“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 4

Just as Jack and Kathy were getting settled in their suite at the Convention Center, the JWM Serializationphone rang. Captain Shorer was calling to tell Jack that it was a bomb and it had been disarmed. The bomb was rigged to explode when a pressure switch under the rug in the small foyer was depressed. The technology was old, but it was clear the bomb had been placed by a professional. A forensic team was searching for prints and any other traces the bomber may have left behind. The bomb squad searched the entire house. No other explosives were found. So far, interviews with the neighbors had failed to turn up anything. The press would carry as much of the story as they could collect. You can’t do evacuations and question neighbors without getting some unwanted publicity. Jack thanked the Captain for calling and said he had reserved a table in the dining room of the Fish Market for seven-thirty.

Before going down to have dinner with Captain Shorer, Jack briefed Kathy. He told her he trusted Captain Shorer completely, but they had to remember, he is a police officer and bound to follow the law, so no discussions about their killing a number of terrorists in the US, India and Nepal. The Captain will wonder why someone put a deadly bomb in Jack Brandon’s Oakland house. A detective on leave-without-pay should not be a target for a professional bomber.

Jack decided the best cover stories used part of the truth. He planned tell Captain Shorer he believed it was the same people who killed his father. Shadow killed one of the attackers, and his father and the Vietnamese staff killed two more. Now the terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda had Jack’s name and photo. Maybe the bomb attempt was related to al Qaeda trying to even the score. Kathy asked Jack if he thought that story would fly.

Jack said, “Captain Shorer is too seasoned and wise in the ways of the world to question the story. If you don’t want the answer, don’t ask. Chime in at any time during dinner, just stay with the broad outlines of the basic story. Before we get too deep into dinner, I have a couple of checks I want to give the Captain toward his favorite charities.”

Jack ushered Kathy into The Fish Market restaurant at seven twenty-five, knowing that Captain Shorer would be there precisely at seven-thirty. The hostess had their table ready in a secluded alcove. The mention of his suite number when making the reservation must have carried some weight. At seven-thirty Jack saw the Captain coming their way behind the hostess. Jack introduced Captain Shorer to Kathy.

Captain Shorer said, “In this place, after duty hours, I’m Paul to everyone except the best detective I ever had. He can still call me by my title, otherwise I won’t be able to control him.”

Kathy smiled and said, “We share that problem. Jack is not easily controlled. I wish I had a magic awesome title.”

Captain Shorer laughed and Kathy said, “My mother told me good men are not controllable.”

Paul took her hand and said, “Anyone as beautiful as you are can get along without an awesome title.” Their drinks arrived and after they toasted the Pittsburgh Police Bureau, Jack said, “I have something that will give me great pleasure, if you will accept my offering?”

Captain Shorer looked at Jack and said, “You have my full attention. What are you offering?”

“It’s no secret that you have almost single-handedly kept the Policemen’s Fund for officers’ families in need due to injuries or death in the line of duty in the black. Please accept my check as a donation to the fund.”

Jack then reached into his jacket pocket and passed an envelope to his Captain. Captain Shorer said, “Thank you, Jack” as he opened the envelope. Seconds later he looked up at Jack and said, “Is this for real?”

“Yes, it is. You see, I inherited far more money than I was expecting, and I can’t think of a more deserving place to spend some of it.”

“Jack, this is the first million dollar personal check I have ever seen. Are sure you want to do this?”

“Yes, but one caveat. I want to remain anonymous. Please make up some story about where the money came from if you need to. It’s all done legally.”

“I can do that. This money will let me do more for some families who really need help. Any more surprises before you tell me about the bomb?”

“Yes. One more. You see, I also know about the program for children you operate through fund-raising events. So here’s another contribution.”

Captain Shorer opened the envelope, looked at the check and said, “Anytime you want to have dinner with me, I’ll come even if I need to be carried. Two million dollar checks in one evening are too much. I assume the same caveat applies?”

“Yes, if that’s okay with you.”

“Jack, I will never forget this evening and I haven’t even had dinner yet. Your money will do a lot of good in the city of Pittsburgh. Now, I do need another drink. Maybe even a double.”

Everyone ordered another drink. Jack said, “This is the Captain’s restaurant, and I propose asking him to order for us. Okay?”

Kathy laughed and said, “Go for it, Paul.”

Over dinner of steamed mussels, grilled flounder covered with a caper sauce and sautéed asparagus accompanied by a few bottles of Cakebread Chardonnay, Jack told Captain Shorer the story he had earlier tried on Kathy, adding details when he could. Jack gave the full story about the attack on his father’s house and all he had learned from the local police. Captain Shorer said he would ask the police for a copy of their report to include in the file about the bombing attempt on Jack’s house.

