The first target is a church in Mobile, Alabama. The bomb is a savage act of domestic terror that will earn the respect of jihadists across the world. Especially the deranged leader of Al Shabab. The bombing has also drawn the attention of the FBI, CIA, NSA--and special operative William Parker. Recovering from a tragic loss, Parker is not ready to return to active duty. But when he learns that the terrorists possess anti-ship missiles--he must destroythe enemy. . .or deal with the terrifying consquences.
Time is running out. Missiles are ready to launch. And the free world is just one madman away from total destruction.
About the Author
Harp created Operation Thriller, the “first ever” USO Tour of ITW thriller authors, which has entertained thousands of service men and women in numerous countries across the globe. His insights from the USO Tour appear on CNN’s Larry King Live, the Huffington Post, NewsMax, and The Big Thrill among others. He lives in Georgia and can be found online at AndersonHarp.net.
Read an Excerpt
Born of War
By Anderson Harp
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 John Anderson Harp
All rights reserved.
School starts in three weeks, Cathie thought. Just three weeks.
The new kindergarten teacher of the Mountain View Baptist Church had worried about the start of the fulltime school schedule for some time.
Late July already? Vacation Bible School was coming to an end next week. Then parents would get one last trip to the beach before the children returned to the full fall schedule.
It is important that they feel okay. They need to feel safe. She had considered the matter for some time but particularly now as she stood at the entranceway waiting for the kids to arrive for Bible school. My first year as a real teacher!
The building that housed the new elementary classrooms was barely a year old. The Mountain View Baptist Church named its school after the preacher who had formed the church only a decade earlier. The Reverend Patton School was the pride of the nearly thousand members who made up the church's congregation. Large panes of glass and wide-open hallways were bathed in bright light even on dark days. The small classrooms lined with unmarked desks still smelled of fresh paint. The walls of the corridors, especially near the entrance, were covered with the poster board colorings and drawings of the kindergarten students. The church and its main chapel were connected to the school by an open, covered walkway where, after the children reported to their classes, they would line up before marching into the main chapel for the beginning of the day. Each day started with a congregation of all of the students from the summer Bible school and a reading from Reverend Patton.
But for now, Cathie had the duty of meeting each of her pre-kindergarteners at the front as they unloaded from their parents' cars. She stood at the double glass doors that led into the school's main foyer. The Yukons and Ford trucks streamed through the covered access, lined up bumper-to-bumper, one by one, as if being cleared for a landing at O'Hare.
She didn't mind door duty. It was fun seeing the little ones, still half asleep, climb down from their trucks with their pink and red backpacks. They were so innocent. Cathie held the car door open with one hand while she helped a little girl slide down with her backpack rising up over her small shoulders. It surprised her that the load often weighed as much as the child.
She had the job of being the protector.
"Wow, that's a big one, little girl!" she smiled. Cathie was known for her infectious grin that filled up her round face and showed the slightest gap between her two front teeth. That gap had always made her shy and reluctant to smile until she got to know someone. Her dark brown hair was always perfect. The freckles confirmed the look of a girl raised in Mobile on salt water, more used to being on the bay in a skiff with her grandfather checking the crab traps, rather than wearing a dress and being a schoolteacher. And now she was responsible for the twenty-two pre-kindergarteners of Room B-1. In three weeks they would become her first kindergarten class.
"How are you feeling?" The child's mother leaned over the steering wheel, putting her cell phone down on the center panel for a moment.
No announcement had been made, but mothers could read her face. They instinctively knew. And Cathie was embarrassed as to what the mother's smile meant. She had only been married to the police officer for a year. Marriage and a child seemed to be a lot for one year.
"How's my little killer doing?" the mother changed the subject, asking about her own child.
She had a dry sense of humor that Cathie knew was warranted. The little girl was one of four and the only girl. The brothers bled more than the Red Cross when they messed with their sister. The child loved her pigtails and always wore a well-used and oversized Atlanta Braves baseball hat.
"Are you kidding? She loves B-1!" Cathie adjusted the backpack on the little girl's shoulders. "Your daughter is doing fine." Even the parents needed to know their children were safe.
She had already learned, even as the newest kindergarten teacher at Mountain View, how important it was to reassure them all.
After the little girl pulled up the backpack, she bent over to tug on one of her boots that had started to slide off in the descent. Again, Cathie helped adjust the backpack. A summer rain had lasted for more than a day and carried with it a persistent and strong wind. Each of the children wore a different colored raincoat, which always amazed her. The coats were fire-engine reds and banana yellows and when bunched together at the end of the day getting ready for pickup, they filled the hallway in what looked like a gigantic bag of Skittles.
