Authors: Douglas E. Richards
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Thriller, #Mystery, #Suspense, #Adventure, #Fantasy
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and
dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed
as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is
Copyright © 2010 by Douglas E. Richards
eBook Published by Paragon Press, 2011
E-mail the author at [email protected], Friend him on Facebook
at Douglas E. Richards Author, or visit his website at www.douglaserichards.com
All rights reserved. With the exception of excerpts for
review purposes, no part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording,
or by any information storage and retrieval system.
“What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man,
the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What
is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.”
Nietzsche, Philosopher (1844-1900)
Callan extended his silenced Ruger .45 and crept soundlessly toward the woman
calling herself Angela Joyce. She was seated at an old wooden desk with her
back to him, busily manipulating an expensive laptop computer. She was
undeniably cute, reflected Callan, not for the first time. But he liked his
women on the sleazy side, and her look was too wholesome for his taste—even
though her appearance was probably the
thing wholesome about her. And
she was too smart for his liking as well. Far too smart.
driver’s license pegged her at twenty-seven, but she looked younger, as if she
had just finished college. Except for her eyes. There was a maturity there, a
street savvy, far beyond her actual age or appearance that suggested this
soft-looking girl had seen her share of hard times.
did she need to hire two mercenaries to protect her? Not bodyguards, but
mercenaries. And how was she able to afford them without any visible means of
support? She had fed them a story about having been the girlfriend of a mobster
who wasn’t prepared to let her go, but Callan hadn’t bought it for a second. So
he had made a study of her. And sure enough, his investigation had hit pay
dirt. Pay dirt far richer than he could ever have imagined.
girl was so engrossed in the computer she was completely oblivious to Callan’s
approach. He cleared his throat and she spun around, startled. “Oh,” she said
in relief, noticing it was him, but her relief was short-lived as she saw the
gun pointed at her, ominously fitted with a silencer. “What’s going on, Bill?”
she said anxiously. And while she kept her face passive, Callan had an
unmistakable sense that her agile mind was racing; evaluating these new
circumstances and weighing possibilities.
need to come with me,” said Callan evenly. And then, raising his eyebrows he
eyes widened for just an instant before she caught herself. “What the hell is
going on?” she demanded. “Why are you pointing that at me? And why did you call
that’s your real name,” he said simply. “Kira Miller.”
shook her head in annoyance. “If this is your idea of a joke, Bill, it isn’t
ignored her. “Catch,” he said, tossing her a set of car keys. She snatched them
from the air with athletic ease, her gaze never wavering from his.
took the liberty of removing the pepper spray from your key ring,” he told her.
“Let’s go. You’re driving.”
Jason?” she asked.
in the garage,” replied Callan with a sly smile. “Waiting for us.”
until you tell me
what this is about!” she snapped.
closed the gap between them in the blink of an eye and shoved the long barrel
of the silencer roughly against the side of her head. He reached out with his
other hand and grabbed her chin, forcing her face mere inches from his. Callan
was a muscular six-foot-three and his meaty paws were enormous.
a smart chick, you’re just not getting it,” he hissed. “Things have changed. I
don’t work for you anymore. I’m the one giving the orders now! You’ll do as I
say or I’ll break you in half.” He gave her chin and lower face a quick,
powerful squeeze, so strong that several of her teeth cut into the inside of
her mouth, drawing blood. “Have I made myself clear!” he whispered through
clenched teeth, finally releasing her chin.
rubbed her chin and glared at him with such a feral intensity he expected holes
to appear in the back of his head.
your real name is Kira Miller or I’ll break your left arm,” he growled
continued to glare at him as she considered his threat. “
,” she said
finally. “So I’m Kira Miller. So what? I’m paying you and Jason a small fortune
to protect me, and you’re putting that in serious jeopardy.”
