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Project: Wormwood

Project: Wormwood

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Project: Wormwood

352 pages
5 hours
Nov 9, 2016


Jake Connelly is a prominent attorney in LA fervently working on a capital murder case. He's certain his client, Tom McGuire is innocent, but evidence at the crime scene says he's not. With the odds of winning stacked against him he's hit with a forced vacation. The government is shutting down the electrical grids for a week to try to save them from a powerful solar flare, or so they say.

Jake finds out from his sister Marlene that the satellites are carrying a chemical called Project Wormwood. It was invented to thwart terrorists, eating at the brain until all that's left is mush. The victim lasts long enough to go into an insane rage killing anyone and anything in their reach.

The main satellite is in the direct path of the solar flare. It's hit starting a domino effect. Fireballs fall from the sky striking the earth with devastating impact leaving behind an inferno and smoke bursting with madness.
Jake's neighbors die, terror proliferates at every corner. He's crazy with worry trying to protect his daughter Dana, housekeeper Sara, and Elijah, his best friend's foster son.

Soldiers arrive just in the nick of time, but Project Wormwood has got to them. A horrific war ensues killing all but Jake and his small troop of followers. Sarah dies by Jake's own hand.

Escaping with his daughter and Elijah they attempt to find his sister Marlene in Washington. All is well until they stop for gas and run into Hank Sturgis, the Los Angeles DA. He offers them a safe place to stay. Jake agrees to the offer only to find out how corrupt the world was before the deadly chaos and Project Wormwood fell from the heavens.

Will he survive? Read Project Wormwood and find out.

Nov 9, 2016

About the author

I was born and raised in Bloomington, IN. I moved to Vernon, FL. in 2000 with my husband, two daughters, one son-in-law, and two grandsons. Over the years we have added another son-in-law, three granddaughters, two of which are twins, one granddaughter-in-law, and one great granddaughter. Unfortunately I lost my husband of almost 43 years on May 4, 2016. I have always wanted to be a writer and he was my biggest supporter. My last book Project: Wormwood was his favorite. I hope you like it as much as he did.

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Hey Jake, have you seen the paper this morning?

I looked up from the case I was working on at my partner Tim, who without knocking had just walked into my office with a serious expression on his face, but that’s how he always looked so I didn’t think much about it. He was a tall, slender man with a balding pate. His worried visage and thick, black glasses made him look ancient and wise, even though he was only a year older than me and not as intelligent, at least in my opinion.

We met right out of college when we went to work for Simon & Simon, a big family ran legal firm that had been in business since the early nineteen hundreds. We were young and fresh out of law school, both of us graduating at the top of our class. Winning case after case we vied for a partnership in the old established practice, but after ten years of working our butts off and being turned down again and again we decided that was never going to happen, so we opened up our own offices. Now, we are Connelly & Reed, Attorneys at Law.

We’ve been partners for close to twenty-five years running our own firm, and we’re doing great. I handle the criminal side of things while Tim practices family law. He’s a sensitive man raised with a silver spoon in his mouth, so he doesn’t mix well with the less savory characters in this world. At the moment he’s standing in front of my desk holding today’s newspaper in his hand, his face creased with tiny lines of worry making him look even more owlish than usual, dancing from foot to foot, waiting anxiously for me to answer his question.

No, I haven’t seen the newspaper this morning Tim, I replied with a hint of annoyance in my words. I’ve been working on the McGuire case since I got here. Why, is there something interesting in there?

It depends on what you call interesting I guess, but yeah, I think so, he replied with a smirk.

Shaking my head and growing more disgruntled by the minute I growled, What is it Tim? I’m kind of busy right now! The DA’s office sent over some new evidence that has our boy McGuire right in the middle of the crime scene. They found a print of his left index finger on the kitchen counter beside the wooden block where the murder weapon was discovered, but he swears he has never been in that house. I’m trying to come up with a plausible reason for his print having been there.

Good luck! Tim sneered then sniffed the air like he smelled something rotten. He not only didn’t mix well with the criminal element that I dealt with, he didn’t like them either, and he had no qualms about letting me know. You had bettered find one soon, he went on. Doesn’t that case go to trial next week?

Yes, we start picking the jury on Thursday.

Well you have two days left, including today, to come up with something that you can use in court, and that’s only if you want to work Saturday.

Two days? I muttered perplexed. I have six days before I have to be in the courtroom, and then picking out a jury that will give this idiot a chance to keep on breathing will give me another week at least."

