Act of Terrorby Marc Cameron
Warning: The next attack on American soil will come from within.
From coast to coast, our nation is witnessing a new wave of terror. Suicide bombers incite blind panic and paralyzing fear. A flight attendant tries to crash an airliner. A police officer opens fire on fans in a stadium. And at CIA headquarters, a Deputy Director goes on a murderous rampage/b>… See more details below
Warning: The next attack on American soil will come from within.
From coast to coast, our nation is witnessing a new wave of terror. Suicide bombers incite blind panic and paralyzing fear. A flight attendant tries to crash an airliner. A police officer opens fire on fans in a stadium. And at CIA headquarters, a Deputy Director goes on a murderous rampage. The perpetrators appear to be American--but they are covert agents in a vast network of terror, selected and trained for one purpose only: the complete annihilation of America.
Special Agent Jericho Quinn has seen the warning signs. As a classified "instrument" of the CIA reporting directly to the President, Quinn knows that these random acts of violence pose a clear and present danger. But Quinn may not be able to stop it. The search for terrorists has escalated into an all-out witch hunt. And somehow, Quinn's name is on the list. . .
Praise for National Security
"Fascinating characters with action off-the-charts. Masterful." --Steve Berry
"One of the hottest new authors in the thriller genre." --Brad Thor
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Act of TERROR
By MARC CAMERON
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Marc Cameron
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBe polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet. —Rules of Engagement, USMC
Between Wasilla and Anchorage, Alaska
One hour earlier 0815 hours, Alaska time
Jericho Quinn rolled on the throttle, leaning the growling BMW R 1150 GS Adventure into a long, sweeping curve under the shadow of the Chugach Mountains. Birch trees decked in full autumn colors flashed by in a buttery blur. Behind him, riding pillion, his ex-wife twined her arms tightly around his waist, leaning when he leaned, looking where he looked. It was the first time they'd been in sync in over two years. The weather was perfect, bluebird clear and just crisp enough to feel invigorating. The grin on Quinn's face was wide enough he would have gotten bugs in his teeth had it not been for the helmet.
It had been Kim's idea to make the half-hour ride out to Wasilla. She'd suggested they catch an early lunch at the Windbreak Café before scooting back to Anchorage to watch their daughter's youth symphony debut matinée. After months overseas, Jericho had been hesitant to let the little girl out of his sight—even for the morning. A nagging feeling that he needed to be there to protect her pressed against his gut like a stone.
The thought of being in the wind with his ex-wife won out over his nagging gut. He couldn't remember the last time she'd climbed on a bike behind him. Now, her thighs clasped at his hips. The press of her chest seeped like a warm kiss through his leather jacket, reviving a flood of memories from better times—memories he'd tucked away, just to keep his sanity.
He took the ramp from the Parks Highway to the Glen at speed, shooting a glance over his left shoulder before merging with the thump of morning traffic. Picking his line, he checked again, taking the inside lane to avoid a dented Toyota Tundra. The ditzy driver wandered into his lane as she chatted on her cell phone with one hand and held a cup of coffee in the other, steering with some unseen appendage. Quinn tapped the bike down a gear before accelerating past the rattling cage to relative safety.
Riding the highway reminded Quinn of combat. The whap-whap-whap of his brother Bo's 1956 Harley Panhead in the next lane was eerily reminiscent of a Browning fifty-caliber on full auto—and, everyone on the road seemed bent on trying to kill them both.
Kim began to administer a slow Heimlich maneuver, crushing his ribs as the motorcycle picked up speed. For a fleeting moment, Jericho considered slowing to keep her from squeezing the life out of him, but Bo's bike chuffed past, pop-pop-popping like a fighter pilot on a strafing run.
When the Quinn brothers got together, some sort of competition never failed to erupt. They each had the broken bones to prove it.
Kim pressed in even tighter. She'd known him since high school and must have sensed what was about to happen. Pouring on the gas, Jericho felt the welcome buffeting of wind against his helmet as the speedometer flashed past eighty miles an hour and kept climbing.
The brothers rode their "Alaska" bikes, the older, more seasoned motorcycles they left in state for visits home. Stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, ostensibly with the Office of Special Investigations, or OSI, Jericho kept his newer BMW R 1200 GS Adventure there. The national security advisor to the president—his real boss—had added a few modifications that made the bike belong more to the American taxpayer than it did to Quinn. He stored the older GS in his parent's garage where his dad could take it out in between commercial fishing seasons to keep it exercised.
The Beemer wasn't the Rolex of motorcycles, but it wasn't the bottom of the rung either. Like the TAG Heuer Aquaracer on Quinn's wrist, the BMW was high-end, classy, without flouting too much bling. Bo rode the flat-black '56 Panhead the boys had rebuilt when Jericho was fifteen and Bo was eleven. Loud as a wronged woman, the smoke-belching Harley could scoot.
Kim gave a little squeal of delight, squeezing less with her arms and more with her legs as the bike screamed through ninety with plenty left to go.
