Major John Tilbury is an ex-SAS commando who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and now counsels veterans. He is faced with the moral dilemma of neuroplasticity being used by an unscrupulous organization called OASIS for monetary gain. His main helper in the fight against covert operatives is Thomas Black, a trained assassin and friend to Tilbury. The battle they fight is one of gargantuan proportions as they go head-to-head with the CIA and Pentagon.
Tilbury is caught between acting as a killing machine or supporting neuroplasticity's positive outcomes when used with the right intentions. In this case, innocent people are in the clutches of OASIS and their dark deeds, but Tilbury's investigation is further complicated by a sexy detective. In this world of espionage and treason, can cognitive abilities be enhanced to make a better world? Or will greed and need for power turn this experiment into nothing but a failure that ruins lives?
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|Publisher:||Balboa Press AU|
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Tilbury, an early riser, walked through a light misty rain along clean windswept footpaths, felt the chill of the night through a soaked T-shirt sticking to his back, bones stiff from restless nights.
Desperately needing the morning caffeine fix, his usual thoughts scattered as he approached Café Boga, a haunt well-travelled. Outside tables were arranged for conversation or silence beneath a gabled roof leading to French windows. The wafting aroma coming from inside drew Tilbury to his reserved table situated inside by the corner window.
Tilbury stood, watched the line of customers seek the same hit, and collected his mug from barista Thomas with a quiet comment.
"Fucking cold morning, mate."
Tilbury, a man of few words was always left alone. His stubble, light with a tinge of grey carefully made to look untouched, matched the carefree look of his cream-coloured linen pants. The black-t hid his well-formed torso.
A six-three man's man, Tilbury dominated his space. His morning coffee ritual, part of a routine of solace, self-healing, and focus, put the demons back in the box.
He kept fit through a regular routine. Began at 5:30 each morning: skipped for ten minutes to warm up, followed by squats, lunges, and push-ups. This was followed by a ten-minute session of Pilate's exercises and a quiet ten-minute period of meditation.
Only barista Thomas Black knew him.
Gazing around the tables of Café Boga, Tilbury scrutinized the customers and where they sat.
As he was trained to do, he recognized the usual group of older patrons telling themselves the stories of their lives and troubles, each with coffees, bacon and eggs, and pastries. An occasional nod made the subtle connection.
Tilbury knew that people were creatures of habit. They sat in the same chairs and tables, if possible, and read papers or talked to each other about the beginning of the day or the chaos of their lives. It was the coffee shop equivalent of the men's shed.
Tilbury, an expert in body language from his days as an SAS major in the skirmishes of the Middle East, knew that reading people's behaviour had saved him and his men. And now, he felt there was something amiss about one of the patrons.
He had a vague memory of this face, who sat alone like himself, too interested in what others were doing, being inconspicuous but failing the Tilbury test, as he had the smell and the bearing of a cop that was filed away.
Tilbury looked straight at the stranger to Cafe Boga, remembered him as AFP Detective Gavin Morrow.
Tilbury now knew his world was about to change for the worst.CHAPTER 2
And then he was totally distracted.
She stood and gazed through the window. Tilbury caught sight of slender legs. A known face looked right at him. As he sipped his strong black coffee, he felt his heart skip a beat.
Astonishing ebony beauty, high cheekbones, long and black silky hair, with moist and kissable lips. Tilbury was transfixed, unable to reconcile the fleeting thoughts of sensuality, gratitude, and memories of her smile. The coffee fix was lost in the midst of chaos. He knew the time had finally come to meet again.
Tilbury sat with only one chair space available. The smile moved and entered, nodded at the empty chair and sat.
To this day those words reminded him of what was: events and heartache that had tangled their lives.
His answer was raw and difficult.
"So, Rachel, what brings you from Florence?" Her look had stayed with Tilbury wherever he went as an SAS major — Somalia, Solomon Islands, Afghanistan, and Myanmar. Her throaty clarity, heard and silenced between countless silken sheets, whispered, "The CIA, John, they know."
Viviani, looking deep and concerned at Tilbury, repeated, "They know, John." It set in the nervous shakes as he sipped the macchiato and spilled the elixir over the wooden table dented from countless uses.
Silent neural pathways twitched. He recalled the colours of passion, scent, deceit, and memories of the event that changed both their lives.
"I can't do this, Rachel."
He knew this woman meant too much to him.
"The CIA, they know, John. They know." The words were to haunt Tilbury forever.
Dr. John Tilbury was an ex-Brisbane Lions AFL on- baller and premiership player and an ex-SAS major, but he maintained that level of fitness through a daily routine. He was a sometime commercial fisherman trawler deck hand and later became a researcher in neuroplasticity at the Yeronga Brain Centre who improved the fractured lives of returned soldiers.
Tilbury sat, watched the sunrise that filtered through the stained-glass windows in silence and contemplated the message brought from afar by his Italian lover, Rachel Viviani, a beautiful neurosurgeon.
Tilbury swam in her ecstasy, which had led to his involvement in the event. Was this to be his eventual downfall?