Jack was sure the local police would cooperate. They had a high opinion of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau and the Captain in particular. Jack then asked Kathy not to be embarrassed, but he was going to give the Captain a summary of her background. After he finished, Captain Shorer said they made an awesome team. He would like to have them working for him.

After dessert, Kathy asked to be excused. She was sure the men had some things to talk over, and she also needed a good night’s sleep. After she left, Captain Shorer ordered some more coffee and said, “I have something to talk to you about. Do you have the time?”

“Captain, you know I do.”

“I need some help. You know how I hate unsolved homicide cases. Well, I have one that is almost ready for the cold case storage locker. First, let me tell you about the case and what few facts we have. Almost three years ago, two Pitt coeds were murdered on their way home from the University’s library. Their naked bodies were found in Schenley Park by an early morning jogger. Their families had called 911 around midnight, two hours after the girls should have been home. Normally, you know, we wouldn’t have done anything about two college girls being a couple of hours late coming home. Lieutenant Arrington knew one of the families, and alerted a couple of black and whites to cruise the area. They found nothing but did verify that the two coeds had left the library together about nine-thirty. They should have been home within 30 minutes.

“Of course, once the bodies were found, we put resources on the investigation. Forensics, in cases like this, usually gives us quite a bit of data. I have never seen a sex crime that produced so little information. No semen was found on the bodies. They were killed elsewhere and dumped in the park. No special positioning of the bodies. They were just dumped. The lab said both died from broken necks. Bruises on the bodies indicated their heads had been smashed together with considerable force, as if someone came up behind them and banged their heads together. Traces of duct tape were found on both bodies. Legs, arms and mouths had been taped. No signs that either one put up a struggle. Other than the fact they were found naked, there was nothing to indicate that this was a sex crime. Both necks were broken the same way. Most likely by a right-handed person, who had some hand-to-hand combat skill. The captives, we believe, were killed within an hour of their abduction.

“In the next four weeks we did everything we know how to do, ask for public support, neighborhood canvases, backgrounds into the lives of the victims and their families. No one could name any enemies. No stalkers were noticed. Classmates were questioned. Both girls were attractive, popular and dated frequently. Everything was tracked down. No hits. Trying a Hail Mary shot, I had every boarding house that provided short-term rooms for cash within ten miles queried for the night of the murder. We were able to track down nearly all the short- term renters that checked out within twenty-four hours of the murders. One possible suspect was found. A young man, early twenties, gave a probable false name, left shortly after dawn the day after girls were taken, no one saw him go, but the owner remembered he drove a dark blue Dodge van with temporary tags. We canvassed all the used car lots where cash can buy a car without much, if any, check on the identification of the buyer. Again, we found one lot that after some pressure was applied, the manager remembered a sale to a young man. The salesman’s description of the buyer and the one of the boarding house owner were hard to reconcile. The resulting police artist’s sketch was not of much use.

“The investigation in Pittsburgh has run its course. We’ve been looking at crimes in other areas that bore a similar M.O. A few have. Our search criteria included any killing of young women, where the cause of death was not from some sort of weapon and where none of the usual earmarks of a sex crime were present, like semen, mutilation of the bodies or ritualistic positioning of the corpses. Over the past two years, five incidents fit our search parameters. All occurred in the southeastern states. All five were within two hundred miles of a center point, the city of Charleston, SC. None was within fifty miles of Charleston. All took place in urban areas. Forensics indicated all the victims showed signs that they were beaten before their necks were broken. Also all showed traces of the use of chloroform. The Pitt coeds were bruised but no trace of chloroform was found.”

Jack said, “Interesting, but that’s not enough to conduct a serious investigation. Do you have anything else?”

“There is one thing, but it’s so tenuous, even my own detectives think I am grasping at straws. And it’s not enough to put on the police wire. I’m even a little reluctant to mention it.”

“Chief, you have always thought outside the box, and many times, you have been right on. So go ahead.”

“Two weeks ago an out-of-work, old mill worker was found dead in an alley behind a Garfield bar. What little money he had was still in his pocket. Medium-priced watch on his wrist. No signs of violence, except that his neck was broken in the same pattern as our two coeds. The bartender recognized the victim and said he was a frequent customer and there was no trouble or argument between the victim and anyone in the bar.

“I’ve asked several other police departments to send us x-rays of their broken neck murders. I expect them to start arriving next week. In the meantime, we just finished a background investigation of the victim, his family and friends. The man’s only family member was a son, who showed up briefly for the funeral. The only real asset the victim owned was a rundown bungalow in Garfield. Not enough to murder anyone over. The son hadn’t seen his father in the last five years. There was no relationship. The son said his father was a mean bastard who mistreated his mother and him. I checked with the police in his home area and the son was seen in his Charleston shop the morning of the murder.”

