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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 3, 2015. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
On one evening in Washington, DC, several high-ranking members of government disappear in a mass kidnapping. Among the kidnapped is Nick Rendel, a computer software coding expert in charge of drone programming and strategy. He is the victim with the most dangerous knowledge, including confidential passwords and codes that are used to program the drones. If revealed, his kidnappers could reprogram the drones to strike targets within the United States.
Jon Smith and the Covert One team begin a worldwide search to recover the officials, but as the first kidnapping victims are rescued, they show disturbing signs of brainwashing or mind-altering drugs. Smith's investigation leads him to Fort Detrick, where a researcher, Dr. Laura Taylor, had been attempting to create a drug to wipe memory from soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. But Dr. Taylor's research was suspended almost a year ago, when she was placed in a mental institution. Now, if Smith doesn't figure out the brainwashing drug, and track down the kidnapped Nick Rendel, the kidnappers will soon have the power to carry out drone strikes anywhere in the world . . .
Lieutenant Colonel Jon Smith, MD, picked up on the man tailing him five minutes into his stroll. A second stood on a corner three-quarters of a block ahead of him, lighting a cigarette. The match flame revealed that he was Asian. Between the two lay a shadowed street lined with tall trees, houses set back from the curb, and Smith.
He’d left the cocktail party in the tony area of Georgetown in Washington, DC, after attending a reception for Chang Ying Peng, a world-renowned microbiologist who had just been smuggled out of a Chinese prison. That one of the men tracking Smith was Asian made Smith think the two facts were related. Most of the attendees had held positions of power and prestige, and Smith suspected some were undercover CIA and FBI operatives, there to glean any intelligence they could from the man. In this last endeavor they were thwarted, because he’d arrived with the activist attorney hired to defend him by one of the human rights organizations, and she had hovered nearby and run interference whenever anyone attempted to probe too deeply.
Smith slowed and analyzed his options. Perhaps the trackers were simply more FBI agents keeping tabs on all the attendees of a party for a controversial figure. Maybe the Department of Homeland Security? He was six steps closer to the smoking man when his speculation came to an abrupt halt. The man flicked the match away and reached with his right hand into the side of his jacket for what Smith presumed was a gun in a holster.
Smith spun left and ran down into a front yard on a path that led between two houses. He heard rather than saw the smoking man running behind him. Smith was six feet tall and was obliged to duck his head to avoid a jutting bay window that narrowed the small path even more. As he approached the backyard, a motion-activated spotlight flared to life, bathing him in a glaring white glow and sending a ray of panic through Smith. The attacker would have to be the worst shot in DC if he missed at that distance. Smith reached a chain-link gate about four feet high, lifted the latch, and stumbled into the yard. A quick glance revealed that a garage blocked the exit on the yard’s far end, forcing him to continue in a straight line. He sprinted along the lawn’s edge and past the garage, breathing a sigh of relief as he came out the other side into the backyard of another home.
He crossed the lawn, past the building and onto another street, only to see a third man step out from a tree at the block’s far end. Smith turned right and kept moving along the sidewalk, walking, but at a brisk pace. He glanced behind him and saw that the smoking man had cleared the house and was heading Smith’s way.
It’s a pincer movement, Smith thought.
The three men began closing in, but unlike Smith, they walked toward him in a leisurely manner, sure that they had the upper hand.
Smith cut into another narrow walkway between houses, breaking into a run the second he determined that the two buildings blocked the attackers’ view of him. His wing tip shoes echoed in the space as he ran down the narrow walkway. He reached into the inner breast pocket of his suit jacket to remove his stainless-steel pen. As a member of the military, Smith would have had a gun at his disposal, but security at the cocktail reception had been tight and he didn’t think it wise to carry concealed and risk the questions that might have been asked. Without a gun, he could still hold his own in hand-to-hand combat if it was required, but he would have liked to have had a better weapon. The pen would have to do.
