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First pages

PROLOGUE

ONE YEAR AGO

Marco Meck got up from his L-shaped Mahogany desk and walked to his matching marble-topped mahogany bar. He ran his fingers along the cool surface, looking at his reflection in the polished surface. He smiled to himself, grabbed his decanter and poured himself three fingers of Johnny Walker Blue, no ice. He checked his watch.

Any time now.

As if on cue, the intercom speaker on his desk made a clicking sound, followed by a tinny female voice. “Mr. Meck, sir, your guest is here.”

Marco walked over and depressed the intercom button, “Thank you. In a few minutes.”

He was ready of course, but he never hurried to bring his guests in. Letting them wait was a subtle trick he picked up over the years to let his guests know that they were here for him and not vice-versa.

Marco walked to the desk, reached below and depressed a small black button. The clear view of the Rocky Mountains through his glass wall was given a foggy look as the tint took hold. All sound ceased to exist, an homage to the state-of-the-art soundproofing to deter curious eavesdroppers.

Marco hit the intercom button. “Send him in, Claudia.”

Two seconds later, the oak doors to his office opened inward and General Ulster Woods walked in, almost running into the doors and forcing them to open faster than they were designed to do. “Care for a drink, General?”

“No.”

“Suit yourself.” He pointed in the direction of the leather guest chairs. “Have a seat.”

General Woods continued to stand, arms at his side. His black dress uniform, adorned with medals, tabs, patches and stars, matched the color of his ebony skin and covered his fit and muscular frame perfectly.

Marco had known the general for a few years, but he assumed the man had fired a shot in every skirmish the country had been involved in. He had heard rumors that the General had been an all-star in the super secretive Delta Force, but you wouldn’t hear the man talk about it.

The General sat down and faced Marco, who had taken his seat behind his desk. “Nice view.”

Marco looked over his shoulder. “It is a nice view, isn’t it? Colorado in August is beautiful. Just imagine what it’ll look like in a year or two.”

“Yes. That’s why we’re here.” General Woods raised his hands up in a questioning matter. “So?”

Marco smiled and stood up. “I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, General.” He picked up a remote resting on his desk and hit a few buttons. Seconds later, the back the dark wood library shelf opened and a bank of twelve flat screen televisions presented itself forward. Marco hit a few more buttons and several black and white views came to life on each screen.

Marco sat back down and pointed to the lower row of screens. “The bottom left one there is our first test subject. When you brought them in, we started the testing pretty much right away. That was just over one month ago. As you can see, he’s still alive, though he has slowed down tremendously since infection.” He paused for a few seconds then asked, “You still won’t tell me where you found these guys?”

General Woods spoke without looking at Marco. “No.”

“Very well, then.” Marco had his suspicions, but he knew not to pry anymore. All six subjects appeared to be of middle eastern descent and each was brought in wearing beige coveralls and a black bag over their head. Each man had a long dark beard and dark eyes. Marco had seen the news and figured these men came from one of the government’s many black sites. “Enemy Combatants”, the media had labeled them. Whatever, it didn’t matter much anyways who these men were. All that mattered was that the virus worked.

“How long did it take for Subject One to change?”

Marco looked back at the screen and said, “About fifteen seconds. He was injected with the virus, he fell and coughed, then got up and showed an increased level of agitation. I mean he was very agitated. Berserk is a better word.”

“And the wound on his forehead?” The man on the screen was ashen in color, his complexion having gone from olive to gray. His beige coveralls were covered in dark splotches – blood, presumably – and seemed to match his forehead and face. The whites of the eyes were tinged with red streaks, bloodshot and showed nothing but rage and hatred. An animalistic, almost primal urge had taken over.

“Side effect of the agitation. He banged his head against the window, focusing on the scientists, trying everything he could to get at them. Normally, the force he used would have made anyone unconscious, even cracked a skull, but not this guy. We have the video from day one if you’d like to see it?”

“No.” He looked at his watch and said, “Let’s move this along. What about the other two screens?”

