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No Exit

(Jessica Marlow Mysteries # 2)



By Mark Connolly

Copyright 2018

Offered for World Wide Rights

SMASHWORDS EDITION





Any similarities to any person or persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the authors' imagination or are used fictitiously.

Other books by the author:

Visit Mark's website - markconnollyauthor.com



Fiction:

Detective Marsh Mysteries

Any Means Necessary

Selected For Time

Asking For It

Every Body Loses

Even The Score

My Life Is Over

Did You Even Look

Cross out

They Always Lie



Ed Walker Mysteries

Please Find Me

Empty Trust

A Mother's Choice

A Mother's Lies

The Prophet's Maiden

A Mother's Silence

Secrets Of Children

Sleep While I Dance



Jessica Marlow Mysteries

The Last Option (Jessica Marlow-Pilot))

Shame Me Twice

Non Series:



Some Never Learn

Walk The Boards

"It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere."

Voltaire

Chapter 1



"Hold it!"

"What the hell..." muttered Jess releasing her grip on the trigger. "I had a perfect shot."

"Don't shoot the drone," ordered C.C.

"Why the hell not, it's an easy shot with your fancy new sniper rifle."

"Yeah, I know, but it's carrying a payload," said C.C. looking through his night vision binoculars.

"Explosives?" asked Jess.

"Worse, it looks to be attached to some sort of container, I'm guessing radiological."

"You mean like a homemade dirty bomb? We can't let it just sit on the roof of the Ambassador's home, it'll affect hundreds of people when it goes off."

"I'll notify our handler, let them deal with it. They don't pay us enough to deal with this sort of stuff. I suggest we get as far as possible from this area."

"You don't have to tell me twice," said Jessica rising to a standing position and slinging the rifle over her shoulder. "Let's hope we make it to our vehicle before anything explodes."

As C.C. and Jess arrived at home, "Hey how come you guys are back so early?" said Gail as the weary looking twosome walked into the kitchen of Jessica's farm house.

"Too cold out there for a steady shot?" smirked Jodi.

"The drone finally came like they said it would. But instead of a listening device as its payload was some sort of bomb. As it landed I was about to destroy it when C.C noted it was carrying a dirty-bomb," explained Jess.

"Damn, somebody sure don't like the Russian Ambassador," remarked Jodi pouring herself a cup of coffee.

"Well, he's very easy not to like especially as he pretends to be friends of that asshole President of ours. Can't believe he was let inside the oval office, totally against security protocols. Still we can't let such a device detonate, not to mention it'll be American citizens paying the price from the fallout," said Jess.

"Of course, they'd blame our government for the drone," said C.C.

"Do you think it was us?" asked Gail.

"Well since that buffoon won the election all kinds of weird shit has been happening. In addition, you still got all those totally brainless conservatives in the house of reps, scrambling to take full advantage of all the chaos. One of them could have gone over the top," commented Jess getting some hot coffee.

"So, what eventually happened to the bomb?" asked Jodi.

"Our CIA contact texted that it was taken care of," said C.C. looking at his cell phone.

"Well we better unwind and try to get some sleep tonight. Tomorrow we all have to go to that meeting with J.A.W.," said Jess.

"What's that all about?" asked Jodi.

"No idea, but Maggie seemed very agitated when she requested our presence at the meeting. As they pay a large part of our income, we go."

___________________________________

"Jess, C.C., good morning," said Maggie as she met them at the front door of the vast New Jersey estate owned by the Justice and Women Group. "Jodi, Gail, welcome."

"Where's the eats?" chuckled C.C.

"Go right on through to the board room, you'll find plenty of food that'll satisfy even you," laughed Maggie.

"He's still a growing little boy on the inside," remarked Gail.

"With only two cups of coffee for the entire five-hour drive, I'm afraid he's worked up quite an appetite," smiled Jess as she and Maggie hugged.

"Ok ladies, and of course C.C.," smiled Maggie as she looked about the room of several dozen female faces. "Now it is a bit unusual for us to have a board meeting with our middle managers in the room, not to mention some of our operatives, albeit, the elite of our field staff, but we are dealing with some very alarming information."

Tonya Bree was Maggie's right-hand in daily operations and current lover. She stood and gave a broad highlight of the day's agenda. "As you can see by your briefing packets there has been an explosion of privacy invasions both by state and federal governments and of course private corporations," said Tonya.

"This will be stopped at all costs. It is such an insidious invasion that it can no longer be tolerated," said Maggie standing to take charge of the meeting.

"Excuse me," said Jess interrupting.

"We have known for years that not only the government but slimy corporations have constantly devised new ways of assaulting the average American's privacy. How the hell can we stop it, seems like the horses have left the barn already?"

"Obviously we can't, but like any large operation, it can be hampered by a few well-placed strikes. You all have seen the sneakiness in action, you look up something on the internet, whether or not you are actually buying anything. Perhaps you had a discussion regarding a particular model of car or were curious about the cost of a new sofa or chair. The next day, or sooner, every time you go on the internet, side bar ads will be popping up regarding cars and sofas. Now I find this practice a personal invasion and often I make note of who sponsored the ad, not only so I don't buy from them but to create a national boycott and pass the word about how much of a low life company they really are by using such smarmy marketing practices," said Maggie.

"We have all seen this, how can we stop it, aside from applying software to combat it?" asked Gail.

"First we are launching an educational campaign to inform the public how sinister a practice this is and how they can take steps to punish these corporations. Next, our hacking teams are dismantling the top websites that use these practices. They refuse to stop it, so we will take steps to interfere."

"Still sounds like too little too late," remarked Jessica pouring a cup of coffee.