Jack said, “Captain, come on, what you are holding back?”

The Captain chuckled and said, “I see you can still stay ahead of me. Okay. Here is my outside-the-box analysis. In talking to the son, you could see he hated his father. Our background check on the son showed he dropped out of Schenley High School in his senior year and disappeared for the next two and half years. He has a passport that, according to State Department records, was used to go to Pakistan the year he dropped out of school. He was in the same high school class as the two murdered Pitt coeds. No record of his being in Pittsburgh at the time they were killed. But he was back in the country by then. And he now lives in Charleston!”

“Do you know what he was doing in Pakistan and how long he was there?”

“According to his passport entry from Pakistan, he was there for a little more than two years. We have no idea what he was doing, but suspect he was being trained in an al Qaeda camp inside Afghanistan. Now you know as much as I do.”

“Your hunch is worth checking out. It’s a long shot but what else do you have. I would like to see the x-rays of the broken necks. But first, tell me why you told me this tale.”

“I don’t know what you are doing, but it occurred to me while I was listening to your briefing about the bomb in your old house and wondering what you weren’t telling me, that you might be able to help with this case. I could give your badge back and a letter confirming your affiliation with the Pittsburgh Police. I could also provide a legal umbrella for the rest of your group to work with you. Gun permits and the works. It just happens that the Chief of Police in Charleston is a personal friend, and I know he would allow you to work for me on this investigation if he were kept informed, especially since I can tie this to the bomb attempt to kill one of my officers.”

As Jack started to respond, the Captain said, “Sleep on it. I think this guy may still be working for al Qaeda. He is now operating a small Oriental rug outlet in Charleston importing rugs from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Does that strike you as a perfect cover job or what?”

“Okay, Captain, I’ll think on it, talk it over with Kathy and call you sometime tomorrow.”

“Jack, I want you to do this but I’ll not push it. I am still in shock over your very generous gifts. God bless you. Now, I must go and so must you. Never keep a beautiful woman waiting too long.”

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 3

Joel finished his visit to the major Oriental rug store in Georgetown, SC. The two rugs he JWM Serializationnow had in the back of his 11-year-old Dodge Town and Country pleased him. He could mark them up at least seventy-five percent in his Charleston shop. His next stop would be Surfside, just fifteen minutes south of Myrtle Beach on Route 17. He might stay in Surfside. There were many motels that wouldn’t demand a credit card, as long as you paid up front with cash. Joel had no intention of leaving financial forensic trails to document his movements. His instructor in Peshawar, Pakistan, drilled into him the rules of playing the espionage and terrorist game. His instructor would be proud of him. There were many places along Route 17 up the Carolina coast where he could change license plates. Earlier in the year he’d stolen plates from an Ohio car. Even if by some miracle the motel manager checked license plates against his register, there would be no audit trail back to Joel Hankins. Too careful? Not the way he had been trained. You could be too tentative, but never too careful. Success came from dedication and attention to detail. Maybe tonight he could find a young woman. Although the tourist season was not at its peak, Myrtle Beach was a good hunting area. Tourists and young teenage girls, away from home for the first time, hadn’t had time to develop the street smarts to protect themselves. They desperately wanted a good time and didn’t believe people like Joel were out there hunting them.

In the early evening, just after dusk, he’d select a shopping mall and quietly sit in a parking space until he spotted a young girl pulling into a parking spot. At this time of year the girls weren’t wearing much, and he liked to evaluate his target before the attack. If possible, he would move his van next to her car and wait for her to return. All he had to do was slide open the van’s side door, grab his prey and pull her inside. A little chloroform on a small towel held over her face for thirty seconds would end the struggle.

He wasn’t interested in sex. His joy and excitement came from the kill and watching the essence of life escape. That was real dominance. Joel had improved his skill but still struggled to collect the exact moment of death.

The same modus operandi worked on most of his captures. For sure it wasn’t always as smooth as he would like. Sometimes he had to take the risk of getting out of the car or moving the van up beside his victim, pretending to ask a question or flirt, until he could use his chloroform-saturated towel to trap his catch. How surprised they all were when they regained consciousness and found themselves helpless. He had to be careful not to beat the girls too badly or to torture them until they lost consciousness. Once he had made that mistake and she died while unconscious, depriving him of the joy of watching and recording the magic of life leaving her. Her selfishness put him into an uncontrollable rage, and he beat the girl’s body until it was almost unrecognizable. He wouldn’t do that again. Rage leads to mistakes. He had burned everything he had on to get rid of the traces of blood. The inside of his van was also splattered and needed new mats and some of the upholstery replaced.

