Run for Your Life
At long last Alex has returned to Wyndley Farm, her childhood home, with her infant child and the love of her life, undercover operative Jacob Stark.
Her happiness is short-lived and abruptly ends as CIA agent Digger Stildove gathers intel that suggests trouble from the other side of the globe. Digger and Jacob leave Virginia for the Middle-East but danger escalates quickly on the homefront as the Secret Service detect terrorist activity near the farm.
Release date: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Bluestone Valley Publishing
Print pages: 302
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Run for Your Life
“Hey, John,” Secret Service Agent Rob Henry spoke softly as he peered at his monitor. “I’ve got some turbulence over on the southern end of the estate, looks like it’s near the river bed. Can you come over here and check the topo map with me?”
Special-Agent-in-Charge John Cole, a distinguished man with silver hair in his early fifties, moved quickly from his desk to Rob’s and looked at the map on Rob’s monitor. “Yeah, I see it. It looks weird. Could it be a vibration?”
Rob tugged at his ear, a sure sign he was in heavy thought. “It could be, but it doesn’t appear as a vibration generally looks on the monitor. The pattern seems, well, inconclusive.” He reached for his coffee.
John shrugged his shoulders. “It’s been quiet around here for months and we both know there’s chatter about a planned attack on the congressman’s estate.” He paused and gazed at the map on the monitor. “Blow it up. Put the image up on the wall.”
Rob flipped a switch on his main console and immediately a topo map of Wyndley Farm illuminated the entire wall of the Secret Service compound located on Congressman Adam Patrick Lee’s rural Virginia estate. Both men, retired military special forces and seasoned Secret Service agents, studied the image on the wall.
John Cole scanned the image carefully. He’d been head of the Secret Service detail at Wyndley Farm for several years, ever since Congress had appropriated funds to safeguard the nation’s greatest statesman who’d become synonymous with American’s fight against radical Islam. Prior to his assignment at Wyndley, SAC Cole had guarded the President himself, whoever that may have been, for fifteen years. He’d personally overseen the presidential security team. Many of the changes in security at the White House, especially since 9/11 had been planned and executed under his direction. If there was ever a warrior who knew security and security breaches, it was Special-Agent-in-Charge John Cole.
But, in its own way, Wyndley Farm was more difficult to protect than the White House. He had a tough assignment. The estate was open and wooded and there were multiple ingress and egress sites where a single terrorist or an entire group of hostiles could slip in and out without detection. And, Congressman Adam Patrick Lee had some enemies.
Adam Patrick Lee, better known as “the peoples politician,” was a son of Virginia. He was a descendant of the famous Lee family that included Light Horse Harry Lee and General Robert E. Lee who headed the Army of the South against Northern aggression during the Civil War.
His estate in Northwestern Hanover County was over twelve hundred acres situated on the North Anna River. Wyndley Farm was located less than an hour from Richmond and two hours from Washington, DC. The Secret Service monitored a state-of-the-art perimeter security system with internal and external video and audio surveillance. The residence had electronic keypad locks, sensors and infrared technology. The interior of the house had a safe room. A six-foot hurricane fence topped with razor wire surrounded the property. The fence also had motion and vibration sensors.
Nevertheless, the vast estate was difficult to protect. The estate included hundreds of acres of land, several residences, a horse-breeding facility and multiple barns and outbuildings. Wyndley was a famous horse breeding farm and multiple people came and went from the farm each day. Security was tight, but even in the best of worlds, John Cole knew the farm could easily come under attack.
Tension was high in Secret Service headquarters.
Several attacks on the farm had occurred in recent years, but had been diffused due to a lot of luck and the expert, swift action of the Secret Service. Just a few winters ago, the Secret Service had lost one of their very own. Seth Farmer had been killed by a terrorist seeking revenge against Adam Patrick Lee for an off-the-cuff comment he’d made to a reporter in New Orleans after the terrorist attack.