"You're right it's very advanced and sophisticated, but we can't just let it continue unchecked, we have to chip away wherever we can. Anything is better than sitting quietly by and watching it grow. People are worried about someone hacking their smartphones not realizing the apps they download have let hundreds of corporations track their every movement. They know where you bought coffee, if you sat in the park for lunch or went to a motel with someone other than your spouse. No one needs to know that data and if the ignorant citizens won't stop it, we will."

"I assume that's where we come in," grinned C.C.

"MMT Group, Manfred Market Tracking, CEO Thomas Manfred. He created the original software while attending MIT. Now he has offices in New York, London and South Africa and is making millions annually for their corporate sleaze masters," said Maggie.

"You want him dead?" asked Jess bluntly as the room full of people suddenly grew quiet.

"As usual, only as the last option. We need infiltration," responded Maggie.

"I think the word may be out on me," grinned Jess.

"Yes, I figured Gail might be a better choice."

"Sounds like a plan, can you get her inside?"

"We already have a plant in Human Resources, she can get Gail in without even an interview."

"Guess I'll need some office appropriate attire," chuckled Gail.

"Yeah, you've spent too much time on our farm. Blue jeans and sweatshirts won't cut it," laughed Jodi.

"After we go over the operational details, I'll take us out for lunch and shopping," smiled Gail.

"Guess I'll catch up on my sleep in the SUV," groaned C.C.

"Not so fast," smiled Maggie.

"How's that?"

"You'll be stopping at the uniform store."

"For what?" asked C.C.

"You are going in with Gail as the new security Sargent. Aside from on-site back up for your lady, you'll almost have a free hand on the computer system. Sergeant and above have to check on everything going on in the company," smiled Maggie.

"What a fall, from navy seal to gate guard," laughed Jodi.

"Don't laugh too hard there missy, you're going to have yourself a virginity test," grinned Maggie.

"WTF?"

"There is a church group pushing around a town, you and Jess will go check them out," said Maggie.

"Well I'm going to fail that test," blushed Jodi as the room filled with laughter.

______________________________

After having lunch the foursome went shopping, then headed to the interstate for the long drive back to their Vermont farm.

The following morning, they discussed the tasks required to manage the farm while they were all away performing their new assignments. They notified the staff as to what would have to be accomplished while they were away. The organic farm was started as more of a love and lifestyle in between assignments, but in recent years it had become profitable as more and more people realized the poisoned food being sold in most supermarkets. Even though it was late winter many chores still had to be performed, like preparing the green houses and starting the seedlings for spring planting.

As Jess caressed a hot cup of coffee sipping slowly she gazed out over the acres of cultivated land. She was remembering all of the good times when her late husband Wolf had been alive. Tears formed in her eyes as the pain deep in her chest reminded her of his touch, smell and his presence. She would have given anything to go back to those days. Jess felt a piece of her was buried alongside of him after his assignation. The empty hole in her soul would never be filled again.

As the following week began Gail and C.C. started their new covert jobs while Jess and Jodie drove to the Midwestern region to observe a town plagued by religious zealots. Jess hated to see people owned by anything, company, government or church. People should not have to live with lies or be taken advantage of just so they can exist.

At MMT, "Sergeant Weston, this is Paul and Marty, they are your staff during the dayshift. Paul handles the gate check-ins, while Marty does the roving patrol. You of course will make sure they perform their duties while monitoring our video surveillance system. Might I suggest you take a ride with Marty as he can familiarize you with the various buildings and special security procedures that are required."

"Thank you Mr. Kalemen, I'll let you know if any problems arise," smiled C.C. holding out his hand for the Human Resources Manager to shake.

"Glad you brushed him off fast," grinned Paul shaking hands with C.C.

"I take it he's the by the book type."

"Let's just say when he's not poking around looking for the slightest infraction of the rules, he's groping the female staff."

"He's misogynistic to women and he's the head of H.R.?" said C.C.

"Yep, ain't that a bitch."

"How does he get away with it?"

"His buddy the CEO is just as bad, I've heard them joking around comparing notes on women. Bet they even compare notes on their conquests."

"Unbelievable."

"I hear there is a new one starting in H.R. today, bet he already has his eyes on her," chuckled Paul.

C.C. did an instant burn realizing the new woman Paul was referring to was Gail. Taking solace in the fact that she could more than take care of herself, he tried his best to calm down and start looking for anything useful in the corporate computer system.

"Good morning Ms. Alendar, my name is Kaleman, but just call me George. It's Gail, isn't it?"

"Yes, very nice to meet you."

"Might I say you will make a lovely addition to the software development staff," leered Kalemen.

"I look forward to understanding the corporate mission," smiled Gail politely while wanting to rip his face off and toss the skin in the trash.

"Our adorable Heather over there will walk you through the on-boarding forms then I can take you over to SW Team B, where you'll meet Grace Hedges. She is the acting manager of that team."

After two hours of filling out forms, getting her photo taken and waiting for the ID badge to be made, Gail followed Kalemen to the software department. "Nice to meet you Gail, I'm Grace, that bearded geek over on your left is Harry, then Alice, Kim and Jason." The cordial staff gave a smile and a wave as Graced called out their names.

"So here is your space, yeah I know years ago they'd call it a cubical. They tried open concept a while back, but as we all know system development and programming is best served in a more private area. Better focus and less mistakes," grinned Grace.

"If you don't mind me asking, you are the acting manager, how'd that come about?" asked Gail.

"Well I suppose it is not some big secret. They do not appreciate employees who don't believe in the system."

"You mean the previous manager couldn't see the benefits of consumer tracking?"

"Basically, she thought of it as an invasion of a person's privacy," smiled Grace.

