When former naval intelligence officer Jack Steele opens a letter from his aunt, he makes an immediate decision to head to Nome, Alaska. Although he hasn’t seen Marie in twenty years, he’s concerned when she tells him her husband, Uncle Jimmy, is in trouble. From the moment Jack picks up that envelope, he knows he’s about to enter a situation better left alone. But loyalty to family is stronger than a gut feeling.
Jack, a private investigator with Connor, Steele & Harrison Private Investigation Agency lands in Nome and discovers that Lindberg Research Corporation has been using the people of that city as guinea pigs to perfect mind-control research. He has stumbled onto a massive conspiracy that has held hostage the noble people of Nome. The plot threatens America’s way of life, the life of the vice president of the United States, and Jack’s own survival.
Alone and without his usual resources and special equipment, Jack is overmatched and is nearly killed before he can even scratch the surface of what’s really taking place in Nome. Jack must elude an ex-Special Forces Green Beret—a man who has sworn over his dead son to kill Jack—and work around local law enforcement and other mysterious forces in order to save the people of Nome and the vice president of the United States.
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GAMES OF MIND
By DENNIS QUILES
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2013 Dennis Quiles
All rights reserved.
FOR ALL GOOD TIMES
It was a noisy and hot late June afternoon at the office; business was booming, and money was no longer a concern of mine. After solving the mystery of the journal, the whole world learned about Connor, Steele, and now Harrison Private Investigation Agency. Many high-renting clients hadn't stopped knocking on my door. Martha Harrison, my lover and now my business partner, and I had done well in the last year.
As I touched my face, I noticed that I hadn't shaved today. I remembered the old days when this was not even a concern of mind. But now, with all the consulting cases, new high-profile clients, and exposure, I guess I have to look more professional.
I glanced to my right and stared at my reflection from the new glass display cabinet. For a moment, I didn't recognize the new me. My black, wavy hair was manicured and cut. I was wearing a fricking suit for crying out loud! And if this was not enough, I may have put on a couple of extra pounds. My blue eyes looked a bit tired, but they couldn't hide the satisfying sense of accomplishment. I was another man; finding and exposing selected contents of Marilyn Monroe's personal journal had definitely changed my life for the best.
I was enjoying my new office, compliments of the US government, if I may say. It was the least they could do after my office was blown to pieces last year. Over the years, I had learned that the government was cheap, but I stood corrected after a crew with lots of construction materials showed up last year and started working on what was left of my office.
I missed my old dusty chair; I just couldn't get used to this new leather-smelling thing I sat on. The government may know a little bit about decorating, but comfort, well ... that was another thing. The office looked just as I remembered but without the dusty smell, the squeaky door, and chipped desk. But that was now ancient history. I had been so immersed and busy with all my new cases that I had forgotten that I was working alone.
Martha, my red-haired, silky-skinned lover, was nearly six thousand miles away in Beijing, China, working on a high-profile case for a multinational corporation whose branch network was compromised by local professional hackers. When she was asked to help, she hadn't even blinked an eye or questioned herself for a minute. She immediately replied, "When do I leave?"
Oh my God, I think that I've created a monster!
Martha had been in China for nearly two months, and my last conversation with her was two nights ago when she woke me up in the middle of the night just to share with me how spicy her steamed fish was. I was thrilled to hear from her and how she was slowly but surely getting the hang of it. She told me the contract would most likely keep her in China for another two weeks or so. But if she could wrap it up quickly, she would be back in a week.
Music to my ears, I thought.
The pile of mail on my desk caught my attention. From one of the envelopes on top, I clearly identified a name I hadn't heard of in a long, long time. I pushed myself forward, picked up the envelope, and focused on the sender's name. Marie, as I recall, was married to Uncle Jimmy, my father's brother. The last time I saw Uncle Jimmy was at his wedding in Anchorage, Alaska. I remember it well; it was just before I graduated from Annapolis.
