Posts Tagged ‘Chapter Comments’

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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.


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Chapter 16

I began writing Titus Ray Thrillers when I heard about the persecution of Iranian Christians in Tehran. My first book, ONE NIGHT IN TEHRAN, describes how Titus Ray, the main protagonist, was brought to faith in Christ after living with some Iranian Christians for three months following a botched operation in Tehran.

Once he returns to the States, while being pursued by an assassin, he tries to figure out what it means to be a follower of Christ. As difficult as it is, since he has no spiritual background and no one to mentor him, he gradually begins to grow in his faith. While he gets excited about his new relationship with the Lord, he’s not sure how to integrate the teachings of Christ into his career, and if he can even do so.

In the second book, TWO DAYS IN CARACAS, he has an opportunity to share his faith with his sister, Carla, when he returns to Flint, Michigan to bury his mother. Chapter 16 describes his attempts to witness to her of God’s love.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Why is this so important to you? You’ve never cared about religion before.”

“You’re right, I’ve never cared about religion before and I still don’t. But what I do care about is my relationship to Jesus Christ.”

Carla giggled. “Are you kidding me?”

“I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life.”

For the next several minutes, I attempted to share with Carla how I’d become a believer.

Since the circumstances and identities of the people who had led me to the Lord were classified, I simply told her I’d met some believers who, despite a difficult situation, were joyously happy. I also explained how committed they had been to studying the Bible and having regular times of prayer.

“That’s incredible, Titus,” Carla said, reaching out and squeezing my hand. “You sound very sincere about this.”

“I want you to know God’s love for yourself, Carla.”

She withdrew her hand. “Are you trying to convert me?”

“I’m just asking you to think about it. That’s all.”

Chapter 3

South of America’s border. Los Zetas, the most powerful drug cartel in Latin America, has joined up with Hezbollah and the Al Quds force from Iran to create a deadly alliance to transport both drugs and illegals into the United States.

According to Americas Report, a publication put out by the Center for Security Policy, the two organizations are now engaged in a myriad of illegal activities together. These activities include the drug trade, money laundering, and human trafficking. In addition, Hezbollah has been allowed to open up cultural centers and camps in many Latin American cities, which are being used as training centers for sleeper cells in the United States.

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega believes an attack on the U.S. by Hezbollah is possible. He recently testified before Congress about such operations in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, and how this alliance is gaining ground in Central America and Mexico. Much of what Noriega outlined in various reports on this subject forms the underlying basis of the plot lines for Two Days in Caracas.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER THREE:

Bledsoe looked at me as if he didn’t quite believe I was being forthcoming with him.

“Does the Agency know how Ahmed arrived in the States in the first place?”

“Carlton said he flew to Mexico City from Damascus on a Lebanese passport. Once he got to Mexico, he disappeared. But since Hezbollah has ties with the Zeta drug cartel, our analysts believe the cartel helped him make his way up to Nuevo Laredo, over the U.S. border, and then on to Dallas. They’re still pulling the data threads on that connection though.”

Bledsoe said, “I know the cartel must be involved in this, and I’ll tell you why.”

He opened the red folder and removed a single sheet of paper. “About a year ago, after I made several unsuccessful attempts to obtain any intel on the drug cartels operating here, I finally recruited an asset inside the Zeta ring. His name is Hernando, and, although he’s a very low-level employee, he’s a solid source of information.

“Right now, all he does is take care of administrative details and run errands. I’ve been very cautious about using him because I want his bosses to trust him completely. That way he can work his way up the ranks and be privy to the kind of information we can use to bring down the cartel’s entire network. I’ve been carefully grooming him for over a year now. It’s been a slow process, but I’m certain we’re going to get some results soon.”

“I haven’t forgotten your cautious nature, Toby.”

He stared at me for several seconds, probably trying to decide if my remark was meant as a compliment or a criticism.

I tried to look non-committal.

He went on. “For the past six months, the cartel’s been ferrying drugs into the States using couriers who pose as tourists from San José. Since my asset arranges visas and airline tickets for them, I asked him to photocopy the passports of the mules they were using to move their product north. Here’s the list I made after he gave me the passport copies.”

He handed me the sheet of paper he’d been holding in his hand.

As I scanned the contents, he asked, “Anything jump out at you?”

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?”

 

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.”

 

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.”