Now we’re back to the newspaper article again! Tim said anxiously, the lines in his face growing deep with concern.

What’s in that paper anyway? I asked snatching it out of his hand. Glaring at the front page a headline in all caps jumped out at me; MAJOR SOLAR FLARE TO STRIKE THE EARTH EARLY SUNDAY MORNING, AUGUST 17!

I laughed. Is this solar flare what you’re in here bothering me about? We’ve already had hundreds of them. People worry that one of those things are going to shut down the lights and communication systems every time they strike the earth, but nothing ever happens. I chuckled meanly. I’m surprised at you Tim! I thought you had more sense than that. Don’t worry about it. It’ll be alright, I assured him with a disbelieving grin on my face.

Keep reading Jake, Tim said solemnly.

I threw the paper down on my desk. I don’t have time for this nonsense! I bellowed. Now if there is nothing else you want to show me I have got to get back to work on this McGuire case. I’m trying to save this idiot’s life, without much help from him I might add.

Tim ignored me and picked up the newspaper. In a quivery voice he began reading aloud to me, To minimize the damage to our city all electrical transformers will be shut down On August 17 and will remain off until August 24. A state wide curfew from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM will go into effect Saturday evening, August 16, and last until further notice. Unless you have a life threatening emergency all of the citizens living in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas are asked to stay home during that time. Anyone found wandering the streets during the curfew and are not in need of assistance will be arrested.

"We advise you to stay out of the sun. A solar flare will damage your eyes and skin due to the vast amount of radiation coming from its rays. A bad burn or blindness could occur."

"For your protection we are advising all citizens to have at least a two week supply of bottled water, food, batteries, and any other necessities you may need, stored in your homes while the power is down."

City officials hope this effort will minimize the damage from the solar flare to the people living in the great state of California, and to our electrical grids.

Are they crazy? I shouted. They’re not seriously going to try to shut down Los Angeles for a week. They can’t do that! Can they?

Well apparently they can, Tim replied calmly as he dropped the newspaper on my desk.


I’m going to call the mayor! I roared angrily. He can’t shut down a whole city because of something as silly as a solar flare. Ignoring the direct line to my secretary, who usually made my calls for me, I picked up the phone and started jabbing buttons. I was so mad I could’ve spit fireballs.

I can’t believe this idiot! I ranted. Who does he think he is anyway? If it wasn’t for me he wouldn’t even be Mayor! I’ve known his family for years, and I know all about him. He was a spoiled, irresponsible brat that caused trouble wherever he went. When his dad came to me and told me he wanted to run for office I thought he was joking, but unfortunately for Los Angeles he wasn’t!

His old man is a good guy and he was at his wits end with this punk, so I asked him what I could do to help. He said that all Donald needed to be elected was some backing from the right people, so I gave the little jerk a chance and helped him out. I called in every marker I had to get this creep elected. I even went all around town campaigning for him! Spewing out an unbelieving cackle I added, I even got the Governor to endorse him for Christ’s sake! Now he repays me like this! Boy did I ever make a mistake. He’s screwed things up in this town so bad we’ll never crawl out from under his blunders!

After a few rings, someone picked up the line on the other end. Mayor’s office, a squeaky, males voice came from the receiver.

This is Jake Connelly. Let me speak to the mayor! I snarled menacingly into the phone.

He’s in a meeting right now Mr. Connelly. I can have him call you back as soon as it’s over.

I don’t want a call back! I growled at the shrill voiced man. You tell him I want to speak to him right now!

He’s just coming out of his office, hold on sir. I heard a slight click on the other end of the line as the Mayor’s secretary put me on hold.

I was writhing with anger. I couldn’t believe the whole town had lost their minds over a stupid solar flare. The news had been warning us that one of those damn things was going to shut down the GPS systems and destroy the electrical grids for a couple of years now, and nothing has ever happened! I scowled at Tim. We’ve already had three major flares and all they did was cause the lights to flicker and slow the computers down.

I pictured the city councilmen sitting around a table at the club laughing and having a gay old time. My anger flamed hotter. The nerve of these people! Who do they think they are?

Jake, the mayor’s cordial, slick politician’s voice came over the line. How can I help you today?

You can help me by telling me that the article in the newspaper this morning is a joke! I growled.

What article is that? he asked nervously. I could see the little weasel squirming in his chair and tugging on the collar of his shirt. That’s what he did at every town council meeting whenever somebody confronted him.