The victim he selected at the mall wasn’t as young as he first thought, and she put up a strong fight before the chloroform put her out. He took great pictures of her face as she died. Some of his skin might be under her fingernails, even though he did his best to clean them. Maybe the cops would be careless and miss their chance to get his DNA. Not every police department had a crack forensics team. Joel took no time in disposing of her. He dumped her naked body along a deserted road to the beach.

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 2

Driving down the familiar streets of Oakland, a sense of déjà vu swept over Jack. ShadowJWM Serialization sat up straighter and stared out the window. Rush hour was nearly over and minutes later, Jack pulled into the driveway of a small detached house just off Forbes Avenue. The house looked abandoned. It was more than a year since he loaded his old Cherokee station wagon with his few belongings and Shadow and headed east to McLean, VA, to take care of his adored ailing father. A lot had happened since then. He could barely remember what his ex-wife looked like. He was certainly a different person than the young, naive man who had lived here. Everything seemed smaller. The violence and stress of the last year marked him. If he had ever feared death, he no longer did. He knew he was a killer when his loved ones or country were threatened. Few people could do what he now did routinely. His senses were always on near-maximum. A feeling of confidence flooded through him. He now loved a woman who loved him in return and was willing to share the danger. Shadow’s nudging brought him back to the present.

Laughing at Shadow’s antics, Jack opened the door and let him out. He watched Shadow stretch and relieve himself on the small strip of grass in front of the house. Marsha had yelled at Shadow every time she caught him urinating on the grass. Kathy got out after examining the house from the car and headed for the front porch. Shadow looked at Jack, gave his Bouvier smile and ran up beside Kathy. As they moved near the front steps, Shadow stopped, stepped in front of Kathy and growled deep in his throat. Jack never questioned Shadow’s instincts. He called to Kathy to stop.

She said, “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know but I always trust Shadow’s warnings. Follow us around to the back.”

Jack put his hand on Shadow’s back and led him to the back of the house. Shadow sniffed and continued to growl quietly. In the backyard, a slanted double trap door, typical of houses built in the 1930s, led to the cellar. Taking the key to the padlock from its hiding place behind a crack in the German siding, Jack opened the lock and eased one-half of the door open.

Little of the late morning sunlight reached the basement. It was too dark to make out the interior. Jack could just see the four steep cement stairs leading into the gloom. With Shadow leading the way, Jack and Kathy moved quietly down the stairs. Shadow had stopped growling and stood at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the kitchen, sniffing the bottom step and the surrounding area. Jack picked up a flashlight he had left on the cluttered work bench and giving a small prayer to the makers of modern batteries, switched the flashlight on. Its beam cut through the gloom in the windowless basement. Examining the basement area quadrant by quadrant, he could find nothing out of place until he turned the beam upwards and almost immediately saw a small, partially concealed shape fastened to the inside of one of the rough-cut ceiling joists. A closer look showed a black insulated line running from the shape along the joist and then up through the old pine floor.

“Kathy, what do you see up there?”

She took the flashlight, looked intently at the dark object snuggled up to a ceiling joist and said, “That has to be a bomb of some kind. I don’t see a triggering mechanism.”

Jack was no stranger to explosives or booby traps. His years in Marine Recon had trained him well. He was not going to try to disarm what could be a very sophisticated triggering device.

Jack took Kathy’s arm and said, “I don’t see one either, but disarming bombs is beyond me. Let’s get out of here.”

Rubbing Shadow’s head, he led the big dog back to the SRX. Jack drove around the neighborhood streets, while Kathy used her counter-surveillance skill to make sure they were not being followed. She gave Jack an “all clear.” He parked a block away from the house, pulled over and got his cell phone out. Jack dialed the number from memory. Captain Shorer’s secretary immediately recognized Jack’s voice and put him right through to his old boss.

“Captain, I thought you would still be at lunch.”

“Jack, how in the hell are you, and what brings you back to your old haunts? Football season is here and the Pittsburgh Panthers could use you, if that old knee would hold up.”

“It’s holding up well, but my football career is over. I’ve been out of the country for a while and trying hard to get my father’s estate shaped up. I need to see you tonight, if possible. I went back to my old house in Oakland and found a booby trap in the basement. I might have triggered it, if Shadow hadn’t made me be careful. He growled when we approached the stairs to the front porch. I took his warning, went in through the basement door and found the bomb attached to a ceiling joist.”

“Christ, Jack! What have you been up to? I better get the bomb squad out there immediately. I have no choice. The damn thing may be big enough to kill a few neighbors.”

“I’ll meet the squad at the house. Can we do this without the sirens and lights?”

“Okay! I’ll try to treat it as a suspected gas leak but that won’t last. We have to talk. I don’t like people trying to kill my best detective, even if he is on a leave of absence.”

