7 Days - Chapter 32


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James Rollins is the New York Times bestselling author of international adventure thrillers sold in over thirty countries. His latest novel, The Doomsday Key, is now available nationwide. For more information, visit www.jamesrollins.com.

JUNK MAIL


by James Rollins

Nick knew it was a dangerous gamble to contact his boss.

Koleson Fletcher’s name had been on the press release faxed to his friend Mike, a press release that claimed Nick and Ashleigh had died during the Palace Station explosion. But Nick also knew that he could not make any real headway in this investigation by himself. He needed a friend, someone on the inside he could trust.

But could he trust Kole?

Nick stared at the Sig Sauer on the bed.

Before a few hours ago, Nick would have staked his life on Kole’s friendship and loyalty. He now had to do just that, to risk his life by sticking his head out into the open. If Kole was working with the enemy, Nick would not survive until dawn.

Knowing that, he made a few last-minute preparations—then began to pace the room. It would be the longest twenty minutes of his life.

His only hope lay in one fact: the time stamped on that incriminating press release indicated the fax had been sent before the explosion. That meant that whoever had disseminated the press release already knew about the bomb and had made a stupid error by releasing the fax a few minutes early.

And Koleson Fletcher would never have done that. The man was too smart, too wily when it came to manipulating the press. It was why he had the job he did. He knew all the pitfalls to avoid. He would have never made such a blatant error in the paper trail.

Someone else had to have sent it. It would have been simple enough to forge the letterhead and toss that fax into the whirlwind of paperwork that must be flying throughout the halls of Washington and beyond.

But what if Nick was wrong? What if he was putting too much emphasis on this one detail? Anyone in the heat of the moment could make a mistake.

As he paced the room, his doubts grew. He examined and re-examined his life, searching for any clue about how and why he had been snared in this trap. The glow of the laptop drew his eye. He crossed to it, opened a browser, and logged into his e-mail account. It was a risky move. Someone could be monitoring traffic, but he needed as much information as possible. And besides, he’d already stuck his neck out in the real world; what harm could there be by doing the same in the cyber world?

He quickly ran down the list of his email subject lines, looking for any telltale clue about why his life had been hijacked. Nothing seemed amiss. Lots

of email shared the same "congrats!" subject line, wishing him and Ashleigh a happy honeymoon.

He stared at those in particular.

Their wedding seemed like ages ago, from another life. He pictured Ashleigh in her dress, an angel in silk. Their first dance, her breath on his cheek, her laughter… it all suddenly overwhelmed him. He found it difficult to breathe. He retreated until he was sitting on the bed. He flashed back to seeing her strapped to the metal table, bruised and beaten, a pistol poised at her temple.

He covered his face with his hands, trapped between bone-deep grief and raw fury. In that one moment, she died a thousand times, a thousand ways, each more bloody and brutal than the next. He dug his fingers into his face, knowing he had failed to protect her. His breathing grew ragged, but he slowly forced himself away from that brink.

He did not have the luxury of despair, not if he wanted to bring down those who’d taken Ashleigh away from him.

He lowered his hands, stood up, and crossed to the computer. He was about to close his email account when his eyes settled to the bottom of the list, to the last piece of email, dated an hour ago.

The logline read: Another way to INCREASE the size of your rod!

The email looked like any other piece of spam, but Nick studied it closer. After they’d first met, he had taught Ashleigh an easy and flexible way to communicate in private. Her father, well known for his prying and meddling ways, had not been keen on their relationship at first, so they’d developed this system to keep certain messages private. It was really mostly fun and games, two lovers whispering secrets in the dark, but it had occasionally proven useful.

He read the log line again. Another way to INCREASE the size of your rod! According to their code, the first and last word had to match the initials of the sender. In this case another and rod matched his wife’s new married name: Ashleigh Roberts.

But was he reading too much into this?

With his hand trembling, he opened the email. A photo appeared. It depicted Uncle Sam pointing at the recipient with a line below that stated:

We Need a Few Good Men

To test the latest in male

enhancement products!

It appeared to be one of millions of spam emails sent around the world every second. And that is what made their secret code so perfect. Few people would delve any deeper. Even now Nick wasn’t sure if this was spam or a message from Ashleigh.

He refused to hope.

There was only one way to know for sure.

With his heart pounding through his chest, Nick dragged the picture of Uncle Sam from the email and onto the computer’s desktop. An icon bloomed there. He read the file name for the photo. I_escaped_ontherun_help7025552391.jpg

Nick stared, not sure whether to believe it or not. Could this really be a message from Ashleigh? Could she have escaped? He teetered between joy and terror. The last sequence had to be a phone number. All he had to do was call. But what if this was some trick to draw him out of hiding? What if Ashleigh’s captors had tortured this information out of her?

Before he could settle on an answer, someone knocked on the door. He checked his watch. Twenty minutes had passed. Lost in shock and grief, time had escaped him.

Twisting around, he snatched the pistol from the bed with trembling hands and retreated toward the bathroom. His heart thudded against his ribcage, pounding hard.

With Ashleigh dead, he had been willing to throw his life away in order to expose those who had killed her. But what if she was still alive? He stared over at the computer, then at the motel door. What had seemed a reasonable risk just minutes ago now struck him as foolhardy and dangerous.

