Assassination Authorized

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For five years Special Agent Jericho Parker has hidden in the shadows watching psychiatrist Mecca Storm, keeping her safe, removing obstacles in her path and silently falling in love with her but Mecca doesn’t even know Jericho exists.
Jane Doe is brought into the emergency room so badly beaten she is unrecognizable and doesn’t even know her own name. Surgeon Kadence Pride vows to restore the petite woman to her former beauty. Follow these two couples as they discover each other while trying to avoid terrorists who have sworn to avenge a brother’s death by taking the lives of the women.


Chapter 1


She knew she was back in the cell before she opened her eyes. She touched her fingers to her face. She was certain her jaw was broken. The cell door opened, and someone trudged inside. “You killed my brother, infidel pig,” the man growled in English. He hit her hard with his fist, shattering her cheekbone. Unconsciousness was a blessing.

Much later, she awoke in a puddle of blood. Her face was killing her. She tried to move her mouth and cried out in agony. At least my teeth are intact. She closed her eyes as the door swung open. “Is she dead?” A new, more educated-sounding voice asked. “No, but she should be. She killed my brother.” “Walid, this little thing killed your brother?” the man scoffed. “Where are her daughters?” “She has hidden them.

We can’t find them.” “When she comes to, interrogate her until she tells you or dies,” the man commanded. “Perhaps we will try waterboarding her.” The men laughed as if they had made a hilarious joke. “Stupid Americans.” She had no idea how long she had lain on the cold, hard floor. Her face was swollen, and she was in excruciating pain. She’d made her peace with God. She knew she would die soon. “She’s dead,” the leader growled as he jabbed the cattle prod into her stomach. “She doesn’t even respond to this.” He kicked her hard, the cracking of her ribs echoing in the cell. “What do you want me to do with her body?” “Throw her into the river.

She will float downstream. No one will trace her back to us.” ## Mariam Reynolds laughed and talked with her daughters over dinner. They planned to attend the Independence Day celebration on the National Mall. “I love the parade.” Kimi, the youngest, hugged herself in excitement. “My favorite is the folk festival,” ten-year-old Mary said. “I love the Army Rock Band,” Lindsey said, laughing. “They are so cute.” Mariam smiled at her twelve-year-old, who was just beginning to notice boys. She watched her daughters as they laughed and teased one another. She longed to raise them in Texas.

She wanted to teach them to ride horses and give them the responsibility of raising animals. She wanted them to connect with the land and God. She and Tom often argued over where the children should be raised. Their most heated argument had taken place that morning. She had threatened to take the girls and go to Texas. She hadn’t realized until after Kimi was born that Tom’s driving goal in life was to be president of the United States. Her only goal was her children’s happiness. She knew she was almost paranoid about their safety. Although the FBI handled them, she knew there were threats against Tom and her family.

She wasn’t as aware of the threats since she retired from the House of Representatives to raise their girls. “No, he ran like this.” Kimi moved her hands, accidentally hitting her sister’s fork and knocking the food on it all over Lindsey’s blouse. “Kimi, look what you’ve done,” Lindsey squealed. “Mom, my blouse is ruined.” “You can clean it,” Kimi scoffed. “Mom, I’m going to the ladies’ room to clean up this mess Kimi made.” Mariam suppressed a smile.

Lindsey could be overly dramatic sometimes. “I’ll help you,” Mary said. “Me too.” Kimi slid from her chair. “We’ll all go.” Mariam folded her napkin. She didn’t want her daughters out of her sight. “Mo-o-o-m,” all three of them chorused. “We’re not babies,” Lindsey huffed. “We can go to the bathroom by ourselves. There is safety in numbers, and there are three of us.” Mariam hesitated. She had a direct view of the door leading into the ladies’ room.

I guess they’ll be safe, she told herself as she acquiesced to their pleas to be treated as grown-ups. She smiled as she watched her beautiful daughters disappear into the bathroom. Suddenly, a waiter appeared at the table, his massive frame hovering over her. “Are you through dining?” He smiled as he began to pick up the girls’ plates. “Not quite,” Mariam said, annoyed that he obstructed her view of the ladies’ room. “May I bring you dessert?” he asked. “No, just get away from my table.” Mariam stood and hurried to the ladies’ room. “Lindsey?” she called out as she entered the room. Cold, gripping silence greeted her. “Mary? Kimi?” Horror constricted her throat as she realized her daughters were not in the bathroom.