“You got it! I have a long story to tell you. But the story has to stay between you and me for the time being. You’ll understand when I give you the details. How about dinner tonight? I want you to meet my significant other. She is a gorgeous and dangerous lady.”

“You’re on! I’ll pick the place. Now let’s deal with the bomb.”

“You pick next time. I know you like the Fish Market, and we’ll be staying at the Convention Center. I’ll see you in the restaurant tonight. Seven-thirty, okay?”

When Kathy asked what was going on, Jack told her the bomb squad should be arriving there any minute, and he had to show them what he found.

Kathy said, “Damn those people. How many of them do we have to kill? I am really angry. Thank God for Shadow. I love that dog. How did he know?”

“I’m a bit puzzled. Dogs have sensory capabilities that aren’t understandable by humans. Shadow is very intelligent and doesn’t miss anything. He wasn’t trained as a bomb sniffing dog, and it’s doubtful he could have caught the distinctive odor of the explosives from outside the house. His reaction must, in some way, be tied to the recent attack on my father’s house in McLean.”

Two full-time housekeepers and Jack’s father died in the attack, but not before Shadow gave the alarm and killed one of them. Two additional intruders were killed in the house. The attack team was made up of members of a renegade KGB sleeper team based in Charleston, SC.

Jack said, “I wonder if a surviving member, motivated by revenge for the death of one of his family, may be responsible for the bomb. Shadow may have picked up the scent of an old enemy.”

Ten minutes later, as the light was beginning to fail, a police cruiser glided past the house and parked down the street. Jack recognized one of the officers and, leaving an unhappy dog in the car, he and Kathy went to meet them. Don Esposito saw them coming, “Hey, Jack, how ya doin? We don’t need you drumming up business for us! You never were boring! Whatcha got here? The Captain said it was a bomb situation. Is that right? And aren’t you going to introduce me to Miss America?”

“Don! Give me a chance to get a word in! I missed you, too. Yeah, some package nestled up to a joist in the basement with a wire running out of it. Being the smart detective I am, I told myself not to fuck with it but to wake up Esposito. He’s getting all that hazardous duty pay for telling the bomb squad where to go. Kathy, say hello to Mr. Esposito so he can get to work.”

“Hello, Mr. Esposito. I hope you’re good at this bomb business.”

“I’m not too bad. Glad to meetcha. If you tire of this bum, call me. I can be available. Jack, how about you show me where this suspect bomb is lurking?”

“Okay, suck it up and follow me. Kathy, please keep Shadow company. He hates to be left out of any action. Hey, Esposito, remember, please don’t touch the damn thing until I get out of there. I’m not drawing the big bucks for bomb squad duty and, besides, I’m on leave-without-pay. Follow me and I’ll show you my bomb.”

Jack led the two officers around the back to the outside stairs and opened the cellar doors. Once inside, Jack used his flashlight to point out the bomb. Esposito took a quick look and said, “Okay, I see it and it sure looks like a bomb. That wire running out of it may mean that it’s not set up for remote detonation or that this bomber is damn smart. Who in the hell would want to kill a poor dumb detective on leave-without-pay? Who’ve you been hanging around with? Never mind talking. Let’s get out of here. I think I heard the real bomb squad pull up.”

After talking to Esposito, the bomb squad Lieutenant set about directing his growing on-site force to evacuate every house within two hundred feet. Jack knew that action would take at least an hour, and there was nothing he could do to help. He waited until the Lieutenant was finished issuing his preliminary orders and introduced himself as the owner of the house. Esposito chimed in to add Jack was a homicide detective on leave. Jack then offered to give the entry team the house keys and a briefing on the layout of the house. Jack could see the Lieutenant was giving him his undivided attention now that his bona fides were established. When the officer asked him who was on his suspect list, Jack told him he didn’t know. He didn’t want to pass out any more information before he had a chance to talk with Captain Shorer.

When Jack slipped into the car with Kathy and Shadow, she told him the newspapers could have provided enough information for the bomber to find his old Pittsburgh house, who then placed the bomb in an attempt to kill him or someone he cared about. She doubted it had anything to do with their killing a room full of al Qaeda mid-level cadre in Kathmandu.

Jack said, “I believe you’re right. Maybe the bomb forensic guys can give us something. Now let’s get Shadow checked into his old kennel and ourselves in a hotel.”

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Is there a worse crime than shooting innocent children while they are learning new skills?  I don’t think so. Why after decades of these terrible events haven’t we fixed the problem. Surely protecting children, especially in schools, should be a top priority. Focus groups, roundtable discussions, political speeches and public hand wringing over the Second Amendment by both conservatives and liberals hasn’t helped. Maybe because school shootings aren’t about guns or the Second Amendment. Instead the problem is still with us  because of the bureaucracy associated with the management of the education process in America. No new great discovery regarding guns is needed. Although background checks can stand improvement.

