Burmese Crossfire Chapter 3

Well, there’s less than a week until Burmese Crossfire comes out.  One last peek before it’s go time.


Joe Flanagan was not a man given to many words or noticeable outbursts of emotion.  He was often best described as “laconic,” and he took some pride in that fact.  He was a quiet man, often a gray man, passing unnoticed through the crowd, and he liked it that way.  He and Brannigan were of similar temperaments in that respect, as both preferred the wilderness to the hustle and bustle of the city.

Right at the moment, though, Flanagan’s eyes were smoldering, and his jaw was tight under his thick, black beard.  He was not a happy man.

He checked his watch again.  He knew he was in the right place.  The Vegas apartment complex hadn’t been hard to find.  It had been a long drive to get there, and now Curtis was late.  He would have let the man make his own way, but he’d been hiking in Utah, so he’d been close enough to swing through Vegas and pick the other man up on the way up to Colonel Brannigan’s place in Idaho.  But they still had a long way to go, and here he was, sitting at the curb, and there was no sign of the little man.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket.  “Where the hell are you?” he typed.

Joe!  Just in time!  I need extract!  I’m in the Blue Lagoon!  Hurry!

“Son of a…”  Flanagan had to fight the temptation to punch the steering wheel.  “Leave it to him to go to a damned bar and get into trouble now of all times,” he muttered, as he put the truck in gear and headed down the street.  Only having something of a working knowledge of Curtis’ favorite hangouts in Las Vegas gave him a general idea of where he was going, without looking at a map.

Ordinarily, it would seem to be too early for anyone to be in a bar, but it was Vegas, it was mid-afternoon, it was a weekend, and it was Curtis.  The man had never seen a bar that he hadn’t wanted to go into, and Flanagan was pretty sure he knew just why the little man was in trouble, too.

He was fuming and ready for a fight when he stalked through the doors of the Blue Lagoon.

The place was dim, lit by blue neon lights set above the bar and in abstract patterns on the ceiling.  The walls, ceiling, and most of the floor were black, except for the mirrors behind the bar, which just reflected the blue light even more.  The atmosphere was somewhat relieved by the Nevada sunlight coming in the tinted windows at the front, but not by much.

It was easy enough to pick out where Curtis was, even though he couldn’t see the little man behind the knot of belligerents gathered around him.  He could hear the gambler and erstwhile machinegunner’s slightly high-pitched voice clearly enough.

Say what he will about Kevin Curtis’ judgement, he could never accuse his old friend of being a coward.

“Oh, look at you, big man!” Curtis was saying.  “Bow up all you want, it don’t matter to me.  Or to her, apparently!”

The other man said something, probably intended to sound threatening.

“Oh, look at me, I’m so tough, in my Hard Rock Café t-shirt with the sleeves cut off,” Curtis mocked.  Even without seeing him, Flanagan could picture Curtis puffing his chest out and pulling his chin in to ridicule the man.  “Man, get outta here with that noise!  If you were half the tough guy you think you are, she wouldn’t have needed to get to know me, now would she?’

Flanagan was halfway across the floor when the man raised a fist.  “Try it, bitch!” Curtis called.  “See what happens!”

The man let the punch fly.  At the same moment, his half-dozen buddies also converged, fists flying.

Flanagan waded in. Continue reading “Burmese Crossfire Chapter 3”

Advertisements

Burmese Crossfire Chapter 2

The paperback proof is here, the Kindle pre-order is up ($0.99 until Jan 20, when it goes up to $3.99), and here is Chapter 2 to whet more appetites.


The unimaginatively-named “Road-House” lay just off the highway, about twenty miles from the nearest town.  It didn’t get a lot of traffic, except for the occasional motorist stopping in to grab something to eat, either at the gas station attached to the “Road-House” or at the restaurant and bar itself.

John Brannigan nearly filled the doorway as he stepped inside.  Six-foot-four, broad-shouldered, he retained the leanness and power of a man much younger than his nearly fifty years.  His hair was going gray, as was the thick handlebar mustache he’d grown since he’d retired—not entirely willingly—from the Marine Corps, some years before.  Deep lines surrounded his icy eyes as he swept the interior of the restaurant with a practiced, professional gaze.  This was a man who had never stepped into a room without knowing the layout, who was in it, and how to get out.

It wasn’t that he was paranoid.  It was simply a fact that twenty-three years as a Marine, both enlisted and commissioned, had hard-wired certain habits into him.  And his most recent work hadn’t served to dull those habits any, either.

Hector Chavez was waiting by the bar, sitting on a stool with one elbow on the bar and the other hand on his knee, so that he needed only turn his head to see the door.  He grinned a little as he hitched himself off the stool and stepped toward Brannigan, holding out his hand.

