Authors: Steve Richer
International terrorist Willis Greenwood
has just attacked New York City and now there’s a $4 million bounty on his
Rick Travis wants that money.
Having always been in the shadow of his
father and uncle, both with the FBI, he wants to prove that he can go out on
his own and do something good. It doesn’t take long for Rick to find himself in
over his head.
After teaming up with a mysterious arms
dealing woman, he soon discovers that he just may be a pawn in a very dangerous
~ ~ ~ ~
By Steve Richer
Copyright © 2016 Steve Richer
The cover art for this book makes use of licensed stock
photography. All photography is for illustrative purposes only and all persons
depicted are models.
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Also by Steve Richer
It was with extreme reluctance that Angie
Miller showed up for work on time this morning.
For a few days she had told herself that
it wasn’t worth it. With the merger going on there would be massive layoffs and
she’d be among the first ones to be shown the door. And obviously, she wasn’t
important enough for one of those shiny golden parachutes.
Yeah, this situation didn’t warrant her
getting up at 5am to get ready, to take the crowded train from New Jersey and
endure motion sickness. It wasn’t worth braving the cool autumn air and rubbing
against hundreds of thousands of commuters all fighting for the chance to
participate in the rat race.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t who she was.
She wasn’t built to goof off, to blow off work.
It reminded her of the last week of
senior year in high school. Her friends had convinced her to play hooky – after
all, the exams were done and she’d already been accepted at Stanford. The
entire gang would take it easy, go into the city and hang out on the National
Mall. They’d joke and drink and maybe try to score some weed.
She had balked at the last moment,
terrified she’d get caught.
And it was the same thing today. The last
thing she wanted was for somebody to notice her not being there and thinking
badly of her. It wasn’t her style and just knowing that someone could think of
her as a slacker made her tremble with shame.
Unable to actually call herself chicken
for coming into work, she made up a reason for it: networking. At the very
least, she could cultivate some of her contacts, maybe try to land another
position somewhere before the axe fell.
Perhaps she could talk herself up and say
that she had something to do with the merger. People believed just about
anything if you said it right.
she snorted at the thought. That sounded nice in the
Wall Street Journal
but nobody actually believed this was a genuine merger. Lancaster Savings was
being acquired outright by Wells Eastern. They were being swallowed whole.
The only reason anybody put up with the
merger charade was that Lancaster had a swanky Midtown address which
Connecticut-based Wells Eastern wanted to exploit.
Word on the floor was that this was only
the first in a series of mergers. The financial institution wanted to compete
on a global level and they were setting their sights on an investment bank
next. Angie was mad but mostly because she had chosen the wrong legal
specialty. She should have studied business instead of probate law.
It had served her well but things would
definitely change soon. After almost four years at Lancaster she would probably
have to start from the bottom again somewhere else. So this morning her work
would come second. She would make copies of her résumé.
There were few people here already, on
her floor anyway, and she wondered if the same thing went through their minds.
Was everybody staying home because they knew they were about to be downsized?
She sipped her overpriced coffee and headed for the copy room with her CV.
“Great,” she said when the machine blared
It was out of paper.
With a sigh, she walked out, infuriated
by the knowledge that ever since the last round of cutbacks the only supply
room of her department was two floors down. She headed for the elevators. Well,
at least she wasn’t working.
Her phone rang and she welcomed the
distraction as she answered. “Hello?”
“Uh, hi. Angie?”
She glanced at the number and didn’t
recognize it. Who the hell was Rick Travis?
“Who is this?”
“It’s Rick, Rick Travis? We chatted on
Facebook the other day?”
Her eyebrows rose in recognition. She got
into the elevator. He had friended her last week and she’d spent a half-hour
shooting the breeze with him on her lunch hour.
“Oh yeah, right. How are you?”
“Couldn’t be better,” she lied.
“I hope it’s not too early. I was on
Facebook a little while ago and I saw that you were online. I figured you were
up already. Am I interrupting you at work?”
“You’re really not, you have no idea.”
Rick chuckled. “That bad, uh?”
“Company’s going through a merger, it’s
not a pleasant environment.”
Her voice trailed off, she really didn’t
want to go into details. She remembered now having checked out his profile and
he wasn’t bad looking. She wasn’t exactly on the market for a relationship but
it wasn’t like guys were beating down doors to date her either. She had to keep
her options open.
