A former Navy SEAL, Ty Ryan, is kidnapped by the Chinese intelligence agents in Taming the Telomeres, my first Telomeres novel, and is released in a complicated swap of prisoners towards the conclusion of TTT.
In Targeting the Telomeres, the second in this series, and still a work in progress, Ryan has a much larger role in the story, and the working manuscript is over 75% complete at this point.
I have been busy writing in the last few months, but here are sneak previews of two chapters inside Targeting the Telomeres, involving Ty Ryan, and a new character, Liza, who both interact with Amanda Michaels in pivotal parts of Targeting the Telomeres.
Excerpt from Targeting the Telomeres, Challedon Publishing Co.
By: R.N. Shapiro ©2017 All Rights Reserved
The man stares at the large photographic reproductions mounted along the wall of the exhibition hall from his vantage point on the flat horizontal bench. Several somber looking people slowly shuffle through the alcove ensconced deep inside the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in lower Manhattan. They hardly notice Ty Ryan seated along the opposite wall from the iconic photos. He sits like Buddha, hands resting along his thighs, motionless, gaze focused on the falling man. Tiny, dwarfed against the enormous black and white grainy image of the World Trade Center. What absolute inferno from hell, what immense fireball, impelled this seemingly voluntary decision? But it was not at its bottom a voluntary decision. Hardly. Ryan knows this. He understands hell. Hell forced this man to free fall out of a high World Trade Center floor. Death by inferno or free fall to death? Was that a choice? No. This one image haunts him. Each time he returns, he finds his way here, like a magnetic pull. The free fall guy didn’t deserve to die. Only the terrorists deserved to die, and wanted to. This conundrum bothers Ryan.
He feels his phone vibrate in his pocket. He looks at the screen, its from Liza.
I will text you when I am leaving the MOMA.
The pulsating bass line of the loud techno music pulsates inside Liza Chang’s stomach. Ba-ba boom. Ba-ba boom. She sits two rows back from the catwalk at New York Fashion Week for her company’s most important stateside presentation of the year. People are packed in like sardines on folding chairs lining either side of the runway under the mammoth white tent in Bryant Park, Manhattan. It has earned the nickname “7th on 6th” because most New York design houses are on Seventh Avenue, but Fashion Week events are held off Sixth Avenue at the park. The Michael Morse line is slated for 7:00 p.m., after Tom Lord.
Marco, one of the designers for Morse leans over to Liza. “Oh my God, here we go! I can’t stand it anymore!” Thundering synthetic music plays and a choreographed light display begins.
Camera flashes burst from all directions as the first model in the Morse line makes her way down the catwalk, looking frighteningly thin and somewhat androgynous; short dirty blonde hair, exotic makeup in multiple shades, including pastels that would look ridiculous anywhere but here. Those lucky enough to be in the front row point and converse about every detail of the model’s look, from her shoes and the dress to the jewelry and makeup. In quick succession, a series of additional models appear in Morse outfits until they fill the narrow stage in a single line. At the far end, the first model turns and walks back, giving the audience a second chance to see all the ensembles.
Leaning again toward Liza, Marco excitedly says, “Here’s the dress that I managed! Don’t you love it?”
“Absolutely, Marco. It’s amazing.”
The announcer comments on various facets of the clothing as the models stream by. Between the music, the clapping and the chatter of the industry pros packing the venue, Liza can’t hear herself think. Fortunately, the hour goes by quickly. Then Liza, Marco and five other of the designers and national sales representatives rush behind the stage, hugging, giggling and high-fiving each other.
“The reception was amazing.” Marco lifts his plastic champagne glass high in the air. “The Nordstrom and Dolce reps congratulated me on the way here. Can’t wait to talk to the buyers at the after-party.”
Liza faintly hears the familiar tone from her phone emanating from her small purse. She glances at the message. Ty Ryan, her old friend and occasional fling is meeting her after the party at the Conrad. She texts back, confirming she’ll find him in the lobby bar.
The MOMA after-party is an immense success for the Morse line. Liza and her colleagues foresee job security, at least for one more fashion cycle. Liza has a unique role as an industry regional sales and quality control representative with the company for their accessories, mostly made in China. It’s a well-kept secret that the accessories—and even some of the upscale clothing—is made in China. The mandatory “Made in China” labels are sewn into the clothing in the most discrete locations possible, away from the splashy hang tag stating “Designed by Michael Morse, Seventh Avenue.”
