Lady JusticeLady #2
USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR
DESTINED TO THRILL. FATED TO HEAL
“Tense and top-notch, LADY JUSTICE will keep you anxiously turning the pages. Vicki Hinze writes about a world of dangerous men and women — and she does it with absolutely convincing authority.” – Tess Gerritsen
“In LADY JUSTICE, Vicki Hinze has written a taut, twisty thriller about deadly, greedy evil and the strong and courageous men and women who fight it. I promise you, you won’t soon forget Gabby, Max — or the Ladies of Carnel Cove.” –Kay Hooper
“With snappy dialogue, sexy characters and keeps-you-guessing plot, LADY JUSTICE delivers the goods. People who love ALIAS, will devour this novel!” –Lisa Gardner
“Hinze throws down the gauntlet with heart-stopping suspense and tense intrigue that could be ripped from today’s headlines! An intricate plot, espionage, and a strong female character–this book appeals to both men and women!” –Christina Skye
“The incredible Hinze generates a thriller of mind-blowing intensity, delivering action and suspense with an incredible punch.” ~Romantic Times
The Consortium, an international group of businessmen, launches a silent war against the United States using biological contaminates to destroy crops and create the need for medical technology it intends to black market. The goal? Financial Gain. The method of attaining it? Manipulate the economy and, through it, the government. The war will be won before the U.S. realizes it has been attacked–and the Consortium will rule the U.S.
But the Consortium didn’t plan on the Special Detail Unit Senior Special Agent, Gabby Kincaid, discovering there is a war and it’s being fought and won by the enemy: a discovery that exposes Gabby’s cover and marks her for elimination by her partner, Special Agent Max Grayson. Max attempts to execute his orders, but he and Gabby become the U.S.’s strongest defense. They must work together to expose the enemy–before more innocents die from deliberate contamination; before the economy collapses; and before the country is crippled. Few things surprise Gabby or Max on this mission, but one stuns them. Neither expected to fall in love.
Thursday, July 4th
It couldn’t be broken.
Canceling the mission was not an option; he would have to proceed regardless, and if it had broken, he would not survive.
Panic shot through Cardel Boudreaux’s chest, hollowed his stomach, and the stale air inside the sedan seemed to spike twenty degrees. He dodged the steering wheel, bent double to the floorboard, and looked closer at the glass vial he had dropped.
No spillage. No milky-white serum on the floorboard. The vial seemed intact . . .
Afraid to believe his eyes, he lifted it, pinching his forefinger and thumb, and then gently rocked the vial end to end. There was no seepage, no serum, slicking the outside of the vial.
He let the truth that he had survived a near miss settle in; lower his pulse, his heart rate. When his hand stopped shaking, he slid the vial back into its sheath, rewrapped the sheath in bubble wrap, zippered it into its gray pouch, and then returned the pouch to his backpack.
Carelessness kills, Cardel.
It did. In his profession, religiously. Leaving his damn backpack open . . . he must have been out of his mind.
He abandoned his rental car in long-term parking, where it would be a little more difficult but not impossible to locate, and eased his backpack’s strap onto his shoulder. Near the main terminal, he tugged his white cap down on his forehead, so its visor shielded his eyes and the U.S. flag pin attached to it was clearly visible, and then he entered the airport.
Every second of his time had been structured specifically to maximize his odds for success, including booking his flight during the airport’s heaviest departure-and-arrival traffic.
Weaving through the thick bustle of people, Cardel blocked out dins of insignificant noises and made his way straight to the concourse dedicated to international flights. Security would be tightest there, but the Consortium, who had hired his organization, had connections worldwide, and his own superiors anticipated no challenges. Yet, like any other Global Warrior worth his fee, Cardel had prepared for unanticipated events that sometimes popped up, particularly on international missions. That preparation made his fee seven figures, rather than the typical six earned by the majority, and clients always seemed eager to pay it.
