Tag Archives: Spotlight

Spotlight Trial By Fire by Christopher Nuttall


Title: Trial By Fire (Schooled In Magic 7)

Genre: Fantasy

Author: Christopher G. Nuttall

Website: www.chrishanger.net

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Sample Chapter HERE.

Purchase on Amazon / OmniLit


About the Book

Three years ago, Emily killed the Necromancer Shadye before he could sacrifice her and destroy the Allied Lands. Now, the shadows of the past hang over Whitehall as Emily and the Grandmaster travel into the Blighted Lands to recover anything Shadye might have left behind, before returning to Whitehall to start the fourth year. For Emily, it is a chance to stretch her mind and learn more about new and innovative forms of magic … and to prepare for the exams that will determine her future as a magician.

But as she starts her studies, it becomes clear that all is not well at Whitehall. Master Grey, a man who disliked Emily from the moment he met her, is one of her teachers – and he seems intent on breaking her, pushing her right to her limits. In the meantime, her friends Alassa and Imaiqah are acting oddly, Frieda seems to be having trouble talking to her and – worst of all – Caleb, her partner in a joint magical project, is intent on asking her to go out with him.

As she struggles to cope with new challenges and to overcome the demons in her past, she becomes aware of a deadly threat looming over Whitehall, a curse that threatens her very soul. And when she makes a tiny yet fatal mistake, she finds herself facing a fight she cannot win, but dares not lose…

trialAbout the Author

Christopher Nuttall was born in Edinburgh, studied in Manchester, married in Malaysia and currently living in Scotland, United Kingdom, with his wife and baby son. He is the author of twenty novels from various publishers and thirty-nine self-published novels. His books have sold over 100K copies in the last year. His latest book, Trial By Fire (Schooled In Magic 7) is currently an Amazon bestseller.

Connect with the author on the web:

Website / Blog / Facebook


Read more »

Sinking Down by Eric Garrison book tour #characterinterview



Welcome to the Sinking Down book tour, the second in the series. I have a character interview to share. Eric has been on previously so I’m glad to share more of his work.

Eric Garrison


Sinking Down: Poor Little Ghoul

Paranormal investigators Brett and Liz find themselves back in over their heads when a forest hunt for a roadkill-eating creature offers up a little surprise. Back home with their ghoulish house guest, it becomes clear there’s more to this investigation than either of them thought. Worse than that, Brett’s own fate is linked to the little ghoul’s.

So it’s back out on the road, with plenty of time for pit stops with a greedy ex, a convention of ghost hunters, partying with fake vampires, and even drinking and fighting alongside good ole Uncle Gonzo. But as the investigation goes deeper, and unseen connections come to light, Brett finds there’s much more at stake than getting through a rough patch with Liz.

A rescue mission. A race for a cure. New friends and old adversaries. Unbreakable bonds and supernatural danger. It’s going to be a wild ride. Can the friends save the nearly undead tween? Can she and Brett stop themselves from …Sinking Down?

Sinking Down is the 2nd Book in the Road Ghosts Trilogy!


Character Interview: Larry Fisher from Sinking Down


The guards lead me down a long hall to a visitor cell. One steps inside with me, the other locks us in and remains outside. The tall man handcuffed to his chair glowers at me.

“So. It’s you,” he says. “Don’t want to talk to y’all. This is all your fault, scribbler.

I wince at the remark even as I sit across from him at the table. “Good to see you too, Larry.”

“What do you want from me? I served my purpose, didn’t I? Made that Brett guy look like a hero, hmm? That’s what you wanted. So leave me alone.”

I sighed and shook my head. “Look, you’re right, every good story’s got to have a villain, Larry. You did great.”

Larry rattled the metal handcuffs on the chair and snorted. “Yeah, looks like ol’ Larry’s on top of the world.”

I smiled. “You know, I write this stuff down, but I let you characters do pretty much as you please.”

His eyes narrowed, and I felt the heat of his glare go cold. “So what you’re saying, pencil-pusher, is that you give us free will?”

I shrugged. “More or less. Brett’s the main character. To him, you’re the villain, so you’re bound to be written in an unsympathetic light. But I write knowing that each of you is the protagonist in your own story, a book I didn’t write. I think you put on that black hat and you loved it.”

