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Home For Good

By |2022-05-17T09:20:57+00:00May 17th, 2022|0 Comments
Book Cover: Home For Good
Part of the Lucky Shores Series series:
Editions:Kindle: $ 4.99
ISBN: B09Z2TPKLL
Pages: 338

The long-awaited third book in Kerry J Donovan's Lucky Shores series.

When CHET WALKER and his fiancée, JOSIE DONOGHUE, offer a lift to former soldier, NATE STARLING, they become embroiled in the hunt for a vicious killer.

Small town justice has never been so dangerous.

Available on:
Publisher: Human Vertex Publications
Genres:
Excerpt:

The long-awaited third book in Kerry J Donovan's Lucky Shores series.

When CHET WALKER and his fiancée, JOSIE DONOGHUE, offer a lift to former soldier, NATE STARLING, they become embroiled in the hunt for a vicious killer.

Small town justice has never been so dangerous.

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About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine military action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels). He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the modern miracle of video calling.

The Long Road Home

By |2022-05-17T01:17:38+00:00May 17th, 2022|Comments Off on The Long Road Home
Book Cover: The Long Road Home
Part of the Lucky Shores Series series:
Editions:Kindle: $ 4.99
ISBN: B09BZQJDZM
Pages: 291

Can love survive revenge?

After nearly four years away at medical school, recently qualified doctor, Chet Walker, is only hours away from returning to Lucky Shores and his fiancée, Josie.

When a quick coffee break at a rest stop diner turns into a desperate race to save a young girl's life, Walker stumbles into something much more sinister and much deadlier. Walker's Good Samaritan act sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to tear his world apart and forces him to choose between his medical oath and his love.

Josephine Donoghue has a secret. Between fleeting, long-distance video calls with Chet and the town medical centre needing him to start work the minute he arrives home, she hasn’t found the right time to tell him.

But when Chet is called away to another medical emergency by Sheriff Boyd, Josie’s time might be running out.

Will a dangerous man hell-bent on revenge separate the unlikely lovers permanently?

Published:
Publisher: Human Vertex Publications
Genres:
Excerpt:

Can love survive revenge?

After nearly four years away at medical school, recently qualified doctor, Chet Walker, is only hours away from returning to Lucky Shores and his fiancée, Josie.

When a quick coffee break at a rest stop diner turns into a desperate race to save a young girl's life, Walker stumbles into something much more sinister and much deadlier. Walker's Good Samaritan act sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to tear his world apart and forces him to choose between his medical oath and his love.

Josephine Donoghue has a secret. Between fleeting, long-distance video calls with Chet and the town medical centre needing him to start work the minute he arrives home, she hasn’t found the right time to tell him.

But when Chet is called away to another medical emergency by Sheriff Boyd, Josie’s time might be running out.

Will a dangerous man hell-bent on revenge separate the unlikely lovers permanently?

 

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To read more, buy the book in Kindle or paperback format, and to be the first to know about new Lucky Shores books, join The Friends of Chet Walker newsletter.

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About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine military action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels). He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the modern miracle of video calling.

Poster Boy

By |2022-05-17T09:24:58+00:00December 10th, 2021|Comments Off on Poster Boy
Book Cover: Poster Boy
Editions:Kindle: $ 2.99
ISBN: B09J92Z7RT
Pages: 420
Paperback: $ 10.20
ISBN: 979-8772965276
Pages: 418

A dead cop. A brutal murder. A dangerous game.

DCI David Jones is no stranger to murder cases. But when DS Charlie Pelham is found dead in a dirty, disused house in Birmingham, Jones is shocked by what he sees and disturbed to be faced with the murder of a former colleague.

Brutally butchered and stripped naked, Charlie’s body is only recognisable by the tattoo on his forearm. There isn’t much in the way of evidence but a St Christopher medallion left at the scene could have belonged to the killer. The last time Jones saw Charlie, he had him sent to a desk job working on cold case files. Could this also be a vital clue?

Worryingly, Charlie isn’t the only person to die in mysterious circumstances. Fortunately, new Forensic Scene Investigator Dr Robyn Spence is on hand to assist with the investigation. With her help, Jones might be able to crack the case. But can he do it before the death toll rises?

The next tense novel in the DCI Jones series, from bestseller Kerry J Donovan

Published:
Publisher: Fuse Books
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Sunday 14th May – Evening
Near Shipton Village, Shropshire, UK

DCI David Jones drained the wine glass and contemplated returning to the kitchen for a second refill but said no to the call of the slippery slope. No heavy solitary drinking for him. A small glass or two with his meal would suffice. He settled back into his comfy chair to review the end of another case. Hopefully, Melanie Archer would be able to live the life she deserved, free of the fear she’d endured for more than a decade. He’d done a good thing and allowed a satisfied smile to work its way onto a face he usually kept dour.
Seconds later, or so it seemed, the burping rattle of the mobile vibrating on the side table woke Jones from a light doze. He groaned.
Give me strength.

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He snatched up the mobile and hit the “accept” option after briefly considering the alternative.
“Jones here. This better be important.”
“Evening, David. It’s me, Phil.”
“Yes, I know it’s you. I can read a caller ID when I see it.” He tried to make his voice gruff, but it wasn’t working.
“Sorry, boss. This isn’t a social call.” Phil sounded tense.
Jones sat up straighter, his senses prickling. Passing up the third glass of wine turned out to be a good idea—it meant he didn’t have to wait for a lift into the city.
“Okay, Inspector. What’s wrong?”
“Suspicious death in Bordesley Green. The Orchard Towers Estate. By all accounts, the body’s been there a few days.”
“Are you on scene?”
“Not yet. On my way there now.”
“Any identification?”
“Vic Dolan’s there with one of his newbies. He didn’t want to say anything on the radio, but he asked me to call you out right away. Sounds serious.”
Jones shot to his feet. Sergeant Victor Dolan happened to be one of the most reliable uniformed officers in Birmingham. He’d never hit the panic button and have Phil call in a DCI without justification.
“Vic’s there now?”
“Yep. He’s holding the fort until I arrive. The FSIs are on their way in.”
“You mean the SOCOs,” Jones grumbled.
“They’re called Forensic Scene Investigators these days, boss.”
“Not by me they aren’t. We’ve been calling them SOCOs for years, and I see no need for the change of title. Their role’s still the same, isn’t it?”
“It is.”
“Good. Text me the address. I’m on my way.”

To read more, buy the book in Kindle or paperback format, and to be the first to know about new David Jones books, join The Friends of David Jones newsletter.

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About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine military action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels). He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the modern miracle of video calling.

On the Outside

By |2022-05-16T23:22:54+00:00August 3rd, 2021|0 Comments

Ryan Kaine is on the outside…

When the neo-fascist group The Doomsday Creed kidnap Sabrina Faroukh, Ryan Kaine gets the call.

Sabrina was the IT expert who helped Kaine in his early days and as the granddaughter of an influential arms dealer, her life has more value than most to the terrorists.

In the Arizona wilderness, up against a fanatical group hell-bent on creating a dirty bomb, Kaine needs more than luck to rescue Sabrina. And he could do without the trigger-happy local law enforcement speeding to the scene.

With so many lives riding on a successful outcome, Kaine is at his limit, when things take a desperate turn for the worst.

If you like Lee Child, Mark Dawson and Robert Ludlum, you’re going to find the Ryan Kaine series compulsively addictive.

Published:
Publisher: Fuse Books
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Wednesday 17th May – Sabrina
Camp Pueblo, Arizona, US

Daylight cut through the oppressive darkness, carving through the gap around the only outside door in her cell. It painted three bright stripes on the concrete floor and forced Sabrina up from the blessed comfort of sleep. She turned over, and the springs on the ex-military cot squeaked in aggressive complaint. The wafer-thin foam mattress provided little protection against the metal that tried, throughout the night, to slice her to ribbons.
Reluctant in its lethargy, her mind swam against the flow, battling the tide of despair, arms pulling, legs kicking, until she finally dragged herself to the surface, into wakefulness.
Counter to the hopes promised in her dreams, she awoke in the same grimy dank place—her cell.

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Each time she moved her hand, the iron manacle that attached the chain to her wrist chafed her skin a little more. The protective cloth she used—a piece torn from the sleeve of her nightshirt—had fallen loose during the night. The wound felt as bad as it looked. It wept blood and a yellow-green pus. Assuming she lived long enough for the wound to heal, it would leave a scar.
Sans doute. No doubt.

The questions remained. Why had the colonel kept her alive? He did not usually spare the lives of those he believed worked against him. Ruthlessness had been his modus operandi.
Clutching the coiled chain tight to her thigh, Sabrina arched her back and tried to ease the tension that had formed between her shoulder blades. The movement did nothing but allow a biting cramp to attack her muscles. Every muscle in her body ached, cried out for warmth. The warmth of food, of nourishment.
Grit scratched her eyes and crunched when she ground her teeth. She tried to swallow, but a dry throat made it a near impossibility.
All her own fault. Such an idiot. As grand-père Mo-Mo often said, one day, arrogance would be the end of her.
Sometime during the past few weeks, she had spoken to the wrong person. Greed had turned that person against her. Or maybe the betrayer came from closer to home.
But who?

Sabrina sighed.
Identifying the individual responsible for the treachery would be a challenge for others. As a task, it fell outside her capabilities. At any moment, she expected a member of the Creed to drag her away to her death. Hopefully, it would be quick. Quicker than the slow death of dehydration or starvation.
Why had it taken her so long to discover the cause of the missing inventory? The clues had been there from the very outset, but her covert investigation had been blocked at every turn. Only by pure luck did she stumble upon the first crack in the fortress of silence. One fissure led to another, and eventually they coalesced into a canyon. Death and destruction became a trail leading to the colonel, the Doomsday Creed, and this very place. She had only lacked the evidence to convince the authorities to move in and close down the band of home-grown terrorists.
One day. Perhaps two. That was all she required. But it was not to be.
In the dead of night they came for her. They overpowered and drugged her, and they spirited her away to this grubby cell. Three nights and two days ago.
Merde à leurs cœurs noirs! Damn their black hearts!

The hours stretched out interminably and each moment, the death she expected failed to materialise. All she had were her thoughts, which turned relentlessly in on themselves, becoming more and more distorted as the hunger and thirst took effect. Her stomach tightened, grumbled, rebelled against the deprivation, and her throat constricted in pain from the lack of drink.
L’eau. Water.
What would she give for a tall glass of cool, clear water? A drink to extend her life for one more day.
No. Think of something else.

The treachery.
Who had turned against her? Who had turned her over to the Creed?
The names on the list were many, and crossed at least two continents. Too numerous to determine in her weakened state.
Why had they acted against her?
The obvious answers came easily enough. Either greed, or a belief in the cause espoused by the colonel, or both. Greed seemed the more likely option, since the cause was hopeless—the dream of a lunatic. The missing weapons and ammunition were worth millions of dollars on the black market, and the colonel possessed very deep pockets.
Sabrina, sitting on the edge of the bed, doubled over and clenched her belly against the next attack of raging cramps. More and more, thirst and hunger dominated her waking thoughts, making it difficult to think logically.
She cast her eyes to the ceiling. One solitary lightbulb suspended from a cable attached to a rafter. She had never seen it alight.
Time passed evermore slowly. Her mind wandered.
Concentre-toi, Sabrina. Concentrate.

Tex might arrive at any moment, and she did not want him to see her weakness, or to see her cry. Not that tears would actually form. Dehydration would not allow it.
Yes, she needed to concentrate on Tex and his slack-jawed partner, George.
Focus upon Tex. Use anger as a driver. Fight. Stay alive for as long as possible. Help will come. Please God, help will come.
The first time she saw the blond-haired mountain of a man, he slammed open the door to her filthy prison cell and stood in the opening. So tall, he had to stoop when passing through the doorway to avoid striking his head. Shoulders so wide they almost blocked the opening, and his huge silhouette stood out dark against the blinding sunlight. Behind him, head poking through the gap, stood a squat, ugly young man. He had an underslung jaw, a shock of uncombed hair, and carried a pump-action shotgun pointed at his toes.
When the big man stepped inside, sunlight seared her eyes so painfully she had to close them tight and turn her head away. He stood inside the threshold, unmoving while she recovered enough to look up at him.

“Hey there, little lady,” he said. His soft Southern drawl made him sound almost friendly. “My name’s Tex. I sure am glad to meet you, ma’am.”
When he made the greeting, he touched his forehead as though tipping his hat to her.
Still shielding her eyes, she stared up at the man who remained well out of reach. The youngster with the shotgun hovered just outside the doorway.
Tex leered at her, taking in her state of undress. The men had snatched her while she slept, and she sat on the cot barefoot, wearing only a silk nightshirt and shorts. The translucent cloth left little to his imagination.
“I said, ‘Hey there, little lady’,” Tex snapped, teeth bared, all pretence at civility disappearing in an instant. “Answer me, damn you!”
Sabrina swallowed and tried to speak, but she could not drive any words through her parched throat. Instead, she looked up at him and nodded.
Once satisfied he had her full attention, Tex smirked. He took a set of keys from the pocket of his dusty jeans, selected one, and used it to unlock the only other door in her cinderblock cell—a door she had tried, and failed, to open since the start of her incarceration. She assumed it to be the door to another cell. Many times, she had knocked upon it but had received no response.
Tex turned the handle and pushed. The door creaked inwards to reveal a toilet and a washbasin.
Tex ducked low and entered the closet. He rested a hand on the tap.
“Thirsty?” he asked, still smiling.

