Blood Games – Episode 15



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show:  

I SHIELDED MY EYES with a hand as I came around the corner and took in the scene before me. I had expected to come face to face with a wall of flame but found the explosions were blocked from view because they were coming from the far end of the compound. The crashing thunder echoed through the city street causing my hands to go to my ears.

The people in the parking lot ran as the explosions moved closer. The guard was late in swinging open the gate and a handful had begun to climb. Most hopped off when they noticed it was moving, but one man continued to the top and went over. Through the chaos I could barely hear a horn as cars came up behind the people.

I feared a large pickup truck in the front was about to run over a large swath of people but at the last second, those in the rear noticed the driver wasn’t slowing and got out of the way. One of the men could have had a hip clipped by the truck as it sped by but I wasn’t certain.

I shook my head as I watched from my place of safety. At least the guard hadn’t run and was trying oversee the evacuation, little good though he did. The fool should have listened to me and sounded the alert when I warned him. By the looks of things I assumed he had run a fire drill, that would explain why the people had congregated in the parking lot. It had at least given them a fighting chance of outrunning the explosions.

The guard had his rifle out, but it was pointed in the air as he waved his free hand at the truck while it zoomed out the gate. The vehicles behind came next, heedless of the guard but most taking care to avoid those on foot. 

Even with my hands over my ears, I could tell the explosions were coming closer. They’d been going for a full thirty seconds and didn’t show any signs of slowing.

 

Blood Games – Episode 14



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

AS I STARED OUT at Reed’s compound something clicked in my mind and it all came together. I understood why Reed was having the fake me target DataRader.

It was about the kids.

He was trying to convince them they were my next targets. It was so obvious I wondered why I hadn’t put it together before. Reed had probably planned on this from the beginning, he’d just escalated the timing after I’d shot Sam.

Reed had been only too happy to turn Sam into a martyr. Even though I’d taken one of his best men out of play, I doubted Reed saw it that way. My gut told me he’d just zeroed in on the opportunity Sam’s death had presented.

I took a deep breath and let it out. While Reed was a great Beltran admirer, it looked like he wasn’t following the playbook completely. The children knew they worked for DataRader.

Reed wasn’t repeating Beltran’s mistake of setting up a shell company. Perhaps he figured that trying to convert me to Diggon is where Beltran had gone wrong.

The problem with Beltran and Reed was that they didn’t understand the human connection. They thought they could move people around like pawns on a chessboard, never giving a second thought to what they were thinking or feeling.

They lacked empathy, the ability to view things from another’s perspective.

War of the Fathers Box Set

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After twenty years of war, the aliens left them in ruins.

They had no defense when the aliens returned a thousand years later.

War of the Fathers

Adar Rahid and his son Jorad have been on the run for fifteen years, chased by servants of Adar’s father who are intent on finding and killing Adar. Even while a fugitive, Adar continues to search for the secrets of their forefathers because he fervently believes that an ancient alien race known as the Hunwei are about to attack. When Adar stumbles upon large cloaked creatures in the woods, he determines that the Hunwei have returned and that drastic action must be taken. Readers are taken on an adventure as the Hunwei attack while a father and son struggle to find a way to fight back in this tale of epic fantasy and science fiction. This action packed story is the first volume in the War of the Fathers series. Buy your copy today! 

Lord of the Inferno

Immediately after Adar Rahid activates an ancient weapon that kills the Hunwei in Zecarani, he discovers the Hunwei have humans fighting for them. As he fights these traitors and tries to capture his wife’s murderer, he finds death waiting for him wherever he turns. After Adar kills a human in Hunwei armor, he realizes he still doesn’t know the full extent of the Hunwei technological capabilities. His blood boiling with rage over the death of his wife, he barely thinks about the consequences as he rushes after her murderer. 

Enemy in the Shadows

The fate of many rests on Jorad Rahid’s shoulders as he arrives in Rarbon to make his claim, something he swore never to do. As he faces new enemies and old, he is thrust into a position of responsibility that brings unforeseen difficulties that threaten his life, direct reports he cannot trust, and a bureaucratic process that is likely to drive him mad if it doesn’t leave him dead. As he navigates these problematic waters, he faces off with a jealous grandfather in a political battle for which he is ill-prepared. Hoping to spark a fire in the people of Rarbon, Jorad boldly asserts that the Hunwei have returned, but his words are met with disbelief and open hostility. As he strives to find a way to convince the people of the truth, he becomes impatient with those who stand between him and the Rarbon Portal.

