I’m a regular columnist at Alpha Book Club!
Check out my monthly blog. March’s blog is here.
I talk about some of the research that went into writing Enemy Within. Enjoy! 🙂
I’m a regular columnist at Alpha Book Club!
Check out my monthly blog. March’s blog is here.
I talk about some of the research that went into writing Enemy Within. Enjoy! 🙂
Today’s Bauer’s Bytes is a special sneak peek at Enemy Within.
Join Agent Welby as he starts to unravel the subterfuge and deceit surrounding him, and starts to put the pieces together, along with the help of Pete Reyes, Jack’s press secretary. What do Welby and Pete uncover?
Who can Welby really trust, when everything is on the table?
Join Welby on the hunt for answers!
Enemy Within releases March 28th, 2017 at major ebook & print retailers everywhere.
Levi and President Wall ducked out of the Oval Office and headed down to the Situation Room, their heads together as they talked fast and low, as if sharing national secrets.
Welby stared them down, watching every single step. What was going on? What were they hiding?
Time to find out.
He ducked into the Oval Office, waving to the president’s secretary as he entered. He waved a manila folder as he pushed open the door. “Got to drop off a new brief.”
The president’s secretary didn’t even bat an eyelash. “Have a good day, Agent Welby,” she said, as he entered the silent, empty Oval Office.
He took a few steps in and swallowed. The power of the office still stopped him in his tracks, even now, years after he’d become a Secret Service agent. The fate of the world had been shaped within these curved walls, so many times over. For good or for ill, decisions had been made by men and women in this office that had impacted the lives of billions. He took a shaky breath.
What he was about to do was treasonous.
His stomach had burned a hole through itself, and he’d tied himself in knots, agonizing through the long hours of the day and night. They needed answers.
But he’d never crossed this line before.
Damn it, he needed to move, and fast. He was already on borrowed time.
Welby headed for the Resolute desk and started pulling out drawers. Nothing worthwhile in the top two. Notepads and folders, pens and sticky notes. A candy bar. A card, from Ethan to Jack, something sappy and silly at the same time. He put it back, carefully.
His thumbprint opened both of the locked lower drawers, and he held his breath when he tugged them open. Dozens of file folders. The president’s laptop. Top Secret briefs.
And, another laptop, resting on top of a burned briefcase.
He hauled the briefcase out and set it on the desk. It was a wreck, soot-covered, torn on one side, and water-damaged. The handle had been ripped off. Both locks were broken.
Inside, most of the papers were damaged, burned on the edges, or blackened with smoke and soot. Debris filled the inside of the case, gravel and dust. Blood stained one corner. The briefcase had sat in a pool of blood and soaked up enough of it to make Welby look away from the rust-drenched corner.
Lawrence Irwin had carried his briefcase with him into Langley, before the blast. Welby remembered that night. He remembered every moment of what happened, a picture-perfect clarity set in Imax quality in his mind. Waiting in the SUV, equal parts bored and on edge, wondering what was happening within Langley. Why had they taken Leslie Spiers into custody? Was she working with Madigan? What would they find during the interrogation?
And then, the blast. He and his team racing into the still-burning, still-collapsing building. Tearing through concrete and debris, searching for the president as fires roared and smoke billowed around them.
Pulling back blocks of concrete, adrenaline tearing through him faster than a Formula One racecar. Finding Irwin’s broken, bloody body. And then the president lying beneath him in a spreading pool of blood.
President Spiers had seemed so light, so fragile, when he scraped him off the ground. Floppy like a doll in his arms. Limp, too limp. He carried him over the shattered remains of the CIA’s headquarters as helicopters and rescue workers and firetrucks arrived, sirens blaring, lights flashing. People shrieked, crying for help.
He carried the president’s broken body, staring down into his pale, empty face.
The word hung like cobwebs in his mind, like a whirlpool that sucked down all other thoughts. It had been him on duty, him that night. He had let his president be attacked. Assassinated. He had let the nation down. He had let the president down. And, he had let Ethan down.
Or had he?
