Monday Sampler: Black Mountain Secrets by James Moushon
January 4, 2016
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Monday’s Sampler is an excerpt from Black Mountain Secrets, an espionage thriller from James Moushon.
As one reviewer said: Moushon’s writing is smooth, complex and full of adventure. I feel the heat when he writes about the desert; I feel scared when he writes about violence.
CIA Agent Jonathon Stone goes undercover to help in an FBI investigation after a fellow agent is murdered on the Colorado River.
Stone continues the agent’s investigation of suspects who are stealing top-secret documents from a secret Army base in the middle of the Mohave Desert. The trail leads him from the rugged Black Mountains of Nevada to Laughlin, a gambling oasis on the Colorado.
As things heat up in this desert paradise, Stone dodges bullets and attempts on his life until he reaches the ultimate showdown. Jonathon Stone truly needs lady luck on his side to catch the spies and get through this ordeal alive.
Mystery Writer James Moushon brings to life Jonathon Stone, an undercover CIA agent assigned to the off the books CIA division – DOT.
He throws Stone right into the middle of action. As the mystery unfolds, Stone uses his wealth of knowledge and keen analytical mind to complete his dangerous assignments, while at the same time battling his love for gambling and drinking and the ladies.
Set in the rugged mountains of Nevada and the surrounding desolate sagebrush covered desert, lies an oasis. This is a place of intense heat in the summer and mild, clear days in the winter. In this area, the Colorado River runs through a gorge of man-made hills with a small fishing village on one side and a gambling playground on the other.
During the day, the river is a recreational haven. At night, it is a dark, eerie mass of water moving south. It is sprinkled with shuttle boats with their headlights guiding the way, ferrying people from one side of the river to the other.
This winter night started as a typical one for the tourists and gamblers alike. A shuttle boat had just left one of the casino’s docks and was headed to the Arizona side, flowing with the rapid current.
Suddenly there was a loud crash and a deadening scream and all was silent. Only the sounds of the water rushing down the river and the glow of lights from the casinos were left. It seemed that the moon and the stars were the only witnesses as the tragedy of the night tumbled like a rolling stone down the river, along with the information that could threaten a nation.
. . . . . . . .
I browsed through the email I’d received from my boss, Russ Evans.
To: Jonathon Stone
Date: Mon, Dec 4, 2006 at 9:18 AM
Subject: URGENT – NEW ASSIGNMENT
MEET ME IN LAS VEGAS – ARRIVAL DECEMBER 8 – GET TICKETS FROM DEBBIE– MEET AT DENNY’S ON STRIP 9 AM – PREPARE FOR LONG STAY – INVOLVES THE THEFT OF TOP SECRET INFORMATION – SIMILAR TO BLACKSTONE OP – AL HOUSTON WAS KILLED IN LAUGHLIN, NV TWO WEEKS AGO WHILE ON ASSIGNMENT – TIME IS IMPORTANT
Russ always wrote his emails in an abbreviated style. I guess it was a carryover from the old days when all our notes were handwritten.
I opened the attachment. It was more revealing than his email. It was an article from the Bullhead City, Arizona newspaper:
BOATING ACCIDENT MARS GAMBLER’S WEEKEND FUN
An Oasis Casino shuttle boat overturned last night on the Colorado near a Bullhead City dock with no apparent survivors. The Bullhead Search and Rescue Squad were on the scene this morning. Up to press time, only one body had been recovered from the river. An unidentified man in his mid-forties washed ashore near Riviera. The search will continue through today according to the BSRS leader, Jack Finn.
Agent Al Houston must have been the unidentified man in the boating accident. I had briefly worked with him several years ago in Europe. Now I am working stateside doing special assignments.
I have been with the CIA’s special unit DOT for several years now. Originally we had been set up as an undercover operation in Long Beach but that had been compromised two years ago and all the staff had scattered to other assignments. I had been lucky enough to be able to stay at my same home in Belmont Shore, California, in the Long Beach area.
On the other side, now with all my down time, I was drinking and gambling almost every night. Hopefully this assignment would let me get back in the grove. I didn’t need to be in a dangerous situation and be fighting the drinking demons at the same time.
I was still using the same cover story. I was billed as a writer for the Real Sportsman Magazine. At least that’s what my business card said. This cover allowed me to ask more direct questions when I was gathering information.
If someone would challenge the cover, I would say that I was a freelance writer and our main office was in San Francisco.
We actually had a special line at headquarters that Debbie, Russ’s secretary, would answer. If she couldn’t answer the question, we had an agent briefed on the assignment that could field the inquiry. When the group was in Long Beach, we actually produced a magazine but not anymore.
I turned and looked out the oval window of the 747, watching the tall, jagged mountains slowly move below me. A past adventure moved before my eyes. The Blackstone Project that Russ had referenced had been one of my special assignments when I was young and full of adventure. I’d replaced an agent who had been killed by a suspect’s bullet. It had involved a spy that was stealing information from NATO in Algiers.
The last time I’d seen Russ had been in Las Vegas. I had been on vacation and we had met for dinner. It seemed like I was in Vegas more than at my home in California. My life style had changed and as Russ had put it, “Jon Stone, you must decide whether you want to be a gambler or serve your country.” The decision had been a difficult one. I had enjoyed my work, the action, the danger. But I also enjoyed the gambling and the drinking.
Just then, the captain of the plane spoke over the intercom, “Please fasten your seat belts. We are starting our descent into the Las Vegas airport. We will be arriving in approximately ten minutes. Thank you for flying with us today. Good luck.”
I grabbed my bags, picked up the rental car and headed for downtown.
Las Vegas in the morning is always a leisurely time. The pace is slow and calm. In contrast, the nights are filled with bright lights and there is an excitement in the air. The noises and sounds aren’t duplicated anywhere else in the world.
Long gone were the sounds of coins striking the metal slot trays and the older ladies carrying buckets of nickels but the sounds and the flashing lights of a jackpot still were there. Gambling had indeed embraced the digital age.
It had been a month since I’d been in Vegas and I had missed the gambling and the surroundings there. I’d arrived a day early to get a feel for the cards. I had tried to keep in shape at the Casino Queen in Long Beach but they dealt from a shoe and it just wasn’t the same. Besides I could never get enough time to have an extended period of play. There is nothing like Vegas. Practice makes perfect as they say. Counting cards takes practice and nothing can match the speed of the dealer.
Actually I had done better than I expected for the layoff.
I played until dinner, winning some and losing some and drinking a lot. I had a nice steak, a few more cocktails and headed back to the tables.
Unlike the casino in Long Beach, the drinks were free as long as I was playing Blackjack and I was taking full advantage of that. I got on a small winning streak and the drinks kept coming. Finally the pit boss had had enough and changed the cards. I had to stay around long enough to fulfill a personal tradition that I had started several years ago. After a winning session, I would finish the night off with a shot of Jack Daniels.
Unfortunately this had to be an early night and my room was right upstairs. As a backup plan, I called the front desk and asked for a wakeup call. If I was late tomorrow, I surely would get another lecture from Russ about my gambling and drinking. I had been going astray since our offices in Long Beach were closed because I had a lot of free time on my hands, I guess.
The morning came quickly and after a cold shower, it was time to start the day. I was glad I had asked for the wakeup call. I would have slept right through my meeting. My head was pounding but a hand full of aspirins would take care of that….