Ten years have passed since that hot July night, when Seth McCullough walked away from Krista Chancellor, his high school sweetheart; determined to keep his dark, tumultuous past from tainting her beautiful light. He thought he had buried his demons forever when he cut ties and joined the military, but when he begins to suffer debilitating headaches, displacement of time, and horrifying nightmares, he starts to fear for his sanity. Desperate for relief and seeking solace, he takes off for Mexico only to awake one morning confused, bloody, and linked to multiple high profile murders. Suspicion grows as he realizes he is submerged in an agenda too terrifying to comprehend. Determined to find answers, Seth reaches out to the only person he has ever trusted, his old flame Krista, and together they find His Salvation.
Michelle gives an overview of the book:
The mother of all headaches, it ripped through the center of his skull, pulsing along every nerve ending, leaving his normally cool and calculating mind feeling frayed and singed at the edges. The assignment was in its final stage and would be completed within the hour, if he could disengage from the physical pain creating the disjointed haze of thoughts long enough to focus on the task at hand.
He crouched in the recesses of the stone wall encircling the small courtyard, closed his eyes for a few moments to regroup, and allowed his years of relentless training to kick into full throttle while he awaited his target.
Cloaked in black from head to toe, he wore clothing specifically designed by his department. Light and easy to move in, highly functional with countless places to stash tools and weapons, the black material made it possible for him to carry out his mission with an eerie stealth, while making him nearly invisible.
He cringed as a debilitating surge of agony flooded his mind. He felt sure his head was actually expanding and contracting with the rhythm of his heartbeat. As he fought off a wave of nausea, his own sweat soaked into the black nylon mask over his face.
The headaches had been reoccurring over the past year and were growing progressively worse. But he never before felt his work would be threatened or compromised by them, until now. The realization of his own doubt inflicted a rare anxiety upon him making the hair on his neck stand on end. Emotion of any sort was scarcely felt or exhibited and it felt completely foreign, totally abhorrent, to him.
He forced himself to stand upright, feeling the blood flow back into his lower legs. Pressed back against the cool, stone wall behind him, he made sure to remain in the shadows, keeping his presence completely unknown. His eyes remained closed, but instead of pressing them shut he forced his facial muscles to relax. Then he began the familiar meditation that would allow him to pull away from the physical burden plaguing him.
Within moments of this inward shift, he was able to travel down the dark spiral hallway in the center of his mind, slowing his heart rate, tempering the squeal of pain to a numbing buzz, and replaying the sequence of events he would be undertaking in the next few minutes as he wrapped up the mission.
Meditation for him was always healing and was his fastest link to honing in on his training before he executed his next step. His controller had always focused on hypnosis and meditation more than anything else during his programming. Over the years it had become as necessary and almost as autonomic, as breathing.
Now that he felt in control once again, he brought the vision of his current location to mind. He had studied the layout of the entire grounds of the American diplomat’s vacation rental home until every nook and cranny was engraved in his memory. During the past few weeks of observing the targets behavior, he had become quite familiar with the diplomat’s pattern of sneaking out of his room and across the courtyard for his rendezvous with the wife of the Venezuelan Ambassador.
He didn’t know the exact details of his target, or why he had been targeted, except for the limited debriefing before he left his controller, and the information he gathered over the past week as he prepared to execute the final step of his mission.
Only weeks before, the entire country of Venezuela had been in a state of chaos when on April 11th 2002, members of the military high command entered the presidential palace and demanded Hugo Chavez’s resignation, then proceeded to illegally detain him, declaring the country’s constitution void.
The coup d’état failed, after only forty-seven hours, when Chavez supporters raided the palace and regained power, allowing Chavez to announce to the media he had not resigned.
Since then, there had been many rumors and allegations indicating the United States had not only been supportive of the drastic measures to overthrow Chavez, but had possibly played a hidden role in facilitating the event.
He didn’t care whether these allegations were true or false. He only knew that his higher-ups believed the American diplomat, his current target, leaked classified information regarding the incident to the press and to a close advisor of Chavez, triggering and fueling friction between the two governments.
Through further investigation, it was also revealed the diplomat had developed a precarious relationship with some of Venezuela’s top drug lords. This caused further conflicts of interest and great anxiety to his superiors. Before his personal ambitions compromised their current foreign policy standing any further, they
hired the agency to take out one of their own.
