Posts Tagged ‘Chapter 1’

Two Steps Forward is Book VI in the Titus Ray Thriller Series. To read a description and view the book trailer, click here. All Titus Ray Thrillers are available on Amazon here.

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Purchase your copy of Two Steps Forward   here from Amazon

Five Years in Yemen is Book V in the Titus Ray Thriller Series. To view the book trailer and a brief description, click here. Read a First Chapter excerpt below.

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Chapter 1

Tuesday, October 13

Douglas Carlton, my boss and the head of the Middle East desk at the CIA, wanted to see me. As I travelled north along the Capital Beltway on my way to his townhouse in McLean, Virginia, I thought about our last conversation.

It had taken place in his office at the Agency twenty‑four hours ago when he’d signed off on my three‑month leave following the successful completion of Operation Peaceful Retrieval.

At the time, Carlton had seemed upset, and I’d wondered if his disgruntled attitude and the Top‑Secret file on his desk were related.

He’d hinted the file contained the components of a new intelligence operation, one I would have been offered had the Deputy Director of Operations (DDO) not just given me a leave of absence.

Although I’d tried to pry the details out of him, he’d only offered me the bare facts; Jacob Levin—a CIA contractor who’d disappeared in Iraq five years ago—had been spotted in Yemen, and the DDO wanted to know what he was doing there.

Carlton had also implied the operation had political ramifications attached to it, and that it required the President’s approval before it could be implemented. More than likely, the political aspects of the operation had been the reason for his crankiness.

Playing politics, while putting America’s security at stake, was one of Carlton’s pet peeves—one of many.

He’d refused to tell me what the politics of the situation  were, and after we’d said our goodbyes, I’d walked out of my boss’s office thinking I wouldn’t see him again for three months.

That had brought a smile to my face.

For the past six months, we’d worked together on three separate operations, and I was looking forward to some time off.

No, scratch that.

The only thing I was looking forward to in the next three months was spending time with Nikki Saxon.

Although Nikki and I had only known each other a short time, I’d surprised myself yesterday by asking her to marry me.

As soon as I’d put the ring on her finger, Carlton had called and invited me to drop by his townhouse in McLean.

“It’s nothing urgent,” he said. “Come by tomorrow around seven.”

“Should I pick up dinner for us?”

“Sure, grab us a pizza from Listrani’s. I’ll call it in.”

Of course, he would call it in. That’s what Carlton did.

I was a Level 1 covert intelligence officer at the CIA, and Douglas Carlton was my handler.

He handled things.

Most of the time, I let him.

Purchase your copy of Five Years in Yemen from Amazon here.

Chapter 1

Monday, July 13
My flight from Port‑au‑Prince, Haiti to Maceo International Airport in Santiago de Cuba lasted less than an hour.

It felt like an eternity.

For some reason, the passenger seated next to me thought I might enjoy hearing how he’d spent the previous evening sampling the nightlife of Port‑au‑Prince.

He was wrong about that.

When we’d boarded the aircraft, Antonio Guillermo had introduced himself as a travel agent from Havana, with a branch office in Santiago de Cuba, and I’d politely recited the legend I’d been given in my operational briefing at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia two days ago.

“I’m pleased to meet you. I’m Nacio Bandera.”

He pointed at my briefcase.

“I’m guessing your trip to Santiago is business.”

I nodded. “I’m an archivist at the Haitian National Museum. The assistant curator and I are touring Cuban museums to evaluate their collections and discuss exchanging artifacts.”

The man’s eyes glazed over as soon as I mentioned museums, and his reaction led me to believe my dull job description would cut off any further communication between the two of us.

Not so.

He asked, “Male or female?”


“Is the assistant curator male or female?”

“Juliana De Santos is definitely a female.”

“Nice. Is she on this flight?” he asked, looking around the cabin.

“No, she arrived in Santiago a few days ago.”

“I hope the two of you plan to have a little fun together while you’re in the city, take in some of the hot spots around the harbor, that sort of thing.”

“We’ll check everything out. You can be sure of that.”

After making some additional suggestions about what to see in Santiago, he spent the next forty‑five minutes telling me all about the nightclubs he’d visited, the company he’d entertained, and the women he’d met on his visit to Port‑au‑Prince.

Now, as our plane taxied into the terminal, Guillermo once again recommended the nightlife of Santiago de Cuba, and I decided there was a possibility the man could actually provide me with some much‑needed intel about one location.

“What do you know about Club Nocturno?” I asked.

