Update on Writing Activity

I have begun a second novel following Sean-Guy O’Dwyer-Lariviere and his team of CAS anti-terrorist agents. The tentative title is “A Prairie Vendetta” The setting is Regina, Saskatchewan. The terror threat involves dissidents of one of Canada’s native status groups. Canada has three recognized special status groups: Inuit, First Nations, and Metis . More about the plot and threat later as I develop the story. So far I am enthused about the prospects for the second novel.

In the meantime, the publication date for The Chechen’s Revenge is just 10 days away. There is still time to pre-order from smashwords.com and get the 20% discount on the cover price of $4.99. The coupon code is ZD65L (not case sensitive). The coupon expires on 09/30/2013.

 

smashwords has announced that they have a new distribution deal with Flipkart, the premier source for e-books in India. That is exciting news for any author. I’m especially enthused because of the relationship that Canada and India have with each other. I think readers in India will enjoy The Chechen’s Revenge. If you have contacts in India, please tell them about The Chechen’s Revenge.

 

Now here is a sample from Chapter One of The Chechen’s Revenge.

{1}

Health Wisdom Integrity (Motto of Stanstead College, Stanstead Que)

Saturday, the first day of April, very early morning: Ottawa, ON

It was an odd time to be in the downtown business section, unless perhaps one was homeless. So early in fact, that the public transportation system had not yet begun its daily runs. There was no activity on O’Conner Street, seen from the dark shadows of an alleyway where a very tall, lithe, dark haired man had already been standing for nearly half an hour on April Fool’s Day. The time was approaching 5 AM, fairly early even for him, especially on a weekend day, despite the fact he preferred to run before dawn most days. With no schedule calling for his immediate attention; he was no fool. This man was deliberate and not homeless.

Though very early in the spring, this particular Ottawa day was mild. There had been a thaw and the street was bare of snow. Ottawa had a reputation for being a clean and tidy city and this street was no exception. Most buildings in the Parliamentary District were old, federal architecture in style which meant uninspired to his mind, mainly of granite construction, probably Stanstead granite, but of good repair. He had walked with resolute stride to this spot across 11 blocks of darkened, empty streets from the Lisgar Extended Stay Suites. That was a somewhat tired residential hotel at Lisgar and Cartier, on the edge of the Parliament Hill district of downtown Ottawa. He’d checked in just a couple of days earlier, having left his apartment in Montreal for a change of locale occasioned by a new job. This morning he had dressed in a charcoal and deep red jogging suit for the cross town walk, the better for fading into the shadows. Anyone who saw him in such garb so early in the morning would take little notice of a man out for exercise. His athletic shoes made no sound on the pavement. The dark outfits had served him well many times when he needed others to disregard his presence.

He had walked at a steady efficient pace, though not overly brisk, taking about twenty minutes to his destination, as he considered that he was being loaned to a relatively new agency within the Department of National Defense. Or was it a loan, he wondered, as he thought that maybe there was a message in the action that he should move on to new things. It is an incontrovertible fact that my style annoys my superiors.

He had been posted in Ottawa before; following his 1984 graduation with a BA (Hon) in Political Science and Economics from the Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston, ON. That event had followed a battery of academic coursework and four summers of military training as an Officer Cadet, beginning with basic officer training from July to August prior to his first year. His experience as a 17-year-old cadet was rough, despite having considerable athletic ability; he had been stretched almost beyond endurance. Certainly there were times I thought I could not survive the rigorous daily physical routines. His second summer prior to second year was spent at Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec in the BMOQ program. Again, I had to endure physically and psychologically demanding courses with considerable mental stress during the training. Had I not been successful, and I nearly was not, I certainly would not be here today. My most basic mistake had been a failure to control an academic arrogance; a mistake quickly disciplined by the RSM.

He mentally corrected himself as he recalled that fearsome soldier was actually a Master Warrant Officer. Regimental Sergeant Major was an appointed position rather than a rank in the Canadian Forces. The experience was a lesson relearned several times since. My academic achievements, excellent, were matters of fact, nothing more, but my expression of that was often perceived differently than intended. At least once I am sure that had meant a delayed promotion that I had earned. His third and fourth summers involved Canadian Army Environmental and trade specific training courses without much incident. Well, without significant discipline and also without notable excellence. That still frustrated him and enforced the focus of his attention to details.

