Ghost Watcher Book 1 - Qwiff

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Ghost Watcher Book 1-Qwiff



CHAPTER 1

The good life, he thought, and it's only going to get better.





Ted Ryan's day started with a surprise promotion to the CenPro

International Board of Directors. He was now a member of the "Inner

Circle" which controlled the private technology company that provided

global support for CIA's covert intelligence operations. CenPro was so interwoven

within the CIA they were considered the agency in someplaces. The company was

an international ghostly mist that infused itself within nation’s political, military, and

economic landscape.


He stepped into the empty elevator, alone at last. Beaming on the

inside with excitement he pulled a sleek cell phone out of his suit coat's

pocket and gentle ran his fingers over it. The phone was on his desk

when he arrived at his office and a gold encrusted note card with one

word "Welcome". His immediate staff surrounded him when he opened

it. They knew the significance of the phone's spider swirl logo. Only the

nine members of the Inner Circle had these unique phones. The phone

accessed an encrypted global network within the CIA's worldwide

computer and communication matrix. With the phone he could reserve

tables in top restaurants around the world, charter private jets, transfer

vast sums of money between accounts, or order an assassination of

anyone with the approval of the Inner Circle.


Ryan put the phone back in the breast pocket of his suit as he

walked out of the elevator. When he stepped outside the air condition

building, the hot Arizona sun hammered his face forcing beads of sweat

to drip from his forehead. The heat gushed into his lungs when he took a

breath. He put his hand up over his eyes to block the sun looking for his

driver and car. A man holding the open door of a new sleek black

limousine waved at him. He walked over to the car.


“Mr. Ryan, I am here to pick you up.”


"Where's Fred, my regular driver?" Ryan asked.


"Fred was reassigned. My name is Jeffrey. I am your driver and

responsible for your safety." He pointed to a black car in front of the

limousine and one in back of it. “As a member of the board you will be

covered by a security detail twenty-four hours a day.”


Ryan nodded and slid into the backseat. The door closed and the

hot outside world slipped away. The car's tinted windows dimmed the

intense Arizona sunlight into mute rays. The cool air flowing through the

vents felt refreshingly and smelled clean. When the driver got into the

car, Ryan pushed the button to raise the darkened window partition

separating the front and back seats. He took a deep breath drawing the

cool air deep into his lungs and leaned back into the soft smooth leather

seat. As the car pulled away from the curb he ran his fingers across the

soft leather that framed the window. The good life and it's only going to

get better.


Outside the window, people scurried along the street. Insignificant

people to Ryan, with meaningless lives, trapped in a dreary anguished

existence controlled by unknown forces like him. He watched their

faces. Their eyes followed the limo as it passed them. They knew

someone important was in the limousine.


He got to the top, knowing what was important and being ruthless

in his climb to prove his loyalty to the company. When the Inner Circle

told him his wife's mother was talking about Ryan's special projects to

the wrong people. He volunteered to arrange a hit-and-run accident for

her that proved fatal. This act elevated him in CenPro management

because it showed his absolute dedication to the company. He was

promoted to senior vice president in charge of United States operations

and reported directly to the Inner Circle.


The two most important special projects in the company were

located in the western part of the United States. The Inner Circle said he

had to be on-site for direct management of the special projects, which

meant living in Scottsdale, Arizona. Ryan didn't like Arizona. To him it

was a hot, dry, sand filled land packed with cowboys who didn't

understand the finer things of the life he enjoyed in New York,

Washington D.C. and Brussels. Arizona people dressed, acted and spoke

like they were frozen in some romantic version of a Wild West full of

cowboys, Indians, horse drawn covered wagons and weather beaten

wooden buildings. He did not like the rough edge rustic cowboy look.

He didn’t understand these people who ran from their family's history to

start new lives.


For the same reason, he didn’t like or trust Wrinkle, the President

of CenPro, a man who appeared from the shadows with no history.

When Ryan joined CenPro he had a background check ran on Wrinkle.

Wrinkle worked the majority of his adult life in various government

covet intelligent agencies and few official records existed on him, and

those that did led to dead ends. He had a lot of questions about gaps in

Wrinkle’s background. But, the question that gnawed at him the most,

how did Wrinkle, a man with no known history become the head of a

global covert technology company like CenPro?


Ryan felt he was born to be important and do important things. His

family, was etched in America's military and political history, and was

considered an East Coast institution. One of the wealthiest families in

the world, his forefathers came to America on board the Mayflower.

Perhaps that was the reason he was so opposed to Wrinkle’s plan of

testing the company’s new bio-weapon against Americans. The only way

to stop Wrinkle was for Ryan to become president of CenPro. Then he

could decide what country the weapon would be tested in and on whom.

Wrinkle seemed to have forgotten that CenPro worked for the CIA, an

American government agency. Wrinkle acted like CenPro was a global

free agent operating for its own benefit. Now that he was a member of

The Inner Circle, his next step was to be President of the Board.


He only had one responsibility for the day, a physical examination

at Savin Medical Center, a Scottsdale hospital and one of CenPro's many

hidden acquisitions lost in a maze of shell companies. Dr. Dave Drecker,

the head of CenPro's global medical services, and a team of doctors

greeted Ryan at the hospital's employee entrance. Drecker's white lab

coat flapped open in the artificial wind tunnel created by the opening

door to reveal a cell phone with a spider swirl logo clipped to his belt.


The medical team did extensive blood work and every medical test

imaginable. Ryan felt like a lab rat by the time they finished with all the

photo-optic tubes down his throat and up his ass, they knew Ryan's body

better than he did and had pictures to prove it.


