AESOP by Michele Packard

Thriller, Espionage
Date Published: July 2018

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Private contractor Matti Baker’s personal quest is to keep America safe. With unwavering loyalty, she was trained to assist government and outside agencies in identifying, locating, and eliminating individuals and nations that pose as threats to the United States. Baker navigates through assignments, that on surface, appear to have no connection. Ultimately Baker finds out that they are all intertwined and will trigger global destruction if not stopped.  While sacrificing to keep her family hidden and safe; Baker enlists the help of her best friend and closest colleagues to eradicate double agents.

Whether in Texas, California, the Middle East, or even the foothills of Montana, Baker finds herself in the center of world domination. She keeps her wits about her and those that are lucky enough to be in her inside circle. 

Praise for AESOP:

"Plenty of thrillers attempt to create spunky female protagonists; but AESOP excels in its gritty, first-person observational style. It will especially delight thriller audiences who like their action nonstop and their characters not just intelligent, but self-determined, driven, and sometimes edgy in their relationships with loved ones, superiors, peers, and the world.

AESOP is highly recommended and is head and shoulders above most thrillers featuring female operatives facing high-level threats and physical and mental challenges." - D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

"AESOP by Michele Packard is a fast-paced novel that introduces private contractor (Hit Lady) Matti Baker whose job is to find and eliminate individuals who pose a threat to America.  Packard has created a kickass heroine that possesses beauty, brains, cunning, guts and brawn. In this novel, Matti is out to stop some very bad actors, and the job is exasperating. She doesn't know it, but someone is out for her too. She has or knows something of importance that someone powerful wants very badly.  So sometimes she is the hunter, and at other times she is the hunted....

Packard likes to use events from movies to illustrate the action occurring in her story. A memorable example is when Packard uses Stephen King's scene of Annie Wilkes smashing Paul Sheldon's feet with a sledgehammer to convey what is happening to Matti when her abductor's interrogation goes to the extreme." - Texas Authors, December 2018


Chapter 10 Road Trip

Double trouble.  That’s what we were. I felt like I was in Stripes, when he said, “There’s something wrong with us, something very very wrong.”  Damn, we were cute and funny.  I was so glad Bethany was meeting me.  I needed to unwind and get her perspective on things.  She met me on the runway and was looking perfect as always.  Bitch.  It really was annoying, I was not sure how she did it, but she always looked on point.  Just once, I’d love to see her all sweaty and in disarray.  

She came beaming up to me with a full perfect smile and a mimosa for us both in her hands.  “Here’s to however you fucked up to land us this gig, cheers.”

“Missed you too girlfriend.  May be a premature toast with this road trip.”

We boarded onto a G6.  Not a bad way to fly if you ask me.  The G6 was capable of going 7,500 nautical miles, taking you from LA to Melbourne, marketed as the fastest and most expensive business jet on the market.  It would be a little out of reach to make a direct flight to Afghanistan, but we were doing a stopover in London first for supplies, both fuel and ammo from our partnering friends.  Not sure who Freddy hit up for these sweet rides, but I liked it.

Bethany and I got situated and comfy with a drink as we took off.  I filled her in on Ramiz and everything I knew and didn’t know.  We plotted potential next steps and expectations.  We were two hours into the flight before she asked me the real question.

 “Well, are you going to make me ask or are you going to spill it?” she simply stated.

“What do you mean?” My way of avoidance.

“Two guesses and the first one doesn’t count.  Spill it. I want to hear about the Greek God you are obviously pining over.”

“Ohh, you want to talk about that little nugget,” I feigned.

“Well….”  I filled her in on everything.  We spent more time on this than we did national security, that was for sure.  After I finished wrapping up, and we bounced off pros and cons, she looked at me and said, “Well, not to sound like my momma, but what’s meant to be will and this too shall pass.”  Jesus, thanks for that.  With that, I went back and passed out from exhaustion.

By the time we got to London, Freddy had sent over what they deciphered from the bottle.  The label was just one coordinate etched multiple times all over the bottle.  The label was the key to the other coordinates, but they were still unable to unlock the true significance of it all.  It was like that movie with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in Contact trying to decipher some cosmic code.  We had coordinates for Iraq, Israel…and a few other “stans” as I called them (Kazakhstan, Pakistan).  Trouble was when you were being sent signals from all over kingdom come you tended to think the worst.  True terror was not necessarily physical; it was mental.  Fear will crumble people and nations.  

The phone was clean with only that one number which was traced to Turkey.  So, that dictated our first stop.  We were going to play cat and mouse and see if we could catch a rat.  

There were some beautiful women from Turkey.  Not a lot of black people though, so Bethany was going to have to be my earpiece for this part.  Women faced significant disparities in employment, religion and education along with being victims of rape and honor killings.  Honor killings were usually committed by male family members against female members for bringing dishonor to the family.  Could be for having sex outside marriage, denouncing faith, or because you got raped (probably by your brother…see note above).  Needless to say, this country wasn’t advocating for women’s rights.  To fit in, I donned a dark brown wig and dark brown contacts and covered up appropriately.  Didn’t want to look too nice, but at the same time, hoping someone didn’t want to tag team me in any circumstance.  

