Excerpt for Zero Warning: An Asher Radman Mystery (Asher Radman - By The Numbers Book 0) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Zero Warning

By:

John Charles

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Table Of Contents

Copyright and Legal Notice

Zero Warning

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19



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A Cold Summer Sky

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Sawyer Wahlstrom, CEO of Fidelity Independent Research Group (FIRG) rarely opened email from someone he didn't know. This one was different.

The subject line read Stop the NuHygen project or the next one will die. The attached video showed a car being sideswiped, run off the road, and crashing into a line of parked cars at the school bus stop. Children were screaming and it was apparent the driver of the sideswiped car was badly injured.

Asher Radman, special Investigations Unit of The FBI was tasked with finding answers, but he immediately hit a brick wall. Everyone in the rural town of Thompsonville was hiding something. What is NuHygen and why would someone go to extremes to stop its development.

Simple questions, or so he thought, until they tried to murder him.

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Zero Warning

When FBI agent Mateo Hachman took the undercover assignment, he knew the risks. Infiltrate the Proveedores Consortium and bring down the inner circle. It took almost five years, but Mateo not only infiltrated the consortium, he was elevated to the prestigious inner circle. From his vantage point, he provided enough evidence to bring down Demarco Sanchez the head of the Proveedores as well as over a dozen high level members. For decades, Sanchez was the target of every agency in the US, but never could they gain enough evidence to arrest him. With Mateo's testimony, he received multiple life sentences. He would never see the light of day again.

When henchman Abraham Garceau was sentenced for multiple counts of murder, he swore he'd find a way to torture Mateo until he begged to die.

Eight years later, Mateo had a new name, new career, and new life. In those eight years, he never stopped looking over his shoulder, never let his defenses slip, and never got close to anyone until he met Isaac Konners. Konners was everything Scott wanted in a partner. Getting close to Isaac would mean breaking his personal vow and endangering an innocent person. Isaac wormed his way into Scott's heart, took hold, and wouldn't let go.

In what appeared to be an inside job, Garceau escaped a prisoner transport van and disappeared. Several weeks later a video played on every news channel. A close-up of Garceau looking into the camera filled the screen. What little background showed, was extremely blurry. "This video is for one person and one person only - Mateo Hachman. I promised I'd get you no matter how long it took and now that I'm free of that f*cked up prison and those bullshit guards; I intend to keep my promise."

Suddenly Scott was pulled into the worst nightmare anyone could have imagined. The one man who could and would find him was promising to do just that. Revenge is strong with Garceau and his word was law. He never broke his word.

Did he know where to look? Did he know Mateo's new name? What about his new looks? And what about Isaac? How could he protect Isaac from that lunatic?



Chapter 1

The big rig swerved along the curve as if the driver had fallen asleep. Now on the wrong side of the road, it picked up speed. The driver of the compact car entering the curve from the other direction had no time to react. The impact was sudden, so sudden that neither driver would remember it happening.

A fireball of flames erupted, engulfing the car and the cab of the rig. Screams could be heard, then silence.

Scott smacked his arms trying to put out the flames, his legs wouldn't move - trapped in the mangled wreckage. His screams were strangled by the soreness in his throat. Tears poured from his burning eyes. The intense heat melted his skin. Darkness battled with the overpowering bright light.

With superhuman strength, Scott jumped from his entrapment, landing on the floor in a heap of blankets and pillows. His screams echoing in the room, hands still slapping at his burning body, legs trapped in the tangle of sheets. His heart seemed to be trying to escape from his chest. His lungs were on fire, tears flowed down his cheeks as the sun rose over the mountains behind his home.

It took almost half an hour for his body to calm enough to move. His breathing was still rapid as was his heart beat, but not as paralyzing as it was just a few moments ago. He tried to sit up but his body was too weak. Tears continued to fall from his eyes as he lay on the floor looking through the wall of windows as the sun continued to rise above the mountains. It's been seven years, so why can't I let it go?

With his body now somewhat back to normal, he struggled to sit up, pulled the tangle of sheets from his legs and crawled to the edge of the bed. It took all his strength to stand. Leaving the mess behind, he managed to walk to the bathroom. Closing the door, he leaned against the vanity and looked in the mirror. "Happy Birthday; it's hard to believe that seven years ago, you were dead," he said to the man staring back at him.

