Over on Patreon I’m putting up posts from the upcoming Jake Ramsey novel. I thought it would be fun to share a post over here on the main website. So here is the first Work in Progress Post from Patreon. (If you’re not aware, several of Patreon subscriber levels provide access to Work in Progress posts AND a copy of the complete novel once it is ready for publishing.)
Here is the first Work in Progress Post:
I slammed into the curb, the front tire of my rental vehicle bouncing up onto the sidewalk. I hit the gas, hoping the compact car would have enough power and clearance to make it all the way up.
The vehicle I was chasing was a Toyota 4Runner. It had cleared the curb without a problem and was now fast approaching the glass doors of the tall business building. At first, I wondered if the vehicle would just slam into the entrance, but at the last possible moment, it screeched to a halt mere feet away from the glass doors.
The first two tires of my car made it onto the sidewalk, but then I got stuck because it bottomed out. I was glad it was late at night instead of earlier in the day when the sidewalk would’ve been populated with pedestrians.
Nobody else was nearby. If anybody had noticed what was happening, it was unlikely they would get involved.
I hit the gas one more time but knew the car was stuck and would not be going anywhere anytime soon. I felt a small twinge of regret that I most likely wouldn’t be able to return it to the rental company because this would effectively burn the fake identity I’d used to procure the vehicle.
It had cost me over $2,000 to buy this set of credentials, and I wasn’t keen to fork out that much money again for a new set, but there was little I could do about it now.
I jumped out, pistol in hand, dashing for the door of the commercial skyscraper. One of the glass doors had just shut in front of me, and I was certain it was locked.
I was unfamiliar with the twenty-story building. In my efforts to track down Kris Lee, I’d identified five potential buildings where I believed she or her employer kept up a façade.
This building had not been on that list.
It was a blow because I had little else to show for the last ten months of my efforts to track down Kris Lee and Cherry Mann. It was almost sheer luck that had led me to Kris tonight.
I had no idea why Kris had suddenly stopped here, but I didn’t have time to think about it as I ran up to the doorway and fired a shot through the glass, using my elbow to break out enough so I could open the door and slip into the building. I glanced back over my shoulder to check if I was being followed, but it was clear. I spared a glance for the SUV but was relatively certain Kris had been alone. I also didn’t see anybody standing around gawking.
I’d expected that the alarm for the building would have blared out the moment I broke the glass, but there was nothing.
That didn’t mean an alert hadn’t been sent to a security firm that would now dispatch personnel to investigate what was going on.
From the corner of my eye, I saw a security camera dome on the ceiling as I entered the lobby, but I didn’t focus on it to keep it from recording as much of my face as possible.
I could only hope FaceRec wasn’t installed. Even though I wore a disguise, I still didn’t trust it to fool FaceRec. I’d read somewhere that facial recognition technology depended upon a clear shot of the face, and while the disguise I’d put on this afternoon before doing my surveillance of Kris Lee altered my face in several key ways through the use of generous amounts of latex, I still had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that FaceRec could see through it.
I wasn’t a programmer.
I didn’t know how these things worked. I was sure there were limitations to the algorithm, but I assumed it could penetrate my disguise, so I wasn’t disappointed when it did.
Spectrum was still trending on both the iTunes and Google Play app stores. It would soon be nearly impossible for me to have a conversation with anybody or go anywhere in Philadelphia given the increasing rate of adoption.
The events in DataRader’s tower had been widely published, and while a few guessed something close to the truth, they were in the minority. Most blamed me for everything, thanks largely to Gregory Peck’s tour of the media telling flat-out lies. Peck and Diggon had taken full advantage of this to boost the popularity of its apps.
I’d frequently wished for a solution to this problem but hadn’t seen one that I could implement. The only silver lining was that it was local to Philadelphia. It hadn’t gone national. I hoped it never did because I would get out of the city at some point.
I just needed to find Cherry Mann before I could make the leap.
I still can’t believe I’m doing this, I thought as I strode through the lobby, checking to make sure Kris was not hiding behind a couch or some other hiding place waiting to shoot me.
After Shannon—my former partner at Black Brick—had told me about what had happened to Cherry, I’d vowed not to do anything to rescue the frustrating woman, but that resolve hadn’t lasted longer than a week.
A man had to be able to live with himself.
I’d been furious after Kris Lee kidnapped Cherry Mann. And while most of my anger was directed at Kris, more than enough had been directed at Cherry too.
Eventually, my conscience had caught up to me, and I became unable to turn my back on Cherry, much as I wanted to. Despite everything Cherry had done to me, I still knew she was a good person deep down. Her actions toward me were a result of how Black Brick had trained us and the lies Peck and Diggon had told her.
