The second American Civil War begins as the government clamps down upon the right-wing conspiracy that assassinated the President.
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Michael J Scott Books
"Peter!" Grant cried, slapping my back, "You did it!"
I stared through the scope, stunned at the hell I'd unleashed.
- A Shot Heard 'Round The World -
Peter Baird is running for his life. Skillfully manipulated and played for a patsy, he has become an assassin--public enemy number one: the man who shot the President of the United States. Now abandoned and on his own, he has but one chance to save his brother and rescue his country:
He must join forces with the man he hates the most--Grant Collins, the mysterious commander of the New York militia. The problem is he has no idea where to find him.
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."
- Thomas Jefferson
- A Thin Chance at Victory -
Peter sets himself on a quest: find the militia and convince Grant to mount a rescue and save Martin from certain death. But will the price of revolution come at the cost of his soul?
The bullets flew out of the gun at a speed of 2,700 feet per second. They closed the one-mile gap in 1.95 seconds. The first armor-piercing round hit the bullet-resistant glass shielding before the inaugural platform with an explosive force of more than 4,000 foot pounds, punching a hole clear through it. The second and third rounds passed nearby, in a spread pattern approximately two feet tall. The first bullet hit the presidential lectern and went no further, stopped by the shielding inside the stand. The second round hit the President’s shoulder, spinning him to the left even as his arm ripped free of his body. The third and final .50 caliber round hit the President in the neck, killing him instantly.
He’d been President less than five minutes. He never saw it coming.
Screams erupted from the platform even as the third round kept moving, grazing the Speaker of the House and severing her carotid artery. Seconds late, the Secret Service dove into the fray. Two of them tackled the Vice President while four converged on the bloody center of the platform, where the President stood only moments before. They stopped and stared helplessly at each other, unable to do anything else.
A million people gathering before the Capitol steps and mingling on the Washington Mall witnessed the President spin and fall. The large jumbotrons magnified the massacre, making even those several hundred yards away flinch and duck. The crowd took in a collective gasp that burst out again as a primal cry. They turned and fled, a screaming surge tumbling over everyone and everything in their path, fleeing from the carnage in all directions, like a slow-moving shockwave.
I watched all this from the observation deck of the Old Post Office Pavilion, witnessing it close up through the rifle scope. I eased my finger off the trigger, stunned at the hell I’d just unleashed.
Spats of stone and plaster blew from the walls around me as counter sniper teams fired on our position. Grant grabbed my shoulder and yanked me down, out of sight of the windows. More shots passed into the tower room, two hitting the protective cables over the windows and pinging wildly through the room with a discordant zing. Beside me, Grant swore. He clapped my back, jubilant.
“Peter!” he cried. “Sonovagun, you did it!”
I swallowed hard, a sickness gnawing at my stomach. I’d done it all right, but I hardly shared his joy. I’d just killed a man. Countless more were dead or injured as a consequence. And despite everything, Jerry’d been shot and Martin arrested. None of Grant's training prepared me for this.
Grant tore off his security guard uniform, stuffing it into a grocery bag and pulling on a sweatshirt from the same. In a moment, he looked utterly nondescript. He spun on the floor and ran a cloth over the gun, wiping down my prints, and then pushed me toward the elevator. “Come on,” he said, “time to move.”
I crab-walked backward, distancing myself from what I’d done, but unable to tear my eyes from the windows. Forcefully, he grabbed my shirt and lifted me into the elevator. Beside us, the hapless guard Bill came to, recovering from the stun gun Grant had used to disable him. He sat up long enough to catch a sniper round in his head. He fell to the side, the quizzical expression he’d formed stamped forever in his lifeless eyes.
The elevator doors closed and we descended. I gasped for air, feeling like my lungs would explode, like I couldn’t get enough breath. Grant whipped out a paper bag and held it up to my face. “Breathe,” he commanded.
I breathed into the paper bag. He watched me carefully. The elevator car stopped spinning. I nodded, struck suddenly by the absurdity of the bag I held. What kind of man was Grant that he would plan for such a contingency? Just as suddenly, my stomach erupted, hurling its scant contents into my throat. I doubled over, vomiting into the same bag. When the heaves finally subsided, I looked up. A slight grin tugged at the corners of Grant’s mouth. The elevator doors pinged open.
“This way,” he ordered.
I struggled to my feet, and he bent over and put his shoulder under my arm, lifting me up. Together, we stumbled toward the exit and out into the street.
Bright sunlight dazzled my eyes, and from the south and east, we could hear the approaching roar of the crowd, many still fleeing on foot as they hurtled our way. Sirens blared, growing in volume as the police converged on the Old Post Office tower. Grant pulled me around the corner onto 12th Street NW, ducking down the steps into the Metro subway system at the Federal Triangle.
“Keep your head down,” he ordered, moving away from my shoulder so I could stand on my own. I grabbed the railing as we descended. “And don’t touch anything,” he added. I let go of the railing and followed him into the cavernous vault of the subway station. Once through the turnstile, we moved to the platform. I started pacing, but Grant stopped me.
