Signal Press – eBook
Seduction and intrigue are rampant on the campaign trail when a political campaign adviser discovers that Washington's power broker elite have embroiled his presidential candidate in a plot involving an act of terrorism on US soil…
Democratic political campaign consultant Ben Brinker can’t remember the last time he was excited by a candidate’s vision. He feels he’s lost his way, both emotionally and professionally. Worst yet, his show-me-the-money policy seems to have finally caught up with him. Two of his recent clients have been disgraced in one way or another: a senator is caught in lurid sex scandal, and a congressman is indicted in a kickback scandal. In no time at all the political pundits are calling Ben a "candidate cooler." Now Ben is desperate for any campaign gig he can get.
As luck would have it, Andrew Harris Mansfield, the charismatic junior senator from North Carolina and former Marine pilot, asks Ben if he wants to run his soon-to-be-announced campaign for president.
Little does Ben know what's in store for Andrew, or their country–
Nor does he realize that the key to saving both have been placed in his hands.
It was an
unseasonably warm New Year’s Eve, and the throbbing mass of partygoers centered
around the fountain at the Bellagio was for the most part feeling no pain.
in particular was especially numb. His captors had made sure of it, doping him
up with a cocktail of drugs—a potent mix of zombie cucumber, scopolamine, and
some botulism thrown in for good measure—that left him too paralyzed to move,
to speak, to cry, let alone to shout out to the crowd that he was, quite
literally, a ticking time bomb.
the Bellagio’s famous fountain pulsated to the sensual sounds of Sinatra,
Carlos Rodriguez glared hard at those around him in the hope that someone—anyone—might be able to read the fear in
his eyes, if not for his sake, then for the rest of them. Illuminated in the
hotel’s many roving spotlights, their faces melded into a living collage:
flirting, blowing horns, laughing, and screaming. He tried to scream, too, but
nothing came out. Not a whisper. The drugs ensured that.
there it was: The countdown.
The last three
months passed before his eyes, starting with the moment when that emotionless
U.S. Customs official pulled him out of the employee line crawling down the
gangplank of the Carnival Cruise ship on his one night of shore leave in Miami.
If he had assumed that his Venezuelan passport wouldn’t raise any flags with
her, he was wrong. She asked him some seemingly innocuous questions about his purpose
for coming into the country.
innocent enough, still landed him in some hot, dusty hellhole.
There, Carlos was
stripped naked, shackled in a fetal position, or made to squat in his own
waste. During the scalding heat of the day, he was given little water to quench
his thirst, and no blanket when the night temperatures dropped to freezing. As
bad as the daily beatings were, the threat of being drowned, tortured, or
bitten by his captors’ hounds of Hell was even worse.
He was no longer
a man, only a number. They called him Catorce—the
number, fourteen, in Spanish.
From the scared
whispers and coded taps he heard from the other young Venezuelaños also isolated in the prison’s catacomb of cells,
Carlos learned that, like him, they had all come from poor remote villages.
None were married or had any immediate family, either back home or here in the
In time, the capitano of their captors, the human
devil named “Smith,” told them that they were to play very important roles in
the freedom and prosperity of both their old and new countries.
And that was how
they were told that they were to be suicide bombers.
day—today—finally came, the men were taped down front and back with the bombs,
then dressed in nice slacks, collared sweaters and beige cashmere jackets,
their hair lightened and spiked. Yes, now they could easily pass as well-to-do
gringos. Then they were drugged.
Two hours later,
seven vans carrying the human bombs pulled up in front of the seven hotels
hosting Las Vegas’ world famous fireworks: the Flamingo, the MGM Grand, Circus
Circus, Treasure Island, the Venetian and the Bellagio, all the way north to
Only Carlos had
been paired with another bomber: some kid, maybe seventeen or so, who had
entered their hellhole only the day before. His captors called him Trece, the Spanish word for the number
thirteen. Although muscle paralysis had set in quickly, Carlos’s mind was still
alert. He could tell that the boy, Trece, was also trying to fight the effects
of the drugs. The look in his eyes wasn’t terror, but determination.
Señor Smith had
ridden shotgun in their van. When the van reached the Bellagio, Smith roughly
yanked Carlos out the back. After positioning him in the heart of the teeming,
screaming mass of humanity in front of the fountain, he slapped Carlos on his
back and whispered in his ear: “Look at it this way—at least you and the others
will die heroes’ deaths for your new country…” before casually strolling away.
Out of the corner
of his eye, Carlos watched as Smith reappeared with Trece the boy. They moved
in the opposite direction though; deep into Bellagio’s thickening crowd.
What had Smith
called him, a hero? No, Carlos was more like a fantasma…
A ghost who would haunt the United States for years to come.
the thought of that, the tears that could not fall glistened in his eyes.
front of him a cluster of unattached women unraveled quickly in order to sidle
up to whatever single men were still around. Any moment now they would bestow
the first kiss of the year on some lucky stranger, one of the joys of being
young and single on this special night—
girl, pretty in pink, her blond hair grazing her bare shoulders, glanced over
at him. By her quizzical look he could tell she’d noticed his tears. She waved
at him. Of course he couldn’t wave back. No matter. Undeterred, she swam
against the deep wave of humanity between them, to his side.
burly red-haired man, watching the exchange, glared hard at Carlos. The fact
that he didn’t respond irritated the man, like a red flag waved at a moody
bull. He grabbed the women’s arm, she tried to shake him off, but he shoved
passed her, hell bent on reaching Carlos first.
boyfriend perhaps, determined to win her back? Que lastima! Perhaps the lovers could
make amends in heaven, because in a mere twenty-two seconds, the bomb strapped
to Carlos’ chest would blow all of them to pieces…
(c) 2013 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (firstname.lastname@example.org).