"Well I'm more interested in how it occurs rather than the philosophical viewpoints of the actual data usage," said Gail, lying through her teeth. Gail settled into her area, received her login ID and password. She began nonchalantly looking over the software systems that were in operation and took note of the ongoing projects.

_____________________________

"It's been three days, have they won you over to their side?" chuckled C.C. as he and Gail ate their dinner.

"Hardly, very scary operation. For instance, if someone uses their smartphone to pay for a morning cup of coffee at the local convenience store, the store of course has your data. Also, the cell phone manufacturer tracks it along with the phone service provider and of course your bank or credit card company is aware of what you just did. At least one or more of those corporations sells the data on to a company like MMT Group who in turn sells it to corporations so they can track what you purchase and push specific marketing at you."

"Damn, a dozen people now know where you had coffee, what cup size and if you bought a donut, a newspaper or cigarettes with it," remarked C.C.

"Exactly, all it takes is one seemingly trivial transaction and your data is spread all over the world, literally. Your private information, age, home address, ISP provider and IP address is logged, all just from using your credit card or swiping with your smartphone. Then when you go on the Internet, you're are being tracked, by dozens of corporations trying to influence your purchases. From silently tracking your surfing to blasting you with pop up ads, you are never truly alone when you are on your computer. People are plain fools to let it happen."

"They are worried about our old employers like the CIA and NSA watching them, yet not being upset by a corporation tracking them."

"I know, right. There are hundreds of thousands of consumer sheep who use the bullshit line, if you got nothing to hide..."

"Yeah, they just don't get it. The recording of one's personal data and their movements are not the characteristics of a free society. Imagine how the Gestapo and the KGB would have loved such a system," said C.C.

"I just don't understand how people can sit back and allow such an intrusion into their lives, it's like they are either too damn stupid to understand what's going on or too damn lazy to give a shit," said Gail.

"I'm guessing a bit of both. Maybe we should go have a talk with the manager they fired for some behind the scenes insight. I'm sure she can give us more info then you'd be hard pressed to find working there for a year," said C.C.

"I wonder if she is still being tracked," remarked Gail.

The next afternoon C.C. stopped his SUV in front of the address Gail had found on the company payroll files. When a woman opened the front door Gail asked, "Mrs. Jeffs?"

"Yes, who are you two, more stooges from MMT?"

"Actually, we are taking quite a risk identifying ourselves to you but we are on your side," said Gail.

The woman eyed them both up and down then decided she'd take a chance and let them inside the house. She led them into the kitchen where she served up fresh coffee and homemade brownies. "I got a lot of time on my hands now," she chuckled as she slid the still warm little cakes in front of C.C. The aroma of chocolate filled his nostrils and Gail laughed as he fought the urge.

"Putting the plate in front of him is just asking for trouble."

"Yeah he looks like my late Roy."

"You lost your husband recently?" asked Gail.

"Seems like but actually it's been almost five years now. I can still see him sitting there eating dinner. Now without a job I'm just rattling around this big old house, for as long as I can hold onto it, that is," grimaced Mrs. Jeffs.

"No children?" asked C.C. non-nonchalantly grabbing a second brownie.

"Got a daughter down in Miami, keeps asking me to go live with her. She's a big shot pharma rep, glad she's doing so well, but it turns my stomach that she could work for such filth. I suppose I'll have to bite the bullet though, at least she's gainfully employed, unlike me. Maybe six more months and I'll lose the house," said Jeffs.

"So, what happened at MMT Group," asked Gail.

"Who'd you say you worked for?"

"We are sort of self-employed, currently I'm undercover at MMT, trying find out all I can about consumer tracking. We are employed by someone who wants to stop it if they can."

"Oh shit, they find out about you and you could end up in a dumpster," said Mrs. Jeffs.

"You think they'd go that far to protect some historical purchasing data?" smirked C.C. wiping his mouth on a paper napkin after brownie number three.

"It's a lot more pernicious than sales tracking. I wrote a paper in college for my master's degree, could not believe I ended up working for the very same vipers. But the pay was excellent and I had a huge college loan debt. I know that's just rationalizing why I took the job but what else can you do, they got the big bucks."

"What do they do with the data other than track who bought what?" asked Gail.

"It would take hours to explain but the core is not sales tracking at all, that's actually just a side show. The real money is in controlling the masses. Companies today can't be satisfied with having the best product for the best price. They would rather make junk but spend millions marketing the garbage. It's proof of the ultimate take the lazy way approach. Corporations are what run this country, government is just a slow-moving snail trying to follow outdated laws. The businesses can't stand by and wait for government to catch up to them. They are so greed driven they won't let it happen. So, they buy all the politicians they need to derail any negative aimed legislation. They in turn hand the government more methodologies to control the citizens, buying themselves even more legal loopholes to exploit and not pay taxes."

"You sound like an apocalyptic novel. We worked for several federal agencies and admittedly there are black ops and assassinations but you are talking about something like the Hunger Games," smiled C.C.

"Have you seen the movie, 'A Handmaid's Tale', or read '1984'. These maybe works of fiction but our society is but a few steps from fiction becoming a reality. Government surveillance is already real, ever since the 9/11 incident it has become a way of life with cameras on every corner. Of course it is just an excuse for government to do what they wanted to do for years. They actually are grateful for the terrorists, gives them a real-life boogie man to scare the shit out of the public and allow for their acquiesce of all such security measures. Do you really think if a terrorist wanted to get a bomb onboard a plane they wouldn’t have done their homework and had impeccable credentials to get past airport security? As a result, everyone suffers for decades not to catch any bad guys, it is to scrutinize only its own citizens. Now you have smart homes and appliances being monitored 24/7. People obviously don't see it because if they did it'd scare the shit out of them. If they are bothered they just cave and have the attitude, well I'm just going to lead my life the way I want to, but they actually can't do that anymore," said Jeffs.

