Ryan Kaine is On the Brink...
When the Government wants you dead, you can run or you can hide.
But for Kaine, it's time for the third option.
This has gone far enough. Too much has happened, there’s too much to lose.
He swore a loyalty to those bereaved by the loss of flight BE1555, he’s not about to let them down, even if that means starting his own war.
It’s time to face the enemy.
Ryan Kaine faces his toughest test yet in the heart-stopping thriller On The Brink.
The Ryan Kaine series has attracted more than FIVE THOUSAND five-star reviews.
**** “Better than Jack Reacher”
***** “A modern Bond without the class and pomp”
***** “Brilliant story lines, you just have to keep on turning the pages”
***** “Brilliant read which steams along at a cracking pace, with relentless action.
Saturday 27th May – Afternoon
Mike’s Farm, Long Buckby, Northants, England
Ryan Kaine stared into his black coffee, watching the bubbles around the rim pop. The rich aroma did nothing to lift his mood. He hadn’t felt so alone since leaving home for the last time at seventeen. A pair of stinging, throbbing hands didn’t help. He tried not to pick at the scabs even though they itched like hell. The hands weren’t the only things that hurt.
Grow up, Kaine. Move on.READ MORE
Retired Chief Petty Officer Mike Procter shifted in his special chair and tried to stifle a groan.
Kaine tore his gaze from the dark liquid and looked up at his host.
“Think about it from her point of view, son,” Mike said, looking at him through pained, light brown eyes.
Mike rarely adopted his fatherly persona and almost never called Kaine “son”. The shock struck him again. In the nine months since Kaine’s fall from grace, Mike had aged considerably. Where once had been a healthy, lean, straight-backed, and robust septuagenarian, now sat a stoop-shouldered, baggy-eyed, and sallow-skinned elderly man. Advanced and inoperable prostate cancer would do that to the human body. When Mike had finally owned up to his condition, the words “end stage” had sliced through Kaine’s heart as easily as a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.
A crying bloody shame.
Kaine hated the sense of hopelessness that had sluiced over him. It put into sharp perspective the minimal discomfort associated with his hands—which were healing nicely enough—and his heart. Mike would never heal. Never improve. A rapid decline to his final tour.
Mike’s follow-up request, “Promise me, you won’t tell Lara,” had hit just as hard, and he’d blurted out the reason Lara hadn’t been with him and Will when they arrived at the farm that morning to plan their next moves.
Enderby and Hartington. Puppeteers pulling on the strings of government. They were due a visit.
“I’m trying, Mike,” he said in response to the older man’s statement. “But it’s not easy …” Kaine let the thought trail off, took a sip of coffee, and tried not to grimace. He’d been staring at the mug for so long, the drink had grown cold. Delicately, he lowered the mug to the coffee table and pushed it away.
“Still feels like a betrayal?” Mike asked, his voice ragged, his breathing shallow and rapid. He was in a bad way and the pills clearly weren’t helping.
“A little.” Kaine sighed.
Could he have done or said anything to change her mind?
He’d replayed the parting scene in his head over and over, but still couldn’t believe it. Lara had left him. It felt as though he’d lost an arm. She’d been with him since the day his nightmare began. At his side through … everything. Without Lara, he’d have died that first day. She’d saved his life. Sewn him back together.
“She needs time, son.”
Again with the “son”. What’s that about?
The illness had taken its toll. Mike had grown soft.
No, not soft. Open to his emotional side. Kaine nodded to himself.
“As soon as I heard there were horses on Cadwallader farm, I sort of knew,” Kaine said, looking up. “I knew she’d stay.” He met Mike’s watery gaze once more and shook his head. “What is it about horses, Mike? I just don’t see the attract—”
“Magnificent beasts,” Mike snapped, pulling back his shoulders and trying to hide the wince behind the raised coffee mug. “Loyal and trusting. Treat them right and they’ll never let you down.”
“Are you trying to say I mistreated Lara?”
Mike waved a hand in the air between them. “Not for me to say. But the thing in Paris …” This time, he let the wince show. “Bad move, son.”
“She told you about Paris?”
The former chief petty officer nodded and scratched at his long, white sailor’s beard. “She phones me occasionally. On a secure line, of course. I haven’t told her about … well, you know.” He waved a hand over his midriff. “We chat, mainly about horses. She’s always taken a particular interest in Dynamite.”
“The same big black monster Will’s making friends with right now?”
“Aye, lad. The very same.”
Mike pressed a hand to his belly and leant back into his comfy chair. Apparently, he spent his waking hours in the chair, looking through the window, taking in the calming and bucolic view of Northamptonshire’s green and rolling hills. Waiting for the tolling of the final bell.
Life could be so damn shitty.
