Two agents, Russian and American, are brutally murdered. College students, working as drug mules, die gruesome deaths from radiation poisoning. Powerful dirty bombs explode minutes apart in San Francisco and St. Petersburg, Russia — slaughtering citizens and spreading blind panic throughout the world. But this is only a warning. The next attack will be nuclear.
Enter Air Force OSI agent Jericho Quinn and his crack team of specialists. Their mission: track down the black-market arms dealer who masterminded the plot — with a Soviet-era, suitcase-sized bomb — and dismantle them both. When the trail leads to South America, Quinn has to join the famous Dakar Rally, a 6,000-mile motorcycle run that’s about to become the most dangerous race in history. It’s not the finish line they’re racing for. It’s the fate of the world…
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State of Emergency
By MARC CAMERON
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 Marc Cameron
All rights reserved.
December 16 1110 Hours Arlington, Virginia
Jericho Quinn twisted the throttle on his gunmetal-gray BMW R 1200 GS Adventure, feeling the extra horses he needed to keep up with the frenetic thump of D.C. traffic. Six cars ahead, the man he wanted to kill activated his turn signal, then moved a forest-green Ford Taurus into the left lane.
The big Beemer was a leggy bike, aggressive like a mechanical predator from a science-fiction movie. Tall enough to be eye level with passing cars, it flicked easily for what some considered the two-story building of motorcycles.
Even locked-on to his target, Quinn was watchful. Riding on two wheels required constant awareness — as his father constantly chided: Ride like everyone else is on crack and trying to kill you. In truth, though he'd been riding since he was a small boy in Alaska, each time he hit the street awakened an intense hyperawareness, like the first time he'd tracked a wounded brown bear, worked outside the wire in Iraq, or kissed a girl.
Following the Taurus in the heavy afternoon traffic took concentration, but every on-ramp and intersection, every car around him, presented a possible assault. The Brits called them SMIDSY accidents — Sorry, mate, I didn't see you. There was hardly a summer growing up that Quinn or his brother, Bo, hadn't been consigned to some sort of cast due to such encounters with absentminded drivers.
And still they rode, because it was worth the risk. When they were younger, he and his kid brother had come to the conclusion that miles spent on the back of a motorcycle were like dog years — somehow worth more than a regular mile.
Now Quinn tracked the little Ford like a missile, taking the left off 395 at the Pentagon/Crystal City exit, then the ramp to the Jeff Davis Highway. He stayed well back, leaving three vehicles as a cushion between him and his target, accelerating then tapping his brake in a sort of fluid Slinky dance. The Taurus moved into the right lane. Quinn glanced over his shoulder, then, with a slight lean of this body, took the right lane as well.
He wore a black Transit riding jacket of heavy, microperforated leather and matching pants against the humid chill of a Washington December. The Aerostich suit was waterproof with removable crash armor to guard against any asphalt assaults. Quinn's boss had seen to it that the Shop, a subunit of DARPA — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — added level IIIA body armor for traditional ballistic protection along with a few other modifications like a wafer-thin cooling and heating system to bolster the suit's amazing versatility. His Kimber ten-millimeter pistol, a small Beretta .22 with a XCaliber suppressor, and a thirteenth-century Japanese killing dagger, affectionately called Yawaraka-Te — or Gentle Hand — were all tucked neatly out of sight beneath the black jacket. A gray Arai helmet hid Quinn's copper complexion and two-day growth of dark beard.
They'd come from downtown, outside the Capitol on Constitution Avenue, under the Third Street Tunnel and onto 395. Though it was lunchtime, rush hour in D.C. seemed only to ebb slightly during the business day and the low winter sun glinted off a river of traffic. The Taurus looked remarkably like eighty percent of the other sedans on the road and Quinn had to concentrate as he moved from lane to lane to keep from losing track amid the flow.
Knowing who was in the car made the hair bristle on Quinn's neck. After a year of doing little but sitting back on his haunches and watching, he itched for the opportunity to make a move. Now it looked as though Hartman Drake had given him that chance. People accustomed to a diet of Kobe beef and champagne didn't suddenly trade it all in for hamburger and tap water. The Speaker of the House of Representatives was certainly used to traveling in more style than the plain vanilla sedan. He had chosen the innocuous Taurus for a reason.
Agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations were well known in law enforcement circles as experts at handling confidential sources. Vehicle surveillance went hand in hand with that particular expertise. As an OSI agent and a veteran of multiple deployments to the "sandy-stans" of the world, Quinn had ample training in both disciplines. Now, as an other governmental agent, or OGA, working directly for the president's national security advisor, he had plenty of opportunity to put these skills, and others more unique to his personality, to frequent use.
He reached up and opened the face shield on his gray Arai a crack to let in a whiff of crisp winter air. An airbrush of crossed war axes, dripping candy-apple blood, detailed the sides of the helmet. Along with the black leathers and aggressively beaked BMW 1200 GS, it brought to mind Frank Frazetta's brooding horseback warrior, The Death Dealer. Quinn didn't mind the comparison. His ex-wife would say he even worked at it.
The neatly spaced trees scattered among the hotels, apartment buildings, and holly bushes of Crystal City had long since given up their leaves. A stiff wind blew from the northeast, shoving Quinn's bike like an unseen fist and threatening much colder weather. Thankfully, there was no snow.
"What are you up to, Drake?" Quinn whispered to himself, throwing a puff of vapor against the visor of his helmet. He had to suppress the urge to ride up beside the Taurus to shoot the driver in the face. The Speaker had ducked out on his security detail for a reason, and from what Quinn knew of him that meant he was up to something deadly.
Half a block ahead, the green Taurus bore right where the Jeff Davis Highway split to become North Patrick and Henry Streets with Henry continuing south. Quinn fell back two more cars, to merge in front of a black Mercedes coupe, easing into the slower rhythm of the narrow one-way street leading into historic Old Town Alexandria.
The American people might believe Hartman Drake still mourned the death of his devoted wife the year before, but Quinn knew better. He lacked the proof to accuse such a powerful man, but Quinn was certain the Speaker had been responsible for the poor woman's death. Losing a spouse had gained him sympathy and given him an excuse not to attend the event that should have killed both the president and the vice president — leaving Drake, as House Speaker, the next in line of succession.
Ahead, the Taurus stopped at the intersection on a green light, waiting for a gaggle of well-dressed lobbyist types walking to Hank's Oyster Bar for a Friday lunch. Quinn brought the bike to a stop, planting his left foot and feeling the familiar horizontal torque of the engine while the group crossed the street as if it belonged to them. Once they cleared the crosswalk, the Taurus turned east on King. Quinn fell in behind, three cars back now, biding his time.
Restaurants, tourist shops, ice cream parlors, and attorneys' offices occupied the multicolored brick and stone buildings crammed in on either side of the shady street. Many were older than the United States itself.
Hartman Drake took a quick right on the last street before the Potomac River, then whipped into a fenced parking lot beyond a hedgerow and a line of leafless trees. Seldom seen without his trademark French cuffs and colorful bowtie, the speaker wore faded blue jeans and a brown leather bomber jacket. A baseball cap and aviator sunglasses rounded out his disguise. It was common knowledge around Capitol Hill that Drake prided himself on a trim physique and powerful chest. In his mid-forties, he worked out religiously every day in the House gym.
He paused for a moment at the car window to adjust the ball cap and sunglasses. For a moment Quinn thought he was looking for a tail, but soon realized the narcissistic peacock was merely checking out his own stunning reflection. His self-admiration complete, the Speaker retrieved an aluminum briefcase from the backseat before trotting across a park-like lawn, still green from the unseasonably mild winter.
Quinn bit his bottom lip. Drake was heading for the river.
Letting Drake make it ahead for a five-count, Quinn motored his GS into the same parking lot, across the street from the old torpedo factory turned art mall.
He dismounted, peeling off his helmet and kangaroo-hide riding gloves in time to watch Drake pass behind a hedgerow, then through a gap in a wooden privacy fence. Quinn's cell phone began to vibrate in the inner pocket of his Transit jacket. He unzipped the jacket to give him quicker access to his weapons, but ignored the call, tapping the butt of the Kimber over his kidney, just to make certain it was there. The suppressed Beretta 21A hung in an elastic holster under his left arm. Yawaraka-Te rested upside down along his spine.