Marco cleared his throat and took a sip from his Scotch. “The middle screen there shows subject’s Two and Three. We injected Two and then released both men’s electronic shackles and, well…it took about fifteen seconds of course, then Two attacked Three, as predicted. We decided to do it that way due to the size difference. Three is much larger than Two and thus stronger. Unfortunately for Three, his size advantage had zero effect and he was quickly overcome.”

“So the infected don’t attack each other, correct?”

Marco nodded to the screen. “Correct. Subjects Four, Five and Six on the third screen showed the same.”

“Let me see that one.”

Marco sighed, picked up the remote and entered a code. The third screen went black then came to life, showing a date and time stamp indicating it occurred just under one month ago. “Here we go.”

The final three subjects were seated and subdued to chairs by metal braces and shackles as if they were awaiting death by electrocution. All three did their best to not show their fear, but once the scientist and his security detail walked inside, their demeanor changed to what could best be described as high anxiety. They knew what was coming thanks to the thick plexiglass walls that allowed them to view what had happened to the others.

All three men struggled as the scientist withdrew a syringe, his thickly gloved hands careful to handle the toxic mixture. He walked toward subject Four and regardless of his struggle, he couldn’t free his immobilized arm.

The scientist put one gloved hand on his wrist and used the other to inject him with the virus. Upon completion, the scientist and his team left the room, the thick steel door closing behind them. The same scientist walked to a control panel and hit a button releasing the shackles from the men. Realizing this, the two men – Five and Six – ran to the door, pounded on the windows, their yells and protestations silenced by the thick panes. Four fell to the ground, his seizing and convulsions just visible through the camera.

After fifteen seconds, Five and Six stopped what they were doing and looked at the floor to their right, out of view of the camera. They ran to the far corner of the room, each pushing at each other to see who could get further away from Four. It didn’t matter though, as Four launched himself at them, taking Five and Six to the ground. For several seconds all three men were out of view of the camera.

“Now watch this…” Marco said.

All three men jumped up and ran at the plexiglass window, throwing themselves at it like missiles flying through the air, searching for a target. Each man was thrown back as the thick glass stopped their momentum. No matter though, they kept coming, banging their heads repeatedly against the glass, some blows creating a spider web effect, though the glass held strong.

“All in all, it took under a minute for all three to become infected. It didn’t matter whether it was injected or became blood born through bites, fifteen seconds is where we’re at.” Marco said.

“Why don’t they attack each other? Why just the non-infected?” General Woods asked.

“That we don’t know. We’re assuming they’re looking for fresh meat, but that’s just speculation. We’re still working on the vaccine, but all-in-all, it works and it’s been aerosolized. Fortunately, the aerosolized version doesn’t last forever as it needs a human body to live, but once a few are infected, it’ll do as it’s intended. It’s deployable.”

“And what of the other screens?”

Marco pointed to the upper left. “That’s Dr. Riggs, there. He’s supposed to have it packaged within the hour.” Marco bent down and hit a button on the control panel and spoke into the intercom, “Dr. Riggs, how much more time do you figure it’ll take?”

The man on the screen, wearing a white hazmat suit with a clear plastic face cover turned toward the camera. He held up his hand with all fingers splayed out, closed it into a fist, then opened his hand again with all fingers splayed out.

“Ten minutes, General. Are you sure you don’t want a drink while you wait?”

The General shook his head.

“I have a courier standing by. As soon as Dr. Riggs and his team are done, we’ll have it ready for delivery.” He turned and looked at General Woods who was still watching the screens, as if waiting for something. Marco used this opportunity to try and learn more. “Why are you doing this, General?”

“Having doubts already?” The baritone General asked.

“No, sir. Just curious. I know why I’m doing it, but you stand to lose a lot more than I do. I mean, you’re at the top of the ladder already, militarily. Odds are, when this plays out, the military won’t be as strong as it was.”

