First Chapter: Latent Image by Joshua Graham

Latent Image Title: Latent Image: A Xandra Carrick Thriller
Author: Joshua Graham
Publisher: Redhaven Books
Pages: 437
Genre: Thriller

For fans of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Sandra Brown, David Baldacci, Brad Thor, and Nora Roberts.

New York Times bestselling author Joshua Graham returns with a new thriller, Latent Image: A Xandra Carrick Thriller.

At the height of President Jennifer Bradley’s inaugural parade, a bomb detonates, followed by shots from a sniper’s rifle. She survives despite the numerous casualties including the Chief White House photographer. The authorities apprehend the only surviving suspect, but before they can interrogate him, he dies mysteriously while recovering in the hospital.

In an effort to hunt down those responsible and prevent future assassination attempts, Special Agent Wade Masterson of the Secret Service recruits photojournalist Xandra Carrick for a dual-role position as the President’s Photographer and clandestine assistant operative.

Xandra’s uncanny gift of second-sight through the lens of a camera thrusts her straight into the center of a deadly terrorist plot that runs far deeper than anyone in the intelligence community ever imagined.

But she may already be too late.

In a tale of vengeance, honor and sacrifice, Xandra must draw upon all she has to stop an insidious plot which threatens to bring the country to its knees with a biological weapon that will decimate the nation’s population.

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FIRST CHAPTER

Prologue:

WASHINGTON, DC

January 23

2:28PM EST

IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF THE SNIPER’S SCOPE the target shifted in and out of view. The motorcade drifted down Pennsylvania Avenue, Secret Service agents flanking its side, while Vice President Phillip Marsden and his wife Gwen waved to the cheering crowd on either side of the street behind the cold 16-gauge steel tubing of the barricades.

Neither of them was the target.

The sniper swung his scope back to the west, where the glare of the sun blinded him momentarily. He grunted, blinked and reestablished his view. The cold January wind bit at his bare fingers as he felt the trigger and anticipated the diversionary strike his partner would unleash half a block away.

Tuning out the trumpet strains of marching bands, the steady drum beats, and the crowd’s applause, he initiated a silent countdown just as Jennifer Bradley, the nation’s newly re-elected president strode past the designated spot.

…four…three…two…one…

 Chapter One

2:30PM EST

SHE FOUGHT BACK TEARS as she walked across the asphalt, all the while trying to maintain that dauntless smile which some claimed to have helped her win her the election. Snow and broken ice had been shoveled over to the edges of the street so as to afford a clear path for everyone and everything in the procession—the floats, the Marines, the marching bands.

This would be her second term, having by succession fallen into the Oval Office after President Colson’s shocking conviction for the Vietnam War atrocities cover-up conspiracy, and his subsequent suicide. Now, four years later, having been elected the first female president should have made this, her inaugural parade, one of the most triumphal moments of her life.

But behind the winning smile, the appreciative waves, she couldn’t fully enjoy it.

If only Ben were here.

With her left hand holding onto Mikey’s, her eyes met his—deep set and blue like his father’s. He gave her a nod and such an austere look she might have found it endearing, had the wound not been so deep and fresh. Ben had told him just two weeks ago, Keep your head high. You’re the man of the house now. I need you to look after Mommy for me.

She’d dealt with leaders of unstable nations, headed up a war on human trafficking and took down cartels, but none of those enemies of freedom, life, and liberty were so cruel as the one that had taken her husband, Benjamin Bradley.  Cancer had no mercy.  Nor was it a respecter of men.

“You okay, Mikey?”

“Michael,” he growled, and continued to scan the crowd. Though only nine years old, Mikey was taking his father’s dying words more seriously than any of the Secret Service agents charged with their protection today.

“Just try to smile for Mommy today, you look so serious.”

“I hafta look out for you, okay?  Daddy said…” he tried to hold back a sob, bit his lip, then turned away trying to cover the fact that he was crying.

“Oh, sweetie…” Jennifer stopped, knelt down and wiped his tears with a handkerchief. This drew the attention of several onlookers, and one or two of the bodyguards. Maya, Jennifer’s staff photographer came around discretely to capture this poignant moment evocative of the little John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s casket during that state funeral procession nearly half a century ago.

“I miss him, Mom.”

Without a thought for the millions watching both on the sidewalk, and over television, Jennifer wrapped her arms around her son and held him as he wept.  She tried to soothe him with a gentle stroking of his hair.

But a deafening boom shattered the atmosphere, sending her to the ground over her son’s body.