“Well, what if I did? Think I liked seeing my ex hook up with that wishy-washy nerd? Huh? Did you tell my side of things, like why I need the money? How it wasn’t all ‘free will’, once the demon got involved? Of course I’m the bad guy. Kick a guy when he’s down, go ahead.”

I nearly blurted out something from Larry’s future. It’s hard not telling him how things get worse after Sinking Down, that he’s still a villain, pushed to more desperate measures. Instead, I skip that, and try to put a positive spin on things. “Cut the crap, Larry, you know you’re not staying in jail for long. You’ve got connections.”

A smile curls his lips. “Know about that, do you? Heh, ‘course you do. Guess you arranged that too. Well golly gee, thanks for nothing, jerk.”

I take a deep breath before replying. “Larry, do you know how many of my beta-readers wanted you dead by the end of this misadventure? All of them. You’re alive to wear your black cowboy hat another day, to get a little revenge, even.”

“What’s in it for me? Huh? Why should I play by your rules? Ol’ Larry could just retire and refuse to get caught up in your stories, I could stay the hell away from Brett and Lizzie and the rest of that stupid Scooby gang.”

“Because, I’m going to tell your story, bit by bit. Down the road, some of those calling for your death may just regret it, and end up cheering for your snarky butt someday.”

His brow furrowed and his eyes widened. “Bull.”

I spread my hands. “Well, that’s up to you, Larry. Give me reason to keep bringing you back, and I’ll be forced to tell all about you to show why you are who you are. It makes you interesting.”

The guard coughed, and when I turned to look at him, he tapped his watch.

“Time’s almost up, Larry. Anything else before I go?”

He shook his head. “Naw. I’ll chew on what you said. Particularly that bit about free will. I’m gonna consider my options.”

I smiled. “You do that, Larry. Nice talking with you.”

Larry lunged forward and howled at me, the chair rattling and dangling from his wrists. I jumped up and back. The guard rushed up and pushed him back down in his seat, hard.

He laughed, long and hard. “Oh that was worth it all. You shoulda seen your face!”

With a voice that sounded calmer than I felt, I said, “Choices, Larry. Make them wisely.”

As the guard showed me out, I grumbled to myself, wondering how I’d make Larry seem sympathetic someday. It’ll probably be a pretty good story, if I can work it out.

Sinking Down

Book Two of the Road Ghosts Trilogy

Book tour February 24 to March 2, 2014

EricGarrison_authorpicAbout the Author: Eric Garrison is active in the writing community in Indianapolis, Indiana. He lives in the Circle City with his wife, step-daughter and four cats. He also enjoys gaming and homebrewing beer.

Seventh Star Press published the first of his Road Ghosts trilogy, Four ’til Late, in July of 2013. Sinking Down was released in December of 2013, with the final title to appear in 2014.

Eric’s novel, Reality Check, is a science fiction adventure released by Hydra Publications. This book reached #1 in Science Fiction on Amazon’s Kindle store during a promotion in July 2013.

Eric’s short story, “Drag Show” appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of Strange, Weird and Wonderful Magazine and Volume 2 of that magazine’s anthology series. His flash piece, “Dark Reflection”, appeared in the Indiana Horror 2011 anthology. He’s competed twice in the Iron Writer Challenge with two 500-word flash pieces, “Killer Cure” and “Moby Me”.


Author Links:

Website / Facebook / Twitter

Buy Links for Sinking Down

Print Version / Kindle Version


Tour Schedule and Activities

2/24 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post

2/24 Laurie’s Thoughts and Paranormal Reviews Promo/Spotlight

2/24 Deal Sharing Aunt Tour Wide Contest

2/24 Lost Inside the Covers Review

2/24 John F. Allen Writer Promo Spotlight

2/24 Beagle Book Space Promo/Spotlight

2/24 Seers, Seraphs, and More Promo/Spotlight

2/25 Vampires, Witches, and Me, Oh My! Character Post

2/26 Bee’s Knees Reviews Guest Post

2/27 Sapphyria’s Book Reviews Promo/Spotlight

2/27 fuonlyknew ~ Laura’s Ramblins and Reviews Review

2/27 I Smell Sheep Guest Post

2/27 Jess Resides Here Character Interview

2/28 A Book Vacation Guest Post

2/28 Armand Rosamilia, Author Guest Post

3/1 Sheila Deeth The Art of Sinking Down

3/2 Come Selahway With Me Guest Post


Scrawling by Jonathan Gould spotlight

Welcome to a quick look at Scrawling by author Jonathan Gould. I’ve had Jonathan on previously when he had a book tour for his previous book Flidderbugs, I’m pleased to share his latest. A short story which is on sale for a dollar on amazon.