Kaine turned his head and waited for the mist to clear from his eyes. A moment later, he puffed out his cheeks. “Like I said. Horses. I really don’t see the attraction.”
“You have no soul,” Mike said, shooting him a thin smile as he did so.
“As a non-believer, I can’t argue with you on that score.”
“If my Ellie ever heard you say that, she’d have prayed a novena for you.” He slowly lowered his cup to his side table. “Still, I’ll soon find out if she was right all those years with all her praying and all those visits to church on Sunday. If she was right, we’ll be together again soon. Always assuming I make it up to the Pearly Gates, and always assuming she’s put in a good word for me.”
“Stop it, Mike. You’ve got years left in you, old man. Years.”
“Bollocks,” Mike swore—yet another break from his long-held tradition. “You know and I know how long I have left. I’ll be gone soon enough. And don’t you fret. I’ve had a decent enough life. Forty years at sea and another seventeen on Ellie’s farm since I retired.”
Kaine eased forwards and patted his old friend’s knee.
“I hate to ask, but do you have your affairs in order?”
Mike and Ellie had never been blessed—or cursed, depending on the point of view—with kids. Kaine would have hated to see the farm fall into disrepair.
“Aye, son. I do. I have plenty of money put by to pay for the horses’ upkeep and give them a good life. As for the farm, I’ll be leaving it to Lara.”
“Excellent,” Kaine said, smiling, “but how will you manage that? She doesn’t exist anymore. Not as Lara Orchard, anyway.”
Mike’s grin bunched up his sallow cheeks and rippled through his beard.
“Corky, your little techie wizard, created a special new identity for her. It turns out that Ellie and I have a long-lost cousin, Loren. My mother’s younger brother’s daughter. Lovely lass, she is. As it happens, she’s a fully trained vet, too. As soon as I shuffle off this mortal … whatever, the farm’s hers to do with as she pleases.”
“Wow.” Kaine could think of nothing else to say.
“Of course,” Mike continued, “I’m hoping she’ll keep the farm running. Maybe she’ll set it up as an animal sanctuary. But that’s entirely up to her. She could sell the place if she likes. I hope you don’t mind.”
Kaine frowned. “Why would I mind?”
Mike lifted a shoulder in a tight shrug. “I don’t know …”
“You don’t think I expected to inherit, do you?”
“Don’t be daft. What would you do with a farm? It’s just that with a farm to run, Lara’s less likely to change her mind about working with horses.”
Kaine snorted. “You never know, I might fall for the rustic charms of the farming life. One day, I might be able to settle down and become a gentleman farmer. Join the huntin’ and fishin’ brigade.”
“Here?” Mike coughed out a short, pained laugh. “So far away from the sea? Fat chance.”
Kaine smiled in return. How well Mike knew him. His long-standing dream had been to retire to a place on the coast—any coast—where he could swim every day for fun, not as part of a dedicated fitness routine. A place like the villa in Aquitaine.
One day, perhaps.
The back door crashed open and slammed closed. Will rushed in from the boot room, Glock 17 in hand. Worry lines etched into his rounded face.
Kaine jumped to his feet. Grimacing against the pain shooting through his hands, he reached inside his jacket and tugged out his SIG. He worked the slide and chambered a round.
“Visitors,” Will said, breathing hard from what would have been a mad dash across the courtyard from the stable block. He headed straight for the nearest window and stood close to the wall.
“Friendlies?” Kaine asked.
Will shrugged. “No idea.” His breathing had already started to settle, showing excellent levels of recovery.
Kaine turned to Mike. “Expecting anyone?”
“My nurse. But not for a couple of hours.” Jaw clenched, face pale, he sat up straighter.
“What car does she drive?” Will asked, peering through the gap between the stone recess and the bunched curtain. Keeping himself hidden.
“White Nissan Micra.” Mike rattled off the licence number from memory.
Will shook his head. “This one’s a Mercedes G-Class. Black. It’s parked in the lane up by the main gate. Part hidden by the bushes.”
Kaine pictured the view through Will’s window. A quarter mile away, the main gate blocked the lane which ran in a straight line downhill to the farm. Will would have a perfect view of any new arrivals.
Kaine headed to the only other window in the kitchen. It had a view over the rear of the farm.
“Did they follow you here?” Mike asked.
“Don’t see how they could have,” Will answered. “We were careful.”
“Occupants?” Kaine asked Will.
“I can only see the driver. The rear windows are blacked out.”
“What’s he doing?”
“Talking into his mobile.”
“I wonder who he’s talking to.”
“Your guess …”
Kaine peered through his window and saw nothing but the barn, outbuildings, stables, a paddock, fields, and an empty rear access road.
Good, so far.