"Is there something I should know?" Ryan asked Dr. Drecker."That exam was brutal, almost criminal.


"No, we just wanted and needed to make sure you had no medical

problems," Dr. Drecker said. "You have a clean bill of health.”


The rest of the day was his. His new offices would not be ready for

a couple of days, so any business activity had to be handled through his

cell phone. His first call on the phone would be to his wife.


He pushed the intercom to the driver. "Take me home”.

Ryanpressed the spider-web swirl to activate the phone and suddenly, he felt a

needle prick at the tip of his finger. Instinctively, he dropped the phone.

He bent over to retrieve the phone from the floor, a message flash across

the screen, "You lose.”


"What the hell?" he muttered. The slight sting in his fingertip

became increasingly intense and turned into a fiery, throbbing pain. His

palms swelled quickly like a balloon being filled with hydrogen gas. He

grabbed his shoulder to cut off the throbbing speeding up his arm. The

roiling mutilation split into two paths at his neck, with one racing down

his spine while the other hurled up to his brain. He tried to open his

mouth to yell for help, but his body froze from the pain exploding in his

brain. Darkness flooded his mind. Ted Ryan's silent screams were the

first wails of a new generation of high tech biological weapons. He was

the first human kill.


The CenPro Inner Circle rarely met together in person most of

their business was conducted by phone over secure CIA networks. But,

Jim Wrinkle, CenPro's president, called a special board meeting at their

Culpepper, Virginia headquarters to personally report on Ted Ryan's

death.


The twenty-four floor contemporary structure of glass and steel

rose up out of the rolling hills like a polished knife blade. The

windowless conference room, located on the top floor, was shaped like

an upside-down bowl with no right angles. Eleven LCD flat-screen

monitors sat on a glass table with leather chairs. Ten men sat around the

table in the plush leather chairs. Two men sat in smaller leather chairs.

Indirect, recessed lighting gave the room a soft glow. Spider-webbed

lines of light flowed down from the ceiling to the walls and into the

floor.


A video of Ted Ryan's last moments in life had just finished

playing. Captured by the limousine's cameras and wireless sent to

CenPro, the recording documented CenPro's new electronicallytransmitted

biological virus, which instantaneously caused internal

destruction of a human body.


Wrinkle rose to address the group of men. "I appreciate the group's

vote of confidence in the future I've charted for CenPro. Ted Ryan would

have impeded that progress and our shared vision for the new world

realities we are building. He had no vision for the future, just memories

from the past. Nothing in the past can reflect the world today or what it

will be in the future. New world arrangements are being developed and

CenPro will be instrumental in determining how those relationships

work." He pushed a button on the chair replaying Ryan's death. He

turned and faced his monitor. "The Ryan Project is to be the foundation

for our march into the future.”


"The Ryan Project, you've changed the name of the project?" one

of the men asked.


Wrinkle turned toward the man, he had a smirked on his face as he

answered. "Yes," he said. "It'll help us remember this moment and pay

tribute to Mr. Ryan's unwitting contribution to our mission." He also

knew it would serve as an example of what happens when one dares to

challenge his leadership.


Besides Wrinkle, the other Inner Circlemembers included: Dr. Drecker, CenPro

s global medical director; aGerman man who ran CenPro's European operations; a

Japanese man incharge of the Asian operations; a Russian man representing the

communist block countries; an Arab man from the Middle East; aBrazilian man for

South America; and an African man who ran the DarkContinent. Hans Pfister,

head of security for CenPro, and CommanderRobert Timms, security chief for

Arizona operations, flanked the nowvacant seat of Ryan. Another man, Ken

Durban, the CIA liaison to thegroup, who usually participated via teleconferencing,

was unavailablefor the meeting.


"As you saw on the video, the first phase of the Ryan Project can

be considered a success," Wrinkle said. "We had no losses and no

significant costs associated with the project. Phase two operations in

Arizona are ahead of schedule while the third, and final, phase is ready

to be initiated. When all phases are completed, the Ryan Project will

provide us ownership of the most advanced weapons program in the

world. At the same time, because of our work within the CIA, CenPro

will control the covert informational flow of the country's intelligence

assets, which links us to every intelligence network in the world.”

Wrinkle raised his voice. He slammed his fist into his palm. "Then,

we'll create a future based on technology, not the limitations of human

emotion. We'll wash away petty tribalism, get rid of the non-producers

and provide benefits to those who earn them," Wrinkle phased for a

moment. "A world built on CenPro's technological enhancements, with

our operational model serving as the framework for future

governments.”


Wrinkle's chair turned toward Dr. Drecker. "Dr. Drecker, your

weapons development team has delivered the next level of biological

warfare. We all congratulate you on a job well done. Is there anything

you wish to add to my report?”


The short, slightly bald man stood to address the group. "The virus

can only exist for a few minutes outside a host environment. For it to be

an effective weapon, the virus needs to exist several hours outside a

host, and have more methods for delivering it into a human body. This

will expand the infected radius tremendously. Once we perfect the

delivery mechanisms, the virus will operate like a time bomb in food or

water, or can be released into the air.”


"The most important component of the Arizona operation has been

the development of a neutralizing agent that protects the body from the

virus," Wrinkle said. "Countries may pay billions for the virus, but

they'll be more than eager to pay ten times that amount to protect

themselves from it. We'll provide the neutralizing agent free to those

countries and organizations that agree to join us in developing the new

future.”


"A few of our top people have already been inoculated with the

neutralizing agent and have had no adverse side effects," Dr. Drecker

said.