Gripping the helmet by the chin guard in his left hand, Quinn strode quickly across the lot, skirting a line of sports cars belonging to the boat owners at the marina beyond the wooden fence. So far, he had the entire parking lot to himself, but a rustle behind the shrubs told him that wouldn't be the case for very long.
Though Quinn had loved a good scrap for as long as he could remember, he'd learned early on that there was a serious difference between squaring off with someone in a contest and the dynamic, kill-or-be-killed world of close-quarters battle. In simplest terms, combat was nothing more than brutal assault, with one party trying to crush the other.
A certain amount of posturing might precede the actual conflict, but when violence came, it came lightning fast on fist or blade or bullet. If the attacker knew what he was doing, it came from every direction and all at once. Fairness, rules, and linear time flew out the window.
When Quinn was still ten meters from the gap in the hedge where Drake had disappeared, an Asian man in his late teens stepped into view. His shaven eyebrows and short, Chia Pet–style punch perms identified him as a bosozoku — literally violent running tribe — the youthful street gangs who often acted as acolytes to the Japanese mafia. Along with a sullen sneer, he wore baggy red slacks and a white tokko-fuku, the knee-length Special Attack jacket worn by kamikaze pilots of World War II. Boldly embroidered Japanese kanji covered the coat and proclaimed ridiculous statements like: Mother, I have to Die! and Speed and Death are my Life!
The bosozoku planted his feet firmly in the center of the path, blocking the gap, and folded his arms across a thick chest. A six-inch knife blade glistened in his right fist.
Japanese youth gangs were relatively rare in the U.S., and Quinn was surprised to see one in northern Virginia.
Quinn slowed his advance slightly but did not stop, preferring to press the advantage of momentum and psychological force. Knowing Tokko-fuku couldn't be alone, he whispered his familiar mantra to himself as he walked. "See one, think two."
As if on cue, two more bosozoku filed through the gap behind their apparent leader. Each of the newcomers carried a wooden baseball bat and wore jeans and white T-shirts as if they hadn't quite earned the right to wear a Special Attack coat. The last one in line stepped tentatively to Quinn's right. The boy's eyes flitted back and forth, shifting just enough to show he wasn't fully committed to the attack.
Quinn would start with him.CHAPTER 2
Vitebsk Station St. Petersburg, Russia 7:12 PM Moscow time
Katya Orlov was in love enough to let herself be dragged through uneven drifts of grimy snow along Zagorodny Prospekt. Her boyfriend, Wasyl, had suggested she borrow her mother's Sberbank card. It wouldn't be stealing, he'd assured her, merely a loan they would pay back after he got work aboard the fishing boat.
The columned entries of Vitebsk Station loomed before her, bathed in brightness against the dark night. Slush soaked through her tattered leather boots. She wore thin cotton socks and her American straight-leg jeans did little to protect slender legs from the cold. She'd thought of packing a few things, but Wasyl had said it wouldn't matter. They could buy what they needed — and they would need little, for they were soul mates.
Rafts of evening commuters, recently disgorged from an outbound city train, flowed in a gray woolen sea. New snow hung heavy on the night air. The greasy smell of sausages and boiled potatoes drifted from the green kiosks up on the platforms inside the station. As a girl, Katya had thought Vitebsk's stone breastwork and clock tower made it look like a palace. It was a fantastic place with interesting people — but she'd never met anyone as interesting as Wasyl.
Of course, her mother hated him. It was not because he was nineteen and handsome and three years Katya's senior — but because he was Ukrainian and often spoke of taking her to Odessa. He was a man with dreams and a real plan to get her out of their drafty flat in Pushkin — where she would surely have to live with her mother forever unless she found someone to marry her. Wasyl promised they would travel by train, rent a berth where they could sleep in each other's arms and eat eggs and fresh green salads. Once in Odessa they could stay in his rich uncle's beautiful dacha on the Black Sea. Wasyl had a friend with a fishing boat who'd promised him a job.
