Shadow Raider
__—— an eBook for the Kindle.  After Julian Donaldson’s fiancée is brutally slain in a car-bomb attack, plainly aimed at him, not her, police whisk him away to a small country town in Outback Queensland under Witness Protection laws.  He is forced to accept a new identity – he becomes Jamie MacDonald.  He loses his family business, home, family connections and all childhood associations.  He becomes an unwilling recluse.
He has to spend two years in that small country town, just staying out of sight, before he can move to a city of his choice to start building a new life.  He uses those two years to review all his unique technology used to help police to catch criminals, research the foundations of a new business he might pursue, as well as come to terms with his grief.  Once allowed to buy a new home, he chooses Toowoomba, a small city about 130 kilometers from his old home in Brisbane.
Once again, he becomes a ‘Shadow Raider’ for the Brisbane police, going where they aren’t allowed to go, invisibly to his victims, to search for incriminating evidence that he can provide to justify an application for a Search Warrant.  Once the police find the evidence that Jamie had already found in his shadow raids, prosecution can follow.  But, as before, most police are suspicious of the evidence – they strongly suspect that it is obtained by illegal methods, and his skill as a known hacker also makes them regard him with suspicion.
And the Brisbane criminal fraternity, once shadow raids resume, once again have good reason to want Jamie MacDonald dead.

Available for Kindle from Amazon, US$2.60 – 581 ‘Amazon pages’.  Interested?  Read the first Chapter of Shadow Raider here...

1:  Rural Reflections

...Dalby, Queensland, Australia
Like most small agricultural towns anywhere, Dalby, in southern Queensland, was a nice enough town but offered little to appeal to a young city-born man with no knowledge of farming or other rural pursuits, but advanced IT qualifications and experience in designing computer networks and burglar alarms.  Away from a large city he was simply out of his comfort zone.  Plus, under Witness Protection laws, he was no longer Julian Donaldson – he was now James Robert MacDonald.  His ‘job’ in Dalby was simply to live quietly, doing nothing to attract attention.  And he would be required to do no more than that for at least two years.  After that...  nobody seemed prepared to tell him what he would be required to do.  Maybe nobody knew.
Two years!  That was like a house-arrest prison sentence, for just surviving a criminal execution attempt that had gone horribly wrong, and had killed his fiancée, Penny, instead of him.  Penny’s murder was still a raw and painful wound but, tragic though that had been, the short time that had elapsed since had been enough to gain a fairly balanced perspective – he agreed with the official construction of events, so he was lucky to be alive, but at what cost!  He was condemned to obscurity for something that had not been his fault.
And that would not be the end of it.  He would be ‘managed’ for a full five years before allowed to resume a normal life with all essential decisions left to his own judgment.  Even then, he suspected, someone at an official level would probably be keeping an occasional eye on him.  Only a few days after Penny’s death, he had been forcibly removed from his Brisbane home, adjacent to his family business in the suburb of Zillmere, and transported to Dalby, so that his entire family history, all his childhood memories and friendships, all his business and social aspirations, plus the great love of his life, had been wrenched out of his grasp forever.  It was depressing.
James had a Case Manager – a man with a military background – and he grudgingly admitted that Captain Liam Clancy was a fairly impressive man that he instinctively felt he could trust.  Captain Clancy was based in Brisbane, 200 kilometers away, but seemed to know a lot about James’ previous life and had already visited Dalby twice to make sure that he was settling in and understood all the complicated facets of becoming a completely different person.  That was often a confusing business, and small details tripped James up time after time.
It annoyed him intensely that he had difficulty signing his own new name.  He found ‘MacDonald’ absurdly hard to write, probably because it was similar to ‘Donaldson’.  It usually came out as ‘M-Don-d’ and that irritated him – James was a very methodical person.  Practice would ease that, he knew, but he had been forced to submit signatures for new bank accounts and other official documents before moving into his government-owned house in Dalby, so had to settle on a signature quickly, and he had found the whole experience demoralizing, disorienting.
