Judith Kerrigan Ribbens
THE NEWEST BOOK, in progress



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ANNA KINNEALY left Green Bay, fled actually, from death and the killer she had become, wanting to put all the horror behind her. She is off to Ireland to make a new life. Her children--AJ, Marnie, Alex and Cory are all off to new lives. But the old one follows. Whether they want to be or not, they are on the list of victims of Los Hijos del Diablo, who are determined to wipe out anyone and everyone who stood in the way of the old cartels and might thwart their plans. Their web of terror is unlimited.
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The working title for this book is THE BROWN RECLUSE. It is a reference to the brown recluse spider. The activities of drug cartels are like spider webs, spread across the entire world. That is the starting point. 
EXCERPTS
The present…Chapter One
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The woman stirred, her body shaking violently, gagging, groaning, sucking in a deep breath. After a long shudder, she collapsed, utterly motionless. Time passed and these actions repeated themselves again. And yet again, punctuated now and then by mumblings, one piercing scream, feverish unintelligible whimpers, begging, pleading, and a long time of quiet sobbing. Finally, her body lay quiet. Breathing came slowly, punctuated by slight irregular wheezing.
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The large rat who watched her could not, of course, label those movements and sounds in any way. All she knew was that if she tried to bite this food, it was not dead and that being the case, it could, just might, fight back. Other beings who had inhabited this place had hit out, kicked, yelled, cursed, thrown what they could, missing her, of course, because she was quick. But it was unpleasant.In some instances, this would not have stopped her from nibbling the flesh, but she was feeling quite full, having contented herself by eating the carcass of a fat juicy mouse who had had the grace to die without her having to pursue and kill it. She liked mice, viewing them as her smaller cousins, but, facts being facts, they are food, as this large thing before her would be when it ceased moving, breathing, and began rotting.She moved contentedly to the crevice in the wall and walked down the long passage to her nest, where she made it more comfy with the threads she’d chewed from cloth that surrounded the being.Then she went to sleep. 
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Slowly, out of a vague awareness of nausea that crept in from somewhere, the woman came to consciousness. Without thought, without moving, she breathed deeply in and slowly out, with a vague hope she could keep from vomiting. I hate nausea. Why am I sick? She drew a sudden sharp breath, turned her head as bile rose from her stomach, and pain shot through her. She heard a cry, then a low moan. Surprised, she focused on the direction of the sound, in front of me, down, tentatively made a tiny move, and was astonished when the pain shot through her head again. Cringing, she realized That was me! I made that cry! The pain is mine! With the slightest of motion she was hit with an electric stab of pain on the right side near her ear and a powerful throbbing began growing through all of her head—back, sides, top, face—an excruciating drum pounding, bringing tears to her eyes and more choking nausea. Above all, it brought to her fogged mind a vague feeling of astonishment and a confusion of thoughts and sensations—what is this?...where am I?...I ache all over…so scared… for…who…why?—she searched her mind and could find no explanation for whatever this was.No memory.I have no memory. Another jolt of pain and fear. Not even her own name. Cold. Frozen. Shock. Except—That was me! It’s my pain!
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Later, when the pain had subsided, keeping her head very still, she slowly spread her arms out from her body. Her fingers touched cool dirt. Sand, she thought. She could scrape some of it up between thumb and forefinger. I know what that is. I have a word for that. Surprise! I have some words! I’m feeling… she abruptly forgot the word. She opened her eyes, expecting a light to make her head hurt. There was only thickest blackness, not even a glimmer, a sliver of light. She slowly, carefully raised her left arm up from the floor into that blackness above her. It met nothing. She could not see her hand or her arm. Am I…? Slow growing panic again. No word followed. She shut her eyes, her arm dropped, and she melted into the black for a while.

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Another long while. The urge to move came again. She tried her right leg, slowly bending it at her knee, then bringing it up toward her body. More pain. Stop! Back hurts. Burning along my back. Calf, something hurts there. Lowering her right foot to the floor, she tried the same move with her left leg. Same result except left thigh hurts. Words. Body parts. Pain. Hurts. Burning. Left. She named each word that floated in her mind, connecting them again. A small wash of hope came and disappeared, and then a terrible wave of terror that did not wash away. It grew. Panic sickened and stopped her in a cold sweat, unable to breathe except with small gasps, leaving her drained of any desire to make an effort to go on. Her body shook violently, then melted into stillness. Nausea and pain slowly seeped away into nothingness. Tears dripped from her eyes. She was unaware of them. All hopefulness, all want for anything, all liking or longing or wishes or will or determination or intention faded into the mud. Her body curled into a fetal position as her mind shut down.  
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Above her head, the brown spider, unheeding what lay far below, looked down from her hole, her hiding place and her home in the old boards that made up the ceiling. Sensing the space around her, she deemed it safe to spin a web and began to create her work of art, anchoring it to small stones in the dirt of the walls until one entire corner was covered with the trap. Satisfied, she settled down to wait until a vibration would tell her when she could travel with lightning speed over the lines and feed on trapped insects, could poison them with slow venom and then devour the near dead or dead flesh. 

