Genre: Political Thriller
Author: Jess Money
Publisher: Finchville Publishing
Purchase at AMAZON
The only thing the elite fear, an uprising of the people, is about to be realized.
After bankruptcy took away his dying wife’s medical care, Thomas Paine is on a crusade for a Second Bill of Rights using violence against politicians, banksters, and CEO’s.
How far will FBI Agent Darren Medlin go to stop the public from joining Paine’s insurgency? Forced to publicize Paine’s demands, what decisions will talk show host Crystal Dickerson have to make? And which way will the country turn?
Speed, however, was another issue. The senator loved to drive fast, especially on curvy roads where he could fantasize about being a famous race driver. Stowe’s family, on the other hand, would rather have taken flight in a battle-damaged WWII bomber than ride across the street with Arlen at the wheel. This worked out well for everyone when it came time to make the annual pilgrimage from Stowe’s home in Virginia to the family farm near Ashville, North Carolina for his mother’s birthday. His wife and kids flew on ahead, and the senator followed later by car.
The only practical route was the Blue Ridge Mountain Highway, a road not conducive to those in a hurry. The maximum posted speed limit along its entire twisting, curving 470-mile length was 45 mph. However, car and weather permitting, in some places a driver like Stowe who was so inclined could go a lot faster. As was his custom, Stowe spent the early evening with his mistress and started his drive around nine. This gave him a chance to race through the really curvy stretches of the highway by slicing over into oncoming lanes in the safety of darkness, where the glow of on-coming headlights gave him plenty of time to ease off the throttle and get back into his own lane.
The crown jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountain Highway was the Linn Cove Viaduct, a span that seemed to hang in space on concrete pillars as it curved in and out around Grandfather Mountain. Driving over it had been described as “feeling like a soaring flight around the edge of the world,” the operative word being feeling. Like many people with a fear of heights, Stowe wasn’t bothered as long as he didn’t have to look down, and as he expertly lined up his approach into the viaduct’s first curve, he certainly didn’t intend to do any real soaring. His instructor at the high performance driving school in Phoenix would have been proud as Stowe’s muscular imported luxury sedan cut the apex of the first curve perfectly and came out flat, glued to the road, holding a perfect line. Attacking the apex of the second curve, the car dipped across the centerline into the on-coming lane, which should have been empty.
But it wasn’t.
The Senator hadn’t counted on a vehicle coming the opposite direction without lights, especially not a beefy six-wheel Chevy Cheyenne pick-up with a massive steel off-road front bumper. After two-dozen practice runs with the truck’s lights on, The Man at the wheel had the truck in exactly the right spot at exactly the right time. Small sensors behind the front bumper picked up the first glimmer from Stowe’s headlights and triggered an electrical relay that activated the truck’s four regular headlights, four quartz-iodide off-road running lamps on the bumper, and four large Halogen lamps on the roll bar behind the cab.
Instantly blinded by over a thousand candlepower, Stowe instinctively yanked the wheel to the right. The car slammed into the guardrail head-on. Its crush package worked perfectly, absorbing energy exactly as it was designed to do. But the combination of speed, weight, and angle of impact was irresistible and the guardrails failed.
The viaduct was built with a double height guardrail for a reason. Its graceful curves and the picturesque beauty of the setting belied the fact that its support pillars rose sixty-five feet, and below them the mountain fell off at a very steep angle. If a car went off the viaduct, its occupants could forget about being saved by seat belts and air bags. Even if the car landed upright, the impact would be such that the best their family could hope for was maybe an open casket at the funeral.
Stowe’s family would not be so lucky. His gleaming silver status symbol vaulted off into space nose down and then gracefully, almost in slow motion, momentum carried the car the rest of the way over. It landed upside down one-hundred-and-fifty feet below, dead center on a granite outcropping. The impact blew open all four doors and collapsed the roof down until the backs of the leather bucket seats broke. Stowe’s family could have put coffin rails on the car and buried him in it.
