Red Hill Creek

Chapter 1

 

Red Hill Creek, Colorado – 1:00 am

 

What was expected to be an uneventful evening for Andrew Drummond has turned out to be anything but as he lays on the ground on his back patio squirming from a bullet wound in his left shoulder. Still in shock, he crawls towards the back door to grab his phone.

 

It was a clear and cold night as his backyard was lit up by the bright reflection of the moon. Silence ruled the cool crisp air as wind gusts came and went echoing off the trees with a howling sound that brought chills to the spine.

 

Bundled up and all alone, Andrew sat quietly on the bench on his back patio with a glass of Pinot Noir and a mind full of worries. Feeling trapped and under the weight of the world, he just sat in silence as the pain churned inside.  Scenario after scenario, there was no escape. The anxiety was too much. In the silence of night, all that could be heard was the rapidly beating of his heart.

 

Tomorrow was the day, he was as ready as he could be, or at least as much as can be when preparing for the end.

 

Bending forward to grab his glass of wine off the ground by his feet… simultaneous to his movement, an unexpected and loud explosion rang out through the air as his body uncontrollably flew backward. Moments later, he collapsed as he attempted to get up unknowingly using his now wounded arm. As his left arm gives way, he notices the blood and quickly realizes what had just happened.

 

With dogs barking, his neighbors backyard flood light from a couple hundred yards away pierced the darkness like an arrow reflecting through and above the fence separating the two properties. Collapsing forward face first onto the cold concrete patio, Andrew tries, but falls short of reaching the backdoor and the phone just beyond.

 

Located just outside of Denver, Colorado, Red Hill Creek is a small community where the local rich and famous call home. “Just enough outside the city and just close enough to the city” is the saying the locals use around these parts.

 

Andrew Drummond moved into his spacious house on a small 10 acre plot of land about 3 years ago. It was kind of weird at first, being all alone with such a large house. But, in time, he grew more comfortable with it.

 

Andrew had taken a position in a small but growing telecommunications business shortly after his marriage of 13 years dissolved after years of trying. It wasn’t pretty, especially with two children still in school. Andrew still feels guilty for not trying harder to make it work as well as his severe short comings and lapses of judgment. After the divorce, his wife got custody of the children and pretty much everything else.  A year later, he received an offer to come west from Vermont to take the position of VP of Operations at Global Contact.

 

Hating to leave his children, it was a fresh new start for the 43 year old that had never been outside of his home state of Vermont.

 

The company had recently struck pay-dirt with a pretty hefty contract signed with the US government to develop sophisticated new technology that would allow scud missiles to virtually be launched off the decks of civilian cargo ships unnoticed. They are to also have the set up and tear down capability to accomplish this in a matter of minutes.

 

The development of this would change everything. And, if this were ever to land in the wrong hands…virtually overnight both western and eastern seaboards would become targets. Major seaboards on either coast could be hit in minutes and there would be nothing anyone could do to stop it. Under the guise of a telecommunication focused business, they hoped to fall just under the radar.

 

As VP of Operations, Andrew was also in charge of screening all employees and working closely with security to ensure complete lockdown on this new technology. If word got out or if an employee sought to defect the operation, the whole project could be compromised and things could get disastrous real quick.

 

Andrew was also the main liaison for the communication with the government.

 

Based on his past experience working with the government, Andrew had built a good trust level with several of the key members of government behind this deal.

 

Over the past few months, things had seemed to grow extremely difficult as rumors began to surface around the top secret development. Security had heightened and the air around the place had grown intense. Often times cable news trucks would camp out and wait for someone to come or go in hopes of breaking a story. But not here…it was lockdown and to risk discussing this project was to risk a lot…not only personally, but also for the reputation of the United States of America.

 

 

It was Sunday morning and it had been nearly four days since Andrew was shot. Now lying in a hospital bed, Andrew struggled to understand how he got there. He had been in and out of an unconscious state since he arrived at the hospital. Still groggy from the meds they had been pumping into him through the IV; his blurry eyes begin to focus on the white board on the wall at the foot of the bed…

 

 

The phone rings. It’s 1pm in Shady Leaf, a small town in north eastern Vermont. Cindy Drummond answers, even though the number is not recognizable on the caller id.

 

Hanging up as quickly as she answered the phone, Cindy is momentarily in shock as she struggles to manage her feelings. It had been nearly four years since her and Andrew divorced. Deep inside, there was still love there, but she still couldn’t seem to find forgiveness to what he did to both her and the children. But for now, this was not the time to let those feelings rule.

 

The father of her children was shot and laid in and out of a conscious state in a hospital on the other side of the country.

 

What should she do? Should she tell the children now or later? Should they catch the next flight to Colorado? The questions raced through her mind at an overwhelming rate. It was almost too much to bear.

 

 

“R.U.I.N. IF NOT” was written neatly across the top of the white board at the foot of Andrew’s bead. Still completely out of it, Andrew struggles to find meaning as he lies alone in the hospital room. “RUIN, IF NOT…” He said quietly to himself. “That makes no sense at all.” With this, he also begins to realize that there were no signs of any visitors other than the doctors and nurses that have been monitoring him around the clock since his arrival nearly three days earlier.

 

Maybe this was a message from one of the nurses on duty to the next shift?

 

He thought. But what in the world does it mean? Slightly paranoid and in shock from what actually happened, Andrew begins to fade again as his eyes grew increasingly heavy eventually closing shut as he slips back to unconsciousness.

 

Chapter 2

 

1 week earlier…

 

The secret memo somehow ended up on his desk. Though his name was not listed as one of the intended recipients, he made a decision that would change everything…he read it. Being in his position, he knew better but his curiosity got the best of him.

 

Things had seemed to be on heightened alert recently but he wasn’t sure why.

 

The background checks and the surveillance… and then asked to do them all over again on the same people, even those who were there from the start had him beginning to ask a lot of questions from those he worked for. With no fear to hold the line, Andrew never feared approaching the brass with concerns and questions. After all, he felt it was his job and responsibility. But, the extra work had him working around the clock, seven days a week only finding rest when he could.

 

Fortunately, the office was outfitted with a workout gym and showers and in this; he always kept a couple fresh pairs of clothes. Home…he would get there when he got there, but for what? It was just an empty space filled with anything but life.

 

Recently, Andrew noticed that he wasn’t being asked to sit in as many meetings as was previously the case. Instead, he was constantly being asked to run surveillance on random employees who worked random shifts. He also noticed that his boss had begun to be shorter with him and often just gave him directives and walked off, but mainly, the directives came in the form of email.

 

He read the memo first silently to himself and then as he got up to shut his office door; he read it again…this time out loud as he struggled to understand the magnitude of what it was saying…

 

The memo was dated July 7th, just a week earlier and was from the president of the company and was suspiciously sent to a couple of newer lower level employees who were brought in at his request to work on the development team.

 

Ironically, they were not anyone that had been on Andrew’s list for constant around the clock surveillance. Quite frankly, in an environment where everyone is on your radar, these two were not.

 

The president of Global Contact was a guy named Jim Edwards who founded the company shortly before Andrew came aboard. He made his money in the tech industry and then got out before the crash. Raking in millions, he was set for life and from the spoils of this new contract; he would be set for an even longer time. Though he knew a lot about the tech industry and with his money and fame, being one of the few to get out in better shape then when he got in, he was known in the power circles as a real power broker as well as one with a knack for both timing of decisions and attracting top notch professionals. Through his rise in the industry, he had made contacts from every corner of the planet. But, with all that said, he did not have an ounce of tech knowledge “know how” in him. He was a guy that knew what he wanted and he would just bring in the people to get it done. To read his bio of work is to read a rolodex of highly successful companies that include companies such as…

 

Stradex, CEP Processors

 

Stradex was an East-European based company that took hold as communism crashed and democracy swept through the region. Always having his eyes on opportunities, Jim quickly formed alliances within the ranks of the former Soviet government officials, who although were still communist at heart, but saw this as an opportunity to maintain a sense of power as well as make a whole lot of money.

 

Blending some of the best young minds from America with some of the best old minds of Russia, Jim Edwards was in the catbird seat as he sought to bring new technology to this side of the world.

 

However, it was through his relationships with the higher ups within the U.S. government both military and civilian that helped land this current contract. With him, they found someone who could actually pull this off under the radar. Plus, these were sort of rogue members of the government who wanted the ability to strike hard, fast, and unnoticed. You would think that after the Iran Contra affair no one would dare pull this type of project off. The stakes were off the map. It was win, lose, but no draw and if the top wouldn’t act…

 

The memo was written in vague terms, something you got real good at while working on a project such as this one. But, it wasn’t as much the vagueness that piqued Andrew’s interest as much as it was the two gentleman whose names this memo was addressed to.  Quite frankly, he hadn’t even begun to think through how it came about that this memo appeared on his desk.

 

“The Global Contact open house is on schedule for 7/14 at 9pm. Be on time. We do not want to offend the guests. No one must know of this. Your presentations are scheduled first. The time is now to show the world. You know what to bring. You will be followed by a presentation by our friends at Stradex. Be prepared. I repeat, no one must know of this. You have been off the radar, keep it this way. This will change everything. If word gets out…we’re done. Gentlemen, we are on the brink. JE”

 

Looking at his watch, Andrew realizes it was just past 3pm the afternoon of July 14th and having full access to the building and to the computer system. Andrew quickly logged on to verify that the two names on the memo were onsite. He knew who they were, but did he?

 

What did Jim Edwards have to do with these guys more than anyone else on the team? Andrew thought out loud as he pulled up the security camera link to the development lab.

 

Being this was an event that he had no prior knowledge of until reading this memo, Andrew was hit with all kinds of thoughts and emotions. He also knew that he needed to find out where this open house was happening.  With six hours until the event, Andrew had his pulse on who was coming and going from that building 24/7 and no one had reserved any meeting space for that evening, nor was there any advance security screenings requested for incoming guests.

 

His only ticket to the event would be through the two guys on the memo. Jim had been out of town overseas on a short vacation and wasn’t due back into the country for another 5 days. But with Jim there and the two guys on the memo here…it didn’t make sense.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Charles Joseph Dodson and Richard Thomas Hall were both in their mid-thirties. They were brought into Global Contact 4 months earlier by Jim Edwards himself as a “favor” to some close previous associates.  As lower level employees, they were brought in specifically as paper pushers for the mid-day shift on this project for the government. Jim himself actually walked them both through all of the security background checks.

 

Prior to Global Contact, both Charles and Richard had various stints with major international firms including Stradex CEP Processors. This was actually the first time they had both worked jobs outside of college on American soil.

 

Both with 4 year degrees in Engineering, nobody at Global Contact seemed to notice or even ask the question of why they were taking lower level jobs with such experience, references, and education.

 

 

Scanning the lab with the security camera, Andrew finds Charles in a back corner cubicle filling out some paperwork. There were 4 other employees in the lab at the time working on various test modules. Over the past two months, they had achieved some major breakthroughs with the development of this new top-secret technology and were quite frankly, readying to deliver the package a month ahead of schedule. To achieve that would mean a “performance” bonus of sorts that would bring in millions more.

 

Of course, there were other projects too. But, this lab was designated specifically to this project.

 

With Charles successfully identified, Andrew began scanning the room for Richard. But, Richard was nowhere to be seen. Having access to all the security cameras in the building, Andrew quickly began switching over to the different camera feeds in hopes of locating him.

 

 

It was nearing 3:45 pm and the private jet of Jim Edwards was on its final approach to the Denver airport. In a matter of minutes, the jet would land and Jim would be whisked away to a remote cabin somewhere at the base of Mt. Evans.