“Good to see you again, John.”  Chavez was getting a little heavy, his gray hair thinning.  He still moved well, for a man whose heart didn’t quite work right anymore.

Brannigan shook the other man’s hand.  Chavez’ ticker might need a pacemaker, but his grip was still strong.  “Did you let Mama Taft intimidate you last time, Hector?” he asked, with a half-smile.

Chavez chuckled.  “No, though that is certainly an intimidating woman.”  He sobered.  “I just figured that establishing a pattern of life might not be the best idea.  If we keep meeting in the same diner, with different clients, somebody might start to think that you’re working as some kind of consultant.  And then they might start wondering what kind of consulting a man like you does.”

Brannigan nodded.  The reasoning was sound.  The last job that Chavez had brought him, his first as a mercenary, had been high-risk and highly illegal.  That it had been the right thing to do wouldn’t matter if the wrong people got wind of it.

He looked around for his new client, but Chavez appeared to be alone.  Noticing the look, Chavez inclined his head toward the back of the restaurant and said, “Come on.  And John?  Try to keep an open mind, all right?” Continue reading “Burmese Crossfire Chapter 2”

“Burmese Crossfire” Chapter 1

Roi Tri Somboon Sirpreecha was nervous.

It had been a whole fifteen days since he had reported to his post as the youngest, least-experienced platoon commander in the Thanan Phran, the Thai Rangers.  It hadn’t been an easy fifteen days, either.  While the Royal Thai Army provided the Thanan Phran with its officer and NCO corps, many of the men had their own ideas about discipline and responsibility.  He’d long heard that many of the Rangers had been criminals, pardoned of their crimes for joining up, but he hadn’t realized just how shadowy the interior workings of the Thanan Phran could be until he’d caught one of his more experienced and respected Rangers brazenly stealing from one of the villagers when they’d passed through Ban Pha Hi on patrol.

When he’d confronted the man, he’d found himself half-surrounded by suddenly surly Rangers, all with weapons close at hand.  He’d held his ground, backed up by Sip Ek Klahan Phonarthit, and the Rangers had slowly backed down.  The culprit, Kamun Amsir, had finally handed the stolen food back to the bent old woman, giving the Roi Tri a smile that promised that he would learn how the Thanan Phran worked, or he wouldn’t be around for long.

Now he was chivvying his platoon into trucks to head for the same village, based on reports from the Border Patrol Police that the sensors they had emplaced along the border, with the Americans’ help, had picked up a sizeable group moving toward the border, through the jungle.  They weren’t going to the border crossing in Wiang Phang Kham, either.  Which meant they were probably drug smugglers.

The United Wa State Army had been running ya ba, methamphetamine pills, into Thailand for years, along with the heroin that the Golden Triangle was world-renowned for.  A good part of why the Thanan Phran was on the border was to intercept the UWSA drug shipments.

Of course, Somboon was increasingly aware that some of his Thanan Phran were probably complicit in the same trade.  It had been a problem for some time, and had led to some tensions between the Rangers and the BPP.  He had his eyes on Kamun.  The man seemed like the type. Continue reading ““Burmese Crossfire” Chapter 1″

“Older and Fouler Things” Chapter 4

Edit 2 is finished, and the preorder for the Kindle version of Older and Fouler Things is up!  It will release on September 22.  In the meantime, here’s a look at Chapter 4.

Oh, and there’s a cover, too.

Paul didn’t show up to breakfast, even though it was pretty late in the morning, and the sounds and smells of frying bacon and eggs were permeating the entire house.  After the events of the previous night, that was a matter of some concern.  I was about to go check on him, but Eryn put a hand on my arm.

“Let me get him,” she said quietly.  “If he’s as traumatized as I think he might be, a gentle voice will probably help him a little more.  No offense, hon, but you’re better at the ‘shooting monsters’ part, and I’m better at the ‘comforting victims afterward’ part.”

I just nodded, and stepped back.  I was still hovering in the hallway, though, and I still had my .45 on my hip.  The combination of Magnus’ reaction to him, the eerie activity at the witching hour that morning, and his silence and absence at breakfast were not serving to make me particularly comfortable.

Eryn knocked softly on the door to Paul’s room.  “Paul?” she called.  “We’ve got breakfast, if you want some.”  She waited, glancing at me.  “Paul?” she tried again, knocking a little more insistently this time.  “Are you all right?”