“You let me worry about that. You’ve been paid. Handsomely, I might add.” General Woods stoop up and continued, “Besides, I’ve seen what humanity has become. The road it has taken. Nothing but ungrateful, godless, pathetic people walking the streets of the country I kill for. It’s time to trim the fat, so-to-speak.” General Woods said. “You just make sure your workers get this boxed up. We’ve got work to do. Those are aerosolized vials, correct?”

“Yes.” Marco stared at General Woods for a few more seconds then broke his gaze and focused on the screen. Dr. Riggs was waving to the camera and giving a thumbs up. Behind him was a pallet full of crates on a dolly, ready to be filled and rolled out. Marco hit the intercom button and said, “Excellent work, Dr. Riggs. I’ll call them in to pick it up. Go ahead and finish up then call it a day.”

Dr. Riggs was seen nodding his head dramatically, trying to compensate for the thick gear to signal his acknowledgement. Marco went to pick up the phone on his desk when he noticed movement on the middle right screen.

Several men clad in black were moving in unison toward the front entrance on the north side to the facility. This view was matched by the middle left screen which also showed several similar looking men moving toward the entrance on the south end of the facility.

“What the hell?” Marco was cradling the phone in his hand, staring at the screen. He turned to General Woods, “Are you aware of…”. His voice trailed off as he stared at the object being pointed at him. General Woods held a large black handgun that seemed to rest comfortably in General Woods’ right hand like a pitcher holding a baseball, comfortably doing so. His gaze held no emotion, no hate, no love. Nothing. Emptiness.

“What did you expect, Marco? I’m surprised you didn’t pick up on this sooner.” General Woods said. “We at the Bern Institute do appreciate your support in this endeavor. We are all thankful for your help, but…greed is not going to be an option moving forward and quite frankly, you are the textbook definition of greed. You did this for money. You did this for the wrong reasons, and quite frankly, your ego got ahead of you and you told people you shouldn’t have. Now I have to deal with that mistake of yours. If we expect to change the world, we can’t have loudmouths talking about our plans before those plans are put into place.”

Beads of sweat had started to form on Marco’s forehead. “I had the same goals you did, you son of a bitch! We’ve been working on this for over a year! We don’t even have a vaccine yet! What if it never ends? You need me!”

“Actually, we don’t. Nor do we need your scientists. You see, the fall of civilization around the world is not just inevitable. It’s necessary. To bring about change, we must thin the herd before we can implement Phase Two.” General Woods pointed to the chair with his gun. “And this is where it begins.”

The screens showed that both teams had made it inside. They had guns pointed at Dr. Riggs and the scientists but with all of them wearing white biocontainment suits, it was hard to tell who was who. Regardless, they were all rounded up and pushed into what Marco recognized as Lab 4 where the majority of the production of the virus had been done. Most of them walked in on their own with hands up, but two scientists started to resist and were given hits to the back of the head because of it. Everyone was made to take their masks off.

Once inside, the door was secured and a man in black opened up one of the biohazard boxes and extracted a medium-sized vial of liquid that was resting on the pallet. He walked toward the door, opened it, and a second team member had brought his gun up to deter anyone from thinking about making a run for it.

The team member with the vial through it to the ground at the feet of the scientists and closed the door, securing it. The scientists inside realized their time was up and started slamming their hands against the unbreakable glass while men stood back with their guns resting at their sides.

Marco watched in horror as he could almost hear the silent screams coming from those he had worked with on this for the last year. Tears started forming in his eyes and he watch helplessly as a few started choking and others fell to the ground in violent convulsions.

Several seconds had elapsed and all scientists had fallen to the ground out of view of the camera. As if Marco was almost willing him to do it, Dr. Riggs seemed to jump up and stare straight at the black clad men and yell at them through the window. He started banging his head against the glass, once, twice, five times over and over trying everything he could to get to them. Other scientists had gotten up with a violent quickness, bewildered and looked around. Sensing their intended targets were separated by a thick glass partition and thus unreachable, started to launch themselves at the window, clawing the glass, all slamming their heads into the window. The men in black were finishing up and just as they closed the security door, the thick plexiglass window shattered, spilling the crazed scientists out into the lobby of the lab. That urge, that desire, to attack any living thing was overtaking them, just as the virus was designed to do and this time, the glass didn’t hold.

