EXECUTIVE REACTION is set for release on October 20, 2015. Here’s an excerpt of book four in the SPECTRE Series.
As Lt Colonel Jason Waxburn pulled his BMW 5-series into the narrow driveway of his two-story suburban home, the hair on the back of his neck instantly stood. The porch light that his wife always turned on as soon as she got home was off, despite her minivan still parked in the garage.
With Jason’s twenty-year career as an Air Force pilot, Jason’s wife Clara had grown used to his constantly changing schedule and the late hours he often put in at work. Putting on the light to welcome him home had become a tradition in their family. Whenever he came back from a long trip or worked late, she would always leave the light on for him, and most of the time she and their ten-year-old son would be outside sitting in their porch rocking chairs as he drove up.
But tonight was very different. He had tried both the house phone and her cell phone on his commute home and had been unable to make contact. He had only been gone for three days – a short trip in his line of work – and when he had last spoken to her the night prior, they had planned on a late dinner after his estimated arrival at 8:30 PM.
Jason pulled into the garage until the hanging tennis ball touched the windshield and then killed the engine. He grabbed his garment bag from the backseat as the garage door closed behind him. He had changed out of his Air Force blues before leaving base and was wearing a blue polo shirt and jeans for the commute home.
The house alarm chirped as he walked through the doorway into the laundry room that attached to the kitchen. It was not armed – something he and his wife religiously ensured when they left the house. As Jason walked into the kitchen, it was completely dark. The house seemed completely empty.
“Hello? Clare?” he said as he flipped on the light switch. “John? Where are you guys?”
There was nothing but silence as he looked around the kitchen. Dishes were in the sink and a couple of bills had been opened on the granite countertop. An orange juice carton sat unopened on the cooking island in the center of the room next to two unused glasses. After setting his garment bag down on a nearby chair, Jason grabbed the carton to put it back in the refrigerator, noticing that it was room temperature.
“Clare?” he called out again. “This isn’t funny. I know y’all are here.”
Jason’s heart started racing as he considered the possibilities. He walked into the living room as he searched for clues. He turned on the light, revealing the leather couches and plasma TV near the fireplace. There were no signs of foul play. The house was just as neat and orderly as he had left it three days ago.
As Jason turned toward his office, his cell phone rang. He desperately pulled it out of his pocket and answered the call, barely noticing the caller ID reading “BLOCKED” as he pressed the phone against his ear. “Clare?” he asked.
“Turn on your television and press play,” a male voice said. It was deep and robotic, sounding like a protected witness on the crime drama shows Jason and his wife often enjoyed watching,
“What? Who is this?” Jason demanded.
“Just do it,” the voice said before abruptly hanging up.
Jason looked at his phone as the “Call Ended” notification flashed on the screen. He found the remote on the coffee table and powered the TV and Blu-Ray player on. As the blue screen came on, Jason hit play and the disc in the player spun to life.
A man wearing a black balaclava and black tactical clothing appeared on screen. He was standing in front of what appeared to be a black flag.
“Colonel Waxburn,” the man said in the same deep, metallic voice as the one on the phone. “You must cooperate.”
Jason’s heart sank as the man stepped back to reveal his wife and son gagged, their limbs bound to chairs. Their faces were bruised and their eyes darted back and forth frantically. He could see the fear and panic in his wife’s eyes while his son tried to remain stoic. He was immediately overcome with mixed feelings of rage, panic, and desperation.
“We have your wife and son,” the man continued as he walked back and stood between them. “If you do as we say, they will be released upon completion of your tasking. You will also be rewarded handsomely for your efforts.”
“But if you do not. If you attempt to alert the authorities, or fail to comply with our instructions exactly as they are given to you, you will get them back piece by piece,” the man warned as he pulled out a knife from his pocket.
“I am sorry, but I must now show you that this is not a game,” the man said as he reached for Clare’s left hand that was tied to the arm of the chair.
Jason ran his hands through his silver and gray hair as the muffled, but still blood-curdling screams from his wife echoed throughout the living room. The man stood in front of her, blocking out the camera as she twisted and writhed in the background. Moments later, the man turned back toward the camera, holding up her detached ring finger in front of the cameraman as another masked man tended to her wound.
“Your first instructions are in your mailbox. Go now,” the man said, holding up the finger. “This is your only warning.”
Jason felt nauseous as the video ended and the blue screen reappeared on the TV. He shoved his phone back in his pocket and raced toward the front door and out into the street. He reached the mailbox and opened it, revealing a sixteen-inch bubble mailer that had been stuffed in the box.
He ripped open the mailer. Inside there was a piece of paper and something wrapped in bubble wrap. As he unwrapped the object, it suddenly became clear. It was Clare’s ring finger with her titanium wedding ring still attached. Jason dropped it as the nausea grew worse. He steadied himself against the mailbox.
As he picked up the piece of paper that had fallen, his phone rang. He studied the caller ID this time as he pulled the phone out of his pocket. Again, the screen showed “BLOCKED.” He answered it.
“Do you understand your instructions?” the same voice from the video said.
Jason bent over, picked up the paper, and read it. He had flown combat missions into Afghanistan in C-17s with Night Vision Goggles and no runway lighting, but he had never felt more scared in his life. They were asking him to choose between his country and his family.
“I can’t…What you’re asking is just…” Jason said with a trembling voice.
“Your next warning will be from your son,” the voice replied menacingly.
“No! Please!” Jason shouted. “This is suicide though. It will never work.”
“Do exactly as we say, and your family will survive and you will be fine. Do not test us. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Jason replied meekly.
“Good. Pick up your wife’s ring and go back inside. Study the instructions you have been given and then burn them. Do not be late for the first check-in,” the voice said before hanging up.
Jason stood in shocked silence as the phone went dead. He looked around the small suburban neighborhood to find the source of the call.The man on the other end was presumably watching him, but the neighborhood was quiet. There was nothing suspicious anywhere around.
He picked up the finger and shoved it back into the mailer along with the letter. He made it halfway down the walkway to his house before throwing up on his freshly manicured lawn. After twenty years of blissful marriage and twenty-three years of serving his country, he had been forced to choose between the two things he loved the most in the world. Family or country.
EXECUTIVE REACTION is available for pre-order now!