"We see that. Your damn family vehicle comes wired for tracking, part of the dealer prep when you take delivery is to turn on all the tracking devices disguised as services, and by doing so you are agreeing to being tracked," said C.C.

"Hell, your smartphone is the greatest invention to listen in on your conversations and empty your bank account all in a single device that can fit into your pocket. Folks just don't see, for everything they gain they lose tenfold. If it stopped at pop up suggestions on what to buy, that would be annoying enough but the master plan goes much further. I've read documents that would make your hair fall out," warned Jeffs.

"So how come you're still walking around?" asked Gail bluntly.

"Because they can disavow anything I might say, you know how a politician is out and out bullshitting during a TV interview, how conservative news stations just make up lies and just smile smugly because no one will listen if you try to rebuff what they say. They have canned answers to whatever you accuse them of, everyone is an expert at spinning the news in their favor. Come to find out it's all a total pile of crap. Anything you see on TV or hear on the radio has been slanted, tainted and filtered, that has not changed in the last fifty years. In the old days, it was almost harmless as they were just trying to sell you a new electric can opener, vacation package or a new car. The difference now-a-days is they just completely bold face lie, they've totally lost the art of fine deception, and replaced it with in your face lies," said Jeffs.

"Sorry but you don't look that brave, you have something on them, don't you?" said Gail.

"Yes."

"Suppose you are not going to tell us, are you?"

"Nope."

"Well thank you for meeting with us. I hope you can save your house," smiled Gail shaking hands with the fifty-something woman.

"What do you think?" asked C.C. as they climbed into the SUV.

"As soon as they find where she hid whatever it is that she has, she's a dead woman."

"Yeah that was my take away," said C.C., starting up the vehicle.

Two days later Sunday dinner was interrupted by the appearance of two state police cars coming to a stop in front of the farm house. "Help you guys?" asked C.C. exiting the front door followed closely by Gail.

"I'm Detective Kelso do you guys know a Mrs. Irene Jeffs?"

"Wouldn't say we know her, we only met her the one time."

"When was that?"

"Friday," responded C.C.

"That the only time?"

"What did I just say?" replied C.C. with his death stare.

"Well she was found dead and the neighbors saw your SUV there."

"Well I'm sure the mailman also passed by, did you bust his balls too?"

"Calm down C.C., the nice policeman is just doing his job. Not your fault he's lousy at it," smirked Gail.

"You two should do a road tour," wisecracked Kelso.

"That all you got Mr. Detective?"

"For now."

"Then blow," sneered C.C.

"Kelso, a minute," said another suit leaning on the rooftop of one of the unmarked cars.

"Excuse me a moment," said Kelso with an angry leer as he strolled over to the voice. C.C. and Gail watched as the suit seemed to be lecturing Detective Kelso. Upon returning his demeanor had changed. "Well if you folks can think of anything that might help our investigation, here is my card."

"What the hell was that?" asked Gail after Kelso had returned to his car and begun to drive away.

"I get the feeling someone did a background check on us and when the guy in the gray suit passed on the information, it scared the shit out of our new friend Detective Kelso," chuckled C.C. entering the house.

"Guess someone found Irene's secret hiding place," remarked Gail taking a seat in the kitchen.

"Think she had a back-up copy?"

"If so where the hell do we look for it?"

"If we suspect our current employer, which of course we do, then why not at work," said C.C.

"Nobody is that stupid, my guess is it's already been destroyed," lamented Gail.

"I don't know about that, if they feared another copy might exist they would want to keep what they retrieved just in case they had to defend against any of the facts that might come out."

"Now we can try a recon where we work, though it'll be really high-risk," said Gail.

"The more I think about it, let's try the daughter in Miami."

Two days later, C.C. stopped the gray rental car in front of the address they had found for Milly Jeffs. "Ms. Jeffs?"

"Who are you?"

"My name is Gail and this is my husband C.C., we briefly knew your mother."

"What do you mean, knew her?"

"You don't know?"

"Know what?"

"I am sorry, but your mother is dead," said C.C. softly.

"Wait, what the hell are you talking about?"

"She was killed in her house," said Gail.

"Who are you people?"

"We work for an organization that tries to correct situations corrupted by greed and dishonest practices. The company your mother worked for sent assassins after her because she had uncovered some dangerous secrets about the company's real purpose in tracking everyday citizens. It got her killed," explained Gail.

"I don't think so. Mom, you hear this nonsense," said Milly Jeffs.

"Yes, I heard, but they aren't wrong," said a middle-aged woman walking onto the living room. "I guess you'd be surprised to learn I am Irene Jeffs."

"What the ..." remarked C.C. taking a seat.

"If you are Irene, who did we meet at your house?"

"That was my sister, she was buying me time to get to Miami. Now I have caused her death," sobbed Irene.

"She was very informed about your work," remarked Gail.

"I relied on her as my confidant for years, in fact it was by her insistence I began to protest about how wrong it was to spy on Americans."

"You know we have to stop these people before they find you," said C.C.

"How do I know I can trust you?"

"Let's put it this way, if you couldn't you'd already be dead," replied C.C.

"Please get my mother to safety."

"We have a place the two of you can stay at," said Gail.

"Wait, I have to stay here, my job..." protested Milly.

"Sorry, they already killed your aunt, they now have a problem. They will take you as a hostage to get to your mother. You have to accompany her into hiding," said C.C.