Again, she could only nod.
From the moment Tex entered the cell, the ugly one with the shotgun had not taken his eyes off her. His lower lip glistened with drool and he wiped it dry with the back of his free hand.
Ensuring she could see his actions clearly, Tex fitted a plug into the drain and twisted the handle of the tap. It squeaked open and clear water trickled into the bowl, filling it slowly. She couldn’t tear her eyes from the flow, which sparkled in the sunlight streaming through the small, frosted glass window on the far wall of the closet.
Miraculously, her mouth watered at the sight and allowed her to swallow.
“Yes,” she croaked.
His smile grew even wider. Brilliant white teeth stood out against his dark suntan.
“Well, come get some, honey,” he said, beckoning with a hand as large as a shovel.
She stayed put—sitting on the edge of her cot. Wary.
“What’s wrong, Frenchie? Scared o’ little ol’ me?”
Sabrina stared him down. She said nothing.
“Aw, honey. There ain’t no need to be afraid of ol’ Tex. I ain’t gonna touch you none. Here, I’ll prove it.”
When the water reached the lip of the bowl and started to dribble over the sides and puddle on the filthy concrete floor, the huge man turned off the tap.
He said, “Go on, honey. Help yourself,” bowed gracefully, and backed out of the cell, locking the door behind him.

Sabrina jumped up from the bed and raced to the closet. She reached all the way past the inner door before the chain stretched taut and the manacle tore into the flesh of her wrist. It brought her up short—short of the basin, but not the toilet.
She screamed out in pain and frustration.
Outside, behind the locked door, Tex let loose a huge belly laugh.
“What’s wrong, Frenchie? Chain too short? Shame that. A cryin’ shame!”
The cell door opened, and once again, Tex blocked the sunlight with his huge frame.
Sabrina backed away to her cot, hugging her injured arm tight to her chest.
His braying laugh echoed throughout the cell and drove deep into her head. The one with the shotgun shifted his gaze from her to Tex and back again as though he was struggling to understand the joke.
“Serves you right for bein’ so eager, Frenchie.”
“Why am I here?” she croaked.
“That’s what happens to people who work against the Creed. You brought it all on yourself, honey.”
“What do you plan to do to me?”
“Gonna tenderise you a little, then you’ll find out.”
Still laughing, he backed out of the cell, barged the smaller man out of the way, and locked the door again. She sat on the cot, crying silent, dry tears, listening to his footfalls crunching on gravel and disappearing into the distance.

To read more, buy the book in Kindle and paperback format, and to be the first to know about new Ryan Kaine books, join The Friends of Ryan Kaine newsletter.

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About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine military action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels). He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the modern miracle of video calling.

On the Hunt

By |2022-05-16T22:56:14+00:00February 10th, 2021|Comments Off on On the Hunt

Ryan Kaine is on the hunt…

Setting out to teach an abusive husband a lesson, Danny Pinkerton quickly finds himself surrounded by a crime family that stretches back to Győr in Hungary.

Outgunned and outnumbered, Pinkerton turns to his closest friend, Ryan Kaine.

In a story that travels across Europe and pushes Kaine and Pinkerton to the very edge of survival, On The Hunt is a test of friendship and bond that neither man is prepared to fail.

Even if the outcome is fatal.

If you like Lee Child, Mark Dawson and Robert Ludlum, you’re going to find the Ryan Kaine series compulsively addictive.

Published:
Publisher: Fuse Books
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Wednesday 3rd May – Danny Pinkerton
Chequer Way, Amber Valley, Derbyshire, UK

Danny had only seen the woman for a few seconds. At the time, he didn’t know her name or anything about her, but her bruised and bloodshot eyes and the fear expressed in them drew his attention.
She’d been in the front passenger seat of a white Range Rover stuck in traffic, two miles from the Aspire Hospital, Nottingham—a traffic jam caused by the failed attempt on Melanie Archer’s life.
In those few brief moments, the injured woman’s plight had touched Danny’s heart.
He’d been trudging along the side of the road, dressed like a vagrant in ripped jeans and a grubby polo shirt, covered in someone else’s blood, but when she’d looked at him through those bruised and swollen eyes, he couldn’t let it go. The metal splint taped to her nose confirmed her as a woman in discomfort.

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At first, he assumed she’d just left the Aspire following a nose job, but the way she reacted to her driver’s aggressive proximity fired off warning bells in Danny’s head. Then, after a brief exchange of words, the driver had raced away in the Range Rover, ignoring Danny’s request for a lift and leaving him standing in the driving rain. But as the driver made the turn, he showed Danny the SUV’s tailgate and the cherished licence number it carried, RNP 111.
During his sodden jog to the hospital, Danny contacted Corky, and it had taken the talented hacker mere seconds to identify the SUV’s registered owner, one Robert Neil Prentiss. Corky also provided the man’s home address and the name of his wife—Marian Jennifer Prentiss.

#

Deep in the Amber Valley, twenty miles northwest of Derby, Chequer Way stood pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but Danny’s slow, overnight drive-by had shown him plenty.
The security wall running along the front of the pretentiously named “Prentiss House” stretched out for a little over one hundred and fifty metres. The only gap in the brickwork allowed for a grand entrance, flanked by stone pillars that were crowned with prancing horses carved from white marble. Recessed from the road by a short gravel driveway, a pair of electrically-operated wrought iron gates protected the opening, defending the floodlit home from whatever rampaging hordes the owners most feared.
Behind the gates, Prentiss House—more a mansion than a working farmhouse—stood in all its glory. Sandstone walls shone bright under the orange floodlights. Imposing and expensive.
Pompous or what?
Danny didn’t need to be hit over the head with a lump of sandstone to recognise valuable real estate when he saw it. No doubt about it, Robert Prentiss was loaded.
Didn’t give him the right to beat his wife, though.
No bloody way.
So, Danny asked himself, now he’d made the trip, what was he going to do?
He couldn’t exactly breach the fortress, knock on the front door, and ask the householder how long he’d been beating his wife. No way. There could only be one response to such a question.
Prentiss would refute the charge and dismiss Danny from the grounds. The bugger might even call the police and try to have Danny arrested. And where would that leave the possible victim? No, such a bumbling, half-arsed approach might even make the situation worse for Marian Prentiss.
Danny needed proof.
Not the same level of proof required by the UK’s stodgy legal system. Oh no. He just needed enough to convince himself of the rich man’s guilt. Then, and only then, would Prentiss receive his lesson.
Only then would the bastard learn what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a thumping.

Danny parked his leased, mid-range BMW 3-Series in a layby two miles to the north, returned on foot under the cover of darkness, and completed a surreptitious circuit of the defensive wall. He found another opening at the rear barred by a pair of solid wooden gates, which he scaled with ease. Keeping to the deep shadow, Danny skirted around to the front of the house and found a row of rhododendron bushes where the wall formed a corner, then dropped to his haunches.
Inside the wall, landscaped gardens to the front, rear, and sides showed the intensive work of someone with green fingers. Mainly set to lawns and with well-stocked herbaceous borders, the grounds at the rear contained numerous outbuildings, including a detached triple garage, a large greenhouse, and two small wooden sheds.
Danny’s hiding spot gave him a good view of the house’s frontage and most of the rear. He settled in for the long haul, his back propped against the cold brickwork. He grew colder by the minute, but the memory of Marian Prentiss’ bruised and battered face warmed him and drove him on. What was a little discomfort compared to her injuries?
He rolled his shoulders, stretched his neck, and pointed the Zeiss Victory SF 8x42 binoculars—the one piece of surveillance equipment he hadn’t forgotten—at the front of the house, making the most of the floodlights’ illumination.
The entrance portico—two white-painted columns supporting a triangular canopy—aimed for impressive but only hit excessive and ostentatious. Two steps led up to a semi-circular floor covered in black and white tiles laid out in a chessboard pattern. Double doors, panelled and painted black in a high-gloss finish, wore wrought iron furniture. Two huge lionheads with thick metal rings in their mouths acted as knockers. Two more formed the handles. Raised iron rivets fastened enormous wrought iron hinges into the woodwork, trying to give the impression of a drawbridge.
Fuck’s sake, what a mess.
Danny raked the binoculars across the façade, looking for security cameras or motion-activated spots, but found none. He returned the binoculars to his small rucksack and settled back to wait.
At 01:30 hours the floodlights powered off, plunging his world into blackness. It left Danny blind and immobile until his natural night vision took over. While waiting for the house to sleep and before venturing out of his obbo point to take a closer look, Danny replayed his most recent conversation with Corky.

#

Behind the wheel of the BMW on his way towards Amber Valley, Danny cleared his throat before tapping the comms unit in his ear.
“Hi Corky, what you got for me, over.”
Plenty, Danny-boy. Plenty. Whatcha need first?
Danny grinned. If he hung around for Corky to comply with correct comms protocol, he’d be waiting forever.
“Names and bios will do for a start, over.”
Corky sent them to your mobile half an hour ago.
“I’m driving. Can you give me the bullet points, please? Over.”
Yeah, okay. Sure. Like, why not. After all, it ain’t like Corky’s not got a million other things to do, is it?
“Sorry Corky,” Danny said, slapping some life into his cheeks. “I appreciate all your efforts, mate. I really do. Hoped you’d save me a little time, is all—”
Nah, just joshing, Danny-boy. Corky’s happy to oblige. Just a sec.
To Danny’s surprise, the active map on the dashboard’s GPS screen shrank into a corner, and Corky’s round and bearded face took its place.
Jesus!
He nearly lost control of the BMW.
How the tech genius achieved the trick, Danny would never know. Corky was able to do things beyond the scope of even the most gifted military techies.
Apart from the small-scale map, the screen behind Corky showed nothing but a white wall, which made a change from the usual panoramic view of sea and sky he preferred.
“Whatcha, Danny,” Corky said, his cheeks fattening into a grin. “Much better speaking face to face, yeah?”
Danny returned the grin. “Sure is.”
“This way, we don’t need none of that ‘over and out’ bullshit, neither.”
“If you say so, Corky.”
The GPS map indicated a left turn in eight hundred metres, and Danny slowed to make the manoeuvre.
“Didn’t know these consoles had built-in cameras.”
Without bothering to indicate—no cars about to make it necessary—Danny turned left, straightened the wheel and fed more fuel into the engine. The big BMW surged ahead.
“You’d be surprised what the manufacturers hide inside their ‘infotainment systems’, Danny-boy. These days, Big Brother is always watching you.”
Big Brother and Corky!
But at least Corky was benign.
“Okay,” Dany said, moving things along, “so who exactly is our target?”
“Robert Neil Prentiss, aged thirty-six. Owns Prentiss Haulage Limited, and operates from a distribution centre on the outskirts of Derby. Likes to call himself, ‘Robbie P’. That’s the geezer on the screen right now.”
Corky pointed over his shoulder and a colour headshot of a man emerged on the white background. Strong face, square jaw, light brown eyes. Some might say good-looking. Danny tried to match the image with the driver of the Range Rover from the previous afternoon, but it didn’t really work.
In the headshot, Robbie P had short hair, was clean shaven, and the smile reached his eyes. The headshot made him seem warm and friendly, but looks could be deceptive.
“How old’s that picture?”
Corky shrugged. “Dunno when it were taken, but that pic were uploaded to the company’s website three months back. Why?”
Danny sniffed. “Bloke I saw driving the Range Rover had long dark hair and a beard. Didn’t get a clear sight of him through the tinted windows, though. Might be the same guy, I guess. You couldn’t find anything more recent?”
Corky pinched his lips together and shook his head. “Nah, not really. Corky found a few publicity shots of Robbie P when he opened a distribution centre in Hungary eighteen months back, but the quality’s poor and there aren’t none any newer than that online. By the way, his hair were short in them pics, too. And he didn’t have no beard.”
“Find anything interesting on the wife?”
“Nothing much. Marian Jennifer Prentiss. Maiden name, Turvey. Aged twenty-eight. They’ve been married five years. No kids yet. She’s got herself a degree in Fine Arts from Nottingham Trent University.”
“Anything worrying in her medical history?”
“Didn’t find nothing in her NHS records.”
“No emergency admissions for unexplained injuries? Broken bones? Facial trauma?”
“Er, nope.” Another headshake.
“What about the damage I saw to her face yesterday? No record of that on the Aspire’s records?”

