Sneak Peek at "IMMINENT THREAT"

Jack Patterson's picture

Summer's almost officially here, which means we all need good books to read on vacation. While the latest in the Cal Murphy Thriller series titled "Dead Wrong" just dropped last month, there's another book coming in my James Flynn Thriller series on the horizon.

"Imminent Threat" is available for pre-order here, but here's a sneak peek of the first two unedited chapters to whet your appetite for this exciting thriller about a rogue clandestine group trying to incite a war between the U.S. and some of its enemies -- and James Flynn stuck in the middle of it all.

IMMINENT THREAT

CHAPTER 1

FOUR-YEAR-OLD OLIVIA HUFFMAN didn’t see the swirling shadows outside her window at dawn on Monday morning, but she was awake. Wide awake—and cold. Livey, her name shortened so her two-year-old brother Parker could say it, twaddled down the hall toward her parents’ room. Harold and his wife Claire heard the sound and both groaned. They had five more minutes before they were supposed to get up, but it wasn’t happening today. The airy jingle scheduled to awaken him on his phone yielded to their unpredictable alarm clock that sounded like stubby feet stomping down the hall.

Livey jangled the door knob until it opened. She then raced toward her parents’ bed and dove in. “I’m cold,” she said, climbing over her mother so she could nestle between them both. “Daddy, will you build a fire?”

He closed his eyes and chuckled. Any twinge of animosity Harold had over losing five minutes of sleep evaporated with her request. She could get almost anything she when she looked at him with her brown doe eyes. He kissed her on the top of her head and tousled her hair. “Of course, Livey. Let me go outside and get some wood.”

Livey squealed with delight as she melted into Claire.

“We’ll stay warm right here until you get the fire roaring,” Claire said.

As Harold stood up, he glanced over his shoulder to catch a glint of a smile on his wife’s face.

“At least someone’s day is off to a near perfect start,” he mumbled.

Claire laughed aloud and squeezed Livey.

Harold plodded through the house to the mudroom, which was true to its name at the moment. Winters in Post Falls, Idaho were often long and unforgiving. He glanced out the window as he put his boots on.

Great. Another foot of snow.

He immediately started to calculate if he’d have time to thoroughly shovel the driveway. It’d be tight, but there’d be enough time—especially if he quickly got the fire blazing to Claire’s liking.

He laced up his boots and pulled on his coat and hat. He opened the door and jammed his hands in his pockets. He slipped outside and left the door cracked to ensure an easy re-entry with an armload of wood.

The snow crunched beneath the heavy weight of his footsteps, creating a fresh trail toward the woodshed. It was a trail he’d blazed many times during the winter months only to have Mother Nature erase it with a fresh coat of white flakes—sometimes only hours later.

He collected a handful of logs and some kindling pieces before he stopped. Studying the snow on the roof, he admired his small home. It wasn’t the biggest house on the block or even the nicest, but it was his. He never dreamed he’d be able to own a home at age 32, much less be married to a beautiful woman and have two kids. For someone who’d grown up in this eastern Idaho town of Idaho Falls, he was doing well for himself.

His mild financial success mostly had to do with his steady and consistent job. Having a frugal wife didn’t hurt either. When Harold graduated from high school, he pursued a contractor’s license to work on H/VAC equipment. Within three months of earning his license, he landed a job with Bengal Heating and Air, a job he’d held ever since.

The money wasn’t very good at first, but it got better once his company landed the H/VAC contract with Idaho National Labs, a nuclear research facility some forty miles west in the middle of the desert. His boss trusted Harold to handle INL’s account with two of his young employees, though Harold knew it was more about his boss’s disdain for the stringent security measures enacted there. Several checkpoints awaited anyone who ventured off the unassuming turnoff to the facility. A distant guardhouse a half-mile off the main road with hardly a building in sight. Harold had been there dozens of times and he still wondered what exactly happened there. He signed a non-disclosure form, as did all the contractors who worked there—not that it mattered. He’d seen several bizarre things happen in some of the labs, including lockdowns of the buildings and evacuations. But no one talked about what exactly was happening, at least no one employed there.

