Author: Carl A. Sparks
Genre: Adult, Suspense Thriller
Published: April 5, 2013
|A GRIPPING STORY OF DESPERATION AND INTRIGUE
Carley Downs has been mistakenly abducted by the Guatemalan drug cartel. Not realizing they have the first daughter to the United States in their possession, the cartel contemplates the fate of Carley and her friends.
Matthew McWain, former U.S. Marine Corps Force Recon, a highly decorated pilot and expert on “snatch and grab” operations, has been requested to conduct a rescue operation to fly Carley out of Guatemala. Matthew quickly discovers time is running out before the cartel delivers Carley into the hands of a notoriously brutal Iranian terrorist who will certainly recognize her. Matthew knows he has to locate the president’s daughter before the exchange is made. If not, he will be in for the fight of his life preventing the Iranian madman from taking Carley out of the country!
“This author has got something going! I love high adventure books, and this one was great. Thumbs up Mr. Sparks. Keep them coming!!” ~ Amazon Customer – 5 stars“A smart film agent would be busy putting this author and his book under contact! Truly believe the author has just introduced his readers to the next all-American heroes. Certainly I am looking forward to the sequel and I WILL buy a hardback copy.” ~ Amazon Customer – 5 stars
“Never a dull moment, no story-stalling ‘relationship’ sidebars, just the constant nail-biting action of our unlikely team of heroes. “ ~ Amazon Customer – 5 stars
Rescue Flight Prologue © Carl A. Sparks 2013
30 Miles North of Cobán
Carley Downs seldom had doubts about her decisions. But now as she sat along the dusty roadside, wiping sweat and grime from the back of her neck and running the soaked bandana through her tangled hair, the thought ever so briefly crossed her mind. She had taken refuge in the shade but the scorching mid-morning sun peeking through the trees merely added to the oppressive humidity. If there was anything good to be said about their current predicament it would be the absence of that damp fetid smell and fewer insects since they’d begun climbing up the winding road from the jungle floor.
“Why did I ever let you talk me into coming down to this gosh awful place?” Carley asked her female companion sitting beside her. The two shared a large flat rock a good 40 feet down the road from their broken down vehicle. There was a large outcropping of boulders along this stretch of road that seemed to keep the indigenous oak and cedar trees from growing no larger than the live oaks back home in northern Arizona. Carley grew up on a ranch where she spent far more time climbing trees and doing tom-boy stuff than being a little girl, grease up to her elbows from keeping her grandpa’s antique tractor running, helping her mom mucking out the stables or brushing one of the horses. Always being a little gutsy probably led her to this day.
“Yeah, right,” Jordan Scott answered with a glimmer of a smile in her eyes, “as if anyone ever talked Carley Downs into anything.”
“Well, you could have tried a little harder,” Carley laughed, reaching down for a stick to draw squiggles in the powdery dirt. Just as quickly growing impatient, she threw the stick over the far side of the road where it dropped a couple hundred feet down the steep bank. She let out a big sigh. It was far too quiet, too desolate on this hot dusty road. She was angry at herself for letting the missionary guys talk her into taking the back roads loaded with ruts like her grandma’s old washboard instead of the paved highway. Carley had an equal say as to which routes they would take, but they’d convinced her this shortcut would save many miles and cut the driving time by an hour. Obviously that wasn’t working.
“How long does it take to change a stinking tire, anyway?” Carley asked, resting her elbows on her knees and staring up the road where their three male companions fussed over the vehicle in the hot sun.
“Too darn long, considering it’s the third flat and only two spares.” Jordan tried to put a good spin on it, but failed miserably.
It was a beat up 1974 Land Cruiser, two-tone gray with rusty dents in both front fenders and a hole in the muffler that made it sound like a Sherman tank while smoking up the interior so that even with all the windows down it was pretty obnoxious. The vehicle had seen better days and was now a major source of irritation for the entire team. The 4X4 had somehow taken them north to the Petén region near San Benito, and nearly every Mayan village and wide spot in the road in between over the past several weeks. They were now on the way back to their base of operations in Cobán to resupply and for a little down-time before heading out again. So far on this trip they had two blown radiator hoses, a water pump and now the third flat tire. If Carley didn’t know better, she’d assume her dad was somehow behind all the bad luck.