“Which way’s the driver looking?”
“Can’t tell. He’s wearing aviator shades, but he is facing this way.”
Kaine considered joining Will at the front window but moving position would leave their rear exposed. Will had the front aspect covered and would call him forwards if necessary.
“Wait,” Will said. “Movement.”
“The nearside, rear passenger door’s just opened. A big bloke’s getting out. Dressed in black. Tactical jacket, cargo pants. Unarmed as far as I can see, but …” He grimaced and shook his head.
Mike reached for his walking stick and used it to help climb out of his chair, groaning when he reached his feet.
Kaine patted a hand in the air, gesturing him to stay put.
“Whisht now. I might be on my way out, but I’m not dead yet.”
“Suit yourself but keep away from the windows.”
“Gonna try teaching me to suck eggs next, sonny?”
Kaine smiled. Even staring over death’s precipice, Mike’s spirit hadn’t dimmed. He limped towards the boot room while Will continued his commentary.
“Passenger’s opening the gates. … The Benz is pulling through. … Oh dear, naughty, naughty.”
“What’s wrong?” Kaine asked, desperate to move and see for himself, but maintaining his position.
“The driver’s collected the passenger, and they’ve left the gate open. Haven’t they ever heard of the Countryside Code?”
In the boot room, a metallic clanking followed by the hollow rattle of a box of shotgun cartridges—a distinctive sound—signified Mike’s intention. Seconds later, he returned carrying an over-and-under shotgun, broken at the breech. He’d lost the walking stick and leant against the door jamb for support. After popping a cartridge into each barrel and snapping the breech closed, he rested the shotgun on the kitchen table, un-cocked.
“What’s happening?” he asked, gasping, and still standing in the open doorway.
“The Merc’s crawling along the driveway. Driver’s taking his time. Anything out back, Ryan?”
“Nothing that shouldn’t be.”
“Not a pincer movement, then. No concerted attack,” Mike grunted.
“Could it be a neighbour coming to pass the time of day?” Will suggested.
Mike shook his head.
“None of my neighbours drives a black G-Class Benz,” Mike said. He slid onto a kitchen chair and braced his arms on the tabletop, face pale, breathing deep. As deeply as he could.
Will confirmed the load on his Glock and held it pointed at the ceiling. “How do you want to play this?”
“Let’s wait and see what they do. You never know, we might be overreacting. These guys could be Jehovah’s Witnesses wanting to save Mike’s immortal soul.”
“Are you banging on about souls again?” Mike asked, smiling through a grimace.
“No getting away from it, Mike.”
“The Benz’s stopped. Doors opening. Driver and two rear passengers exiting. Better come this side,” Will said, rushing his words. “Don’t like the look of this. They’re fanning out.”
“Can’t see any. But their jackets are bulky.”
Kaine left his post and joined Will. He took a position on the other side of the window, making sure he didn’t twitch the curtains when peering through the gap.
“Which one’s the driver?” he whispered.
“Guy in the middle.”
Kaine focused his attention on the large man in the centre of the trio. At least two metres tall and not far off the same width, he wore his dark hair short but not quite in a military buzzcut. He sauntered towards the front door as though he didn’t have a care in the world. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of mirrored lenses. The mirrors made it impossible to see where he was looking and difficult to read his expression. Off-putting and designed that way.
“Big beggar, eh?” Kaine said.
“Aren’t they all?”
Kaine grinned. “It does seem that way.”
Will shifted his position a little and aimed his Glock at the man on the right. Dark skinned and as tall and wide as the driver but with longer hair and without the mirrored shades, the man stopped at the stone wall surrounding the front garden. He stood with his arms crossed and his right hand hidden inside the flap of his black gilet. The gilet allowed anyone a clear view of the gym-built muscles rippling on his bare arms. Nothing but a poser. The third man—blond hair pulled up into a ridiculous little top knot—copied his mate’s actions, and stood, arms crossed, on the other side of the gate. They covered the driver’s advance.
“Driver’s coming in alone,” Kaine said to Mike. “Stay right where you are.”
“I’m going nowhere, son.” He patted the stock of the shotgun.
“If he knocks,” Kaine said, “why not invite him in nicely?” He added a wink.
Mike nodded his understanding, and a grim smile stretched his beard.
“Why not, indeed,” he said, gasping for breath.
Kaine backed away from the window, turned, and hurried out to the hall. He reached the front door well ahead of the driver.
Keeping low, making sure the driver couldn’t see him through the frosted glass of the half-light window, Kaine turned the key in the lock, and hid behind the heavily laden coat stand to the side of the door.
With the SIG P226 raised in a two-handed grip and aimed at where the driver’s head would appear behind the opened door, Kaine waited, his breathing slow and steady.