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Yankee in the Wind (Code Name Stargate #3)

Yankee in the Wind (Code Name Stargate #3)

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When investigating the death of a fellow Stargate agent, Jack “Yankee” Porter meets the dead man’s cousin, Lilly Davis, who’s questioning the circumstances of her cousin’s death. Following the clues, Yankee and Lilly must realize that the mysterious Mr. Smith, who’s been hunting former Stargate agents, has something even more nefarious in store for the agents of the top-secret CIA program—not to kill them but to use them for his own evil purpose.
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About the Book

Excerpt

1

Lilly Davis sighed heavily and pushed back a tear. She’d had no idea how rapidly Uncle Will had been deteriorating over the past two months since the death of his only son, Thomas Reed, at the age of thirty-seven. She’d been out of the country on a tour with Doctors without Borders in Central Africa, when she’d heard about her cousin’s death, and had been unable to travel back to help her uncle get over his loss. A local outbreak of Ebola had forced the entire team of doctors and nurses to quarantine in a remote part of the Congo. Nobody had been allowed to fly, making it impossible for Lilly to attend Thomas’s funeral. Nevertheless, she’d shed plenty of tears.

Thomas hadn’t only been her cousin, but also her childhood friend. And even as adults they’d been very close, despite the fact that they’d seen each other less and less. Thomas had joined the military and been deployed to dangerous hotspots around the world, while Lilly had undergone rigorous medical training at the best hospitals and laboratories in the country, before specializing in infectious diseases and landing a job at a cutting-edge laboratory in Bethesda, less than ten miles from Washington D.C. Her department had asked for volunteers to accompany Doctors without Borders to the Congo to assist them by testing for muted viruses in the region.

Lilly hadn’t spoken to Thomas in the two months before his death, which wasn’t unusual. Over the past three years, it had always been Thomas calling her, always from a different number. When she’d asked him about his location, he’d told her that he couldn’t give her that information. She suspected that his deployments were top secret and hadn’t pressed him. But she knew Thomas well enough to tell that he was stressed, and that whatever he was doing was taking a toll on him. More than once she’d told him that he’d served his country long enough, and maybe it was time to come home and get a less stressful job.

“Soon,” Thomas had promised.

But it had never happened. And now, Lilly stood in Uncle Will’s house in the outskirts of Washington D.C. surrounded by boxes with household items ready to be donated to charity.

“You look sad, Miss Davis,” Deja Lashae said from behind her.

Lilly pivoted. Deja Lashae, a black woman in her late forties, looked at her. She’d been her uncle’s home healthcare worker for the past year, until it had become clear that William Reed had to go into a home for Alzheimer’s patients to get the care he needed. Deja was tall and looked fit and strong. Knowing that handling elderly patients involved a lot of lifting, Lilly realized that being a home healthcare nurse for an old man whose health was failing and who could be stubborn, required a physically strong person.

Lilly sighed. “I spent many happy hours in this house, visiting Uncle Will and Thomas. I can’t believe Thomas is gone… and Uncle Will… it’s sad to see him like this…” She and William Reed were now the only ones left of the Reed family. Her mother, Will’s sister, had died a few years earlier of cancer, and her father had moved back to his native Canada after their divorce nearly twenty years earlier. Will’s older brother had died in a car accident.

“That’s what dementia does to people,” Deja said with a compassionate smile. “You lose your loved ones even though their body is still here.”

“That’s true, Deja. I should have come back earlier. Maybe I could have spent a little bit of time with him when he still had lucid moments.”

“Don’t blame yourself. Nobody could have guessed how fast the disease would ravish his brain after his son died. It was as if he just gave up after that.”

“Were you with him, when he got the news of Thomas’s death?”

“Yes, I was. Your uncle took it hard. It seemed like all life left his body right there and then.” Deja let out a sigh. “And when Thomas’s ashes arrived a few days later… oh, it was crushing.”

“His ashes?” Lilly said with a start. “He was cremated?”

“Oh yes,” Deja confirmed. “I would want to be cremated. Lots of people do it nowadays. It’s cheaper too. You know, no casket, no large grave to maintain, and—”

“But Thomas didn’t want to be cremated. I know it. So does Uncle Will. I’ve known it since we were kids. Ever since his mother died in a fire that broke out in a restaurant, he was horrified at the thought of being cremated.” Lilly shook her head. “It was in his living will. Thomas made us all promise. He made me promise.” Only Lilly hadn’t even been in the country when Thomas had died.

Deja gave her a concerned look. “I’m sorry, Miss Davis, I don’t know anything about that. And your uncle was in no condition to make any decisions. Besides, from what he was told when he got the news of Thomas’s death, I got the impression that he had no choice about what happened to Thomas’s remains.”

Lilly furrowed her forehead. “What do you mean?”

She shrugged. “Something about an infectious disease and that it was in the interest of public health?”

“But that makes no sense. Did they say what he died of?”

Deja lifted her hands in a helpless gesture. “That’s all I could get out of your uncle.”

“I thought you were there with him when he got the news of Thomas’s death.”

“Oh, yes, I was, but your uncle called somebody after Thomas’s ashes arrived. But I’m not sure what they told him. He said something about an infection risk, and that the government just did what they had to, but he was upset about it.”

“Who did he speak to?”

“I don’t know.” Deja lowered her voice. “Just between you and me, I’m not even sure that your uncle spoke to anybody at all. Even in the months before his son’s death, he came up with all kinds of stories that didn’t bear much resemblance to reality. You know… conspiracy theories.”