Scrawling-Cover Kindle




Neville Lansdowne drowned in a sea of words.

Of course, he didn’t really drown. You can’t actually drown in a sea of words. But you can sink a long way down into its depths, and that’s exactly what happened to Neville.

Deep down in an undersea world constructed entirely out of words, Neville meets some peculiar new companion and soon finds himself in the middle of another strange and wholly unexpected adventure




Before setting off into the coral reef, Neville thought he should check again on the marks from his encounter with the Snark. He was a little concerned to see that the words were still there, inscribed all over his body. And rather than fading, they actually seemed to be slightly clearer than before. He tried not to be too worried. After all, there was a whole new world here to explore. Surely, these marks weren’t going to cause him any long-term harm. So, with a couple of hesitant steps, he entered the coral reef.

Instantly, Neville found himself immersed in a truly extraordinary landscape—or to be more precise, wordscape. All about him, the marvellous arrangements of words were almost beyond description. Long, shimmery word fans fluttered like feather boas. Twisty, windy word-chains wrapped around themselves in complex, tangled knots. Short, stout words piled one atop the other, constructing sculptures of endlessly detailed design.

Half walking, half swimming, and half floating, Neville made his way through the reef. He hopped from rock to rock, being careful not to dislodge any of the remarkable features on display and to avoid the fluttering tentacles of sea anemones. Having already experienced the verbal barrage of the Snark, he knew words could sting.

The fish of the reef circled and darted all about, quite oblivious to the visitor in their midst. The swirling of their colourful bodies and the fluttering of their fins and tails against the multi-hued coral of the reef produced the most wondrous effects Neville had ever seen, like the workings of an abstract artist throwing whole tins of paint across a canvas.

Enjoyable as this exploration was, Neville soon found himself in sensory overload and in urgent need of a rest. Finding a place where he could sit safely amidst the delicate coral posed a bit of a challenge, but eventually he found a quiet spot underneath a rocky overhang. It provided just enough space for Neville to spread his legs and relax.

Slightly hidden away from the main part of the reef, Neville found that the fish were content to leave him in peace. But after a while, one fish poked its head around the rocks and eyed him warily.

This fish differed quite significantly from the other fish in the reef. While the other fish were bright and colourful, this one was a rather drab shade of greyish brown. And while the other fish were unusually shaped, with fronds and crests and long dangling fins, this one had a rather uninteresting dumpy shape.

After observing Neville for a minute or so, the fish swam up to him.

“You’re not from here,” it said in a rather dry and uninteresting voice.

“No, I’m not,” said Neville.

“What do you think of it?”

‘Think of what?”

“That lot out there.” The fish indicated with a fin back towards the brilliantly bustling coral reef.

“The coral reef? I think it’s beautiful.”

The fish turned its nose up and made a kind of sniffing noise. “You think it’s beautiful?”

“Oh yes, I do. It’s one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen.”

“Oh,” said the fish, with barely concealed disdain.

“You don’t think so?” said Neville.

The fish made a strange sort of gesture which, had it possessed shoulders, might have been taken for a shrug. “It’s all right I suppose. Just a bit on the noisy and crowded side for me, that’s all.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Neville.

“And far too bright as well. After a while my eyes start to hurt. But it’s really not a big deal.”

“That’s too bad.”

“And did I mention that the sharp edges on the coral hurt my fins. And the water gets so bubbly, it makes my gills pop. And as for the fish here, they think they’re so superior, just because they’re pretty and colourful.”

“Then what are you doing here?” said Neville, a bit annoyed by this fish’s somewhat grating manner.

