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Authors: Vernon Rush

Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Detective, #Hard-Boiled

Skill Set

BOOK: Skill Set
10.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



The First Isaac Rose Novel














Copyright © 2015 by Vernon Rush.


All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.





All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author.


This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. Vernon Rush









First Edition: January 2015























About the Author




The rear door of the black Mercedes opened and a pinstripe-suited leg slowly emerged. The man groaned as he pulled himself out of the car, up to his full height and slammed the car door. Leaning his back against the rear fender, he stared dead ahead at the hotel’s entrance; the ambulance was parked right out front and two police patrol cars had obviously been stopped in a hurry.

The man
’s gray eyes moved from one vehicle to the next before focusing on the hotel’s large plate glass doors. They were quickly flung open and a gurney was rushed though the opening. Two EMTs were attending the middle-aged man stretched out on the cot. He was conscious, screamed obscenities and clutched at a wound on his thigh. The gurney was wheeled efficiently to the back of the ambulance, its legs collapsed instantly and then smoothly shoved inside the vehicle.

From the other side of the street, the man leaning on the black Mercedes realized he was smiling, and wiped the expression away.

The thick hotel doors opened once more and two uniformed cops flanked a tall black man wearing a blue shirt with the Van Halen logo across the chest. The gray-eyed man glanced left and right, then crossed the street. He approached the cops as they led the taller man toward one of the patrol cars.

“Excuse me, gentlemen. . .” He cleared his throat politely and kept his expression pleasant and non-threatening.

One of the cops frowned slightly.
“Just a second,” he said, yanking open the rear door of the patrol car.

” the man’s voice was soft but authoritative as he reached into his inside jacket pocket.

Both cops instantly snapped their right hands to their holstered weapons.

’s all right,” the stranger spoke softly, slowly removing his hand and showing them the brown leather ID case he held between his fingers. “
’s all right,” he repeated, flicking the case with one hand and causing it to open. It was a government ID, his image clearly displayed in the right corner and an emblem occupying the whole of the left side.

The police officer closest to him, leans nearer stared intently at the ID, then peered curiously up at the man

s face.

I ai
n’t never seen any organization with that badge,” he mumbled.

“And you probably won’t ever see it again,” the man replied. “Please feel free to call this number,” he urged, reaching again into his pocket.

The cops exchanged glances, while the man
’s focus turned to the black man held in cuffs binding his hands over his solar plexus.

One of the police officers slipped into the cruiser and spoke into the radio mic, but the only sounds heard from outside were muffled. Within seconds, he pushed open the door and nodded affirmatively to his partner. Smiling, the man jerked his thumb toward the shackled suspect.

’s with me,” he stated calmly. “Release him and make sure no mention of him finds its way into your report, understand?”

One cop opened his mouth as if to argue, but his partner, the one who had spoken into the radio, interrupted.

“Whatever you say, sir,” he nodded, slipping the hand cuffs off the suspect’s wrists.

Thank you, gentlemen,
” the man replied, with a gracious nod. He turned his back, urging the former prisoner to follow him with a gesture of his head. It’s not until they’ve both crossed the street and reached the Mercedes that he speaks again. “What part of ‘
’t make contact with the target’ didn’t you understand?” he muttered, his voice dark and low as he clicked the rear door open and encouraged his companion inside.

“Things don’t always work out the way you think they will,” the man responded, with an innocent shrug. “Things got complicated,” he added, as he ducked his head and slid onto the backseat. “And now he’s no longer a threat.”

Isaac Rose was an unflappable kind of man; that
’s one of the reasons he was hired for the kind of work he does. One-quarter African American, one-quarter Latino, one-quarter Asian and one-quarter Caucasian, he was a mongrel in the truest sense of the word. However, not having only one ethnic identity had been favorable to him in some ways. He stood over six feet tall and had a thick, muscular frame. A jet black, finely trimmed goatee covered his upper lip and chin, while the hair on his head was equally crafted in a sharp buzz cut. The fabric of his faded Van Halen shirt was stretched over his substantial biceps. “
” the older man snorted in disgust.. “And I have to drag my ass down here and clean up your mess.”

Isaac rolled his eyes, settling back into the seat and stretching his long legs out as far as the seats in front would allow.

Look, boss,

he sighed,
“if I always worked by the book. . .”

“You never work by the book,” his superior corrected him sharply. “
” he barked at the chauffeur in the front seat. “What did you pin on him?” he demanded, turning his attention back to Rose.

