Authors: C. G. Cooper
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Medical, #Military, #Spies & Politics, #Political, #Suspense, #Thrillers
Book 6 of the Corps Justice Series
Copyright © 2014 Corps Justice. All Rights Reserved
Author: C. G. Cooper
Editor: Karen Rought
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, locations and events are all products of the author’s imagination. Any similarities to actual events or real persons are completely coincidental.
Any unauthorized reproduction of this work is strictly prohibited.
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This story is intended for mature audiences and contains profanity and violence.
To our amazing troops serving all over the world, thank you for your bravery and service.
Corps Justice Oath by Col. Calvin Stokes, Sr. (USMC, Ret.)
1. We will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
2. We will protect the weak and punish the wicked.
3. When the laws of this nation hinder the completion of these duties, our moral compass will guide us to see the mission through.
Si Vis Pacem, Para Iustitiam: In order to have peace, you must first have justice.
Table of Contents
North Florida Regional Medical Center
7:00am, April 6
He walked with a practiced air, looking perfectly at home in his blue scrubs and well-worn camouflage patterned scrub cap. The hospital staff was too busy with morning turnover and rounds to notice him. Besides, he looked like any number of surgeons: trim, serious, all business.
It wasn’t hard getting into the more secure halls of the hospital. He’d been in too many to count and knew the level of deference given to physicians. He was a doctor, after all, just not one who was currently affiliated with any facility in the United States. It wasn’t impossible that someone would stop him, but it had only happened once in his travels. In the end, he’d reluctantly aborted that mission, feigning embarrassment and slinking away.
Finding patients was the easy part. Selecting the right one was tricky considering his dwindling supply. Success was paramount. What he wouldn’t give for access to his old lab. But that wasn’t going to happen.
He ignored the bored look of a sleepy nurse and grabbed a chart from a metal rack. It wasn’t his first trip into the ward. He’d had to find his target beforehand, had to make sure the patient fit the profile. Failure would not be tolerated. He wouldn’t allow it.
Examining the chart as he walked, the intruder scanned the notes, confirming his own determination. Diagnosed weeks earlier. Cancer. Terminal. According to her physician’s scribbled remarks, she’d been told, but didn’t believe she was dying.
He opened the door to Room 307 after knocking lightly.
“Hello?” The sleepy voice from inside was accompanied by the slight creaking of the hospital bed.
The doctor switched on the light, inhaling the smell he’d come to associate with impending death. Antiseptic and a forced cleanliness that were somehow supposed to mask the odor of the dying.
“How are you feeling this morning, Mrs. Miller?” he asked, still studying the chart, careful not to make direct eye contact.
“Better, Doctor. I really think the radiation is working.” Mrs. Miller squinted. “I’m sorry, are you one of my doctors?”
“Not really. Doctor Peterson is an old friend. He wanted me to stop by and have a look at your progress. Just trying to go the extra mile. Came down from Mayo this morning.” He’d been amazed at how well the use of The Mayo’s Clinic’s name perked people up.
Mrs. Miller nodded, relaxing. “That’s very kind of you, Doctor.”
“It’s my pleasure, Mrs. Miller. Now, feel free to get back to sleep if you’d like. I’m just going to do a quick check on all these beeping things over here and then I’ll get out of your hair.”
Mrs. Miller smiled sleepily, her once round face now tightening around her cheekbones. According to her records, she’d already lost sixty pounds.
Turning away from the patient, the doctor pretended to be checking the array of monitors behind the bed. Once he knew Mrs. Miller was no longer looking, he slipped a capped syringe out of his pants pocket. It took less than ten seconds to inject the solution into the IV line that was providing Mrs. Miller with a slow drip of saline and electrolytes.
He recapped the syringe and replaced it in his pocket, stepping around the bed to look down on the patient. Like every time before, he swore there was already a visible change, but he knew intuitively that it would take days for the drug to run its course.
Patting the resting woman on her hand, he said, “Hope you feel better soon, Mrs. Miller.”
She nodded with closed eyes and drifted off to sleep as he slipped out the door, now hurrying to leave, his guard up. This was the trickiest part, mostly because his adrenaline raced. He’d been careful to avoid the video cameras, opting for a circuitous route to the ICU.
Not five minutes later, Dr. Hunter Price stepped out of the service exit, the smell of rotting vegetables hitting him from the dumpster sitting askew against the brick wall next to the door. Glancing around, he grabbed the backpack he’d stashed behind the garbage, quickly slipping on a pair of track pants and a windbreaker and stuffing his scrub cap in the bag in exchange for the white Nike running visor.
Price slung the backpack over one shoulder and headed toward the bus stop, knowing he was cutting it close before the next one arrived. As he stepped to cross the street, still keeping his eyes downcast, he heard a car door shut. Looking up as casually as he could, his gaze locked onto the man standing next to a forest green Ford F-150, his arm resting on the side of the truck bed. He wore a pair of black wraparound sunglasses despite the overcast day. His dark suit and tie made him look like a Secret Service agent, only with an added hint of menace that seemed to radiate from the man’s placid demeanor.