The one that says you’re shutting down Los Angeles for a week because of a solar flare! I bellowed through the receiver.

Oh that article. He giggled uneasily. I’m not shutting down anything, he said.

A little relieved I calmed down slightly, although not enough to lower my voice. Then what’s all the nonsense in the paper talking about? I shouted.

He answered in his, I’m the mayor tone, lower pitched and snobbish. The president has issued an order to shut down all the transformers in the United States to try and stop damage from occurring to our electrical grids.

What? I screamed into the phone.

He cleared his throat then in shaky words he added, I’m guessing this solar flare is going to be a real doozy. Then added more sure of himself, I have no choice but to follow orders Jake.

I could picture his Cheshire cat grin hiding his face as he tried to put the blame for the idiotic plan off on the president. It made my blood boil even hotter.

You can’t shut down a major city! I shrieked at him. I have a big case I’m working on. I can’t just go home and sit on my thumbs for a week! What are we supposed to do? Just take a vacation while you all play heroes?

I told you Jake, I’m not shutting down anything, the President of the United States is. I guess you’ll have take a week off, or work on your big case at home.

Re-elections are coming up, maybe I should invest my time working on your big case! I hissed.

The mayor’s voice dropped almost to a whisper. I’m sorry Jake, but my hands are tied. The president runs the country, and if he says I have to shut down Los Angeles, then that’s what I have to do. I’m sorry. Please try to understand and make sure you vote for me, he murmured again as the phone clicked in my ear.

I think he hung up on me! I said looking at Tim in astonishment. Mayor? I shouted. When I didn’t get a reply I banged down the receiver and fell back into my chair.


This is ridiculous! The president sent out an order to shut down all the transformers across the US until this solar flare is over. There is nothing the mayor can do about it. How am I supposed to get any work done without the internet or electricity? What am I supposed to do about the McGuire case? Murder is a capital offense for God’s sake! A man’s life is at stake!

Well at least the DA will have to go home too. They’ll postpone the trial date, Tim intoned.

Realizing he was right I said, Yes they will. Then with a big grin on my face I picked up the phone again. Get the DA on the line, I chuckled to my secretary.

A few seconds later her sexy voice oozed from the intercom on my desk, Hank Sturgis is on line one Mr. Connelly.

Thank you Greta, I said still grinning then pushed number one on the pad. Hank, this is Jake Connelly. How’re you doing today?

I’m doing just fine, a gravelly growl grumbled into my ear. I’m busy Jake. What do you want?

Have you read today’s newspaper? I asked.

No I haven’t, he replied grouchily. Why, what’s in there that’s so important you have to bother me about it?

The Mayor is shutting down Los Angeles for a week because of a solar flare.

What? Are you crazy? He can’t shut down Los Angeles! Hank shrieked into my ear.

Smiling evilly into the phone I replied in a calm voice, He can and he has. I could hear him yelling for somebody to get him today’s newspaper. Ignoring the shouting and chaos of people racing around trying to comply with his order I went on, What I wanted to talk to you about is the McGuire case. I won’t be able to work on it while my office is closed, and neither will you. I was wondering about the postponement.

I’ll have to get back to you! Click.

I sat the phone back down and grinned at Tim. That was the first he’d heard about it, I said with a happy cackle.

What did he say? Tim asked.

He said he’d have to get back to me and he hung up. I smirked wickedly and nodded my head. It’s worth a weeks forced vacation to get under his skin.

Looking at the McGuire file laying open on my desk I said, Well, if you don’t mind Tim, now I only have two days left to work on this thing, unless I can figure out a way to work on it at home. I thought about the internet being down and the lights being out. Frowning, I realized that wasn’t going to happen.

Shaking my head I mumbled, Hopefully, over the next two days I can come up with some genius reason why McGuire’s fingerprint was at the crime scene. Sighing wishfully I added, It’d be awesome if I could do that before they shut everything down. Then I can rest for a week while I have to stay home.

You rest! Tim gaped at me and let out a snort that ended in a belching, horse laugh. That will be a new experience for you. Then shaking his head and still chuckling he turned to leave. I’ve got some work I need to do too. I’ll see you later.

He opened my office door and started to walk out but stopped abruptly snapping his fingers in the air. I almost forgot. Sheila asked me to make sure that you and Dana are still coming over for dinner tonight. She wants to introduce Dana to our new foster son.

