WHITE JADE spins a web of deceit and murder across the globe, against the backdrop of a deadly international power game.
Former Recon Marine Nick Carter is a man with a dark history of emotional and physical scars. He works for the PROJECT, a covert counter-terrorism unit reporting to the President. Selena Connor is a beautiful, strong and skilled linguist. When her wealthy uncle is murdered by someone looking for an ancient book about the elixir of immortality, she's thrown into Nick's dangerous world.
Nick is assigned to protect Selena and help her recover the missing text. It's the beginning of a life and death adventure reaching from San Francisco to Beijing, from Washington to the hidden chambers of Tibet. Someone is determined to take over China and attack America--and Nick and Selena are right in the line of fire.
International intrigue, terrorist acts and the threat of nuclear war form the core of this fast-paced thriller, the first volume in a series featuring Nick, Selena and the PROJECT.
What readers are saying...
I read 100+ books a year, 99% of them action/adventure/apocalyptic fiction, both big name writers like Flynn and Thor as well as e-book authors whose names are not well know. I have to say that this is one of the better books in that genre...
Exciting from the first page to the last, could not put it down, quick reading that leaves you with a hunger for more from this writer
I couldn't put this book down - read it in a day and started book 2 The Lance immediately. What a great series of action/adventure, thrills and suspense. I have already purchased books 3 and 4 and can't wait to dig into them as well.
This book and the entire series is a MUST READ without question! I am officially a lifetime fan of Alex Lukeman :)
The dream splintered into shards of red and black, a kaleidoscope gone wrong. William Connor sat up gasping for air and waited for his heart to stop pounding. The green numerals on the clock by his bedside read two-thirty in the morning.
Something wasn't right.
Had he set the alarms?
After a moment he got out of bed and shrugged on a robe. He moved to the stairs of his San Francisco home. Below, a pool of yellow light from a single desk lamp spilled across the polished wooden floor. The rest of the room was in darkness.
His old body protested as he descended the stairs. He started toward the alarm box. A large man stepped from the shadows and blocked his way. Connor's heart skipped a beat and settled to erratic thumping.
"You! What are you doing here?"
Strong arms grabbed Connor from behind and wrestled him to the chair by his desk. Someone wrapped tape around him. The robe fell open, exposing his pale genitals. He was helpless.
"Is it money? I have money. Tell me what you want."
The large man loomed over Connor. He smelled unpleasant, a greasy smell of testosterone and stale sweat.
"Yes, money. And I want the book."
The large man slapped Connor across the face, a casual blow.
"The book. The one from Bhutan."
Connor tasted blood. "It's not here!"
"Then you will tell me where it is. First, the money. I want the account numbers and access codes."
William Connor was a rich man. Access to those accounts gave control over hundreds of millions of dollars.
"Who are you?"
"I am your worst nightmare. Tell me what I want or I will hurt you."
Almost as an afterthought, the man picked up and examined a delicate, antique porcelain vase covered with an exquisite design of flowers and birds. The soft glaze glowed in the dim light.
There were only two things William Connor truly loved. One was his niece, Selena. The other was the joy of things old and beautiful.
"Please be careful with that," he said. "It's very old."
The man looked at the fragile vase and smiled again. He held it in front of Connor in his huge hand and squeezed. It shattered into dust. Connor felt his chest tighten.
"If I ask a question and you do not answer, I will hurt you. Do you understand?"
"I don't have them here. All that is in my office."
The man sighed. He went into the kitchen. Connor could hear him rummaging through the kitchen drawers. He came back with a small red-handled pair of pruning shears Connor used on the rose bushes in the garden.
He grabbed the old man's left hand and pinched the blades together and cut off the little finger.
The man dug the point of the shears into the bone below Connor's eye. Connor screamed again from the pain. Blood ran down his cheek.
"The fog is thick, outside. The house is solid. No one will hear you scream. Your right eye is next."
The old man's bladder emptied, soaking his robe and the chair. Someone laughed, behind him.
"I'll tell you! I'll tell you! Don't hurt me again!" He began babbling the numbers, blurting them out. Sudden pain started and spread to Connor's left arm, sharp and immediate, a burning, blossoming bolt of fire. He stopped speaking and tried to catch his breath.
"Where is the book?" The man was shouting.
Pain exploded in Connor's chest. As vision faded, his last sight was the terrifying, angry face of his executioner.
Nicholas Carter wasn't thinking about the grenade. He was thinking about the temperature gauge on his rental Ford, pegged in the red. He pulled into the parking lot at the Project and stepped out into the heat. Steam boiled under the hood. A green pool spread out under the car. His head felt like it was wrapped in iron. He wished he was back at his cabin in California, not standing in Virginia with his shoes sticking to the asphalt.
From habit he scanned the surrounding area. He noted the parked cars, all empty. He crossed the lot to the building housing the Project, like hundreds of others in the Metro area. The only difference, the array of antennas bristling on the roof.