Desperation redoubled his efforts, and he clenched his jaw as he rifled through Irwin’s briefcase. Where would Irwin have sent Ethan to search for proof of Leslie Spiers’s betrayal? Out of the whole world, where would he have gone?
One folder caught his eye. Bright red Top Secret borders lined the edges, and a giant seal warned him away from the contents. “Operation: Vigilant Fury” was the codename.
He snorted. Vigilant was President Spiers’s Secret Service codename. What could be better for a Top Secret operation to hunt down Madigan? The government did not have the best sense of humor, but they excelled in irony.
He flipped the file open.
Photos, dozens of them, from prison breaks around the world. Satellite imagery over South America, the Maghrib, and Somalia. Dossiers from a dozen military officers, one from a man named Noah Williams, supposedly dead sixteen years prior. Welby’s eyes narrowed. Leslie Spiers was supposed to be dead, too. He knew how that had played out.
Intelligence reports. Memos and intelligence analysis and mission briefs from a Marine Corps strike team sent to Ethan. Pages and pages of reports, each one detailing more of the teams’ actions and missions.
Ethan must have run the strike team, secretly. In addition to being Jack’s first gentleman, he must have been running a black strike team, working hand in hand with Irwin. No wonder Irwin turned to him. They were already hunting Madigan together.
And, the Marines. Were they the missing piece he needed? They must be whom Ethan turned to when he needed to follow Leslie Spiers’s tracks.
Who were they?
Welby dug deeper. The mission briefs had been signed by an “AC, LT1”.
Not good enough. He needed a name.
Finally, at the bottom of the file, he struck gold. A sheet of paper, torn from a notepad, with scribbles of Irwin’s that he should have thrown away months ago. “LT Adam Cooper, SOCOM. General Bell, Commanding Officer. Possible team lead. Check background. Current disciplinary action? Investigate connection to F.”
He had a name. A place to start searching. Finally.
Welby put everything back into the briefcase, exactly as he found it, and slid it back into the bottom drawer.
He took the Operation Vigilant Fury folder with him, hidden inside the manila envelope. He clenched the paper with Lieutenant Adam Cooper’s name on it, tight enough that his hand shook.
One step closer to the truth.
Except, Lieutenant Adam Cooper was a ghost.
Welby slammed down the phone in Pete’s office and groaned. Across the desk, Pete stared at him, his wide eyes almost bulging from his skull. “Nothing? Again?”
“Not a damn thing,” Welby growled. “Irwin and the CIA must have scrubbed him from the system when they brought him on board. His record is a shell. I can’t get any working information for him. No current posting. No current duty assignment. Nothing.”
“What about this?” Pete spun the scrap of paper and jabbed his finger in the middle. “His commanding officer was General Bell at SOCOM. Can you get in touch with him?”
“I tried. The general is ‘unavailable’. And his secretary has no idea who any Lieutenant Adam Cooper is. Never heard of him. Which is bullshit, because if he was in disciplinary trouble, then his secretary would have run the paperwork. She has to have heard of him.”
Pete sighed and threw himself back in his chair. He ran his hands through his hair and laced his fingers behind his head. “You searched all the military databases, right?”
Pete gnawed on his lip, staring at Welby. “I’ve got a person,” he finally said slowly. “It’s not, you know, entirely legal. But I’ve used them in the past to track down sources. People I need to find when they’ve gone to ground. If I need them for a story, or if I need them to shut their mouth.”
Welby’s eyebrows skyrocketed.
“You think being press secretary is just throwing press junkets all the time?” Pete scoffed. “This is one of the dirtier offices in the West Wing. And I’ve never been afraid of getting into the mud.” He swallowed. “Not for Jack.”
“I don’t need to hear any more.” Standing, Welby smoothed his tie and headed for the door. “I’d hate to have to arrest you because of something I overhear.” Never mind the treason he just committed himself.
He turned the doorknob. “But, I expect you’ll let me know?”
His cellphone buzzed a few hours later. Welby glanced down at the screen. A text from Pete had popped up. Get here asap.