What’s this one like? I groaned as I rolled my eyes at him.

He’s alright I guess. He’s had a real hard life. He’s been abused a lot. His dad even sliced off his ear lobe, Tim ended his sentence in a murmur shaking his head in disbelief.

He stared out into space for a few seconds, I guess thinking about the boy’s life, then he looked back at me, a grimace on his face. His mom’s in prison and he was staying with his dad. The man overdosed on heroine and died. Some of Elijah’s family thinks he’s the one that shot him up, they also think he gave him too much on purpose. I couldn’t blame him if he had, but the police cleared him. His family still thinks he did it though so they won’t have anything to do with him. He was put in the system and the judge sent him into foster care.

He’s kind of surly, but I can understand that considering the life he’s lived. Other than the churlishness he seems to be a good kid. Anyway, Sheila asked me to make sure that you two are coming over.

I wanted to decline, but with Tim standing there looking at me like I was his only friend in the world, I couldn’t. We’ll be there, I said reluctantly. My sister is in from Washington and tonight is her last night here. Is it alright if I bring her along too?

Yes, Sheila is expecting her. She and Dana took Marlene to the beach the other day. Sheila said she’s a real nice lady.

Yeah she is, I said distractedly still thinking about the McGuire case then realizing Tim had just said the boy’s family was convinced he murdered his own father. I looked up at him scowling. I hope that Sheila isn’t expecting Dana to be best friends with this boy or anything. I don’t want her to get mixed up with people like that.

I understand, he said nodding his head in agreement. I’ll talk to Sheila about it when I tell her you’ll be there. Giving me a slight wave of his finger he walked out of my office and closed the door behind him.


I sat back in my chair grasping my face in irritation, rubbing until the skin around my eyes and cheeks felt raw. What a morning! I groaned. Tension had built in my neck and shoulders tying them in hard, aching knots.

I would never have imagined the things that have gone on today could ever happen. I didn’t think it was possible for a city the size of Los Angeles to be shut down for a week, let alone the whole country; and this McGuire thing is beating down on me. He’s not the first client I’ve had that lied and swore they’d never been at the crime scene. But he’s the first one I believed, I added angrily.

Cranking my neck around in a slow circle I tried to work out the kinks, it didn’t help though. Grunting and groaning I massaged the muscles in my shoulders hoping to alleviate some of the tension there. I gave up when I heard someone walk past my door. Cringing, I worried I was getting more company, but they strolled past without stopping. I figured it must have been Tim on his way to court. He has that Johnson divorce he’s been working on, I murmured.

Leaning back in my chair trying to relax before I started racking my brain over McGuire’s finger print again, I looked around my office. We’ve done well for ourselves, I mumbled quietly as I took in the huge expanse of space around me. A big bar sat in the corner with a mirror behind it that showed off the rest of the room. In it I could see the image of the soft brown leather sofa and matching chair tidily encompassing a round, shiny, glass table.

Everywhere I looked I saw live plants covering empty surfaces. They were suppose to make my office feel cozy and relaxing, inviting you to tell your whole story. I grunted then snorted, They dot the room like exclamation points in an accusatory sentence! Then shaking my head in disgust I looked down at the McGuire file again. Obviously they don’t do their job I muttered. This jerk sat in that chair right over there, I glared angrily at the brown leather chair as if he were still sitting in it, and lied to my face!

Looking back at the bar longingly I lamented, A nice dry martini would sure hit the spot before I have to leave and to go to the jail to talk to that idiot McGuire. Knowing I didn’t have the time I shook my head and groaned, "No, I’d bettered wait until I get home tonight. After the day I’ve had I may not be able to stop at just one.

Standing up I jerked my briefcase off the floor. The McGuire folder was still lying open on my desk. The capitalized, bold words; ‘LEFT INDEX FINGERPRINT OF SUSPECT FOUND ON KITCHEN COUNTER’, glared up at me. I reached down and closed the folder with a snap, then snatching it up I jammed it inside the leather case and angrily stomped to the door leading out of my office.

I’m going over to the jail and talk to McGuire one more time, and he had bettered be completely honest with me if he knows what’s good for him! I grumbled as I walked past my secretary’s desk. Then mumbling under my breath I added, This is a Capital Case for crying out loud! How does he expect me to save his life if he doesn’t tell me the truth? Glaring at her I stormed through the door slamming it behind me.

