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High Treason (FBI Task Force)

By DiAnn Mills

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High Treason - Chapter 1
FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson had survived missions in the Middle East, been detained in Iran, escaped an ISIS death trap, and still walked and talked. His past kept him fueled for the future while adrenaline flowed whenever he recalled the danger—and the victories of working Houston’s terrorist division.
Early Tuesday morning, Kord sat in a Mercedes limo with Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal, his longtime friend and a grandson of the royal Saud family, en route to the Saud mansion in River Oaks. The prince’s mother, Princess Gharam, and his two sisters rode in a limo behind them. Prince Omar had requested Kord for protection detail as an olive branch to the Americans. Smart move, in Kord’s opinion. The strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the US resulting from falling oil prices and the US having less dependency on foreign oil was only part of the problem. Despite being a strong ally to the West in the fight against terrorism, the Saudis disapproved of how the US was handling the ongoing tension in Iran, Syria, and Yemen, and the list went on.
Kord shook off those bleak thoughts and turned his attention to the security detail. “I’m looking forward to catching up with your family,” he said to the prince. “I appreciate the e-mails with your sons’ photos, but I want to know all about them from their father.”
Prince Omar grinned like a boy himself. “They study hard and work even harder at mischief. You and I will have hours of coffee and conversation.” His expression shifted to lines that aged him. “I wish the circumstances regarding my mother were more pleasant.”
“MD Anderson is the best medical center in the world to help her.”
“And Houston has the only facility conducting a clinical trial for her type of cancer. I keep telling myself she’ll be fine, trying to be hopeful. I have an appointment with her team of doctors after she’s admitted to the hospital this afternoon. They want to review the testing from her doctor in Riyadh and explain their proposed method of treatment.” He paused. “I’m glad you’re with me. In case Mother’s treatments aren’t successful, I’ll need a friend.”
“Princess Gharam’s a strong woman.”
“She’s determined to fight the cancer.”
“I see your business plans aren’t on the schedule.”
Prince Omar turned to him. “I’ll give you that once I know about Mother’s treatment.”
“My job is to ensure your safety.”
“We’ll discuss it later. On Wednesday week, I’d like for you to accompany me to Saudi Aramco.”
He responded respectfully. How many of those at the family business were supportive of Prince Omar’s plans to lease ownership in Saudi oil reserves to Americans?
Prince Omar tapped his driver on the shoulder. “Wasi, don’t forget we’re stopping at the Frozen Rock.”
“A little early for ice cream,” Kord said.
“Not on Riyadh time.”
The prince’s press secretary, Malik, laughed. “Prince Omar, I reserved the shop for 9 a.m. before we left home.”
The moment the limos pulled off Westheimer into the busy shopping strip housing the Frozen Rock, uneasiness crept over Kord. A sensation he couldn’t shake and one he’d learned to trust. He scoured the area looking for potential danger. “Prince Omar, I don’t think we should do this.”
“This is one of Mother’s favorite excursions, and my sisters enjoy it too.”
He glanced at his friend. “Zain and I can take orders and deliver them. My gut tells me this isn’t safe, and I can’t give you a solid reason why.”
“I know your gut talk,” Zain, the head Saudi bodyguard, said. “Kept us from getting killed a couple of times.”
Prince Omar sighed heavily. “We have eight armed men. This is a go.”
Wasi drove the limo to a far corner beneath an oak where both limos had room to park. The Frozen Rock sat midway in the retail center.
Zain turned to the prince. “Kord and I will make the initial trip and ensure the area is secure. After I talk to the owner and pay him per the conversation Malik had yesterday, I’ll call you. If I detect anything risky, we can cancel.”
The prince lifted his phone and frowned. “My battery is dead. Must have used it up at the airport. Call Malik if there’s a problem.”
Per the State Department and HPD, the bodyguards, all dressed in suits, were permitted to carry weapons in case of an attack. But Kord couldn’t shake off the wariness. Only Zain and Prince Omar wore white cotton pants and shirts under their thobe and ghutra with a black mishlah. The men shared a remarkable resemblance, but having Zain disguised as the prince gave Kord little relief. He surveyed the area, noting teens from the high school across the street, two women in workout clothes, and others who gave no apparent reason for the hesitancy in his spirit. “Would you like for Wasi and Malik to join us?”
