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       The Protocol (A James Acton Thriller, Book #1), p.1

           J. Robert Kennedy
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The Protocol (A James Acton Thriller, Book #1)
From the Back Cover

  FROM USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR J. ROBERT KENNEDY COMES THE PROTOCOL, A GLOBE-SPANNING, HEART-POUNDING ACTION ADVENTURE TWO THOUSAND YEARS IN THE MAKING!

  "If you want fast and furious, if you can cope with a high body count, most of all if you like to be hugely entertained, then you can't do much better than J. Robert Kennedy."

  For two thousand years the Triarii have protected us, influencing history from the crusades to the discovery of America. Descendant from the Roman Empire, they pervade every level of society, and are now in a race with our own government to retrieve an ancient artifact thought to have been lost forever.

  Caught in the middle is archeology professor James Acton, relentlessly hunted by the elite Delta Force, under orders to stop at nothing to possess what he has found, and the Triarii, equally determined to prevent the discovery from falling into the wrong hands.

  With his students and friends dying around him, Acton flees to find the one person who might be able to help him, but little does he know he may actually be racing directly into the hands of an organization he knows nothing about...

  About J. Robert Kennedy

  USA Today bestselling author J. Robert Kennedy has been ranked by Amazon as the #1 Bestselling Action Adventure novelist based upon combined sales. He is the author of over twenty international bestsellers including the smash hit James Acton Thrillers series of which the first installment, The Protocol, has been on the bestseller list in the US and UK since its release, including occupying the number one spot for three months.

  He lives with his wife and daughter and writes full-time.

  "If you want fast and furious, if you can cope with a high body count, most of all if you like to be hugely entertained, then you can't do much better than J Robert Kennedy."

  Amazon Vine Voice Reviewer

  Find out more at www.jrobertkennedy.com.

  Join The Insider's Club to be notified when new books are released.

  Books by J. Robert Kennedy

  The James Acton Thrillers

  The Protocol

  Brass Monkey

  Broken Dove

  The Templar's Relic

  Flags of Sin

  The Arab Fall

  The Circle of Eight

  The Venice Code

  Pompeii's Ghosts

  Amazon Burning

  The Riddle

  Blood Relics

  The Special Agent Dylan Kane Thrillers

  Rogue Operator

  Containment Failure

  Cold Warriors

  Death to America

  The Delta Force Unleashed Thrillers

  Payback

  The Detective Shakespeare Mysteries

  Depraved Difference

  Tick Tock

  The Redeemer

  Zander Varga, Vampire Detective Series

  The Turned

  THE PROTOCOL

  A James Acton Thriller

  Book #1

  by

  J. Robert Kennedy

  THE PROTOCOL

  By J. Robert Kennedy

  Copyright © 2011-2014 J. Robert Kennedy

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Third Edition

  3.1

  Table of Contents

  The Novel

  Thank You from the Author

  Newsletter

  About the Author

  Also by the Author

  For Espie, Niskha, Mom and Dad.

  PREFACE

  The crystal skulls referred to herein are real and have been confirmed to be of unknown origin and unknown method of manufacture by top scientists at Hewlett-Packard.

 

  “And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”

  John 19:17-18 King James Version

  “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”

  Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence of Arabia

 

 

  London, England, 1212 AD

  “Papa! Help me, please help me!”

  Lord Richard Baxter picked himself up from the ground, his knee torn open, the wound demanding attention, its sting ignored. Consuming all his thoughts were his daughter’s desperate cries as they tore at the night like a dagger, slicing through the tortured wailing surrounding him while fire engulfed home after home. With the smoke choking him, the heat searing his lungs, he held the sleeve of his tunic over his mouth and raced toward the pleas of his precious daughter. Tears streaked the soot on his face, his eyes irritated by the smoke and the mental image of his daughter’s plight overwhelming him.

  As he pushed through the carnage and destruction, he wondered what could possibly remain of his family home, a home paid for in blood six years earlier while saving King John’s mistress from brigands. His heroics had earned him the King’s thanks and a Lordship over a small plot of land. As a member of the council he kept a home in London and with the taxes he now collected from his new territory, it afforded him the luxury of improving their lot, the result the modest home he now enjoyed with his beloved wife and daughter. As he stumbled forward, the pain in his knee too much to now ignore, he couldn’t help but conjure images of his wife and daughter, desperate, any happy thought of them shoved aside with horrid imaginings of them burning alive, his name on their lips, asking why he hadn’t been there to save them.

  It crushed his heart, the thought of not being there with them in their hour of need. His work had run late, very late, and if it weren’t for the unexpected happenings at the council he would have been home with them, able perhaps to save them from the plight they now suffered. He had sent a messenger to let them know he’d be late, but that was of no comfort to them now.