Rob shook his head, his green eyes smoldered with confusion. “I’ve no idea what I’m seeing or if I see anything,“ he mumbled. “It’s something… I just don’t know what.” Rob was impatient as a shiver flew up his spine. He flipped through screens and quickly tapped keys on his console to identify the sound. “Well, whatever it was, it’s over,” he said as he looked up at his boss.
"Yeah. It looks pretty good to me," John said. "I don't see a thing that looks or sounds unusual now."
Rob nodded his head as he flipped through screens. "Yeah, I agree, but I don't know why we've felt the ground motion. Look at the voltage on the fibrillation meter near that area of the fence down by the river."
John nodded as his eyebrows raised and his eyes narrowed. "I see it. Let's get a team up there and check it out."
Rob nodded. Muscles jumped in his handsome, square-jawed American face. “I'll do that. I'll also deploy a quad copter to take some images and check the perimeter around the estate." He flipped the switch and the topo map of Wyndley farm disappeared. He quickly called and deployed a team of agents to the far area of the estate.
"It'll take them a little while to get up there," John surmised. "Send a couple more agents and an SUV to follow the ATV, just in case they run into any trouble."
Rob locked eyes with his boss as he conference-called a Secret Service follow-team. "Done. We can never be too safe around here, especially these days," he said with a head shake. “That attack in Louisa county at the Courthouse totally surprised me. I’d no idea Virginia was growin’ so many home-grown terrorists. That was a total shocker,” he admitted.
"Isn't that the truth," John shook his head as he moved towards the Keurig to make himself his umpteenth cup of coffee for the afternoon. “Seems like every state is producing them. That’s the problem.”
Rob shook his head and cursed under his breath.
John continued, “Yeah. But you’re right. That attack over in Louisa County was a shocker. Louisa is less than thirty miles from here,” he mused as he tried to push away a bad feeling that he couldn’t seem to shake it off. “That tells me they’re pretty close.”
Rob shrugged his shoulders, “Yeah. No question. For all we know, they could be living there and training to attack us!”
John carried his coffee back over to his desk and sat down. “I think there are terror cells filled with homegrown terrorists everywhere in the US. I don’t think anyone knows for sure. Ever since the Ali Artan attack a few years back at Ohio State, it’s been confusing. Social media posts attributed to him suggested praise for both the Islamic State and slain terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, who we believe directed attacks on us. This attack came just two months after Ahmed Khan Rahimi detonated two bombs in New York and New Jersey. Ahmed Khan expressed support for — and clearly drew inspiration from — both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. How could jihadist allegiances be divided in such a way?”
Rob shook his head. “It’s hard to say. Confusing at best. Seems like the Western jihadists are more motivated by ideology than the actual group they join. That just makes our job a little harder.”
John nodded. “Yeah. It does. George Washington University’s newest report suggests that Western-grown jihadists are not motivated by a specific event or group. They’re basically dedicated to the movement, or jihad in this case. Translated, that means the jihadists are truly dedicated and not just hanging around because they have nothing better to do.”
Rob flipped the topo map back on the wall and studied it. “Yeah, half the time we don’t know who we’re looking for — or what they stand for. Makes it hard to figure out what they’re gonna do, doesn’t it?”
John sighed wearily and ran his fingers through his silver hair. “That it does,” he muttered in a definitive voice, “Although we’re sure anyone who comes here is after Congressman Lee and his family. Remember there was internet chatter a few weeks ago from Yassir Ahmid’s family about retribution,” he reminded the younger man.
Rob almost swooned in pain. He felt a huge slab of hurt slice into his belly and create multiple pain pathways to his brain. It was the same pain he’d had the day he’d learned that Yassir Ahmid had killed his friend, Secret Service Agent Seth Farmer.
“Yeah, I remember,” Rob hissed angrily. “How can we forget that bastard who killed Seth and his crazy, nutso family? I’m sure they’ll be back soon to take out their revenge.” He went over to his desk and sat down.
John’s stomach burned. He had that bad feeling he couldn’t shake. He decided to call the Bureau in Washington and ask for more agents. He hadn’t yet told Rob about his conversation with Digger Stildove, Congressman Lee’s good friend and neighbor. Digger had warned him of other perceived threats… not to mention Alex’s relationship with Jacob Stark. There was nothing good about the potential danger directed at Wyndley Farm, the aging congressman, his wife and family.
