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!
December 10, 2000
Something was wrong.
Worry etched on his features, McGruder clicked his way around his data center aimlessly, unable to sit even in the face of his advancing pain and exhaustion.
Savior was overdue to check in.
In point of fact, they should be well on their way back by now, but he had not heard from them since shortly after they took to the air yesterday.
Although he had been in communication with the pilot until just before they had landed, he too had now gone silent.
Adding to his worries, he had just gotten off of the phone with the charter company he had used for the jet. Although they wouldn’t admit that anything was wrong, McGruder could now sense the tension in the voice of his contact there.
“Such a simple mission,” McGruder mumbled to himself. “What the hell could have gone wrong?”
He gave a quick thought to contacting May Celtic to see if she had heard from Gabriel, but dismissed the thought immediately. If she hadn’t heard from him, it would only lead to more worry.
Right now, this was his worry alone, and he would keep it that way for as long as he could.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sudden buzzing in his pocket. Pulling out the secure cell phone, his heart dropped when he recognized the number.
Frank Rascoff…the girl’s father.
“I’m afraid I don’t have any news for you yet Frank,” McGruder spoke when he connected the call. “I should know something soon though.”
Silence greeted him for a few seconds before the other man spoke.
“I have received a text,” the other man finally uttered sadly; “They have taken your operatives.”
Shock coursed through McGruder’s veins, his exhaustion forgotten.
“What do they want now?” he asked immediately, his years of working in this field taking over his actions.
“They want you,” the man finally uttered, fear making his voice croak. “They have given you forty-eight hours to fly to
or they will kill everyone!”
December 10, 2000
I woke up shivering and in total blackness, feeling cold to my very core.
I could feel my foggy mind trying to make sense of the frigid darkness surrounding me with little success.
Someone moaned a few feet away.
Not thinking about any danger that may be lurking in the inky blackness, not thinking of much of anything really, I rolled onto my belly and started crawling toward the noise. Something rolled off my stomach when I turned over, but I let it lay where it fell as I made my way numbly toward the repeated moaning sound.
I jerked my hand back quickly when it brushed against something ahead of me on the floor. Sliding it slowly forward again, I stopped when the object again touched my hand.
Nothing happened when I touched it…no alarms sounded…no animals with snarling teeth attacked.
Since there had been no negative reaction, I started running my fingers up it, trying to identify what was blocking my path.
A shoe? Or more precisely…a boot.
I quickly found a leg attached to the boot and slowly moved toward what I assumed would be the head. A weak moan confirmed my hypothesis when I reached the top of the body.
Still reeling, my mind continued to refuse to wrap itself around any concrete thought. The body was alive however, of that much I was sure.
Sitting on the floor next to the body I closed my eyes and tried to think about my situation.
It was cold here, and dark.
The floor was concrete.
There was a man or woman on the concrete, lying there…apparently in pain…
My head buzzed suddenly, the pain causing me to wince.
I brought my hands to my head to try and hold in my brain…but after a minute, the pain subsided.
I remembered! We were riding in a jet…Preacher, Abby and I!
But then…something happened…
“What happened?” I mumbled aloud as I tried to muddle through my thoughts.
“Preacher?” I called out into the darkness as recognition flamed in my mind. Rolling onto my knees, I crawled toward the noise. “Preacher…is that you?”
The answering moan confirmed it in my now marginally functioning mind. I moved my hand to his head and further confirmed his identity when I felt the eye patch. Probing gently, I used my fingers to try and identify any injuries, stopping at the wet spot on the shoulder.
“Shit!” I whispered when my fingers brushed through the sticky blood, my mind now on full alert.
“Hold on buddy,” I said as I turned and headed back to my original spot. I had remembered something rolling off of me when I had first moved.
Maybe it was a flashlight!
Whatever it was, it skittered away when my hand accidentally pushed it across the slick concrete. Cursing under my breath, I followed the noise and eventually found it again…but it wasn’t a flashlight.
It felt like a phone!
While I really needed a light at that moment, a phone is never a bad thing to have.
“Duh!” I called out to the empty room when I realized that the screen would put out at least some type of light. I started punching buttons to turn it on, only to find that it was wrapped in some sort of paper. Quickly ripping off the paper, I shoved it into my coat pocket before continuing my button-pushing session.
Finally it beeped! The display on the phone started scrolling through various screens as I stood up and looked around.
Even the small screen of the phone lit up my surroundings amazingly well. Immediately my eyes landed on a lantern hung from a pole across the room. Making my way there, I could see it was a propane-powered camp lantern.
But I needed matches!
As I started looking for something to light it with the screen on the phone went dark.
Hoping it had just timed out, I pushed a button on the face of the phone. The room was again lit in the eerie glow of the screen.
Pulling open doors and drawers in the cabinets surrounding me, I finally came across a box of large, wooden kitchen matches. Walking back to the lantern, I struck a match and inserted it into the glass as I turned the knob for the propane.
