Hiding in Sunshine

Hiding in Sunshine

by John Stuart, Caitlin Stuart

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Overview

Living lives of quiet affluence in a historic, suburban Boston town, Gavin and Lisa Brinkley had no idea how quickly and decisively their lives, and those of their two young daughters, could be upended. A series of events - a mysterious break-in at their home, some menacing tailgating on the highway from Boston, a startling visit from an F.B.I. agent warning of an imminent kidnapping attempt - leads to the family's abrupt uprooting from its comfortable existence into a terrifying new existence on the run, under new identities. This taut thriller by a father-daughter team follows the eleven-year odyssey of an American family on the run, in hiding through the mountain states of the American west, where survival skills and living off the grid are paramount, but so are friendship, cooperation, and resilience. The enemy, always lurking just out of sight, is a foreign cyber-criminal enterprise that launches breathtaking assaults on the American banking system and physical infrastructure, but the Brinkleys also know that the threat is deeply personal, reaching ever closer to them from the shadows of the past. At the same time, Gavin and Lisa discover the perils of wandering too close to the edges of the dark side, in the murky world of cyber-security. A compelling story of suspense and treachery, HIDING IN SUNSHINE is also a celebration of a family's abiding love and courage -- and a young girl's faith in the triumph of the truth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781477283318
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 10/26/2012
Pages: 308
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.69(d)

Read an Excerpt

HIDING IN SUNSHINE

A NOVEL
By JOHN STUART CAITLIN STUART

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2012 John Stuart and Caitlin Stuart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4772-8331-8


Chapter One

Eyes Only Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation National Security Division Washington, D.C.

MEMORANDUM: TOP SECRET

To: SPAC Marcus, SPAC Henry, D'Amato, SPAC Marissa, SPAC Martinez, Chaz, SPAC Moore Arthur, Field Offices From: DDFBI Broomall, Thomas A.

Based on recently intercepted conversations and other activities, there is a reason to believe that ZERIND ROKUS KAZAC (REFERENCED HEREIN AS ZRK), reliably reported by informants and intelligence to be the head of a widespread global criminal organization, the ENTERPRISE, with suspected illegal and terroristic activities based in eastern Europe, including Russia, and reliably believed to be the master perpetrator behind recent cyber attacks on the United States, is intending to recruit selected top cyber security experts of the United States into his organization. It is further reliably reported by confidential informants and intelligence that the group has plans to kidnap or kill certain of those experts whom the Enterprise designates as non-cooperating.

A list of these top cyber security and other such experts in the United States, and their locations, will be issued in a subsequent memorandum. To the extent possible, this list will contain the names and ages of these individuals' immediate families, to include spouses and children.

All bureaus and SPAC personnel: It is crucial to quietly monitor the well-being of such designated individuals and their families for reasons of personal and national security. This activity is to be kept strictly confidential with all field reports marked TOP SECRET to this office. Authority for such actions is contained in various statutes and Congressional Acts, and specifically as predicated on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) - (50 U.S.C. §§ 1801-11, 1821-29, 1841-46, 1861-62, 1871).

It is specifically directed that, while designated subjects referenced in this memo and on the subsequent List of Subject Individuals are not suspected of criminal activity, and therefore should not be regarded as investigative targets, their crucial standing in the national security network, and their potential implication in international terrorist and other activities of the Enterprise criminal organization, allows for surreptitious surveillance under authority of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court).

Chapter Two

Shortly after he turned thirty, Gavin Brinkley took stock of his life. He had graduated from the University of New Mexico with a double major in biology and computer science. Then it was on to Caltech, where his thesis focused on building advanced mathematical models of popular computer networks, and the risk-exposure to their security. It was a very theoretical body of work.

Then came a wife, Lisa, and in time a daughter, Becky, after a move to Pleasanton, California, an affluent, family-centered suburb in the eastern Bay Area. Pleasanton was a happy and bustling little town—take the name itself, Pleasanton. It even sounds like the kind of place academic sociologists conjure up when they publish studies of contemporary, affluent middle-class America. Pleasanton had a splendid suburban prosperity; burnished with the riches of Silicon Valley, it held the distinction of being the wealthiest midsized city in America by the time the Brinkleys arrived.

As the name suggests, the town was pleasant enough, if somewhat staid. It boasted the kind of excellent schools that well-funded suburban entities compete over. Weekday activities were characterized mainly by commuting to places like Silicon Valley, thirty miles south, or the Oakland International Airport, an easy twenty-minute train ride on the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system. Weekends were dominated to a remarkable extent by youth sports and the juggling of family logistics to ensure attendance at as many of those events as possible, with perhaps a backyard barbeque afterward.

Yet Pleasanton had a somewhat less complacent history. The settlement, then known as Alisal, lay along the main route from San Francisco to the mountains where gold fields were swarming with fortune seekers after 1848. The farmers who had settled along the valley quickly realized that there was gold to be found not just in those hills, but on the road along the way. Known then as "The Most Desperate Town in the West," Alisal was known for selling provisions and whatever other services might be sought by the ragtag bands of fortune hunters headed to, and from, the gold fields. In those hills good luck could change abruptly to bad luck if a prospector had the misfortune of encountering a legendary local bandito, Joaquin Carrillo Murrieta.