It took some coaxing but they finally got the two women to agree they must leave for their own safety. "Where are we going?" asked Irene as C.C. drove rapidly down the highway heading for a private airport.

"New Jersey."

"What the hell is in New Jersey?"

"We work for JAW, Justice and Women, they will take really good care of you. Think of it as a private witness protection service," answered C.C.

"We will make sure you get off the ground then head back to Milly's place to see if we can catch the bad guys. Someone will meet you when you land and take you to Maggie. I already filled her in on some of the details," explained Gail.

"Is this where you ask me for my file?" asked Irene.

"No, you hold onto it until you meet Maggie, she'll know what to do with it," smiled C.C. as Irene and Milly boarded the private jet.

After a forty-minute drive back, "How long do we wait?' asked Gail as C.C. parked across the street from Milly's address.

"I don't know but I wished we had stopped for food, this could be a long wait," smiled C.C.

"Do you think they know the dead woman was not Irene?"

"Possible, but they do know they didn't find anything, so the next logical move would be to search her daughter's house. Ha, and here we go, check out the two jokers parking up the block."

"What makes you think they ain't locals?" chuckled Gail spotting the problem.

"I'd say wearing a black sweatshirt in this Florida heat is clue number one. My guess they left up north in a hurry," laughed C.C.

"How long do we wait?"

"After they break in the front door we go."

Taking the lead C.C. slowly crept in through the front door. Gail followed as she pushed the door wide enough to pass while panning her outstretched arms with both hands gripping her pistol. They were both ready to fire a shot at a moment's notice. They took turns at opposite movements, one left while the other right, then the reverse as they were proceeding deeper into the house, room by room they searched. A noise was heard from a bedroom up ahead. C.C. made eye contact with Gail just before continuing down the hallway.

Looking though the partially opened doorway they saw two men rifling through female clothing in a large oak dresser, book cases filled with hardbound and paperback books as well as the contents of a large walk-in closet were already violently disturbed and tossed about the room. As one of the men sensing a presence turned to face C.C., Gail fired one shot to the man's heart and he dropped to the floor, C.C. finished the other man as soon as their eyes met.

"Time to leave," whispered C.C. turning to exit the bedroom.

"Think they'll send another team?" asked Gail as her husband drove away from the house.

"Most likely but they may pause for thought, as this last try didn't go too well," snickered C.C. making a right turn heading for the highway.

Chapter 2



"Tell me again why we are in this mouth-breathing, inbred town?"

"You mean charming rural village, right?" chuckled Jess.

"Same thing," muttered Jodi.

"This is one of the towns that had a female teacher enforcing the no thong rule," smiled Jess.

"What?"

"At one of the school dances the school board members made a rule that no girl could wear thong underwear to the dance."

"That doesn’t even make sense."

"Ah to them it did, must not excite the horny teenaged boys," chuckled Jess.

"Yes, but what's the difference, granny panties or thong, if they are going to take them off…"

"They were just reinforcing their precious biblical teachings."

"The bible doesn’t mention anything about panties. Besides the girl could just swap them out in the women's room once she got inside. Do these boys have x-ray vision or something, the entire thing is bizarre. To think a school board actually spent time discussing such a topic is mind boggling," said Jodi.

"I know and this zealous teacher made it her business to have every girl entering the dance flash her panties."

"Sounds like the teacher should be in jail for being a pervert," said Jodi.

"Around here the local church runs the town. It employs over 98% of the residents and if you don't belong to the church, your house mysteriously burns down next time you are away from home. It operates like a secret police force, dropping in on residents late at night just to see what they are up to and monitors all the electronics in the house. What you watch on TV, what you look at on the internet, what magazines to which you have a subscription. They even have applied pressure on the school board to make all girls entering high school to have their virginity tested."

"That's a myth, there is no such test!"

"I know that and you know that but apparently by the results of the last presidential election in this Midwestern shit hole, these people are actually too stupid to realize they are stupid," smiled Jess.

"That's a bit cold even for you," grinned Jodi.

"Actually, I just read an article by a team of psychiatrists that agreed that it is actually a condition, which explains why they vote against their own best interests and we end up with a super asshole as President."

"We should be putting a bullet in his fucking head instead of wasting time here."

"Pleasant idea but they would be unwavering in their attempt to hunt us down. My guess, one of the great unwashed will finally realize some sunny day while cleaning one of their fifty-seven guns that they got fooled big time by the greatest con man of all history and do the job for all good citizens."

"Mostly likely it'll be one of his neo-Nazi/KKK/deplorable supporters," laughed Jodi as Jess parked the car.

"Alright, we can go see if there is something to eat, if possible, in that family restaurant across the street, then find a place to stay out of the center of town, to rest up for a few hours, then you can go to work."

"Which would entail..."

"There is a Johnny Humperink rally this afternoon and you will attend it as a girl staying with her grandparents on some remote farm," said Jess as they ordered their lunch.

"I don't sound like these people; won't I get spotted?" said Jodi softly as she glanced around the weary looking restaurant.

"Like I said you are just visiting, just don't mention the northeast whatever you do. All you have to do is look for the most boisterous group of girls and sort of blend in with them. Listen to what they say. If you can work your way into their confidence, perhaps you can find out if there are any openings at the factory and any details about the virginity tests."

"Duh, I can't pass for some high school freshman."

"I know that, I'm interested in what college aged girls might be doing to work around the church's intrusiveness. We need to get the lay of the land before we can zero in on the main characters who are perpetrating this third world situation," said Jess.

"But why a Humperink rally?"

"Well there is not a lot going on around here so we have to grab whatever opening we can."

"But he is such a moronic jerk, can't believe he's running for president," said Jodi.

