Published by Rosemary Beach Press LLC
Released on March 1, 2014
Paperback, 352 pages
Thriller, Political Thriller
"Jaspar's War wondrously chronicles one brave and desperate woman's attempts to escape a Kafka-esque nightmare. Cym Lowell's brilliant debut strains the boundaries of the thriller genre, even as it seeks to redefine them in this emotionally wrenching tale that reinvents and modernizes the classic Ludlum formula. Written with flare and emotion, as visually polished as it is viscerally powerful, Jaspar's War manages a smooth and savory mix of Vince Flynn and Harlan Coben. Magnificent and not to be missed."
―Jon Land, bestselling author of Strong Rain Falling
Greenwich, Connecticut socialite Jaspar Moran has it all-a magnificent estate, two beautiful children and a loving husband, Trevor, serving as the Secretary of the Treasury. Protected, admired and living in the lap of luxury, Jaspar is reeling from the news that his government jet has crashed just as her children vanish without a trace. An ominous message warns her to keep silent about her husband's role in the President's economic plan. Or else. Determined to save her children, she'll go to hell and back, form alliances with assassins, traitors and Mafioso, and commit unspeakable acts-if that's what it takes. With alarms sounding around the world, hunted from all sides, and unsure of who to trust, she finds herself depending on a mysterious figure without an identity. Jaspar journeys from the Australian outback to the palazzos of Rome, the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, and to the magnificence of the Vatican, in her quest. Can she rescue her children before the plot to crash the global economy is unleashed?
By Cym Lowell
“POCK!” The distinctive sound of a plastic bat driving a Wiffle ball into the outfield triggered shrieks from children as they ran and played. My ten-year-old daughter Chrissy dropped the bat and raced toward first base, actually a luminous orange Frisbee.
“Run, Chrissy,” I shouted as she rounded first, heading toward second. Auburn ponytails, woven with my fingers, flew in her wake. Theo, my twelve-year-old son, played shortstop. Chrissy watched his face.
“Go!” he telegraphed. I clasped my hands, hoping that she would not slide face first into base. Scratches and cuts were no deterrent when she was so focused.
It was Easter weekend, a time for relaxation and family in Greenwich, Connecticut. Neighbors, friends, and local dignitaries filled our park-like estate. We had room for a ball field where neighborhood kids could congregate. Private security personnel were out of sight.
It was an annual celebration of faith. Parents and grandparents sat all around, absorbing the beautiful sunshine and mild weather. They brought coolers of drinks, soda pop for the kids, beer and wine for the adults. It was my version of a neighborhood tailgate party. My dream of family and community had come true.
“Throw the ball,” the other team yelled as the outfielder cocked his arm.
“Down, Chrissy!” Theo yelled.
Their father had taught her to ignore the ball and watch the coach.
“Your agility will always give you an edge,” he said.
Small thin legs churned as the ball was launched. I cringed watching her dive. Dust flew from the infield side of the base. The second baseman caught it just as the little fingers touched safety, and the catcher’s hand smacked her hip.
“Safe!” the father serving as umpire shouted, crossing outstretched arms in exclamation.
I jumped for joy. Theo stood back, pride on his face. Chrissy brushed grass and dirt from her bottom, beaming at her brother. She gave me a thumbs up. No blood. I was relieved. Taunts from the other boys about coddling his sister only amused her proud big brother.
Neighborhood kids enjoyed the afternoon Wiffle ball game on the lawn between our pool and tennis courts. I organized the games just as I had played them as a child. My dad called it “scrub.” As a player made an out, she would go to right field and the catcher moved up to bat in the prescribed rotation.
“Jaspar, when will Trevor get home?” my best friend Crystal Jamison asked about my husband. I took my seat, still reveling in the joy of observing my children care for each other. She sipped a glass of Sancerre, basking in the sun and relaxing in a rocking chair brought from the pool.
“Trevor is so good at teaching passing techniques,” she said watching her own son. “Joshua will be a senior this year, so he needs to make a strong showing for college scouts. Trevor is his hero.”