About a fourth of the town’s professionals commuted through the desert each day to work at INL and remained mum about the true nature of what they did. Meanwhile, the rest of the town speculated about the true nature of the lab’s business. Harold avoided such conversations, choosing to abide by the contract he’d signed. Yet, it never stopped curious neighbors and friends from baiting him in with outlandish comments to lure him in. His neighbor across the street one posited the theory that everything from Area 51 had been moved there and that it was an alien landing strip. One of the deacons at his church told Harold he’d heard that the lab concentrated on genetic testing and that there were monstrous amalgamations of animals hidden in one of their warehouses. A mother at his eldest daughter’s preschool said she’d heard the lab manufactured bioweapons and experimented with mind control drugs. Each time people floated their theories by him, he remaining stoic. He didn’t want to give credence to what the person just suggested nor did he want to dismiss them as loons. After all, maybe they were right. He just hadn’t seen anything—and if he had, he still wasn’t authorized to say a word.

Before Harold tramped back to his house along the path he’d beaten down only minutes before, a familiar voice cried out his name.

“Harold? Is that you?” called his neighbor, Wilson Coleman. Wilson was a private investigator who spent most of his time staking out and chronicling the exploits of unfaithful husbands and wives. When he wasn’t on a case, he spent his free time reading conspiracy websites and concocting theories about the INL.

“Yeah, Wilson. It’s me.”

“Are you going to the desert today? Because if you are, I’ve got something I want you to check out for me.”

Harold rolled his eyes, relieved that Wilson couldn’t see into his yard over the fence. “What is it now?”

“Do you remember my uncle who used to come visit from Pocatello?”

“Wasn’t his name Donald?”

“That’s the one.”

“What about him?”

“He told me that he was driving through the desert recently on his way to Sun Valley when he saw some green glow flashing right near where INL was.”

A wry smiled spread across Harold’s face. “Let me guess. You think the green glow is still there and you want me to poke around?”

“Just ask somebody, Harold. You know something fishy goes on out there. See what you can find out.”

“You know I can’t do that. I signed an non-disclosure agreement.”

“Come on, Harold. Don’t be such a goody two shoes. They could be breaking all kinds of laws out there or worse—putting us all in danger.”

“It’s a lab in the middle of the desert. It’s not putting any of us in danger.” He turned and started walking toward the house.

“Please. Just this once. I won’t ever ask again.”

Harold didn’t stop as he trudged through the snow. “You need a new hobby, Wilson.” He smiled and laughed to himself then slid the door open.

His smile vanished the moment after he closed the sliding glass door behind him and turned around. He dropped the wood as it clattered onto the kitchen floor tile.

Three men each held Claire, Livey and Parker, guns jammed into their heads. Another man stepped out of the shadows from around the corner.

“If you want to see your family alive again once you return home from work today, I suggest you follow my orders and pay very close attention to what I’m about to tell you.”

Harold swallowed hard and nodded. He never thought he’d be so afraid of a woman.

 

CHAPTER 2

JAMES FLYNN GAWKED at the billboard situated just on the edge of Idaho Falls on U.S. Route 20 as the bus rolled toward Idaho National Laboratory about fifty miles due west. Kim Gates elbowed him to make sure he saw it. She nodded toward the billboard and smiled.

“Get a load of that, will ya?” she said.

He smiled and shook his head. “That’s why I’m here, isn’t it? To debunk such wild ideas?”

She chuckled. “You mean, you don’t think INL is where the military moved everything from Area 51?”

He rolled his eyes and shifted in his seat. But he knew such thinking was exactly why his editor Theresa Thompson at The National sent him into the wilderness to get this story. As much as he liked uncovering real conspiracies, half the time he spent exposing fake ones. Today was one of those days.

“I didn’t see any alien life as I drove through town,” he said.

Her eyes widened as she cocked her head to one side. “Perhaps you weren’t looking closely enough. There are plenty of strange men around here.”

“Don’t you mean ‘desperate’?”

She punched him in the arm and giggled. “No, that’d be the women.”

“The women?”

“How else do you explain that any woman in this town ever marries a man who grew up here? The selection of men is more or less a monolithic crapshoot.”

“If it’s really that bad, I’m sure you could get a job elsewhere—like D.C., perhaps?” he said as he winked at her.

