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Authors: Douglas E. Richards

Game Changer

This book is a
work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the
author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to
actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2016 by
Douglas E. Richards

Published by
Paragon Press, 2016

 

E-mail the author
at [email protected]

 

Friend him on
Facebook at Douglas E. Richards Author

 

Visit the
author’s website at www.douglaserichards.com

 

All rights
reserved. With the exception of excerpts for review purposes, no part of this
book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic
or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system.

 

First Edition

GAME

CHANGER

 

Douglas E.
Richards

 
 

PART 1

Revenge

 
 

“In each of us there is another
whom we do not know.”

—Carl Jung,
Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology

 

“Our unconscious brains steer our
behavior. But how do our brains come to be the way they are? Why are there
differences between us? To answer this we need to look one level deeper to how
our brains get built. And that begins with our genes. The genes you come to the
table with can have an enormous influence on your behavior. Consider this:
about half of the population carries a particular set of genes. And if you have
these genes your chances of committing a violent crime go up by eight hundred
and eighty-two percent! The overwhelming majority of prisoners carry these
genes, as does almost everyone on death row. So we can’t presume that everyone
is coming to the table equally equipped in terms of drives and behaviors.

“By the way, we summarize this
set of genes as the Y chromosome. If you’re a carrier, we call you a
male
.”

—David Eagleman,
Neuroscientist, Baylor College of Medicine

 
 

1

 
 

Kevin Quinn straightened the shimmering lapels of his black
tux and gazed in revulsion and hatred toward the man who was dying, thirty feet
or so away from him.

Quinn noted that while the man had but minutes left to live,
he appeared unshaken. In command. Totally at ease.

Of course he did.

He was the most charming president since Bill Clinton.
Smooth, warm, friendly. Like the highest functioning psychopaths everywhere, he
could fake sincerity with absolute brilliance, plan spontaneity down to the
millimeter.

And he was in the center of throngs of adoring millionaires
and billionaires, who were almost sexually aroused to be mingling with someone
with more power and prestige than themselves. Titans of entertainment and industry,
each wanting favors, and access, and the opportunity to hobnob with the most
powerful man on Earth.

A man who would finish dying, right in front of them, in a
matter of minutes.

They couldn’t see that it was happening, of course. For very
good reason. Because Kevin Quinn hadn’t begun killing him yet.

Quinn took a deep breath and adjusted the receiver in his
ear that was picking up every word the president said. Every smug, misleading,
charming, manipulative word uttered by Matthew Davinroy, President of the
United States, and one of the most despicable monsters who had ever lived.

The mansion they were in, one of many in the wealthy
municipality of Princeton, New Jersey, was situated on some of the most
tranquil and scenic land on the East Coast, and encompassed thirteen thousand
square feet of opulence. Chandeliers, Greek statues, fountains, marble, and
fine oil paintings. Filled with men and women in the most expensive attire and
wearing the most expensive jewelry.

An eclectic mix of aromas fought for dominance within the
manor. Expensive perfumes and aftershaves clashed with the smell of caviar and
other high-end hors d’oeuvres, continually sent around by a catering staff whose
membership had been modified on this particular night. Most were seasoned
waiters who had been part of the staff for years. These men and woman were in
awe of the proceedings and would have paid for the privilege of being in a room
with the president and numerous accomplished and famous others, even to do
nothing but empty their bedpans.

But one was a Secret Service agent, wearing the same outfit
as the other caterers, who had drawn a short straw, and who tried to accept being
relegated to the president’s personal order-taker and waiter with as much good
humor as he could manage.

The buzz of conversation from dozens of small groups around
the vast living room, with enough square footage to rival a small home, was ever-present,
along with the clinking of cocktail glasses and crystal goblets containing fine
wine and champagne.

President Davinroy was at his most charming, as he always
was at these fundraising events, making sure no partygoer would regret the
massive amounts of money they had donated to be there. A gala such as this
being held on a Sunday night was unusual, but was dictated by the president’s
schedule. Most of those in attendance would have skipped their mother’s funeral
to be there, so this wasn’t a hardship.

The president was currently surrounded by six men and women he
had blessed with his presence, and would continue to bless for five or ten
minutes before moving on to work the room further. Each group he joined waited
patiently for their turn, and in each he held court like a queen bee in the
center of a frenzy of sycophantic drones.