  They’re dying because of you!

  He had been in the council chambers, meeting with the elders to discuss the latest discovery when a terrific explosion had leveled the once mighty walls. He had been one of only a handful to survive, and was in the process of trying to rescue those still trapped in the chamber when word had reached him of what was happening outside.

  Then his only thought was to get home to his family.

  What he had found had rendered him speechless. As far as the eye could see almost every structure had been flattened. Twisted bodies lay strewn about, fires springing up all around him, spreading fast, lighting the thatched roofs of the houses left standing.

  He rounded the smoldering embers of what was once a proud stand of trees to see flames devouring the last remaining section of his house not knocked over by the blast. His servants were desperately trying to douse the flames with water from the nearby well, but it was of no use. The house was a loss, the hellish flames consuming every surface as if possessed by an unquenchable thirst.

  His daughter’s
screams reached him from inside.

  “Lord Baxter!” yelled his valet. “Thank the good Lord you are all right. I had feared the worst.”

  “My daughter—”

  “She is trapped inside, m’Lord, and we are unable to reach her. I’m afraid your wife was killed in the initial conflagration.”

  Richard’s chest tightened at the news of his dear wife’s death, his eyes filling with tears as his heart silently broke, but another cry from his daughter had him cautiously approaching the roaring fire as he pushed his grief aside, knowing if he didn’t act quickly he would lose all that remained of his wife. Trying to shield himself from the intense heat with his hand, he retreated, the flames licking the night air as if searching for another taste of the blood it had already claimed.

  “Papa!” The pain and desperation in her voice tore at his heart as he could imagine his wife, crying from Heaven for him to save their daughter. He ran toward the entrance of the home, determined to salvage what remained of a once happy family, but was grabbed by two of his servants.

  “M’Lord, ‘tis suicide to enter!” one cried. “You will surely die!”

  Wresting himself free, he neared the door when the front wall collapsed inward, silencing the terrified voice. He fell to his knees and sobbed, his fists slamming into the ground as all hope, all dreams of the future died in that moment as his will to live left him. The servants pulled him to safety and to the body of his cherished wife. He looked upon her still form, her lower body charred from the flames, and wept as he pictured the agonizing death she must have endured. He gazed upon her face and noticed her neck, twisted and broken, and prayed it happened before the burning, this small comfort lessening his anguish only slightly as his chest heaved with sobs, his family wiped from existence with one swing of an unforgiving, and unknown, broadsword of evil. He raised his hands to the heavens and prayed for God to care for their souls and to eventually reunite them all.

  Soon.

  A throat cleared behind him, causing a momentary flash of anger to rush through Richard’s body as he reached for his sword, rage consuming him as his tortured sole demanded retribution, demanded that all things die so there was no possibility he could ever experience joy or happiness again, his entire being overwhelmed in grief and self-pity.

  Control yourself.

  He sucked in a deep breath, holding it as he again looked to the heavens, silently praying for easy entrance into the celestial paradise for his loved ones. Rising to his feet, he wiped the tears off his face before turning to see who had interrupted him.

  It was his manservant. “Yes, what is it?”

  “I am so sorry to intrude in your hour of grief, m’Lord,” his trusted man said quietly, his head bowed, “but the council page has said that your presence is required immediately. I told him that you were unavailable, but he was most insistent.”

  Richard raised his hand, cutting him off. “Tell him I will be along in a moment.” He turned back to his wife, knelt down and placed one last tender kiss upon her forehead, then rose to fulfill his greater duty, a duty handed down for over a thousand years.

  London, England, Present Day

  Clive sat at the central security station of the British Museum with his black Nike-shod feet crossed at the ankles on a corner of his desk and his chair tilted precariously back, his long ponytail suspended in the air. His bony hands were clasped behind his head revealing the beginnings of yellow sweat stains under the armpits of his almost threadbare shirt. His mother had told him to replace it, but he hadn’t seen the need. When he had his jacket on, which was all of the time when outside of this room, nobody could see his armpits anyway. He had told her to mind her own business then wondered why he’d ever agreed to move back into the old family house.

  The room hummed with the fans of the computers, almost drowning out the annoying buzz of the overhead fluorescent lighting. Banks of monitors surrounded him, each alternating between different areas of the museum. Various entrances and exhibits flashed by revealing security guards on patrol, empty corridors and lonely displays. Clive had worked here so long the priceless works of art and the artifacts of mostly forgotten ancient civilizations had lost their allure and fascination.

  The only screen that interested him now was the one showing the Man-U football game.