He disliked ‘James’, too.  It sounded alien, and far too formal to his ears.  Captain Clancy had advised him that most people would call him ‘Jim’ or ‘Jamie’, anyway, so he should decide on one of those and get used to using it casually.  So, whenever he had to introduce himself, he was ‘Jamie MacDonald’, but it just didn’t feel right, and probably wouldn’t for years.  At least ‘Jamie’ sounded more friendly than ‘Jim’, and a lot less arrogant than ‘James’.  It would have to do.
Jamie MacDonald settled in, resigning himself to a very boring two years, but at least allowing him some time to come to terms with his painful recent past.  The early stages of the grieving process for Penny clearly emphasized that he needed that time.
*  *  *  *  *
An unexpected bonus for Jamie arrived, unannounced, on a hot Friday.  It was a small shipping container containing all the household and workshop items that the Administrator’s team had considered unlikely to raise much revenue if sold as part of the Donaldson Network Consultants – DNC – business and household, and more likely to be useful to the owner in his new remote location.  Mostly household appliances and heavier items like books, that he had abandoned after Penny’s death, because his police ‘minders’ at the time had been encouraging him to simply walk away from everything.  Although the container had probably been packed at least a couple of months ago, while the sale of the DNC business was being negotiated, it was reassuring to know, from the multiple destination stickers on the outside, that its circuitous travel to Dalby had been carefully concealed and disguised.  It was illogically pleasant to renew his acquaintance with familiar items like cutlery, rarely-used clothing, or partly-built hobby projects from the DNC workshop...  even the dusty old pile of metal and plastic off-cuts often used for making prototypes and experimental rigs was a welcome surprise.
The Dalby house did have some basic furniture and appliances, but this allowed Jamie to make it feel more like a proper home.  And he especially relished the discovery of his espresso machine – now he could make decent coffee!  He would have to walk around Dalby a bit, looking for a good source of roasted coffee beans.  The arrival of the workshop items also prompted him to consider what sort of career he might pursue when his time at Dalby was over, and some clarity of thought about that naturally followed.
Jamie found that he simply couldn’t completely ignore his hard-won skills and qualifications.  He understood that he would never be allowed to start a new business designing, building, or maintaining sophisticated computer networks and burglar alarms – that would be like putting up a large sign proclaiming ‘Here I am!’ – but he could not resist designing a security system for his temporary home.  When his Case Manager made his next visit to Dalby, he made him a coffee – with so few visitors, James enjoyed the ritual of preparing coffee for guests – then showed the prototype security system to him.
Captain Liam Clancy sipped his coffee and followed the demonstration of the security system, plainly impressed.  “Well, now I see why the police rated you so highly.  This looks incredibly safe, and the idea of sending automatic packets of data to us in Brisbane after any intrusion attempts is fabulous.  We could use that to follow up and maintain maximum protection with no reporting delays, no client initiation.  Much safer.”
“Well, it’s mostly because I’m just plain bored, Liam.  This is just something to keep my mind occupied while I get over Penny’s death and adjust to life in a small country town.  It’ll never be manufactured, never be anything except this prototype, which I might improve from time to time.  But I could make the designs available to you, or manufacture small numbers of them as required if you think that other safe houses could do with something similar.”
“Would you? That might be useful – I’ll investigate that when I get back to Brisbane.  You’re here because of your work with the Brisbane Police, y’know.  Normally, someone in your situation would have been relocated to a different State, as far as possible from the scene of their work or witness associations, but the local Police asked us to keep you in Queensland if possible.  It’s a jurisdiction issue.  If you had been relocated to some place in New South Wales, say, your case would have been managed entirely from NSW, and the local Brisbane Police would have been denied any access to you at all.”