Upon graduation, he’d been commissioned only as Second Lieutenant, despite his Honors level BA. He knew that his classmates, for the most part, had received the rank of Lieutenant and he knew, to his regret, it was because they had learned better than him to be team players. Still, because of his academic excellence, he got his preferred assignment to the Canadian Forces Security Branch, but then was seconded immediately to the 5e Régiment d’artillerie légère du Canada, a unit of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. It was meant to be a year of on-the- job training in Quebec City, a learning experience in leading others. That had also been a mental struggle, for his heart was far away from artillery command. His record showed he was adequate, but just barely. Excellence once again eluded him, part of his continuing frustration. After a year he was returned to his priority assignment. It now was to the Intelligence Branch which had split off from the Security Branch earlier in 1985.

The posting was Ottawa. His promotion to Lieutenant finally came a year after that, leaving him two years behind his classmates. He never caught up. He left army service in 1998, having completed the five years required service and then some. This came after a unit command Major suggested privately that his single-minded focus on completing two criminology degrees persuaded the Commandant that he would never be suitable senior officer material. Criminology was still a passion, often driving his deep need to catch the perpetrator of whatever transgression as his obligation to resolve. He remembered the branch Motto: Out of Darkness, Light. Have I ever seen the light?

With no army career no longer possible, but an MA and a Ph.D. in Criminology in hand, he chose an unconventional approach to his future. He had decided to become a policeman and so applied to the Surété du Quebec. To his surprise, he was accepted as a novice detective and assigned to the district of Abitibi-Témiscamingue-Nord-du-Québec. He was first required to attend an intensive 15 weeks of police training at the Institute de police du Quebec, now named École nationale de police du Quebec. He had railed privately at the repetition of many of the same things endured during his RMC summers. But he could not permit himself to flunk out so he endured. He graduated with the Diploma and the rank of sergeant, which made him superior to all lesser ranks, but with no authority or responsibility over a team. Undoubtedly, the appointment was an acknowledgement of his criminology studies. My training supervisor was not convinced I would ever be a standout officer. Sergeant I remain to the present day. My superiors, previous and current, continue to judge me insufficient as a team player. Nevertheless, his crime-solving accomplishments moved him through several districts and ultimately to headquarters in Montreal for the past two years. Partners came and went, none of them resistant to the idea of moving on to other partners or transfers. There was, by most of my fellow officers, only some grudging respect for my independent dogged focus on concluding difficult cases.

Undoubtedly, the recent award of the Croix de Bravouredes Policiers, presented in January by the Quebec Minister of Public Security for an act of heroism in exceptionally dangerous circumstances precipitated the latest career move. He was fully recovered from two bullets to his shoulder, the result of a gun fight with a motorcycle gang in Montreal. His action had prevented the death of two of the squad as they tried to arrest the leaders in a murder-for-hire scheme. He had defied procedure, left safe cover and dragged the two men out of the line of fire. Only then had he realized he was in excruciating pain from gunshot wounds to his right shoulder.

His Deputy Director, with the approval of the Director General of the QPP/Surété du Quebec, recommended his appointment as Chief Investigator of the Canadian Anti-terrorist Service. The Canadian Minister of National Defense, Paul Mackey had agreed and so here he was, much to his surprise. Still, I understand that the fact remained I am not seen as a good team player. My habit of independence, however, is ingrained and possibly unchangeable.

Arriving finally at the alley, he had refocused on his goal of the moment; to observe the building directly across the street. This was not his first visit. His practice was to take as many opportunities as possible to satisfy the need to know.

 

{1.1}

A dark alley across from CAS HQ: Ottawa ON

The structure across the street from where he stood hidden in the alley, like most of the others in the immediate area showed no signs of life. Only the lobby had a single light on, which barely illuminated the entrance. After nearly half an hour watching, he was satisfied no one was in the building, except perhaps a sleepy sentry at the front desk. That was of little concern as he had no intention of entering by the front door. As he left his solitary observation post, he carefully looked up and down the street before moving off to the right, crossing the street out of sight of the building’s façade. Coming back toward the building on its side of the street, he entered the alley opposite where he had been watching. He moved quickly to a service door that he had fixed to stand the slightest bit ajar the day before; satisfied that it would go unnoticed. There had been a lack of movement at that side of the building during the time he spent roaming the building. Most of the building was unoccupied. Office suites, especially on the two mid level floors, appeared not to be rented. That was a curiosity.

