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by Geoff Geauterre
Description: Captain Easton's last assignment, as an assessment specialist in Her Majesty's British Intelligence Service, was a bloody nightmare. Along with the embarrassing body count, and just short of a national scandal in bringing down a military ring of deadly smugglers, his nervous superiors sent him home and only wished he didn't make any more trouble. This was when he discovered his manipulative grandfather planning a wedding. His wedding. Making good his escape to the states, the focus was purely on having a holiday, but instead he ended up smack in the middle of an inexplicable conspiracy to ruin a woman's business. Then there was the killing of a child, an attempt at arson, the baffling events that were tearing up a small town on the brink of expanding . . . and it was a good thing for the local police there was a specialist in the neighborhood. No one else seemed have a clue. The story details how an intelligence officer has to think, with characters that are sharply drawn, and a plot that is weaving with superb diction. It will delight fans of thoughtful mystery and quirky humor.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net/ebooksonthe.net, 2010 ebook
eBookwise Release Date: October 2010
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [573 KB]
Reading time: 352-493 min.
If he could have applied a tourniquet, he would have. Instead, he shoved a handkerchief down inside his waistband, and hoped it would do for now. Following that, he admonished himself about no good deed goes unpunished. The sudden sharp stab of pain rippled through him with a shock, but he set it aside, glanced down, and then grimaced.
The cleaning bill, he thought sadly would be outrageous. A wave of dizziness forced his eyes closed, and he took that moment to lean against a crate and catch his breath. Medium sized from his father's line, lean and compact, if he could have turned himself into a mouse, though, and found a hidey-hole to burrow in he would gladly have done it.
The pain arced up his back, and then across the shoulders, and finally, as if everything was connected by some nerve-laden rail line, down into his groin.
"If that's all you're going to do," he blew shallowly, "then I should be all right."
As if in answer, a warped sense of agony made itself up into a hook, and thrust into his butt. "Hey, no fair. Never kick a man when he's down..."
The shotgun felt comfortable in his hands. True, he hadn't fired one in years, but now, after killing several people with it, it had proved to be a trusted companion.
Just then, an image of Admiral Hilbert's congenial, reassuring face swam before his eyes and he shuddered. The man had been so like his grandfather, at times it was difficult to tell them apart. Of course, in consideration of all the other events that led to this hunt for his life, the Admiral's suicide seemed almost irrelevant.
He gazed round and had to admit that crates and steel drums wasn't exactly a homecoming. Still, as walls to keep out bullets, they did come in handy. He knew, though, the respite would not last for long.
Of course, his first inclination had been to take cover in the warehouse, but an inner voice warned of too many entrances, too many ways to uncover his whereabouts. So instead, he chose the plant next door. Here, he could scurry about like a rat in a granary. The description of himself as a rodent was apt. He felt like a rat.
Glancing across the floor, he had a fine view of the meat locker, where he had gone looking for Lieutenant Dreeling and found him. The plant was a transfer point for most perishable items, and the meat locker held everything that needed constant refrigeration.
The warehouse dealt more with dry goods. He chuckled. Some of which was highly illegal, and quite dangerous when placed in the wrong hands. Still, it was the perfect setup for smugglers. An ocean of money came in; heavy-duty shipments under legal license went out. The steady pace must have racked in millions.
Those who endangered that pace, as in the case of Lieutenant Dreeling, became liabilities. Liabilities for this gang meant removal. A jolt of electricity stabbed into his left elbow and recalled him from his musings. He scolded his wounds and told them they would have to wait. Their clamoring for attention turned into a dizzying battle for control.
Pointedly ignoring their demands, he chose instead to focus...where he could go over the past, and see what had gone so wrong, and at what promised to be his immediate future. Now usually he liked to think his operations were dry settings. In one column was the collection of data: reporting trivialities; producing assessments; offering suggestions.
However, when matters turned serious, and he had to take a more active role, the collection of data became bloody enactments, and he was sorry for them whenever they happened. After Lieutenant Dreeling went missing, and the report he wrote; at least the one that slipped through all the attempts to stop it, raised warning flags...
He could have turned the mission down. Could have insisted some newbie handle it, but there was something in that report...something almost pleading for help... Of course, his grandfather would never approve openly, and his mother would have thought him mad, but down deep, where he always needed to prove himself to himself, that imagined plea was enough.
His head dropped back, and his wondrous ability to recall events went into play.
The first moment he knew his plans had gone awry, was when he heard about Admiral Hilbert's suicide. The second note of disaster was in the reflection of Colonel Denton, sneaking up behind him in the dresser mirror.
Once credited as being a hand-to-hand combat instructor, his intent was clear. The taut garrote in his hands was a definite clue.
Richard threw up a hand, turned, the wire snapped taut, and then he did nothing the other would have expected. The hidden towel rod thrust up into the other's Adam's apple, and then a knee smashed into his groin.
The double blow was a shock. The wire dropped, the mouth opened to scream, and then Denton tried reaching for something in his jacket. It was the wrong move. Richard struck him again, and again, until the body slipped nerveless to the floor.
Hustling to the door, Richard listened a moment for sounds in the corridor. When he satisfied himself there was none, he returned to Denton and opened the other's jacket. He found an underarm sheath with an ice pick in it. The picture of the wound behind Lieutenant Dreeling's neck flashed before his eyes.
