It has been a joy to write this book. Though the publishing has been challenging. I am including the first two chapters. I hope you enjoy the sneak preview and will consider buying.
I will reward a FREE E-book version of Arctic Eagle on June 12th, 2020 to one lucky new subscriber!
I am excited to announce starting Saturday, June 13th, I will share a weekly three part short-story with you! Giant by Nature. The story of friendship, between a sea turtle and a little boy.
Now on to your sneak preview!
The spring breeze pushed past her sundress as she opened the door to the Estes Park Coffee shop. Gliding up to the counter, Dana, the owner of the shop, already had her order waiting. One large café Mocha and a Cranberry Scone. Dana smiled as she watched Cindi “Higgy” Higgins breeze through the door. “A wonderful Monday morning to you Higgy, I have your order ready.” “You know me so well, Dana.” Cindi said. Dana laughed from behind the counter, saying, “I do Higgy, I just added it to your tab.” As Cindi walked to her regular table, in the back corner of the coffee shop, she thought, Higgy, what a nickname to have. Laura Henderson is to blame for that nickname. She missed Laura. She missed the activity of playing with Laura’s kids. Cindi was honored to be the godmother to all three of Laura and Tom Henderson’s children. She would call her tonight, and they could catch up.
Sitting at the table, she opened her laptop to check her email, as she did every morning before walking a block over to the White Hat Risk Assessment office, where she worked. Taking a sip of the hot Mocha, her eyes grew wide, her heart raced. Flaming Feather? That was a name she thought she would never hear again. Staring at the screen in wonderment, she thought it has been ten years since she talked to Danny Davis, aka Flaming Feather. Why would he be contacting her now? Opening the email, the message read,
Arctic Eagle, if anything happens to me, you know where to look.
Confused, she read it a second time. Not sure what to do, Cindi sat back in the chair, her thoughts drifting back to her childhood, her past, Danny Davis. Flashes of memories raced through her thoughts, their teenage romance, their arrest, and their conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Looking back at the laptop screen, to read the message again, she found it was no longer there. Blinking her eyes rapidly, Cindi moved closer to the screen of her laptop. The screen was blank, the message gone. Did she imagine it? Confused, she searched her email. There was no record of it ever existing. If she did not get moving, she would be late for work, Cindi hastily closed her laptop and packed it in her messenger bag. Grabbing her cup of coffee to go, she walked down the block to start her day at work.
Briskly entering the offices of White Hat Risk Assessment, Cindi walked to her office, saying good morning to her co-workers as she passed by their desks. Reaching her office cubicle, Cindy sat down. She had a new account to work on today. A Bank whose security system needed to be tested. Turning on the computer on her desk, she stashed her messenger bag underneath the nearby shelf in her cubicle. She spent the next few hours before lunch hacking into the Banks system, finding multiple ways to gather their client’s confidential information.
Stretching, Cindy was startled when she heard her co-worker Mary Stewart say, “Hey Higgy, want to go get some lunch?” Turning in her chair to find Mary behind her, she said, “Not today, I am just going to get some air before I start the report for the bank. It was a breeze getting into their system this morning.” Laughing, she continued, “It is going to take two weeks to get their system secured. Your grandmother could have hacked into that system.” Mary giggled, saying, “I am not teaching my grandmother the tricks of this trade. I will see you after lunch Higgy.”
Cindy stood, grabbing her messenger bag. She walked outside to downtown Estes Park. Feeling the sun’s warmth, and taking a breath of the fresh mountain air, she looked down the street. Tourist season had not started yet, the streets filled only with local patrons. Sitting on her favorite bench around the corner from the office, she gazed up at the surrounding mountains, amazed that even though it was warm for a late April day, there was still snow on the mountain tops. Opening her laptop, she again searched for the email she thought she received that morning from Danny. Nothing was there. Closing her laptop, her thoughts went back to her teen years.
As children, Cindi and Danny were raised in the same foster home. Shortly after Cindi turned 16, the FBI arrested her with a group of five others called the MiamiLink Club. Besides her and Danny, the other three kids were also foster children in various homes in the city. In Miami Florida, they used coffee shops, libraries, and internet cafe’s as their location for hacking into first the local phone company giving them the ability to make free long-distance calls and listen to customers’ calls. They then moved on to hacking into corporate networking systems, as a challenge to see if they could. The Club would have contests on who could break into a company the fastest and do something crazy like implant a worm or change their client’s personal information. Then Chen Williams, one of the club members, the weak link in the club, decided it would be fun to infiltrate the Pentagon network. He never was very smart. That is when they were arrested. Cindi’s code name was Arctic Eagle. Her best friend and boyfriend at the time was Danny Davis, code named Flaming Feather. He was the one who taught her how to hack.