I was intrigued; I wanted to know more. My uncle was not the type of person I could call a family man. He kept a distance from all of us, even my dad. Uncle Jimmy was what I called a lonely soul. Even after he married, he didn't want children, and although his passion was flying and dancing with the clouds, the rest of the little time he had was spent alone in the wilderness hunting, fishing, or just glancing at the stars in the middle of nowhere. As I recalled, Aunt Marie didn't care much, as they were in love, and my guess was this still was the case; I could imagine them nearly twenty-five years later, still holding hands.
I opened the envelope and slowly pulled out a well-folded, single-page letter. I glanced inside the envelope, but apart from the letter, it was completely empty. After dropping it on the desk, I started to read it:
Hope that these short lines find you well.
I know that we haven't talked to each other in a while, and I recognize that this is my fault. At this time, I will ask you to keep our past from preventing you from completely reading this letter without tossing it away first.
It is unfortunate of me to say that your uncle is in trouble, and I have no one else to turn to for help. The last few weeks, he has not been himself, and I don't know what is happening to him; he is not the man I married. I am afraid that he may be in real danger and fear for our lives ...
I didn't know what to think. Given all these years without a word, my mind was running at a hundred miles an hour. I felt like it was trying to put together a huge puzzle at the speed of light, but none of the pieces seemed to fit.
Uncle Jimmy was a professional pilot. I can still hear Uncle Jimmy narrating stories about operation Rolling Thunder in 1965. He was one of the first F-11 pilots out of the Seventh Fleet carrier who dropped countless ordinances on Vietnam. Uncle Jimmy's face would change each time he told his stories. It was like he was there once again, living each and every moment.
I could hear him saying, "Yep, you bet, after many preparations, high hopes, and huge confidence we lifted from the Seventh Fleet carriers in our new F-4 Phantom II multirole fighters. We were not the only ones who wanted air supremacy; the Soviets tested their MiG-21 interceptors against ours, and in the end, the Soviets had to rethink their engineering to keep Kremlin opinions from thinking that their MiG-21 was a very expensive mistake. These guys had no chance against our F-4. I tell ya, boy, even with the F-4's disadvantage of displaying black smoke from its roaring engines, during this campaign, the F-4 fighter pilots shut down eighteen out of fifty-five Russian MiG-21s that came to say hello."
His passion changed, and at times, I'd catch a glimpse of him dropping a tear over the face of defeat when he'd mention that none of the three objectives of this campaign had ever been achieved.
I would ask Uncle Jimmy what he meant that the three objectives were never achieved, and he'd look at me and say, "Jack boy, when we rolled into Southeast Asia, we had three objectives in mind—to boost the South Vietnamese morale, which was at an all-time low; to show the North that the South was determined; and to persuade the communists of the north to cease their support to the insurgency in the South. But we did not achieve any of those either, hear, boy? None!"
It took me several years to learn what Uncle Jimmy wanted to say to me over and over every single time he narrated this story. But when I became a man, wiser and taller, I remembered that it is not the amount of thunder and roars you make trying to achieve your goals but that determination, strategy, and patience are the true principles of success.
My uncle was a man of integrity, strong spirit, and valor. The Uncle Jimmy I remembered would never be what Aunt Marie described. He was a strong man, with deep convictions and lots of determination. The Uncle Jimmy I knew didn't know the words can't, afraid, or never. He was one of the most interesting people I had ever met and yet one of the most kind and gentle people of all. Something was wrong, very wrong, and I was determined to find out for old time's sake what it was. I would not dare to let my own blood, much less a veteran in need, hang in the wind. After the war Uncle Jimmy became an aircraft mechanic and then moved to Alaska, where for sure he thought he would be able to have it his way.
The moment I picked up the envelope from my desk, I knew that I was about to enter into waters I should have avoided sailing. But my loyalty to family blood was stronger than my gut feeling.
My uncle liked the wilderness, airplanes, and being away from the family. I'd always thought that he liked to be alone after witnessing the atrocities of war, and I kind of understood and respected that. The last thing that I remembered from Uncle Jimmy was that he was working at Anchorage Alaska Airport, but his address was from yet another town called Nome, Alaska.
I checked my caseload and decided that I could easily take a week or two to visit America's wilderness and still return in time to follow up a very mysterious theft case from Kindler & Carper Company Inc., which was begging for my attention.