Murrieta was a figure who would later be one of the inspirations for the Zorro tales, a dashing Robin Hood–like Mexican adventurer. Murrieta was famous for ambushing prospectors on their way back from the gold fields, and then seeking refuge in town, where he and his gang exercised the prudence of sharing their loot. Unfortunately, as the gold played out and the loot became more scarce, Murrieta himself became the prize. He was killed by locals who were motivated by the $5,000 bounty on his head. They evidently took that reward enticement literally when they chopped off Murrieta's head, which was on display in a pickle jar for those who paid admission at town hall.

Soon after, Alisal changed its name to Pleasanton. When the transcontinental railroad finally came through, Pleasanton enjoyed a less frenetic kind of prosperity as a center of agriculture and wine-making. The town evolved into the very prototype of an American turn-of-the-century small town—so much so that, in 1917, moviemakers chose it as the location for the setting of the movie adaptation of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. In this classic children's novel, a spirited little girl, who is an excellent pupil, is forced into the challenges and adversities of a new life and emerges triumphantly as an accomplished independent woman.

In modern times, Pleasanton's boosters considered the conventional prosperousness to be of far more interest than the darker history of its founding. Gavin and Lisa too preferred to stress this aspect of their tranquil town's past, sometimes playfully referring to their lively, bright-eyed daughter, whose name happened to be Rebecca, as "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm." Their second child, Jessica, born two years later, was an impressionable child who adored her older sister.

Like Rebecca in the movie, the Brinkley children were also to be presented with a new life at a young age, beginning happily enough with the family's relocation to New England when the oldest was just turning three. That year the Brinkleys took a July vacation to Nantucket, Massachusetts. They loved this summer colony for the affluent on a pristine island so much that they returned the following summer, when they also became enamored of Boston on a jaunt to relieve summer beach tedium. They took Jessica and Rebecca, known as Becky, on the historic Freedom Trail, topped off by a Sunday afternoon baseball game at Fenway Park.

"Maybe they should grow up knowing the four seasons," Lisa told her husband that afternoon as they watched the little girls' faces beaming in the sun amid the merry tumult of the crowd in the field level of the third-base stands.

They often arrived independently at the same reflections, if not the same conclusions. "I take it you are not referring to the hotel chain," Gavin said.

She looked at him with a raised brow just as the stadium crowd erupted in a roar over a Red Sox hit that ricocheted with a metallic bang off the famous Green Monster, the 37-foot steel wall 310 feet down the left-field line. "Gavin, I mean it. Think about it!" she shouted above the noise.

"I am," he replied with a laugh, sliding his arm around her shoulder.

It wasn't just baseball and museums and a city with stature and bearing. It was also about intellectual culture, which they missed in the boosterism of Pleasanton. It was about great private schools, not just excellent public ones. And yes, it was about living in a place where the flowers bloomed only part of the year, hence with startling beauty rather than day-to-day insistence. The Brinkleys wanted Becky and Jessica to know those four seasons as children, even if one of them was New England winter.

They talked long into that night. That Saturday, on the ferry to the mainland, their bags packed and airline tickets in hand for the flight back home to California, they kissed with the sea wind on their faces. The idea of moving to New England had become a pact.

Gavin and Lisa were accustomed to following through fully on plans once an agreement was in place. With characteristic diligence, Lisa began researching suburban locations near Boston and soon had the prospects narrowed down to three. In October, the couple left the children in the care of a nanny and flew back to Boston for five days, staying, by mutual whimsy, at the luxurious Four Seasons hotel on Boylston Street in the Back Bay. Part of the trip was a second honeymoon, but most of it was built around that daunting American pursuit: house hunting.

In this venture, they were led as if on a forced march day after day by an indefatigable real estate agent, Sally. An apparently unflappable matron with a bouffant hairdo, Sally drove them from town to town in her expensive Mercedes-Benz E Class, which Gavin soon began calling "Sally's land-yacht." After a few days, the smiles all seemed frozen on their faces as they feigned interest, if not delight, with each successive property they saw and then eliminated. But it all came together on Friday morning when Sally announced:

"Get in and hurry! We're going to Concord." With her Boston accent, it sounded like CAN-kid. "I just got the listing this morning for the house of your dreams, and I want you to see it before anyone else can."

Can-kid turned out to be perfect, and so was the house, a beautiful, modern Colonial mansion on eight secluded acres. The home had five bedrooms, including the sprawling master bedroom, and a total of nine bathrooms. Actually, the remarkable number of bathrooms was the only feature of the house that gave Gavin the slightest pause.

"Shouldn't the number of bedrooms and the number of bathrooms be roughly equal?" he said, as they stood admiring one of those bathrooms, which was so big that their voices echoed.

His wife gave him a look with a familiar smile that said, please don't be stupid. Sally watched with expectation and said brightly, "Wait till-you see the barn and the horse stalls out past the pond. A lot of people in this area ride on the trails."

