Hi everyone, and thanks so much to those of you who've shared your excitement about my Agent Ko Spy Thriller Series! I honestly didn't know how people would react when I announced I'd written a mainstream thriller, and it's been so refreshing to hear the positive responses!
For those of you who are curious, I'm including chapter one of Marionette here. You can buy the ebook on amazon (all royalties go directly to Liberty in North Korea and their underground railroad), or you can make a donation to LiNK and get a free copy that way. Either way, you're helping North Korean refugees find safety and freedom!
The night was as still as her grandmother’s corpse. Ko silenced her breathing. The grass was an extension of her feet. No sound. She moved like silk. Silky hair flowing down Grandmother’s back. Black as fear.
The wall hardly slowed her down. Five footholds up, a simple hop down. She could scale it in her dreams. In fact, she had. That’s why she was certain she wouldn’t fail.
Her feet fell soundless when she landed on the other side. Crouching now. They kept the grass cut low here. No bushes for hiding. No undergrowth for shelter.
A sprint across the impeccably cut lawn. Still breathing evenly when she reached the building. She could run ten kilometers in that dreamless state between sleep and awake. She had on several occasions. But this was different. She wasn’t drowsy tonight even though she had only dozed off and on for the past week — short snippets of sleep that stole away her consciousness but never her alertness. Even her dream energy was spent rehearsing the route. Reciting her instructions. Visualizing the goal. Visualizing victory.
For Ko, there was no other option.
The patrol car chugged by, wheezing like an invalid. Ko crouched at the bottom of a tree trunk and waited. She couldn’t afford to rush. There was no fear. Funny. She thought she’d have been at least a little afraid.
The vehicle passed, leaving only the stale stench of diesel fuel and exhaust. Ko swallowed down a cough. An autonomic reflex could botch everything. She clenched her throat muscles so her body wouldn’t betray her.
The patrol car would return in another five and a half minutes. Still, there was no rush. She would take her time, relish the aroma of conquest. Even the air tasted different here.
She had allotted herself a full minute to climb the tree but reached the top with fifteen seconds to spare, give or take. She still wore the watch Ryuk gave her, but she didn’t need to check it. Time was measured by the reliable rhythm of her heart. Even when the she transferred her weight to the narrow ledge outside the third-story window, her pulse only increased by a small fraction. Death waited below if she fell, but her balance was as steady as if she had been perching precariously on window projections her entire life.
A creak from inside. Intel was eighty-percent certain she was outside the bedroom of a mid-level staffer, but who could guarantee? Room assignments changed without warning, sometimes on a nightly basis. Who would she meet once she was inside?
It didn’t matter. She was ready.
She took out the glass cutters. Steady hands. Strong. Interesting how much you could learn about a people by their hands. Like Ryuk’s. Veins popping up like blue ridges. Nails always trimmed until no whites showed. Fingers fat but dexterous. Fingers that could gouge out a man’s eyes. Hands that could snap your neck.
There wasn’t time to keep thinking about him. Not now.
By the time she made her opening through the window, she only had half a minute before the patrol car would complete its circuit directly underneath. She could remain where she was as long as the men weren’t suspicious, but what if someone had alerted security? Were they expecting her?
She reached her hand inside the glass to unlock the window. The pane slid open for her without a squeak. Another second and she could be in the bedroom.
But whose bedroom? Would they make noise? Alert security before Ko had a chance to silence them? First time’s always the hardest. Even here, Ryuk’s voice mentored her. Guided her. She pictured the soft wrinkles around the corners of his eyes. Remembered his low, steady voice. What sage advice would he whisper if he were beside her on the window sill? What words of insight would he share?
Ryuk. Her soul whispered his name like a prayer. Just help me get inside.
Why was she waiting? Whoever was in the bedroom must be asleep. No lights. No sounds. Why was she waffling now? Didn’t she know failure meant death?
How many men had Ryuk killed? How many women?
And had they all been evil?
She strained her ears. The patrol car was chugging its way around the corner. Already? When had her heart started racing so fast? She had to move. Ko held her breath.
Her feet fell to the carpet like pads of velvet. She was inside the US Embassy.
Want to read more? The ebook is only 99 cents on amazon, or you can make a donation to LiNK for a free copy.