Corky scrunched his mobile face into a wince. He almost seemed embarrassed. “Yeah, now that’s where Corky’s had a little bother. As you know, for some reason, the Aspire’s computer systems fell over last night.”
“You don’t say.” Danny couldn’t prevent the irony invading his voice.
Danny knew all about the Aspire’s computer troubles. He knew, because he’d asked Corky to disable their IT infrastructure long enough for him to break into its dental clinic and “liberate” Melanie Archer’s replacement ceramic crown. The same ceramic crown she’d been paroled from prison for the day to have fitted.
“What happened, Corky? You didn’t break their IT system, did you?”
“Nah, ’course not. It ain’t nothing to do with Corky, and it ain’t permanent, neither. The hospital’s IT service provider is running a system-wide diagnostic sweep on account of the unplanned shutdown. Just means that Corky can’t interrogate the system right now. At least, not safely.”
Danny relaxed into his seat.
“How long are you going to be locked out?”
Corky’s wince transformed into a deep scowl. “Now listen here, Danny-boy. What part of that explanation said Corky were locked out? Corky ain’t never been locked out of a computer system in his life! Bloody insulting, that is.”
Keeping a straight face and concentrating on the road ahead, Danny raised a hand in apology. “Sorry Corky. Didn’t mean to upset you.”
“Locked out! Ain’t no way Corky’s locked out. He’s keeping his distance for security purposes, that’s all. Get it? Any outside interference on the Aspire’s systems at this stage will lead to questions Corky don’t want no one asking. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Corky. It’s clear. I get it. And again, I’m sorry. Any idea how long the systems are likely to be inaccessible?”
“The idiots are taking their time over the security scan. They say it’ll be down ’til at least midday. Typical. If Corky were running the systems check, it would already be done.”
Danny nodded. “I understand. Can’t be helped. Until then we’re blind, yes?”
The chubby hacker’s cheeky grin returned. “On the other hand, Corky did discover who provides the Mr and Mrs Prentiss with their medical insurance. It’s a company called Notts Private Health Services. Seems they agreed to cover the costs of ‘emergency treatment’ at the Aspire Hospital under Robbie P’s account. Apparently, two nights ago, she tripped and fell down the stairs. Broke her nose and right cheekbone.”
Yeah, right.
Danny clenched his fists and tried not to grind his teeth. “The bastard hit her.”
Corky tilted his head to one side in agreement. “Looks that way. What you gonna do?”
Good question.

“Corky hates wifebeaters. You gonna give the guy a good thumping?” the hacker asked, excitement shining bright in his eyes.
“Probably, but I need to do some obbo first. I want to be certain of my facts.”
“The facts seem clear enough to old Corky.”
“Maybe, but I’m not in the habit of turning people over without proof. Before doing anything serious, I’ll try to get Marian on her own. It would be good to hear her side of the story. You never know, her injuries might well have been accidental.” Danny tried to sound convincing, but failed miserably. He happened to be as certain as Corky of Robbie P’s guilt.
“So, anything else you need from old Corky?”
“A layout of the house would be useful?”
“More ‘bullet points’?”
“Please.”
Corky coughed into his hand. “Okay, here you go.” His gaze slid to the left and he started reading, probably from another monitor. “The architect’s plans are online and Corky’s been taking a shufti. Robbie P started renovating the house six years ago, right after they moved in and renamed the place. The house has two storeys and an attic. Ground floor’s got three receptions, a home office, a sun room, and a kitchen with utility room. First floor has four bedrooms, two with en suites, and a family bathroom. The attic has planning permission for a granny annex, but the work stopped three years ago. Dunno why. Maybe the bugger ran out of money.”
“Can you find out?”
Corky winked. “Next thing on the to-do list, Danny-boy. Corky reckons Prentiss Haulage Limited might have stretched their finances a bit thin when they opened that satellite hub in Hungary. Seems to be something fishy going on there. Like, who chooses chuffing Hungary for their base of operations? Hardly the epicentre of the European haulage trade. Ain’t that many routes to and from the major agriculture or manufacturing centres, you know.”
“You’ll keep searching, I imagine?”
“If there’s anything iffy going on, Corky’s gonna find it.”
The BMW’s headlights dipped automatically as its sensors registered the dazzling full-beams of an approaching vehicle. Danny squinted and waited for the ignorant prick to pass before speaking again.
“Don’t suppose Prentiss House has a burglar alarm or surveillance system you can hack into?”
Corky shook his head and his expression turned glum. “Nah, ’fraid not. They got an alarm and a CCTV setup, but it ain’t hooked up to the web, at least not yet. Corky can’t give you ears or eyes inside the house without splicing directly into the system. And there ain’t no way that’s happening any time soon.”
“Okay, mate. I’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way. Thanks for everything. I’ll find a spot inside the grounds and lie doggo for a while. If and when Robbie P heads out to work in the morning, it’ll give me a chance to ask Marian about his behaviour. Assuming he leaves her home alone.”
“Good luck with that, Danny-boy. Corky’s off now.” He chuckled, faded away, and the GPS map expanded to fill the screen again.

#

Slowly, one by one, the stars blinked out and a pale dawn washed away the darkness of night.
Danny shivered, the morning dew had long since soaked through his clothes, and the chill had worked its way into every joint of his body. Should have come better prepared. A groundsheet would have helped, but no point crying about that now. Wasn’t as though he could call on anyone for help, either. For the first time in years, he was operating solo, which felt both good and bad. Good, to have no one questioning his actions or monitoring his performance. Bad, to have no one to bounce ideas off, not even the captain.
What had originally seemed like the most obvious thing in the world—save the girl, punish the arsehole—had turned into hours of waiting in the perishing cold. Hours of double-guessing and doubt.
Earlier, his post-floodlight searches hadn’t added to his small pool of knowledge. Peering through windows and pressing his ear to the glass achieved nothing. Heavy curtains hid the view inside, and double-glazed windows on the ground level prevented all sounds filtering through into the night. A complete bust.

He’d been deaf and blind to whatever was going on inside Prentiss House and had failed to add to Corky’s intel.
A thermal imaging camera might have told him how many people were in the house and where they slept, but he’d forgotten to pack one in his haste to “save the damsel in distress”. Another bloody mistake. One of many. No groundsheet, no parabolic microphone, no infrared or night vision glasses, no nothing. Damn it, he wasn’t even armed.
What did Rollo used to say? “Fail to prepare and you might as well prepare to fail, laddie.” Yep, the team’s quartermaster wasn’t averse to spouting the odd platitude or three.
And anyway, why the hell would he need a weapon?
Danny faced nothing but a wifebeater. A bully and a coward, not a Taliban insurgent, and Danny knew how to handle bullies.
Around him, the dawn chorus welcomed the onset of day and the temperature rose with the sun. With the minimum of movement, Danny loosened his joints and warmed his muscles in preparation for whatever the morning would bring.
Before him, Prentiss House remained silent. The curtains hid what went on behind the ground floor windows, and shutters covered those on the upper two floors.
Once again, Danny waited.

#

The middle of the three high-security garage doors rolled up to expose the gleaming white and ludicrously expensive Range Rover 5.0 V8. Brand new, the top-of-the-range beastie would have set Robbie P back more than £130,000. The powerful monster’s engine growled in smooth anger. White exhaust fumes spewed from the tailpipe, and the SUV pulled slowly out of the garage and into the daylight, some thirty-five metres from where Danny hid amongst the rhododendrons.
Finally, after damn near seven hours freezing his nuts off, Danny had movement.
He allowed himself a little fist pump.
Here we go!
The Range Rover rolled forwards and stopped outside the grand front entrance, purring, waiting for release. Behind it, the garage door rolled down and clunked into place. The driver’s door popped open and a swarthy man with long wavy hair and a trimmed beard climbed out. Slightly below average height but powerfully built, the man wore a dark business suit, white shirt, muted brown tie, and polished leather shoes. He bore a striking resemblance to the driver from the previous afternoon.
Yep, the same guy he saw driving the Range Rover yesterday afternoon.
Robbie P?
Danny raised the binoculars, focused them on the man. Pale blue eyes shone out of a weather-beaten face.
Blue eyes?
Can’t be right.
Danny tweaked the knurled nut of the binoculars’ focus adjuster to sharpen the image further. Yep, the driver’s eyes were definitely blue.
Shit!
Definitely not Prentiss.
The headshot Corky had thrown up on the BMW’s infotainment screen showed Robbie P with light brown eyes, not blue, and Corky’s bio confirmed it. The bio also stated that Robbie P stood at nearly six foot two, but the driver was no more than five nine.
What the hell was going on?
The swarthy man, Driver, glowered at the closed front doors and peeled back the sleeve of his jacket to reveal a heavy gold watch. He all but tapped his foot on the gravel in his impatience.
Driver waited another thirty seconds before shouting something guttural in a language Danny didn’t understand. Moments later, one of the front doors opened and a second man in a business suit stumbled out, propelled by the stiff-armed punch of a third man.
The man in the suit bunted into one of the columns supporting the portico’s canopy and fell to his hands and knees.
The third man stayed in the open doorway. He wore blue jeans and a white T-shirt under a sleeveless denim vest. Squat with a shaved head, his muscular arms and thick neck were covered in black ink—prison tats.
Tats shouted, “Idióta,” and coughed out a harsh laugh.
With his back to Danny, the fallen man scrambled to his feet. He raised his hands to Tats, shouted, “Don’t hurt her. Please don’t hurt her again!” and spun towards Driver, finally showing his face to Danny.
Robbie P!
Fuck.
In that instant, Danny realised his mistake. Robbie P was no more a wifebeater than Ryan Kaine was a terrorist.
What the flaming hell had he stumbled into?

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About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine military action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels). He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the modern miracle of video calling.

Sweet Revenge

By |2022-05-17T00:14:39+00:00December 19th, 2020|Comments Off on Sweet Revenge
Book Cover: Sweet Revenge
Editions:Kindle: $ 4.99
ISBN: B081S7TMXS
Pages: 200
Paperback: $ 15.99
ISBN: 979-8578908231
Pages: 340

Sometimes fairytales turn to nightmares…

When fugitive Ryan Kaine asks DCI David Jones to reopen the case against a missing prisoner who escaped from custody, Jones is intrigued to know more.

Melanie Archer was awaiting trial for the murder of her husband when she disappeared without a trace. Kaine knows where she is but he’s also confident that she isn’t a killer. James Archer, multi-millionaire and invalid, drowned in his hydrotherapy pool in suspicious circumstances. The Archers’ marriage was far from a happy one and Melanie certainly had a motive: get rid of an abusive husband and get rich in the process.

But Melanie has been given the chance to run and she hasn’t taken it. She swears she is innocent and is desperate to prove it. If anyone can expose the truth it’s DCI Jones. And the deeper he digs, the more secrets and lies he discovers...

DCI Jones: a series of page-turning crime novels with unexpected twists from bestseller Kerry J Donovan.

(This book was previously published as 'A DCI Jones Casebook - Melanie Archer')

Published:
Publisher: Fuse Books
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Wednesday 3rd May – Early Morning
Outside Shipton Village, Shropshire, UK

Detective Chief Inspector David Jones stepped outside. He had to raise an arm to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight slicing over the eastern hills. Although welcome after three days of incessant rain, the sun had yet to add its warmth to the morning. Jones coughed as the cold air hit the back of his throat and chilled his lungs. He pulled the heavy front door behind him and smiled as it closed easily against the jamb and made a satisfyingly solid clunk.
During the previous weekend, he’d found time to take a smoothing plane to the door’s leading edge and removed remove the sliver of wood that had been scraping against the frame, causing it to rub slightly. The new and smoothly efficient operating satisfied his unending and inexplicable desire for perfection.

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If he couldn’t find perfection in his work, then he could at least strive for it in the travesty that was his private life.
Jones stood back and took a moment to admire the front elevation of his nearly-finished home. It had taken close to fifteen years, but he could finally see an end to the self-imposed challenge. The painstaking rebuild was complete and, apart from the decorating and furnishing, nothing but snagging remained. No more than a summer’s part-time toil, even for a man with his eye for detail and limited free time.
Not that he would be satisfied with the result, not fully, but at least the first phase of his ‘work in progress’ was over. Plenty remained for him to do. The outhouses, the garage and workshop, would need an upgrade, pretty soon. And as for the garden …
Don’t go there, Jones.

He could have hired a team of skilled builders and landscape gardeners and finished the work long ago, but that would have defeated the object. Before buying the rundown cottage in the middle of nowhere, Jones had never owned his own home. This would be his first and his last. His final resting place. It had to be perfect and, no matter their skill levels and their speed, hired builders would never be able to give it the same care and attention as Jones.
He sighed. If he played it right, there would always be something to do, something to occupy his mind. In truth, Jones didn’t really want to finish. If the refurbishment work ended, he’d have nothing to fill his head with, not after the brass hats finally tolled the dreaded retirement bell and sent him out to grass. At least he’d had a reprieve recently. Following the years of austerity and the loss of an untold number of experienced officers, a new directive had provided a voluntary five-year extension to the mandatory retirement age for senior officers. Jones had jumped at the offer. The last thing his wanted was to be put out to grass.
He stepped back. Sunlight flashed on the roof tiles, highlighting the natural slates’ ripples and distortions. The imperfections of nature held no fear. In fact, those particular blemishes were essential. Glorious. Jones revelled in them. Okay, so the windows were filthy, but he could fix that easily enough. He’d attack them with the steam cleaner the next time he was home in daylight, although his day job didn’t allow that to happen often.
His job. His work. His life.
What the hell was he going to do when it ended in four years?
Chin up, Jones. You’ll work something out.

