And… Never Again (excerpt) July 7, 2010

The 4th of July has come and gone, summer will fly by, Labor Day will be here too soon, followed by Halloween.  Now no one wants to hurry summer, but since mid-November will be here before we know it I’m putting the finishing touches on Michael Grant and Associates latest Black Book Investigation:  And… Never Again.  Many questions about Michael’s life will be explained and revealed.  Along with the on-going hunt for Terry Dean Ballard, but where?

Above, millions of acre feet of water.  Below the dam, a town, a chemical munitions storage facility & a gang of enviro-terrorists.  Terry Dean Ballard is in Colorado, bent on devastation. Can Michael stop the inevitable? How many more times can he say: And… Never Again!

To whet your appetite (you’ll have to read the book to find out the exact date) here is an excerpt from:

Chapter Four

Trinidad, Colorado  1:15 pm Tuesday December 26, 20??

THIS PLACE LOOKS like a four-tiered wedding cake, for an architect,” Tom said as they mounted the shoveled but snow-crusted steps from the street.”

Crawford was waiting for them on the porch.  It took a moment for all four men to shake hands with one another as Nicholson “Sonny” Crawford, a CIA operative, introducing himself, using the name Michael knew him by, Franz Largés.  Though the Nordic looking man, who’d picked them up, had given Michael the recognition sign, he had not yet spoken.  Franz introduced the large beefy blond man as his ‘associate’, Abel Borghild, who greeted them with the undercurrent of what Michael took to be a Swedish accent.  Michael didn’t know whether it was genuine or not.  Their voices were low, controlled and further damped by the quieting acoustics provided by the snow.

“Franz, Abel, this is my associate Tom Darrow.  He’s aware of certain things, what else you share is up to you, I vouch for him.”

“Normally that would be a strong enough recommendation,” Franz said, “but since Penwhistle went to Texas to work with you on this matter and Tom and I met up here before Christmas, we vetted him.”  He looked over at Tom; stuck out his hand again, “Good to see you again, you’re cleared at least for what we’re going to share here.”

They shook hands again.  “Guess I’m in a club I didn’t apply to join?”

“Something like that and you’ve just received the secret hand shake.”

“Hell, I wuddn’t even payin’ attention,” Tom smiled, “I’ll watch more closely next time.”

“Why are we here?” Michael asked stomping the snow from his new Tex Robin boots, a Christmas present to himself.  Tex had finished them before Thanksgiving, but waited to ship them for arrival on Christmas Eve, as Michael had requested.

The porch was covered and looked out over a wooden balustrade painted gray, over a black wrought iron fence that guarded the small inner yard from the stone retaining wall and the seven foot drop to the street accessed by a double set of stairs.  Everything beyond the porch was covered in snow.  It was cold, but for the moment, under snow-laden clouds, there was no wind.  The three-story (four if you counted the single-story one-room tower) Victorian mansion called Le Chateau Bleu Ennui, according to the plaque on the wall, had been built in 1882 in the French style.  The veneer was red brick with white interlocking cornerstone blocks and green shutters at the windows.

“Yeah,” Tom said, “the plaque says this is a Museum run by a Historic Society.”

“Well it was and it is.  They’ve recently turned it into an expensive bed and breakfast and it’s the only place in town I could inconspicuously put all four of us.  DocuTel is picking up the tab, by the way.”

“I got that,” Michael said, “but why are we here… in town?  Michael pointed at a couple of peaks.  Isn’t Terry Dean Ballard holed up in a cabin up there?”

“Ah, you want to rough it in the mountains?  Command decision: this will be our headquarters, tourists still come here for the daily tours after breakfast is served, and we won’t stick out.  I told them our wives would be joining us in a few days; that they were skiing and got stuck there by the blackouts.  Besides I don’t want to rough it in the mountains for however long we’re going to be here.”

“Let us go up to rooms,” Able said.

“Good idea.  Tom, you’re in the “Portrait Room” and, Mic, the “Blue Room”, both on the second floor; there’re names plates on the doors.  After you’re settled in, come up to my room, third floor; “Sarah’s Suite”¾say thirty minutes.”

“I guess nobody noticed that we landed at the football stadium in a ‘black-ops’ military chopper that makes virtually no noise?”

“Actually, no.” Able said.  “I watch before I pick you up.”

Tom said, “Well, too bad we won’t have that resource, said he had another mission.  A ‘Bump-Priority’ he called it.”

Franz nodded, only the President can bump a bump-priority, “The man has a BP mission, no problem, we’ve got good ground transport.  Air missions maybe scrubbed in this weather anyway.”