John walked over to the counter and looked at Kathryn Lee’s double chocolate cake. The congressman’s wife was the best cake baker in the South. John told her that every time he saw her and that compliment always resulted in another cake appearing in Secret Service Headquarters at Wyndley.
“Rob, how ‘bout some of Kathryn’s cake. It’ll make you feel good.” John’s voice was cheerful. He knew his friend and colleague was depressed about Seth’s death even though it was going on two years.
Rob shook his head. “Nah. I’m gonna study this topo map again. I’m not okay with the vibration. I think something’s going on,” he said as he flipped through security screens of the congressman’s estate.
“Your loss,” John said as he helped himself to the cake. But, the feelings of helplessness and frustration still permeated his soul.
It was hot and sticky in the Virginia countryside. Syrian-born extremist Salmud Al Hafiz felt sweat run down his back as he watched American terrorist Billy Jack Walters move shovel after shovel full of dirt into a wheelbarrow. Salmud Al Hafiz was a metallurgical engineer with a degree from the University of Damascus in Syria. He was one of three major leaders in Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula. Another American-Islamic recruit, Petey, prepared small charges for detonation.
Heat and impatience overcame Salmud. The American jihad converts moved much too slowly. "Hurry, hurry, get it done. Be quick,” he snapped. “We are out of time. The vibration will sound on their sensors," he reminded them in a curt voice. “They will hear us!”
The order pissed off Billy Jack Walters He turned to face the leader, his dirty-brown stringy hair soaked with sweat, his brown eyes small and pig-like. He pushed his acne-pocked face close to the Al Qaeda leader and invaded his personal space. "Hold your water, man. It's okay. We've still got time. We ain’t deep enough into the earth yet."
Salmud Al Hafiz shot Billy Jack an angry look but remained quiet. These American recruits have no respect for leadership. He may not work out for me. He’s expendable. They all are.
“Besides,” Billy Jack stared at the sky, “in about twenty minutes we’re gonna have a hell of a thunderstorm and they won’t hear anything,” he smirked. “The thunder will cover any sounds of a blast,” he assured the older man. “Don’t you see them lightnin’ flashes in the sky?”
“Ah,” Salmud’s face brightened. “In that case, prepare four more charges. We need to get as close to our connection as we can.”
Billy Jack snarled at the older man and ran his fingers through his dirty hair. “We get storms every day. There’ll be another one tomorrow. We can push further then.” He paused and watched the red flush, either from heat or anger, suffuse the leader’s face. He’d made Salmud Al Hafiz mad. He didn’t give a damn. Screw these people. His job was still open at the auto shop. He wasn’t that committed to jihad.
He glared at Salmud but remained silent. His face was smeared with dried mud and sweat from the blast.
“I said to prepare the charge.” Salmud’s face was grim, his lips compressed in a thin line. Billy Jack could see the veins throb in his neck.
Billy ignored the Al Qaeda boss and beat his shovel on the ground to knock the loose dirt and clay off it. Then he turned to walk to the truck.
Salmud grabbed him and jerked his shoulder around so Billy faced him and hissed, “PREPARE THE CHARGES!”
Billy twisted away from his grip. “Keep your nasty hands off me. I said, NO. No, I’m not blasting anymore tonight.” Billy turned sharply and looked at the mounds of dirt around him.
“Tomorrow you work twice as hard, lazy American dog. Do you hear me?” Salmud was furious but also powerless, and he hated feeling powerless.
Billy examined the dirt piled up around him. He shuffled from one foot to other. He didn’t have to do this. It had sounded like fun at the time, converting to Islam and being a terrorist. In truth, he’d only joined because he was angry with the Hanover police. He’d had visions of blowing up the Hanover Deputy Office in the name of Allah. He looked over at Petey. “Dude, don’t you think we can finish this up tomorrow?” Billy Jack wanted a shower and an ice-cold beer from the Speedy Stop.
