Authors: D. P. Schroeder
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery, #Retail, #Thrillers
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by D. P. Schroeder
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Global Media
Cover design by ACDbookcoverdesign
ISBN: 978-0-9891658-7-7 (eBook)
eBooks created by
he assassin sat behind the steering wheel of a black SUV parked along the curb on Seventeenth Street in Washington, D.C. He peered down at his laptop, a live feed streaming from a concealed video camera giving him the verification he needed. A fiendish grin crept across his face as he watched two U.S. Senators get into the backseat of a Mercedes parked beside the Southwest Gate of the White House.
Moments later the Mercedes headed in his direction and reaching the intersection at Seventeenth and State, the luxury sedan turned toward the National Mall. As he drove along Constitution Avenue, the driver entered a number on his mobile phone, speaking briefly to a man he knew on the other end of the line.
Following at a distance, the assassin fixed his gaze on the Mercedes and spoke into a microphone near his chin.
“They’re on the move.”
He relayed a description of the Mercedes and its license plate.
A quick reply.
The Mercedes crossed a bridge spanning the Potomac River and merged into northbound traffic on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, heading for the Saudi Royal Embassy on Chain Bridge Road—four miles ahead. The assassin closed in on the Mercedes, speaking again.
A man’s voice.
A second assassin maneuvered into a lane beside the SUV, the side-by-side vehicles slowing to 50 M.P.H. and creating a gap of close to a mile between northbound motorists on the parkway and the Mercedes. The driver of the luxury sedan, caught unaware, continued ahead at 60 M.P.H.
Two miles ahead, below the night sky, a man stood near a wood line beside the parkway.
Black clothing covered him from head to toe and his silhouette was barely distinguishable from the darkness that surrounded him. He stood six-feet-six, his back humped in a convex position owing to an abnormal curvature of his spine. His hair was coarse, his eyes black as coal: the strange combination of characteristics giving him a menacing appearance, like that of a ferocious bear—prepared to pounce.
He removed a metal box from a duffel bag, his enormous hands lashing it to a black rope, which had been slung over the limb of an oak tree that hung over the parkway. Inside: a sophisticated device capable of generating an electromagnetic field—a quick burst radiating energy outward.
Turning back toward approaching traffic, the hunchback peered into night-vision binoculars, watching oncoming vehicles. Less than two minutes later, he had a confirmation: the license plate on the approaching Mercedes was a match.
The prey has entered the trap.
The assassin stepped back into the tree line and the Mercedes passed beneath the oak tree. As he flipped a switch on a transmitter, billions of electrons radiated from the box in an outward surge, disabling electronic instruments within its pulse radius. The Mercedes lost its steering and brakes, and the parkway began to curve to the left, but the sedan continued straight ahead at eighty feet per second.
Panic struck as the dashboard instrument panel and the headlights went black, plunging the car into complete darkness. A sickening noise of gravel against tires crunched loudly as the sedan crossed the edge of the pavement.
The driver tried frantically to turn the steering wheel.
Hysterical, the Senators both shouted jumbles of words.
Flush with adrenaline and instinct, the driver smashed an elbow through his window, the glass shattering to pieces as the Senators clutched at their seats. The Mercedes slid into a ravine and a front wheel slammed into a tree stump, flipping the sedan into an airborne roll. The driver, thrown clear, flew headlong into the woods.
The car rolled deeper into the ravine, battering and tossing the Senators as a jagged rock tore open the gas tank, the fiery explosion setting the night sky ablaze as the sedan rolled over the edge of a steep cliff—the fireball of twisted metal plummeting a hundred feet before coming to rest on the craggy rocks of the Potomac River.
Above, on the parkway, the humpback assassin gathered the rope and box, scrambling down toward the river along a route he had mapped out earlier. Two hundred yards downriver, a small dinghy sat beside the shoreline. He pushed the craft into the murky water, the humming of an electric motor the only sound as he advanced to the other side of the river. Carrying the dinghy and his gear to the crest of a ridge, he moved toward a stand of trees and a panel van that awaited him.
He stole a glance upriver, at the burning wreck, and rubbed his fingers against a crucifix in his massive hand.
The wages of sin.
Then he disappeared into the night.
he couple slowly opened their eyes.
A doorbell was ringing in the distance. At first they thought it was part of a dream, but a persistent knocking followed. The man glanced at the clock at his bedside: 12:16 A.M. Both had been asleep for less than two hours.
The cobwebs began to clear.
Grabbing a 9mm pistol from under the mattress, he slipped on a pair of trousers and a sweater, tucked the handgun into his belt.
“Wait here,” he told his wife.
Moving through the darkness, he descended the staircase to the main level, cautiously advancing in the direction of the front door of their townhouse in Georgetown.
Peering through a curtained window, he observed an intense man in a trench coat, pacing impatiently. Appearing to be in his mid-fifties, he wore brown-rimmed glasses and a permanent scowl.
In a swift motion, he swung the front door open and held the gun behind his back—ready to fire at the man on the porch.
“Who the hell are you?” he demanded.
Startled, the man did not know quite how to react. He settled on a greeting.
“Special Agent Carter. FBI.”
He glared at the man.
Carter slowly pulled back on the lapel of his suit, revealing a badge hanging from an inner pocket. He carefully removed the official shield, held the badge at eye level.
“James Webb, I presume.” Carter was not surprised by Webb’s reaction to the late-night intrusion. After all, banging on the door of a Navy SEAL after midnight could be hazardous to one’s health.
Kate Webb suddenly appeared in the doorway beside her husband. Carter noticed her big brown eyes and auburn hair, pulled back in a ponytail.