Dr. Price increased his speed, noticing the man walking in pursuit, stalking like a panther. There was fifty yards to go to the bus stop where three nurses stood chatting and puffing away on cigarettes. To his left Price heard the revving of a large engine. The bus was coming.
He could feel the man behind him, closing the gap with his longer strides. How had they found him? He’d been careful, more so than in months past. And yet…
The bus came to a halt and opened its doors for the waiting passengers, who hastily took their last drags before throwing the still burning cigs on the ground. He was fifty feet from the bus, forty. He waved to the bus driver who motioned for him to hurry up.
He broke into a jog, thankful for the impatient public servant staring at him in annoyance. Dr. Price hopped aboard the bus, handing over his prepaid bus pass, glancing furtively behind him.
“That guy with you?” asked the driver, pointing.
“No, uh, he works for my wife’s lawyer. Trying to serve me papers. Can you step on it?”
The overweight bus driver took a split second to make his decision, closing the doors with a hiss and stepping on the gas just as the man in sunglasses reached to knock on the door.
Dr. Hunter Price breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Just went through a nasty divorce last year. I fucking hate lawyers.”
Price nodded and watched as his shadow passed far behind, still staring at the bus like a statue. Menacing as always.
Dr. Price took a seat, his legs shaking, trying to figure out how he could avoid being found in the future. Then again, if he didn’t find a way to replenish his supplies, it wouldn’t matter.
9:34am, April 4
Cal Stokes took his time walking down the busy sidewalk that skirted Rugby Road, or what might be called ‘Fraternity Row.’ He was heading against the masses, University of Virginia students making their way to class on the brilliant spring day, the sun casting a welcome glow on its travelers.
The harsh winter had gratefully ended, spring now full on as the end of the semester loomed. There was an excitement in the air. He could feel it.
Cal remembered his days at U.Va fondly. He’d never graduated, instead opting to enlist in the Marine Corps after his parents’ death on 9/11, but he’d come full circle. There might be time to finish his degree later, should he choose that course, but the former Marine’s schedule was full. He allowed himself one walk down memory lane each morning, today it was a stroll down to the Corner, the University’s retail hub, for a ham, egg and cheese bagel at Bodo’s.
As Cal dodged another cute co-ed who blushed a silent sorry as she almost collided with him, he thought about the last month and the changes he’d endured. First, his cousin Travis Haden, once the CEO of Stokes Security International (SSI), the company Cal’s father had founded, accepted the invitation of President Brandon Zimmer to become his chief of staff. There’d been a moment where Cal almost slid into the CEO role at SSI, what with being the sole owner and all, but that hadn’t sat well with Cal. He was a warrior, not a paper pusher.
Instead, he’d come up with the brilliant idea of recommending that the company’s only female employee, Marge “The Hammer” Haines, a powerful lawyer with the beauty and lethality of a black widow, take over as head of his company. It hadn’t taken long for him to regret that decision.
The honeymoon barely lasted two weeks, ending with Marge informing Cal that it was time for him to leave SSI, permanently. At the time, he’d been enraged, storming out like a child, disappearing for days, out of contact despite numerous phone calls from his closest friends.
The time away had given him room to think. Over the years SSI had developed a highly effective covert division that took the battle to the enemy. It was Cal’s team and he loved it like a father loves his first child. Cal and his team zealously jumped into fights that government agencies and local law enforcement couldn’t wage. Their focus was the heart of America, the core of their beloved country. While the public divisions of SSI provided security for the government and VIPs overseas and developed groundbreaking new technology, courtesy of Cal’s best friend Neil Patel, Cal’s boys stayed in the shadows, killing when needed, crippling threats as they appeared.
But that was over. While Cal hated to admit it, Marge was right. There’d been more than one instance when they’d almost been discovered. The resulting fall-out would have crippled SSI and likely cost their employees their jobs. Separating the two was inevitable. It had just taken Cal a few days to get to the same conclusion.
What Cal hadn’t known until he’d shown his face back at Camp Spartan, SSI’s primary headquarters just outside Nashville, TN, was that President Zimmer had been part of Marge’s decision. He’d floated the idea that perhaps a new organization be established. One that could disappear if needed and yet be powerful enough to handle delicate operations on and off U.S. soil. Specifically, the president needed a group he could rely on that wasn’t handcuffed by the increasingly noose-tight regulations of the law. He needed someone he could trust. He needed Cal Stokes.
Cal and the president hadn’t been mutual admirers from the start. What with the former congressman being a Massachusetts Democrat and Cal a conservative Marine, their initial introduction was tumultuous at best. But that had changed. Through the duplicity of Zimmer’s now deceased father, Senator Richard Zimmer, and multiple attempts on Brandon’s life, Cal had been there for his friend. They’d forged a bond through fire and lead. Now, despite their political differences, the two held each other in high regard.