John Brannigan was not a happy man. The fact that he was wearing a tux, sitting at a very expensive table in a very expensive, very exclusive restaurant, high atop a luxury hotel in the middle of San Francisco, would have been bad enough. Ever since his forced retirement from the Marine Corps and the death of his wife, Rebecca, of cancer a short time later, he’d essentially retired to the mountains, living not too differently from an old-time mountain man. Fancy restaurants, fancy clothes, and big cities put his teeth on edge. He’d gotten a haircut and shaved his cheeks and chin, but his massive, bristling handlebar remained, setting him apart even more than his broad shoulders and six-foot-four-inch stature from the soft men around him. But all of that was only a minor annoyance compared to the woman sitting across the table from him.
“Shit,” Phil whispered. “I knew they had a fucking drone up.” I didn’t answer, but scanned the road carefully. Once again, thanks to the woods, we were far closer than we should have been, but the spotlights weren’t pointed at the woods, not yet, and the rising growl of the helicopter, along with the rumble of the armored cars’ diesels, seemed to have drowned out what little noise we were making. Slowly, carefully, I eased back deeper into the shadows, Phil doing the same. Looking up and down the road, I didn’t see a good spot to cross. The six armored vehicles were spaced out along the road. They were too close to slip through, and too spread out to find a good spot to go around. At least, not with that helicopter closing in. Two klicks of open country separated us from the border at its nearest point, and that would have entailed going through Leuba. As urgent as it was that we get the information back to Poland, we weren’t going to do anyone any good if we went charging out there and got killed or captured. And as confident as I was in my team in combat,
On the ground, at night, Germany didn’t look all that different from Slovakia. The differences lay in details that might not have been all that readily apparent to someone without our recent experience. Aside from a dog barking down by Schönau-Berzdorf, it was deathly quiet. No distant thunder of artillery rumbled. No small arms fire rattled. There weren’t even any aircraft to be heard in the sky. The lights were still on in Görlitz to the north, casting an orange glow against the low clouds overhead. Unlike the all-too common flickering light of burning towns and villages in Slovakia, it was a steady illumination, adding to the ambient light that our AN-PSQ-20 fusion goggles had to work with. It made navigation through the shadows of the German woods quite a bit easier. That same quiet was making me suspicious. The entire landscape around us seemed asleep and dead. Given that every indicator that intelligence had gotten in the last few weeks was pointing to Görlitz being the staging point for a major offensive aimed at Poland, there should have been more activity. Phil Kerr took a knee next to a mostly-bare tree. The fall had been colder than the Poles
We barely paused, just turning and burning back down the hall.As I came out, I glanced down the stairway, in time to see two men in dark clothes, chest rigs, and turbans start up the stairs. I threw myself across the hallway as they opened fire, bullets chewing into the ceiling and sending bits of plaster raining down on us, and returned fire. My first shot smashed into the smaller man’s collarbone, sending him reeling as the follow-up shot tore his throat out.The snap of the bullet made the taller, skinnier guy flinch. Which was when Jordan leaned out of the door and shot him in the skull. His head snapped backward as he crashed onto his back. Red started seeping from the turban wrapped around his head.
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
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
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