That thought amused her, and she smiled as she remembered the agitated furl of his brow when he’d finally learned she had taken this assignment. Very much like the look he’d given her when she had first informed him she was joining the Peace Corps. She’d always been his little “free spirit” so he knew better than to try talking her out of it then, but telling him about this assignment would have been an entirely different story and she knew better than to give him an advanced warning. Her daddy succeeded at everything he did, from ranching to business to politics, and, by golly, she was of the same stubborn stock as he. Her decision to become a medical doctor had been a great source of pride for her dad, but he had been mildly disappointed by her insistence to transfer from his old alma mater at Arizona State University to complete her medical schooling at UCLA. But her insistence on doing some of her resident work in the Peace Corps was the last thing her father expected. No one saw that coming. Why couldn’t she be a little more stable and predictable like her older brother? Was his first response.
The assignment was a one-year contract promising nearly a full range of medical cases she could handle – and plenty of them. It sounded a lot more adventurous than cooped up in some hospital. Besides, nowhere in the States could Carley get this kind of experience as quickly. If it worked out as she figured, she just might stay with the Peace Corps. Wouldn’t that pretty well send the famous Harlan Downs into apoplexy?
Jordan Scott was the second half of the medical team and had proven to be a capable assistant to Carley. Even though she’d not had formal nurse training, the limited emergency medical training she’d received seemed sufficient enough for her to pass as a doctor’s assistant, especially to the eyes of an untrained observer. The two women hadn’t started out as close friends, but after being close companions for the two years that Jordan had been part of the protection detail for Carley their fondness for one another had grown out of mutual respect.
The two were alike in some ways, yet a complete contrast. Anyone who knew the family said the 28 year old Carley Downs was a dead ringer for her paternal grandmother, a petite full-blooded Navajo; a very stunning woman whose Indian name was Doli, which meant “Bluebird” in Navajo. Carley had the same smooth bronze skin, delicate features, prominent cheekbones and a slight aquiline nose. Her distinguishing feature however, was striking pale blue eyes like the color of ice water, yet filled with warmth and compassion; eyes produced by genes so strong it reached back through generations of Grandma Downs’ ancestors. Her shoulder length raven black hair was shorter than Grandma Downs and Carley preferred to wear it in a ponytail, just as Grandma Doli did when she didn’t have it braided into pigtails.
Jordan Scott, a few inches taller at 5 feet 8 inches and a few years older, wore her auburn hair short, her hazel eyes had dozens of tiny gold specks that seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. Both women were slender and athletic, serious outdoor people.
The three men rounding out the five-person Peace Corps team were Christian missionaries, non-denominational except for Carley’s favorite, a huge man named Paul Moore. Moore was a strong Southern Baptist from Sedalia, Missouri. His personality set him apart from the others, serious when the situation dictated, humorous in the face of adversity, and always with a positive outlook. Even now with everyone drenched in sweat, complaining of the ever-present heat and humidity, only Paul Moore could make jokes about how the stench of their combined body odor had managed to kill every living creature in a five-mile radius. It was hard for Carley to picture Moore as a missionary, yet she had seen him in action, showing such great compassion as he taught the word of God among the poor villagers, or holding a screaming mother in his massive arms, comforting her while Carley fought so hard to keep the woman’s child from dying. The man was an incredible tower of strength, both physically and emotionally.
Carley observed him now, his shirt off, sweat streaking down his powerful shoulders and chest, muscles bulging as he lifted one end of the Land Cruiser completely off the ground while the other two guys wedged the jack under the rear axle. She could easily visualize him on the gridiron where he had reportedly made a pretty decent living in the NFL as a defensive end till a blown knee took him out of the game. The athletes she knew would have complained bitterly and probably blame everyone for their ended career, but Moore had told her in a gentle voice, his soft brown eyes watering, that it was merely God’s way of telling him he’d been denying his Savior’s calling far too long.
