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Authors: Alex Lukeman

White Jade (The PROJECT)

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White Jade

By

Alex Lukeman

 

http://www.alexlukeman.blogspot.com

http://www.alexlukeman.org

 

Copyright 201
1
by Alex Lukeman

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means except by prior and express permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or used as an element of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

 

Chapter One

 

The dream splintered into shards of red and black, a kaleidoscope gone wrong.
William Connor sat up
gasping
for air
and waited
for his heart
to stop pounding.
The green numerals on the clock by his bedside read two-thirty in the morning.

Something wasn't right.

Had he set the alarms?

After a moment he got out of bed and
shrugged on a robe
. He
moved to the stairs
of his San Francisco home
.
Below, a pool of y
ellow
light
from
a single
desk
lamp
spilled across the
polished wooden floor
. The rest of the room was in darkness.

His old body protested as he
descended
the stairs
. He
started toward the alarm box
. A
large
man stepped from the
shadows and blocked his way
.
Connor's
heart skipped a beat and settled to erratic thumping.

"
You! What are you doing here?
"

Strong arms
grabbed
Connor f
rom behind
and
wrestled him to
the
chair by his desk
. Someone
wrapped tape around
him. The robe fell open, exposing his pale genitals. He was helpless
.

"
Is it money? I have money. Tell me what you want.
"

The large man loomed over Connor. He
smelled
unpleasant
, a
greasy smell of testosterone and stale sweat.

"
Yes, money. And I want the book.
"

"
What book?
"

The large man slapped Connor across the face
, a casual
blow.

"
The book. The one from
Bhutan
.
"

Connor tasted blood. "
It
'
s not here!
"

"
Then you will tell me where it is. First
,
the money. I want
the
account numbers and access codes.
"

William Connor was
a rich man
. Access to those accounts gave control over hundreds of millions of dollars.

"
Who are you?
"

"
I am your worst nightmare. Tell me what I want or I will hurt you.
"

Almost as an afterthought, t
he man picked up
and examined
a delicate
, antique
porcelain
vase covered with an exquisite design
of flowers and birds. Th
e soft glaze
glowed
in the dim light.
He smiled.

There were only two things William Connor truly loved. One was his niece, Selena. The other was the joy of things old and beautiful.

"
Please be careful with that
," he said. "I
t
'
s very old.
"

The man
looked at the
fragile
vase
and
smiled
again. He
held it in front of Connor in his huge hand and squeezed. It shattered into
dust
. Connor felt his chest tighten.

"If
I ask a question and you do not answer, I will hurt you. Do you understand?
"

"
Yes.
"

"
The numbers.
"

"
I don
'
t have them here. All that is in my office.
"

The man
sighed
. He
went into the kitchen. Connor could hear him rummaging through the kitchen drawers. He came back with
a
small
red-handled pair of pruning shears
Connor used on
the
rose bushes
in the garden
.

He
grabbed
the old man's
left hand
and pinched the blades together and
cut off
the
little finger.

Connor screamed.

The man
dug the point of the shears into the bone below Connor's eye
.
Connor screamed again from the pain. Blood ran down his cheek.

"
The fog is thick, outside. The house is solid. No one will hear you scream.
Your right eye is next.
"

The old man's
bladder emptied, soaking
his
robe and the chair.
Someone laughed, behind him
.

"
I
'
ll tell you!
I'll tell you!
Don
'
t hurt me again!
"
He began babbling the numbers
, blurting
them out
.
Sudden p
ain started
and spread to
Connor's
left arm
, sharp and immediate, a burning, blossoming bolt of fire
.
He stopped
speaking
and tried to catch his breath.

"
Where is the book?
" The man was shouting.

Pain exploded in Connor's chest. As vision faded, his last sight was the terrifying, angry face of his executioner.

Chapter
Two

 

Nicholas
Carter
wasn't thinking about the grenade. He was thinking about the
temperature gauge on his rental Ford
, pegged in the red.
He
pulled into
the parking lot at the Project and
stepped out
into the heat
.
Steam
boiled under the hood. A
g
reen pool
spread out
under the car
.
His head felt like it was wrapped in iron.
He wished he was back
at his cabin
in California, not standing in Virginia with his shoes sticking to the asphalt.