This time he ran past the garage and entered a narrow alleyway. To his left a large metal Dumpster offered the only cover. He rolled it from its position against a brick wall and slipped behind it, waiting.
The man stepped into the alley, a knife in his hand and his attention aimed high and focused upward. To Smith it seemed as though he was looking for something in the sky. Smith slipped from behind the Dumpster, rose in one fluid movement, placed both hands on the attacker’s back, and shoved. Caught by surprise, the man pitched forward and Smith stayed with him, following his trajectory downward, until the man was face-first on the asphalt. Smith hammered a knee into the man’s back as he knelt, grabbed him by the hair, lifted his head, and slammed his face downward. Blood poured from the man’s nose as Smith held his cheek hard against the ground while he shoved the pen tip into the small divot behind the man’s earlobe, where the jaw hinged. He pressed it deep. The man groaned from the ground.
“You move that knife out from under you nice and slow. Try anything and I’ll dislocate your jaw and sever your carotid artery.”
The man slid his right arm out from under him, and Smith dropped the pen and grabbed the knife, jamming it back into place.
“Why are you following me?” Smith asked.
From the corner of his eye Smith saw movement, and he heard a buzzing sound. In the alley’s dull light he saw the flash of either a large insect or small bird. It hovered twenty feet away and lowered from fifteen feet in a precise, vertical line. The man gasped and Smith looked back at him. Only one of the man’s eyes was visible, but Smith could see that he was panicked at the sight of the insect.
“What is it?” he asked.
The man began to struggle. Smith pressed the knife deeper, and blood began to ooze from the puncture wound and slide down the man’s neck. The buzzing insect flew closer, and the man struggled harder. Smith focused all his weight onto the one knee that was shoved into the man’s back.
The second attacker stepped into the far end of the alley to Smith’s right, blocking the entrance to it. He started forward but caught sight of the insect and stopped. Smith watched, fascinated, as the man’s gaze locked on the bug. He took several careful steps backward, all the while keeping his eyes on the insect.
The third attacker stepped into view next to the second. He began to move forward, but the other put a hand on his sleeve and pointed to the insect. This attacker, too, stepped back. Both remained at the edge of the alley and stared. The only sound was a police siren in the distance and the buzzing of the insect. It finished lowering and began to fly toward Smith, once again in a remarkably straight, unwavering line.
“Get him, not me!” the man on the ground yelled. He heaved upward, trying to dislodge Smith without success.
Now Smith could see that it wasn’t an insect, but some sort of radio-controlled device designed to look like a massive cicada. Two curved and serrated stingers protruded from its mandible, and its LED eyes glowed red.
Whatever the hell that is I don’t want it near me, Smith thought.
When the buzzing thing was five feet away, Smith pulled on the struggling man’s hair and hauled him to his knees, jamming the knife deeper into his neck to keep the man’s face and body in the buzzing thing’s line of trajectory.
“Tell it to stop,” he said to the man.
“Be sure you hit him, not me!” the man yelled. The insect began to bob and weave, circling them both in an obvious attempt to gain access to Smith. Smith pulled the man to his feet, using him as a human shield. Smith dug the knife in deeper still, and the man groaned in pain. The blood pouring down the man’s neck was quickly soaking the top of his jacket.
“I said tell it to stop,” Smith said.
“Stop!” the man yelled. The insect feinted closer and bobbed back again when Smith pushed the man’s face in its direction.
“Say it again. I’m not letting go, and I’ll be sure it hits you as well,” Smith said.
“I can’t control it. You can see that. My job was to isolate you so it could get a clear shot.” The panic in his voice drove Smith’s own adrenaline higher.
“Then get ready to run,” Smith said. He dragged the man backward as he spoke, twisting and turning to avoid giving the device a clear shot at him.
“Forget it,” the man said. “You can’t outrun it. Once it hits you, it will poison you. Like a spider with a fresh catch.” He turned to look at the other two men, who still waited at the alley’s end. “Get over here and help me!” he shouted.