Welby pocketed his cell phone and turned back to the shift brief. Levi was talking through the elevated threat assessments, and what they all needed to watch out for. Tasking agents rotating off shift with intel work in Horsepower. Reassigning other agents, and moving their posts around. Changing the West Wing procedures. It was a big shake-up, and Welby couldn’t see the reason why. Why move agents? Why have them hunting for intelligence? That was H Street’s job, for the intel desk jockeys at Headquarters.
He escaped as soon as the brief ended, slipping out the back. On the way out, he saw the confusion on the other agents’ faces, too. What was up with Levi? Why these changes?
Unease slid down his spine, drumming along each one of his vertebrae with a deeper, darker worry.
He pushed his gnawing anxieties away as he slipped into Pete’s office. Pete stood at his desk, his back to the door, on the phone. As Welby entered, he waved him in, thanked whoever he was talking to, and hung up.
“What did you get?” Welby crossed his arms and hovered in front of Pete’s desk.
“A few things.” Pete pulled his keyboard close and started pounding at the keys. “Okay, first, my guy looked up Adam Cooper. Turns out, he’s been using his civilian ID to move around. Him and a bunch of other MAMs flying on the same route.”
“Military age males?” Welby frowned. “That’s not unusual. That’s anyone from fifteen to sixty-five. About half the population of airline travel is in that range.”
“Not on this route.” Pete spun his monitor toward Welby. A flight route lit up, one red line bouncing from Riyadh to London, London to Seattle, Seattle to Anchorage, Anchorage to Nome, in the far reaches of western Alaska, and then to Sevoukuk, a tiny village on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. “Only eight men flew this itinerary, and all together, all on the same day. Adam Cooper, six other American men, all in the Marine Corps, and one Saudi national.”
“Faisal al-Saud. His passport was flagged in Seattle. Someone came forward and said al-Saud and he were getting married in the States, and the immigration officer let them through.”
“Who the hell is Faisal al-Saud? Why is he connected to Lieutenant Cooper?” Welby’s brow furrowed, and he stared at the red lines on the monitor as if he could read the lieutenant’s intentions in each hop.
“Dunno.” Pete shrugged. “I looked up what I could. He’s an orphan. His parents were killed in those big bombings the Kingdom had twenty years ago. His uncle adopted him, raised him. He’s a quiet prince in the royal family. The only thing that stands out is that he’s reported to be the royal head of the Saudi Intelligence Directorate.”
“Shit…” Welby cursed, and he leaned forward, bracing his palms on the edge of Pete’s desk. “Is that good news or bad news for us? These flights originated from Riyadh. What the hell was Lieutenant Cooper doing in Saudi Arabia anyway?”
Pete shrugged again. “The only thing we know for sure is that Lieutenant Adam Cooper landed on St. Lawrence Island yesterday. And Ethan wasn’t with him.”
“Did you track Ethan’s passport? Find out where he was?”
“No.” Pete shook his head. “He must have been using a burner. Irwin could have gotten him one from the CIA. Ethan’s most recent passport scan was his last official trip with the Secret Service. Ethiopia.”
A shiver crawled up the back of Welby’s neck, ringing his throat until his scar burned. Ethiopia. He remembered gasping for breath as his throat filled with blood. Hands holding him down on the conference table in Air Force One as the surgeon leaned over him, shouting at him to keep still. He swore, one of those hands had belonged to Jeff Gottschalk. He’d held Jeff’s hand, clenched so hard he thought he broke it. He thought he was going to die on that table, bleed out at thirty thousand feet, all over the seal of the United States.
He took a breath, but Pete jumped in, speaking first. “So. Lieutenant Cooper is in Alaska. Hanging out in the Bering Sea. Moroshkin is invading Canada. You think he’s making a move against Moroshkin?”
“He’s headed the wrong way for that. He’s thirty miles off the coast of Russia. Canada is a long way from Lieutenant Cooper right now. No, he’s pointed at Russia.”
A light went on in Pete’s eyes, an almost mad gleam. He spun his monitor back around as he pounded at his keyboard again. “Take a look at this.” He spun the monitor back.
A gaudy, flashing webpage blinked back at Welby, a mess of translation protocols converting Russian web text to broken English. “Looks like… a message board?”