The group had accomplished some amazing things over the past weeks and Carley was more than satisfied. In her opinion each member of the team complimented the other in their respective tasks; with the added bonus of it being a pretty fun group to be with.
Carley turned to face Jordan and was suddenly startled, causing her to grab Jordan’s arm. Above them, crouched on top of the rocks not ten feet away sat one of the locals. Her breath caught in her chest, eyes riveted upon the man. The imagine Carley had was someone right out of Francisco “Poncho” Villa days, with the bandolier across his barrel chest and unruly tufts of black and gray hair poking out from under his wide hat. He was wearing green camo fatigues and had a large belly hanging over his belt; his beard was stained with tobacco juice.
Carley’s sudden fright caused Jordan to jerk around, and the very first thing Jordan noticed was the AK-47 assault rifle in the man’s hands, the muzzle pointing up in the air with the stock resting on one leg, his finger was on the trigger. They’d been warned about banditos who sometimes frequented the back roads for easy prey, but there was something far too confident and sinister in his stare to identify him as a bandit.
“Hey, señoritas, I theenk maybe the sun be too hot for your pretty soft skin, eh?” His English was broken and heavily accented and the yellow, tobacco-stained teeth, several missing in the front, added to his menacing appearance. The men working on the Land Cruiser quickly turned with a look of shock and concern on their faces.
“Who are you and what do you want?” Jordan demanded, feeling Carley’s grip tighten on her arm, her nails digging in.
“Its okay Carley just stay calm,” Jordan said in a low voice. I’ve got to take control of this situation.
At first it appeared the man was alone, but suddenly another appeared at his side. This one was dressed nearly the same but was much younger and even more menacing with a maniacal glare to his dark eyes. Jordan glanced back at their vehicle where she’d left her shoulder bag. She could see the green quilted bag on the rear seat through the open door and was thinking of a way to get to it, just as a third man appeared from around the front of the Land Cruiser. Both of the newcomers had AK-47’s like the first, aimed directly at the missionaries.
The appearance of his two cohorts caused Toothless to throw his head back and roar with laughter. He spit a load of tobacco juice right at Jordan, part of the wad spilling onto his scraggly beard, and said, “That’s right, pretty señorita, I theenk it is good idea if everyone do exactly as I say and no one will geet hurt.” His voice laced with contempt, his smile turned into a sneer.
“So what is it you want from us?” Jordan asked again. “We have no money with us. We are headed back to Cobán because our supplies are nearly gone…”
“Jordan, I’ll take care of this,” Paul Moore said. He took a step forward before being gruffly motioned back by the man standing next to Toothless.
“I talk to ze pretty señorita, señor, so pleeze do not interrupt again,” Toothless said. He then turned back to Jordan, “We are not interested in your money, pretty señorita.”
“Okay, then, what is it you want from us?”
“You, pretty señorita! I theenk maybe I take all of you with me,” Toothless’s grin went ear to ear before breaking out in roaring laughter.
“That’s not gonna happen, mister…” Paul Moore took two steps forward, his fists clinched, and the man next to toothless opened fire. A three-shot burst from the automatic rifle sent the missionary flying backward onto the ground; he lay motionless, the dry earth turned red with blood.
Carley jumped from the sudden gunshots and screamed, clutching Jordan’s arm to her as she began to whimper. The other two missionaries stood still, shocked, their eyes darting back and forth to their friend lying in a growing pool of his own blood, then to Toothless and the insane man who had shot their brother in Christ.
“WHY DID YOU DO THAT?” Jordan screamed. “This is a man of God! He meant you no harm!” Jordan would give anything if she could get closer to the bandit leader, better still if she could get to her bag. She touched the sat phone on her waist.
Old Toothless saw Jordan’s movement and immediately reached out and snatched the phone from her belt. He said with a mean scowl on his face, “Now if everyone do as I say maybe that won’t happen again.” He softened into his big grin and added, “Now, everyone, we be on our way!”
Carley recovered from her initial shock, jumped up and bounded toward the bleeding missionary.
