The Valley of Shadows (Derek Stillwater Series #4)by Mark Terry
A raid on a Pakistan Al-Qaeda cell recovers two laptops. When the computers' booby-traps are defused and the computers decrypted and translated, they indicate that Al-Qaeda has planned a series of simultaneous attacks in five U.S. cities involving potential dirty bombs, biological weapons and maybe even a nuclear weapon-on Election Day. Derek Stillwater,
A raid on a Pakistan Al-Qaeda cell recovers two laptops. When the computers' booby-traps are defused and the computers decrypted and translated, they indicate that Al-Qaeda has planned a series of simultaneous attacks in five U.S. cities involving potential dirty bombs, biological weapons and maybe even a nuclear weapon-on Election Day. Derek Stillwater, troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security, is assigned to a multi-jurisdictional Special Terrorism Activity Response Team (START) to locate the weapon and terrorists in Los Angeles and prevent the attack. They have two days. But as they close in on their targets, Derek begins to think that the intelligence they gathered is a sideshow to distract them from the real target-one of the two candidates for President of the United States.
Read an Excerpt
The Valley of Shadows
By Mark Terry
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2011 Mark Terry
All rights reserved.
Jeff Cohen, an FBI agent assigned to the Homeland Security Operations Center, jerked upright, staring at his computer screen. Fingers triggered over the keyboard. He called out, "We've got reports of an unidentified explosion at the Fort Totten Metro station."
Eric Mayer, with the CIA, two seats down from Cohen, called out, "Fort Totten explosion confirmed. It's a Green and Red Line —"
Jennie Mills, with the Department of Homeland Security, called out, "We've got a report of an explosion at the Metro Center station, that's where the Red, Blue and Yellow —"
Mayer called out, "Another report, Archives Navy Memorial station —"
The HSOC suddenly lit up with activity. A large plasma screen on the wall glowed to life, a map of the Washington, D.C. Metro System appearing. The sites of the bombings glowed red. Another plasma monitor flicked on showing details of emergency response as the HSOC made calls.
Mayer shouted, "Fire and D.C. transit police on scene. The entire Metro is shut down. I repeat, the Metro is shut down, they are evacuating the trains."
Cohen, voice strained, yelled, "Another bombing at Pentagon station —"
The atmosphere in the operations center felt explosive, as if the air was filled with kerosene fumes. The agents leaned into their computer monitors, faces intent, shoulders hunched.
Another agent, from the Office of National Intelligence, Joe Barry, said, "I've alerted all stations with multiple lines to look out for explosions. That means Pentagon, Gallery PI-Chinatown, Stadium —"
Cohen interrupted. "Agents have apprehended a possible suicide bomber at the Pentagon station. Yes, confirmed —"
Jennie Mills gasped. The buzz in the room intensified as everybody studied their computer monitors. She turned and said, "Dr. Stillwater —"
Derek Stillwater paced the long, narrow room like a caged lion. Scowling, he raised an eyebrow.
Mills's voice was hushed. "We've got a report of an explosion on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House at the top of the Ellipse. Apparently a truck bomb —"
Cohen blurted, "Too far from the White House to —"
Mayer swore. "Radiation monitors going off! It's either a small nuke or a dirty bomb. We're contacting the White House, suggesting evac —"
The door opened and General James Johnston, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, walked in. Derek nodded as Johnston approached.
Johnston looked up at the plasma monitors. "This your scenario?"
Johnston studied the monitor for a moment. "Multiple suicide attacks on the Metro as a diversion for a dirty bomb near the White House?"
"How was the response?"
Derek grinned. "Not bad. They never really got ahead of the situation, but they responded appropriately and alerted the stations and caught at least one of the bombers, but the White House attack slipped past them."
Johnston nodded and raised his voice to the room. "Attention everybody."
All eyes turned to Johnston, a gruff, stocky man in his sixties who never lost the military bearing of a career in the Army. "The drill is terminated as of now. We're going on full alert, Security Level Red. This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill."
Johnston turned back to Derek. Derek thought his friend looked pale. "I need you over in the Hoover Building by four thirty. We've got actionable intelligence and we're forming STARTs. Take your Go Packs with you."
Derek swallowed and followed Johnston out of the operations center. "Where am I going?"
Johnston scowled. "They should decide that by the time you get there. We've got five targets: Washington, D.C., New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Chicago."
Derek headed for his locker to retrieve his Go Packs. Johnston walked with him, seemingly lost in thought. Derek's head felt light. He took in a deep breath, let it out. Don't get freaked out, he thought. Not yet. Get information, then you can freak out.
"What's the threat?" Derek's specialty was biological and chemical terrorism.
