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The Hatchery

The Hatchery

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They rescued her from a suitcase. Now they want to put her back in it.

The riveting conclusion to the Suitcase Girl trilogy.

In the aftermath of a deadly assault on the FBI headquarters, Agent Abby Kane embarks on a risky mission to escort Suitcase Girl back to China, hoping to stop the masterminds behind the deadly onslaughts.

But Suitcase Girl has other plans, and they don’t involve Abby.

Find out what’s driving Suitcase Girl in this gripping conclusion to an electrifying trilogy.

Series: Abby Kane FBI Thriller #9

Paperback: 328 pages

Read An Excerpt

The boy on the video screen sat on a plastic chair, feet dangling above the ground. He had his head tilted downward so that only his sandy-blond hair was visible. In front of him was a small, square table. A chess game was in progress. Aside from the boy and the table, the white-walled room was empty. 

He wore a white, short-sleeved dress shirt tucked into navy blue shorts. He remained absolutely still as he contemplated his next move. Occasionally his thumb and forefinger tugged on his chin. A second later, he moved his queen. “Checkmate.”

“Very good,” said a man’s voice off-camera.

The boy looked straight into the camera with a slight smile on his face. Even though he had fair skin and blue eyes, his Chinese features were apparent. And there was no mistaking the resemblance: He looked like Vladimir Putin.

* * *

It was 9:00 a.m. on Monday. My partner, Kyle Kang, and I were at the Philip Burton Federal Building, headquarters for the San Francisco Federal Bureau of Investigation. We were on the thirteenth floor in the office of my supervisor, Special Agent in Charge Scott Reilly. We stood on either side of him as he sat in his chair. Propped up on his desk was a tablet, and we were viewing a video of a mini Vladimir.

Reilly leaned back in his chair, ran his hand down his face, and cupped his chin. He started to say something but stopped. 

“Straight out of a Michael Crichton book, right?” I said.

Reilly looked up at me. “That’s an understatement.” He shook his head as he drew a deep breath and let it out. He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “So, let me get this straight. Suitcase Girl, I mean Xiaolian, isn’t the only one. There are other children like her, and they were created the same way, using DNA from three people.”

“That’s what I’m saying, but I think the video says it better.”

“Just when I thought we had washed our hands of this girl… She’s like a stain that won’t go away.”

I looked at Kang. His lean body towered over Reilly and me. He had both hands buried in the pockets of his slacks, his eyes trained on the tablet. 

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I’d had enough time accepting the science behind Xiaolian. And now this?”

The day before, I had been alone, enjoying a quiet Sunday at home, the skies a clear California blue with the sun shining brightly. My kids, Ryan and Lucy, had gone out, busy with their activities. My mother-in-law, Po Po, had gone to a luncheon with her friends.

I’d been relaxing on the front porch, and would have been content just staring out across the lawn all day; but a stranger, an elderly man, had walked up my driveway. I figured him as a friend of Po Po’s, but he introduced himself as Dr. Fan Wei, the man responsible for the program that had created Xiaolian. 

I invited Wei inside, and he spent the next hour explaining how he’d worked on developing the science behind Xiaolian, creating offspring from the DNA of three parents. He’d been adamant that it wasn’t cloning, instead referring to it as “recreating.” 

His process involved taking the positive attributes from one person and transferring them into another person, resulting in an individual who was exactly like their predecessor without actually being them. 

The attributes that predisposed me to being a great detective, for example, had been passed on to Xiaolian. Not only that, but she’d been purposely trained since birth to harness those skills, in an effort to be more like me, and eventually surpass me. 

But even as he worked to perfect the science, Wei had realized the potential for his work to be used improperly. He tried to shut down the program, but it was too late. Others who had worked alongside him had been able to continue his research. 

Though no longer involved, he’d been able to monitor the program through insiders who’d remain loyal to him.

It had struck me as plausible, yet unbelievable. Then he’d shown me the video of the other children, and I’d realized the program was not only possible, but real. It was bigger than me, bigger than the FBI. As I struggled to comprehend what he had just told me, another bombshell dropped. 

Xiaolian had appeared at my front door. 

She’d escaped from the facility and had made her way to my house. With my head still spinning from Wei’s revelation, I couldn’t begin to process this new turn of events.

I housed them both at my place overnight and had brought them to the office first thing in the morning.

I reached over to the tablet and opened another video that showed children training in a gym. I continued to report everything that Wei had told me to Reilly and Kang. They kept quiet, aside from a few heavy exhales. 

“Where’s the doctor now?” Reilly asked.

“I put him in Interview Room A. Xiaolian is in E.”

Reilly stood and slipped his jacket on. “I want to see this guy.”

We followed Reilly out of his office, and then I led the way. The interview rooms were simple: a long table and a couple of chairs. Each room had a one-way mirror partition between the interview area and the observation room.

Through the mirror, we could see Dr. Wei hunched over at the table with his arms resting on top. A bottle of water had been provided for him, but he’d barely drunk any of it. He wore the same sports coat and slacks from the day before, and his spirits seemed low.

“He certainly doesn’t look like the stereotypical evil villain who is out to take over the world,” Reilly said.

“He’s not. Like I said, he tried to shut down the program when he realized its potential.”

“Isn’t that how the story always goes?” Reilly looked at Kang. “You buying any of this?”

“There is a part of me that wonders if he’s just another ruse sent by the people who are after Xiaolian. I think we have to consider the possibility that—”

“What? That he’s another hitman?” I asked. 

“I’m just saying whoever is after Xiaolian has tried a lot of different ways to dispose of her.”

“Kang does have a point,” Reilly said. “Though, what stopped him from taking her out last night while she slept?”

“My point exactly,” I interjected. “As far-fetched as his story sounds, he’s got video to back it up. Sure, it could be fake, but it certainly goes a long way to explaining everything we ever wondered about Xiaolian. I mean, why go to all this trouble if he’s just another hired assassin?”

Kang shrugged.

I understand Kang and Reilly’s hesitation. Wei’s story had left me dumbfounded too. But I’d also had an entire night to process it.

“Look, that’s why I brought them into the office. So let’s powwow and figure out what to do with the two of them, and the information we’ve learned.”

Reilly glanced at his watch and moved toward the door of the observation room. “I have a call with the deputy director. Why don’t you two question the doctor—but this time, run him through the wringer. See if he trips up or changes his story. I’ll circle back when I’m done.”

“I’m grabbing a cup of coffee before we get started,” Kang said after the door closed behind Reilly. “You want hot water for your tea?”

I shook my head. “I’m fine.”

I followed Kang out, and then I headed into the interview room. Wei raised his head. His eyelids looked heavy. 

“Why don’t you believe me?” he asked.

“What makes you think I don’t believe you?”

He held up both hands, motioning around the room. “I’m being held in an interrogation room by the FBI.”

“I brought you here so my boss and my partner could hear what you had to say. That’s it. We just want to make sure we understand everything and haven’t missed any details.”

“Where’s Xiaolian?”

“She’s fine. She’s in another room.”

“We’re wasting time. They’ll find her. They always do, and they won’t stop until she’s dead.”

“Who’s they? Let’s start there. Is this the man who continued the program after you left?”

“Yes, but there are others involved. Powerful people.”

“Who? The Chinese government?”

Before Wei could answer my question, the unmistakable sound of rapid popping echoed outside the door: automatic gunfire.

“It’s too late!” Wei shouted. “Get Xiaolian. She must survive.”

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