Every week or so I will be putting up an advance chapter or two of my newest International Thriller...Murmansk! You can of course find the earlier chapters further down the page.The book should be published around July of this year!
**Note this is first draft so be kind to any mistakes I may have (grin)**
November 24, 2000
As our eyes moved to the sidewalk, they were met by a strange sight.
Leaning on crutches, a small man with round, wire-rimmed glasses stared back at us with a small smile on his lips. Wrapped in a long, dark coat that almost touched the ground, his head was also covered by a dark, brimmed hat.
“I would like to hire you Mr. Celtic,” he proffered suddenly as he started moving toward the porch steps. “At least, I’d like to discuss hiring you, if you have a few moments.”
Still moving toward us, he started up the first step with a small clank. As my eyes were drawn toward the noise, I noticed that he was wearing some sort of leg braces. Glancing at May, she met my questioning glance with a shrug, but her eyes were dancing with excitement.
“Show the gentleman in Gabe,” she grinned before her eyes moved back to the approaching man. “It’s too cold out here to discuss business.”
Nodding, I jumped up and made for the door, opening it and standing aside to allow our guest into the kitchen.
“Please come in,” I smiled as I watched him pass.
“Thank you Mr. Celtic, Mrs. Celtic. I must admit, I’m already chilled to the bone.”
As he cleared the doorway, May moved around me and pulled a chair out at the head of the table.
“Please sit here Mr…?”
“McGruder, Mrs. Celtic,” He grinned as he offered her his hand, “Patrick McGruder.”
“Do you like coffee Mr. McGruder,” May asked while shaking his hand.
“I do indeed, thank you.”
Turning then toward me, he again offered his hand.
“Gabriel Celtic, it is indeed an honor to make your acquaintance. I have heard much of your exploits…particularly that mess in the Vatican last year…spectacular work really, simply spectacular.”
I studied the man’s face suspiciously as I shook his hand. Although I could read nothing in it that would indicate anything but good intentions, I had to wonder how the man could know anything at all about our exploits at the
No one knew!
That was a rash generalization of course. The Pope and some of his people knew of course, as well as some highly place bureaucrats in
Germany, and probably
a few other world leaders as well. But in general…no one really knew what happened except the few people in my inner
circle…only my family and friends that had been with me on that deadly day and
a few others that had assisted us along the way.
It made me damn suspicious!
Before I could reply to his statement however a knock sounded at the door. Confused at the sudden high traffic so early in the morning I glanced at May, who could only shrug.
“Excuse me a minute Mr. McGruder,” I mumbled distractedly as I released his hand and headed toward the door.
Not even seven o’clock in the morning and it was already like Grand Central Station!
Except for the time, I was not overly surprised at who I found standing on my porch.
Standing a stocky 5’10”, the dark-haired man wore a light blue leisure suit straight out of the 70’s, as well as an eye patch. Holding a mangled yellow cat on his arm, he immediately set it down on the floor before extending his hand to me.
“Preacher,” I greeted my partner, extending my own hand. “What brings you and Dirk out here so early?”
The look on Preacher’s face turned to confusion as he stepped in through the doorway.
Before he could say anything however, we were interrupted by a grumpy-sounding, “Morning.”
All eyes moved toward the living room doorway as a bedraggled Abby moved into the room. It was clear from her demeanor that she was not ready to be here at this hour of the day.
“I’d better make more coffee,” I heard May exclaim before turning and heading for the coffee pot.
Stepping forward, I encircled my arms around my daughter’s shoulders and gave her a squeeze.
“You should have slept in Abby,” I soothed, “We would have taken care of Ya Su.”
Pulling back out of my embrace, she looked at me like I was some unknown ogre.
“You asked me to come down!”
“I did what?” I replied with confusion. “Abby, I’ve been down here since 5:30 this morning, most of that time spent on the porch. I haven’t even been around your bedroom!”
Confusion was spreading around the room like the plague.
Looking frustrated, Abby dug her hand into the pocket of her robe and pulled out her cell phone. Flipping it open, she then spent a few moments punching at the keys before turning the screen towards me.
“Does this ring a bell?”
Taking the phone out of her hand with growing aggravation, I glanced down at the screen:
Can you come down to the kitchen?
There’s someone I’d like you to meet!
My eyes felt like they would bug out of my head when I read the message.
I didn’t send this! I mumbled more to myself than anyone.
By this time, Preacher was tapping me on the shoulder with his own cell phone laden hand. Handing his also to me, I eyed his open screen.
Can you come over right away?
There’s a guy here that may have some work for us!
My mouth was agape as I moved my eyes to meet Preacher’s. Staring at each other for a few moments, we then both turned toward Abby.
Aggravation had melted away to confusion by the time we all slowly turned our heads toward the visitor.
A small smile beamed at us from across the room before he shrugged shyly.
“You?” I accused as I glanced back at the two phones in my hands.
“I haven’t even turned on my cell yet! How the hell could you have sent these messages?”
McGruder shrugged his shoulders once again.
“I am sorry for instigating so much confusion before the sun is even up Mr. Celtic, but you see, I really needed to see all of you. This is after all, an interview of sorts.
