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Storm Rising

A Thriller


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About The Book

This instant national bestseller leads a young intelligence operative into the depths of a dangerous white supremacy conspiracy that threatens to tear the country apart in a “high adrenaline adventure” (Booklist).

Intelligence operative Hayley Chill is pursing the truth about her father’s mysterious fate, which government officials seem determined to hide from her. But when she stumbles upon a ciphered document under the floorboards of her father’s house, it becomes impossible to ignore the questions about his death. Was it suicide, or was it murder, designed to protect a deeper secret? She fears what she’s discovered may be connected to current rumors of a dark conspiracy, one that no one will substantiate. Hayley’s been loyal to Washington; has it been as loyal to her?

With permission from her handler to probe deeper, Hayley is led into a terrifying subculture of white supremacy within the United States military. As her investigation intensifies, she uncovers an expansive conspiracy to bring about the secession of several states from the country. It’s up to Hayley to stop a second Civil War before it starts while also confronting the ultimate truth about her father’s harrowing deeds in this “timely and terrifying read” (Nick Petrie, author of The Runaway).


Chapter 1: Tater Hole Savings & Loan

Hayley Chill’s most glaring weakness, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, has been her primary focus for the twelve weeks she’s been in camp. Days start with a ten-mile run at sunrise, followed by a healthy breakfast, rest, and then four hours of skills training. Nights begin at seven after a light dinner. For warm-up, she hits pads for three rounds. Circuit training follows, with double-arm rope slams, dumbbell thrusters, two-hundred-pound sled pulls, and a sixty-yard farmer’s walk with eighty-pound barbells. Twice through, before starting a second circuit.

In the last months of her tenure as an aide in the West Wing, Hayley gained fifteen pounds. Many days in that harrowing time passed without any physical exercise whatsoever. Since leaving the White House—twenty-seven years old and unemployed—Hayley Chill is determined to regain the physical fitness of her years in the US Army. Holed up in Princeton, West Virginia, and training six days a week at Elite Martial Arts Academy seems as good a way as any to accomplish that goal.

Today isn’t a typical workout day, however. In anticipation of her first amateur MMA bout later that week, Hayley’s coach has limited her to stretching and a single sparring session at 50 percent. The problem is her sparring partner. Almost six feet tall, with a murderous arm reach, Jewel Rollins ratchets up the intensity with every round. Flustered and stung by a snapping jab that feels like something more than 50 percent, Hayley retaliates. An amateur boxing champ in the military, she never suffered a loss in the ring. Her strategy when attacked—in the ring and outside of it—is to counterattack. Never relent.

Fuck 50 percent.

With her back foot slightly splayed for increased leverage, Hayley throws a jab, cross, and then hook at her sparring partner’s head. She then feints with her left hand, drops low, and shoots a stiff right, hitting the other woman dead center in her sternum. The perfectly timed jab lands with a thud, catching Rollins as she exhales. The punch might have rocked a fighter with less experience; Hayley has put opponents on the canvas with lesser stuff. But Rollins is an NAAFS amateur women’s champion. Her mixed martial arts skill set is deep. Hayley doesn’t see the wheel kick coming until it’s too late. If not for thickly padded headgear, the blow would have knocked her out.

Fredek Kozlov steps between the fighters to stop the session, helping Hayley to her feet. “You plan to lose, yes?”

His cartoonish Russian accent is made less comical by dint of an always-on physical intensity and Olympic gold medal for judo. A back injury short-circuited his transition to professional MMA fighter. Elite Martial Arts is the top training camp for three states around and Kozlov’s ticket to prosperity in the United States.

Winded by her exertions, Hayley tucks her chin as if in preparation to throw a jab at her coach. Instead, she shakes her head and fixes her powder blue eyes on Rollins.

Her coach says, “I tell you. Fifty percent. What is wrong with you? Stupid!”

“What about her?” Hayley asks, gesturing toward her sparring partner.

“What about her? Maybe I tell her to go seventy percent. Or one hundred percent. Your directions are to go fifty percent, yes?”

Hayley stares at the mat, recognizing now that she has screwed up. Again.

“You fight your fight!” Kozlov points a sausage-size index finger at Rollins. “You don’t fight her fight. Fight your fight!”

Basic stuff. The earliest lesson. Hayley can scarcely believe her embarrassing lapse.