We were outside their capital, Ankara, in a little town called Pursaklar.  There were 19 condensed neighborhoods with various terrain.  Our target hadn’t moved locations in over 14 hours.  I was sure they had a contingency plan in case Ramiz didn’t return contact.  How much time they’d allow to pass was going to be the key to our next step.  

When I was in position, Bethany texted the following to our mystery pal: “Clear. Time for next step.”  We had argued what would tip them off and settled for this gamble.  We had no background or history of other communication between these two parties, so took risks

with sending anything.  Bethany had eyes in the sky and it showed only one heat seeking body in the building.  Didn’t trust if the little bastards were hiding under some tarp and didn’t want to go in blind. Better to force them out onto more neutral ground, if you could even say that, since they at least would have the advantage of the lay of the land.  

One, five, fifteen minutes passed.  Nothing.  Heat sensors showed little movement and finally no movement when reached 20 minutes.  Then no heat detected.  Damn, our hands were tied and I’d have to enter.  I prayed a quick Hail Mary, as I feared this perp booby trapped the place to blow.  I couldn’t bring my fav Colt, so checked the safety and silencer on the modified FNP90 that I was carrying under my traditional Turkish garb.  P90 was compact but powerful and futuristic for the time.  It has a unique top mounted magazine with high-velocity custom 5.7mm ammunition that fragments on impact and distributes kinetic energy to the target alone. It’s a beast.  I was starting to really like it.  I surveyed to ensure no additional outsiders casing the joint and Bethany confirmed no other heat images near.  In condensed cities like this, I found that hard to believe. Almost like they knew not to be around. Definitely gave me a squeamish attitude for entering.  I made my way to the door and tested it.  It was locked so meant I was going to have to force in and pray for the best if there was someone still inside waiting on me.  

3.2.1. Didn’t need full force to kick in this weak door.  No lights.  No movement.  Something wasn’t right, and that wasn’t just because I was in Turkey tracking down who knew what.  I cleared each room until I got to the last one.  Mattresses on floor, and cheap couches littered rooms. 

Sheer shades for window treatments.  This looked like a typical home.  Nothing stood out.  Relayed to Bethany to look for any movement outside of perimeter.  Back track quickly.  How did he get out?  Where was he hiding?  

As I headed back to front door, there was a door I didn’t originally see under the staircase. It had three locks on it. Suddenly, your typical house was looking not so typical. I slowly opened it as I inspected for any wirings or riggings.  As I opened, I saw the steps leading down.  No lights.  Bad feeling about this, made me think of Silence of the Lambs where Stallings enters down to the dungeon to see the freak dancing with his dong between his legs.  Needed to shake that visual out.  Tried to relay to Bethany but signal fading out as I entered down.  Turned on light mount on my P90.  It was bright enough to show me a path and would blind them from seeing me clearly and aide so they couldn’t take an easy head shot.  Nothing on the walls, it was literally a cave with a winding hallway.  Was it rigged, or just used as an escape route? Had to go slowly in case it was the latter.   Where was it leading, how long?  Easy to become paranoid.  

The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up.  Something was off.  All living things from complex mammals to single cell organisms instinctively respond to danger.  Our hearts pound, our palms sweat.  I turned off my light and stayed put.  Listening.  Nothing.  I slowly started backing up. I had a feeling I was about to pump 900 rounds down this narrow hallway and hope to hit more than the wall.  I was almost back to the staircase when I saw a small flicker of light growing.  Oh shit.  I turned to the stairs and took them up by three.  I was out the front door when the explosion underground went off. 

Felt like an 8.2 earthquake and the whole residence started to sink in.  I was high tailing it down the street with all kinds of shit falling from adjacent buildings.  Bethany was in my ear asking for status update.  WTF?  Do you not see the sunken building or billow of smoke?  People were out now wondering what was happening.  I now ducked and moved between buildings to make my way back, praising Jesus I turned off my light in time to be able to see what was coming.  

Perp gone.  Cave demolished.  House in ruins.  F’ me.  We didn’t have time and wouldn’t send units in to see what may or may not have been.  Plausible deniability. If they were sophisticated enough to have cave and ability to blow, there would be nothing left for us to go off of in a timely manner.  

Back to square one.  Well, at least this time, Freddy couldn’t complain about me killing anyone.  

Bethany and I spent the next 10 days globe-trotting and hitting the other coordinates only to come up with nothing.  It was a rope-a-dope.  

About the Author

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Michele Packard comes from a military family and worked tirelessly as a cable tv executive before staying-at-home to raise her three children. She has written in both the fiction and non-fiction genres, utilizing her experiences and wit to share stories with others. She is a frequent traveler with her husband and is the primary caretaker of the family's beloved labs.

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