Taking up his crutches, he then stood and made his way over to us, his braces clicking as he moved.
“And as a matter of fairness,” he stated as he stopped in front of us, “I realize that in essence, you are also interviewing me. It was with this in mind that I instigated the cloned text messages, in part to show you a little bit of what I would be able to bring to the table.”
“Kewl!” Abby exclaimed suddenly.
Glancing toward her, I noticed the gleam in her eyes at McGruder’s revelation. Ever the techie, what Abby perceived to be a marvel of technology I often found hard to fathom. Although technology had its uses, much of it I perceived as nothing more than an annoyance.
Turning my attention back to our guest, I took a few moments to mull over what he had revealed.
“What exactly is it you do Mr. McGruder?”
Grinning back at me, “It’s hard to put a name on it Mr. Celtic…but I consider myself…a Watcher.
November 24, 2000
I turned toward Preacher as he rolled his eye at McGruder’s proclamation.
Laying my hand on his shoulder in understanding, I turned back toward McGruder.
“Maybe we should all sit down and grab some coffee and discuss this further,” I uttered.
“Splendid idea!” McGruder exclaimed as he turned back toward the table.
As the others moved to take their seats, I met May at the coffee pot to help her.
“What do you think?” she asked in a whisper when I was beside her.
“He has impressive tricks,” I whispered back, “Let’s just see what else he has to say.”
Nodding imperceptively, the bright glow in her eyes as she gazed back at me nevertheless revealed her true feelings.
You will never be bored again if you hang out with this guy!
Shaking my head at her implied thought, I hefted up four cups and headed toward the table.
“You take anything in it Mr. McGruder?”
“Cream and sugar please,” McGruder answered happily. “And please…call me Patrick.”
Grabbing the plastic jug of milk out of the fridge, I set it in front of him as May set down the sugar bowl. Grasping the milk, he poured a generous amount into his cup before adding four spoons of sugar.
Taking my seat between May and Abby, who now held Dirk in her arms, I sipped at my own cup as I watched McGruder enjoy his first taste. Smacking his lips, he then looked up at me with a smile.
“You have questions I see,” he stated matter-of-factly. “May I offer up some…examples of what I can do?”
“That may be a good place to start,” I uttered as I glanced at Abby and then Preacher. “Please continue Mr. McGruder…Patrick.”
“Very good,” McGruder exclaimed. “Shall we start with Preacher here? For instance, I know that until a little over a year ago you were holed up in a bookstore in
…suffering under the
Witness Protection program.” Phoenix,
The gun was out in a flash as Preacher stood, knocking his chair over in the process. Holding the barrel inches from the man’s face, Preacher was as angry as I’ve ever seem him.
When Preacher had come to me last year offering his help, he had told us little about his past life. We had taken Preacher at face value, as he had asked, and I had never been sorry.
That McGruder knew he had lived in
Phoenix was more than what had been revealed
to me however, and apparently the truth was a very sore subject with Preacher.
To McGruder’s credit, the little man didn’t even flinch when the gun came out.
“Who else knows about this?” Preacher growled threateningly.
“No one,” McGruder replied evenly, facing down the angry man. “And if you will lower the weapon, I’ll convey more information that will probably make you feel a little better.”
Preacher stood there for a few moments, anger coursing through him.
“Preacher?” I finally uttered.
Preacher glanced at me. “Let’s hear what the man has to say. If you don’t like what you hear…you have my permission to shoot him then.”
A glint of a smile crossed Preacher’s face then as he nodded and finally holstered the gun under his coat. Turning around, he picked up his chair and took a seat before pointing a meaty finger at me.
“I’m going to hold you to that Gabe!”
McGruder giggled at his reaction.
Worriedly, May placed her hand on my forearm. Covering hers with mine, I then looked back toward McGruder.
Not missing a beat, McGruder looked toward Preacher once again.
“In point of fact Preacher, you evacuated your previous city in the nick of time. Your enemies, who shall remain nameless, had indeed discovered your location. Had you not left to come here the day that you had, you may not have been here at all!”
Preacher’s face paled at the news.
“Since then,” McGruder continued, “I have overhauled your records. Should anyone ever get close enough again to peruse your file, they will find that you and your Road Runner had met an early demise in a traffic accident in
“But the Road Runner was wrecked here!” Abby interjected. “Won’t they be able to trace it back?”
McGruder turned to Abby with a smile. “It was a simple thing to change that record as well. The car has been destroyed for scrap. The record I created is now the only record of it at all.”
“Prove it too me!”
Preacher’s sudden outburst surprised even me, but it didn’t seem to even faze McGruder. Waving Preacher closer, he whispered something in his ear that caused Preacher to rear back in surprise.
“Son of a bitch!” he whispered.
“Preacher?” I questioned, unnerved at his shock.
Preacher turned toward me, but stared blankly for a few moments.
“He knows my real name,” he finally mumbled in explanation, still stunned.
“What about me?” Abby exclaimed then, setting Dirk down on the floor. “What can you tell me about me?”
McGruder turned in his seat with a smile.
