Excerpt from Killer Countdown

Shane Jones, junior senator from Colorado, lay in his hospital bed in the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, staring in disbelief at the barrage of doctors and interns assembled in his private room. He could have gone anywhere for medical testing and diagnosis—and had, with no results—but he’d chosen the Mayo Clinic Hospital when a doctor friend from his days in the Marine Corps had recommended it. No other medical professional he’d consulted had ever even heard of his symptoms, much less had been able to put a name to it. But the doctors here had.

“Epilepsy?” he repeated, stunned. He still couldn’t seem to wrap his head around the diagnosis. “But…I don’t have seizures. All I have are these little episodes where I suddenly feel chilled for no reason. That’s all. It can’t be epilepsy.”

Dr. Rachel Mattingly, the primary neurologist on Shane’s case, smiled gently. “I understand you’re upset at this diagnosis. But what you call ‘chilling’ episodes are actually small seizures. We can’t know for certain, but we can surmise the traumatic brain injury you received five years ago was the initial trigger. Scar tissue on the left side of your brain is clearly visible on your MRI, which is where you were injured in that bomb blast.”

Shane touched the left side of his head, where his short brown hair was barely long enough to hide the long, white scar from where the brain surgeons had operated on him five years ago. At the time he’d just been grateful he hadn’t lost a limb or suffered any substantive cognitive loss as a result of his unthinking actions that day—although his brain injury had been bad enough for the Marine Corps to honorably retire him via a medical discharge.

Losing his home in the Corps—losing everything for which he’d worked his whole adult life—had devastated Shane at first, but then he’d thrown himself into politics with the same dedication and fervor he’d once had for the Marine Corps. But now…if Dr. Mattingly was right, all that was at an end. Who’d ever heard of a politician with epilepsy? There might be some, but damned few. Hell, he couldn’t even control the electrical impulses in his own brain. How could he expect the voters to trust him to play a role in controlling the country?

Marsh Anderson bought himself a cup of coffee from the hospital cafeteria, then brought it out to the lobby to drink it where he could watch the comings and goings of Senator Jones’s staff, whom he now knew by sight. The senator had been here for four days already, and Marsh wondered how much longer it would be.

He had no idea why the senator was here…just that he was. HIPAA laws being what they were, hospitals were damned leery about releasing any information on a patient, and Marsh wasn’t about to draw attention to himself by asking anyway. He’d find out when Senator Jones found out. Or rather, when the man’s staff found out. All he knew was that the senator was here “for observation.” But why he was here wasn’t relevant anyway—all Marsh really needed to know was when he was going to be released.

Soon, I hope, he thought. He was getting tired of hanging around.

He’d tracked the senator all the way from DC, waiting for his chance. But he wasn’t a lunatic—Marsh had no intention of turning this into a suicide mission. He’d had plenty of time with nothing to do but think about this hit, and his plan would be foolproof before he put it into motion. Senator Jones would die…and Marsh would get clean away. Then disappear, as if he’d never existed.
 
KILLER COUNTDOWN, Copyright © 2016 by Amelia Autin Lam
 
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