The members shifted uncomfortably in their seats and the buzz of

hushed conversations filled the room. They didn't know the neutralizing

agent was ready for use. They had not been inoculated. Fear and doubt

dampened the room. No one dared speak up or question Wrinkle like

Ted Ryan had done. They just sat there and stole glances at each other,

with a shared realization that any one of them could be the next Ted

Ryan.


Wrinkle smiled, enjoying the panic in their eyes. They understood

the virus was for sale to the highest bidder, but now they knew their

price for protection: loyalty to him. "The Ryan Project wasn't the only

reason I called this meeting." The men leaned forward on the table,

looking up at Wrinkle. "The prime reason, of course, was for the group

to receive the inoculation," he said. "After the meeting, Dr. Drecker will

take you to his lab for the shot. A list of who will receive the anti-viral

agent has been developed. So, the important task at this time is to ensure

no delays in our Arizona operations.”


What Wrinkle didn’t tell the men was there were two versions of

the neutralizing agent. One protected the body for a short period of time

while the other provided total immunity. Only Wrinkle, Dr. Drecker and

Ken Durban, the CIA liaison, had been inoculated for total protection

against the virus. Only later, after the initial shot, would Wrinkle tell

them they had to receive periodic shots to remain protected. Their

loyalty was now a lifetime guarantee.




CHAPTER 2


"Dying like this is not natural.”



Traffic backed up for miles on one of Scottsdale's busiest street.

The medical examiner, concerned the high noon sun would dehydrate

Ted Ryan's body, instructed police to put a tent over the limousine to

block it from the sun's rays. Yellow crime scene tape surrounded the

limousine, separating him, even in death, from the world he scoffed at.


Scottsdale, located in Maricopa County, is across a street from

Phoenix. With over fifty percent of Arizona's population, Maricopa

County was a winter haven for snowbirds from the Midwest. Scottsdale

is a wealthy oasis smack in the middle of the desert. During the summer,

when the grass dries to a crisp brown color, golf courses spray their

fairways with green paint creating thin green ribbon strips in the midst

of brown sand, rocks and desert scrub bushes. The film industry made

Scottsdale a popular backdrop for films. In Scottsdale a common sight

was actors walking the downtown sandy streets of eclectic mix of

southwestern and contemporary art galleries, eateries, saloons and

boutiques.


Motorists slowed to gawk at the crime scene, a fancy limousine

surrounded by bright yellow police tape. Bright red and blue flashing

lights of police and firefighter's cars and trucks lined the road also an

ambulance with its door open. Uniformed people, with and without

guns, all with badges stood around projecting authority. You couldn't see

the body behind the parked vehicles and swirl of people. That didn't

matter to most people as they leaned out of their cars hoping to catch a

glimpse of the movie stars, but this was no movie. People may get killed

in the movies but in Scottsdale wealthy people simply died natural

deaths in their expensive homes.


Maricopa County Sheriff Al Cain liked it that way. Three years

into his four-year term of office, he was well-liked by the citizens of the

county and no doubt would be elected to another four-year term. Sheriff

Cain looked like a western sheriff ripped from the pages of a dime novel

with a head full of white, curly hair, and a white mustache on a face

filled with deep-chiseled lines. Though he gained some extra pounds

during the past few years, his six-foot, two-inch frame held more muscle

than fat. He wore a big, white Stetson, a cowboy shirt framed with silver

traces, tight blue jeans and snakeskin cowboy boots. Sheriff Cain was a

natural poster for the cowboy look.


Sheriff Cain was enjoying the summer day like he did most,

reclining in a seat on the back deck of his home about ten miles outside

Scottsdale. With a cold beer in hand, Sheriff Cain gazed into the distant

mountain range. The vast open space of the desert with the view of the

mountain range was tranquility until the ring of the phone jerked his

mind back into the room. It was the notification of Ted Ryan's death. The

last thing Sheriff Cain wanted to hear about was the death a wealthy

resident in the middle of the city, especially when he was preparing to

kick off his reelection campaign in a few months.


He sped to Scottsdale on the rural two-lane, stone-packed roads

leading out of the country and into the city. With red lights whirling and

siren blaring, Sheriff Cain whizzed past the increasing traffic as he

approached the city limits. As the city's mud and wood building began to

loom over his squad car's dashboard, his men directing traffic came into

view. He slowed down and merged into the long line of cars. He blasted

his siren for cars to let him through. One of his deputies cleared a way

through the cars. Big traffic back up for a medical scene, he thought,

then realized his office didn't tell him how the man died. All he knew

there was a limousine with a dead man. He assumed it would be just

another old, wealthy man who had a heart attack.


As he pulled up to the scene he could see there were a lot of

emergency vehicles around the limousine. His gut begin to tell him this

was more than just an medical emergency when he saw the familiar

faces of the medical examiner and his chief deputy running towards him.

The Medical Examiner met him as he got out his car.


"Sheriff, this is a mess. I've never seen anything like it." He said.

"It's a mess." He repeated. He was so nervous he was shaking.


"Let me see what you're talking about Fred." Sheriff Cain said.


The Medical Examiner turned and walked so fast he left the Sheriff

standing. He caught up to Fred at the door of the limousine. He leaned

down and looked into the back seat. Sheriff Al Cain had seen a lot of

dead, mangled bodies both as a state cop and then later as an FBI agent.

He thought he had seen all the ways a human body could be destroyed

until he saw Ted Ryan's body. Fluids had bloated the body to double its

normal size and swelled his face into a hideous mask that buried his eyes

in deep hollow notches. Blood and a mixture of bodily fluids had seeped

from every body cavity and filled the floor wells in the backseat of the

car. The deformed body looked like an inflated, bloody rubber raft.