Cindi remembered the trial, and how terrified she was. Convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, she was sentenced to two years in a juvenile detention center, with three years of probation, and a fine. During her time in the Juvenile Detention Center, Cindi received her GED. With help from a guidance counselor at the center, she became certified as an Ethical Hacker.
Upon her release, that same counselor helped Cindi get a job far from Miami in Estes Park, Colorado working for the company she worked for today. She had been a part of the White Hat group for the last eight years. After her arrest, she had never spoken to or heard from Danny Davis again.
Standing, she thought, that was then, this is now. She had a an excellent job, a cute apartment above the Coffee Shop, friends, and she was now an adult at twenty-six years old. It was time to leave the past behind, and work towards that promotion she wanted as a lead Computer Security Specialist, which would give her a decent raise and the chance to manage a team of four other Specialists. Cindi stood, going back to her office to start the report for the Bank account she had worked on that morning.
Six days later, on Sunday, Cindi sat at her small kitchen table eating the ham and swiss sandwich she had made for lunch, admiring the new soft yellow color of the walls, her and Dana had painted yesterday. Watching it rain out her window, she picked up her phone to call Laura Henderson, her friend and confidante. Waiting for Laura to answer, she heard Laura say, “Higgy! It’s been two weeks since we talked, hang on.” Cindi could hear Laura say, ‘Charlotte, get off that table before you fall. Tom lift her down and give me a few minutes to talk to Higgy.’ Cindi heard Laura’s husband yell in the background, ‘Hi Higgy!’ Laura focusing back on the call said, “Higgy, how are you? Did you get the kitchen painted? I didn’t see any pictures come through yet.” Cindi laughed and said, “Its done, Dana and I spent all of yesterday painting. I love it. How are the kids?”
Laura replied, “Well, as you heard, Charlotte was dancing on the table. At two years old, I wonder about her sometimes, she is always climbing up on things. Michael is doing fine in Kindergarten, his favorite part of the day is nap time, Kevin, who may not live till next month to turn four, is into everything as usual. Did you get the promotion at work?” Cindi laughing said, “I find out next week. I sure miss you at work, Laura. Though, I must tell you, I appreciate the queen-size bed in our bedroom here, rather than the two twin beds.” Laura giggled, and said, “I miss the quiet evenings, when we could sit and watch movies, eat popcorn, and drink wine. I have not had a quiet evening since Michael was born. When are you coming for a visit?” Cindi replied, “I have two weeks of vacation built up. Depends on whether I get this promotion. If I get it, I want to settle in and get my team together, if not, I will make the trip to cry on your shoulder.” Laura laughed loudly, “So what else is new Higgy? Have you met anyone yet?”
Cindi smiled, “I have no time for a man in my life, Laura.” Feeling a chill go up her spine, Cindi said, “Something happened, I am just not sure if I am imagining it or not.” Laura stood, saying, “Hang on, Higgy, I will get Tom to watch the children.” Waving at Tom to watch the children. Laura walked out to the patio in the back of their California home. Sitting on the chaise lounge she said, “I am outside now, it’s quieter. Tell me what happened?” Cindi replied, “Do you remember when I told you about Danny Davis and the story of my teen years?” Laura replied, “I remember, why?”
Cindi said, “I got an email last week from Danny. I have not heard or talked to him in ten years. All it said was if something happens to me you know where to look.” Laura, aghast, said, “What? That is cryptic. Did you reply?” Cindi said, “I was so stunned. The email came from Flaming Feather, his code name. When I went back to read it again, it was gone.” Laura, surprised, said, “Wow! He had to do some searching to find you Higgy, and then to find your current email, send the message and then make it to look like it never existed. What are you going to do?” Cindi replied thoughtfully, “I will do nothing. That part of my life is best left buried. I do not want to open that door again. It is too risky, and life is good. I cannot mess that up.” Laura replied, “That is probably for the best.” Looking up, Laura saw Tom standing at the door, with a crying red-faced Charlotte. Laura said, “Looks like Tom is having trouble with the baby. Text me some pictures of your kitchen and text me as soon as you hear about that promotion. I got to go, Bye Higgy, I love you girlfriend.”
