Severin and Krueger once again place themselves in the line of fire to battle evil, as they plunge into an international sting to round up one drug gang in order to save tens of thousands of lives. Severin finds himself becoming addicted to the adrenaline rush of the sting and international intrigue, but his biggest challenges may lie in his personal and professional relationships.
Thwarted by corruption, snafus among international enforcement agencies, and a savvy opponent, the sting is threatened; Severin and Krueger are targeted as they pursue the criminals from the U.S. to Europe and back. Only time will tell if they'll be victorious over the evil that looms.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By William A. Muller
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 William A. Muller
All right reserved.
I was tired, grumpy, stinking a bit of sweat, and in a sour mood. We had failed. Yes, I had allowed myself to become involved in another one of Jake's capers. Sure, I should know better, but I guess I'm just a sucker for contrived stories and legitimate causes.
I drove back from Newark Airport in the midafternoon. My flight from Washington DC had arrived more or less on time, thank God, or my mood would have been even worse than it was. I was daydreaming a bit as I turned off the main road and into the community in North Jersey where I lived. Initially, I didn't notice the gaggle of vehicles outside my house. When the cars and uniformed people did catch my eye, a flush of anxiety came over me, an instinctive response to the unexpected and overwhelming presence of authority. There were three New Jersey State Trooper sedans, roof-rack light bars ablaze, on my lawn and three more on the road in front of my house. There were also a handful of unmarked sedans with men in dark suits standing around them. The unmarked vehicles did not add much to the light show, boasting only a modest, red flashing light on the dashboard. Nonetheless, the men in dark suits were imposing. To add to my confusion and woe, lots of threatening guns were visible too: large ones, small ones, long ones, and short ones. Dear God! Countless thoughts raced through my mind. Had someone been attacked? Was one of my neighbors ill? Had there been a break-in at my house? I pulled up to the cluster of law enforcement personnel, stopped my car, and got out. One of the men in dark suits approached me.
"Are you Dr. Severin?" he asked.
"Yes, that's me. What's going on here?"
"Please turn around, sir. You're under arrest for conspiracy to sell illegal drugs and for aiding and abetting the crimes committed by a gang headed by Ms. Lily Wu. You have a right to remain ..." He spoke the words the way someone might say good morning to a colleague at work: without emotion or feeling. His tone was cold, and my anxiety blossomed. I stopped the agent and told him I knew my rights.
"I don't understand. Who are you people?"
"Homeland Security, sir. Now, please turn around."
"Wait, there's been a mistake. Is anyone here from the FBI?" I asked.
"Homeland Security, sir. If you don't turn around and allow me to cuff you, I will be forced to throw you to the ground. I hope you choose to cooperate."
The state troopers suddenly aimed rifles at me. The other men in suits milled around menacingly. So I turned and allowed the officer to handcuff me. The officer who cuffed me unceremoniously pushed me into the back seat of an unmarked sedan. I looked up now and saw some of my neighbors standing on the sidewalks or in front of their stoops, motionless as they looked at me. Jeez, this was quite a scene. How embarrassing. The thought flashed across my brain that, after this mix-up was straightened out, I would have to move to another town. We sped away, followed by the other unmarked cars, while the state troopers got into their vehicles but didn't seem to be in much of a hurry. I guessed the troopers were the backup, and now the "suits" were taking me for a ride. To where, or why, I didn't know.
* * *
We drove to Newark and into the subterranean garage of a brick office building. The agent who arrested me took me out of the sedan and ushered me to an elevator. The elevator went up and stopped at the third floor. We got out and proceeded down a stark and sanitized hallway until we came to a door marked Janus Consulting. The anteroom was bare, except for a small portal window that looked into another unremarkable hallway. Several cheap, plastic chairs stood patiently behind the reception window, but no one sat in them.
My Homeland Security agent, if he really was from that agency, pressed a few recessed buttons under the sill of the portal window, and a door into the back area opened for us. The agent took me to a small, gray room that contained a table and two chairs. There was nothing on the walls, and the floor was tiled in black and gray linoleum squares. I saw a man inside as the agent shoved me forward into the room. The guy was perhaps fifty years old, and he had gray hair and dark eyes. He was fit and about six feet tall, and he had a habit of licking his lips too often. He stared at me. I wasn't intimidated, but I was annoyed. One of the benefits of SEAL training is it builds confidence. I may be a science nerd and lean, but my six-foot-one frame can handle itself.
"Sit down," he said.
I obeyed. "Who are you, and where am I?"
"I'm Agent Gordon, and you're in a Homeland Security office," he said, with a disturbing, even calmness.
"You the chief around here?" I said with a cocky tone.
"Yes, I'm the senior agent. So, let's get down to business, shall we?"
I nodded my agreement.