"Well after the country elected our current lying bastard everyone thinks they can make it to the White House. As this is the re-election test of the current jerk it's going to get very nasty, it might even be a hoot if it were not so frigging frightening," said Jess with a scowl.

"The whole country is in the crapper and someone is bound to flush at any moment," remarked Jodi as they walked towards their room.

"Speaking of flushing, I still can't believe you had a cheeseburger and fries," laughed Jess as they carried their suitcases into the motel room.

"Well these people never heard of veggie burgers and I didn't want a salad like you ordered."

"You mean a bowl of iceberg lettuce, don't you?" groaned Jessica.

"Hey, I know I saw a piece of cucumber and a slice of tomato in there somewhere," laughed Jodi as she swung her bag onto one of the twin beds.

"You'd think in farm country they'd be more attuned to good salads. Let's try to freshen up a bit, we only have about two hours before the campaign rally."

They both took a quick shower, dressed, then drove back into town. After finally finding a parking spot it was a short walk to the high school football stadium. "Good luck, I'll be nearby watching you," smiled Jess as she faded into the growing crowd of about three hundred.

Jodi meandered around and aligned herself adjacent to a group of seven local college students who were ignoring Johnny Humperink as he droned on about making America great once more. She was able to glean that they all had attended the same high school and all their parents worked at the church's TV factory. "It's like the subject is taboo, I was getting dirty looks big time as I tried to bring up the medical examinations that the church made young girls go through. So I backed down," said Jodi as she returned to where Jess was waiting for her.

"No matter, I got a call from JAW, we are all set to go to work on Monday."

"Work, what are you talking about?"

"We are going to make TV's," smirked Jess.

After enduring a weekend of boredom and bad food, Jessica and Jodi reported to the church owned factory on Monday morning and were put to work on an assembly line which performed electronic checks on the TV units passing by their position. I can't believe the church knowingly lets these TVs not only be purchased by their own flock but people all over the country. I mean how the hell is that Christian, allowing corporations to spy on people?" commented Jodi while they took their 10 AM coffee break.

"Oh, I got an earful when I mentioned that while I was in the ladies' room," chuckled Jess. "Apparently the church has brainwashed the members into thinking that if you don't got nothing to hide..."

"That old nonsense line, everyone has something to hide. So according to them, if the TV owner farts, has sex or yells at the TV screen after getting pissed off watching more alternative facts coming from some Machiavellian news channel, they deserve to be recorded?"

"That's the general idea, either you follow the exact dogmas of the church or you are going to hell," smiled Jess.

"More bullshit, this is hell, right now, exactly where we are," fretted Jodi.

"I hear ya. Let's get the fuck out of here, we have verified the suspicions about this place it should be enough for JAW to pursue legal actions to try and take down this alternative universe these morons live in," said Jess tossing her half a cup of coffee into a garbage can, as Jodi followed towards the break-room exit door.

"Hey, where are you two going? You need to get back to the line," shouted the forelady who had been watching them closely during the break session.

"Sorry, we are escaping your strange little world," laughed Jess as she pushed passed the large woman attempting to block their exit.

"You'll not get paid for the day you know," huffed the woman holding her hands on her hips.

"That's ok," laughed Jodi out loud, "Put our twelve cents of earnings towards some new vending machines, these suck!"

_______________________________

Three days later Jess, Jodi along with Gail and C.C. had just finished lunch with Maggie at the JAW property. They had swapped stories of their recent missions and had a few laughs. Jess noticed Maggie seemed very troubled. "What's up Maggie, you don't seem amused by our anecdotal stories," smiled Jess.

"Ah, they were very informative and amusing. It's just that, well, we've uncovered some terrifying information resulting from the hacking software Gail was able to install on the MMT Groups' computer network. Coupled with the data that Mrs. Jeffs gave us, well it's damn scary."

"It doesn't happen often but the hair on the back of my neck just stood upright," muttered C.C., taking a sip from his wine glass.

"What is it Maggie?" asked Jess in a soft voice.

"As we have long suspected, the federal government has been creating a national DNA database on every man, woman and child in the United States. Every time someone takes a physical for employment or personal reasons, the DNA is extracted and sent to a government lab in Maryland for cataloging."

"Talk about big brother watching," whistled C.C.

"They have a host of sinister methods, like all that garbage advertising on TV about finding out who you are and where you come from, send us your DNA mouth swab and we will trace your ancestry. What they don't mention is that they also send it to the government. There is even a fucking soup company that collects DNA under the guise of wanting to prepare specific soups just to fit your DNA profile, giving you the best type of food when of course it is all GMO garbage. Now big pharma is asking for your DNA so they can give you personalized prescriptions. Smart watches and other wearable devices take DNA from your sweat and forward it to the government. Totally bizarre but all true. Our federal government has become what the Nazis, KGB and the Stasi had only dreamt of, the stuff from what dystopian nightmares are made. We have reached the end game in the United States, there is no exit. As Janis sang, 'freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose'," said Maggie.

A hush came over the dining table, finally the silence was broken by Jessica, "When I think of all those years I was proud to be an American, Fourth of July, putting the flag in front of the house, Memorial Day, all just another bunch of tripe!"

"Tell me about it, when I am reminded of all the times I risked my life for this country as a Navy Seal, all the friends I lost in combat, funerals I attended with the flagged draped coffins and the government ends up spying on its own citizens. Sometimes I feel I cannot contain my anger at the betrayal, the lies, the just plain fucking cold-hearted bastards running this country," shouted C.C.

