“The Substitute” – A Novel by Perrin Lovett

Yes, Perrin’s still around, FP-ers! And writing fiction. At long last, she’s here – my first serious foray into fiction and a comprehensive story featuring everyone’s favorite spook turned teacher, Tom Ironsides.

I give you, The Substitute. ORDER NOW AT AMAZON.

© Perrin Lovett

© Perrin Lovett

Tom, of course, is a retired CIA Paramilitary Officer. Now, he faces what may be an insurmountable challenge – confronting America’s failed or failing “public” schools – an extreme man for an extreme mission. Follow his adventure through an academic year as he deeply investigates the happenings in one particular fictional system. Being who he is, he also stumbles across a continuing series of cases and events that relate back to his previous employment. Several flashbacks keep the action moving, like the following a preview of the beginning of Chapter One, At Home Far Away:

******

Belgrade, Serbia, April 1, 2001, the wee hours…

Five men stood or sat in and around a used Mercedes T1 Transporter van. The early morning air was cool, a little wet, but bearable, not that comfort had anything to do with their line of work. The team leader sat between the rear doors, which were wide open to provide a view downhill to the compound. He raised his satellite phone as he gazed down at the house through a night vision scope. Continuing his observation, he spoke, ‘Some of his drunks are staggering out of the veranda. The cops are kind of humoring … pushing them aside. They’re about to bring him out. Now. You want us to take the shot?’

A muffled, warbling voice instructed from the other end. He cut it short,

‘Been here for over forty hours. He’s coming out in a second. Do you, or do you not … want him dead?’

The electronic voice from Virginia warbled away.

‘Got a twenty mike-mike ready to roll, here,’ the leader said without breaking his stare, even as he reached around and patted the barrel of an older Soviet ShVAK-20 autocannon, ‘If it’s dead, then I need to move over kind of quick like.’

More warbling.

‘Okay, shit! It’s not like they have any evidence or cause for this arrest. Not here, certainly not at the Hague, not even our guys. Yeah! Who the hell wants to bother with a trial?’

Warb…

‘Save it. He’s coming out. Between four officers right now.’

The hardened paramilitary operations officer watched as heavily armed police escorted a handcuffed Slobodan Milosevic, first and now former President of the Serbian Republic to a waiting car (one of five, as he counted them). ‘Last chance. I can still light it up…’ He was cut off in turn.

A stern voice spoke through the receiver, a little clearer to his hearing than to that of his men, ‘Negative! Watch them drive off and then get out of there. Green Ops will make sure he arrives at Central. We’ll have him in Tuzla tomorrow. Stand down and prepare for evac. Go ahead to the rendezvous point. You’re done.’

‘Roger that. Black Delivery, out.’ He folded the phone closed and watched as Milosevic was tucked into the back of a car that sped away immediately. He spoke to his team, ‘Okay, boys and girls, field trip’s over. Load it up and let’s get clear.’

As he stood up, he patted the barrel again, ‘Birch, does this thing even work?’

Before Birch could answer, five small-arms shots rang out in the distance. The team wheeled around and rescanned the general area of Kuca Milosevic. Silence followed. There were a lot of guns out and about. It was probable that someone at the house had vented a little frustration. If it was something else, then Green Ops and the locals could deal with it. Either way, the men counted their work as finished.

‘Yeah. There’s a party over there… The twenty? Kinda glad we don’t have to find out, Tom,’ Birch replied with a smirk. ‘You heard the man. Let’s move out.’

With all parties and equipment secure, the van slowed crept forward towards the road. A SEAL support newbie, a huge man that Tom and Birch thought sort of looked like a tree, was at the wheel. Tom spoke to Birch quietly on the makeshift back seat, ‘Somebody’s really confident about this nab and extradition. I don’t think they ever intended to assassinate him.’

Birch answered softly, ‘They did, or at least it was plan B. But, yeah, money buys confidence. G-team’s spent a small fortune convincing Dindic. He’s our guy now. We’ve spent even more with the ICTY. The banks don’t aim to lose. Ever.’

‘You can say that again,’ Tom said with a shrug and a little louder. ‘Was this another grand waste? Rather than play collection agent for Basel and the IMF, I’d prefer to track down some of the al-Qaeda chatter. Something’s moving. Wonder what the money men know about tha…’

The shotgun rider, a veteran SEAL, interrupted: ‘Roadblock! Roadblock! Twelve o’clock!’

Tom raised his night vision scope for a moment, peering through the windshield. ‘Guns. Up and leveled! Through it or around it! Go, man, go!’

The big newbie floored the gas and headed for an opening between two blocking vehicles on the right. They were welcomed with a hail of bullets. The van rolled over two shooters and clipped a truck as it blasted through. The primary support agent in the rear opened up with an H&K 416, firing a deluge of three-round bursts. After a split second, he cried to the front, ‘Company! Van and two cars following us!’