"Okay, Dr. Severin, you can answer my questions and make things easy on yourself or not; it's up to you. But you should know that Homeland Security has options available under the Patriot Act that other law enforcement groups do not have. We can, sir, be very persuasive."
"Could I see your credentials, please?"
The agent chuckled, but he did fetch his identification from the inside breast pocket of his suit. He opened it for me and placed it on the table. I examined it carefully.
"Agent Gordon, there's been a misunderstanding. Please remove these cuffs, and I'll explain."
"That's a good beginning. I like your attitude." He stood and grinned a crocodile smile that was as phony as a four-dollar bill.
I brushed my brown hair back nervously, uncertain about what came next. His face was grim as he walked over to me slowly, using short and deliberate steps. He stood menacingly next to me for a moment and then unlocked the cuffs. He went back to his seat while I rubbed my wrists.
"All right, I'm listening. Tell me about the others from your cartel. Tell me everything, and I'll talk to my superiors on your behalf."
"There's been a mistake. I'm not a criminal ..."
"I thought you said you wanted to cooperate. You'd better start giving me the truth and stop the crap you're spewing, or I'll take a shortcut to the convincing part of my argument."
"I said I wanted to explain, not confess, because I have nothing to confess. If you'll call Special Agent Matthew Schroeder at the New York FBI offices, he'll explain what's been going on."
"There's no need for the FBI to get involved in this."
"Yes, there is. You see I've just come back from a debriefing session at FBI headquarters in DC. There's a lot here that you don't know about. Please, call Agent Schroeder."
"You don't seem to understand. Homeland Security has taken over the Wu file. It's no longer just about the drugs they sell. It's about national security."
"What?" My voice cracked as I spoke. I looked at Gordon, but his face remained expressionless. He was a man on a mission, it seemed, and nothing was going to stop him from getting what he wanted. "Agent Schroeder can save you a lot of time if ..."
"Enough! Here are your choices. Either you agree to tell us what happened, or you'll be on the next plane to Guantanamo Bay."
I said nothing. I was thinking about my options and becoming increasingly annoyed about Gordon's unflinching demeanor.
"Get up. I'll let them deal with you in Cuba. Stand up and turn around."
"Wait, wait. I'll tell you what I know, from the beginning."
"No tricks or delays, or you'll be on that plane," Gordon warned.
"Yeah, I get it," I said, in a very subdued voice. "Understand, all I can do is tell you the story about what has happened; if that's useful to you, great. However, I don't know anything about a conspiracy."
"I'm going to take you to another part of this building. There will be other people there from Homeland Security. You'll tell us your story or, should you hesitate even for an instant, the interview will terminate and the folks in that room will be very angry with you for wasting their time. Do you get my meaning?"
"Yes, crystal clear."
Gordon took me deeper into the core of the building to an elevator-not the one the other agents and I had used to get to the third floor, but a different one: a very secure one. Gordon swiped a plastic card through the groove in the wall-mounted security device, and the elevator doors opened. We went in, he pressed a keypad, the doors closed, and we began descending at an alarmingly fast rate. I don't know how far below ground level we were when the car stopped, but it must have been quite deep. I had to swallow several times to pop my ears. The doors opened, and we stepped into a short hall, carpeted with multitoned, blue, commercial-grade material. The hall led to a series of large rooms.
We entered one of them. The room was perhaps thirty feet by thirty feet, and there was a large, oval, hardwood table in the middle surrounded by a dozen or so large, upholstered armchairs. The carpet was a rich royal blue, and it was thick. There were large video units on the walls and several laptops on the table. Seated at the table and facing me were two men and a woman. The men wore the same suits, and the woman wore a black pantsuit with a blouse and mock tie. Although the blouse was white, the suit and tie were the same boring black. I couldn't get the movie Men in Black out of my head. Gordon pushed me down into a chair next to the table, for effect I guess. I was now seated on the opposite side of what I assumed were other Homeland Security personnel. Gordon casually walked around the table and took a seat next to the woman. They stared at me as if they had practiced their routine many times. The absurdity of the theatrics was comical, but I dared not smirk.
One of the men, an older gentleman with white hair, spoke first. "If you're sitting here, it's because Agent Gordon has adjusted your attitude, and you are ready to speak with us. Is that right?"
My God, I thought, how formatted and supercilious can you get?
"I don't know about adjusting my attitude, but yes, I am willing to tell you the story about the Wu Gang. But who are you people?"
"Homeland Security, and that's all you need to know at the moment," Agent Gordon said in an off-handed manner, as if to dismiss my question.
"I don't wish to be obtuse about this, but if you'd call Agent Schroeder at the FBI, he could explain everything in great detail."
"That, sir, is no longer important. Agent Schroeder has been arrested and is being interrogated as we speak. In fact, most of the agents in Washington who debriefed you are under arrest at this time. Now, please tell us what you know."
"Schroeder, under arrest?"