"It's all about controlling the people whether by religions or governments, and the stupid asshole citizens just let it happen, over and over throughout history. In school when I studied history, I could not imagine why the citizens of a country let the government get away with immoral rules and laws. They just shuffle along day by day until it is way too late to try and get back your freedom, it’s lost, gone forever." said Jodi.

"Most often they feel helpless and to a large extent they are, not really sure what can be done about it," commented Gail reaching for a half full bottle of wine.

"That's why we need your expertise," said Maggie.

"Even we can't kill all of them," lamented Jess.

"Which bring us to another more personal tidbit."

"How come I get the feeling I ain't going to like what you have to say," said Jess.

"You won't and I don't blame you. While you were all away on assignment a man showed up. His name was Rod Blem, he said he was an ex-seal and friend of your late husband Wolf. Something about him just didn't ring true, a gut feeling, so I opened some back doors."

"Let me guess, he was a spy," remarked Jess.

"Yes, and a pretty bad one at that. Thomas Lembeck sent him," said Maggie.

"Who the heck is Lembeck?" asked Jodi.

"The new CIA chief," said Gail.

"Them again, don't they ever give up?"

"No, they don't," said C.C.

"We drugged him and he was a usual lowly informed field grunt, his mission was just to gather intel on you and report back, but he did let it slip that this Lembeck jerk wants you guys in jail."

"Better than the last CIA head, he wanted us dead," chuckled Jodi.

"Trust me, you'd rather be dead when they lock you in one of their secret prisons," said Gail.

"Maybe we should take preventative measures," said Jodi.

"We ain't Mafia hit men," said Jess.

"Sometimes I don't get you mother dear, we are all assassins, what difference does it make?"

"We can't go around killing because someone doesn't like us, otherwise we'd never get any sleep. We target greedy scumbags, corrupt officials and all-around dirt bags. I never met this Lembeck asshole and I'm sure I wouldn't like him but we need to concentrate on the real bad guys. That way our friends in government sort of turn a blind eye to our methods. If we lose our professional friends, we are toast, there are just too many of them out there, we ain't super heroes with special powers," said Jess.

"I don't know Jess, I'm thinking I'm with the kid on this one," said C.C.

"Yeah, me too. I'm tired of always looking over my shoulder for the next CIA jerk to come knocking on the front door, perhaps it's time to send them a message," said Gail.

"Maggie?" asked Jess.

"Yes, take him out, give yourself some breathing room. There will be another scumbag to replace him in a few months, perhaps the new guy won't have a list with your name on it."

Two nights later the October evening breeze blew cold. The gusts from an approaching rain storm moved several unsecured plastic Halloween decorations about the moonless street of a residential neighborhood. As the luxury car rolled to a stop in front of the lavish energy wasting abode, a tall man wearing a dark blue suit exited the vehicle, shoved the front door shut and began to open the rear driver's side door to retrieve his brief case. That's the position the police found him in thirty minutes later. Only a hole in his forehead left behind to reveal someone didn't like him very much.

There were the expected rumblings in Washington but within a week it was back to business as usual.

______________________________

"Truman, how is my old friend?"

"Trying to make progress despite being surrounded by a bunch of soft-witted staff members. It's as if not one of them can carry out a simple task."

"Did you not pick them yourself?"

"I can always count on you to cut right to the heart of the situation Vasily," chuckled President Crown.

"We make bad choices in our country also, but we are quick to rectify a bad state of affairs," chuckled the Russia President.

"I'll tell you Vasily, some days I wish I could shoot them all. I don't know what is happening in this country anymore, the people just care about their stinking little life, never see the big picture like you and I. If it was not for great leaders like us what would become of our countries?"

"That's why they pick great leaders like us to shine some light in the darkness. They know their sad little worlds will be much uplifted by our greatness. We must from time to time show the iron fist, it is the only language they understand. So how is the DNA project?"

"Very well actually, we have them giving up their inner selves at an unexpected high rate. Our DNA files are almost at fifty-eight percent, we hope to reach seventy by the end of next year, then we will have their very essence in our files," chuckled Crown.

"Good, very good, soon we will be ready to implement the same system over here, then we can begin our world database. Nothing can stop us, we will control all the people of the world. What about the Europeans, are they on board with our plans?"

"No Vasily, they are still fighting me and are reluctant about the entire plan. They feel it is a form of slavery. I'm not sure if I can make them see the advantages for a worldwide government."

"Well when we have our two systems merged, they will change their tune. They will have to bend to our will else face serious recriminations. I'll call you again very soon my comrade."

"Yes, have a good week Vasily," said Crown hanging up the secure phone.

"Mr. President."

"Yes Dale, what do you have for me?"

"There is absolutely no evidence pointing to who perpetrated the assassination of CIA Chief Lembeck. They say the trail is cold."

"I don't need any evidence, I know it was that damn Jessica Marlow and those cunts at JAW. Their time is coming, but for now I have to concentrate on getting phase two of STC moving, I'm hearing static from a few of our own senators."

"But sir I thought Secure The Citizens project was a big success. Everyone thinks protecting the masses from terrorism through observation has been effective. Most police agencies are in agreement. You could expect the average joe on the street to be against it."

"Forbes, I know you're my Chief of Staff but sometimes I wonder about you. Often you sound like one of those pussies in my cabinet. You know as well as I do that's all propaganda in order to create a more prosperous future for our country. All the citizens must be in step with our coming decisions and I expect all local politicians to join us in our efforts."

"I'm aware of the ten-point plan, I just think you are going to have a hard time selling it to the public."

"That's why having the DNA cloud is so important. If we find a citizen isn't quite onboard with the changes we have to make in order to protect this county's place in international markets we will be able to make certain adjustments."

"I don't quite follow Mr. President."