Johnston looked ill. "Everything. The threat is everything. Bombs, biological, chemical. Everything. So watch yourself."CHAPTER 2
FBI Agent Aaron Pilcher ran the briefing, a slim blond guy whose hair was doing the middle-aged fade. Derek had worked with him before, and although they weren't buddies, Derek knew Pilcher was a pro. He was an easy guy to underestimate if you based your opinion on his initial appearance. He looked like an accountant or a second-tier golf pro.
About thirty people were scattered throughout the auditorium. Derek recognized a couple of them as being fellow troubleshooters for the Department of Homeland Security like himself.
Pilcher stood before them and brought up a photograph of an apartment building on the plasma screen at the front of the room. "On October twentieth, a Bureau team in Islamabad, Pakistan, working a joint antiterror task force with the National Police, made a raid at this building. We had intel indicating there was a six-man al-Qaeda cell living there, making plans for some sort of attack on the U.S."
Pilcher clicked a button on his remote and another photo came up, this one of the interior of an apartment. It was severely damaged, the walls and furniture scorched, at least three people dead.
"The raid was essentially successful. Although it was believed there were six men present in the apartment, only five were found. Four were killed during the entry. One was wounded and taken into custody. Unfortunately, one of our agents picked up a laptop computer that was booby-trapped with a small packet of plastic explosives. It detonated, killing him and wounding another agent."
Pilcher paused, scanning the crowd. "There were a total of three laptop computers in the apartment. All three were booby-trapped. One was destroyed. One was damaged while being disarmed and only gave us partial evidence. The third laptop's trigger failed to go off, was disarmed effectively and transferred to bureau labs and the NSA. It took us nearly two weeks to decrypt and translate the contents of the computers."
Another click of the remote and photographs of two Toshiba laptops appeared. Another click and four faces appeared, three of them obviously dead.
"These are four of the cell. There was nothing recognizable of the fifth, who was shot in the face during entry."
Pilcher paced over to a lectern and took a sip of water. His gaze scanned the room, lingering on Derek. Their eyes met and Pilcher nodded briefly before continuing.
Pilcher clicked another button and a memo appeared on the screen with the words: TOP SECRET written across the top.
"Each of you will receive a packet detailing the information found on the laptop. This is the front page of the NSA, CIA, FBI, DHS, NCTC, and ODNI report." Pilcher took a deep breath.
"This al-Qaeda cell had plans to conduct an ambitious terrorist operation in the U.S. on November fourth, which I need not remind you is national election day. The files on the computer indicate they planned to conduct multiple attacks in five major cities using a variety of tactics — suicide bombs, dirty bombs, biological and/or chemical attacks."
A woman raised her hand. Derek's heart sank when he recognized her. Cassandra O'Reilly. She was an expert on nuclear weapons. They had worked together in Iraq as members of an UNSCOM inspection team. It had not gone well. She said, "Does this report indicate they have a small nuclear weapon in the U.S.?"
Pilcher shook his head. "It does not. However, the likelihood of a dirty bomb is very high." He raised his hands in a hold-off gesture as the room began to buzz with conversation. "Please, let me get through the briefing. I'm sure you'll all have questions." He gestured to another agent off to the side of the room who began walking among the group with file folders. Each person had to sign for them as they were distributed.
Pilcher continued. "John's handing out the dossiers now. These are top secret, people. Handle them appropriately."
Derek received his file and signed for it. He didn't bother opening it yet. He was waiting for the other shoe — or shoes — to drop.
Pilcher said, "The computer files do not indicate specifics about the attacks, although there is a vague indication it may be polling places, which does not narrow things down."
Someone called out, "What cities?"
Pilcher sighed and nodded. "Five cities were indicated. Washington, New York, Dallas, L.A., and Chicago."
More talking. Pilcher raised his hands again. "Nothing in the computer indicates which types of attacks are being planned for which cities. The Bureau, ODNI, and DHS have been alerted to this operation, from this point forward called Operation Daybreak. Local law enforcement has been placed on high alert, but no specifics have been given."
Derek leaned back and closed his eyes. He could feel a headache coming on. It was obvious to him what was coming next and if he just opened the folder he'd have more details. But he didn't want to get that far ahead. Instead he raised his hand.
Pilcher said, "Yes, Derek?"
"Why'd it take so long to get this out? It's been almost two weeks."
"It took a day or so to get the computers disarmed and transported to the U.S. Then it took time to get the computers decrypted and translated. The translations took some time. There were files in three different languages: Urdu, Arabic, and Farsi. Then it was analyzed and the various agencies had to settle on a coordinated plan."
Pilcher scanned the room. "Okay. Here's the plan, then. We have formed multiagency Special Terrorism Activity Response Teams from the bureau, Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Each team will contain five members. Each member has a particular area of expertise relevant to terrorism activity. A member has been chosen to lead and coordinate that team's activities. Each team will go to these cities and consult and work with the various bureau and DHS offices in locating and stopping these attacks from happening."