My God, what happened? This doesn't make sense. I was trying to think it through, but at the moment, there was a disco party going on in my head. I kept coming back to the same thought: This can't be real.
"We're waiting, doctor."
I slowly struggled to regain my composure, but the shock that Schroeder was under arrest pressed home the reality that my situation was tenuous at best. I was sure I was in deep shit.
"Where do you want me to start?" I tried to seem casual.
"The beginning." Gordon's eyes narrowed, and I could tell he was losing patience quickly.
"If you tell me specifically what you're looking for, I can save us a lot of time and ..."
"The beginning, Dr.," the white-haired man said in an officious monotone. His aura reminded me of my boyhood education. I had attended an elementary school in Boston, and I must admit, no one could demean the quality of that education. But I remember a very mean, angry man who worked there. It was too long ago for me to remember his title or his name. Maybe he was the vice-principal or dean of boys or a guidance counselor, but he was tight-assed, and he meted out discipline with some gusto. His interrogations about spitballs and gum chewing didn't make any more sense or seem any fairer than this interview. My biggest fear of the school's disciplinarian was that he'd call my father. You see, although my transgressions were usually benign and generally more foolish and immature than anything else, for my father they were issues of trust between us.
Later, when I was in high school, I'd heard that my elementary school scrooge died of a heart attack. His death and the manner of it had seemed poetic to me at the time. Wouldn't it be nice if this white- haired Homeland Security creep had a heart attack too?
I warned the Homeland people that, without help to narrow the scope of my story, telling it would take quite a long time, but they didn't seem to care. Okay, I obviously was no longer in a hurry to go anywhere, so I shrugged and began my tale. But where were Sloane, known locally as the King of New York; Jake the Rake; and my beloved Millie when you needed them?
Chapter TwoMy Wavering Pleasure
I was finishing a bottle of my favorite beer, reveling in the last few of those precious taste impressions, the pleasure of it still floating around in my amygdala, when the phone rang.
It had been about five months since the end of the smallpox caper and Alcazar's trial, and approximately nine months since Millie first dragged me into that caper, after learning of Jake's arrest for murder. The murder turned out to be trivial compared to what followed: bioterrorism. Chasing down a terrorism plot had been personally illuminating. But in spite of my resulting epiphany and a promise to myself to stay in contact with both Jake and Millie, I had not seen or spoken to either since the trial. For some reason, these thoughts were in my head as I approached the phone. Maybe, even with my pleasure sensors still aglow, some kind of telepathy was in the air, and it was enough to infuse me with the feeling that doom was on its way. Reluctantly, I lifted the receiver.
"Hey, Severin, how the hell are you, babe?"
I slumped into an armchair next to the phone, my body seeming to descend into the labyrinth of its fabric creases.
It was Jake. All at once, my pleasure center shut down, my tongue became stuck in the bowl at the bottom of my mouth, and there was a small temptation to simply hang up. Despite the growing temptation, I answered casually.
"Hi, Jake. I'm okay. How are you?"
"I'm great. Millie has the office humming, and I have more business than I know what to do with. Word of mouth has it that people think I'm an excellent private investigator."
"When did the public discover your genius?" I asked sarcastically.
"Ah, come on, Severin, I'm just pulling your chain. I have a lot of clients, but it's mostly matrimonial work, and that's not good duty. But it sure brings in the bucks."
"How's Glenda?" I asked.
"Oh, we split up a few months ago."
This news hit me right in the balls. During our smallpox adventure, I'd had hopes of wooing Glenda, but before I'd made my first move, Jake was already tight with her. Are you kidding? I wanted to scream. You get the girl, and you toss her aside within a few lousy months? Why didn't you just leave her for me to woo?
"Sorry." I offered lamely, as the news suddenly ignited a renewed but unrealistic hope that I might have a relationship with the good-looking, smart, and sexy ADA Glenda Kline.
"It's for the best, buddy. She's a great gal," Jake said, "but we just didn't fit together. You know what I mean?"
"Not really," I responded, "but as long as both of you are okay with it."
"Yeah, she's cool about it, and so am I. We still talk once in a while."
I was angry. I had stepped out of Jake's way when he made a move on Glenda, but I should have known his encounter with her would be short. His encounters with women were always short.
"I'm quite certain you didn't call me just to tell be about the break up."
"Hey, can't a guy just call a buddy to say hello?"
"Yes, but I know you too well. What's up?" I asked.
"I've got a client, and I need some help."
"What kind of help? You're the PI."
"Forensics," Jake said. "I need help understanding the forensic evidence."
"Jake, I'm a chemist, not a forensic scientist."
"That's it, kiddo. I need a chemist."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Listen, Glickman-do you remember Glickman, my attorney?"
"Yeah, of course."
Excerpted from Vanishing Cures by William A. Muller Copyright © 2010 by William A. Muller. Excerpted by permission.
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