Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sacrificial Lie

I thought I would post the first chapter of my manuscript.

Sacrificial Lie is about an FBI Agent Jim Gabriel who receives an anonymous tip—Karen Maxwell’s death was not an accident. Jim risks his marriage, career, and even his life to uncover the truth about her secret life. Only to discover her death is linked to a conspiracy involving the Syrian President, Director of the CIA, and the President of the United States.

Chapter 1

Exhausted, Jim Gabriel fell asleep, only to be wakened minutes later by the ringing of the phone. Jim groaned, rolled over and looked at the orange numbers on the digital clock. It was three in the morning. The call could not have come at a worse time. He couldn’t decide whether to answer the phone, or let the answering machine handle this one.

Earlier that evening he and his wife Anna had argued for the third time that week about his job and how it interfered with their family life—the long hours, nights and weekends away from home, and the late night phone calls. Last night’s argument ended after Jim promised they would leave in two days for a vacation long overdue.

With the phone still ringing he heard his wife mumble, “I told you things wouldn’t change.” Jim glanced in her direction and grabbed the phone.


“Is this Jim Gabriel?”

“It is. Who’s this?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Do you have any idea what time it is?”

“I’m sorry I’ve disturbed you. But, you need to know something.”

“And it couldn’t wait until later this morning?”

“No. It’s about Karen Maxwell.”

“Excuse me?” Jim’s brow furrowed.

“Her death wasn’t an accident.”

This brought Jim to an upright position. Karen died in a car accident. How could it not be an accident?

“What kind of sick joke is this?”

“I assure you it’s not a joke.”

Jim paused before he spoke. “What makes you think it wasn’t an accident?”

“I can’t talk much longer.”

“Then why’d you even call me?”

“I’m hoping you can help.”

Jim rubbed his eyes. “I can, but you need to tell me what you know.”

“Mr. Gabriel, I’m risking my life calling you. You have to find out what happened to her.”

Jim glanced over toward Anna. If he didn’t end this call now, he knew he would be in trouble with her. Yet, something inside told him not to hang up, yet. If there was any truth to the caller’s claim, he needed to know more. But, what’s with the secrecy? He needed some straight answers before he make any conclusions.

“I can’t help if you don’t tell me anything.”

“I need to get off the phone.”

“Don’t hang up.”

“I’ll try to call you later. Be careful. Those who killed her will make sure no one ever finds out.”

“They? Who are they?” Jim yelled.

The line went dead.

Jim sat there stunned. In his fifteen years with the FBI, this had to be the most bizarre call he had ever received. He continued to sit on the edge of the bed, staring into the darkness. As Anna spoke, her words dripped with anger, “Thanks for waking me up, again.”

Jim turned to say something, but held his tongue. This was not the time, or the place to defend himself. Unable to sleep, he stood and slipped out of the room and headed to the den, his place of refuge. As he passed the rooms of his two daughters he remembered how his family had seen happier days. They always done things together, until five years ago when his job demanded more of his time. He never complained, but Anna did, and the struggle between their marriage and his job had shifted precariously close to disaster.

He walked into the oversized room located in the back of their ranch-style home, turned on the light and shut the door. He settled in to his leather chair, switched on his laptop. While he waited for the laptop to finish what computers do before you can start using them, he leaned back, closed his eyes and mulled over the caller’s claim. The memory of Karen’s memorial service last week was still fresh in his mind. Her sudden death was a shock to her family and friends. Jim still felt the pain of her loss.

With a swipe of his hand, he wiped the tears from his eyes and cheeks, and focused back on the call. Even though the caller had not identified herself, he would trace the call later and find out where the call originated from and hopefully a name of the caller.

The room he sat in was transformed into an office, equipped with two large four-drawer file cabinets set against the wall, opposite his desk. To Jim’s left, he had a combination laser printer, copier and fax machine. The wall to his right was taken up entirely with a bookshelf, filled with his amassed collection of books about his favorite sport—baseball. At six-foot-three and agile, he made for a perfect combination to play first base on his college baseball team. In the middle of the bookshelf sat his twenty-seven inch plasma screen TV. Jim had an unobstructed view beyond his backyard of a forested area, populated with Douglas Firs, dotted with pine trees, all surrounded by a sea of Sword Ferns.

For the past few months, Jim spent more time here than in any other room in his house. It felt like Anna’s fuse shortened with the passing of each day. If she would cut him a little slack about his job, then they wouldn’t even be having the constant arguments.

Jim pushed his marriage problems to the back of his mind, picked up a notepad and jotted down the phone conversation. Despite the questions not answered by the caller, Jim’s gut feeling compelled him to consider the possibility there was some truth to the caller’s claim. If that were the case, he would do whatever it took to find out how Karen really died.

Jim’s laptop finished its start up. He logged on and accessed the files of the local Sheriff’s Departmental. He began with locating the accident report. He entered Karen’s name and waited. Seconds later a message he didn’t expect appeared on the screen, ‘No File Found’. He re-entered her name, making sure he spelled her name correctly before he tapped the ‘enter’ key. The same message returned to his screen. He sat back, thought for a moment, then sat back up and entered another site’s address. When the insignia for the State Police appeared, he clicked on the menu prompt. From there, he clicked on another prompt to bring him to where he could search their files for the accident report. Once again, he entered Karen’s name. It was only seconds later when his answer came back. ‘No File Found’. Jim frowned. He looked to the side at the calendar hung on his file cabinet and counted how many days have passed since the accident. Ten days. The report must still be in process.

Jim tried one more place. At the Department of Motor Vehicles site, he entered her name, tapped the enter key a little harder this time, and waited, holding his breath. It took over a minute for the response to come back. ‘No Information Found’. He stared at the screen. This can’t be right. He entered her name again; the same result came back.

A sinking feeling came over him. The caller’s words ‘those who killed her’ shot through his mind. Is the caller telling the truth? Jim hoped his instincts were wrong this time. He could live with that. But, if they weren’t, how could he tell Dave Maxwell his wife was murdered?

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