He took a cold shower to erase the dream, the nightmare that continued to plague him. At least it happened less often now, but why did it always seem to plague him when something good was about to happen. Why are the gods always reminding me of what my life was like only a few years ago?

Breakfast would definitely not stay down so he stood at the counter with his coffee mug in hand. He thought of Patrick, bringing more tears to his eyes. Life had dealt both of them a lousy blow. I will never hurt anyone again, not intentionally or by accident.

*****

Normally Scott would bike to the campus, but today he was dressed more formally and didn't want to get his clothes messed up. Living in Golden only blocks away from the Colorado School of Mines was more than a-dream-come true. Most mornings he sat on his deck and looked out at the mountain range behind his home. In the winter, the snow-covered mountains gave him the feeling of living in the wilderness, yet he was only minutes away from the bustling campus.

"It is with great pleasure that we honor Scott Witier with tenure," said the dean as he handed Scott the official document and plaque. The audience of teachers, professors, and staff in the small auditorium applauded. The buffet following the presentation afforded Scott the time to thank personally those who had helped him achieve his goal.

Two others received tenure that day and though not the youngest to receive tenure from this prestigious school, Scott was the only one to achieve that goal in five years. Most took considerably longer, but Scott was determined to get himself back on track after arresting events turned his life upside down.

The rest of Scott's day was comparatively uneventful. He thanked those who stopped to congratulate him. Most students in his classes didn't even know of his accomplishments. Some did and either congratulated him or just nodded their approval. Scott was loved by both the student body and his peers. He loved teaching, loved the school, and truly loved helping his students awaken their brains to unlimited possibilities.

Driving home, he wondered what his life would have been like if the accident had not happened.



Chapter 2

The library was packed with students either studying for finals or desperately trying to finish assignments before the Friday deadline. Scott scanned the tables looking for somewhere to spread out. Not surprised that all were taken, he moved to the second floor study room. There he found a table with a sole occupant deeply immersed in whatever he was reading. Older than most of the students on campus, he looked to be in his thirties. Though the school had great graduate programs, the vast majority of students on campus during the day were younger, undergrads.

"May I sit here?" Scott heard no reply so he said it again a bit louder trying not to disturb other students in the area. The man looked up surprised that someone was standing in front of him. "May I sit here?" Scott said for the third time, smiling at the bewildered look of the man sitting at the table.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Of course, you can sit here. I was so involved with this that I didn't see you standing there." He seemed flustered and blushed nervously. In front of him was a hot guy, holding an over-the-shoulder briefcase. His smile spoke volumes.

Isaac was proud of his own body. He learned to keep himself as fit as possible and never allowed his workout routine to slip. Just under six feet tall, his trim, solid physique, almost blond hair, and brilliant green eyes gave him an appearance that garnered looks from both men and women.

In front of him was a man who could rival most models. He had to be around five foot ten inches tall. His black eyes seemed as if they could see right through you. His black hair was short and looked perfect. He wore fitted slacks that looked expensive. They were cut to show off his extremely muscular body. His shirt hugged his well-developed chest. You could see the striations in his abs through the shirt. How is that possible? He looked like a wrestler that just stepped off the cover of Sports Illustrated. And yes, his smile was breathtaking. Isaac realized he was staring and looked back at his book.

Scott sat opposite at the other end of the table. "I should have figured this place would be packed. Are you studying for finals? Scott Witier," he said extending his hand.

"Isaac Konners," taking Scotts extended hand. "No, I'm working on my dissertation." He suddenly realized he still held Scott's hand and quickly let it go.

Scott raised his eyebrows, both at the answer and the hand in his. "Wow, that's great. What is the topic?" He asked sounding genuinely interested.

Isaac whispered, looking around to make sure he was not disturbing anyone. "Human physiology in times of extreme stress." He leaned back a bit, looked at Scott and wondered if he even understood the answer. People called Isaac a whiz kid. He was smart, very smart, and had the ability to grasp just about anything he wanted to learn. From an early age, he knew he wanted to develop technology that would help people do more with their bodies. Seeing movies like Ironman only solidified his resolve.

