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 :O
November 24, 2000
“I totally understand
heard Abby talking on the phone in the other room, “It’s just that I was hoping
to eat today…and my baby’s getting kinda cranky with the malnourishment and all.”
May and I turned toward each other and smiled. This was Abby’s domain…collecting money…and she used whatever tools were at her disposal. While most of the people that hired us paid on demand, there are a few pinchpenny holdouts that respond better to cynicism…and even a small number of that she has had to threaten!
We didn’t work for those types more than once.
“I’ll be picking up Jackson Wiedemann’s money after lunch,” Abby exclaimed as she walked back into the kitchen with a smile. “Just a little jab here and a poke there and he decided it was time to give it up!”
Jackson Wiedemann was a local Bail Bondsman that had thrown a couple of jobs our way over the last few months. As I said before, if I had my druthers I wouldn’t touch bounty hunting with a stick. But if we had to do it,
was a good guy to work for…he just liked to hold onto his money for as long as
Thank God Abby didn’t mind handling that!
“Thank you again for taking care of that kind of stuff,” I said to Abby as she poured herself another cup of coffee.
Shrugging, Abby made her way back to the table with a grin, “Just a part of doing business.”
A knock sounded on the door just then and May shot up to answer it.
Pulling the dark-haired woman standing in the doorway into her arms, they embraced for several long moments. Finally pulling away, May beamed at the new arrival.
Raven Forester was very easy on the eyes. Years ago, we had also once been a couple, until she dropped me for my lack of perceived earning potential.
Although May and Raven had never been close in either school or adult life, they had grown very close when they both found themselves widowed under strange circumstances a few years ago. When they finally realized that there was a possibility that both of their husbands had been murdered by the same man, they called me.
I had been out of touch with both of them for years before that. May, my oldest and dearest friend had found love elsewhere as I let her slip through my fingers. Raven, the love of my life in college had moved up the social ladder through several marriages.
Honestly, I had hoped to never see her again before they hired me to help find their husbands’ killer. Thankfully our friendships had all blossomed during that case. May and Raven, both only children, had latched onto each other like sisters. And of course May and I had gotten married…not without some friendly competition from Raven first however.
“It’s been too long Raven;” May grinned while taking Raven’s arm in hers and leading her to the table. “Those month-long trips of yours keep you away from me way too long.”
“Aw,” Raven exclaimed as she pulled May back into her arms, “I’ve missed you too!”
“Ahem,” I heard then from the doorway, “Mind if I come in too?”
I grinned as I offered my hand to the thin, brown-haired man.
“Good to see you again Hershel,” I winked, “Or are we Snake today?”
“Definitely Snake,” he grinned back, “Hershel is just for strangers boss.”
Snake Black always called me boss, a habit I had grown accustomed to on our last big case, although I had no idea why he did it. He was also Raven’s new love…and also a thief…an art thief to be exact.
Or, at least he had been before he met us.
Entering our house one night last year under the mental control of the man who called himself Wolf, he then set about to try and kill me!
Fortunately for Snake (and unfortunately for Wolf), we captured him and broke the spell of the Antichrist. Feeling an unwarranted sense of duty to help us after that episode, he quickly allied himself to us, becoming an invaluable part of our so-called army and helping in the defeat of Wolf and his henchmen.
His skills, both during that case and since had been priceless, although he now spends most of his time with Raven and her impressive art collection. Working closely together during the case and since, they had also fallen deeply in love in that time.
Snake now went by Hershel Longmire in public, an unfortunate façade he had to maintain to hide his previous life.
For the first time however, he now had the chance to work on the one thing he has loved his whole life…and do it legally.
“Thanks for coming!” I uttered while pulling out a chair for him. “We thought you should be a part of this decision.”
“From what you told me on the phone, it sounds intriguing,” he exclaimed as he sat down, “Tell me more.”
Over several more cups of coffee, Abby, Preacher and I laid out the details of our meeting earlier in the day, including the respective opinions we had each formed at that point in time.
By the time we were done, we all sat back in our chairs and grew quiet. Amazingly, I realized at that moment that we had all apparently been desperately waiting for Snake’s opinion before we made our final choice.
Having taken it all in, Snake had also grown silent as he seemed to be contemplating the coffee before him. When he finally spoke, he was still staring only at his cup.
“As you know, I have spent most of my previous life working for…shall we say nonstandard customers. Even when an upstanding individual or an insurance company hired me to reclaim a piece of art, the deals were always a little shady. I mean…it’s not like I showed up on their payroll or anything.”
You could have heard a pin drop as we waited for more.
“So in that respect anyway, it will be like nothing else you have done before. I would imagine that most of the cases he throws this way will have some essence of secrecy to them. And I can tell you from experience that this would throw you into a type of shadowy existence, one where you would not be able to tell most people you know what you do. In point of fact, there should be some thought given to still doing some local jobs to draw attention away from what you are really doing.”
“After all…you don’t want people to start nosing around because they can’t figure out what you’re doing to make a living.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Abby exhaled. “But that makes perfect sense.”
“I don’t know that we’ll even be that busy with this guy if we accept,” I mentioned, “He really didn’t give us a clue as to how busy we would be.”
Snake nodded in understanding. “From what you have told me though, the work could be anywhere in the world. And with that, comes traveling…and traveling takes time. Add to that the probability that these aren’t likely to be simple jobs, because after all, anyone could do simple jobs.”
“So even a few jobs could take some time,” Preacher nodded. “That wouldn’t bother me any. Except for Dirk, hanging out with you guys and work, I’ve got no life anyway!”