A muffled voice called outside. "Nick? It’s me, Kole."

Nick hurried to the bathroom window. He’d left it open. He searched below for any strange cars or people down in the back alley. It looked clear. He moved to a spot by the bathroom door.

Had Kole come alone? Or was there an assassination team waiting to take him out?

He stared at the front door’s peephole. From his years with the O.S.I., he knew that such eyeholes were death traps. If someone wanted to murder you, they’d wait until your shadow passed over the hole, then shoot right through the door.

Nick kept to the far side of the room. He had an angled view to the outside through a part in the window curtain. By shifting slightly, he had a complete view of the upper balcony and the parking lot below.

In the reflection, a single figure stood outside his door.

Koleson Fletcher.

The rest of the upper level appeared empty. The parking lot below looked the same as before. A few pimps and drug dealers plied their trade. Nick trusted the young men’s survival instincts, honed by the mean streets, to sense if anything was wrong. He also suspected they had eyes throughout the neighborhood. If any cops or suspicious vehicles were around, the crew would have cleared out by now.

Satisfied, Nick hurried to the door, swept it open, and planted his pistol into Kole’s belly.

"Get inside," Nick commanded, knowing with growing certainty that more than his own life now hung in the balance.

He had failed Ashleigh before—but never again.



<< Return to the April 2010 Index of Fusion

Glenn Beck has been warning since last summer that you would not recognize your country in a year. Well, it's not even summer yet, and he says he already doesn't recognize the country.

Do you recognize an America in which people are making more money off government unemployment benefits than they can make by working, inflation is ramping up, housing, supply and labor shortages are widespread, and the current administration gives cybercriminals from Russia a free pass after the biggest cyberattack on our nation's infrastructure to date?

On the radio program this week, Glenn pointed out that while businesses all over the nation are downsizing, one brand store is actually booming — and it says a lot about the state of the economy and what it means for our country's future.

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn:

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

The largest American gas pipeline shut down on Friday due to what experts told the media was the "most dramatic cyberattack on U.S. soil to date." Investigators are looking at a group believed to be based in Russia known as "DarkSide."

It's time our leaders in the White House take national security seriously because this isn't the first time enemies of the U.S. — namely Russia and China — have used the cyber world to attack our nation and weaken our infrastructure, Glenn Beck argued on the radio program. Between Russia, China, and Iran — which President Joe Biden is now trying to make another nuclear deal with — it looks like the "Axis powers" of a "digital World War III" are lining up

"The journalists seem to care about the price of gasoline for the first time. Is it because they actually care? Or is it because they're trying not to focus on the fact that this was an attack most likely from Russia? And it isn't the first cyberattack from Russia of the year ... maybe we should be paying attention, to Vladimir Putin," Glenn began.

"And by the way, the pipeline going down, that's not the only [cyberattack] happening now," he added later. "Thirty thousand U.S. victims, small businesses and local governments, were hacked by cyber espionage units backed by the Chinese government in January of this year."

"There is an 'Axis power.' It is Russia and China. And, by the way, who is also aligned with Russia and China? Iran. Wow, this is weird," Glenn surmised. "But don't worry about that. Just leave your dog tags on another table. Let's not talk about China. Let's not talk about who actually crashed the jugular of our oil pipelines. I don't want war. But I got news for you ... this Biden administration is doing the job for our enemies."

Watch the video below to hear more from Glenn:


Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Canadian clinical psychologist, author, and cultural firebrand Jordan Peterson is no stranger to cancel culture. Ever since he was thrust into the culture war, he has faced one controversy after another, stirred up by the woke elites who hate him with a passion. But although they have tried to make him pay for speaking out so fearlessly against their message, he refuses to back down and he believes you should, too. He joined "The Glenn Beck Podcast" this week to explain why.

"There is a growth of the reluctant hero in all stories ... so many people think that they don't have what it takes, that they're not the hero," Glenn said to Peterson. "How do you get people to recognize and then have the courage to stand? You've taken a beating ... why is it worth it and how do you get there?"

"I think it's worth it because I believe the alternative is worse ... to stay silent when you have something to say," Peterson replied. "You don't know what it is within you that requires your voice, right, because you feel like 'I have something to say.' Where does that come from exactly, that feeling that you have something to say?

"Maybe you're disgruntled at work and you're choking on your own bile because the situation is not just in your estimation," he continued. "You're dying to say something, but you won't. Well, you'll die if you don't say it. Maybe it's a death by a thousand cuts. I don't like deferred punishment. I'd rather take it now and keep the future clean, which is why I encourage people to have the fights now, not to hide things in the fog for later. They grow and metastasize. It's better to confront what you need to confront when it's small and you have some possibility of victory."

Watch the video clip below to catch more of the conversation, or find the full podcast with Jordan Peterson here:

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Top officials at the Federal Reserve are doing what they can to sugar coat what's ahead for our economy, telling Americans we may hit a "transitory" period of inflation that will settle by 2022. But Bank of America is saying something different. The bank's latest earnings call commentary warned "at the very least" transitory hyperinflation is ahead.

Watch the video clip below to hear Glenn Beck explain what this means for prices and for our economy.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.