An innocent math professor runs for his life as teams of hitmen try to prevent publication of their government’s dark history…
College professor Sam Teagarden stumbles upon a decades-old government cover-up when an encoded document mysteriously lands in his in-box, followed by a cluster of mini-drones programmed to kill him.
That begins a terrifying flight from upstate New York, to Washington, to Key West as Teagarden must outfox teams of hitmen equipped with highly sophisticated technology. While a fugitive, he races to decode the journal, only to realize the dreadful truth—it’s the reason he’s being hunted because it details criminal secrets committed by the U.S. in the 20th Century.
If he survives and publishes the decoded diary, he’ll be a heroic whistle blower. But there is no guarantee. He may also end up dead.
Praise for FLIGHT OF THE FOX:
“Flight of the Fox is an explosively paranoid thriller that pays homage to classics of the genre. Basnight delivers nonstop action and an everyman hero to root for.” —Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author
“Basnight’s novel does double duty. It’s both a fast-paced and furious thriller and a thought provoking commentary on a government gone wild. Read it.” —Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of What You Break
“Gray Basnight has written a clever, inventive, gripping, suspenseful tale that’ll have you up nights until you reach the final page. Skillfully weaving fact with fiction, Flight of the Fox taps into our worst nightmares about the potential excesses of power.” —Charles Salzberg, author of the award-nominated Henry Swann mysteries and Second Story Man
“Intriguing...Jason Bourne fans will have some fun.” —Publishers Weekly
“The ultimate paranoid thriller, an entertaining read that flies by faster than its own predatory drones. Part chase story and part political thriller, it is the perfect summertime read.” —Foreword Reviews
“Flight of the Fox is a quick-paced story that puts you in the passenger seat of a thrilling adventure featuring, cyber and techno villains, and a fight for justice. Great action thriller!” —Jerri Williams, retired FBI agent and author of Pay To Play
|Publisher:||Down & Out Books II, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Monday, June 13, 1938
This is to advise you of a new file entered to the bureau record, fully encrypted, and maintained only by me. It's because you are such a naughty boy. It's because of your habit of personally vetting all the strapping new talent that walks (or may be persuaded to confidentially walk) our enlightened side of the street.
This Sunday at Pimlico, I was off placing our bets on the fifth race while you arranged a tryst with that darling Great Dane you transferred in from L.A. Did you think I didn't know? Well I did, as any lover would. I also knew about the leggy Irish Wolf Hound at Belmont and that redheaded boy/man/god just graduated from Quantico with whom you decamped into the limo at Hialeah.
Why? For honor and career, naturally. Yes, my love, this is the bitter voice of mercenary cunning. It is my insurance against termination, transfer, or being dumped as your sweetheart.
Secondly, it shall be an angel to your darker nature, urging caution upon your fondness for risky plots which, though brilliant and always best for the nation, could imperil us all. Yes — that — is how devoted I am to you and our bureau.
Ah, love, do not despair. Tonight, we shall enjoy our cocktails in the cool air of the Florida porch while I assure you of my undying devotion.
Yours forever, CAT
P.S. It shall be encrypted in annual chronological order via our favorite cipher. You recall our pet cipher, don't you, John?CHAPTER 2
Monday, March 30, 1981
Word of the attempted assassination broke while Mark Trippler and his wife sipped sweet iced tea in their living room. From eleven o'clock that morning, the television was tuned to CBS for The Price Is Right, The Young and the Restless, and As the World Turns. It was during Search for Tomorrow that Dan Rather interrupted with news of gunshots fired at President Ronald Reagan. Two minutes later, when the phone rang, Trippler guessed who it was.
"Didja hear the news?"
"Yeah," Trippler sighed. He could tell that the caller was already drunk in mid-afternoon. "I'm watching now with my wife."
"Can you believe it? Twice in three months. First, that punk ponies up on goddamn John Lennon. And now this!"
"The director was light years ahead of his time."
"Yeah," Trippler sighed again, bored beyond tolerance.
"Hey," the caller shouted, "you don't suppose —"
"Naw," Trippler yelled, cutting off the question he knew was coming. "Don't even think it. Operation Over Easy didn't do Lennon. And it didn't do this one. This is just another crazy-ass loner who's seen too many movies, took too many pills, or didn't take enough pills."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," the drunk caller agreed. "But this sure as hell locks up history.
