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TOXIC, a story ripped -- as they say -- from the headlines -- is my explosive new thriller in 
which former FBI Agent Jack Wells fights extraordinary rendition on U.S. soil, police militarization,environmental corruption, disappearing freedoms, and America's reluctant acceptance of an oligarchy.

TOXIC could not be more topical or relevant as it mixes hard facts with great fiction, using a
global chemical company's poisoning of Roanoke's groundwater, and Well's suicidal fantasy, to expose sad but dangerous truths about American greed, corruption and injustice in a breathtakingly fast-paced read.

Read the first two chapters here:



Chapter 1



"Oh, I am so going to get you bastards!" Jeff Roberts shouted, then slammed the file closed and leapt out of his chair. "We're going to nail you this time."

He spun around twice, too excited to know what to do until he raised his fist in the air and shouted "Finally!"

Jeff logged off his computer with the screen still showing his smoking gun, the absolute proof and the emotional pull that would get them the win in court. Montessa Chemical Corporation would lose. And at least a tiny bit of Montessa's global criminal behavior would be punished.

He wanted to call Claire and celebrate with her, but there was a good chance her phone was bugged. He thought about calling Robyn, but it was too late to startle her when he was this jacked up and his whole body hummed with excitement. So he grabbed a beer, popped it open, and watched the courtroom scenario play out in his mind. Montessa's lawyers, slicker than snot with their thousand dollar briefcases and ivy league degrees. Unbeatable, almost. But Jeff had them now. He had them.

He needed to calm down and get some sleep, so he ran the tub full of hot water. Drank another beer and climbed in, making a mental note to clean his nails before showing up in court. He slid down in the tub and covered his face and stayed there, watching himself kill it in front of the jury, his cardboard boxes beating the crap out of those damned leather briefcases.

When he ran out of air he surfaced, but hadn't even opened his eyes before the forty caliber slug splattered half of his head against the wall..




Chapter 2



The tiger shark came reluctantly alongside the Bella Sabrina, a 36-foot sport-fisherman anchored nine miles off Marco Island in the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Jack’s refuge, where everything felt better and cleaner, just as it always had, even when he was a small boy alone in his skiff off Key West.

"Keep your rod tip up," Jack said to the angler. "He's still pretty green but I'm going to grab the leader."

The men in the fishing party gasped as the apex predator rolled on his side and flipped water into the boat with his enormous tail before making another powerful run, ripping the steel leader out of Jack's hand.

"Now move toward the bow," Jack shouted as he grabbed his tail rope. "Get him up again and I'll try to rope him."

"Confirm that I'm moving to the bow," the angler grunted as he strained against the tiger's relentless struggle, and then Jack knew for sure he was a veteran, too. Maybe Iraq or Afghanistan or maybe one of the few who'd served in Africa. Jack wondered, briefly.

The tiger turned and came back fast, the angler cranking like crazy to keep the line tight. He attacked the hull, banging his thousand-pound body hard into the keel before surfacing again, right beside Jack, his broad head shaking back and forth while his tail slapped the boat, giving Jack a chance to reach down into the frothing water and loop him. He planted his feet to the deck and pulled tight as he hauled the animal backward toward the stern, then threw two turns of the rope around a cleat. 

"Keep him against the hull," Jack said as he snapped a photo, then read "Eleven feet four inches" off the ruler he'd marked at the waterline on both sides of his boat. As he said, "and nine foot ten to the fork of the tail," he grabbed the tagging dart attached to a long wooden rod, loaded a stainless steel tag, held the pole about three feet from the shark, aimed beside the dorsal fin, and stabbed hard. The shark thrashed his tail and splashed the men, but the tagging was perfect.

"The hook is down too deep but will rust out quickly. Get all the pictures you want 'cause I'm cutting him loose."

Jack reached over the side and ran his hand along the back of the thick shark's striped body, from the dorsal fin to the tail, and slid off the tail rope. Then he moved to the tiger's gaping mouth and clipped the leader, smiling as the tiger lapped the boat and headed for the depths.

