Angela cut herself on the razor sharp edge of a box and inspected the tip of her finger. The cardboard had torn a miniaturized version of the Grand Canyon through her fingerprint and it took a few seconds for the blood to well up.
She promptly stuck the finger in her mouth before a single drop splattered on any of the objects arranged in front of her.
Dressed in a herringbone-patterned short skirt, a sheer beige blouse over a black camisole, and black satin two-inch heels, she looked out of place in the basement. With her fiery red hair done up in a bun, she looked like she should be rubbing elbows with the elite at the cocktail party in the rooms above her rather than standing in the middle of the impromptu mail room, sucking on her finger.
Wes was twenty years her senior, but the deep wrinkly crags on his face made him look more like eighty years older, shook his head. “I keep telling you Ang, you gotta wear gloves when handling these recycled boxes. Never had this problem back in my day. Cardboard made from trees, as God intended, is better.”
He wrinkled his nose at her in disgust. “And I wouldn’t be sticking no finger in my mouth after touching these things. Lord knows if they washed all that poop paper before recycling them into boxes.”
He emphasized the word “recycling” with air quotes before grabbing another package off the mail cart and slicing it open with a box cutter.
This was not the life she envisioned for herself when she joined the campaign staff of the Honorable Judge Theodore Devon, Esq. during his bid to become the next mayor of the tight-knit community of Moscow, Idaho.
She certainly wasn’t dressed appropriately for her current task in the basement of the house that served as campaign headquarters. She should be upstairs, mingling with the movers and shakers of Idaho’s premier college town, instead of down here ripping open envelopes and boxes filled with campaign contributions and other assorted gifts for the judge.
Wes peered in the box he had just opened. “Oh goody, more crap.”
He held out a pink plush bear with a bright yellow bow tied around its neck. “Who in their right mind even thinks a mayoral candidate needs a teddy?”
She took it and inspected the bright pink bear before handing it back to him. “It’s probably a gag gift.”
Wes regarded her with a confused expression right before the wrinkles in his face smooth as he laughed. “Oh I get it. Theodore. Teddy.”
He wiggled the teddy back and forth in synchronized motion with his own head. “Hi. I’m Mayor Teddy.”
She couldn’t help but laugh. The menial tasks of a political staffer, far too many to count on a daily basis, would’ve been unbearable without Wes. They had been paired up early on in the campaign and it worked out much better than she originally thought it would.
She would’ve quit months ago if it weren’t for him.
Her cell phone rang in her purse.
The judge must’ve remembered she was still down here and was calling her back up to the party. When she dug it out, it rang again with that same muted sound as if it were still deep inside her purse.
Only, it wasn’t her phone ringing.
Wes shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t look at me. Somebody wants to call me, they can damn well wait till I get home.”
The muffled ringtone sounded again, coming from one of the packages on the mail cart.
Wes leaned over the small pile of boxes and envelopes and cocked his head to the side. After it rang again, he plucked a box off the cart and cut it open.
He unfurled the tightly wound bubble wrap and held the cell phone up as it rang.
Had somebody accidentally boxed their cell phone up instead of the gift? What other reason would they be trying to call it, except to find out where it had ended up?
“Aren’t you going to answer it?” she said as it rang again.
He held it out to her with his nicotine stained fingers. “No way. These things give you brain cancer.”
She took it from him with an exasperated sigh and answered it. “Hello?”
There was silence on the other side followed by a rapid clicking sound.
“Hello?” she said again.
The clicking promptly stopped and was replaced by the sound of a fax machine. She hadn’t heard that sound in nearly a decade. Emails and PDF attachments had replaced the fax machine as the primary document transfer pipeline. They still had a fax machine in the main campaign office, but it sat in the corner, unplugged, gathering dust. Somebody, some high level staffer, insisted it was relevant technology, so it had never been thrown out.
She listened to the screeching tones coming from the cell phone, and understood everything. When the computerized tones completed their transmission, she set the phone down on the table in front of her.
She had a lot to do, and very little time to do it.
Angela scanned the room around her with a fresh pair of eyes. She was in the basement with her target located in one of the rooms above. The basement was a makeshift mail room, which is exactly where she needed to be.
The only other person in the room was staring at her with a puzzled expression on his face. “Are you okay Ang? Who was on the phone?”