I was played. What is wrong with me?

Kozlov says, “Angry, you are blind. Emotions, you are stupid!”

“Yes, sir.”

She can think of nothing more to say, wanting only Kozlov to step aside and open a path to her sparring partner. To redeem herself. If that’s possible.

But the Russian remains between the fighters. To Hayley, he says, “That’s enough. Go home. We fix this tomorrow.”

Rollins sneers from behind the Russian. Kozlov plants both feet on the mat and anchors his weight, anticipating Hayley’s loss of temper.

“Save it for Friday, tyolka. You are going to need it.”

HER MOTEL IS two miles east on Oakvale Road. Hayley jogs there at a comfortable pace. Past a sub shop. The local Dairy Queen. A Mitsubishi dealership. Losing fifteen pounds is only one part of the motivation for finding refuge in West Virginia. Transitioning from amateur boxing to mixed martial arts isn’t the whole point, either. Hayley left a tumultuous Washington, DC, after a revelation so shattering that escape seemed the only sanity-preserving response. What she found inside a modest, brick home across the Potomac River, in Arlington, destroyed all reverence for the one person she loved most in the world. Without a job or apparent purpose—trapped in a city that never felt like home—her emotional anguish was like a third eye. Impossible to disguise. Every waking moment after that fateful Sunday morning in Virginia was filtered through a lens of despair and loathing. Only time and distance would alleviate the pain.

The focus and discipline required by her MMA training help speed the process of mental disassociation. In the meantime, she waits for a call or message from the one man in her life who matters. Not Sam McGovern, the fireman she started seeing before she fled Washington. Not anyone from work, either. Her West Wing colleagues have dispersed, forced into exile after the historical abomination that was the Monroe administration. Future employment in government for any of her White House coworkers would be a miracle. Hayley is different. As a trained operative in a clandestine effort to preserve the nation’s constitutional democracy—a kind of “deeper state”—her job as chief of staff for the president’s senior advisor was only a cover. The phone call she anticipates is from her direct superior in that secret organization, Andrew Wilde.

The man who recruited her.

He represents a loose affiliation of powerful Washington emeriti—ex-presidents, former Supreme Court justices, retired NSA and CIA directors, senators, and military brass—linked by lifelong government service and unambiguous love of country. There is no official name for this group. Nor is there a definitive leader or hierarchy. All members have left their official offices, thereby guaranteeing that their motivations are pure and shorn of self-serving incentives. Few of the participants have ever met each other, their true identities hidden behind pseudonyms. An ultra-secure, cloud-based intranet run from a server farm in north-central Canada facilitates communication among members. Though the group has no name, Wilde and other members have come to call themselves Publius, a nod to the Federalist Party formed by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison Jr., and John Jay in support of the still-unratified US Constitution. The essence of their cause, and entire reason for being, is the protection of that hallowed document and its tenets, no matter the origin of the threat to its preservation.

Recruited from the US Army, Hayley joined a corps of similarly capable individuals to serve as covert agents of Publius. Her first operation—protecting the president and turning him against his paymasters in the Kremlin—was initially an unqualified success. But that mission ended abruptly with Russia’s exfiltration of Richard Monroe. A concurrent crisis was devastating cyberattacks that nearly brought Washington to its knees. Had it not been for Hayley’s initiative, not to mention her extraordinary gift of eidetic memory, the country might have stumbled into a third world war. Rescuing a besieged US senator from the Capitol when the building was stormed by white nationalists is a cruel punctuation mark on Hayley’s recent months as an operative for the deeper state. The stress has laid her emotions bare, a mental state further ravaged by family revelations almost too grotesque to imagine.

Retreat to her home state of West Virginia—in equal parts beautiful and tragic—has been a soothing balm. God bless the Mountain State. Almost heaven, indeed.

The motor-court-style Turnpike Motel is low-slung and strenuously well-kept. Older-model cars occupy one in five parking spaces. Newer, franchise hotels can be had in town at double the price, but Hayley prefers these modest, humdrum lodgings.

Hyperventilating slightly as she slows her pace and then stops running entirely, the deeper state operative is surprised by her elevated heart rate.

