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Jul 30 2017 9:05am

Jon Land Excerpt: Dark Light: Dawn

Jon Land

Dark Light: Dawn by Jon LandDark Light: Dawn by Jon Land is a heart-pounding supernatural thriller about a deadly, global epidemic and the man who holds the power to either save the world or destroy it (available August 1, 2017).

Since the dawn of time good and evil have challenged the free will of man. Now the time has come for one man to choose for all human kind.

With an uncanny ability to survive any combat situation, Max Younger has built a heroic life for himself as a Navy SEAL. That is, until a rogue rescue operation plunges him back into a past he thought he’d escaped forever.

Waiting for him back home in New York are terrible, long-hidden truths rooted in the tragic death of his father. But the origin of those truths lie even further back than that, and Max finds himself ensnared in a sinister plot involving nothing less than the biblical apocalypse.

The explosive conflagration of events reunites him with the only woman he ever loved: Victoria Tanoury a brilliant infectious disease specialist working for the World Health Organization, who’s on the front lines in a battle to stop the spread of a deadly pestilence threatening the planet. Max’s reunion with Vicky comes amid a combat mission, in which their dual quests merge in a desperate fight for survival against forces of unspeakable evil.

Across the globe, inexplicably diabolic events are rising, sparked by a fearsome plan to visit the End of Days upon civilization in horrific form, as the lines between science and superstition become increasingly blurred. Max finds himself mired in a titanic struggle within his own soul, between love and hate, unsure whether his ultimate fate is to help fight the evil. . . or embrace it in the shadow of the Dawn of a Dark Light.

ONE

Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico; 1990

“Perhaps, señor, your findings were wrong,” José Herrera of Mexico’s Ministry of Interior told Dale Denton.

“Bullshit,” Denton shot back, “I’m not paying this surtax, as you call it, and then have you still shut us down.”

Herrera ran his gaze along the bevy of pumping apparatus erected over the rocky, uneven terrain. “It would seem at this point there is nothing to shut down.”

Nearby, a fleet of mobile storage tanks sat idle in a neat row, their shiny finishes coated by a thin layer of dust whipped about by the wind. Across the side of the nearest, someone had drawn a message in the dust:

Las Tierra del Diablo …

“What’s that mean exactly?” Denton asked Herrera.

“It means ‘the Land of the Devil,’ señor.”

“More bullshit,” groused Denton. “How much more of a payoff to the local bosses do I have to make to end the vandalism?”

Herrera’s expression remained flat, still fixed on the message scrawled across the truck’s side. “In these parts, such things are inevitable.”

“Really? You want to know what else is inevitable, José? Losing every dollar my partner and I have sank into the project because our equipment keeps getting sabotaged.”

“There’s no evidence of that at all, señor.”

“Maybe not, but it’s the best explanation I can come up with for why our pumps stopped working before they pulled an ounce of oil out of the ground. Somebody doesn’t want us here, amigo, probably the same people who like defacing our trucks. I thought I paid off every official in the phone book to make sure shit like this didn’t happen. Isn’t that right, Professor?” Denton asked, turning to the older man just behind him.

Though it was early in the morning, Professor Orson Beekman was already sweating up a storm, dabbing constantly at his brow and swabbing his face with an already moist rag he carried, hanging out his back pocket. He offered up a nod, but nothing more.

“In any event, I cannot control all of the locals,” Herrera insisted defensively. “And we advised you to invest in the local economy.”

“You mean another bribe.”

Herrera shrugged, his lips flirting with a smile. “The price of doing business.”

“Except we’re flat busted, everything tied up in all the iron, steel, and rubber you see before you. Why don’t you get the boss, or mayor, or whatever here so I can have a one-on-one with him?”

“Chief,” Herrera corrected. “The locals here are Indians.”

“Running around with blow guns and wearing grass skirts, something like that?”

Herrera looked offended, expression wrinkling in displeasure. “They are a civilized people, señor. Grateful for the work your presence here brings them.”

Denton’s gaze strayed to the side of the defaced mobile storage tanker again. “They don’t act like it, amigo. I need to get with my partner on this to figure out where we go from here. Tell you one thing, though: it won’t be to the bank.”

