It was starting to get chilly as the last of the sunset faded away. Hank Foss didn’t shiver as he walked down toward Overwatch Three, but he could feel the desert chill sinking into his bones. The nearness to the river only accentuated it. It wasn’t near freezing yet, but mid-forties in the desert at night can still sap body heat quickly. Getting old. He had to admit that he wasn’t quite as robust as a retired Gunny as he’d been as a hard-charging Lance Corporal. The cold bit a little more, his knees ached a lot more, and it took more effort to get up, whether in the morning or the middle of the night. But I ain’t dead yet. And there’s still work to be done. The gravel crunched underfoot as he and Huntsman walked down Paul Estevez’s driveway. The Rio Grande river valley was deathly quiet in the winter evening, making the sound of their footsteps strangely loud. Even the wind was barely a whisper. A coyote yipped and howled in the distance, but there was no telling how far away it was in the otherwise unbroken desert silence. The lights were off. Texas had fared somewhat
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
If it hadn’t been for the earpiece, I never would have heard the radio over the snarl of the four-wheeler’s engine. “Hillbilly, this is Plug,” Hank called. I eased off the throttle and took one hand off the handlebars to key the radio. “Send it, Plug.” “Can you push up to the top of that ridgeline just to the east of you and take a look to the south?” he asked. “Tell me what you see.” “Sure thing,” I answered. It wasn’t like we had a set patrol route, or even any particular need to be anywhere. So far, this job had consisted of little more than long hours just hot-wheeling around the hills of southern Arizona on four-wheelers and the occasional pickup truck. I gunned the engine and sent the sturdy little ATV surging up between the mesquites and the creosote bushes toward the ridge that Hank had indicated. It wasn’t a long climb, but it was steep and rocky, with plenty more sagebrush and creosote bushes that I had to weave around. But it still only took a couple of minutes to reach the top. Halting my ATV, I stood on the running boards and pulled my binos
This will be the last sample chapter. After this, I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait for the book to come out. Don’t worry, though, the preorder (and thus the release date) is coming soon. *** We had just passed Franktown, north of Colorado Springs, when my phone buzzed. I cursed, since the phone was in my pocket and I was driving. Risking a little bit of swerving, I dug the phone out of my pocket and passed it to Jack. “Fuck,” he said flatly. “Tom just sent us ‘Extremis.’”
“Damn, these guys ain’t even trying to blend in, are they?” Jack muttered. “No, they aren’t,” I replied from the back of the van, where I was already snapping pictures. We’d done a few recon passes just by driving through the neighborhood, with the passenger looking like he was texting while he took pictures with his phone, but the bigger Nikon provided better quality, and the van meant that we could get better pictures in general. Trying to be discreet with the phone usually meant that the angles were poor. Sitting in the back seat of the panel van, I had a lot more freedom of movement. Right at the moment, my viewfinder was filled with a relatively fit young man with a pencil mustache and immaculately gelled hair, wearing shiny pants, an equally shiny black shirt open nearly to his sternum, and a short, white jacket. A thick gold chain around his neck and mirrored aviator sunglasses completed the image. I couldn’t see from our vantage point, but I was sure there was a pistol in his waistband. The handful of other young men around him weren’t as fancily dressed, though they were still wearing that sort of northern
Kill Yuan is finished. Editing is done, the final file has been uploaded to KDP, and we’ve just got a couple more formatting things to take care of (including the final cover file) and the paperback should be ready to go. I actually hate editing, even though that’s where a lot of the work happens. By the time I’ve finished going through the work three times, beginning to end, back to back, I’m not only getting sick of it, but I’m pretty well convinced that I’m a talentless hack who has no business selling his awkward mangling of the English language to anybody. But enough of y’all apparently still enjoy my hackery enough to pay me for it, so I will continue. Anyway, here’s another snippet, since I did say there would be a few more forthcoming:
It was a long drive to Coldwell, and we didn’t get started until late, so it was getting dark as we drove into town. Perhaps not the most auspicious beginning.
The town itself was set well back from the interstate, a good five miles down a winding county road. It had apparently been on the old highway, before the interstate, and was still hanging on, even though there wasn’t much to keep it alive. There weren’t even many farms in the vicinity, though a sign just as we turned off the interstate, lit up by our headlights, announced the presence of the Bar-13 ranch, about ten miles in the other direction.
Mostly it was five miles of rolling hills, sagebrush, bunchgrass, and the occasional stand of trees in the low ground where there was more water. The trees were already clumps of darkness against the grasslands that were already going gray in the growing twilight.
There weren’t a lot of lights on in Coldwell. There was a gas station on the edge of town. As I got a good look at it, I thought Ray had been rather overly charitable in calling it a “truck stop.” The pumps were ancient and rusty, and the building behind them was dingy, the paint peeling where it wasn’t dirty enough to turn from white to gray. It looked like the windows hadn’t been cleaned in a quarter century at least. At least the lights over the pumps were on, though the building itself was dark.
Only about three streetlights were lit down the main drag. They didn’t help. All they seemed to do was show the decay. Sidewalks were overgrown with weeds, and more were growing out of cracks in the street. Several of the old storefronts were boarded up, and one was visibly sagging toward the street. Another was burned out, black sweeps of soot staining the dingy paint as well as the buildings closest to it.
It wasn’t that late, so there were still a few people out and about, but most towns I’d been in still showed more activity. The place almost looked like a ghost town, with a few scavengers still going through the detritus. But it was still, as far as we knew, a living town, albeit for certain values of “living.”
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.
There have been some requests, so here it is. Bear in mind, this is still the rough draft, so there will probably be some changes before the final version. *** After enough time in hostile environments, you begin to develop a sixth sense for what the military calls the “atmospherics” of a place. Your mind starts to pick up on all the little cues that tell you that you’re in a relatively safe area, or somewhere that things are about to go very, very bad. You can look at the young men loitering on the street and figure out if they’re just being lazy, or getting ready to start a riot or trigger an ambush. We hadn’t even been on the ground in Kirkuk for a day, and that sense was already going gangbusters. Even before Jim and I got in our Bongo truck and rolled out of the Kurdish quarter at about 0200, there was a sense of impending violence in the air. The safehouse we had set up was as deep in Kurdish territory as you could get in this divided city, but there really weren’t any hard and fast barriers in Kirkuk. An IED