BONUS NOVEL: Blood of the Redd Guard

Adar Rahid has only been a general for two months, but his problems are already multiplying. He has his hands full with a father who wants to kill him and Helam Morgol, another general who is secretly laying plans to take over the Rarbon city government. 

If you love science fiction and fantasy, these four action packed novels are for you. Buy your copy today!

Sneak Peak:

The leaves rustled with the breeze and flashes of moonlight splashed onto Adar’s face as the movement of the trees created gaps above them. Jorad was surprised to see that Adar was calm, even contemplative. He would have expected Adar to be anxious and afraid, given that the thing he’d been paranoid about for years had finally happened.

“We have to get to Rarbon,” Adar whispered as he stared at the place where the Hunwei had disappeared.

Jorad made a face but didn’t speak. He could still smell the Hunwei even though they were gone. It was a musky stench mixed with rotting flesh. He sniffed trying to imprint the smell on his memory. The return of the Hunwei changed everything. Adar hadn’t expressed the sentiment yet, but Jorad knew that their time in Neberan had come to a close. His second thought was that he’d have to reevaluate his decision about returning to Rarbon to make a claim.

“The Rarbon Portal is our best chance now.” Adar stared at Jorad.

There was a loud boom of thunder and the ship disappeared. 

This book features three full length novels in the War of the Fathers universe and another full length bonus prequel novel, pick up yours today!

Blood Games – Episode 13



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

MY HANDS BURNED LIKE they were on fire. Ripping my eyes away from the children, I looked at them and realized I had balled them into fists and that they were shaking and numb. Even though my nails dug into the palms of my one hand and the edges of the monocular cut into the other, I barely felt them. I stretched them several times to get the blood flowing as the wind blew across my forehead, freezing the sweat that had formed during my run.

It took every bit of my resolve to not hop the fence and charge after the kids. It wasn’t just anger that drove me. No, it was also guilt.

I was ashamed that I’d let my focus be so drawn by Sam back at Reading Market that I’d hadn’t thought of the children until after they’d disappeared.

They’d been right there, within my grasp, and I’d let them escape. I sometimes tried to blame Sam for that, but it had been my mistake. Seeing them with Reed made me realize that in a way I had not yet been willing to come to terms with. 

I backed away until I was out of view of the compound. Once I was sure I wouldn’t be seen I booked it up a couple of blocks before running flat out to where I’d left Kris. Reed and the others were moving quickly, I doubted I’d make it back in time.

My foot caught on something and I went down. Hard. Luckily, my reflexes were good and I broke my fall with my palms and kept my head from slamming into the concrete. I slid on my side as I skidded forward. Grabbing hold of a bench that I’d narrowly missed, and ignoring the flare of pain in my hands, I leapt to my feet and pushed ahead, a little slower and watching more carefully.

 

Blood Games – Episode 12




This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

THE SPRAWLING DATARADAR COMPLEX had a large footprint on the outskirts of the city. Several structures were more than ten stories high, but most were less than five. It was an industrial location with residences and office space starting up a handful of blocks to the left.

Kris had checked with Jolene ten minutes ago, and we still weren’t any closer to locating Reed’s home, so I had continued on our way here. I’d never been out this way and figured it was a good time to visit, especially since I had wheels. It wasn’t likely anything would turn up, but I’d been outside the DataRader headquarters numerous times, hoping to spark an idea of how to locate Reed. It was time for a different perspective on the company, perhaps it might help me figure out what I should do next.

I doubted Reed came to this site much but I was antsy to be doing something, if only to stay busy. I parked on the street with our car facing the complex’s gate. We were several blocks back to avoid both the guards and any cameras that might be connected to FaceRec.

Kris had barely spoken during the drive. What she had said had been short and clipped, but I didn’t care. If she had been more open to my claims about Peck, I would have told her about Reed weeks ago. Or if she would have looked into the kidnapped children she might have found something that would have facilitated the conversation.

She had nobody to blame but herself.