* * *
An Asian-American woman, now 30 years old, Liza’s mother and father emigrated to the United States from Beijing. She grew up in Brooklyn before her parents relocated to Arlington, Virginia, where her dad was a professor at Mary Washington and her mom ran a successful upscale nail salon. As a child she learned Mandarin, Beijing’s main language, and Wu, commonly spoken in the Shanghai area, as well as Yue Cantonese. They traveled back to visit her extended family about once a year; her parents were hard-working and frugal, but reconnecting with family was a vital family ritual for them.
Valedictorian of her high school class in Arlington, she was offered an academic scholarship at Yale, where she graduated summa cum laude and was recruited by the CIA. Speaking multiple Chinese languages at a time when keeping tabs on China was of increasing interest made her valuable to the agency. Her affinity for languages also allowed her to master Arabic while at Yale.
One of her first covert operations for the CIA was to Iraq, embedded with SEAL Team 7, part of the so-called surge—when the U.S. thought it successfully marginalized the “insurgency.” History proved the victorious surge to be a hollow success—much like the entire Iraq war and ill-fated occupation thereafter. During her Iraq assignment, her world collided with Ty Ryan’s. Every night the SEALs, along with Liza and their Iraqi interpreter, would engage in missions to take out terrorists and so-called insurgents. Liza didn’t take out the bad guys, that was for the SEALs to do, including Ty. She handled mission organization and logistics. Ryan had observed her acumen with a pistol and a semi-automatic at the firing ranges between their almost nightly missions, and he became smitten with her exotic beauty. She was different than any woman he had been involved with in his life “BL,” or “before Liza.”
In their first months together she often shared her innermost feelings with Ty and confided that she did not think their Iraqi missions would ever win over the hearts and minds of the Sunnis and Shiites, who had a centuries-old blood feud that would not be settled by a weak government propped up by Americans, who most Iraqis distrusted. During her time in Iraq, two SEALs died, and every few days an IED would kill or maim a U.S. soldier, sending a chill through every member of the unit.
To the chagrin of her supervisors at Langley, and Ryan, she tendered her resignation at her six-year anniversary and surprised everyone by taking a position with Michael Morse, filling their need for an East Coast representative willing to travel to China and handle interaction with their overseas factories. Get as far away from intense stress was her paramount thought. A clothing line rep for god’s sake.
She soon discovered she could earn significantly more taking private contracts than she did with the agency, though some of the shadowy figures were downright spooky strange. She often didn’t know who hired her, but for the right money, usually paid in full up front, she didn’t care. Hong Kong has long had a cottage industry of managing agents, who front for limited liability corporations, tasked with retaining confidentiality for businessmen hiding their profits offshore from their host nations. Liza established a managing agent and a bank account to receive her off the books funds. Her account there was in the name of her fictitious name on her fake U.S. passport. The contract ops she had accepted frequently involved honeypotting a clueless businessman, which required the use of her femininity in seductive ways. With some assignments she assumed the sex was filmed, but her marks never once suspected she targeted them. She was careful to wear disguises and not take any repeat jobs in the same cities.
Another lucrative side business for her was a bit of smuggling from China to the U.S. Never expressly apprised of what was being smuggled, her involvement was oblique—she would simply advise her contact when various samples were being shipped from one of the Chinese factories back to the Morse warehouse in Brooklyn and her contact did the rest. She presumed they were paying intermediaries at the factory and the warehouse, to collect the illicit contraband at the warehouse. She got paid for each shipment she initiated, and the money had encouraged her to collect as many potential accessories or clothing samples as reasonably plausible.
Approaching the hotel bar to meet Ty, she wears a sheer white button-down blouse and above-the-knee black suede skirt from the Morse line, black nylons with seams running up the back of each leg, and black stilettos. Shoulder-length brunette hair infused with red highlights. Ryan stands and gives her a big hug beside the barstools. His muscular, almost six-foot-tall frame easily envelopes her petite, trim body.
“Good to see you.”
Liza looks him over carefully. His wavy brown hair does a few untidy flips and is slightly longer than a military cut. He has chiseled facial features, high cheekbones and piercing blue eyes, and he wears a simple black t-shirt revealing his strong arms. She admires his faded jeans and black leather belt with silver diamond-shaped studs surrounding it.