Back up on the highway, the truck’s extra lights went off and it kept going at the same steady speed.
A few minutes later a local veterinarian, responding to an emergency involving a mare in labor, spotted the missing guardrail and notified authorities. Law enforcement officials on the scene quickly agreed that it was virtually impossible to accidentally drive off the Linn Cove Viaduct. Over the years a number of drivers had scraped or bounced off the guardrail, and a few trucks had even smacked it pretty hard after hitting black ice in the winter. But nobody had ever gone Evel Knievel off the viaduct. Nobody. Not ever.
When bad things mysteriously happened to powerful and important people, phones in Washington started ringing. The Director of Homeland Security, Elliot Hoover, and Director Louis Bartholomew of the FBI agreed that if the Rasputin of the Senate had just died in an accident that local authorities deemed suspicious, the federal government needed to have somebody look into it. Right away. Pronto.
That somebody was Senior Special Agent Darren Medlin and his Special Assignments Section Bravo. At thirty-six the youngest head of an SAS unit, Medlin — known around the Bureau as Doc because his mentor, legendary Agent John O’Neil, had dubbed him “the cure for tough cases” — had a core staff of only three agents. The stated rationale was that by virtue of being based at the FBI’s D.C. headquarters Doc had access to temporary manpower and resources that SAS teams in other regions didn’t. But it was an open secret around the Bureau that Bravo was deliberately understaffed so that the Director could more easily keep O’Neil’s star protégé on a short leash.
Doc never let the situation bother him. As far as he was concerned, if other SAS teams had more permanent staff, it just proved they needed more help. He could get along just fine with the handpicked trio he dubbed the Blessed Trinity because he was “blessed to have them.” Special Agent Kenny Johnson, a burly ex-marine nearing mandatory retirement age, functioned as Doc’s alter ego. Agents Kelli Randleman, an attractive lipstick lesbian with a droll sense of humor, and Scott Rennick were young, energetic, versatile, and proven. Both were likely to head SAS units of their own someday.
Just before sunrise a pair of FBI choppers landed at a park Visitors Center not far from the crash site. Doc and his Blessed Trinity rode to the scene in a Park Service Chevy Tahoe. A handpicked FBI forensics team that Doc dubbed his “whiz techs” followed in a Suburban.
The highway was a state road, but the Blue Ridge National Park was federal land. To their credit, both the park rangers and the North Carolina state troopers on the scene were more interested in following good police procedures than in fighting a jurisdictional turf war. While the troopers diverted traffic, park service personnel cordoned off the hillside from the wreck site down to the service road at the bottom of the mountain. Considering the formidable terrain challenges, Doc’s whiz techs could not have hoped to work a more pristine and well-preserved scene.
When Bravo got to the site, the head Park Ranger didn’t have to ask who was in charge. Doc radiated command presence. Of course, standing six-six and a tapered two hundred-thirty pounds certainly didn’t hurt.
The first thing Doc wanted to know was, “What was the senator doing on this road at this hour?”
“According to the manager of Stowe’s field office in Lynchburg, he was on his way to Ashville to celebrate his mother’s ninety-third birthday on the family farm.”
“Driving? Why didn’t he fly?”
“Evidently the senator really hated flying in small planes.”
Doc looked out over the crash scene below. Wonder how he liked flying in his car? “So he was going down there to celebrate alone? What about the rest of the family?”
“Oh, they flew in earlier today,” deadpanned the Head Ranger.
While state officials brought in a crane, a shipping container was rushed to the nearest local airport on an Air National Guard C-130 cargo plane, then trucked to the site. Doc’s whiz techs went over the car carefully before it was sent back to Quantico on the same C-130. Except for being sealed with heavy sheet plastic and tape, the car traveled the same way it had been found: upside down, with Stowe’s remains still inside.
With the car out of the way, Park Rangers strung climbing ropes and safety harnesses. Each whiz tech paired up with a ranger and the teams scoured the hillside to retrieve the guardrails and anything that might have fallen off the car in flight.