"I have never seen a body in that kind of condition." Fred said. "I

am not sure if it is a body. What could do something like that to a body?”


"Fred, I don't know." The Sheriff said. "But, we need to get the

body out of here and into your lab.”


The size and shape of the body had the Medical Examiner's men

wrestling the slick, rubbery body out of the backseat and onto a plastic

sheet to slide it into a body bag.


"What happened?" Sheriff Cain asked his chief deputy, Tim

Johnson.


"We don't know. The driver told us he asked the victim if he was

ready to go home and got no response on the car's intercom. When the

driver put the privacy window down, he saw the man's body covered in

blood.”


"Who's the victim?" asked Sheriff Cain.


"The name on his company identification card is Ted Ryan. The

driver says he is some big shot executive with a company called

CenPro," Deputy Johnson said. "The driver picked him up at CenPro's

office building and drove him to the hospital for a physical. After that,

he was taking him home. Cameras were found mounted inside the

passenger compartment of the limousine. The driver said they were for

security reasons”


"Why would they have cameras inside?" Sheriff Cain asked.


"Don't know." The Deputy said. "The driver said software for the

cameras had not been installed so there is no recording. He said after

dropping Ryan at home, his next stop was to have the software installed

and cameras activated.”


"Anyone check the hospital to see why he was there?" Sheriff

Cain asked.


"I talked to the hospital staff. They told me Ryan had a physical

exam requested by his employer because of a promotion. While they

weren't willing to give specific details about the exam's results, they did

say no medical concerns were noted.”


"The driver didn't hear or see anything because of the privacy

window. After he called us he didn't get back into the limousine. There

were two people in the car, one who was supposedly healthy, is dead and

the other knows nothing." Sheriff Cain said. He looked at the stream of

slow-moving cars with people leaning out their windows trying to get a

better view. He took his hat off, wiped his forehead and the hat’s inside

band. He looked back at the stream of cars. A strange death in the middle

of town was going to be media frenzy. He turned to his chief deputy,

"Tim, we're in the middle of a mess. Do everything by the book. We're

going to have a lot of eyes on us.”


The sun was sliding behind the distant mountains and the light of

the day shifting into shadows when Sheriff Cain left the scene. His

deputies and the Medical Examiner were still processing the scene. He

didn't expect they would find much on what happen. He hoped the

medical examiner's report would shed more light on the manner of death

and maybe spawn some leads for his detectives.


The next afternoon in his office, Sheriff Cain sat reading the

Medical Examiner's preliminary autopsy report. As he read it over and

over, more questions grew in his mind. The report did not identify the

cause of death. It reported no wounds were found on the blood-soaked

body and no arteries, veins or capillaries were found intact. Body

organs, what was left of them, floated freely in blood-filled cavities.

Tossing the report on his desk, Sheriff Cain leaned back in his chair and

muttered, "Dying like this is not natural.”


The sheriff had some good, experienced detectives working for

him, but he knew this case was beyond their capabilities. He had never

encountered this kind of unexplainable death in his law enforcement

career. He needed expert help. One name in particular popped into the

sheriff's mind, so he picked up the phone.


"Hey, Warren, I've got something for you," Sheriff Cain said.


Warren Milton was the FBI's deputy director in charge of international

affairs. The two attended the FBI Academy together and remained

friends over the years. In Milton's world, strange deaths were common

and the investigative resources endless. Sheriff Cain told him about the

Medical Examiner report.


Amidst the long stretches of silence, Milton repeated "no blood

vessels" several times and "that's impossible.”


"I would think it was impossible, too, if I hadn't seen the body

myself and it wasn't lying in the morgue," Cain said. “It’s bizarre.”

"He bled to death, but there were no wounds or blood vessels?"

Milton asked. "That's impossible.”


"You can stop saying impossible," Cain said. "The fact is it

happened. Warren, this is more than my people can handle. I need help."

"It's possible it's some type of biological agent. You should seal the

area of the crime scene and double its size. If it is a biological agent, you

need to keep people as far away from the scene as possible until we can

figure out how it's transmitted," Milton said. "Limit the crime scene to

people wearing biohazard protective gear and make sure the ME's staff

keeps the body isolated. I don't want anyone touching the car or going

anywhere near it either. I'll fly out as soon as possible and get a FBI

evidence response team out there on the next available plane."


Twenty-four later Sheriff Cain found himself staring aimlessly at

the planes taking off and landing. The case was consuming his mind, and

there was no end in sight. His foot twitched endlessly against the gas

pedal as images of Ted Ryan's body flashed through his mind. When

Sheriff Cain would snap back to reality for a moment, he would catch

himself shaking his head in disbelief. "This kind of case just before my

reelection I don’t need." He muttered. "This case will kill me if I don't

come up with any answers." He looked around. "Where the hell is

Milton?”


Sheriff Cain was parked near the curbside pick-up area at

Phoenix International Airport waiting for Milton to exit the concourse.

The last thing Sheriff Cain wanted to do was sit at the airport doing

nothing. He already felt helpless, and this wasted time wasn't helping.

An FBI evidence response team with experts from the Centers for

Disease Control arrived several hours earlier and was already examining

Ted Ryan's body at the medical examiner's office.


Amidst his muttering, Sheriff Cain did not see Milton come out of

the airport's concourse. Startled by Milton's rap on his passenger

window, Sheriff Cain almost crushed his Stetson on the car's roof.