We waited, and I was gearing up to kick the door in.  Sure, he’d come to us as a terrified, traumatized victim, having narrowly escaped becoming a human sacrifice in a demonic summoning ritual.  But there was obviously something weird going on with him, and while Eryn had been right when she’d pointed out that some great Witch Hunters had started out that way, there were also some pretty gruesome stories floating around in which similar victims had ended up going bad.  Very, very bad. Continue reading ““Older and Fouler Things” Chapter 4″

“Older and Fouler Things” Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 

It was a long drive back to Ray’s place, and we were tired.  Fighting a demonic manifestation in a Bed and Breakfast can really take it out of you.  We stopped several times to rest along the way.  Eryn and I could switch off driving, but Kolya and Father Ignacio didn’t have that luxury.  At least Father Ignacio could go a lot farther on a single tank of gas, riding that Harley of his.

Paul wasn’t helping much; according to Kolya, he was spending most of the drive sleeping, when he wasn’t staring blankly out the window.  None of us necessarily blamed him; the first brush with the powers of the Abyss can be pretty traumatic.  He’d need time.

It was well after dark by the time we pulled in.  Ray’s house, a long, one-story, hewn-log building that he’d built himself, was dark, at least at first.  As the gravel crunched under our wheels, a light flickered to life in the window.  Either Magnus had heard us coming and woken Ray up, or he’d somehow known we’d be pulling in right at that moment. Continue reading ““Older and Fouler Things” Chapter 3″

Six Miles West of Nogales

If it hadn’t been for the earpiece, I never would have heard the radio over the snarl of the four-wheeler’s engine.

“Hillbilly, this is Plug,” Hank called.

I eased off the throttle and took one hand off the handlebars to key the radio.  “Send it, Plug.”

“Can you push up to the top of that ridgeline just to the east of you and take a look to the south?” he asked.  “Tell me what you see.”

“Sure thing,” I answered.  It wasn’t like we had a set patrol route, or even any particular need to be anywhere.  So far, this job had consisted of little more than long hours just hot-wheeling around the hills of southern Arizona on four-wheelers and the occasional pickup truck.

I gunned the engine and sent the sturdy little ATV surging up between the mesquites and the creosote bushes toward the ridge that Hank had indicated.  It wasn’t a long climb, but it was steep and rocky, with plenty more sagebrush and creosote bushes that I had to weave around.  But it still only took a couple of minutes to reach the top.

Halting my ATV, I stood on the running boards and pulled my binos out of the saddlebags.  As I lifted them to my eyes and scanned the open ground to the south, I quickly saw what Hank had been talking about.

There were four figures trotting through the grass and brush in the next draw over.  They were moving pretty quickly, and heading generally north.  Given that Hank and I were the only ones out on patrol at the time, and all of Manuel Lopez’s ranch hands were either working around the house and barns, or watching the herds to the east of us, that kind of narrowed things down.

“Plug, Hillbilly,” I sent, keeping the binos trained on the four.  “I do believe we have some uninvited visitors.”

“That’s what I saw, too,” he replied.  “Just wanted to corroborate it.  Meet you down below, and we’ll go say howdy?”

“Sure,” I answered.  I wasn’t going to complain about actually having some work to do.

The truth be told, even though we were all experienced warfighters, with years of work in the military and some in the contracting world, we had perhaps been a touch naïve when we’d started up our little company.  After all, we owned Praetorian Security, and we knew the score better than any of the soft-clothed financiers who owned most of the rest of the PMSCs out there.  We could determine our own equipment, pick our own jobs, and find the jobs that would keep us in the thick of it, in the shit.

We were finding out the hard way that those kinds of jobs were few and far between, and often involved a lot more shady business to get than we’d necessarily expected.  Most of the time, they were either outright illegal, or in some kind of gray area that tended to get all kinds of scrutiny, so the clients who had those sorts of jobs didn’t tend to be very forthcoming about them.  We’d set up our little private Special Operations company, only to find that we didn’t immediately have clients running to our doorstep. Continue reading “Six Miles West of Nogales”

“Older and Fouler Things” Chapter 2

The woman was in the lead, two steps ahead of the man.  She was also half a head taller than he was, with a narrow, severe sort of face, blond hair pulled back into a tight ponytail behind her head.  She looked around at us rather imperiously, her mouth pressed into a thin line.

“Who are you people?” she asked.  Her voice was clipped and slightly nasal.  And her tone immediately set my teeth on edge.

“Who wants to know?” I replied, shifting my Winchester to the crook of my arm as I folded my arms in front of me.  I could see the badge on her belt and the big yellow letters “FBI” on her blue windbreaker.  But her attitude put my back up, especially coming after what we’d just done.

“I’m Special Agent Trudeau, and this is Special Agent Miller,” she replied, in the same clipped, arrogant tone of voice.  “Now, tell me who you are.”

“Lady, unless you’ve got a warrant, which the good police chief over there might object to, given what just happened, I suggest you get a lot more polite in the next five seconds, or you can pound sand,” I told her. Continue reading ““Older and Fouler Things” Chapter 2″