Jamie laughed, but there wasn’t much humor in it.  “Now, why doesn’t that surprise me?  Yeah, they’re bound to ask me to work with them again some time, but I’m gonna have to disappoint them to some degree, I think.  I’ve already had enough time here, brooding over what happened, to see that I basically just made a noose for my own neck in Zillmere.  I was too enthusiastic, too keen to dig up solid evidence against some big-time crooks, because I knew I was doing some real good.  But I don’t have any police training – I was just a keen amateur sleuth – and crooks don’t play by any rules except their own interests.  So one of my evidence victims tried to knock me off.  Well...  once bitten, twice shy, I guess.  I won’t risk that sort of thing happening again.”
“No, certainly not.  You need to put all that behind you.”
“Well, I don’t mind helping the police, but they won’t be able to treat me as their private cyber-detective agency, with cops visiting me every second day for all the world to see.  Any help I give them in future will have to be undercover stuff, so that I have no visible link with the evidence that I dig up.”
The Captain nodded.  “Yep, that sounds logical to me.  It’s what I would do, keep it all out of sight.  I can’t advise you on what you decide to do in the future, after we step away from our overview role, that’ll be your business entirely.  But caution sounds like a good basic premise, and lack of caution led to what happened at Zillmere to your fiancée, but was definitely aimed at you.  Someone in the criminal underworld ordered a very public execution as a warning – stay away from us.  Using your computer skills to help the police was commendable, yes, but keeping it all undercover would have been more sensible.  I also think that the police won’t expect you to run the same risks again, anyway, because they were genuinely horrified at that car-bomb attack.  They made it plain to my superiors that we should do whatever was needed to protect you, even at the risk of losing contact with you.”
“Ah, did they?  That might be worth remembering, then.  They’re bound to put the hard word on me in a few year’s time when things have cooled down a little, and it’s pretty hard to refuse to cooperate with cops when you know that you would be doing good.  I’m using my time in Dalby to think about it, though...  in fact, I think of bugger-all else!  Now I need to ask you about buying a vehicle to use here.  What restrictions do I need to observe?  You’re very keen on restrictions, I note.”
His Case Manager smiled faintly and nodded.  “Good reasons, James, always good reasons.  Glad that you asked first, though, not just went ahead off your own bat.  Caution, my friend, make caution your by-word.”
*  *  *  *  *
Buying a vehicle for use in Dalby was becoming timely for many reasons.  Jamie had enjoyed making the security system for his safe house, but that had pushed his abilities to the limit because, unlike at DNC before Penny’s murder, he had no precision tools like a lathe, drill-press, or milling machine...  all those would have been sold by the Administrator as part of his previous business.  He had only a collection of small hand-tools at Dalby, and he was starting to see possibilities for a new business that would demand the use of a well-equipped workshop, without drawing attention to him like computer networks or burglar alarms would be bound to do.  CCTV cameras were used extensively in security circuits but were notoriously insecure.  To address that weakness, he had built hard-wired controls for all the tiny cameras used in his system, and had really enjoyed doing that – messing about with cameras had been his hobby during his university days.
But he couldn’t buy heavy precision tools – even the smallest models – without a fairly large vehicle to transport them.  He would be unlikely to ever need industrial-size tools for his Dalby house.  For his type of construction work, some solid but fairly compact workshop tools that could be removed and taken to a new home would be more suitable.  He knew that moving away from Dalby would eventually be approved, but just didn’t know exactly when that would be.  So he expected to be buying a new home somewhere else within the next couple of years, and developing the bare bones of a business modifying CCTV cameras for a wide variety of commercial or governmental uses would take at least that long.
That was actually quite a stimulating prospect, and a welcome change from all the introspective gloom and doom of his recent past.  He instinctively focused on his business plans because grieving for Penny was still a very strong force in his life, or at least coping with panic attacks resulting from post traumatic stress was still strong, and he needed something else to occupy his mind.