laughed. “You think?” he said sarcastically. He shook his head. “Thanks for
your concern, but I won’t be needing your small fortune anymore. I’m trading it
one.” He grabbed her arm and shoved her in the direction of
the garage. “Let’s go,” he barked. “I’m
going to ask again.”
she walked toward the garage she detoured a few yards to snatch a jean jacket
draped over the back of a chair, and quickly slipped it on. Callan shook his
head in disbelief. It was still almost sixty degrees outside. In
. Positively balmy. Callan had
lived in Chicago much of his life, but he knew that after only a few years of
being spoiled in the paradise climate of San Diego the pathetic residents
became hypersensitive to cold.
they reached the door that led to the garage, she turned completely around to
face him, looking as though she wanted to ask a question, her right hand now
buried in the coat’s right pocket. Callan reacted instinctively, twisting away
from her before his conscious mind knew why, just as a small caliber bullet
tore through her pocket and dug a shallow, five-inch-long groove across his
stomach. If he had not turned when he did, the bullet would have bored a hole
straight through his gut.
threw his massive body into Kira Miller and slammed her into the door before
she could get off another shot. While she was still dazed, he wrestled her arm
from her pocket and easily ripped the Glock subcompact she had hidden there
from her fingers.
could feel the wetness of his blood as it slid from his wound and soaked into
his now-torn shirt, but he knew the injury was superficial and not in need of
immediate attention. He spun his former client around roughly and began to
frisk her, something he should have done from the start. He had assumed she was
content to leave security to her two hired mercenaries, but it was clear she
had taken additional precautions of her own. He found a small canister of
pepper spray attached to her lower leg, but no other weapons.
considered roughing her up a bit as punishment for her attack, but decided
against it. If he injured her, she would be more difficult to manage, and it
was his carelessness that had allowed the attempt anyway. Besides, he had made
certain she was all out of surprises.
opened the door to the garage and shoved her through, hitting the light switch
as he did so. The girl almost tripped over the body of Jason Bobkoski lying
face down on the gray concrete floor, a hole drilled through his heart from
behind by a silenced weapon at point blank range. Streams of bright-red blood
branched out from the body like so many fingers and disappeared under Kira’s
white Lexus sedan.
glared at Callan with contempt, but said nothing. Most women would have
shrieked in horror had they been surprised by a bloody corpse, but apparently
not this one. After her bold attack just moments before, he shouldn’t have been
surprised. His instincts had been dead on: this bright, attractive girl was far
more than she seemed.
were on the road minutes later. Kira was at the wheel and Callan sat in the
passenger seat with his gun trained on her. The sun had set a few hours
earlier, but despite the darkness the roads were still fairly active. A
crescent moon hung in the still night sky, and the typical Southern California
assortment of tropical flowers and palms made steady appearances outside the
windshield, a living testament to a growing season and a summer that never
seemed to end.
are we going?” asked Kira finally, breaking a long silence.
know when we get there,” said Callan.
did you learn my true identity?”
isn’t twenty questions.”
I paid you well and you’re obviously selling me out in return. The least you
could do is answer a few questions. What’s the big deal?”
considered for several seconds and then shrugged. “Okay,” he said. “Why not. I
never bought your bullshit story from the start. Your driver’s license and
credit cards are flawless, but I dug a little and became certain you were using
a false identity. This intrigued me. Not many people have fake documents and
superficial histories as good as yours.” He paused. “Then I got lucky. I found
a crumpled United Airlines luggage tag inside the outer pocket of your suitcase,
with the name Kira Miller scribbled on it in pencil.” He pointed ahead to the
next intersection. “Turn left here,” he said.
did as instructed. “So how did you go from finding a luggage tag to abducting
me at gunpoint?”