 

Stopping off in Toronto, the private jet made a quick stop to pick up some of Jim’s previous business partners and old friends for the trip into Denver.

 

Vadim Gurov and Aleksandr Radaev had first met Jim nearly 20 years earlier and just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Lifelong members of the Soviet Communist party, Vadim and Aleksandr first met as schoolchildren in the southern parts of Leningrad. Not too excited about the pending fall of Communism, it was inevitable and was also an opportunity to reposition them to take advantage of all the Western money about to flow through the soon-to-be former Communist state.

 

Though the fresh scent of money was intoxicating, their forever hatred of the U.S. was never far from their hearts. Someday…someday they hoped.

 

They had met Jim on a tour of western business leaders and investors in Russia looking for opportunities to invest and seemed to hit it off from the start.

 

Most recently, they had made millions together through the investments in a company based in Eastern Europe called, Stradex CEP Processors.

 

 

Scanning every security camera feed in the building, Richard is nowhere to be found as sweat begins to fall off Andrew’s forehead onto his desk filled with stack after stack of reports. Frantically shifting his eyes from feed to feed, the cell phone rang on Andrew’s desk causing him to jump… all the while monitoring the movements of Charles in the back cubicle.

 

The number on the cell phone showed that it was his kids in Vermont calling to say goodnight.

 

Knowing he needed to answer the call, he once again faced the same pressure he had his whole career in placing work first. But, after the messy divorce, his guilt and conviction has never left him often keeping him up all night.

 

Readying to answer the phone, Richard Hall appears on security camera feed #4 from the office wing of the building. At this, Andrew makes a quick decision to pursue Richard, thus once again…placing his kids on the back burner. With a wince acknowledging that he knew better, he quickly silences the ringer on his phone and begins to track Richard Hall’s movements.

 

“Where in the world did he come from?” Andrew thought as he tracked Richard back towards the lab. “What was he doing in our wing?”

 

Andrew knew that with both Charles and Richard together that they would either leave together or leave separately. He also realized that he might not be the only one watching.  Andrew then decided to look up the vehicles they were driving and to park his truck outside of the secure entrance and wait.

 

By now, it was nearing 5:30pm and who knows when they planned to leave for the open house. With both Charles and Richard in the lab, not once did they make contact with each other.

 

Printing off as much information off Google as he can, Andrew leaves the office with a manila envelope filled with everything he could get his hands on about Stradex CEP Processors as he heads down to his truck to wait for Charles and Richard to head out for their presentation.

 

The road leading out of the office building was a narrow two lane road lined with trees. It was the only way in and the only way out. Andrew planned to drive his truck to the beginning of the main entrance and in the parking lot of the small café across the street. For now, Andrew could only sit and wait.

 

Meanwhile, on his silenced cell phone sat a voice mail he so desperately wanted to hear. Simultaneous to that thought his guilt keeps him from listening so he pulls his car into the second spot in the café parking lot and begins to wait.

 

 

Chapter 4

 

Working on opposite sides of the lab, both Charles and Richard rarely make contact as Thomas Richter, one of the Senior Lab Technicians enters the room with a stack of files for them to put away.

 

Thomas has been there from the start as he was one of the first people that Jim Edwards had recruited for this new venture.

 

In the midst of the stack of files that both Charles and Richard received from Thomas was placed a file with a green tab and without even an ounce of acknowledgement, they both went right for the green tabbed folder and simultaneously open it.

 

Inside, a handwritten note on the inside read…

 

“Hooked! He has no idea. We’ll let him get close to the open house location before we reel him in. Either he’s in or he’s out. You both take the lead, I’ll follow Drummond. The train leaves at 7:15pm. JE is right on time with the guests.”

 

 

Hurling down the highway in his privately chauffeured bullet-proof suburban,

 

Jim Edwards and his two friends, Vadim and Aleksandr talk global politics. With the recent events in Southern Lebanon heating up with Israel and Hezbollah, the stage was quickly being set for the business soon to be at hand.

 

Closely tied with Iran and Syria, Vadim and Aleksandr was eager to see if that which Jim Edwards had been telling them was all that he said it would be. For them, they were both looking to broker a three-way deal that inevitably would soon change everything.

 

For Jim, it would mean settling an old score with some old business partners, make a ton of cash, and then quickly go into hiding and wait, eventually seeking political asylum.

 

…That was a part of the proposed deal after all.

 

As the conversation continued, Jim couldn’t help but think of Andrew. He brought him in both on his references based on his previous work with contracts involving the government as well as his by the book style that would keep him clean, occupied, and thorough. Plus, with him on board and in his position, the people in the government could be kept at bay as he weighed the unthinkable, especially with a major project update meeting scheduled for next week.

 

But, he never thought that Vadim and Aleksandr would come calling this soon either. He had pulled off amazing deals in the past, but he never thought he could pull something off of this magnitude. Sure, he had a strong confidence in his abilities and had the track record to prove it, it’s just that this was so huge and would change his life forever. And, if this deal were to go through, both Vadim and Aleksandr demanded that Andrew got a good scare to determine if he could be trusted or not and now was the time.

 

For the first time in a long time, Jim actually had a moment of hesitation. As he pondered what this all would mean he also hated to run Andrew through all of this. Andrew had been good to Jim, and didn’t want to see anything happen to him. But, he knew that Andrew was the best person for the job of scapegoat. They just needed him to playball until the deal was through and then the lynchpin. If not, he’d have to go. Besides, Jim thought… Andrew didn’t have a life to go home to anyway.

 

There was no turning back…this contract was about to take a completely different course and for some unknown reason, Jim knew there was now no way out.

 

 

Nearing 6:45, Andrew began to pour over the various articles he found on the net concerning Stradex as he sat comfortably in his F250 pickup. With one eye on the front gate of Global Contact, the adrenaline began to pump as reality set in of what potentially was about to happen. The truth is, he had no idea and quite frankly, this was all moving way too fast. Putting the Stradex files aside, Andrew began having second thoughts wondering how he came in contact with that memo or when it even landed on his desk in the first place. Had he missed something? He had found it in the midst of a stack of progress reports he’d been preparing to pass on to Jim once he got back from his vacation. Reports they tried to keep off email for security reasons.

 

Ironically, one of the reports contained concern for a lab technician named Thomas Richter. Andrew had taken the liberty to keep a closer eye on him based on his belief that Thomas had something to hide. He couldn’t put a finger on it; he just had a gut feeling. So, over the past two months, he kept an eye on him monitoring his work reports, email, and phone logs with a fine tooth comb. Though he had nothing specific to report on, he just felt the need to give Jim a heads up.

 

Finally shaking off these initial doubts, Andrew tried to focus, but his mind now quickly raced towards thoughts of guilt for not taking the call from his kids.

 

From one thought to the next, Andrew could never get away…not now and maybe not forever.

 

 

Timing their departure, Richard Hall leaves the parking lot first in his black Land Rover. 15 seconds later, Charles leaves his parking spot in his sky blue Lumina.

 

Not sure where to expect Andrew, they quickly spot him as they reach the street.

 

 

His heart pounding with the uncertainty of what’s next, Andrew looks up and sees that the time has come as Richard Hall waits for traffic to pass before he turns on his way.

 

The sky was faded blue with streaks of clouds as a light wind brushed up against the trees that lined the road. The air was dense and even denser inside Andrews’s car as his pounding heart was now the only soundtrack to be heard. All else seemed to fade away as he sat motionless not trying to be obvious with starting the car.

 

 

Turning left onto the main drive outside the secure exit, Richard doesn’t acknowledge Andrew as he begins to drive the 70 mile trek to the open house.

 

His job was to not lose them and to wait.

 

 

Andrew, now up to the street ready to turn decides to wait for Charles as to not let him get behind him to turn first.

 

It was awkward as both vehicles literally sat directly across the street from each other. Knowing what the other person looks like, it wasn’t such a big deal for Charles to be seen as it was for Andrew.

 

Looking off to the side and hoping that Charles had not recognized him or his vehicle, Andrew waited what seemed like a thousand years for Charles to make his move.

 

 

Waiting for Andrew to make his move, Charles meaning to look more polite than suspicious decides to go ahead and make the turn first. It would be a long drive with plenty of time to get the cars in right order.

 

Nearly 200 yards behind Richard, Charles keep his distance and keeps his eyes in his rear view mirror.

 

Not wanting to be too obvious, Andrew decides to wait a few moments before turning onto the street.

 

Now on his way, in his mind…he had resolve; there was now no turning back. What he would do when he got there would be another thing. But, who knew when he would get there?

 

Fortunately, he always packed his gun. The way things had been and with the magnitude of this deal…you just never knew and you could not afford to take any chances.

 

Having no idea of whom or what came next, Andrew cautiously followed a few hundred yards behind Charles and Richard as unbeknownst to him, Thomas Richter pulls out of the secure exit and pulls in behind him.

 

It was only a matter of time.

 

 

Chapter 5

 

Nestled deep within the forest at the base of Mt. Evans sat one of many homes owned by Jim Edwards. It was an incredibly picturesque two story log cabin.

 

Located 2 miles in from the main road, Jim liked his privacy. Never married, he was only committed to his work and the need to make more money and if all went well this night, he would have enough money to last several life times.

 

Pulling up to the cabin, Jim and his friends are greeted by his hired help for the evening’s events. First class and fully catered, the trio was eager to grab a cocktail and sit out on the back deck as they waited for the rest of the group to arrive.

 

Just through the trees you could see Mt.Evans, and who couldn’t? Being 14,000 feet tall, it was one of many “Fourteeners” located in these parts. With the sun setting, streaks of red reached out across the sky as the trees all around them swayed to each pulse of the wind. Out there, you could hear nothing for miles, just the sounds of nature. Maybe that’s why Jim liked it so much. It was the one place he could escape from this life he had created.

 

 

It was nearly 8:30pm and Thomas placed the call ahead to Richard in the lead car. By this time, Charles had managed to get behind Andrew. It was time for them to make there move.

 

Quickly pulling over to the side of the road, Richard made his move first as Andrew, now nearly 300 yards back struggled to know what to do. Needing to think fast and acting purely on adrenaline, Andrew decides to drive past Richard a few hundred yards and pull off and wait.

 

By now, it was dark outside as he hoped to slip off the side of the road with his lights off. Knowing there were two cars he was watching for, he sees Charles pull over back in the distance behind Richards car. With this, he had no idea about the third car as moments later, Thomas in the third car raced past both Charles and Richard and up towards Andrews F250 that was tucked away just off the highway.

 

Not thinking anything of the other car, Andrew keeps a close eye on the two targets now pulled over a few hundred yards back.

 

For a brief moment, Andrews’s eyes focused on the fast approaching car. With bright lights and dark all around, everything had him now on edge. Looking away for a split second to grab his gun below the seat…

 

The sound of a car screeching to a halt sunk Andrew’s heart and momentarily causes him to look up and brace for the worst. He could not have ever expected what was next.

 

In the middle of the road with no signs of cars for miles, Thomas, now sporting a ski mask and a loaded pistol jumps out of his car and races over to the driver side window where now sat a stunned Andrew Drummond. Too stunned to react, Thomas reaches for the truck door, swings it open and pulls Andrew out, throwing him to the ground.

 

Andrew never saw it coming as he is knocked unconscious with a pistol whip.

 

 

“We got him and will be there in minutes.” Was the text message Jim received while sitting on the back deck drinking cocktails with his old friends.

 

With a wince, Jim deletes the message and motions for his guests to join him inside as the meeting was about to begin.

