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
“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.
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
With High Desert Vengeance going live tomorrow, here’s another sneak peak. Things are starting to get tense in the aftermath of the massacre in Chapter 1. Mario Gomez squinted in the sunlight. It was cool at the moment, but it still felt warm after Transnistria in the winter. He’d been home for a month, but most of that month had been spent watching over Sam Childress as he underwent multiple surgeries. His wounds had been bad, and he still wasn’t ever going to walk again. He rarely showed it, but Mario worried about his comrade. He’d prayed every night for him, either for his recovery, or the strength to cope with whatever came next. It wasn’t something he talked about much. Mario Gomez wasn’t much of a talker. He never had been. He had always been more comfortable watching, listening, and acting than talking. His tendency to silence had been a source of eternal aggravation to his gregarious younger sister, and his propensity for sudden, apparently impulsive action a matter of often grave concern to his more stolid, hard-working father. Only his mother, Cocheta, had really understood him, and even that was an often-unspoken understanding. She had been the only
Yes, despite launching a new series last month and all the associated work that’s gone into that, Brannigan’s Blackhearts #5 – High Desert Vengeance is coming soon. The preorder should be up shortly. You might remember from Frozen Conflict that Gomez was having some troubles at home. Well, they got worse… Juan Gomez was elbow-deep in the old F-100’s wiring bus when a yell from the house startled him. His head snapped up, cracking his skull on the underside of the hood. He didn’t swear; it wasn’t his way. None of his children had ever heard a word of profanity pass Juan Gomez’s lips, and even fully grown, they were often the targets of his dire glare when they indulged in his house. Even Mario, Marine that he had been. Rubbing his head, he glanced up toward the house. Emilio was standing on the porch, shading his eyes as he stared south, pointing with the other hand. “Dad!” he called again. “Look!” Juan almost didn’t have to. Slowly, heavily, still rubbing the sore spot on the back of his head, he turned and looked. Sure enough, there were three plumes of dust coming up the valley. Coming from the south.
John Brannigan sank the bit of the double-bladed ax into the log round he was using as a chopping block and lowered himself painfully to sit on a bigger log nearby. His breath was steaming in the cold air, and looking down at his bared forearms, he could see steam rising from the graying hairs there, as well. It was well below freezing, but he was sweating and stripped down to his shirt. He gulped air, wincing slightly at the stitch in his side, as he critically looked at the woodpile. He might have gotten a quarter of a cord split. It wasn’t bad, given how long he’d been working, but it wasn’t up to snuff in his mind, either. Stretching, he felt the scar tissue on his side pull. It had been months since he’d been shot out on the Gulf of Mexico, and the wounds were healed, but it felt like it was taking forever to get his conditioning back. His leg and his side were tight, and his leg especially didn’t seem to want to work quite right. Getting old, John. He was further reminded of the fact as the cabin door swung open and Hank walked
“You’re imagining things, Eugen,” Cezar Lungu said. He was leaning back in an overstuffed easy chair with a massy, polished wooden frame, a blond, vacant-eyed Ukrainian hooker on his lap. He was fully clothed; she was in her underwear. He picked up the shot of Kvint and tossed it back with a grimace and a loud, “Pah!” “We have an arrangement! And with what we’re paying the Russians and the Transnistrians both, we should at least get a warning if anything has changed!” Eugen Codreanu did not turn away from the window, but continued peering into the night. He wasn’t looking out toward the Dnieper River below the dacha, either. He was looking back toward the wrought-iron gates and the guard posts, through the trees. He was looking back toward the city of Ribnitza, which was throwing its glow against the near-perpetual pall of smoke and steam coming from the steelworks. When Codreanu still hadn’t replied while he poured more Kvint, Lungu tried again. “You’ve been jumping at shadows for four months, Eugen,” he ventured.
“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
“No,” John Brannigan said. “Not only no, but hell no.” “John,” Hector Chavez started to remonstrate with him, “we’re not talking about some half-assed Pemex contract, here.” The two men were facing each other across a table in the Rocking K, the best—and essentially only—diner in tiny Junction City. It wasn’t the sort of place most people would immediately think of when it came to planning covert operations, but it was the closest meeting place to Brannigan’s mountain hideaway, and so Chavez had pegged it as their contact spot, more often than not. John Brannigan was a towering, six-foot-four former Marine Colonel, his hair gone shaggy and gray on his head and his face. He shaved his cheeks and his chin, but his handlebar mustache was bushier than ever. He might have had a few more crow’s feet around his gray eyes, especially after his recent turn to mercenary commander. Activities like a hair-raising mission on the island of Khadarkh in the Persian Gulf, followed by a jump into northern Burma to take down a North Korean liaison operation in the Golden Triangle, were not calculated to keep a man young. Brannigan was dressed in his usual flannel shirt and
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