The next truck pulled in and another child hopped down, stopped, and tugged on her rubber boots.
"My, you look stunning!" the teacher said to her little charge.
Cathie patted the child on her head lightly, noticing in the flick of her eye that her wedding ring still sparkled even in the cloudy, dull light. It's been a year! She turned it lightly on her finger.
The Yukon pulled ahead, followed by a lifted Ford pickup. The trucks moved slowly as they passed through. It was not like when she was a child. Then the drivers were all mothers, favoring Toyota vans. Now the occasional father would drop off his child. The fathers drove big trucks, well off the ground, and were so careful in the line of traffic. They seemed to be aware that small things could get out of sight quickly.
Their trucks moved slowly as they passed through.
In the brief second between vehicles, she looked up to the line of trucks and Yukons that circled the parking lot.
Something caught her eye.
On the far end of the line of vehicles and the parking lot, near the highway and a row of trees, was the figure of a man standing next to a pine. He stood alone.
The pine trees had only been planted about a year ago, when the new school was completed. The church had started downtown as a dedicated group of followers of a Southern Baptist preacher who pulled his people together through hurricanes and layoffs at the shipyard. Cathie's father was one of the first to join. Back then, the congregants met at a school gym rented on Sundays. Now, the chapel was almost always packed.
It struck her as odd. He stood behind the small tree almost like a bad joke. She had heard of a father whose anger from a bad divorce caused him to show up every day until the police talked him into channeling his hate some other way, but this figure was different.
Something doesn't seem right, she thought. She felt in her pocket the thin shape of a cell phone. Her husband had affixed a small cross to the cover. Cathie could always feel the shape with the tips of her fingers. She held it for a moment, hesitating. The next truck pulled up in front of the doors and as it did, the side mirror pulled just above her head. Again, she helped open the door, seeing two pairs of little hands push it from the inside.
She looked over the side of the truck as she opened the door. The man was missing.
The two girls who climbed out were twins who didn't seem to mind at all that their mother dressed them up in identical outfits and their father carried them to the church school every day in a truck loaded down in back with crab traps. Everyone on this side of the bay had salt water in their veins and crab traps in their trucks.
The vehicle carried with it the smell of the bay.
"Not the perfect day for a Monday," the driver yelled the words over the rumble of his truck. "But summer's making the bend. Already the end of July."
"Yes." She paused. "But it will be a great week!" Her words always bubbled out. She waved at him as the two little girls passed under her arm, and she held open the glass door for them as they walked into the school. The wave was a brief flick of the hand, but it meant much more. It meant "your children are under our care now; I will protect them as if they were my own."
The father waved back, with a cell phone in his hand, expecting to see them later that day when the same routine would occur in reverse.
But she stood on her tiptoes, unconsciously, as the Ford passed and cleared an empty space between vehicles.
The shape on the other side of the parking lot was still missing.
Another vehicle was in line with the next drop-off. In the brief space between the two, she scanned the edges of the parking lot. Nothing.
Worry comes often when there is a lack of information.
She stepped inside the door and yelled down the hallway to the old man who was the church school's entire security force.
He was at the far end of the hallway standing in a corner dressed in a starched, well-pressed white shirt with a security patch on his shoulder and blue well-creased cotton pants. The school had engaged in much debate after Sandy Hook about whether to arm him. In the end, the council reached the judgment that this was Mobile, Alabama, and risks such as what happened in Connecticut didn't exist here.
She knew his reputation. Pops was kind to the children but with a glance could stop a playground fight as soon as he arrived.
However, he was hard of hearing and often forgot his hearing aids. She heard the older students laugh at him as he passed them by in the lunchroom.
Yet Pops came with credentials. He had served in the Navy for twenty years and rumor had it that he served as a senior chief on a nuclear submarine. He would tell stories to the children, which the teacher would occasionally overhear, about living under the sea for months at a time.
But now he moved slowly and with a constant limp.
She hollered the word louder this time, causing the children coming into the school to stop and look back at her, as if Cathie's calls were directed to each of them.
"No, kids, go on in. Take your coats off and go to your rooms." Her voice was tense. "I'm just looking for Pops!"
She smiled, unconsciously letting the glass door close on a child standing just outside. She quickly pulled the door open, looking beyond the child.
"I am sorry, Matthew, that was not very nice." The boy was big for his age, as tall as the teacher, even though only in fifth grade. He would play football one day at Daphne High. The school, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, was known for state championships and winners. And she would look up to him.
"Matthew, do me a favor and go get Mr. Ellison." Pops's real name was Thomas Ellison.
He had speed. Matthew won every race on the playground.
Two more vehicles passed, both white Yukons. It was the popular color now.