The awkwardness became worse after we parked. I could tell she wanted me to ask and even though I didn’t want to give in, if something were to happen I needed her to be ready to deal with it, not stewing in anger.

“What’s eating at you?” I asked.

Blood Games – Episode 11



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

THE TEMPERATURE IN THE room didn’t change after Kris had gone. Jolene looked at her tablet, pretending like the exchange hadn’t happened.

Maxine fixed me with a cold stare. “My employees know I like to be told when I’m being stupid, Jake.” She straightened her back and twisted her head to the side. “There is a reason why my business has been successful. I listen when I’m told I’m in the wrong.”

“I’m not in disagreement about speaking the truth. It’s the tone. Such conflict isn’t healthy. Not everybody will let your display of anger just wash off their shoulders. Some will harbor resentment.

“Those people don’t work here long.” She smiled. “You disagree with my methods.”     

“I shot my last boss in the head. I’m not a stranger to interoffice conflict.” That wiped the smug look off her face, but I could appreciate the fact she was trying to foster a work environment where people told her what she needed to hear. I wasn’t convinced it should be as conflict-filled as she made it, but I’d never run a business.

Maxine seemed content to wait for Kris’ return and opened a laptop that had been sitting on the table in front of her. Between her and Jolene, the temperature seemed to have dropped several more degrees as they both avoided eye contact.

I leaned back in the chair and rubbed my eyes, wishing I could spare a few hours for rest. It had been weeks since I’d had a decent night’s sleep. My mind was only working due to the adrenaline I had coursing through my veins and nothing else. I went to a window and stared at the fire which I could just catch a sliver of from up here, splitting my time between the muted television and the real thing, wondering if the fire had been contained.

I checked my burner phone and thought about sending a text to Shannon. I wanted to reassure her again that I’d had no part in this. I’d told her that night outside of Benny’s Diner and again this afternoon before the fire, but maybe she would need to hear it again considering all the damage that had been done.

Dead Man’s Game: Chapter 3

To say my body hurt was an understatement, it felt like I had been stuck in a metal drum somebody had hit with a baseball bat for hours on end. My ears rang and felt like they were filled with liquid. My skin was on fire as if acid had been poured all over and I had been beaten with spiked clubs.

“Where am I? What happened?”

My words were unintelligible. The voice seemed to be mine, yet it was wrong and lower in tone. Something was wrong with my mouth but I couldn’t tell what it was. I tried to check the clock on my bedside table but couldn’t move. It was dark, nothing to see.

Shouldn’t there have been light somewhere?

Monsters, I thought, remembering my dreams. Getting shot. The monster dream came back crystal clear. I had been on the ground, looking into the blue sky. On either side were buildings, like those in the alley after I’d stepped out of opposing counsel’s office building. They were different, but the overall structure was the same, like a blurry photocopy.

I tried to move my head, but it was fastened in place.

That was when I heard an engine, low and rumbling. It started quiet but grew to fill the alley, echoing off the buildings. It came closer and closer, louder and louder.

A strange creature bent over me. I opened my mouth to scream, but it was wired shut. It looked like a jaguar that had turned into an insect and grown wings, but that wasn’t quite right. Its mouth opened and I could see into a deep maw that was wide enough to swallow me whole. I could hear people as if they had been eaten alive.

The creature’s mouth opened wider and wider. Its teeth stopped inches from my face. Another creature came from behind.

That was where it ended.

There had been other dreams, but none as vivid as that. It was just a dream, I reminded myself.  They had all just been dreams; nightmares, so vivid they were convincingly real but not quite there.

I shivered, suddenly cold.

My body was covered in sweat. My eyes stung, my hand wouldn’t move when I tried to wipe away the perspiration. The last moments of the dream where I’d been shot returned, the sudden reality of the warm asphalt on my head came like a breaking dam. 

“Ricky! Ava!” I said. My voice was still unintelligible and wrong. Little details about the shooting came back, one piece at a time. The acrid smell of blood—my blood—as it covered the ground. A masked man.

The shooter.

He’d been crazy. He hadn’t listened to a word I said, even though I had tried to help.

More sweat dripped down my face.

Perhaps it wasn’t a dream after all. I swallowed, remembering he’d spoken through a prerecorded message.