Both stayed put. It was clear to Smith that neither wanted to get anywhere near the device. It swooped closer in a curving arc. Smith jerked the man’s body toward it just as the insect made a popping sound and a stream of smoke shot from the center of its mandible directly into the man’s face.
Smith let go and stumbled backward, keeping his nose pressed into the crook of his elbow. At the edge of the alley, the second and third attackers were backpedaling even farther away, keeping an eye not on Smith but on the cloud of smoke.
Smith turned and started running, holding his breath as he shot down the alley. He swerved in and out between the occasional garbage can and activated a series of garage-mounted lights as he did, creating a kaleidoscope of blinding white flashes. His eyes watered at the glare and his lungs ached from sprinting while holding his breath, but he kept going, unwilling to provide the insect a clear shot or the men at the end of the alley with an easy target.
He took one look behind him as he reached the alley’s end. The man who had chased him had fallen to his knees, his back straight and his body upright. He was still, frozen, and the insect hovered in front of his face. To Smith he looked catatonic. The strange device rose up into the air, adjusted its position, and flew straight toward Smith.
Smith heard the buzzing behind him and kicked up his pace, his arms and legs pumping as he emerged from the alley and raced down the shadowed sidewalk, looking for a place to hide. He needed to get into a house, building, or car—anything that would allow him to get behind closed doors and windows. His own car was parked several streets away, and he doubted he’d be able to outrun the device long enough to reach it. He turned a corner and hit pay dirt. Katherine Arden, the activist attorney, was striding down the sidewalk while sorting through a keychain in her hand. Smith fell in step with her, ran his arm through hers, and dragged her forward, increasing both their paces.
“Ms. Arden, how nice to see you. Did you enjoy the party? Are you heading home?”
Arden gave him a surprised look, shook out of his hold, and stopped walking to face him. Wishing that she would keep moving, he cast a quick look behind her. The device wasn’t in sight, nor were the two other men, and so he returned his attention to her.
She frowned. “Aren’t you one of the scientists from Mayo Clinic?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Not Mayo.” He glanced behind her again.
“Is something wrong?” She turned to look in that direction as well.
“I think I’m being followed. Have been since the party,” he said.
“Ah,” Arden said. “I’m not surprised, given the number of undercover FBI, CIA, NSA, and God knows who else at that party. If it makes you feel any better, I get followed all the time.”
Now he focused on her. “By who?”
“Tonight, probably by all of them, but the alphabet soup of my trackers changes depending on whatever client I’m currently representing. I’ve come to see eluding them as a game.” She beeped open a new-model hybrid car parked only six feet away. At that moment Smith saw the device reappear high up and over a stand of trees. Its buzzing sound was faint but still audible. It hovered in place and began to rotate slowly. To Smith it looked like it was sweeping the area to find him. At street level the second attacker stepped out from beside a house about a block away. They were back in control and once again closing in.
Arden turned and spotted the man as well. “That him?”
“Yes. I see you have your car here—would you mind giving me a ride? Quickly?” he asked. The device was now facing Smith, and he watched as it began to lower.
“Let’s go,” she said. “We’ll see if I win this round.”
Smith swung open the passenger door, slid into the car, and was relieved when Arden jogged around and fell into the driver’s seat. She slammed the car door shut, hit the lock button, and punched the starter just as the device came into sight at the top edge of the passenger window. Smith got a close look at it. The LED eyes still glowed, but a small light at its belly displayed an icon of a battery that was blinking red. The device wobbled, as if it was losing power, and flew into the window glass. Smith jerked his head away, even though he knew the window was between them. The bug bounced off the glass and rose higher, above the car’s roof, and hung there, six inches away.
Arden glanced to the side.
“An insect hit the glass,” Smith said. Get this car moving, he thought.
The second attacker came into view in the passenger-side mirror. The man craned his neck to see who was driving, but it was clear that he had no intention of getting closer while the insect hovered. To Smith’s great relief, Arden hit the gas and pulled away from the curb. Smith heard a yell as the car took off.
