I’m working on my next spy novel in the series, “The Secret Lives of Jessie Monroe.” The first book in the series was “Alias Juno Wolfe.” The second was “Who is Juno Wolfe?”
I thought since people are on lock-down, I could post in pieces the first book for you to read. If you like that idea, let me know. Here’s the first chapter of “Alias Juno Wolfe.” (Sorry, but cut & paste doesn’t add paragraph indents – hope it’s readable).
Add a comment if you want to see more. (Also available on Amazon and Kindle.)
Chapter 1: CELESTE
The sound of the diesel engines assured her that the 120-foot yacht was still traveling full speed towards their destination.
Since her rescue, her photo had been prominent in the press, touted as the new, attractive, and now well-accepted companion of Roberto Moreno, a wealthy Columbian businessman. It didn’t make a difference that Roberto already had a wife and two children in Colombia. He was happy to flaunt his new mistress, who was always seen by his side at various events and business meetings.
Celeste was someone the photographers were happy to photograph. Her beauty was obvious. She was tall, blond, and slim. With Celeste by his side, Roberto seemed much more at ease and assured in his power, although he had always been a strong and confident businessman.
There was a great deal of curiosity from the press about Celeste’s past, but it was something Roberto was unwilling to share with them.
Of course, Roberto was aware of her history. Having been sold into slavery at a young age, she was eventually bought by Carlos Santos, a king pin in the Colombian drug cartel. She was hidden by Carlos and abused. For years no one knew she existed, except a few aids close to Carlos.
When Santos’ compound was raided by Roberto’s cartel and Santos killed, Celeste was found in a back room, crouching and hiding.
Roberto took pity on her and gently coaxed her out of her hiding place. She wept in his arms and thanked him over and over for freeing her. Her unabashed gratitude and total commitment to him was overpowering. He decided then and there to love and protect her for the rest of his life.
Since then, she had been by his side continually.
He told Celeste they were taking a long boat ride. Preparations were made and he encouraged her to shop for clothes and other items she would need on the long voyage from Colombia heading north. The voyage would not be difficult. Roberto owned a huge yacht, with a full crew and plenty of amenities. The voyage would be an adventure, he told her. He wanted to show her the world, starting with the United States. Her excitement was obvious. But before they left there was business to be done.
A large social event had been planned to honor the current Colombian dictator’s daughter’s marriage. Roberto, as one of the key Colombian business owners was, of course, invited.
The gala was huge. Flash bulbs flashed as Roberto and Celeste entered the room. Both were dressed exquisitely. Roberto was the epitome of what every woman expects the prime Latin American male to look like. He was dressed in a well-fitting black tux with silver cummerbund that matched his black and silver hair. Celeste was dressed in an ice blue slim-fitting gown, a beautiful silver chocker with large sapphires adorned her neck. Her long blond hair was wrapped up and piled on her head, held there by a beautiful silver clip. Roberto spared no expense when it came to giving Celeste nice things to wear. With Celeste on his arm, they were the couple of the evening.
Afterwards they headed directly to the yacht where their luggage had already been stowed. After taking time to freshen up, Roberto escorted Celeste to the dining room where dinner would be served. The yacht was well equipped and the chef prepared meals that Celeste was never able to finish. After dinner, Roberto would signal to her to leave as the men took out their cigars and began to talk business. Roberto never let her stay during their discussions, although she was at times able to pick up a few of their words as she headed out or if she dallied in the hall outside the salon before heading to the stateroom. Roberto had told her not to roam throughout the boat after dinner. He explained that he feared if she had a mishap and fell off the ship, no one would know to rescue her.
However, this night, instead of heading directly to the stateroom, she slipped down the stairs to the galley. The dinner preparations had been cleared up and the crew were with Roberto. The galley was empty. Stealthily she searched the area. She noticed a stack of tin cans under the sink that looked like they could have been empty containers left over from prior dinners, but the ingredients didn’t match the meals they’d had so far. She lifted the lid on one and found bags of white powder. “So that’s how they will move the drugs to the docks,” she thought to herself. “They are making it look like just an offload of garbage.” She was aware that their first stop would be Newport Beach where they were planning to gather more supplies there.
She then pulled up the floor hatch and used her iPhone flashlight to peer in. She saw garbage bags piled up. She leaned in and opened the draw string on one and saw more bags of the white powder. She closed the bag, lowered the hatch, and quietly slipped out and returned to the stateroom with no one seeing her.
For days, they headed north. After several days at sea, they were within the waters of the United States. Tension was in the air and the crew was on high alert. As usual, Celeste politely excused herself when Roberto signaled to her that the men were going to start their private discussions.
She entered the stateroom, gabbed her small pink bag out of the cabinet and quickly pulled out two items from the bottom of the bag, and returned the bag to the cabinet. She hid the small switchblade in her high heel boot and took the other item with her. Slipping quietly through the salon, she went out the sliding door onto the outside deck where she hastily typed her final message into the small encryption device.
