BY: TIM DESMOND
When a dying friend and fellow Civil War reenactor asks California physician Hank Houston to find his daughter’s killer, Hank has no idea what problems his snooping will cause. The last thing he expected to uncover was a US murder squad being run by the DHS. But this domestic black ops unit is determined not to be exposed and, as Hank gets closer to the truth, he discovers just how far they will go to hide all their dirty little secrets.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Doc by Tim Desmond, Dr. Hank Houston is abducted by a secret government agency, the SRI, and framed for a crime he didn’t commit. All because he is trying to find out the who and why of the death of his friend Matt Sweet and Matt’s daughter Dana, both of whom were killed by the SRI because Dana had the misfortune to fall in love with a DHS agent who ran black ops for SRI. The agent, Jim, is concerned about the missions the SRI is doing, and he decides to blow the whistle. He gives Dana a thumb drive as insurance in case anything happens to him. Which, of course, it does.
The SRI kills him, which is pretty much a given. Then they try to eliminate anyone and everyone who knows anything about what Jim knew. And Dana, who is working on her master’s degree, love-sick fool that she is, decides to write her thesis on the things that Jim has told her. She calls it Control and it is about how all the government agencies work together to control the population. I like the characters, and the plot has so many twists and turns that it keeps you constantly on your toes. The Doc is a book you’ll want to read more than once.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Doc by Tim Desmond revolves around a young woman’s romance with a black ops agent. This agent, Jim Calder, falls in love with the young woman, and decides to change his life and retire from the DHS. But before he does, he decides to blow the whistle on the SRI another, secret agency that works with the DHS and whose missions have questionable legality. Jim gives Dana a thumb drive with instructions to take it to a senator, whom I assume is on the oversight committee for the DHS. So Dana has to go too. When Dana’s father questions her suicide, he becomes the next target. And the victims just keep piling up.
If the plot sounds complicated, that’s because it is. The Doc starts out with Jim’s murder, then moves forward to Hank’s abduction and interrogation by the SRI, and from there the story is mostly told in flashbacks, which are dated, thankfully, so you can tell where you are. Woven in and among the plot is a glimpse into the world of Civil War reenactments that I personally found fascinating. But the most interesting thing about the book is the message it gives us about all these government agencies trying to control our lives. It’s downright scary if it is true and gives new meaning to the term conspiracy theorist. The plot is complex, so this is not a book you can read while also watching TV, but it’s worth taking the time to read it.
1230 Hours, 16 January 2013, Capital Complex Grounds, Washington, DC:
Senior DHS agent Jim Calder walked out of the Senate Office building after having a lunch meeting in the Senate Cafeteria. It had been a good meeting for a change. The senator had seemed at least partially convinced. Jim hated the idea of becoming a whistleblower like Snowden, who was now in exile in Russia. Many in the agencies felt that whistleblowers were traitors to their fellow workers–or worse, to their oath to protect the Constitution. But it had to be done. And Senator Bastain was his last hope. Somebody at the top had to be strong. Bastain had been reluctant to get involved at first. He was up for reelection. His actions of disciplining DHS and exposing SRI, a rogue contractor, could backfire and be perceived as being weak on homeland security. Jim just hoped Bastain would have the balls to do something about the situation once he got the thumb drive with the proof Jim had collected. Jim would call Dana tonight on his disposable cell phone and tell her to go ahead and send the thumb drive to the senator by special courier.
Sweet Dana Sweet. God, how he loved her. Pure and innocent, she had changed him. Made him reevaluate where his worthless life was going. Now that she was a part of his world, he was finally going to do the right thing and expose the rampant corruption in the DHS. As soon as he got back to the office, he would turn in his resignation. He was done. Finished. Out of there. He no longer wanted to be part of an organization that not only didn’t respect the rights of American citizens, but trampled on those rights for their own corrupt agenda. Then this weekend at the Civil War reenactment, he’d get down on one knee and ask Dana to marry him.
Sudden raindrops brought him back to reality. It was one of those strange Washington summers with abrupt, but warm, showers. Tourists ran for cover or flagged down cabs. Jim turned east and down the wide walkway which lead to another official government parking lot. His car was there. A wind came up, then died down and the shower slowed to a pleasant drizzle. The sun peeked through gaps in low cumulus clouds and reflected a yellow light off the white granite of the near capital building. Jim looked over his shoulder then glanced at his reflection in a nearby window, trying to determine if he was being followed. Maybe he was just paranoid, but it seemed as if a lot of strange things had been happening lately. Hopefully, now that he had met with the senator, this would soon be all over and he and Dana could start a new life.