Cindi stood from the table and put her dishes in the sink. Taking a few pictures of the kitchen, she texted them to Laura and then decided with the rainy afternoon, it would be a good idea to take a nap and read that new romance novel she picked up last week at the bookstore.
Monday morning started as usual. Stopping at the Coffee Shop and walking to work. It was still raining. As Cindi entered the office, she closed her umbrella and moved to her desk. Looking at her in-box, she found three more files of new accounts. Placing them on her desk, Cindi sat down, ready to work on the new files. A few minutes later, Gina, her boss, stopped at her desk and said, “Great job on the Marshall Bank account. Can you stop in my office this afternoon? I would like to discuss your new job duties. Congratulations Cindi, the promotion is yours.” Cindi smiled and said, “Really? I got the promotion. Sure, I will be there promptly at one. Thank you, Gina.” Gina beamed, saying, “You deserve it Cindi. I will see you this afternoon.” When Gina had walked away, Cindi swung her office chair in a circle in celebration of her new promotion. Picking up her phone, she quickly texted Laura, ‘I got the promotion!’
Setting her phone down, Cindi opened the top file on the pile she received in her in box and started working. Looking at her watch, thinking it was time for lunch, she would have just enough time to have a sandwich and go to her meeting with Gina. Hearing her cell phone vibrate, she looked to see a number from California calling. Answering, she said, “Hello?” She heard a man’s voice say, “Good morning, am I speaking with Cindi Higgins? This is Samuel Herschel; I am the attorney for Daniel Davis.” Cindi felt like her heart was about to stop. Trying to take a breath, she found it difficult. She said into her phone, “This is Cindi Higgins, what can I do for you?” Mr. Herschel replied, “I am sorry to tell you this over the phone, Ms. Higgins, but Mr. Davis has passed and named you as the executor of his estate. I was wondering if you could come to Los Angeles in the next few days to settle the estate.”
Cindi whispered, “Danny is dead? I have not seen or heard from him in ten years. Why would he leave everything to me? How did he die?” Sam Herschel replied, “Mr. Davis informed me you were the closest he had to family, saying you would know what to do with his estate. I am sorry to inform you; they have ruled his death as suspicious. You have not heard from Mr. Davis in ten years? That’s odd.” Cindi felt the energy leave her body, saying, “Suspicious? What does that mean?” Sam replied, “All I can tell you Ms. Higgins is that his death is still being investigated.” Cindi, taking a deep breath, asked, “Mr. Hershel, do I really need to come to Los Angeles to settle the estate or can we do it by email?” Sam Herschel said, “Mr. Davis has left you his house, and all his belongings, and a considerable amount of money. You will need to come to my office to sign the paperwork, receive the new deed and keys to the home.”
Cindi’s thoughts started flying a mile a minute. She had just received a promotion. Then her heart sank when she remembered the email, she received from Danny last week. Quieting her mind, she said, “Mr. Herschel, I will need to make some arrangements here at work, can I call you later this afternoon, with a time I can arrive?” Mr. Herschel replied, “Yes, that would be fine. I will email you my office location so you can make the proper transportation arrangements. I will look forward to hearing from you later today. Good day, Ms. Higgins.”
Cindi set her phone down on her desk. Her eyes filled with tears. Danny was dead. Fear entered every core of her body. Danny’s death was suspicious and with the email he sent her last week, he knew what was coming. What the hell has he dragged her into now? There is no other choice, I will have to see this attorney. Feeling like her past was rushing back into her life, against her will, Cindi stood and walked out of her office to sit on her favorite bench outside. She needed some air; it was hard to breathe. Sitting on the bench, she was unaware of her surroundings. Her mind kept going over the email, Arctic Eagle, if anything happens to me you know where to look. She had no choice. She would have to go to Los Angeles. She would have to find what Danny wanted her to find. Forty-five minutes later, she entered the building. She slowly walked over to Gina’s office.
Cindi knocked softly on Gina’s office door. Hearing Gina say come in; Cindi entered her office. Gina looked at her watch before saying, “Cindi, right on time.” Cindi sat down in the chair across from Gina’s desk saying, “Gina, something has come up. There has been a death in what you would call my family, and I need to go to Los Angeles and close out the estate. I know you scheduled this meeting to talk about my promotion. Thank you for having the confidence in me to award me with the promotion, I appreciate it. I am sorry, but I need to use my vacation time to handle this.”
