Our intention with this section is for readers to see what we are crafting for our next book publication. What follows is a snippet from our next book:
THE ENIGMA SOURCE – BOOK 10
Chapter 3 – Redefining What a Long Day Means
It was late in the day, and Su Lin had just finished tending her animals, in particular her favorite pig, Franklin. At 160 kilos, Franklin could have been a formidable adversary, but over the years of her friendship and training, he’d become more of a barnyard pet and confidant. She mused about how thankful she had been when Franklin had outgrown his tendency to want to sit in her lap, as he had done when he was just an armful.
Franklin took everything in stride and genuinely had affection for Su Lin. However, today Su Lin was distracted. Every unusual noise seemed to pull her attention in a different direction. Even Franklin stopped to test the air with his extremely sensitive nose. Once again she halted her activities to study the surroundings of the familiar Georgia farm, but nothing looked wrong. Except that something seemed wrong. A most unsettling feeling came over her as she walked back from the pens to the house.
Andy’s hound dog, Wrinkles, was fast asleep and didn’t bother to raise his head up to watch Su Lin trudge back from the pens as he usual did at this time of day. Wrinkles’ afternoon siesta was always secondary to the kitchen snacks that he got when Su Lin began to cook supper.
Su Lin studied the large hound as she approached and remarked, “I must agree with Andy’s assessment of you, Wrinkles. If you were any more laid back, you would be constantly slipping into a coma. You must have played pretty hard today, to not even get up to begin pestering for snacks.”
Su Lin stopped just outside the door and looked around the property one more time, hoping to alleviate her unsettled feelings. But the well-kept Georgia farm with its large welcoming home was perfectly in place. They had recently repainted in brick red with white trim, yielded nothing out of the ordinary and a certain quaint elegance without pretention. She shrugged her shoulders to lose the cloud of doubt she felt and went inside. As she closed the screen door, it flashed through her mind that locking the door would be a good idea even though they never did. Andy always wanted folks to be able to drop in. He’d insisted you couldn’t be neighborly if the door was locked.
Su Lin paused at the mirror in the mud room and smoothed her long, shiny, black hair back into its clip. Her petite muscled form of 39 kilos and ivory skin spoke of her Asian descent with no fear of working. However, she wasn’t in the mood to discuss how southern folks in the country always left the doors unlocked, as she went on in to check on Andy to see if he was ready for dinner.
Andy’s office was a cross between a high tech server room, operations area, office area, and something of an electrical power drain on the grid. If he wasn’t wearing his headset while talking to one of his many customers, or signed into a high tech webinar, he was building something for testing or trialing in his operational headquarters known as the Rock-n-Roll Domain. It wasn’t uncommon for Su Lin to check on him, only to find him totally absorbed in some new technical project with some rock-n-roll music playing at varying decibels in the background.
As she wandered closer to Andy, she noted that his white hair was a bit long, but nice with waves, offsetting his broad shoulders which suited his big hands. When he hugged her close it was like being wrapped in a cocoon of gentle protection. He was by all standards a big man, just shy of two meters and nearly 90 kilos. She smiled with fondness until she drew closer and noted with dismay all the high-caloric junk food packages strewn around, mostly empty.
She immediately fussed, “Andrew! We’ve talked about this! Your heart attack was a wakeup call for your poor eating habits! The doctor said if we cut back on all the processed foods infused with sodium and sugar, you could lead a normal life. Honey, you promised!”
Andy sheepishly offered, “Aw, sweetheart, I have turned over a new leaf. You notice that I no longer have that big salt block used for cattle on the table at suppertime. Now, doesn’t that count for something? Besides, all the healthy cooking you have been doing should make up for some of the small splurges I have now and again.”
Su Lin retorted, “That’s because I feed all the fat trimmings to Wrinkles, who by all accounts likes your new diet. And say, what’s wrong with him today? Usually he is all over me when I come back in the afternoon from the pens. Have you been feeding him your favorite concoction of cheese puffs dipped in melted fudge ice cream again?”
Andy rather soberly remarked, “Nope! Not since that last time when we had to clean up after his bazooka barfing from both ends episode. Not me, madam.”
Before she could admonish him further, she heard something in the front room area and cast a quizzical look to Andy before she went to investigate. When she walked into the front room, she saw a Chinese man, with the bearing of a military type, complete with his short cropped black hair and sinewy arms, sitting way too comfortably in one of the over-sized leather chairs, casually waiting.
Su Lin didn’t recognize the man, only the type, and she immediately disliked him. Trying to keep the alarm out of her voice, she called to Andy without taking her eyes off of the stranger. He was neither menacing nor friendly in his presentation to her, but he said nothing.
Andy barged into the room and stopped short upon seeing the stranger. He sized up the situation quickly and demanded, “Who the hell are you, and what the hell are you doing here?”