She probed the recesses of her original memories and matched his face to a name. The transition happened faster each time. She was quickly merging original memories with her new ones.
The man standing before her was named… Wes.
She smiled reassuringly at him. “I’m fine.”
The worry lines in his deeply wrinkled forehead smoothed. “You zoned out for a moment there. You sure you’re okay?”
She glanced at her watch.
“The judge’s party will be winding down soon. We should finish opening these boxes.”
As soon as Wes turned his attention back to the cart, she snatched up the box cutter and sliced his throat with the skilled hand of a professional assassin, even though she had never so much as harmed a fly the whole time growing up in this quiet college town.
She stepped aside quickly to avoid being splattered by blood from her first victim. How had she known to do that?
She picked up the pink plush teddy bear with the yellow ribbon and cut into it. She pulled out the stuffing and let it fall around her feet until she found what she was looking for.
She slid the automatic pistol out of the teddy bear and gripped it with the practiced hand of someone who had fired thousands of rounds, even though this was the first time she had ever held a gun.
Her thumb flicked off the safety and she yanked on the slide to chamber the first round.
Her mission was to make her target’s death personal. It could not look like a political assassination. It was up to her to make sure nobody probed too deeply into why the judge was killed.
Fortunately for her, she would have a room full of witnesses eager to spread her carefully calculated misdirection. Every one of them would scramble to be the first to say why the judge was killed when the news trucks showed up.
She couldn’t remember who she was doing this for, but that didn’t matter. She would use her newfound skills to the best of her ability and accomplish her mission.
She stepped over her friend’s body, internally thanking him for handing the phone over to her. It would’ve been a much harder sell to the witnesses if he had been the one to pull the trigger.
Angela stepped into the crowded great room of the Victorian mansion where the Honorable Judge Theodore Devon, Esq. was holding his latest fundraising event. She chuckled silently to herself as she thought of her target’s name.
The Honorable Judge Devon.
Tonight was going to be as much a character assassination of the judge as it was a literal assassination.
Her clothes no longer looked out of place and she blended perfectly in with the crowds milling about the rooms of the mansion.
She held the gun tightly against her leg with her left hand. She would need her right to shake hands with anyone who stopped her to force an introduction with another of Idaho’s elite.
Fortunately, she made her way through the crowd with minimal interruption. She was just a staffer on the judge’s campaign, and not someone the elite felt compelled to meet.
She circled the room a second time, not finding the judge anywhere.
She stopped next to Billy, another staffer who, related to the judge through some distant cousin, was never relegated to menial tasks and had been at the party the entire time. She stood a little too close, letting her perfume mesmerize him like it usually did. Boys raised on the privileged side of the tracks always thought they were God’s gift to women. Rather than looking into his eyes, which would’ve derailed the mission as he tried to talk her into going out on a second date, she scanned the crowd.
“I can’t find the judge.”
He nodded to the open French doors on the other side of the room.
“He’s out in the garden trying to convince one of his biggest contributors not to withdraw his support.”
“Anybody else out there with them?”
“Don’t think so. My guess is that’s a very private conversation.”
So much for a quick and speedy end to her mission. There had to be plenty of witnesses around for what she had planned. She would have to wait until he came back inside.
She tucked the pistol up under her blouse and into the front of her skirt. She couldn’t risk someone spotting it before she was ready for them to see it.
She watched, waiting for him to return, when a familiar high-pitched voice pulled her attention away from the open French doors. The judge’s wife, Marguerite, was pulling a distinguished looking gentleman by the arm toward her.
“Ah, here she is. Senator Jules, I’d like you to meet Angela, a very bright young lady who has been with us since the very beginning.”
The senator graciously extended his hand and Angela shook it with an easy smile on her face. “It’s very nice to meet you senator.”
The senator’s face brightened when he caught a whiff of her essence. She found that it had paid, more often than not, to spend the extra bit on perfumes that advertised to be infused with pheromones. He took advantage of the handshake to move in closer. “The pleasure is all mine.”
Marguerite motioned to the room in general. “None of this would be possible without Angela’s help. She is a godsend.”
The senator breathing in her scent. “I could use someone like you when the next election comes around. I just barely beat out my opponent the last time.”