He looked surprised.

“That place? It’s mainly a neighborhood bar; local talent on the weekend. When you go clubbing, you’d do better to stick to the downtown area or the harbor district. There aren’t many people in Santiago who’ve ever heard of Club Nocturno. How’d you hear about it?”

I wasn’t about to tell Guillermo the first time I’d heard about Club Nocturno had been eleven days ago during an operational briefing in Damascus, Syria. The briefing had taken place during a video conference call with the Ops Center back at Langley. That was the moment I’d learned my partner, Ben Mitchell, had disappeared after visiting the club.

Mitchell had been in Santiago de Cuba running a surveillance op on a shipment of chemical weapons the Syrian government had recently handed over to Hezbollah, a terrorist organization run by Iran. Mitchell had been working Component Two of Operation Citadel Protection, a mission tasked with preventing a sarin gas attack on Washington, D.C., and I’d been in Damascus working Component One, trying to ascertain the date of the scheduled attack.

Mitchell’s last communication with his operations officer, C. J. Salazar, had been a text message, along with a photograph. After sending the message, his Agency sat phone had flatlined, and his signal had disappeared off the Grid, leaving the Ops Center with only his GPS coordinates.

Those coordinates had pinpointed Club Nocturno as his last known location.

I repeated Guillermo’s question. “How did I hear about Club Nocturno?” I scratched my head. “I must have seen some pictures of the nightclub when I was looking up information about Santiago on the internet. I always do a little research on a city before I visit it.”

“Like I said before, you and your lady friend should probably stick to the downtown area for your entertainment. Nocturno doesn’t attract the best clientele.”

“Rough crowd?”

He nodded. “The Los Zetas drug cartel owns most of the businesses in that area, including Club Nocturno. If there’s trouble, la policía are paid to look the other way.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Guillermo opened up his wallet and removed a business card. “Call me if you and Señorita De Santos would like to see some of the Cuban countryside. We have several daylong excursions into the backcountry, including a sugar mill tour. If you’d be interested in an overnight train ride to one of the region’s oldest coffee plantation, I could arrange that as well.”

I pocketed his card. “I might give you a call.”

When our plane arrived at the gate, Guillermo stood to his feet and said, “Let me be the first to welcome you to Santiago de Cuba, home of poets and revolutionaries. As the saying goes, ‘Ignore them both.’”

I always ignored poets.

Revolutionaries—not so much.

END of First Scene in Chapter One of Four Months in Cuba. Download from Amazon here.

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(Read an excerpt from Chapter 1: Purchase here on Amazon.)

Monday, June 22
The shooter was just around the corner from me. To get to him, I would need to cross N Street.

If I crossed N Street, he would have a clear shot at me. 

I decided to wait him out.

He had already eluded several SWAT teams in the Washington Navy Yard, the home of U.S. Naval Operations, and now he was hunkered down inside the entryway of Building 175. I suspected he was trying to find an exit out of the former shipyard.

If I remained at my present location, at the corner of Building 172, he would walk right into my waiting arms when he crossed N Street. I stayed put.

I wasn’t exactly sure how the shooter had end up at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. on a summer morning in June, but I’d arrived at the location after driving non-stop from Norman, Oklahoma.

Douglas Carlton, my operations officer, and the head of the Middle East desk at the CIA, had called me the day before and given me the surprising news I’d been restored to active duty status by the stroke of a pen from Robert Ira, the Deputy Director of Operations at the CIA.

Three months earlier, the DDO had placed me on medical leave after the two of us had engaged in a very public spat regarding his competency. I’d questioned him about his ability to run Operations, because I’d discovered his political games at the Agency had brought down my network in Tehran.

Needless to say, things had not gone smoothly for me after that, and, except for a brief run into Caracas to capture a Hezbollah assassin, I’d spent the last two months in Norman, Oklahoma on medical leave.

Ostensibly, I’d been there trying to recuperate from shattering my leg while trying to escape the clutches of VEVAK, the Iranian secret police. But, in reality, everyone at the Agency knew my medical leave was simply Ira’s way of punishing me for berating him in front of two division heads during a debriefing.

Immediately after Carlton had called to tell me I’d been reinstated, I’d gotten in touch with my property manager in Norman. After that, I’d reluctantly said goodbye to Nikki Saxon, a detective in the Norman Police Department, and I’d made my way across the southern states to the east coast.