"Nice of you to show up," Sheriff Cain sarcastically said as Milton

opened the passenger door.


"What?" Milton asked.


"Nothing. I'm a freaking' bundle of nerves, that's all," Sheriff Cain

said. "Thanks for coming. This case has me pulling out my hair. We’ll

head straight to the ME's office if that works for you. I'm anxious to see

what your team of experts came up with.”


As the car pulled away from the curb, both men sat surprisingly

quietly, for two friends who haven't seen each other for a long time. The

quiet added to Sheriff Cain's mounting tension as he began to angrily

torque his hands against the rubber steering wheel.


"Al, I've been wracking my brain over this one since you called,"

Milton broke the silence in an exasperated tone. "I hate to say

impossible again, but that's the only thing that keeps coming to mind.

Unless the evidence team finds something, the only avenue I can

possibly fathom is a weapon's grade biological agent.”


"Why would a biological weapon be in Scottsdale? Sheriff Cain

asked. “You think I've got a terrorist group operating in the area?"

Sheriff Cain didn't want to hear that. "Damn feds will lock the town

down and shift through people's lives. He said. "What makes you think

this is a terrorist operation?”


"I have no idea of what to think, "Milton said.”That’s what we

assume when anything happens we don't know or understand. Are you

aware of any groups in the area who don't like what we are doing

overseas?”


"Don’t like overseas, what about here." Sheriff Cain said. "Some of

the stuff I see in the newspaper..." His head dropped and his shoulders

sank in the driver's seat. "At no time when I was with the FBI would

American citizens be snatched off the streets and held by private

contractors. No proof, no court order that they did anything wrong, just a

private contractor suspecting the person of possible interacting with a

foreign entity.”


"The world is a dangerous place, and we have to live in it." Milton

said. "There are lots of people out there that would like to hurt us and

many times we don't know who they are. So the net is thrown wide as

possible.”


"We've known each other for a long time." Sheriff Cain said. "We

both know when bullshit is flying in the air. I didn't ask you here to solve

the world's problems. I need you to help me find out the how and why of

this Ryan death. I am up for reelection. I prefer to retire not kicked out

of office by the county voters.”


Both men sat quietly from that point on during the twenty-minute

ride to the ME's office. As Sheriff Cain pulled into a parking space next

to the all brick, mundane looking building, Milton exhaled a sigh of

relief. "Al, I will do whatever I can to help you." He said. "It will be

simple straight law enforcement support, not mixed with anything else.”


In the medical examiner's office, Sheriff Cain walked around the

examiner's cold, stainless steel table where Ted Ryan's body laid. "I've

seen many different ways to die, but never anything like this," he said.

"Seeing pictures of how bloated the body was earlier, it is hard to believe

that in less than twenty four hours, there wouldn't be a body, just jagged

protrusions of brittle bone with parched limp skin. His skin turns to

powder when you touch it. I can't imagine what in the hell could cause

such damage to a human body so quickly.”


A buzzing noise emanated from Milton's front pants pocket. He

reached in and retrieved his cell phone. As his thumb rolled across the

side of the small, rectangular black box, his eyebrows raised and he

cocked his head. "I love technology. This thing is better than a

secretary," Milton joked. "I can get my email on this as well as any

pages or phone calls. Who needs an office anymore?”


Milton began clicking and typing on his self-proclaimed

technological wonder, "does it have anything to do with this case?"

Sheriff Cain asked.


"It does." Milton said. "Wait a minute." Rolling his thumb along

side the phone, Milton continued, "The evidence response team says the

man's circulatory system was totally disintegrated, like your medical

examiner, they have no explanation for why or how it happened. The

only thing they are sure about is that no known disease or natural

biological agent could destroy a human body so quickly and completely.

Their analysis does suggest it is some type of unknown biological

agent.”


"So what are you saying? This is some unknown weapon someone

has developed without the Feds knowing?" Sheriff Cain asked.


"The CDC and FBI analysts suspect it is some type of biotechnical

weapon," Milton said. "But they don't know what it is or how it

gets inside the body. They took some samples and hope to have some

more answers after they get a report back from the forensic lab.”


"How can a weapon like this, assuming it's a weapon, be developed

without the government knowing about it?" Sheriff Cain asked.

"Well, the CDC and Bureau knows nothing of it. And, as far as we

know, none of the governmental agencies could develop such a thing

and none claim to know anything about it," Milton said. "It has to be

either from the powers above us or a private weapons development

program that hasn't surfaced yet.”


"A ghost weapon development operation can’t be a private affair.”

Sheriff Cain said. "Covert operations always have a government agency

somewhere in their pocket providing funds or authority.”


"Well, the FBI has no knowledge of it," Milton said.


"The only place you guys can't go directly into is national

security," Sheriff Cain said. "If it is bigger than the FBI, then I don't

know what a county sheriff can do.”


Milton had checked with FBI worldwide sources to see if there had

been any deaths with conditions similar reported. There was none of

such a terrible manner of death. CenPro offered a $2 million reward for

information leading to the people responsible for killing Ted Ryan.


Sheriff Cain thought that a high reward would be helpful. Milton

thought different. He felt the money would prime the pump for a flood

of stories that would obscure the truth. Milton knew of CenPro. On the

surface, it was a giant American-based international technology

company that provided communication network support services for the

CIA. Behind the curtains, the company operated in the muddy

backwaters of national security, and he knew that very seldom did

anything clean come from those waters. The misty blanket of national

security sheltered them so there wasn't much one could find out about

them through normal channels. The FBI and CIA hadn't exactly mended

fences since 9/11 and information sharing was definitely lacking.