Hayley bends over and places her hands on her knees for support. A wave of inexplicable fatigue washes over her. She feels sick to her stomach.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Standing up straight, Hayley Chill waits for her heart rate to slow. The shortness of breath dissipates. She opens her room door with a key card. Stepping inside the darkened room, Hayley clocks a figure sitting in a chair by the window and drops into a defensive crouch. Only after recognizing the intruder as her fellow deeper state operative does she relax.

“Jesus. You startled me.”

“I’m a spook. That’s the idea, isn’t it?”

April Wu’s apparent ill health—pale and visibly weak—wins her little compassion from Hayley, who is displeased by the surprise visit.

“Are you comfortable? Put your feet up on the bed, why don’t you?”

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, Chill. Clashes with your unabashed earnestness.”

Hayley strips off her trail pack and drops it on the bed. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m worried about you. I’ve seen you do this before—though usually, you’re breaking stuff.”


This,” says April, gesturing at their surroundings.

Hayley pulls an insubstantial chair out from the sad motel desk. Sits. Her silence concedes the point.

April smiles, pleased with the win. “How was your workout?”

“Light.” She considers leaving it at that but adds, “I have my first bout Friday.”

“Sam coming down?”

Hayley shakes her head. “Working.”


“Will you stop? He’s been here three or four times.”

“Three ‘or’ four. Must’ve been extremely memorable.”

Hayley resists an urge to throw a water bottle at her friend. “You look like hell, by the way.”

Before her accident, April Wu had been at the mercy of fashion. Pairing ripped jeans with a James Perse T-shirt and Chanel bouclé jacket was as effortless as breathing air. The expense was never an impediment. But today, in this sad, dumpy motel room, April wears tragically banal canvas cargo pants and a black Army pullover hoodie. The dark clothing only heightens her sallowness and the circles under her eyes.

“I feel like hell. Wish that car landed somewhere besides on my head.”

“Me too.”

“Has the pope called you?” April asks, referring to their superior with the deeper state.

Andrew Wilde recruited them both, Hayley out of Fort Hood and April from Cyber Command at Fort Meade.


“Maybe he can’t find you.”

Hayley suspects Publius has the resources to find anyone on the planet, but there’s no way of knowing for sure. “I’m training, April, not hiding.”

“Hard to tell the difference.”

This has been their way forever. The best of friends and die-hard competitors.

April asks, “Wanna talk about what happened?”

“You mean that business with the president faking suicide, his exfiltration to Moscow, and unmasking as a Russian mole?”

“That was fun. But I mean the other thing.”

“What other ‘thing’?”

“What you found at Charlie Hicks’s place,” says April, referring to the house of horrors in Arlington. The world shifted on that Sunday morning. What didn’t change no longer matters. Recovering in the hospital following her accident, April remembers Hayley’s visit later the same day. The West Virginia native was emotionally shattered.

April Wu discovered something new about her friend that day: Hayley Chill wasn’t invincible after all.

“I found Charlie Hicks. Hanging by his neck. From the bedroom door.”

“Really? Is that all?”

“What do you want from me?”

“The truth.”

How much April already knows or doesn’t know isn’t clear to Hayley. This is a given now. As an operative for the deeper state, she can trust no one. Not even good friends inside the organization. Not completely.

“Maybe I just don’t want to talk about it.”

Hayley stands and begins to empty the trail pack of her workout gear.

“I’m not going away, you know,” says April.

“I suspected as much.”

She walks a damp gym towel toward the bathroom.

“Are you going to win Friday?”

“Can’t remember the last time I lost,” Hayley says as she disappears into the bathroom.

SHE WASN’T READY, the Russian thinks as he watches Hayley Chill tap out a fraction of a second before she loses consciousness. Three months wasn’t nearly enough time to transform a boxer into a mixed martial arts fighter.

I put her in there too goddamn soon.

The four hundred or so spectators at the Wytheville Meeting Center certainly got their money’s worth, that’s for sure. Hayley and her opponent—a skilled twenty-two-year-old Filipina with lightning bolts for hands and an impressive ground game—gave the jubilant fans three rounds of nonstop, cage-rattling warfare. Absurdly overmatched, Hayley Chill showed a truckload of heart in the defeat. Her Russian coach can’t recall another student with a greater capacity for absorbing pain. But courage can’t make up for a catastrophic deficiency in expertise and spotty conditioning. Assuming she is down in points after the first two rounds and feeling an unexpected fatigue, Hayley gambled at the outset of the third round. She rolled the dice when all that matters are skills, conditioning, and talent.

