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Authors: Jared Paul

Marked Man

BOOK: Marked Man
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Marked Man

Book One

 

 

A Thriller By

Jared Paul

 

 

OTHER BOOKS BY JARED PAUL

 

Basis Point
A Bank Heist Thriller

 

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Chapter One

Jordan Ross eased his foot off of the accelerator and hit the brake. The light ahead had turned from yellow to red. As the station wagon pulled to a stop Jordan checked the rearview mirror. A reflection of a fit face stared back at him, with closely cropped brown hair, and
a pair of weary hazel eyes. Those eyes shifted back and forth to examine the street behind the vehicle. It was late, well past dark and the street was deserted.

Jordan hated stop lights. He hated not moving, in general. Since returning from his third tour Jordan had felt a persistent restlessness bugging him just beneath the surface. Whereas before he could kick back
in his LA-Z-BOY, relax and flip on a football game or a cop show, Jordan could no longer stand to sit still. He was still in contact with a number of his friends from the 82
nd
airborne, and from them Jordan learned that Fallujah had done this to a lot of guys. A series of grotesque images associated with the battle threatened to bubble up into his conscious mind but Jordan squeezed his eyes shut and pushed them back down.

“You okay sweetie?”

The voice came from the passenger’s seat. It belonged to his wife, Sarah. She had noticed a change in Jordan but so far had kept any doubts or misgivings to herself. He was not a basket case, like some of the people she’d met at the VA hospital, like those poor sorry men who had wandered into a Cambodian jungle forty years ago and never come out, not really. For his part Jordan spent two months recuperating at the VA health care facility on 23
rd
street. The battle of Fallujah had raged in earnest for several weeks and all he got out of it was a mild concussion, a miracle considering some of the other injuries his company suffered.

Sarah was unspeakably grateful that he came back to her with all his limbs and libido intact.

“I’m fine I’m just tired of being on the road.”

Jordan rubbed at his face and bugged his eyes out for a moment as if that would help them stay open. Sarah reached across the center console and took hold of his hand.

“I know it’s a long drive. Five more minutes and you’ll be in bed. And that goes for you too missy.”

Sarah
directed that last part to Emma, the precocious five year old that was coloring quietly in the seat directly behind her. At times their daughter got so absorbed in her art that Jordan wondered if she might be some degree of autistic, Aspberger’s Syndrome or something. But when Emma did tear herself away from her drawing she was bright, clever, and liked people, or at least liked the two of them, which was all that Jordan really cared about.

“Emma? Did you hear me? Straight to bed when we get home.”

“Okay I will.”

“You will what?”

Despite all of the natural joy she brought into a room, Emma had demonstrated a fiercely independent streak. Enforcing a strict bed time for her had thus far proved to be about as effective as prohibition.

“I will go to bed as soon as we get home,” Emma promised and
they left it at that.

The light turned to green and Jordan gleefully kicked down on the accelerator.
The feel was wrong though with these shoes; they were all in formal attire to celebrate at a work function for Sarah in D.C., hence the long drive. Jordan found it hard to gauge the pressure on the pedals through the thin polished leather. He preferred his heavy boots for driving. The weight of them was reassuring, solid.

Brooklyn whipped by, quiet and mostly asleep at this hour. It had taken almost a decade but Sarah and Jordan had discovered a neighborhood that was both hip
enough and calm enough to accommodate their tastes.

Sarah flicked a button on her door and the window on her side opened a crack. The brisk November wind abandoned its bullying of clumps of dead leaves by rolling them along the avenue and all at once rushed into the station wagon. Autumn was teetering precariously on the edge, threatening to spill over and usher New York into another violently cold winter. Jordan had grown up in Memphis and he despised the season.

“Come on Sarah. It’s not August anymore.”

“It’s too warm in here for me.”

Every place was always too warm for Sarah. During the dinner that evening she had complained of heat more than once. When she discarded her shawl, Sarah revealed a backless silver dress that set the men in of the capitol crowd to staring. Some of Jordan’s army buddies would have broken a nose or two if anyone looked at their wives that way, but Jordan absolutely relished the attention that Sarah got. Sarah was still as gorgeous as the night she won prom queen, and she didn’t need to apply six acres of makeup to keep up appearances.

Jordan proposed to Sarah two months later.
They got hitched on an impromptu road trip to Vegas and never looked back. Unlike so many of their friends, they were happily married. Jordan loved virtually everything about Sarah, but the fact that the temperature was always too warm for her no matter where they went was definitely not one of them.

“All night it’s too hot. On the way to D.C. it’
s too hot in the car. At the dinner in D.C. it’s too hot at the table. Up on the platform it’s too hot under the lights…”

Sarah Ross was a
well-known and widely respected activist. The organization she founded was dedicated to freeing victims of sex trafficking. Over a dozen years she had liberated hundreds of women, usually from Asia and Eastern Europe, who were shuttled around the east coast like cattle by their handlers. The event that night was half fundraiser and half celebration. September had been a banner month for Sarah’s organization: fourteen women were freed in one raid at a warehouse in Staten Island. Sarah accepted a community service award and thanked the crowd for their continued support, as ushers made the rounds to pick up donations.