“What the hell is wrong with you? You’re killing the few people in this world who know how this virus works!” Marco said, shaking.

General Woods looked to Marco. “Me? You created this, Marco.” He pointed to the screen with this gun. “I appreciate your concern though. We have no intention of finding a vaccine or care how it works. We just know that it does, as you can see.”

Marco’s office door opened and Claudia walked in, “Mr. Meck, did you have…” Claudia let out an inaudible yell when she saw General Woods with the gun. She then turned her attention to the TV banks and put her hands to her face to stifle her silent scream.

General Woods turned toward Claudia and fired a round, hitting her right between the eyes. Blood, chunks of skull, and brain matter landed on the door frame behind her.

Marco stood on wobbly knees and felt the blood rush to his head, the room spinning. What had gone from a great day with a bank account full of unlimited wealth, had turned into a blood bath with a death sentence right around the corner. If he was to survive this, now was the time to make a move.

Marco took a few deep breaths and came around the desk. He charged toward General Woods, who seemed to feel Marco running toward him. The General brought the gun around, pointed it at Marco and fired. The bullet hit Marco in the chest and stopped him in his tracks. He felt himself trying to run, but found himself looking up to the ceiling holding his chest. He looked toward General Woods to utter a few words, but his mouth was filled with the metallic iron taste of blood and no words came out.

General Woods walked toward Marco, bent his head down and stared straight into his eyes. “You don’t want to live in the world we are going to create, anyways. Consider this a gift.”

Marco watched as General Woods pointed the gun at his head. He smiled a sympathetic smile at Marco as he backed up and walked away.

Marco lay there helpless, the blood leaving his body. He turned his head toward the General and tried to raise his arm at him, but his body wouldn’t respond. His last image was watching the General take a drink after all.

His scotch.

The General finished then walked toward the door and as Marco’s eyes followed, he caught one last glimpse of Claudia lying there, dead. Oh, poor Claudia, Marco thought. He watched as General Woods stepped over her as if he didn’t want to dirty his boots.

Marco smiled at Claudia’s lifeless face as General Woods disappeared out of sight.

Claudia didn’t smile back as all went dark.

* * *

Out in the parking lot, General Woods got into the Suburban, his driver having left the vehicle running.

“All done, sir?”

General Woods looked at the young redheaded driver in the rearview mirror. “Yes, Redmond, we’re good to go. Are they done yet?”

“Yes, sir. Explosives have been put in place, awaiting your orders.” Redmond brought the vehicle around and took his time driving down the mountain road.

“Good.” He didn’t give the go ahead and his driver didn’t inquire further. He sat back and looked out the window.

Marco was right about one thing. The Rocky Mountains in August were beautiful. Sun, high snow caps, green trees, and birds. That clean and crisp air, though thin, was still one of the best smells in the world. In about one year though, all that would change. A change that was necessary if this world had any hope for survival. The deployment of the virus would be the first step. A simple way to rid the world of the weak and those that can’t survive. Sure, the number of survivors would be minimal, but those that did survive would be the strong and durable ones.

Of course, Marco had opened his mouth and bragged about what was to happen and that wasn’t to be tolerated.

“Redmond, they may proceed.”

“Yes, sir.” Redmond grabbed a satellite telephone and spoke into it, then craned his head to speak to General Woods. “It has begun, sir.”

Seconds later, a loud and distant explosion was heard in the background behind them, the laboratory decimated and with it, all evidence of the coming doom to the world.

Yes, General Woods thought, The Bern Project had very much begun.

PRESENT DAY

Chapter 1

John Idgaff looked like any other male shopper at the busy and upscale Bellevue Mall. Tall, muscular, good looking, styled black hair, black-rimmed Calvin Klein prescription glasses, a charcoal gray Brook Brothers’ suit with a pressed white dress shirt and mustard yellow tie. Like everyone else in the vicinity, John carried a white Starbucks coffee cup with the cardboard sleeve in one hand and two shopping bags in the other.