For fifteen years, he had worked hard to build and maintain a sterling reputation. He left no loose ends, offered no excuses, rarely made mistakes, and he had never compromised a client.
Sidestepping a mother who was half-dragging, half-cajoling a crying little boy, Cardel entered the restroom and took stock. Only four of the sixteen stalls were occupied. The two open rows of urinals were all in use. Surveillance cameras bolted to the wall were positioned high overhead, focusing on the entrance and exit.
Seeing nothing that hadn’t been included in his briefing, he stepped into the nearest stall, shut the door, and unzipped his backpack. Inside, he found the gray padded pouch. He pulled it out, removed a syringe and the small glass vial. His mouth went dry.
Swallowing hard, he banded his upper arm with a thin strip of rubber, filled the syringe, and then injected himself. As the milky liquid entered his vein, his fear the vial might break before he could inject himself died.
He set the vial and empty syringe on the tile floor behind the toilet, crushed them with his shoe, then mopped up the bits of glass with toilet tissue and dumped them in the toilet. Next, he saturated the stall floor with chlorine bleach. No trace of the serum could be found; the Consortium had been emphatic about that.
“Flight 127 to Miami, Florida is now boarding.”
Hearing the tinny loudspeaker announcement, Cardel glanced at his watch. He had seven minutes and twenty seconds to finish his work and get on that plane.
Moving quickly, he uncoiled a thin, clear hose, stuffed it down the waist of his slacks, further down the inseam of his right leg. The tip cleared the top of his shoe, remained concealed by the hem of his slacks.
He pulled a quart-sized canister out of his backpack, put it in a special holster crafted to carry canisters of the same size and shape, and then strapped it to his chest. A second canister remained in his backpack.
This is almost too easy.
It was. And normally that would have concerned Cardel. But this mission should be easy. The entire operation had been in the works for over a year. Every facet of it had been scrutinized, studied, tested, and then scrutinized again.
Calm and controlled, he connected the holstered canister to the hose, slid on a nasal oxygen mask, and then buried its unconnected hose from sight inside the holster. A quick twist and the canister’s valve opened.
A clear liquid drained through the hose and puddled on the floor near his feet. Stepping into it, he coated his shoes, and then left the stall.
After walking a path before the urinals, the stall doors, and the sinks where men stood washing their hands, Cardel left the restroom, careful to keep his chin tucked to his chest so his cap would block the security camera from recording a clear picture of his face. He stepped out onto the crowded concourse and tapped a release button on the canister near his waist. A thin trail of the liquid contaminant seeped onto the floor.
Obscured by heavy foot traffic, it was not noticed.
Because these passengers were heading for destinations worldwide, they would spread the contaminant to their various flights, infect others, who would go on to infect still others, and the diffusion would be accomplished. Tracing the contaminant back to its source would be impossible. In political circles, both Paris and Miami, Florida would have plausible deniability. That was vital to Cardel’s client. Why, Cardel didn’t know, nor did he care.
“Attention passengers. Flight 127 to Miami, Florida, this is your final boarding call.”
Cardel stepped up to the only middle-aged male security screener on duty. Slumping beside his machine, he looked bored. Heavy, dark circles rimmed his eyes. Definitely innocuous. Cardel approved the mission planner’s choice. “Long shift?”
“A double,” the screener said, grimacing. “Damn cutbacks.”
Offering a sympathetic nod, Cardel passed over the canisters and the oxygen certification provided by headquarters, which would get the canisters on the plane. “Rough times all over,” he said, then adjusted the nasal tabs in his mask and smiled, knowing it wouldn’t touch his eyes.
The screener didn’t smile back. He gave the certification and the canisters a cursory glance, and then passed them back. “Better hurry.” His voice sounded as flat as the loudspeaker. “They’ve already made the final boarding call.”