It was perfect. All they needed was train fare — and perhaps a little sum more to tide them over.
"There," Wasyl said, flipping a thick swath of black hair out of his face once they jostled their way through the doors and into the echoing marble main hall of the station. He pointed to a row of ATMs — bankomats in Russian — along the sidewall below a Soviet-era mural of dedicated factory workers and a sweeping Art Nouveau staircase. "We can get the money there."
The damp heat of so many people hit Katya full in the face. A woman with two toddlers on a dog-leash tether fell in beside them, the little ones in tiny wool coats chattering between themselves. A bent and wrinkled babushka shuffled along beside them, pushing a creaky metal cart and working her way through the crowd toward the same bankomats.
A businessman in a sable hat and long black coat stood at the nearest machine and Wasyl crowded in front of the woman and her jabbering children to make sure he got to the next one first. He flipped his hair again and held out his hand for the Sberbank card.
Katya reached in the hip pocket of her jeans and handed it to him.
"The PIN?" Wasyl demanded, sliding the card in the slot.
"My birthday," Katya said, the heavy weight of guilt suddenly pressing against her shoulders.
Wasyl sighed. "And exactly when is that again?"
Katya shook her head in disbelief. Surely a true love would remember such a thing.
"Tomorrow," she whispered, heartbroken.
Wasyl did the math in his head and punched the buttons. The machine gave a faint pop.
Katya thought she heard a child's worried cry. At the same instant a molten ball of flame erupted from the bankomat, cutting Wasyl, then Katya, in half.
Ninety seconds later Embarcadero BART Station San Francisco
Jordan Winters leaned against the train window and shut his eyes against the stark interior lighting. He felt the swaying rumble through exhausted bones. Night shift sucked. By the time he got home his kids had already caught the bus and his wife was headed out to her shift at the hospital. But jobs were as scarce as politicians with backbone and he was lucky to have work at all. To make matters worse, the Pontiac had lost a U-joint the week before, so he'd been forced to take the train and then the bus to and from work. That meant another half hour on each end of his trip if he made the connections just right. At this rate, he got to see his wife fifteen minutes a day and on weekends — if they were lucky and she didn't have to cover for another nurse.
They made up for it by talking on the phone every day during his commute as soon as he got phone reception. Tuned to the timing of it all, his eyes flicked open the moment he felt the train shudder and began to slow.
"Good morning, bright eyes," he said, glancing at the older man next to him who gave a rolling eye. Jerks blabbed in public on their phones all the time about much less important things. Trains going outbound from the city weren't nearly as crowed as those packed with commuters heading in at this time of day, but they were still full enough you could read the paper of the guy sitting next to you, so Winters kept his voice at a respectful level.
"Hey, Jordy," his wife said. She sounded hoarse. Her cold was getting worse. "How's my man?"
"I'm fine," Winters said. He gathered his jacket and moved toward the doors as they hissed open. "You're sick. Why don't you call in today?"
"I do feel like crap, baby," she said. "But you know I can't call in. I don't qualify for OT if I take a sick day this pay period and heaven knows we need the money, honey."
Jordan pushed his way along the packed platform, ducking and dodging the endless tide of morning commuters. He could smell the relatively fresh air of Market Street rolling down the stairway above as he passed the ATMs in the ticketing lobby.
Excerpted from State of Emergency by MARC CAMERON. Copyright © 2013 Marc Cameron. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A page turner.
I like to binge read and I found Marc Cameron. I've read a few of his books and they are entertaining, light reads... great for vacation. I'd like to see more character development as I think the author has talent.
This series has been a quick read ... it is full of scary possibilities and having a hero like Jericho Quinn makes you want to believe there are real life heros just like this.
Ready for next one
HAVEN'T READ AS I HAVE A TRIP COMING UP SOON AND BOUGHT FOR THAT..IF ANYTHING LIKE THE OTHER MARC CAMERON BOOKS WILL KEEP ME READING UNTIL FINISHED..PERFECT FOR TRAVEL.
The book is enjoyable, but it is frustrating when passages of text are missing from e-books, as in this one!!!!!
Star if your here we need to talk