The agency sent out one of their highest regarded and rigorously precise agents, to carry out the hit. They knew the diplomat was scheduled to entertain a small group of guests, including the Ambassador for Venezuela, in a large rented estate along the banks of the Orinoco River.
The estate had the feel of an old eighteenth century Louisiana plantation surrounded with its lush vegetation. Located miles from another house, it allowed privacy for the inhabitants, typically government officials seeking out space to carry out their designated business without interference from the outside world.
The agent arrived a week earlier to gather further intelligence on his target in order to confirm their suspicions, once and for all. He had observed most of the diplomat’s activities from within the walls of the estate, having been placed as one of the maintenance workers at the home by the diplomat’s own boss.
Not only had he been able to confirm their claims, but he also discovered another little side discrepancy of the diplomat—an ongoing affair with the Ambassador’s young and voluptuous wife.
The agent couldn’t really blame her. Her husband was at least twice her age and completely ignored her existence ninety percent of the time. She kept a mousy, meek appearance to avoid drawing attention to herself. But whenever she was alone with the much younger and apparently virile American diplomat, her personality would alter drastically. She bloomed under the attentions and affections he would lavish upon her.
They were insatiable for each other’s touch. Every night that week, they met in the farthest, darkest corner of the courtyard long after the staff, guests, and her husband had gone to bed.
It was easy for her to sneak out as she and her husband slept in separate suites. His sleep apnea forced him to wear a c-pap mask throughout the night, which disturbed her rest. He had grown tired of her complaining of the incessant loud humming noise and agreed to her suggestion of sleeping separately. He had only come to her bed twice over the past year and she resentfully fulfilled her wifely duty on both occasions, eager for him to retire once again to his own room.
His ailing heart kept him from bothering her more often. Medication caused him to be tired and fatigued and he was usually asleep by ten. Then he would systematically rise at exactly six a.m. every morning. She came to rely on this routine, but still her heart rose to her throat every time she defied him and snuck out to meet her lover, knowing that, though his health was indeed failing him, his anger when sparked was unforgiving and violent.
The agent breathed slow deliberate breaths, imagining the headache dissipating with each exhalation, while simultaneously listening and awaiting the approach of the two lovers.
He knew it was their pattern to meet in the far corner by the variegated rose bushes before walking down to the river behind the house. Although, he could have just followed them, he knew the mistress would flee, hoping to keep from implicating her affair. It would appear suspicious if his body was found on the muddy banks the next day. So he planned to inconspicuously inject the deadly toxin, just as they walked past him, before they exited the court yard. This way, when she panicked and fled as he knew she would, the body would be found early in the morning. Everyone would assume that he experienced a sudden heart attack while walking the grounds the previous night.
The best hits were the ones that didn’t appear to be hits at all, but rather life’s unexpected and unfailing ability to end at any random point, shocking those surrounding the victim.
Of course on this night, the lovers appeared to be more brazen than in the past and embraced immediately. He could hear their soft murmuring of endearments and his body tensed as he waited to see if they would further shift their pattern. It didn’t really matter to him if they did. A professional, he would get the job done, flawlessly and without incident, regardless. The situation amped up his focus as his mind prepared to change tactics in seconds if necessary.
The united couple stepped farther into the shadows, to ensure no one within the house would see them. Past midnight, he felt sure everyone was fast asleep anyway.
When he boldly pulled her down to the soft grass, it became apparent to the agent the couple would not be walking past him any time soon., He slowly pulled his night vision wear over his eyes and prepared to carry out the last step from a greater distance than initially planned.
He mentally gauged the distance needed to shoot the microscopic pod filled with the deadly neurotoxin. Quickly, he surmised he would have to move much closer to the target. He needed to do so without stepping into the open in case others were observing the couple. He doubted this, but after years of experience he knew better than to rely upon supposition.
A brief moment's reevaluation of the physical grounds revealed he could remain in the shadows as he crept along the north side of the stone wall, but would be exposed briefly near the small gardeners' shed twenty feet from the diplomat and the Ambassador’s wife.
