Launch Day

Today is the day.  Doctors of Death is live, on Kindle and paperback (and the two editions are already linked, somewhat to my surprise).

Missing Persons, Dead Villagers, and a Sinister Cabal

When a WHO doctor goes missing in Chad, her husband is ready to move heaven and earth to find her. But most of his pleas fall on deaf ears. It’s Africa. These things happen. But his pleas eventually reach the shadowy office that arranges jobs for Brannigan’s Blackhearts. They’re headed into Central Africa, on another rescue mission.

But there’s more to this than meets the eye. A private military kingpin named Mitchell Price is sniffing around Chad at the same time. Entire villages are being wiped out by mysterious plagues. And an ominously familiar group of Western shooters has showed up, both in Chad and at home.

As a few people have noticed, Kill Yuan is now officially part of the Brannigan’s Blackhearts universe.  Doctors of Death is also something of a minor climax to the arc started in Enemy Unidentified; some things are coming to a head, and some answers are going to be revealed.  Only to lead to more questions, of course.

Check it out!  I hope you like it, and don’t forget to leave a review.

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The Guns of Doctors of Death

One of the fun parts about writing stories about a group of covert mercenaries is that they don’t have a standard loadout.  So, I get to include all sorts of weaponry for the Blackhearts themselves, as well as their adversaries, or just the locals they have to steer clear of.  Hence, we have the traditional gun porn post for each new volume, and Doctors of Death is indeed no slouch.

The team gets a little split up in this one, with one element in Africa, and the other having to operate Stateside.  Since the FN FAL is still in service with the Chadian National Army, Brannigan picks the FAL for their primary in Africa, though Van Zandt ends up getting the “Inch FAL,” the L1A1, for them instead.  The measurements are different, but the L1A1 and FAL both use the 7.62 NATO round, though the magazines are slightly different.  Fortunately, he included plenty of mags in the supply drop. Continue reading “The Guns of Doctors of Death”

Doctors of Death Chapter 3

The sound of crying echoed through the house. The place wasn’t even fully furnished yet, and Carlo Santelli had to cringe a little at just how loud Carlo Junior could get, particularly in some of the emptier rooms.

He almost didn’t hear the phone. Part of that was because of Carlo Junior’s wails, part of it was his own deafness in the aftermath of trying to walk the little tyke to quiet again. He’d failed miserably, and Melissa had come and taken the baby, leaving Santelli feeling frustrated and helpless again.

So, he wasn’t in the best frame of mind when he snatched up the phone and answered it without looking at the screen. “What?”

“Rough day, Carlo?” Brannigan asked dryly.

Santelli pressed his lips together and cussed himself silently but thoroughly. He really wasn’t cut out for this family life, and it was taking its toll. Or so he told himself.

“Sorry, sir,” he said. “The baby’s colicky, and he’s being a royal…a handful.”

“You’re even trying to watch your language,” Brannigan said, sounding congratulatory. “You’re truly becoming a family man, Carlo.”

“I’m afraid I’m not doing that great a job at it, sir,” Santelli said.

“Knowing you, you’re doing a lot better than most,” Brannigan said. He paused. “I take it that this is a bad time?”

Santelli glanced toward the other room, where Melissa had disappeared with Carlo Junior. The baby was still crying, but sounded like he was finally starting to quiet down. Maybe he’d just worn himself out. He could hope.

The truth was, he desperately wanted to go on whatever job Brannigan had, even if it was—uncharacteristic for the band of under-the-table mercenaries who called themselves Brannigan’s Blackhearts—just guarding a compound for a couple weeks. He understood that work. He’d been a Marine for twenty-three years, and retired as a Sergeant Major. He was comfortable with it. This…being a husband and a father was turning out to be more than he’d bargained for, especially as his late forties were rapidly approaching. Continue reading “Doctors of Death Chapter 3”

Doctors of Death Chapter 2

“You’ve been rather elusive lately, John.”

John Brannigan cupped his hands around his coffee mug and looked across the table levelly at Mark Van Zandt. General, USMC, Retired Mark Van Zandt.

“I live in the mountains, Mark,” he said. “It’s not like cell service is all that regular up there.”

Van Zandt didn’t react, at least not by much. He’d gotten better at that, but Brannigan could still read him like a book. He was pissed. It was written in every faint line of his movie-poster Marine face, above his usual polo shirt and khakis.

Unlike Van Zandt, Brannigan had shed most of the Marine Corps’ appearance upon his forcible retirement several years before. A forcible retirement, he remembered all over again, that had been enforced by the very man sitting across from him at the table in the Rocking K diner.

Still big and powerfully built, Brannigan had let his hair get shaggy and grown a thick, graying handlebar mustache. He looked more like a mountain man than a retired Marine Colonel, while Van Zandt looked like he’d just taken his uniform off to come to the diner.

“We’ve heard some…faintly disturbing things lately, John,” Hector Chavez said carefully. Brannigan’s old friend had been medically retired for heart problems, and his body had gone soft in the years since, though his mind was still keen. He was dressed down from when he’d first showed up in the Rocking K in a suit for the Khadarkh assignment, but not by that much.

“It’s a disturbing world, Hector,” Brannigan said. “You’re going to have to be more specific.”

“Let’s quit beating around the bush, John,” Van Zandt said sharply, leaning forward and putting his elbows on the table. The entire thing rocked, coffee sloshing a little in cups as it took his weight. “Mario Gomez’ family gets murdered. Next thing anyone knows, a whole bunch of Mexican gang-bangers get slaughtered, to include what has been reported as a balls-out firefight in the hills just over the Mexican border. Now, that sounds awfully coincidental to me. Especially when a bunch of you disappeared from Childress’ bedside at just about the same time.”

