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On the Altar

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A kidnapping stuns the president’s family and threatens to destroy a father and daughter divided over duty, loyalty, and self-preservation.
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Author: Jeff Chapman
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On the Altar

by Jeff Chapman

Genre Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Tags suspense kidnapping, abduction thriller, revenge and retribution, kidnapping drama, kidnapping thrillers

Release April 28, 2015

Editor Katie L. Carroll

Cover Designer Celairen

Words 15432

Pages 64

ISBN 978-1-77127-716-7

Price $3.50


Back Cover

When the president’s daughter, Helen, is abducted, special counsel Aaron Atreus offers his friend all the support he can. When the kidnapper demands Aaron’s daughter, Effie, deliver a ransom payment, the crisis becomes deeply personal for Aaron’s family. What’s the kidnapper’s game? Why insist on Effie? There’s no way Aaron will allow his only daughter to walk into such a dangerous situation.

Desperation puts friends at odds, and questions of duty and loyalty threaten to tear Aaron’s family apart. While the policy-makers fight among themselves, the kidnapper waits for the pieces in his sinister game to move into place.


Excerpt

“Dad!” The shout came from the living room, accompanied by a pair of running feet thumping the hardwood floors. For a moment Aaron was ten years younger, coming home to a little girl full of stories about the dramas at recess and a bright watercolor landscape. Of course she would insist her masterpiece simply had to be framed and hung next to Mommy’s stuffy pictures. There was no crisis, no president’s daughter held hostage. Effie came around the corner, the name of her university emblazoned across her sweatshirt. She wasn’t a little girl anymore and Aaron felt much more than ten years older.

He stepped inside the kitchen and dropped his briefcase. Effie threw her arms around his neck. The force of her hug threatened to knock him over. Her fingers dug into the muscles of his shoulders. He lifted her as he wrapped his arms around her back. She clung to him and he clung to her, reaffirming ties of blood and family. Chloe stood in the doorway to the dining room, her eyes red and swollen.

“I missed you,” said Aaron. He wondered at Chloe’s crying eyes, more the scars of despair than a sobbing for joy. “I thought you should stay at school, but your mother was right. I’m glad you’re home. More than you’ll ever know.” He caught Chloe’s gaze but she didn’t smile.

“I’ll do it, Dad. I know Helen would do the same for me.”

Aaron held his daughter at arm’s length. Her eyes flashed with youthful determination and imagined immortality. “You’ll do what?” He glanced at Chloe, who shook her head.

“Linda called a bit ago to speak to Effie. Talk some sense into her, Aaron.”

His throat tightened with fear. “What did Linda tell you, Effie?”

“She told us Helen’s going to die if I don’t deliver some money.”

“That is not what she said!” screamed Chloe. “It’s the latest demand, not a threat to kill her.”

“That bastard. That damned bastard.” Aaron let his arms fall from Effie’s shoulders.

“What are you talking about?” said Chloe.

“Zach!” Aaron paced across the kitchen, clenching and unclenching his fists. Throughout the whole conversation in the Oval Office, he had never suspected Zach would manipulate him, not when it came to Effie’s safety. Aaron could hardly believe it, but it was Zach the father, not the president, who had orchestrated this phone call. “Effie, Helen is not going to die because of anything you do or don’t do.”

“But that’s what the guy said, right? I’m to deliver some money. Me.” She tapped her chest for emphasis. “Only me.”

For a moment Aaron thought about lying, but if he ever needed trust, he needed it now. “It’s too dangerous. It’s been ruled out, and if we are going to do it, which we aren’t, we’d use an agent to double for you.”

“You knew?” said Chloe. “And you didn’t tell us?”

“I only found out an hour ago. Zach played the tape for me.” Aaron stomped back and forth across the kitchen. “That damned bastard. He wanted to get to Effie before I did.”

“You weren’t going to tell me?” said Effie.

“Of course not. What would be the point?”

“When did you start lying to me, Dad? Is that what politics has done to you?”

Chloe glared at her daughter. “Don’t talk to your father that way. This isn’t about lying.”

“Omitting the ridiculous is not lying,” said Aaron.

“Semantics,” argued Effie. “And if I’d asked you what I could do to help Helen?”

“I’d tell you to pray.”

Chloe scraped a kitchen chair across the floor. The wooden frame groaned as she collapsed into it. She looked exhausted.

Aaron continued to pace as his mind churned.

“Did you tell them Effie’s home?” asked Chloe. “I never mentioned it to Linda.”

Aaron felt the accusation in her tone. “Zach wanted to put her in a secure location. I had to.”

“Linda says they need me,” said Effie.

“It’s not happening, Effie. There is no plan.”

“That’s not what Linda says,” countered Chloe. “She all but told Effie she was their only hope.”

“Linda doesn’t make the plans.”

“But Zach does,” Chloe shot back. “He was with her.”

Aaron shook his head. “We discussed using a double.”

“Who discussed it?”

“Zach and Brent.”

“Can they make her do this?”

“Of course not.”

“Excuse me,” exclaimed Effie. “I’m not a child. I want to do this.”

Aaron ceased his pacing and faced his daughter. “You don’t know what you’re doing. It’s too dangerous. We don’t even know what this guy ultimately wants. He’s all over the map.”

“Helen would do this for me.” He heard the pleading in his daughter’s voice, but what she asked to do was out of the question.

“You think so? Zach would stuff her on Air Force One and never let the plane land.”

“This isn’t helping, Aaron,” Chloe spoke quietly, inches from his ear. She placed a cold hand on his. He hadn’t noticed her rise and come to him.

Aaron took a controlled breath and let it out. “Effie, we don’t know what this psycho wants. He might take both of you, or kill both of you. He’s already killed at least four people.”

“I don’t have any sisters or brothers,” Effie said. “I’ve been thinking this is like giving up a kidney for your sibling. I might never have a chance to do something like this again.”

“God help us,” said Chloe, pleading with her daughter. “You don’t understand.”

Effie’s eyes widened with youthful innocence. “It’s sacrifice, service, what you’ve been preaching to me all these years. If I can’t do this for Helen, who could I do it for?”

“Let’s leave,” said Chloe. “Get in the car and drive away. How long would it take them to find us?”

“Run away?” Aaron shook his head. “I can’t run away, Chloe.”

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