A man with jet-black hair worn long for a federal agent raised his hand. "What about the sixth man?"
Pilcher nodded and brought up a slide on the screen. It showed the silhouette of a faceless individual. Below it was a single word: Kalakar.
"The sixth man was never described. He is believed to be the leader or recruiter of this particular cell. He is believed to be a Pakistani national. The only other thing we know about him is he goes by the name of Kalakar, which translates as the artist, or perhaps the craftsman. We don't think it's his real name and we have no idea why he has chosen the designation. Our people and the Pakistanis are trying to find out more. Although this has not been verified, they believe it's possible he is now in the U.S."
Derek raised a hand. "If the apartment was under surveillance, why aren't there any photographs of Kalakar?"
Frowning, Pilcher said with a shake of his head, "The Pakistani surveillance team took a lot of pictures and video, but either Kalakar isn't in them, or he's so obscured that they're useless."
"Don't you think that's a little odd?"
Hesitating, Pilcher finally said, "It concerns me, yes. Please, let's continue with our action plan."
Cassandra O'Reilly raised her hand again. "Are these attacks being supported in the U.S. by al-Qaeda sleepers? Do we know anything about al-Qaeda teams already in these five cities?"
Pilcher nodded. "Good question. Yes, the computer files indicate there were al-Qaeda sleepers, or perhaps sympathizers is a better word, here in the U.S. who would be handling at least some of the preparations and support for the attacks. The individual attacks, as best we can tell, were going to be coordinated by Kalakar, and each one led by the remaining five in the cell. Those five were going to be involved with as-yet-unidentified operatives in the five cities."
There were more questions, but Pilcher finally referred them all to the file they had received. "Good luck, people. And be safe."
Derek tore open his envelope and pulled the file out. The top sheet said:
START TEAM BLUE
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Fredrick Givenchy (Captain, Navy, retired)
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Cassandra O'Reilly, Ph.D.
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Shelly Pimpuntikar, CPA, MBA
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Derek Stillwater, Ph.D. (Colonel, Army, retired)
Department of Homeland Security
Biological and Chemical
Federal Bureau of Investigation
He saw the asterisk and felt a sharp pain in his gut. Derek closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, the woman in question stood directly in front of him. Blonde hair to her shoulders, blue eyes the color of gun metal, and an expression somewhere between rage and disgust.
"For the record, Stillwater, I don't want you on my team. I don't want to have anything to do with you. If the clock wasn't ticking I'd protest, but we don't have time for that. So let's play nice."
He stood up and stuffed the sheet back in the folder. Scowling, he said, "It says you're with the ODNI. That true?"
Derek nodded back. "For the record, O'Reilly, I don't want to be on your team, either." He walked out of the room.CHAPTER 3
The chartered jet was well out of Washington, D.C. when Derek looked up from the file he was reading. It was a small Lear and with their gear and the five agents, not as spacious as one might have hoped. Despite the lack of room, they had split into two groups. Cassandra O'Reilly, Jon Welch, and Fred Givenchy clustered toward the pilot's cabin. He and Shelly Pimpuntikar sat toward the back.
Shelly Pimpuntikar met his gaze. Slim and petite in a crisp gray business suit, the FBI agent was of either Indian or Pakistani descent, Derek didn't know which. Voice soft, she said, "I don't think they like us."
He caught the same vibe. Flashing a smile, he said, "Well, I know why O'Reilly doesn't like me. Why doesn't she like you?"
Surprise spread across Shelly's face. "You don't know?"
"I am originally from Pakistan. I am a U.S. citizen, though." Her English had a slight accent, almost a lilt, that Derek found very pleasant.
"Ah," he said.
"And I am a Muslim."
"'Ah' again. Yes, well —" He wasn't sure what to say, actually. He settled for silence, which often worked well for him.
"Why doesn't O'Reilly like you?" she asked.
He took a deep breath. "We worked together in Iraq. We were weapons inspectors. We didn't get along very well." Not quite true. In fact, they had gotten along too well — and too often. Unfortunately, it was only later that she had told Derek she was married, a little factoid she had kept to herself during their time together. There were other issues, but that was one of the big ones.
Shelly Pimpuntikar's large brown eyes were penetrating. "There is, perhaps, more to this story than you suggest?"
Derek nodded. "Perhaps."
Shelly seemed to consider that. Derek glanced out the window. Cloud banks to the left. To the right he saw a large river, a wide meandering stretch of brown. He wondered if it was the Mississippi.
"And why," Shelly said, "do the others not like you?"
"You're rather forward, aren't you?"
Shelly blinked, expression hurt. "I'm sorry. I don't mean —"
"Let's just say that my reputation probably has preceded me. I'm not known for being a team player."
