“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”

“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″

Lex Talionis Chapter 7

By the time we hit the rally point, it was pretty obvious that things were threatening to spiral out of control.

Gunfire was echoing through the night, more intense than anything we’d unleashed yet, except for maybe the mad minute into Fat Boy’s safe house.  Red and blue flashing lights were clearly visible, as were the flames from something having been set on fire not far from them.  The local PD was in the middle of one hell of a firefight.  Given what I’d seen, I didn’t imagine it was a fight that they were remotely prepared for.

Even though it had been a pretty successful night, we were all pretty subdued as we gathered around the vehicles in a field south of town.  Granted, some of our silence was simply professional habit; once you’ve spent as long as we have running around hostile environments, outnumbered and generally outgunned, you don’t get loud and chatty very easily.  Some of it was because of fatigue.  There hadn’t been a lot of sleep since Jim’s death. Continue reading “Lex Talionis Chapter 7”

Lex Talionis Chapter 6

Twelve hours later, aching with fatigue and sleep-deprivation, we pulled off and headed to another one of the myriad abandoned houses that we’d picked out as safe houses elsewhere in the city.

 

“Well, that’s interesting,” I said, looking around at the weary, grimy faces gathered in the shadowed living room.  At least, I think it was supposed to have been a living room.  It was just an empty space covered in dust and debris at that point.  We were keeping well back from the broken front windows to avoid being easily spotted from the street.  “Nobody saw any police response at all?”  I looked at Derek.  “I know you were monitoring their comm freqs.  Even the IED wasn’t enough to stir ‘em?”

He shook his head.  “They were aware of it.  Several calls came in, from locals and police units.  But there was no response from dispatch except to say, ‘Yeah, we know.’”  He shrugged.  “They knew that the wild goose chases I had them on were probably connected to it, too, judging by a couple of the responses to the bots’ 911 calls.  But they still didn’t lift a finger to go into the East Side.”

“That is very interesting,” I mused, scratching my beard as I stared at the map. Continue reading “Lex Talionis Chapter 6”

Lex Talionis Chapter 5

The sound of pistol shots could only mean that things had just gone very, very bad.  Of course, being the East Side, we heard sporadic gunfire all the time.  If I had been inclined to wishful thinking, I might have been able to put it down to just another couple of gangbangers removing themselves from the gene pool.  But the timing, the direction, and the fact that the explosion we’d been waiting to hear hadn’t gone off yet, disinclined me to such hopes.  Bryan was probably dead, and our first diversion was a bust.

Strangely enough, I didn’t feel the surge of rage and frustration that I probably should have.  I was in the zone, game face on, and I just did what came naturally anymore when things inevitably fell apart.

I attacked. Continue reading “Lex Talionis Chapter 5”