Developing any useful background on Ryan or CenPro could prove very

difficult. The two men left the ME's office no farther along than they

were when they got there.


Later that evening, while sitting on the back deck of Sheriff Cain's

house, they watched the sun slowly slide into the mountains. "It's too

damn quiet here. There are no sounds, no people or cars don’t seem

natural to me," Milton said.


Sheriff Cain laughed. "Quiet is natural, Warren. You've been living

in noisy cities for so long you don't hear it anymore," he said. "I moved

out here to get away from the noise, the hustle and bustle of cities. I've

lived in this house for three years. I turned one of the bedrooms into an

office and spend as much time in it as I do in my Sheriff's office in

Phoenix.”


"You have two offices? That sounds like hustle and bustle to me,"

Milton said.


“This is my quiet place away from my Phoenix office where I can

think and focus," Sheriff Cain said. "And at night, the big sky gives me

perspective. Plus, I can enjoy a cold beer when I work at home. It's

different than the Bureau.”


"The night sky does seem larger out here. I'm not sure I've ever

seen so many stars except for Broadway," Milton joked.


"Those tall buildings and bright city lights make the sky smaller

and wash away the stars," Sheriff Cain said. "Broadway stars don't

replace those in the sky.”


"The days are too damn hot here," Milton said. He had been

cussing the Arizona heat since he stepped off the plane. For most of the

day his clothes were soaked with sweat and clinging to his body. "How

do you deal with this damn heat? I feel like I've been in an oven all day."

Sheriff Cain tossed him a beer. "It's a dry heat. Drink a cold beer

and enjoy the sound of the quiet.”


"Not enough cold beers in this state for me to live here.”


"After awhile, your body adjusts and you don't notice it," Sheriff

Cain said.


"I don't think my body would adjust, it would just slowly melt

away into a pool of beer.”


From the deck, Milton could see small pictures of Cain's family

dotting the fireplace mantel. Awards from his law enforcement career

covered the walls. The awards, along with his cowboy ways, helped

Cain become sheriff.


Their talk turned to their personal lives. Milton was still married to

his high school sweetheart and had a daughter and son. Both of his kids

were now married with children of their own. He didn't have too many

memories of his kids growing up. He had spent so much time traveling

for the Bureau that he never had much time to share with them. His

wife's life was full of social and church activities that didn't include him.


Sheriff Cain had been married three times in ten years. His two

daughters had their own families and wanted very little to do with him.

He was dating someone, but the relationship would never go any further.

Police work always took priority over his private life.


"Maybe our lack of a normal family life is what drove us so damn

hard to get the bad guys," Milton said.


"Maybe," Sheriff Cain said, leaning back in his chair and gazing

into the nighttime sky. "When I'm on the hunt for bad guys getting them

is the only thing matters. Family becomes secondary." He sighed, "That's

not normal.”


"The hunt consumes you, the adrenalin is like being high on a

drug," Milton said. "That's why this damn case is driving me crazy. We

don't know who the bad guys are, so we can't go after them." He threw

the half empty beer bottle off the deck into the desert sand. "Damn

national security”


"Are you thinking the CIA or CenPro had something to do with

Ryan's death?" Sheriff Cain asked.


"If CenPro is involved, it's impossible to know how or why."

Milton said. "There's no way I can get inside the place to ask questions.

Regardless, I'm sure there are some answers in there. Stumbling through

all the national security mumbo jumbo crap trying to find those answers

will take someone with the access and knowledge that can root out the

truth in the midst of all the virtual bullshit," he said. "CenPro is so

intertwined with the government and the CIA that it's difficult to

separate them. The people I know who can do it will not help unless

there is definitive proof. And, I can't get proof unless I can get into

CenPro. It's going to take someone with some heavy juice and outside

their span of influence to get anything done. But, an outsider can't move

freely within the intelligence community.”


Sheriff Cain ran his hand through his curly white hair. "Damn

Feds," he jokingly scoffed at Milton. "I might know someone that may

be able to help. I worked on a case concerning him several years ago.

And when it was over, there was no record of the incident or him. He

disappeared, except for a phone number, and said to contact him if I ever

needed anything.”


"I'll try every channel the Bureau has, but it may be worth trying

contact him if you think he can come up with something," Milton said.

"What do you know about him?”


"His name is Jerry Davis. Other than that, I've got a brief history

with him that disappeared into a black hole. I'll give him a call

tomorrow.”


"What was he, Black Ops or CIA?" Milton asked.


"All I know, and probably want to know, is he works for the

government. I couldn't believe the way he accessed information across

boundaries. I actually asked him if he was a spy. He just laughed and

said no, he was a ghost watcher. I didn't understand what he meant, but

he wouldn't say anything more about it."



CHAPTER 3


"Well, I have a helluva problem. And I hope you can help."



Government Covert organizations operated like the underground

ninja organizations in old Japan, specially trained in the art and science

of assassination, espionage and guerilla warfare. Their missions of

sabotage, espionage, scouting and assassination reeked havoc in enemy

territories. The ninjas were feared because they moved like ghosts,

leaving only faint traces of their presence. In today's covert operations,

technology added a new dimension to an otherwise old trade.

Technology increased the effectiveness of their cloak-and-dagger

activities and brought some operations to the brink of breaking free from

those who created them, the government. The possibility of rogue covert

government operations became all too real and presented a unique and

frightening challenge to governments across the globe.