“Does it matter?”
Isaac grinned.
“We know he’s been supplying guns to that terrorist group. Can’t prove it,” he added, “so I had to get a little creative.”

Drawing a tired hand through his dark gray hair, the older man emitted an exasperated sigh.


t mistake my calmness for patience, Rose. What did you do?

Smiling, Isaac replied,
“I placed some cocaine in his hotel room. Unfortunately, he came back a little early, which is why I had to shoot him,” Rose added, waving his hand dismissively, as if that development was inconsequential. “But the cops will find the coke…a lot of coke.”

And he
’ll plead it wasn’t his and some man was in his room,” his boss argued.

“Yeah, but who will believe him?” Rose countered. “Surveillance cameras were mysteriously faulty, so police will have no record of seeing anyone.”

“The only proof is the bullet in his leg.”

Isaac shrugged.
“It was his gun, his ammunition. His story of being shot by a strange black dude he’s never seen before will be dismissed.”
Reaching into his right jacket pocket, the gray-haired man grabbed a small bottle of pills. He shook two capsules into his palm.

’s thanks to you I have to take these,” he muttered, tipping his head back as he put the tablets into his mouth. “You do realize that?”

“You worry too much,” Rose responded smoothly, his voice a deep rumble.

“What about the people who saw you in the hotel?” he insisted, replacing the bottle in his pocket.

“Nobody saw me, except the suspect and the cops.”

“And the paramedics,” the senior man adds.

Still Rose refused to be ruffled.

’m sure they can be persuaded to keep quiet. Everybody’
s got a price.

The man with graying hair shook his head.
“You know, there’s a part of me that regrets hiring you,”
he muttered.

With a laugh, Rose
’s gaze moved to the car window and the bright lights illuminating the highway. “No you don’
” he replied in a similar tone. “
’m the best you’ve got, Foxhound.”

At the sound of his code name, the older man smiled. Rose was the only one of his team who knew his real name, but he
’d never used it. Even when they were certain they were alone, he insisted on using his official title. “
Oh, Jesus,
” he said, tipping his head back against the seat. “What a night!”

“Is the third degree over now?” Rose asks, his focus still on the world passing by.

” Foxhound responds. “But it’s over for now. First thing in the morning,” he added, “I want you in my office.”

Yes, sir,
” he nods. There was respect in his voice. The term ‘
’ was not spoken with any degree of sarcasm. He was tired and felt his actions were being unjustly questioned, but he had the utmost admiration for the man by his side and esteem for the office he held.


* * *


The rest of the two-hour drive passed in silence. As the Mercedes pulled up outside Isaac Rose
’s home, Foxhound didn’t bid him ‘
’. In fact, he didn’t even look at his colleague.

Nevertheless, Rose said,
“Thanks, for the lift. . . See you in the morning,” he added, as he climbed out of the car.

Zero seven hundred,
” Foxhound answered.

With that, Rose pushed the door closed with a heavy thud of German metal and walked up his short driveway with long purposeful strides. He paused momentarily at the mailbox, opening it with one hand and grabbing the three envelopes inside. As he made his way to the front door, he peered down at his name and address, the pad of his thumb rolling over the words,

Isaac Rose
’. Even though it had been three years, he still couldn’t quite get used to the fact that the name belonged to him.

Like his face, his name had to be altered before he entered the Trackers - the elite and mostly unknown division of the Intelligence Agency. In some ways his new face had been easier to adjust to than the name. He wouldn
’t be able to say why, but the face reflected in the mirror had quickly become ‘
’. That was something he hadn't expected.

The night before the surgery, he'd looked at his features carefully, holding a hand mirror too small to view all of his face at the same time. With the forefinger of his right hand, he followed the curve of his brow, before slowly drawing down his temple and taking a detour over his cheekbone. He wasn't a vain man, but he believed himself to be reasonably handsome. The cocktail of heritages had been kind to him. However, there were no regrets in what he was doing. It was the start of a new chapter in his life, and in true 'rebirth' fashion, he knew he was literally going to be changed, too.

The next morning had been a blur; the nurse must have given him some drugs to prepare him, but he didn
’t remember waking up at all. All he remembered was awaking some twenty-eight hours later, his entire head bound with tight bandages. A small gap for his nose and mouth was his only way of testing the world on the other side of the cocoon; even his eyes were completed covered. At that point, he was aware of only one thing: pain. The nurses and doctors tried to keep him oblivious on morphine and Rose guessed it must have been doing something, but it definitely wasn't taking away all feeling.