Carter
scanned the surrounding area
. He
noted the parked cars, all empty
.
He crossed the lot to the building housing the Project
,
like h
undreds
of other
s in the Metro area
. The only difference
to a casual observer was
t
he
array of
antennas bristling on the roof
.

Carter
went through security
and
walked past
the elevator
to
the stairs.
He
climbed past
t
he second floor hous
ing
the computers and backup generators
and communications
. He passed
the
third floor where the analysts lived.
He
exited the stairs on the
fourth
floor
, the top floor, where
Director
Harker's office was.
He placed his hand on the biometric scanner outside the door
of her office
and went in.

Elizabeth Harker
looked up from
behind her desk. She
was
small
, with
milk-white skin
,
small
, pointed
ears
and
raven black hair.
Her eyes were like a cat
's, wide and green
.
S
he looked like
an
e
lf
dresse
d
in black and white
,
but
a kind of
elf you wouldn't want to mess with
.

On her desk
was a file with his name on it,
a
silver
pen
that had
belonged to FDR
and
a picture
of the
Twin
Towers
burning
on 9/11
.
She kept
the picture
to remind herself
of wh
y she was there
.

"Have a seat
.
" Harker opened the file.

He
sat and
waited.

"The shrink says you're fit to go back in the field. Are you?"

"I'm fine."

"
No more flashbacks?"

"
No."

Not for
three months.
He'd thrown out the
pills the doctor had given him. They'd
flattened
everything into a narrow monotone that made him feel like he was living in a fading black and white picture.
He didn't think
Harker
needed to know about the dreams.

Harker nodded.
She made a note in the file
and placed it in a drawer
.

A large, flat monitor was mounted on one wall of the office.
Harker
did something
at her desk
a
nd t
h
e
display
came to life
with a
picture of a
n
elderly man
.
His eyes were blue.
He looked like the sort of man you'd like for a Grandfather.

She
said,
"
This is
William Connor. He was
a very rich man
.
He was also a personal friend of the President.
"

"
Was?
"

"
Someone
tortured
him
until he died of a heart attack.
They
cut off one of his fingers
with pruning shears
. Then they transferred money from his accounts
and tore his
home
apart.
"

A
n electric tension settle
d
across his shoulders.
Cut
ting
off the finger of an old man
made things p
ersonal
, something he could grab on to.
It was better when it was personal.
He needed personal.
It helped motivate him
.
Going forth for
God and
Country
didn't work
too well
for him anymore
, n
ot since Afghanistan.
Not since South America.

"
That's cold.
How much money?"

"
A
round four hundred million."

"Why are we getting involved with this? This looks like FBI or Treasury territory."

"
W
e
intercepted an encrypted satellite
transmission
last week
from
the
Chinese
consulate in San Francisco
. There's a
Colonel
from Chinese Military Intelligence
in the consulate
named Wu
. He
pretend
s he's
a trade official.
He called
his boss,
General Yang. Yang is
chief of their
MI. Wu
told him
about a
n old
book Connor
found
in Bhutan
and
Yang
ordered
him to
get
the
book and Connor's
money
.
The
money
went to accounts in Macau
controlled by Yang.
"

"
Chinese MI?
Why would they do something as stupid as that? It
doesn't make sense.
What's in the book?
"

"
W
e don't know
.
Connor had a niece
who
might
know
.
I want to ask her about it.
Doctor Connor is coming
here
today."

"Doctor?"

"PhDs in oriental and ancient languages.
She's one of the top experts in the country.
"

Carter
pictured
a
n expert
PhD niece. S
omeone
academic looking
. M
a
ybe in
a
n earth tone
baggy
suit
,
with large glasses and gray hair
, around fifty
.

Harker said, "
The FBI
had
Wu
under
routine
surveillance
.
I requested a photo and they sent one over
but
my gut says
t
hey
'
re holding something back.
"

Nick didn't respond.

"
Zeke
Jordan
is the
liaison
.
You know him.
T
alk with him and s
ee what you can find out.
"

A voice came from the intercom on Harker
'
s desk.

"
Director,
Doctor
Connor
is here
.
"

"
Escort her up
.
"

While they waited,
Carter thought about
his
car and decided to call Triple A
and
ride back with the tow
.

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