The United States was no different. American government had

relied on covert operations like the CIA for years to carry out its

policies. Dark secrets of administrations, from assassinations to

organized government coups, were nested neatly within the walls of

national security. Black Ops personnel don't exist in any records or

databases. Names change and people disappear. They were proverbial

"ghosts"; nonexistent souls operating in an unwitting society. The only

individuals aware of ghosts operations in America were the President,

the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the National Security Agency

(NSA) and the Director of the CIA.


In the case of Jerry Davis, only the President and Director of the

NSA knew he existed. Even amongst the ghosts, he moved as a

phantom. Jerry, president of Justice Data System (JDS), was a bona fide

United States of America government secret. The federal government

financed his life, his operations. They were the sole beneficiaries of his

services, and they wanted to keep it that way. He was not a spy by

definition, but he existed in their shadowy dimensions. JDS operated the

global computer and communication networks of the NSA, a cryptology

government agency which eavesdrops twenty-four hours a day, seven

days a week, on all international communications between governments

and unofficially, on certain domestic and international organizations. His

mission, protect the NSA's computer and communications monitoring

networks secret and safe from the intelligence and eavesdropping

operations of other nations and organizations. Jerry had the ability and

access to monitor the covert operational communications of

governments and spy agencies, including those of the United States.

Jerry Davis was the "Ghost Watcher.”


A soft ring tone signaled an outside phone call for Jerry. The

incoming phone number, identified as Maricopa County, flashed across

the screen of his phone. He didn't recognize the number. There were

only ten people in the world knew Jerry's direct private number. When

one of those individuals called, a unique code would appear on the

screen with their name and picture. In this case, there was no code and

no name or picture. Jerry was puzzled. He pressed the phone into a

special encryption device on his desk, "Hello?" He recognized Sheriff

Cain's voice, the FBI agent who helped track and kill the man who

murdered his wife, a voice he had not heard in seven years.


"Al Cain, It's been a long time," said Jerry. "It's good to hear your

voice. I hope you're doing well.”


"Doing as well as an old retired FBI hunting dog can do," Sheriff

Cain said. "But I still find reasons to get up in the morning.”


"So, you still chasing bad guys?" Jerry asked.


"I'm in a different position, but yeah, doing the same job. I'm the

sheriff of Maricopa County now. Left the Bureau and been doing this for

three years now. It was a fairly relaxing job until a few days ago. That's

why I called you. You said if I ever needed anything, I could give you a

call," Sheriff Cain said. "Well, I have a helluva problem. And I hope you

can help.”


"Absolutely man, I owe you. What's the problem?" Jerry asked.


"It's a bit complicated for the phone. I need to meet with you as

soon as possible," he said.


"Well, I'm traveling quite a bit and have a pretty tight schedule,"

Jerry said.


"I'll come to you," Sheriff Cain said. "Just name a location that's

good for you. It's very important that I talk to you soon as possible.

Tomorrow if possible.”


The number Sheriff Cain dialed was for Florida, but the call was

rerouted through NSA-programmed secure telephone circuits to where

ever Jerry was located. He was the one of the first people Jerry had

given his personal world-wide phone number before it was updated to

show the caller background and history. Jerry owed Sheriff Cain at least

a meeting because of their history together.


"I'll be in the Chicago area for a short time tomorrow. I know it's a

tight timetable, but is it possible for you to meet me at O'Hare Airport

around four o'clock?" Jerry asked.


"O'Hare, tomorrow I'll be there," Sheriff Cain said. "Where do you

want to meet?”


Jerry gave him another phone number, a secure NSA-encrypted

number controlled by Qwiff. "Call me when you get in, and we'll take it

from there.”


"Thanks. I wouldn't be asking for your help if it wasn't absolutely

necessary. I'll see you tomorrow," Sheriff Cain said.


"It will be nice to see you again, Al." Jerry ended the phone call.


During the conversation, Jerry noticed a red light begin blinking on his

electronic bug sweeper. The small black box on top of his desk

monitored phone conversations and would begin blinking when an

eavesdropping device was detected. The red light told Jerry a listening

device was attached to the line, no wonder Sheriff Cain didn't want to

talk on the phone. Jerry smiled. He wasn't concerned someone was

trying to monitor his phone. He had the ability to monitor phones all

over the world. He knew the device could not trace the call to him.


When a bug was detected, safety measures automatically scrambled the

path of the call into several portals that scanned and identified

monitoring activities then attached them to other signals randomly

passing through the portal. All monitoring activities were directed to a

dead-end. He pressed a button on the black box. A graphic picture of the

bug appeared on his computer. The type and complexity of the bug had

government-issue written all over it.


Jerry leaned his six-foot, four-inch body back in his chair and

closed his eyes. Hearing Sheriff Cain's voice pricked his secret cocoon

and created memory waves that washed across his mind. He didn't think

about his past very often. And when he did, it was quick, short

recollections of growing up on the east side of Springfield, Illinois, Abe

Lincoln's town where the black folks lived and the state capitol of

Illinois. The place of the 1908 race riot, that gave reason for the creation

of the National Association for the Advancement of Color People

(NAACP). Playing basketball with his best friend Dexter, going to

dances and chasing girls in view of the state capitol building. He hadn't

seen Dexter in over 15 years, not since he returned from Iraq.


One of the waves that crashed across his mind was the dreadful

memory of losing his wife, Jean, and their unborn son. He took a deep

breath and slowly exhaled to calm the threat of tears in his eyes. He

focused on Sheriff Cain's call and wondered why Al would be on the

government's radar screen.