New York City
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Cory Kinnealy, shoulders hunched against the cold and eyes flowing tears, stumbled through the junk, the homeless in their make-do boxes, the uncollected garbage, the smells of humans unwashed and uncleaned, the cacophony of traffic moving with stops and starts through the streets, and his own unending racing thoughts.He was trying his best to deal with the loss of his first love. At 18, this was a catastrophe. It would have been that for any 18-year-old but it was worse because he had no one to go to, because it was truly a tragedy. He did not feel at home in the straight world or in the gay world. He had known he was gay long ago, in middle school, when adolescence had first oozed its way into his life and he had realized he was far more attracted to boys than to girls. There had been those other boys who began to talk of girls and flirt with them and want to touch them. He even told himself that he’d probably grow into wanting girls, but he didn’t fit. There had been some of the braver boys who quietly withdrew from scenes with girls and who now and then admitted they were actually gay. He didn’t feel any fit there either. There had been one or two who said they were bisexual. He certainly didn’t feel he fit there. There had been the band where he sang. He most certainly fit with them. He fit anywhere he could sing or act or dance or…but then he came to New York City and trying to fit in got worse until he met Donald. But, even with loving Don, the gay world in New York that he came to know was not a fit.
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Two nights ago, after days of trying to reach him with no success, he learned that Don had killed himself, an overdose of opioids. The drugs, the alcohol, the promiscuous sex, the gay bars, the drama. He didn’t fit. This is not my home, my place. I don’t belong here. But where? I have no place anymore. The house in Green Bay is sold and anyway, how could I live there after all that happened? After watching Dad die there? I don’t belong in Ireland with Mom. I don’t belong at Harvard with Alex. I really don’t belong with AJ. I could go to Marnie. I feel pretty close to her but she’s pregnant and…maybe Marnie. Maybe Cait’s boys…but they’re in Green Bay, so no.The Bradley twins are off to a black college. I really wouldn’t fit there. Where can I go to sing and dance and act?
One block behind him he was watched by a thin man in a dark grey overcoat. When Cory entered an apartment building, the man stopped, took out a phone and spent some time texting. When he was finished he turned and dissolved into the night. In his room, Cory packed his few belongings into his large rolling suitcase that could be worn like a backpack. Jamming a warm wool cap on his head, taking the last food from his tiny refrigerator and munching it down, counting his cash and hiding his credit card in the thin waistline pocket inside his pants, he made a reservation on a plane to Ireland for the next morning and called a cab. I can go to JFK and eat and read and doze until my plane comes.
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At JFK Airport in the morning a voice was heard, “Will the passenger Cory Kinnealy, for flight____, please come immediately to the United desk in Concourse ____?”This was repeated several times. The woman at the desk reported to the flight attendant that C. Kinnealy did not appear. Then she gave his seat to someone on standby.In the next months, text messages would be sent from Cory’s phone with reports of how busy he was and wishing everyone a great day and so on. There were replies to all their messages. No one in New York City missed him. No one in L.A. knew him. No one in Ireland or London or any other acting, singing, or dancing mecca knew him.
Caribbean Sea, Isla de Margarita, Venezuela             
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“This plan is incomplete!” The man shoved the large envelope away from himself and toward the other men seated around the mahogany table. “I want the name and location,” he rapped his knuckles on the tabletop to emphasize every single syllable, “of every single person who was involved in any drug operation from every country involved, large and small, no exceptions. Why should I have to tell you that? You know I tolerate no loose ends.”          
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A handsome dark-skinned, black-haired man, he sat quietly on expensive gray satin and polished mahogany comfort on the veranda of a small home in a remote corner of the island.  The view was calm and very beautiful—turquoise sea, white gulls hunting fish, blue sky with a distant layer of soft white cloud, green palms waving gently, a collection of tropical flowers—orchids, lilies, and cannas, surrounding the patio with reds, magentas, golds, oranges, good-enough-to-eat colors.
         