“I’m not sure I could compete there.”

He waved his hand and shrugged. “Big city women are overrated. Women from smaller towns on the other hand—” He let his words hang as he slumped into his seat.

“Well, I know you didn’t come here to discuss city life and its dating practices, now did you?”

He shook his head. “Who cares? I’ll do anything to pass the time on this ride through the middle of nowhere.”

“We might be going through the middle of nowhere, but we’re going somewhere all right—somewhere that will show your readers that the rumors about the military hiding their Area 51 stuff here is a joke.”

Flynn eyed her cautiously. “So, you’re going to show me everything here?”

A slight grin spread across her face as she looked forward. She didn’t say a word.

“I see how it is,” he said. “You’re only going to tell me what I want to hear.”

“Trust me when I say this—there’s not much to see or hear. Taking people out here is one of the most boring parts of my job. It’s a lab for goodness sake.”

“Strange things happen in labs.” He paused. “Ever read Frankenstein?”

“If you see any monsters wandering the hall, be sure to give me a heads up. I wouldn’t want to be killed at the hands of a man-made cretin.”

He snickered. “You have my word. I’ll protect you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, good lord,” she muttered.

Flynn pulled out his phone and passed the time by surfing the news on the Internet. The biggest trending story of the day aside from an update about some reality TV show’s love life was the news about Russian President Alexander Petrov’s latest threat and the growing tension between his country and the U.S. With a scheduled appearance before the U.S. Senate on Thursday, Petrov and his inflammatory comments stoked the embers of a relationship that was simmering at the moment but was subject to boiling over if leaders didn’t keep their egos in check. That story rated only slightly ahead of Pyongyang’s dispute with Petrov over some oil fields located along the Tumen River. Neither sounded particularly charitable to Flynn yet he presumed it was nothing more than political posturing. Petrov wouldn’t be foolish enough to provoke two nations at once, would he? Flynn wasn’t sure. Petrov’s ego wouldn’t fit in the bus he was riding in, let alone in the largest country in the world.

After Flynn grew tired of reading articles foretelling the world’s impending doom, he turned his attention back toward Gates.

“Why is this place located so far out in the middle of the desert? I mean why not have it near a major city?”

She cut her eyes toward him and shook her head. “They’re not exactly making cheese out here.”

“So it is nuclear?” he asked. “I thought the ‘n’ in INL stood for ‘national’.”

“It does. But there is nuclear activity.” She waved dismissively at him. “But you already knew that.”

“Everybody does. But what I’m interested in is the nature of the nuclear activity.”

“Like I told you on the phone before you came out here, I can’t answer every one of your questions. You’re free to draw your own conclusions, but you won’t get me to go on the record about such things. I’m merely here to escort you through the facility and show you that this isn’t some secret holding facility for all the old Area 51 artifacts.”

Flynn said nothing as they rolled along. Five minutes later, the bus swung a hard right and turned off U.S. Route 20 toward the INL facility. Mountains rose in the distance, serving as an imposing backdrop over the handful of one- and two-story facilities dotting the desert landscape in front of them. Their bus rumbled along until it rolled up to a guardhouse and lurched to a stop.

The bus driver exchanged some paperwork with the armed guard standing near the entry point. The iron gate rolled back and allowed the bus to pass. The bus jerked as it gained speed and moved forward along the long road. Flynn leaned into the aisle so he could see ahead down the road. He estimated the nearest building was at least a half-mile further up the road.

“This is some pretty tight security for a place that makes cheese,” he quipped.

She smiled and shook her head. “Do you have to work at thinking up such moronic statements—or does it come naturally for you?”

“I’ve heard that a good cover for hiding alien spaceships is making cheese.”

She folded her arms and stared out the window. “That’s why I said we aren’t exactly making cheese. Try to keep up.”

Flynn liked his host already. Her sarcasm kept him on his toes, though five minutes on the campus and he was already convinced INL wasn’t nearly as benign as she portrayed it to be.

I wonder what really goes on here.

Once the bus parked, workers hustled off and headed toward their respective work areas. Flynn remained seated with Gates, who didn’t budge until the last employee vanished.

“Shall we?” she said as she stood up.