He sighed, spun around, and set off along the path running around the cottage, enjoying the coarseness of its recently re-laid flagstones as they contacted the soles of his walking shoes. He turned the corner at the gable end, heading towards the garage at the rear of the house and paused.
There is was. The blemish. The only major flaw in the picture. The dark blue Skoda parked next to the garage at the end of his drive.
Ugly modern monstrosity.
What would it do to him this time? Blink its flashers angrily? Bleep a warning alarm because he’d parked to close to a wall or reversed to close to a bloody pebble?
Damn it.
He’d been driving for decades without the need for ‘impact collision alarms’, ‘reversing cameras’, and ‘automated parking control’. And, damn it again, what the hell was wrong with changing gears manually, for pity’s sake?
For the second time that morning, Jones sighed. His life wasn’t all that bad. He had plenty to be grateful for. He had his health and his freedom, and he wanted for nothing. So many others had it far worse than him. Some people, innocent people, lived their lives as fugitives, on the run, hiding from the authorities, fighting for their lives. Innocent people like Ryan Kaine.
Ryan Kaine. Where are you, my man?

Jones shuddered. He could think of nothing worse that living with such uncertainties. Never knowing who to trust, and never knowing where he’d be sleeping from one night to the next.
Purgatory.
“Come on, then,” he mumbled. “Where are you?”
He held his breath to listen hard and allowed his gaze to quarter his small property, searching for any anomaly.
Nothing.
Jones approached the rounded white monstrosity with some unease. What would it do this time? He pointed the key fob at the driver’s window and pressed the unlock button. The beast’s amber hazard lights flashed twice and, with an orchestrated hum of electric actuators, the locks fuzz-clicked, the horn tooted in welcome, and the wing mirrors spread out from the door columns like petals in search of the sun.
Nice. Almost balletic.
Will it breakdance next?
“That’s it. I’m off,” he mumbled to no one.
Jones approached the driver’s door, half expecting it to open automatically for him. Thankfully, it remained steadfastly closed until he hooked his fingers under the handle and pulled. The door opened quietly, solidly, allowing the waft of air containing the aroma of new leather to filter around him.
Perhaps new cars weren’t that bad after all.
He removed his jacket, opened the rear passenger door, and placed it carefully on the back seat.
A shadow darkened the brilliant white paintwork. The shadow of a man.
Jones tensed. He raised his fists and spun around. A man’s black silhouette stood directly between Jones and the blindingly low sun. He stood straight and still, arms out from his sides, hands open—empty.
“Morning, Mr Jones,” the silhouette said quietly. “What happened to the Rover?”
Jones circled to the side, keeping his distance from dark outline, heading for the gentle shade of an oak tree. The silhouette moved in time with him, its profile turning towards the sun.
Slowly, Jones’ eyes attuned to the light, the image cleared, and the man’s rugged, handsome features became clear.
“Ryan Kaine,” Jones said without emotion. He released his breath, lowered his arms, and relaxed his hands. “Wondered when you’d show up.”
“You were expecting me?”
Jones tilted his head to the side a fraction but said nothing. Kaine had made the approach. The onus was on Kaine to make the explanation, not Jones.
“Sorry to arrive unannounced,” said Ryan Kaine, “but I need your help.”
“Again?”
Kaine smiled and dipped his head in a nod. “Again.”
Jones tore his eyes away from the man who used to top the UK government’s terrorist watchlist, and searched the landscape behind him. Expecting … what? Armed men in camouflage clothing? Snipers?
Get a grip, Jones. He’s a friend.

“Can’t you call ahead like a normal visitor?” he grumbled.
“Sorry, Mr Jones. Couldn’t take the risk you’d turn me down.”
“So, you come barging into—”
“Barging? I’d hardly call it that. I barely made a sound.”
Jones punched the side of his fist against his chest. “Damn nearly gave this old man a coronary.”
“You’re not that old, sir. And there’s nothing wrong with your heart.”
“How would you know that? Has Corky been digging into my medical records again?”
Kaine shook his head. “Nope. Our hacker friend’s been busy on other, more important tasks.”
“I won’t ask. Don’t want to know.”
“And I wouldn’t tell you even if you did ask.” Kaine smiled and shot out a hand. They shook, hand to forearm. Firm friends.
“So, what do you need this time?”
Kaine pointed to the cottage. “Mind if we take this inside. I’m gasping for a cuppa.”
Jones checked his watch, 06:59. Although he usually beat his team into work, they wouldn’t raise the alarm. Not today.
“Am I going to like this?” he asked, brushing past Kaine and leading the way through the back garden to the rear entrance.
“No, David,” Kaine said with a resigned tinge to his tone. “I really don’t think you are.”
Yep. Bloody knew it.

To read more, buy the book in Kindle format and paperback, and to be the first to know about new David Jones books, join The Friends of David Jones newsletter.

COLLAPSE

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine military action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels). He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the modern miracle of video calling.

On the Wing

By |2022-05-16T22:54:16+00:00May 23rd, 2020|Comments Off on On the Wing
Book Cover: On the Wing
Editions:Kindle: $ 4.99
ISBN: B07XSP1NST
Pages: 383
Paperback: $ 12.99
ISBN: 979-8646122095
Size: 6.00 x 9.00 in
Pages: 333

Ryan Kaine is on the wing…

When alleged murderer, Melanie Archer, is violently assaulted and left for dead by unknown attackers, she reaches out to the only organisation who might be able to save her life, The 83 Trust.

But before Ryan Kaine is willing to help her and put his team in danger, he wants to determine her guilt or innocence — in person. Against the advice of his closest allies, he and his insistent partner, Lara, con their way into the lion’s den — the last place he’d ever be expected to go willingly.

Unarmed and with no eyes or ears inside the prison, Kaine and Lara are trapped, with only a hasty disguise and a false identity preventing them from taking a permanent holiday at Her Majesty’s pleasure… or worse.

Is Kaine willing to risk everything to save her?

If you like Lee Child, Mark Dawson and Robert Ludlum, you’re going to find the Ryan Kaine series compulsively addictive.

Published:
Publisher: Fuse Books
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Monday 11th April – Melanie Archer
HMP Falston Manor, Derbyshire, UK

A thumping, grinding blow. Back of the head.
Flashes of bright light. Darkness. Fog.
White tiles, wet and harsh, raced up. Smacked her in the face. Another blow, a kick. Heavy shoes, the toecaps cracked bone. Her bone. Bones.
“You’re gonna die, bitch!” the voice hissed in her ear.
“The killer’s going down,” another voice, deeper, guttural.
Oh God!
Someone laughed.
“Don’t need no pay for this. Do it for free, me.”
Another kick landed.
Added to the pain.
“I’ll have your share.”
“Fuck off. What’s mine’s mine.”
Agony.
Wall to wall.
Floor to floor. Total, encompassing. Nothing but agony.
Head, eyes, jaw, ribs, stomach. Every movement screamed pain. The ribs hurt more on the left side.
Why?

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Someone whimpered, cried. Close by, high-pitched and feeble. Melanie Archer felt the sounds inside her head. Another groan, this one louder.
Her cries.
Her whimpers.
What’s happening?
She tried to open both eyes, but only the left lid reacted, letting in the searing agony of white light. Too bright, too much to suffer. She squeezed her lid closed and the ache lessened. But not by much.
Sunny? It’s sunny?
The sun gave off little heat. Her skin was cold. Sweaty cold. Clammy. Somewhere close by, water splashed. Dripped. The sound echoed off hard, reflective surfaces.
The shower block. Another kick, to the back, this one barely noticed. Barely felt.
Darkness closed in. Restful darkness. Peace.
Relax, Mel. Let it end. End now.
Shouts.
Raised voices.
Female voices, but sharp and guttural, high-pitched.
In the distance, way off, an alarm bell rang. Too far away. No safety there. No help.
Melanie lay on her side, curled into a foetal ball. That much, she could tell. The unforgiving surface she lay on—stiff, cold, gritty—it smelled of urine, caustic bleach, and … decay.
Another blow, this one to her head.
She retched. Gagged. Vomited.
Blackness rushed up to swallow her and end the pain.
Please.
End it.
Thank you, God. Thank …

#

Quiet peacefulness.
Softness. Scratchy softness.
Murmured voices in the distance, talking over the subdued, tinny music expelled from a radio. Mel didn’t recognise the song, but it was peaceful, relaxing. She smiled—or tried to. Her lips were swollen and split. Pain, the stinging pain of lemon juice driven into a cut, shocked her fully awake.
Mel lay on her back, the rough grit of tile and grout beneath her had been exchanged for the firm, intermittent lumpiness of an old, well-worn mattress. The smell had changed, too. From urine and corrosive bleach, to lemons and something else. Something sharp.
Starched sheets tucked in around and over her.
She tried to lift her head, but it was heavy, far too heavy, as though a concrete block was pressing against her forehead.
Her heartbeat thumped inside her head. Pounding. Adding to the cluster of pain.
She tried to swallow, but her mouth was too dry.
Mel moved her tongue, trying to generate some spit, some moisture. The tongue found a hole. A gap where her upper front tooth used to be. No pain though. An old injury. One of many. Years old. Nearly a decade. The missing front tooth, had been replaced by a ceramic implant. A perfect match to the original in shape and colour, but not in feel.
In the gap, something sharp—the implant’s metallic head protruding from her gum—cut the side of her tongue. Made it bleed. The blood seeped into her mouth, tasted of old pennies. She swallowed. Gagged. Swallowed again. Coughed.
Fresh, exquisite pain blazed though her side. The jagged edge of a rib bit deep. She yelped.
The distant conversation stopped. Footsteps approached. Heels clicked on a hard floor.
Metal rattled. Keys on a chain.

“Try not to move.”
“What?”
“You have a couple of broken ribs, a fractured wrist, multiple contusions, and a suspected concussion,” the woman said. Her voice was cool and unemotional, but carried the rasp of a long-term smoker. Her breath stank of cigarettes. “Try not to move. Wouldn’t want the ribs to pierce a lung.”
“Where … Where am …”
“The infirmary.”
“Where?”
Hesitation. “You don’t know where you are? Can you tell me your name?”
“Sorry? What?”
“You took a few blows to the head. What’s your name?”
Mel swallowed, blood mixed with saliva.
“Mel … Melanie Archer.”
“Good. Do you know where you are, in general terms?”
She tried to nod but, again, her head refused to move. Pain knifed behind her eyes, running between the temples, pulsing along with the rapid beat of her heart. Her neck seemed pinned in place, as though held in a vice. Something restricted her movement, stopped her from dipping her chin. A neck brace. She recognised its softly restrictive force. She’d worn one before.
“Falston,” she answered, “Falston Manor?” Her voice sounded as dry and cracked as the other woman’s, but Mel had never smoked a cigarette in her life.
Wouldn’t have dreamed of it. He wouldn’t have let her.
“Yes, that’s right. Memory’s unimpaired. Good,” the woman said, but didn’t seem particularly relieved. “Means we won’t need to send you for a scan. Paperwork for a transfer on medical grounds can be a nightmare. Expensive.”
Mel tried opening her eyes again, but her lids wouldn’t move. The right was being held in place by something soft but unforgiving—bandages. The lids of her left eye were stuck, gummed together.
“Oh God, I-I can’t see.” Even though she fought the panic, Mel’s voice rose in pitch and volume.
“Calm down, Archer. Far as I can tell, there’s nothing wrong with your vision. Heavy swelling and a deep laceration to the right side of your face needed bandages. I’ll clear the left in a second. Hold still.” The last words were barked in an order.
Footsteps clicked again, these ones moving away.
In the near silence that followed, broken only by the ticking of a clock and the tinny music, the seconds stretched into minutes. Mel tried to stay calm, keep her breathing shallow and slow. Panic wouldn’t help. She’d learned that the hard way, over decades.
Think.
Plan.

Stay calm and subservient on the outside, cool and determined on the inside. The only way to survive.
How much damage had they done? What could she move?
Head? No, the neck brace and bandages handled that.
Hands and arms? She could make a fist with her left hand, but when she tried moving the fingers of her right, a fireball of pain exploded. Broken. Probably at the wrist. Again, not for the first time.
Hips, knees, and ankles? All moved normally, and without excessive discomfort.
Now for the important part, the one kept for last, the chest and stomach.
Mel moved slowly, testing each area gently by tensing and relaxing the necessary muscle groups.
Broken ribs were a given. She already knew that, and the bones would heal. Doctors didn’t bandage damaged ribs anymore. Not worth the time or effort. Pain would restrict movement well enough, and the patient needed to breathe. But what about her stomach?
Mel held her breath and tensed her abdominal wall. Sore, bruised, but not seriously. In the past, she’d suffered worse, much worse. The damage was superficial. Damage to the belly didn’t matter. No chance of her ever being pregnant again. He’d seen to that seventeen, no, eighteen years ago.
Oh God. Little Bella.
Gone, and without having had a chance at any sort of a life.
Bella would be doing her A levels this year. She’d have been smart, like her mother, but more worldly wise. Better prepared for what life could throw at her. Mel would have seen to that. Bella would have had none of the naïve ignorance of her teenage mother, and absolutely none of her father’s cunning evil or his vileness.
Tears formed behind gummy, gritty eyes.
She would have protected little Bella from his scheming, his anger. Mel would have done anything to save her daughter from the fear and the misery.
So many years of guilt and suffering had led to … where? Her Majesty’s Prison, Falston Manor.
Overcrowded cells and strip searches.
Inmates.
Why? What had she done?
Nothing.
Why wouldn’t anyone believe her? It wasn’t fair. Life wasn’t fair. It never had been.
Returning footsteps broke into Mel’s drift into self-pity.
“By the way,” the woman with the gravelly voice said, “I’m Dr Milliner, the Chief Medical Officer here. You might remember me from your orientation.”
Orientation?