Scott neatly placed a sheaf of folders on the table. "Wow that is quite an interesting field. Are you working in it or attempting to gain entry?"

"I'm impressed. Most people don’t' have a clue about what I just told you. I'm working for a think tank that helps independent companies develop a wide variety of human-connected systems. Right now, we are working with a company that is attempting to replace destroyed nerves in accident victims to help them walk again."

"Are they close? You know, close to succeeding with their goal?"

Isaac smiled and leaned forward so he could whisper and not disturb students at nearby tables. "Close enough that they've applied for a patent. If they can get past the last hurdle, you'll be seeing them on every news show."

"Sounds like one hell of a hurdle, though."

"Yeah, it's stopped everyone in the past from making the link between man and machine." He sat quietly for a few seconds. "But I'm rattling on and I'm sure you have work to do."

Scott took one of the folders off the pile and placed it in front of him. "For whatever reason, obviously way beyond my pay grade, the maintenance people have decided to paint the offices in my building. Thus, on the last week of the semester, I'm barred from working in the peace and solitude of my cherished office space." Though his words suggested he was annoyed, he smiled as he looked at Isaac. "But your company sure makes up for that inconvenience."

Isaac blushed and wondered why this hot teacher was flirting with him. "Um, thanks." He returned to his reading as if he didn't want to continue their conversation.

Scott smiled to himself and began grading the assignments.

Two hours later, his back hurting, his ass numb from the hard plastic chair, Scott stood and stretched. "How do they expect people to learn anything if they are forced to sit in these uncomfortable chairs?"

Isaac looked up and smiled at Scott's rant. "I've often had that exact same thought. My work schedule is crazy, my apartment is small, and my mind wanders when I'm there. When I'm here, I make the best of my time so I can get my sore ass off these chairs." Scott was bending his body back, thrusting his pelvis out. Isaac swallowed the sudden lump in his throat and moved his eyes to Scott's. "Why are you not working in the comfort of your home?"

Leaning against the table, his face near Isaac's, Scott whispered, "I made a vow to keep work and pleasure separate. If I took my work home with me, I'd never get to play and I love to play."

Once again, Isaac blushed and looked down at his work. "Oh."

"Listen, I'm almost finished with these," Scott put his hand on the now smaller pile. "What say we finish up here and go for something to eat? I'm famished, you?"

Isaac looked at Scott, knew he was being picked up and wondered if he should find an excuse to say no. "Um, sure, I guess that would work for me. But I have a bit more to do, so don't let me keep you."

"Well I'm not finished either. So I'll let you get back to work." Scott's smile was captivating.

Another hour had both men agreeing that it was just too much to ask anyone to sit there any longer. As they left the library, Scott turned to Isaac, "What's your fancy? We can hit one of the food mills on campus, or drive to a better restaurant."

Though Isaac was not picky, his rumbling stomach told him he should eat soon. "Let's get a bite on campus. That way we don't have to drive. Let me put this stuff in my car."

Scott followed Isaac to his car; his bag draped over his right shoulder. "I'll take these with me since I can't get into my office." Fast food held no interest to either of them so Scott suggested the salad bar in the student center.

"I never asked, what do you teach?"

"My field is almost as obscure as yours - Architectural Culture and History." Scott waited for the normal laugh or smirk. Most people asked why anyone would even take such a course. They were always surprised that his courses were required for graduation.

Isaac pondered his answer and then looked him in the eyes. "If more people learned about the history of buildings, they might not be creating these monstrosities we have around the country." He took a bite of food. "I saw some extremely crazy designs while vacationing on the west coast. I'm not saying all buildings should be the same, but they should at least have some cultural appeal."

Scott was impressed. Isaac was one of the few people he met who seemed to understand what he taught without a major explanation. "Well I don't set the rules. I teach the course by asking questions; questions that my students have to think about before they can answer. Most find architectural history to be interesting, but there are always a few who baulk at the need for such studies. Funny thing, though. Once they get it, they are the ones who do the best designs."