He clung to her hand, even though the shake had officially ended. She did her best to not make it feel like his prolonged handholding was unwanted. She glanced sideways at Marguerite.
“Actually, I was hoping for a more permanent position once the judge becomes mayor.”
The senator gripped her hand tighter and winked. “Now why would you limit yourself to working in a small town mayor’s office. I’m sure I could think of several positions for you in my office.”
She pulled her hand out of his slowly and suppressed the emotions bubbling up from deep inside that urged her to react to his obvious meaning. She had more important things to do tonight.
“I appreciate the offer, senator, but I belong here. I grew up here.”
And then inspiration hit her and she knew what to say to lay the groundwork for what would be happening very soon.
“And I plan to start a family here.”
Marguerite smiled. “I didn’t know you were married.”
“I’m not, but I’ve been spending a lot of time with someone lately. And we’ve become very close.”
Marguerite stiffened at her comment. That confirmed it was Marguerite’s decision to banish her to the basement for the duration of the party. All those late nights working alone with the judge, despite nothing ever happening, had made the wife jealous. It probably didn’t help that she was about to expose a wife’s paranoid suspicion in front of dozens of witnesses.
During the short conversation with the senator, Angela had positioned herself so she could keep an eye on the doors leading out to the garden. At that moment, a man walked in, glanced around and then headed for the front door. That must be the contributor the judge was trying to persuade to maintain his support. It didn’t look like he had been successful.
It didn’t matter. The judge was alone in the garden, and that was the best place for him to be for her plan to work.
She nodded politely at the senator. “It was very nice to meet you. If you’ll excuse me there is someone I need to talk to.”
She didn’t wait for his response as she quickly made her way out to the garden.
Thankfully, he was alone. Her heels clicked on the paving stones as she approached him from behind while he turned. “Did you have a change of heart Walter?”
His face registered surprise. “I’m sorry Angela. I thought you were my contributor coming back to apologize for his behavior.”
The next thing she did was out of character for her, and this man had done nothing to her to deserve it. It made it hard for her to do, but it had to be done to accomplish her mission.
She swung hard and slapped the smile off his face.
She spun around on the balls of her feet and stomped back through the garden toward the French doors that would lead her back into the middle of the party.
She was making a big scene, pushing people out of the way as she forced herself through the middle of the great room.
The judge called out to her as soon as he reached the French doors.
She spun around and screamed at him. “You promised! You promised!”
The judge looked even more confused now than in the moment after she slapped him. “What did I promise? What are you talking about?”
By now, everyone at the party looked like they were watching a tennis match, their heads pivoting from the judge, to her, and back again to the judge.
“I’m tired of the lies. We can’t hide this forever.”
“Hide what forever? What’s gotten into you?”
Every guest’s head pivoted to her, waiting for a response. She had to make it good.
She laughed hysterically to show the witnesses she’d been pushed, not to the edge, but over it.
“Excellent choice of words, darling. What’s gotten into me? What’s gotten into me? I’ll tell you what got into me.”
She reached under her blouse and yanked out the pistol.
She ignored the cries of terror as everyone shrank away from her. She shouted, clearly and loudly for everyone to hear. “You got into me. I’m pregnant you son of a bitch!”
There were nine rounds in the magazine of the automatic pistol.
The first eight she pumped into Honorable Judge Theodore Devon, Esq. Even though she had never fired a weapon in the twenty-eight years she had been alive, her groupings were tight and the judge was dead before he hit the floor.
The last one, she saved for herself.
About The Warrior’s Code:
Can a simple phone call change who you are?
On the same day that Alexander Chase is released from prison, he is approached by a secret organization with a simple request. Pose as an FBI agent and retrieve a cell phone from a small town police station.
He quickly finds himself alone and on the run while trying to destroy the technology that can convert anyone, anywhere, into a highly-skilled assassin.
The Warrior’s Code is the second book in the action-packed Peacekeepers X-Alpha thriller series, and marks Steve DeWinter’s return to the genre two years after his underground bestseller, Inherit the Throne, thrilled readers worldwide.
About the Author:
Steve DeWinter is an American born action-adventure thriller author who also writes science-fiction under the name S.D. Stuart and supernatural thrillers under the name J.D. Pierce.
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