There are thousands of buildings in America that have tight security that limits access to authorized personnel only. We know how to secure buildings and larger sites. The problem is that school security is in the hands of teachers, school administrators, school boards and elected politicians. Collectively I wouldn’t search for security know how within this group. Rather, I would go to security professionals who are totally outside the thinking and mindsets of our educational professionals. In many schools teachers cannot or are not permitted to control their own classrooms. They do know how to educate our children. For some reason education professionals, including the powerful Teachers Union, think they should be in total control of school security.

It has always been that way and it has failed and will continue to fail to secure our schools and to protect our children. It shouldn’t matter to the teachers and school boards who controls the security of buildings and grounds, including access. They should welcome being freed from being responsible for school security. Their primary responsibility is to educate children who want to learn. (A subject for another time.) I believe the responsibility for school security should be with the local police and/or sheriff departments. They know how to secure buildings if they are not handicapped by impossible “rules of engagement” imposed by local educators and politicians. There is no doubt this approach will be expensive and inconvenient. But it will work and provide the safety and security children and teachers should have in our schools. Maybe it is time to stop talking and give the responsibility for school security to the professionals.

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 1

Jack Brandon, on his way to run some errands, paused on the porch of the mountain jwm-serialization.jpegcabin he inherited from his father, and looked out over the thousand acres of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains that came with the cabin. His father, Peter Brandon, built the cabin, two hours east of Pittsburgh, as a final hiding place, in his struggle to escape a vengeful KGB. Forty years ago, his father, a KGB officer on the fast track, opted for freedom in America but on his terms. He stole all the operational funds the KGB provided for his mission in America. Assuming the name Peter Brandon, he eluded the KGB hunt. The team hunting him found and killed his wife and infant daughter. Only Peter and his young son Jack escaped. For the next three and a half decades, Peter Brandon extracted his vengeance by working with a CIA officer to destroy a Cold War espionage network of Soviet undercover agents living in America. During the last year of his life, Peter revealed his story to Jack, who joined him in his mission to protect America from foreign terrorists’ threats. Jack’s background as a Marine Recon Officer and detective in the homicide department of the Pittsburgh police gave him the know how to pick up his father’s mission after al Qaeda killed Peter Brandon in his McLean, VA home. The hideaway mountain cabin now housed Jack, Kathy and Shadow, Jack’s beloved Bouvier des Flandres. Kathy had been an up and coming CIA case officer, who joined the Brandon Group to escape the increasing bureaucracy of the counter terrorism office, and the money covered her mother’s medical bills.

Shortly after Jack’s father was killed in his home by terrorists, the FBI and local police, acting on information supplied by the group, took care of the remaining elements of the terrorist network. The identities of Jack and Kathy were exposed to al Qaeda during a deadly showdown in New Delhi.

A few more days of rest, then they would have to decide where they would set up next. Some place where it would be difficult for any revenge seeking terrorists to find them. Jack was still running over some options in his head as he drove back from his short trip to Somerset, PA. Besides the need for some groceries, he made a few phone calls. Using cell phones from the cabin was not done. Pay phones were getting scarce but there were some in Somerset. On the way back, he’d decided he would take Kathy and Shadow for a visit to his old home in Pittsburgh. Jack was so focused on the details of a trip to his old haunts, he nearly missed the turn into the overgrown lane to the cabin.

Shadow, the 100-pound plus black Bouvier, came bounding up the quarter mile one-lane entrance to the cabin and jumped into the front seat with Jack when he opened the door. Shadow liked few things better than to sit up front and hang his head out the window as he surveyed his domain. Jack pulled into the small parking area below the cabin and was welcomed by Kathy with a big hug when he got out of the Cadillac SRX.

“Hey, I’ve only been gone for a few hours. Don’t look so worried.”

Kathy pushed him back so she could see Jack’s face and said, “It’s just that we’ve had so many close ones in the past year. I don’t think you worry enough and that attitude scares me to death. In the almost a year since I’ve been sharing your bed, I thought for sure I had lost you more than once. I don’t want to change you, but could you just please take fewer risks. First, Recon Marines, then a homicide detective and, even worse, picking up your father’s crusade against terrorists. There, that’s my speech. I just had to get it out.”

“Kathy, I know I’m not immortal and believe it or not, I intend to cut down on the risks we take. How about we go to Pittsburgh for a few days? We could stay in my old house. It’s sitting empty. Or we could stay at a hotel. I want to show you my alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, a real northern city university.”

Kathy said, “Good! Some city living would be good and I’d like to see your old house. Maybe we’ll live there someday.”

