“Enemy Unidentified” Chapter 3

“Colonel Brannigan, I presume?”  Contralmirante Huerta stood up and extended his hand.  The Mexican officer was in mufti, a dark suit and shiny blue shirt.

Brannigan shook the proffered hand.  He towered over the Mexican admiral, who was showing a bit of gray in his slickly-parted hair and mustache, though not nearly as much as Brannigan was.

Brannigan had dressed up a little for the meeting; he was wearing khakis and a sport coat, in contrast to his usual “retired” outdoor wear.  He was still wearing boots, though, and the sport coat hid the Wilson Combat 1911 on his hip.  Even with Van Zandt and Gomez in the room, he didn’t trust this Mexican officer very far.  He knew too much about how much the bad guys had infiltrated the instruments of the Mexican government.

Van Zandt was in a suit, and was standing back to one side, watching the two men meet.  Gomez had posted himself up at the door, watching everything impassively with his hard, black eyes.

Gomez had become a Blackheart in the plus-up that Hancock and Santelli had conducted prior to the Burma job.  Nobody knew much about him.  He didn’t talk much.  In fact, getting more than a handful of words out of him on any particular subject was often an exercise in frustration, if not outright futility.  He was lean and hard, with short black hair that was almost as dark as Flanagan’s, and features that made him look like a younger version of Geronimo.  If he was an Apache, he never said as much, even when asked, but he sure looked the part.

He’d just shown up in Corpus Christi, unannounced, and had been waiting at the meetup when Brannigan had gotten there.  True to form, he hadn’t said much, but had simply taken up a position as Brannigan’s bodyguard.  Brannigan had just made out the outline of a pistol butt under his shirt when he’d moved just right at one point. Continue reading ““Enemy Unidentified” Chapter 3″

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“Enemy Unidentified” Chapter 1

Brannigan’s Blackhearts #3 – Enemy Unidentified is up for Kindle pre-order, due out the 15th.  So, here’s the first preview chapter.


Officer Lou Hall had been on the San Diego PD for about a year.  He’d just gotten off night shift, and frankly wasn’t sure whether the tradeoff had been worth it.  Sure, he got to see the sun a lot more, and with the sun, in San Diego in the summertime—the winter tended to be pretty gray and damp—usually came the California girls, dressed in as little clothing as they could get away with.

But his partner, Fred Dobbs, was a surly, balding cynic, he wasn’t getting paid that much more, and most of those same attractive California girls turned up their noses as soon as they saw his badge.  He’d even gotten berated by one for, “just wanting to shoot minorities.”  He was half Mexican, himself, so he didn’t know where the hell that had come from.

Then he looked on social media, and didn’t have any more questions.

Dobbs was grumbling, as usual, and Hall had tuned him out after about the first five minutes, as usual.  It was always the same thing.  Dobbs was in the process of a nasty divorce, and couldn’t talk about anything besides what a bitch his soon-to-be ex-wife was.  So, Hall was scanning the sidewalks and trying not to think too hard about how much he hated his life, and really should have applied to El Cajon, or somewhere that actually paid their cops well.

Something caught his attention, and Dobbs’ incessant bitching faded even farther into the background noise.  At first he wasn’t sure why he was looking at the parked taxi so intently, then he saw that it was unoccupied.

Taxis parked in Horton Plaza were nothing new.  There was always far more traffic than there was available parking, and most people didn’t try to drive to Horton Plaza.  But an unattended cab?

Maybe the driver just went to take a piss.  Yeah, that was probably it.  He knew full well what a full day sitting in a car was like.

He didn’t notice the second cab parked just around the corner; there was no reason to.  It wasn’t out of place.  But the man sitting behind the wheel certainly noticed the San Diego PD car cruising past the abandoned taxi.  He toyed with waiting, but there was a crowd coming out of the Lyceum Theater at the same time.  Perfect.

The man ducked down below the dash and touched a remote.  The unoccupied taxi exploded, the detonation shattering every window within sight, including the windshield of his own cab.  He was showered with fragments of safety glass, as the vehicle rocked on its shocks.  He’d parked a little too close; the concussion hammered him into the floor of the cab, and he blacked out for a moment.

When he came to, he had to kick the door open.  The Plaza was a nightmare hellscape.  Where the taxi had been parked, only a crater filled with twisted, fiercely burning wreckage remained.  The cop car was burning, the windows shattered and the side panel crushed in and peppered with shrapnel, both men inside obviously dead.  The sidewalk was littered with bodies and parts of bodies.  People were screaming, the noise only then managing to register to his deadened hearing.  His ears were ringing from the explosion.  A young woman staggered away from the crater, bleeding, half of her face flayed away by the blast.

The man staggered out of the cab and joined the mass of screaming, panicking humanity fleeing the blast zone.  Wounded were being trampled.  The panicked mob was going to seriously impede the first responders; it was just too cramped in downtown San Diego.

The man felt no particular satisfaction in what he’d done.  He’d been well paid for it.  It had been a job, nothing more.  He blended into the crowd and disappeared.

*** Continue reading ““Enemy Unidentified” Chapter 1″

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”

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 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″

“Older and Fouler Things” Chapter 1

Had something else in mind for this post, but got too busy.  So here’s a bit of a look at the work in progress.

 

Chapter 1

Crossing the police line was like stepping into a sauna.  It had been warm enough out on the street; it was the middle of August, after all.  But Spokane was relatively dry and arid.  This felt like we’d just walked into a swamp in the middle of Mississippi.  In August.

There was also a heavy scent in the air.  It wasn’t quite incense, and it wasn’t quite burned blood, though there was a hint of that; something metallic.  It was something I’d smelled before, and didn’t care to smell again.  Cloying, sickening, and absolutely wrong.

I had felt like we were being watched before we even set foot across the police line and onto the yard in front of the spruced-up old neo-Victorian house.  And not necessarily by the swarms of cops, firefighters, EMS personnel, reporters, cameramen, and curious neighbors who were gathered on the street.  There was someone, or something, up in that house, and it didn’t want us there.  That was abundantly clear as soon as Eryn, Kolya, and I stepped onto the grass. Continue reading ““Older and Fouler Things” Chapter 1″