“Last transmission. Docking guest dock Newport Beach Marina 0700 tomorrow. Flying BVI flag.”
She paused. A pang went through her heart. She knew what her mission was and she knew it was necessary, that it would save lives. But Roberto truly cared for her and was the first man she had known. She was torn.
She hadn’t planned to become physically involved with Roberto. It wasn’t that he was unattractive to her. He was strong and fit with tanned skin and dark wavy hair. But she had felt it was important to avoid entanglements during assignments and had successfully avoided it in the past. She had planned to play the fragile abused girl and to convince Roberto he needed to wait for her to recover from the emotional injuries Carlos Santos had inflicted on her. At first it worked. Roberto had remained gracious and kind. As time went on, she became concerned that he was starting to feel rebuffed. But it was more than concern for the mission that motivated her; the look in his eyes as he gazed on her always made her feel a kind of love and appreciation she had never known before. Then one night in the large Spanish-style home he had established for her use, he offered her a drink on the balcony. There he professed his love for her and his long-term commitment.
“My beautiful and fragile Celeste,” he started. “I know you have not been treated well in the past. But I want to take care of you and wrap you in my arms. I will wait for you as long as you need me to, but when you are ready, I hope you will come to me.”
His eyes were deep with emotion and she felt an urge she had never felt before, a need to be connected with this man, a need to surrender. She relented and found a passion within her she didn’t know existed. She let herself be drawn into his arms and let go of her self control. It was the most amazing feeling she had ever had; she discovered what it meant to be a woman.
The next morning, Roberto was already gone and she was left with a mix of emotions: satisfaction and contentment, concern and worry, and a wishful thought that her excuse could be that perhaps he had drugged her. No, she had to admit she had taken the step willingly and now had passed the point of retreat. From then on, they were truly a couple. It made her deception easier, but at the same time she struggled to maintain focus on her mission.
Now on the balcony of the yacht, she forced herself to remember that the real Roberto was a murderer and drug lord. She forced logic to control her actions as she hit the “Send” button. It was done and she felt an ache in the pit of her stomach. She wasn’t sure what part of her loved Roberto, but she knew part of her did.
She quickly folded up the encryption device and dropped it over the side and into the ocean.
“What are you doing out there?” she heard Roberto from the salon behind her.
“Just getting some fresh air,” Celeste lied, and hated herself for the lie. He looked at her for longer than usual, seeming to ask a question.
She asked herself, “What’s wrong. Does he know?” She tried to submerge her thoughts. Out loud she said, “Don’t worry so much about me, dear. I won’t fall off the balcony.” She tried to flash him a sweet smile. “You’re back early. Is everything all right?”
“Of course my dear,” he smiled charmingly. “I’m just tired and we have an early morning docking tomorrow. I thought I’d get some rest.”
He walked to the liquor cabinet and pulled out a bottle of fine rum. “Care to join me in a nightcap?” he asked as he poured them each a small amount in fine crystal glasses, turned, and extended one towards her. She came in from the balcony, took one, and sat down on the bed. They both sipped their drinks without talking. A knock came on the stateroom door.
“Excuse me sir. We have a slight problem.”
“Sorry dear, but I must go.” Roberto said. He said, “Drink up,” swallowed the rest of his rum and waited expectantly while she finished her drink. “I hope I won’t be long.”
She went into the bathroom, removed the switchblade, and hid it under her bras in her drawer. She got ready for bed in one of her silky nightgowns, and awaited Roberto’s return.
She was feeling woozy. She hadn’t had much to drink. Her wooziness concerned her and she began to think back to the evening’s events and how unusual Roberto’s sudden appearance had been: he didn’t normally return to the stateroom until late at night.
“Unbelievable,” she reprimanded herself. “How could I have missed such an obvious move? The crew must have detected that last transmission. They would not have been able to decrypt it, but perhaps he is becoming suspicious.”
She dragged herself to the bathroom and stuck her finger down her throat until she gagged and threw up. It wasn’t nearly enough to remove the entire effect of the drink, and she was too groggy to come up with a plan. She struggled to her bed and hoped she was wrong. It was all she could do. She passed out.
She awoke suddenly. The sun was not up but the boat was obviously slowing down and entering port. The change in sound in the motors must have been what had awakened her. She realized Roberto was not in bed and thought back to the night before. She could tell he had not come to bed at all which sent panic up her spine. She jumped out of bed and as she reached in her drawer for her switchblade, she discovered it was not there. Then she knew. She had been found out.
Before she could make her next move, the door flew open and Roberto’s men came in, overpowered her, and hauled her out in her nightgown. They dragged her up to the top deck.
She saw the Newport Beach Marina pier lights not far away. Roberto was on the deck
“What’s wrong?” she asked innocently. Roberto looked at her with fury in his eyes. Obviously, acting innocent was not going to work. He knew.