They finished eating almost in silence. As they were leaving, Scott put his hand on Isaac's shoulder. "We seem to be on the same page on just about everything we talked about. Would I be imposing if I asked to see you again? And since you are not one of my students, there would be no conflicts."

Isaac's smile told the story his mind was thinking. "I'd like that very much."

Scott wanted to set the ground rules first, but something, in his gut, said this was not the time. So he suggested they go for a better meal and see what happened after that. Isaac agreed and suggested they meet on Saturday. "That gives me a couple of days to get past this self inflicted deadline without stressing out too much."

When Scott took Isaac's extended, hand he was pulled into into a gentle hug, feeling the shudder as it claimed Isaac's body. Smiling he pulled back and asked for Isaac's phone number, then sent him a text. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. Enjoy your week

Once again, Isaac blushed, smiled and nodded. As he turned to walk away, he said, "Yeah, me too."

Scott stood for a minute watching Isaac walk toward the parking lot. He felt extremely warm inside even though the temperature was rather chilly for late spring. He began walking and couldn't get Isaac out of his mind. Yeah I like him, but damn what am I doing. I don't do relationships and I can't lead him on.

By the time he reached his car, Scott was shaking. He so wanted someone in his life again. He cherished the time he had with Patrick, but could he allow someone to get that close again? It's been seven years. Was that time enough? Was he safe again or would his world tumble down the rabbit hole as it did back then?



Chapter 3

Living in or near a college town had its pros and cons. For Scott, there were few negatives. He enjoyed the activities, the feeling of youthfulness, the interaction with his students, and the quiet times when he wanted to escape from everything.

Sitting on his deck watching the sunrise over the mountains gave him a feeling of closeness with nature. It also allowed him the peace to think. Isaac was fun to be with, smart, had a sense of humor, and made him feel good again. Not since Patrick had Scott felt this way. Sure, he had his share of hook ups. He even dated a few guys for several months, but those were just flings.

An eagle flew in the distant sky, gliding and banking with the winds and the air currents created as the mountains heated up. It was strange to see one this early in the morning, but there it was, just seemingly enjoying the sunrise.

The week had been hectic, even more than normal. The painters finished working in his office on Wednesday, the day after he met Isaac, which allowed him to work in his quiet sanctum. But that also meant he would not bump into Isaac either. Maybe that was a good thing, as he needed to finish grading final assignments and post grades before the end of the semester. Friday came with a continuous parade of students handing in their final papers and trying to lobby for good grades. Scott loved teaching, loved his students. Some of his colleagues said he was too sympathetic when students pled their need for leniency or for a better grade, but he remembered being one of them and always gave them the benefit of the doubt.

Now, on Saturday, there were no interruptions, no students, no papers to grade, just Scott with his thoughts - and that eagle who continued to fly in wide graceful circles. When Scott first arrived in Golden, he kept looking over his shoulder, kept wondering if he had moved far enough away, kept wondering if anyone knew his secret, and kept wondering if a bullet would catch him by surprise.

After five years of continuous fear and anxiety, his life seemed to be settling down. Though he still maintained his extreme sense of security, he had allowed the fear to diminish into more of a background noise rather than an in-your-face scream. He needed a workout, more to relieve these sudden tensions than for his physical health. He grabbed his ever-packed duffle and biked to the gym. Though there was a good gym on campus, he chose to join one that catered to extreme fitness. He had hired a physical trainer when he joined five years prior and told him that he absolutely wanted and needed to be in the best physical shape possible. At first, Stanov, the owner and trainer humored him, but soon realized that Scott was totally serious. With that realization, he pushed Scott more than anyone else in his extreme fitness program, and Scott took everything he dished out.

Stan smiled as Scott passed him near the entrance. He had worked Scott to near exhaustion and Scott still wanted more. He wondered what was behind this man's drive, but gave up asking years prior when Scott politely told him never to ask again.

Isaac met Scott at Indulge, an upscale restaurant in Golden. He was neatly dressed in beige slacks and a dark blue button down shirt. Though still a bit cool for late spring, Isaac had no jacket. Scott hugged him and walked him into the restaurant. They waited a couple of minutes until their table was ready. End of semester was always a busy time in a college town. The end of spring semester, even more so, as parents and relatives came to witness their child's graduation. Indulge was nearly full of families enjoying the evening.