Crouching below her opponent’s torso level, Hayley propelled herself forward and wrapped her arms around the Filipina’s thighs for a double leg takedown. Failing to work her rear leg to the outside, the deeper state operative exposed herself to an all but inevitable guillotine choke.


Lying on her back, Hayley cannot process the events of the past sixty seconds. Breathing is difficult. Did the choke hold bruise her esophagus? An inexplicable exhaustion—she felt fatigued even in the earliest minutes of the bout—envelops her.

Hayley tries to speak but finds it difficult to form the words.

Kozlov crouches over her.

“Shut up. Don’t try to talk,” he says.

Copy that, Coach. No problemo.

Hayley has enough experience in combat trauma training to understand the Russian is assessing her ability to maintain focus on him. “She’s okay,” Kozlov says to someone out of view.

Her eyes are on her coach and never leave him.

The Russian observes his fighter’s difficulty swallowing.

“Throat hurt? That’s normal, tyolka. You’re going to be okay.”

Did I just lose? I don’t lose.

Flat on her back, she is confused by an unavoidable truth.

I got beat?

“Let’s move. Next fight ready to go.”

Hayley can’t see who says this but knows it must be the referee.

Kozlov and others get her to her feet. She experiences a fleeting victory in the ability to put one foot in front of another.

“What happened?” Hayley asks, articulating these words another small triumph.

The Russian can’t hear her above the crowd’s racket as they make their way up the mobbed aisle. But he can guess the nature of her question.

“Too soon. I put you in too soon, tyolka.”

The deeper state operative shakes her head. Angry.

I put myself in there. It was me.

Just as well she doesn’t talk. Even breathing hurts.

All Hayley wants right now is to get away from the avalanche of jeers falling on her. Before walking through the doors that lead to the temporary locker room, she sees April standing next to the doorway.

Making another appearance.

Spectator to Hayley’s first-ever defeat.

April Wu—sickly, pale, and looking every bit the victim of a car accident that she is—wears the most inscrutable expression. Is it pity in her eyes that Hayley sees? Or something worse than pity?

“EVERYBODY LOSES. EVERYBODY! Believing you cannot lose is the worst thing for a fighter.” The Russian’s thick accent undercuts the effectiveness of his consoling words.

“Yes, sir. I know.” Hayley’s voice is still raspy and raw. Talking makes the pain worse, but she must have this conversation. “I made one mistake. It cost me the match.”

Kozlov shakes his head. Driving them home in his ten-year-old Ford Explorer, the Russian dreads what lies ahead. These forty-five miles will seem like three hundred. Having made similar drives, he is all too familiar with the elongation of time after one of his fighters loses in the octagon.

“Too soon. You were not ready.”

Hayley can scarcely believe what he’s saying. She has always worked hard enough to avoid this gut-wrenching disappointment with herself. Always. Until tonight.

And why couldn’t she shake this goddamn fatigue during the fight?

Hayley says, “I don’t understand. It happened so quickly.”

Just this once, the Russian would prefer not to coach. Driving back to Princeton in silence would be the better thing. Some music perhaps. Under his breath, Kozlov says in his native language, “Why not shut up, girl? Take pride in trying.

“Trying isn’t good enough.”

He is stunned to hear his native language come out of Hayley’s mouth.

“You speak Russian?”

She nods, letting him flounder in his embarrassment.

Kozlov realizes how little he knows Hayley Chill. In what other ways has he underestimated her?

Anxious to make amends, he says, “With more time and training, you can be good. Very good! But you need more time, tyolka.”

“How much time?”

“Six more months maybe. A year would be best.” He sees enormous potential in Hayley and wouldn’t have agreed to train her if he didn’t. But the octagon has a way of revealing delusions for what they are. As they did tonight.

Hayley wishes she had a year. Developing expertise in mixed martial arts appeals to her sense of discipline. The world of MMA is inspiring. The people and their dedication to craft.

But a trapdoor has been sprung. April’s surprise visit triggered it.

The Russian feels Hayley’s impatience emanating off her like radioactivity. He was once like her. It’s how he broke his back and derailed a promising professional career.

“Tishe yedesh’, dal’she budesh’. In his heavily accented English, he says, “Ride slower, advance further.”

