforter before moving off again into the hallway. Finding no other good location upstairs, he then made his way to the ground floor.
The bedroom down here offered even better opportunities, as the grill in that room look out on the bed. Happily, he worked off the grill and started installing the second camera. Closing that back off, he then moved out into the kitchen.
From watching the house over the last two weeks, he knew that they spent a lot of time in the kitchen, the light being on almost constantly. Panning the light around the walls, he found a perfect placement for his third camera. Over the cupboards, there was yet another heating grill that looked out over the table.
Moving a stack of clean dishes aside, he pulled himself up on the counter and got to work on the grill. Pulling out the camera and battery, he had just connected the two when he heard it…
The slamming of car doors!
Cussing to himself, he quickly set the camera inside and pushed the grill back over the hole.
He could hear voices now…coming up the sidewalk…getting closer. He quickly pushed the screws in and gave each a turn by hand before jumping back off of the counter.
It would have to do, he thought. There was no time for anything else.
Moving to the back door, he pulled it open enough to slide around the edge just as the light came on behind him. Pulling the door closed slowly behind him, he turned the knob with his hand until it had come to its resting point. Ducking down, he crawled off the porch and made his way quietly to the alleyway behind the house.
When he was sure that he hadn’t been observed, he stood and started walking toward the end of the alley. He would walk several blocks away in a circuitous route before heading back to his empty house so he could be sure that he wasn’t observed.
He smiled when he realized how buzzed he felt, the adrenalin from the close escape having poured copiously into his system.
This was why he did what he did, and this is why he could handle the hour upon hour of boring observation that his clients paid him for.
Copyright 2015 J.T. lewis