Makes it look like loners did 'em all. That's good, ain't it? Puts us in the clear. Unless the rumor about that goddamn Dear John file is true. Hey, Trippler, you think there's any chance a file really —"
"No," Trippler interrupted again. "Forget it. There is no such file."
"I sure hope not." The caller changed the subject. "Hey, did you get your daughter a post at HQ yet?"
"Yep. They hired her straight out of law school. Give that girl a few years and she'll be promoted to the tenth floor. The sky's the limit for her."
"Fellow retiree?" his wife asked when he hung up.
"Yep. Slade Higgins. He's got every kind of cancer there is. Drinks all day long. From morning to morning. He'll be dead before Easter."
"Oh, too bad." Her eyes were glued to the console color Magnavox. "Well, I'm sorry, but I never liked that one much."
"Me neither. And I worked with him for thirty years."
Trippler was retired from the FBI, but didn't need to be on the job to know that the luckless Reagan shooter would have been a perfect recruit for Operation Over Easy. The poor bastard was an MP. Marginal personality. Capable of employment, marriage, paying the bills, yet brimming with all the schizo markers for being "managed," as the bureau called it. When handled effectively, an MP could be coerced into barbaric criminality. This particular shooter, however, crossed the nutbag barrier without manipulation. All that remained was to fill in the usual blanks: the school that booted him, the parents who cut him off, the job that fired him, the girlfriend who dumped him.
"While you were on the phone, they said he was in surgery with a collapsed lung," his wife said. "I sure hope Ronnie's going to be okay,"
"Yeah," Trippler said, "I sure hope so too."CHAPTER 3
Saturday, July 20, 2019
Sam Teagarden mistook the tiny drone for a hummingbird.
Sitting on the sundeck near the bird feeder filled with sweet red liquid, he was accustomed to the motorized sounds of ruby-throated visitors. Yet there was something about the revved-up buzz of this particular bird that was not natural. Whatever it was, that unnatural — something — drew his attention from the unopened manila envelope at the top of the snail-mail pile he'd picked up at the rural post office an hour earlier. Glancing at the dangling feeder, he saw that the muted mechanical whirr was not coming from a hummingbird at all. It was a compact helicopter about the size of a baseball, hovering just beyond the railing.
His second mistake was to assume it was a toy.
"Well, hello there," Teagarden said. It held steady, as though watching him.
He leaned from the round table to peer through the gaps in the sundeck floorboards.
He expected to see the shadowy outline of the boy who lived on the other side of the wooded lot.
"That you, Billy? You down there playing a trick on old Abe?"
Eleven-year-old Billy Carney enjoyed sneaking up, squirting a water pistol, and calling him "Old Abe," because he had a beard similar to President Lincoln.
"C'mon up here, Billy. Let's chat some more about the great mysteries of mathematics." But there was no answer. "Hey, Billy the Kid — you down there with your remote control?"
Still no response.
The glare of the afternoon sun made it difficult to see. He scanned the yard's edge and tree line of the adjacent undeveloped lot. No Billy there either.
His voice, however, did cause movement. It awakened Coconut, Teagarden's old and overweight yellow Lab who had the good sense to be lounging in the shade of the screened-in porch adjacent to the sundeck. Hearing his owner call Billy, and knowing perfectly well who Billy was, Coconut rose and lumbered to the screen door where he, too, took interest in the hovering device.
"Oarff." His tone held more idle curiosity than canine threat.
Beyond the railing, the drone appeared to hear Coconut's languid bark and reacted by climbing to a higher angle at the edge of the table's umbrella, shading Teagarden's papers and laptop. It was almost as though it were trying to gain a view without glare.
Teagarden watched it glide back and forth. He saw then that it couldn't possibly belong to Billy Carney because it was certainly no toy. It was a complex device, delicate but substantial, engineered with metal parts affixed by miniature rivets. As a mathematics professor and numerical analyst, he couldn't help admiring its perfect geometry. The body was little more than the open frame of a three-dimensional diamond, nearly like a lighter-than-air box kite. A camera lens hung in the geometric center that looked like a manic little techno-fetus as it feverishly spun 360 degrees. Short twin antennae protruded at the front and a trio of rotor blades held it aloft, each tilting independently to adjust for wind or, in this case, the afternoon sun.
"Oarff," the Labrador complained again, more forcefully than before, his tail vigorously wagging.