“Just felt like I wanted a change. You don’t want to see the place I’ve come from.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Where do I begin? It’s dark and gloomy.”

“But you were complaining about how bright it is here,” said Neville. “Wouldn’t dark and gloomy be an improvement?”

“Just because I don’t care much for bright and colourful doesn’t mean I have to be a big fan of dark and gloomy,” said the fish. “And besides, I hadn’t finished. Can I also say that there are hardly any other fish there. I tell you, a fish can get so lonesome on its own.”

“But you said it’s too noisy and crowded here,” Neville protested. He was starting to understand why the other fish steered clear of this one.

“There’s nothing inconsistent about that. I can dislike too many fish just as much as I dislike not enough. I can also dislike the fact that it’s dirty and muddy, and the food is abysmal, and there’s nothing at all that might qualify as entertainment. Not to mention—”

“Complain a lot, don’t you,” Neville interjected.

‘I beg your pardon,” said the fish.

“You complain a lot, don’t you,” Neville repeated. As he spoke, he adjusted his legs. His little nook seemed slightly tighter than before.

“What else am I supposed to do?” said the fish.

“What do you mean?”

“What else am I supposed to do except complain? I’m a Carp.”

“You’re a what?” said Neville.

“I’m a Carp,” said the fish again. “We complain. We gripe and we groan and we criticise and complain. That’s the whole point of being a Carp. Look closely if you don’t believe me.”

Neville made a closer inspection of the Carp. Sure enough, like all the other fish, it was made out of words. However, this Carp wasn’t made up of brightly coloured, fanciful, and imaginative sorts of words, like the other fish on the reef. It was composed entirely of complaining words and criticising words.

“Is that the only reason you complain and criticise?” said Neville. “Because you’re made out of complaining and criticising sorts of words?”

“All right, so maybe that’s not the only reason,” said the Carp. “Let’s face it, there are so many things to complain about in the first place.”

“But there are lots of things not to complain about as well,” said Neville. “If you made a little effort, I’m sure you could start to see the positive in the things around you.”

“If I made a little effort,” said the Carp doubtfully.

“Just a little effort ought to be enough. There are so many wonderful things to see here, you’re sure to find something.” As he finished, Neville pulled his knees up to his chest. It was getting really cramped in there.

“All right, if you say so.” The Carp pursed its mouth. Its fins began to quiver and its eyes began to bulge. After a few seconds, Neville began to get concerned.

“Are you all right?”

“I have to say, I’m finding this to be quite a bit more than a little effort.”

“I’m sorry,” said Neville. “I just thought—”

“I also have to say that not only am I not finding anything positive in the things around me, I am also finding a number of things distinctly more negative than before.”

“I was only trying to help.”

“My eyes feel like they’re about to explode, my rear dorsal fin is decidedly shaky, and my gills have totally run out of puff.”

“Look, I’m sure if you just—” Neville didn’t get to finish his sentence, partly because the space in which he was confined had become so tiny, it could no longer contain him, but mainly because he had just realised what made it contract so dramatically.

It was the words of the Carp. Every time one of these carping, complaining words struck the rocks that defined Neville’s little nook, it made them shrink a little. It was as if this endless criticism, this constant belittling of the things all around, was actually making those things just that little bit smaller and duller and less appealing.

Neville had to struggle to extract himself from his tiny cubby-hole.

“Where are you going?” the Carp called after him.

“Somewhere else,” said Neville. In truth, he didn’t know himself, but he had to get away from this miserable Carp. In a place where words could combine to create the most wonderful and incredible world imaginable, he didn’t want to spend any more time listening to words that could only do the opposite.



jgouldJonathan Gould is a Melbourne-based writer and doodler.
He calls his stories “dag-lit” because they’re the sort of stories that don’t easily fit into the standard genres. Some might think of them as comic fantasies, or modern fairytales for the young and the young-at-heart.
Over the years, his writing has been compared to Douglas Adams, Monty Python, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, the Goons, Dr Seuss and even Enid Blyton (in a good way).