“Thank you,” Cardel said, and then made his way to the gate, where he produced the certification, canisters, and his ticket for the flight attendant. It had been purchased weeks ago with a credit card that would soon disappear. These days, cash transactions and one-way tickets raised obvious red flags with monitors. “Sorry I’m late. I got held up by Security.”
“Doesn’t everyone these days?” Totally forgiving, she quickly reviewed the certification and the numbers on the canisters. On verifying the match, she returned them, smiled, and then rushed him onto the plane.
In short order, the plane took off. When it leveled out at high altitude and they were gliding over the Atlantic, Cardel checked his watch. As if on cue, the seat-belt sign went off. Right on schedule.
He left his seat and headed toward the back of the plane to the restroom. On the walk down the center aisle, he depressed the canister button and held it, silently dispensing the contaminant. Odorless and colorless, it failed to draw the flight attendants’ attention, or that of the passengers seated along the aisle.
Smiling back at a blue-haired grandmother seated across the aisle, he stepped into the restroom and then closed the door. At this moment, only a fool wouldn’t be on edge. If the canister failed to eject . . .
Sweat beaded on his forehead, above his upper lip, and his hands shook. He removed the canister from its holster, dropped it down into the toilet, flushed, and waited to see if the mission planners had properly prepared for the disposal.
The canister disappeared from sight.
A moment of pure joy lifted him. There was no broken vial, no jammed canister, and no evidence. Expelled from the plane, the canister would end up somewhere in the Atlantic, and the truth of its origins would be lost for all time.
He loosened his limbs, relaxed. His portion of the mission would be a success. He was out of danger on the flight, and nearly finished. Once the plane landed, he had only to holster and connect the second canister, and then to take a stroll through a couple Florida orange groves.
Piece of cake.
Pleased with himself, Cardel stepped out of the restroom—and came to a dead halt.
Bright red, yellow, green, and blue plastic cubes littered the contaminated center aisle. And among them crawled a curly-haired toddler.
In a cold sweat, Cardel stared at the child. Over the years, the mission planners had been flawlessly professional, but this time—on the Global Warriors’ most intensive U.S. attack ever—the planners hadn’t considered that a parent might put a child on the aisle floor to play so early in the flight.
Cardel blinked hard, forced himself to look away and return to his seat. He snapped on his safety belt and then signaled the flight attendant for a drink. “Scotch and water, please.”
“Yes, sir.” She smiled down at the toddler.
Cardel’s gaze invariably followed. If the child died before the plane landed, the mission would be a disaster. “Make it a double.”
Awards & Honors:
RT Reviewers’ Choice Award Winner, Best Romantic Suspense Novel of the Year Holt Medallion Award Finalist, Best Mainstream Novel of the Year
4 1/2 STARS! Top Pick! “The incredible Hinze generates a thriller of mind-blowing intensity, delivering action and suspense with an incredible punch.” –RT BOOK CLUB, Jill M. Smith
“10: The Blether Gold Award. A truly exceptional read, the finest example of a genre, a book with which the reviewer can find no fault, and which will usually have universal appeal.” The Blether Gold Award. ”This is an exhilarating action-packed anti-terrorist thriller that hooks readers from the July 4th start at various North American locals. The fast-paced story line accelerates when Gabby becomes the prey that if assassinated could lead to pandemic disaster.” –Blether Reviews, Harriet Klausner, Reviewer
“[Lady Justice] keeps moving forward like a European bullet train because it is not underwritten or overwritten — just the right words are there at the right timing for the right response. And then your timing to know when to stop the train for intimacy feels perfect. It’s like a piece of music.” –William Olsen, Film Producer Getting It On
“LADY JUSTICE is a thriller first and romance second, and a great tale. Just the thought that this could actually happen scares the bejeebers out of me. That is the level of realism, Ms. Hinze puts into LADY JUSTICE. Women will love this one.” –RRT, Carol Carter, Reviewer 5 STARS!