 

Inside the meeting room was one long log table facing the north side wall which played back drop to a larger than life movie screen. To the right of the table and against the east wall was a huge stone fireplace. In each of the corners up at the ceiling were tiny Bose speakers.

 

As Vadim, Aleksandr, and Jim took their seats, Jim’s hired help begin to serve dinner as three sets of headlights out in the distance begin to shine through the darkness stapled with trees.

 

 

Hands tied behind his back with a loosely fit dark burlap sack around his head, Andrew starts to wake up as he lays in a fetal position in the back of Thomas Richter’s car.

 

With thoughts of his two children filling his head, he only now wishes he would have answered that phone. He only now wishes he would have been there for them back when he was in Vermont. Maybe if he wasn’t so married to his job, he would have had more time for them and Cindy. With one too many promises broken, the marriage disintegrated with Cindy losing faith in his ability to ever change. He was always so stressed out when he got home.

 

…That is, when he ever came home. And when he got there, all he did was either tune them out or yell. He only recently was able to get back on speaking terms with his kids, which is why he now more than ever regretted not taking their call.

 

Besides, who knew what was going to happen next.

 

As the cars came to a halt, Andrew began to grow even tenser. He had no idea who this guy was. Quite frankly, Charles and Richard were furthest from his mind. Shortly after, the two other vehicles came to a halt, pulling up next to the car Andrew was in.

 

The sound of multiple car doors slamming shut accompanies the various footsteps now moving towards the trunk. With no voices being heard, Andrew hears a hand grab a hold of the trunk latch and swing it open.

 

Holding his breath in and trying not to shake, Andrew lays motionless as a set of hands reaches down to grab him and pull him out. Reaching for the burlap sack, Thomas, now with his mask off stands with Charles and Richard as he quickly pulls it off over Andrew’s head.

 

With eyes wide opened and sweat pouring down his face, Andrew is speechless at who he sees standing before him.

 

Still dazed from the pistol whip, Andrew looks straight ahead at the three men as they faded in and out from three to six men and back to three again.

 

It had already been a long day… and unfortunately for Andrew, it had only just begun.

 

 

Chapter 6

 

Still frustrated with Andrew, Cindy Drummond talks on the phone with her aunt/close friend Joyce. It’s after midnight in Vermont and all Cindy wanted was for Andrew to answer the phone earlier that evening so she could tell him how disappointed she was with him still never being available for the kids.

 

It was one thing for their relationship to not work, but it was not acceptable for his relationship with the kids to be that way too.

 

Nearly four years after their divorce, Cindy was still so sad that it didn’t work out. But, she still held out hope that Andrew would change. Since the divorce, Cindy returned to her religious roots by returning to church with the kids for the first time since before they were both born.

 

Joyce was not only her aunt, but she was also a really good friend who she learned to lean on a lot during these past few years. However, with living in Montana, Cindy was not able to be with Joyce as much as she would like. Since Andrew left, she didn’t have as much time. Though she was well taken care of, she still was essentially a single mom with Andrew living across the country and all. And that is more than a full time job.

 

So they kept in touch quite often with speaking to each other every 2 or 3 days.

 

Quite honestly, if it weren’t for Aunt Joyce and the people of Shady Leaf Community Church, Cindy has no idea how she would have made it. Between them, they have always been there for both her and the kids.

 

They have also been quite the prayer support for the family and especially for Andrew. And that was the remarkable thing about this in that Cindy for some reason had recently began praying for Andrew too.

 

If she only knew…now, more than ever Andrew needed prayer.

 

 

Now sitting, hands untied on a chair in the log cabin, Andrew’s head, face, and jaw is throbbing with pain from the hit he took back on the highway. Not only that, he hadn’t ate since mid-morning and was starving.

 

With blood staining his previously nicely pressed dress shirt, all Andrew could do is now stare and shake his head at his boss, Jim Edwards who now sat in the chair directly in front of him.

 

“Welcome Andrew Drummond! Are you surprised to see me?” Jim quipped as a disgusted Andrew looked on.

 

“Gentlemen, this is no way to treat a guest.” Jim added as he called for his help to come and care for Andrew’s wound.

 

Still silent but increasingly outraged, Andrew looks on as Jim introduces him to Vadim and Aleksandr.

 

“Andrew, we’re sorry we had to do this. We needed to know if we could trust you.” Jim began.

 

“And the only way to do that was to knock the heck out of me?” Andrew interrupted. “What’s that all about? I have given you my every night and day since I got here and this is the only way you can find out if you trust me or not?” Andrew continued now screaming at the top of his lungs.

 

“Andrew, you were beginning to stray out of bounds, you were asking too many questions. Let’s face it; we could have just killed you to keep you quiet. But, we like you and thought…maybe we could salvage this man who has done such a good job.” Jim calmly responded before continuing again.

 

“Andrew, what you are about to hear will change everything and will make you a very rich man. More money than you have seen in a lifetime. Andrew, we need you. This is huge and before we go on, we need to know if you’re in or out? It’s that simple.”

 

“Why in the world would I want to have anything to do with you or these guys after you have done this to me? How do I know if I can even trust you after all of this?” Andrew quickly shot back stunned at the audacity of Jim’s words.

 

“I understand Andrew, but the truth is…you really don’t have a say in the matter.”

 

“What! You got to…” Andrew responded as Jim quickly cut him off.

 

“Gentlemen, is the presentation ready?” Jim asked looking over at Charles and Richard as they were connecting a laptop to the large projector at the other end of the room.

 

“Let’s play the presentation.” Jim instructed.

 

With a larger than life movie screen now playing center stage, the air in the cabin was thick. As the lights dimmed, both Vadim and Aleksandr, sipping on a glass of wine, sat in silence as they passed notes of observation to one another written in Russian.

 

As Vadim reads Aleksandr’s words, he breaks out in laughter as he glances over at Andrew sitting across from him.

 

On the screen, a power point presentation, no doubt prepared by Charles, Richard, and Thomas reads the following text:

 

Welcome to the Global Contact Open House 2006

 

As the voice of Jim comes out over the Bose speakers in surround sound, his narration marked with chilling words is accompanied by a computer simulation of first a map of the world and then a most disturbing map of the Northeastern seaboard of the United States.

 

With this, a video simulation now appears on the screen of a large cargo freighter leaving a dock across the Atlantic heading towards America. The simulated ship makes its way towards the US as a time clock at the lower left hand corner of the screen marks off the estimated time from departure to destination. As the freighter fast approaches the seaboard, it comes to a stop just outside of 50 miles off the coastline.

 

At this, the time clock on the screen stops and the video now splits into two screens. On one side of the screen, the simulated ship is seen as a dot in the Atlantic along with the Northeast coastline of the United States. On the other side of the screen is found a zoom in of the freighter as a new time clock appears.

 

What is seen next changes everything. With dead silence in the room, even Andrew sat in amazement as this was the first time he’d even seen that which he has been trying to protect all this time.

As the new time clock begins, a simulation of a mobile missile launcher is rolled out onto the deck of the freighter already pre-loaded with as the screen states, a scud missile.

 

…Within 5 minutes, the missile had been launched and the launcher was rolled back into hiding.

 

…Within 6 minutes, the freighter is changing course, undetected by the defense mechanisms set in place just outside on US waters.

 

…Within 12 minutes, the missile makes impact.

 

With this, the screen goes dark as a potential damage forecast begins to scroll across the screen…

 

…No defense…direct hit on major target could result in millions of casualties within minutes of launch… No defense… Several more million casualties will result within 30-90 days from the effects of the impact/fallout… No defense

 

…Package is ready for delivery and can be in your hands within a matter of days for immediate deployment…

 

With this, the company logo for Global Contact now appears on the screen as the house lights come up and the projector is turned off. The presentation was now made and the deal was about to be set in place.

 

“So you see we have been on dual tracks all along. We get cash from the U.S. government to develop and test this and we do just as we say. But, always a step ahead of the U.S. project, we have been readying all along this project for the initial deployment out of a top secret lab in the south under the guise of Stradex.” Jim quickly stated as the house light came back on.

 

 

Chapter 7

 

With a thick Russian accent, Vadim speaks for both he and Aleksandr…

 

“We are prepared to cut a deal this night for this equipment. Please be ready to ship the equipment within 48 hours to a pre-disclosed location. We will await confirmation with you in our room located at the downtown Hilton in Denver. Upon delivery of equipment to a pre-disclosed shipping dock on the Southeast Coast, our team will confirm the drop off has taken place. At this point, we will hand over $500 million dollars in cash. Upon receipt of equipment and transfer of goods, we will wire an additional $500 million dollars to your account from Stradex. Also, Jim, you and your associates will receive political asylum within our borders. But, we warn you…you must be within our borders by 6am Eastern Time by the 29th of this month. That is in three weeks.”

 

“There is no deal unless I can get this assurance in writing from your government that we indeed will get political asylum.” Jim interrupted.

 

“We have already taken the liberty of preparing this document and have brought it with us tonight as a part of our proposal.” Aleksandr responded as he nods to Vadim acknowledging that he will handle this one.

 

“Jim, you must understand that once you leave your country, there will be no coming back.” Vadim continued.

 

Sweat was beading up on the forehead of Jim Edwards as the reality of the situation began to set in. He was about to betray his country for $1 billion dollars and a life of on the run and undercover. Always calm under pressure, Jim displayed a nervousness and hesitation that caught even Vadim and Aleksandr a little off guard.

 

As for Charles, Richard, and Thomas who were also a small part of this deal. They too hardly knew the magnitude of that which they had been a part of. Sure, they too had begun this journey years earlier when they worked for Stradex. But they were only small scale pawns on this longtime mission of Vadim and Aleksandr to strike back at the United States. They knew full well the project that was being developed and that it would inevitably come to this, but when push comes to shove, all the money in the world could not replace the stress they were now experiencing.

 

After all they had prepared for…they had now reached the point of no return. Once this deal was made, they would all have three weeks to say goodbye to everything. Perhaps they felt they had completely weighed this out. They’ve had years to prepare. But suddenly, at this very moment the magnitude of the situation dropped on the room like a

lead balloon.

 

Meanwhile, Andrew sat their stunned. Knowing there was a major update meeting set up for the following week with the government officials behind this project, the reality began to set in of what his role was about to be. It made him sick to his stomach knowing he had no choice in the matter. He had to choose between playing ball and losing his life.

 

It was obvious who was behind this deal and they were not about to use this equipment as a bargaining chip with the U.S Government, they intended to use it and use it quickly before any detection that this deal/swap was even made.

 

He was going to be used to hold them at bay until it was too late.

 

At this point also weighed with the guilt of again not taking a call from his kids, he pondered if he even had a life worth living anyways. After all, he had failed both his marriage and his kids and now was about to be forced to fail his country. What else was worth living for?

 

“Jim, you are prepared to make this happen?” asked Vadim.

 

Not wanting to show what was obvious in his nervousness, Jim looked away and then over at the Charles, Richard, and Thomas, and then finally to Andrew. With his hands now clutching the signed document verifying his future political asylum, he looked straight ahead and literally through Vadim with a gaze that pierced the heaviness of the room like a knife, Jim simply nodded motioning to the paperwork that would need to be signed to secure the deal.

 

Not exactly knowing what lied ahead or how this equipment would inevitably be deployed or even by whom, Jim knew there was no turning back and that he better get used to the thought of what just transpired.

 

With a sparkle of excitement in his eyes, Vadim then looked over to Aleksandr and shook his hand while saying in Russian… “Our time has come.”

 

As Vadim handed a handwritten note to Jim disclosing the location for the transfer of goods, he also asked Jim to have his team make the necessary arrangements. They now had 48 hours and the clock was ticking.