He entered and climbed the stairs to the top floor. Waiting for a moment in the vestibule of the emergency stairwell, he listened carefully in the dark. He was nothing if not an unusually cautious man, a significant way to avoid serious harm to one’s body. Hearing nothing, he went to the sole office entrance and let himself in with a bit of sleight of hand on the surprisingly insubstantial lock. He stood alone in a new office space, new to him at least. The offices were empty. No lights on, but now enough dawn daylight from a few tall narrow windows, in the wall he faced, to see several desks grouped in the center of the room. He could also make out several small offices along the windowed wall and a larger one in the corner. He supposed that would be the space reserved for the directeur, his new boss.

He amended his thought to ‘director’, since he was now in Ottawa, that bastion of primarily English speaking government. As he did so, he also wondered which of the smaller rooms, not much more than cubicles, would be his reserved cubby. He was, after all, the newly appointed chief investigator for the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Service, known simply as the CAS. I was considered by my superiors to be well practiced for the position, though some might think I am much too exacting to be effective. I am not able to come to terms with that view, my attitude is that excellence demands an iron control of investigative skills.

Precision and energetic self-confidence had been part of his lifestyle ever since his years as a day student at the renowned Stanstead College, that served junior and senior high school students from Canada and around the world, located in his hometown of Stanstead Plain, Quebec. Growing up in Stanstead Plain, one of the three villages that merged to become Stanstead QC, (the others were Beebe Plain and Rock Island), was a delight. He had thrived in the freedom small towns afford. Situated right against the border with Derby Line, VT, the region was economically vibrant. Granite cutting was a major industry, having brought the railroad in 1871. The educational opportunities were excellent as his experience had demonstrated. By the time he graduated with his grade 12 diploma in 1980, he had lettered in three sports: Hockey, Basketball and Track and had participated in others. My athleticism contributes to my sense of excellence and the need to achieve whatever the cost.

Most Quebecois students did not take grade 12 courses, but went after grade 11 to a College of General and Vocational Education (CEGEP) for college and university preparation. This was the typical Quebec process. His academic work had been superior, one of the reasons he’d been admitted in the first place as a day student when the school was mainly residential. I still embrace the school’s intent to have students understand the importance of respect, responsibility and self-discipline. These dictates had molded him and had remained an integral part of his raison d’être. He respected his superiors even if they did not return it.

Putting his mind back on the scene before him, he considered that the fact that the office was empty did not entirely surprise him, it was after all Saturday and early in the day; but given the nature of the work conducted here, he thought some activity might have been possible. His new field of investigation into terrorism, after all, was not dictated by so called bankers’ hours. Terrorists, he understood, certainly did not keep such hours. It seems a given that a terrorist would work devious plots whenever their furious mood struck.

He was early arriving in the city and not expected until Monday. That was a characteristic, suddenly appearing on a scene before anyone knew he was coming. Ruefully he acknowledged that that caused workmates to feel uncomfortable as they try and often fail to understand my motives. Motive was something criminology has taught about; my own is not always easy to discern. I am unwilling to change because the element of surprise helped to satisfy my curiosity, another strong trait that he exercised vigorously. That also caused dismay, because his curiosity knew no bounds; which meant he often trod on the privacy of others. Still, he rationalized, first reactions by others as part of the scene often are instructive. Knowledge about others is indeed powerful.

But today, no others were present. He was alone, early so that he could assess what would become part of his physical circumstances and where he would undoubtedly spend too much time at hours not conducive to rest. At his age, now 46, rest was often much to be desired and often difficult to attain. There were too many individuals who wanted to do harm in the world to afford easy rest. Besides he thought bringing a situation to a logical conclusion was rest in its own fashion.

He was inside without official permission, not that that bothered him overmuch. He had persuaded the building security officer at the main lobby desk of his right to enter the building on the day before. Persuasion aided by a quick flash of his badge declaring him to be a Sergeant of the Surété du Quebec. A glimpse not long enough for the security officer to see the jurisdiction was not Ottawa. Still, it sufficed and now on Saturday with the building apparently empty, here he was moving toward the center of the room, stopping amidst the grouping of desks. He touched nothing, relying instead on the third of what he thought were his most important traits. He was by nature a man who took everything in, looking carefully and seeing small details which he stored for later contemplation. I will remember everything, as I do always.