Ritual humiliation, more like.
It started before Mel had even arrived.
Blurred, fractured memories crawled through her head, unwanted. An hour-long ride in a prison van with blacked out windows. Sitting handcuffed on a bench seat, safety belt around her lap. Two more luckless, pale-faced prisoners on the bench to her left. One, fat and brassy with hair bleached at the tips and a ring through her nose, kept leering at her, licking her lips and blowing kisses. The other, pale, skinny, and terrified. Hair cut in an angular bob and no more than a teenager, she cried throughout the journey and bit her nails.
Normally, inmates were allowed to wear their own clothes, but the guards deemed Mel’s were too expensive, too eye-catching. They stripped her, gave her a faded green tracksuit three sized too big, T-shirts, and plain, cotton underwear.
The so-called medical exam was cursory and performed by a wizen-faced fifty-something woman. She had short grey hair, horn-rimmed glasses, pale brown eyes, and a sneer. Presumably, the owner of the raspy voice and the harsh bedside manner, Dr Milliner.
For the exam, Milliner asked a few general health questions, ticked the answers on a form attached to a clipboard, and made Mel sign it. No stethoscope to the chest, no blood pressure test, nothing “hands-on”.

Medical over, the real horror began.
How long ago was that? Two weeks? Three?
The days blurred. They merged into one long, indeterminant routine, interspersed with threats and intimidation, leading to … here.
Metal scraped onto a hard surface close to Mel’s head. Plastic rustled and crumpled. A vacuum-sealed bag popped open. The lid of a plastic bottle clicked, its seal broken. Liquid poured into a small container.
“This will feel cold,” Dr Milliner said, her voice close, her breath still reeking. “Nothing but distilled water to clean your eye. Keep it closed until I’m done.”
Cool liquid from a cotton wool swab soaked her lids. The cold water ran down the side of her face and pooled in her ear. Tickled. The doctor’s touch was more gentle than expected. A dry swab dabbed the excess liquid and, two firm swipes later, Milliner pulled away from the bed, taking the smell of stale cigarettes with her.
“Okay, try now.”
Mel opened her eye, closed it against the sharp white light, and took a shallow breath. She opened the lid again, blinked two, three times, and waited.
Slowly, the fuzzy pictures cleared and the blurry images sharpened.
The hatchet-faced Dr Milliner pressed the tips of her fingers to Mel’s bandaged head and held up a brown-stained index finger.
“Follow my finger. Don’t move your head.”
The hazy digit moved, left and right, up and down. Mel followed it as best she could, keeping her head still. The migraine flared when she looked up and to the left. She winced and groaned but said nothing.
Milliner pulled away.
“You’ll have a headache for a while. If it gets any worse I might be able to prescribe some ibuprofen.” She paused, reading the time from her wristwatch. “Paperwork to do. I’ll be back to check on you shortly, maybe remove that neck brace. Meanwhile, try to get some rest.”
The doctor spun on a low-heeled shoe and marched away. Her footsteps clicked on the tiled floor once again, and the keychain attached to her belt jangled. She paused at one of only two doors in the three-bed ward, selected a key from the bundle, and turned the lock. She left the ward without looking back.
“Paperwork? Really. Fag break, more like,” Mel mumbled, struggling to form the words with damaged lips.
Someone turned off the radio. Apart from the continuous ticking of the cheap wall clock, the room fell silent. For the first time since entering Falston Manor, Melanie Archer felt safe.
But how long would it last?

To read more, buy the book in either Kindle or paperback format, and to be the first to know about new Ryan Kaine books, join The Friends of Ryan Kaine newsletter.

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About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine military action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels). He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the modern miracle of video calling.

The Ryan Kaine Series: Books 4-6

By |2022-05-16T22:51:18+00:00March 11th, 2020|Comments Off on The Ryan Kaine Series: Books 4-6
Book Cover: The Ryan Kaine Series: Books 4-6
Editions:Kindle: $ 6.99
ISBN: B085S6FK71
Pages: 971

Books 4-6 in the Ryan Kaine series:

On the Attack
An innocent woman is viciously attacked. An underworld kingpin and his brutal thugs close in. One man can deliver justice to them all.

On the Money
A member of The 83 dies in an apparent accident. The faceless leader of a drug gang rules his neighbourhood. One man will find the truth.

On the Edge
A medical training course in Denmark. The perfect chance to prove herself. One woman is on a mission to do just that.

From the pen of Kerry J Donovan, the Ryan Kaine series is heart-stopping, action-packed, and full of justice being meted out to the people who deserve it most. Fans of military action will love this series.

Ryan Kaine is an explosive addition to the great military action heroes in the tradition of Lee Child, Mark Dawson, and Matt Rogers.

Published:
Publisher: Fuse Books
Genres:
Excerpt:

Book 1: On the Attack

Ryan Kaine is on the attack…

When Angela Shafer’s stalker threatens to kill her, she is forced to call upon the services of The 83 Trust. Ryan Kaine vows to deliver justice in the only way he knows how.

After reaching Angela’s home too late to prevent a terrible atrocity, Kaine calls in reinforcements in the form of his most trusted men; Danny Pinkerton and William Rollason. But in order for Angela and her daughter to be truly safe, Kaine and his team need to dismantle an entire criminal organisation.

As an underworld kingpin and his brutal thugs close in, Kaine will need all the help he can get…

Book 5: On the Money

Ryan Kaine is on the money…

When a member of The 83 dies in an apparent accident, Kaine knows better.

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A faceless leader of a drug gang rules the dead man’s neighbourhood and Kaine and his partner, Lara Orchard, go undercover to discover the truth. Offering financial support to the dead man’s grandson, they draw the attention of the local crew. Before they can complete their mission, Lara is attacked, and all bets are off.

Kaine prepares to take on the gang alone, but Lara will not be side-lined by a bunch of street thugs. If Kaine needs her help, she’s sure as hell going to provide it.

Together, Kaine and Lara are about to serve justice to them all…

Book 6: On the Edge

Ryan Kaine is on the edge….

Lara Orchard is on a mission to prove herself.

Convincing her partner, Ryan Kaine, that she needs combat medical training, they fly to Denmark under assumed identities.

Kaine is on high alert, keeping a watchful eye on her throughout the course — but it’s not her medical skill he’s worried about.

Despite knowing the gunfire and the bombs aren't real, Lara struggles to control her fear, but leaves herself exposed to a threat she doesn't see coming. In a desperate attempt to protect her, and breaking his own moral code and a few bones, Ryan Kaine is pushed to his limits…

To read more, buy the book in Kindle format, and to be the first to know about new Ryan Kaine books, join The Friends of Ryan Kaine newsletter.

COLLAPSE

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine military action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels). He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the modern miracle of video calling.

On the Edge

By |2022-05-16T22:48:19+00:00December 25th, 2019|Comments Off on On the Edge
Book Cover: On the Edge
Editions:Kindle: $ 2.99
ISBN: B0825FKZHY
Pages: 153
Paperback: $ 8.99
ISBN: 979-8664914054
Size: 6.00 x 9.00 in
Pages: 131

Ryan Kaine is on the edge…

Lara Orchard is on a mission to prove herself.

Convincing her partner, Ryan Kaine, that she needs combat medical training, they fly to Denmark under assumed identities.

Kaine is on high alert, keeping a watchful eye on her throughout the course — but it’s not her medical skill he’s worried about.

Despite knowing the gunfire and the bombs aren't real, Lara struggles to control her fear, but leaves herself exposed to a threat she doesn't see coming. In a desperate attempt to protect her, and breaking his own moral code and a few bones, Ryan Kaine is pushed to his limits…

If you like Lee Child, Mark Dawson and Robert Ludlum, you’re going to find the Ryan Kaine series compulsively addictive.

Published:
Publisher: Fuse Books
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Wednesday 13th April – Lara Orchard
Aarhus, Denmark

Lara Orchard, in the guise of Dr Grace Sloane, sheltered under the dubious protection of a partially destroyed office block. All around her lay devastation—broken buildings, broken pavements, the suggestion of broken lives.
Bullets cracked and popped. Shells flew across a pale blue sky, crumped into the rubble somewhere ahead, and erupted with shocking and visceral ferocity. She ducked and flinched under each impact. If this represented battlefield conditions with any accuracy, she wanted no part of the real thing. What had she been thinking?
This isn’t real. It’s not real.
If she repeated the mantra often enough, she might actually start believing it again.
Lord, but it felt real. So darned real.
Her heart pounded. Breath caught in her dry throat.

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Dust found its way beneath her protective glasses and stung her eyes. She tried blinking it away.
Whoever set up the pyrotechnics had done a first-class job. If the shells landed much closer, she’d have considered turning tail and running away, but she’d volunteered for this and would darned well see it through. Assuming the explosions kept their bloody distance.
She’d been with Ryan for what, eight months? Heck. Only eight months? So much had happened since the day he’d crashed into her life, bloodied and dying. They’d faced danger so very often, they’d overcome so many challenges, mostly together, but she’d never been so bone-deep scared. And, to cap it all, she faced the current test alone.
Without Ryan’s comforting and powerful presence at her side, everything seemed so much more difficult, so much more dangerous.
Darn it, Lara. It isn’t real!

Not real? The detonations pounding through her gut, rattling inside her head, deafening even through the ear defenders, were real. Visceral. Powerful. Terrifying.
Cringing in the apparent safety of a flimsy hideout while bombs and bullets rained down from above, she certainly felt exposed and vulnerable enough. Something could go wrong at any time. These were real explosives, real bullets. Even in the most controlled of situations, accidents still happened.
Come on, girl. Get a grip.
Another shell, the ninth, whistled overhead, tracing a white trail of death in an arc across the sky. She’d counted each one, praying for the bombardment to end. She’d seen and heard enough to take the message on board. This shell landed in the rubble a short distance from where she and her partner for the day, Heinrich “Hardy” Krüger, hid.
Too close for any comfort.
A moment later, the ground shook with the force of an explosion so loud, the concussion actually drove the air from her lungs. The largest shell yet. Someone was having fun at their expense.
Close. Too close.
Ridiculous!

Grit and sand flew through the air, peppering her back, shoulders, and neck. Mercifully, the combat helmet did its job of protecting her head.
Lara coughed her lungs clear of the grime, but that was all she could do. Despite all the tutors’ assurances, despite all her logic, fear threatened to freeze her to the spot.
How could anyone handle such mayhem without being frozen to the spot? How was she supposed to treat a casualty under such conditions? She couldn’t think, couldn’t hear, couldn’t breathe.
This isn’t real. It’s not real.
Hardy crouched beside and slightly behind her, nostrils flared, breathing shallow and fast, eyes wide and shining. Lara couldn’t tell whether the big, blond South African was as scared as her or having the time of his life. She wouldn’t have been surprised to discover it was a little of both.
He smiled his slick, animal grin.
Heck. He was getting off on the mayhem, the noise, and the destruction. Lara shivered.
When they’d first met, Hardy had seemed okay. A bit of a loudmouth with a barbed wit and a sharp tongue, but okay. Superficially, he was a cheery soul with an eye for the women on the course—just like so many military men she’d met—but underneath lay something else. The occasional sinister remark. An insult framed as a joke and hurriedly laughed off. Then came the boasting. The casual aside that showed him as a braggart. Apart from Lara, no one seemed to notice the viciousness, the veiled sexism and racism underlying the thin veneer of friendliness. She should have reported the way he treated the others—his taunts, his threats, his racist jibes couched as gags. She should have made a complaint, but she didn’t want to focus anyone’s attention onto herself. Then, Murphy’s Law kicked in and they’d lumbered her with Hardy as her partner for the final assessment.
Suck it up, Lara. You can do this.

After the latest billowing cloud of dust settled, Hardy focused his gaze on her. He bared his set of perfect white teeth, grinned his creepy, supercilious grin, and winked. The Afrikaner played the brave warrior, forcing the smile, but a darkness behind his eyes showed another emotion. Not fear. Not excitement. Something more primal, more primitive. Euphoria? Madness?
Again, Lara shivered.
Get a grip.
Ryan had warned her of the effects a heavy bombardment could have on the mind of the unprepared. Perhaps she was just imagining things.
Still grinning inanely, Hardy leaned closer.
“Fucking great, eh?” he shouted over the chattering gunfire. “This is why we’re here. What it’s all about.”
A tenth shell blew the heck out of another piece of already pulverised blockwork. Surely it couldn’t last much longer?
And to think, she’d chosen to be there. She’d actually been excited by the idea.
Silly, silly woman.
Why? Why had she done it?
From the peace and quiet of their villa in Aquitaine, with its beautiful coastline and protective, sound-absorbing dunes, it had seemed like a good idea. But now …
Lara, get a grip. You can do this.