“What’s going on?”
“Good evening, Mrs. Webb. I’m Special Agent Carter, FBI. I’m here to talk about your brother, Daniel Baylor.”
“Is anything wrong?” asked Kate.
He didn’t give an answer.
“When was the last time either of you spoke to Mr. Baylor?”
“Earlier this evening,” James offered. “About nine o’clock.”
“What did the two of you talk about?”
“It was a brief conversation. He thought someone might be following him.”
“Can you explain?” Carter asked.
“He’s on a security detail for a couple of U.S. Senators.”
“Mr. Baylor was involved in a car wreck three hours ago. Two Senators were pronounced dead at the site.”
A long silence as the couple absorbed his words.
Kate finally spoke.
“Thrown free of the vehicle. Airlifted to Washington Hospital.”
“How badly is he hurt?” she gasped.
“As you can imagine, he’s pretty banged up.”
“I need to see him.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Webb, that isn’t possible.” Carter shook his head. “Your brother is lying in a coma, and his hospital room is under armed guard.”
“I don’t care, he’s my brother,” she said, grabbing a coat and car keys. She hurried out the door and brushed past him.
Alone now with the agent, James asked, “Where did this happen?”
“On the George Washington Parkway. A mile south of Chain Bridge Road. Mr. Webb, would you mind accompanying me to the wreck site?”
“Now? It’s after midnight.”
Tapping a notepad against his trench coat, Carter did not budge.
James agreed reluctantly, closed the front door and trailed the FBI man to a nondescript sedan parked curbside.
Climbing behind the wheel, Carter glanced at the Webb’s modest townhouse. The residence was located on N Street, a block in from Wisconsin Avenue, Georgetown’s north-south artery, a picturesque street lined with clothing stores, art studios and upscale boutiques. Brick-paved streets and gas streetlights added to the charm. It was easy for Carter to see why the couple had settled here.
Carter drove south across the Key Bridge, then entered a ramp onto the northbound lanes of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
A long silence.
“Who were they?” James asked.
“The ones in the wreck?”
“Hill and Nelson.”
“I’m sorry to hear about Senator Hill,” James said, keeping his eyes on the road. “She was a courageous woman.”
“Has this ever happened before?”
“Two senators in a single accident.”
“Never. This is a first. Mr. Webb, we know your brother-in-law called you on his cell just minutes before the crash. You said he thought someone was following them. Did he tell you anything else?”
James felt like he was performing a balancing act on a tightrope. On the one hand he was legally obligated to tell Carter about the SUV’s license number that Daniel had given him after he saw it earlier near the White House. But if the crash turned out to be foul play, he was certain the FBI would make slow progress in pursuing the case. He knew the bureau would be hindered by the legal process, pesky things like subpoenas and search warrants.
“No. He didn’t tell me anything else.”
Carter had seen a top-secret file on James Webb before going to talk to him. And though the details of covert operations are sealed from prying eyes, the condensed resume was impressive. He recalled a conversation earlier in the evening between FBI Director Gordon Edwards and himself. The bureau chief had read from a classified file.
“Graduated near the top of his class in military tactics and studies, Navy SEAL, age twenty-six.”
Ahead, a cluster of flashing blue and red lights caught their attention. In the darkness of the parkway Carter pointed a finger at the windshield.
“We’re approaching the wreck site.”
He stopped at a barricade, spoke briefly to a pair of agents and drove a hundred yards farther and pulled to the shoulder where they emerged from the sedan.
Carter extended an outstretched finger toward a gap in the underbrush beside the roadway.
“This is where the Mercedes went off the parkway.”
James glanced down at the asphalt. “No skid marks.”
His eyes were then drawn to a huge oak tree draping over the parkway.
He had employed the device successfully on missions overseas.
The alignment of the roadway suggests one
“Strange, wouldn’t you say?” Carter said.
“It’s an interesting picture.”
James stepped a few yards into the woods, Carter a pace or two behind as floodlights lit up a blackened abyss, a deep ravine. An ugly gash of flattened brush and snapped tree limbs cut into the pristine woodland.
Carter pointed to a spot forty yards away.
“This is where they found Mr. Baylor.”
Then Carter turned his gaze on a speed limit sign beside the parkway’s apron.
“Take a look at this.”
On the front of the sign, beneath the official Department of Transportation markings, some words had been written in red letters, stenciled in a professional manner, unlike the random graffiti commonly seen on road signs.
THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH
“The bureau lab analyzed the ink,” Carter said. “This was done in the past few hours.”
James glanced at the sign. “Interesting.”
Carter chose his next words carefully.
“Look, Mr. Webb, we know Daniel called you right before the crash and that this was not an accident.”
“That’s right, and your life is in danger.”
“I’m afraid so, and your wife too.”
“We now know that Daniel’s cell phone was being tapped. This means the perpetrator is aware of the phone call Daniel made to you, and the substance of the conversation.”
James felt his stomach churning.
“At the moment, we have a witness who can’t talk. And you and your wife need protection until we can sort this out.”
Carter reached into his trench coat and pulled out his cell which was ringing.
“Not exactly a run-of-the-mill case,” he said.
He answered it, spoke briefly then ended the call.
“Your security detail is in place. I’m going to drop you off in Georgetown.”
He pulled to the curb outside the townhouse and they emerged from the car. Carter introduced James to two FBI agents standing beside a vehicle.
The whole thing felt surreal.
We are being hunted by a killer,
He began thinking about the license plate number Daniel gave him.
He stood there in the street, watching as Carter drove off.
His mind began to stir.
Daniel’s in danger too.
We have to track down that SUV.
And find the killer before he kills us.