Doc Ford has long lived a double life. This time, it may finally have caught up to him. The electrifying new thriller from the New York Times-bestselling author.
“I’ll make an example of someone close to you.”
On a moonless night on Sanibel Island, Florida, marine biologist Marion “Doc” Ford carefully watches a video of a hooded man executing three hostages. The man is an American working with ISIS, and in the next few days, it’ll be Ford’s job, as part of his shadowy second life, to make sure he never kills anybody else again.
But a lot can go wrong in a few days, and Ford has no way of knowing that not only will the operation prove to be a lot more complicated than he has anticipated, but that he’ll end up bringing those complications back with him to the small community of boaters, guides, lovers, and friends in Dinkin’s Bay, where he’s long made his home.
Someone has taken Ford’s actions very personally, and now no one there is safe – least of all, Ford himself.
“White continues to provide thinking readers with action-packed thrillers that are also thoughtful and informative,” writes Bookreporter.com. “By the end, you won’t be able to read fast enough.”
Better get started now.
From the Hardcover edition.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
This is Randy Wayne White’s twenty-third Doc Ford book. He has also had four collections of his columns for Outside magazine and elsewhere published—and the new Hannah Smith series has debuted with Gone, Deceived, and Haunted. In 2002, a one-hour documentary film called The Gift of the Game, about White’s trip to Cuba to find the remnants of the Little League teams founded by Ernest Hemingway in the days before Castro, won the Best of the Fest Award from the 2002 Woods Hole Film Festival, then was bought by PBS and broadcast station by station in the spring and summer of 2003. A veteran fishing guide who at one time had his own local PBS show, he lives in an old house on an Indian mound in Pineland, Florida.
From the Hardcover edition.
Sitting in his lab, Marion D. Ford entered a numerical password, and watched a hooded man execute three hostages with a ruby-handled knife. Different victims, different locations and months apart, but always the same knife, never pausing to sharpen the blade.
How could that be?
The video had been edited by a pro, that's how.
The knife was of interest. He zoomed in. It had a curved blade like an antique sword, with a single ruby embedded in the hilt. On the pommel was a crowned triangle of silver, the symbol of Persian assassins from the time of the Crusades.
Ford opened a second link, entered a series of codes, and this time watched raw footage of the first two executions. This video wasn't available to networks or politicos -- possibly, not even the White House, although Ford wasn't sure about that. He concentrated on the man wielding the knife: he was tall with corded forearms, but not muscular, his technique honed by video games and religious fantasies. He was a Muslim convert via Chicago, no name provided.
An egomaniac, Ford thought, who played to the cameras but revealed himself in scenes that would be omitted -- one where he used a cleaver. Another: an adolescent yowl when he lofted his trophy, a severed head. Weird, the sound he made. A wild warble made with a fluttering tongue. Like crows trapped in a cave.
There were two cameras from different angles, video rolling throughout.
The third video was different. The cameras had been paused several times, although their POV remained unchanged. The scenes were choppy and sometimes blurry, which wasn't typical of raw footage. That struck Ford as odd. Digital cameras had autofocus. The hostage behaved differently, too. He was an aging Caucasian male, professorial-looking, who had to be dragged to the chopping block, unlike the others who had shown no fear.
Ford hadn't been supplied with his name, either. That would come later -- or wouldn't. It wasn't his job to care. He opened a notebook, pocket-sized, and wrote in cyphered shorthand: "Victims #1 & #2 believed they were participating in a rehearsal."
He erased and revised: ". . . believed they were participating in another rehearsal," then paused to reflect before adding, "Victim #3 might not be dead."
He made more notes while he watched the footage again.
The link was time-sensitive. When the screen went blank, he rebooted his computer -- a security precaution -- before exiting the room which contained rows of lighted aquariums, a microscope, shelves of beakers and chemicals, and, on the counter, a cylindrical Plexiglas tank in which a dozen sea jellies pulsed.