Petey ignored Billy Jack and continued to dig. He didn’t answer. He didn’t want to come between the two of them.
Billy Jack walked over and roughly shook Petey’s shoulder. “Dude, we’re partners. Now don’t ‘cha want out of here? It’s hot as hell and I need a beer.” He looked up at the dark clouds as thunder rolled across the sky of Adam Lee’s estate.
Petey quickly looked at Billy Jack and said, “Come on, man. Let’s just finish this. We gotta get the dirt outta sight.”
Salmud interrupted. “Get that dirt away. If the Secret Service discovers we’ve been here, it’ll be the end of all three of us,” he snarled. “Haul it up to the pickup.”
Billy had forgotten about the piles of dirt. “Okay, let’s get the dirt outta here. And then we’ll get a beer.”
“I’ll help you do that. It’ll only take us a few minutes and it’s gonna rain. Then we’ll get us a beer.” Petey grabbed a dirty handkerchief from his pocket and wiped sweat off his face and forehead.
Billy Jack gritted his teeth. What the hell! Did Petey really believe that Holy War crap? Was he into it?” He pushed Petey hard and the younger, smaller man lost his balance and fell into the dirt that had piled up from their hours of digging. Billy Jack spat on the ground where he landed.
“You’re an asshole, Petey. I thought we were friends.” Billy scowled at him.
Petey stared at Billy Jack, his blue eyes wide with fear and surprise. “We are friends. But we gotta get rid of the dirt. You know what’ll happen if Congressman Lee’s men find us. We’ll be in jail forever.”
Billy Jack glowered at Salmud Al Hafiz and hissed, “You’re an asshole too, with your stupid tunnels and your dynamite. You ain’t never gettin’ in that house,” he said as he inclined his head towards the big house at Wyndley. “That place is locked up tighter than Fort Knox and them Secret Service agents will cut your jihad ass down in a second with their automatic weapons. This land is so patrolled and armed, they’ll shoot the balls off a squirrel if it if gets in the way.”
Hafiz shook his head and stared at Billy Jack. His face was a mask of hatred and revulsion. He seethed disgust. “Our mission goes live in three days. We need to reach the connector area. Now, get to work,” he barked as he turned his back on the American. What is he, what do they call them? Lazy rednecks? He mopped his face. He hated the sticky heat here. At least in his country the heat was dry.
Billy Jack glared at Salmud Al Hafiz’s back and flipped him the bird. He pulled another small dynamite charge from the crate and momentarily considered stickin’ it up the man’s butt where the sun didn’t shine. He pushed the silencer on his tunnel digger. "Okay, okay. We're done." He expertly detonated the charge after a flash of heat lightning just as the thunder rolled through. Petey gave Billy Jack an appreciative grin and a thumbs up.
Seconds later, it rained so hard the three men could hardly see each other.
Salmud was delighted with the rain. "Good, good, now replace the sod. This heavy rain will tamp the soil, so no one will discover our work." He lifted his face towards the heavens. “We are working for Allah. We are doing the work of Allah. These infidels will die… all of them.”
Billy Jack rolled his eyes. “Cut the crap, Salmud, and help us so we can get the hell out of here. We’ve heard the ‘Allah’ story before and we’re sick of it.” Billy Jack flung soil, replaced sod and picked up rocks and debris from the blast and placed it in a camo-colored burlap sack.
Petey stared at Billy Jack with shock. Had he really said, ‘the Allah story’?’ He hoped he’d heard wrong. He looked over at Salmud and knew he hadn’t. The man’s face was twisted with hate.
Salmud took two strides towards Billy Jack and grabbed him from behind. His forearm pressed against Billy’s neck. “The Allah story, you just said the Allah story. You little traitor. You’ve insulted my faith. I’m gonna kill you.” He squeezed Billy’s neck tighter and Billy’s eyes bulged.
“Stop it, stop it, Salmud. Billy didn’t mean it.” Petey threw his shovel on the ground. Please! Let him go or I quit!”