Gavin could tell that Lisa loved the house as much as he did. "How long did it take us to get here from Boston?" he said.

"Thirty-five minutes, with most traffic going the other way," Sally said. "It's maybe another ten minutes into the city in the morning. Would either of you be working in Boston?"

They would not, they replied. Sally already had plenty of background on them anyway, or she wouldn't have spent the better part of a week driving them around to view such expensive homes for sale. Bay Area money. Living in a home in Pleasanton that cost $2 million. He's a technology entrepreneur, self-employed, a high-tech inventor, evidently set for life. She used to be an international banker, but seems now to have become a stay-at-home mom. Big local philanthropists, mostly charities, nothing political, usually anonymous. These were people who stayed out of the spotlight. But the online background-profile service that Sally routinely and quietly consulted for information on clients in such multimillion-dollar deals linked to a local newspaper clip showing that the couple had given $1 million to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in honor of Gavin's mother, who had been treated there twenty-five years before when she was dying of cancer.

"So what do you think?" Sally said after they had thoroughly explored the house and the capacious grounds with the pond, a pool, and tall colonnades of stately oak trees and sycamores that ensured privacy.

Gavin and Lisa exchanged glances that merely confirmed their individual thoughts. Their unspoken answer was yes. "You need an answer today?" Gavin said tentatively.

"Not really, and you already know I wouldn't think of rushing you on a decision like this," Sally said. "But frankly, this one is special, and it will move fast. It's priced right, because the owners are being forced by circumstances to sell—"

Gavin felt Lisa's hand go to his arm, but not in time to stop him from saying what she knew he was going to say. "We'll make a cash offer. Contingent, of course, on all of the usual diligence including a home-inspector's report."

Sally nodded and said, "We'll see, but between you and me and that quaint gas-lit lamppost there by the end of the driveway, I believe that might do it. Do you want to come back to my office where we can draw up the paperwork, which will take about twenty minutes?"

Now Lisa took the lead. "Let's do that, Sally," she said.

The offer was accepted within a day. The Brinkleys put their own home on the market in Pleasanton and felt fortunate to receive an offer within ten days, and over the asking price at that, which sealed the deal quickly. As they put in increasingly exhausting days preparing for their long move across country, Lisa fretted about taking their daughter out of preschool.

"She has so many friends and she's doing so well. And the teachers adore her. Do you think she'll cope?" Lisa asked her husband.

"She's three," Gavin said reassuringly. "She'll cope. So will Jessica, who rolls with everything already."

* * *

Gavin had always marveled at the human capacity for change and adaptation. Certainly, a family uprooting itself and relocating its life across a continent would constitute major emotional upheaval. He was grateful, as always, for his wife, who with seeming ease managed the change from familiar to unfamiliar home.

Children, assuming they are secure in their young lives, were even more adaptable than adults. As they settled into the new house, Lisa made sure that Jessica shared a room with her sister, even though there were plenty of spare bedrooms, to ensure the youngster's feeling of security in an unfamiliar environment. The two girls were already close, and would soon grow into each other's best friends. Meanwhile, Becky's favorite possessions were among the most readily retrievable in the unfamiliar environment. Among those were jigsaw puzzles that, despite being a young child, she had an astonishing ability to complete—first carefully evaluating the scene to be assembled, and then the pieces into place with amazing speed.

In preparation for the move, and eager to ensure that her daughter would begin to feel comfortable with new scenes, Lisa had gone online and ordered several beautiful puzzles at what she thought was a high level for Becky to work toward as she became comfortable with her new environment. One was a two-hundred-piece puzzle depicting Fenway Park crowded with baseball fans, a beautiful streak of a rainbow in the sky. To her parents' amazement, the child curled up on a thick rug by the fireplace one afternoon and had that puzzle finished before lunch the next day. Then her mother brought out another new one, a three-hundred-fifty-piece puzzle of an intricately detailed map showing key events in the Revolutionary War that had occurred in Massachusetts—including Boston, Lexington, and their new hometown of Concord. With delight, the child fell to the task and had that puzzle finished by the weekend, then proudly moved the assembly board into place on the rug next to the Fenway Park scene.

"Where's the mountains one, Mom?" she asked, and Lisa unpacked old familiar puzzles, some with California scenes, from one of the boxes that were still stacked in Becky's new bedroom. Within weeks, Becky had claimed a corner of the big family room for her completed puzzles, refusing to let anyone break any of them apart until she was satisfied with her collection. Then, she frowned as she reluctantly decided which one she would need to box away to make room for another.

There was another aspect to Becky's puzzle-solving skills that her parents found both amusing and remarkable, and that was her ability to find objects that seemed to have gone astray in the household. A set of keys lost on a counter, a remote control for a television, a wayward book on a shelf—she could spot them as soon as she was informed that they were missing.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from HIDING IN SUNSHINE by JOHN STUART CAITLIN STUART Copyright © 2012 by John Stuart and Caitlin Stuart. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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