She yanked open the door and was immediately pushed back inside by the same burly waiter who had blocked her view. “Get out of my way,” she screamed. Moving quickly, he wrapped his arms around her and placed a rag over her face. Mariam knew she was being chloroformed, but she couldn’t break free. ## Mariam woke to a vicious headache, followed by the realization that she had been abducted. She lay motionless, trying to determine where she was and how many attackers were with her. She discovered her hands were tied, but her feet were not. Slowly opening her eyes, she found herself in a dark room with no windows.

Her mind went immediately to her daughters. Where were they? Where was she? Whispers to her left told her she was not alone. She chanced a whisper. “Lindsey?” “Mom?” Lindsey scooted against her. “Mom, are you okay?” “Yes,” Mariam whispered. “Are Kimi and Mary here?” “Yes, but they haven’t awakened.” Lindsey sobbed quietly. Mariam pushed herself into a sitting position. She strained to see, but there was nothing but total darkness. “Are you all tied?” “Yes, our hands are. Mom, what’s happening?” Mariam tried to control the terror that racked her body. They were someplace cold and damp. Then she heard movement nearby. “Mommy!” Kimi’s cries gripped Mariam’s heart. She scooted toward the sound. Mary began to stir. “Kimi, Mary . . . Lindsey and I are here.” Mariam huddled the girls around her. Her mind raced in a hundred different directions. Damn Tom and his political ambitions!

They still wore their clothes, but their watches and all jewelry had been removed. Even their shoes were gone. Mariam tensed at the echo of footsteps in the distance. Then a door screeched open, and light suddenly filled the room, blinding the captives. The four of them huddled closer together. “Get them to their feet,” a guttural voice commanded in Arabic. Rough hands yanked the four captives to their feet. “Beautiful. Very beautiful,” the voice leered. “They will bring a good price.” “Blonde,” another voice said. “We will get top price for them. Three virgins!” The men laughed. “I may keep their mother for myself,” the first man threatened. “She won’t bring as much as the virgins, but I will enjoy her. Keep them fed well. No one wants a skinny woman.” While the men talked, Mariam frantically looked over their prison. There was nothing but four walls and a single commode in the corner. It seemed impenetrable. The men laughed as they left the room, locking the door behind them.

A little while later, the door opened again, and four plates of food slid across the floor. The door closed and locked. When the man returned to pick up the empty plates, he found they were still full. The four females remained huddled in the corner. “You must eat,” he said in English. “You must eat!” “We can’t see,” Mariam pleaded. “We can’t see to eat. We have no forks or spoons. Our hands are tied. How do you expect us to eat?” “Pitiful, soft Americans,” the man hissed as he closed the door. Hours later, he returned with a candle and spoons. He produced a knife and cut their bonds. “God, Mom, what is this?” Lindsey made a face as she sniffed the mush on her plate. “I don’t know, darling,” Mariam said.

“But we need to eat it. We need to keep up our strength and be strong when an opportunity to escape presents itself.” The girls gagged and coughed as they downed the putrid garbage on their plates. They stacked their plates with a spoon between each one. Mariam hid her spoon in her bra. “Please, may we keep the candle?” Mariam pleaded when the guard returned. “We’re freezing.” He snorted, picked up the candle and the dishes, and shuffled out. Mariam and her daughters huddled close for warmth.

They slept fitfully. Mariam wondered how long they had been in the cell. She wondered how long it would be before they would be moved. The next meal came hours later. As before, the guard slid the plates, spoons, and a candle into the room. When he came to collect the empty plates, Mariam again begged to keep the candle. This time, he left it. He knew their days were numbered. Mariam immediately began to heat the handle of the metal spoon over the candle flame. Heat it, grind it on the rock floor, then start over again. The candle had almost burned down by the time she had honed the spoon handle to a sharp point.

Mariam huddled the girls close together in the far corner of the cell, so the light wouldn’t fall on them when the door opened. She sat in the corner next to the door, makeshift knife in hand, and waited. Mariam had no problem staying awake. The awful knowledge that she was about to take the life of another human sent adrenaline surging through her system. She knew there were two choices: do nothing and be sold into white slavery, or fight for their lives. Either way they might all end up dead. Mariam dozed off but sprang into action when she heard the key turning in the lock. Standing, she held her breath as the guard pulled open the heavy door and bent over to place the plates on the floor of the cell.