Brannigan sipped his coffee. “That does sound like an interesting coincidence,” he said mildly.

If you think I’m going to give you an inch, you’re sadly mistaken, Mark. I’ve been crucified by your type before, remember?

“Cut the crap, John,” Van Zandt all but exploded. “You know as well as I do that you went full vigilante on those assholes. I’ll admit, they probably deserved it.” When Brannigan’s face hardened, he amended, “Okay, they definitely deserved it. If the reports are true, the Espino-Gallo gang was as vicious as they come. The world’s better off without them. But dammit, you went way off the reservation on this one.”

“Oh, come off it, Mark,” Brannigan snarled, finally losing his patience. “Everything we’ve done since I agreed to go into Khadarkh has been off the reservation. You show me the Congressional authorization for any of these little operations, and then we can talk about staying on the reservation.” He all but slammed the mug on the table. “We do this because it has to be done, red tape be damned.” He stabbed a finger at Van Zandt. “And don’t try to fob this off on me alone. You knew we were going to do something, or else you wouldn’t have promised legal top cover when we talked before things kicked off. Now that the bodies are on the ground, you’re getting squeamish.” He snorted. “Not that I really should have expected anything else.”

Van Zandt actually sat back a little at that. He took a deep breath, looking down at the table. Brannigan knew he was right, and he knew that Van Zandt knew it, too. Whatever kind of legal trouble they could potentially be in if anyone went digging too deeply, he knew that the Espino-Gallos had needed killing, and that Sheriff Thomas wouldn’t be pressing charges anytime soon, either.

Having the men whom you had tried to drive off suddenly deliver your kidnapped daughter to your door with a curt, “You’re welcome,” could tend to make a man rethink his position a bit.

“Look me in the eye and tell me it was a righteous killing,” Van Zandt said.

Brannigan’s eyes narrowed at that. He didn’t need to justify his actions to Van Zandt. But he looked the former General in the eye and said, “They had it coming. They had a lot worse coming than we dished out. And if the local sheriff had done his job, we would have stood by and let him do it. You’ve got my word on that.”

His lips pressed tightly together, Van Zandt nodded, breathing a long sigh through his nose.

“Well,” Chavez said, “now that that’s out of the way, can we get down to the main reason we came here?” Continue reading “Doctors of Death Chapter 2”

Doctors of Death Chapter 1

The Cessna 208 dropped like a stone and hit the runway in Abeche with a hard jolt that almost threw Dr. Elisa King into the back of the seat in front of her, despite the seatbelt.  For a moment, she thought that something must have broken. The pilot immediately slammed on the brakes and reversed the props, further throwing her and everyone and everything in the cramped cabin forward as the engines howled, trying to slow the plane down.

She hadn’t thought that the runway at Abeche was so short that a relatively small plane like the Cessna would need to decelerate that hard, but given what she’d seen of the pilot, maybe she shouldn’t have been surprised.

It wasn’t her first time in Africa, but her first time in Chad.  The World Health Organization had often sent observers to document the almost routine cholera outbreaks, but this was the first time someone with her specialty had been called for in the Sahel.

The plane having finally slowed to a reasonable pace, the pilot taxied toward the low, one-story terminal.  King looked out the window, taking in a part of Africa she hadn’t seen yet.

It looked an awful lot like many other parts.  The landscape was barren and dusty, obscured by heat waves and dotted with scrub.  The flatness of the country was broken only by low, peaked hills that looked like pyramids in the distance.

There were three military jets lined up against the retaining wall to the south of the airport.  Two had mechanics swarming over them, and the third didn’t look like it was in any shape to fly.  Half of one engine appeared to be apart, and there was a dusty tarp draped over the canopy.  King only spared them a brief glance; she wasn’t particularly interested in the Chadian military, or any military, for that matter, as long as they kept out of her way.

The WHO cavalcade didn’t really stand out from the other vehicles gathered at the terminal, because they were all Hiluxes and Land Rovers, just like almost every other vehicle in that part of Africa.  But the tall, spare Frenchman standing next to one of the Land Rovers caught her eye, indicating where they were supposed to go.  She’d recognize Flavien Paquet anywhere.

The plane stopped far short of the terminal, and the engines started to spool down.  King was not amused; she had probably a hundred pounds of baggage, and wasn’t looking forward to lugging it the quarter mile to the rest of the vehicles.  But the pilot, a local Chadian Sara, didn’t look remotely concerned, and showed no signs of starting the engines up to taxi any closer.  He was comfortable where he was.

“Typical,” Gerhart Strasser muttered under his breath.  The German epidemiologist usually spoke English, having spent most of the last ten years jetting between the US, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK.  This was his first trip to Africa in quite some time, and he was already displaying his utter contempt for the Africans and their “dirty little countries.” Continue reading “Doctors of Death Chapter 1”

The AP Facelift Continues

So, I’ve got to get new files for the revised Task Force Desperate cover.  KDP Print is printing way too dark, and the silhouettes are disappearing into the background.

I don’t think that’s going to be an issue with the updated Hunting in the Shadows cover.  Feast your eyes:

I think it fits the title a little better.  (And before somebody starts pointing out the AR, notice the profile, and remember that .300 Blackout ARs were in common use in this book as well.)

Currently no similar updates in mind for the other covers; I think they’re still pretty solid.  Some interior updates are happening, but they are relatively minor (reformatting, updating the “Also By” list, etc.).

Once everything’s updated, I’ll probably run a Kindle Countdown deal, probably next month, see if I can’t rekindle a little interest.  Drawing the Line might (might) be coming down off Amazon and turning into a free newsletter draw via Bookfunnel (like Incident at Trakan for The Unity Wars).  Haven’t quite decided that yet.  (And, it’s going to mean redoing interior files again to put the link in the back matter.)

Now, back to the word mines.