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The Sigma Conspiracy
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-153-6
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 254 Pages
Published: January 2014

From inside the flap

Ex-Special Forces operative turned private-eye J.T. Ryan is hired by the FBI to help them thwart a menacing threat to the global economy. Counterfeit currency is turning up in large quantities and is indistinguishable from the real thing. The federal agency has only one lead. Before being killed in Rome, an FBI agent found a name, Sigma. With not much else to go on, Ryan goes to Italy. There he begins to uncover the operation of a secret cabal of industrialists. The shadowy group, known as the Alliance, is bent on dominating the world's currency markets. It appears they are using new, high-tech forging equipment called Sigma. Their plan is to destabilize the U.S. Dollar and the Euro and replace it with their own currency.

Barely surviving several attempts on his life as he sifts through a harrowing maze of deception and death, Ryan follows the leads from Rome to Mexico City and then to Moscow. As he uncovers the final layer of the conspiracy, he realizes the shocking truth: the real power behind the Alliance is in Washington D.C.

Can he blow the lid off the conspiracy before the global economy collapses?

The Sigma Conspiracy (Excerpt)

Chapter 1

November 3, the present

Atlanta, Georgia

J.T. Ryan, his feet propped on his desk, glanced out of his office window at the city skyline and sipped coffee. Yesterday he had finished a big case and was savoring the down time.

There was a knock at his door and a good-looking woman walked in, sat on one of his client chairs.

"You Ryan?" she asked.

"That's what it says on the door," he replied, dropping his feet to the floor and giving the woman an appraising look. In her late thirties, she was dressed in a tailored black suit with a white blouse. Her blonde hair was shoulder length, straight, and parted in the middle. A looker, but her expression was all business.

Reaching in her jacket, she pulled a badge and held it up for him to read. "I'm Erin Welch. Special Agent with the Secret Service."

"How special are you?"

She shook her head. "Steve Nichols told me you were good. But also a pain in the ass."

Ryan chuckled. "That would be me, alright." He turned serious. "Steve sent you? You're working on something with the FBI?"

Erin leaned forward in the chair. "The Secret Service and the FBI have set up a joint task force on a counterfeiting case. The Service has been working on it for a while, but the scope of the investigation has gotten too big for us to handle alone. We spend most of our time doing protection duty for government officials."

Ryan took a sip of coffee, put the cup down. "Would you like some? I just brewed a new pot. It's pretty awful, but it hasn't killed me yet."

She frowned - it was clear the woman didn't have a sense of humor. "No, thanks."

"Okay. You say it's a counterfeiting case. How do I fit in?"

"Nichols said he's hired you in the past as an FBI consultant."

"That's a fact. He and I go way back - we served together in the Army."

Erin nodded. "He told me about that. You guys were both in Special Forces - covert ops. After that he went in the Bureau and you became a private detective."

He smiled. "I have to make a living, and regular police work is - a little constraining. Too many rules."

"Yeah. You don't seem the Bureau type."

"Not by a long shot. Now, tell me about the case."

A stern look crossed her face. "Tell me your fees first."

He told her.

"Okay," she said. "You're expensive, but we'll be sharing the cost with the Bureau."

"So, I'd have two bosses on this?"

"Got a problem with that?"

He thought about that for a moment. The paperwork was a bitch, but government agencies always paid on time.

"No problem."

She reached in her jacket, took out a folded sheet of paper and placed it on the desk. "Sign this so we can get started."

Ryan grinned. "Mind if I read it first?"

Erin frowned. She was the serious type, he mused. He scanned the letter - it was a standard non-disclosure form and he scrawled his signature at the bottom. "There you go. Now. About the case?"

"Sure. By the way, when I read your FBI file, it referred to you as J.T. Ryan. What's the J.T. stand for?"

"John Taylor. But call me Ryan. Everybody does."

She leaned back in the chair and crossed her arms in front of her. "Okay. About six months ago, we noticed some new, counterfeit U.S. dollars turning up. Mostly twenties, but also fifties and hundreds. They showed up in the Southwest - Arizona, New Mexico, a couple of other states. Then a month ago they turned up here in Atlanta."

"I'm with you so far," he replied. "But you must see forged bills all the time."

Erin shook her head. "These are different. Most of the counterfeit we see is crap - stuff cranked out on cheap color copiers, using regular copy paper. To the naked eye, this new stuff is indistinguishable from the real thing. It takes lab equipment to tell it apart it."

He nodded.

She pulled a small manila envelope from a pocket, put it on the desk. "Take a look."

Ryan opened the envelope, took out four twenty-dollar bills. He examined them carefully, felt the weight of the paper, and looked closely at the printed seals.

Pulling out his own wallet, he selected a twenty from there and placed it on the desk next to the counterfeits. The fakes looked and felt identical.

"I'm no expert," he said as he looked up from the desk, "but I can't tell them apart."

"Now you see our problem."

"You got any leads so far?" he asked.

"One," she replied. "And this is where you come in."

"I'm listening."

"You still offering the coffee?" she asked.

Standing, he went to the coffee machine that sat on top of the file drawer. He poured her a cup. "Cream and sugar?"

"I take it black."

"Me too," he said, handing her the cup.

He sat back down and watched her as she took a sip.

The woman shook her head. "This is awful."

"I told you. But it's hot."

She shrugged. "We've had agents working on this since we first spotted the bills, and we've added resources as more and more of them turned up. You can imagine the impact on our economy if people can't trust their money. Eventually, we turned to the FBI - they have a lot more agents. So we set up a joint task force to work on it. Nichols and I head it up."

Ryan listened intently, said nothing.

"Anyway," she continued, "two weeks ago an FBI agent based in Rome, Italy called his supervisor in Washington. Told him he'd found a lead on the counterfeit currency case. Something called 'sigma'. He didn't have much else, but was continuing to work on it."

"Sigma?" he said. "What the hell is that?"

A frown crossed her face. "We don't know. They found the agent's body in his Rome apartment the next day. Dead. Two rounds to the forehead."

Ryan rubbed his jaw. "Any leads on who did it?"

"None. The apartment had been wiped clean of prints. No DNA, or any other trace evidence. No shell casings left behind. The rounds were 9 mil, but were fragmented inside his skull."

"A pro," he said.

"Yeah. No doubt."

Ryan got up, refilled his coffee and sat back down.

Erin sipped from her cup, grimaced, and put it on the desk. "This is where you come in, Ryan. At first, we thought this problem originated in the U.S. But now, we're thinking it's international. We need someone who's used to working overseas, speaks multiple languages, and who's not afraid to get his hands dirty."

He nodded. "The last part is what makes me useful to you government types. I don't mind breaking some china when it needs to be broken."

"Yeah. We do have a lot of regulations to follow. And more every day, it seems. Okay, Ryan, I'll call you tomorrow, after I have your consulting contract written up. You can come to my office downtown to sign it." She stood, pulled a business card from a pocket and handed it to him.