Just hearing Davinroy’s syrupy voice made Quinn sick to his
stomach. He clenched his fists and fought to weather the rage that stabbed at his
insides.

With a monumental effort of will, he managed to calm himself
once again. He had to be relaxed and unemotional. Dispassionate. A president
hadn’t been successfully assassinated since Kennedy, and there was a reason for
this. It wasn’t an easy task.
 

He approached Jeffrey Gallup, who was standing as casually
as he could near the bar, scanning the room at all times for possible threats.
Quinn nodded at him. “I’m going to switch assignments with you for the next
hour or so,” he said. “You man the outside front, and I’ll handle the bar.”

Gallup shot him a disapproving look, which Quinn knew he had
earned. He should have called in the switch while still outside. By walking in
and basically touching Gallup on the shoulder, like he was a tag-team wrestler
and not a bodyguard, he had left the outside front of the mansion unwatched for
several minutes. Since Quinn was the man’s superior, Gallup didn’t say what was
on his mind. Instead, he walked briskly to the door and out to take up his new
post.

Quinn could feel the eyes of any number of partygoers lingering
on him with great interest, which was common, and many didn’t even bother to look
away and pretend they weren’t staring when he turned in their direction. When
one was in direct proximity to the president, there were two facets to the
experience that were irresistible. One was the opportunity to see and interact
with the president, First Lady, and other celebrities. And the other was the
opportunity to pick out and watch the swarm of trusty Secret Service agents,
square-jawed, clean-cut Dudley Do-Right types straight out of central casting, who
tried to blend in but who had no real hope of doing so.

For many women, sleeping with a Secret Service agent on the
president’s detail was a trophy that carried as much prestige as bagging the
head of a mythical creature did for Hercules, and for years an endless stream
of beautiful women threw themselves at him like confetti at a wedding.

His eyes moistened briefly as he thought of the one woman
remarkable enough to have immunized him from any temptation those trying to bed
him might have posed. A woman who had stolen his heart and his mind, making the
thought of sex with the most beautiful and acrobatic of women seem bland and
pointless by comparison. Nicole. The woman who had become his wife.

President Davinroy was standing beside his own wife, Anne, quite
a celebrity in her own right, as was typical of First Ladies throughout history.
She was wearing a glimmering emerald-green gown and looked to be enjoying
herself. Was even she aware of what a monster she had married? Quinn thought it
was impossible that she didn’t suspect. But also impossible that she did.

Quinn forced himself to pretend to do his job, scanning the
crowd for a possible assassin. And he found one, but only for an instant, when
his own reflection materialized in a facet of a stunning crystal chandelier,
and disappeared just as quickly. He was six-one, with short black hair and
striking blue eyes, and he had been told he had a warm and inviting smile,
although it had been so many days since he had displayed any lighthearted
emotions that he wasn’t sure he was still capable of them.

Finally, fifteen minutes after Quinn had assumed duty at the
bar, the president ordered a drink from Special Agent Dan Oakland, who was
wearing the same black vest and bow tie worn by the legitimate catering staff. Oakland
worked his way through a number of groupings of partygoers and to the bar,
where he delivered the order to the bartender, nodded at Quinn, and then
shuffled off into the center of the crowd. He would hold his position there
until Quinn indicated that he had blessed the cocktail and it was time to
deliver it back to the president.

Davinroy had ordered something called a
Portuguese Nectar Vector
, a recent addition to the canon of alcoholic
beverages with which Quinn was not familiar. The bartender mixed the drink and filled
a cocktail glass under Quinn’s watchful eye, and then, as he had been
instructed, poured the excess into a separate glass, placing both on a tray and
handing it to the Secret Service agent.

Quinn took a healthy drink from the bright blue liquid in
the second glass, something that wasn’t an absolute requirement, or deterrent,
but which many agents preferred to do as an added precaution. After this was
complete, while the bartender busied himself preparing the cocktails ordered by
those currently encircling Davinroy, Quinn dropped an almost invisible tablet
into the blue liquid in the first glass, which instantly dissolved, releasing
its payload of cyanide into Davinroy’s drink.