They accelerated smoothly into the street, took a right at the next corner too fast, and with a squealing of tires sped down the straightaway. Smith watched in the side-view mirror as the second attacker hit the corner and began to run but soon slowed and then stopped. At the next block Arden turned left, and the man disappeared from view. Smith sat back with a sigh of relief.
Arden gave him a glance. “Don’t worry. It can be alarming at first, but they generally don’t create a problem. At least, they haven’t in my case.”
For a moment Smith thought she was talking about the device, but he swallowed and forced himself to calm down. As he did he realized that she was discussing being followed by government agents. He took several slow breaths and considered his options. The device’s blinking lights told him that it wouldn’t function much longer. Arden was racing down the street, punching the gas and taking corners with calm efficiency, so she was putting quite a bit of distance between them and the insect.
“Thank you,” he said. “I have no idea who that was, but I got the definite impression that it was best not to wait to find out.”
She nodded as she took another corner with a slight squeal of tires.
“You’re pretty sanguine about it,” he said.
“As I said, they follow me a lot. In addition to Mr. Chang, I’m defending two clients in Guantanamo and one that’s currently in hiding from an African strongman who’s vowed to kill him. And there’s been a fatwa calling for my death placed on my head by an extremist organization. That was a few years ago.” She shrugged. “Anyway, I’ve gotten used to it. But I can see how it would be frightening. I know how it is when the industrial governmental complex guns for you.”
Smith wasn’t sure how to reply. He looked at her profile as he pondered a response. She was about thirty-five years old, her hair bleached white and cut short like a man’s, which emphasized the fine features of her face. Her skin held a translucent pale color that Smith associated with some vegans or with people who rarely ventured outside. She was slender, bordering on too skinny. She wore a diamond stud, cuff, and hoop in the ear that he could see. She was tall for a woman, and her navy suit with narrow pant legs and jacket over a white V-neck shirt was tailored and well fitting. On her wrist was a large man’s watch with an analog face and a tan leather band that overwhelmed her narrow bones.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Smith said.
She gave him a knowing glance before returning her gaze to the road.
“I mean that the attendees of tonight’s party are going to be added to the NSA’s hit list. Better toss your cell phone and get a burner.” Her voice held a trace of amusement.
“I’ve done nothing that would raise their interest. I assume you’re joking,” Smith said.
“Not at all. No one is safe from our government anymore.”
Smith refrained from rolling his eyes at the statement. Instead, he strove for a polite reply.
“I’m not sure we’ve met formally. I’m Lieutenant Colonel Jon Smith, a microbiologist stationed at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland, which I presume makes me a card-carrying member of the industrial governmental complex to which you refer.”
She gave him an amused glance. “A fact that won’t protect you. They’ll spy on their own.”
“Oh, no—you’re a conspiracy theorist,” he said.
She shrugged. “I’m a realist. And I’m not the one being chased down a dark street by a guy in a suit. Do you want me to drive to the nearest police station?”
Smith exhaled and looked out the window. While her views were extreme, she had a point. The men had looked like undercover agents for the FBI or CIA, even perhaps intelligence officers for the DHS, and the device that had chased him seemed to have been loaded with some sort of paralyzing drug that would have disabled him long enough for the three to hustle him away. Perhaps he was being targeted to be debriefed. He’d reach out to his contacts before filing a report at the local level.
“No, thanks. I’ll handle it through other channels. Maybe you should let me out at the nearest train station. I’ll head home from there.”
He shook his head. “I had parked it in the neighborhood and was headed to it when I discovered I was being followed. Best I not go back to get it.”
“USAMRIID. Wasn’t it one of your colleagues that the FBI claimed laced the letters with anthrax that killed some people several years ago?” She slowed to a stop at a red light and turned to look at him.
Smith felt a bit of irritation rise, but he tamped it down.