I remembered Trevor dropping back to pass on the sacred turf of Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, then stepping forward to deliver his trademark bullet to a receiver streaking across the goal line to seal a national championship. The memory was so strong. I longed for him to be back at my side. Before departing, he told me of his fear that his fabled career on Wall Street had been a fraud. Our conversation had to be completed.
“POCK!” brought my attention back to the kids on the grass. They all raced to field the ball. Chrissy was on her way around third as the batter ran to first, the wobbly ball flying just over the head of Theo. He ran after it, looking over his shoulder at Chrissy racing toward the plate. Reaching the ball, he turned and launched a strike to the catcher, doing his best to nail her.
“Run Chrissy,” I yelled rising again. She jumped on home base in triumph as the floating ball was caught too late.
“Batter up,” Theo yelled as I returned to my seat.
“Trevor’s on his way home from London,” I answered my friend’s question.
Crystal and I first met when we came to New York after college. Her husband Raymond played football with Trevor at Notre Dame. They were quite a team. A fleet, sure-handed receiver, Raymond caught the passes that Trevor threw. Trevor’s career ended in a national championship game. Raymond came to New
York drafted by the Jets. Trevor took an entry position on Wall Street. I dated Raymond early in college before I met Trevor or he began dating Crystal. She and I were kids just off campus coming to the big city. Neither of us had any real preparation for the strange new world. We found jobs in finance, me at the Federal Reserve on Wall Street and Crystal in a research office of a secretive private equity firm owned by an Indian tribe. Similarity of situation and background facilitated fast friendship. Her drawl from rural Georgia complimented my odd mixture of Australian Outback and Northern Indiana twang. As our husbands succeeded, we searched for a place where we could live in relative obscurity. Greenwich was perfect. Our children grew up together, like the extended family of my dreams.
“He’s gone so much now,” Crystal responded. “You seemed excited when he went down there. Almost as if he were answering a call to duty.”
“He’s been seeking European agreement for the president’s stimulus plan.”
Trevor took to Wall Street. He began as a runner for energy traders and became fascinated with learning to anticipate market movements. His skill expanded in a master’s program at Columbia, propelling him to a position where he implemented a strategy to take advantage of an inconsistency in risk pricing. Successful exploitation brought us success.
Trevor’s firm, Westbury Madison & Co., became the pre-eminent Wall Street investment bank, profiting whether the economy flourished or crashed due to what Trevor believed was his own strategy. When the financial world crashed, President Hamilton Henrichs asked him to lead the effort to resurrect the economy of America and the world as secretary of the Treasury, a position once held by Alexander Hamilton. The financial press criticized the appointment. “Wolf Hired to Rebuild Hen House?” asked
headlines in the financial and popular press.
“I am proud of him,” I answered, anxiously twisting the everpresent bangles at my left wrist. They were gifts I’ve treasured from my Indian friends. “He works hard and travels constantly trying to plug holes in the economic dam of the world.”
Inside, far different feelings had germinated. Something was wrong. What happened to you, Trevor? He was distant, ignoring me in ways that I had never experienced. He seemed to avoid me. Is he having an affair? I wondered, fearing that a slowly ebbing sex life could be a marker of something more than job stress. Have I become less desirable or is there something troubling in his new life in Washington that he cannot find words to tell me?
“You seem distant, honey” I finally said as he was leaving days earlier. “Have I done something?”
“I know,” he answered, with an unusual tone of resignation in his voice. “It’s not you, sweetheart. Please don’t think that. I’m sorry. I’ve discovered treachery that you may be able to understand better than me. I need your help,” he blurted out, taking me in his arms with a grip that felt desperate.
“Is it something at Treasury?” I asked, relieved that his distance was due to business. But his distance troubled me. It was so unlike anything I had experienced in our life together.
“Yes, it’s there and also in the White House. It’s unbelievable,” he answered in a voice that trembled as his hands shook. “I’ve been used by people I trusted. It began at the firm.”
“Yes. I’ve tried to piece the story together. We can discuss what to do when I return.”
