Authors: Iain Edward Henn
Tags: #conspiracy of silence, #unexplained, #drownings, #conspiracy thriller, #forensic, #thriller terror fear killer murder shadows serial killer hidden deadly blood murderer threat, #murder mysteries, #Conspiracy, #thriller fiction mystery suspense, #thriller adventure, #Forensic Science, #Thriller, #thriller suspense
ABOUT THE DELTA CHAIN
The body of a young woman is washed ashore on a secluded beach. She does not fit the description of anyone on Missing Persons lists. Fingerprints, dental records and DNA provide no leads.
Detective Adam Bennet discovers a pattern of similar cases – unidentified bodies found along the coasts of Australia and the United States, and he is determined to solve the puzzle. These are six young men and women who seem to have never existed.
When her brother meets a terrifying death in the wilderness, Kate Kovacs employs her IT skills to help track the killers. A baffling link is found between these two cases, leading Adam and Kate on a labyrinth trail to a scientific research centre, to a Washington power elite, and to a secret reaching back over thirty years to a war-ravaged Vietnam.
fast-paced thriller…hooks readers into caring about the chase…”
Published by Ian Edward at Smashwords
Copyright 2011 Ian Edward
Copyright 2011 Ian Edward
Cover image Copyright Eti Swinford/Dreamstime.com
The right of Ian Edward to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other – except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher
Apart from references to actual historical figures and places, all other names, characters and places are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Smashwords Edition, Licence Notes
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Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.’
This was a place of raw, wet heat. It sucked dryness from the mudflats and bred moisture as though every single drop was part of a living swarm. It spread itself across the man’s body like a second skin.
Kevin Farrow had been running for his life for over two hours. His energy had been fuelled by his fear but now sheer physical exhaustion was fighting that energy. The exhaustion was winning.
‘You don’t go coming to The ‘Glades in the summer,’ the woman who ran the boarding house had said the previous week as he’d paid for his room. He’d pointed out he was not just another Everglades tourist; he was an investigative photo-journalist who’d camped and trekked through wildernesses both hot and cold and he was currently on assignment. But he hadn’t foreseen then that he’d face a danger like this one. This just didn’t make sense.
Having shed his rifle and running frantically, without his usual cautious watch on his surroundings, Farrow knew he was open to attack from the alligators in this remote corner. Strangely, the ‘gators themselves barely intruded into his thoughts. It was the armed men bearing down on him that fed his fears.
Normally he was calm and quiet, an invisible man shifting with the seasons and the shadows; sensing a topical story and slowly gathering it up. He loved open spaces, natural landscapes, wildlife, and the honest, hardworking people of the land. Anything that threatened them was his target. That was what had brought him to Florida at the height of the hot/wet season to find proof these hunters existed.
An inky stain in the air: mosquitoes. Hundreds of them. Also out on the hunt, lusting for blood. He ran blindly through the cloud, the buzzing a crescendo in his ears. Kept running, barely able to manage a slap to his arms and neck to disperse them. The bites were sharp; the swollen itching immediate.
Another anxiety coursed through him as though carried by the stings: he’d cast his backpack aside to run faster. The insect repellent had been crammed into the pack along with the other items he now reminded himself, were essential to longer term survival out here. It had been a careless and desperate act to throw it aside. His camera. His notes. But then fear has no logical mental process…
It seems endless, this river of shallow water spreading for miles through sawgrass and basins of mangrove swamp. Farrow had nowhere to run. His eyes darted over lagoons and brackish ponds and the criss-cross trails of fern and wild grass. If he could not outrun his pursuers then all hope was lost. There was nowhere to hide from these human predators. They didn’t seem to tire and they had the hunting instincts of animals.
Why had they spent hours coming after him, apparently obsessed?
Do they even know who I am
The sun was low on the horizon, the occasional flock of waterbirds spinning a lazy arc across the sky, the clouds swollen with the threat of another downpour.
Earlier, the rain had fallen in warm sheets. Farrow had been exploring higher ground, beside deep water where large boats could be navigated. It was steamier after a downpour like that, the air heavier, water glistening in sunlight on the oaks and cypresses. The powerful aroma of wild honeysuckle was stronger, a pungent tropical cocktail to the senses. He’d felt strong then, in control, at one with nature.
But all of that had changed in an instant.
When the bullet came it tore into his left leg and he toppled to the ground, screaming. Pain radiated from the wound and sweat flowed into his eyes, blurring his vision. The hunters surrounded him, beating him with the butts of their rifles and kicking him until he was only half conscious, blood dripping from his mouth.
Farrow thought it strange they didn’t raise their guns again and fire.