AT 1:45PM with Tom, Michael knocked on the brass door plate marked “Sarah’s Suite”.   Able opened the door. Franz was standing at a window across the room; he turned,  “Come in friends.”

They sat around a dainty French table in dainty French chairs, certainly not built for twenty-first century derrières.  “Sorry for the uncomfortable chairs,” Largés said, “I prefer them, to out there.”  He stabbed a thumb backwards to the window where he had been standing.  Large snow flakes were raining down.  “Here’s what I know.  At 9:06 am yesterday, Christmas Day, one of the biggest ski-days in America, a computer virus was activated in twenty computer systems affecting a number of ski-resorts and other ancillary infrastructure facilities.  The result was a stoppage ranging from various mundane cash register failures to the serious failures of HVAC and safety systems, including ski lifts and all computer-controlled electronic equipment.  Authorities are reporting to the news media a current death toll of eight-seven, but it is higher than that.  There are a couple of government facilities, mountain installations, which are not reporting.  We could be talking about thirty-seven ‘Company’ personnel in peril.   They’re at two separate survival posts, training for Afghan mountain operations.  In theory they should be able to survive.  Our mission is first to secure the laptop and second to reestablish a link with the two out-posts to determine their situation.”

“And,” Michael paused trying to block out his disquiet, “we are 200 miles south of where we think the action may be?”

“More or less.  Yes–”

Michael continued, “And didn’t you tell me you last got a hit from Terry Dean’s laptop in Colorado Springs, a what–”

“Two hour drive up I-25 under good conditions,” Tom offered, “I looked it up before we left.”

“Yes.”  Largés smiled and took a sip of breath, “I don’t know where the guy is exactly; we’re working on that.  But we do know where he has been and may return to.  He has no reason to believe that his safe-house here has been compromised. Both of you have been there before.  Tonight we’re going up there, don’t expect him to be there, but you never know.  If he’s not, we’ll plant listening devices and cameras.  Abel will then monitor that location from here as we go tomorrow to Colorado Springs and look for that teenaged shit Ballard.”

“Alright,” Michael said, “that’s reasonable and this is your ‘op’, guess my logic is a little fuzzy.  We’ve had to put off getting Ballard and I feel like those people he’s killed are on my head¾”

“They are not, my friend, any more than they are on mine.  Ballard is responsible for his own actions and if we had ten Supermen in the world, instead of the four of us now, they still couldn’t stop all the crazies–so let’s focus on the bad guy here and to that end–I know you guys haven’t had much rest in the last forty-eight hours; let’s meet here again at a nine this evening.  Wear your night cold-weather gear.  It’s in your rooms in pink-duffels.”

“That’s a ‘light’ touch,” Tom said.

AFTER THE ROOM was clear, Franz picked up a small phone-like device and called.  His contact, R7R picked up on the second ring, knowing who was calling and said without preamble, “I want it back and I want them found.  With regard to the first, use all means necessary included XP, authorized on high,” said Bertrand B. Baker, Deputy Director of Operations for the Central Intelligence Agency, over the secure satellite phone.

“Yes, Sir.” Franz said with a laugh, “what the hell is R7R still doing running a field op, I thought you turned all that stuff over to R7Rm and his operations people?”

“I have,” R7R said.  “Yours is the only ass in the field the Director still lets me kick.”

“What?  I’m your last old recruit?”

“Something like that–won’t be long before we’re both out of the field for good.”

“Well, that’s a reality for another day, but before that comes I want you to bring Grant in; he–I’d like to groom him as my replacement.”

“I know he worked with us through Jandra years ago–you think he’s ready for a two-tier jump?”

“I think so; his PI business and his connections with law enforcement are a great cover, not to mention his clandestine contacts; yeah, I think he’s ready.  I’ll know more after this operation.”

“Then I’ll take it under advisement.”

“I will call, when I need something, I will need something?”

“Call me then.”  The sat-phone went quiet.  Franz pushed his disconnect button.  The phone remained in an encrypted handshake-mode with its satellite.  He knew that at Langley, on what Largés dubbed, in his mind, as the “Colorado Desk”, was a monitor displaying the location of the phone and by extension, his whereabouts on a real-time, in-orbit, aerial map.

And… Never Again, due out mid-November 2010!

2 Responses to “And… Never Again (excerpt)”

  1. Carl Lanpher Says:

    I really like your blog. Excellent posts!

  2. Jacob Ochtervelt Says:

    Well done – you’ve just rated a new fan :-)

Leave a Reply