made some public inquiries into Kira Miller’s background,” he explained, “and
let it be known I had stumbled onto information that might lead me to you. It
was a fishing expedition. I baited my hook with your name and waited for an
interested party to bite. I had no idea I’d be catching
Moby fucking Dick
he said in amazement, shaking his head as if still unable to believe his good
fortune. “The government contacted me almost immediately. They told me you were
a fugitive and warned me you were highly dangerous.” Callan glanced down at his
bloody shirt and decided he should have taken their warning more seriously. “They
wouldn’t tell me anything more, but they offered me a massive finder’s fee if I
could bring you to ground.” The corners of his mouth turned up into a broad,
self-satisfied smile. “After a little negotiation, we settled on two million
shook her head in disgust. “You’re an
, Bill. Did you consider they
were lying about being with the government?”
smiled. “Of course. But I don’t really give a shit who they are and why they’re
after you. So long as I get paid.”
if they’re lying about the money also?” pressed Kira.
I convinced them I could find you, they wired half a million into my numbered
account as a gesture of good faith. A half million bucks buys a lot of
this is just about money?” she said in contempt. “Betraying a client. Killing
Jason in cold blood. With absolutely no idea of what’s really going on or
what’s at stake.”
the fuck did you expect!” he snapped. “That’s the very definition of the word
for Christ’s sake: someone who’s just in it for the money.”
thought you guys had some sort of code.”
laughed. “Not for two million dollars we don’t.” He shook his head irritably. “And
spare me your preaching. You’re not innocent. Innocent people don’t have
flawlessly forged identities. And innocent people who feel threatened hire
people hire mercenaries.”
telling yourself that if it makes you feel better,” said Kira bitterly. “But
you’re wrong. You’re in way over your head, Bill. You’re playing with fire. The
people who contacted you
from the government. And you’re
going to see the rest of that money. In fact, no matter what else happens,
you’re a dead man walking right now, Bill. You’re on borrowed time, and you’re
too clueless to know it.”
said it with such chilling conviction that she gave Callan pause. But this was
her intention, he realized. She was bluffing. Trying to get him to second-guess
you’re taking me to them now?” said Kira.
nodded. “That’s right. At a location I specified,” he said.
insisted I had to be delivered alive and well or the deal was off, didn’t they?
They told you that if you screwed up and I ended up dead, your own funeral
wouldn’t be far behind. Didn’t they, Bill?”
what?” he said dismissively, trying not to show how much she was beginning to
idea why they were so adamant?” she pressed. She shot him a look of disgust, as
if unable to believe the depth of his stupidity. “Of course you don’t,” she
continued, not waiting for an answer. “Because you have absolutely no clue as to
what you’ve gotten yourself into. If you want any hope of living through the
night, you’ll let me go now and disappear.”
eyes narrowed. She was probably bluffing, but could he afford to take that
chance? Maybe he
in over his head. As eager as he was to get his
hands on the rest of the money, with stakes this high, perhaps it did pay to
interrogate her properly and gain a clear picture of what he had gotten himself
into. He could always reschedule the handoff. They wouldn’t be happy, but
they’d go along with a short delay. He’d bet they’d do almost
to get her.
the car around,” he said finally. “We’re going back to your house. Since you’re
so eager to tell me what’s really going on, I’m going to give you that chance.”
raised her eyebrows. “What’s the matter, Bill?” she taunted. “I thought you
didn’t give a shit who I was or why they’re really after me.”
around!” he barked angrily.
drove for several minutes, maintaining a tense silence. They were in the far
left lane, slowing for a red light that shined like a beacon against the night
sky, a hundred yards distant, when Kira pressed the button near her waist,
retracting her seatbelt.
it back on,” ordered Callan.
bruised my shoulder and the belt is aggravating it,” she said.
said, put it back on!”
okay,” she said as they neared to within fifteen yards of the intersection,
reaching for her belt.
she never touched it.
threw the door open instead, and without a moment’s hesitation launched herself
from the car onto the grassy median that paralleled the road. She tried for a
gymnastics roll, but hit hard on her right shoulder and half rolled, half
skidded into the trunk of a small palm tree planted in the median.