Title: Atone for the Ivory Cloud
Author: Geoffrey Wells
Genre: Cyber-thriller/Romantic suspense
A composer who embeds code into her music to protect it, goes undercover to help trap a cybercrime syndicate that is using her website to traffic ivory. Will she risk her music, her lover and her privacy—for a greater good?
Can she stop them?
VOICES. UNINTELLIGIBLE FRAGMENTS. WORDS SHE didn’t recognize. Faint, distant—the sound of city traffic. A tone—plaintive, sung. The smell of cumin. And diesel. Incense. A flurried breath of diaphanous light across the white mosquito net. The awareness of being alive. The air, saturated. Four notes.
Allison stretched out her arm, her hand touching the cold steel pole that held the IV bag. A hissing clamp dug into her nostrils. In a hallway perhaps—nearby—a woman’s voice: elderly, clear, solidified into a black shape in the doorway, the same abaya shape that had stolen her away from the resort—that stole her from him. She shut her eyes and felt adrenaline surge through her. Regulate your breathing, she thought. Her limp arm was carefully lifted and placed inside the mosquito net. Try to ignore the gnawing anguish in your brain. They can’t know yet; they can’t know that you are conscious, that you are Allison Schwartz, that you have forgotten the name of that other person you are supposed to be.
Sleep. Later, the low sun having painted the walls of the room yellow and red, Allison heard the kalimba—her sipho, or was this Sipho himself, luring her from her unconscious mind? Again—four notes: three words and four consonants to go with them—the sum-mer wind. Impossible, yet it could only be him. She listened. Outside on the quiet street, again the four notes played, repeating, waltzing. She woke again. This time painfully, step by step, she detached from the IV and the oxygen tube clamped to her nose. She was able to sit up, to touch the cool ceramic tiled floor with her toes. With a pounding headache, she gingerly hobbled to the open window, taking deep breaths of the humid ocean breeze. How true, she thought, the line from their song about the wind being a fickle friend. Closer—those four notes again.
From her second-story window she peered down into the narrow street, now suffused with hues of blue and purple light, bare lightbulbs here and there spilling yellow across the cobbled road, turning the Muslim pedestrians into silhouetted abstractions that silently shuffled toward the minaret, thin and resolute at the intersection. There, lying on the windowsill, a mobile phone rang with the ringtone she heard. So, no Sipho on the street below, beckoning to her, like Romeo. Yet only he could have thought to create that ringtone, the significance of which only she and he would understand. When she swiped the glass on the phone, she saw her own wallpaper screen. The CALENDAR app date showed that two days had passed.
She had an unread text message, respond.
Behind her, a noise. She scrambled back into the bed, her heart churning as she reattached the oxygen, leaving the IV dangling. She set the phone to mute and tucked it into her panties. She resumed her former comatose state. A burka and abaya-clad woman approached, re-inserted the IV needle, and took Allison’s pulse. Think of nothing, Allison; of Central Park at dawn, when the sleeping snow is left behind and the storm has moved on. Be calm. The woman called out abruptly and left. Allison reached frantically for the phone.
Passcode? She remembered keying it in at Amsterdam airport, the sea of faces coming and going, paying her no attention. How naive she was. She keyed her mother’s phone number, remembering that the agent had told her to swap the first and last numbers.
The reply came back immediately: Pay 50% in bitcoin asap. Use BOX. Have Ts delivered to fabric stall at Kariakoo market - north side of Tandamuti Street. Pay remaining 50% after we weigh/inspect and after they supply 1989 certs. I will get u soon—only text if u have issues. DELETE THIS MESSAGE THEN TURN OFF YOUR PHONE
k, she texted, now thankful for the ingrained system she had been using for years to memorize sheet music: Walking through the score in rehearsal, organizing the sequence of events, elaboration—the assignment of meaning by association, and mapping the score to a familiar location—in this case, Central Park, for which she now pined. As she read the text ten times and applied these principles, she found hope in the message. First, only Sipho and she referred to the device as “the box”, and second, she confirmed that the box was close enough to be discovered by her phone, all of which led her to hope that Sipho had found her. The rest was instructions on how the deal needed to go down—and this, too, meant that her usefulness on this mission had an end point.
She deleted the text.
After hiding the phone again, she called out as loudly as she could manage, “Hello?”
The charade was over. No longer would she be going along for the ride on this mission. How dare they poison the water! Executioners. She remembered what Sipho had said when he left the penthouse. She too, was thrown into this world; not his—this was entirely her own hellish world. And like him I will stop falling, and when I do, all I will have will be me—with my skills and inadequacies. But I will give myself permission to be who I am. And, as you urged, Georgina, I promise you, I’ll stay alive. A song of you comes to me as I miss your strength.
The commitment she made was to do her part to vanquish this enemy of Mother Earth. It was time to stop the slaughter, bring down the warlord—take down his operation.
Kobo, Apple Books, Nook: https://books2read.com/u/47NjWj
What makes your featured book a must-read?
In this Book Two of The Trilogy for Freedom, readers will follow Allison as she gets recruited by the CIA to lure the ivory smugglers into trading ivory with her assumed persona. It’s a three-week mission that turns into a nightmare when supposed alliances betray her. All that remains is her love for a man that is loyal to her to the end.
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Geoffrey Wells is the author of three stand-alone novels on freedom, now a series entitled, The Trilogy for Freedom.
In his latest eco-thriller, *The Drowning Bay*, based on a water crisis and climate change, published in 2021, Wells looks at what the responsibility of freedom means and how it might lead to finding a belonging in a lost ecosystem.
Inspired by his ascent of Kilimanjaro in 2003 and horrified by the devastation of elephants, he published, *Atone for the Ivory Cloud*, in 2016. Wells writes about how respect for all life liberates us.
In *A Fado for the River*, published in 2011, based on his experience in Mozambique one year before the Portuguese revolution spilled into the colony, Wells explores the quest for personal freedom, which grew out of a nation struggling for its liberation.
Wells started writing fiction after a career in IT, rising to VP and CIO at two major broadcasting companies.
Concurrent with his corporate life, he wrote and produced an award-winning animated film, The Shadow of Doubt, directed by his wife, Cynthia Wells, an animator and painter. The film showed in 27 film festivals and won 5 awards.
In 2015 he edited, designed and published the award-winning children’s book, Moonglow written by Peggy Dickerson and illustrated by Cynthia Wells.
He lives on the North Fork of Long Island where he participates in triathlons and swims the open water with his wife and their dog, Luciano.
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