 

As for Andrew, he was now to be under heavy surveillance and he knew it.

 

“Andrew, we don’t care how you do it, but you must keep the government at bay until midnight on the 28th. By then, it will be too late. You must also keep all current Global Contact employees working around the clock on our decoy launcher. The real one has been being developed in a top secret warehouse on the Southern Coast. Also…you need to know that we have stationed surveillance all around you and you will never be out of our sight or sound. If you attempt to defect, you will be killed. On the morning of the 28th, we will have an escort pick you up at your home to take you out of the country. You will also be paid a handsome bonus for your services.” Jim, now with more confidence informed Andrew.

 

“What about having that in writing for my protection Jim?” Andrew quickly asked.

 

“We know we can trust you, so you are going to have to trust us.” Jim replied as he flashed a smile over at Vadim and Aleksandr.

 

“Andrew, you should be dead and this is a risk keeping you alive. We cannot over react to this situation and give the Americans reason to be suspicious. But, please hear this, and hear it clearly…we have given Jim only one chance for you. Do not think we will give him a second chance.” Aleksandr said in a firm and raspy tone that told the story of life in the old Soviet block.

 

With sweat and blood still running down his face, Andrew had not seen this coming. His heart was racing, his head was pounding, and he felt so helpess.

 

Now motioning to Charles, Richard, and Thomas, Jim asks them to escort Andrew back to his truck still parked along the highway and to escort him to his house which was now completely bugged and under 24 hour surveillance with secretly positioned men.

 

Meanwhile, Jim’s driver started up the limo to escort both Vadim and Aleksandr to the downtown Denver Hilton where they would await the transfer of goods.

 

 

Chapter 8

 

Too stressed to eat and too tired to sleep, Andrew arrived back at his home. It was now two in the morning. Trapped with no way out, Andrew didn’t know where or how, but he knew he was not alone. But, that didn’t seem to matter much anymore…he really didn’t care.

 

With his mail from the past week piled up on the counter and newspapers unopened for months tossed on the living room floor, Andrew collapses onto his couch reaching for his remote. On top of his TV sat an old family photo and the latest pictures of his two kids. Not remembering the last time he noticed them, he couldn’t bear to look at them.

 

“What a failure I’ve become.” He thought to himself.

 

Now curled up in a ball on his couch, Andrew begins to recount all the ways he went wrong in failing his marriage.

 

Meeting in college, Andrew and Cindy didn’t immediately hit it off. Both coming off serious relationships, they both had sworn off dating for good. But, in time, they slowly became closer and closer. Andrew, being the romantic, was always seeking to outdo himself and to further sweep Cindy off her feet.

 

One week it would be a surprise picnic, while another would be chocolates and roses, while yet another week would bring dinner and theater. For Cindy, it was too good to be true. Finally, a man that was not all just about himself. In time, Andrew had shown he was consistent and therefore had won her heart.

 

One year to the day they “officially” began dating, they were married.

 

Things had been great for the first 3 years, but as Andrew began to climb the career latter and make more and more money, he became increasingly obsessed with success, eventually craving success even more so than time with his family. Driven by a fear of failure, Andrew began to spend more and more time at the office as well as time on the road. This in turn put even more stress on his already nearly broken marriage.

 

Missing the birth of both of his children as well as not even being able to stay off the phone at their birthday parties, Cindy constantly begged him for more time and often told him how under appreciated she felt. She pretty much was a single mom.

 

Not having a clue to the negative impact he was now having on his family and as to why or how Cindy could feel this way, Andrew began to further draw away from her.

 

Being brought up in a home with a father who had beyond realistic expectations, often calling him a failure for scoring high grades, but not high enough and a mom who did everything for him often picking up after him while offering no boundaries, discipline, or accountability, Jim was a ticking time bomb ready to happen.

 

Cindy on the other hand was pretty much “self made” having to grow up and become responsible at an early age due a sickness in her family. Taking care of her kid brother and sister, she eventually graduated high school with honors and went on to college for four years and all on her own dime often working several jobs on top of a full class schedule.

 

When she met Andrew, she was living in an apartment off campus while he was still living at home as his parents paid for everything.

 

They were an unlikely couple, but when they were together, there was nothing more likely. His weaknesses, her strengths, and her weaknesses and his strengths just seem to counter balance one another.

 

One thing they obviously had in common was that they were both incredibly driven.

 

Meeting at an off campus Campus Life Barbecue, they were introduced by a close friend who had been seeking to “set them up” for months.

 

…Now deeply entrenched in his thoughts, Andrew shifts positions as he continues to lie on his couch. Reaching to grab some stale potato chips from an open bag sitting on his coffee table, Andrew once again stares at the old family photo on the top of his TV.

 

“How could I do such a thing?” He now thought, going from the exciting thought of first meeting Cindy to the unthinkable.

 

Twelve and a half years after getting married, it all came crashing down. Six months later, they were divorced.

 

Andrew had traded his family for his career. 

 

If only he gave Cindy what she needed, perhaps he then would get what he needed. But, by then, they had grown too far apart. They hardly knew each other any more and quite frankly only stayed together because of the kids. Although that was to be questioned too as he was never there.

 

If divorce hadn’t been so engrained into her as not being ok from such an early age as well as having barely any faith left at all in her religious beliefs, it would be over for them without even a chance. But, because of this and despite the severe pain, Cindy gave Andrew once chance that morning to choose his path.

 

One day later, he chose to leave. Six months later they were divorced, and one year later he decided to leave the state by taking the job at Global Contact.

 

Now in tears, Andrew had left far behind the sense that he was not alone, he didn’t care anyway as he began to cry out into the silence of his house. With the lights out, only the flickering of the muted television lit up the ceiling with images of the Home Shopping Network seeking to sell someone a set of ear rings and matching necklace.

 

Plunging further into darkness, Andrew makes his way into the bathroom to grab his Tylenol PM. He knew he would be expected to be at work later that morning. Not only would he need to begin his offensive with putting off the government, he would also be responsible for maintaining all employees focus on what he now knows is a decoy mobile launch project. Thank them for their great work, smile, and pat them on the back, all the while leading them on like lambs to the slaughter. Full and well knowing that whoever would be left after the 29th would then be immediately placed under custody by the United States government. They would have no idea what hit them and no chance for escape.

 

Grabbing three tablets, Andrew filled his cup with water from the bathroom sink and downed them. Entering his bedroom, he again collapses, but this time onto his bed in hopes of at least a short respite from the tragedy that has now engulfed his life.

 

 

Chapter 9

 

Sitting in a basic two bed, non smoking room on the 14th floor of the downtown Denver Hilton, Vadim and Aleksandr receive a knock on the door. It was Jim, Charles, Richard, and Thomas. Just under fifteen minutes until the transfer would occur, both teams were on the ground and ready to make history.

 

Being placed on a cargo ship transferring grain to the Middle East and other East African Coast countries, no one would ever detect the movement of this cargo. With key team members deeply planted within the port authority, all the right people were on duty this early morning to make this happen. Besides, the primary focus has been on what’s coming in more so than what’s going out. This is eerily reminiscent of season five of the hit TV drama, 24. For a month now, this ship has been being loaded for departure sailing from the Port of Mobile direct to the Port of Hamburg.

 

As the five men sat and waited for the confirmation, all they could do was sit in silence as they watched the minutes flash by on the small alarm clock radio located on the night stand between both beds.

 

With minutes seeming like years, you could cut the air in the room with a spoon like a bubble ready to burst at its own built up pressure.

 

 

…Arriving two minutes ahead of schedule, Jim’s team of people efficiently go through all of the security checks to ensure authenticity of the transfer as well as their pre-screened identities.

 

The air this morning was filled with intermittent rain showers and occasional wind gusts that would temporarily push you backward. With the sun yet to arise, only the moon, surrounded by fast moving clouds and the bright lights of the shipyard lit up the sky.

 

Arriving in an unassuming single trailer semi, the mobile launcher was pre-assembled and placed in a crate just big enough to house a mid sized pick up truck. With the security clearance out of the way, it was now moved into position a midst of the flurry of activity of other items being loaded on the freighter just docked next to this one.

 

Clearly marked grain, the crate had to pass x-ray screening before being cleared for placement onto the ship.

 

With random security audits being conducted by the port authority, that was the only potential danger. But, they were prepared at all costs to not let that deter them from making the transfer happen. Besides, they knew they too had a big payday on the line. All they had to do was get this crate on the boat and launch the boat off to sea without a hitch. They knew nothing of what was in the crate outside of the three men driving the delivery truck. They just knew they had a lot of money coming their way if they could get this done. If they only knew that they too would be watched as well.

 

Needing to account for the screening, they placed a decoy crate at roughly the same weight into the x ray screener filled with grain. Expectantly clearing, they quickly removed the crate from the screener and place the crate with the launcher on the conveyer to be loaded onto the boat. Being next to the last container to be loaded, the necessary paperwork was signed off and the freighter was given clearance to leave dock and sail.

 

…As the final go ahead was given to the captain, a surprise visit by the port authority security makes it way up the steps to the office.

 

“Before this ship sails, we are going to need to go over the paperwork. You know the drill boys.” The lead inspector said immediately upon entering the office.

 

Of all the days they thought. But they were prepared. They knew this was a possibility. Besides, they did know the drill and they were careful to cross all their t’s. But still, this was a delay they did not want, especially knowing there were five men sitting in a hotel room in Denver waiting for their call.

 

 

It had been thirty long minutes since arriving at the hotel room.

 

“What’s taking so long?” they all seemed to think without saying it. But, you could read it on their faces.

 

With every passing moment the concern grew deeper and deeper. Did they make the transfer? Did they get caught? What if they got caught? What if they know who we are and where we are?

 

The room was filled with silence, but if silence could speak, these were the questions going through all of their minds.

 

 

“It says here that this next to the last container of grain was delivered by a different company than the other containers and it was only delivered not too long ago. What do you know about that?” the inspector firmly but with a slight hint of cockiness asked the men.

 

“Yes, that is with a company that is used in the case of overflow as you can see here on these previous documents from other outgoing ships this past week. With such an outpouring of humanitarian efforts underway, the regular trucking company cannot accommodate the overflow of containers being sent overseas. See, right here and here…is when this company has already been used this week alone. They’ve been pushing it through all week and up to the last minute to meet their deadlines. And here is the clearance paperwork for them to deliver containers.” The lead port authority loading supervisor quickly shot back as to overwhelm the security officer with confidence and information.

 

“All right then. I’ll just sign this here. Your ship is cleared to leave dock. Thank you much gentlemen. Enjoy your day.”

 

 

As the clock blinked indicating that thirty five minutes had elapsed since they arrived in the room to confirm the transfer and get the first down payment, suddenly the phone rings causing all five men to momentarily jump back.

 

It was Vadim and Aleksandr’s lead contact now one mile away from the dock to confirm the cargo had been transferred successfully and was now preparing to leave the dock  early that afternoon enroute to its final transfer point for deployment.

 

At this, Vadim motioned for Aleksandr to retrieve the suitcase stowed in the hallway with the rest of their luggage.

 

“Gentlemen, congratulations! The first transfer is complete. Here is your down payment. You now have until the 29th to leave the country and enter our country. Upon final transfer, we will notify you of the wire of the second payment. Do not fret of that which you will leave behind. When this is over, you will be treated as heroes in our country for your acts of generosity towards our cause.”

 

 

With this, the time clock had begun and the world had no idea what was soon to be unleashed.

 

 

Chapter 10

 

In a small and unassuming apartment outside of Hamburg, Germany, four men with the names, Barsam, Hami, Mansoor, and Najid patiently awaited the call.

