Smart, attractive Black-Canadian Mariah Belo ditches her cushy job as head of PR at a Toronto military software company to join a startup civilian firm with an H.Q. ‘up north’ in cottage country. She’s going undercover, working against her new employer to steal its products. Oh, she’s also risking her life. Has Mariah bitten off more than her fair share of danger?
The fifth and last novel of the Crisis Series by G. R. Daniels. Read: The Russian Crisis, Crisis in the Cold, Devil’s Chair, Doubled Down Deadly, and Undercover Crisis. Twists, turns, suspense, intrigue – this series has it all along with a cast of strong and fascinating characters. It’s set in the sleek cities and rough-hewn outback of Canada, the world’s second largest and most interesting country.
Graham Carde ran across the open field expecting to feel the impact of a bullet with every step he took. The shooter had missed twice. One shot blasted out the window of his SUV as he stepped out of it, missing his head by a couple of inches. The second bullet had whizzed by close enough for him to hear the soft hum of its passing.
He was heading for a small grove of trees but it was about 50 meters away across this barren field. His feet pounded on the snow-covered ground; it was mid-March but spring had yet to take hold in this area of Ontario. The winter had been one of the harshest in memory, even in Canada where harsh winters were routine. At least the windblown field wasn’t covered in foot- deep snow or slush.
Another shot. Another miss. Carde heard the sound of the firing but not of the bullet. Finally, he reached the trees and took shelter behind a mature maple. He put his hands on his knees and tried to get his breath. A run like this would have been easy for Carde in warmer weather with lighter clothes but, now, he was laden down with his Canada Goose jacket, Baffin boots and thick Roots pants. He had lost his baseball cap on his run but had kept his gloves.
Carde peered around the tree. He didn’t see anyone but it was twilight and shadows were deep in the distance. Through the trees, he could see another open field ahead, to the south. To the east, the grove ended just short of Highway 400 and Carde saw no salvation there. The cars and trucks on that highway were whizzing past. He would be in more danger of being run over than being hit by gunfire. There were more trees to the west. That was the way Carde would go if he was pursued.
There was a spark of light from the far side of the field, near the parking lot where he had left his SUV. A moment later, he heard the pop. He was better able, now, to identify the sound. It was the firing of a handgun, not a rifle. ‘What the hell?’ A pistol bullet fired at this range was a waste of ammunition.
He realized the real purpose of the shot was to keep him from circling back. The proof came quickly. He saw a flame across the field and it grew rapidly. Carde bent low and began working his way back.
The fire was blazing as Carde took his phone out of the pocket of his bomber jacket. The phone was a special edition that had phenomenal functions but all Carde wanted was an answer when he tapped in 911. He got it. “What is your emergency?”
By the time Carde reached the edge of the parking lot, he heard sirens. He kept low and scuttled across the lot to his SUV. He had a gun in a locked cubbyhole below the rear seat. The door of the hideaway slid open as he put his thumb on the keypad. He took out the Glock and checked the load. He backed out of the truck and surveyed the area. Even though it was dark now, he had no trouble seeing in the glare of the fire that was burning in the partially built structure in front of him. There was no one in sight.
Carde tucked the Glock into the inside pocket of his jacket. He went to the entrance of the parking lot and moved into the middle of the road that led out to the highway as a police car and fire department pumper truck barrelled down the road. They slowed and he directed them; the police car into the lot and the pumper to the blaze. Three firefighters jumped out and rolled out a hose. Carde hurried to them and pointed out the hydrant that had been the first thing installed at his new headquarters building.
The fire truck was from Cookstown, the nearest community to the H.Q. which was being built on a tract that had been farmland. The cruiser belonged to the OPP, the Ontario Provincial Police, who patrolled provincial highways and many smaller communities in the province. As water was poured on the fire, Carde walked to the police car.
“Good evening, officers,” said Carde to the man and woman who were getting out of the cruiser.
“Hey, Carde. How the hell are you?” The male officer took a step forward and held out his hand.
“Evening Derick.” Carde shook and turned to the female officer. He didn’t know her.
“This is Constable Gayle Newland,” said the sergeant, Derick Pointer. “I’m training her.” He gave Gayle a wide smile. She returned a hint of a scowl. She was a tall, slim, attractive woman but her face was red in the cold. She stamped her feet. There was just an inch or less of snow cover on the ground and that would be gone in a day or two but Gayle seemed offended by it.
“Just shined these,” she grumbled. She looked at Graham Carde as she pulled a gray- covered notebook out of a side pocket of her heavy coat. “Name?” Her pen hovered over a page in the pad.
“Graham Carde, with an ‘e’. This is the headquarters of my new company,” he volunteered pointing at the structure behind them. The flames had been beaten down and smoke was pouring out of the remains as the firemen blasted them with water. As Carde pointed, the firemen turned off the hose and began to gather their equipment.
“Home address?” said the woman constable with a full-fledged frown.
“5005 Yonge Street, Suite 4602,” came the polite response.
“Aw, cut it out, Gayle,” said the sergeant in an exasperated tone. “I know Carde. He
didn’t set his own building on fire.”
