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Thriller (with strong romantic elements)
Ice Wine Productions, Inc.
P.O. 261, Peconic, NY 11958
Copyright © 2016 by Geoffrey Wells
All rights reserved.
ISBN 978-0-9981666-1-2 (Print book)
ISBN 978-0-9981666-0-5 (ebook)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Paperback: Interior design by Polgarus Studio
Cover illustration by Cynthia Wells
Cover design by Dawn Hickerson of Austin Design Works.
Page/word count: 278 pages, 82,300 words
“An enthralling ride”…”a breathtaking tale of danger and romance”
A brilliant New York composer and reluctant coder goes undercover to trap a cybercrime syndicate that has hijacked her website—to traffic blood ivory.
She must survive impossible physical, virtual and cultural obstacles and choose between the opposing forces of privacy and responsibility.
The CIA leaves her no option but to go undercover to set the trap. She must surreptitiously modify the code she wrote to protect her symphony, and is deployed with a savvy street vendor to Tanzania, where he is from—and where the cybercrime trail goes dead. Their guarded love affair is sidelined after being abducted by a trafficker who poaches elephants on a massive scale. To avoid betraying each other they abandon their handlers and return to New York City. Allison must bring down the syndicate or sacrifice her music, her loved ones and her privacy—for a greater good.
“Atone for the Ivory Cloud is a compelling, fast-paced thriller with an exotic international flavor. Geoffrey Wells takes the reader on an enthralling ride, skillfully entwining cybercrime, music, and the fate of African elephants in a breathtaking tale of danger and romance.”
— Pamela Burford, best-selling author of Undertaking Irene
“With all the skill required to compose an intricate symphony, Geoffrey Wells weaves together a story of the dark world of cybercrime, the creativity of musical composition, the horrors of greed on an international scale, and the most complex subject of all: the human heart. Atone for the Ivory Cloud is a true work of art.”
–Stephanie Parent, author of the Neima’s Ark Series.
“Geoffrey Wells has written a book that’s much more than a simple thriller, using technology and music as motifs to explore themes of freedom and privacy, conservation, inter-cultural relations, and personal growth. The book is timely in many ways, and touches on a number of current issues and recent events.”
–Andrew Diamond, author of Impala.
“This book is loaded with insane plot twists. Every time you think you’ve got this whole thing figured out, something else gets tossed in and messes up everything for Allison. And then you finally get to the end of the book, and you think to yourself ‘it’s almost over, nothing else can surprise me now’. But it does. And it’s great.”
“The pacing in this book is amazing. It isn’t so fast that you’re feeling lost, but not so slow that you get bored and set the book down.”
—Songs Wrote My Story blog, 4 out of 5 star review.
Impressions on a South African farm, boarding school, parents who read the classics to their children, all sparked Geoffrey Wells with a writer’s imagination. The diverse interests of piano, playing drums, running track, observing elephants in Botswana and exploring Mozambique, gave Wells a framework for his first thriller, A FADO FOR THE RIVER. He found adventure climbing the Drakensberg Mountains and in the cold desert nights while reluctantly serving in a commando unit of the South African army. His career as Art Director in advertising led him to the American Film Institute, and later digital technology propelled him to VP/CIO at Disney, ABC-TV stations and Fox. Wells wrote an award-winning animated film, has visited elephant reserves and climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro. He lives on Long Island where he swims the open water and runs a video and design company. He writes thrillers about imperfect characters who fight villains that devastate our natural and virtual ecosystems.
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Allison Schwartz – heroine. Composer, upper East Side, New York City.
Sipho Membe – hero. NYC Street vendor, Meat Packing District, New York City. Homeland: Tanzania, Africa.
Rex Van der Spuy – villain. CIO (Chief Information Officer) for Biogenem Pharmaceuticals.
ALLISON SHOULD HAVE MOVED OUT of his way. Instead, on this Saturday morning in Central Park, crouched on the sidewalk in the late spring snow, she held her phone inches off the surface of the road as it continued to record the sound of a passing ten-kilometer race. Transfixed, she watched a man trudging blithely through the stream of runners that flowed around him. Surely he’d be punished for his contempt of their race? Soon enough, a passing runner jabbed the pedestrian in his ribs. He tripped and stepped down hard, twisting his ankle, lurching in front of a tall runner who could not stop himself from pushing the pedestrian, who was now stumbling flat-footed toward her. Alarmed, Allison sprang back, but she slipped on the black ice and a split second later he crashed into her.
Winded and furiously awkward, Allison shoved him off of her, avoiding eye contact.
The runner who had collided with the pedestrian was suddenly stooping over her. “You all right?” he asked, holding out his hand to help her up.
“Yes, I suppose I am,” she said.
She took his hand and stood, smoothing down her long knitted skirt.
The runner grinned. “Good. You can stand.” He tilted his head and shot out a reassuring thumbs-up. “You’ll live.”
Allison managed a faint smile. He had a point. The feckless stranger, still on hands and knees, was crawling around for the contents of his disgorged messenger bag, and was clearly not going to face her. Or take responsibility for knocking her down.
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.
Garrett continued. “I know we ask a lot. Don’t do this, though, just because it’s your ticket to the United States. Do it because what you are doing will help to stop the madness. Its success will help us take down a supply chain. It will cast doubt among the warlords in the Central African Republic. I know that your parents were murdered by a child soldier from Mozambique, a refugee. He was the product of a lawless nation at that time, and that is exactly what is happening in the C.A.R. today. Boys are being tied up and thrown to the crocodiles, women are bludgeoned in the street, babies are left with their entrails spilling into the gutter. Men are executed and beheaded as innocents watch. Thousands are dying at the hands of soldiers and militia gangs. So don’t do it for me or the United States; do it for you. For your own sanity. For Allison.”
Sipho took his eyes off Garrett and stared at the floor in front of him. He felt the agents’ gazes on him. This was important to Garrett’s mission, and Sipho had an untenable choice. He was not only being asked to commit, he was being warned that the commitment would require initiative and resourcefulness. Half-measures, shortcuts, and errors could kill them. Yet, wasn’t this what he wanted? As he mourned his mother’s and father’s deaths, he longed for the security that America offers, for the rule of law that, even when it is flawed, aspires to protect its citizens.
“All right. You have my commitment,” said Sipho.
In December, 2015, The Africa Wildlife Foundation published a statement that, in part, read:
The China-Africa Wildlife and Conservation Council strongly commends and supports the governments of China and the African states for their active commitment to conserve Africa’s wildlife – reflected in the 2016-2018 Action Plan proposed by 6th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg. The group further commends the Chinese and African governments on their recognition of the need to tackle both local poaching and international organized crime.
The author makes the assumption that international organized crime is using the Internet for is cybercrime activities. The story is based on this assumption.
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