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His skin reflected rainbows of color from its deep brown. His black hair curled around his ears and neck. He kept his eyes lidded and carefully unreadable.
His voice, however, was the sound of polar air, cold, frozen ice, brittle, syllables shattering in pieces into the ears of his listeners. He ran the fingers of his left hand slowly through his hair. A few strands of white appeared briefly but sank into the dark chocolate color. His skin gleamed with a thin film of oil, setting off his lean body, naked except for the white of his shorts, which now revealed much of his thighs because those shorts were tailored to slide up as he sat. He was highly aware of himself, aware of his movie actor good looks, the sensuality he released with deliberation and care, the hard six-pack of muscles across his abdomen, the effect of his golden green eyes and his full lips—his persona, his façade, his weapon of choice with most people, both women and men.           What was not obvious until one had to do business with him was the thorough cruelty with which he controlled his empire-to-be. Yes, empire-to-be. It was not what he envisioned yet. He was now making clear to the three men who sat across the table from him what that plan would mean. An enormous amount of money from seven sources—child labor for Africa, female and child sexual slavery for the Far East from the Americas, black diamonds and the destruction of the DeBeers control over all diamonds, antiquities from the looted countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, India, and Egypt, and drugs to undermine Canada, Great Britain, the United States of America, Brazil, Mexico, France, and Germany. Addiction to alcohol and drugs was already rampant in Russia and Putin was benefitting from that. He did not wish to challenge Putin at this time. That would be down the road. He was negotiating with the Saudi Prince in current control there and that was going well although the Saudi family was vicious and could never be trusted. He did not have the organization to challenge China. No one had. A great deal more research had yet to be done to find China’s weaknesses.          
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In the meantime, the entire study of Canada and America lay on his desk and he was feeling jubilant. Ripe for the taking. “Democracy is, at best,” he had mused after reading the report, “a flawed system. Tolerance or the lack of it can be twisted, distorted, redefined, overruled, and ultimately, controlled. The apathy of their voters can be used in our favor.”
         
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“We are already changing rules and regulations in our favor in both countries. The recent elections in the US prove how effective we’ve been in our work with Putin. Propaganda against the Clintons from our people in the Crimea and other Eastern European countries infiltrated every level of their society and successfully elected that ridiculous, but crafty puppet. Our alliance with the international corporations which promote their success is well in place, as is our alliance with certain wealthy men and a few women who like being regarded as the elite of the world. However, we must remain thorough in our support of these people and that’s why I’ve called you here today. My number one rule is always to eliminate any possible opponent by any means whatever. That means that anyone in any country who has successfully opposed our aims must be expunged. From the highest to the lowest, from the least to the greatest.  And in the quietest and least attention-getting methods at our disposal. We will focus on North America first. The United States government is headed by a fool. We have bought out most of the national politicians and are undermining the rest state by state. We are creating laws which render the ordinary people powerless to protest. It will be a fascist state within the next eight years and if we have any influence, that will happen much sooner. Our organization will profit immensely from that. Canada will be next, of course. When North America collapses, the others will follow easily.
         
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He pushed a folder across the table. “Carlos, you will take Mexico and Central America. Christoff, you have the US and Canada. Andre, you will be ready to set up any support from European or Asian countries and people needed to support the others—you have world-wide authority from me to liaison with our supporters in the rest of the world. Andre, of special note is the buildup of fascist followers in Poland. I want them organized and agitating for the takeover of that country.
         
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“I warn you. I want no grandstanding or ostentatious use of money, fortune, or fame. You will enjoy everything money can buy as your reward, but quietly. You will strike at any who are caught in the web, but then retreat to anonymity. Or else. You know that my ‘else’ is elimination. No loose ends are tolerated and you can become a loose end as well as any others. That said, here is the list of those who must be eliminated now and how that will be done so it points no fingers to us.” He placed a list in front of Carlos. “Do you know any of these people?”
         
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“Just one, sir. Well, I don’t know him but I know of him. The doctor. But he’s not in the US now. I believe he’s in the Yucatan. That would be for Christophe.” He moved the paper over so Christophe could read it.
         
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“OK. Christophe, you find this man. I want total cooperation among you. End of meeting. Enjoy the sexual treats you will find in your rooms.  You will be flown off the island tomorrow at 7 a.m.”
                          The men rose and left the room. He touched a few points on his phone and spoke. “Record their behavior and log it into our blackmail files,” he ordered the robot program. Then he ordered his supper and the child who would be his entertainment for the evening. His victim. He preferred children as victims. He and his brothers had divided up the work of the cartel. They called it Start Up, Ops, and Mop Up. Start Up was all about setting up the business, the runners, the lines of communication, the logistics, anything that needed to be done to get it and keep it operating. His oldest brother, Jesus Carlos N.,
did that. Ops was the actual sales and service of product, administered by the next in line, Feliz Salvador N.,  and Mop Up, Santiago Antonio N., his slice of the pie, was their security. As he ate he face-timed with his brothers to give and get updates. He did this daily. No breaks. No letup. No chance of double-crosses, weak-minded decisions, slipups. The brothers trusted no one, not even each other.    
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