Been a while since Ive had much to write about, but thats because Ive been busy writing.
I have just completed a grammar focused rewrite on Against the Grain, and will be starting the same process for Pillars in the Fall, hopefully to be completed in time for a nice holiday offering for each book. “Nice” meaning discounted to free for a few promo days.
I was re-reading a few sections to check on sentence structure when I noticed a missed edit. I couldnt believe that both my editor and I missed them, but there they were. Ive read this damn thing fifty times, and still glanced over them. VERY embarrassing. I have sent these to multiple publishers with missed edits. Guess Im not out of the farm league yet.
Thus began a complete reread and editing process. At least there were only a handful of actual missed edits. What I really made changes to was the sentence and punctuation structural issues around quotes that I had wrong. Just didnt know any better. It read just fine, but since it was pointed out to me how it is actually supposed to be, I wanted to make the changes. Live and learn.
What I did didnt change the story at all, just a good professional clean up on it.
So on to Pillars, but in the meantime, how about another sneak peak at book 3?
“We’ve got a couple of rigs coming our way,” I quietly informed my traveling companions.
I had been out front, scouting out our path and generally trying to stay away from Stan when I saw the dust plume in the distance. Calling the others to stop I laid down and looked out over the old dirt road that we were coming up on and would eventually have to cross.
Stan and Tiffany, who had been leading my horse along with hers over the rocky ground, dismounted and gave their reins to Sandy, then slowly joined me. The cars or trucks or whatever was coming, were still too far away to hear, but from our elevated position combined with the winding lay of the road against the flat landscape it gave us a clear enough picture of what was coming. After a while I could see that there were three separate dust clouds being kicked up, which didn’t take high level math to figure out that it meant three different vehicles were going to be passing by us.
We could just now start to hear their motors in the distance and they were far enough apart that I could see the first one was actually a motorcycle and the next was a car of some kind. The dust being kicked up was doing a good job of obscuring any details or anything regarding the last rig in general.
“Lets hunker down and let them pass on by. I’ll go tell Sandy and make sure the horses don’t spook.” Stan offered. The line was getting closer now and would be passing us momentarily.
“Dad, wait.” Tiffany implored him. She was looking through a set of binoculars and had a sick look on her face.
“It’s best to just let them go, whatever it is its none of our business Honey,” he dismissed, but I was looking at the same thing that she was.
“Look again,” I directed him. “Second rig, looks like an El Camino, the back is loaded with people… aw hell, they’re all women, young women… and I think they’re tied up.”
“Why would… oh,” Stan said, coming to an understanding of what it was that we were explaining to him. “Still, we…”
“Dad, those girls, we can’t just let them…” She tried again. Stan looked at me but I knew the look on my face matched his; indecision. We were trying to keep a low profile for my own sake, besides the fact that we were not manned or equipped to play sheriff with some black market sex slave traders.
The bike leading the group was getting close enough that we were having trouble hearing each other over the noise of his open exhaust . He was a good half mile in front of the other two cars now but that didn’t leave us much time. Should we let him go and move on the others? Ambush them all and risk ourselves, or condemn those women to unspeakable evil just to keep my own ass out of the fire? All these thoughts were running through my head and I still didn’t have an answer that anyone in our party would like.
“Tiff, I know how you feel and I agree… shit, Stan cover up!” I swore, but it was too late. To look through the binoculars, Stan had raised his sunglasses on top of his forehead and the sun’s angle was just right for the motorcycle rider to catch brief the reflection. And when I say rider, I actually meant riders, plural. There were indeed two of them, one on an Enfield looking road bike and the other on a Harley-ish style cruiser that we had all somehow overlooked.
The sound of the higher winding road bike’s motor momentarily mellowed as the rider’s attention was drawn to us and the glinting reflection of glass, then he cranked it up to full speed to come check it out. The low grumble of the Harley followed soon after. These guys were moving in a play right out of my own book. A motorcycle out front to scout the way for the rest of their convoy, and it was working beautifully… for them.
The road biker’s hand grasped a gun in one hand while the other steered. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, but it was bigger than a pistol and smaller than a full rifle. It looked like there was a second gun strapped along his back and the Harley guy had a shoulder holster flopping against his chest and another long gun in a scabbard stuffed in with the side saddles bags at the rear of his bike.
“Stan, get Sandy and the horses secured and get back here. If they stop, they’re dead, but then we have their buddies to worry about so haul ass!” I said scooting a few feet away from Tiffany. Although comforting, we were bunched up too much and I wanted to spread us out to avoid making one big target that they could get lucky with.
“Jesus!” Stan swore at the long string of automatic gunfire that was aimed at him as he jumped off a little rock ledge to run back toward Sandy.