“Yes. A Russian conspiracy theorists’ website. They run a message board and yak about all the same things our conspiracy nuts do. Aliens. Government cover-ups. Secret military installations. HAARP. Chemtrails. All of it.”
Welby stared at Pete. “Why do we care what Russian nuts are talking about on some badly managed website?”
Pete held up one finger and then pounded away at his keyboard again. A new page came up, a thread of messages. He scrolled to the second message. Pictures filled the thread, groups of hard-looking Russians swarming around a convoy of rugged jeeps that had seen far better days. Some of the men wore full-face black balaclavas. Everybody carried automatic rifles.
“This group of men was seen moving across Russia. First in the west by Volga, and then they reappeared on the east coast, north of Vladivostok. There are unconfirmed reports of sightings in Siberia.”
“Looks like a gang of Russian thugs.” Had Pete really lost it? Had he chased a rabbit down a crazy hole? Maybe Levi was right, and Pete really did need time off. Hell, maybe he did, too.
“Look closer.” Pete pushed the monitor across the desk and started slowly scrolling through the thread. Picture after picture came up and passed, scene after scene of dark-clad Russians clutching weapons and riding in jeeps.
“Wait!” Welby’s hand shot up.
There, striding alongside a balaclava-wearing man, his face turned to the side and cast in half shadows, was Ethan.
“You see it too?” Pete breathed. “Tell me I’m not crazy.”
Welby shook his head, back and forth. “It can’t be him.” The denial was automatic, a knee-jerk gut-check. “There are thousands of people who look alike. This must just be an uncanny double. It’s not him.”
Pete scrolled again. A new picture, Ethan turning toward the camera this time, and calling to someone behind him.
Welby hissed. He reached behind him and pulled one of Pete’s chairs close, collapsing to his ass when his knees buckled.
“I thought the same thing when I saw them,” Pete said softly. He sat on the side of his desk, one leg dangling. “It couldn’t be him, I thought. No way. Why would he be in Russia? With some kind of gang? But…” Pete swallowed. “If Lieutenant Cooper is in Alaska, hanging out on an island within spitting distance of Russia, and Ethan might be on the east coast of Russia… I mean, it can’t be a coincidence, right?” He trailed off. “C’mon, man. Tell me I’m not losing it.”
“It’s him.” Welby clasped his hands together and fisted them in front of his mouth, covering his lips. “It’s him,” he repeated. “And I know who the guy next to him is, too.”
Twelve years he’d served at Ethan’s side, from the day Ethan graduated the Secret Service Academy at Rowley until his transfer to Iowa. Welby had been an agent one year longer, but he’d still been a newbie when Ethan had joined the DC field office, and then the White House. Twelve years of operations together. Twelve years of moving with Ethan, watching him on the protective detail. Watching him with his protectees, how he moved with them.
And then, seeing how different he was with President Spiers. Ethan had always been a consummate professional, a man of clean lines and exacting standards. He’d rocketed up the ranks of the Secret Service because of his discipline, his no-nonsense behavior, his determination and dedication to the service. Professional at all times, even with the most difficult assignments, the most pain-in-the-ass protectees.
Until President Spiers. Until he and Jack came together like sparks catching flame.
With him, Ethan had made protections personal. Welby had seen it, even before the truth came out. Ethan had become compromised. He cared about Spiers. He stood too close. Kept the president in his body space, inside his shadow. Moved his own body in tandem with the president, like they were connected. Like they were a team, a unit, a pair. He’d protected Spiers like he was protecting the most precious thing in the world, and after, when everything came out, Welby realized that had been exactly what Ethan had been doing.
The man in the pictures, striding alongside the man in a black balaclava, moved the same way.
Twelve years he’d been at Ethan’s side, and he could pick out Ethan’s style of protection in an instant. He could see the way Ethan breathed and moved with the man in black, reacted to him almost before the man in black even made a move. A matched set, a unified team. A partnership closer than any he’d ever seen.
“It’s President Spiers,” Welby breathed. “The president is alive.”
Timestamp: An excerpt from Enemy Within, as Agent Welby attempts to put the pieces together…
Enemy Within releases March 28th, 2017, at Amazon, Smashwords, and major ebook & print retailers!
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