Gina looked at Cindi quizzically. “Family? Cindi, when you came to work for me, I understood that you grew up in foster care. What has happened?” Tears rushed to Cindi’s eyes, “It was one of the other foster children in our home, Danny Davis. He has left everything to me, and his attorney has asked I come to California to settle the estate. His attorney asked that I come to Los Angeles to sign the needed paperwork. The attorney said there is a home involved. I need to find a real estate agent to put the house up for sale. As soon as I am done with that I will be returning.” Gina looking surprised said, “It wasn’t one of the boy’s you they arrested you with was it?” Cindi nodded silently, saying, “I haven’t seen or heard from Danny in ten years so I do not understand why he would do this. I do not even know how he found me. When your sister, Camila, made the arrangements for me to come here to start a new life, I know she did not tell anyone what she was doing and took great care in making sure no one would find me. So, I am as surprised as you are.”
Gina nodded her head. Remembering when her sister Camila called her about Cindi. She said she was one of the most talented hackers she had ever seen. A young girl tied into a group that could have destroyed her life. She thought Cindi was a decent girl who could make a difference in the world with her talents. So, she agreed to give her the start she needed, setting her up in an apartment over her best friend Dana’s coffee shop and giving her a job. Over the past eight years, Cindi had flourished and proved her worth to White Hat Risk Assessment.
Gina looked at Cindi and said, “I understand Cindi, take the two weeks and when you return, we will get you set up with your new team. I am bringing four new employees in from around the States. They are young, with similar backgrounds such as yours. I believe you are the one to guide them into becoming assets to White Hat. When are you planning on leaving?” Cindi replied, “I will make the arrangements to leave from Denver tomorrow. If that is okay with you.” Gina said, “Okay, give your new account files to Mary, and check in with me, letting me know when you will return. In the meantime, I will have your team settled in and ready to start when you get back. Why don’t you go home and get things settled to leave? I am sorry you have to deal with this Cindi.” Cindi gratefully looked at Gina saying, “Thank you Gina, I will call you soon.”
Cindi went back to her desk. Straightening her desk, she took her new work files to Mary, saying, “Mary, I have to leave for two weeks to take care of some family business, Gina asked me to give you these new accounts to complete.” Mary replied, “Sure Cindi, is everything okay?” Cindi nodded, and said, “Yes, just some unexpected family business to deal with. I will see you in two weeks.” Cindi went back to her office, got her bag, and walked back to her apartment, stopping into the coffee shop to let Dana know that she was leaving for a couple weeks.
Entering her apartment, Cindi sat down at her desk in the living room, opening her laptop. She quickly made flight arrangements to Los Angeles and organized a Lyft to take her to the Denver airport at nine am the next morning. Checking her email, she saw she had received the email from Sam Herschel. Cindi mapped out his office, finding a hotel within a two-block area. Making one night of reservations, she thought if Danny had left her his house, when she got the keys from Mr. Herschel, she could take a Lyft to the house and stay there. Emailing Mr. Herschel her travel arrangements, she informed him she would be in his office at ten a.m. the day after tomorrow.
Cindi went into her bedroom to pack her suitcase for her upcoming trip. Once completed with that task, she went back to her laptop finding an acknowledgement for the appointment time with Mr. Herschel. Closing her laptop, Cindi quickly reopened it. She conducted an internet search for Danny Davis. Finding nothing but the article of their arrest, she again closed her laptop. Going into the kitchen, she poured herself a glass of wine and settled into the plush deep brown couch in her living room. Taking a sip of the wine, she set the glass on the coffee table in front of her and picked up her cell phone without looking at it. She should call Laura and let her know she was coming. Staring at her phone for a few minutes, she thought better of it. She would call Laura when she got settled into Danny’s house, a house that was now hers. Picking up her glass her wine, she said to herself, if anything happens to me, you know where to look. With a deep feeling in her gut, she knew that her life was about to take an unexpected left turn; she downed the rest of her glass of wine, drew a hot bath, and went to bed.
The next morning, Cindi rose and quickly dressed, getting ready to leave. Carrying her suitcase down the flight of stairs, she walked out the door of the apartment and into the Coffee shop, where she ordered a large Mocha Latte and a Cranberry Scone to go. Seeing the Lyft pull up in front of the coffee shop, her coffee and scone in hand, she pulled her suitcase behind her out the door. The driver loaded her suitcase in the trunk while she settled into the back seat for the hour and a half drive to the Denver airport. Taking a sip of her hot coffee, she placed it in the cup holder next to her and pulled the romance novel she had started the other night out of her bag. Reading a romance novel would keep her thoughts of what was coming at bay.
If you enjoyed the first two chapters, you can get your Free Unlimited Kindle version here.