Live by the sword, die
by the sword, you psychopathic asshole
, thought Quinn triumphantly. There was
no more fitting way for this abomination to die. Poetic justice.
 

Quinn nodded at the bartender and waited the few minutes it
took the man to finish mixing a colorful collection of cocktails in glasses of
various sizes, including one with a paper umbrella emerging, which he added to
the tray that held Davinroy’s beverage.

Quinn motioned Dan Oakland over to pick up the tray as hatred
began to consume him once again, growing as ravenously as a magic beanstalk.

Quinn had used a new form of cyanide that was a thousand
times more potent than any of its predecessors. Within seconds of the
president’s first sip, he would experience seizures, followed quickly by
cardiac arrest and death.

Quinn only had one regret. While Davinroy’s death would be
painful, it would not be painful
enough
.
And it would come far too quickly.

But this could not be helped.

As the agent carried the tray back toward the president,
Quinn did something that he knew was a minor miracle.

He remembered.

2

 
 

There was a time—five short weeks earlier, to be exact—that
Quinn had had relatively positive feelings toward Matthew Davinroy. True, their
politics could not be further apart, but Quinn had thought the current
president was as good a man as any politician ever was. Self-serving and narcissistic,
sure, but peel away the glad-handing, the lies, and the unfair attacks on
fellow politicians, and Quinn felt certain that deep down, despite his
misguided policies, Davinroy was well meaning and wanted the best for his
country.
 

But this had all changed,
profoundly
, five weeks earlier, as had Quinn’s life. His world had
been shattered, destroyed, by a man with no conscience or remorse.

The Davinroy family had owned a retreat in the Catskill
Mountains for generations, a little over a hundred miles from Manhattan. For
two weeks every summer since the president had taken office five years earlier,
the resort was closed down, at least to paying customers, and it became the
exclusive vacation destination for Davinroy and hundreds of guests, free of charge.
 

Like salmon drawn irresistibly to their spawning grounds,
like Bush Senior to Kennebunkport, Bush Junior to his Texas ranch, and Barack
Obama to Martha’s Vineyard, Matthew Davinroy returned to the Catskill Mountains
each and every year, like clockwork.

Naturally, the Secret Service came along, but twice as many
as were needed. Each special agent was on duty for half of the stay, and for
the other half was free to enjoy the resort as a guest.

Prior to this scheduled vacation, the president had invited
all in attendance to bring their spouses for some R & R, a magnanimous
gesture sure to earn him the undying thanks and loyalty of all involved. He had
insisted that Quinn bring Nicole along, since she warranted an invitation on
two accounts. Not only was she the wife of a man prepared to give his life to
protect Davinroy’s, she was also one of the president’s most valued and trusted
civilian advisors. In fact, Quinn had first met her during one of her frequent
visits to the White House, and they had fallen in love soon thereafter.

Nicole was
perfect
,
and Quinn considered himself the luckiest man alive. She wasn’t classically
beautiful, but her joyous personality was infectious and she brightened every
room she entered like a living supernova. She was bright, funny, and full of
life. Fun loving and adventurous, with an innate kindness and compassion that
was unparalleled. He had quickly become so fiercely in love with this woman
that at times it almost scared him.

And they were expecting their first child! A baby girl.
Nicole was eight months pregnant, and Quinn was giddy over the prospect of
starting a family with a woman who would be as amazing a mother as she was a
wife—and this from a man who had never had an interest in marriage
or
children.

Quinn had seized upon the opportunity to have one last vacation
with Nicole before their first child—whom they would name Hailey—made her grand
entrance. So they had taken Davinroy up on his offer, but only after Quinn had
made sure there was a hospital with a maternity ward close enough to the resort
to suit their needs should tiny Hailey decide to arrive early.

Nestled inside the nearly six thousand square miles that comprised the
Catskill Mountains, Davinroy’s lodge was ideal. The accommodations were
spacious and modern, but blended in with the surroundings. Guests were
surrounded by old-growth forest and had access to a private lake on-site. In
addition to boating, fishing, horseback riding, and hiking, recreational
options included downhill skiing and zip-lining, just a short excursion
away—not that either of these last two activities would be on the agenda for a
woman deep into her last trimester, but there would still be plenty of fun to
be had.
 

