Authors: J.T. Patten
A SEAN HAVENS BLACK OPS NOVEL
Escape Your Reality Press
A Donovan Black Holdings Company
J.T. Patten Books in conjunction with Escape Your Reality Press,
A Donovan Black Holdings USA LLC company
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by J.T. Patten
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
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ISBN 978-0-91044-4 (ebook)
This manuscript has been reviewed and approved by the Central Intelligence Agency Professional Review and Department of Defense Security Review.
To my wife, my safe haven
I would like to thank my wife who shoulders the burden of work while I steal away time to write, wherever I may be. I love you and appreciate all that you do.
Thanks to Sean, who threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to write a book. Brother, I think I was bamboozled, but what a great feeling now that it is complete. Thanks for your encouragement and friendship. To my writing mentors and friends, Mark Greaney and Kevin Maurer. Thanks for your time, your assistance, and occasional swat to the head. If I ever grace the bookshelves where your bestsellers reside, you’ll know I rigged it. I owe you both.
Thank you, Carie, for sharing your publishing insights and for introducing me to editor Molly Wojda. Molly, you did a fantastic job improving the story and the writing mechanics. Thank you for your professionalism and patience. I hope you are ready for the next one.
To the Quiet Professionals of the special operations and intelligence community. Respect. And to my recruiter. I hope you are enjoying retirement. Thanks for your advice and guidance so many years ago.
nder cover of darkness, the last member of the kill team felt the reassuring clicks and finger tension from the Schlage cylinders as they tumbled into place. No light was needed to assist the lock-picking tradecraft now being done in a reverse technique. With a twist of the hook and a pull of the lock pick rake, the metal inter-workings slid into their nest. The steel bolt eased back through the reinforced doorframe.
The remaining crew had exfiltrated the target site perimeter as their mate finished manipulating the deadbolt components to relock the door from the outside. They all melted quietly into the moon-cast shadows like demons of the night with captured souls in their clutch and firearms at their grasp.
Dew formed on the lawn they now vacated. Droplets of moisture hitched a ride on the bootie-covered combat assault boots that were fast on the move. The trampled grass blades would unbend back into place by sunup with new condensation visible to any discerning eyes.
No trails. No trace.
Aside from the satisfaction of completing their mission, the assault team never gave a moment’s thought to the death they had left behind them in the house. At the forefront of their minds was disposing of the edged weapons and the bloodstained gloves and coveralls, ditching their vehicles, and blending back into their lives after a debriefing.
But they would never make it out of the after-action meeting. These men were loose ends and the masters who had sent them on this assassination quest would kill them without remorse in a remote warehouse later that morning.
Their abandoned carnage within the secured home was exposed mere hours after sunrise. Its discovery was also part of the plan to set the stage.
• • •
“No, sir. I’m not going back in there. Can’t do it.”
“Roberts, you can and you will! I know it’s hard. Step up.” The superior police commander was empathetic to young Officer Roberts, but had to be firm. This certainly was not a normal law enforcement call. The commander had to maintain control of these fledgling officers in a situation like this. This was different from the typical suicide or gang violence response calls.
“Just take a few breaths and get back in that damn house, son.”
“No, sir. I’ll quit first. I’m not going back in. Will NOT happen. You can have my badge. I’m done if you make me. Screw this.”
Another officer nearby was hunched over, legs spread apart; both hands palmed a tree trunk for support. The patrolman gagged and retched some more on the shredded cedar mulch below. He had been the first one on scene after an anonymous tip to police had dispatched him to the home. An hour inside the house was too much to handle. A minute was long enough. Emotions nudged out professionalism.
For God’s sake, he had his own kids that age.
Many of the officers present had reached their threshold of what they could do on scene and had begun congregating outside. The press and all their cameras would be here soon sharing with the world this middle-class neighborhood horror show.