Web Site / Twitter / Facebook

Dead Girl Walking by @writeawaybliss cover reveal

Ruth Silver




Title: Dead Girl Walking (Royal Reaper)
Author: Ruth Silver
Expected Publication: Summer 2014
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Genre: YA, Paranormal Fantasy
Cover Design: Erica Crouch
In 1346, Princess Ophelia Dacre sneaks out of the castle to visit her boyfriend in secret. A perfect night cut short when she’s brutally murdered.
Ophelia is given the rare chance to become a grim reaper. She must become Leila Bele, cut ties with her old life, and follow the rules of the reapers. Her greatest adventure begins with death.



“The scroll chose you. For whatever reason, she’s your reap.””Well, that sucks.” Leila chewed her bottom lip. “If I don’t do it?”

Edon hesitated before he said, “Her soul will rot inside her body. Do you have any idea what that’s like? She’ll be a living corpse, a shell of a person. She won’t feel anything including love. We as reapers, the undead, feel more than she ever will alive.”

Leila swallowed the lump in her throat. “How do you know that?””Because I’ve seen what it does to a person,” Edon said. “That little girl deserves better.”


Ruth Silver author photo


About the Author:

Ruth Silver attended Northern Illinois University and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Communication in the spring of 2005.  While in college, she spent much of her free time writing with friends she met online and penning her first novel, Deuces are Wild, which she self-published in 2004.  Her favorite class was Creative Writing senior year where she often handed in assignments longer than the professor required because she loved to write and always wanted to finish her stories.  Her love of writing led her on an adventure in 2007 to Melbourne, Australia.  Silver enjoys reading, photography, traveling and most of all writing.  She loves dystopian and fantasy young adult stories.  Her debut novel published by Lazy Day Publishing and Patchwork Press, ABERRANT, was released April 2013.  The second novel in the series, MOIRAI, continues the saga. ISAURA, is the final installment in the ABERRANT trilogy. Ruth has been actively writing since she was a teenager.  Her current writing projects include a YA science-fiction fantasy series, ORENDA, and a YA/NA paranormal series, DEAD GIRL WALKING. Both novels are due for release in 2014. She currently resides in Plainfield, Illinois.

You can find Ruth on her Web Site / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Dick Wolf, The Execution excerpt

Check it out. Dick Wolf the guy who created Law and Order, that ding ding show. What everyone associates it to that sound. Anyway his second release is out and I have an excerpt to share. So excited. Enjoy

Execution hc


NYPD Detective Jeremy Fisk—introduced in Law & Order creator Dick Wolf’s New York Times bestselling debut The Intercept—must stop an assassin in the pay of a shadowy cartel in The Execution, a tense thriller that superbly blends suspense, politics, intrigue and high-flying action in the tradition of Vince Flynn, David Baldacci, and Robert Crais.

Ten days after the Mexican presidential election, twenty-three bodies are discovered beheaded on the United States border, each marked with a carving of a Hummingbird. Detective Cecilia Garza of the Mexican intelligence agency recognizes it: it is the signature of an assassin called Chuparosa. Garza has been pursuing the killer for years, yet knows little about him, except that he’s heading to New York—with the rest of the world.

It’s United Nations Week in Manhattan and Jeremy Fisk can’t let grief over a devastating loss keep him from safeguarding his city. Complicating matters is the startling news of a mass murder in nearby Rockaway—and the arrival of a disturbingly beautiful and assertive Mexican cop.

To have a chance at finding Chuparosa, these uneasy allies must learn to work together and fast. As they soon discover, there’s more to this threat than meets the eye—and that justice is not always blind.

January 9
Upstate New York
Half a mile from the Canadian border,
somewhere west of Lake Champlain
The explosive noise of the guns had set off a chain reaction, sheets of wet snow dropping from the limbs of the pine trees surrounding Jeremy Fisk. Even after the gunfire stopped, Fisk could hear limbs snapping, snow thudding to earth, a circular cataract expanding, fading away from him like ripples in a frigid pond.And then the endless forest . . . went silent.My God, thought Fisk. They’re all dead.Ten minutes earlier

The Swedes were late. Maybe they weren’t even coming.

