Brannigan’s Blackhearts have a team logo now. Though the Colonel might be a bit less than enthused about it, given the nature of the team…
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”
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”
Well, after a 4057-word day, the first draft of Lex Talionis is done. Finally.
This thing is a beast. It is the longest book I’ve written to date, topping the final draft of Hunting in the Shadows by over 13,000 words, weighing in at 161,860 words. And that’s before editing, where a draft usually gains a couple thousand words.
But there were a lot of threads to tie up in this one. It’s brutal, it’s bleak, but I think it’s a fitting end to the series. There are parts that were quite uncomfortable to write, and probably will be a bit uncomfortable to read. It is a cautionary tale in many ways, as the tagline, “War and Politics Have Consequences” should probably tell you.
I’m going to take a couple of days to let the gray matter rebound, and then it’s into editing. I’ve got thirty days to get this monster ready to go.
So, I’ve been keeping this project reasonably quiet while waiting for The Walker on the Hills to release. However, I’ve made some pretty decent progress so far; seven chapters of the first draft are done already.
Some of you may remember I talked some time ago about a project in part inspired by the game Far Cry 3. As I played that one, I kept thinking, “Sneaking through the jungle slaughtering pirates is fun, but this story is kind of dumb. It feels like it was written by somebody who’s never actually been outside of a game development studio. I bet I could do better.” A later interview with the main writer, where he was going on about how “meta” it was (something that nobody who played it apparently picked up on), only cemented my contempt for the story. Game’s still fun. Story’s crap.
So was born Kill Yuan. Continue reading “Coming In The Spring: “Kill Yuan””
They didn’t lead us to the sheriff’s department, as I’d halfway been expecting. Instead, we headed back toward the interstate, and pulled off in the truck stop at the exit. Craig parked the cruiser back by the semis, then got out and waited. I looked over at Eryn, shrugged, and got out to go join him.
He was leaning against the hood of the cruiser, his arms crossed in front of him. “What do you know about Chrystal Meek?” he asked as I walked up to him.
I shook my head. “Bupkis,” I told him. “She’s a name that Blake gave us to find if we couldn’t meet up with him. That’s all we know.”
Craig frowned, looking down at the asphalt as if to gather his thoughts. “Chrystal’s…well, she’s been through a lot. I’d almost say she’s the one decent person in that blight of a town. A lot of people have tried to get her to leave, but she’s always been the type to say that it’s her home, that she can’t leave, you know? She’s stayed for her mom. Lord knows why. Her mom’s an abusive addict, nobody knows who her dad was, and she’s had a string of abusive boyfriends, a couple of whom I’ve had the pleasure of putting in jail.” He spat on the ground. “She kind of latched onto your friend when he came through town; I can kind of see why. He seemed like a decent guy. At least, until he left her here.” He squinted at me. “Now, I’m not sure it’d be a good idea for you to go barging in and telling her that your friends with this dude. Pretty sure it wouldn’t be good for her.”
I grimaced. Great. Drama. As much as I’ve had to deal with hair-raising, sanity-shredding things from beyond human ken, I still really hate a lot of human drama. I’m not a cold-hearted individual, at least not most of the time, but Chrystal was our only link to Blake and whatever was going on that had scared him enough to write a panicky, cryptic note to come out here and see him. And I suspected that whatever it was had to do with the sudden increase in psycho belligerence that the sheriff’s deputies had noted in Coldwell. I couldn’t leave this alone. Continue reading “The Walker on the Hills Chapter 4”
Gravel crunched under my truck’s tires as we rolled up Ray’s long driveway in the dying light of the next day. Eryn was half asleep in the passenger seat, her head lolling against the window. It had been a long day.
There had been a lot of questions in the Forth Police Department. A lot. And no surprise, really. They had a missing kid, bleached human bones, a weird pile of ash and greasy rags, three very traumatized teenagers, gunshots, and two people from out of town who weren’t terribly forthcoming as to what they were doing there with the kids or what they’d been shooting at. Any cop worth his or her salt would be inclined to throw everybody in jail until they had answers.
Fortunately, we were saved a lot of time and heartburn by a curious side-effect of the hag’s spell. While the kids had appeared comatose, they were in fact completely aware of their surroundings the entire time. Hags are cruel creatures.