It was a moonless night on Sanibel Island, Florida, and breezy on this first eve in December. A good place to stand on the deck of a house built on stilts, and piss over the railing into the water -- a glittering stream that connected him, briefly, with the bay ten feet below.
Back at his desk, he sent an encrypted message that read, "When?"
For the next several days, Ford began each morning with a long sunrise swim, and sprint intervals on a butt-kicking machine called a Versaclimber. Pull-ups usually came next, but he'd broken a hand and torn his rotator cuff on a recent trip to Cuba. Only a partial tear, but he couldn't do the job he'd been assigned if it got much worse.
Still no word on Wednesday, so he tended to Business, which included signing documents that made him half owner of a small seaplane, a Maule M-5 with a four-cylinder turbo. The fuselage was blue on white; leather seats and Plexiglas doors. The co-owner was an old friend, and to celebrate they flew to Shark River in the Everglades and caught snook.
There was another good low tide on Thursday. He was wading the flats with a fly rod when he finally received an encrypted reply to his question via satellite phone.
That night, on his bed, while his dog watched, he laid out two passports, an olive drab travel kit, a bug jacket, a hammock, $15,000 in cash, and some other things, including a knife, a laser pointer and a small pistol, a Sig Sauer P938.
He'd returned from Cuba with that, too.
There were other weapons in a safe built into the floor -- esoteric items, but better to travel light.
Ford was cleaning the pistol when a knock at the door shifted his reality from the covert life he had led for many years to the realties of a small marina, on a small island, where oddities (such as the odor of Hoppe's Gun Solvent) became an eager topic of gossip. So he stashed the pistol kit, and offered his friend Mack, who owned Dinkin's Bay Marina, a chair and a cold bottle of beer.
Mack had some gossip of his own to share: a story that, under different circumstances, might have earned Ford's full attention.
"Our mystery Santa struck again," Mack said. He held the bottle to the light, then took a drink. "This time he left five hundred bucks under the console of Eddie's boat. No idea who did it. "
"Our Eddie?" Ford was dubious. Eddie DeAntoni, from New Jersey, was called 'Fast Eddie' for a reason.
"I'd think it was gambling winnings, too, or somehow illegal, if it wasn't for the money Marta's little girl found on their houseboat. Same thing: a red candy cane sort of box filled with old bills. Stacks of hundreds; all of them stiff, like they'd been soaked in water, then bleached. Nothing written on a card, just money. It's no accident, Doc. Sort of an early Christmas present, that's what Eddie thinks."
Everyone at the marina, and all of his friends, called Marion D. Ford, 'Doc.'
The story about Marta Estéban and her daughters was true. Ford had helped the family escape from Cuba, which was why, two days ago, he’d been their unanimous choice to arbitrate on what ten-year-old Sabina had discovered in an anchor well and claimed as her own: $1000 in cash. A big boost for a family in a strange country, although their adoptive marina family would have looked after them anyway.
"He didn't make up a story just to con the IRS," Mack added. "There's a lot of eccentric rich folks on these islands. That's why I always tell our guys, 'Be nice even to the assholes, 'cause you never know who they'll mention in their will."
"Bleached bills left in the sun," Ford mused. "Or hidden underwater. Someplace shallow. I figured Sabina found a stash of old drug money."
"Bloody well possible," Mack, who was from New Zealand, said. "It couldn't have come at a better time for Fast Eddie. The fool gave away most all his lottery winnings, and his dive business has gone to hell 'cause of Hello Dolly. Another few weeks with no charters and a cracked power head, he'd be bugger all."
Ford touched the stem of his glasses. "Dolly who?"
"Are you kidding? They quoted you in a newspaper story about herlast week. Dolly, the shark. Some are calling her Hello Dolly, like you're in the water, look around, and there she is. What are you gonna say? It's all anybody talks about."