“Stop!” Toothless growled
“GO TO HELL! You barbaric worthless pile of dog crap! This man needs help,” Carley yelled over her shoulder, taking two more steps before another three-round burst blasted into the sky. Carley froze in her tracks.
“I tell you to stop, pretty señorita. The next shot will not go in air. Now back up or else.” Toothless leveled his assault rifle at Carley’s midsection.
Carley remained frozen, defiant, glaring at the bandit.
“Carley, come here,” said Jordan. Her voice was soft but filled with authority, convincing Carley to move back to Jordan’s side. Tears streamed down her cheeks.
Jordan glanced again at her bag in the SUV, but she saw the man behind the missionaries collecting their personal things. What will happen when they discover a nurse carrying a .40 caliber Glock 23 pistol? She trembled with the thought.
Within the hour the United Sates Secret Service was buzzing over an undetermined threat to Caduceus.
Author: Carl A. Sparks
Genre: Adult, Suspense Thriller
Published: January 16, 2016
A CHILLING STORY OF TERROR AND DESPERATIONAmerica is under attack! The horrifying fear of Islamic terrorists invading the United States has come to reality.Former U.S. Marine Recon aviator Matthew McWain Matt must locate Ahmad Hassam’s secret headquarters before the master terrorist turns his trained warriors and suicide bombers loose on American civilians in a diabolical plan of brutal attacks.
It’s a race against time when Matt discovers the attacks are only a diversion. The real threat behind Operation Firestorm is a catastrophic plot that will devastate the nation.
“The characters are strong – well developed. It is easy to feel comfortable and at ease with old friends. Operation Firestorm will grip you and keep you reading.” ~ Amazon Customer – 5 stars“So glad I found this book’s author. Operation Firestorm is a Class A book.” ~ Amazon Customer – 5 stars
“Absolutely a non stop riveting action book. Was absolutely fantastic in the twist and turns in the action making you wonder what was going to happen next. I cannot wait till the next one comes out.” ~ Amazon Customer – 5 stars
Operation Firestorm Prologue © Carl A. Sparks 2016
Juan Alvarez nervously checked his watch for the third time in the past few minutes. He tried not to be too obvious so JD, the rookie officer he had requested today, would not take notice.
Two minutes, fifteen seconds …
Alvarez was a wreck. He was only thirty-eight, but the lines etched in his face made him look ten years older. His once glossy black hair was dull and hints of gray lined his temples. He was at least thirty pounds overweight and developing a noticeable paunch around the midsection. His olive complexion had an almost gray pallor. Alvarez promised himself that if he lived through this ordeal, he would start eating right and working out again.
He was sweating beneath his winter uniform and he prayed to Allah that the perspiration would not show on his face. That would be a dead give-away of his nervousness. He looked up and caught his subordinate watching him. He smiled and then glanced again at his watch again.
One minute, forty-five seconds …
Alvarez glanced across the marble floor in time to see another tour come through the large glass doors from the Capitol Visitors Center east entrance. The group would funnel through the security lane staffed by Alvarez and JD and pass by the metal detector before placing briefcases and other carry-in items onto the X-Ray conveyor. Alvarez managed to turn the alarm function to the security system off without JD noticing.
This was going to work out great, he hoped! Alvarez pushed back his rising anxiety, offered a smile to the approaching tour group, and began delivering the required greeting that visitors to the U.S. Capitol expected from the Capitol Police.
The noise behind him was right on schedule and Alvarez smiled to himself. The raucous teenagers coming down the cordoned section next to the east wall created the perfect distraction, which caused JD to focus on those coming into the Capitol, not those exiting the building, all according to plan. As the large school group spilled out of the rotunda into the Visitors Center and on to the line of yellow buses waiting alongside the curb at the east entrance, JD failed to notice several of the departing visitors were a lot less bulky under their down-filled coats than when they entered the Capitol two hours before.
Not all in the noisy group were high school students. The field trip had been
infiltrated as they entered the Visitors Center by seven young men who could easily pass
as teenagers. With their dark hair color and skin and learned mannerisms, they also
passed for Hispanics, like Alvarez had been doing for a really long time.