Face the facts, Earl Anderson, I told myself, face the incontrovertible facts. You were shot. You saw blood. You smelled blood. You lost consciousness. I took another deep breath. But you are still alive. You can feel your body. You can think.

Think.

I was probably sedated. After another attempt to move my hand failed, I worked on my eyes. They were not secured. I could feel my eyeballs rolling around, I just needed to get my eyelids open. On the first try I saw a short slash of gray and felt a stinging sensation. The second time showed little more, but my eyes burned more as well, from sweat I assumed. After the burning went away I tried a third time.

It worked.

Everything was blurry. I could distinguish shapes and saw a light overhead.

There was a beeping that sounded far away.

“Where is my family?”

The beeping slowed, sounding in time with my heart.

I was in a hospital.

Not my favorite place but not the worst either, especially after getting shot. As I drifted into unconsciousness, I no longer had trouble distinguishing between my dreams and the reality of taking a bullet.

Pick up your copy today!

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Blood Games – Episode 10



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show:

MAXINE FROWNED AS SHE tapped her nails in a fast-paced staccato, making me think of a snare drum cadence for soldiers marching to war. I couldn’t help feeling she was gunning for me because I hadn’t said a word about Reed and she was already skeptical.

Jolene attached a keyboard to her tablet and placed it on the table. I wanted to forbid her from taking notes but figured I’d already pushed my luck far enough.

I took a minute to gather my thoughts despite the tension in the room. What was my best approach?

Kris leaned back in her chair, wondering if I was going to answer her question.

I’d had countless opportunities to tell her about Reed but had not done so because she had never believed there was a connection between Peck and Beltran. As far as she was concerned it was a coincidence that they’d both worked for Diggon.

When Kris had spoken of DataRader outside the elevator, it was evident she respected the company. I had to overcome Reed’s squeaky clean image. Or at least prepare them to be surprised.

“I don’t have evidence that proves what I’m about to tell you,” I said. Kris looked ready to pull her hair. “The man behind all this is well respected and has gone to a lot of work to cultivate a reputation for him–and his company–that is at odds with who he really is and what he’s trying to accomplish.”

Maxine lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll try my best to believe you.”

“It will be difficult,” I said. “He’s been very successful–”

Dead Man’s Game: Chapter 2

To: Lieutenant General Regina Adams

From: General Gregory Seed

Log date: 00429.171-23:17:24

Re: Recruit Protocol

General Adams,

I have reviewed your proposal.

Despite my misgivings I grant the latitude you request, provided it is limited to the recruit named therein. I understand your urgency but cannot agree to a full rollout until your candidate has finished the initial training and you have done a complete report.

Be thorough and straightforward in the documentation, please.

Your plan poses many risks. I cannot agree to more candidates until I see proof of your success.

Be careful, Regina. You are playing with fire. If there is political fallout I will sever ties.

Accordingly, this message is self-deleting. I will have a form approval put in your file to give me deniability.

Good luck.

Respectfully,

General Seed

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Dead Man’s Game: Chapter 1

I didn’t know I was minutes from death as I followed my associate Sam out the door, down the stairs, and into the alley. The sudden light was momentarily disorienting, but I was glad to be out of the building, even if it meant walking through sweltering heat to find the car. I’d been lost in my thoughts and hadn’t noticed when Sam made a wrong turn. We had just exited the building rather than backtrack.

The deposition had been stressful—far more than I anticipated—and I needed to get back to the office to rethink our strategy. I was impatient to get on with things, something that must have been obvious to Sam when he’d muttered an apology.  

The ground shook and I almost lost my footing.

I grabbed the edge of a garbage dumpster to keep from toppling over, my hand pushing past grime and rotting muck before grasping metal. I ignored my disgust as I maintained my balance as the asphalt moved.

Sam wasn’t so lucky and fell, dropping the files he’d been carrying.

“You okay?” I asked as the muscles in my chest clenched, a stab of pain filling me with dread. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself.

I’d been too focused on the deposition.  

I hope the engineers knew what they were doing, I thought as I looked at the high-rise buildings swaying as if they were trees in a breeze. There are too many lawsuits about construction defects.

It was one thing to know skyscrapers were designed to shift in this exact way, but quite another to experience it firsthand. It was disorientating, especially from underneath.