 

 

As Jim and his team quickly and without a word left the room with their down payment, Vadim immediately picked up his satellite linked phone, on the other line, Najid calmly answered.

 

“The cargo will leave the dock by 1pm this afternoon; ETA to your port is five days. Be ready to make the transfer for immediate deployment at the Burchardkai terminal. Do you have your men stationed at both terminal and on the ship for execution? I do not have to remind you that we have one shot. This must happen on schedule on the 29th. No delays. Understood?” Vadim firmly stated.

 

Najim simply confirmed Vadim’s words with a simple yes.

 

“Upon execution on the 29th, I expect your government will immediately follow through with the funds.” Vadim again said with authority as he clicked off the phone.

 

 

For Jim, Charles, Richard, and Thomas, the time had come for them to split up and meet back at the end of the month. For now, the three men would go their separate ways to various parts of the country and then begin their trek overseas. Meanwhile, Jim was heading back to the office and would catch a direct flight out of JFK on the 27th to Moscow.

 

With 80% of the initial cut going to Jim, the others split the remaining 20%, and all that was left was for Andrew to either save his life or lose it. Not much of a deal for him for such a high stakes role. However, they did promise him both a rich reward as well as a trip out of town.

 

More than likely, they wouldn’t need to.

 

 

Later that morning…

 

The voice on the other end of the phone was that of Lt. Col. William Norris calling to confirm next Fridays project update on campus at the Global Contact headquarters.

 

“Mr. Drummond, I expect you are doing well. I was just calling to confirm our meeting next Friday on your campus. I understand that the project is ahead of schedule and might be ready for immediate deployment in a matter of weeks. My team is excited at this prospect and will expect full access to the equipment at our meeting.”

 

“Yes sir.” Was all Andrew could muster in response still weary from the past few days as well as knowing full well that his life depended on every word he spoke. But, was his life even worth living after all?

 

“Excellent, that’s what I like to hear. We will see you promptly at 11am.”

 

Hanging up the phone, Andrew began to realize the very magnitude and reality of the situation. With the U.S. Government wanting what they just sold out from under them to people that both hate this country as well as want to inflict maximum damage on it, the scales could never be higher. “Was there never any way out?” he desperately thought to himself as he received a knock on his office door.

 

“Andrew, you look terrible. You should get some rest.” Jim said with a hint of laughter in his voice as he walked into Andrew’s office.

 

“Look, I’m sorry it’s come to this. But I had no choice. Vadim and Aleksandr made me do it.” Jim continued as he turned more serious.

 

Feeling completely defeated and betrayed, all Andrew could do was stare and shake his head.

 

“Look, I know you don’t want to be a part of this. But, we need you. And, if you see this through…look on the bright side…you’ll still have your life. …oh, and by the way …great job with Norris! I heard every word. You’re off to a great start. …Just a few more weeks. Just make sure you take care of them next Friday and I’ll make sure to take care of the presentation.” Jim finished as he smiled and left the office.

 

Andrew felt sick with his stomach in knots as his head pounded uncontrollably as the smell of three day old coffee filled his office. His desk was a disaster with files scattered all over the place. Knowing full well that a strike was now imminent on the Eastern Seaboard, he knew there was no way out. Being tapped into his phone line, if he even began to make a call to tell someone, he knew the words would barely leave his mouth before he would get taken out. They had him completely covered. Even if he wanted to do something, he was too defeated to even make an effort.  He felt as useless as he could be.

 

Ashamed and confused, Andrew sat in silence and suddenly began to cry. It’s just not worth it he thought as he cried out to God, questioning how He could allow this to happen.

 

“I can’t do this! Not anymore. No matter how hard I want it, I always do the opposite. Cindy hates me, my kids hate me, my employer hates me, I hate me, and soon the whole country will hate me.  I probably won’t make it to the end of these few weeks anyways. They’ll find a way to silence me. Why not just silence myself?” He continued as his eyes now swollen with tears began to pour out over his desk forming a pool of teardrops.

 

It had been only the second time he had shed any tears since the day his dad died from a long battle with cancer nearly 8 years ago. Not even when his children were born or when his divorced was finalized. If this wasn’t rock bottom, it was sure getting close.

 

 

“Yes sir!” The young security guard calmly replied as Jim Edwards simply nodded. “You wait on my call, but be ready, we only have one shot and we cannot jeopardize this operation for anything. I want you aimed on him and ready 24/7. Got it?” Jim finished as he hung up his blackberry.

 

 

It was Friday afternoon and Jim kindly gave Andrew the weekend off. With the transfer point being reached sometime on Monday for a brief layover prior to the transfer for deployment, Andrew would have until next Friday to prepare for the briefing with Norris and his team.

 

Quite frankly, Andrew was here all along as an insurance pawn to further gain trust with the government. Although Jim too had built the trust that got this project in the first place, Andrew had the trust within the security community to hold a tight ship and ensure top-secret stays top-secret. He was always loyal to the end of each project. So, with him on board, this was an ace in the hole. Andrew would keep all parties quiet.

 

Arriving home, Andrew’s thoughts were in the balance as he contemplated taking his life, throwing it all away. Better he do it then them. With Friday fast approaching and the meeting with Norris and his team, he could not bear the thought of looking them in the eye.  The very thought sent pains throughout his body. So, he just sat there and carried the weight of the world as he watched the minutes and hours pass away. Dead man walking he was as each moment brought him closer to actually doing it.

 

Of course, this probably wouldn’t be too difficult. Being that his house was filled with surveillance equipment at as well people he did not know aiming at him more than he knew.

 

 

Chapter 11

 

It was 9 am in Hamburg, Germany and five days had passed since the package had left the Port of Mobile. Today was the day for the transfer to take place and then another eight days before the next ship leaves dock for New York, New York.

 

This trip was scheduled for seven days, but with the plan for the ship to firmly be in their hands by the evening of the sixth day, it would only get as far as fifty miles off shore for immediate and undetected deployment of the scud armed with a nuclear warhead. Both the captain of the ship and the United States of America will not even know what hit them.

 

A grey and wet day in Hamburg, Najim and his team had gone dark. With thirty men stationed at the port. Their responsibility was to ensure the package makes it safely and unseen off the arriving ship and then transferred back onto the departing ship. Once on that ship, they will retrieve from another crate, already onboard, the scud laced nuclear warhead to be pre-loaded on to the mobile launcher.

 

Najid, Barsam, Hami, and Monsoor would continue to wait. They too would be on that boat. After the past seven days of studying the diagrams on the equipment, they would be ready. Global Contact had designed it in such a way that a child could do it.

 

As the arriving ship makes dock, it would be another 10 hours before the transfer would be complete. With Najim and his team scheduled for the graveyard shift, they would virtually go unnoticed as they sought to not only smuggle aboard a nuclear warhead, but to install it as well.

 

 

The phone rang…it was Cindy.

 

Letting it ring, Andrew contemplates answering it. Feeling so ashamed for all that he had done and as close to rock bottom as one could be, the last thing and the first thing he wanted was to hear her voice.

 

“Hello…” Andrew said with a hesitant tone in his voice.

 

“Andrew…where have you been? How come you didn’t return my call?” Cindy quickly said in reply but with a little surprise at the tone of his voice.

 

“Well, let’s see here…I’ve been a little bit busy here latel…” Andrew returned.

 

Interrupting, Cindy interjected… “You never changed did you? Well it’s ok if you want to do that to me, but you have two children…remember?”

 

All Andrew could do was respond with silence. He knew he didn’t have a prayer with this one. She was right; he had been a complete non-existent father only being a part of his kids’ lives when it was convenient for him. It seemed crazy. Why now? What was it that made this finally sink in after all these years?

 

“Andrew… Andrew… Are you there?” Cindy asked with a pause in response to Andrew’s silence.

 

“Yeah, I’m here. I just don’t have anything to say…you’re right.” Andrew said in response.

 

A little shocked, Andrew’s statement sort of disarmed Cindy as she was prepared for the worst.

 

Her plan was to confront him on his lack of care and attention that he displays towards the kids. But, in the past week while she waited for him to return the call, she just got angrier with him. And why not…the kids were hurting for their dad and with this began to act out their frustrations. More often than not, the object of their aim was her.

 

If only he could turn back time. The guilt and shame was too much to bear. Whatever happened to that simpler life he had dreamed of so long ago? When and how did this all go wrong? Andrew just sat and thought as his stomach inside just churned. All weekend, he just laid there on his bed not getting up to either eat or shower.

 

Quickly realizing that he was still on the phone with Cindy, Andrew brings the phone mouth piece back up to this face and tells Cindy in a defeated and raspy tone that he could no longer talk.

 

Hanging up her phone, Cindy tries to be mad, but something tells her to respond otherwise. For the first time in who knows how long…his response was different. “Maybe he has changed?” She thought.

 

 

It was Monday afternoon and Andrew had to begin making sure everything was in place for the meeting this upcoming Friday.  The thought of this made him even sicker as he contemplated calling Norris or somehow find a way to contact him to let him know. At least then, he could get some suspicion on the radar prior to a quick and hopefully painless death. But, how could he do this? And, was he willing to do this before saying goodbye to his children? The thoughts were too fast to keep up with as his adrenaline began to flow.

 

Writing a handwritten note to himself, Andrew begins to plot out his next move. Knowing he is about to step onto the minefield, he seeks to find some sort of resolve for the pending tragedy that would soon befall him.

 

  • Update my will
  • Write goodbye letter to the kids
  • Call Norris on Wednesday

 

 

 

 

“The transfer was successful. It will leave in seven days for New York. We will go dark until the fireworks begin.” Najim alerted Vadim, quickly hanging up as fast as he had called him.

 

Looking over to Aleksandr, Vadim nods and softly says, “Fourteen days.”

 

 

Tuesday was a blur for Andrew. Already updating his will, he planned on writing his letter to the kids later that evening. Tomorrow would be the day. Feeling this was the best of all options; he was numb and looked like a wreck. Thought he tried his best to look the part, he wanted to make sure they knew he was playing ball. He knew he would only have one shot, he also ironically knew they would too.

 

But first, he had to face the team for a brief meeting that included Jim to prepare for the Friday meeting. Perhaps this was a better opportunity he thought. But knowing he had not yet written to his kids, he too was uncertain he was even ready. But the team here had no idea. They had been set up all along to develop the goods only to have them given away.

 

Jim Edwards was a traitor and Andrew wished he could take him out too. But, he knew that if this went as planned, he be tried for treason and potentially pay the ultimate price.

 

The event meeting went as planned as coincidentally, Andrew was called out just prior to the start by Jim who assigned him slash had him escorted to another part of the building to run a “security” check on the systems.

 

 

Finally, the time had come that Andrew so desperately did not want to come…he knew his whole life boiled down to this letter he was about to write to his two children. There was nothing left for him to give to this world that had any value whatsoever…

 

 

 

Dear Gregory and Michelle,

 

I want to start out by telling you how sorry I am for leaving you. To be honest, I don’t know what went wrong with me. But, I know this…I have failed you and words cannot express my guilt and shame for not being there for you, for not answering your calls, and just being an all around poor father.

 

Please know that if I could do it all over again, I would be there for you.

 

Gregory, for that first goal you scored in your second soccer game ever or for your solo at the Christmas eve service at church or for that first time you rode your bike without training wheels as you fell and scraped your knee.

 

Michelle, for the ballet recital or to see you with your Easter dress on. …or the time when you called and sang the whole national anthem on my voice mail.

 

You see, I did read your letters and I heard your voice mails, though I never responded. I was just too busy ever to respond to anything. Even the ones I loved the most. I was and still am so selfish.