It would be very unlikely that Juan Alvarez would have become a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police should anyone have discovered his real name, Rahimi Musa. Even more unlikely would he have been promoted to the rank of sergeant, in charge of south wing security for the Capitol, and setting the day-shift staffing schedule.
Alvarez had purposely scheduled the rookie, JD, to be on the entrance security checkpoint with him today. He also purposely scheduled Adolofo Mena, aka Saeed Jalil, to the security checkpoint on the second floor, south wing, at the House Chamber gallery.
No one had a clue that Alvarez and Mena were sleeper agents.
As Alvarez watched the young men leave, he noted how well they intermingled with the large group of students, ignoring his scrutiny as they were trained to do. Alvarez allowed himself another smile and let his nervous jitters melt away.
Today was dress rehearsal. Alvarez and Mena would collect the left-behind items when they went on break. But in two weeks it would be for real. They would have no need to retrieve the left-behind items. In two weeks only four of the young terrorists would be leaving with the school group, instead of all seven.
Mall of America
One of the largest indoor shopping malls in the United States is the Mall of America,
located in Bloomington, Minnesota. The shopping mega-giant is visited by nearly 40
million shoppers annually and contains over 4 million square feet of retail space on 4 floors; plus an incredible 7-acre amusement park on the bottom floor known as Nickelodeon Universe, a 300 foot curved tube known as the Sea Life Aquarium, and a themed food court. The second floor was principally noted for hundreds of shops of every variety, while the third and fourth floors boasted several more large food courts, a number of elegant restaurants for fine dining, and a few nightclubs for dancing and informal activities.
The place was virtually a city within a city.
It was also a target.
Mustafa Kalil set the timer on his stop watch as he entered through the main door at a brisk pace. Close on his heels were four more team members, all carrying backpacks, all laughing and cutting up. To the aging security guard standing near the railing inside the main lobby they were just another group of young hooligans playing grab-ass and acting stupid.
Without being too obvious, Kalil sized up the guard. He knew there were approximately thirty-five guards in and around the mall this time of day, employees of the private security company contracted by the mall. Each guard was armed with a Glock handgun, taser, mace, radio and handcuffs. Undoubtedly, a few would consider themselves to be super cops and carried a second gun strapped to an ankle. Earlier visits confirmed the guards were neither extra vigilant nor overly suspicious. They were obviously instructed to smile a lot and be helpful ambassadors to mall visitors. Dealing with shoplifting pretty much summed up their police powers. As far as Kalil knew, none
wore protective body armor. That might pay huge dividends on the next visit.
Kalil and his group headed straight for the escalators, laughing and pointing
excitedly as they descended to the lower level. Once there, they split up, each proceeding to his designated location within the amusement park complex and, of course, a predetermined place to deposit their backpacks for maximum affect.
Today the backpacks were filled only with books and each man would carry his pack out as he left the premises. When they return the backpacks would be extremely lethal, and would be left behind as the men departed individually by a different escalator.
Kalil knew his team was not alone. They had discussed and rehearsed the operation with two other groups, over and over again, pouring through volumes of building plans and blueprints. A total of fifteen terrorists were inside the Mall of America at that precise moment. The other groups entered using separate side entrances and had their own specific level within the gigantic structure in which to leave their deadly cargo. And just like Kalil and his team, they too were part of today’s dress rehearsal.
The operation went smoothly, efficiently, and exactly as Kalil and the other team leaders had been told it would. In precisely 17 minutes, he saw the last member of his team exit the main entrance and dash toward the parking lot. Kalil smiled as he pressed the button on his stopwatch and his cell phone vibrated. Each team was reporting in.
They would celebrate tonight. In two weeks they would return for the live
Local entertainers and business leaders branded it America as it should be! Branson, Missouri, the heartland of America. The live music capital of the United States; located, most assuredly, in the heart of the Bible Belt. A vacation Mecca where visitors were assured of wholesome family entertainment and where the name of God and Jesus Christ were spoken reverently and unashamedly. Where the Red, White and, Blue waved proudly as each of the nearly 100 live daily shows celebrated America’s veterans during every performance.
