LAUNCHED HERE FEB 28th, 2015!
“This book was written by a very ingenious and techno savvy author … David Baldacci and Vince Flynn have competition.” Amazon reviewer
“This is an extraordinary action tale that spans the country from coast to coast. It is non-stop action replete with some pretty neat techno-gadgets. I marvel about the author’s ability to come up with so many adventures that flow seamlessly together. The characters, and their different impact on the story are a major high point in the success of the book.” Amazon reviewer.
One of the most dangerous covert agents in U.S. history has been “on the black” for ten years, deep under cover – although no one knows this except for a handful of the world’s most powerful men – the same people who forced him into hiding and killed his wife.
A mysterious underground government division stumbles upon the agent – and triggers an audacious plan for revenge.The hunted becomes the hunter.
Complicating his race across America is a female hitchhiker escaping from a powerful crime family in Nevada – and a triage nurse who becomes an unwitting ally.
A shocking twist ending.
AN EXCERPT FROM ON THE BLACK …
EVERY MONDAY MORNING, Wilson McFee tortures himself by driving his rust-bucket Volkswagen van up what the locals call Barely-There Road, the twenty-five ugliest miles of gravel in Washington state.
Wilson accomplishes this feat to reach a tiny cabin in the Ghost Lake hills. His motivation is simple – a crisp fifty dollar bill upon arrival. In return, he delivers the essentials to a man he hardly knows; weekly staples, single-malt scotch, freeze dried soup, occasionally a gun magazine and rarely some real honest-to-God dark Swiss chocolate he orders from the local dry goods store.
This morning he is late and the man waiting at the crest of the ridge has suddenly lost his appetite.
Wilson has a reputation for never being late. He is punctual, loyal to a fault, and most importantly – he has a healthy paranoia of banks and government. He loves nothing more than to stuff those big bills under his threadbare mattress every Monday night and then lay on them as he whacks off to some lame music video he watches on stolen cable.
And he knows he has to arrive at exactly five AM to get his bonus, a time they call Zero Dark Stupid. Wilson and the mountain man have talked about that rule often over the past decade. Wilson would crawl up that road on his hands and knees if he had to. But there is no sign of him and it’s almost five.
Looking out over the rugged hills and the cedar forest, a sick feeling in his stomach, the mountain man realizes the time has finally come. He has been hiding up in the hills for over ten years, no phone, no electricity, no Internet and a single-seat outhouse he built himself and shares with a family of muskrats. Sure, he is bored most of the time. But he has been at peace too. A strange sensation for an assassin who has killed forty-seven human beings in his lifetime and has half the civilized world on his trail.
Ten years was a lot longer than he ever expected (or deserved) when he first moved up to Mount Rainier. He expected two to three at best. After all, these people were professionals and very highly motivated. Single-minded sons of bitches, his wife used to call them, before they caught up to them in Antigua and hit her with an unintentional round. After that, he consciously avoided warm places. He figured if he was hired to track a man down, and he didn’t know where to start, he’d gravitate towards warm oceans and cheap booze. Black flies and frostbite wouldn’t be a priority. So the former spy headed north. Damn far north for a boy who grew up in Iowa. He has since grown to appreciate a crystal clear winter night and the sounds of coyotes howling.
But he’s also no fool. He never expected to escape these people forever. He just wanted a bit of rest before they finally got to him. So in a way, he’s been lucky beyond his dreams.
The former assassin got up from his creaky wooden chair on a deck looking out over the ravine and the foothills to the Rockies. He headed inside his one room cabin and started to automatically assemble his pack. When he first arrived at Ghost Lake hills, he practiced this every day for months; it all comes back now in a rush. The cash goes in first. The three sets of fake ID, the Browning Para Ordnance P14.4 with two extra magazines. A knit hat, gloves, matches, a hunting knife. A bottle of water. A portable cell phone scanner. Three sets of ID. Nothing left behind will ever identify him. He was a ghost up here for ages and will leave the place the same way, like a wraith. With a crater to remember him by.