That surprised Lilly. Her uncle had never been one to indulge in conspiracies. He was a man of logic, of science, of facts. He’d been a mathematician at a university in his younger years. Later he’d switched to a career as an actuary working for a large insurance company. Clearly, her uncle was far from the person he’d once been, even though he’d greeted her joyfully when she’d visited him upon her return from the Congo.
“When I saw him last week, he seemed very clear.”

“That’s the thing with dementia,” Deja explained. “One minute people sound as if they’re perfectly fine, and the next, they don’t even recognize you. It’s a cruel disease.”

“It is,” Lilly said. Then she motioned to the boxes. “I’d better continue so I can get the house listed for sale. Thank you for helping out with this, Deja.”

“Of course.”

Lilly turned to continue with the next room, Thomas’s old bedroom, while Deja returned to the kitchen, where she’d been cleaning out cabinets.

Thomas’s bedroom hadn’t changed much even though he hadn’t lived there in over fifteen years. There was no carpet, just the old worn wooden floor that creaked in many places. The single bed he’d slept in as a teenager was still standing against one wall, the old wooden desk where he used to do his homework on the opposite one. There was a large bookcase with books reaching from algebra schoolbooks to Zen philosophy. The walls were adorned with posters of Bob Marley and Santana. Even when Lilly and Thomas had been teenagers, their taste in music had been considered retro.

For a moment, Lilly just stood there, letting the old memories of their childhood together draw her back to a time where everything had been simpler. Thomas had been somewhat of an odd kid. Too serious, too wise for his years, an old soul. But in a way, Lilly was so much like him, almost as if they were twins, not cousins. As twelve-year-olds they’d even developed their own secret code to send each other messages with secret passwords. It had been a game between them. A game for nerds.

Lilly pulled herself out of her memories. She had work to do. The real estate agent she’d talked to about listing Uncle Will’s house had told her that she wanted to get the house painted and staged the following week, but that it was Lilly’s responsibility to clear out all personal effects. A charity would come by the next day to pick up the furniture.

Lilly went through the books, tossing most of them into one of the boxes. There were none that she wanted to keep, none that meant anything to her. The closet still held some of Thomas’s clothes that he had worn whenever he’d visited his father. The pants and shirts were out of fashion and worn. Thomas had never much cared about what he wore. Spending the majority of his adult life in uniform probably had something to do with that.

She tossed his clothes in another large box, then removed the old shoes and boots that lay on the floor in the closet. She was about to switch off the closet light, when something on the floor caught her attention. She crouched down to look at it more closely. There, in the corner where his old boots had stood, something was carved into the wood. At first, she couldn’t tell what it was, but then she shone the cell phone light on it and recognized it. The few scratches that had most likely been made with a Swiss Army knife were meant to show the drawing of a flower, a lily.

Lilly sat back on her heels. She knew without a doubt that Thomas had carved the flower there. But when? If he had done it while they were still kids, he would have shown her. Softly, she knocked on the floorboard with the carving, then on the floorboard next to it. The sounds were different. The space beneath the flower sounded hollow.

She pulled her keys from her jeans pocket and stuck one of them between two floorboards. The floorboard with the flower lifted up easily, revealing a small hiding place not larger than a paperback. Inside lay only a few small items. She reached in and pulled them out.

The first item was a laminated ID card with Thomas’s name and photo on it, which in itself wasn’t surprising if it weren’t for the organization that had issued it: the Central Intelligence Agency. Her heart stopped for a moment. Thomas had been a CIA agent? Was that why he’d never told her where he was deployed to? In fact, had he even been in the military, or had he lied to his family about being in the military when in reality he was a CIA agent?

Lilly set the ID aside, then looked at the two other items. One was a thumb drive, the other a black spiral notepad smaller than a cell phone. She opened it and realized that most pages had been torn out. Only a few pages remained. But they were blank. Why would Thomas hide a blank notepad? She shone her cell phone light on it to get a better look, when she noticed that the top sheet had indentations. Her heart beating like a jackhammer, Lilly jumped up and walked to the desk where she found a pencil. Placing the notepad on the desk, she brushed the pencil over the paper to reveal the writing that had left the indentations.

Henry Sheppard, CIA, 202-555-8978

But the lead from the pencil had revealed something else: a horizontal line crossing out the name and telephone number. Her heart beat into her throat. Was this a message for her? Was she supposed to contact Henry Sheppard? Or had Thomas crossed out the name and number because he’d changed his mind?

The longer Lilly thought about it, the less she understood. Had Thomas wanted to give her this message or not? She stood there for several minutes, contemplating what to do. But knowing that Thomas’s remains had been cremated without his family’s consent, she knew she had to make this call. Perhaps Henry Sheppard could shed light on what had happened to Thomas.

She dialed the number, and the call went straight to voicemail.

“You’ve reached Henry Sheppard. Please leave a message.”

“This is Lilly Davis. I’m Thomas Reed’s cousin. I need to talk to you about his death. Please call me. 202-555-6523.”

She disconnected the call and heard a sound at the door to the room. She turned her head and saw Deja Lashae standing in the doorframe.

“Yes?” Lilly asked.

“I heard your voice and thought you’d called me. Didn’t realize you were on the phone.” Deja’s gaze drifted past her to the closet. “You’re making good progress I see. The kitchen cabinets are all empty now.”

Lilly nodded, distracted. “Yeah, almost done here. Thanks.”

About the Code Name Stargate series

Gifted with precognitive skills and trained by the CIA in a top-secret program that not even the top brass of the agency was aware, the Stargate agents were once the nation’s most powerful secret asset. Betrayed by unknown enemies, unable to trust anyone—not even one another—the Stargate Agents hold the key to unmasking a conspiracy steeped in greed, power and revenge. To survive, they’ll have to solve what lies behind the recurring premonitions they experience, and stop an impending disaster.

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