Branson, a town of 10,000 residents and upwards of 60,000 daily visitors, continued to be one of the top ten destinations in America year after year. Seven million visitors annually traveled to the modern marvel located in the rich Ozark Mountains in southwest Missouri to see the diverse and modern entertainment venues. It was a place to totally relax, to be inexorably detached from the pressures of life, and feel completely safe.
The Grand Palace was the largest of the live entertainment theaters with over 4,000 seats. The Palace, located on the main strip known as Country Music Boulevard, was a huge, white colonnaded structure, with a wide, covered veranda. The enormous lobby with twin spiral staircases and exquisite golden chandeliers elicited an initial impression of an old southern plantation, but inside the large auditorium was state-
of-the-art theater technology.
The theater had fallen on hard times some years back and the beautiful chandeliers had remained dark for many seasons. A few attempts had failed to rekindle the grand dame of Branson, but lady luck finally smiled favorably on the great icon. A complete restoration was nearing completion. In two short weeks the theater would come alive with lights and laughter. Harmonious strains of music would drift out to the refurbished lobby where the polished lighted chandeliers would once again welcome guests and visitors.
Work inside the theater was at fever pitch as the grand opening grew closer. Rehearsal for entertainers collided with stage hands hustling to learn set changes. Musicians attempting the first round of sound checks struggled to overcome the cacophony of power saws, pounding hammers, and clamoring construction workers.
High on the catwalks directly above the stage, Antonio Morales finalized the continuity tests on the wiring looms. The thirty-two year-old lighting technician worked alone in the tight space, coordinating his progress via handheld radio with the technical supervisor in the control booth located at the rear of the theater. Little did the supervisor know that Tony Morales’ real name was Hashim Sarhan. He also did not know Morales/Sarhan was stringing an additional set of wires and a series of limit switches to the wiring loom that controlled the cluster of moveable wash lights affixed to a single bar.
During dress rehearsal, scheduled in just two short weeks, Sarhan would once again be on the catwalk. This time he would be installing a separate apparatus to each of
the ten canned LED lights for simultaneous operation.
Sarhan leaned back to admire his handiwork and gazed down at the chaos on the
lighted stage as he fumbled for a pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket.
“I’m gonna take my break up here,” he spoke into the walkie-talkie. He had
learned to fake his accent perfectly.
“Okay, but no smoking up there,” the supervisor replied harshly.
“Yeah, right.” The owners were adamant about no smoking inside the theater, but
forty feet up on the catwalk who would be the wiser? He lit up and sucked in a lung full of smoke while picturing ten simultaneous explosions bouncing off the acoustic inner walls of the theater. He could almost hear the horrified screams and wailing. He envisioned the panic and hysteria as people trampled one another while fighting blindly for exits in the darkened, smoke filled theater. The image brought a sinister smile to his lips. He would show them America as it should be!
Sarhan took another drag from the cigarette and reflected on his four roommates. Today they would be acting like tourists while quietly scouting their specific individual target areas. It is best he had not allowed himself to become too close to them. Odds were, they would not survive beyond the first hour of the initial attack.
He stubbed out his cigarette on the metal grating and bent over the wiring loom with one last thought of his companions. No, they were not technically savvy like him. They were foot soldiers. Highly trained, to be sure, very good marksmen, but still just foot soldiers. They would be locked into a pivotal battle at ground zero with maybe a dozen law enforcement agencies breathing down their necks while he would be miles from Branson when the event started.
|Carl A. Sparks is grateful for the privilege of being a career firefighter for 42-years. He is also a commercial pilot and certified flight instructor. Carl lives in Branson, Missouri with his lovely wife, Sue. They have a son and daughter and five perfect grandchildren. Teaching his son and one granddaughter to fly are some of God’s many blessings. Besides flying, writing and reading, he enjoys spending time with his family and traveling.
Operation Firestorm is his second published works with fiction, though there have been five previous attempts over the years while puttering with the keyboard in what he describes as a highly undisciplined manner. He is now at work on his third book, The Kinsman.