They all wore leathers to protect against the chill of Alaska's fall weather—and road rash in the event of an accident. Bo, riding single, and to Jericho's chagrin, now well in the lead, wore a Vanson Enfield jacket in heavy cowhide. The angry eye of a black octopus glared above a white rocker with three-inch letters across his broad back. The cut identified the younger Quinn as a DENIZEN—a motorcycle club from Texas that dabbled in what Bo called the "lucrative gray edges" of the law.
Where Bo's Vanson all but shouted that he was a member of the Denizens, Jericho's Aerostich gear was unadorned. The supple Transit Leathers were made up of a black jacket and matching pants. Micro-perforated, they were completely waterproof and cooler than most protective gear right off the rack. The formfitting leathers came standard with durable TF armor inserts, but his new employer had added a few extras. A wafer-thin recirculating personal cooling system developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and panels of level III-A body armor were sandwiched into the material. A Kimber Tactical Ultra ten-millimeter pistol, a forty-caliber baby Glock, and a Japanese killing dagger all hid beneath the innocuous black jacket.
Kim, wearing a beautifully skintight set of her own black leathers, discovered the second pistol about the time they hit ninety-five. Her entire body tensed like a coiled spring. She was funny that way. One pistol was acceptable, part of the job. Ah, but two guns—that was over the top in her estimation. A person carrying two guns had to be spoiling for a fight. If she found Yawaraka-Te—the Japanese dirk hidden in the ballistic armor along the hollow of his spine—Kimberly Quinn would surely reach an entirely new level of berserk.
The light at the Airport Heights intersection turned yellow. Bo shot through and continued to weave in and out of traffic on his way downtown. Riding double with an angry woman made it impossible to catch up. Quinn let off the gas, knowing he was about to get an earful.
Kim flipped up her visor the moment his left boot hit the pavement.
"Really, Jericho? Two guns?"
Holding the clutch, he rolled the throttle, listening to the old BMW's Boxer Twin engine. He closed his eyes to feel the familiar horizontal right-hand torque.
He loved the bike and, even when she was nagging, he was still in love with Kim. She'd been the one to divorce him, saying she couldn't stand the constant threat of his violent death and his long deployments to the Middle East. After two years, she'd hinted that there was a tiny chance for them to get back together—up 'til now.
She bumped the back of his helmet with the forehead of her own—it was the way she used to get his attention. They wore matching black Arai Corsairs, remnants of happier times when they'd ridden everywhere together.
"Seriously, why two guns? Are you expecting some kind of trouble?"
Jericho stared ahead, hands on the grips. He thought of what he'd just been through, the things he'd never be able to tell her, or anyone else. In truth, he always expected trouble—and found himself pleasantly bewildered during the moments when none came his way.
"You know me, Kim." He cursed the impossibly long red light. Gabbing about the harsh realities of his job had never been his strong suit. "If I was expecting trouble, I'd have brought my rifle."
Her arms gripped him as though she thought he might try and escape. Quinn shuddered at the prolonged closeness of her body after so many long months. The fact that she'd let him spend the night had more than surprised him. Even her mother, who was devoutly religious and opposed to such things, had openly cheered when she called early that morning and discovered he'd not gone back to his hotel.
"You know what you are?" Kim shouted above the revving engine. "You're one of those samurai warriors I saw on the Military Channel. I don't know why I ever believed you would quit this job—"
Quinn craned his neck around to stare back in genuine awe. "Since when do you watch the Military Channel?"
"Shut up and listen." She bumped his helmet again. "The show said the samurai class felt this moral superiority—just like you. They all carried a couple of big honkin' swords. You carry a big honkin' pistol ... or two. You both practically worship your weapons, and to top it off, you get to carry them around where others aren't allowed to. And just like those samurai, you get paid a handsome salary to lord over us common folk."
Thankfully, the light turned green.
"You got one thing wrong, sweetie." Quinn put a black glove to his helmet, ready to flip down his visor. He turned to catch a quick glimpse of his ex-wife's beautiful blue eyes. "I'd lord over the common folk for free."
A half a block later he tapped the Beemer into fourth gear. A Piper Super Cub came in low and slow to his left, as if racing him to land at Merrill Field. He was still chewing on Kim's observations of his moral superiority as he passed Fantasies on Fifth strip club and the iconic Lucky Wishbone restaurant coming into Anchorage proper.
As an Air Force OSI agent who spoke Arabic and Mandarin Chinese, he had plenty of opportunity to fight for those weaker than himself. Now, he was an OGA—an other governmental agent—working directly for the top adviser to the president. His particular skill set was put to use in ways he'd never imagined.
He was a protector, a blunt instrument—a hammer. His job was indeed superior, but there was very little about it that was moral.
Chapter TwoAnchorage 0920 hours
Every doting parent believes their child to be a prodigy at something. The Quinns just happened to be correct.
"Seriously? Bach's Chaconne?" A freakishly tall woman in stiletto heels that made her tower above Quinn twisted her face into a lipstick and mascara question mark. She was first-chair violin in the Anchorage Symphony—and not at all amused that some arriviste six-year-old was on the cusp of upstaging her. She patted Kim's arm. "Of course you know what's best for her, my dear," the woman said in a husky voice that matched her height. "But the Chaconne is an awfully difficult piece, even for an adult." She gave a condescending shake of her long neck before moving on to work the crowd.