Salmud heard but ignored the younger man. He continued to press against Billy’s trachea and hissed, “This man, this Congressman Lee, works against our cause every day. They kill us! All of them must die, everyone, every family member who lives on this farm and every one of the so-called ‘Secret Service.’” Salmud Al Hafiz kicked Billy to the ground and spread his arms wide.
Billy lay on the ground, gasping for breath as he planned his revenge.
Salmud closed his eyes and faced the direction of the main house at Wyndley Farm. For a moment Petey thought he might take flight. He suppressed a laugh.
Billy saw Petey’s face and shot him a warning look. Petey, a buddy for most of his life, was a few years younger than Billy Jack. But Billy always felt the need to protect Petey. Billy Jack lay on the ground and shook his head, his long blond hair was covered in dirt and stuck to his neck.
Instead, Billy Jack swallowed his humor and said. “Yeah, I get it. I hate ‘em too,” he agreed. He looked over at his buddy, “Petey here hates the Lee family worsen me, don’t ’cha, Petey?”
Petey shook his head vigorously. “Yeah. I hate ‘em. ‘Specially that redheaded fancy-pants granddaughter of the congressman. She’s a bitch. She sicced her dog and the police on me when I was huntin’ on their property last year. Got me in a bunch of trouble with the game warden,” he muttered and spit on the ground to show his contempt. “Game warden came, took me to jail. I was locked up for ninety days.” He paused for a moment and added, “Yeah. I hate all ‘em.”
“Andi zebra zagheer! Death to the infidels,” Salmud droned in Arabic as he spread his arms again and gazed into the heavens. Billy Jack did his best to hide his snicker. He punched Petey and gave him the eye as he pantomimed Salmud and mouthed the word “crazy” to him. Pete nodded but continued to scoop out dirt and rock from the eighteen-inch hole they’d just blasted into the earth. So far today, they’d very quietly blasted thirty feet of tunnel through river rock and mud. If they blasted thirty feet tomorrow, the blasting would be over, and he and Billy Jack would be digging in the small space as they worked their way closer and closer to Congressman Lee’s home.
Salmud hollered as Billy Jack accidentally hit him with a shovel. Billy Jack glared at him but picked up the shovel and began to toss dirt into the river.
Petey feared Salmud. The man had an angry gleam in his dark eyes that told Petey the jihadist would kill anyone at the drop of a hat. Salmud al Hafiz had the same look of some seriously crazy men he’d seen in jail. He hated “mentals” because he never knew what they’d do.
Salmud was angry with Billy Jack, but his anger faded as he watched the men work quickly. A feeling of satisfaction flowed through him. He would finish this mission and return to Yemen to receive great congratulations and accolades, from his peers and the leader of Al Qaeda. The sheets of rain hid them from the prying eyes of the Secret Service and by-passers. He was comforted by a verse in the Koran that said all infidels were lazy and scheming.
The American’s continued to work, casting evil looks as Salmud sat under a tree, watched and criticized.
Salmud daydreamed during the rain. He walked a few feet and sat on a rock, hidden by branches of a tall tree. He praised himself. He was the mastermind engineer in the terrorist movement, a leader. He, more than any other operative, knew how to blast through rock, build bridges over rivers, and tunnel through the earth using the latest and quietest equipment. Salmud was Syrian, but he was attached to Al Qaeda leadership on the Arabian Peninsula. Salmud knew tunnels were easily discoverable unless they were at least ten to twenty meters in the ground. Otherwise they could be seen by ground penetrating radar that used pulses of radio frequency in the earth. He’d searched the ground maps of Wyndley Farm for over a year looking for the easiest way to tunnel towards the main residence of the sworn enemy of Al Qaeda. Congressman Lee, the infidel, had done more damage to jihad than any other American or NATO force in the world. He and his family would die for that. All of them. They had killed his good friend’s son. Each member of the Lee family would suffer.
He smiled to himself and for a moment his heart quickened as he prematurely savored the glory he would earn. He would have his way with the infidel congressman and everyone who meant anything to him.
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