A van, not much fun to drive but good for transporting equipment, seemed like his best bet.  He knew that, in any small rural town, people often owned vans instead of cars, because they were not much more expensive than cars, but infinitely more practical for transporting rural goods – it would be fairly easy to find one for sale, and driving one would not attract a second glance.  He would take Captain Clancy’s advice and look for a plain van, buying it with cash, not with traceable bank deposits or checks.  Owning an inconspicuous van made good sense for his ongoing cautious need to avoid attracting attention.
He would also buy a cruiser-style motorcycle, he decided...  they weren’t very expensive and owning a bike would reassure curious visitors who might be wondering why he had a full set of motorcycle riding gear.  Two sets, in fact – one male and one female.  They were actually needed to withstand the friction of pushing through a portal-ring, although he would not admit that to anyone.  He did not expect to use his portal-ring invention while in Dalby except for secure storage.  Portal-ring adventures would be a project for when he had a permanent home somewhere else...  maybe that would be for the police, but more likely just for himself.  But, by owning a bike, a riding suit and helmet would seem a natural thing for him to have about the house.  Besides, he enjoyed riding a bike, and the long, sleek lines of a cruiser appealed to him!
Paying for these vehicles would not be a problem.  Without touching his bank accounts, he could tap into his hidden cache of cash stolen from crooks during his Zillmere evidence-raiding period.  That was over a million and a half, mostly in used $50 notes, although also some $100 notes.  As long as he didn’t use more than $10,000 in any one transaction, banks or businesses such as car Dealers would not face any money-laundering banking restrictions, as he had discovered when buying the small car in which Penny had been killed.  That was another small irritation from his past.  It had been the first brand-new car that he had ever owned, but the insurance company had refused to pay out on it after the car-bomb attack – his policy simply did not cover such obvious criminal causes of damage, they claimed.  Bastards!  But they were right, damn it...
He would not have wanted to drive it if repaired, anyway, knowing that Penny had died horribly in the driver’s seat, but it was the principle of the thing.  He had been forced to simply accept the financial loss as just another unavoidable result of trying to do some social good with his portal-ring invention.  Although...  he reluctantly had to admit that he had also been doing quite a bit of financial good for himself along the way, unknown to anyone apart from his victims.  Part of the grieving process, he knew, included periods of guilt, but guilty feelings about his stolen cash had nothing to do with Penny’s death – they were self-induced.
Armed with his Case Manager’s advice and a full wallet, Jamie started wandering around Dalby to look at used vans or motorcycles.
Only a couple of weeks later, with a slightly shabby-looking van and a reasonable-looking motorcycle, Jamie felt a little more secure, more settled, and started to explore the rural area around Dalby.  Whenever he wished, he knew, he could trade these vehicles on slightly better ones, without risking breaking through that money-laundering barrier, and he decided that he should do that every few months or so, to gradually upgrade them for appearance and reliability...  also make it harder for anyone to locate him from vehicle registration details.  Shabby or not, though, the van was quite adequate for some exploration trips, and that included looking for possible workshop equipment, so that he could get started on building some prototype camera rigs.
Online research revealed plenty of choice in major cities, but his nearest big city was Brisbane, and he didn’t need to ask his Case Manager about that.  He wasn’t prepared to risk going there just yet, even for just an anonymous shopping run – it was far too dangerous a place for him to be seen and possibly recognized.
Toowoomba was about half-way between, and was also a large enough town to offer a reasonable choice, so he searched all the equipment ads he could find to familiarize himself with the market, then made an exploration run in the van.  If possible, he wanted to buy workshop equipment privately, leaving no official payment trails, and to use up a bit more of his cash-stash.  He did not find anything except incidental smaller tools on that first shopping run, but did drive around Toowoomba extensively and decided that, although it was a fairly small city, it had a character that he quite liked.  He was confident that he could find all the workshop tools he needed, all anonymously.  It could be a top contender for when he was allowed to move out of his Dalby safe house, it had a big enough population to support the type of business that he wanted to develop, and he was fairly sure that nobody in Toowoomba might accidentally recognize him as a former resident of Zillmere in Brisbane.
*  *    *  *

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