Lars Bjorklund walked up the concrete sidewalk passing all the officers. Traffic had been bad but the Starbuck’s drive thru line was unbearably long. He drained his coffee with a large gulp before entering the house and tossed the cup on the vomit-wet mulch. The knee-weak officer, now hovering above the litter and his emptied stomach contents, viewed the act as contempt. Lars knew that by tossing it outside, he saved the cup from being tagged as potential evidence.
Within the non-descript residence, converging pools of dark red silhouetted the lifeless bodies, concluding the fatal process of catastrophic blood loss. The foul smell of death and involuntary bodily waste release was setting in now, and it established a foreboding warning to those entering the home.
Crime scene investigators had been called in to capture the extent of the event and process the house for evidence and answers, which were few.
The projected, cascading blood spatter was everywhere. Cast-off stains on the ceiling, walls, and furniture created numerous arcs of blood droplets from the repeated pulling back of blows to the victims.
One forensic analyst lost count of the number of blows determined by the blood arcs. He wiped his face while squeezing his eyes shut as if to clear the frustration and overwhelming effort. He started over with a deep breath and a mental reset.
Another examiner kept rambling to criminalists about exsanguination, hypovolemic shock, cardiac tamponade, and asphyxia. Young pup officers near their more senior counterparts raised their eyebrows, not fully grasping the forensic medical jargon. It sounded to them like medical-ese bullshit. Death was an international language. It was abundantly clear to the new guys what had happened in this home and it shook them to their very core as they grappled with the thought that some savage was capable of such inhumanity.
A specialist was probing a wound for any residual weapon trace. It appeared that an arsenal of metals was wielded across the flesh. The specialist nodded to a field serologist—a “goo guy”—who was not watching his crew. A young team member was trying to lift a body before examination was complete. The serologist would need to give more professional direction to the evidence handling procedures to avoid a paperwork nightmare later.
“Bad practice, Leo,” the serologist addressed the young examiner. “You need to wait a few. Couple more tests before the body can get back to the shop for further analysis. I need about another ten minutes on that one.”
“OK, boss, but what else can we even do?” Leo realized he was not going to get an answer. He stood up and walked away, pretending that he had something else important to do in an attempt to save face.
Lars, still passing through the scene, casually stepped over the corpse roughly brushing by the newbie. He answered Leo, the paid intern, as if it was as simple as rudimentary kindergarten arithmetic.
“The combination spatters are going to take priority so we can get some sense of directionality and sequence of events. Your team still has to look at possible transfer patterns. Clots, contraction, and separation from the past few hours should help some.”
“Oh, yeah, sure it will help tons,” another technician replied sarcastically.
“There’s gotta be over twenty liters of blood volume here, Lars. We really need to do a volume test?”
Lars wished his senior analysts could step up and assert themselves as leaders and mentors.
Do I really have to do everything?
“Guys, focus on the cast-offs and textures of the stains and patterns. Make sure to note the origins and direction of blood travel in your log.” Lars glared, sending the flying daggers from under a furrowed brow, at his most senior man, Ted.
“Ted, take care of your shit. Your guys need better guidance. Clearly, they must have cheated on their certifications. Wonder if you did too. Need some continuing ed this month?” Lars stood dominantly over the shamed group, daring anyone to open their mouths.
The men around Ted lowered their heads out of both embarrassment and boss avoidance.
Other forensic examiners snapped their flashing Nikon cameras throughout the scene making incessant clicking sounds like dueling typewriters. The light exploded in bursts of white from all corners of the room.
As Lars strolled through the middle of the room, it looked like paparazzi coverage at a red carpet event as the investigators carried out their zone search—close-ups, mids, and overview shots for the photo log.
The bodies lay as they had fallen, or so they appeared—except for the ones who had crawled seeking something, someone, for help.
Help that never came.
A Spider-Man action figure lay on the floor. It was still in reach of its owner’s small hand. Likely clenching the toy until the very end. Such a bitter emotional symbol when clearly a real superhero had been desperately hoped for. The blood on the action figure’s nylon costume made it look like he too had been part of the massacre. As if Spider-Man, like the others in the room, had succumbed to a mortal wound in the melee.