Throughout dinner, Scott and Isaac chatted about their career paths, hobbies, and funny situations that both had encountered. Scott felt so comfortable with Isaac's company that he lost track of the time and his internal security protocol. Dinner over, he asked Isaac if he wanted to join him for a drink at his home, but Isaac suggested they sit at the bar instead. "I think it’s a bit too soon for that." Scott smiled his knowing smile.

The bar was less crowded than either of them expected. They sat at a tall table near the back continuing to enjoy each other's company. A news channel was playing on several screens around the bar. "Crank that up," said a customer near them. Both Scott and Isaac turned to look at the nearest screen.

Breaking News was written across the top. The commentator was talking as pictures of Lee County Prison in Virginia flashed on the screen. Everyone in the bar went silent as the commentator continued, "Notorious Crime boss Demarco Sanchez died from complications brought on by a severe heart attack. Some of you may remember the trial seven years ago where Sanchez was convicted of over two dozen counts of murder, drug and gun trafficking, and six counts of racketeering."

Scott froze with his drink partway to his lips. His worst nightmare had either just ended or had come true. He tried to compose his emotions, placed the glass down, and crossed his hands on the table. He looked to his left to see that Isaac was glued to the screen.

As the commentator continued, Scott thought back to that eventful day.

"Has the jury reached a verdict?"

"Yes, your honor we have."

"The defendant will rise." Sanchez and his staff of high paid attorneys stood as the courtroom fell into a hush.

The bailiff took the folded paper from the head juror, turned and handed it to the judge. She opened the folded form, nodded and passed it back to him. He moved to the center of the court and read: "We the jury find Demarco Sanchez guilty on all counts. We the jury find Demarco Sanchez guilty of 28 counts of second-degree manslaughter. We the jury find Demarco Sanchez guilty of 9 counts of trafficking drugs with the intent to harm. We the jury find Demarco Sanchez guilty of six counts of racketeering."

The courtroom erupted into cries, shouts of yes, groans, shouts of obscenities, and more. "The court will be quiet." The judge slammed her gavel several times to no avail. When she stood and shouted, "If this court does not quiet down immediately, I will have everyone removed," the court hushed to a low whisper.

She turned to Sanchez and his table of attorneys who had remained standing. One of the attorneys was trying to calm Sanchez down. "Demarco Sanchez, you have heard the verdict. Your sentencing will be held in this court in ten days."

Officers moved forward to take him back to jail. As they approached, Sanchez could be heard shouting. "If it’s the last thing I do, I will get everyone who did this to me." He was escorted through a side door still shouting. The judge rose, turned and exited the courtroom.

Scott felt a hand on his arm, "You okay?"

Realizing that Isaac was talking, Scott brought his mind back to the present. "Oh, yeah I am. I guess my workout was more exhausting than I originally thought." He took Isaac's hand in his, looked into his eyes and said, "I'm glad you agreed to meet me here tonight and I'd like to do this again, but right now I realize that I'm crashing. So at the thought of being a lousy companion, will you excuse me?"

Isaac continued to hold Scott's hand, nodded as Scott spoke and smiled. "I thoroughly enjoyed myself tonight. And yes I'd like to do it again, too."

They stood and walked into the brisk evening air. "Now that the semester is over, my schedule will be considerably lighter, so call me when you have some free time." He leaned in, took Isaac in his arms and kissed him, not a hot passionate kiss, but sweet and smoldering nonetheless.

When Scott pulled back, Isaac looked into his eyes and said, "I will do that. Give me a week or so to get my dissertation ready for presentation to the committee and I will have some free time as well."

Scott gave him a gentle peck on the lips, "I'll hold you to it." They walked in different directions, Scott wondering what would come of Sanchez's death. His nerves fired sending chills down his body. Trying not to get too stressed out, he used the breathing technique he learned through the years. By the time he reached his car, fear of his imminent death had subsided, but he couldn't get the thought of Sanchez's words out of his mind. "If it’s the last thing I do, I will get everyone who did this to me." Well he is dead and I'm still alive.



