Chapter 2

Chapter 2 mentions “The Bubble” in an embassy. Do all embassies have Bubbles?

All embassies have soundproof safe rooms, although they may not always be called “The Bubble.” This was the name applied to the safe room in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during The Cold War, and many embassies adopted the nomenclature for their own safe rooms. They can be various sizes, depending on the size of the embassy. Many are actually rooms within a larger room.They are constructed of materials which defeat eavesdropping and enable secure communications.

Because of the way sound carries in the room, and also because of the lack of windows inside, anyone who has claustrophobia often has difficulty remaining inside the room for very long. Most often, they are equipped with a long conference table, communications equipment and chairs without cushions–the latter to be certain no one inserts a listening device inside a seat. Before a meeting takes place, the rooms are “swept” for electronic devices. Titus has spent many long hours in “Bubbles” around the Middle East and Latin America. He knows them well.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER TWO:

I immediately recognized the room as The Bubble. All embassies are required to have them. It’s a soundproof unit lined with acoustical tiles and used for meetings of a sensitive nature or sometimes for interrogating people with sensitive information.

It’s a sensitive kind of place.

I took a seat at one end of a long conference table.

“So why does Bledsoe want to see me?”

Mitchell held a finger to his lips and removed a small, gray device from his pocket. It was an electronic debugger, about the size of a cell phone, and he used it to sweep the room for any electronic listening devices.

It never beeped.

Once he’d determined the room was clean, Mitchell slipped the device back inside his pants pocket and sat down at the conference table across from me.

He said, “Toby Bledsoe doesn’t believe you’re here tracking down a terrorist. He thinks you’re here doing an internal investigation on him.”

I thought he might be joking, but I could read nothing in his facial expression indicating that.

I doubted Mitchell’s disclosure, but I didn’t doubt he believed it.

While I knew the Agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) was responsible for internal investigations inside the CIA, I’d never heard of an intelligence officer being used to conduct such an investigation.

“Why would Bledsoe think such a thing?”

“He has sources inside the Agency who told him the Deputy Director put you on a year’s medical leave a few months ago. Now you’ve shown up here in Costa Rica in pursuit of a Hezbollah terrorist. Costa Rica is not a hotbed of terrorism. The facts just don’t add up, and, believe me, if the facts don’t add up, Toby gets paranoid.”

“Well, good for him. Paranoia should be mandatory for all station chiefs.”

Mitchell grabbed a bottle of water from a credenza behind him.

“Want one?”

I nodded, and after he’d tossed it over, I asked, “Is Bledsoe involved in something that might initiate an internal investigation from the OIG?”

 

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Chapter 6

VEVAK, or the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran, is responsible for civilian intelligence in the country. However, this definition doesn’t begin to cover the full scope of its activities. VEVAK is considered one of the most vicious secret police agencies in the world, and conservative estimates put the number of people murdered by them at well over one million people. While they regularly torture and intimidate Iranian citizens for committing minor crimes, Iranian Christians are more at risk of being recipients of their brutal practices than any other group.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER SIX:

“I knew it was just a matter of time before Farid broke down and told them everything they wanted to know about me and the network, so I left the apartment immediately and went to ground. Once I felt safe, I started the process of alerting my other assets. Unfortunately, VEVAK had already found most of them.”

Although the debriefing procedure didn’t require it, I told them in excruciating detail how I’d found the bodies of three of the other six people I had recruited for Operation Torchlight. I deliberately didn’t gloss over the particular aspects of each person’s death, because I wanted at least two people in the room to understand how their actions had affected real flesh and blood people. This gruesome accounting took me a full thirty minutes, and before I finished, I knew everyone in the room was uncomfortable.

When my voice cracked at one point, Carlton interrupted and said, “This might be a good time for a break.”

“No, I need to finish this.”

When I started again, my voice was strong. “I still hadn’t located my last two assets, but I knew Omid, one of the first bankers I’d recruited, had been out of town for a couple of weeks, so I went to his house. It was a tall, three-story structure located in an upscale residential area. After watching the house for a couple of hours, I determined no one was at home, so I picked the lock on the back door and went inside to wait. Omid returned home within the hour.

“After he got over the initial shock of seeing me, I explained the kind of danger he was in. However, he refused to come with me. Instead, he wanted to join his family who had gone to visit relatives on the Caspian coast. He insisted he could take his family and get out of Iran from there. I decided his plan was a good one, and we went up to his office on the third floor so he could get some cash and documents out of his safe.”