Stomping down the hallway to the elevator I waited impatiently for the doors to open punching the ground floor button repeatedly while growling and muttering under my breath. When they finally slid apart into a gaping maw a crowd of people stared at me from inside the cage. I shook my head in disgust and took my place amongst them. This is going to be one of those days, I groaned.


When I got to the jail Sergeant Danvers took me inside a small concrete cubicle. The room was cold and damp. The gray painted walls were scarred where a few chunks of stone was missing. They had broken free from the concrete and fallen away years ago, swept up and thrown in the trash. The floor was covered in dull green industrial tile. Scrapes, scratches, and ground in black streaks from who knows how many shuffling feet marred the surface.

I sat my briefcase down on the old wooden table that crouched in the center of the room, it’s top pock marked and tired, then sighing agitatedly I plopped down in the hard uncomfortable chair sitting beside it. Taking out McGuire’s file I waited impatiently for the duty officer to bring him in.

He had better tell me the truth this time, I thought to myself angrily, glaring up at the camera steadily watching me from the wall. If he doesn’t come completely clean with me I can’t help him. I’ll have to tell him to find another attorney. I hate to do that, but I have no choice if he won’t trust me. I’ve handled several cases for Tom McGuire. Most of them for petty crimes that I made deals with the DA on, but murder is different. If I don’t’ come up with something quick, the state of California isn’t going to go easy on him this time. They won’t agree to any deals.

The door opened and the guard shoved McGuire inside the room. He was a small man with greasy, thinning hair, and pale, sickly skin. His bent shuffling walk showed how bad the world had beaten him down. I felt sorry for him. But pity on my part wouldn’t help him now. I knew there was no way he could have viciously stabbed anybody 57 times, but what I thought or knew about the man didn’t matter. He has to tell me the truth or there’s nothing I can do for him. I sat up straight and stiff glaring at him, hardening my resolve.

Mr. Connelly, he smiled at me toothlessly. Let me guess. You’re here to tell me they found the real killer and I’m free to go.

No! I growled at him accusingly. I’m here to tell you that if you don’t tell me what really happened you’ll have to find another lawyer.

What are you talking about? McGuire asked in shock. I told you I don’t know what happened. I’ve never been in that house and I didn’t know the woman that got killed.

If you’ve never been there how come the DA’s men found a print of your left index finger on the kitchen counter? I picked up his file and shook it under his nose then slapped it down on the table, the bold, capitalized facts staring up at him.

He dropped into the chair across from me covering his face with his hands, letting his head droop down onto the table top. I don’t know, he mumbled guiltily. There must be some mistake.

Yeah there’s a mistake alright, I growled, and I made it! I was so angry fire shot from my eyes as I glared at him. I believed you McGuire and you obviously lied to me!

He looked up at me innocently, his lips quivering slightly and his hands shaking. I didn’t lie to you Mr. Connelly. I swear I didn’t.

Then how did your finger print get there? I shouted at him.

I don’t know. Maybe somebody else put it there somehow, he whimpered.

That’s impossible! I growled looking at him in disgust. Start talking McGuire or I’m out of here. I stood up to leave.

Wait! he yelped clutching at my jacket sleeve.

I sat back down, still glaring at him, waiting impatiently for his explanation.

Alright I was there, he moaned. I didn’t know her well, but I knew her some. I’d been out drinking all night and I was hungry so I stopped in a diner downtown. I saw her as soon as I walked through the door. She was sitting at the bar in this skimpy, little green dress. She was really hot looking so I sidled up to her and we started talking. She asked me if I wanted to go back to her place and have some fun and I said, Hell Yeah!

We went back to her house and had a couple of drinks. I stood by the kitchen counter watching her pour the liquor into glasses. I guess that’s how my finger print got there. Anyway, after a couple shots of alcohol we did the nasty.

When we were finished we were laying in her bed smoking a cigarette and she got a phone call. After she hung up she was all nervous like and said I had to go. I tried to talk her out of it, ‘cause I didn’t have any place to sleep that night, but she wouldn’t budge. I put my clothes back on and she rushed me out the door.

That’s what happened, I swear Mr. Connelly! I had sex with her, but I didn’t kill her! She was still alive when I left!

Who was on the phone? Did she say?

Naw, she just told me I had to leave after she hung up. She was real nervous, you know, scared like.

What time was it?

About three or four in the morning I guess. I don’t know for sure.

Why didn’t you tell me this before? I growled accusingly.

I was afraid to! He whined. "I was worried if you knew I was there you’d think I

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