She got out of the elevator and headed
for the supply room. This floor was deserted too except for a couple of workmen
at the end of the hall.
“Listen,” Rick began. “The reason I’m
calling was, uh, I’m wondering if you’re coming down to DC and going to the
reunion next month.”
That had been the pretext for him
contacting her on the web last week. The alumni committee was getting in touch
with people about their 10-year high school reunion.
She hadn’t hung out with Rick back then,
he’d been nothing but a distant acquaintance – they’d had biology together? Maybe
chemistry? But it was funny how after a decade you thought differently about
“I hadn’t really thought about going to
the reunion, to be honest,” Angie said. “It wasn’t exactly the best four years
of my life.”
“Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t my
finest hour either. And that’s why I think you and me going together would make
This took her aback. “You’re asking me
out on a date?”
“Well, I wasn’t going to use that particular
word because in my experience it scares women and they run away from me. But
yeah, I guess it could be a date. Or at the very least it could be a two-person
support group to get through all the insufferable jerks.”
It was her turn to laugh and he put her
at ease. She had no illusions about starting a relationship right now, the
timing wasn’t great, but she couldn’t deny that she was kind of looking forward
to it all the same. It made her smile to think about how her mother would be
happy; she always asked her about her love life.
But then her mind went back to the
workmen down the hall. Something was going on with them. Something wasn’t
Then she understood, it was their
uniforms. This building had a strict dress code for maintenance personnel and
everyone was obligated to wear white jumpsuits.
What these guys were wearing was blue.
Impulsively, she raised her head. “Excuse
Both men froze and looked at her.
“Excuse me,” she called again. “What are
She saw at last that they were standing
over some sort of drum on a dolly. Without replying, they looked at each other,
whispered something she couldn’t understand, and hurried away.
“Hey, wait!” Angie said.
On instinct, she jogged down the empty
corridor until she reached the container. It was an industrial 55-gallon drum,
something she’d never seen outside of movies before.
“Angie,” Rick said in the phone. “What’s
She ignored him, barely even heard him.
She continued to stare at the huge barrel. It looked inoffensive but what was
it doing in an office building? She went around it to inspect it closer and
that’s when she spotted an electronic device glued to the side. Wires lead into
Could this be…
She hung up the phone and started to dial
9-1-1 when the explosion ripped through the entire floor.
Rick Travis was at the kitchen table of
his Tenleytown apartment when Angie cut him off. Because his job in sales dealt
mostly with clients on the West Coast, he didn’t usually get into work until
10am. So he’d been happy to find that Angie was up this morning – from her
Facebook activity – and it had made his breakfast more interesting.
“What the hell?”
At first he’d found it rude for her to
hang up but her tone had been weird, like she’d been distracted. Maybe she had
hung up by accident? He took a sip of coffee, pushed his half empty bowl of
cereal away, and dialed her number again.
He tried once more and got the same
result. The weird part was that it wasn’t busy, he wasn’t getting her
voicemail, the line just went dead. Something was decidedly odd…
He wiped his hands on a paper napkin and
crossed the distance to his cramped living room where his laptop was plugged
in. He flipped the lid open and went on Facebook, specifically to her profile.
She hadn’t posted anything since that cute cat video from earlier.
On a whim, he turned on the morning show
on TV and was met with the well-coiffed sports reporter talking about the
amazing likelihood that the Nationals would win a pennant this year.
Just what is going on?
He called Angie again only to get the
same result. He was about to search for a general number for Lancaster Savings,
hoping to get a secretary go and fetch her, when he had a wild idea: Twitter.
People on Twitter always seemed to know what was going on before everyone else.
Maybe there was a blackout in New York right now?
He surfed to his Twitter account, which
he rarely ever used, and went to the homepage. Immediately, he saw that some
tweets were appearing multiple times, images and videos being retweeted over
and over again. He read the first one.
OMG explosion in midtown!!!
His heart racing, Rick looked at the
first picture, enlarging it. Flames were coming out of a skyscraper. He scanned
the image with his eyes, deep in his heart already knowing all he needed to
know. Then he saw it. A huge sign taking up the height of a floor:
He scrolled through the feed and found
another tweet, this time a video. It started innocently enough, a young husband
and wife were taking a selfie of themselves.