"Don't get up, John," Viviani whispered in a clear and hardened voice. "Just think 42 if you're in serious trouble."
Then she was gone.
Numb, Tilbury watched her leave through the clearing mist and remembered why. He searched his mind to find the way forward as he now faced a full-on moral dilemma with no real escape.
Tilbury then remembered his Aussie-rules football mate Gary Lang. He needed Lang's trusted advice.
Tilbury watched her leave and felt the heat of their short but intimate connection. Knowing she would return to Florence, unaware that their interaction had been recorded by the stranger Tilbury noticed earlier.
Feeling the vibration of his communicator, he said, "Tilbury," closed his eyes, and listened to the call.
"Are you sure Richard? Thanks for the update," he continued and then replaced the device in his pocket.CHAPTER 3
Later that day, Tilbury rested his back against a white-barked gum tree, shaded from the sun as he looked at the sandstone archways that surrounded the central quadrangle of the University of Queensland. The area was large, with soft, green grass and native trees that shaded the tired students he watched. His thoughts were engaged in his research, but he needed a break.
The relief and warmth of sunshine soaked through his bones being away from the confines of the laboratory and his research with army veterans blended with fleeting, relaxing thoughts of feeling the throbbing masculinity of riding his Harley on the winding tarmac through subtropical forests to Mount Glorious on the outskirts of Brisbane.
Sipping his takeaway coffee, he noticed a woman watching him from beneath one of the graceful sandstone archways. She had a graceful, slender body, long blond hair, and a pleasant face.
As she finally walked up to him, Tilbury had a feeling that he had seen her before, and he knew why.CHAPTER 4
"Are you Dr. John Tilbury? I need your assistance."
Somewhat surprised, Tilbury, a man of solitude not happy for strangers to confront him like this, said, "You want my help? Why?"
Dr. Suzie Jackson, introduced herself as a neuroscientist and mind- body-connection theorist and practitioner, and started to tell her story to Tilbury.
But before she got more than a word or two into her story, Tilbury asked, "How do you know me?"
"Through your work on the impact of war on the cognition of returned vets."
Jackson sat cross-legged on the soft lawn opposite Tilbury, holding his intense gaze. "May I call you John?"
"John, I work in the Ikbal Healing Laboratory, supporting the casework of neuroplasticity practitioners allied with the Yeronga Brain Centre. My research relates to how the brain-mind-body relationship changes. I develop models to measure and analyse the relationship, based on a case study approach."
Tilbury, wondered where this was going.
"Why me, Suzie?"
"I have a very unusual patient we call Case#45. He is introverted, his brain thoughts scattered. He can't remember his past, and his life is revealed as images of fragmented feelings and actions. I wonder who he really is, but apparently he is a returned vet with a fractured life. He was referred to me by his local GP, who knew of my work."
Tilbury was now really interested in this case.
"John, I have been using mind-balancing techniques and fulfilment experimentation, based on the works of Deepak Chopra. However, Case #45 responded on an array of occasions with a single statement."
"It was the pad; it was that fucking pad."
How unusual, thought Tilbury.
Jackson then asked Tilbury to help her by sitting in on a session with him.
The day came, and as Tilbury walked in the door to meet Case#45, he was hit with an ice-cold feeling deep in his gut.
Case#45 reacted violently on seeing him. "It was the pad. It was that fucking pad."
Silent, Tilbury felt some memories surface and knew there would be others.
Jackson was also shocked by Case#45's reaction. After calming him down, she asked Tilbury to step outside.
She was concerned about what had happened. What have I become entangled with? But she thought that Tilbury may have known what had happened. She had the shivers but remained silent.
A quiet conversation between Jackson and Tilbury took place, each hedging their bets on the meaning of the words "It was the pad, it was that fucking pad."
They agreed on a plan of action as the matter could not be left alone.
Jackson needed to find out what lay behind the man's statement, not knowing that the path ahead was unclear and potentially dangerous. And thought. Would this action put both their work and life in jeopardy?CHAPTER 5
His feeling about his role as an SAS major in the dangerous zones of Iraq and Afghanistan were still raw, emotional, and painful for Tilbury. Lost friends, trauma caused by IEDs, and the immorality of invading another country kept Tilbury engaged in helping war veterans where possible.
Was it a healing process for Tilbury?
Although he was a trained soldier, Tilbury faced the moral dilemma of protecting and preserving as a soldier versus the impact of war on ordinary citizens known as "collateral damage." After all, he was a caring human being.
Tilbury returned to his laboratory and thought carefully about the conversation with Jackson. He decided that he needed to talk to Case#45 as soon as possible without Jackson knowing. But how could he achieve that?
The Yeronga Brain Centre intranet might help, so he called up the case. But no record existed. Why?
Acting on a hunch, Tilbury visited reception and asked Wendy, the receptionist, for that information
"Can you tell me the address of Case#45, he's a vet, and I'd like to meet him at his own digs away from the bureaucracy of this place."