Nicole had seemed more anxious about the trip than excited,
but Quinn decided this was understandable given her circumstances. Once they
were there, he was certain they would have a wonderful time.

But on the very first night, the vacation Quinn was so
certain would be a dream became twisted into the ultimate
nightmare
. This was the night that his cell phone had issued a
piercing alarm, impossible to ignore.

Yet he
had
ignored
it.

Sleep had somehow managed to cling to him and seal him
inside like an impenetrable coating of shrink-wrap.

When Nicole had become pregnant, he had gotten her an
elegant gold bracelet with sensors and an emergency electronic beacon hidden
inside. If she pressed the bracelet in a certain way it would broadcast an
alarm to his phone, along with her location. If she ever fainted or lost
consciousness, not unheard of for a pregnant woman to do, the sensors would
somehow know she wasn’t simply sleeping and his phone would also sound the
alarm. She felt silly wearing such a device, but he had teased her that she
shouldn’t have married a Secret Service agent if she was troubled by a man with
protective instincts.

But now that her personal alarm had been triggered, this
same man was failing to respond. Only the knowledge that Nicole needed him
urgently—buried deep within his sleeping brain—had finally managed to unleash
enough adrenaline for him to shake off his unnaturally deep, coma-like slumber,
and this only after the alarm had blared for a full ten minutes.

Where was she? And what had caused her to sound the alarm?

His panic grew by the second, so much so that it became a
struggle for him to even breathe. His imagination ran wild. Even the thought of
her in jeopardy was unbearable, tying his stomach into knots.

What happened next was a nightmare without end, so
earth-shatteringly awful that even though he could only reconstruct bits and
pieces of the horror, these memories, spotty and incomplete, were utterly
devastating
.

He had stumbled through dense areas of trees and undergrowth
for almost a mile, to a location deep in the woods, far from any hiking or
recreational routes. There was a structure hidden within a thicket of trees and
brush, the appearance and size of which he couldn’t recall.

As Quinn moved toward the structure, which his phone
indicated now housed his wife, a scream of pain suddenly escaped from inside
and pierced the darkness.

His heart leaped to his throat.

The scream had to have come from Nicole.
 

The door was locked, but somehow he gained entry. How, he
couldn’t recall. He remembered being outside in a panic, and then being
inside
, but he had no recollection of
the transition between these two realities. And despite the massive quantities
of adrenaline coursing through his veins and his prolonged journey there, he
still felt sluggish, still unable to fully remove the yoke of sleep.

The rest of his memories were jumbled together in a haze,
evoking little clarity but immense rage and horror. He had flashes of the
President of the United States delivering several savage blows to his wife’s
skull with a wrought iron fireplace poker. He had images of her hazel eyes, filled
with anguish and horror, suddenly rolling up into her head, their light
extinguished, never again to sparkle brightly in a dazzling display of intelligence
and optimism. And images of his wife’s lifeless body collapsing onto the bed
she had been standing beside, her hands and ankles cuffed together.
 

All of this had happened in an instant, but the memory of
it, although fuzzy, seemed eternal. Quinn had screamed and rushed forward, even
before he had fully processed the absolute horror of this impossible scene,
intent on killing Davinroy with his bare hands, but instead he crashed to the
ground, face-first.

Davinroy had set a perimeter of nearly invisible trip wires,
one of which Quinn had practically sprinted into. The next thing he could
remember was being seated on a sturdy wooden chair, his ankles and wrists
locked to it with plastic ties, and the chair itself strapped to a heavy bed
frame.

The President of the United States stood before him with a
powerful stun gun in his right hand. Quinn’s body throbbed painfully from head
to toe, and he had no doubt he had absorbed an unholy blast of electricity. His
senses were far from a hundred percent, but it was safe to assume he had
temporarily lost consciousness when his head had hit the floor, and Davinroy
had then used his gun to light him up like a Las Vegas billboard, causing
further disorientation and tenderizing every muscle in his body.
 

Nicole was now lifeless in front of him, a fate shared by
his unborn daughter still locked in his wife’s womb.

It couldn’t be
.
This beautiful, wonderful woman could not be gone. The child within her could
not have been snuffed out just days before her birth.
It wasn’t possible
.

