Sampler: Conspiracy of Lies

Neither man had a name. In life. Or in death. Their existence had always been in the shadows.

It was the race for the bomb. America was at war a long way from home.

Hitler’s war machine was storming across Europe. Russia feared the German threat and secretly wanted to become a world power, more feared than it already was. All three nations knew that whoever split the atom and developed the Atomic Bomb first would rule the world.

A stealth operation within the U. S. Government dispatched their man with no memory to Los Alamos where physicists, chemists, and scholars were frantically trying to build the bomb.

Ambrose Lincoln was himself a human experiment, a man whose mind had been erased by electronic shock treatments because the rogue operation believed he could be more effective if he wasn’t shackled by fears and memories of the past.

It would be his duty to uncover and silence those who were stealing America’s most vital secrets and selling them to Russia and Germany.

If he fails the United States might well lose the war, and Lincoln finds himself embedded in a conspiracy of lies where nothing is as it seems to be.

Sampler: Conspiracy of Lies

AMBROSE LINCOLN AWOKE in those odd moments of early morning when the darkness of night was leaving town, daylight had not yet worked its way down from the mountains, and the world around him was as gray and distorted as his life. He was sitting in a straight-backed chair with his head on the table. The air was hot and stifling. A single crease of fading moonlight had been able to pierce the cracked window above his head.

He was alone.

He did not move.

He waited until he took a single breath.

Then another.

Ambrose Lincoln was still among the living. He did not know whether to be grateful or disappointed.

Time would tell.

Time always did.

He stood and glanced around the room.

He had seen it before.

He had been there last night when the chandeliers were crystal and dim, the walls were mahogany, rich wine was flowing like the music, and couples were dancing to Begin the Beguine, holding each other tightly as though the world might end before they kissed goodnight.

The music had ended.

The dancers were gone.

A naked light bulb hung above the table. It cast off a yellow glow, and it was cracked.

The chandeliers were missing.

So were the mahogany walls and the velvet drapes.

The windows were covered with plywood.

The old Masonic Lodge was hollow, mildewed, and looked as though his were the only footprints anyone had made in the dust for a long time.

Lincoln instinctively felt the small of his back.

The Walther P38 weighed heavily against his belt.

A broken glass had been lying beside his head.

It smelled of whiskey.

Cheap whiskey.

And beside the glass, he saw the ticket. Lincoln had no idea where it would take him. He didn’t particularly care. He slipped it into the pocket of his jacket and walked through the gray exterior and toward the front door. He had been abandoned, and so had the building.

He left it with the rats.

He could hear them scurrying from shadow to shadow.

An old wooden bar wrapped itself around the wall beside him. The paint was chipped, the wood scarred, and a dry rot had settled into aging longleaf pine lumber like decay in a dead man’s wisdom tooth.

Lincoln stopped abruptly.

Beneath a kerosene lantern, he saw a menu. He had held one just like it last night. He had ordered a sixteen-ounce strip of steak, rare, barely touched by the fire, and blood had formed a puddle on his plate beneath the bone.

Lincoln grinned.

He wasn’t crazy after all.

He had every right to be.

But he wasn’t.

He thumbed through the menu, then let it drop in the dust, and followed the rats toward the front door.

He opened it and knew immediately why the rats were so anxious to fight their way out to the sidewalk.

An older man lay sprawled face down just outside the doorway.

He was wearing his tux.

His collar was as red as his cummerbund.

His collar was soaked with blood.

Lincoln knelt beside him and figured he would have recognized the face if a bullet fired at close range had not fashionably removed it.

Who was he?

Less than eight hours earlier, the corpse had been a man of good cheer, sitting at a table in a plush restaurant that no longer existed, buying him a steak, offering him whiskey, ordering tonic instead.

And then it all went dark.

What did he want?

He had never said.

Lincoln did not remember him saying goodbye when he left. But then, Lincoln did not remember him leaving.

He didn’t have to look far to find the older man’s companion.

The short, chubby little man was lying in the alley, his body slumped over a storm drain, two bullets in the back of his head. He had been running when death caught him. He had been running from something or someone. The little man had a metal brace on his left leg. He never stood a chance.

Neither man had introduced himself or saw any reason to.

Neither man had a name.

In life.

Or in death.

Had the gunmen taken the girl?

Lincoln assumed there was more than one.

Or had he just failed to find the body?

And why had they left him?

Or did they know about him?

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