Carter went through security and walked past the elevator to the stairs. He climbed past the second floor housing the computers and backup generators and communications. He passed the third floor where the analysts lived. He exited the stairs on the fourth floor, the top floor, where Director Harker's office was. He placed his hand on the biometric scanner outside the door of her office and went in.
Elizabeth Harker looked up from behind her desk. She was small, with milk-white skin, small, pointed ears and raven black hair. Her eyes were like a cat's, wide and green. She looked like an elf dressed in black and white, but a kind of elf you wouldn't want to mess with.
On her desk was a file with his name on it, a silver pen that had belonged to FDR and a picture of the Twin Towers burning on 9/11. She kept the picture to remind herself of why she was there.
"Have a seat." Harker opened the file.
He sat and waited.
"The shrink says you're fit to go back in the field. Are you?"
"No more flashbacks?"
Not for three months. He'd thrown out the pills the doctor had given him. They'd flattened everything into a narrow monotone that made him feel like he was living in a fading black and white picture. He didn't think Harker needed to know about the dreams.
Harker nodded. She made a note in the file and placed it in a drawer.
A large, flat monitor was mounted on one wall of the office. Harker did something at her desk and the display came to life with a picture of an elderly man. His eyes were blue. He looked like the sort of man you'd like for a Grandfather.
She said, "This is William Connor. He was a very rich man. He was also a personal friend of the President."
"Someone tortured him until he died of a heart attack. They cut off one of his fingers with pruning shears. Then they transferred money from his accounts and tore his home apart."
An electric tension settled across his shoulders. Cutting off the finger of an old man made things personal, something he could grab on to. It was better when it was personal. He needed personal. It helped motivate him. Going forth for God and Country didn't work too well for him anymore, not since Afghanistan. Not since South America.
"That's cold. How much money?"
"Around four hundred million."
"Why are we getting involved with this? This looks like FBI or Treasury territory."
"We intercepted an encrypted satellite transmission last week from the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. There's a Colonel from Chinese Military Intelligence in the consulate named Wu. He pretends he's a trade official. He called his boss, General Yang. Yang is chief of their MI. Wu told him about an old book Connor found in Bhutan. Yang ordered him to get the book and Connor's money. The money went to accounts in Macau controlled by Yang."
"Chinese MI? Why would they do something as stupid as that? It doesn't make sense. What's in the book?"
"We don't know. Connor had a niece who might know. I want to ask her about it. Doctor Connor is coming here today."
"PhDs in oriental and ancient languages. She's one of the top experts in the country."
Carter pictured an expert PhD niece. Someone academic looking. Maybe in an earth tone baggy suit, with large glasses and gray hair, around fifty.
Harker said, "The FBI had Wu under routine surveillance. I requested a photo and they sent one over but my gut says they're holding something back."
Nick didn't respond.
"Zeke Jordan is the liaison. You know him. Talk with him and see what you can find out."
A voice came from the intercom on Harker's desk.
"Director, Doctor Connor is here."
"Escort her up."
While they waited, Carter thought about his car and decided to call Triple A and ride back with the tow.
Selena Connor didn't look like a fiftyish, gray-haired professor. It wasn't the way she looked that got Carter's attention, though that would have been enough. It was the way she came into the room, all contained, taut energy, with the rippling grace of an athlete. She was in her thirties. Her hair was short and reddish blond. Her face was tan from the outdoors. She had high cheekbones and violet eyes. There was a small mole above her lip.
She wasn't wearing a baggy suit or big glasses. She had on a smooth silk jacket and slacks and a pale blouse that picked up the violet color. In her left hand she carried a black leather computer case.
Carter stood and Harker introduced him. They all sat down.
Harker said, "What have you got there?"
"My uncle's laptop. He'd never left it with me before. I haven't looked at it, but I thought you might want to." Her voice was controlled. There were lines of tension in her face.
Got the lid on, Nick thought.
"Doctor Connor," Elizabeth said.
"Please call me Selena."
"Selena. The people who killed your uncle were after a book he acquired in Bhutan. We need to know what's in it."
Selena gave Harker an odd look. How did she know about the book?
"It's gone. I don't know where it is. I haven't read all of it, but it's a copy of an ancient text about immortality, mostly written in Sanskrit. Books like that are rare, but this one is unique. What's in it is impossible."
"Impossible?" Harker tapped her pen against her lip.
"Part of it is written in Linear A. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I'd never believe it. Linear A is one of two written languages from the Minoan Empire, before 1600 BCE. There are no books written in Linear A. There shouldn't be anything Minoan in the Himalayan region at all."
"You're sure the book is gone?"
"My uncle kept it on his desk, but it's not there now. He was going to scan it onto his computer."
"So it might be on that laptop you brought."
"It could be."
Harker began tapping on her desk. "The money from your uncle's accounts went to China."