The perfect disguise.

Of course this wasn’t his normal look, but if he wanted to not be remembered, he had to blend in. He didn’t understand why men would want to wear such an uncomfortable and pretentious outfit. To John, suits just screamed out politician or corporate douchebag and seemed to hug his nuts just a little too tight, forcing him to walk like a bowlegged cowboy.

He scanned the area as he walked, taking a head count and roster of everyone he passed, looking for anyone or anything out of the ordinary. Yuppies, soccer moms, privileged teenagers, businessmen on their cell phones, kiosk trolls…each person caught up in their own little world, completely naïve to the environment around them.

People that John felt sorry for.

He passed a fashion shop that catered to women with grotesquely thin mannequins wearing lacy and see-through clothing giving passersby a glimpse of what they could never look like if they bought the clothing. He saw a few women inside holding up various articles of clothing against their bodies, trying to picture themselves in the outfit if they could shove their bodies into the flimsy cloth. Keep dreaming, John thought.

He saw the sign for the shop, realized he couldn’t pronounce it and kept walking. Several trophy wives passed by him, giving him the take-me-home-and-fuck-me look, but he paid no attention. A simple nod would have to suffice.

John walked slower than he normally did, wanting to give off the appearance of not being in any hurry whatsoever. Truth was, timing was crucial for what he had to do.

“Passing Nordy’s now. Still clear.” The voice came through his earpiece.

“Copy that.” John whispered into his collar. He knew where he needed to be, but the timing all depended on the route that the man took. So far, he was walking away from the target location, which was fine.

Two men in their forties were approaching John, both laughing and high-fiving each other as they walked. Each was wearing a Seattle Seahawks jersey and different colored cargo shorts. An homage to the youthfulness they longed for in place of the midlife crisis they had. John wasn’t sure, but wearing the jersey of another man might not be the best way to do it. You just give off the appearance of the teenage girl who wears her boyfriend’s letterman’s jacket. “Property of…”

“Leaving Sky Anora and heading back now.” The voice said.

Oh shit, John thought. Must be a one-and-done shopper. Nordy’s was on the opposite side of the mall from where John currently was and right next to the parking garage where he was to see the man. He would have to step up his pace if he was going to make it on time.

John threw the empty Starbucks cup into the garbage and picked up his pace. Foot traffic seemed to increase as he walked, forcing him to zig and zag between gaggles of women with sunglasses, yoga pants and cell phones held out in front of them like techno-tethers. Several children orbited around each of them like moons around Planet Mom. He brushed several of them as he passed, getting mean looks from these distracted PTA members and a few of them let out overly dramatic sighs, as if John somehow ruined their entire day. One of them called him an asshole.

First world problems.

Halfway there, he decided to take a shortcut through the food court. A busy, crowded and smelly area housing obese families, foreigners and teenagers wearing earbuds. He scouted out a break in the crowd and took it, heard “two minutes away” through his earpiece.

He was pressed for time now. “Copy.”

“He’s lost the vest. Wearing a pressed dress shirt. Blue, no tie. Three bags in his right hand. Cell phone in the left.”

John didn’t acknowledge. He got to the entrance of the third floor garage and knew that the target’s car would be in the northwest corner and backed in to its spot. He had memorized the static security camera layout and had a preplanned route that would get him there as undetected as possible.

He walked towards the elevator bay where he saw a pair of garbage cans. He took a quick look around and didn’t seen anyone. He grabbed his gloves out of his blazer pocket and ditched the empty bags. His hands were free now and he placed the black nitrile gloves over them and made fists, forming the gloves to his hands. He wiggled his arms and felt the looseness work its way down to his fingertips.

John heard the echo of his footsteps as he walked so he jumped up on the balls if his feet, shaking out the kinks as he tried his best to not let his heels touch the ground.

