Book Recommendation | Atone for the Ivory Cloud by @writegwells #thriller #romanticsuspense #bookish
Title: Atone for the Ivory Cloud
Author: Geoffrey Wells
Genre: Thriller/Romantic suspense
New York is no place to track down warlords who kill elephants. But when cybercriminals steal her music compositions and hijack her website to sell ivory, she becomes a CIA asset on a mission to bring down the murdering syndicate.
She’s no amateur sleuth, but she’s also no one’s victim. Not anymore. They team her up with a Tanzanian street vendor working the streets of New York. Both undercover, the pair infiltrate the black markets of Dar es Salaam. Things go bad. Things like her mission falling apart, and her life hanging in the balance after she’s captured and must witness the poisoning of elephants at a waterhole. Her handlers can no longer be trusted. Drained of hope her partner springs her from the warlord hideout and they run. They go dark, and fall in love on a dhow headed for Mombasa. Are they headed into oblivion or returning to New York? The second novel of The Trilogy for Freedom, this book is a tightly woven international thriller with a determined heroine willing to sacrifice her life. Nor is she afraid of multicultural romance—provided she is not diverted from her mission: to stop the killing of elephants.
A MUFFLED BUMP WOKE ALLISON. For an instant the creatures of the night stopped their chatter. There was no breeze and it was dark—a vacuum, infinitely private. Black on black, the shapes in her room merged with other large objects: doors, shutters, wardrobe. Under the covers she stretched out her hand and felt the warm sheet next to her. Vacant. A look back at the door confirmed that the objects in the room had moved while she had looked away; and now, spectral in the shadows, long black abaya robes worn by Islamic women floated toward both sides of the bed. Before she could scream, a hard, rough hand slid snakelike out of one robe, capping her mouth, forcing the back of her head into the mattress.
A male voice. The other shape, with face covered by a niqab headscarf and veil, showing only sunken holes for eyes, pulled the covers off her. She moaned, a small whimper, lost in a vortex of confusion.
“Put this on.”
An abaya robe fell onto her chest and she struggled to get into it to cover her nakedness. A cloth was forced into her mouth and tied tight behind her head, followed by a burka that was placed over her head, concealing her face, leaving a small piece of the mesh in the veil for her to see through.
They carried her past the open door, held ajar by a dark object. Past the doorjamb she looked down, and in the mantle of starlight she caught the sight of a body, then Georgina’s face—blank, her throat cut or garroted, gaping open. Allison made a small yelp when she saw her friend. One of them pressed a wet cloth through the niqab, over her nose. As they held her arms, she remembered Georgina saying, This is not a game. The word had spread quickly. Then the ether carried her away.
* * *
Heat. Dust, hot and dry as the ash of Mars, filled her nostrils and lungs. The open vehicle bounced and sprang on the rutted dirt road. The wind that ripped at her burka, chafing her cheeks and eyelids, told her they were moving fast. She let out a scream through the cloth as she remembered Georgina’s garroted throat—her eyes that looked into the dark, but did not see. The vehicle slowed and stopped. Someone yanked off the veil, and with a sharp tug pulled out the cloth wedged between her teeth. A man put out a hand, an outstretched hand to help her out of the Jeep, which was neither unhelpful nor aggressive. Perhaps it was the same hand that had pressed her face down into the mattress, or the hand that had yanked the piano wire through Georgina’s throat.
“Water?” said the driver, holding out a plastic bottle.
A furnace of sunlight scalded her face as she drank the chilled water, keeping her eyes on the driver’s face.
“I gotta pee.”
His frown showed that he wasn’t grasping her intent.
“Toilet,” she said.
He swung the AK-47 off his shoulder and pointed with the barrel at the scrub on the side of the dirt road. As she made her way across the stony, scalding shoulder of the road she realized that someone had placed sandals on her feet. The not-unfriendly one with the rifle ambled behind her, keeping his distance. She headed to a stunted tree and carefully squatted behind it, away from a nest of fire ants. Her urine stream did not burn and she felt no pain in her body—her assailants seemed to have kept their hands off her when she was under, and while this was reassuring it was also disconcerting. They were clearly obeying orders, and she feared that their orders might have been to deliver her whole, undamaged, so their boss could please himself with her.
Despite their crude methods, which she took to be safety measures, she reminded herself that she was the customer and as such was entitled to be demanding. She needed her underwear, toiletries, clothes and her iPad and phone. She wondered if they’d taken the kalimba, and if they’d found the box.
It seemed that Sipho’s visit last night had been in preparation for this abduction. He was on the same mission, yet he acted independently, disobeying orders, creating a back channel with the box that his handler knew nothing about. The intimacy that she’d let happen, randomly, without expectation, was, in hindsight, irresponsible. Their trust in each other was at the expense of Georgina’s life. They’d agreed that his handler would not know about her identity as Allison. How blindingly frustrating it was to realize that despite their sharing—the words, the good intentions—he was not there when they took her. The image of the wind in the waterfall that had captured her imagination in New York now seemed like a worthless, sentimental thought—at worst, manipulative—a luxury for people who did not have to think about survival.
She knew, standing there, unsteady on her feet, pale as the vast bleached sky, exhausted as the grass in the scorched drifts, that she could no longer rely on anyone. Georgina’s stern guidance that she’d taken for granted was gone. Her social network was as parched as the thorn trees that punctuated the miles on this arid, unyielding landscape. Her Facebook friends posted vacuous statements, devoid of meaning, dry like the windswept riverbeds strewn with stones and broken trees. All she longed for was her apartment in New York, for the hum of its quiet afternoons, for the view of the street below, with its funneled brittle winter wind that blew across the Hudson River.
“We must go,” said the rifleman.
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Born in Welkom, South Africa, Geoffrey Wells s