The Program Effect

Click the link below to read the first three chapters in PDF format.

TPE first 3 chapters












The Characters:

WILL JOHNSTON:  A deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service in New York, Will keeps tabs on former criminals in WITSEC (Witness Protection) suspected of using their new identities to further criminal activity. When one such case begins to unravel, Will uncovers a deadly conspiracy that threatens to implode the Department of Justice—providing Will can live long enough to expose it.

ROY JOHNSTON:  Will’s uncle and direct supervisor at the Marshals, Roy is man of integrity who always wants to do the right thing but finds the line between right and wrong blurry at best, especially when he allows his personal feelings and family loyalties to influence the scales of justice.

HELMUT RICHTER:  Helmut’s job as the Associate Director for Operations at the Marshals provides him with access to every file and field operation related to Witness Protection. Thirty spotless years on the job have paved the way for an abundance of trust throughout the Department of Justice.

LAURA CALINO:  Smarting from a recent divorce, Laura returns to the Western Montana ranch where she grew up in hopes of mending fences with her estranged father only to find him caught up in a bizarre series of events stemming from a Department of Justice investigation. Is her father guilty or a convenient pawn in someone else’s game?

TONY CALINO:  Having lost his wife and son in a tragic automobile accident, and his father to a senseless shooting outside a casino, Tony appears to be a disturbed man out for revenge against death when he kidnaps a U.S. Marshal sent to the ranch to investigate Tony’s possible connection to a drug runner in Witness Protection.

MRS. BAINES:  A widow and longtime friend of the Calinos, Mrs. Baines knows what it takes to survive the most harrowing situations. Fortunately for Laura, Tony, and Will, she is able to provide a much-needed dose of straight-talk and wisdom when it’s needed most.

The Story:

Will Johnston hails from a family of law enforcement. His father, William, was a beat cop in Queens. Will’s parents were killed in a mysterious fire when Will was five. Will was raised by his Uncle Roy, a U.S. Marshal. Will is determined to do his father’s memory proud by carrying on the family tradition.

Roy has his own ideas regarding family and tradition. Convinced the wheels of justice don’t always turn in the right direction, he has banded together with longtime friend, Helmut Richter, to form a rogue group within the Marshals known as the “The Program.” The Program pressures former criminals (located via databases of the Marshals and other federal agencies) into laundering money and moving weapons and drugs for profit, a profit that is supposedly used to fund secret U.S. interests abroad.

Roy wants to bring Will into The Program, but Helmut fears Will is too ethical to make such a partnership work. When Roy begins to insist, Helmut has important choices to make.

The story takes Will to the rugged mountains of Western Montana, where he becomes entwined in a bizarre episode with ranch owner, Tony Calino, and his daughter, Laura. Can suspects become allies? When Will uncovers evidence that suggests both he and Tony were set up, with the hoped-for end supposed to have resulted in their deaths, he becomes sympathetic to the Calinos, who have had more than their share of tragic family deaths.

Can Will uncover the depths of The Program before it’s too late? Is Laura really an estranged but loving daughter intent on earning her father’s respect, or a surprise trigger that springs the trap around Will’s neck? How deep is Uncle Roy’s commitment to The Program? Is Will prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to preserve his integrity? Find the answers to these questions and hundreds more as you travel through this multi-layered conspiracy thriller laced with the classic fish-out-of-water ambiance, complex family relationships, and yes, even a hint of romance!

A note about my writing partner for this book, Lesley Kellas Payne:

Lesley and I have been good friends for many years. She is, by trade, a freelance editor (and a remarkably talented one, I might add). Lesley has always believed very strongly in these characters and their story, so when I decided to do another rewrite, I called on her input and advice, and she came through in a very big way—big enough to get her name on the by-line. Lesley has proven such an inspiration to me in so many ways over the years that I would need several pages to cover it all. Suffice it to say, she has been, and remains, my Rock of Gibraltar. Thank you, my friend. I would never have gotten this far without you.

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