The old proverb fails to resonate. Her loss tonight stings, and Hayley will feel its bite for many nights to come. She wishes she could talk with April. Now is the time for an honest conversation. Only her fellow deeper state operative could understand. But by the time Hayley emerged from the locker room after her match, April Wu was gone. Vanished again.

I’m a spook.

Kozlov drives them north. With a negligible moon, darkness envelops the hills and trees beyond the road’s shoulders. Hayley fixes her gaze on the road ahead. Avoiding her reflection in her side window.

SHE ENTERS THE cheerless motel room, her home for the past ninety-four days. Low ceiling. Puke-colored drapes pulled shut. An ice machine rumbles to a start on the other side of the wall. The mechanical racket is both sign and signal. Hayley realizes she is done here.

She recalls her friend’s words…

I’ve seen you do this before—though usually, you’re breaking stuff.

Hayley hoped she would find April Wu sitting in the chair by the window. The disappointment of not seeing her there is a sharp ache. She considers calling Sam—most likely asleep at this hour—but resists the impulse.

In the morning, Hayley promises herself. She will call him then.

Packing will take minutes. The roads should be clear the whole way home. If Hayley leaves in the next thirty minutes, she’ll be back in Washington by sunrise. Then the real work can begin.

Ride slow? Not a chance.

THE BRICK, ONE-STORY home on Fifth Street in Arlington, Virginia, has suffered from a lack of occupancy since she was last here. A broken front bedroom window. Lawn overgrown and spiked with henbit weed. A newly planted For Sale sign swings with every gust of wind. More than dreams have died in this place. Hayley parks behind a roll-off dumpster out front. She turns off the engine and looks toward the silent house. Hoping to see what?

Four months ago, she came here to ask Charlie Hicks about her father’s death in the Second Battle of Fallujah. The man had ducked her at his Pentagon office. Here, at his house, Tommy Chill’s war buddy refused her entry. They conversed through the front door instead. Hicks, emotionally distressed and likely suffering from PTSD, provided no new information. Hayley left the property, resolved never to bother the man again.

But new intelligence suggesting Charlie Hicks had been directly responsible for her father’s death altered that resolve.

Sitting behind the wheel of her Volkswagen, she recalls a second visit to the house last spring. National calamity had been averted, her mission for the deeper state successfully concluded. The matter of Charlie Hicks’s role in her father’s death, however, remained unresolved. Sam drove her across the river, but Hayley insisted he stay in the car. For this final confrontation with Tommy’s war buddy, she was determined to go it alone. There was no answer when she knocked on the door, already ajar. Hayley sensed what had transpired before seeing the body.

But what she could not have predicted was finding her father hanging by the neck from a bedroom door, not Charlie Hicks.

Hayley can remember every detail of the horrific moment. Standing in the hallway, staring at the body, her mind reeled, struggling to process what her eyes were seeing. Tommy Chill didn’t die in Iraq. He returned home from the war. But how? Under the assumed identity of another man? That explained why “Hicks” steadfastly avoided meeting her face-to-face. For whatever reason, her father had chosen to separate himself irrevocably from his old life—from his wife and children—and live an alternative life in Arlington, Virginia. And what of the real Charlie Hicks, Tommy’s war buddy? Was it his body parts that they buried in the family plot back home in West Virginia? That possibility lent the conspiracy a deviously logical symmetry, of course.

But there was something worse, a conjecture almost too horrid to contemplate.

Did my father kill Charlie Hicks in order to steal his identity?

What circumstances would drive him to do such a thing? In the moment, Hayley was unwilling to consign the memory of her father to these shocking, shameful circumstances. Better to let Tommy Chill exist in an earlier, near-golden incarnation that she remembers from her youth. Hayley did not call the police to report his suicide, but instead fled the house and its impenetrable mysteries. Those unanswered questions chased her back to the car and away from that awful place. Ignoring them eventually drove the deeper state operative to her spider hole existence in Princeton, West Virginia.

For all of those days, weeks, and months, Hayley has avoided confronting the ambiguities of her father’s suicide. She didn’t know the house in Arlington was put up for sale by an untraceable trust. If Tommy inherited family members with Charlie Hicks’s stolen identity, Hayley guesses they must be distant and never in her father’s life in any meaningful way. How else would it have been possible to perpetuate his fraudulent scheme?