Detective Jeremy Fisk of the NYPD Intelligence Division hated upstate New York. Hated the whole idea of it. Even though he had lived all over the world during his childhood, he had spent most of his adult life in New York City and had the passion of the convert for his adopted home. And as a confirmed New Yorker, he despised upstate on principle. Upstate was hillbillies and trailer parks and suicidal deer that plunged heedlessly into the headlights of your car, forcing you to swerve into the nearest ditch. Upstate was country living. Upstate was wilderness.

People who didn’t live in New York thought the entire state was paved from one end to the other. Far from it. In fact, the northern part of the state was as rural as Indiana or Kentucky. And right here, where Fisk and the feds were sitting, there weren’t even hillbillies or trailer parks or deranged deer. Nothing but trees. Trees and snow. Trees and snow and four citified cops waiting to arrest a couple of Swedes sneaking over the border from Canada.

Fisk sat in the backseat of the unmarked Jeep, snow sifting down in heavy waves like shoals of tiny gray fish. The dirt road, now six inches deep in snow, was one of dozens of logging paths, unofficial border crossings that wormed back and forth like scars through the seemingly endless forest between the Saint Lawrence and Lake Champlain.

“They’re not gonna show, Fisk.” The driver of the car was an ICE agent by the name of Ralph Carver. “I guarantee you, those Swedish sons of bitches are sitting in a nice warm room at some Best Western in Montreal watching cable porn.”

A DEA agent, Ari Schaefer, sat to Carver’s right. FBI assistant Special Agent in Charge Mary Rose Palestrina sat in the backseat with Fisk, an empty Thermos and Fisk’s holstered Glock between them.
It was the usual federal alphabet soup of agencies who didn’t like or trust each other—the perfect recipe for a law enforcement disaster.

“That’s assuming these jokers aren’t just a figment of Fisk’s imagination,” the DEA agent, Schaefer, added.

The feds didn’t believe that the NYPD was capable of scooping them on a solid international terrorism lead, so they’d been baiting him relentlessly for four hours. Thus far he’d managed to resist the urge to tell them to kiss off. It was his source, his information—his case if you got right down to it—but the mandate across law enforcement agencies was to cooperate, to share, if only to show the media and informed citizens that fighting terror was a team sport. It was Fisk’s show, it was Intel’s interdiction, but still ASAC Palestrina acted like she was running the show. They tried to treat Fisk like a guest at his own party.

“I mean, look at this crap,” Carver said. “What kind of idiot would go out on a day like this?” He was running the wipers nonstop, the heater blowing full blast. They could see okay out the front window, but the side windows were starting to get choked with snow, obscuring their view of the road down which the Swedes would be approaching. The car was pulled off the shoulder slantwise, so their best view of the road was from the side windows.

“Goddammit,” said the DEA guy. “I have no visual. Whose turn is it?”

“Mine,” said Fisk. It wasn’t, but he was tired of being cooped up in the car. He suspected it was the egos clouding up the windows as much as their breath. Carver handed him the fragile pink plastic windshield scraper that was their only defense against the heavy white blanket, and Fisk pushed open the door and climbed outside.

The door closed and the silence was a balm. He stood still, exhaling a plume of thick carbon dioxide, refreshed by the cold. The temperature was hovering just below freezing. Heavy, wet snow had formed a crust of ice over every surface of the car, and Fisk began hacking away at the windows.

Fisk was starting to worry. Two suspects were supposed to be making the run across the border from Canada into the States—Swedish Muslim militants smuggling radioactive isotopes for an explosive they planned to detonate in New York City sometime in the next three weeks. If anybody had told him six months ago that there was such a thing as a Swedish Muslim militant, he would have laughed.

But nobody was laughing now, not after Magnus Jenssen had come within an eyelash of blowing up President Obama at Ground Zero last year. Fisk himself had personally stopped the bomber. Now two more members of the same cell in Sweden, undeterred by their comrade’s lack of success—and, in fact, motivated by his capture and pending trial—were on their way into the States carrying about half a gram of a highly toxic, highly radioactive isotope of the element polonium-210.

Half a gram didn’t sound like much. But one ten-thousandth of a gram was enough to kill a human being.