“Can’t wait to get some of that action. Been looking forward to this.”
“Fool,” she mumbled, perhaps a little louder than she’d intended.
He sneered at her, again displaying a set of teeth that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the gaping maw of a shark, and shrugged his backpack into a more comfortable position. Normally, the tall, blond, and blue-eyed Afrikaner wore a healthy tan, but what little skin showed through the battledress and the camouflage makeup, shone with sweat and had paled a dozen shades.
Darn it, the braggart was scared, terrified even, but trying to bluff it out. At this rate, she’d have to carry the fool’s dead weight or they’d both fail the assessment and fail the whole darn course.
No, not happening.
No matter how scared she was, Lara would step it up. If she failed, Ryan would be really disappointed in her. Failure was not an option.
Breathe, Lara. Breathe.
She had to control her breathing, make it slow and steady, the way Ryan taught her to cope under the stress of battle.
The whole thing was her own darned fault.
Yes, she’d actually volunteered to be part of this mayhem. She was the one who decided to improve her skills in trauma medicine, no one else. She wanted, needed, to help Ryan and the others more effectively. And, yes she’d been excited about becoming a more valuable member of the team, while sitting out on the deck watching another stunning sunset in Ryan’s arms.
So naïve. Such an idiot.
She looked across at Sergeant Jensen, the on-field exercise supervisor. He knelt beside Alpha Team, monitoring their activity. They were treating their designated “casualty”. He’d been hit in the stomach. A gaping tear had ripped open his midriff. Cosmetic blood pumped from a realistic-looking wound, and sausage-like intestines erupted from a pack that had been strapped to the volunteer by the makeup team. The man screamed and writhed in apparent agony—overacting for all his worth.
While Hardy and Lara waited for their turn, Lieutenant Diakos, a doctor in Greece’s Hellenic Army, doused the wound in sterilised water and dressed it loosely. His partner for the day, the quiet Norwegian, Nils Ohnstad, set up a drip to pump meds into the casualty, who slowly relaxed. All the while, Jensen fired questions Lara couldn’t hear and added notes to the form on his clipboard.
Jensen gave Alpha Team the thumbs up and backed away, still crouching low. All the while, the bullets flew and the ordnance exploded in the distance, but now, some of the detonations were mere sound effects—not the percussive real thing.
Thank the Lord.
Lara allowed her shoulders to relax, but not by much.
Diakos and Ohnstad strapped their casualty onto a stretcher. They took the strain and, keeping low, hurried him towards the evac zone, ready for their end-of-exercise debrief.
Not long now.

Jensen scuttled towards Lara and Hardy, Bravo Team, and took a knee alongside her.
When she’d been designated as Bravo Team’s leader for the exercise, Hardy hadn’t been able to hide his contempt for the course organiser’s decision. He’d waited until the instructors had left the briefing room before showing it, though. Although a sexist, racist pig, he kept his feelings from the course directors. Hardy Krüger wasn’t stupid.
Cunning and nasty maybe, but definitely not stupid.
“Ready?” Jensen called to Lara, shouting over the latest simulated explosion and the staccato crackle of heavy gunfire.
Lara nodded, unable to speak for fear of squeaking her response.
“Hell, yes,” shouted Hardy, rabid enthusiasm itself.
From the moment they’d entered the battlefield, Lara had been studying their nominated casualty. Dressed in camouflaged battledress and over fifty metres away, the man lay face-down with a wooden rifle strapped across his back. He was part-hidden behind a burnt-out Humvee. According to the pre-exercise briefing, she and Hardy were to be pinned down, unable to move until instructed to proceed by Sergeant Jensen.
Since the start of the simulated bombardment, their casualty had been lying on his front, head resting on his folded arms, apparently oblivious to the noise of mock battle. He actually appeared to be sleeping.
Jensen turned to face the casualty. He took a referee’s whistle from the breast pocket of his shirt and blew it twice.
Action!
Immediately, their casualty snapped awake. He punched a button on the battery pack next to his left hip and started writhing.
“Medic! Medic!” he screamed, his voice betraying fear and pain, but growing weaker.
The battery pack activated a pump and the pump pulsed blood through a nasty-looking wound on the casualty’s left thigh, up near his buttock. A nicked artery at least. He’d bleed out in minutes. He’d die without immediate treatment.
The setup was so realistic, Lara gave herself over to the moment.
She took up a sprinter’s stance, down on one knee, hands to the ground. She held her breath.
Wait. Wait for it.

Jensen held out his arm, his dark skin glistening with sweat mixed with dirt from being showered in rubble since the start of the shelling. He was the only thing stopping her from darting across the open ground and exposing herself to the artillery noise and the flying bullets.
The sleeves of his military uniform bore the inverted sergeant’s stripes of a reservist in the Danish Army. Dark green, they blended in with the camouflage.
Jensen spoke perfect English, albeit with a strong Scandinavian accent. From the start of the course, he’d singled her out for special attention, encouraging her to work smarter, not harder. For a reservist, the man could be more of a military hard-case than some of Ryan’s associates. Although Jensen didn’t know it, he’d been trying to instil military discipline into a civilian medic, who wasn’t even a real doctor. Although Lara’s veterinary background gave her enough crucial medical knowledge, she shouldn’t be treating humans. Not really. Not even in simulation.
Stop it, girl. You can do this.
She crept forwards, eager to get moving. So eager, she bumped into Jensen’s arm.
“Wait there, Dr Sloane,” Jensen ordered, half under his breath. “Wait … don’t you dare move, soldier.”
“But he’s bleeding out, Sergeant. He needs treatment now.”
Scowling, Jensen patted his hand towards the ground. He shook his head, trying to hear the instructions on the radio pressed against his ear.
“The bombardment hasn’t finished yet. Move into that open space and you’ll be targets. What good are dead medics to an injured soldier?”
A very good point.
Another rocket passed overhead. This one failed to explode when it hit the ground. What did Ryan call them? UXBs, unexploded bombs. Dangerous for a future clear-up operation, but far enough away not to give them any immediate concerns.
“He’s right, Doctor Sloane. Maybe we should wait,” Hardy said. “Why not stay here, where it’s nice and safe?”
The hesitation in his voice suggested caution, but she didn’t believe it. Not for a moment. He was goading her.
Manic excitement sprayed off him in a shower of sweat and pheromones. He practically dared her to break cover.
Darn you, Hardy.
Despite the ear defenders, her hearing still rang with the aftereffects of the ongoing high-intensity barrage. According to the pre-exercise briefing, this was warning fire, designed not to pummel the imaginary opposition into surrender, but to keep their heads down and give her and the other medics time to treat and evacuate the wounded.
Jensen clicked the button on his walkie-talkie.
“Messaged received. We’re clear to go. Tango One, out.”
Before Jensen had time to lower his arm, Lara ducked under it and scampered across the open ground, bent at the waist and keeping low, rushing headlong into apparent danger. Hardy let out an animal roar and darted after her.
He kept to her left and slightly behind, using her body for cover.
The heavy medical backpack hampered her movements, pressing her towards the ground, but its contents would save lives. She could put up with the discomfort—if her lower back survived the weight.
Jensen shouted something, but she ignored him. At her side but falling behind, Hardy whooped in air like it was in short supply. If the overbearing braggart stopped pumping so much iron and started working on his aerobic endurance, he’d be able to keep up. The man needed to stop smoking, too.
Useless piece of South African flotsam.
Ominously, during the previous fifteen seconds, their patient had stopped screaming, stopped squirming. Darn it. Were they already too late?
A rifle’s single report broke through her worries. Sniper fire. The bullet whistled high over her back and smashed one of the few remaining panes of glass in the building ahead and to her right.
For crying out loud, that was real!

A real bullet. Not a blank. When it came to realism, the course organisers didn’t skimp on the resources.
At her side and out of Jensen’s earshot, Hardy mumbled, “Fok hel! Fucking close, ja? This is brill. Better than a bloody safari.”
Ignoring Hardy as best she could, Lara prayed the shooter knew what he, or she, was doing. How ironic would it be if they were hit by “friendly fire” during a test?
Panting from the exertions and the tension, she reached the cover of the wrecked Humvee and dropped to her knees beside the casualty. A large puddle of a liquid that looked like human blood darkened the dusty concrete beneath him. It gave off an unfamiliar, sickly sweet tang. She unclipped his realistic-looking rifle and set it aside.
“Okay, soldier,” she said, leaning leaned close to the casualty and shouting over a storm of recorded small arms fire and mortar crumps. “I’m Grace, and this is Hardy. We’re here to help you.”
She pulled a pair of surgical gloves from her pocket and tugged them onto her sweaty, dirt-encrusted hands.
Her voice, weak and high-pitched with fear, was an embarrassment. Lara cleared her throat and dragged off her backpack.
“Can you hear me?”
Her patient groaned.
Alive. Good. Now what?
Jensen arrived at her side. He moved to the head of the patient and dropped to one knee, studying their every move, but saying nothing.
No help there.

She was the leader. Hardy wouldn’t help even if he did know what to do.
Lara unclipped the top flap of the backpack, broke open one of the medical packs, and jammed the absorbent dressing hard into the wound. The patient barely reacted to what would have been intense and shocking pain. The viscous red liquid soaked through the dressing in seconds. She added another on top of the first and pressed harder. The blood flow reduced a little.
Hardy shrugged off his backpack and placed it on the ground at his feet. After a moment’s hesitation while he whooped in air, he opened the backpack and unzipped the padded bag protecting a battery-powered combined cardiac and BP monitor. He sliced open the casualty’s sleeve with the scissors clipped to the bag’s inner flap, unfurled the monitor’s integral blood pressure cuff, and strapped it to the man’s arm. As instructed in the pre-exercise briefing, he didn’t hit the power button.
“What next?” Jensen asked, his voice calm and low, but carrying over the background noise of battle.
Good question, darn it.
The training. Remember the classroom training.
“Pack the wound and secure the dressing in place,” she answered, panting hard and searching for one of the webbing straps—smaller versions of the ones a haulier would use—in her pack. The glutinous, slippery blood smearing the fingers of her surgical gloves made her actions more difficult, slower.
Jensen nodded. “You’re the leader. Take charge.”
Okay, okay.

“Hardy, run the vitals while I check for other injuries,” she ordered.
She turned to Jensen. “After we turn him, we’ll force in some fluids to counteract shock and keep the blood vessels open. Then we’ll attach an oxygen mask. Should keep the casualty stable while we’re awaiting evac.”
As Lara spoke, she uncoiled the strap, wrapped it around the wound and over the dressing, and worked the ratchet until the blood stopped flowing. Not good for the leg over the long-term—restricted blood flow would compromise the tissue below the wound—but as a stop-gap, it would reduce blood loss and might save the casualty’s life.
Three rifle shots cracked overhead in quick succession. She flinched, but kept working.
After securing the strap’s locking mechanism, Lara simulated a search for other injuries, working from the centre out, vital organs first, then the extremities. No obvious signs of a headwound. The soldier’s helmet remained in place and was undamaged. No blood near the head or neck.
Lara mimed checking the alignment of the cervical and thoracic spine. No obvious signs of vertebral displacement. She glanced up at Jensen.
“No bones broken, no other external injuries. Agreed?”
Jensen consulted the notes on his clipboard. “Confirmed,” he said and added a few marks to his assessment form.
Hardy called out the vitals, reading from the cheat sheet pinned to the machine.
“The patient is … tachycardic and hypotensive,” he said, “No response to questions, probable loss of consciousness.”
“Numbers please,” Lara demanded—she needed to know how fast the heart was beating and how dangerously low the BP was.
“Er …” Hardy ran a forefinger down the cheat sheet.
“Now, Hardy!”
“Alright, vrou,” he snapped. “Keep your panties on … Heart rate one-thirty-seven. Blood pressure”—he consulted the notes again—“seventy-five over thirty. That help at all, woman?”
The insufferable fool grinned again, treating the exercise like a game.
Bloody idiot.

She tried pulling in another deep breath, but her lungs already burned with the stress of working hard and breathing real dust.
Take it easy, girl.
If she let the fool get to her, Hardy would end up becoming a real casualty in a simulated war. A casualty from her boot up his backside.
While she assessed the patient, Lara took a second to run a self-evaluation. Breathing hard, sweating freely, sticky, blood-soaked fingers shaking. A total wreck. She finally had an understanding, a minor inkling, of what it might have been like in battle. How could anyone survive the real thing and stay mentally intact?
Ryan and his men had done this for real so many times. It didn’t bear thinking about.
Lara shuddered and, while the explosions boomed all around her, she drove the thought to the back of her mind. Analysis would come later, when things were quiet. When she could think clearly and examine her reactions.
“Of course it matters,” she said, gritting her teeth once again. “Thank you.”
“In short,” Hardy added, goading her, “you’re losing the patient, vrou.”
“We’re a team, Doctor Krüger! We are not losing this patient. We need to turn him. Get a better assessment,” she said, looking up at Jensen again, once she’d finished drilling Hardy with a scowl. “We need at least one more for the turn. Are you allowed to help?”
Jensen nodded and signalled to one of the crewman from Charlie Team, who scampered towards them, carrying a stretcher. He dropped it on the ground next to Hardy and raced back to his team.
Bravo Team would have to turn the casualty with only three people. Not ideal, but possible and, in this scenario, essential.
“I’ll take the head and call the actions,” Lara said.
“That’s right, Gracie-girl,” Hardy said so quietly that Jensen, with his back turned as he crawled to the patient’s feet, might have missed it. “You take the head. Bet you’re real good at that, vrou.”
Hardy’s accompanying snort and double eyebrow hitch annoyed Lara as much as anything he’d ever said. If his antics cost her the assessment, she’d slap the smirk off his smug face.
Somehow, his improper use of her fake given name added injury to the intentional insult.
Stroppy arsehole.