Chapter 4

Sleeping well after the news about Sanchez was the last thing Scott expected, but sleep did come fast and stayed. For two weeks, he slept the sleep of the dead. His body seemed to relax, stress seemed to be a thing of the past, his security seemed to be okay. He knew better than to believe that he was no longer in danger, but even with all his training, he wanted peace in his life and was willing to go with his newfound feelings.

He awoke before the morning sun began to rise above the mountains, refreshed and alert. Wow, maybe my life is taking a turn for the better. After a quick shower, he dressed in his hiking attire and planned his day. Almost immediately after he bought the house, Scott started hiking the mountains. He found himself enjoying the solitude. His friends teased that he was getting too close to nature, but Scott knew better. Hiking allowed him to escape, escape from his past, escape from the self-imposed restrictions on his life, and escape the world he still tried to forget.

He was startled out of his daydream by the text sound on his phone. Swiping across the screen, he saw the message. You free tonight? Isaac and he had either texted or talked every day since dinner two weeks prior. Though they wanted to get together, Isaac was too busy. He worked long days and often spent several hours at the library or in conference with his doctorate committee.

Yes I am. You playing hooky?

Yeah, I've got to take a break and thought you and I could have dinner.

How about you come here. I'll cook and that way you get to relax.

You sure? I don’t want to impose.

I'm sure. What time is good for you?

I get done here around 6.

Great come right over.

What are you doing today?

Hiking. Need my mountain fix.

  Have fun. See you around 6:30

Looking forward to it 

"Yes!" Scott thrust his hand in the air as if he had won the lottery. In the near past, he might have worried about getting too close, giving the wrong impression, hurting the person who gave him so much. But now Scott felt good. He wanted what Isaac was offering; he wanted someone he could get close to. That thought scared him. He got close to Patrick, felt safe with him, and everything changed in a heartbeat. Is this real or is this just my ego telling me I am safe again?

He suddenly realized he might need to go shopping. Walking into the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator and stared into the near empty cavern. "Yeah, I need to go shopping. But first I need to climb those mountains."

Two hours later, he sat on a ridge overlooking Golden. He had discovered this outcropping of rock about a year after he moved there. He had veered off the trail, wanting to see something different and he was glad he did. After hiking another half hour, he came upon a small path only wide enough for one person to traverse. As he made his way through, the path opened up to an outcropping wide enough for him to lay back and enjoy the view. He could see his house, the campus, the small city that gave him so much pleasure. He had packed water, sandwiches, and his Kindle, planning to spend the day in solitude. Now, though, his mind began to wander.

"The Proveedores Consortium is one of the biggest cartels in the world. If you take on this assignment, you will be entering a world that knows only one thing - loyalty. Failure has one result - death. You sure you want this?"

Matteo sat in the conference room with Paul, his boss, Asher Radman, and five of the best infiltrators the bureau had. He had worked in the bureau for several years and had become a trusted undercover asset. Everyone knew he had no close family ties and that he was willing to shed his suit for street clothes when it meant capturing someone who was hurting people.

Matteo listened as the people in Paul's office explained the mission.

"Get yourself into the organization. Do what is necessary, short of killing someone, to move up the ranks. Get close enough to Sanchez to learn his secrets. Then get your ass out of Dodge before you get caught."

He knew it would take time, possibly years and that his life would be in danger the entire time. "Who would be my contact here?"

"Me," Asher looked at Matteo. "This is my baby and I am holding it close to my heart." He smiled at the double meaning. "You know what this entails, right?"

"Yeah, I do. So when do we start?"

Demarco Sanchez grew up surrounded by crime. His father was part of the inner circle of the Guadalajara Cartel until his death during a raid. Police had an informant who gave them the names of everyone in the inner circle. One by one, they were hunted down and executed. By the time they raided the Sanchez home, Demarco knew his life would never be the same again. His father was shot in front of his mother, Demarco, and his twin sisters. No one threatened the family as the men turned and left, leaving his father dead on the tile floor.

That very day, Demarco started his quest to become the biggest, strongest, most influential operation in the world. He knew what he wanted and made it his life purpose to achieve his goals.


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