Authors: Jack Mars
A N Y M E A N S N E C E S S A R Y
(A LUKE STONE THRILLER—BOOK 1)
J A C K M A R S
Jack Mars is an avid reader and lifelong fan of the thriller genre. ANY MEANS NECESSARY is Jack’s debut thriller. Jack loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit
to join the email list, receive a free book, receive free giveaways, connect on Facebook and Twitter, and stay in touch!
Copyright © 2015 by Jack Mars. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Jacket image Copyright wavebreakmedia and Michael Rosskothen, used under license from Shutterstock.com.
, 1:15 a.m.
Fairfax County, Virginia - Suburbs of Washington, DC
The phone rang.
Luke Stone lay somewhere between asleep and awake. Images flashed in his mind. It was night on an empty rain-swept highway. Someone was injured. A car wreck. In the distance, an ambulance approached, moving fast. The siren wailed.
He opened his eyes. Next to him on the bed table, in the dark of their bedroom, the phone was ringing. A digital clock sat on the table next to the phone. He glanced at its red numbers.
“Jesus,” he whispered. He had been asleep for maybe half an hour.
His wife Rebecca’s voice, thick with sleep: “Don’t answer it.”
A tuft of her blonde hair poked out from under the blankets. Soft blue light filtered into the room from a nightlight in the bathroom.
He picked up the phone.
“Luke,” a voice said. The voice was deep and gruff, with the slightest hint of a Southern twang. Luke knew the voice all too well. It was Don Morris, his old boss at the Special Response Team.
Luke ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah?”
“Did I wake you?” Don said.
“What do you think?”
“I wouldn’t have called you at home. But your cell phone was off.”
Luke grunted. “That’s because I turned it off.”
“We got trouble, Luke. I need you on this one.”
“Tell me,” Luke said.
He listened as the voice spoke. Soon, he had that feeling he used to get—the feeling that his stomach was in an elevator rapidly descending fifty stories. Perhaps this was why he had quit the job. Not because of too many close calls, not because his son was growing up so fast, but because he didn’t like this feeling in his stomach.
It was the knowing that made him sick. The knowing was too much. He thought of the millions of people out there, living their happy lives, blissfully unaware of what was going on. Luke envied them their ignorance.
“When did it happen?” he said.
“We don’t know anything yet. An hour ago, maybe two. The hospital noticed the security breach about fifteen minutes ago. They have employees unaccounted for, so right now it looks like an inside job. That could change as better intel comes in. The NYPD has gone nuts, for obvious reasons. They called in two thousand extra cops, and from where I sit, it’s not going to be nearly enough. Most of them won’t even get in until the shift change.”
“Who called NYPD?” Luke said.
“Who called us?”
“The Chief of Police.”
“He call anybody else?”
“No. We’re it.”
“Okay, good. Let’s keep it that way. The cops need to lock down the crime scene and secure it. But they need to stay outside the perimeter. We don’t want them stepping on it. They also need to keep this away from the media. If the newspapers get it, it’s going to be a circus.”
“Done and done.”
Luke sighed. “Assume a two-hour head start. That’s bad. They’re way out ahead of us. They could be anywhere.”
“I know. NYPD is watching the bridges, the tunnels, the subways, the commuter rails. They’re looking at highway tollbooth data, but it’s a needle in a haystack. No one has the manpower to deal with this.”
“When are you going up there?” Luke said.
Don didn’t hesitate. “Now. And you’re coming with me.”
Luke looked at the clock again. 1:23.
“I can be at the chopper pad in half an hour.”
“I already sent a car,” Don said. “The driver just called in. He’ll be at your place in ten minutes.”
Luke placed the receiver back in its cradle.
Rebecca was half awake, her head propped up on one elbow, staring at him. Her hair was long, flowing down her shoulders. Her eyes were blue, framed in thick eyelashes. Her pretty face was thinner than when they first met in college. The intervening years had lined it with care and worry.
Luke regretted that. It burned him to think that the work he did had ever caused her pain. That was another reason why he had left the job.
He remembered how she was when they were young, always laughing, always smiling. She was carefree then. A long time had passed since he had seen that part of her. He thought that maybe this time away from work would coax it to the fore again, but progress was slow. There were flashes of the real Becca, sure, but they were fleeting.