That was then. Hayley has run long enough. She’s returned once again to the house of horrors, unafraid of the answers she might find there.

Exiting her car, Hayley approaches the eight-foot-tall roll-off dumpster nudged up against the curb. Gripping the top edge, she hoists herself up to look inside. The jumble of discarded furniture and other household items fill the bin to near capacity. Seeing her father’s belongings reduced to this slag heap is like a knife thrust into her heart. Throwing one leg over the side of the dumpster, Hayley clambers down inside. Standing precariously on a wooden kitchen chair, she takes inventory of the rubble. A busted lamp. Stacks of smashed dinnerware. Shattered picture frames. Busted bookshelves. Hayley ignores all of it. She is in search of information. Clues. Whoever cleaned the house in preparation for its sale would have no use for her father’s papers, unpaid bills, and other documentation. If they are in this dumpster, she will find them.

Working her way down the loaded container’s length is dirty, hot work on a morning when the temperature is already in the high eighties. Hayley can’t thoroughly inspect the bin’s every nook and cranny without displacing large, often unwieldy household objects. A mattress and box spring prove especially problematic, weighed down by a two-seat sofa and collapsed bookshelf. After twenty minutes of labor, a winded and exhausted Hayley pulls free a pile of dusty curtains and reveals a large plastic trash bag underneath. Tearing a small opening in the bag confirms that she has found the final resting place of her father’s papers.

Hayley tosses the bag out of the dumpster and clambers over the side. Dropping to the street’s pavement, she retrieves the stuffed garbage bag and deposits it in the back seat of her car.

Having gained entry through the home’s back door by breaking the lowest windowpane, Hayley smells immediately the commingled odor of disinfectant and fresh paint. All the cupboard doors are open, revealing empty shelves. Glue traps at each corner of the room lie in wait for their next rodent victim. Leaving the kitchen, the deeper state operative enters the similarly desolate living room.

There’s nothing here for me.

For no better reason than morbid sentimentality, Hayley enters the hallway that leads to the two bedrooms. She stops short of the primary and experiences again what she cannot repress: her father hanging by the neck from the bedroom door, his head tilted at an unnatural angle. A chair lying on its side beneath his body. The pungent smell of his post-mortem evacuations.

Transported to the past, Hayley resists an urge to look away.

Remember this.

Another memory drops, one much older but sparked by this newer image. A recall of family lore, the idiosyncratic customs fostered by a clan. And what Hayley remembers is the place where Tommy Chill would secure cash—the family nest egg—at a time in their lives when banks were an unattainable luxury.

For as long as she can remember, that secure vault in their West Virginia home was below the kitchen floorboards.

What her father affectionately nicknamed the “Tater Hole Savings & Loan.”

She retreats up the hallway, back through the living room, and into the kitchen. Dropping to her hands and knees, Hayley examines the wood flooring. At first glance, the narrow planks appear permanently seated in place. Tracing her fingers across the grooves between the planks, she applies pressure to one board after another and at different points in their lengths. One piece, of shorter dimension by virtue of its position by a far wall, flexes and shifts. With a knife she retrieves from her pocket, Hayley pries the short plank up with modest effort. A hole has been cut in the subfloor, revealing a space between the floor joists and its sole offering: a manila envelope.

Hayley removes the eight-by-ten envelope from its makeshift vault. Written in pencil across the front are two words: The Storm. The deeper state operative opens the envelope and removes four typewritten pages inside. A brief examination of the papers reveals their contents are composed in a “book cipher.” Rows and rows of incomprehensible one-, two-, or three-digit numbers fill every page.

What do the seemingly random numbers mean? Without the corresponding key—a unique text or document—the pages are impenetrable. Instead of finding answers at the house in Arlington, Hayley has only generated more mystery and questions.

She replaces the floorboard and leaves the house through the kitchen door, taking the envelope with her.

THE CONTENTS OF the trash bag—utility bills, financial statements, and junk mail—are now stacked and categorized on the dining table in her Logan Circle apartment. Hayley has given the most scrutiny to telephone bills and credit card statements, highlighting some entries and entering the information on her laptop. A broad outline of her father’s daily life has emerged. What Tommy did on his days off. Where he shopped for groceries. How often he traveled and to what destinations. His most frequent contacts. The picture that materializes of her father’s final six months is relentlessly monotonous, the lonely existence of a solitary man. Nowhere in these scraps of paper is there clarification of why he had killed himself. Why he had taken the life and identity of Charlie Hicks.