"Nice job, everyone. Give me a minute to fill out the card."

While his party celebrated, Jack wrote the length, species, sex, weight, and angler's name on the NOAA 3x5 card assigned to that tag. He was filling in the latitude and longitude of the hook-up when his cell phone rang. The caller ID said CHAINSAW, even though his friend, Mike Roberts, like Jack, was trying his best to distance himself from the violence of their past. Jack just hadn't edited his directory.

"Yeah, Mike. What's up?"

"Jeff is dead." Powerfully said by a powerful voice hiding overpowering pain.

Jack waved for the men to quiet down, then pressed the phone hard to his ear. "What?"

"Cops say he killed himself."

"Jeff killed himself? There's no way."

"That's what they said, Jack." A crack in that strong voice. "They say my beautiful boy climbed into his bathtub and put the barrel of a .40 caliber pistol to the side of his head. Squeezed the trigger and sent a hollow-point into his brain."

"Jeff hates guns. It would never happen. Ridiculous."

The line went silent. The anglers stared. A frigate bird circled overhead as the wake from a distant boat slapped Bella Sabrina's hull.


"I'm still here, and I'm glad to hear you say that because I think it's a lie, too." The voice now hard, tempered like steel with the resolve that once had inspired men to follow him and Jack into battle. And then it wavered. "But . . ."

"But what?"

"Claire broke Jeff's heart a few weeks ago."

"What did she do?"

"She left him for some high-paying job in Atlanta, was all Jeff said."

"You think there's more to the story?"

"Probably. No way to know."

"Could that screw him up enough for him to shoot himself?"

Mike said nothing so Jack dialed it down. "For Jeff to take his own life?"

"Who knows?"

"We both saw it happen in Afghanistan."

More silence. Then, "No, Jack. I think Jeff was stronger than that."

"Yeah, me too."

"Which means I've got to go find me a killer."

Jack turned away from the fisherman, making it private. "You're a good fighter, Mike, but you're not an investigator and we both know it. What's your plan? Roll into town and crack skulls until a confession leaks out of one?"

"It's effective."

"At getting you arrested or killed. Look, you stay put. I'll go find out what happened."

"While I sit around on my ass? Smarten up, Jack."

"How's Marilyn doing? How are the kids holding up?"

"Leave them out of this."

"The way you're leaving them out?"

"Jack, you best be careful."

"Don't puss out on them, man. Not now when they really need you. Be the strong dad and husband they've come to expect."

Mike mumbled something.

"What? I didn't hear you, Mike."

"I said they're pretty busted up."

"You'll do them more good than you will Jeff. He was still living in Virginia?"

Was still living. The words had to hurt bad. Jack knew it. Jack felt it.

"Yes." Quiet. Sad. "Roanoke. Still saving the world with the Sierra Club."

"I’ll head there now. Tell his landlord to expect me. Give both me and your family forty-eight hours, Mike. You'll still be plenty pissed two days from now, I promise."

More silence as Jack started his boat, hit the windlass switch to raise the anchor, and turned back to shore, slow enough to keep the wind noise down so he could hear. He glanced at the anglers and said, "We're heading back early. Emergency. Sorry."

"One question, Jack."

"Yours to ask, Mike."

"Can you still do it?"

Fair question, because Jack really wasn't sure. His Marine commanders had done serious damage when they'd silenced his challenges in Afghanistan with a bomb, and not just to his body. So all Jack knew for certain was that through eleven months in Afghanistan and sixteen excruciating months in various V.A. hospitals, he'd survived and done well by getting hard, mean, and ugly. It was nothing special, really. In truth, getting mean was a horribly human trait. Ten years in the FBI had softened or hidden or, more likely, civilized it, but he was willing to bet the ability was still there because the poison still came to a boil on very rare but just as regretful occasions.

"Yes, Mike. I can do it."

"Okay, I'll accept that. Because if someone murdered Jeff . . ."

"Yeah, Mike?"

"I want blood, Jack. I want gallons of blood.".


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