 

But, each time I read a letter I felt so proud of you and I am sorry I never told you that. You see, daddy forgot about what was important in his life and got all mixed up. I chose my work over my family and in doing so I lost my family. I never thought it would end up this way. It wasn’t supposed to. The more money I made, I figured the more I could support my family. But something along the way went completely wrong. I became addicted to success and money and I didn’t want to lose it. It became my identity and I did not want to fail. I had made it this far.

 

But, look at me now and look at you now.

 

As I write this, I am staring at the last picture you sent me of the both of you. It sits on my TV. I bet you did not figure that? But it does and my eyes are filled with tears.

 

I am writing you this letter as things at work have become extremely difficult. I hope to work through it soon and when I do, perhaps we could see each other? That is, if you would want to?

 

Until then…listen to your mother. She’s a great mom and she loves you very much…and…I do too!

 

Daddy

 

With this, he clicked send on the computer. He was both nervous and sad. How would they respond? Why did it come to this?

 

 

Chapter 12

 

Wednesday started out as a gloomy day as the storm clouds rolled across the skyline. Wearing a dark grey suit with a black tie, grabbed his briefcase and an OJ from the fridge and was about ready to head to work.

 

This was the day.

 

“So this is what it is like to live knowing you will die today?” Andrew thought to himself.

 

With his hands shaking, he struggled to pour the OJ into the glass without spilling it. In this, he briefly looks up and catches his reflection in the mirror that hangs on the wall next to the dining table.

 

“Who is that person?” He again thought.

 

Looking pale and thin, Andrew had not ate in days. Truth be told, even though he did work out, his eating habits were terrible. Either he would eat a lot or not eat at all.

 

 

Andrew arrived at his office and quickly got his desk in order and then…he just sat there and stared at the phone. It was time to get this over with. Still fighting the rationale of this choice, Andrew reminded himself that millions of lives were too at stake. He had no other choice. This must be done.

 

His plan was to call William Norris and wait for him to answer. Once he answered, he was to quickly tell him the plans were sold to the Russians who planned to deploy them in less than two weeks on the Eastern seaboard.

 

If Andrew was lucky, he would get the part about the plans being sold out before he was gone.

 

With his heart beating and sweat begin to stream down his face, Andrew picked up the phone and began dialing the office phone for Norris…

 

“Hello, you have reached the office of Lt. Col. William Norris, may I help you?” answered the receptionist. Not expecting the receptionist to answer, with his heart racing, Andrew tried to take a deep breath.

 

“May I speak to Lt. Col. Norris, please?” Andrew calmly asked.

 

“I’m sorry, but the Lt. Col, will be in meetings all day and in the air tomorrow for a Friday meeting. Is there anything I can do for you?” she responded.

 

“No mam, thanks.” Andrew dejectedly said as he hung up.

 

“I know I have his cell phone number around here somewhere…” he thought to himself.

 

Finding the number, Andrew took another deep breath and then dialed the number as he jotted a note next to Norris’s name and number and stuffed it in his pocket.

 

As the phone rang and rang…Jim Edwards abruptly entered into Andrew’s office.

 

Quickly cancelling the call with what must have been a sheepish look, Andrew turns around to face Jim.

 

“What are you doing Andrew?” Jim asked.

 

“I was just making a few calls.” Andrew replied.

 

“A few calls to Norris? What for? Is there a problem Andrew?” Jim asked.

 

“No problem at all. Just making sure everything is on schedule for Friday.” Andrew shot back still trying to calm the pace of his breathing.

 

“Andrew, don’t go there. We let your inspiring letter to your kids go through, but don’t think we’ll let much else.” Jim added as he left the office slamming the door behind him.

 

 

“Vadim, I think it’s time.” Jim stated.

 

“How so?” Vadim responded.

 

“As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t think Andrew is going to make it.” Jim answered.

 

“Don’t screw it up. We must ruin him before he ruins us and this whole operation.” Vadim calmly fired back.

 

“We are less than two weeks to bringing your borders to your knees and all that I have worked for and hoped for for so long. Jim, remember why you are in this. If it were not for Aleksandr and I, you would have been thrown away like garbage. Jim, we have resurrected you and your career and yet the whole world has no idea of this. To them, you’re just an all out success story. You owe us and you are in the balance. We complete this,  we are even. We fail, it is your head.” Vadim finished as he hung up.

 

 

More nervous than ever, Jim was just threatened in way he was not accustomed to. The stakes were high and the margin for error was zero. With so many factors in play, Jim was beginning to sense a fear he had not felt since that day in Moscow when he nearly lost it all.

 

With his cell phone still open from the previous call from Vadim, Jim made the call that previously seemed so easy. He called the lead security agent who was watching Andrew like a hawk to inform him that the time had come.

 

“Tonight, make it happen and don’t miss.” Jim quickly said as he hung up.

 

Realizing he just spun into motion the murder of a colleague. “How would he spin this? This was not supposed to happen. For some reason, Vadim was not comfortable with Andrew around. “ Jim thought to himself.

 

“On the other hand, he thought…This would at least buy him another week before needing to meet with Norris. Surely this would be a great excuse to hold them off until it was too late. By the time they catch on, the ship we already be within striking distance. And with the amount of cargo and shipping vessels out there, it will be like a needle in a haystack. We figure the guys on the ship are collateral damage anyway. For them, this is nothing short of a suicide mission any way.” By this time , Jim was paralyzed with the rationale.

 

 

Completely defeated, Andrew finally made it home. With Norris out of reach and Jim in the loop, there was nothing left for Andrew to do. He was basically dead man walking.

 

Feeling numb and helpless, Andrew grabbed a bottle of his best Pinot, poured himself a glass, and went out to the back patio to suffer through an uneventful last evening.  It was just him and the stars above.

 

 

Tossing and turning and still thinking about her conversation with Andrew, Cindy wakes up with an uncontrollable thought to pray for him. For some reason, right then and there, she felt a sense of urgency for him as if he were in trouble or something. This was odd because for the past several years, her thoughts of him were anything but. So, she began to pray.

 

 

Placed deep within the brush in the backyard of Andrew Drummond’s, security agent #1 sat with his eyes on the scope and finger on the trigger. He had one shot.

 

As the wind blew, the darkness was outfitted with more stars than one could count. As his heart began to race, he notices that Andrew was coming outside. “This would be easier.”

He thought. “I’ll just take him out from a distance and get out of here.”

 

 

As Andrew sat down, he placed his glass of wine on the ground…paused…and then bent forward to take a drink.

 

 

Bang! … Bang!

 

 

Chapter 13

 

“Did you get ‘em?” Jim asks.

 

“I got ‘em!” the security agent responds.

 

“Are you sure?” Jim asks a second time.

 

“Yeah, I got ‘em. But, I couldn’t get to him in time.” The security agent answers with a sense of fear in his voice.

 

“What do you mean…you couldn’t get to him in time? You were right there!” Now angry, Jim quickly asks.

 

“I shot him when he was outside and before I could get to him, this guy, I don’t who he was or where he came from just shows up out of nowhere.” Out of breath from the fear, the agent practically yells through the phone.

 

“Was Drummond down?” Jim asks again not believing what was going on.

 

“Yeah, he was down. I hit ‘em and he writhed around on the ground. So I shot him again and then he just stopped. I figured he was dead.” The agent again fearfully responds.

 

“You better have figured right. Cause if he’s not, it’s your head. Where’d they take ‘em?” Now completely unglued, Jim forcefully asks.

 

“I don’t know, that guy, he, he uh took him.” Again, now fully understanding the scope of his poor judgment the agent states.

 

“What in the heck were you thinking? You better get over to the hospital and check every single room for Drummond and if he is still alive… you will take him out. If not, you too will be done! Got it! And if he is not at the hospital…you better find him or I will personally find you myself.” Edwards angrily responds as he hangs up on him.

 

 

Weaving in and out of consciousness, Andrew struggles to figure out where he was or where he was going. Too weak to move, he lays there curled up in a ball. He knew he’d been shot once as he bounced around in what he figured was the back of a pick up truck.

 

Everything was just a blur as thoughts of everything he missed of his kids lives flashed in front of him. Every letter, every voice mail, and now even the deep regret of what he did to Cindy. They all just shot past him like a movie.

 

“If this is it…this is it. Dear God…I’m so sorry for screwing my life up so bad. I don’t want to die…please, please save me!” He cried out in between the deep breaths as he faded off into unconsciousness.

 

 

The hospital was another 5 miles away. He knew he didn’t have much time before he would lose him.  He couldn’t have waited for an ambulance, it was too dangerous. To save him, he had to act fast.

 

He was driving Andrew’s truck as fast as he could quickly approaching the hospital after racing over winding gravel roads. His plan was to get Andrew to the emergency entrance and get away unseen as fast as he can.

 

Coming to an immediate halt, he set the truck alarm off and quickly darted off the scene.

 

Racing to attention, the hospital emergency workers are caught off guard with the truck parked in the entrance with the alarm sounding, but with no one in the driver’s seat. Not quite sure what to do, they quickly look into the cab, but no one.

 

“We got him!” yells out one of the ER staff as they look into the canopy.

 

“He’s got a pulse, but barely…there’s blood everywhere.”

 

“We’re losing him…get the paddles!

 

 

“With that kind of arrival and multiple bullet wounds to the head and to the shoulder, I want this guy under tight security. Nobody comes in or out unless they have my approval.” The head administrator of the hospital ordered after being woken up by the head ER physician on duty.

 

 

Arriving at the hospital, the shooter realizes there is no way he is going to make it inside that place. He also identifies Andrew’s truck is park in the emergency parking lot. Knowing this, he knows for sure he is in the right place. But, is Andrew dead or alive? If he is dead, he knows he is off the hook, but if he is alive…he will either need to figure out how to get into the hospital and take him out or he better get out of town immediately before Edwards finds out.

 

Parked in his car a block away from the hospital, the shooter decides to contact Edwards. As he dials Edwards number, another call comes in from the other agent.

 

“What’s the status?” Agent #2 asks.

 

“I don’t know. Either dead or alive, but they got the place on lockdown.” The shooter says in response.

 

“Where you at? Agent #2 inquires.

 

“About a block away from the hospital in my car.”

 

“I see you. I’m just coming up on you now.”

 

Jumping outside to meet up with the other agent, the shooter cautiously looks out his rear view mirror before getting out of his car.

 

It’s dark outside and their location is next to a heavily wooded area. Quite frankly, the whole area around the hospital is heavily wooded. With all of the security stationed at the hospital, there are also officers combing the streets for presumably the driver of the truck. There was also a police helicopter scanning the area as well.

 

Motioning for the shooter to walk towards the wooded area, the other agent quickly approaches the shooter as he plunges a knife into his heart and kills him.

 

“You had one shot. Game over!” the other agent says as the shooter lays on the ground motionless.

 

“Edwards, he’s down.”

 

“Good, now go finish what he started and get back to me until your done or you’ll be next.”

 

 

Jim had to think and he had to think fast with regards to how he was going to handle Norris. It was just past midnight on Thursday morning and the presentation was on Friday morning. Getting through this was the final hurdle. He just needed to keep him out of reach for just over a week and by then it would be too late.

 

Drummond was the insurance policy. Not having him here for this would be suspicious. “We should have just kept him at bay and not brought him in. He would have no idea that we were building a decoy and this whole thing would have been a slam dunk.” Jim had thought out loud to himself.

 

Needing to both keep Norris and his people satisfied, Jim also knew that he was going to have to convince Vadim that Andrew Drummond was not going to be an issue, at least for another week and a half. Otherwise, this could come down like a house of cards on top of him.