Suddenly, she kicked at one of the men holding her and he crumpled. She twirled and caught another with her other foot. Freed from their grasp, she flung herself over the railing, but not fast enough. She heard the gunshot and felt the pain in her back. But she was free from the boat, into the bay. Underwater, she wrestled free of her long flowing nightgown and was in just her bikini panties, making it much easier to swim.
She knew which way she needed to go and she did, swimming underwater with a strength she found from within, strength she didn’t know she possessed. She heard the sound of gunshots spraying the water behind her. She stayed under the water as long as she could, then emerged for a quick breath and saw the flash of spotlights on the water, but they were searching near the boat and she was now quite a distance away. Then she quickly ducked below the surface again.
Surprisingly, she was soon near the pier and clung to a pylon underneath it. Then the pain from her wound, which she had somehow been able to ignore due to the cold water and adrenalin, started to radiate intensely and overcome her. She worked to keep her head mostly above water as the waves splashed over her. She faded in and out of consciousness, but somehow managed to remain clinging tightly to the pylon.
Meanwhile on the yacht, Roberto turned away from the railing and motioned his men to stop looking for her. Assuming that they had finished Celeste off he shook his head. “Unfortunate,” he said softly. “She was such a beauty.”
To his men he reiterated the discussion they had the night before. “She must have been working for friends of Santos’.” His third mate had already cleared everything of Celeste’s out of Roberto’s stateroom, stuffed it in a burlap bag, added a heavy weight, and threw it overboard.
He turned to his captain and asked, “Any chance we can go on to another marina, assuming Santos’ people know of our stop?”
The captain shook his head. “Sorry Senior, but we are too low on fuel. We must refill here.”
“Don’t we need to make a shipment to Juan Rodrigues tonight?” asked Roberto’s senior aid. “To repay him for the trucks and supplies he sent here.”
“That would be best for relations,” Roberto acknowledged. “Tell his men to just send the first truck down to the pier with our supplies and we will unload from the boat only what we owe Juan. Refuel as quickly as possible and we’ll head right back out to sea, to a destination that Santos’ people will not know about. We will arrange for the full unload at a safer place.”
As they approached the fuel dock, everybody was on alert. “Santos’ cartel may be waiting for us somewhere near the marina when we unload,” Roberto cautioned. “Tell the men on the truck to have their guns ready and to be alert.” Roberto sent his men to their stations to prepare to dock.
Just as Celeste was losing her grip on the pylon, she saw Jimmy next to her in the water. She thought she was hallucinating and assumed she was dying. She let herself drift off into the darkness.
The sky was just starting to lighten as the yacht approached the fuel dock. Roberto’s deck hands deftly jumped on the dock, caught the dock lines, and secured the yacht. They saw a truck at the top of the unloading ramp and two men were bringing a dolly down the ramp stacked with supplies. The men took the supplies off the dolly and stacked them near the yacht while Roberto’s men carried several large boxes down the yacht’s ramp to the dock in exchange.
The sound of gunfire near the truck caused them to pause. Drug Enforcement Agents accompanied by men in SWAT team gear ran down the ramp to the fuel dock, rifles pointed. More SWAT team members were at the top of the railing pointing their guns down at the yacht. The agents in front yelled out, “Everybody stop and raise your hands. Federal agents. We’re boarding the vessel.”
Roberto was standing at the top of the yacht ramp with his hands out innocently and said, “But what is wrong, sir? Do you have a warrant to board my ship?”
“Yes we do, Captain,” the agent in charge said, waiving the paperwork.
Roberto smiled and said pleasantly, “I’m sure this is just a misunderstanding. You are welcome to look around.”
“We’ll start with the boxes you just unloaded,” the agent said. “Have everyone disembark from the boat now. How many are on-board?” the agent in charge asked. Roberto told him two of his men were already on the dock and seven more were aboard.
The agent told Roberto and all of his men to leave the boat.
Roberto told his men to comply. He could tell they were outnumbered and it would be best to cooperate. He knew the drugs on-board were extremely well hidden, and his best hope was to diffuse the situation and be on their way.
They went down the ramp to the fuel dock, when the SWAT team members lined them up against the fuel shack with their arms raised. Several SWAT team members jogged up the ramp to check the boat for any stragglers.
The DEA agent in charge pointed to the boxes they had just unloaded.
“We’ll check these first,” he said.
“Those are just our spent supplies. Empty garbage,” Roberto claimed.
They began checking anyway, and opening some of the cans, they found the cocaine they knew was there. Roberto shut his eyes in dismay. Now he knew the agents would impound the yacht and tear it down to the hull until they had found all of the cocaine on board.
Roberto realized that there was only one way the agents could have known to look in the discarded supplies. Celeste wasn’t working with Santos’ men. Celeste was working for the United States government.
Roberto and his men were lead away in handcuffs.