‘Secure this shit in, Birch!’ Tom ordered as he hopped over the seat to the waiting ShVAC. ‘And, hey, we’re about to find out!’

The rear agent leaped behind Tom, picking up the night scope so as to act as his boss’s spotter. Birch was scrabbling to get in touch with Force Recon. Bullets cracked here and there on the skin and frame of the now very used van. The spotter tapped Tom’s shoulder and pointed back and right.

‘Ears!’ Tom screamed.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

In a deafening second, they both found out that the old gun worked just fine and they lost one pursuing car. In another second:

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Another car burst into flames and crashed down a hillside. One more, baby! Tom had a clear, distinctive view of the van through the comically oversized iron sight. He checked the belt and prepared to squeeze the trigger again. The Mercedes lurched and turned hard. He lost his view for a fraction of a second. When the van was visible again, he instantly saw its hood, grille, and front passenger quarter-panel erupt in a shower of sparks. Up in the front, his veteran SEAL was damned good with an AK, even hanging out the window of a speeding van, shooting in the dark. Tom watched the van sputter and grind to a halt in a ditch.

‘Good shooting!’ Tom yelled, a yell which even he had trouble hearing. ‘Guess I don’t get all the fun! Anybody else deaf?! And, WAS ANYONE HIT?!!’

Fortune favored the bold; no-one was damaged aside from ringing in the ears which even decent ear protection couldn’t prevent. Something about not shooting an anti-aircraft gun in an enclosed vehicle… Birch informed that a Marine helo would meet them in about three minutes, maybe one minute after they arrived at the field. The van slogged to a stop, resting on mostly flattened tires, in a patch of mud.

‘E’rbody off!’ Tom yelled. ‘Let’s give the bird something to steer by. Light this heap up!’

The five stood by, wary – watching the sky and scanning the horizon as the Mercedes began to burn behind them. The distinctive sound of an approaching rotar-craft thump-thump-thumped towards them. Tom’s signal flare did its job well. Just then, the younger agent barked, ‘The van! The van’s out there on the road!’ And, given away by headlights and its silhouette, a van was meandering down the street adjacent to their position. Tom stared at it hard.

Birch put in, ‘I mentioned that to the Jarheads during our getaway. They gotta see it now.’

Tom kept staring. Suddenly, he turned to Birch, ‘No! That one’s a different shape and a little bigger. More of a small bus. Tell them to hold their…’

As the Blackhawk prepared to set down near the flaming wreck, its door gun spoke, loud, clear, and mercilessly. **Burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrurrt!** The small bus was cut to burning pieces.

‘Oh, hell.’ Tom started. ‘Don’t tell me that was…’

As the others were pulled into the chopper, Tom stood rooted in the mud. He watched as a screaming child crawled from the remains of the bus. ‘GODDAMMIT! NO!’

He too was pulled, kicking and screaming, into the helo by a sturdy Corporal. The DOD never billed him for the damage he did to the chopper bay. The whole squad, once they understood what had happened, took Tom’s sorrowful view of the matter. It was much worse for him, understanding all the details. The master crooks used the “law” to snatch a smaller crook. Tom and his men were merely pawns. Other pawns had tried to kill them. All of it went with the territory. But, why was it that every single time, some innocents had to die? Every damned time!

Derry, New Hampshire, April 10, 2018, 05:00…

Tom woke up with a start, sweating profusely. He counted that particular adventure as one of his “favorite” nightmares. It was certainly one of the most recurrent. Serbia… In the end, he’d been right about Milosevic. After a baseless capture, an illegal transfer, and a five-year sham of a trial, the man “committed suicide.” Then, and only then was he posthumously declared acquitted, with a lack of evidence of any chargeable war crimes. Tom had seen it, known it, way back then. And, he’d been right about the chatter as well.

An already exciting life kicked into overdrive following the morning of 9/11. If! There were more “ifs” than anything else and he still harbored many suspicions. Back at the time, had anyone near Washington had half a brain, they might have inquired as to who, exactly, Slobodan was allegedly committing those fake war crimes against. Some of the same characters were linked, here and there, to cells in Germany, the UK, Michigan, and Florida. 

******

Click that link, above, and start reading! Note: you do not have to limit yourself to just a single copy. The book makes a great Christmas gift. Order as many as you can afford. And, a Kindle e-version is (very slowly) coming together. And! I’m already four or five chapters into an all-action, political-thriller prequel, a first-person novella set a year before the 2018 beginning of Part One. I also have about twenty separate Ironsides shorts which could (will) morph into a series of future novels and novellas. 

Early readers report ease of reading from the layout, font, etc. – a quality book. The style is already being compared to that of Stuart Woods. Join the party and see what you think!

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