In short, Cherry was a product of everything Jeff Beltran and Gregory Peck had done to her.
Just like me. And so many more.
How could I hold that against her?
It wasn’t long before I cleared the lobby and dashed toward the elevators. I refused to glance up at the security camera, arriving just in time to see a set of elevator doors shutting.
Kris smirked and was gone.
She knew who I was, with or without the disguise. Had she seen through my disguise at the restaurant?
I hoped it wasn’t that bad.
I immediately looked at the building directory, trying to figure out where she would be going. None of the names of any of the businesses seemed familiar.
I’d focused night and day on tracking down Kris, and it was only after much painstaking work and a large wallop of luck that I’d finally managed to put my finger on her.
I’d like to think it was primarily because of my skill, but I’d just gotten lucky, and Kris had become careless.
Of course, I’d also been putting myself out there, trying to create opportunities to find her, which had finally led me to an expensive restaurant that I’d remembered from days past.
Kris and I had met there once, years ago.
It was the barest hint of a rumor from a contact I’d cultivated at the restaurant about a woman matching Kris’ description. After I’d showed him the picture, he’d confirmed it was indeed the same woman.
I’d been skeptical but had decided to follow up on the reservation she’d made under the name of Jane Clipper because I had nothing better to do.
Something about that name had stuck out to me as well. It was almost like she was the female corollary to Jake Ramsey, the primary alias I’d been going by for years.
I didn’t know my original name. I’d never seen my birth certificate. I had no way of tracking down my biological parents.
So as far as I was concerned, Jake Ramsey was as good of a name as any other.
Maybe Kris had specifically chosen that name to taunt me, silently tweaking me about how she was still working in the same city with the same people, right under my nose.
Everything had gone just fine when I’d followed her from the restaurant where she’d met two other people for dinner.
I’d surreptitiously taken photographs of both of her dinner mates, so I had something to investigate if I didn’t capture Kris tonight.
I’d done everything by the book, using all of my training to make sure I didn’t stick out, so it wasn’t obvious I was there to scope out Kris and her party. I’d even paid for my meal and left ahead of her.
But perhaps I was getting antsy to find Cherry, and maybe that was making me less cautious than I should have been.
I’d known something was up almost as soon as Kris got in her car. I’d known she was on to me when she’d suddenly turned a corner and floored it.
At that point, all bets had been off.
Our car chase had let us through the city until she’d suddenly pulled to a stop here.
She must have brought me to another of their undercover companies, I thought, staring at the directory, trying to find a name that seemed similar to Fran’s Finest, the flower company Kris Lee had used as cover before.
Fran’s Finest didn’t exist anymore if it had ever been a registered business entity in the first place. Looking into that company was the first thing I did right after I decided to find Cherry, but my investigation had not gotten me far.
It was like the place had never existed. I couldn’t find an online presence, nor was the company registered with Pennsylvania. I also ran a federal trademark search and didn’t turn anything up there either.
I covertly visited the office space and found a different company with different people, at least upfront in reception. Not only that, but the layout of the reception was different too.
Walls had been moved.
It had practically happened overnight.
I’d been tempted that day to barge into the new company and start taking hostages until somebody told me what had happened to Cherry or where I could find Kris.
I’d been fairly confident it was the same people and the same company, just a different face, but what if I was wrong?
Besides, hostage situations rarely end well, especially when the authorities get involved, and I didn’t see a way to keep that from happening.
I went through the directory again, hoping to find something obvious, but nothing jumped out at me.
Many of the names were for well-known companies that maintained a small presence in the city. There was only a handful that appeared to be local, and of those, none of them seemed to fit with Fran’s Finest.
It’d been a long shot anyway.
My first instinct was to rule out the national companies, but that was one of the best places for Kris to hide.
Twenty stories and over thirty companies. There’s no way I’ll find her in time.
I looked at my watch. It had been two minutes since I’d broken into the building. I needed to be out of here no later than ten minutes from now and that was pushing it. I likely didn’t have that long before security personnel and cops arrived.
It might be even less than that if my name had popped up on FaceRec. I drew police officers like a flame attracted moths.
Something popped up out of my subconscious and I suddenly realized there had been flashing lights on top of the building. It was tall and warranted a light or two, but it seemed like there was something else my subconscious was trying to tell me.
Was there a helicopter landing pad up top?
The thought sent me scurrying to the elevator, where I pressed the up button. I was glad to see the elevator next to the one Kris had just disappeared into was immediately available. I pressed the button for the twentieth floor as I stepped inside.