He could tell that she didn’t trust the situation. She didn’t trust
. She was waiting for that phone call in the middle of the night, the one he would have to answer. The one where he would hang up the phone, get out of bed, and leave the house.
They’d had a good night tonight. For a few hours, it had seemed almost like old times.
“Luke…” she began. Her scowl was not friendly. It told him this was going to be a difficult conversation.
Luke got out of bed and moved fast, partly because circumstances demanded it, partly because he wanted to leave the house before Becca organized her thoughts. He slipped into the bathroom, splashed water on his face, and glanced at himself in the mirror. He felt awake but his eyes were tired. His body looked wiry and strong—one thing all this time off had meant was he was in the gym four days a week.
Thirty-nine years old
, he thought.
Inside the walk-in closet, he pulled a long steel lockbox down from a high shelf. From memory, he punched in the ten-digit combination. The lid popped open. He took out his Glock nine-millimeter and slid it into a leather shoulder holster. He crouched down and strapped a tiny .25 caliber pistol to his right calf. He strapped a five-inch serrated fold-out blade to his left calf. The handle doubled as brass knuckles.
“I thought you weren’t going to keep weapons in the house anymore.”
He glanced up and of course Becca was there, watching him. She wore a robe pulled tight around her body. Her hair was pulled back. Her arms were folded. Her face was pinched, and her eyes were alert. Gone was the sensual woman from earlier tonight. Long gone.
Luke shook his head. “I never said that.”
He stood and began to dress. He put on black cargo pants and dropped a couple extra magazines for the Glock into the pockets. He pulled on a tight dress shirt and strapped the Glock on over it. He slid steel-toed boots onto his feet. He closed the weapon box again and slid it back onto its perch near the top of the closet.
“What if Gunner found that box?”
“It’s up high, where he can’t see it and he can’t reach it. Even if he somehow got it down, it’s locked with a digital lock. Only I know the combination.”
A garment bag with two days of clothing changes hung on the rack. He grabbed it. A small bug-out bag packed with travel-size toiletries, reading glasses, a stack of energy bars, and half a dozen Dexedrine pills sat on one of the shelves. He grabbed that, too.
“Always ready, right, Luke? You’ve got your box with your guns and your bags with your clothes and your drugs and you’re just ready to go at a moment’s notice, whenever your country needs you. Am I right?”
He took a deep breath.
“I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“Why don’t you say:
I’ve decided not to go. I’ve decided that my wife and son are more important than a job. I want my son to have a father. I don’t want my wife to sit up for nights on end anymore, wondering if I’m alive or dead, or if I’m ever coming back.
Can you do that, please?”
At times like these, he felt the growing distance between them. He could almost see it. Becca was a tiny figure in a vast desert, dwindling toward the horizon. He wanted to bring her back to him. He wanted it desperately, but he couldn’t see how. The job was calling.
“Is Dad going away again?”
They both turned red. There was Gunner at the top of the three steps that led to his room. For a second, Luke’s breath caught in his throat at the sight of him. He looked like Christopher Robin from the
Winnie the Pooh
books. His blond hair poked up in tufts. He wore blue pajama pants covered with yellow moons and stars. He wore a
“Come here, monster.”
Luke put his bags down, went over, and picked up his son. The boy clung to his neck.
“You’re the monster, Dad. Not me.”
“Okay. I’m the monster.”
“Where are you going?”
“I need to go away for work. Maybe a day, maybe two. But I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Is Mom going to leave you like she said?”
Luke held Gunner out at arm’s length. The boy was getting big and Luke realized that one day soon he wouldn’t be able to hold him like this anymore. But that day hadn’t come yet.
“Listen to me. Mom isn’t going to leave me, and we’re all going to be together for a long, long time. Okay?”
He disappeared up the steps and toward his room.
When he was gone, the two of them stared across at each other. The distance seemed smaller now. Gunner was the bridge between them.
He held up his hands. “Before you speak, I want to say something. I love you, and I love Gunner, more than anything in this world. I want to be with you both, every day, now and forever. I’m not leaving because I feel like it. I don’t feel like it. I hate it. But that call tonight… people’s lives are at stake. In all the years I’ve been doing this, the times that I’ve left in the middle of the night like this? The situation was a Level Two threat exactly twice. Most of the time, it was Level Three.”
Becca’s face had softened the tiniest amount.
“What threat level is this?” she asked.