As he stood at the center of the room, his initial thought was it was larger than seemed necessary, given the relatively few desks surrounding him. Of course the office, as the central hub of several locations across the country, will probably expand and I understand as well that my work will put me on the road more often than I might prefer. Terrorists did not always choose to establish themselves in smaller cities like Ottawa. I will need to learn quickly the make-up of the staff in the other CAS locations. For the moment he examined the desks around him for the little things that would indicate personalities. As expected, each desk had a computer screen, but they were larger than normal, flat screen monitors.

A good sign, he thought, for 28 inches would allow the display of much detail without overcrowding one’s visual field. It was interesting that this modern computing equipment was placed on desks that had been part of government offices for decades. They were that old. Typical that the newest agencies got the oldest castoffs. You have to prove yourself to get perks. He moved thoughtfully from desk to desk, taking in details such as the state of the desktop. The way in which materials, flotsam and memorabilia were positioned could be indicative of personal habits and behaviors. My desk will more than likely remain empty of such debris. My past is not always comfortable memory.

Characteristically, the edges of monitors are often places for notes scrawled on bits of sticky backed paper. As he moved closer, he saw that several monitors displayed exactly that. He bent close, absorbing the information, still unconnected but nevertheless interesting, pointing to a variety of possibilities. On one desk he noted the name plaque of Betty-Anne Grabler. The desk was very ordered, everything seeming to be in a precisely determined place. A large well used calculating machine implied perhaps an accounting or statistical function. The separate machine, when the computer could do the same function suggested some traditional preferences in the user. There was nothing else in view to confirm such a notion.

On another desk bearing the placard for Everet Tailfeathers, that name probably signifying a First Nations member, he noted a large sketch pad and several soft lead pencils lined up. Curiously there was an eraser wedged into what looked like a .308 caliber shell case. That must indicate an artist, though why the shell casing he had no idea at the moment.

He remembered what he saw for he had an eidetic memory, sometimes a curse; he never completely forgot anything. The amount of information he retained was sometimes distracting unless he was tightly focused. He expected to begin connecting the disparate observations when he met for the first time each desk’s resident agent and received information of their credentials. His own academic studies, which had led to a Criminology Ph.D., suggested to him that even small details should never be overlooked. He tried not to overlook even the minutia. A detail missed could be a mistake costing lives lost. He was also glad to see that no desk had secure documents left out for anyone to see. Security is critical for success against terrorists.

Paying attention now to the empty reaches of the room he saw, as the morning daylight in-creased, that one wall opposite the cluster of desks was festooned with maps, whiteboards, and several 60-inch diagonal HDTV monitors. The mix of old and new technology was both an oddity and yet encouraging. It showed the government of Canada was serious about the problems faced by anti-terrorism squads, but also that resources were still lacking. Another good sign he saw was that each desk faced the wall with a clear line of sight. There was, in fact, a sort of informal semi-circle of desks in three rough lines. That suggested a singular connection with the wall. The maps on the wall were marked with pins of various colours, and several had ribbons leading to remarks written on the white boards. The orderly approach was very attractive. He liked order in his life.

As he moved closer, he saw clear indications of active investigations into suspected terrorist cells. He knew his work would immediately become complex. Inevitably, the suspect cells would need to be connected to each other, if possible, and to the controlling cell. That exercise will be fraught with difficulty if information is scarce, which is a distinct probability. My lead as chief investigator will have to be without fault, otherwise disaster, will become imminent. Even then some detail, significant or not, might be missed and that detail could be the trigger for a severe situation. He would not be stressed by such a thought but neither could he distance himself from that potential reality. He understood that somewhere there might well be an extremist on the verge of something momentous at this very moment. I pray always that I will not fail.

His time, as allotted by himself for this first examination, was expiring. He moved more quickly now to make a circuit of the perimeter of the room, taking a broader view of the physical space. He saw that the small office cubicles had no tops to them, no ceilings to make conversations more private. He wondered where confidential discussions were held. If there were not any such designated spaces, that situation would need to be rectified. Certain conversations need to be kept contained until the time was appropriate for revelation. His style was to be as certain as can be that the most important deliberations of the squad did not find their way prematurely into the world. It will not do for terrorists to have any information that might help them hide.