“Don’t move, honey. We have to stay still
otherwise it’s gonna be all fuzzy.”
“No,” the woman said demurely. “My hair
is off. I should’ve worn a hat.”
“You look fine, stop worrying. I think…”
A mammoth fireball exploded behind them!
“Holy shit!” the guy said as they were
both thrown forward to the ground. “Holy shit! Oh God!”
They both started running away but the
husband couldn’t keep himself from twisting around to film the events. Agape,
Rick leaned forward.
The explosion had torn through at least
three floors of the building, fire whooshing out of hundreds of broken windows.
The video ended and he watched it again.
Knowing what was going to happen didn’t make the scene easier to digest. In
fact, he felt nauseated.
Next, he noticed that the hashtag
was trending and he saw dozens of new pictures of the building on fire. There
were several more videos but none capturing the blast like the first one.
“I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen,” the
senior anchor said from the television, abruptly cutting off a weather report. “We
have news coming from Manhattan. An explosion has been reported in Midtown. Is
it Midtown, Brian? We’re not sure exactly where yet… Yes, at the corner of Seventh
Avenue and… we’re getting reports of West 33rd Street. Our New York affiliate
is getting News Chopper Seven on the scene for exclusive footage just now.”
As promised, overhead images of the
smoking building came on and Rick watched raptly. There wasn’t much to see
aside from smoke billowing and emergency vehicles zooming through traffic.
“At this point, we don’t know whether it’s
a terrorist attack or possibly an accidental gas leak. Details are sketchy at
the moment, as you may understand. When, Brian?” the anchor said to someone off
He nodded to someone before continuing.
“We’re getting accounts that this
occurred at approximately 7:30am. Now, uh, we’re going to try and get you all
the information we can about this terrible incident. We’re getting confirmation
that the building belonged to a bank, Lancaster Savings. We don’t know if the
building had other tenants at this time.”
Rick continued staring at the TV but
after a while he couldn’t really see anything any longer. It was all a blur.
Once the shock had worn off, he knew two things. One, the country was once again
And two, Angie Miller was most certainly dead.
~ ~ ~ ~
A few hours later, not far away from Rick
Travis’s apartment, the elite of the world of journalism gathered in the J. Edgar
Hoover building press room.
There was chatter among the reporters,
enemy in the trenches but friends and colleagues during a crisis. They’d been
told there would be a news conference at one o’clock, and 15 minutes later no
one had showed up yet.
Suddenly, half a dozen people walked in from
behind the curtains and headed for the stage. Flashes went off and the room
filled with the mechanical and digital clicks from a hundred cameras. People
stopped speaking as Carol Brill, the Director of the FBI, went to the podium.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
This is only a briefing, we will not be taking any questions. This is what we
know. At 7:24 this morning, an explosion blasted through the head office of the
Wells Eastern Lancaster Bank. We know the blast mostly affected the lower three
floors but we are thus far unaware of the number of casualties. We estimate the
number to roughly a hundred.”
Ten reporters immediately spoke over each
other, asking different versions of the same question: was this terrorism? The
Director displayed patience and quieted everyone by lifting the palm of her
“Rest assured that the investigation is
underway. At this point, I’d like to have Assistant Director Jason Vanstedum
continue to address you since he’s leading this investigation.”
There were more questions from the crowd
but they hastily gave up as Brill stepped aside and the lanky figure of
Vanstedum went to the microphone.
“My name is Jason Vanstedum, I’m
Assistant Director for Counterterrorism. An hour ago, the FBI received this.”
He half turned as he pushed a button on a
small remote control. Behind him on a 65-inch monitor appeared two pictures of
a postcard, front and back. The postcard represented a stylized owl in white
and green. A murmur grew across the crowd.
“The Oppressed World Liberators and its
leader Willis Greenwood are claiming responsibility for the attack as a
reprisal for the merger of Lancaster Savings and Wells Eastern.”
He hit the remote control again. An old
black and white picture of Willis Greenwood replaced the postcard on the
screen. The man in the picture was young with puffy long hair, a haircut which
hadn’t been in style in some time. Next to it was the same picture but
computer-aged and enhanced.
“This is Greenwood’s first attack on
American soil and it is at the moment the FBI’s top priority.”