"Look Calvin, if say we find out a citizen in a certain district is not voting in our favor, we look up his or her prescription and have their meds altered to sort of help convince them they need to come over to our side," laughed President Crown.

"Excuse me sir but why don't we just modify everyone's meds so they all vote for us?" asked Forbes.

"Well that's not practical, everyone does not take prescriptions. We have doctors that are over prescribing everything, so it has been very easy to control the base of our Republican party but in order to increase it we pushed very hard on flu shots, vitamins, supplements and everything our good pharma friends could think of to talk people into taking preventative shots. Hell, we've known for years that most of the high blood pressure meds are useless and poison one's system but we needed a vehicle in order to add in the government recommended chemicals. Ironic, if the damn fools would just stop eating all that toxic fast and processed food they wouldn't have high blood pressure in the first place," roared Crown.

"So, you are saying some people are taking non-effective or unnecessary medications based on the recommendation of some quack doctor."

"Exactly, but our friends in pharmaceuticals didn't stop there they began to push a whole new line of preventative drugs. They are hammering the public with sappy commercials about how they might get Hep C, shingles, pneumonia, hell they got a vaccine or pill for dozens of diseases that don't even exist anymore, but the super gullible public spends millions taking the shit. Take the immunization of children, those shots have lower doses of our government approved special brew, but still enough to do the job. That way we mold the little fuckers from childhood to grow up and see things our way. Our corporate brothers make billions and we get orderly zombies to support our causes and use physical violence against them damn libtards that we'll never reach."

"Well as we call the dance, I mean we jail people left and right, why don't we just make a concerted effort to put more liberals in jail where they belong?" asked Forbes.

"Well we can't overdo it, it still has to look like a democracy to the rest of the world, otherwise we would be ripe for a revolt from those loathsome liberals. Hell, they are so stupid they can't even see we started the Libertarians right within their own camps," said Crown.

"I thought they were an enemy of ours?"

"Not really, they are worse than the teabaggers. They want free capitalism and no entitlement programs, which is what we want. It worked out great for us, so many people are confused they think a Liberal is a Libertarian," laughed Crown.

"It's all so complicated."

"It's supposed to be. That one jerk-off got himself elected by hacking into the voting system and we all know what a shitball that turned out to be, no rigged elections for us, not when we can rig the people."

"I am certainly glad you are our President," smiled Forbes.

"Why thank you, so are just enough of our little zombies to reelect me."

"I take it you are not worried about Johnny Humperink then?"

"Are you serious, first off who the hell runs against his own party's sitting President. That ass is nothing but a hustler and a buffoon of the highest order. No one is going to take him seriously, he's just another bad joke," snorted President Crown.

Chapter 3



"So how are Sally and Amy?"

"Fine just fine. Every time I see their smiling faces I am reminded how you saved their lives from those terrorists."

"I was just doing my job," smiled Jessica.

"Bullshit, you went above and beyond, I will never forget that," said General Vitten.

"Ok Clay, enough with the greased pole, what are you trying to stick up my ass today," laughed Jessica, as the waiter brought their lunch to the outside restaurant patio.

"See those ships across the bay?"

"Yeah, U.S. Navy warships, what of it?"

"All their might and all the power of my air force fighters and bombers cannot do what you and your team can. Intelligent humans on site does it every time."

"Ah this is going to be a real shit show, I can feel it already."

"I know you guys have been working for Maggie on this MMT Group project."

"Yes, we are about to put the hammer down on them, it should keep them crippled for quite some time," smiled Jess as she poked at her seafood salad.

"Good they need to be taken out. There actually are several more such companies that need the same treatment."

"And you want us to take them down also?" asked Jess.

"Well partially, that'll be your cover anyway if some CIA types get inquisitive about your business in Europe."

"Where and why?"

"Bulgaria, to help take down some treacherous European companies doing the same stuff that MMT Group is doing," said Gen. Vitten.

"But of course, that is a cover?"

"Yes and no, you'll be working with some of our contacts over there to hack into all the bad guys' computers, just like you're are doing to MMT. All you have to do is play advisors, our European friends will do the actual hacking," said Vitten.

"So, what will we really be doing."

"You are going to Sunny Beach."

"Yeah so, we go to some beach, for what?"

"No, that is the name of the resort in Bulgaria, Sunny Beach," chuckled Vitten.

"Yeah got that, we ain't going to work on our tans and down vodka shots," groaned Jessica.

"More like shots of Rakia," laughed Vitten.

"What?"

"You are to meet with a friend."

"He got a name?"

"Andrei"

"Last name?"

"He's known as the Gray Ghost."

"Let me understand this, I take my team to Bulgaria under the guise of helping some locals to stop corporate spying but I'm really meeting with this Ghost guy, for what?"

"Let's just say he has a story to tell you and wants to make a deal."

"What if I don't like his story or deal?"

"You walk away," said Vitten.

"If I take his deal, what happens?"

"The world changes."

_____________________________

After an epically long flight they made their way to a reasonable hotel, enjoyed some fine dining and retired for the evening. In the morning after breakfast and a quick visit to the beach, a car came to pick them up for a meeting with their European counterparts.

As they walked into the ordinary looking building, they entered an elevator with their driver, who after swiping a pass-card opened a sub panel in the elevator wall exposing a secondary array of buttons for hidden floors. He pushed sub 3 and the elevator car began to rapidly drop below ground level, gently coming to a stop. The doors parted and they followed as they were led down a long corridor. Swiping his key card again a steel security door slid to the right disappearing into the adjacent wall. As they entered they noticed a small group of people huddled around several computer screens.

"Good morning, I am Tom Bond, this my staff, Christina, Blake and Jerome."


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