“Don’t pace,” he reprimanded. “Keep your head. Act normal.”
“Oh God,” I groaned, overwhelmed by what I’d done. I doubled over and sank to my knees.
“Stay with me, Peter.” He hauled me to my feet.
A train rumbled into the station and pulled to a stop, its doors opening automatically. We hurried inside an empty car. The doors closed again with a whoosh just as the first trickle of frightened tourists appeared, engulfing the turnstiles and lunging onto the platform. The train lurched forward, and they fell behind. I saw the stricken look on their faces, a shared expression of pain, disbelief, and horror. I put my hands to my face, surprised when the paper bag smacked my cheek. I still held onto it, the acrid contents of my vomit leeching through the bottom of the bag. I dropped it in disgust. It made a liquid smack on the floor of the car. Grant bent forward and snatched it up, dropping it in the bag that held his security guard shirt.
“Not yet. We’ll toss this at the next station.”
I collapsed into the seat next to him, putting my head in my hands. “How did you think of the bag?”
He chuckled softly. “Gotta plan for everything. Leave no trace, you know?”
I shook my head. “There’s security cameras everywhere. They’ve seen us.”
“Already ahead of you. Security tapes at the Post Office are digital. I uploaded a virus earlier, set to wipe everything out first time they access the files. Won’t be a record of nobody. Anybody else? All they seen so far is a couple of guys leaving the scene ahead of the rest of the crowd. Here,” he handed me a locker key. “We’ll get off at Foggy Bottom and change clothes, then double back and switch to the red line at the Metro and take it out of town. Even if they shut down the trains before we get there, we’ll still just blend in with the rest of the crowd.”
I could feel my breath starting to ramp up again. “H-how many people d’you think?”
“Damned if I know. Put your head between your knees. You’ll feel better.” He patted my back. “President’s history. Looks like you clipped the Speaker of the House while you were at it. We’ll just chalk that up as a bonus.”
“Oh God,” I moaned.
“One thing at a time, Peter. One thing at a time.”
The train pulled into the Metro station and rolled to a stop. The doors hissed open, and a voice over the intercom said, “Due to a national emergency, all trains have been ordered to stop at this time. All passengers please exit onto the platform.”
Grant swore. “Well, that was fast.” He picked up the bag and herded me into the station. Several people exited the other cars, looking around, bewildered. A number pressed cell phones to their ears.
“What’s going on?” a woman asked.
“The President’s been shot,” a man answered.
“Shot? Oh my God! I voted for him.”
“Terrorists,” said another. “Bet it’s Al Qaida.”
“They got us. They got us again. Just like 9-11.”
Grant pushed me away from the crowd. “So it begins,” he muttered. I swore and followed him up the steps into the daylight.
On the sidewalk above, streams of humanity wended their way out of the city. Police directed us with their hands, commanded us to “keep walking in an orderly fashion.”
We merged with the foot traffic, following the crowd. Police cars flew past, lights flashing. I stared at each one, hoping to catch sight of Martin, knowing that was impossible at the same time.
“They’re shutting down the city,” Grant murmured.
“What are we gonna do? We’ll be stuck here.”
“Yeah. Along with about a million other people. Don’t worry. We’ll make it out.”
I stopped. “What about Martin? And Jerry?”
“Martin’s in federal custody now. Jerry? If he made it, they’ll take him to the hospital right away, try to extract the bullet and patch him up. They’ll want them both alive. That way, they can play one against the other when they interrogate them.”
“But that will lead them straight to us!”
“Martin can hold his own. Don’t know about Jerry. Guess you’d better pray he doesn’t make it.”
Doesn’t make it? Something searingly hot and ugly rose up inside me. “You sick sonovabitch!” I swung my fist at him, fully aiming to cave in his face. Grant slapped my hand away, and I felt a sudden, glancing blow to my throat. I gagged instinctively. He grabbed my shoulder and spun me around, pushing me forward.
“Keep walking, hero,” he muttered. I coughed forcefully, trying to breathe through the clutching in my throat.
“Everyone knew the risks going in,” he said. “Especially Jerry and Martin. They were the tip of the spear. They ran defense for you so you could carry the ball. It was a sacrifice they were prepared to make.”
“You set them up,” I choked out.
He stopped and glared at me, whispering harshly. “Like hell I did. I’m not the one who called the police, am I? This whole operation could’ve gone down smooth as silk had you not muddied the waters, and if it was up to me, I’d have thrown you to the wolves a long time ago. But it wasn’t my decision.” He stabbed his finger into my chest, glancing both ways before continuing. “Martin called the shots. He believed in you, which is more than you deserve. And from the look of how things turned out, he was mostly right. You’ve got a hell of an aim, Peter. Ain’t maybe ten guys in the world could’ve made the shot you did. And that may be the only thing that’s kept you alive. That, and the fact that your brother. . .” He shook his head. “You betrayed him. You still came through, but you betrayed him. That’s all on you. The only question for you now is, what are you gonna do about it?”
I stared at him, too stunned to say anything. He clapped my shoulder. “See you around,” he said, and walked off.