I took a swig of water and continued, “As we quickly gathered the things he would need, he began chatting incessantly. It was just nerves, and he wasn’t really saying anything important; it was more a stream of consciousness thing. But, as we descended the stairs to the first floor, he looked back at me and asked, ‘Hammid, what is the most important thing in the world to you?’ And that’s when three VEVAK agents burst in the front door and shot him.”

 

Chapter 1

Titus has spent a lifetime reading people and his ability to do so has kept him alive.In the final chapters of Two Days in Caracas, Titus explains to a younger operative why he believes the younger man will make a good spy. He says, “You know how to read people and use that knowledge to achieve an objective. An analyst interprets facts and data; a covert operative interprets people and situations.”

As the story unfolds, Titus’ ability to interpret each character’s emotions, motivations, and actions is severely tested, and, in some cases, to his detriment, he doesn’t always get it right.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE:

Once the waiter had placed his coffee on the table and left, Mitchell leaned in toward me and asked, “What exactly do you think you’re doing?”

His smile had disappeared.

“I’m tracking a terrorist who killed one of our covert operatives in Dallas last month. Weren’t you briefed in on this?”

“Of course, I was briefed in.”

Mitchell picked up a spoon and studied it.

He appeared to scrutinize it so intently, someone might have thought he collected spoons for a hobby. After a few seconds, he laid it back down on the table and looked up at me.

I noticed his eyes were slightly dilated, and I saw a muscle on the left side of his face begin to twitch. I immediately recognized these as signs Ben Mitchell was having trouble controlling his temper.

I recognized the symptoms because I had often exhibited them myself.

He said, “I was told to meet you at the airport later today. Mind telling me what you’re doing here now?”

I was amused by his anger, and, until a few months ago, I would have enjoyed seeing just how much I could have harassed him before he finally exploded. Now, though, I resisted that temptation and explained myself—sort of.

“I took an earlier flight.”

He nodded his head but kept looking at me, as if he expected me to continue giving him an explanation.

I thought about the nonchalant way he’d done the recon on the cement house while appearing not to do so, and I decided to give him what he wanted.

“Look, I came in earlier than expected, because I’ve been doing this long enough to know my chances of staying alive are always better if I do the unexpected. Being predictable gets you killed.”

 

The Launch

Two Days in Caracas, Book 2 in the Titus Ray Thriller Series, went live on Amazon today in both print and Kindle editions. Readers of Book 1, One Night in Tehran, will discover this second book in the series takes up exactly where Book 1 left off, with Titus in pursuit of the Hezbollah assassin, Ahmed Al-Amin. Chapter 1 finds Titus in San Jose, Costa Rica, but there’s a brief flashback to what happened when he arrived at Langley, Virginia after saying goodbye to Nikki Saxon and leaving Norman, Oklahoma.

In this second book in the series, Titus will have plenty of opportunities to test out his newfound faith in Christ and take some baby steps in his prayer life. He’ll also discover the Christian life isn’t easy, but its rewards are bountiful. When he encounters a family crisis and then must deal with an old nemesis, in the midst of carrying out his critical mission, he has a few successes and many failures.

Purchase your copy here on Amazon.

Here’s a brief excerpt from one of the later chapters.

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Chapter 5

Titus was brought to faith in Christ after living with a group of Iranian Christians for three months, following the discovery of his covert operation by the Iranian secret police. Although Javad, Darya, Mansoor, and Rahim are fictional Iranian Christians, their stories are shared by millions of persecuted Christians around the world. These are stories of torture, beheadings, stonings, imprisonment, and lesser forms of punishment meted out to them simply for naming the name of Christ. Yet, these believers continue to lift high the name of Jesus, to witness of the faithfulness of Christ and to go to their deaths praising God for the opportunity to do so.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER FIVE:

Whatever I decided to do, I knew my future at the Agency was about to change dramatically.

I’d been preparing myself for such a change from the moment Javad’s family had come into their living room to pray for me just hours before I was to make my escape from Tehran. That night, Javad and Darya, their teenage son, Mansoor, along with Rahim, had joined hands and prayed a beautiful, fervent prayer for my well-being and safe travel through the mountains of Iran to safety in Turkey.