“I’m not sure Shadow will be happy there. He never liked my ex-wife and despised the small backyard. Anyway, he can come with us. He’s spent too much time in kennels recently.

“I want both of us to have dinner with my friend and the Assistant Chief of Investigations. I worked for him in the homicide unit. He’s a great guy and like a father to me. Okay? Let’s get packed. We’ll start with a visit to my old house. It’s still furnished with what I could afford on a cop’s salary. The place is probably dusty as hell. We can be there in three hours.”

Kathy said, “So let’s get started. We don’t need much. We do need new wardrobes after losing all our stuff in India.”

On the way west on Route 30, Kathy questioned Jack about the house, neighborhood and details of his previous life as a detective in the homicide unit of the Bureau of Pittsburgh Police. She told Jack she was having trouble with his financial status as a police detective one day and a near-billionaire the next. How did he deal with that? Jack told her it wasn’t hard. He was the same person, or almost the same person. He knew that one day his father would leave him some money but had no idea of the extent. The size of his father’s estate took his breath away when Lee Jensen, his father’s attorney and friend, revealed the figures to him, as well as the terms of acceptance. To accept his inheritance, Jack had to agree to work full-time, using the wealth his father accumulated from the seed money taken from the KGB when he escaped, to enjoy and protect American freedom.

Kathy had been with Jack and Anita, her best friend and fellow team member, on their mission of the past year to track down and kill his father’s murderers. Kathy knew she and Jack had been lucky. Anita gave her life to save Jack’s. She accepted that hazardous operations meant casualties had to be expected. Luck was also involved in her meeting Jack. She’d never met a man like him before. Kathy thought Marsha, Jack’s ex-wife who wanted to be rich, had dumped Jack and run off with a divorce attorney. Too bad for her. Jack was spoken for now.


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“Justice without Mercy” prologue

Five years ago, Joel Hankins, known in the camps as Mohammed Abu Moussa, finished his JWM Serializationtraining at the camp for foreign fighters in Afghanistan. He learned to handle most small arms and explosives but was near the bottom of his trainee group of twenty. His strength and toughness were not equal to the rest of the trainees. The camp was above nine thousand feet with very little vegetation. They lived in caves and were never really warm at night in the winter months. The people they lived among were incredibly poor. Every disease in the mountains of South Asia was visible in the small village near the training site. Even so, his experience at that camp was the highlight of his life. He was someone, someone special. He wasn’t the loser everyone said he was in Pittsburgh. He had even met Usama Bin Laden.

Just before he left the camp, he was given an important mission. His leaders told him they had been searching for months to find a westerner of the true faith to help carry Jihad to America. Joel wasn’t sure of the true faith, but he did pray at least twice a day and spent another hour each day reading the Koran. He had grown comfortable with the teachings of the Prophet and was proud to be a part of the holy war to establish a Muslim Empire that someday would include the United States.

His leaders knew they were not strong enough to have their own sovereign nation in the face of the forces aligned against them. Control of territory was necessary to recruit and train followers. In Joel’s training group, there had been students from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and several western nations. If the Taliban could not hold Afghanistan, where could the faithful train and plan damaging attacks against the infidel nations? Joel was happy he had been assigned to help locate a place within the United States where faithful Jihadists could find safe haven.

Before he left Afghanistan, he was taken to a compound in Peshawar and left in the care of a Palestinian trainer. This man was an expert with real experience in clandestine operations. The trainer told Joel that in the next three weeks he had to be ready for his assignment in America. He was told to forget his Muslim name. While he was in America, his name would be his own, Joel Hankins from Pittsburgh, PA. When his training was over, he would return to Pittsburgh and tell his family he was done traveling around the world and wanted to prepare himself for a career in business. At first Joel objected to this plan but his mentor, a powerful man with intense dark eyes, told him there was no room for dissent. He had been chosen and he would follow orders, or he would never leave the compound alive.

Joel never doubted that Hakim meant every word he said. Putting on his most respectful look, Joel said he would obey and carry out any mission assigned to him. During the next three weeks, Joel was given intensive instruction in the methods of planning, supporting and carrying out terrorist activities in the United States. He had always been good at detail and soon reached a level of competence that surprised Hakim. In the last week, Joel learned how to deal with hostile interrogations and to prepare cover stories for everything associated with terrorist operations. His first mission was to establish a rug merchant shop in Charleston, SC. The necessary money would be deposited in his name in a Charleston bank.

After Joel satisfied Hakim with his ability to use the tradecraft of espionage, he was delivered to a Taliban supporter in Peshawar who operated a rug manufacturing and export business. Another two months were spent learning how to appraise and sell rugs. From time to time, Hakim would drop by and give Joel a mission to accomplish. Joel never knew whether the mission was for real or practice.

