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.

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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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Dead Man’s Game is out!

Death is just the beginning.

Earl Anderson takes a wrong turn and is shot dead in a mugging gone bad. The next thing he knows he is on a foreign world and has been conscripted into an intergalactic army.

He fears for his wife and baby son back on earth. He will do anything to find them, even go along with his captors as he awaits an opportunity to escape. Events outpace him as he tries to figure out what happened and how to escape.

He courts death at every turn as he fights his way forward in a situation that makes no sense. 

Unable to discern truth from fiction, Earl works to subvert his captors in a struggle for his life, not knowing how things hang in the balance for humanity or even if his family still lives. If you like space opera and military science fiction, this book is for you. Pick up your copy today!

Click here to get it!

Sneak Peek

“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. 

Click here to get it!

Blood Games – Episode 9



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:

KRIS GAVE ME A tight smile when she arrived at the main entrance of the office building. Her dark hair had been twisted into a bun, and she’d changed clothes since I’d last seen her. Earlier in the day she’d been wearing a suit, she now wore slacks and a white blouse. As she twisted the lock to open the door, I expected to receive a lecture or at least an admonition of some sort.

“Glad you came to your senses.” The smile didn’t touch her eyes, and her voice was cold, like she wanted to say something more but was refraining from doing so. I was glad to avoid the chastisement.

She had to come down from her office to let me in because it was after hours. As the glass door locked into place, I looked at the city. The firelight was visible in between buildings and the night sky was lit up to the point it looked like dawn, though it wasn’t yet midnight.

“You’re my only option to stop this.” I shrugged. At another time and place, I might not have said that, but I was tired and frustrated. If she misinterpreted my words to think I was either desperate or vulnerable, she’d soon learn the truth.

I was neither and was prepared to leave at the first sign this wasn’t working. Or if it became apparent Maxine’s intentions were like that of Reed and Peck.

Kris shook her head. “If I ever find out you had anything–” She stopped when she saw my glare.

“You know better than that,” I said pointedly, pushing past her and into the lobby. I was tired of people being taken in by those videos. If I were ever arrested and put on trial–something that became more likely the longer I stayed in the city–I wouldn’t have a prayer.



Blood Games – Episode 8



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 WERE CLENCHED in fists as I watched the fire burn. People were sure to die just as they had during the Market Street and old Diggon headquarters bombings. It was with grim satisfaction that I thought of how I’d foiled Reed’s plans for Reading Market.

I wished I could have figured out his plan today and somehow stopped it. I was too limited in what I could do alone.

Reed had been going out of his way to minimize the death count but one person more would have been too much. There wouldn’t be just one death today. I feared dozens would lose their lives. I could see ambulances on the other side of the fire. 

It fanned the flames of my rage, making me wish I had Reed at hand so I could throttle him until he no longer breathed. He would use this fire just like he’d used all the other incidents to further cement the children to him and his cause.

Once I caught up to Margaret and Benji, it was going to be difficult to get them to recognize Reed had been behind all this death and mayhem. I doubted they ever would. They weren’t going to take that message from me.

What did Reed hope to gain from all this destruction? Why turn his focus to his own company? At first, I’d thought he’d just been trying to prove his value to Peck. After taking down the old Diggon headquarters and giving Peck a black eye for his refusal to turn over any information on me before the Reading Market incident, I’d decided he’d been trying to drive down the price of Diggon’s shares. He’d been successful for a time, but that was short lived because Spectrum downloads had shot to the top of the charts. 

It didn’t make any sense for Reed to target DataRader. I figured Reed was insane but had thought there would be a method to his madness.

 

Blood Games – Episode 7



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 WALKED AWAY from Kris, I noticed that the people on the street seemed quieter than normal. I pulled out my smartphone which–was still on, even though I knew better–to see if Spectrum had noticed my presence and sent out an alert.

It had not. I was in the clear.

Most people were still talking while going about their business but they also kept looking about as if expecting something to happen.

It was a sign of our times that word of the threat had spread so quickly. It hadn’t been more than ten minutes since Jolene had walked in with the video, but it seemed everybody knew of it. Or had at least picked up on the increased tension of those around them.  

I passed a bench with people waiting for a bus, several of whom were viewing the video on a phone with the sound turned all the way up. Others had crowded in from all sides to see what it was about. As I looked away from them I tried to keep the fear from showing on my face but it was difficult.

There was little more than makeup, a few strips of latex, and a hat keeping me from being recognized.

I was surrounded by people who had a fresh image of my face in their mind. As I passed a man who stood with his back up against a light post I noticed he’d just opened the Spectrum app. He hadn’t looked at me so I figured I was in the clear, he was just checking.

Peck’s network of ears was growing exponentially because of the new threat.

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