On 13 September 1954, at a U.S. Army hospital in Yokohama, Japan, a 21-year old U.S. Army corporal named James Almon Polk died of encephalitis. He left behind his wife, Chieko, eight months pregnant. Two months later, in November 1954, she gave birth, in the same hospital where her husband had died, to a boy. She named him after his father.
For twenty plus years, I enjoyed my job as a federal criminal investigator, a special agent for the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). I traveled the world. I witnessed the darker side of humanity. At times I unmasked the shadow-personas of people hiding behind their social masks. I cannot say for sure if evil exists as a force that shapes the world, but I know for sure I had come face to face with people whose hearts had chilled. Like a father who explained to me one morning, as if nothing bad had happened, how he had found his six-year old daughter in bed, dead. When I entered the bedroom I found the girl, her tiny body darkened with bruises and burn marks, and her bones broken, and the cold reality hit me that her father had beaten her to death.
Twice I volunteered for an assignment aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier. First, I deployed with the USS Independence. Then years later, I deployed with the USS Kitty Hawk during Operation Iraqi Freedom. I worked primarily in the field of counterintelligence investigations and counterespionage operations. However, after the 9-11 terror attacks, my career track shifted to counterterrorism operations. In 2005 – 2006, I volunteered and deployed to Iraq. I had to witness the war.
In 2006, after turning 50, an age eligible for an early retirement with 20 years in the federal law enforcement, my wife, Sharon, also an NCIS special agent, said to me: “I know your dream. You want to write full time. Go ahead. Write all you want. You can retire.” So in October 2006, I turned in my badge and credentials, gave up my Sig Sauer PP-229 pistol, and became a writer.