*   *   *

Just after Herrera departed, Ben Younger jogged up over the ridge from the gulley. He and Dale Denton were the same age, but Younger looked ten years less than his thirty-five years while Denton looked ten years more. They’d been business partners almost since the day they’d graduated college together, encountering reasonable success at a trio of energy and technology start-ups until both realized their ambitions stretched far beyond their current means. So they pooled every dollar they could scrounge up to buy mineral rights to oil and gas reserves here in the Yucatán that had continually frustrated the much larger energy interests, only to encounter those same frustrations. Almost from the beginning, the site had been riddled by a continual series of odd, often inexplicable circumstances that involved broken equipment, work crews growing violently ill, and pumps failing to pull up oil that maybe wasn’t there after all.

All those big conglomerates that had preceded them here had all given up, having concluded that whatever oil might’ve been as much as five miles underground wasn’t worth the resources they were expending and constant setbacks they were experiencing. Rumors that the land was actually cursed or haunted had made retaining local work crews a challenge and further opened the door for Denton and Younger. Either they’d strike it rich in the blink of an eye, or go broke almost as fast. A matter of risk versus reward, and so far there’d been no reward for all the risk they’d assumed in staking their claim here.

The first challenge was finding the elusive oil reserves, and for this they turned to the mercurial geophysicist Orson Beekman, who’d been fired from every job in the industry he’d ever held. Beekman, though, claimed to have developed a new means of detecting oil deep below ground level without the expense or bother of drilling exploratory wells. The team of Younger and Denton brought him in as a partner with a twenty percent stake in the company’s equity, which currently amounted to considerably less than zero.

Professor Beekman’s work had begun with an exhaustive analysis of the potential oil reserves this area might well contain. In 1978, geophysicists Antonio Camargo and Glen Penfield were working for the Mexican state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, as part of an airborne magnetic survey of the Gulf of Mexico north of the Yucatán peninsula. Penfield’s job was to use geophysical data to scout possible locations for oil drilling. In the data, Penfield found a huge underwater ring forty miles across. He then obtained a gravity map of the Yucatán made in the 1960s that suggested an impact feature. Penfield found another arc on the peninsula itself, the ends of which pointed northward. Comparing the two maps, he found the separate arcs formed a circle, over a hundred miles wide, centered near the Yucatán village of Chicxulub. Penfield felt certain the shape had been created by a cataclysmic event in geologic history, and not just any event either:

He was convinced he’d found the crater left by the asteroid that struck the Earth sixty-five million years ago, causing the Ice Age.

As a footnote to that, Penfield’s report indicated no evidence of the oil reserves he’d expected to find and that the larger oil companies had previously believed had been there as well. What it failed to note, and what Beekman had learned firsthand from Penfield himself, was that he’d stopped looking before actually completing his fieldwork. Beekman had taken Penfield’s original research, applied some new algorithms and his own geothermal research and determined that the oil reserves others had dismissed as echoes were actually miles beneath what the older technologies were capable of mining. But new deep bore and slant drilling had changed that paradigm, though to what level, nobody really knew, any more than they knew whether the quantity of reserves justified the inordinate expense of pulling them up.

Of course, none of that had helped the energy giants who’d previously staked their claim here, only to have their efforts waylaid and ultimately upended by a series of mind-numbing misfortunes that kept occurring no matter how many precautions were put into place. So Dale Denton and Ben Younger had stepped into that vacated chasm, willing to risk the whole of their collective assets, and more, on the area’s untapped potential. Their work had essentially picked up where Penfield’s had left off, cutting a deal with the latest incarnation of Petróleos Mexicanos to share any revenue on a sliding scale in return for the mineral exploration rights. For their part, Mexican officials thought their new American partners were crazy for even trying, after others had cut their losses and pulled out. They were clearly out on a limb here, the officials going along because the work padded their pockets and kept their families well fed, even if Denton’s and Younger’s were about to go hungry.