As the flame touched the cloth mantle, a sputter of blue flame took hold. As I watched intently, the glow grew brighter and brighter until I knew it was going to hold. Pushing the phone into my pocket, I started looking for any kind of medical supplies.
I finally spotted a large box hung on the wall sporting a green cross on its cover. Crossing the room quickly, I lifter the first aid kit off of its hangers and made my way back to Preacher.
“Hold on buddy,” I encouraged when I got back to where he lay. Setting down the kit, I leaned in and started slowly unzipping his coat and moving it aside.
Preacher moaned again just with me doing that!
I could now see the hole plainly in his shirt…the bullet hole.
Crap I thought to myself helplessly as I opened the case. It was an extensive first aid kit thankfully, designed for an installation with several people.
I doubt they ever had gunshots in mind when they designed it though.
Finding a bottle of alcohol, I removed it from the kit and unscrewed the cap. Noticing some tongue depressors, I pulled out four and stacked them together before leaning toward Preacher.
“I need you to bite down on this,” I explained as I held the stacked wood in front of his lips, “It’s gonna hurt like hell!”
Nodding slightly, Preacher opened his mouth and allowed me to set the wood crossways in his mouth before he clamped down on them weakly.
Here goes nothing, I breathed quietly before tipping the bottle.
The room suddenly filled with the loudest scream I have ever heard.
December 10, 2000
Patrick McGruder was beside himself.
Part of it was with worry…about the girl…as well with his operatives.
Gabriel Celtic and his crew were caught up in something that they couldn’t have foreseen…hell, he hadn’t even seen it!
True, it was the nature of the beast…no one had ever said there wouldn’t be dangerous situations.
But this? On their first major project with him?
“I’ll be lucky to get them to work with me again,” he mumbled quietly.
Of course, that assumed that he would get them back at all…and that he himself lived.
But it wasn’t in his nature to give up in these types of situations. He had only lost one operative before, and that had been twenty years ago!
Since then, he had worked hard to keep it from happening again, vetting every facet of a pending operation himself at least three times.
So how had this project gone so awry?
Even now, he had his computers working on a solution…making a list of potential enemies that could have perpetrated this.
And he had made plenty of enemies over the years!
That too was the nature of the beast…he had put many evil people away…or eliminated them…but many had also gotten away.
Clicking across the room on his crutches, he stood in front of the monitor that was working away on his list. There were only two names listed so far. Studying them, he found the likelihood of either of these men throwing something this complex together unlikely.
Sighing, he moved back across the room and let himself tiredly into his padded chair. Reaching for a carafe, he filled a mug with coffee before picking it up and taking a sip. Whether it was the caffeine, or just the warm liquid itself, coffee always helped him think.
Struck with a sudden intriguing thought, he sat up straighter in his chair before calling across the room.
A single tone emanated from the nearest server, letting him know the system was awaiting his orders through the vocal interface.
“Modify current search.”
Again the server beeped in acknowledgement.
“Add these additional search parameters.”
Transferring his thoughts to the computer, he then asked it to proceed with the modified search.
It was an interesting concept that he had just conveyed to the computers, but one that he would be remiss to ignore.
His thoughts moved back to his impending trip. He had already made the arrangement for his flight, using a different charter company of course. But he would not just hand himself over to the enemy…not without some kind of fight. There was no guarantee that they would honor their deal anyway, even if he gave himself up freely.
Reaching for his phone, he punched in a number that he had long ago memorized. After the third ring, a familiar voice answered.
“Patrick McGruder! It’s been too long…how may I help you?”
Patrick couldn’t help but smile at his friend’s ever-present enthusiasm.
“I have an unusual…situation at hand my friend. Are you available to make your way here…quickly?”
There was a short pause in the conversation as his friend’s eidetic mind worked through his present schedule.
“Would four hours work?” the man on the line asked, “Five at the outset?”
“That would be ideal,” McGruder smiled. “I can pick you up at the normal spot?”
“Don’t worry about it; I’ll come in by chopper…save all of that time commuting back and forth from the airport.”
“Splendid,” McGruder grinned, “I’ll have the landing lights on for you.”
“I’ll see you then,” the man responded, “Thanks for calling.”
The line went immediately dead. Setting the phone down, Patrick McGruder felt better by a small measure. He always felt better when he was on the attack instead of just reacting.
Pulling himself up off of his chair, he once again made his way across the room to the monitor with the developing list. There were now five names listed, with the computer indicating it was still working.
Scanning down the names, McGruder’s eyes suddenly held on the last one.
A small smile crept across his lips as he reread the name again.
“Well this is certainly an unexpected surprise.”
Could this even be possible? He thought to himself. I thought for certain that this one was…dead!
Copyright 2015 J.T. Lewis