“Gabriella Tran…but you go by Abby. Born and raised in
Daughter of one Anh Ly, stepdaughter of a man named Kym Tran, who joined your
pregnant mother in an arranged marriage, adopting you after you were born.”
“Anh Ly passed in 1997, revealing that your true father, Gabriel Celtic was indeed alive and living in
in the U.S.
When you arrived to seek him out, you found that he had moved to Lima for an extended stay
at an archeological dig. You stayed here, making a new life for yourself as you
waited to hear anything about him. When you found out he would be returning,
you secretly flew to Lima Peru and met
him there. He was, however, unaware of your true relationship to him at the
“Damn!” Abby exclaimed, sitting back in her seat.
“You really do know things!”
“I deal in information my dear, I even know of the exploits of your fine feline Dirk,” he continued as his eyes sought out the cat now lounging in the middle of the floor. “Initially possessed along with his owner Sonja Nelson, you converted him to your side…along with your friend Snake Black I might add,” McGruder continued before turning back toward me.
“Please don’t think me too brash for delving into all of your lives, I usually only take what I need to accomplish the job at hand. Today, I needed to impress all of you a little, as well as show you part of what I do…and part of what you would be involved in should you accept my invitation.”
I had been knocked back psychologically by everything he had revealed so far, and was still far from recovered when I continued the conversation.
“Call me dense Patrick, but I cannot fathom how we would be able to help you. Besides Abby, none of us are really computer literate, although I can see her jumping into what you do with a passion.”
Patrick McGruder folded his hands in front of him, seeming to collect himself.
“What I do can’t be easily classified Gabriel. As I mentioned before, I consider myself a Watcher, but that is a title that I have created for myself that seems to fit the overall flexibility of my chosen profession.”
Sitting forward determinedly, he continued.
“In essence, I do many things for many people. Some things happen because I instigate them; some things are instigated by others. Those I try to fix. You see, there are very few people that know or can even comprehend that someone like me is out there. Because of this, I watch what is going on in the world and try to help where I can by offering my services.”
“And people pay you for this?” Preacher asked, leaning over the table with intense interest. “Do you like…give them a quote or what?”
McGruder reared back in laughter, enjoying the interaction immensely.
“Sometimes yes, sometimes no,” he finally uttered between breaths. Those with money will oftentimes pay handsomely for my services…and will do so gladly. But I also help those with little or nothing, for which I charge nothing.”
“So, you would want us to work for free sometimes?” Abby questioned then, always the practical one in the family when it came to money.”
McGruder grinned as he faced her. “Absolutely not my dear, should I offer you a project; you will be paid handsomely for it!”
Abby grinned at the prospect, but I was still perplexed.
“Again, sorry for being dense Patrick…but why would you ever need us? It sounds like you have everything well in hand.”
Patrick grew serious as he turned toward me once again, a sadness seeming to envelop his being.
“As you can see Mr. Celtic, I deal with certain physical limitations on a daily basis. There are times…many times actually when I need trusted operatives in the field. One of the biggest quandaries I face in my work is finding operatives that I can trust. There are any number of men and women out there that can do the work, and there are any number of men and women out there that I can trust…but finding both in someone is rare.”
Reaching for his cup, McGruder sipped some of his coffee before he continued.
“You see Mr. Celtic; I have been watching you and your group for quite some time, since before your clash with the Wolf last year. To put it bluntly…you are good people.”
“Good people that also have the requisite skills and disposition to carry out my projects the way I would like to see them carried out. I only waited this long to present myself because I recognized that you all needed a break after your last case…time to heal…and time to build a family. Similarly, I excluded any alerts to Mr. Black, since he hasn’t been working with you much lately, although I also consider him a valuable asset should you choose to bring him in on this.”
His eyes grew in intensity as he finished his thought.
“I am trying to do good in this world Mr. Celtic. And that is not always the easiest thing to accomplish…especially when you don’t or can’t trust the people that are working for you!”
With that, Patrick McGruder stood, placing the crutches under his arms with a practiced motion. A look of pain and fatigue crossed his face as he rose, giving me an insight to another side of Patrick McGruder. I hadn’t given a thought to how much his disability might pain him until that moment, how much he actually had to fight to keep doing what he was doing.
“I have given you folks much to digest I’m afraid. I should go and let you discuss the proposal.”
“But we still don’t know what it is you would want us to do,” I exclaimed.
A small smile crossed McGruder’s face again. “You would always have a say whether you accepted any project Mr. Celtic. Suffice it to say that they are of such a varied assortment that it would be hard to put into words.”
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a cell phone and tossed it to me across the table. Snatching it from the air, I looked at it with confusion.
“Untraceable and secure cell Mr. Celtic,” He continued in a strained voice as his pain apparently ramped up. “When you are ready to speak again, I am on speed dial one.”
Turning slowly, McGruder started for the door as May got up to help him out.
“I have one prerequisite before we even start to consider your offer Patrick,” I called after him.
Turning, he looked at me thoughtfully, pain now etched plainly on his face.
“Call me Gabe…Mr. Celtic was my dad.”
Smiling a smile that transmitted both humor and pain, McGruder nodded before turning back toward the door.
“As you wish Gabriel, as you wish.”
Copyright 2015, J.T. Lewis