“Two scientists were investigated and one was presumed to be involved, yes. A definite link was never proven.”
“Maybe they’re looking to hang you for it.”
Smith had had enough. He opened the door. “Thanks for the ride,” he said, and he stepped out of the car. The light turned green, but the car didn’t move. The passenger window lowered and she leaned over to look at him through it.
“I didn’t mean to upset you. This isn’t even close to a train station.”
The car behind her honked, and Smith backed up onto the curb as she moved her car over and switched on the hazard lights. The vehicle behind her pulled alongside and honked again. She flipped the driver the bird, which made Smith smile despite his irritation. The car sped away. She looked back at him.
“As a child, I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper,” she said.
“So it would seem. Where have I heard that before?”
“Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Darcy says it. Get in the car, Lieutenant Colonel, and I promise not to offend your pride again.”
Smith relented and resumed his seat. “Pride and Prejudice? Given your reputation, I would expect a quote from The Art of War.”
She smiled as she drove. “‘He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.’ Sun Tzu knew what he was talking about. I never make light of opponents. Especially when they’re as powerful as the government.”
“Are you always so blunt?” he asked.
She nodded. “Always. I find that it saves time in the long run. Anyone who can’t take the truth doesn’t belong in my world. It’s too exhausting to keep up a front for them, and I find that most people who require hand-holding are just too weak to stomach the issues that I deal with on a daily basis in the human rights field. Wouldn’t work for either of us.”
“You have a lot of tough cases, then?”
She nodded. “Beyond tough. Take Mr. Chang. He was tortured in that Chinese prison.”
“The Chinese deny it.”
“I know they do, but I believe him. So why do you think that man was chasing you?”
Smith shook his head. “I honestly have no idea.”
“That’s a shame, because there’s a car tailing us and coming on fast.”
A quick glance in the side mirror confirmed that she was right—they were being followed.
“Keep turning as often as possible,” Smith said. He pulled out his phone and dialed a private number that he knew would be answered, day or night. In addition to his duties at Fort Detrick, Smith was a member of Covert-One, a highly secretive organization run by the president and not overseen by any congressional authority. As a covert operative, Smith often worked with a small, select team of other operatives from various walks of life. The one he was calling was a high-ranking CIA officer.
“Make it fast—I just woke up and haven’t had my coffee yet.” Randi Russell’s voice was pitched low and held a note of humor. Smith heard the clink of a glass in the background.
“I’m in a car with a famous human rights activist lawyer and being chased by men in suits. Any idea who they might be?” Smith said.
“Who’s the lawyer?”
“Whoever they are, let them have her. She’s a pain in the agency’s ass.”
“She’s a bystander. They’re chasing me.”
“Not good. How did the two of you end up in the same car? That’s like fraternizing with the enemy.”
“I was at a cocktail party for Chang Ying Peng—as were, I suspect, many of your CIA colleagues. And while you’re at it, can you have someone swing by this location?” He gave her directions to the alley.
“Okay. What’s there?”
He glanced at Arden while he thought about how to answer Russell.
“I may have tripped one of the men and he may have hurt himself.”
He saw Arden smirk.
“Hmm. How bad is he? Are they going to have to contain a situation?”
“Perhaps. I’m not sure. There’s more, but I’ll have to fill you in on that later.”
“Okay. Hold tight. I’ll call you right back.”
Arden turned twice and then maneuvered through a stale yellow light. The trailing car was forced to stop when it turned red and the cross traffic began moving.
“I couldn’t help overhearing; did you just call a CIA officer?”
Smith pointed to a narrow street on his right. “Turn here. This street feeds into a larger one that is often empty at this time of night. You might be able to get some speed going.”
She did as he asked and gave him a questioning look.
“May I hire you as my attorney?” he said.
She raised an eyebrow. “Of course. But doesn’t the military have its own lawyers?”