The church was built around a pastor that had a strong following, but Mountain View was the church of working people. Most were well paid and drove the sixty miles to the lucrative jobs of the Pascagoula, Mississippi, shipyards.
"Where did he go?" She spoke the words to herself unconsciously, pulling the two glass doors together with a bang as if closing the castle gates.
She pulled out her cell phone and hit the direct dial for the first name on the list. It began to ring. Voicemail came on. She held her hand over the phone as she whispered a few words.
Two of her children heard the banging doors, saw her on the cell phone, and ran from the hallway towards her.
"Children, go back to your room."
Their small faces showed fear.
Cathie waved her hand towards the two as she turned back to the parking lot. She continued to scan among the parked cars as she saw the last truck pull off, back onto the highway, its driver off to work. In the corner of her eye she saw the security guard scurrying towards her and felt the tug of a child's hand from behind.
And then she saw the figure moving towards her. It was how he moved that scared her. He came at her like a mad dog with his head down low but his eyes fixed.
"Oh, my God."CHAPTER 2
A man stood on the edge of a small one-lane highway deep in the woods of northern New Hampshire. He stared at the sign that said deer mountain campground as he walked back and forth. He held a cell phone to his ear as he pulled his long black hair back behind a sweater cap. His hair extended down below his collar and was stringy, matted, and oily. It had been days since he'd had a shower.
He was both short and small. He had been on the road for days without stopping for anything but gas, chips, and Cokes. He would remain on the move for the next few days. Movement was survival.
"Yes, that is right."
The signal was weak and, like an old television antenna, he turned and turned again trying to hold on to the words.
Omar pressed the cell close to his ear. He could feel the heat of both the pressure and the warmth of the telephone as he unconsciously squeezed it tighter.
"Yes, my brother, the front doors. The glass ones. No one will stop you."
He had a vision in his mind of the days that he spent at the same church. His mother secretly took him on Sundays to the rented school gym. Later, his father screamed with disapproval when he learned that the boy and his sister were going to a Christian school.
It took another relative to give him the reason to reject his mother's Christian world. It wasn't that he accepted his father's religion. His father was weak and failed to accept the true teachings. He was determined to take a different path.
"The last one has left." The voice was clear. Omar could see in his mind the clearing of the parking lot, as each of the "redneck" trucks left. Omar had taken pride in his Honda Civic being much smaller than the trucks. It was old and smelly but it meant that he didn't need transportation from his mother. They had laughed at him at Daphne High School but his humor always saved him.
Omar was, from the beginning, an outsider. He knew it and had adapted himself well over time.
"Now. Strike now!" he yelled the words, catching himself, looking around the woods to make sure that no one heard his scream.
Omar had left Mobile the day before, driving through the night. It was nearing the end of Ramadan. He knew that Allah would give him compensation for helping kill the nonbelievers. Once all was in place it was critical that he leave his brother behind. They had planned it this way for months. He had left the car he stole from his mother in a campground parking lot. It was the last one near the most northern entrance to the Cohos Trail. The pathway went deep into the dark woods turning west and then north towards the Fourth Connecticut Lake.
She will get it back. He dismissed the thought as quickly as it came into his mind. I will get word somehow to my sister.
The car could remain there for days without question—people would think he, like others, was out hiking the trail or camping in the shelters and lean-tos that were spaced near the lakes.
As its name suggested, the Fourth Connecticut Lake was one of four lakes that formed the headwaters of the Connecticut River. Each small body of water, something slightly bigger than a pond but still classified as a lake, was part of a chain that went deep into the forest of northern New Hampshire. The trail followed the stream to the north and to the Fourth Lake, and then, only a short distance beyond, it crossed an opening. Omar had been here before. He was looking for the small disc embedded in a concrete marker that had a line through its middle. With one step over the disc he would be out of the United States of America.
"Come on, my brother. You will be entering into a special place. You will pass through the gate! Your bravery will be spoken of by the most fiery of warriors and the smallest child will scream out your name!"
It would only be a flash of a moment. Omar was actually jealous.
I must be a true believer. Once faith overcame fear, it all became easy.
Omar had been Eddie's cheerleader for several years now. They had become friends early on. Both would hide in the woods near the shoreline of Mobile Bay where they had a secret camp. It was a refuge, especially when their parents would start waging war with each other. They had this in common. Eddie's parents eventually had a bitter divorce. His father quickly remarried while his mother filled the trash cans with empty vodka bottles she hid in brown paper bags. The can would rattle when it was moved.
With Omar there was the bitterness but never the divorce. His parents were bonded by the anger they carried from the yelling.
Excerpted from Born of War by Anderson Harp. Copyright © 2015 John Anderson Harp. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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