My relief soon gave way to fear. Trevor was afraid; I had never seen that in him. Was my intrepid hero cracking?
* * *
“Hey Mom, come pitch,” Theo yelled as one player jumped into the pool. The scrub game was more fun with full teams in the field and at bat. The kids liked me to pitch because I threw softly. “Like a girl,” Theo would say, happy that he could always whack my pitch. His friends tried to throw curves or fastballs with the plastic sphere with holes on one side. I learned from my dad how to pitch so the ball hung right in Theo’s sweet spot. Of course, I did the same for all the kids; unfortunately I usually struck out as batter. My father was a missionary. After my mother died when I was just three he raised me. For many years we lived in the Australian Outback. When it was time for college, we moved to South Bend,
Indiana. I was the first member of my family to go to Notre Dame on a scholarship. Dad was proud. He lived long enough to express his pride. His greatest joy, he often said with breaking voice, was that I had grown as a woman of faith: “Your mother’s heart would burst with thankfulness.”
“Gotta go,” I responded to Crystal, touching her shoulder and grabbing my mitt. Theo was the next batter. I picked up the ball as I marked my territory around the luminous strip of plastic that served as the pitcher’s mound. Theo looked like pictures of my dad at the same age.
My son stepped to the plate, pointing the bat at me. “Gotcha, Mom!” he declared for the entire neighborhood to hear. I had to play the role. Glove on my knee, I leaned forward with the ball behind my back as if I were looking for a signal. I glanced at runners on base, then the batter.
“Strike the turkey out!” Crystal yelled.
“Yeah, yeah!” our friends echoed.
“Strike one!” the umpire shouted as Theo’s bat slapped the back of his shoulder, so intense was the swing.
“Mom?” his lips mimed, looking at me.
The words roused cheers from parents ringing the field. Beer and wine had flowed long enough to produce a boisterous mood. Adults always lost in these games, so the prospect of me striking out the best of the kids triggered excitement.
I gripped the Wiffle ball, knowing where to place my fingers for an underhand throw. It could be a screwball, twisting into the right-handed batter, as I had done on the first strike then reversed for the second. Or, I could push the ball with my knuckles, and it would drop as he was getting ready to swing. Theo’s focus was like his father’s. He looked straight into my eyes, curious. I was jolted back to the moment. In throwing strikes, I had allowed my anxiety to overcome Theo’s needs.
“POCK!” The sound rewarded me as the ball sailed over the head of the left fielder. Theo winked as he ran to first. It would be a home run. I had thrown his pitch. Maternal pride filled my soul.
“Yeah, Theo!” Chrissy yelled in a squeaky voice. He also leapt on home plate in triumphant exclamation, ending the game. My boy led them all to the pool with Chrissy at his side.
* * *
After the game, Crystal and I organized the food brought by our friends and neighbors. Fathers and older boys unloaded tables from a rental company trailer in our driveway, arranging them in a horseshoe around the pool so we could eat and talk.
“Have you seen the kids?” I asked her when Theo and Chrissy seemed to have been absent for a long time.
“Oh, come on, calm down,” Crystal responded. “What could happen here?”
crowd entertaining the kids. On stage, each child was outfitted with handmade costumes complete with colorful feathers and leather trim. Tribal artists applied face and body paints to duplicate markings from the proud history of the Mohegan people. We were all lost in the magic. It became difficult to separate child from tribal dancer.
“This is amazing?” Raymond declared, enjoying the collage of color and laughter. His career with the Jets ended suddenly when a vicious cross block broke his ribs and punctured his heart muscle. He became a youth counselor in the Greenwich school system, close to home and family.
I searched the faces of dancers and children trying to find Theo and Chrissy, ignoring the conversation surrounding me. I had not seen either since the game ended. Always in the midst of the children, they should be playing and laughing. I tried not to panic, but was failing. When the exhibition was at an end, darkness began to envelop the scene. “Crystal, they’re not here!”
“Raymond, get the officers,” she directed, taking my arm.