Lara stabilised their patient’s head. Jensen straightened the man’s legs carefully. Hardy did the same with the casualty’s chest and right arm only—the left being pinned beneath the body and inaccessible.
After a brief lull, the firing started up again, and a cascade of rifle bullets flew overhead. They smacked into the dirt and the sandbags around them. Impossibly, dangerously close. Hardy’s smirk disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. Even he could see the very real danger.
All the while, Lara kept talking to the patient, explaining what they were doing.
“Just relax. We’ve got you. Going to turn you onto your back now. Try to relax.”
The casualty groaned.
“Ready?” she called to her team.
Hardy and Jensen nodded.
“Rotate to the left on three. One, two, three.”
She took the weight of the patient’s head and concentrated on maintaining its alignment with the shoulders all the way through the one-eighty-degree rotation. Working in concert, they had the patient on his back without incident. Hardy moved the casualty’s left arm to the side.
Throughout the turn, Jensen kept his eyes on Lara, making sure their movements were correctly synchronised. His skill at handling the dual role of turning the casualty while monitoring the exercise impressed the heck out of her.
“Stretcher please, Dr Krüger,” she shouted over another concussive roar.
“Yes, boss.”
Hardy grabbed the stretcher, freed the multiple retaining clips, and turned back, hovering over the casualty. Almost in slow motion, a huge splodge of sweat dripped from the tip of Hardy’s nose and dropped onto the prone man’s lips.
The patient grunted and wrenched his head from Lara’s hands. He turned to the side, and spat into the concrete at Hardy’s knees. Hardy yelped and fell backwards, landing backside-first onto a jagged pile of rubble.
“Damn it all to hell, man,” the casualty shouted, spitting again. “That’s rank, so it is.” He coughed and spat for a third time, splattering the thigh of Hardy’s camouflage trousers.
Something about the cod Irish accent broke through the pounding artillery fire. She recognised the voice. Would have recognised it anywhere.
“Oh, for pity’s sake,” Lara shouted, sitting back on her heels.
Ryan.
Her Ryan.

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About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine military action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels). He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the modern miracle of video calling.

On the Money

By |2022-05-16T22:44:47+00:00September 29th, 2019|Comments Off on On the Money
Book Cover: On the Money
Editions:Kindle: $ 4.99
ISBN: B07XWGNHH6
Pages: 381
Paperback: $ 14.99
ISBN: 978-1693348761
Size: 6.00 x 9.00 in
Pages: 328

Ryan Kaine is on the money…

When a member of The 83 dies in an apparent accident, Kaine knows better.

A faceless leader of a drug gang rules the dead man’s neighbourhood and Kaine and his partner, Lara Orchard, go undercover to discover the truth. Offering financial support to the dead man’s grandson, they draw the attention of the local crew. Before they can complete their mission, Lara is attacked, and all bets are off.

Kaine prepares to take on the gang alone, but Lara will not be side-lined by a bunch of street thugs. If Kaine needs her help, she’s sure as hell going to provide it.

Together, Kaine and Lara are about to serve justice to them all…

If you like Lee Child, Mark Dawson and Robert Ludlum, you’re going to find the Ryan Kaine series compulsively addictive.

Published:
Publisher: Fuse Books
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Tuesday 24th January —Barcode
Walthamstow, NE London

Thou shalt not steal.
Bible said it loud and clear, and it was God-damned fuckin’ right. One of them Ten Commandment things. Byron Alden ‘Barcode’ Codell didn’t know which one exactly, but it didn’t matter a damn. What it meant mattered.
Steal something, anything, food to survive even, and the thief would suffer in the flames of hell for all eternity. Assholes would burn forever.
Yeah, that’s right, stealing did do a person’s soul no good in the afterlife, no good at all. But, who gave a shit for souls? If that thief took from Barcode, bad things would happen in the here and now, right away. To hell with God’s delayed wrath, no one took from Barcode.

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Ain’t no one gonna to mess with Barcode no more, and the ink lines on the back of his neck were a permanent reminder of what happened to anyone who tried to fuck him over. Barcode wasn’t gonna to take no dissing from nobody. No way.

Which was why he was aiming to climb up on the garage roof in the middle of the night, again.

Someone happened to be dipping his evil, greasy fingers into Barcode’s pie, and that certain someone was going to lose more than the same sticky fingers. Yeah, more’n just his fingers. The thieving pig-fucker was going to die.
Wrapped up warm in his heaviest parka, and dressed all in black, apart from the white lines embossed into his trainers, Barcode pulled the fur-lined hood over his shaved head. He cinched the string tie tight under his nose to cover his mouth. The side flaps and fur threw his face into deep shadow, which was exactly the way he wanted it. He popped his head over the top of the slatted, shoulder-high wooden fence, and spied the sloping back garden.
Nothing much had changed since the last time he’d been there, or since the old man’s untimely death. Such a shame, but old peopled died. Nothing shocking in that. Nothing at all.

Unlike last time, the place was dark.

This time, no lights showed from the kitchen window to paint a yellow rectangle over the shitty patch of earth that had once been a green and lush back garden, stocked with flowers and vegetables. Times before the old man took ill and his wheelchair became his legs.
Stupid old man thought he was still relevant, still worthy of respect. Not no more. Cripples were a waste of space. A blight. A waste of resources. A waste of oxygen. Should be swiped from the area, moved into homes, or culled.
But Gramps was pushing up the daisies now. Nothing mattered to him no more.
The old man’s grandson, Darwin Moore. He mattered, though. Still stayed in the house, but only on weekends. Never on a Tuesday. Darwin, the college boy geek, spent the week studying somewhere up north, which was the reason no lights shone in the house.

Perfect for Barcode’s needs.

Even when Gramps was alive, sitting behind his net curtains, in front of the black and white TV screen, he’d have been lost in Corrie, his favourite soap. His stand-in for ‘product’. Gramps would have been sitting with his back to the window and the sound turned up loud enough for Barcode to hear the dialogue from fifteen metres away. Nah, the old fucker wouldn’t have noticed an armed assault force scrambling over the fence, let alone a stealthy black dude in with a barcode tattoo on the back of his neck.
After pulling on his leather gloves, he grabbed the top of the fence and vaulted over, landing gently in a patch of soft, friendly mud. He scuffed his tracks as he headed down the slight hill. Although the old bastard hadn’t been in the back garden for years on account of his wheelchair, no telling when Darwin would venture out for a look-see. Didn’t make no sense to leave a clear trail.
The crappy dive—a two-bedroomed end of terrace house—had to be worth a fucking mint. Darwin should have sold up soon as Gramps kicked the bucket, but prob’ly wanted to keep it in memory of his dear departed grandpa and his murdered mother. Stupid sentimental fuckwit should be living for the moment, not dwelling on a half-forgotten past. The mother wasn’t all that. Shouldn’t have left the old man on his own to fly off on a hen night. Why Amsterdam? What was wrong with London? She could have had a hell of a time in the West End for the same price of flying to Dutch-land.
Paid the price though, didn’t she. Mrs Moore and the others who died on that flight. Served her right. Served them all right. Blown out of the sky in a fireball. Barcode smiled. Wished he could’ve seen the explosion for real and not just in some shaky mobile phone footage.

Man, it must have been a hell of a firework show.
Eighty-three dead. Either burnt to charcoal, crushed on impact or, much worse, drowned in the freezing North Sea.
Yeah.
Barcode would love to have seen it in real life. Such a buzz.

Ah well. Can’t do nothing ’bout that now.

Keeping close to the fence, staying in the deep shadow, Barcode crept around the garden, the tall grass swishing up to his knees, soaking the legs of his trousers. He made it to the rear of the garage. The metal wheelbarrow was exactly where he’d left it, leaning against the garage wall. He used it to boost himself onto the flat roof.
Again, keeping close to the end wall of the house and scrambling on hands and knees, Barcode made the front of the garage and squatted. He had the perfect view.

Simples.

One of his own crew, the fuckin’ scumbag, was dipping his fingers into the till, which meant the take was coming up five percent short. Not much, but significant. In any other retail sector, the shortfall might have been explained away by bad weather keeping the punters off the streets and out of the shops. But in his industry, the clients would crawl over shattered glass and sell their babies as sex slaves to raise the cash to cover the next fix.
Nah, a drop in revenue meant only one thing.
Thievery, plain and simple.
He first noticed the shortage a couple of days ago. At first, he thought about running to Top Man, but that would only have reflected badly on Barcode. It would prob’ly have dropped him well and truly in the slime. No telling what TM would have done. The invisible fucker might even put the evil eye on Barcode for dropping the ball. After all, the thievery was happening on one of Barcode’s pitches, which made him responsible for clearing up his own mess. In the end, Barcode made up the shortfall from his personal cut, but that couldn’t last forever. If the thief kept getting away with it, he’d only get greedier. Eventually, Barcode wouldn’t be able to cover the losses and that wouldn’t do. Not at all.

It had to stop.

If he didn’t flush out the scumbag and deal with him before TM sussed out the losses, he might decide Barcode wasn’t up to the task of running his own crew. And that would put a cramp on his plans to move up in the Tribe and reach his ultimate long term goal.
Move TM aside, and take over.
Complete and utter domination. The only thing that mattered to Barcode, but he played the long game.
Barcode sucked air between his teeth, smiled and settled down to study one third of his crew. This week’s evening shift. If he’d worked it out correctly, it wouldn’t take long.
He pulled a pair of stolen binoculars from the pocket of his parka and sat cross-legged on the tar-covered roof, hidden deep in the shadows. He raised the glasses to his eyes and started spying.
As he watched, his anger built.
He fed on it. Used it. Enjoyed it.
If emotions made the man, Barcode, was a man built of fire and rage. The world saw him for what he was, big, powerful, angry. But there was more. Below the surface, hidden deep, lay ambition and a brain to take him to where he wanted to be—and a street level middle manager wasn’t nearly the place.

He’d go further. Much further.

Barcode was going to the top. Wouldn’t be easy. There were plenty of faces standing between him and TM’s place. Yeah, there were plenty of wannabes, but none with Barcode’s patience or smarts.
No one in the Tribe knew it, but Barcode had learning to go along with his street smarts. A Grade A pupil at school, he was, but to the wider world, he looked like nothing more than a hired hand, a mini-Goon, the leader of a small crew. A bit part in the bigger game. Not for long, though.

Not for fucking long.

To TM and his lieutenants, the Goons, Barcode wasn’t nothing special, not yet. But deep down, inside, Barcode knew he was worth more. Even his handle meant more than he let on. The tat on the back of his neck—the barcode that gave him his tag—actually meant something. It wasn’t just a random load of fat and thin vertical lines. Oh no.
Seemed like a good idea at the time.
At aged twelve, he’s been enraptured by a movie about a hired assassin who wore a barcode tattoo on the back of his neck. The young Byron wanted one of his own. Thought it would be cool. Saved up his trading money for months and spent hours each week in the school gym, building his muscles and his reflexes.
According to the rat-faced, broken-toothed tattoo artist who inked him, the vertical black lines he’d etched into young Byron’s dark skin showed nothing but his name, as Hitman #48 and his date of birth.
‘Barcode’ was born that day, and he was totally fucking psyched. But, weeks later and after the scabs had healed, when he ran a Tesco’s barcode reader over the lines, the code spewed out a different result. It spewed out an insult to his mother and her love life. Although fired up and spitting nails, Barcode never told no one about how he’d been fucked over. Kept it to himself. Never allowed no one to run a scanner over the tat again, neither. Nobody could never accuse Barcode of being shit at keeping secrets.
Months later, someone out walking their dog found the same rat-faced, heartless fucker who thought it funny to play games with his needle gun and mess with a teenage kid. They found him floating face down in the Thames, missing his eyes—and his heart.

Barcode didn’t tell no one he’d done the deed, neither.
Yeah, Byron ‘Barcode’ Cordell could keep a secret all right.
Since then, he could have paid another inker to cover the lines, change them, but he left it untouched as a lesson to himself not to be so stupid again. And, besides, Barcode was, as the tat actually said, a hard-assed Motherfucker.

To fucking right I am. And ain’t nobody gonna say different.

In the dark and the cold, Barcode watched and waited.

 

#

 

Brutus. It fucking well had to be Brutus.
Couldn’t have been no one else. No one else on his crew had the bottle.
The minute he discovered the pilferage, Barcode knew it had to be Brutus, the third mini-leader of his posse.
It had only taken a few seconds to rule out everyone else.
First, he cleared Petey. No way his blood, his bruv, would do anything to drop Barcode in the brown stuff. They’d known each other since nursery. Grown up together. Petey was as honest as any drug dealer had a right to be. Petey would die for Barcode and, what’s more, Barcode would let him.

Ha!