Javad, along with several of his relatives, owned a fruit and vegetable stand in one of Tehran’s open-air markets, and Darya was a nurse who worked at a neighborhood clinic. I had been forced to live with these Iranian Christians for three months in a safe house, while hiding out from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Each night, from my bed in a corner of their tiny living room, I had observed them at their kitchen table praying and reading their Bible together before going to bed. However, they didn’t keep their beliefs private. In fact, they seemed to have an insatiable desire to share their faith—especially with me. They did this even though their pastor, Youcef, was in prison because of his proselytizing. However, they were doing something even more dangerous. Not only were they proselytizing, they were also harboring an American spy and facilitating his escape from Iran.

Before leaving them, I had thanked them profusely for their help. I had also commended them because, even though they were required to go to work every day and pretend they were just harmless Iranian citizens, they had practiced excellent tradecraft in keeping me safe.

Javad had responded to my gratitude by saying, “Oh, Hammid, it’s not difficult for us to do this because we remember the words of Jesus. He said we were to be like sheep living among the wolves. He told us to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

 

Chapter 4

Titus had a difficult time relating to his father when he was growing up. This stemmed from his father’s alcoholism and his reticence about his experiences in the Viet Nam War. Thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone, that whenever Titus encounters a strong man, one who is full of self-confidence and is approachable, Titus is immediately drawn to him. Roman Hudson was such a man, and because of their relationship, he became enamored with both guns and the intelligence game. Once Titus became a covert operative, he continued to admire such men, but he rarely considered himself an equal with them.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER FOUR:

Roman and Cynthia Hudson were welcoming, gracious people. I was immediately drawn to them, especially Roman, who owned a hardware store in a strip mall in Ann Arbor and started calling me “son” as soon as we were introduced.

Instead of returning home for Christmas during my freshman year, I spent my entire two-week break with Laura’s family in Ann Arbor. It was then I learned Roman had also been in Vietnam, but there was a big difference between him and my father—he was more than willing to talk about what he’d done over there.

The first time Roman had mentioned Southeast Asia was when Laura and I had stopped by the hardware store on Christmas Eve to see if we could help with the holiday rush. Laura’s mother, Cynthia, was working as a cashier, so Laura had opened up another cash register, while I went to find Roman. I located him at the back of the store in the sporting goods section where he was showing a gun to a customer.

Because I’d never been around firearms before, I watched in awe at how easily he handled the weapon, stripping it down, explaining its features, and then putting the whole thing back together in the blink of an eye. Roman noticed my fascination at his expertise, and when the customer left, he immediately began telling me stories of his time in Vietnam working for the CIA.

Laughing at himself, he said, “They called us spooks back then.”

 

Chapter 3

In this excerpt from Chapter 3, the main character in One Night in Tehran, Titus Ray, sounds as if he might be a bit vain about his looks. That’s only because he is.

The CIA tries to recruit people who are outstanding in every way, except for their physical characteristics. A person shouldn’t be too short or too tall–that would make them more noticeable, especially in an overseas environment, where they are already apt to be remembered because they are foreigners.

Neither should a recruit be too beautiful or too ugly, because that too would make them stand out in a crowd. The goal of a CIA recruiter is to find men and women who, while being trustworthy, intelligent and physically strong, look very ordinary and forgettable.

Titus Ray qualified because he had a face that “blended.”

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER THREE:

When I thought about who might be assigned to my debriefing team, I decided it was time to shave off my beard. I also decided, after studying my face in the bathroom mirror, that Terry Howard was wrong; I didn’t look that bad. Granted, I wasn’t George Clooney handsome, but who was?

Years ago, someone had told me I was a pretty good-looking guy. Since then, no one had told me otherwise.

My trainers at The Farm had described my face as one that “blended.” They considered that a good thing. Put me in a restaurant, a bus station, a mosque, and I blended right in. I didn’t draw attention.

Only, as it turned out in Tehran, one time I did.

After taking a quick shower, I put on the clothing supplied for me by Support Services—a pair of dark slacks and a blue oxford shirt. My debriefers would be in very formal business attire, but I knew if I looked halfway decent and appeared to be in my right mind, that’s all they expected of me. Unlike Bud Thorsen—who had a nervous breakdown after a two-year stint in Yemen and had arrived at his debriefing sessions in his pajamas—I did not want a transfer to a desk job.

At least, I didn’t think so.