Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Ring, The Bomb, and the Word - A Magnificent Thriller by Assad R. Wright


Finishing the last line of “Amazing Grace,” he was about to close the hymnbook when he felt something tugging at the edge of his consciousness, trying to get through. He had felt it earlier as he walked down the aisle but ignored it as he focused on avoiding the unfriendly stares of his fellow wedding attendants. The warning was now a silent scream inside his skull. Without drawing attention to himself, he finally closed the book and leaned back, his eyes closed. To someone looking on, he appeared as someone taking a nap. Contrary to that, however, he now put his mind into a fast rewind and backed up to where he entered the gate. He then started forward in super slow motion, trying to pin down the unusual or the out of place. Nothing in the driveway! Nothing in the parking lot … Wait, in the first row of cars, a Ford Corvette with heavily tinted glass. Even the back glass and the windshield were extremely dark, so heavily tinted, indeed, that he was sure they had to be way outside of allowable range. Something else was bothering him about the Ford. All the cars in the lot were parked with headlights toward the building, including his. The Corvette, however, was parked with the front facing the direction from which it had come. It was the only one in the entire lot. He needed a closer look. He started to get up, intending to give the Corvette a closer look, when the door to the sanctuary was swung wide, and a voice like that of a ring announcer intoned, 

“Ladies and gentlemen, the wedding party.” Still unsure whether to sit down or finish what he had intended to do, the first couple walking briskly down the aisle made up his mind for him, and he sat down, berating himself for an obvious slip up. He knew this was supposed to be a gay wedding but was still unprepared for what was to follow. Rip was expecting a maid of honor and her male escort to come dancing down the aisle to the tune of a popular wedding song. A few feet from the altar, they would bow and courtesy to each other and move to opposite ends. The rest of the wedding party would follow suit until a semicircle was formed around the altar, leaving a small opening for two people. The organ would then ring out the well-known tune of “Here Comes the Bride,” and the bride would come slowly up the aisle, borne on the arm of the giving-away father. No such thing was happening here, and Rip was a bit confused, not knowing what or even how to think about what he was seeing. He liked to think inside the box, and changes that he couldn’t account for made him uncomfortable. He consoled himself with the thought that he was here to carry out a specific task, and until what was happening impacted on him doing that job, he was unconcerned. Try as he might, though, he couldn’t quite put it out of his mind as the first couple walked in. Two ladies walked in without the aid of music. They walked in arm in arm, and instead of separating to opposite sides, they remained together, arm in arm. These were followed by two men arm in arm, duplicating the exact positioning of the first couple. This continued until there were four couples on each side of the semicircle. Next came four children in single file, bearing flowers, boy-girl and boy-girl order. This group was followed by a single girl with a small cushion with two rings on top. The rings looked as if they would equal the lifetime earnings of an average family of ten. 
A door to the right of what he assumed to be the choir dais, empty now, opened, and the officiating minister walked through followed by his attendants. As he settled back in his seat, Rip scolded himself for not being more thorough. As Chuck had noted, they just couldn’t afford any slip ups, no matter how trivial they may appear. He began combing the room for anything that didn’t look right to him. 
At that thought, he felt a chill running down his spine and a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach. The heavily tinted Ford parked facing the direction from which it had come definitely fit the description description of a Doesn’t Look Right (DLR) scenario. How many times had he told himself and others that one of the most fundamental practices in self preservation was detecting DLR situations and acting accordingly? He was about to do just that when the minister gave a loud cough, and as if by cue, the hesitant voice of a female came over the loudspeaker singing, “Born free, as free as the grass grows …”



He was again taken off balance. Were they supposed to sing that type of songs in church? He couldn’t be sure and decided to leave it alone. As the last line of the verse “born free to follow your heart” came to a close, two women walked arm in arm down the aisle and filled in the space left in the semicircle. Rip couldn’t help noticing the lack of practiced grace associated with the entrance of the bridal party and the bride. Instead, what he was seeing here today was more like intentional defiance. The minister coughed again, this time rather self-consciously preening himself, not unlike a peacock, and when he was sure all eyes were on him, he began speaking, “Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, we are gathered here in the sight of God to unite this couple.” 
Before he could proceed any further, a soft murmur began at the back of the church and rippled its way to the front. Turning around, he found himself looking at one of the most beautiful ten-year-olds he’d ever seen. With a face that would make a cherub pine away in envy, she came up the aisle, dressed in flawless white. She was carrying a bouquet of some of the most beautiful flowers he had ever seen. With a smile that said the world was at her feet, she glided up to the couple and handed the woman on her right the flowers, bowed gracefully, turned around smartly, and glided back the way she had come. The admiration around the sanctuary was unmistakable. 
After what seemed like an eternity, the minister coughed again, pulling back the congregation from their reverie. He began speaking again, but Rip wasn’t paying him much attention now. There were a couple things that didn’t add up. For one thing, whoever heard of flowers coming in after the bride had made her entrance? True, this wedding was as unconventional as one could get, but it still did not explain things. And secondly, why didn’t the little flowers-bearing angel remain with the party? He looked around behind him, but she was nowhere to be seen. 