My single 308 round, and Tiffany’s three 5.45 bullets hit the two rider’s chests at nearly the same instant. Both guns had the suppressors already attached, so it was a little easier to hear the noise of the two bikes wavering then the dull crashing thud of metal and meat colliding with dirt and rock.
“Tiffany, are you alright?” Stan yelled up to his daughter.
“Yeah we’re both fine,” thanks for asking. “Now hurry up and get back here!” I yelled back down to him. Looking over to Tiffany, I did the best I could with what small part of a plan was coming together in my head.
“Stay up here and let me know how far off the other ones are. When your dad gets back, let me know.”
“Okay,” She looked slightly scared but resolute.
I slipped and skidded down the little bank we had been perched on until my feet finally stopped on the gravel road. Keeping my gun trained on the wreckage, I quickly looked around and surveyed the area. The Harley had left the roadway, bounced off the embankment, and fallen over into the ditch on the far side of the road. The front wheel and forks were bent, but at the relatively low speed, the crash itself probably wouldn’t have killed a guy. Well a guy that hadn’t already been shot by a large caliber bullet anyway.
The ditch wasn’t very deep but at the angle he had tipped over on, not much of the crashed bike or rider could be seen from the road itself. That was promising as there was a chance his friends still coming at us wouldn’t see their buddies had been stopped.
The road biker’s crash was a different story. Minus high velocity bullet wounds, he would still be dead after zooming off the lip of the gully that we had been traversing before all this fun had started. At the bottom of the fifty foot drop, large and sharp rocks were the last thing he had seen as he impaled himself on his own twisted handlebars.
“Less than a minute…Dad’s back,” Tiffany called down to me. At least I wouldn’t have to waste anymore time trying to hide the bikes or bodies.
“Tiff, get down here, Stan?” I called.
“What?” He yelled back.
“Find a spot to shoot from. We’ll stop the first one, you take out the guard in the back with the girls,” I said, playing to the strength of having a sky marshal’s skill of being able to target a single person out of a crowd at our disposal.
“I’m not going to just shoot a man!” he yelled back at me.
“Well then you have a problem because they’re going to try to shoot you… again. We are at kill or be killed here. If you don’t shoot, I will!” I yelled again, angry at the wasted time on another stupid, irrelevant argument.
Tiffany met me on the road as I proceeded with the quickest run down that I could for her.
“Hand me your guns,” I said collecting the AK and her holstered Makorov. “We’ve got to get them to stop to get a clean shot and not get those girls caught in a crossfire. You’re going to stand here and look all cute and desperate and innocent. They’ll stop, you drop into the ditch and keep your head down… Got it?”
“Yeah I guess so,” She managed.
“Good, oh and take off your jacket.” I directed.
“Why? Thirty four D is why,” I smirked slightly. Tiffany didn’t normally have a problem with me concerning her body… in general, but she looked a little insulted at how I was planning to use it, so I did my best to quickly make amends.
“Tiff, there isn’t a part of your mind or body that I don’t remember intimately well. Trust me, you’ll stop traffic.”
“Ten seconds!” I heard Stan’s voice call out.
“Don’t worry; I’ve seen this work before,” I told her, then jumped into the ditch, out of sight and laughing at my own nostalgic stupidity. It was a lame brain, half assed plan, but if we got lucky, we should be able to pull it off with minimal harm done.
Dropping my 308 and the small bag of spare magazines, I pulled two of Tiffany’s AK mags from her pack and put them in my back pockets as spares. Up close like we were going to be, I wanted to be able to move and shoot quickly, even dialed down on the scope, the Saiga with its hard hitting 308 rounds would not be ideal for this.
Checking that the safety was off and a round was still chambered in the ’74, it felt strangely good to have this gun in my hands again, even though I thought I had been done with a fighting carbine. My breathing and heart rate were normal, and I had just that twinge of upper chest constriction that came with the territory. Well they weren’t normal per say, but they were normal for what I was about to do. I had been in this situation enough times now that I knew what was normal for me just before all hell let loose and everything went sideways.
“Stay light, quick, steady, think fast, keep moving…” I was telling myself as I listened for the approaching vehicles. The noise seemed deafening after going so long without hearing the sound of a car or truck engine; the exhaust belching and the tires turning and sliding on the loose gravel.
It was a mere second before I heard the noise slowing, then the sound of dust filled brakes squeaking, and a small skid of gravel as the tires fought to stop the vehicle. I risked a slow glance up. I had been right, the first one was an old, early 70’s era Chevrolet El Camino. There were four, maybe five girl’s heads visible and one bald guy with a long beard and a short shotgun all bunched together in back. The springs were over taxed with the sheer volume of people and the bed sagged dangerously low over the rear tires. Only the driver, no passenger, I noticed quickly.