Simply stated, Ben Younger and Dale Denton wanted to be tycoons, multi-millionaires whose families would want for nothing. They’d married their wives within a month of each other eight years ago, but both couples remained childless. Ben and his wife Melissa had failed to conceive at every turn and, having exhausted virtually every medical option, were now considering adoption. Dale and his wife Danielle had encountered only marginally better results in the form of two pregnancies that had both ended in miscarriages. Since he’d been down here, Ben missed Melissa terribly, while Dale Denton managed a single call to Danielle every week, keeping it as short as possible.

And right now, both men were wondering if they’d ever see their wives again.

*   *   *

“I think maybe we’re gonna need to disappear for a while,” Dale Denton said, trailing Ben Younger across the field.

Younger stopped in an area marked by cones where Orson Beekman’s seismological studies had identified potentially vast reserves of oil the exploratory drilling rigs had theoretically tapped into. They’d been replaced by massive extraction pump apparatus connected to feed lines going down between three and five miles, deeper maybe than anyone had ever drilled before. So far, despite all indications to the contrary, the massive pumpjack machines hadn’t produced a single barrel of oil, much less a reservoir. And then, just yesterday, all work ceased after pressure readings rose into the red, in the wake of an underground tremor that had likely caused a snare in the line feeding air and oil-mud downward.

“Disappear for a while,” Ben repeated. “Meaning what?”

“Meaning where do you think I got the money to fund the pumping part of the job, partner? Sure thing, right, so I did what I had to do.”

“I cosigned the damn loan documents for the bank,” Younger said, the Mexican sun roasting his skin.

“Yeah,” Denton smirked, trying for a wink, “had you fooled good there, didn’t I? Next time, I’d recommend reading the fine print.”

“I trusted you to take care of the financing.”

“And I did. Only what the bank lent us ran out faster than expected. I got the rest from the kind of people who don’t rewrite their notes. We don’t pay up in a timely fashion, we’re not just fucked, we’re dead.”

“And you didn’t think to ask me first?” Ben shook his head. “You give a whole new meaning to the word asshole.”

“Yeah, partner, spelled R-I-C-H. Because that’s what we’re gonna be. Just gotta be patient.”

“If we don’t end up dead first, you mean.” Younger paused. “I don’t know how I let anything you do surprise me anymore. Maybe I’ll just go home. Pretend we never met and start over.”

“But you won’t, will you, partner? You won’t because deep down you want this as bad as I do and are willing do whatever it takes, just like I am.”

“You better hope so, because that’s the only thing that can save both our asses. And, as it turns out, I’ve got an idea,” Ben said.

“It better be a good one.”

Ben lifted his gaze back up out of the hole. “Well, let me put it this way, Dale. If I can pull this off, we’re saved, and if I can’t, I’ll just be dead a bit quicker than you.”

*   *   *

Ben led Denton into the center of their array of drilling rigs to a jagged fissure in the ground caused by the underground tremor that had put their efforts even further behind. The two stood over it, gazing down into a shaft-sized abyss, where the snarl in the primary feeder line had been identified nine hundred feet down.

“We should have used brine, instead of oil-rich mud,” Ben said, “like the engineers told us.”

“I don’t remember you complaining when you saw the difference in expense. But, sure, whatever you say, partner. So we pay the freight and switch to the brine formula,” Denton agreed. “Problem is that won’t cure the clog that’s about to bankrupt us. What we need is industrial strength Drano.”

“Or the next best thing: me,” Ben said, casting his gaze into the abyss once more. “I’m going down there to fix the damn thing.”

Denton shook his head. “Sounds like the water down here has finally softened your brain.”

Ben pointed down into the darkness. “You’re looking at a fresh opening carved into one of the deepest cave systems in the world. Geological sonar readings indicate there’s plenty of room to maneuver down there, so I should be able to reach the snarl in the line.”

“Exactly how much do you want to die in that fucking hole?” Denton asked, looking up from the chasm.

Ben stared Denton right in the eye. “You should have thought of that before you signed our lives away. So, hey, what have I got to lose?”

***

 

Copyright © 2017 Jon Land.

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Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of more than forty novels, including Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller), and Strong Light of Day (winner of the 2015 Books and Author Award for Best Mystery Thriller and the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Mystery). Land is a graduate of Brown University. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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