He listens again for the sound of Wilson’s van. Nothing. It’s far too quiet now, the sun beginning to rise over the peak of Mount Rainier and streaming through the cracks in the walls. A flock of ravens has suddenly disbursed. A good time to come for him. He would normally be sleepy, expecting nothing.
WILSON HAD THE VW’S ACCELERATOR PEDAL mashed to the floorboards, but it seemed no matter how hard he levered down on the gas, he just couldn’t get enough traction. He reached the steepest incline on the rutted, rain-washed trail that ended at the old hunter’s cabin, just coming over the last rise before the dip into the valley. He had only ten minutes to go. He tromped down with all his strength, willing the recalcitrant vehicle up and over the loose shale. He’d never missed the deadline before. Even by seconds. He was that kind of guy.
Then he saw a sedan the color of congealed blood rise over the crest of the road in a cloud of dust and flying gravel. Wilson shouted out in surprise and veered to the right. He hammered the brakes, a useless effort because once he took his foot off the gas, all momentum ceased, and the VW stalled on the ridge. He looked to his right to see the valley floor below. Too far below. He felt suspended in the air.
Two large men dressed in black dove from the sedan, a Crown Vic with blacked out windows, and Wilson bit down on his lip. How long could he hold on to the incline? Could he get the VW up to speed quick enough to make the hill? Would he have time to jump out before it tumbled into the rocky ravine?
The two men seemed to pause on the road, taking in the situation. Were they going to rescue him? But why were they smiling?
One removed something from his waist. Damn. A gun. The two both looked at each other and then the second man put the gun away. Wilson felt like crying with relief. They obviously realized they had the wrong person. Maybe they were looking for drug runners up here. Or militia nut jobs hiding in the woods.
Then the two moved forward, both placing their hands on the front of the van. They began to push. Wilson yelled out at them. Were they crazy? He pressed down even harder on the brake pedal. The old van rolled back slightly, making its way jerkily to the edge. They were gorillas, their arms bulging with muscles, and they seemed to move the vehicle with minimal effort.
The van lurched back another few feet, the brakes giving up the contest. Wilson’s leg began to cry out in pain. He took the risk of letting go for a second and then pumped the brake hard again hoping to get some more traction. The two men on the road took advantage of this pause to force the van back several more feet. Then Wilson felt the vehicle tipping and heard the groceries in the back clatter out of their boxes.
“What do you want?” he yelled, his spittle hitting the dusty windshield. Then the whole world seemed to shift, and he felt himself falling backwards, his sweaty hands hanging on to the steering wheel in desperation. In a final gesture, he pounded on the horn button as the van tottered on the edge of the precipice. He heard nothing of course. Like most of the accessories on the rusty VW, the horn hadn’t worked for years.
A MAN IN A BLACK NYLON JACKET, hunkered down against the wind, watched the broken-down cabin through his binoculars. He’d tracked his target, moving inside, just moments before. The ex-agent was hurrying, like he was missing an appointment or something. The man smiled to himself. Probably running to get his tea off the stove. What else did a man have to look forward to in this God forsaken land? He sure as hell wasn’t missing a key play in the Redskins game on his flat screen TV.
The man watching this little drama through expensive optics was Trent Razer. He had a wide square head with a blonde, some would say nearly white, buzz cut. And eyes that were almost obsidian. He chewed his lip, calculating. How long would it take the man inside the cabin to get his tea and make his way back to the porch? His brother, Brent, his twin, crouched closer to the cabin – almost at the back door. Brent carried a silenced M14 battle rifle. The other man, The Third Man, as they called him, because no one would give them a name for the guy, flanked the cabin from the North. The side without a window.