The original plan for the takedown had included six members of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team tactical unit, an Intel drone, a Border Patrol helicopter, and a team of ICE agents. But the HRT unit’s van had encountered one of the aforementioned suicidal deer on the way up north, causing the driver to swerve and the van to slide off the road, where it overturned, putting one of the team members in the hospital with a dislocated shoulder and ending any chance of the HRT team participating in the bust. The helicopter full of ICE agents had to abort due to the miserable visibility, and the drone was grounded, according to the civilian contractor, “due to suboptimal control surface functionality,” which was jargon for “remote control airplanes can’t fly in snow.”

So now it was down to the four people in the Jeep. On the positive front, the DEA guy had showed them the trunk guns he had requisitioned for the takedown: an AR-15 and a Remington 870 tricked out with so many lasers and flashlights and optical gizmos that it looked like something out of a science fiction movie. If things really went south, he’d said magnanimously, Fisk could grab the shotgun. “The AR’s mine, though, bro,” he’d added. “Nobody touches my AR. She’s my sweetness.” He’d picked up the carbine and dry-humped it comically. “Aren’t you, baby? Aren’t you? Huh? Yeah, talk to Daddy, you sweet little bitch.”

This was the quality of agent they had dispatched to the Canadian border with Fisk.

After a minute of chopping away at the snow, the cheap pink snow scraper snapped in half, slicing Fisk’s little finger. Fisk cursed and threw the broken scraper on the ground, then stared at the pieces, breathing hard. He would have traded half the gizmos in the trunk for one long-handled ice scraper.

For a moment Fisk vibrated with frustration. The extraordinary silence enveloped him, and he invited it in, hoping for some calming, some perspective. He stood motionless and just listened.

No motor noises coming from the direction of Canada. No voices. No nothing.

It occurred to him that he had never been anywhere quite this silent. Not once in his life. It wasn’t just the remoteness of the place. It was the snow itself. It acted like the acoustical baffling in a recording studio, sucking up every scrap of sound in the universe. For a cosmopolitan guy like Fisk, it felt more than a little eerie. It felt like that part in a movie when the sound track drops out . . . when you know something big is about to happen.

But there was something about it that was beautiful, too. The sun was going down and the entire landscape had faded into a curtain of soft gray: a blanket of cold, clean fleece. He could see only a short distance in any direction. It was difficult to even judge just how far he could see. Fifteen yards? Thirty? He’d heard of whiteout blizzards where you couldn’t see a car length in front of yourself. So this wasn’t that bad.

But still.

It was no kind of day, he reflected, to be taking down bad guys.

Bank robbers love snowy days. Fisk remembered from his days as a rank-and-file NYPD cop, every snowstorm meant at least a half-dozen note jobs. Because the perp could walk into the bank wearing a ski mask or ski goggles without drawing undue attention, and once the alarm was hit the police response time was easily four times the norm. He remembered fondly the brilliant spray of orange against a pure white canvas of fallen snow in Murray Hill, from a dye pack that exploded: bank crime deterrence as public art.

The windows were still coated with icy snow. Fisk dug the broken pink stub of the plastic scraper back out of the snow. The end of the scraper had broken off into a knife-sharp point. It had sliced his finger pretty nicely, cutting right through his leather glove. Fat drops of blood fell one by one into the virgin snow. He made a fist to allow his ruined glove to soak up the blood, and stood there, absorbed by the silence.

He realized that he didn’t really want to get back in the car. A bunch of alpha personalities trying to top the others with stories of how tough they were, what great cops they were, how they’d been the best guy on their football team in high school, the toughest guy in their platoon in the army. Blah blah blah blah blah. That stuff got real old, real fast. And the FBI agent, Mary Rose, the fastest sprinter at Fordham and the top shooter in her class at Quantico: she was the worst one of all.

Fisk checked his watch. Theoretically the pair of Swedes should have been here more than half an hour ago. Maybe they just weren’t coming. Waiting out the storm. Like reasonable people.

As he stood there stamping his feet in the cold, he felt pressure against his bladder. Another good reason to kill a few more minutes outside the car. He cocked his head and listened. No car engines, no sinister Volvo full of terrorists crunching down the road . . .