Another stab ran through my chest as my heart seemed to threaten my life. I closed my eyes to keep a wave of nausea from overwhelming me. It had been a long time since the last earthquake.

We were overdue. It was nothing to stress about.

When I opened my eyes I stared at my feet while strengthening my grip and quietly inhaling. It felt like somebody was inside my chest with a jackhammer digging their way out.

I refuse to have another heart attack. Everything is fine.

I was glad Ava wasn’t nearby because she got a peculiar look on her face when my heart acted up. She seemed to have a sixth sense about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she knew when I got home.

My chest constricted as another stab tore through. It was difficult to breathe. I made a fist when my late-night trip to the hospital came back so vividly it was difficult to tell which was real and what was the memory.

Ava had run beside me on the gurney, clenching our screaming son.

“It’s okay, little Ricky,” I said, my voice far away to my own ears, “everything will be fine.” The doors swung shut and my family was gone, my heart feeling as though it were about to rip through my chest.

I forced myself back to the present and exhaled with a small explosion, my lungs absorbing air like bone dry sponges in water. Another deep breath helped back me away from what had appeared to be another heart attack.

This is a panic attack, nothing more.

After another breath the fear subsided. Several breaths later and I was able to restore my composure.

I was afraid Sam might have noticed, but he was too busy picking himself up off the ground. I relaxed even more. He wouldn’t have hesitated to tell Ava. He sometimes seemed to get perverse pleasure hanging me out to dry in front of my wife.

It had not been easy returning to work and I’d only been able to overcome her reluctance by starting at half-days. If she found out about this incident I’d be back on bed rest for another month.

If Sam had not been by my side for the better part of a half a decade I might have got a new associate who didn’t pass information on to my wife, but it would be a pain to replace him. Hiring a new employee was a problem I didn’t need right now.

I chided myself for thinking of such a thing when the guy could use my help. 

My back spasmed with pain as I straightened after picking up a few folders. I had skipped my morning stretches and was paying for it after all the excitement.

“How long has it been since the last one?” Sam asked as he picked up the final file.

I froze, thinking he was referring to my chest pain, but he hadn’t looked up.

He was asking about the earthquake.

After I handed him the files he retrieved my deposition notes from a puddle.

I don’t remember it raining, I thought, trying to not be annoyed with Sam for dropping my notes as well. He had been on edge all morning. I had expected him to be better after the deposition, but he’d lost his way and brought us out here.

There were no sprinklers in the alley. It wasn’t raining.

Where did the puddle come from?

I tried to dismiss the question. Small discrepancies bothered me. Water in the middle of a building bound alley didn’t make sense with all the heat. It was recent. Perhaps somebody had spilled it. My attention to detail was part of why I was an successful litigator.

“Five years, maybe,” I said.

I shrugged, waiting for another tremor to pass that was smaller than the first. Even though I wasn’t at risk of falling I took hold of the dumpster again with my slime covered hand figuring it couldn’t get any worse. Sam almost dropped the files again but was able to maintain his grip, just barely keeping my notes from falling back into the puddle.

I looked at my pants, realized my expensive suit would bring a costly bill and wiped my hand off as best I could on the cement wall of the building.

It was like rubbing it on coarse sandpaper and probably about as useful. 

When I pulled it away most the muck was still there, so I tried again while keeping my ears open, listening for signs of how bad the quake had been. The buildings and alley appeared fine, but there would be damage, there always was.

It was unusually quiet.

I was opening my mouth to suggest Sam pull out his phone to check the news when a siren broke the silence. It was followed by several more. The little oddity had just been a passing fancy.

I chuckled, earning a strange look from Sam. The last four months had been stressful. Everybody told me to relax, urging me to lay in bed and rest. That had been the most challenging thing I’d ever done.

How could I relax in bed? All I had to think about was my near brush with death. Give me a stack of files?

That would be relaxing.  

I scraped my hand on the brick one more time and gave up, wiping it on my pants without looking at the smear it left. I could afford to get them cleaned. When I looked at Sam, he had his hands in the air.

I thought it was a joke until I saw a masked man with a pistol. He stood underneath a security camera, facing away as if he knew it was there. “Freeze!” the man pointed his gun at me. His eyes were red, making me think of an alcoholic. Or a drug addict. I put my own hands in the air.