"Don't ask me, Coco, I've got no idea what that thing is." Teagarden stroked his beard. "Some practical joker, I guess. Or maybe the news media are getting ready for the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock. It's going to be particularly noisy around here with old hippies and eyewitness TV crews for the next few weeks. Reporters will probably want the usual interview with me as the Woodstock baby who was born while Country Joe was singing 'gimme an F, gimme a U, gimme a C, gimme a K.' And all the old hippies will be blasting Hendrix and Santana. So we might as well get used to it, just like I might as well get used to the idea of being half-a-century old."
Teagarden checked that the water bowl on the deck was full and within easy reach for the fifteen-year-old dog, who couldn't walk without severe pain. Unfortunately, for this sweet boy, the time had come. These were their final hours together. Teagarden had a vet appointment in two days from which he'd return home alone. He rubbed his own aching knees, still hurting since the auto accident the previous winter, then rose to open the screen door and admit his beefy dog onto the sundeck.
"C'mon, Coco. If that thing gets in the house it'll try to mate with the microwave. We may never get rid of it."
That's when the drone fired.
Teagarden couldn't know if Coconut jumped to protect his master, or only to smooch. Prior to suffering from crippling arthritis, it had always been the dog's nature to jump and smooch. Besides eating and sleeping, smooching was his favorite activity. When that big dog rose on his hind legs to brace his front paws on the chest of any willing human, he was nearly at face level with all but the tallest people, which allowed willing victims to engage in inter-species exchange of saliva. In this case, when Coconut jumped, it knocked Teagarden a step backward.
A moment later, the drone fired a second time.
And for a second time, without yet realizing it, Teagarden had his best friend to thank for saving his life. Despite his arthritic hips, the dog jumped higher, and took the second round in the back, loudly yelped, gasped for air and fell dead. Teagarden dropped to his knees to cradle his dog at the moment the third round was fired.
Instead of slamming his chest, it struck the cedar clapboard behind him, next to where the first round landed. Whatever type of projectile it was, it released a clear liquid that cauterized the timber, turning it white as it oozed down the wall.CHAPTER 4
He stood in the safety of the main room, looking from the front window.
Coconut lay motionless on the sundeck. The dog's mouth gaped, his pink tongue hung beyond his black lips, the lids were halfway closed on his light gray irises. The entry point of the mini-dart was visible in the yellow fur of his back, near the withers. The poison, or whatever it was, had singed the blond coat with a small dark ring. Inside that ring, white bubbles foamed. As each bubble expanded and burst, it sent a thin mist into the air. Teagarden had never seen death consume a living being so quickly. He'd never heard of a poison capable of inflicting instantaneous termination of life.
In shock, hoping he was having a nightmare but knowing he wasn't, Teagarden stared at the drone that tried to kill him and did kill his dog. It still hovered just beyond the deck railing. The camera, the little techno-fetus inside the diamond frame held motionless, watching him.
Who would do this? More importantly — why?
He had no answers except that he'd been mistaken for someone else. Or it was a vicious crime committed by some sociopath intentionally targeting him.
Wait — that's the answer. It has to be.
It had to be because it was actually possible. Occam's razor, the very definition of logical frugality, says the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions is the correct hypothesis. Put another way, the simplest solution — is — the solution.
Teagarden had taught plenty of math prodigies over the years at Columbia University in New York City. Some were true geniuses and many went on to prestigious big ticket jobs with private science or government agencies. One, who was nowhere near the smartest, actually shared a Nobel.
There had been unstable geniuses as well, some of whom threatened him in the past. Therefore, following Occam's razor, it stood to reason that this was an act of revenge for failure to win referral to some government research project, or for his voting against a Ph.D. dissertation. The motive could be as simple as canceling a student's monthly stipend. He occasionally had to do those sorts of things when promising students fell behind or hit their own academic version of the Peter Principle and couldn't rise to the next level. Truth be told — any — of those former brilliant students could have evolved into the brilliant sociopath who engineered that devilish thing hovering just beyond the sundeck.
Thankfully, it had not fired a fourth round, which it had plenty of time to do before he escaped into the house. He guessed that meant it had only three rounds loaded into those tiny, forward-facing antennae, which were not antennae at all, but efficiently lethal weapons.
Still shocked at the sight of his dog sprawled dead on the sundeck, he began to catch his breath. Coconut must have sensed the danger. He was a smart boy. So smart, that he probably also knew that his next trip to the veterinarian would be his final outing, and that saving his master's life would be a more honorable exit than taking the doctor's needle.
"Sweet boy," Teagarden whispered. "You knew, didn't you? Maybe this is more honorable. Whatever — this — is."