His search progressed to the other's wallet. Military identification. Credit cards. Theater ticket. Pound notes. He paused to count...and gave a silent whistle. Another pocket yielded a bag of cocaine. He glanced at Colonel Denton's body and continued with the examination. A small notebook, scribbled in code. A penknife and some change. Irritated at how little it was, he glanced at his watch. He was running out of time. He went over to the dresser, lifted it and tore away the taped package beneath. Ripping it open, he checked the Browning and the extra clip.
Then he felt a slight trickle at the back of the neck, touched it and discovered he was bleeding. Cursing, he went back to the bathroom, and then found the wire had sliced into his hand, as well.
When he emerged, his mind was racing. How much time had he left? Could he make it to the street? Could he get help? His eyes slid over to the phone, and then past it. If he even lifted the phone to call out, wherever they tapped into the line, they would know something had happened to Denton. Dressing as hurriedly as he could, he checked the room, did not think he had left anything he needed behind, and slid out the door. Moving as unhurried as he could, he made for the stairwell.
In the garage, something in the corner of his eye moved, and just as he shifted round, a silent bullet grazed him.
That, he told himself, was how everything proved that the best laid plans of rats and men were apt to go awry. He peeked around a crate, scanning for movement, and then pulled back. He still had time yet and breathed deeply, garnering his strength for what he knew would come.
He dropped and sought cover. At the next movement, he didn't hesitate. With the sound of the 9mm firing twice, someone cried out. It was the first sign anyone had that Captain Easton was a good shot. Slugs pounded the vehicle he had taken cover behind, and that convinced him he needed more elbow room. Giving an excellent example of slithering, creeping, ducking and crawling he tried to distance himself from the hunters as much as he could.
However, it was not until the farthest car down forced him to stop and weigh alternatives. A classic, low-slung Alpha Romeo Spider offered no cover at all. He measured the gap to the drive's outer wall and shook his head. It could not have been more than ten feet. He peeked round. It could have been a hundred for all the good it did him. Still, it was the way out to the street.
He looked over his shoulder, and then did the only thing he could do. The unexpected. He threw himself over the hood of the car, darted behind a concrete pillar, and then assumed a firing stance. One of his pursuers jumped around a car and gave chase, and then he realized his mistake, but it was too late. Richard caught him in the open and shot him at point blank range.
Then he hugged back, and shouted: "I've got him!"
As if on cue, the one stationed around the corner of the exit loped down, a wide smile over his face, but then that was all that was left of him. A bullet sheared through the belt on Richard's right side, sending him sprawling onto a patch of oil. He clutched himself, and then lay still.
A moment more, and then a man with a shotgun in his hands appeared, a look of anticipation on his face. Never, Richard thought, underestimate a possum. A bullet through the lungs, along with the addition of a shotgun and he was racing for the exit when he was winged. Just barely making it, he dropped over the shrub lining the drive, cursed his loss of the pistol, and behind him he heard shouts as the screech of tires neared.
Expecting to catch him running for his life, they were utterly surprised when their car flew up, and Richard caught them from the side with booming reports and shotgun slugs. The windshield tore away, half the driver's head disappeared, and the man in the passenger side, frantically firing back never had a chance.
The car crashed into a lamppost and came to an abrupt stop. Just then, a cab drove up, the driver's eyes wide, and Richard waved for him to stop. Instead, the other stamped down on the pedal and veered past at high speed. People stared out their windows, and mindful this was a residential area; he put the shotgun down his side and hurried away.
Once he reached the corner, his intention to hail a cab changed as an army truck wheeled past, and not taking a moment more, he leaped for the tailgate and pulled himself in and out of sight.
Catching his breath, he tried to think this through. There were not just one or two people after him, but teams. He pulled out a handkerchief and tried to apply pressure where it would do the most good. He was lucky there were only flesh wounds. Still, they hurt like hell. The bandage on his hand had slid off, and then there was the shoulder blade to contend with--had that happened when he lost his pistol?--No, his head wagged. That was before.
"Is there," he asked bitterly, "any place I'm not shot?"
No one answered him as the truck bounced and picked up speed. He was just relieved to get out of the line of fire. He was tired and he could have used some rest. He took whatever time he had, and was about to pull himself forward to bang on the back of the cab, when his eyes closed.
It could not have been more than five minutes, though, when he opened them, and then the truck slowed and Richard called out, but it picked up speed. Did the driver hear him? Should he shout louder? Then the flap at the back parted and he caught a glimpse of the guard waving them through the checkpoint at the rear of the base. This was when he realized what happened. Teams had come after him. Teams, not individuals. This truck...he looked blearily around...was their transport.
"Son of a bitch."
Abruptly the truck stopped, Richard heard the driver getting out, and then there was nothing. Fearing the worst, he peeked out and could have groaned. Right back where he had started. The dock, the warehouse, the plant, and the boats.
He clambered out, limped to the cab, and found the driver had gone. The keys had gone, as well.
His options were few. It was late afternoon on a Saturday, and the docks looked deserted. There was also no alternative means of escape in sight. He was on his own, as he ever was.
"Just when you think you're clear..." Shrugging, he staggered towards the warehouse, and then reconsidering, changed direction.