This stunk of a DLR. Without wasting another second, he rose and began striding toward the back door, ignoring the repeated coughing of the reverend. Moving quickly through the vestibule, he was just in time to see the rear entrance door swinging shut, but not before seeing the white-dressed angel hurrying through. He wheeled around and started sprinting for the sanctuary. He was pounding up the aisle now, drawing gasps and shrieks of confusion and indignation from the audience and multiple coughs from the minister, who seemed unable to stop or control his throat actions. 

A few feet away from the couple, he began unbuttoning the top of his jacket without once slowing down. As he reached the couple, his hand was snaking out of his jacket, filled with the retooled USP 45 pistol. Flipping the gun to his left hand, he reached out and snatched the suspicious bouquet of flowers with his with his right and headed back the way he had come. A quarter of the way down the aisle, he moved between two rows of seats placed farther apart to allow passage. 

Directly ahead of him, an imposing stained glass window loomed. Without breaking stride, he began shouting, “Down, get down!” Still some distance from the window, he brought the USP 45 up, placing shot after shot in it, all the time shouting, “For God’s sake, get down.” Noticing many still standing, he fairly screamed, “A bomb, a bomb, get down!” The word bomb did the trick. People were diving to the floor all over the sanctuary. The stain glass had now shattered, leaving a very large hole.

Slipping the gun into his jacket pocket, while ignoring the heat from its barrel, Rip drew his flower-laden right hand back, and with the best Dan Marino imitation he could muster, hurled the bouquet through the now open space in the window, at the same time hitting the floor himself. The high school coach, who persuaded him to shift from budding quarterback to linebacker because, according to him, his build suited that position better, should have seen that throw. The bouquet flew through the window, spiraling across the parking lot, making a tight arc as it began to come down. 

Rip’s thought that he might have overreacted a tad and that there was no bomb after all was cut short by a horrendous blast. At first, it seemed the air was sucked out of his lungs, followed by tremendous heat that scorched everything in sight. Simultaneously, he heard the thudding against the building and realized what was happening when a late-model Benz was jammed into the stained glass window through which he had hurled the bouquet. Hearing a sickening creak, he looked up and realized that the entire wall and roof on that side of the building were about to collapse. It seemed like all hell was breaking loose now. The wedding goers were in a mad rush for the front door or any opening they could find to get as far away as possible from the doomed building. The ugly scene was made worse by the angry yells, panicked screaming, and choice profanities, which seemed out of place in a church. 

Rip knew he had to get outside and to his car as quickly as possible. He also knew he had to stay away from the melee. In there, he knew he could be dragged down and trampled, as he knew must be happening to others in that stampede. Against the right side of the building and about eight rows from where he was now crouching, he noticed the front end of a Lexus truck protruding slightly through a hole that was made when the blast flung it against the wall. Not wasting another second, he powered upward and headed for the truck. He had to knock some people aside, but that couldn’t be helped. Reaching the vehicle, he put his back against the grill and began straining as he tried to push it backward. He could feel every muscle in his aching body strained to the limit, but still, the truck wouldn’t move an inch. He closed his eyes, lowered himself, and bunched his muscles for one last do-or-die push when he heard grunts to his right and left. Opening his eyes, he noticed others had joined him in his quest for outside air and separation from the bombed-out church. He nodded briefly to no one in particular, and together, they began pushing in synchrony. Ever so slowly, the truck began moving backward in response to the pumping legs and straining biceps; it picked up speed until it was clear of the gaping hole. 