Zain laughed. “You and I have faced a lot worse than a store owner forgetting to open early.”
“True.” No talking down a stubborn Saudi when he’d made up his mind.
Wasi placed the limo in park.
Kord exited the limo and walked around the front, his attention focused on every conceivable point where danger could be lurking. Finding nothing, he opened the door on Prince Omar’s side, and Zain stepped out, his slender body wrapped in centuries-old culture and tradition.
The two strode across the parking lot toward the window-walled Frozen Rock, painted in vivid orange and neon green. A Closed sign on the door met them, but lights were on inside the shop. Good. The reservations were intact. Now to get the prince and his guests fed and out of there. Was Kord crazy to be so apprehensive?
He knew Zain had his eyes and ears on what was happening around him while his fingers were inches from his weapon. A few feet from the glass door of the ice cream shop, Zain broke his stride.
He fell against the glass door.
The pop of a rifle sounded.
Kord grabbed him, pulling out his Glock with his other hand. Shouts in Arabic alerted him to bodyguards emerging from the limos close behind him. Time hung suspended. Zain’s body slid to the sidewalk facedown, the ghutra soaked in red.
Kord bent to his friend and felt for a pulse. “Zain,” he whispered, “this isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen.” No response or faint heartbeat. Blood oozed from the back of his skull, draining a Saudi life onto US concrete.
Screams rose from nearby women and children.
The man who’d shared Middle Eastern danger and saved Kord’s life was dead. No doubt mistaken for Prince Omar. How did the sniper know about the stop at the Frozen Rock?
***
Monica poured a large cup of the Arabic blend for a regular customer. “Chicken-bacon wrap too?”
“You bet. Add a bag of chips and a banana.”
She peeled off a label containing a quote, sealed it onto the side of the cup, and handed it to him before bagging his lunch order to-go. “Been to the rodeo yet?”
“Taking the family on Saturday. The crowds will be crazy, but that’s part of it. What about you?” He gave her a polished smile, one he used for her and every person he met there. Dressed in a dark suit and a two-hundred-dollar tie, he looked every bit the successful lawyer.
“Sunday afternoon.”
He turned the cup to read the quote. “‘Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.’ Abraham Lincoln. Good one. I’ll remember it in court this afternoon.”
“May you win all your cases.” She laughed and pointed outside to dark, gathering clouds behind him. “Don’t forget your umbrella.”
He left the café and dashed down the sidewalk. She continued to serve coffee, specialty drinks, and deli sandwiches to the remaining patrons in line. An easy part of her life, but not her mission, her calling. Passing on smiles and encouragement provided optimism for her day and hopefully for the recipient.
A black man in his mid- to late thirties sat at a small table in the corner and sipped a double dry short. He’d spoken in a Nigerian accent, piquing her interest. The man’s cell phone rang, and he snatched it. Frowning, he spoke low. She scanned him for recognition while reading his lips.
“I have no idea when he’s arriving, but he’ll have the rest of the money.” The man listened. “We have to be careful.” A tall black woman entered the café and seated herself beside him. He nodded and smiled. “I have to go. She’s with me now, and we’ll figure out how to surprise Father with a birthday party even if our brother doesn’t get here in time.”
Monica’s cell phone vibrated twice, paused, then three more times, signifying a notification from her handler.
“Lori, can you take over?”
Her friend gave a quick nod. Without a word, she moved to the register. No questions asked. Monica had told Lori months ago when she was hired that personal family issues could demand her attention at any time. Yet Lori kept her employed at the coffee shop. With Monica’s commitment to the CIA, she was forced to lie to her family and friends, but the cover kept them safe. If the truth ever surfaced, the betrayal might destroy the relationships she treasured. Would they ever understand her commitment to keep their country safe?
With no time to waste, she locked herself inside the restroom, knowing she had less than two minutes to read and respond. Her mental clock counted down to thirty seconds remaining. If she missed confirming the secure notice, it would repeat until she responded. A nagging headache didn’t help the urgency.
Safe House ASAP
OMW

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