This was an area beyond the Everglades Back Country, far from the activity that surrounded Florida Bay and the Buttonwood Canal. It was the end of Summer, the season of heavy rainfall, higher water levels in the rivers and lakes, the water surging coastward and into Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Extreme heat and mosquito plagues kept tourists away until Fall and Winter. A quiet pervaded the remote areas, the perfect time for these illicit hunters to roam the waterways.
They dragged him back across the marsh to where the river current ran deep. Fringes of trees here, creating islets of higher ground, dotting the landscape of river and swamp. With rope they tied and bound him to overhanging vines as he slipped in and out of consciousness.
One of the last things he saw was the ugly reptilian head, its upper half protruding from the water, its menacing eyes fixed on his. The realisation of his fate dawned on him. Kevin Farrow tried to struggle but as he did the ropes cut deeper into the flesh of his arms.
The cruel laughter of the hunters, somewhere nearby, filled his ears.
Renshaw entered the office and saw Logan Asquith at the far window, watching the approaching storm. Dark clouds rolled in across the stately urban landscape. Strong winds slammed against the glass.
On a day like this, fifteen years earlier, Renshaw had begun working for Asquith, but it hadn’t been anything like a first day in any regular job.
Asquith had taken him outside, and they’d stood on Wisconsin Avenue, in Bethesda, Maryland, being hammered by the powerful winds. Renshaw lost his footing on more than one occasion and wondered what the hell kind of lunatic he’d come to work for. Asquith had stood, silent and firm, against the gale.
After a while Asquith led him back into the brownstone building, to the spacious office of sombre colours and wood panels.
‘My father was a powerful and influential man,’ Asquith told his new employee, ‘but he could certainly be one son of a bitch. He had a farm in the Midwest where we sometimes spent weekends. We were there once, when I was just a boy, and a hurricane hit. My father made me stand out in the field with him, in the wind, as we’ve just done. I was hurled to the ground a dozen times.’ It was the only time Renshaw ever noticed a faraway look in Asquith’s eyes.
‘Before the full force of the hurricane hit,’ Asquith had continued, ‘my father took me down into his storm shelter, and I’ve never forgotten what he told me. The forces of nature are like the affairs of men. If you want to wield true power, he said to me, if you want to be in control, then you can only do it from a place like this, a place of calm. The true place of power is the centre of the storm.’
Asquith had gestured for Renshaw to sit. ‘That’s what this office represents. The eye of the hurricane. If you can appreciate that, Renshaw, then you and I will get along fine.’
And they had.
Strong winds and rain were common through the spring and summer in the greater Maryland and Washington DC areas. For the past fifteen years, Renshaw had re-lived the telling of that story every time a storm hit.
It didn’t surprise him to see Asquith by that window, admiring the natural forces beyond. Moulded by his father, and conscious of his family’s generations of success, Asquith was a driven man who regarded power as his natural right.
‘Brings back memories, Logan?’
Asquith ignored the comment and moved to the large oak desk in the centre of the room. His prominent, silvery eyebrows were arched together, an indication of controlled fury that Renshaw knew well.
‘Florida?’ Asquith queried.
Renshaw handed across the folder containing his assessment. Part of his role was to assemble all the facts and draw up the worst possible outcome resulting from them.
His gaze wondered over the contours of the desk as Asquith read the notes. The desk, Renshaw often thought, was one of which Napoleon would have approved. It implied its owner was a man of great importance.
In Renshaw’s eyes, Logan Asquith was every inch that man.
‘I’ve recorded the broadcast to the system…’
Asquith nodded. Maintaining his silence, he reached for the remote and activated the plasma that was on the far wall.
the reporter, who was the victim of a ferocious alligator attack, had been missing for several days…State police believe the journalist, Kevin Farrow, was investigating reports that a gang of alligator poachers has been operating in the area…’ The dramatic voice-over was accompanied by images of boats and helicopters in the Everglades National Park.
‘The broadcasts have since been killed and our contacts will make certain they don’t go national,’ Renshaw said, ‘however, our concern is that if any one of those hunters is found, and starts talking-’
‘Should never have got this far.’ Asquith watched the few remaining minutes of the broadcast, then touched the remote and the screen died. ‘And it’s less than a month since the incident along the coast…’
‘I’ve spoken with the board and we’re unanimous. I want you to get a full “relocation” underway immediately.’
Renshaw nodded. In all his years working with Asquith, this would be a “first”. It was an enormous undertaking but he wasn’t surprised.
The Everglades incident was the last straw.
I’m on it.’ The term “relocation” was, in his view, an understatement, but that was typical of Asquith and his Nexus heavies.
Asquith wouldn’t allow anything to compromise the operation and this had the potential to escalate into a crisis.
And one thing Renshaw knew for certain. The Nexus group wouldn’t allow a single thing to even look like exposing the operation.
Calmly and quietly they’d move in at lightning speed, with devastating results for anyone who threatened their agenda.