The truth seems unknowable, like the dark side of the moon.

Tommy Chill rarely deviated from his routine. Friday dinners at Jarochita on Glebe Road. A movie every other week at the Parks Mall. An unlikely passion for Pickle-Ice Freeze Pops from Walmart. Details accumulate, forming a small mountain of data that reveals little of the man’s real substance. But a few nuggets Hayley has found in the scraps of paper hold some promise. Her father made three trips to El Paso, Texas, in the past year, staying at a motel near Fort Bliss and spending some time at that military installation, as evidenced by receipts from the post exchange. Other receipts suggest three trips to a local strip joint. Hayley can find no clues that suggest Tommy visited similar establishments here in Arlington, or anywhere else for that matter. She speculates these stops at the Aphrodite Gentlemen’s Club north of El Paso were meetups.

In the months since Hayley discovered her father hanging by the neck in the sad, modest house in Arlington, the most obvious questions have gone unanswered. Tommy Chill could not have assumed the identity of another Marine without help. Why do so in the first place? What is the Storm? Some kind of malevolent plot? Was her father a participant? Others must be part of the conspiracy, probably working from within the US military. The nature of the scheme and its agenda remain a complete mystery.

Might she find answers in El Paso, Texas?

“YOU COULDN’T CALL to let me know you were back in town?”

When the intercom buzzed, announcing a visitor downstairs, Hayley knew in an instant who had come calling on a weeknight after ten p.m. Wouldn’t be the first time Sam McGovern drove by her place, saw the lights on, and stopped for a surprise visit. Opening the door to him brought a rush of emotions. Their embrace was awkward. Almost tentative.

Sam knows what’s coming and has known it for a long time. That awareness doesn’t make it easier before she actually speaks the words. Hayley steers him away from the dining table, inundated with papers and mail from the house in Arlington, and into the living area.

“I was going to call. Tonight.”

“What is all that?” he asks, gesturing toward the table.

“My dad’s stuff.”

Sam sits on the sofa. “You went back there?” he asks, incredulous.

Hayley remains on guard. The next several minutes are a minefield. “Yeah.” She pulls over a chair from the dining area, close enough to smell the fire on him.

Sam can read her expression. He tents his T-shirt for a sniff. “Sorry. Busy night. Three jobs.”

Hayley has always loved that. “Jobs” is what Sam and his cohorts from DCFD Engine Company 5 call the fires they extinguish. Car fire. Trash fire. Dwelling fire. All are jobs. And Sam? Assigned to a ladder company, he is a “truckie.” From the beginning, she has envied him for his chosen profession. A firefighter’s task is so unambiguous. The measure of accomplishment so clearly defined. The inherent good of what he does cannot be second-guessed, unlike the murk of her role as a deeper state operative.

Last spring, when Hayley emerged from the house in Arlington, Sam McGovern was waiting in the car. She didn’t have to say what she found inside for him to know it was terrible. Hayley resisted speaking of it then. Not that day or the next. But eventually, she opened up to Sam, divulging the barest details of her father’s stunning reappearance in her life and his subsequent suicide because all she had were the barest details. Hayley told him nothing about the wider conspiracy she was only now beginning to suspect might be afoot. Doing so would have necessitated informing him about her association with Publius.

And the absolute necessity of keeping her double life a secret from Sam is the most compelling reason why Hayley must stop seeing him.

“Given how upset you were that day, I’m kind of surprised you went back.”

“I tried to let it go, but I can’t. Not without finding out the truth.”

“Sure, you can.”

She shakes her head, emphatic. “That’s not the way this is going. With me just rolling with it.”

“And your MMA training? What was that?”

Hayley doesn’t answer, not inclined to tell him she had fought her first amateur bout and lost. Sam takes her silence at face value.

“Okay. Got it. Anything else on that list?”

“What list would that be?”

“The list of all the things you can’t… or won’t… tell me. The secrets list.”

“Oh, hell, Sam, I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do.”

This guy, she thinks, a real, American hero.

“I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about.”

