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15 Years Earlier
Jennifer Cortez could not sleep.
It was a little past four in the morning and, in less than seven hours, she and her builder were scheduled to conduct their final inspection of her new home. Her husband, Porch, was on a business trip to San Francisco and was not due back into Denver until just after nine that morning. He had promised to meet them at the homesite as soon as he could pick up his bags and drive there from the airport.
Her excitement was palpable. This was their dream home, the home they had worked so long and so hard to be able to afford. Life had been good to Jennifer, a woman in her mid-forties whose five children were all still in school. This was the home in which she would finish raising her family, the home to which her children would eventually bring their own children when she and Porch became grandparents, the home in which she and Porch would grow old together.
It was early July and the kids were on vacation from school. Pete, her oldest, would be starting his sophomore year in college at Texas A&M in the fall, while Ann would be entering her freshman year at the University of Colorado. Tim, who looked and acted exactly like Porch, was going into the ninth grade, while the twins, Jenny and Kelley, were still in elementary school. Only Pete had inherited her cobalt-like blue eyes. The others had their father’s rich brown eyes.
Five kids, she mused. Life was certainly full of surprises.
Jennifer glanced at her alarm clock again. It was now a little past four-thirty. Having finally given up all thought of ever falling back to sleep, she rolled out of bed and headed downstairs to the kitchen to fix herself some coffee. The sun was due to come up in another hour, and she figured she had just enough time to quickly drive by the new house to check on a few details and still get back home before the kids woke up.
She slipped on a pair of shorts, a blouse and sandals, and headed for the garage, where she kept her new yellow VW Beetle parked. It was only a fifteen-minute drive to Timber Falls, and she knew she could be back home by six-thirty, at the latest, in plenty of time to get the kids up and be ready to tackle the day.
* * * * *
Bob was a fiery man, a man so consumed by anger that nothing else in his life seemed to matter. His passion was politics, and he lived it, breathed it, ate it, drank it, slept it. It oozed from his pores like garlic on a hundred-degree day.
For the past ten years, he had lived in Boulder, Colorado, a trendy college town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, just north of Denver. Bob loved Boulder. He felt comfortable there among people who shared his outlook on life. Walking outdoors along the Pearl Street Mall was like stepping back in time to the Haight-Ashbury days of the 1960s.
The faint smell of marijuana always seemed to hang in the air, as did the stench of body odor in the summer, as transients virtually doubled the population of this progressive college town. Charming Victorian houses still surrounded the downtown area, and residents fought long and hard to protect Boulder’s innate charm against the twin dangers of growth and sprawl.
Bob was now in his late-forties, forty-nine to be exact. Like most men his age, he suffered frequent bouts of nostalgia. He missed the excitement of protesting the Vietnam War, of sailing with Greenpeace, of standing up to injustice wherever he found it. To him, his was a life with purpose.
Tonight, Bob was poised for action. He and his three team members were going over their final checks before setting out for that night’s objective: a new subdivision nestled in the foothills just northwest of Denver.
Their target was simply the latest in a seemingly endless succession of upscale suburban residential developments, each of which served to diminish, in its own incremental way, the once unspoiled majesty of the Rocky Mountains. Bob knew in his soul that history would judge his actions as having been both noble and just.
Because this was Brandi and Ted’s first operational mission, Bob spent extra time explaining to them the best placement for explosives, why certain techniques achieved a hotter burn, and how to properly sequence explosions in order to achieve the maximum effect. As a result, they took about forty-five minutes longer than the plan had called for.
It was now ten minutes past five in the morning. Their work complete, they had hiked back to their Volvo, which they had hidden in the woods about a half-mile from the new housing development.
Bob and his team loaded their equipment and empty containers into the station wagon and quickly climbed in. He was always careful to never leave anything behind that might lead either the police, or the inevitable insurance investigators, back to Green Action.
As the dusty brown Volvo made its way down the mountain roads toward Denver, Bob rolled down the window to take in the fresh mountain air. He took a deep breath. This was what they were fighting for—that future generations would be able to come here and take in the full beauty of this majestic countryside.
Sunrise was scheduled for about five-forty that morning, so he had set the timers to go off at five-thirty on the dot, while the construction site would still be empty. The first construction workers usually didn’t begin arriving until after six.
Normally, he liked to time them to go off at least an hour before dawn so he could enjoy the stunning visual contrast of flames dancing in the night sky, but this morning they were running late. He looked at the luminescent dial on his black digital runner’s watch. It was five-twenty-nine and forty seconds.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Cortez was taking some last-minute window measurements in the family room of her soon-to-be home in the Timber Falls subdivision.
She did not feel a thing.
* * * * *
Want to read more? Here's a Sneak Preview of CHAPTER ONE of The Northern Lights
A supertanker is sabotaged sixty miles off the Texas cost, spilling hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. Moments before the explosion, the captain of the ship receives a cryptic text message that simply says, “THE FUTURE IS NOW!”
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