 

 Chapter 14

 

The ICU of the Hospital was surrounded by armed security guards and inside laid an unconscious Andrew Drummond who was clinging onto the threads of life. Briefly reaching flatline, they quickly revived him outside at the emergency room entrance on a gurney set up behind his truck.

 

How he got there was a complete mystery. But, whoever got him there saved his life. By the time an ambulance would have gotten to his house, he would have more than likely been gone by either the two gun shot wounds or potentially a third.

 

Though they have by now identified the truck as belonging to Andrew Drummond, they have yet to tie the truck to Andrew himself as he carried no identification on him.

 

But for now, they have at least kept him alive. He was lucky though as the bullet hit him just right in the head. Another fraction of an inch and he would have been gone for sure.

 

 

Just past 4:30am in Shady Leaf and Cindy Drummond is just getting up off her knees from praying for Andrew. She doesn’t know why, but she had this urgent sense to pray for Andrew and that he was in trouble.  Maybe it was the phone conversation and how he sounded. It was so sobering. Not knowing quite how to place a finger on it, she knew there was something different. At this, she decided she needed to at least try to get some sleep.

 

Feeling a little more at peace from praying, there was still a sense of uncertainty. Figuring he won’t answer a call at this insanely early hour, she resolved to calling him first thing in the morning to see of he was ok…that is if he answers her call.

 

 

“If I tip Norris off a day early that Drummond won’t be present for the meeting, he might get suspicious. “ Jim thought as he prepared his next move.

 

“We’ll just go business as usual with the rest of our team. It’s not like the launcher would be ready anyway. We have always had a release date set at 6 weeks past the release date of the Stradex launcher.” He continued as he sat in the dark on his large black leather sofa located in his office.

 

It was just him, the security staff, and the decoy launch developers onsite at this early hour. It was dead silence and nothing but the flickering light of a candle moved within those four walls.

 

On his desk were pictures of his son Dylan who tragically died in operations related to Operation Desert Storm. He had been hit by friendly fire and had died on his way the medical barracks from the impact of large amounts of shrapnel.

 

He missed him so much.

 

Though it was Dylan’s decision to go into the military, Jim never forgave the US government for this incident.

 

He was just starting Stradex at the time with Vadim and Aleksandr and received news of his son’s death as he was preparing to meet with them in Moscow.   He had received the news in a phone call from his ex-wife, Maria who was living in Paris at the time.

 

It was during this time in life that Jim had become entrenched with the power circles of the new Russian economy or the oligarchy as some called it. And it was during this time of his life that he found himself in trouble beyond anything he could dig himself out of on his own. Of course that is what he was used to doing. But, this time it was different.

 

Not wanting to go there, Jim quickly tried to change the direction of his thoughts back towards getting through the next week and a half with Norris. This would be the easy part, it was holding off Vadim with regards to Drummond that had him sick to his stomach.

 

 

“Thanks for making it here this morning. I want to make sure that we all clearly understand what we are about to unleash. For the past several years, we have sat back and watched our president fight a global war on terror with his hands tied. And yet, these people continue to make these threats and on our soil no less at the U.N.

 

With this, I want to reiterate the pact we made 10 months ago to commission this project to strike hard and fast at the heart of the enemy.

 

Tomorrow morning, I and our select committee will be flying off the radar to Denver, Colorado to receive our last briefing before the project is ready for deployment. At this point, we are about 4 weeks out from deployment. At that point and before there is any detection from the white house, we will begin the countdown and deploy.

 

In this, we will silence our enemies once and for all and wipe them off the map first. Again, we thank you for being here, thank you for your investments and commitment to this project as well as to doing what is right.”

 

Lt. Col. Norris had just addressed the attendees of this top-secret morning meeting in an old house located on the outskirts of Langley, Virginia.

 

 

“What’s the status on Drummond?”

 

“I don’t know. “

 

“What did you do with your partner?”

 

“He won’t be found…trust me. “

 

“You have 24 hours to confirm or deny the death of Andrew Drummond or you’re next. Trust me!” Jim Edwards angrily charged as abruptly hung up the phone.

 

 

“Is Drummond out of the picture?” Vadim asks Jim Edwards.

 

“I am fairly certain that is the case.”

 

“Fairly certain or definitely certain? There’s no in between Jim.”

 

“He was shot twice and is in the hospital. I have a man on him right now. I’ll get back to you when we are certain.”

 

“There are no in betweens Jim and you too are not untouchable either my friend. Make sure he has been silenced and do not call me until he is.”

 

 

Chapter 15

 

Not wanting to call too early but worried still from her early morning sense of urgency to pray for Andrew, Cindy waited until mid-morning on the East coast to call Andrew.

 

First trying his home number and then his cell phone, she got no answers in either place, so she decides to leave a message at both places.

 

“Andrew, its Cindy…are you ok? This might seem really weird, but last night I couldn’t sleep, I just kept having this feeling that something was wrong. Please call me back and let me know you’re ok.”

 

Hanging up the phone, Cindy felt a little frustrated that he didn’t pick up the phone. But, that was his “MO” after all these years to never answer the phone or even return the call. Maybe that was why she was frustrated. The last thing she wanted to be was reeled in and hurt again in hopes of him changing. So, she waited for him to call her back.

 

 

It was 7:30 am in Denver and Andrew was still unconscious. He was one lucky guy. Another ¼ of an inch and the bullet that went through his head would have killed him for sure. But still, he was not in good shape. He had lost a lot of blood and there were no guarantees that life would ever be normal again. However, his chances for survival were fairly certain. He would still need to wake up first.

 

Still under heavy security, the hospital had long since put the police on the investigation to determine who he was and how he got there. But, until then, no one without proper clearance was aloud to even come close to his ICU.

 

 

“Did you get him out of there? Asked the mystery voice on the other end of the phone.

 

“Just barely, he was at least alive when I dropped him off. After that, I have no idea.”

 

“Well, you have at least done your part. Are you sure no one saw you?

 

“Yeah, I’m sure. I got out of there pretty quick. I’m not sure if the shooter caught a look or not though. It was pretty dark, so I doubt it.”

 

“Well, that’s not going to be a problem. He’s been taken care of. Now we just have to keep the others from getting in and after Drummond. And if Drummond is still alive…we need to keep him out of play for at least the next 2 weeks. Can you handle that?”

 

“I’ll do what I can”

 

“Great. Make it happen!”

 

 

Friday morning…

 

“Lt. Col. Norris, this is Jim Edwards. We are excited to see you this morning, sir.”

 

“We are too, but that’s not for a few more hours, is everything still on?”

 

“Well, sir, I thought I would personally call you before you arrived to inform you that Andrew unfortunately will not be able to be with us this morning. He had tried calling you on Wednesday because he wanted to tell you himself, but he had to leave town abruptly on Wednesday evening due to a death in the family.”

 

“Really? I’m sorry to hear that. Was it unexpected? He had never mentioned anything when we talked late last week.”

 

“Yeah, it was his uncle. He was killed in a car accident on Tuesday afternoon. He flew out that next evening to Charlotte to be with family. But, that will not deter our presentation this morning and everything is still on schedule. We should have your equipment ready for deployment in 4 weeks.”

 

“Well…I’m sorry about Andrew, but that is what I like to hear. I have a lot of my investors with me and they are eager to see what their money is about to buy them. See you soon. And thanks for the call.”

 

 

Jim knew that he had now crossed the line. He was directly in between life and death and it was like walking on a mine field knowing that next step could change everything. Either he had gained another breath or he had taken his final breath. But only taking that next step could reveal what choices lay ahead.

 

“Was all of this really worth it?” he began to think. If he could just get through this presentation, it would buy him a week or so and enough time to leave the country and say goodbye to life as he knew it. But, he also knew it wasn’t that easy. He now also had to make sure that Andrew was out of play until the plan was unleashed. And to make sure of that, he also needed to keep Vadim and his partners at bay too.

 

His job was to keep things quiet and then trust the guys on the ship that they were right on schedule. One slip and the whole project would come crashing down completely on top of him. At least every one else had an out, but this squarely falls on his shoulders and his alone.

 

 

11 o’clock could not have come soon enough as Norris and his group filed into the small auditorium located deep within the headquarters of Global Contact.

 

As Jim greeted the group, the lights dimmed as a large screen became illuminated with an all too recognizable presentation. …Or at least recognizable to Jim.

 

Welcome to the Global Contact Open House 2006

 

The voice of Jim comes out over the Bose speakers in surround sound, his narration marked with chilling words is accompanied by a computer simulation of first a map of the world and then a most disturbing map of the Middle East.

 

With this, a video simulation now appears on the screen of a large cargo freighter leaving a dock across the Atlantic heading towards the Middle East. The simulated ship makes its way towards the region as a time clock at the lower left hand corner of the screen marks off the estimated time from departure to destination. As the freighter fast approaches the seaboard, it comes to a stop just outside of 50 miles off the coastline.

 

At this, the time clock on the screen stops and the video now splits into two screens. On one side of the screen, the simulated ship is seen as a dot in the Mediterranean along with the whole Middle East region. On the other side of the screen is found a zoom in of the freighter as a new time clock appears.

 

What is seen next changes everything. With dead silence in the room, even Andrew sat in amazement as this was the first time he’d even seen that which he has been trying to protect all this time.

 

As the new time clock begins, a simulation of a mobile missile launcher is rolled out onto the deck of the freighter already pre-loaded with as the screen states, a scud missile.

 

…Within 5 minutes, the missile had been launched and the launcher was rolled back into hiding.

 

…Within 6 minutes, the freighter is changing course, undetected by the defense mechanisms set in place just outside on Middle Eastern waters.

 

…Within 12 minutes, the missile makes impact.

 

With this, the screen goes dark as a potential damage forecast begins to scroll across the screen…

 

…No defense…direct hit on major target could result in millions of casualties within minutes of launch… No defense… Several more million casualties will result within 30-90 days from the effects of the impact/fallout… No defense

 

…Package is ready for delivery and can be in your hands within four weeks for immediate deployment…

 

With this, the company logo for Global Contact now appears on the screen as the house lights come up and the projector is turned off.

 

Silence fell upon the room. The moment had finally come, it was now within reach. This group of rogue government officials and investors were about to embark on a plan that would change the world. They felt the president had his hands too tied to effectively fight the war on terror, and if he wouldn’t put up the fight, they would. They figured, they would just take them all out and blame it on some other company. Everybody knew that the US would be crazy to pull off such an attack and risk all out war with Russia and maybe even China.

 

But, in the name of every last life that was ended on 9/11, it was time for real action.

 

“Jim, bravo. You are providing just as we expected. But, I have one question…”

 

 

Chapter 16

 

“I have an extra two hundred twenty five million dollars if you can have this ready for immediate deployment in one week. Can you have this ready? Scratch that, I’m not asking, I’m telling you.” Norris confidently asked Jim Edwards in front of his group of 25 investors and colleagues.

 

Not expecting this demand, but knowing the brutal reality of what was indeed possible; Jim tried to maintain his best poker face as sweat began to run down his face.  Quickly thinking to himself…

 

“If they got this on Friday, I would get the cash knowing there was no way they could deploy this and have it in position before the following Tuesday. After that, let the chips fall where they may. But still…what am I thinking?” It then finally sunk in…

 

Jim Edwards had essentially brokered a project and deal that could mean the very end of civilization. He had already sold that which he was seeking to sell again. What was he thinking was all that he could think, and he knew that there was officially now no way out.

 

“2 weeks is the quickest I could have this ready.” He responded after a long pause.

 

“No deal. I need it in one week. Period.” Norris shot back.