Kim shot Quinn an exasperated look. She tugged at the arm of his leather jacket, chastising through gritted teeth. "Stop staring at everyone. You're giving them the look."
"What look? Don't be mad at me because she-man is jealous of our kid."
His back to the brick wall, Jericho's eyes played across the faces of hundreds of milling patrons. People of all shapes and sizes lined the stairs, coffees in hand, crowding all three floors of the lobby. Watching for threats was like trying to play multilevel chess.
From the corner of his eye, he caught an olive-skinned man peering at him from the railing of the floor above. The dark face pulled back as Quinn met his gaze.
"Stop it!" Kim punched him in the arm. "I mean it. You know exactly what I'm talking about. You are the only one here who looks like a terrorist.
Indeed, the bronze complexion of his Apache grandmother and his father's heavy beard that grew in by noon gave Quinn a Mediterranean look. A single glare from his whiskey-brown eyes had a tendency to part the crowds inside the Performing Arts Center like the Red Sea.
Kim told him he was paranoid, but he couldn't shake the feeling that something was about to go very wrong. Worried as he was, he gave his look to virtually everyone who met his gaze.
The Chinese called it zhijue or straight sense. To the Japanese it was haragei—the art of the belly. Whatever he called it, in Quinn's experience the feeling was something to heed, real as the sense of sight or smell. With Kim on the warpath, he decided to keep his wits about him and his worries to himself. He tried to affect a smile but was sure it came across, at best, like a wolf with indigestion.
Apart from her dark hair, little Mattie Quinn was a miniature version of Jericho's ex-wife, complete with accusing blue eyes. His heart caught hard in his chest every time he looked at her. Shimmering ebony curls spilled happily over a velvet dress of midnight blue. White tights, black pumps, and a robin's-egg sash with a cockeyed bow she'd insisted on tying herself completed the outfit.
The packed confines of the Performing Arts Center—the PAC to Anchorage locals—only added to Quinn's anxiety. He had to admit the patrons were mostly harmless. Bo called them the Subarus-and-comfortable-shoes crowd. All were eager to hear the six-year-old prodigy.
Kim had been first-chair violin for years and had only just hung up her bow to try her hand at composing a symphony of her own. Everyone supposed Mattie's amazing talent had come from her. Quinn had never said so, but he believed his daughter's gift might have had some link to his uncanny ability with languages. He was fluent in four other than English and semi-conversant in a half dozen more. What was music if not another language?
For Mattie's part, her debut in front of eight hundred fans seemed the furthest thing from her mind.
Miss Suzette, Mattie's gregarious music coach, stood beside the backstage door holding a small violin case. Even as a prodigy, six-year-old Mattie couldn't handle a full-size instrument. The half-size nineteenth-century Paul Bailly fit her little hands perfectly. It was horribly expensive, costing more than Quinn's brand-new BMW—but Mattie was that good. She'd named the little violin Babette, after a favorite teacher.
Case in hand, Miss Suzette rolled up the cuff of her matching blue velvet dress to check her watch every two minutes. Mattie ignored her, hanging on her Uncle Bo's muscular forearm with both hands as she swayed back and forth.
Bo had traded his customary T-shirt and leather vest for a freshly pressed white button-down. Even in Alaska semiformal called for men to wear a tie. Bo could only go so far—even for his only niece. The Quinn brothers had agreed early in life that wearing a tie was like being strangled to death by a very weak man. Only Bo was brave enough to go against Kim's orders and show up with an open collar. He'd not only forgone the tie, but rolled up the sleeves of his shirt to reveal the last few inches of the black DENIZENS octopus tattooed on his forearm. He tucked the heavy Vanson jacket under his elbow while he let Mattie do pull-ups on his outstretched wrist.
"Sick tattoo, Uncle Boaz." Mattie swung easily, as if the performance wasn't minutes away.
Fearless, Jericho thought. That's my little girl.
"Thanks, Sweet Pea." Bo flexed his arm, hoisting her high off the floor and bringing a giddy squeal. His eyes shifted to Kim, who frowned like a brooding rain-cloud next to Jericho. "But I don't think your mama approves. I do believe she's afraid if you hang around with guys like me you'll end up with a ring in your nose and a hand grenade tattooed on your back."
Miss Suzette held up her wrist so all could see her watch. "We should get our young star backstage and make sure Babette is tuned before the performance."
Kim nodded. "She does need to warm up."
"Okaaaaay." Mattie let go of her uncle and grabbed Jericho's hand. "But it's still a half hour...."
"We'll be right out front," Quinn said. He dreaded the thought of letting her walk through the door and out of his sight, even for a moment.
Mattie leaned against her father's outstretched hand, swaying and batting her wide eyes. "Can I please ride home with you on your bike? Uncle Boaz has an extra helmet that fits me...."
Excerpted from Act of TERROR by MARC CAMERON Copyright © 2012 by Marc Cameron. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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