The next morning, Jerry was up at his usual time of five in the

morning and listening to jazz music as he got ready for the day. At the

same time, he monitored what was on the early-morning news from a

television in the other room. The headline "Plane Crash in Arizona"

caught his eye. He cut the music and turned up the volume on the

television. The female anchor reported two pilots, three FBI agents and

the Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff were killed in the crash. The

screen faded to a split screen with live camera shots from a chopper

hovering over the crash site. The only discernible piece of metal amid

the smoldering rubble was the plane's tail, still intact on the ground. The

rest of the plane was broken into small, twisted pieces of metal piled in a

circular crater in the torched earth. From above the crash site, it looked

as though the plane was flown into the ground like a missile.

Jerry staredat the flickering monitor, the news anchor's voice trailing off as Jerry's

mind floundered in the news. Al Cain is dead? What the hell was going

on? He gets a call out of the blue from Al, a government bug pops up on

Al's phone and then Al dies in a plane crash on his way to meet with him

about a problem he couldn't discuss over on the phone. He needed to

learn more about Al Cain.


"Qwiff!" He called out.


"Ready!" the electronic female voice answered.


"Qwiff, pull together information about the plane crash in Arizona.

Also, collect all the information you can find on Maricopa County

Sheriff Al Cain in Arizona.”


"Processing.”


Qwiff, Jerry's creation, was a complex worldwide computer

communications and energy network. The network was composed of

contrasting technologies, a multitude of analog and digital computers,

radio systems, visual processes and energy grids tied together with

procedures that molded them into a single transmitting signal. NSA

thought Qwiff was just an identity code for their secure global network.


But Qwiff was more than just the equipment or software in a network.

She was a nonphysical artificial intelligence.


Jerry was finishing getting dressed when Qwiff's voice echoed

through the house. "Jerry, processing completed.”


"Qwiff, give it to me when I get into the office.”


"It'll be waiting for you.”


The JDS office complex, like Jerry's house, was built in 2012 on

the southwest edge of Oak Brook, Illinois, a wealthy suburban village

about thirty miles west of Chicago. The town experienced explosive

growth when the McDonald's world headquarters located there in the

eighties, which brought attention, prosperity and high-end stores to the

area. The McDonald's headquarters stood alone in the midst of old

hardwood trees on an expansive piece of land surrounded by large tracts

of grass and ponds.


The JDS complex was larger but because only a fewbuildings were exposed

above ground, there was no way to know itsactual size. Everyone knew about

McDonald's headquarters, no oneknew about JDS. It looked like just another

office plaza in the sprawlingChicago suburbs.The town had no idea the company

was associatedwith the government or what it did. JDS operated as an island of

selfsufficiencywith its own power plant, water from the property’smanmade lakes

and security force.


Like Jerry's house, the JDS complexwas under continuous electronic surveillance

by Qwiff. Langley, theCIA's covert operations headquarters in Virginia and training

ground forAmerican spies, was believed by many to be the most secure building

inthe world. But, Jerry knew their security systems were primitivecompared to

Qwiff's intricate real-time sensors and monitoring systems.


Under the guise of a sewer project, NSA built a mile-long tunnel

containing a two-lane road and tram tracks that connected Jerry's house

to the JDS complex. The restricted, secret access was nice at times, but

Jerry seldom used it. He preferred to drive like the majority of people

commuting to and from work. It gave him a sense of being a normal

person, sharing daily experiences with other people. Since the death of

his wife, Jerry lived a very secluded lifestyle. He had not been to the

grocery store or Movie Theater, or even gone for a walk since she was

killed. She had been his connection to the outside world, a connection

that helped him escape his otherwise murky, secretive world. As a ghost

watcher, he was hidden among shadowy, clandestine relationships. She

provided and shared with him an open life filled with love and honesty.

Today's ride to work was an especially welcome break for Jerry,

with Sheriff Cain's death consuming his mind. As Jerry's car approached

the front gate, Qwiff's familiar voice greeted him from the guard house.


"Welcome to work, Jerry.”


The front gates slowly opened and Jerry entered the quarter-mile

driveway to the main building. During the walk from the car to his office

he caught himself stopping to think every few steps. He had not done

that in a long time. The resurfaced memories from Sheriff Cain's call

brought his past back into his thoughts.


When Jerry arrived at his office, his assistant Leslie's long, shapely

brown legs greeted his eyes as he opened the door. She was sitting on the

front edge of Jerry's desk with her legs crossed, head down reading

reports. She glanced briefly at Jerry as he came in the door, giving him a

snapshot of her baby-face smile before burying her head back in the

reports.


Leslie was from Belize, a small country located south of Mexico.

Her father was a British embassy official there and her mother a Belize

citizen active in the country's local politics. The combination resulted in

a very smart and attractive daughter.

Jerry hesitated for a moment in front of her. "Good morning."

She spoke without looking up. "This Sheriff Cain you're tracking,

someone special?”


"I knew him at another time, in another life," Jerry responded.


"Why are we getting involved?" she asked. "He died in an FBI

plane, and I'm sure they will be on top of it. The report does say they

didn't find the bodies, but there doesn't seem to be any doubt they were

on the plane. Seems strange, but I don't see any national security issues

that would require us getting involved.”


"He was flying here to meet with me," Jerry said. "Consider it a

general security check for now.”


"Why was he meeting you?" she asked.


"He called me out of the blue and said he needed help with

something. I hadn't spoken with him in years. He didn't want to talk

about it on the phone. My tracking program identified a government bug

on his line. He was working with the FBI or they would not have

provided the jet. He died coming to see me and I don't know why." Jerry

said. "Those are reasons enough for the security check."


J Publications, Inc. 2013