He walked along the walls of the garage toward the northwest corner and saw his target’s black Tesla backed in to its spot. Unlike before, there was now a silver BMW X5 parked right next to it, also backed in. It wasn’t a problem though as he planned for something like this to happen. This was a public mall after all and people had to shop.

“Entering the garage now. I’m breaking off. See you in a bit.” The voice had become a whisper.

“Copy all.” John walked over and stood behind the BMW, turning his back to the wall. Standing six-foot-three and weighing over two hundred and thirty-five pounds made it a tight fit, so he had to manipulate his body in the cramped space to be comfortable. He turned his feet outward and lowered himself down in a crouch, thankful that years of Kempo and stretching gave him the flexibility.

He heard distant footsteps approaching. He closed his eyes and tried to picture his target walking. Based on the cadence and timing of the footsteps, his target wasn’t in a hurry, which was good. He wanted him to be completely relaxed and vulnerable.

A cell phone rang somewhere and he heard someone answer, but it was tough to tell if it was his target with the sound echoing off the gray concrete walls. A male voice answered and he was pretty sure it was his target. A loud and heated exchange was occurring and the cadence of the footsteps picked up.

John estimated he was fifty feet away now and approaching fast. He craned his neck and tried to look over the back of the BMW toward the Tesla. The brake lights flashed and a quiet beeping sound was heard as his target hit the key fob.

John ran his left hand across his body, reached into his inner blazer pocket and pulled out his Spyderco Tactical Knife, turning it in his hand, keeping the spine of the six-inch blade hugged against his forearm. He held it close and free, careful as always.

He peered around the side of the BMW and caught a glimpse of Ali at the driver’s side door, still talking on his phone as he cradled it between his head and shoulder. Ali then walked to the back door and fumbled with his keys.

John was about to move when he was suddenly cast in a red light, followed by another loud beeping sound, only this time it came from the BMW.

He heard quick and light footsteps approaching from his left with the crisp clatter of high heels hitting the concrete. John crouched down a bit more so as not to be seen through the rear window. He brought his knees below the bumper and turned to his right, looking like a sprinter at the starting line.

John peeked around once more and saw Ali standing outside the open driver side door, still talking.

The woman got inside her BMW and started it up right away, as if wanting to get away from the uncomfortableness of the man yelling into his cell phone. If only she knew there was a man behind her SUV, John thought.

The brake lights came on, casting John in a red glow and projected his shadow across the back wall. He stayed as still as possible and hoped he wouldn’t be seen by either of them. The reverse lights came on and held.

Shit, John thought, I hope they don’t back up. If they did, he’d be crushed unless he got up and moved, but that would ruin the mission.

Finally, the reverse lights went off and John heard the emergency brake release from its hold and the BMW accelerated away from its space and turned left toward the exit, leaving John exposed. John glanced towards Ali and saw him reach for the door handle. Ultimately, John wanted to take him while he was positioned in between the door and the frame of the car, creating a V-shape. That would ensure Ali’s lone avenue of escape was into the vehicle, which is where John wanted him to end up anyways.

Ali opened the door and John stood up out of his crouch and took long and quick strides toward him. He shook out his hands, rolled his shoulders and relaxed the diaphragm, moves that were almost automatic. Going into any hands-on situation being tense and nervous would lead to failure and mistakes which were never an option if you wanted to succeed.

Ali hung up the phone and pocketed it. He placed his right foot into the cab of the Tesla and put his left hand on the door.

Now.

John came up behind him, knife resting in his left hand. He threw his right arm under Ali’s right shoulder and brought it under his chin, wrapping his hand around the left side of Ali’s neck. He squeezed.

John pulled him close and focused his breathing. He felt Ali start to panic as his body thrashed around looking for an escape. He scratched and clawed and tried to break free, but John kept him in place without too much effort. John was overcome with a sense of indifference. Like every other hit, he was able to dissociate himself from the humanistic element of the kill. It was purely organic, much like watching a lion take down a gazelle. It was natural.