Mariam knew she had one chance to kill him, to ram the makeshift knife into his carotid artery. She lunged, putting all her strength into the downswing of her arm. The spurt of blood across the room told her she had hit her mark. The guard made a gurgling sound as he fell facedown on the floor. Mariam checked his pockets. She confiscated his Glock, wallet, and keys. She also tore off his wristwatch. She motioned for her daughters to follow her.

They hurried into the hallway, and she closed and locked the door behind them. She signaled her daughters to wait while she checked the door at the end of the hall. To her surprise, it opened onto a boat dock. Seeing no one around, she whispered, “Come quickly.” The girls followed their mother without question. Mariam led them to the end of the dock, and they slipped into the cold, dark water. They followed the shoreline for miles, careful to stay in the water so no one could follow their tracks. They took turns carrying Kimi, who had tired quickly.

Mariam had never been so proud of her daughters. For the first time, she realized they were all survivors. They walked for miles, staying in the shadows and hiding when a car passed. As the sun greeted another day, they spotted a Walmart. Mariam had never been so happy to see a discount store in her life. The nice thing about Walmart was that no one paid them any attention.

Mariam hid the girls in the handicapped stall of the women’s bathroom and quickly purchased jeans, underwear, and sweatshirts for all of them. A backpack, package of ponytail ties, and a brush completed her purchases. She swiped the terrorist’s card and held her breath. Her mind was swirling in a hundred different directions. She didn’t hear what the clerk said. “Lady, you want any cash back?” “Cash back?” Mariam almost broke into hysterical laughing. “Yes! Yes!” “Then push the amount you want,” the clerk huffed. Mariam was amazed. She could get as much as $100. She pushed the cash-back button. “Put in your four-digit code,” the clerk scowled. “Jesus, lady, is this your first time to use a debit card?” “No, I—” “Here,” the clerk said, pushing a button. “I’ll just run it as a credit card. You’re backing up my line.” Mariam gathered the clothes and took the cash from the clerk. “Thank you,” she mumbled as she walked away from the register. The four looked presentable, dressed in clean clothes, their hair brushed and in ponytails. They spotted a restaurant and ate breakfast. “Mommy, I’m scared,” Kimi whispered as they left the diner. “It’ll be okay, baby.” Mariam sounded much more confident than she felt. “We just need to contact Daddy. He will come for us.” They took a cab across town, stopping at another Walmart along the way. Mariam purchased bread, sandwich meat, a pair of scissors, and picked up another $100. She paid the taxi driver in cash and checked into a nondescript, three-story Holiday Inn Express. They turned on the TV. Mariam was amazed that there was no mention of their disappearance. Didn’t Tom notify the authorities? she thought. Isn’t someone looking for us? “Girls we need to change our appearance,” Mariam said. “I’m going to give us short haircuts.” Mariam was proud of her daughters. They did whatever she asked without arguing. She cut her own hair first, cropping it close so the blonde highlights disappeared, leaving only her short, brown hair. She called Stacy Crawford, her former college roommate in Texas, and told her what was going on. “I’ll be on the next flight out,” Stacy said. “You sit tight.

Don’t leave the motel. Don’t let anyone see you.” “Okay.” Mariam took a deep breath and relaxed for the first time in days. “Stacy, what day is it?” “July tenth,” Stacy said. “Mariam, why didn’t you call Tom?” “I don’t know who to trust,” Mariam whispered into the phone. “Stacy, promise me you’ll get my girls to safety if something happens to me.” ## Stacy Crawford arrived on the nine p.m. flight from Dallas. She rented a car and drove to the address Mariam had given her. She thought of the slender blonde as she surveyed the hotel in search of anything unusual. Mariam was her closest friend.

They had experimented with each other during college but decided their friendship was more important than a bed partner. Mariam had gone into politics, and Stacy had decided to manage the family ranch, but they kept in touch. As Stacy waited for the elevator, the Arab desk clerk was whispering to two other men. For the first time in her life, she felt true fear grip her. She wedged her shoe in the elevator door to keep it from closing and ran to the room Mariam had given her. She knocked frantically on the door. “Stacy!” Mariam beamed as she opened the door. “They’re in the lobby,” Stacy whispered. “We need to get out of here. I wedged my shoe in the elevator to slow them down.” “Girls, follow Stacy down the stairs,” Mariam commanded. “I’ll remove the shoe and follow you.” As the girls ran past her toward the stairs, Mariam shoved the Glock into Stacy’s hand and whispered, “Don’t wait for me. Just go! I’ll meet you in Texas. Keep my babies safe. Don’t tell anyone where they are.

