A Crystal Snowflake
by Holly Barbo
Series: Quick Reads, #7
Genre: Thriller - Quick Reads
Release Date: March 22, 2016
When Chayse’s friend is murdered before he can get protective custody, she and her department in Homeland Security are thrust into a race to stop a destructive cyber worm from wiping out all bank and stock market records during the Christmas break.
The good news is there is an inoculating code which will stop the worm. The bad news is it is hidden in a special crystal concealed in the sculpted walls of a beautiful ice hotel in the lapland region of Sweden and the terrorists are searching for it too.
As the snow flurries of November becomes frozen December each side rush to find the crystal…with entirely different goals. Will the Christmas holiday bring destruction for western financial systems?
A Crystal Snowflake is a contemporary thriller. It has been previously published in Tendrils, The Edge of Madness boxed set and Wrapped with a Bow boxed set. It was also entered in a story competition seeking cinematic quality stories for movie potential, and made the quarter finals.
Chapter 1: Fire and Ice
Orion gave a quick scan of the room. He needed to make sure he had everything important. His backpack was stuffed and the computer case held so much that there were edges of paper sticking out of it in a haphazard manner. The slender young man slung the strap of the computer bag over his shoulder, grabbed the backpack, and headed for the front door. His hand paused as he reached for the knob and looked out the window.
It was dark and he could see the snow falling through the street lights. There didn’t seem to be anyone about, so he slipped from the house and walked casually to his trusty old Chevy, his breath coming out in rapid visible puffs. The nonchalance was an act. Orion wanted anyone watching to assume he was going to M.I.T. to get in some late night work. He scanned the shadows, hoping no one was there and threw his backpack on the passenger seat, wedging the computer case between it and the seat back. The young man wanted both within easy reach. Once buckled in, he allowed his nervousness to slip out and thoroughly checked the view from his mirrors.
Orion eased onto the street and when there was no sign of his tires slipping, increased his speed. Orion reached into the pocket of the backpack for the pre-paid phone he’d picked up when he determined his cell had been tapped. At the stop sign he punched in a number. The snow flurries were increasing so he switched on the wipers. Orion waited for his friend to pick up.
The fair-haired man smiled when he heard her voice and responded by saying, “I’m on my way and no one is following me. Just in case, I sent instructions to our safe place. Don’t worry about retrieving the envelope unless I don’t get there by morning. Okay. Gotta go. I’ll be at your door for breakfast with your favorite croissants. Have the coffee brewed.”
Orion laughed at the response. “Okay. I need to concentrate on driving in this stuff. See you soon, Chayse. Bye.”
Beyond the stop sign, the road sloped down to a picturesque country bridge, one of many that dotted the New England states. Orion had to admit it was beautiful in the snowfall, but with the driving conditions worsening, he focused on how the car responded to his small adjustments in steering.
Without any warning, Orion’s power steering quit. Working to compensate on the slick road, he fought to correct the fish-tailing motion of the car. “Shit!” He tapped the brakes and was horrified as his foot went all the way to the floor.
Fighting the wheel and the momentum of the old Chevy on the slippery surface became his entire focus… and he was losing. He tried gearing down and applying the emergency brake, but the car went into a spin. Orion caught a glimpse of the bridge railing coming up too fast. “Shit!” The car broke through the wooden barrier and sailed into the darkness over the side.
The watcher stood in the shelter of some trees on the far side of the road. The muffled figure took a box out of his pocket, pointed it at the car and pushed a button. The loud sibilant schwuff of the slush hitting the car’s undercarriage drowned out the pop.
The quiet of the snowy darkness was shattered by sounds of a scream and a crash. The watcher waited to see if anything else would happen. Walking to the broken railing, he looked down into the gorge. The car was lying on the driver’s side and he didn’t detect any movement. Orion could have died on impact. He thought about that for a moment before looking at the box in his hand and pushing a second button. Under the trunk, a small flame ignited close to the cracked fuel line. There was a whoosh as the greedy flames engulfed the Chevy. The watcher turned away and calmly walked back the way he came, disappearing into the night.
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