His face held a grin when he said it, but I often wondered how our friend was handling his quiet down time alone. Although he had been smitten with Dirk, who lived with Preacher most of the time, I had never seen him with a human companion of any sort…besides us of course.
“I don’t know,” I mumbled, “I don’t know if I’m up for that much traveling…I like being closer to home.”
May set her hand on mine, “If you’re worried about me being alone…don’t! Ya Su and I will get along splendidly without you guys for a few days here or there. Besides, he already told you that you didn’t have to take every job he offered. If you need a break, just pass.”
Patting my hand then, “Besides…you need this! You’re going stir crazy!”
Moving her eyes toward Abby and Preacher, “You all are!”
“I think we should vote on it,” Abby exclaimed, “All in favor…”
“I would like to add one more thing before you vote if I may,” Snake mentioned quickly.
“Of course Snake,” I nodded, “You’re one of us.”
“That’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about,” he continued shyly. “Although as a full partner I would heartily vote for this proposal…I no longer have the desire…or the time to go gallivanting around the world at a moment’s notice.”
Abby and Preacher looked shocked at his statement, but I had seen it coming for quite some time. The man had spent his life doing almost exactly what we were discussing. Now he had a real home…and a real love in Raven. I couldn’t blame him for backing away from the projects we were discussing…in fact…I was happy for the both of them.
“Not that I wouldn’t be interested in doing something now and again if you needed me,” he continued reassuringly. “After all…it is in my blood…and sometimes that blood boils for an exciting project. But I wouldn’t feel right casting my vote to something I couldn’t devote myself to full time.”
Raven folded her hand over his and smiled at him lovingly before turning back towards us.
“Don’t worry, if you need him, he’ll be there. I’m relatively certain he won’t mind getting away from me periodically.”
“Ok then,” Abby chimed in again, “All in favor?”
Preacher and Abby raised their hands immediately…followed closely by May. Shaking my head in amazement at my wife, I finally relented, raising my hand slowly above my head.
“It’s unanimous then!” Abby crowed, sliding the untraceable phone across the table to me as Ya Su let out a wail from her room.
Standing up to go see to her daughter, Abby looked back at me before leaving. “I’m ready any time after this feeding,” she grinned before leaving the room.
I couldn’t help but smile at her statement as I powered up the phone and waited for it to come on. It seemed that we had all voted to enter a new phase in our lives, one that held untold promise of adventure and danger.
Punching the speed dial number, I waited as the dial tone rang in my ear.
When he answered, McGruder said nothing.
“Patrick?” I queried finally.
“Indeed it is Gabriel,” he replied then. “What have you made of my offer so far?”
“We’d like to accept on a probationary basis,” I replied carefully, “Depending of course on if we find any jobs acceptable…and if we think we want to continue after doing the first one.”
“As is your right,” he exclaimed, “Splendid news Gabriel, spectacular news!”
“So how long do you anticipate it will be before we can look over our first job?” I queried before hearing a knocking at the door.
“I would imagine that the courier at your door has already brought you something to peruse Gabriel…enjoy your first dossier. I’ll be anxiously awaiting your response.”
With that the line went dead.
“I wonder who that could be,” May questioned aloud as she stood to answer the knock.
“Apparently,” I replied while folding the phone, “That is our future knocking.”
November 24, 2000
“This will do,” the man uttered as he stared out the front window of the rental.
The landlord wrung his hands nervously; dickering about money and contracts was not his favorite part.
“It’s a thousand dollars a month, with first and last month’s rent due up front. Additionally, there is a thousand dollar security deposit, also due immediately upon signing of the lease…one year minimum.”
The man continued to stare out the window for a full minute before pulling back the lapel of his coat. Reaching his hand inside, he clasped an envelope and extracted it before turning slightly and handing the envelope to the man.
The landlord took the envelope, finding it stuffed with hundred dollar bills. Excitedly, he counted out the money.
“Seven thousand dollars?” he exclaimed with confusion, “I don’t under…”
“I only require the use of your facility for six months,” the man interrupted as his eyes remained on the street below. “I will not be signing a lease.”
“This is highly irregular,” the landlord stuttered, conflicted.
“I would imagine seven thousand tax-free dollars is also irregular,” the man continued. “That’s my offer…take it or leave it.”
“I’ll take it!” the landlord exclaimed, having made a quick executive decision.
“Additionally,” the man uttered with finality, “I will not be seeking the return of the deposit, but in return, I will require complete privacy during my tenancy. Should you enter the house at any time, I will seek recompense.”
Turning slightly toward the landlord, the man glanced back at the toady man through his mirrored sunglasses.
“Do we have a deal?”
“Y-y-yess sir Mr. …?”
The man turned back toward the window. “Just leave the keys by the front door…all of the keys. I will deposit them in the mailbox when I leave for good.”
The short, pudgy landlord swallowed back an objection he had been forming, turning quickly away instead and making his way down the steps. Pulling a ring of keys out of his pocket, he pulled off his own key for the property and added it to the smaller key ring.
With that done, he bent down and laid the keys on the floor before letting himself out of the house. As he made his way down the sidewalk, he patted at the envelope now in his breast pocket.
Unusual circumstances require unusual responses, he thought as a small smile creased his lips, the first in a day that would be devoid of many others. Although he didn’t like exposing himself to liability by not having a signed lease, the cash would have to do.
Sure he didn’t even know the man’s name, but he seemed more than responsible.
This was the rationalization that centered his mind as he let himself into his car and started the engine…the butt of the gun he saw peaking out of the man’s coat hadn’t had anything to do with his decision.