He would never be able to say how long the bandages remained. He was told four days, but to him it felt like four years. The mixture of drugs and intense pain made that whole period very fuzzy.

He did remember well the moment those bandages were slowly peeled from his face; the first time he was handed a mirror. The face in front of him barely looked like a face at all. It was swollen, the skin shiny and incredibly fragile.

“It will take a few more days for the swelling to go down,” the doctor had told him, carefully examining the marks of his incisions. “Then it'll be a few weeks more until it’s completely healed.”

It had actually taken almost three months for the skin to look and feel completely right. However, during that time, it allowed Rose to become accustomed to his new self
– and as the scars slowly began to fade and the skin stopped looking like that of a burn victim, the features gradually revealed felt like his own.

Of course, his new face was not quite the same now as it was before he underwent the operation to alter his identity. Now it had a fresh scar, from a shard of broken bottle, above the right eyebrow and the bridge of his nose had a bump from a break that refused to heal straight.

Nevertheless, he was still a handsome man. And he knew it. Long before he
’d joined the Trackers, before his days in the military, Isaac had paid his way through college by working as a male stripper and exotic dancer. At that point in his life, he was known by another name, a nickname: Brickhard. It began with one or two of the regular patrons calling him that. Those women claimed the name was appropriate because of his rock hard abdominal muscles. It didn’t go unnoticed to him that those women also referred to his well endowed lower bottom half as ‘the brick’

Those were fond memories for Isaac.

Sure, it wasn
’t quite what he’d envisaged for himself. Then again, nothing in his life had panned out the way he’d assumed it would. Stripping was just one more adventure along the way. And it got him a lot of action. However, it also gave him an insight into women he had not had until that point. He realized the one fact that most men either don’t know or don’t want to hear: women want sex just as much as men do. If they’re getting something out of it, if they’
pleasured, they want it and they want lots of it.

It might not seem like a spectacular piece of knowledge in the grand scheme of things, but it had served Isaac well - and in many more ways than just getting laid.

Pulling himself from his thoughts, Isaac allows his hand and the envelopes he clutched to fall by his side. He reached into his pocket with his fingers and pulled out his key. However, as he began to insert it into the lock, the door pushed open.

Isaac paused, instinctively stepping to one side of the door frame. Pushing his back flush against the wall, he used the toe of his thick, tan-colored boot to kick the door wider.

The entryway was dark and no light spilled into it from any of the rooms. Isaac lifted his right leg and hooked an index finger into the bottom of his jeans. Carefully, he slid the fabric upward, revealing a knife sheathed in leather strapped to his calf. He gripped the handle of the weapon and yanked it free.

Tossing it in the air, he flipped it around, catching the handle in a reverse grip with the blade facing outward. With sure, steady movements, Rose pushed himself away from the wall and placed one foot firmly inside his home.

His eyes scanned the hallway methodically, as he placed his mail onto a side table. Calmly, he strode forward, halting when he heard a creak above his head. His gaze drifted to the ceiling. He walked with light and agile steps to the stairs. Taking the stair steps two at a time, he adjusted his grip on the knife as he reached the carpeted landing.

From here, he could see light creeping from the door standing ajar. He waited, not even breathing, listening for any sound, any indication that there was more than one
intruder in his home. However, he could hear nothing.

Spurred into action once more, he walked slowly into the bedroom. Using his left hand, he pushed the door open gently , drawing his right hand up toward his shoulder and bracing himself to use the knife. But, as the door swung open, there was nothing. Rose could see the glossy hardwood floor that led to a cream-colored rug at the foot of the bed. He could make out the bottom of the bed frame, which was ornate cast iron.

The light above the bed illuminated the room and the ceiling fan whirred softly. For a second he doubted himself. Had he left the front door unlocked? Was it possible he had left the bedroom light on when he left earlier that afternoon?

No, he shook his head, he remembered it was a little after midday when he left the house, it was a bright day, he had no reason to have the light on.

Taking a slow, silent step inside the room, he pushed the door open a little wider. More of the room came into view, but still there was no sign of anyone or anything. Another steady step and then another, until he could pull the door closed behind him. Then his attention was caught by the rattling of the connecting bathroom door. Whirling around to face the sound, he clutched the knife, ready to spring. His eyes were fixed on the small brass knob as it turned and the door gradually opened.

BOOK: Skill Set
10.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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