 

“Hey now, wait a minute. We have been operating this whole time with the understanding that our current due date was the date it would be ready. I realize that we had also agreed that a large bonus of $225 million would be offered if we could get this done ahead of schedule, but it was never agreed that the actual complete date be moved up four weeks!” Edwards responded.

 

“Well, sorry, the dates been moved up. And we will expect delivery next Friday morning. Once the delivery is complete, we will wire you the final payment along with the bonus for early completion.” Norris firmly states as he and his delegation begin to file out of the auditorium and back to the airport.

 

Standing there in sheer shock, Jim Edwards didn’t know what hit him. How could things get so complicated so fast? It was like the weight of the universe was on his shoulders. Looking at his team, he flashed them a look that said, “You know what you need to do. Let’s make it happen.”

 

As if another six straight all-nighters meant anything. That had been the norm for way beyond too long. But that was his teams worry. Jim knew he had his own worrying to do.

 

 

Having a late night cocktail in a high rise office building in the heart of Moscow, Vadim and Aleksandr sat with their Iranian counter parts. “Not only will they not know what hit them, they will not know who hit them.” Vadim quipped as he raised his glass to the others.

 

“Who can they strike now? They will not be able to trace this.” “Finally, we will bring her to her very knees…once and for all.” Aleksandr quickly added as they all tipped their glasses to their impending victory.

 

“What about Edwards and his team?”

 

“They mean nothing. They are just dumb Americans with dollar signs running through their veins. No loyalty at all. Once they arrive, we either kill them or send them away. We’ll just have to wait and see how happy we will be and that will depend on if we hit a million or two million Americans. Here’s to two!” Vadim said with a smirk as he lifted his glass for one more toast.

 

 

Norris and his group of investors had just laid down the law. They were eager to make this happen, especially after the last year of stalemate in the government. After the mid-term election in 2006 ended with the democrats regaining control of the capitol, nothing got done. So, it was up to Norris to finish what was started nearly 7 years prior.

 

Their plan was to immediately deploy the commercial container ship towards the Middle East and launch the warhead into the heart of Iran. Enough was enough.

 

Sitting in the plane on the tarmac, Norris finally got a minute to catch his breath as well as check up on all his voice mail. Quickly assessing the voice mail, Norris stumbles on a message with an unfamiliar voice. Stunned, Norris cannot believe what his was hearing…

 

“Lt. Col. Norris, sir. This is hospital security at the “” hospital just outside of Red Hill Creek, Colorado. We just had a gentlemen show up here in the back of a pickup with multiple bullet wounds and no identification. All he had on him was your name, this number, and the words…STRAY HAWK.”

 

Silence cuts through the air as Norris cannot believe what he just heard.

 

“Did you say… STRAY HAWK?” Norris asks.

“Yes sir, I did.” The hospital security agent answered.

His military training kicking in, Norris calmly responds…

“His name is Andrew Drummond. Is the hospital on lockdown?”

“Yes sir. We don’t even know how he got here. But, ever since he arrived, we put the hospital on total security lockdown. We have also stationed guards outside of his room.”

“Good. Keep it that way.” Norris quickly replies as he hangs up the phone.

 

 

 

Chapter 17

 

It was early Sunday afternoon and Cindy Drummond just hung up the phone. Jim had been shot twice and was not doing well.

 

“Mom, what is it?” Her son said as she looked noticeably shaken.

 

“It’s your father…he’s in the hospital.”

 

“Is he ok? What happened?” Gregory shot back.

 

“Get Michelle, we need to talk.” Cindy replied.

 

Michelle had been sitting in her room upstairs on her computer catching up on email. She only checked her email box once or twice a week as most of her communication was via my space.

 

She had just read the email from her dad when Gregory came barging into her room, yelling for her to get down stairs quickly and that dad was in the hospital.

 

It was a whirlwind! The letter was so out of the blue and so from another place that she was not used to from her dad. Obviously Gregory hadn’t read it yet.

 

With both of them now downstairs at the dining table, Cindy took a deep breath and said a silent prayer. She too was overwhelmed with anxiety and feelings for someone she wasn’t sure how to think about anymore.

 

“Your dad is in the hospital. We do not have all the details, but…he’s been shot.”

 

“Oh my… No! Is he going to be alright?” screamed Michelle as she began to breath uncontrollably.

 

“They’re not sure.” Cindy answered as watching her kid’s reaction was more than she could handle.

 

Clutching both the kids in her arms, Cindy, without even thinking twice, blurted out…

 

“Pack your bags…he needs us at his side.”

 

Minutes that seemed like hours passed by when Michelle spoke up.

 

“Greg, did you read the email from dad yet? Michelle asked through tears as she began to breathe much slower. It was the arms around her that made a difference and brought a weird calmness to what must have felt like a lightning strike.

 

“What email?” Gregory responded as he looked up from within the embrace.

 

“Mom, you need to read this too. It was as if dad knew he was in trouble or something. I mean, he’s never been this open and honest with us before.”

 

Running upstairs to where the opened email was still up on the screen, the three, seeking anything with hope attached quickly began to read to themselves…

 

 

 

On the other side of the world, it was Monday and with this, it was time to set into motion the final leg of an objective that was birthed out of years of planning. In less than one week, the world would see the last of the lone superpower and the rise of a new era of global dominance and leadership.

 

With the Russians now connected with two of the three of the axis of evil in North Korea and Iran, they held the cards that helped facilitate this alliance, between them and China. They had been successful in either blocking or delaying anything that came up at the security counsel meetings at the UN concerning these countries.

 

The time was now. All they needed was this ship to set sail undetected and to at least get within 50 miles of the coastline. Even if they were detected at that point, the crew on board could more than conceivably launch in the very face of the Americans.

 

But, what the Americans don’t know is that the Russians also have their hands involved with at least 23 other commercial cargo ships setting sail for America’s Eastern seaboard simultaneously. They will serve as decoys. Even if the Americans are on to them, it will be like finding a needle in a haystack.

 

With the low rattling sound of the ships horn, Najid, Barsam, Hami, and Monsoor quietly nod at each other. It was all or nothing. They had been waiting on this day for nearly 5 years and had infiltrated all but a few of the ships crew.

 

When it was time, the official crew would not know what hit them. But, even if they did, there would be nothing anyone could do. It would be too late.

 

But, did the Americans know?

 

 

Chapter 18

 

A bright streaking light flashed across the night sky as Andrew quickly dove for cover.

 

Moments later, the ground shook at the sound of a massive explosion and suddenly he found himself buried deep within a row of bushes.

 

Moments, which seemed like minutes later, Andrew slowly rose to his feet as sounds of car alarms and dogs barking filled the now chaotic night sky.

 

“What was that?” he wondered out loud as he struggled to catch his breath while he brushed the bark dust off of himself.  “That was no airplane.”

 

Meanwhile, 7 miles away at the regional  9-1-1 call center, it was business as usual. Matter of fact, it was a little slow for that time of night…

 

Just down the street and beyond a row of houses was the glow of flames reaching into the dark night sky. It looked like it was as wide as a city block.

 

“I gotta call 9-1-1!” Andrew thought to himself.

 

Reaching for his cell phone, it was missing. Perhaps he lost it when he dove into the bushes. Pitch dark and on his knees, Andrew ran his hands through the bushes to locate his phone when suddenly the phone rang from the middle of the sidewalk…

 

It was Cindy, but the reception was really bad. He hung up and quickly tried again, and again, and again. Cell coverage was down, the explosion must of knocked something offline.

 

“I‘ve got to get down there.” Andrew thought, once again torn between his family and life. But this was no ordinary dilemma, this was catastrophic, or so it seemed. 

 

As Andrew quickly moved towards the bright glow it seems that all outside sounds had grown eerily silent. It must have been several minutes by now and he found it quite odd that no rescue vehicles were on the scene. The whole block seemed lifeless. It was like walking into a ghost town on fire with sheer destruction everywhere. He couldn’t even count the houses that were instantly leveled as what seemed only the foundations remained on fire.

 

Validating his earlier thought, he couldn’t see any sign of what caused this. No fusel lodge or wings from an airplane. There was nothing but a deep hole in the ground that seemed to go on forever.

 

Standing in complete shock, all he could do was stare. If there was anyone to save, it was too late. Nothing or no one would have been able to survive this.

 

But, I don’t get it. What happened? Where’s the help? Where’s everybody else from the part of the neighborhood not hit? It was just him in the midst of fire and destruction.

 

Moved beyond the shock of what just occurred and beginning to realize how lucky he was to be alive, Andrew stood there with his heart pounding out of his chest and began to cry as he fell to his knees.

 

It was then that he realized that it was too late. It was then that he realized what had happened. “They actually did it. They launched it.” Andrew said to himself under his breath.

 

Suddenly overwhelmed with guilt for not risking his life to notify Norris or somebody, Andrew began to cry out to God…

 

“Oh God…God, please forgive me. Can You hear me? Are You there?” he cried as he could barely catch his breath between sobs.

 

“It’s my fault, all my fault! I could have said something, anything to stop this and now look at this.” He continued.

 

Andrew had no idea as he laid there in his hospital bed squirming. He had been in and out of consciousness for the past few days. This was a nightmare that seemed all too real as the nurses and doctors rushed to his room at the sound of the monitors registering his vitals spiking to dangerous levels.

 

Slowly regaining consciousness, the staff quickly reached out to restrain Andrew as he began screaming unintelligible words and suddenly he sat up and just stared at the wall in front of him. With sweat pouring down his face, he barely moved. He just sat there with a scared look in his eyes.

 

He had no idea.

 

 

Chapter 19

 

Cindy was not prepared to read that email. She sat there in disbelief as she began to cry the cries of the past several years all pent up from trying to be strong for her kids. Although, when they were not around, the tears were a constant companion. But this time, with her kids at her side, she let go.

 

For the first time since the divorce, Andrew had shown a repentant heart and interest in his family. The authenticity found in his words was no doubt for real, but why now? What had happened to cause this?

 

None of that really mattered as the words found in that email seemed to hit the very depth of each heart present with a power that easily swept past the years of disrespect or no interest he asserted. Perhaps it was this email coupled with the horrifying news that made it so much easier to accept.

 

But Cindy knew different. She had been crying out to God for Andrew since the last time she laid eyes on him and with this came a glimmer of hope that somehow, if he could survive this…things could be different.

 

 

“What’s the status on Drummond?”

 

“I can’t even get close. It’s Fort Knox in there.”

 

“Can you take him out from a distance?”

 

“No Sir, I cannot.”

 

“Who else do you have with you? He’s got the whole world in his hands and there is not a dang thing I can do to stop him! Find a way.”

 

Edwards knew this had the potential to spin out of control at any minute. Everything was down to the wire. The stress was more than he could take, but thankfully he had cases of anti-depressants to pop to take a little edge off.

 

With less than one week until all hell would break loose, Edwards had to keep Drummond quiet, deliver Norris the goods, and immediately leave the country. By now, the others had already left and was somewhere in Eastern Europe preparing to cross over into Russia.

 

All Edwards could do was pray that Drummond was out or near out until Monday. But praying was something Edwards hadn’t done since he was an altar boy at the Catholic Church he grew up attending with his aunt and uncle. The fact is that he had lost faith when he lost Dylan. He couldn’t understand how a God of love could allow such a horrible thing like that to happen. And now ironically, he had no idea, but he had become an instrument of free will in a fallen world that would explain the very thing he could not grasp when his son died.

 

Never mind praying for someone to not wake up. That was another matter all too real. How did Edwards get here?

 

 

 What happens next? …check back and see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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