Silently and surely, diligently scanning the house and perimeter for any telling movement or sound, he made his way. The couple being much too engrossed in each other to notice his steadfast approach.
Before stepping into the open, he noticed the open shed door and decided to post inside rather than from behind. It would provide a more covert hiding place. With one last look around, noting the surreal stillness of the night against the frantic lusting of the secret lovers, he made the last slick, movement to the shed. He stepped inside without a sound.
Once inside, he slipped off his night vision goggles and scouted the interior, deciding to make his mark from a small, decorative opening at each side of the shed. The shed was small and cramped, but well organized. The moon-shaped openings were about a foot from the roof, putting them perfectly at eye level with his six foot frame.
He already had the small, gun-like weapon for shooting the microscopic pod directly into the skin of his target prepared and ready to go. Now, he must wait until he felt comfortable enough to shoot without risking it hitting the woman instead.
The pain in his head had subsided as he focused on relocating across the courtyard and into the shed. But now the pain shot through from the base of his skull to the back of his left eye, searing hot-white streaks of vengeance. They buckled his knees for a split second. He bit down on his cheek to keep silent and the metallic taste of blood spilled into his mouth.
He silently uttered the words of his controllers’ hypnotic mantra that he counted on to relax him. It should allow him to regain control. The pain dulled and ebbed to a tolerable ache, as he once again concentrated on the activities on the lawn outside the shed.
He slid the night vision goggles over his eyes to allow maximum visualization of his target. The couple lay on their sides, facing one another, the woman’s back to the agent blocking a direct shot of the diplomat.
Every muscle in his body froze as he waited patiently, knowing eventually they would shift positions—opening up for the perfect hit. He watched as the diplomat ran his hand up the soft bare legs, following her curves beneath her thin, billowy dress and whispered into her ear.
She threw back her head as his fingers explored and gave her the delicious feelings she had grown to anticipate.
The scene before the agent’s eyes triggered him to blink rapidly. He had to fight the urge to shake his head, as if to shake a thought loose. He had an odd, instinctive feeling that his mind sought to grasp onto an allusive memory, one he couldn’t recall no matter how hard he tried. He mentally shook off the nagging, distracting thought, refocusing on the lovers.
The woman climaxed, her fists clenched at her sides in the grass.
Her lover promptly reached down to unbutton his slacks, preparing to take her.
The agent focused on the large section of the diplomat’s exposed neck as he moved over the woman and began satisfying himself. The shot the agent had waited for arrived. He poised, aiming the shot directly at the carotid artery, for a faster kill.
He took the shot then stood erect, watching the almost immediate effects of the drug from within the dark confines of the murky shed.
The diplomat’s body seized, first with a violent extension of all his limbs, tendons and muscles straining, to be followed by an opposing yet equally violent contraction. He rolled off the woman into a fetal position.
She slowly realized the drastic turn of events as she witnessed the intensity of the seizure. Her eyes went wild with panic and fear for her lover. Scrambling to her knees, she bent over his convulsing body just as he began to vomit, choking on his own fluids.
The agent watched with passive indifference, as if he viewed the scene of a gruesome movie rather than the grisly reality unfolding before him. He shut out the sound of the woman’s incessant, pathetic whimpering as well as the gurgling of the diplomat desperately fighting for his last breath.
Suddenly, his body went limp as life left his body.
The woman gave him a few quick slaps across the face in a futile effort to revive him before falling back on her rump in a disheveled, disoriented heap. Her chest heaved as the agent gazed upon the beautifully awful expression of horror on her face. He could see her slipping into shock. She glanced around, murmuring incoherently to herself, suddenly aware that she could be discovered at any moment.
She absentmindedly brushed back a few frizzy stands of hair from her face and scrambled to her feet before running across the courtyard. She went to the side entrance of the kitchen where she had emerged only a half hour ago, frantic to distance herself from the hideous, repulsive scene.
The agent watched her disappear into the estate and took the opportunity to take his leave for the night. He would make an appearance in his role as the maintenance worker one last time while the authorities performed their investigation. Then he could disappear into the ether to report back to his controller.
Michelle Bellon was born in 1976. She currently lives in Washington State with her husband and four children. She earned her Associates Degree in Nursing and fills her rare moments of free time with her love for writing. She has written six books, all of which are to be...