Rip was the first one through, and without looking back, he started sprinting for his car, fearing the worst. The parking lot nearest the blast had become an instant instant junkyard of mangled metal and chrome. Gone were the rows of neatly parked cars. Cars were thrown every which way, even on top of each other. For him, hurrying as he now was, the lot had become an obstacle course. He bobbed and weaved his way around the damaged cars as best he could without slowing down too much. The farther away from ground zero he got, the more he began noticing less damage. He was now truly glad that the imperative of a quick getaway had accustomed him to parking as near to exit as he could. Slowing down beside his car, he saw that the front driver’s side window was shattered. He quickly took off his jacket and used it to brush most of the broken glass away and sat behind the wheel. The engine started with the first crank of the key, and he backed out not too slowly into the driving lane. He began moving down the driveway much too slowly for him, but he had to take care not to hit the frightened people streaming out of the church. Luckily, only a few of them were out already. 
Reaching the gate, he quickly decided and turned to the left, back toward the town from which he had come. The bombers, whoever they were, would hardly go to the right, which led farther into the farm areas. More than likely, they would be headed through the town and to I-95. Once there, he couldn’t guess whether they would head north or south toward Miami. He had to reach them before then. He reached for his cellular phone to call 911 but put it back when he heard the wail of the sirens coming his way. The blast must have been heard for miles away. Less than a minute later, he was flashing by them, his car climbing steadily up to eighty miles per hour...
~~~


I was asked to review the second book by new thriller author, Assad Wright, Hijacking of the American Presidency, (do check out my review if you haven't already) and found it so amazing and intriguing, that I knew immediately I wanted to read the Debut of this fantastic new series...

What I discovered was that this book was a much more exciting thriller that captured me from the first page through to the last! But, oh, the closing--it was magnificent! How I wish I could share it with you... I did include an extraordinary scene to whet your appetite, because the entire book is moving from one crisis situation to another...And the creative organization of the novel which provides clues through various ways is, in my opinion, extraordinarily well done. This new author gained an ongoing fan after his first two books.

The title sets the scene perfectly...readers will be attending weddings...we watch as a nuclear bomb is transported into the United States and placed as planned...and we are involved in both organized and cult religious organizations. God's word, molded into the pace of the story, is totally relevant for both the situation and the story, and yet, provides an opportunity for a young man to face his own beliefs as he deals with the most significant catastrophe that the U.S. would face, if completed...

The main characters are an elite group comprised of Chuck Chisolm and his partners, Prim Stone and Rip Ganders, with the ample resources of the Religious Unit of the Antiterrorism Task Force of the Department of Homeland Security. A perfect trio who work together in the second book, but for a large part of this book, they are separated and sent to various places within America where possible terrorist action at same-sex marriages will be taken...

The terrorists are part of a large religious sect opposed to the idea of same-sex marriages. Their plan--the largest mass murder in American history. And to ensure it occurs, they have also planned smaller terrorists acts in various locations where homosexual couples are being married. It should be noted that the mass murder is planned in a state that, at that time, did not legally allow this type of marriage. But the Future Trend Nondenominational church decides to perform ten thousand marriages in one ceremony. It is supposed to be a secret--and is to the general population, but the religious group, known as RAGJ, discovered the plan and immediately worked to ensure it never occurred...

One of the most important issues for me was how the author effectively portrayed each of the various characters in each of what were essentially three different types of groups that would be included under the Universal category of Christianity. Even then, his individual characters within each group were so clearly differentiated that there was no question of the type of person each individual actually was...

To me, this was a personal concern since there are so many different types of religious conflicts in today's world, that it is no longer possible to define the true character of an individual by a specific category used for classification rather than for spiritual beliefs. If this concerns any of you, this book does an exceptional presentation in helping others to know that not all who call themselves Christians, may indeed, be followers of Jesus' guidance to love one another... 

In fact, Assad Wright's basic underlying theme of a Religious Unit within Homeland Security clearly illustrates the need for more information and the potential of individuals within a category actually acting for their own reasons to perform terrorist and criminal actions. I applaud the author for striking deeply into this major issue within a potentially realistic thriller. We become involved in watching Homeland Security and others work to stop terrorists, not depending upon a religious category to establish who are the guilty parties...

Wright has a brilliant ability to establish each setting as unique, with appropriate good and bad characters in each. We are amazed and then unnerved as we see how weapons have changed, become smaller, but more powerful, and how easily they are moved...using murder to ensure that most individuals involved will never be allowed to reveal the secret transactions...

This is one where I want to go ahead and share more with you,  but I just want to say that this little known author has initiated a series--an important series--as well as some of the most thrilling stories that I've read. The storylines are fantastic, the characters uniquely developed and the descriptive power of each setting is simply extraordinary. 

Because of the storyline, I'm strongly suggesting you consider this a must-read...


GABixlerReviews





Born and raised in Jamaica, Assad R. Wright attended Mico Teachers College and the university of the West Indies in Jamaica, followed by graduate work at Long Island University and CUNY Graduate Center in New York. A retired teacher, the author is now the pastor of a local assembly in Miami. This is the sequel to his first book, The Ring the Bomb and the Word: The Face of the American Homegrown Terrorist.