"Why people need to give animals names --" Ford shook his head, mystified. "It’s different from some poor dog wearing a hat or scarf or sunglasses. I probably blocked the stupid name on purpose."
Dolly was a twenty-five-hundred-pound great white shark who’d been named by the biologists at Ocean Search who had tagged her. Ocean Search had tagged dozens of great whites with satellite chips that could be tracked by anyone via the Internet. Three weeks ago, the shark had surfaced off Sanibel island and might still be in the area, although sightings had not been confirmed. National headlines about her presence had slowed tourism and all but put local dive operators out of business.
Normally, Ford would have been happy to spend a beery evening with Mack discussing the subject. The marina's day-to-day problems -- even when they included a great white shark -- seemed sunny and manageable when compared to the cut-throat realities of the outside world.
He had a lot to do, though, so dropped a hint, saying, "I'm leaving for a conference in the morning, or I'd offer you another beer."
Ford's eyes landed on the marina's black cat, curled in the corner, then moved to the cylindrical Plexiglas tank. "I'm presenting a paper on sea jellies. Near Orlando at one of those big no-name hotels that have a name. If you think about it, remind Jeth to tend to my aquariums after you lock the gate tomorrow. He's been more forgetful than usual."
"Jellyfish, that's what you'll talk about?"
"It’s a misnomer. They're invertebrates, not fish."
Mack's expression asked, Who could possibly care?
"World wide," Ford explained, "there've been mega-blooms of sea jellies, and no one has figured out why. They thrive in polluted water, so that might have something to do with it. I can show you the data, if you're interested."
Mack's eyes dulled. He got up. "A hotel full of scientists," he said. "I've seen those female academic types. Like talking to textbooks with tits. But then, no one goes into your line of work for the excitement, do they?"
"I'll be back in a few days," Ford said, "but don't worry if I'm not." He got up. "Oh, and Hannah might stop to check on things. I told her she's welcome to overnight if she wants."
Capt. Hannah Smith, a top fly fishing guide, was Ford's on-again, off-again lover.
Mack felt an obligation to remind him, "I hear she's been dating someone. Understandable, of course. That girl's a tough one to read -- but aren't they all?"
Ford, moving toward the door, told him, "I've got to find my dog," and went outside.
The next afternoon he landed in Mexico, near Tulum on the Yucatan, and traveled south to where a resort the size of a cruise ship was anchored to a silver beach. A Florida biologist wouldn't be noticed among the eager tourist throngs, even if he loaded camping gear into a boat and didn't return for several days.
Ford paid cash for a locally built dugout -- a cayuca -- with an outboard. He pushed off before sunset.
South of the resort was the Bay of Ascension, a small inland sea pocked with islands and blue craters called cenotes that were openings to underground rivers. The craters tunneled far into the earth, and exited -- if they did -- no one knew where.
Ford liked that. Along with sea jellies, he had been researching cenote formations in the Gulf of Mexico. Next week he planned to dive a spot called the Captiva Blue Hole with a hipster friend of his, a boat bum mystic named Tomlinson, who was among the smartest men he knew. Also among the wealthiest, which is why some at the marina believed he was the mystery Santa.
Cenotes were a pleasant coincidence that Tomlinson would have interpreted as a karmic omen.
Good luck or bad?
Marion Ford didn't believe in either, for the same reason he had never believed in Santa Claus.
The resort was a five-star destination, a white concrete bluff encircled by bamboo-shack poverty where its employees lived — Mexican peasants the resort depended upon to keep tourists smiling. A typical worker-to-guest ratio was three to one. A typical income-to-income ratio wasn't available, but probably obscene.
Ford made use of the inequity, and cash money, to create a loose safety net of goodwill. A very loose net, true, but worth the effort in an area where the resort was an island unto itself. Beyond the eastern fence was a hundred miles of jungle. Forty kilometers to the south, through littoral swamp and withering poverty was Belize, once called British Guyana. Lying between was this shallow bay with its islands and blue holes, where he had fashioned a remote basecamp as well as a separate spotting post only a quarter mile from the hotel and beach.