Teagarden forced such thoughts from his mind. There was only one thing to do. He needed to call the police. In the small, though world-famous village of Bethel, that meant calling the sheriff. If he was lucky, a couple of state troopers might be available if they happened to be parked nearby on Route 17B, waiting to catch drivers exceeding the fifty-five limit. Keeping his eyes on the drone, he backed up to the kitchen island in the main room and picked up the old land line phone. When there was no dial tone, surging fear sent his pulse into orbit.
He returned to the front window. His cellphone was on the sundeck table, beside his laptop. But the drone was still there, waiting. Retrieving the phone meant testing his theory that it was incapable of firing another volley. Looking again at the body of his brave dog, he knew it was a theory he would not risk.
There were two additional options: the Toyota Camry in the front driveway and the shotgun in the basement.
Watching the techno-fetus, he backed to the front door on the opposite side of the main room. The drone held steady. The 360-degree eye pivoted within the geometric diamond to follow him. With his back to the front door, Teagarden felt for the knob and slowly opened it.
That's when the second drone fired.
It was hovering twenty feet from the entrance, in a direct path between the front porch and the car. Just as he slammed the door, he saw the twin stains of white liquid dripping down the door's front panels at chest level.
That left him only one option.CHAPTER 5
It had been many years since he fired the shotgun.
He'd never been a hunter. But he used to shoot skeet. While in undergraduate school at Chapel Hill, he failed to qualify for the U.S. team at the '92 Olympic Games in Barcelona. At the time, he suspected his age was a handicap because he'd skipped two years of high school and entered college at the age of sixteen. He did win the first backup spot, but there were no dropouts that year, so he never got the go-ahead phone call.
Fighting back fear and tears, he careened from room to room, flinging open doors so forcefully that doorknobs cracked the walls. In the cluttered basement he knew approximately where he'd stored the old shotgun.
The small workshop was illuminated by a single sixty-watt bulb with a pull chain. On first scan, he saw nothing. He pulled down the golf bag. Nothing. He knocked over an upright stack of lumber leaning in the corner. Nothing. He snatched a leather carpenter's apron from a wall hook.
And there it was.
The canvas harness holding the weapon stood upright, behind an old Packard Bell computer, which sat atop an older Kaypro II. He yanked the harness hard, toppling gallon-sized coffee cans filled with nails, screws and pieces of junky hardware, decades of impedimenta that accompanied everything from power tools to picture frames. The old gun looked fine. It was a Remington 1100, twelve-gauge, four-in-one auto-loader, the most popular shotgun in the history of the world. The stock had silly scrollwork fashionable in 1985 when his father bought it for him. The rust at the tip of the barrel had been there when he last fired it.
Now for the shells.
It may have been a crapped-up room, but he never considered it a room full of crap.
Everything in it was perfectly useful. He now regretted that sentiment. The shotgun shells, wherever they were, would be easier to find if he'd cleaned out the shop years ago.
He pulled down more coffee cans filled with junk, flipped open boxes and unlatched portable tool chests.
Excerpted from "Flight of the Fox"
Copyright © 2018 Gray Basnight.
Excerpted by permission of Down & Out Books.
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.
Table of Contents
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I recently read Mr. Basnight's latest book, Flight of the Fox. In the spirit of Jason Bourne, this new political thriller is a compelling and exciting story, a must read for any thrill seeker. A tranquil upstate New York setting quickly explodes onto the national spotlight as our unlikely hero Sam Teagarden must flee the onslaught of a mysterious group determined to silence him at any cost. This group employs the latest weaponry known to man, and Teagarden must rely on his keen sense of ingenuity to survive the relentless obstacles thrown in his path. In his quest to survive, he must at the same time decipher a document he receives containing unprecedented dark secrets. By learning the true nature of the group that pursues him, Teagarden can only hope to stop them before they eliminate him and everyone he encounters. The Flight of the Fox is a must read and will surely grip you right up to its climatic ending.
I have not traditionally been a huge fan of political thrillers, ones that get into conspiracies, paranoia, government, espionage etc. I have always been more a true crime or mystery/fiction type of reader. However, with the advent of "thriller-writers can't even write this stuff" atmosphere of today's news cycle, I decided to give one a try. I am so glad I did. Flight of the Fox was hard to put down and really challenged my imagination. The book created vivid scenes in my mind and certainly straddles on "wait...could this stuff really have happened?" I highly recommend this book and plan to check out some more by Gray Basnight.