A ditsy tourist bumped into him, clumsily apologized, and stumbled on his way. Jim shook his head and kept going. People just didn’t pay attention to their surroundings any more. Either that, or man was drunk and not just preoccupied.
As he walked he began to feel nauseated. He continued past a long bench. Feeling dizzy, he turned, went back to the bench, and sat down. His gray, light-summer suit jacket pulled open as it snagged on the edge of the bench. Jim leaned back on the rail for support.
The clumsy tourist!
Jim took a deep breath. The entry of the chemical must have been through his skin. It was probably a milligram of an aromatic ring compound, most similar in structure to Xylene. Like those chemicals, it was fat soluble and absorbed into and through the lipid portion of cell membranes. Nothing stopped it. The physiologic actions were multiple. Once in the blood vessels the effect was a systemic vasodilation. All the smooth muscle in the walls of the arteries and veins became relaxed and allowed the vessels to expand, thus to dilate. This caused complete circulatory shock as the pooled blood in the extremities could not return to the heart. The heart beat faster in an attempt to increase the output, but with no blood to reach the right atrium, the output eventually was zero.
Jim knew he was dead. His panic and fright produced enough adrenaline to counter some of the shock sustained and his mind still had time to ponder. He thought of the two thumb drives he had prepared. He had given one to Dana. Christ, he hoped he hadn’t put her in danger. He tried to move but couldn’t. So this was it. The drive. The other drive. I haven’t told anyone where I hid it. Will the senator be able to decode the after action report on the first drive and find it? And Dana, will she do as instructed and send the drive I gave her to the senator when I don’t show up this weekend? Dana. Dear God. Dana.
Unconsciousness came before his breathing stopped. His blue tie was draped over his right shoulder, and his eyes remained open. His last vision was of the Capitol Building of the nation he served.
A van pulled up. Two men got out, picked up the body, put it in the back of the van, and drove away.
I’d have a drink but then I thought, you couldn’t be more numb.
~ Mary at her nephew Tony’s funeral.
0600 Hours, 8 October 2013, SRI Center Maryland:
Doctor Hank Houston awoke disoriented, with a headache and pain at the pressure points of his hip and shoulder. His head wound seeped above his left temple. He sensed that he was moving in slow motion as his fingers felt the stitches, while he looked down at the red stain where his head had rested. In the bare, gray cell, his thoughts came sluggishly.
He remembered a nice room once. It had been like a hotel room, furnished and comfortable. He couldn’t place how many days ago that was. Was it weeks? He thought he had been gone a long time. Now he felt exhausted and rubbed his shoulder. The wrinkled, rose-colored scrub top felt rough. He walked to the door, which had no door handle or knob on it, and looked through the peephole. The view was a blur of light.
He hadn’t dreamed while asleep and he had no idea how long he’d been out. Whatever was being done to him was working, and he thought he had it figured out. Sensory deprivation. The lights were on all the time, no clock, no windows, and no external references.
He pounded on the door. “Who are you people?” There was no answer. He felt thirsty. “You have to give me some water,” he yelled.
He knew he could live a month on his body’s protein and fat storage, but he needed water.
There was still no answer. The dread and anxiety within him grew. How long does it take to break someone? Experts agreed that everyone would break eventually. “Have to keep oriented,” he mumbled. I have to remember the good life and how all this started. He thought of his jogging at home. When was that? Last month? Last year? Yes. It was a good place, back then. He had friends. He had patients–and family. My God, what’s happened to my family?
A cupboard in the wall opened. A glass of water sat on the cupboard shelf. Hank picked it up and drank it down. When he put the glass back on the shelf, the door closed automatically.
He returned to the bunk. He was tired. No. He would pace a while and jog in the cell. As he jogged, the seepage from his temple ran down into the stubble of his beard in front of his ear. Then he remembered the road at home. He ran in the gray cell and dwelled on the past. His thoughts unfolded in chronological order in his mind, beginning with his memory of jogging in the rolling foothills of the San Joaquin Valley in California. It was a good memory and he dwelled on it a long time, thinking about all this started…
© 2014 by Tim Desmond