“We don’t know that, Sergeant Pointer,” Gayle said in a stern voice. “Do we?”
Pointer glanced at Carde with a look of disbelief. “See what I have to deal with?” Carde gave the sergeant a small smile and a slight shrug. “Don’t know why you’re still
using paper,” he said. “I could set you up with recorders…”
“Is that an inducement of some sort?” Gayle’s pen was hovering again but she was staring
“That’s enough, constable.” Pointer was angry now. “You are a trainee. I am your training
officer and I’ve had enough of Police 101. Go see the fire captain; do something worthwhile.” The two officers obviously were having differences that went well beyond the fire they were supposed to be investigating. Carde didn’t want to get in the middle of it. He turned to his
SUV and inspected the damaged window. He opened the driver’s door and looked at the opposite door. The armrest had absorbed the bullet that had broken the window. there was a hole in the hard rubber of the rest. Audi Service would get a chuckle out of this one, he thought.
Pointer moved to the SUV to stand beside Carde. “What broke the window?”
“What? A bullet. Was it one of yours?”
“Not likely,” said Carde. “By the way Derick,” he told the sergeant, “I’m armed. There is
a Glock in my pocket.” He patted his jacket.
“For Christ’s sake, don’t mention that to Grizelda the Ghastly.”
“Now, now, Derick.” Carde laughed and opened the back door of his truck. He took out his weapon and put it back in the gun safe under the rear seat. He locked the door of the safe and stood up. “All copesetic.”
“Tell me the story,” Pointer asked.
“Not much to tell,” said Carde. “As you will know, we’re building a headquarters here for our new company, CDSI. I came out about…” Carde checked the time on his watch, “… about two hours ago. My god, is that all it was?” He looked up at Pointer and shook his head. “I wanted to check the progress. The builder was just erecting the steel framing. What burned seems to have been construction lumber, tarps, some oil or tar for the parking lot – a bunch of stuff piled together.” He thought for a moment. “I doubt it was hot enough to hurt the steel they had put up. The contractor is on his way.”
The two men walked toward the remains of the flammable materials on site. As they neared, they could smell gasoline along with the smoke.
“When I drove into the lot, I saw a figure. Nothing more than a shadow so I can’t give you a description.”
“Too bad,” said Pointer. “It would give Newland something to write down in her little book.” Carde looked ahead and saw Gayle talking to a fireman. He stopped and Pointer halted with him.
“Anyway. I honked the horn, thinking he might work for the builder. I wanted him to know I wasn’t trespassing. There’s irony for you. The person – man, I guess – took a shot at me just as I got out of the Audi. The bullet hit the window. It threw me…”
As Carde remembered his feeling of shock and surprise, Pointer nodded. “I guess it would have,” the cop said.
“I crouched down. Reflex. Then, I started to run.” Carde turned and pointed at the field past the parking lot. No cover but I didn’t have much choice. I didn’t know if the shooter had a rifle, handgun or an AR-15. Who knows these days, even in Canada?”
“I guess he didn’t have a rifle,” said Pointer staring out across the empty field.
“No. He did take another shot but obviously it missed too. I got to the trees and stopped. He shot once more and that was enough for me to know it was a handgun.”
“How the hell did you know that, Carde?”
“I heard enough of both kinds of weapons when I was in the army,” said Carde.
“Who with?” Pointer had gone into policing from the forces.
Carde hesitated before replying. Pointer was, after all, a cop, so Carde said, “JTF2,” he
gave the name of Canada’s elite special forces unit. A few tours in the Middle East and …” Carde stopped. Pointer was impressed. “I’ve known you for, what, three years and I never knew that. I thought you flew choppers.”
“Later, I flew,” said Carde with a grin. “That was fun. Until I crashed one.”
The men began walking again. “I came back when I realized the shooter had a handgun. By the time I got to the lot and got my gun, he was gone. I called 911 and here you are. Very quick, by the way.”
“We were patrolling the highway not far from here,” Pointer told Carde. “This gave me a good excuse to give her something better to do than bother me with questions. And opinions.” He glanced at Gayle who was walking toward them.
“Glad I could help,” Carde muttered with a grimace.
“Well, Mr. Carde with an ‘e’,” Gayle said as she came within a meter of the men and stopped. “We have a case of arson, here. Do you have insurance?”
Carde was familiar with every aspect of the new company. He was not only the CEO, he had been the only employee until three weeks ago. But, he had had enough from the young rookie. “I’ll have to check, constable. I’ll get back to the sergeant on that.”
Gayle Newland looked surprised. “Make sure you do,” she ordered him. Carde gave her a brief look before turning to Sergeant Pointer. “Do you need anything else from me, Derick? I think I’ve told you everything I can.”
“No other vehicles in the lot or on the road when you arrived?”
“No. None,” said Carde.
“By the way,” Newland asked, “what the hell does CDSI stand for?”
Carde’s answer was curt before he turned from her. “Civilian Defence and Security Incorporated.”
Pointer handed over a business card as Carde turned to walk away from the officer toward the wet pile. He heard a heated conversation behind him but a minute or two later the cruiser pulled out of the lot and was driven down the road toward Highway 400