"Oh, John, that's against the SOP of the centre, but given you're asking, I'll check for you."
She thought, When are you going to ask me for a night of pleasure, you beautiful hunk?
The receptionist found the record of the vet in her files.
"Why do you need this, John? This could cost me my job."
Tilbury replied as he walked out, "Wendy, you're saving his life."CHAPTER 6
Meanwhile, on the foreshore of the tropical city of Cairns, North Queensland, a body, with an army-type buzz cut, was found prone on an isolated park bench in the early hours of the morning, with no signs of injury. An Aboriginal elder — silver-haired, aged, and slim — found the body on his morning walk with his poodle-cross dog named Captain. The elder had built up a sticky sweat from the humid air that hung over Trinity Bay. His daily routine was to walk the foreshore pathway and to throw sticks for his dog to retrieve. But today when his dog stood on hind legs beside a bench, the elder went to investigate. Then he dialled 000 to tell of his discovery.
Within minutes, the paddy wagon arrived, but the young cops were deeply suspicious of the caller. Not all police took much interest in the race training that all police had to undertake in areas where Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders lived.
Eventually, the elder was allowed to leave when they found out who he was. He and Captain continued their walk towards the serene early- morning haze that hung over the pools on the foreshore. The scantily clad tourists felt the warmth of the humid air as they lazed in the local cafes and breakfast bars that lined adjacent streets.
The aroma of the coffee blends enticed sleepy tourists and locals out of bed for an early morning hit. But the elder kept thinking. Who was that person?
Detective Rosa Belotti, a slim, brunette beauty of Italian Heritage with a caffeine habit, was quietly reading the Courier Mail newspaper's sporting pages. She was an avid supporter of women's netball.
Suddenly, her phone rang.
"Rosa here," she grumbled, annoyed at her peaceful moment being disturbed. "It had better be bloody important, Sarge."
She listened while sipping her latte. "You're kidding me, Sarge."
As she walked to her car, she wondered about the body she was about to see and the investigation that would follow.
As she approached the area where the body was found, she recognised that the young cops wanted to escape the scene. She said, "Eh, boys, what's up?" She showed her D badge. "Take me to the body." Detective Belotti, with experience and knowledge of suspicious deaths from her days as a homicide cop in the city, began her investigation.
Who was this John Doe, now officially called Case#643?
Evidence found in one of the victim's pockets, were a Greyhound bus ticket from Brisbane to Cairns, a return ticket for a ferry trip to Green Island, and a smartphone with a scrubbed contact list and only one number in the call list.
She called it, but no one answered.
Undaunted, she called her friend at the national cell phone company. An address was mentioned. As her only lead, she arranged to visit that address.
Belotti landed at Tullamarine Airport about thirty kilometres from the Melbourne CBD. Suffering from the result of budget cuts, she had no funds for the use of a taxi, so annoyed, she caught the airport bus to town. After she checked where to go, she discovered the city trams were the shortest route to the address.
The trams of Melbourne city were iconic. Belotti considered her options as her tram was gliding through the tree-lined avenues in the drizzling rain.
After she arrived at the address in Carlton, she knocked on the door. It was ajar.
"Police!" she shouted as she entered.
She found the place trashed.
Belotti searched the unit, finding no evidence that could help her investigation. She called the local authorities, who soon arrived. They could not name the person apparently living in that unit.
With no further leads, she left her contact details with the local homicide police and reluctantly returned to Cairns.
Belotti found that the Greyhound bus ticket yielded no information about the dead man.
However, she followed up the other lead, the ticket to Green Island. Given the date on the ticket, she asked the ferry administration about that trip to find any clues that might reveal the name of the person.
The desk officer who sold the ferry tickets, remembered that date.
"Detective, you should talk to Captain Bill. He might remember the day and any details about the person. Just show him a photo of your man."
As she waited on the Cairns terminal wharf for the ferry to arrive, Belotti contemplated what case #643 might have done on the island.
A cool breeze rippled the waters of Trinity Bay as the ferry docked, rocking the fishing boats tied within their marina moorings. After the tanned and relaxed passengers alighted from the ferry, Belotti introduced herself to the grisly and tanned Captain Bill.
"Captain, can we discuss a trip taken a few weeks ago when this man was on board?" Belotti asked, showing him the photo of case #643.
Captain Bill thought for a minute then asked Belotti to sit while he told his story.
"Detective Belotti, I remember him as he came on board with two others, dressed like him with buzz cut hair." Scratching his craggy beard, he said, "I remember the quiet group held up the ferry, buying tickets. They paid no attention to other passengers but chatted up one of our hosts, Jenny Tan."
"I also believe that on arrival at Green Island, Jenny was seen talking to the man in your photo."
Bill quietly then suggested. "You should talk to her about that conversation."
Finding Jenny Tan wasn't difficult, she was well known around town, and lived at Palm Cove, a beach-side suburb just north of Cairns. Her modern unit had ocean views and a balcony for lazy afternoons.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Fractured Lives"
Copyright © 2018 Gregory Moore.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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