“Here.” He reached into his wallet and placed a twenty-dollar bill on the console between them. “Now you’re my attorney and the attorney-client privilege applies. So what you just heard you can’t repeat, correct? Besides, it was a slip of the tongue.” His phone rang, the screen displaying “RR.”
“Good news?” he asked Russell.
“I’m afraid not. The local FBI office is denying any interest in you. They routinely keep an eye on Arden but didn’t bother tonight because they had three agents attending the Chang cocktail party. Likewise, the CIA also attended the party and they said they have no one on the street following attendees. Looks like your guys are private contractors. And one of the officers from the party was still in the neighborhood and drove down the alley. There was nothing there. Seems like they cleaned up their own mess. The FBI offered to help. Want me to send an official escort? Back everyone off?”
He checked the side-view mirror. “They’re not behind me now, so we may have successfully lost them, but they could have another team ready at my house. I’d appreciate it if you could have that checked for me. And I left my car near the party. Would love another to use tonight.”
“I’ll make a call. If you see an unfamiliar number on your phone, answer it. It’ll be your bodyguard with the information about your house and the location of a car you can use. Either way, I don’t suggest that you go home right away.”
“Understood. I’ll head over to the lab for a couple of hours, finish up some paperwork.” He gave her the Metro stop that he would be taking.
“I’ll be sure to tell them to arrange for a car somewhere along the line,” Russell said. “Is that all?”
Smith paused. He wanted to tell her about the device and the drugged man in the alley, but he didn’t want Arden to overhear.
“I’ll contact…” Smith paused. He was going to say that he’d call Nathaniel “Fred” Klein, the head of Covert-One, but he didn’t need Arden overhearing. “…Our mutual friend. The rest I’ll handle on my own,” he said.
“Well, that certainly sounds cryptic. When you get a chance, I’d love to hear it.”
“Oh, you will. But in the meantime, thanks. I owe you one.”
“Anytime,” Russell said.
He turned to Arden. “Looks like we lost him, but for safety’s sake, turn left here again.” She turned. After a few minutes, she sighed in relief.
“Nothing behind us that I can see.” She handed the twenty back to him. “I hate to inform you, but I require a much bigger retainer. Don’t worry—your slip is safe with me.”
Smith believed her. He pocketed the bill. “I’ll take that Metro stop.” He pointed to a sign half a block ahead on their right.
- "[Jamie Freveletti's] grasp of fast-action suspense and understanding of international politics, as well as martial arts combat training, brings real-life action to a continuance of Robert Ludlum's original creations."—BookReporter.com
- "Exciting...Freveletti offers a savory mix of intense action and cynical politics."—Publishers Weekly
- "Award-winning novelist Jamie Freveletti lends her imaginative talents to the Covert One series with a book that is nearly impossible to put down and moves at the speed of light without pause....races forward with the energy of a super-charged Bourne film."—BookReporter.com on The Janus Reprisal
"Award-winning novelist Jamie Freveletti lends her imaginative talents to the Covert One series with a book that is nearly impossible to put down and moves at the speed of light without pause...races forward with the energy of a super-charged Bourne film."
—BookReporter.com on The Janus Reprisal
- "From the opening sentence that literally starts with a bang, the latest Covert One novel speeds along at a breakneck pace.... Freveletti, who has an amazing talent for action scenes, has written one of the top entries in the Covert One series, which has established itself as the best of the numerous series based on Ludlum characters."—Booklist on The Janus Reprisal
- "Freveletti gives us a fast moving, well-written thriller."—The Oklahoman on The Janus Reprisal
- "Freveletti turbocharges tension to nonstop levels in this Covert-One thriller."—Kirkus Reviews on The Janus Reprisal
- "Fast-paced and action-filled, with iconic characters and contemporary themes . . . Fans of Ludlum . . . thrillers will find The Ares Decision right on target."—Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star on The Ares Decision
- "A tight and tense pageturner."—Booklist on The Ares Decision
- On Sale
- Feb 3, 2015
- Page Count
- 416 pages
- Grand Central Publishing