“No child has left the grounds,” the head of security detail assured me, deploying his team to search. As the fireworks display began, the Greenwich police, as well as the Connecticut State Police began checking cars, trucks, and the equipment of the Mohegan troupe. No one was allowed to leave. Backup security teams arrived as the dark sky was illuminated by a kaleidoscope of color.
I barely heard the increasingly anxious discussions of friends and security people. Chrissy did not like chaos and always curled up in my lap at such times. “Where are you, sweetheart?” I asked pacing back and forth.
Neighbors were herded onto the driveway as officers checked each person. Police cars with emergency lights blocked the entrance to our property. Flashlights illuminated fence lines as the search broadened.
“Who delivered the tables?” the senior security officer asked, trying to confirm all who had come and gone.
“I, I, I don’t know,” I stammered, my mind not able to focus on even a simple question.
“Where are they officer? They can’t be hiding this long. They wouldn’t run off. Who would take them?” I asked.
“Ma’am, we’re trying to . . .”
“Mrs. Moran?” a man in a suit asked politely, interrupting the security officer’s response. In the midst of the chaos, a dark sedan had been allowed to enter the driveway.
I was drifting into shock.
“Mrs. Moran, I need to speak to you,” the man repeated gently taking my arm.
“Who are you?” the security officer asked.
“I am Peter McGuire with the FBI,” he said, holding out identification.
“What’s going on here?” he asked, looking at dozens of flashlights sweeping grounds and trees. Neighbors stood by the garages. The Indian troupe clustered by their vehicles.
“My children have disappeared,” I blurted out.
Crystal had called my priest, Father Michael O’Rourke. He was the priest in the rural Australia diocese of my childhood and my dad’s best friend. When I got to Notre Dame, Father Michael was there as a youth pastor. “I am your guardian angel,” he often declared. The image was an essential element of my faith. He had been present throughout my life. He came at the first hint of trouble or joy. Father Michael explained the situation as the security leader departed to check how the search was going.
Something passed over the FBI agent’s face. “Mrs. Moran, is there someplace we could speak in private?”
“Let’s go in the house,” Crystal suggested as she and Raymond led us inside.
We stepped in the front door. The FBI officer motioned for Crystal and Raymond to sit on either side of me on a sofa.
“May I get you anything, Mrs. Moran,” he asked.
“No, what is it?”
He knelt and took my hand. “Mrs. Moran, we regret to inform you that Secretary Moran’s plane en route from London has apparently crashed into the ocean near Iceland. Search planes are on their way. It will take several hours. The conditions are horrendous in the remote area where the plane disappeared.”
I barely heard the words. The rest of the evening was a blur. Friends took turns staying with me throughout the night. Father Michael was at my side when I awoke to the distinctive cathedral chime of my phone.
“Theo or Chrissy at last!” I said grabbing for a ray of hope.
“They must have gone to a friend’s house.”
The chime continued. My mind cleared enough to sit up, hold
Father’s hand, and look at the phone.
“It’s Trevor!” I blurted. His name was on the caller ID. My mind jumped to the conclusion that he was safe after all. “Thank God!”
“Honey, where are you?” I asked. He’ll take care of this.
Long moments elapsed in silence as I pressed the phone to one ear then the other. “Trevor? Honey?”
“A text message will arrive momentarily,” a mechanical voice enunciated slowly. It sounded as if the words were spoken from underwater. The connection terminated, leaving only a cold dial tone.
I looked at the phone.
“Jaspar, what is it?” Father asked, standing next to Crystal and Raymond. I looked up at each of them. Their eyes narrowed with questions. Anxiety blew through me like a chill Arctic wind.
“I . . . I don’t know. The caller ID said ‘Trevor Moran.’ Then there was this scary voice.” I startled when the chime for a text message sounded. My eyes riveted on the words:
Your children are gone because you asked about something not your business.
Your husband started to answer and is being digested by sharks.
If what he believed becomes public, your children will also become ocean shit.
Your silence is their only path to life.
Excerpted from the book JASPAR’S WAR by Cym Lowell. Copyright © 2014 by Cym Lowell. Reprinted with permission of Rosemary Beach Press. All rights reserved