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Painless by Derek Ciccone

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Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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Painless by Derek Ciccone
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Synopsis

A fast-paced thriller mixed with a heartwarming story of redemption. A series of ominous incidents make Billy Harper realize there is something very different about Carolyn Whitcomb. But when a rogue organization called Operation Anesthesia learns of Carolyn’s “gifts,” Billy must risk everything to save the life of the little girl who taught him to live again.


Prologue:

Mitchell Jones’s Labor Day wouldn’t be filled with parades or barbecues, and he didn’t get the day off from work. He was thousands of miles from home, sitting quietly at a kitchen table in a small house in Malmo, a city on the southern coast of Sweden.

His assassin-like stillness was only occasionally interrupted to check his watch, or dispassionately stroke his long, graying beard. The beard, along with his wiry frame and dark, vacant eyes, gave him a resemblance to a certain infamous terrorist. This made flying commercial virtually impossible. But for his job with Operation Anesthesia, he didn’t have to.

As Sunday night slowly morphed into Monday morning, he patiently read his favorite author— Herbert Spencer—while waiting for the Lerner family to return from the United States. The news that the Lerners received from the US doctors was no doubt life-altering, but little did they know that Mitchell Jones was about to really change their lives forever.

Based on eighteen years of experience, he didn’t expect a confrontation. He knew the Lerner’s minds would be too cluttered to notice the obvious signs that someone had broken into their home, such as the lights he arrogantly left on, or the lingering odor from his chain-smoking. But if an altercation did occur, he was under direct orders to take everyone alive.

This went against Jones’s natural instinct to shoot first and ask questions later, a philosophy that got him fired from his old job at the CIA. But Operation Anesthesia didn’t see it as a black mark on his résumé. In fact, it was the reason they sought him out all those years ago. But sadly, like most things,

their survival instincts had softened over time.

He took an extended drag on his cigarette, attempting to relieve some of the pain that was a souvenir from a recent mission in Iran. A mission that went awry, to say the least. Sixty percent of the area from his chest to his feet was burned from the fiery helicopter crash. The cigarette wasn’t a very good anesthetic.

Not even the best spin-doctor could heal the colossal failure of Iran. Any mission where you are presumed dead, and that’s the good news, was not one for the time capsule. But thanks to Jones’s survival instincts, he and his boss, Franklin Stipe, were preparing a dramatic rise from the dead. A resurrection in which Stipe would likely portray himself as the brave hero, leaving out the part where Jones guided him to safety, allowing him to avoid the cruel fate of the others they left behind.

But he smiled anyway, exposing his cigarette-stained teeth. He knew Stipe wouldn’t be in power much longer. His inevitable fall was dictated by the laws of nature, or what Spencer so brilliantly termed “the survival of the fittest.” A concept wrongly credited to Darwin and his theories of evolution. Herbert Spencer actually coined the phrase in his 1864 masterpiece, Principles of Biology.

In it, Spencer created the model that applied his law of “survival of the fittest” to society. He warned that humanitarian impulses had to be resisted, as nothing should be allowed to interfere with nature’s laws. This differed from Stipe, who sought useless elements such as glory, acceptance, and credit. As did the culture of modern America, which embraced concepts like love, happiness, and religion. It chipped away at its inherent survival skills, softening the society, and making it a target for its predators. But of course, that was the reason Operation Anesthesia was created in the first place.

The front door creaked open and a weary family entered, two-and-a-half-year-old Petr sleeping in his mother’s arms. Their bright blond hair didn’t appear to be dimmed by the life-changing news they had received on their trip, but each step they took was marked with exhaustion. Jones was sure the physical fatigue didn’t even compare to the mental strain of trying to grasp Petr’s diagnosis.

Upon reaching the kitchen, they were met by Mitchell Jones and his 9mm Glock. He coldly explained to the Lerners that their trip had just begun and it would be in their best interest to quietly cooperate. The father declined the offer, yelling, “Aldrig i helvete”—no way in hell—and Jones could kiss his behind, “Kyss mig i arslet.”

Jones went right for his weak spot, knowing a little Swedish of his own. “Jagt skar av dina ballar om du inte haller kaft,” he calmly stated, threatening to remove the man’s testicles.

The man stood down.

Predictable.

He knew the mother would be tougher. They always were. When it came to their children they were true survivalists like him, willing to fight to the death. So he immediately went with a pre-emptive attack—threatening to kill Petr.

She cooperated.

There would be no need to bind and gag them. He used a concoction created for Operation Anesthesia by one of the world’s leading neurologists, which would temporarily paralyze the body, including voice. And when Jones expertly injected each of the family members with a syringe containing the paralyzing drug, it didn’t surprise him that young Petr didn’t wake, or even flinch.

He effortlessly loaded the drugged family into the rented SUV he had parked two houses down on the quiet street. He then drove out of Malmo, over the modern Oresund Bridge, and into Denmark. In Copenhagen, a private plane waited to bring them to the home base of Operation Anesthesia. It would be the Lerner’s home for the rest of their lives.

It was the end of the road.