Flynn followed her lead and headed toward the main entrance. He stopped and whiffed the breezy desert air that carried a hint of burnt plastic to it mixed with the smell of a 1980s era copier. As he looked around, he scrunched up his face.

“Problems, Mr. Flynn?”

“That smell,” he said, whisking the air toward him. “What is that?”

“Ingenuity and invention.”

He smiled. “It certainly isn’t cheese.”

They checked in at the main desk. Flynn underwent several rounds of paperwork protocol. He spent a few minutes perusing the list that outlined what he could and couldn’t do.

“No pictures on the tour?” he said.

Gates rolled her eyes. “Please, Mr. Flynn. I told you all this before you came out here.”

“How can I prove to readers that this isn’t Area 51 without pictures of vacant warehouses?” He flashed a wry grin.

“You almost got me there,” she said.

“I think I already did.”

He scribbled his name on the paper and handed it to her. The receptionist handed him a badge and he began his tour with Gates.

Flynn tweeted a picture of the facility he’d taken in the parking lot.

“About to tour INL. If the military is hiding aliens here, rest assured I’ll find them #Area51”

He shoved his phone back in his pocket and followed Gates. They wound around a long circular corridor until they reached some of the research stations. She showed some of the projects they were working on, mostly benign. A team of researchers tested fiber optics while others tapped on their keyboards to test “Internet security”, according to Gates. After a few minutes of muddling along, he was glad he wasn’t allowed to take pictures for he was certain they’d make this mundane story even more boring. Captions like “a researcher tests internet security” underneath the picture of a guy in a white lab coat sitting at his computer didn’t exactly make for compelling content. It was clear after a half hour that he wasn’t going to find it on the tour.

He tapped Gates on the shoulder as she continued her torrid pace. “Look, I’m definitely going to be able to tell others there’s no Area 51 artifacts here—but only if I get to see some other parts of the facility.”

She stopped. “Fine. I can show you a couple more buildings, but that’s it. If you thought this was boring, prepare to be underwhelmed.”

Flynn sighed and chased after Gates, who was already six steps into her purposeful gait.

She took them out the back of the main building where a golf cart was waiting.

“Get in,” she said, pointing at the vehicle.

Flynn obliged and his butt hadn’t even touched the seat before she stomped on the gas. The cart whirred as it eased down an internal access road toward a two-story building about a quarter of a mile away.

“Been here long?” Flynn asked.

“Long enough.”

Flynn decided not to press her. Her slumped shoulders and dour expression spoke volumes. They rode the rest of the say in silence.

Once she parked the cart outside the building, she stomped on the parking brake and strode toward the door. Flynn hustled to keep up, grabbing the door as soon as she tugged on it so he could hold it open for her.

“At least there’s one gentleman on this property,” she said.

Flynn smiled and followed her inside. “So, what is the primary type of research that goes on here?”

“It’s something you have to see for yourself.” She motioned for him to follow her.

She strode down the hallway past several armed guards, who nodded approvingly at her once she flashed her badge.

“What’s with all the muscle and firepower around here?” Flynn asked. “Definitely not a cheese factory.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

They continued on for a few more minutes before descending several flights of stairs. Once they reached the ground floor, she led him to a viewing area where they could see inside three labs on each side of the cavernous room.

“What are they doing here?”

“This is one of our nuclear research facilities.”

Flynn’s eyes widened. “You’re showing me your nuclear research?”

“Relax. It’s totally benign—unless you ingest it, of course.” She snickered and cut her eyes at him.

He studied the team of scientists who scurried around the room.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “We don’t enrich any uranium here or anything like that. No weapons grade nuclear material.”

“It could still kill me.”

“If you aren’t careful. But we take the utmost precautions around here. This place is safer than Fort Knox.”

“So, what are they doing here exactly?”

She wagged her finger at him. “That, I can’t tell you.”

“So, you’re going to make me speculate? This could be interesting.”

“It’s nothing like that.”

“Oh, my readers will eat this up.”

She sighed and put her hands on her hips. “Fine. I’ll tell you—”

Before Gates could continue a loud alarm sounded, echoing off the walls.

She grabbed Flynn’s arm.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“Come with me,” she said. “We don’t have much time.”

**** Pre-order "Imminent Threat" here ****