Jim Butler, Kindler & Carper Company Inc.'s CEO, had called me a couple of days prior and shared with me that he thought that his chief financial officer was stealing from him. But every time the firm audited the vault, all the sheets somehow balanced and all was in order.
Butler indicated to me that he trusted his CFO, who was a good man and friend, but somehow his friend's recent behavior was giving him enough suspicions to believe that the CFO was on to something shady. So my contract was to prove it.
Piece of cake, I thought because this is a classic case of hide-and-seek, and in doing so, I was the best. But for now, blood was boiling harder than money, and I had to make some travel arrangements.
* * *
It was now 8:10 a.m., and the plane was reaching cruising altitude. Next to me was a very interesting old businesswoman from New York. The gracious flight attendant gave me a warm mixed nuts cup with a chilled cup of white wine. I was doing well, until the pilot announced that he was expecting a little turbulence and we should keep the seat belts on. All of a sudden, I stared to ponder how I'd gotten here.
I recalled calling Ms. Montgomery at the travel agency on the first floor below my office, and after back-and-forth negotiations, she'd booked me on the next flight out, leaving at 8:10 the next day.
Suddenly, I found myself smiling as I recalled last night's events at Tony's Club. Sheela Madison's performance was, once again, spectacular. Even Tony, my trusted protector, father figure, and friend, had stood still in a corner watching Sheela as she performed like the diva she was.
My thoughts were interrupted by a sudden bump caused by the turbulence. Now I was back to reality; the old lady next to me started to tell me her life story.
What the heck? I thought. I have a lot of time to kill.
I glanced at the stewardess, lifted up my now-empty cup, and saw that she understood the message loud and clear; from now until the end of the flight, she had a mission, and it was to keep my cup full of the tasty spirit at all times.
* * *
Marie was leaving the sheriff's office again, after speaking to him about Jimmy's situation, but again she was disappointed by the town's Sheriff Michael Lindblom who, as usual, had brushed her off with his typical phrase, "Don't worry, Marie. Give time a chance. You'll see that all is going to work out." As always, Marie placed her trust with the local authorities, but she knew that, in spite of the sheriff's good intentions and thoughts, she was sure her husband was in trouble. Sheriff Lindblom was a good neighbor and friend to most of the local citizens, but he was also a politician, and as such, everything he did revolved around this trait.
Sheriff Michael Lindblom was a true Swede descendant; his heritage line went as far as the first settlers of the town. He was a tall, white-haired, bearded man with broad shoulders and medium build. His presence was well noted everywhere he went. His uniform was always pressed, and many said that, if you touched one of his shirts' creases, you would cut your finger from the sharp lines.
The sheriff's family used to own half the town, before they slowly lost interest and moved out after the gold rush. But those who stayed felt the obligation to also police it. The story went that, back in 1898, three adventurous gold seekers found their dream in Anvil Creek. One of them was a young Swede called Erik Lindblom, the sheriff's family's ancestor.
From those three original settlers, Nome, Alaska, had grown to be a beautiful, four-thousand-resident regional hub. This remote little town could only be reached by boat or airplane, but both tourists and residents preferred the main and faster way to get there, which was by airplane. To this day, the two main industries were gold mining and tourism.
Nome was a vintage little town that Marie had learned to love. When she and Jimmy had originally moved there, it was all about Jimmy's job. He'd finally found a place where he could do what he loved—fly, fix planes, and hike the wilderness of pristine, untouched country. He was in heaven, and so he reminded Marie all the time.
As Marie stepped off the front porch of Nome's sheriff's department, in her heart, she knew that something was very wrong with her Jimmy. She had learned to tolerate, nurture, love, and care for him for too long, and she knew that he was not the same. Although he continued to come home every day, he was not the same lucid, talkative, caring man she used to know.
Jimmy was withdrawn, and at first, she'd thought that he might have been having an affair. However, after extensive inquiries and doing what every woman knows how to do best, she realized that what was happening to him was not external but, rather, internal. She reached her old, rusted Ford Bronco, and out of hope, drove back to her log cabin to prepare supper for a man who was unknown to her—a man who was no longer the person she'd fallen in love with. She was going to prepare dinner for a total stranger, and that bothered her the most. She knew that Jimmy was in trouble, that something had overtaken him, but what it was had haunted her for over six long months.