Moving toward the small offices, he noted an elderly architectural style reminiscent of venerable bank buildings that kept the tall narrow windows high above the floor. Indeed, his research indicated that this building had once been the headquarters for a major bank. The Dominion Bank founded in 1869, had long since been swallowed up, in 1955, by one of Canada’s world class banks. That was TD Bank founded in 1855, now 6th largest in North America. Only by standing tall could one hope to see any view. At six foot three inches, he would not experience any difficulty. Indeed as he entered one office, whose door stood ajar so that he did not have to touch the handle, he could see toward Canada’s parliament buildings. Just at the corner of the view he realized, somewhat ironically, that the Peace Tower was visible. Peace is a most difficult thing to imagine in the modern world.

Stepping back outside into the main room he continued his walk along the row of offices. Two doors later, he came upon one with no name lettered on the glass. Instead, he found a small bit of sticky paper with one word scrawled upon it: La Rivierre. Seeing the misspelling and the incorrect capital R, O’Dwyer-Lariviere made a mental note to have that misinformation corrected upon his arrival on Monday morning. He noted to himself that it is not customary to have the prefix separated from the main part of a Quebecois last name, nor, to have the first letter of that second part capitalized. His own hyphenated last name conformed to Quebec Language Law and thus the leading letter L was capitalized. He had found his office and saw that he would have an unobstructed view of the wall of maps, whiteboards, and monitors. He also would have a similar view of the desks organized in the center of the main room. He would be able to notice and collect necessary information with relative ease. Inside the office, however, he saw nothing. That also would require some action as soon as possible so he wouldn’t have to borrow a desk in the outside section of the office for any longer than necessary. His comfort level as Chief Investigator demanded his scheme of what his office should be.

My furnishing needs will be simple. A serviceable desk, a comfortable swivel chair, a few book cases, a filing cabinet, and an overstuffed chesterfield for nights when returning home was not an option would suffice. The chesterfield, or couch as he reminded himself of that name others preferred, would do also for any visitors to his office. Indeed there was hardly room enough to add extra chairs. In all, standard Government Issue pieces would do for most items needed. Besides government issue was likely all he could get.

Then, turning way from the office which was to be his, he allowed a contented thought: he was several offices away from that of the director situated in the corner. Was that a matter of protocol, he wondered, or just happenstance? He had seen no indications of officer ranks by any of the names on the other office doors so could not determine if any superiors occupied the three offices between his and that of the director. He had not yet been given information about the hierarchy, not surprising since the agency was of a sensitive nature. He did recognize the name on the director’s door, Leif Isaksson, as a former commander of Canadian Special Forces Operations Command (CSOFC).

He knew Isaksson’s identity from his own days as a Lieutenant in the Canadian Forces Intelligence Branch (CFIB), while posted in Ottawa. He had returned to Quebec in 1998 when he joined the Surété du Quebec as a novice detective in training in Montreal. With Isaksson in charge he would learn any necessary information on Monday. He was certain Isaksson was still inclined to be forthcoming with necessary and relevant information, rarely holding anything back. And the various superiors, whoever they were, would add information about him beginning on Monday, some of which, he thought wryly would be easily found in his thick dossier surely already on their desks. My career has not always gone smoothly in the eyes of previous supervisors. I’ve never been able to prevent that.

O’Dwyer-Lariviere was a complicated man. Now as he prepared to leave the CAS office space, he proved his complexity. Still without touching anything, he exited so his brief presence could not be noticed. The lock was not a problem; his gloved hands left no marks. Returning to the back staircase he descended the four flights by which he had risen, there being no elevator in the rear of the building. He would not have used it in any event, since that would draw attention to his furtive visit. He left the building by the same back exit, noting again how lax the security was, something that also needed fixing. As he returned to his nondescript hotel a few blocks away, he determined that there was much already to think about, and think he would about ways to ensure the CAS would do its work well without being compromised.

I am a retired college professor and former broadcast journalist. I live in Vermont with my wife. I write near the shores of Lake Champlain. As an author I cast characters in the task of anti-terrorism efforts. The setting for my stories is Canada. My first novel is The Chechen's Revenge, a story of Sean-Guy O'Dwyer-Lariviere and his team of Canadian Anti-terrorism Service agents on the trail of a rebel Chechen, determined to create havoc and death on Toronto's Go Train system. The Chechen's Revenge is now in print and can be ordered online at https://mkt.com/northof49publishing.

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