Saturday Sampler: Conspiracy of Lies by Caleb Pirtle III
February 6, 2016
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best work in the marketplace today. Saturday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Conspiracy of Lies, a noir espionage thriller from Caleb Pirtle III.
As one reviewer said: Conspiracy of Lies is a taunt tale set during the Second World War when America, Russia, and Germany were in a deadly race to develop the first atom bomb. Of course spies were trying to infiltrate the U.S. secret research facilities at Los Alamos. A government agency dispatches Ambrose Lincoln to discover and eliminate those spies. Ambrose is somewhat of an experiment himself, having had all his memory erased by the agency to create a “better” assassin.
It was the race for the Atomic 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 espionage 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 political 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 spies who were trying to steal 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.
THE LIMOUSINE WAS long, black, and empty with the exception of the driver, and he had obviously been paid to drive and not talk. He looked military but had no doubt fought in a war that most had already forgotten, if anybody had ever known about it at all. He was tall and as thin as an M1 rifle. His face bore too many scars, and his baldhead had been well polished with oil. He wore sunglasses even though the sun had fallen behind a ridge of distant mountains. The desert had become purple, streaked light and dark with the shadows.
Ambrose Lincoln nodded when he climbed into the limousine.
The driver grunted.
The limousine was on the move by the time the back door slammed shut.
Lincoln opened the briefcase. It held what he had expected, a Walther P38 9mm pistol, manufactured in Germany. The handgun found all sorts of ways to enter the United States, some legal, some otherwise.
He recognized it immediately.
He had no idea whether or not he had ever fired one, but figured he had. He closed his eyes and thought back in time. The days before today. The years before today. For Ambrose Lincoln, it was a short journey. His mind was a landscape that had been torn into small pieces and tossed into the wind.
His instincts remembered everything.
His mind was little more than a charred remnant that lay in smoldering ruins, as if a wildfire had swept through his brain and, perhaps, it had. The electrodes had erased everything.
It’s best that you don’t remember. It’s best that you never know.
That’s what the voice said.
A man with an empty past is not afraid of tomorrow. A man who has died is no longer afraid to die. Graveyards are filled with men who were afraid.
The voice was harsh.
Lincoln shoved the pistol into his belt, just beneath the small of his back, and watched darkness stalk the far reaches of the desert. A chilled wind cut through the sparse grasses of a volcanic landscape. A half moon hung crookedly atop the crest of the mountains. One lonely star hung beneath the moon as though it were held in the sky by a single thread of twine.
The town was small.
The city limit sign had been torn down, and no one had seen fit to replace it. Perhaps, it had never existed at all.
It had one street that cut straight through an assortment of sad, empty and abandoned buildings. No lights and no reflections flickered in their windows. There were no cross streets and no streetlights and no traffic.
The limousine pulled to a curb beside an old Masonic Lodge at the far end of town. It was two-stories, built of gray rock, and the roofing needed to be replaced. It had been, Lincoln figured, exactly thirty-two minutes and twenty-six seconds since they drove away from the hospital. He did not know how he knew. But he knew.
He climbed out of the limousine, rummaged around in his jacket pocket, pulled out a hundred dollar bill and handed it to the driver.
“We’re not allowed to accept tips,” the man said.
“It may be your last,” Lincoln said.
“Shall I wait for you?” the driver asked.
“I won’t be coming back.”
A ragged wind ruffled his hair, and he saw a faint light spilling from a crack in the big wooden door. A marker on the lodge said it had been built in nineteen and eleven. The door looked original.
Lincoln opened it and walked in.
The room was dark, its mahogany walls lined with candle shaped sconces, and dimly lit crystal chandeliers hung from a decorative tin ceiling. Soft music was playing in the background. It sounded like Artie Shaw and maybe Begin the Beguine, but Lincoln wasn’t sure. He was never quite sure of anything anymore.
A maître d’ met him beside a wrought-iron gate that led into a plush dining room. Lincoln counted twenty-four tables. Two couples sat at each, separated by tapered candles. They were laughing and talking, the men wearing their black ties, the women adorned in silk gowns, or maybe some were wearing satin. Two couples were dancing, their bodies pressed together, swaying to the music.
The table in the corner, the one in the shadows, had three people.
And a woman.
They were all looking at him.
Ambrose Lincoln began walking their way before the maître d’ had an opportunity to pick up a menu.
The older gentleman stood to shake his hand. “Thank you for coming, Ambrose,” he said.
The woman reached out and took his hand.
She was smiling.
The smile had reached her eyes.
“I’ve missed you, Ambrose,” she said softly.
She squeezed his hand.
Lincoln stared down at her. Long brown hair with curls dancing on her bare shoulders when she spoke. Hazel eyes. A face shaped like a heart with a beauty spot just below her left eye. Her gown was red and velvet. Her fingernails were long and a vivid red.
He had seen her once before. She was lying in a casket.