“I just—”

“I’m marking down an explanation as completely unnecessary,” he says, more or less interrupting Hayley.

She anticipated he would be this composed. That Sam would let her off the hook. His magnanimous nature. And, of course, this fact makes having to break it off with him that much worse.

“Thank you.”

Sam gestures toward the dining table and stacks of receipts, utility bills, and credit card statements.

“Find anything interesting?”


“What happens after you discover the truth?”

“Nothing. Then it’s over.”


“No, what?”

“It’s never over. The truth leaves its stink on you like three jobs did on me today.”

“Have it your way, then.”

“That’s just the way it is.” He seems cross now, passing through the phases of profound disappointment and regret at breakneck speed. “You never really gave this a fair shot, Hayley.”

“Agreed. I didn’t. Give a fair shot, I mean.”

“Look, if it’s time you need, that’s cool. I get how insanely upsetting all of it must have been. Must be.”

She stares at the floor between them.

He deserves my time. Sam deserves my respect.

He’s one of the good ones. A real hero.

Hayley looks up again, meeting Sam’s gaze. “Which is why I think I fell into this thing with you. After all of that craziness, I had to hold on to something.”

Her words are hardly mollifying.


“Where I’m going…” She falters, unsure how to describe a world she can only intuit at its very broadest outlines. “I think this will be a very dark road.”

“Then I should come with you.”

Hayley shakes her head.

He says, “If it’s so bad…” Stopping himself because he senses he has found the boundary between what is allowed and what is forbidden to him. Sam has always known Hayley Chill was more than a mere White House staffer. He realizes this is the reason she will go it alone. Why she has always been alone, even in the scattershot moments they were together.

She looks at him now, able to meet his gaze without guilt or shame. She knows he knows.

“Okay,” Sam says.

Somehow saying just that much is easiest.

LATER, LYING IN bed, the city outside the window dark and impossibly silent, Sam asks, “So… El Paso?”

“I’m not sure yet.” A pause, then, “Maybe.”

“And if you don’t go, then what?”

“I don’t know.”

This is good enough, he decides.

Good enough.

Hayley says, “I need to sort it out. Tomorrow.”

A promise she makes to herself.

“Whatever made your dad do what he did, it can’t be good. Going down there, it’s not safe.”

“I can take care of myself.”

He has heard this from her before. A thing between them.

“It’s my nature to help.” With a smile, he adds, “I’m literally a lifesaver.”

“I know.”

She kisses him. Again.

About The Author

Photograph by Lauren Ehrenfeld

Chris Hauty’s debut, Deep State, was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and Barry Award nominee. Other novels include the CALIBA Award–nominated Savage Road, and Storm Rising, as well as the acclaimed novella Insurrection Day. He currently lives in Glendale, California.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (November 14, 2023)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668021880

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Raves and Reviews

"Gripping and relentless, STORM RISING is packed with twists, action, and emotional power. Chris Hauty hits it out of the park."

– Meg Gardiner, author of the UNSUB series

"Hayley Chill continues to fight her way through the political thriller landscape as she lays waste to the enemies of the republic in a methodical, brutal, professional fashion, battling a new threat that could tear the fabric of America in two. An excellent thriller perfect for our times!"

– Matthew Betley, bestselling author of the Logan West series and the upcoming THE NEIGHBORHOOD

"Be prepared to stay up all night as Hayley Chill takes you deep into a conspiracy to tear the United States apart. STORM RISING will have you glued to the page as you race to reach the thrilling conclusion. Not to be missed!"

– L.C. Shaw, bestselling author of THE NETWORK

"STORM RISING has all the twists and turns and breakneck pace of Hauty's earlier books, but with a deeper, darker look into the soul of protagonist Haley Chill, and the soul of America, that makes this a timely and terrifying read. I didn't think it was possible, but Chris Hauty has outdone himself - again!"

– Nick Petrie, author of THE RUNAWAY

"Gritty and engaging, STORM RISING is a gripping page-turner. Crisply written, and terrifying in scope, Chris Hauty's new conspiracy thriller is a worthy addition to his excellent Hayley Chill series."

– Simon Gervais, former RCMP counterterrorism officer and bestselling author of THE LAST PROTECTOR

"High adrenaline adventure."

– Booklist

"Tom Clancy…for the post-Trump world!"

– Publishers Weekly

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