An hour before arriving at Building 172, I’d been cruising along the interstate outside of Fairfax, Virginia. That’s when I’d called Carlton to let him know I’d be in his office at Langley within the hour.

My boss didn’t sound happy.

“Don’t bother,” he said. “There’s been a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard and all federal agencies within a fifty-mile radius of Washington D.C. are on lockdown.”

“Are you telling me you’re not allowed to leave the grounds?”

“Not just the grounds. We’re being told to stay inside the buildings.”

“Doesn’t that strike you as a little strange? You’re supposed to be providing intel for any threats to the homeland. How can you assess threats when you’re not allowed to leave your own backyard?”

“We’re being told it’s for our own safety. The feds believe the shooters could be part of a coordinated attack against all government agencies in the area. The CIA is an obvious target.”

He was quiet for several seconds, and I imagined him aligning the corners of the pile of papers in front of him—a compulsive habit and one of his many idiosyncrasies.

“One of the shooters at the Navy Yard has already been taken out, but the feds believe the other one is still somewhere in the compound.”

“What nationality is the dead guy?”

“He wasn’t from the Middle East, if that’s what you’re thinking. He’s been identified as Reyes Valario, and he’s been here on a student visa from Venezuela for at least a year. The FBI is sifting through the intel on him as we speak, and our own analysts are scanning the data banks as well.”

“Did they call Salazar for his input?”

Carlton made some kind of strange noise at the back of his throat.

I didn’t think the timing of his guttural utterance was coincidental with the mention of Salazar’s name.

C.J. Salazar was the head of the Latin American desk at the Agency. He wasn’t known for his astute grasp of the region. Instead, his focus was on the drug cartels operating in his territory, and, for that reason, everyone around the Agency called him Cartel Carlos.

Not to his face, though.

I’d experienced his ineptitude firsthand on my recent run into Caracas during Operation Clear Signal. Both Salazar and Carlton had been part of the Clear Signal team directing Ben Mitchell and me as we tried to stop a Hezbollah assassin from murdering a high-profile government official in Caracas, Venezuela.

Carlton said, “The Department of Homeland Security called C.J., but he didn’t give them anything.”

“Nothing at all?”

“Well, he did have our analysts run down Valario’s prints and the origins of his visa. He also called Ben Mitchell, who was in D.C. at the time, and sent him over to the DHS Command Center in the Navy Yard. He said since Ben had recently been in Venezuela, it made sense for him to serve as the Agency’s liaison with DHS.”

“Ben’s over at the Command Center? I might head over there myself. I’m not that far away.”

“You haven’t been reinstated yet, Titus. Officially, you’re still on medical leave.”

“I’ll keep my head down. It won’t be a big deal.”

It wasn’t.

But then, it was.

Download your copy of Three Weeks in Washington on Amazon.

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.


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.”


Chapter 1

Titus Alan Ray, a Level 1 CIA intelligence officer, has been with the Agency for twenty years, having joined shortly after his graduation from the University of Michigan with a degree in International Studies and Languages. Titus is nearing his fifties now, a veteran of several operations involving Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other undisclosed locations in the Middle East.

His career, however, began in Latin America, specifically Mexico, where his arrogance and hot temper almost got him dismissed from the Agency. Instead, he was sent to Colombia. There, in a drug cartel operation gone horribly bad, he spent several weeks dodging two cartel members who were out to kill him.

Fortunately, Titus redeemed himself with the Agency when, during the beginning of the Iraq war, they pulled in all intelligence officers who had scored high in language aptitude and began training them in Middle Eastern languages, including Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew. After quickly achieving fluency, he became a Middle Eastern operative, under the direction of Operations Officer, Douglas Carlton.


Lerner got out of the car and headed for the front door. “Jamerson, get his kit from the trunk and meet us inside.”

I took my time getting out of the car.

I paused to zip up the jacket of the tracksuit I’d been issued at the air base in Turkey, and then I leaned back inside the car and picked up the cane from the back seat. All the while, I was keeping an eye on Jamerson. He grabbed the duffel bag given to me on the flight over from Turkey, and, when he closed the trunk, our eyes met.

He motioned toward the front entrance with a slight nod of his head. “After you, sir.”

I was almost six feet tall, and he was about my height, but, unlike me, he had a beefy body. I wondered how many hours he spent in the gym each day.

I hadn’t seen the inside of a gym for years.

I hobbled toward the door, thankful Jamerson hadn’t offered to help me.

In fact, if he had, I might have marshaled whatever strength I had left and slugged him.

Pride was a great energizer for me.