Back home, Marie stood at the counter, a knife in her hand, an onion on the cutting board. She gripped the handle of the knife harder and harder as she thought about her husband, how he had changed over the past months. She didn't know what was wrong, only that something was definitely not right—not right at all. Slowly, she began to methodically cut the onion into little slivers that made her eyes water.
That night, as she prepared a nice grilled deer steak, she recalled all the good times she and Jimmy had had together as two young lovers arriving in unchartered territory without money or any belongings. The only things they'd owned they'd carried inside their backpacks. However, they hadn't felt poor, as they were rich with love, purpose, and hope.
Jimmy was so eager to enjoy the opportunity of flying every day between Anchorage and Nome that nothing else really mattered. Marie was so content to have him all to herself in a place away from wars, away from the hurdles of a big metropolis and a place that gave her what she wanted—a place to start from scratch. Here, they could build and plan their lives as they wanted and not as the family would have engineered for them.
She'd thought in terms of engineered for them because Marie's family was as wealthy as royalty. They came from a silver-spoon cradle. Her grandfather was a self-made millionaire who'd made his millions during the California Gold Rush, where he'd established himself as the gatekeeper for most of the gold claims.
One of his many sons and Marie's father, Arthur Slenker, was grandfathered into the family business, taking over his father's legacy.
Marie didn't know hardships or hunger. She'd had all her heart's desires and was the only female sibling.
At least Marie had had it all until she'd come of age and her mother had wanted to arrange her marriage to a Californian oil tycoon. Any other young woman of her age would have jumped in the relationship as a gift from heaven, but not Marie.
Marie was well educated and not an airhead as many other young girls of her age. She had her own will, and no one was going to run her life. Given her deep regard for her father, mother, and brothers, she made several attempts to change her family's minds. Sadly, in spite of those attempts, the family remained certain, and she eventually realized that all her efforts were futile. She had to change strategies, and at this time her only option was to escape as far as she could from her dominating and wealthy family.
Excerpted from GAMES OF MIND by DENNIS QUILES. Copyright © 2013 Dennis Quiles. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 For All Good Times, 1,
2 Loss of Fate, 17,
3 Glance of Hope, 25,
4 A Leap of Trust, 31,
5 Evil Lurks, 53,
6 Intelligibility, 71,
7 Imminent Rush, 75,
8 Red-Handed, 91,
9 What Comes Around Goes Around, 97,
10 The Journey, 109,
11 Business as Usual, 117,
12 Hands On, 131,
13 The Path, 137,
14 The Perfect Tale, 145,
15 The Eye of the Storm, 155,
16 Run, Jack, Run, 179,
17 Time to Die, 195,
18 The Moment of Truth, 217,
19 What Can Go Wrong, 235,
20 A Day to Die, 243,
21 The Light Within, 251,
22 And I Saw the Light, 255,
23 Game Time, 267,
24 Justice Is Mine, 285,
25 One Way or Another, 299,
26 The Right to Rule, 307,
27 The Right to Die, 317,
References and Credits, 327,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Awesome book! This is one of the most interesting and entertaining books I have read recently. Jack Steele, an independent private investigator, gets involved in the most bizarre plot that he had bargained for. This is a novel that will entertain you as well as raise some deeper thoughts about the social responsibility of corporations. I wonder how many companies out there are behaving or have behaved like the Lindberg Research Corporation. The author, very skillfully, is able to intertwine several stories into a very entertaining novel that keeps you turning pages. Besides these interesting and realistic stories, the fictional plot presents a situation where a corporation is able to get away with unethical practices in order to enhance their bottom line. The book portraits how extortion, traditional values, greed, political manipulation, and even mind manipulation clash in a very addictive plot. Definitely recommend this book for your enjoyment. Worth every penny and can't wait to read where Jack Steele goes the next time around.
Finally finished reading this book and I am still quivering, what a rush! Love it. I can’t wait to read the sequel. Marcy