Jordan had been needling Sarah for hours about her
body temperature and she was getting peeved.

“Don’t even get me started on the lights. You didn’t have to go up there. You know how muc
h I hate public speaking, and on top of that they put you in front of a giant tanning bed. I’m lucky I didn’t pass out.”

“Pass out? Are you kidding? You
were spectacular. I’ll never understand why you’re so scared of talking in front of a crowd. Every time you do it you knock it out of the damn park.”

From the backseat there came a scandalized squeal from little Emma.

“Ohhh! Daddy said damned.”

Without turning around to look at her daughter Sarah chastised her.

“You’re right. Daddy was wrong to use that word but that doesn’t mean you should repeat it.”

Jordan apologized to both of them. Back at home on top of the refrigerator there was a mason jar filled with quarters and dollar bills, fines collected by Sarah
for every time that Emma swore or used an otherwise forbidden word. Along with the typical four letter single syllable classics, retarded, homo, stupid, and fart-berries were all banned. They weren’t actually sure about that last one, but when Emma returned home after her first day of pre-school she had used it so extensively that it made the list if for no other reason but to get her to stop. Emma was not in the habit of swearing, though. The vast majority of the coins in the mason jar were a result of casual fart-berry slips.

Another stop light turned yellow twenty yards ahead. Jordan had half an urge to gun the engine and rush through the intersection, but Sarah would likely throw a fit. When he was in the car on his own Jordan was free to drive as he pleased, as Sarah reminded him, but with Emma in the back
any aggressive instincts were unacceptable.

He dared to break the rule just
once before. On their way back from a family excursion to Coney Island, a jerk in a Hummer cut Jordan off. “Son of a…” Jordan caught himself from swearing but pursued the Hummer despite Sarah’s warning that it wasn’t worth it. When he pulled even with the Hummer Jordan flipped the driver the middle finger and yelled, “get off the road, asshole!”

Sarah did not sleep with Jordan for two weeks after the incident. It marked the last time that he tested his wife’s rules of the road. Sarah Ross was a well-known activist, a
stunning beauty, a doting mother, and a bad motherfucker when you tried to test her will. So, Jordan slowed the station wagon and stopped again at the light. They were two blocks from their driveway.

Jordan made another quick inventory of the mirrors. Aside from a single pair of headlights growing from behind, the roads were empty. The lights were still a long way off. Sarah was not through with admonishing him for using the big D word.

“You know how hard it is to keep her from saying… F… B…” She whispered the initials because if Emma heard the words she would break out laughing like a hyena and spend the rest of the night running around the house naked screaming fart berries fart berries fart berries. “…the D word isn’t going to help anything.”

“I know. Look,
I’m exhausted and I hate driving at night. You know this.”

“I understand, but you remember what the counselor said. Anything we say she’ll soak up like a sponge and spit it back out. We have to be so careful…”

A harsh screeching sound made Jordan’s nerves flinch. Those worried hazel eyes shot to the left and watched a black SUV roaring to a stop, tires burning rubber all the way. The enormous vehicle halted a few short feet away from the station wagon’s front fender. Jordan instinctively patted his chest to check that his Kevlar body armor was in place. It took a moment for him to remember that he was in Brooklyn, not Fallujah. The windows of the SUV were tinted black so you could not see inside except through the windshield, which was blocked from his view.

The light turned green.

Jordan flipped a switch and the driver’s side window slid down. He hung his head outside and called towards the stalled vehicle.

“Hey! What’s your problem? You almost hit us.”

He turned to Sarah for support, and perhaps permission to curse at the driver, but she was way ahead of the curve on that account. Sarah screamed.

“Hey fuck stick.
What are you trying to kill us? Get out of the middle of the road!”

Unbelievable
, Jordan fumed. The black metal behemoth was frozen, the only movement coming from the exhaust climbing out of its rear pipe like smoke from a sleeping dragon’s nostril. Jordan shook his head and changed gears into reverse. He glanced backwards and saw Emma in the back seat, kicking her little pink Disney princess shoes and looking so thoroughly shocked that she could not believe her ears.


Dad! Mommy said fuck sticks!”

“Not now honey.”

Behind Emma there was a flood of light. It took a second for Jordan’s eyes to adjust. There was another black SUV that had pulled up right behind them. Inside, there was a pale man at the wheel. A tattoo was inked into his bare scalp that looked like a pair of burning Phoenixes in flight.


Hey!” Jordan tried to get the driver’s attention and motion with his hands that he was blocked in. The driver with the Phoenix tattoo just stared impassively at him, not moving a muscle.

“What is going on?”

Jordan glanced at Sarah, who had just made a move to shield herself with her arm by pressing it against the passenger’s side window. Another flood of light was approaching.

The impact hit Sarah and Emma’s side of the station wagon, flipping the car over several times and landing it on its back, like a turtle stuck on its shell.
The collision left Jordan confused. He understood only that he was upside down and he was in pain, but Jordan could not tell where he was hurt, because it seemed to come from everywhere; an all-enveloping warm blanket of fiery pain. The last thought that went through Jordan’s mind before he faded into fever dreaming was how much he hated driving at night….

BOOK: Marked Man
13.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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