"China? Part of the book is about the first Chinese emperor, Qin Huang."
"Emperor Huang?" Carter said. "The one with the soldiers and horses?"
"Yes. Huang placed an army of terracotta soldiers and horses outside his tomb. Chinese farmers found it in '74. It's a big tourist attraction."
Selena brushed a wisp of hair away from her forehead.
"The book described Huang's search for immortality. He was obsessed with it. It also repeated old stories of treasure in his tomb. Everyone knows where it is but it's never been excavated."
Harker told Selena about the intercept.
"Then you know who did this! Can't you arrest him, this…Colonel, or whatever he is?"
"We don't have hard evidence. Besides, he has diplomatic immunity."
Nick's ear began itching. Since he was a kid it had itched when things were about to get complicated, a personal early warning system. Then again, sometimes it was just an itch. He scratched it.
Harker set down her pen. "Maybe there's something on that laptop. Let's take a look."
Selena handed her the case. Harker took the computer out and plugged it into a port on her desk. The display booted up on the wall monitor. The screen filled with folder icons.
"Lots of files." She clicked on one labeled Beijing. The file was a list of bank account numbers in the Chinese capitol.
"That might help track the money. I don't see anything about a book."
Selena said, "It looks like financial files labeled by location, like the Bahamas or Caymans, or by industry and city. There's one labeled Li Shan. That's where the emperor is buried. Open that one."
The file was a draft proposal to excavate the tomb of the First Emperor, complete with time lines and cost breakdowns. There was nothing about the book in the file.
"There's a file with my name," Selena said.
"Let's see it."
It was a letter from William Connor to his niece, dated a week before his death.
My Dearest Selena,
You know how I hate clichés. Please forgive me for the one I use now. Quite simply, if you are reading this letter then something has happened to me. I do not contemplate this with equanimity, my dear, but life sometimes forces unpleasant possibilities upon us. I am leaving this note and my computer with you in hopes you never read it.
I think I am being watched by agents of the Chinese government and that it has something to do with the book I acquired in Bhutan. My translation is incomplete, but it seems there are historical inaccuracies regarding the death and burial of the First Emperor, and that these relate to a supposed elixir of eternal life.
I have prepared a proposal regarding possible excavation of the First Emperor's tomb at Li Shan. A week ago I met with a Chinese consular official named Wu Chen to discuss obtaining permission to fund and participate in such an important project. Wu offered to put me in touch with the correct people in Beijing.
In the course of our meeting I talked about the book. Not long after that I noticed a large and rather menacing Chinese man observing me at a restaurant I frequent. Then I noticed that same man in other places, at other times. It may have nothing to do with Wu, but it seems too coincidental to me.
I feel threatened. So I write this letter to you, although it may be just the foolish act of an old man.
I have placed the book in a safe place. If it does hold a clue to the secret of immortality or a key to the emperor's treasures, it is a dangerous thing to have in one's possession.
Do you remember, when we used to have our summer time together at the old mine, when you were a child, the special place you found to secret away your most precious things? That is where you will find the book.
My dear Selena, if you are indeed reading this, please know that you have always been a source of joy and delight for this old uncle of yours.
With all my love, Uncle William
They read the letter again. Selena sat rigidly in her chair. Carter watched her. It was an old habit, watching. It told him things. Right now it told him Selena was wound up tight. Close to her uncle, he thought, but she wasn't going to let anyone see it. How she really felt.
He knew what that was like.
Harker said, "Do you know what he was talking about? The place he hid the book?"
Selena's voice was controlled, neutral. "My family found gold in California in 1850. There's a house at the old mine property. In the front yard there's an ore cart full of rocks from the mine. When I was a child I hid things under the rocks. That must be where he put it. I'm surprised he didn't put it in one of his safe deposit boxes."
"No safe deposit box keys have turned up." Harker twirled her pen.
"He had at least three."
"The FBI searched his office and home. We'll check with them."
"If they have the keys, they know what's in the boxes." Nick looked at Harker. "I'll ask Jordan when I talk with him."
"Do that. Then I want you to go to California with Doctor Connor and retrieve that book. Does that work for you, Selena?"
"Anything that helps."
"Why do you want me along?" Carter said.
"They didn't get the book. If they think Selena has it they might go after her. I want you to keep an eye out." She looked at her watch and turned to Selena. "It's too late to get a flight today. We'll book one for tomorrow. What airport, Selena?"
"Sacramento. The mine is only an hour away."
"We'll arrange a car."
Carter said, "We can use mine. It's already there." He'd flown out of Sacramento. His truck was in the long term lot at the airport.
"Good. Hook up with Jordan before you go. Call me after you find the book. We'll search the rest of these files and follow up."
"What do I tell Jordan?"
Harker tapped her pen on the desk. "Tell him about the financial accounts. We'll keep the book to ourselves for now. There's no need for the Bureau to know about it."