"You are a Homeland Security troubleshooter?"
"I didn't think they were meant to be team players."
Derek nodded again. "Then I'm very well suited for the job." He gestured to the file. "What do you think?"
"I think it is a very large, complicated, ambitious, and expensive operation this cell had planned. Very expensive."
Derek hadn't given a lot of thought to the expense of the operation as he read the file. Shelly's expertise was financial intelligence, called "finint" in intelligence jargon, so of course she had looked at the op from that point of view.
Excerpted from The Valley of Shadows by Mark Terry. Copyright © 2011 Mark Terry. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Mark is the author of the Derek Stillwater series, which includes The Devil's Pitchfork, The Serpent's Kiss, The Fallen, and several standalone novels. He is a contributing essayist in Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads. When not writing, Mark practices guitar, lifts weights, bikes, runs, and studies Sanchin-Ryu karate, in which he holds the level of black belt.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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the Derek Stillwater series is excellent..one of the best
Review:The Valley of Shadows by Mark Terry 4 STARS This was a good thriller book. A little too much swearing is the one thing I could have changed. Intell from a raid on a terrorist cell where they came across a computer that the bomb did not go off said they were planning attack on voting day in 5 US cities. A group of agents from FBI, Homeland security and office of the Director of National Intelligence counterterrorism will go to each of the 5 cities to try and stop it. Derek Stillwater is not known as a team player. He is assigned to LA. Derek has quite a rep. for getting things done. people around him dying and breaking rules. Derek gets into trouble from everyone it seems and thats on the good guys side. He is very smart and does not take everything at face value. This is the first Derek Stillwater book that I have read and I have enjoyed it. I would love to go and read the earlier books. I have messed up and not sure where I got this ebook from. I know that I did not buy it and the file I put it under says Librarything but don't show getting it from thier or Netgalley. I do get emails straight from Oceanview saying some books are free at amazon right now. I did get it free and not paid anything for my honest review. 06/07/2011 Oceanview Publishing 308 pages
Not as good as previous Stillwater novels, more like 2 1/2 stars
US forces conduct a raid of an Al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan. The Special Forces unit captures laptops that contain plans for terrorist attacks using all types of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) on any or all of Washington, New York, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles on Election Day. Department of Homeland Security Special Terrorism Activity Response Team is assigned to find the terrorists, especially the cell leader art history Professor Miraj "Kalakar" Khan, and their WMDs. The mission is like finding a needle in a haystack, but also must be done in two days or else. The DSH Director adds his top field agent Derek Stillwater to the unit. Besides the timeliness with the Bin Laden death, the fourth Derek Stillwater thriller (see The Fallen, The Devil's Pitchfork and The Serpent's Kiss) is an action-packed tale that has readers running alongside of Derek and his mates. The story line is fast-paced as the clock ticks away. Although with the exception of his on and off nuclear expert girlfriend Cassandra, the unit is somewhat shallow (then again this is Derek's story), fans of a thrill a paragraph will relish The Valley of Shadows. Harriet Klausner
The author's fourth book in the Derek Stillwater Series is a thriller that will make the reader's heart race. A first rate novel, well written that does not let up until the last page; and then, only for a little while as we all wait for the fifth installment. There are many stories out there right now about terrorism but, this one is fantastic. Our hero, Derek Stillwater, is a troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security and is on call with the Director of Homeland Security to be at the ready wherever and whenever there is a threat to the United States. The tale begins when there is a raid by US forces on an Al-Qaeda group in Pakistan. During the raid they confiscate two laptops. These laptops have been booby-trapped with bombs that will blow up in the soldiers' faces when opened. When the bombs are diffused and the laptops checked out, it is found that there are plans to carry out terrorist attacks in five major U.S. cities (Washington, DC, New York City, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles). These attacks could involve dirty bombs, biological weapons and maybe even a nuclear attack on Election Day. Derek is assigned to a Special Terrorism Activity Response Team (START) to find the weapons and the people who are bent on using them in Los Angeles, and stop the attack. His team has two days to accomplish this. As Derek and his team look for their targets things start to get interesting. There are multiple characters, doing many things that bewilder the team and distract their attention away from the real target of the terrorists. This is a fascinating novel with many characters who will captivate the reader at once. Readers may compare this book to the early novels written by Clive Cussler in which his main character (Dirk Pitt) gets into many scrapes and, as soon as he is out of them, he's back into something else with a vengeance. This author has that knack and it makes the book very exciting. This book has very cleverly pictured the personalities of the people threatening the U.S. with acts of terrorism. The result, for the readers, is a one-day read because you will find it very hard to put down. Readers will definitely be looking forward to volume five of the Derek Stillwater Series. Quill Says: This narrative takes off like a rocket ship and does not come to a full stop, even at the end. Don't miss it!!