State of Emergency
Series: The Jericho Quinn Series #3
Published by: Pinnacle
Release Date: April 30, 2013
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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. . .Add on Goodreads
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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.