As for Rhino, the second stringer, Barcode cleared him almost as fast as he cleared Petey. Rhino, didn’t have the stones, or the need. The musclebound cretin didn’t partake of the product, not even occasionally. Fine upstanding member of the Tribe, he was. Didn’t even smoke normal cigarettes. Treated his body as a temple, and worshiped his pregnant squeeze, Ariel. Top of all that was the clincher, Rhino didn’t have the smarts to rip anyone off without giving himself away in seconds.
That left Brutus. The third wheel. The third deputy. The bastard in charge of the pitch Barcode was watching through the binoculars.
Brutus.

You stupid, greedy, selfish fucker.

He had to go, but …
Barcode couldn’t deal with the thief without proof. The Tribe had its rules, and any member who pointed an accusing finger without proof was liable to find himself in as much trouble as the accused.
Nah, Barcode needed evidence, which was how come he ended up sitting, cross-legged, on the flat garage roof freezing his nuts off, risking butt cramp and piles.
As it happened, it only took twenty-five minutes to eyeball the act.

Bastard!

Barcode spotted it when the fifth customer of the evening handed across her small bundle of creased notes—probably earned from lying on her back and spreading her scrawny legs. As the bitch scurried away, her daily fix held tight in a greedy fist, Brutus handed the cash to his rider, Lil’ Aran, who slid the notes into his backpack.
Lil’ Aran, ten years old, no more, spent the shift pedalling up and down the lanes between all the pitches, ready to make a lightning split the moment the pigs shoved their noses into Tribe business.
The routine was slick and simple. Barcode designed it for the purpose and it worked real well.

Customer arrives.
Money passes from customer to dealer—in this case, Brutus.
Dealer tips the nod to rider.
Rider—in this case Lil’ Aran—rolls up on his BMX, takes cash, hands product to Brutus and buggers of up the lane in a flat out, wheel spinning sprint.
Dealer passes product to junkie.
Junkie buggers off, happy as shit, transaction complete, and no outsider any the wiser.
Only, this time, while the client buggers off, baggie in her hot little fist and Lil’ Aran sprints away, Brutus stoops to tie his shoelace.
Again, no real issue, but, through the high-powered binoculars, Barcode couldn’t see nothing wrong with the piggin’ laces. They sure didn’t seems loose to him.

First time it happened, Barcode didn’t think nothing of it. After all, no self-respecting crewman would allow his brilliant white laces to go slopping in the puddles, but seven deals later, same thing happened again, this time with the other shoe.
Once was acceptable, twice was noteworthy, but it kept happening. Over the course of two hours, Brutus tied his laces five fucking times.
The big guy either had chronic motor dyslexia and hadn’t learned to tie his laces properly, which meant they kept coming undone, or he had another reason to fiddle with his sneakers.

Yeah. Another reason, right enough.

So fucking simple. When Barcode first sussed the shortfall, he’d credited Brutus with more brains. He expected the bastard to hand off the stolen money to an accomplice or an unwitting stooge. Maybe even hide it under a rock for a pickup in the middle of the night when even the hardest-bitten junkies crawled into their shitholes and the Tribe had shut up shop for the day. He didn’t expect something so stupidly blatant. How long did Brutus expect to get away with it for long?
So simple and so stupid. A fiver here and a fiver there, but over the course of a week, it would mount up. In the two months since Top Man gave Barcode the patch, the fucker must have syphoned off fucking hundreds.
A simple sleight of hand—or rather of foot. No accomplice. His fucking shoe! How stupid to have missed it for so long.

Jesus fuck.

Barcode chewed his thumbnail down to the skin.
Disrespect. Brutus was dissing him. Laughing at him.
For Brutus to treat him that way showed more than greed. It showed contempt. Contempt for the Tribe and, worse still, contempt for Barcode.
Brutus had to go. End of.
Barcode crawled backwards along the roof and retraced his steps through the garden.

 

#

 

Barcode timed his approach so Lil’ Aran was heading towards the furthest point on his ride but before making his turn. The rider would be far enough away not to interfere if he was working the scam with Brutus, but close enough to act as witness and confirm Barcode didn’t plant the cash.
No point taking chances.

“Hey, my man,” Barcode called, smiling as he loped along the lane towards the pitch. “How’s it hangin’, blood?”
He waved with his left hand, keeping his right tucked tight against his side.
Brutus, as wide as he was tall, nineteen stones of pure beef—a bucket load of it between the ears—looked up as he approached. The thief’s eyebrows shot up.
His smile was as forced as any TV presenter Barcode had ever watched.
“Hey, blood. You’s early, man. Wasn’t expectin’ you for a couple hours, innit.”

Yeah, and that’s the point, dumbass.

Brutus ripped the beany from his head and used it to shoo away a mealy-mouthed, shit-for-brains regular who couldn’t pay the full fee. The yellow streetlight shone on Brutus’ polished dome.
Barcode stopped at arm’s length and pushed out his left fist—the sign things were cool. They bumped. All cool and friendly, like.
“Thought I’d come see how shit was hanging, blood. Apart from that dickwad”—he tilted his head towards the disappearing failed customer—“how’s trade?”

Brutus pulled the beanie back on and tucked his head into his shoulders. “Cold as fuck out here, man. I’m thinkin’ we should relocate the store. Maybe we could take over one of them houses and set up shop in the warm and the dry.”
Taking care not to show Brutus his back, Barcode turned sideways and observed the row of houses running at right angles to the alley, the closest of which ended in the garage he’d just been using. Above the fencing, the terrace stretched away and stopped when it reached the more expensive semi-detached homes closer to the High Street. Each house showed lights. All were occupied and, to some extent, well-maintained.
“Good idea, Brutus. Which house we gonna occupy? How ’bout number fifteen? You Auntie Grace ’habits there, right? We gonna set up in her front room? And what happens when the Po-Po comes a-calling? You’ll be holding, and the riders won’t have time to scoot. Nah, this shit’s what we do, and this station’s where we stayin’.”
Brutus lowered his head even more. He shuffled from one foot to the other, all nervous, like.
“Wazzap, man? You need the toilet?”

“Nah, freezing my ass off, innit.”
The runt, Barcode’s real-life cousin, Lil’ Aran, stopped out of earshot, balanced on his pedals, showing his bike handling skills. Looked at if he could tell something was off and didn’t want no part of it.

Good boy. Smart.

Any time now, Lil’ Aran might be due a promotion, despite his youth.
Barcode pointed to the rider. “Wh’appenin’ wi’ Lil’ Aran?”
As expected, Brutus turned to look.
Barcode stepped back a pace, grabbed the handle of the baseball bat and pulled it from the deep pocket his Auntie May had sewn into the lining of his parka. He swung a hard uppercut, stepping into the blow—adding his full bodyweight to increase the power of the swing.
The fat end of the bat landed between Brutus’ legs with enough force to take the rascal thief off his feet.
Brutus screamed, doubled over, and crumpled to his knees. Slowly, he toppled forward to land face first in a grimy puddle. Barcode smiled, delighted at the effect of the underhand blow, surprised he could generate enough power.

“Man, that’s gotta hurt bad,” he said, resting the end of the bat on the back of Brutus’ neck. The blow had knocked the beany clean off the thief’s head, and it floated on top of the puddle. “I can’t tell if you’ve pissed yourself, or if that damp patch in yo’ kecks is blood, blood. Ya feel me?”
Barcode flashed a glance up the alley. Lil’ Aran’s jaw dropped. He planted a foot on the ground to stop himself toppling.
To add to the desolation, rain started falling. Light at first, picking small holes in the puddle’s rippling surface, but increasing in force by the second. Before long, the downpour hammered down with the force of a power shower. Struggling to breathe, Brutus tried to pull his head out of the water, but Barcode planted a foot into the middle of Brutus’ back, forcing him down. Bubbles frothed around the drowning fucker’s head. His arms and legs started thrashing.

Barcode let him splash and buck for a count of twenty before releasing the pressure and stepping away.

Brutus pushed himself out of the water and rolled away, coughing and spluttering. Gagging. He scrambled away on his ass and fetched up against the rusted chain-link fence, where he curled into a tight ball, face creased, eyes closed.
“What the fuck you do that for, man?” he squeaked.

Barcode was impressed the fucker could speak at all after the blow. Must have had balls of steel. Mashed steel now, though. He couldn’t hold back a snicker. He signalled with the bat for Lil’ Aran to come as witness, but the rider didn’t budge. Couldn’t blame him none. Must have been scared shitless, thinking Barcode had lost it.
“Take off them sneakers, homes,” he ordered Brutus, speaking loud enough for Lil’ Aran to hear.

When the fucker didn’t move, Barcode ran the head of the bat along the fence above Brutus’ head. It made an aggressive rattle and meshed well with the splashing rain. He considered using the sound in his next mix. The rhythm would go well with his driving bass riff.
The crumpled man turned his head up and rain sluiced into his pained eyes. “What? What you say?”

“You hear me, blood. Kick off them sneakers ’fore I murk yo’ ass.”
Still twitching and shivering, the big man’s shoulders tensed in recognition. “You … you tripping, blood. Had too much product. You bust my balls and tell me to—”
Brutus screamed again as Barcode slammed the bat down on the top of his shoulder. The satisfying crunch of a shattering collar bone rattled up through the handle.
Barcode screamed, “Shut the fuck up, you mother!” and raised the bat high, holding it aloft but not completing the downswing. “Lil’ Aran, come here, cuz!”

The young rider shook his head. “No way, man. You tripping.”
Breathing hard, as much to steady his nerves as from the exercise, Barcode lowered the bat slowly and rested it on Brutus’ bad shoulder.
“Nah, little man. Things is cool. Come here, I needs you as a witness. You safe from me, less’n you’re part of it.”
“Part o’ what?”
“The thievery.”

Lil’ Aran sat up straighter in the saddle. Rain ran down his face and dripped off his chin like it was pouring out the spout of a teapot.
“I ain’t no t’ief!” he shouted above the whistling wind, the driving rain, and Brutus’s groaning and crying.
“So, do as I tell you. Come here and rip off this fucker’s sneakers!”
Lil’ Aran paused a moment, considering. He threw a glance at his escape route, then looked at Brutus before pushing down on the pedal. The bike edged forward, not gaining much speed.

“Hurry, man. I’s getting soaked.”
The rider pedalled harder, throwing up spray as the bike splashed through the growing pools of filthy water. Five metres away, he skidded to a sideways stop, jumped off the bike, and propped it against the fence. Then he approached the newly made cripple.
“Take off his sneakers.”

Brutus raised his head to stare at Lil’ Aran, “Don’t touch me you mother—”
A scream cut off Brutus’ cuss as Barcode pressed the bat into the shoulder.
“Who gave you permission to speak, fucker? Go on, Lil’ Aran. Let’s see what he’s hidin’ inside them flashy Pitch Blacks.”
Brutus tried to scrunch away but, crowded by Barcode on one side, Lil’ Aran on the other, and tight against the fence, he had nowhere to squirm to.
Lil’ Aran squatted in front of the fallen soldier and looked up at Barcode. “Okay if I takes out my cutter? I ain’t messing with wet knots.”
Barcode nodded. “Go for it, blood.”

The little rider pulled out a butterfly knife and flicked it open like he’d practised in his bedroom for hours. Must have been studying Alphonse, the smooth French Goon, but he didn’t get the action quite as slick.
Lil’ Aran sliced through laces and ripped the right sneaker from Brutus’ foot.
Using his fingertips, the rider fished inside the soft cuff. They came out with a bunch of crumpled banknotes. The rider gasped and shook his head.
“How much he got in there?”
Lil’ Aran smoothed out the paper and sorted them into tens and fives. He counted them slowly. “Thirty-five quid, innit.”
“Check the other shoe, little man.”
The rider repeated the process.
“Fifty-five. That’s … er,” he said, scrunching up his eyes to work the maths.
“Ninety, blood,” Barcode said, saving him the work. “He’s got ninety quid stuffed into them sneakers.”

Lil’ Aran stood, brushing water and gravel from the knees of his jeans. “Where’d he come up with that stash, BC?”
“Fucker been rippin’ off the Tribe, man. I been watchin’ him for the past couple hours.”
Brutus shook his head. “Na, man. You got it all wrong. I’s clean. That’s my stash. I puts it there for safe keeping. Honest.”
He released one fist from his crushed junk and held it up to Barcode, hand open, begging.
Barcode turned and started walking towards his car. Lil’ Aran followed, collected his bike, and walked alongside.
“You just leaving him there, Barcode?”

“What you want I to do?”
The rider shrugged. “Kill the fucker? He’ll run, no?”
“Nah, man. He ain’t running nowhere with bruised plums and a smashed shoulder.”
Barcode stopped walking and turned to face the pool of light. Somehow, Brutus had pulled himself to his feet. He leaned against the lamppost, hunched over, unable to stand straight. Barcode doubted the fucker would be able to stand straight for weeks.
“I ain’t killin’ no one. That’s TM’s decision, not mine.”

“You sure, BC?” Lil’ Aran asked, still looking up, blinking the rain out his eyes. “I’ll back yo’ action.”

“Thanks, Lil’ Aran, but I’s sure. Way I sees it, TM’s gonna send a little posse of Goons to Brutus’ crib. If he there, they’s gonna do the job for me. If he’s gone, no problemo. He turn up soon enough. My job’s to push the product and take care of business. Not my place to dish out punishment without orders. Me? I’s just a foot soldier.”

For now.

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About the Author:

#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine military action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels). He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the modern miracle of video calling.

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