  So engrossed was he that he didn’t notice the car pull up to the Montague Place entrance or its lone occupant dash to the maintenance door, sheltered from the incessant English rain by the jacket pulled over his head. He rang the buzzer.

  Clive nearly fell out of his seat. He killed the game and looked at the monitor demanding his attention. The jacket protected the hunkered over figure from both the rain and the camera. Clive punched the intercom button.

  “The museum is closed, sir.”

  “Clive, it’s me, Rodney! Let me in, I’m freezing my bollocks off!”

  Clive laughed and tapped in the code to open the maintenance entrance. A buzzer sounded and he watched the door open as Rodney pushed against it. A moment later his friend appeared on the inner corridor camera, shaking the rain from his jacket and running his hands through his hair, the water puddling around his discount-store Oxfords. Rodney flashed a grin then mouthed something at the camera prompting Clive to punch up the audio.

  “—E-R-P! Double O-L, Liverpool F.C.!”

  Clive pressed the intercom button. “United’s goin’ to kick yer arses!”

  Rodney flipped him the bird then continued toward the security station. Clive laughed and turned the game back on, propping his feet on the desk corner again. A few minutes later he heard a knock at the station door. He reached under the desk and pressed the entry buzzer. The door opened behind him.

  “Hey, Rodney, United’s up by one!”

  He kicked off the desk, spinning his chair to face the door, keeping his eyes on the game as long as he could. As his chair completed its spin he turned his head around to see the barrel of a gun pointed at his chest. The gun fired and a stinging pain radiated from the center of this chest as he was hit. He slid from the chair into a heap on the floor, and the last thing he saw before the world blackened around him was his friend of five years standing over him.

  On one of the monitors, Liverpool tied the game.

  Andes Mountains, Peru, One Week Earlier

  Garcia swung the pickaxe against the cave wall. The clumped dirt and rock sprayed back at him, mixing with the sweat glistening on his head and soaking through his shirt. “Este trabajo de Puta me lleva al Diablo,” he muttered under his breath. I feel like a mule. I don’t see the Americanos getting dirty. He swung again and another spray of dirt flew back from the wall. It was slow, hard work, but the professor had said there may be a secret room on the other side. Garcia respected the professor. He gets dirty. At first he had only agreed to be a guide, his deeply ingrained superstitions being too strong to participate in disturbing the ancient home of the ancestors. But the professor had a way of making him feel at ease so he had agreed to help with the heavy labor. Now he was beginning to regret it. Another swing and this time the axe almost came out of his hands as he broke through.

  Excited, he cleared away more dirt, exposing the other side. After a few minutes of digging with his hands he was able to stick his head through the hole he created. The pungent smell of centuries of rot and decay almost overwhelmed him. He couldn’t see anything. Then he remembered the flashlight on his belt. He fumbled for it, his fingers numb from swinging the axe, his heart pounding in excitement. Finally finding it, he shone the light through the hole as he stuck his head back in. At first, he saw only more dirt, then, as he played the light around, it struck something shiny. He focused the light and gasped as two disembodied eyes glared at him.

  Garcia jumped back and tripped over his axe. As he hit the cave floor his flashlight flew out of his hand. “El Diablo!” he muttered as he stared at the hole in horror. He scrambled to his feet. “El Diablo!” he screamed as he ran down the narrow passage back to the surfa
ce. “El Diablo!”

  Professor James Acton was on his knees, carefully brushing dirt away from what looked like an intact clay pot. One of his students, working in the same grid, carefully sifted the soil for any small shards. Students in other grids, each cordoned off with twine staked at the corners, were painstakingly removing over five hundred years of earth burying what Acton hoped would turn out to be an ancient Incan city.

  This was the part of the job he loved—getting his hands dirty. Teaching in front of a class full of students was a close second, but taking those same students out of the environment they were familiar with then sticking them in the middle of what was now nowhere but where once an ancient civilization thrived—it was indescribable.

  The excitement on the young faces when they discovered something, even as simple as a clay pot, brought joy to his heart each time that he prayed wouldn’t diminish with repetition. His hunch that this city was actually here had been proven several years ago when he and a single grad student had received funding to confirm if an ancient Spanish map were accurate.

  And it had been.

  Exactly.

  He had wanted to stay, to tell the university to forward his mail here, to the middle of nowhere, but of course returned to begin the long fight for funding a real, long-term dig. And now they were here, half a dozen of his best students, funded by the university, various endowments, and some well-off parents of the lucky ones.

  It was a shoe-string budget, but he didn’t care. What they were learning was invaluable, much of it routine, but some of it puzzling with no explanation as of yet. And that was what he lived for.

  The unexplained.

  He sat back on his haunches, his grid forgotten as he gazed at their most puzzling find yet, not twenty feet away.

 
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