“Give me your wallet!” he said.

“Sure thing,” I said without moving. “You want me to reach into my pocket?”

The man screamed, shouted an obscenity, and alternated between pointing the gun at Sam and me. “Wallets! Cellphones too.” The cartoonish mask covered most his face, including his mouth.

I still didn’t move.

He was agitated and probably strung out on something, seeing as how he hadn’t answered my question. I wasn’t going to reach into my pocket only to get shot because he thought I was going for a weapon. I would do nothing until he gave me more specific instructions.

“You can have my wallet—buy all you want on my cards while you can—but there can’t be any surprises. I’ll do exactly what you say once you tell me how to do it.”

From my peripheral vision I noticed Sam still had his hands in the air. The mugger needed to specify exactly what he wanted us to do or otherwise allay my concerns that he wasn’t high as a kite.

I’d been mugged twice before. The second time hadn’t even been a bother because I knew the drill. I knew what he was going to do. I knew what I was going to do. We’d played our parts and moved on.

As I stared into the man’s eyes I realized that wasn’t likely to be the case today. Things would get messy quick if we weren’t careful.

I wasn’t worried about what I’d lose by giving him almost everything I had.

When I went into the city I only carried credit cards and had a backup cellphone hidden in a less conspicuous place on my person. A partner at our firm had recommended this after my first mugging.

The man shook, his hand vibrating so much that if he did pull the trigger, odds were good he’d miss. He looked at me as if just realizing what he was doing, like he was coming out of a drug induced haze.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” I said in as soothing of a voice as I could manage. “You’re going to get everything you want. Please just tell us what to do.”

Right after the second mugging I had called Sandy—my secretary—and by the time I’d returned to my office all my cards had been canceled and new ones were on the way. I hadn’t missed a beat. I had even billed a full ten hours that day.

I had not been able to do that after the first.

If Sam had taken my advice, he would be similarly prepared and we could deal with this in short order. The crook could have our phones and wallets. It wouldn’t even be a problem. Sandy might even have a new smartphone for me by the time I returned to the office.

“Wallets!” The mugger screamed. “Now!” 

Neither Sam nor I moved, something was off about his voice.

“Look, friend,” I said, trying to think of a way to make this easier. “Do I have permission to reach into my pocket and pull them out?”

“Give me your wallets, now!”

I shook my head and wondered what to do next. My last mugger had been calm and professional. This experience made me think of that fondly.

The mugger was taking too long. He was agitated.

The last thing I would do was reach into my pocket, he’d shoot me for sure.

Things are likely to go wrong either way.

Sam still said nothing. I couldn’t get a read on where he was because he was a few feet ahead.

I took another stab. “Friend. My wallet is in my right suit coat pocket, my smartphone is in the left. You are welcome to them.” I nodded at Sam. “I’m sure he’ll happily give you his. You are going to walk away with everything you want. If you will calm down—”

“Give me your wallets, now!” he screamed.

 Before I’d spoken he’d still been turning the pistol between Sam and me but now it was just on me.

The strange mask had slipped, giving me a better look at his eyes. What I’d taken for bloodshot eyes before appeared to be a reflection of his mask. I’d expected to see wide unfocused eyes, but what I saw was more concerning.

His eyes were calm.

It was all an act.

Why?

A sick feeling formed in my chest, a stab of panic rising in the back of my mind.

Something was very wrong.

“Give me your wallet now!”

I finally realized what sounded wrong with the man’s voice. It wasn’t his voice at all.

It was a recording.

Why the act? Why the recording? I looked at the wet spot on the ground. Why the puddle in the alley on a hot day?

“What are you doing?” I asked the man, taking a calculated risk. “Why won’t you give me instructions?” I wasn’t ready to call him on the recording just yet.

I wanted to make him use his voice if I could.

He stepped back and pointed the weapon at me with both hands. I expected him to make another request, but he pulled the trigger.

Warmth blossomed on my chest.

I looked down and saw red covering my pinstripe shirt. In a distant part of my mind that was fast losing its ability to focus I realized the scarlet liquid came from me.

My blood.

As my knees buckled, I made an involuntary gasp. My legs crumpled. My head hit the asphalt with a crunch, but the pain was detached from me.

The last thing I remembered was Sam turning as a plane flew overhead.

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