“Author Vicki Hinze has another winner with this military suspense novel. Fast paced and full of action, you will not be able to tear yourself away from the pages. Just remember as you read to keep breathing! ***** –HUNTRESS REVIEWS, Detra Fitch
“My favorite part of this book is a group of four ladies who foil the super-smart SDU operatives at every turn. They’re small-town women with a brilliance all their own.” –The Best Reviews
“What a fabulous story. I literally could not figure out how Ms. Hinze would make her set up work as a romance — but she does so with panache, flair and a lot of fun. Max and Gabby are wonderful characters with lots of baggage and the integrity to work through to their happy ending. The secondary characters add so much depth without detracting from the story. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Hinze for a while now, and with stories like this, know I will continue to anxiously await each new book.” –Scribes World, Karen Larsen, Reviewer
”Ms. Hinze’s masterful plotting and excellent characterization make her books very realistic and very difficult to put down. I highly recommend LADY JUSTICE to all readers who enjoy thrillers or romantic suspense novels.” –Romance Fiction Forum
“One of the best romantic suspense novels I have read in a very long time. Hinze uses current events to highlight the love story and bring a touch of reality to the story. The characters are pure gold, and capture a reader’s heart from the get-go. Max and Gabby’s relationship is a joy to watch develop and the romance between the two of them is sweet and touching. The group of ladies that help Max and Gabby, are truly one of the best parts of the book; fun, resourceful and at times a bit frightening. They embody the characteristic most women wish they possessed themselves. This group also provides a touch of humor which is masterfully used by the author, to keep this book from becoming too maudlin and mundane. The suspenseful plot has so many twists and turns it keeps a reader guessing until the very end; and then Hinze’s seems to be leaving room for a continuation of the story; which I personally hope she takes advantage of. I highly recommend this novel as one of year’s best.” –A Romance Review
“Man, oh man, this book is impossible to put down! You like espionage? You got it; ditto suspense, romance, and very droll humor. Gabby and Max are outstanding characters, as are Candace and SDU Commander Donald Conlee. the taut, crisp pacing of this story is mesmerizing, and the narrative brilliant and oft times chilling. LADY JUSTICE is a timely tale of what could happen, and the “behind the scenes” brave men and women protecting us. I highly recommend this one!” –Betty Cox, Reviewer, Reader to Reader
“Vicki Hinze takes readers on the trail of a band of US traitors and mercenaries. After the tragedy of September 11, this plot sounds more plausible than I’d ever thought it could be, and just the thought that this could actually happen scares the bejeebers out of me. That is the level of realism Ms. Hinze puts into LADY JUSTICE.” –Reading Roundtable
“While the gents in this tale are not wimpy by any means, they really don’t hold a candle to the independent, strong female characters. LADY JUSTICE even features a woman as Vice President of the USA, and she has a very strong voice in decision making in the incidents that take place during this story. Women will love this one if only for the characterization. LADY JUSTICE is a thriller first and romance second, and a great tale of how true love conquers all.” –Carol Carter, Reviewer
“In LADY JUSTICE you will meet a hero and heroine that truly deserve a chance at happiness with each other but, it’s not likely to be. There are two riveting scenes that absolutely blew this reader’s mind and had the tears flowing nonstop. When Gabby discovers the presence of her eliminator, she presents him with a box that contains the story of her life, his reaction to the box and it’s contents is heart-wrenching. LADY JUSTICE is not just an edge-of-the-seat thriller with romantic overtones, there is a little bit of humor as well in several forms, one of which is the unexpected female “sleepers” in the community of Carnal Cove. Back on a serious note, the outcome of the story is in question right up until the end and the reader has no idea who can and who can’t be trusted. It is my belief that readers should plan on not doing much but read from the moment the spine of this book is cracked. The story, in my opinion, is so compelling and strong it is likely to be on the minds of readers for a long time to come. “ –Romance Readers Connection, Livia Holton
Paperback and Digital August 2004