When Joel left Peshawar, he had lost all the trappings of a devoted Jihadist. His thin blond hair was cut short in the style of young Western businessmen. His beard was gone and his new clothes tailored to his scrawny build. With his light blue eyes, wind-burned acne face and wearing his first tailored suit, he was ready to return to Pittsburgh where he had a personal mission and then on to Charleston. His long stay in Pakistan was covered by his learning the art of dealing in Oriental rugs. A hundred rugs were sent in his name to a holding address in Charleston as further evidence of his status as a rug dealer.

It had been two years since Joel left Pittsburgh for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Getting off the Greyhound bus at the downtown terminal on a sunny October day, Joel decided he wasn’t going home. His mother died while he was with the Taliban. He hated his father and only wanted to see him one more time – to kill him. Killing didn’t require any talk. Joel also had a mental list of girls he knew in Schenley High School who had laughed at his advances and talked about him behind his back. Shirley Bronson and Sally Hartley were the worst. Joel planned to look them up and see if they could still laugh when he was finished with them. His growing lust to kill young women was one thing he had never disclosed to his Muslim contacts. Now that he had the killing skills and the training to avoid being caught, he was ready to start.

Joel took a local bus out to a poorer section of Oakland and paid cash for a room at a rundown boarding house. No questions asked. Just cash in advance. Two days later he paid cash for a high-mileage 2000 model Dodge van. He wouldn’t kill his no-account father on this trip. No sense in giving the cops something to work on by getting the Hankins’ name involved. Four days later, he had killed both girls.

It was easy. They were both students at Pitt and lived at home with their parents. In two days he had their after-school schedules down pat. Both worked in the University’s library week nights and walked home together just after ten o’clock. His first try failed. Too many bystanders were close to his selected ambush site. He had learned patience. The next day Joel parked his dark blue van at another site along their route home. When the girls passed his parked Dodge van laughing and talking, Joel slipped out of the shadows behind them and slammed their heads together. Holding them up, he used his remote to open the side door and shoved the stunned girls inside. There were no lights on in the van. Pulling the right fuses had fixed that. In the darkness after gagging them, he put cloth bags over their heads and duct taped their hands and legs.

Just before midnight, Joel dumped their naked bodies in a wooded area of Schenley Park. He kept their clothes. Along with the photos he took while torturing them, he had a good start on his collection. With both girls his clumsiness caused him to miss the moment of death. The next time he would do better.

Early the next morning he got in his van and left for Charleston. He loved the news coverage. The killings made the front pages of the Pittsburgh papers and the evening news on the networks. With his new knowledge and training, it was easy to outwit the police. There was no evidence he had returned to Pittsburgh, and he left no evidence behind. Those feel-good murders were his business. His al Qaeda leaders didn’t need to know.

Two years later, Joel’s rug shop in Charleston was making a little money. He had found an ideal place for the shop in a rundown building on the western end of Meeting Street. It had an apartment above the shop and a two-story, three-car garage in the back with space on the second level for two bedrooms, a bath and kitchen with a small sitting area. It was enough to house four or five people for short periods.

Three or four times a year, an al Qaeda courier stopped in his shop to deliver instructions and wait for Joel to write a response. He had no electronic communications with al Qaeda. They used a simple code based on a particular edition of the King James Version of the Bible.

Life was good. Joel continued the training regime he learned in the camps and joined a shooting club. At least twice a week, he took private Taekwondo lessons. Within a few months he would test for his blue belt. He was no longer the scrawny kid that left Peshawar two and a half years ago.

Joel made time for his passion for thrill killing, but he never killed in Charleston. His training had taught him the importance of patience and attention to detail. He set no pattern in his kills, except that his victims were all attractive young girls. No weapons were used to kill them. Joel never killed in any city more than once a year. He was addicted to the feeling of power he got from killing. He would take his prey his own way while he was young and alive. There was no rush like watching the light fade in his victims’ eyes. No one would ever have these bitches. In a few cases he had been lucky enough to catch the moment with his digital camera. Too bad he had to keep the images hidden. Rug business trips provided all the cover he needed for visiting other cities. The urges were becoming stronger. It was about time he made a hunting trip to Myrtle Beach.

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“Justice without Mercy” getting serialized

Six months ago, the last chapter of the second novel in the Jack BraJWM Serialization.jpegndon series was published on another blog site. I have greatly enjoyed sharing my first two novels with readers in serialized form, “Run to Freedom” and “Justice Beyond Law.”

Now, I believe it’s time to share my third novel with you, “Justice without Mercy.” It picks up where “Justice Beyond Law” left off. Jack and Kathy are back with Shadow, as well as some new characters I promise you’ll love.

As always, if you can’t wait each week to read the next chapter, all my books are available on Amazon. Enjoy!

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