Trent breathed out a plume of cold mountain air. Did it matter if there was a window or not? The cabin looked like it might keel over at any moment, the walls chinked with moss or some other local shit. His target inside, the assassin known as Rice, probably enjoyed a 360-degree view of the valley through all those gaps and slats. Probably designed it that way. One of the reasons he’s stayed alive and hidden for this long. If he could see out of the north wall, he would probably take the Third Man first. No sweat off his balls. The guy had the sense of humor of a three-star general. Shit, maybe he was. So no one would miss him for a nanosecond. He was just here to play nursemaid anyway.
Trent knew only fragments of the Rice story. The guy was a top ranking black-ops agent who had gone seriously off the rails. But this happened years ago, so he didn’t know all the details. He did know a couple of lifers though who had a serious hard-on for the former mercenary and spent years bulldogging him.
He also didn’t know why it had taken the authorities so long to find this guy. He looked pretty harmless. Like a long-haired Elmer Fudd in a plaid coat and a floppy winter hat. He didn’t look like he was built for speed anymore either. With the world of technological wonder the DEA had to slice and dice their way into your worst nightmares, they should have tracked him down years ago.
This was still a tricky mission though. Essentially because the powers-that-be didn’t want this Rice character dead or injured. They wanted to do the killing themselves, probably throw in some recreational torture too; squeeze what revenge out of him they could in their sunset years. A good time to be had by all.
And Trent had a bonus coming to do this right. So this will be military caution all the way; three top agents against one aging, out-of-practice mercenary, with a nice payday for a few days’ work.
THE EX-SPY TOOK A DEEP BREATH of Mount Rainier air. He felt pretty good for a hunted man. Maybe the time had come to stop hiding and get back to the real world. If that was still possible.
Or maybe it was just that he was feeling so alive. He was aware of adrenaline flowing; a powerful sensation that made him feel young and invincible again.
And he could hear them coming with surprising clarity. A surprise for him. He guessed living out in the wilds for so long away from city noise and clatter had tuned up his hearing.
He hunkered down and peered through a knothole close to the floor. One visitor was creeping up on the north side, a second moving more cautiously towards the back of the cabin. He knew there were more of them out there. There always are. The fact they’re sneaking up and not just flying in, guns blazing, confirms for him these agents are in capture mode. Someone wants to hear him talk. They are hoping they can keep him alive for a while. That’s good too.
Rice reached down to the trap door in the center of the room and lifted it up carefully. He reached inside the edge and pressed a blasting head deep into an exposed section of the C4 and lowered the door again. Done. Something he rehearsed a hundred times. Rice was a paranoid son-of-a-bitch. He wouldn’t take the risk of sleeping on fifty pounds of plastic explosive all these years with the remote system hard wired. All you would need is one lost hunter with a CB radio tuned to the wrong frequency and you’d be atoms in the wind.
Rice hunched down and moved towards the open door that faced the mountain. He stopped for the briefest second and admired the mountain range to the west, the snow cover picking up the oranges and reds of sunup. He was going to miss it. But Canada was only a few hundred miles north and he heard they had pretty impressive mountains too. He would head there next.
He closed the door quietly and crawled across the rough plank decking and slid down over the edge. The drop was dramatic but he left a wooden ladder there for a quick escape. If someone sees him take this route, their only choice will be to follow and then they will be completely exposed. He moved carefully down the ravine wall to a path about twenty feet below the deck. Then he stopped and waited.
The first hint of entry he hears is the squeak of old timber. Someone has reached the deck and is slowly approaching the closed door. Then he hears the slightest groan, the rusty hinges doing their job. Then there is a rush of footsteps and the door bangs open. Their surprise hostage-taking event is in full arc. Someone yells his name out. It feels odd to hear it again. Ten years have gone by without that name spoken. Rice! He hears it again. Rice! Then he pushes the button on the tiny remote and the whole mountain shakes with the ferocity of the explosion as yellow flames roll out overhead across the ravine like a greasy shroud of death.
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