Nicole’s face was covered in ugly welts and dark purple
bruises, and both of her eyes were black and puffy, her nose broken. She had
taken a beating even before her head had been staved in by a monster, and there
were what appeared to be burns on her neck and arms, along with other signs of
traumatic injury his mind wouldn’t allow himself to fully process.

She had been so brutally tortured her death was almost a
mercy.

Quinn felt as though his brain were bursting into flame, his
entire being raging against the horror of what he had lost, the extraordinary, incandescent
woman that Davinroy had taken from both him and the world.

“I am
so
sorry
about this,” said the president, with the same level of concern he might have
shown had Quinn’s invitation to the White House Christmas party been lost in
the mail. “But Nicole did bring it on herself. She didn’t leave me any choice.”

Quinn didn’t remember his exact response, but he was sure
shouting and cursing and threatening were involved. Davinroy shot him again
with the powerful stun gun.

When he stopped convulsing, the president began again. “I
like you, Special Agent Quinn. You’re one of my favorites. So I’m going to take
the time to explain things to you. Not that this will end up mattering, but I
will anyway. But I need you to not interrupt, and to show some civility, and we
can avoid discharging any more electricity into you. Okay?”

Quinn was unable to respond, his paralyzed body having not
yet recovered.

“First, let me say that I thought the world of your wife.
You know that. Her loss is truly tragic.”

He said it as though he had nothing whatsoever to do with
this loss.


I’m going to kill
you,
” croaked Quinn, the words coming out as a whisper.

His eyes flashed over the lifeless form of his wife. He held
them there for just a moment, as though somehow she would stir. Somehow he
would learn that this was a big mistake. Somehow divine magic would breathe
life into her and she would become reanimated while he looked on. But there
would be no magic on this night, divine or otherwise.

Quinn forced himself to look away as tears began streaming
down his face.

“So here is what happened,” said Davinroy conversationally.
“Nicole stumbled onto some . . . indiscretions . . . from my past that were
better left buried. Long story about what aroused her suspicions, but it involved
considerable bad luck and some clever deductions on her part. Fortunately, I’m
a very careful man, and I learned of her activities.”

“What are you
talking
about?” spat Quinn as the effects of the stun gun began to diminish.

“Turns out I have a need to inflict pain,” said Davinroy
with a shrug. “Not sure why, but I was born that way. As a kid, indulging these
urges on small animals was enough to get my head right, but there were a few
times I took this to the next level.”

“You mean with humans?”

“Right. I know these urges are . . . problematic. Not
exactly something voters would seek out in a president. So I keep them hidden
and deny myself as much as I can. But I did have some youthful indiscretions
that my family’s fortune enabled me to, um . . . pave over.” He sighed. “These
instances were regrettable, but I control myself much better nowadays. I’ve
pretty much been a Boy Scout since becoming president.” He glanced at Nicole’s
body on the bed nearby and raised his eyebrows. “Well . . . for the most
part.”
 

Tears were still falling from Quinn’s eyes, but these words
sent him once again into a berserker rage. He threw his body toward Davinroy to
strangle the life from him, ignoring the plastic straps that carved bright-red
grooves into his wrists and ankles, and disregarding protests from his
shoulders that they were close to dislocation.

Davinroy calmly shot him again. This time recovery took even
longer, and Quinn was now too weak to even feel rage. But feelings of anguish
and loss were able to thrive in the absence of more hostile emotions, and his
suffering was more intense than ever.
 

Davinroy’s horrific behavior was impossible, surreal, but
maybe not to the extent that Quinn had first thought. Professional politicians
all pretended to be saints, but their ranks were enriched with those who were
ruthless and without a conscience. The incidence of deviant behavior among
politicians was far higher than average, and scions of rich and powerful
families really could get away with atrocities that would earn the average
citizen a life sentence in prison.
 

Michael Jackson had almost certainly molested numerous boys,
but his fortune had protected him from any real consequences. Senator Ted
Kennedy had driven his car off a bridge on the island of Chappaquiddick,
leaving a young woman in the passenger’s seat to drown, returning to his hotel
and not reporting the incident for over nine hours, yet he remained a senator
and never served a single day in jail. Additional examples abounded.
Revelations of hidden, deviant behavior in prominent people were legion.

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