“How was the big show?”
Ryan smells the wine or champagne on her breath, recognizing she had a few drinks before catching a cab to meet him.
“Unbelievably stressful. With it being the biggest show of the year, the whole next buying season rides on it. As far as I can tell, it went very well, at least all the company reps think so. At the MOMA, everyone raved about our line, and you know Marco, my friend, he was really excited because a bunch of his designs were popular.”
“Awesome. Can I buy you a drink you hot thing?”
“Of course, let’s celebrate. The show, all the glitz and glam. And why not celebrate us too?”
Deep down Liza hates the fact that Ty shows up to fall into bed with her only once in a blue moon, such a completely undependable relationship, though she voices not a word of her frustration. She was trained to maintain a fierce front. She finally focuses on the small menu of specialty drinks, then sets it down on the bar, where it sticks to several drops of over-splash from the previous occupant’s drink. “How about a Stoli martini, dry, with two olives. Please.” Moments later, the bartender whips up the cocktail, and slides it in front of her.
They exchange small talk before she asks if he wants to go to the Loopy Doopy rooftop bar. They down their cocktails and head to the elevators. As soon as the doors close they engage, bodies pressed tight, tongues diving and caressing. When they arrive on the roof, they release each other and find their way to the railing, passing a bunch of couples on couches near a glowing fire pit. They gaze out over the Hudson towards New Jersey, observing the myriad lights of office buildings and high-rises.
Ryan breaks the silence. “Your job seems more copacetic for you than at the agency.”
“It is, but some of my private contracting work has been pretty damn stressful. The good part is I know I’m not locked into anything. I can just make good money, not ask a lot of questions, and move on.”
“Be careful. You haven’t been eliminating targets, have you?” He’s actually curious because they’ve never discussed it.
“No.” She turns and looks him in the eye. “Unlike with the agency, I don’t have to accept every proposed task, and I don’t want that kind of guilt on my head. Who needs it? I’m not planning to die young. You?”
“Nah. I do some shady side stuff for the P.I. group, but its child’s play compared to handling international assignments like you do.”
“Not all have been in China.”
“Wrong. Sure, I won’t work against the agency here at home. But if the job is just honeypotting…”
Ryan soaks this in, peering out across the Hudson, noticing the shimmers of light reflecting off the surface of the river.
“I can’t block out some of the things I did, particularly in Iraq. Like blowing away teenage insurgents. But I deal with it.” Ryan says.
“One job haunts me.” She admits cryptically.
“Honeypot stuff on the surface, but I have a feeling it was a lot more.”
“I’m sure that kind of work can take many different forms. I won’t push it if you don’t wanna tell.”
Ty takes a swig of his drink and stares out over the city. The same bartender returns. Ty places another order but Liza declines, she started way before he did.
“I agreed to it because I could visit my parents in Arlington before the job,” she explains. “It was in Northern Virginia. I was assigned to seduce a married guy. I honeypotted him at a bar he and his pals frequented. I needed to convince him to meet me at a hotel the next day, get him to call in sick, which I, um, accomplished.”
“Yeah, I don’t need the details about the seduction. But I gather that’s not all.”
“Right. The next day I boarded an Amtrak Acela train at Union Station and headed back to New York City. On the way, I saw the news on my laptop about the Hemispheres jet crash. Well, my target was the electrical inspector supervisor for the Hemispheres fleet at that airport.”
She looks out across the river. Ryan contemplates this bombshell for a moment.
“So, you’re saying you were the reason he called in sick that day, and maybe someone sabotaged the jet?”
“That’s pretty heavy.” The wheels start turning fast in Ryan’s mind. “Who hired you?”
“I can’t tell you that Ty. Even if I wanted to, I don’t know who it was. They use proxies.”
“Can I ask how they paid you?”
“I have an agent who manages an account in Hong Kong. That’s all I’ll say.”
Ryan mulls over mentioning he’s working for a lawyer who is trying to unravel a $200 million mystery about why the government paid hush money to Hemispheres, but he decides not to go there. Not yet. Maybe after they head to her room he’ll try to pry enough information from her to narrow the players involved.
_____ _______ ________
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