Trust no one.” Mariam pushed Stacy after her daughters and raced to the elevator. She stepped inside, unblocked the door, and pushed the button that would take her to the lobby and the waiting arms of her kidnappers. The two men stepped back as the elevator door opened and the woman they were after stepped out. Mariam fought them like a cornered grizzly. The longer she could fight, the farther away Stacy could get with her children. She bit, scratched, and kicked all over the lobby until a solid blow from a massive fist rendered her unconscious.

Chapter 2


Stacy Crawford surveyed the three children for whom she was now responsible. They had driven all night. The girls had slept most of the way. In West Virginia, Stacy pulled into a used car lot and looked over the selection. A two-year-old Toyota Camry seemed in good shape. She asked the price and told the salesman she would be back in an hour to pick it up. She drove to the local branch of her bank and withdrew cash from her savings account. She gave the salesman a phony name for the car title and drove around the block to where the girls were waiting in the rental car. She called the car rental company and told them the rental car had been stolen. She would deal with the problem when she was safe in Texas.

Over lunch, the girls related their harrowing experience. They were still awed by their mother’s strength and bravery. So was Stacy. “Where is Mommy?” Kimi asked softly. “She’s fine,” Stacy said. “She’ll come for you when it’s safe.” “Where are we going?” Lindsey asked. “Texas.” Stacy smiled. “Your mom is from Texas.” “Oh, yeah. She has taken us to visit Grandad Daniel. He lives in Texas.” Trust no one! Mariam’s words echoed in Stacy’s head. “What do you do for a living?” Lindsey asked. “I’m a rancher,” Stacy replied. “I raise cattle and horses, a few goats, and chickens.” She didn’t add that the oil and gas on her land were what made her very wealthy. Kimi clapped her hands. “Do you have any baby goats?” Stacy grinned. “I do.

They’re just like puppies. You can pet them.” They spent the night in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Stacy picked up I-20 in Birmingham the next morning. Roll Tide, she thought as she cruised through Alabama. I-20 took her all the way to Benbrook, Texas, and her ranch that wrapped around Benbrook Lake. Stacy’s Lazy S Ranch was two thousand acres of coastal grass and oak trees. It was situated between the lake and the vast acreage owned by the Devon estate. “We’re lucky. School’s out,” Mary said. “We can spend the summer with you.” “Uh-huh,” Stacy said. She wondered what she would do with three little girls all summer.

She had a sinking feeling Mariam Reynolds wasn’t coming for them any time soon, if at all. ## Walid Farouk ground out his cigarette on the floor of the coffee shop and glared at the counter girl, daring her to reprimand him. “Coffee. Black,” he growled. Steam floated up from the hot beverage as he poured sugar and cream into it. He wanted to kill something or someone. His mind raged over the loss of his youngest brother. How had he let it happen? How did a woman who weighed less than a hundred pounds overpower him and take his life? Although he had personally dragged her lifeless body to the river and tossed it in, guaranteeing her death, he was certain that the body bay patrol had dragged from the river was Mariam Reynolds. He would not let her live. He would make her pay for his brother’s death.

He had been hesitant to participate in the fanatic scheme to kidnap Tom Reynolds’ wife and daughters. The idea was to frame Reynolds for the death of his family, ruining his chances of being elected president. It was imperative that Reynolds lose his bid for the presidency in order for the Islamic State to survive. Reynolds had made it clear his first item of action would be to destroy the ISIS caliphate. Walid feared Reynolds’s retaliation. He knew if Reynolds were elected president, he would hunt down the members of Walid’s terrorist cell and imprison them for the death of his family. Walid considered killing Darwin Davis, the US Representative who had deemed Walid’s cell the People’s Socialist Party to attract America’s uninformed snowflake generation. Davis had cooked up the insane idea of kidnapping the wife and daughters of a US Senator who was running for president.

Walid knew better than to trust the stupid infidels whose only concern was maintaining their power base and hiding their own illegal activities that would come to light if Reynolds became president. They had planned the abductions to coincide with Congress’s Independence Day period of adjournment, knowing Reynolds always worked late at night. The stunt had briefly cast a bad light on Reynolds, but his ironclad alibi had sealed the fate of their failed plan to discredit the man. If anything, their plan could result in Reynolds garnering the pity vote of softhearted Americans. Like the surviving mad dog from a ravaged pack of hounds, Walid licked his wounds and made up his mind to go deep underground and regroup. He now had a better grasp of the shadow personnel protecting the president. General Abigail Carson would be his first target when his cell resurfaced.


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