7 Days - Chapter 32


To read previously published chapters, click here.

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

Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu is now warning that his nation is preparing for war with China after Beijing flew a record number of warplanes over Taiwanese territory. Wu reached out to another country for help, but it wasn't the United States.

In a video, Wu urged Australia to help prepare for a possible invasion, but gave the U.S. no mention.

"The defense of Taiwan is in our own hands, and we are absolutely committed to that. And if China is going to launch a war against Taiwan, we will fight until the end. And that is our commitment. And, of course, during this period of time, we would like to exchange with other countries for security cooperation," Wu said on ABC News In-depth's China Tonight program. "We would like to engage in security or intelligence exchanges with other like-minded partners, Australia included, so that Taiwan is better prepared to deal with the war situation. And so far, our relations with Australia is very good. And that is what we appreciate it for."

On "The Glenn Beck Program," Glenn, Pat Gray, and Stu Burguiere discussed whether or not America would do anything during such a conflict — because it sure seems like President Joe Biden is more focused on working with China to fight climate change. Plus, why did China just cut off all cryptocurrency?

Watch the video clip below to catch the conversation:

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.

On "Glenn TV" tonight, Glenn Beck heads to the chalkboard to reveal how the fundamental transformation of America has already begun by turning the Declaration of Independence upside down.

If Donald Trump was a dictator, then what do we call President Biden? In Biden's first nine months in office, he has already issued 64 executive orders – that's more than Trump, Obama, W. Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Reagan each issued in their entire first years in office.

You never hear the Left talk about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights any more, unless it's to "reimagine" the Constitution or slap a "harmful content" warning on our founding documents. Seriously. The National Archives said while its website label wasn't targeting the Constitution specifically, "some of the materials presented here may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions." The Left finds basic, guaranteed rights so offensive they now spend all of their time on workarounds to deal with America's annoying founding documents.

Watch the full episode of "Glenn TV" below to see Glenn outline the aggressive unconstitutional abuses "King Biden" is jamming down our throats and teaches Americans how we can defend against presidential tyranny.

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.

On the "Glenn Beck Radio Program," Glenn explained why he wouldn't be surprised to see our supply chain collapse and empty shelves in America in the near future. Shortages are already wrecking our economy, China (where many of our goods are still made) is facing an energy shortage, and the Biden administration sure seems to be doing everything it can to make things worse.

Glenn noted a serious warning from American CEO Mike Beckham: "There's a major storm brewing in the supply chain," Beckham wrote on Twitter.

Thanks to China's centrally planned system, electricity shortages are causing huge delays in product manufacturing. In fact, some items are facing a 33 percent cut in production. "It could dramatically impact every [American's] life next year. But almost no one knows about it yet," Beckham warned.

Glenn went on to explain exactly what this means for you — and what you can do to prepare.

Watch the video clip below to hear Glenn break it down:


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.

Every decision made by President Joe Biden has ended in "disaster," Bill O'Reilly told Glenn Beck.

O'Reilly joined the radio program to explain why he thinks there's only one "mechanism" Americans can use stop the Biden administration's mess.

"Give me one thing that [Biden] has done, just one, that's improved this nation. Everything that he has been involved with is a disaster. Everything from the COVID mandates, to the energy policies, to the economic policies, to the inflation, to Afghanistan, to the collapsing southern border, to the social woke business, to the denial of due process. Right across-the-board, there isn't anything this man has done, or stood for, that's improved America," O'Reilly said.

"But there is no mechanism to do anything about it until a year from this November: the midterm elections. That's the only mechanism that we have, under the Constitution. We elected this guy and he's there for four years. You neutralize him next November [2022], with the Republicans taking back the House and Senate, then he's done. [He] can't do anymore damage because you've got him in a hole. And he's not going to be proactive with executive orders. He's just going to stay there in his jammies for two more years. OK? So that's the only mechanism."

O'Reilly also tore into the corporate media for using its power to defend Gen. Mark Milley after news of his China calls broke. Is there any deterrence in American society anymore to keep our leaders and media in check?

"What does this say to the United States of America when you have two of the most powerful information agencies in the world — NBC, Comcast, and AT&T, CNN — actively deceiving you?" O'Reilly said. "They know what they're doing. And yet there is absolutely no way for anyone to hold them accountable other than not watching them, which has, of course, happened. You know they have no audience. But just the corruption level of the information flow to the American people is at an all-time high. We have never had a worse media in the history of this republic."

Watch the clip below to hear O'Reilly break it all down:

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.