The second rig was just now coming to a stop, followed quickly by its own dust cloud. We’d have to wait for it to dissipate before we could get a clear shot. The late nineteen eighties ford truck had both a driver and passenger riding along and was also running heavy, whatever was under the canvas tarp in the back must have been worthwhile.
“You must be lost,” I heard one of the men from the El Camino call out to Tiffany.
“Everyone drop your weapons and put your hands in the air!” The booming voice startled me and I immediately knew who it belonged to. Stan was still trying to play by rules that didn’t exist anymore.
“The driver of the El Camino opened his door, beginning to step out and the two in the F150 were doing the same.
“What seems to be the problem… sir?” the bald guy in the back swiveled toward Stan who was now walking forward, on the road, with no cover… at least his pistol was up and pointed at them.
Tiffany looked confused still standing there, way too close to the front of the El Camino. The guys in the ford were my primary concern. From my own hiding spot I could see the driver, who was almost completely hidden from Stan’s view, as he slowly slid an MP5 out of the cab of the truck.
“Come on out, we’ll tie them up and figure this all out,” Stan yelled, looking directly to my hiding spot, betraying the one last surprise we had going in our favor. The Ford’s driver didn’t wait and he was no slouch as he quickly raised the small carbine and rush fired a quick burst in Stan’s general direction, then pivoted to pepper my no longer hidden position.
Diving into the hard packed dirt and rocks I felt the sting and scrape of the ground, thankful it wasn’t the sting of a fragment of nine millimeter I mused. The guy kept up his fire, spraying down the area every few seconds until he ran dry. I knew that was all the opening I was going to get and had to make the most of it.
Swinging my gun over the embankment I let the barrel lead me up until I had a target. Two quick trigger presses and then two more put the Ford’s driver down and out. Moving forward as fluidly as I could manage, I watched as Stan fired off two quick shots into the body of the passenger from the Ford as he tried to run around to the back of the truck bed.
One of the tied up girls had managed to fling herself over the low side of the El Camino while still tied up and the Bald guy with a long goatee had another he was trying to lift to use as a human shield. One quick shot to the brain from Stan’s Sig and he fell backward, tumbling over the tailgate. I knew he had trained and practiced just that shot for years, but I still had to admit, it was dang impressive to watch a pro at work.
With those three down there was only one left, the driver of the El Camino. The problem was that he had caught up to Tiffany as she had tried to get away and was now holding her hostage with one arm, his head pressed down close to her’s, and in his other outstretched hand he held what I easily recognized as a cut down Uzi, with its stock still collapsed in against the back of the gun.
“Drop the guns or she dies!” he screamed, turning her from side to side to keep both Stan and I at bay.
“Okay, Okay, don’t hurt her, we’ll do it!” Stan stammered, looking at me to make sure I followed his lead.
“Throw it down!” he commanded loudly. “Ah, ah, ah, No I said throw it, don’t set it. Some piece of shit AK can take it.” he corrected me as I tried to slowly lower my AK, and myself with it, to the ground, hoping to be able to find a shot to take.
“It’s okay Honey,” Stan was telling Tiffany, but she wasn’t looking at him. Her eyes were locked on mine as I inched my way forward. I just had to get in close enough…
The bald bearded guy seemed to be hyped up on some drug or another as he was keeping up a consistent line of blathering banter while he worked Tiffany around as his shield between us.
“Ooo a tight little body, tig o’bitties, you even smell good… the things I’m gonna do to that pretty little face. You’re not like those trashy sluts back there are you? Them we sell, but you, you’re a keeper,” he sneered and rambled in her ear, making sure it was loud enough for both Stan and I to hear.
“Yeah, she’s a keeper alright,” I cocked my head ever so slightly at him. “And by the way, I think you might like to know that your balls are about to be cut off.”
“Huh?” he instinctively looked down at his crotch just as Tiffany’s wrist flicked open the folding knife in her hand.
With his grip slightly loosened, Tiffany spun face to face with him and drove the blade low. The guy’s trigger finger involuntarily clenched as the pain struck him, but I had already closed the distance and slid my hand onto the front end of the gun, shoving the barrel safely away from us.
Tiffany retreated a few steps back and I took her place, reaching my hand down and viciously yanking the knife free, it didn’t stay in the open air for long. Clamping down on his throat with my left hand I dropped my right leg back, which gave me the room to pull my right arm back, knife in hand, then sink the blade through his eye socket, tickling the edge of his frontal cortex.
His screaming stopped as I gave the handle a final brutal open palmed hit that sank the entire slim metal blade into his head.
Thats a little sample that I wrote a LOOONG time ago from the first half of the next book. It’ll probably change a bit as everything does before the book is completed, but I thought somebody out there might like a little teaser. Ive bookmarked a couple other sections to toss up every once in a while too… so stay tuned.