Andy, being ex-military police, always carried his 1911 Colt 45 in a holster at the small of his back and quickly reached for it. At almost the same time, he felt two cold weapons on either side of his neck. Then some very cautious, practiced hands carefully confiscated his weapon. Andy froze but still rotated his eyes from one side to the other to take in the two Chinese enforcer types holding guns at his neck.
Once the disarming process was completed, the seated man offered, “Ah, Colonel Ling Po, how nice to see you again. It’s been a long time. Apologies for the surveillance you apparently noticed and the intrusion, but you have been extremely difficult to find.
“Please, don’t worry about the enormous dog out front; he is merely sedated. I didn’t want to risk an unpleasant encounter with him while we…, um… talked.”
Andy, totally confused as well as mad, bellowed, “No one barges into my farm house and pulls a gun on us. Worse, I promise, when the uninvited stranger makes a bunch of fool-ass comments about Su Lin! You boneheads have come to the wrong place, so git out!”
Completely oblivious to Andy’s rant, the intruder continued, “I don’t expect you to remember me, but certainly I remember you, Colonel Po. When you were put in charge of the Cyber Warfare College in China, all of your adversaries thought you had been neutralized. It seemed that they were wrong. You managed to build an excellent power base, then crush your opposition quite completely. I believe the Khan incident that you engineered was probably the best example of assassinating someone using cyber means.”
Su Lin swallowed hard and sternly replied, “Now I remember you. Major Guano, the henchman for Chairman Lo Chang. I hardly recognized you without your smock and hypodermic needle.”
The intruder almost smirked as he confirmed, “How nice of you to remember. However, I must point out that I am now a full Colonel, and Lo Chang is no longer Chairman in this world.”
As usual, Su Lin’s intelligence launched her response, dripping in sarcasm. “I understand. One criminal out and another one in his place. Some things never change, do they?”
Colonel Guano tightened up somewhat and continued, “It seems you had some highly motivated help in leaving our, uh…facilities in China. It has taken some time to find you again.”
Andy was growing more nervous as time passed and was not happy with the ongoing conversation and the familiarity that Colonel Guano was showing toward Su Lin. But Su Lin motioned to him to stand down during the ongoing banter. Cutting her eyes between the two henchman and back to Andy helped remind him not to attempt anything foolish.
Guano, still seated yet certain he dominated the conversation, continued, “Your vanishing act was most impressive and, I must say, a little vexing for us. As usual though, you couldn’t stay hidden for long. Your brilliant research that coupled nanotechnology and genetic engineering helped cast a bright light on your trail. Of course, the shabby incident with that crazed Doctor Pekoni helped us to zero in on your current location.
“Oh, and congratulations on your marriage to Mr. Greenwood. We know you tried to keep the ceremony small and quiet, but the blood tests did help to confirm that you are indeed Lt. Colonel Ling Po, aka Master Po of the Chinese Cyber Warfare College. Thus, my hunt is now complete.”
Su Lin, afraid of what Andy would think, cast a quick glance at him before she responded, “Let’s pretend, for arguments sake, that you are not an insane delusional errand monkey and that I am this Master Po. What possessed you to travel halfway around the world, looking for someone that obviously doesn’t want to be found?”
Guano now steeled himself and answered, “You built an early prototype of, um…a financial program that was demonstrated to several influential party members and left quite an impression. It had, as I recall, a remarkable security routine called the Grasshopper Loop, which made it unbreakable to even the most persistent hackers. My government has sent me to retrieve that code and its author, in the most discreet but expeditious manner.”
Andy was nearly undone with this declaration. Su Lin smirked in a mocking manner and informed, “Well, I don’t have that, um…program, and it is also not true that it was unbreakable. The code was broken by, shall we say, a highly motivated hacker. Your quest to locate the author of the code is simply a fool’s errand. The code Master Po allegedly wrote that was purported to be unbreakable is as vulnerable as any freeware, downloadable from your favorite cell phone website.
“Take you and your gangster henchmen out of our house and leave us alone.”
Guano, now irked, rose out of the chair and bluntly stated, “I was sent to retrieve it and you. That is what I will do, with or without your cooperation.”
Before any further instructions could be issued by Guano, Andy used his huge hands to grab both henchmen’s gun hands with guns intact, pushed the assailants’ weapons to point at the other, and using his thumbs, pulled the triggers simultaneously which caused them to shoot each other. Unfortunately, the hot muzzle blast of both weapons seared Andy’s eyes, instantaneously blinding him.
Su Lin’s military training kicked in, and she dove for one of the weapons just as Guano drew his. Andy, though blinded, instinctively knew to go to ground around the now dead Chinese henchman and look for his missing Colt 45. He wasn’t sure what he could do once he was armed, sightless as he now was, but he wasn’t going to give up as long as Su Lin was being threatened by Guano.
Just as Andy located his Colt 45, two shots rang out, and the room then fell silent.
Note to the reader: Hope you liked the beginning. The story is being worked and will be available soon and be added to the website.