Ford had done some exploring. He knew more about the area, he suspected, than the corporate bosses who'd built the place. But the bosses by-god knew their clientele. The wealthy jetted in from around the world for the sun and sex and gambling, and the illusion of limitless excess which, in the minds of some, equaled freedom. What the guests didn't realize was, despite the fixed smiles and amenities, the resort was an isolated outpost; a fragile life support system for those who could not, would not, survive for long outside the property's gate.
Why would they bother? There was a long list of organized activities: yoga, golf, horseback riding, scuba trips to nearby atolls, billfish charters, and day trips to archaeological sites.
There were many such ruins. This was Mexico's ancient region of Quintana Roo, home of Mayan kings and gods, and temples that, amid choking vines, mocked them both, but were still worth the hundred-Euro excursion fee (with a 'traditional' lunch included.)
Ford was more interested in solitary activities. Hopefully, the man he'd been sent to find would not be afraid to go out alone. There was unsupervised snorkeling, kayaks and paddleboards for rent, a two-mile "nature trail" that featured caged toucans and monkeys, and a lookout pavilion over a pond where caimans -- a variety of alligator -- waited patiently to be fed.
The pavilion was an ideal spot. Better yet, catch the man alone while he was snorkeling the reef that lay midway between the beach and Ford's spotting post hidden by trees.
It didn't happen.
He had been assigned an anonymous assistant; a “facilitator,” housed somewhere on the resort property. By the third day, he or she was getting antsy, too. Via encrypted phone, Ford received a text in Spanish: "Máx is leaving Wednesday, not Thursday. What now?"
Max as in Máximo, the maximum bad guy. It was code for the man he had been sent to find. Three days ago, more information had been provided about the videos, including details about the victims and their killer. The man with the ruby-handled knife was a failed actor named David Abdel Cashmere, who'd converted to Islam in 2010 at a Chicago mosque, and was considered "homegrown." It was an important distinction to law enforcement and terrorist organizations. "Homegrown" meant his conversion was so profound he would do anything, including harm his own country, to advance his cause. He attended training camps for Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group, and for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -- ISIS. By 2013, he had emerged as an occasional spokesman for an al-Qaeda cell in the U.K. ISIS came to power at about the same time.
In 2014, the FBI added Cashmere to the Most Wanted list, citing his involvement with a dozen bombings. They included Marriott Hotels in Bali and Singapore, and several Christian day care centers in the Middle East -- 346 children killed.
In 2015, ISIS amped up Cashmere's status by naming him "American Senior Operative and Media Advisor," but under the name of Máximo Al-Amerikee. Soon afterward, the group began to release videos of far superior quality to the cell p...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
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Book Description Penguin Audio. No binding. Book Condition: New. Audio CD. Doc Ford has long lived a double life. This time, it may finally have caught up to him. The electrifying new thriller from the New York Times-bestselling author. Ill make an example of someone close to you. On a moonless night on Sanibel Island, Florida, marine biologist Marion Doc Ford carefully watches a video of a hooded man executing three hostages. The man is an American working with ISIS, and in the next few days, itll be Fords job, as part of his shadowy second life, to make sure he never kills anybody else again. But a lot can go wrong in a few days, and Ford has no way of knowing that not only will the operation prove to be a lot more complicated than he has anticipated, but that hell end up bringing those complications back with him to the small community of boaters, guides, lovers, and friends in Dinkins Bay, where hes long made his home. Someone has taken Fords actions very personally, and now no one there is safe least of all, Ford himself. White continues to provide thinking readers with action-packed thrillers that are also thoughtful and informative, writes Bookreporter. com. By the end, you wont be able to read fast enough. Better get started now. From the Hardcover edition. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Audio CD. Bookseller Inventory # 9780399568732
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Book Description Doc Ford Novel, 2016. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # TV9780399568732
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