John squeezed harder, applying pressure that cut off the blood flow to Ali’s brain. His bicep burning, he felt Ali starting to lose consciousness, which would weaken him, making it easier for John to do what he had to do. John took the time to glance around once more, making sure they were still alone.

They were.

It was time to finish this.

John lowered himself into a squat, bringing his height down to Ali and leaned back, causing Ali to hyper-extend himself. He placed his right knee into Ali’s back and moved backward which caused Ali to lose to his footing. He dragged him back toward the darkness at the rear of the car and brought the knife up and into Ali’s field of vision. The shiny blade reflected what little light there was right into Ali’s eyes.

John swung his left arm back and brought the blade crashing into Ali’s abdomen. The blade glanced off his rib cage before it came resting down to the hilt. John methodically worked the blade and forth, feeling the warm blood cascade over his left hand as he severed whatever veins and arteries were in the way. He kept the bade buried and maneuvered Ali’s body more toward the back driver’s side door.

John removed the knife and felt Ali loosen his struggle as blood left his body. John used that opportunity to pull the knife out. He moved his right hand from around Ali’s neck and put it over his mouth to stifle any scream. He wanted complete silence as he told Ali why he was there. After all, every bad man deserves to be told why they are being killed.

John put his mouth closer to Ali’s ear. In a quiet voice, he said, “Ali Bugunolov, you do not know me, but I think you know why I’m here. I represent the families of those poor girls you tortured and raped with your thirst and lust for young flesh. Being in the United States does not save you from this punishment and if you are a holy man, I suggest you make peace with your god now. Know this. I do not care about you, nor will I grant you a last wish. You are nothing but a contract to me.”

Ali started to struggle by throwing a weak left elbow that glanced off John’s hip. John smiled at the attempt. Normally, he would have finished him off by now, but he wanted Ali to have just a few more seconds of understanding his fate and what his actions did to those poor families.

John brought his left arm around and drove the blade of the knife into Ali’s stomach again. Immediately, Ali’s resistance subsided.

“This is for Tatyana Morov.” John brought the knife out, the blood pouring down the blade onto the hilt.

He brought the around a third time and buried the blade again into his stomach, just above the navel. “And this is for Melanie Trobov.”

Finished, John brought the knife out and half carried Ali toward the back driver’s side door of the Tesla. He rested Ali across his right leg and opened the door with his right hand. He shoved Ali into the back seat face down and lifted his legs up and shoved him in. John half climbed into the car and came up on top of Ali. He lifted his head back with his right hand and with his left hand, the brushed the blade across his neck and pulled up. Blood poured out of his neck onto the black leather seat. John wiped the blood of his blade off on Ali’s pants and got out of the vehicle. He looked around once more. Still alone.

John had one final thing to do.

He reached into the other pocket of his blazer and took out white shoe polish. He undid the cap and wrote a message on Ali’s back for those that would find him. Ultimately, the police would be called, but since this was a Thursday night and the mall was getting ready to close, it would be a few hours before anyone found him.

Once done, John stood up and took a deep breath. He spoke into his collar. “Finished.”

“Yea. Sounded like it. I’m on my way now. One minute.” Morgan said.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

M James Conway was born in San Diego and moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1984. After spending six years in high school he finally graduated, though barely, and went to a major University where he graduated with ease. He has done several jobs including lawn maintenance, Burger King, Spring Break "consultant" in Cancun, personal training and most recently public safety. M James Conway is politically apathetic, loves his family, martial arts, hates football and is a meat-eating vegetarian.

Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
Too many to choose from. But, I'd have to say my favorite authors are Vince Flynn(RIP), Brad Thor, Lee Child, Daniel Silva, Nelson Demille, John Sandford, Stephen King, Malcolm Gladwell and Sebastian Junger
Q. What did you learn while writing this book?
A.
Writing the first draft is the most exciting thing about writing. Seriously. You can throw rules out the window and just go crazy with your story. Unleash the beast!
Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
A.
It'd have to be Hugh Jackman. But Hugh Jackman from Wolverine, not Hugh Jackman from Broadway musicals.

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