For a moment he considered the effect of warm urine on the ice-crusted windows. Kill two birds with one stone. He decided he wasn’t that stir crazy yet. He hadn’t cleared the windows on the other side of the car, but with the wipers going, they could still see out the front of the Jeep. And it would only take him a minute.

As he walked out into the snow, he was surprised at what a struggle it was to move. He felt ridiculous and awkward, high-kneeing his way through the drifts. But it was better than trying to piss in a Poland Spring bottle with Special Agent in Charge Mary Rose Palestrina sitting next to him bragging about her marksmanship.

The walking was slow, the snow forming around each deep footstep, gripping his boot. The high-stepping felt ridiculous, and he made a pledge to no longer make fun of people who wear snowshoes.
The trees stood brown and black just beyond the curtain of snow falling in front of him. He looked back once, the silver Jeep barely visible. He might have had trouble finding his way back if not for the stark red dots of blood he had left in the snow like a bread-crumb trail.

He reached the first trees and, after laying the broken ice scraper on the surface of the snowfall, made quick work of his belt and zipper. Afterward, zipping up, he felt better, determined to shake off the stasis of the stakeout and power through this job to the next. He looked at his finger, the cut starting to clot in the cold, and was stooping to retrieve the broken ice scraper when the gunshots ripped through the silence.

Fisk instinctively reached for his Glock. Of course it wasn’t there. It was tucked away in the backseat of the silver Jeep some fifty yards away.

He felt a blinding surge of emotion—anger and self-recrimination and fear. Then more shots followed—a terrifying number of them, a fusillade of automatic weapons, burst after burst in efficient succession.
The shooting was accompanied by metallic thuds and the sound of shattering glass.

He had just started to run back when the sudden cascade of snow fell upon him, descending from the treetops, knocking more snow loose as it plunged to the ground with a hiss and a wet, inevitable thud. Fisk was half buried, and then more limbs cracked above and a second load of snow dropped, a chain reaction spreading all around him.

He dug himself out with his gloved hands. The top layer was loose, but the bottom was already compressed, and he chopped at it with the scraper, almost losing a boot as he pulled out his left leg. He picked up a jagged pine branch near him and charged out of the tree cover—into white blindness.

He knew he was looking in the right direction, but no silver Jeep. No noise either, nothing over his own rapid breaths: no gunshots, no screaming.

How many had he heard? Thirty? Forty? Fewer than ten seconds in duration, but the intensity had been shattering.

He was moving forward. Stumbling through the deep snow, assuming the worst.

It was an ambush. Had to be. Somehow the Swedes had caught the feds flat-footed, comparing war stories instead of watching for trouble.

He looked for his own footprints, already smoothing over under fresh snowfall. He saw a drop of blood, from his own finger, and knew he was headed in the right direction.

Then another controlled burst of gunfire. Fisk stopped and froze, listening. The sound was so crisp and near, everything seeming dislocated, eaten up quickly by the swirling snow.

Were those thumps behind him? Another small clump of snow dropped from the trees. He looked back at the dim black trunks. Then back in front of him.

Two figures. Barely visible. Slashes of color—black and brown—moving in the whiteness. Maybe a scarf, a cap . . . a weapon.

They were shooting at him now. They had seen his footprints leading away. They were following his blood trail. Their first burst had missed, two rounds thudding in the tree trunks behind him.

Fisk turned fast. He was vulnerable out in the open. Only distance would obscure him. He tossed the branch and tore back toward the trees, waiting for the next burst of gunfire.

It came just as he bladed himself behind the first tree. He looked back, unable to see them for the moment. Focus, dammit! He hadn’t heard a car motor, or the crunching of tires. The only thing that made sense was that they had left their vehicle somewhere and come on foot.

The silence was excruciating. Because it told him that, regarding the feds, the fight was over. If they were still alive, he’d hear something, yelling, anything.

The three people he had just been sitting in the car with, swapping boasts and drinking coffee—Ari
Schaefer, Ralph Carver, and Mary Rose Palestrina—they were all dead. Of this much he was certain.

He had three brother law enforcement officers down.

And with this realization, his momentary confusion and self-disgust evaporated, replaced by a wave of cold, hard anger.

He glanced down at his hand. He was still clutching the sharp, broken stub of pink ice scraper. It wasn’t exactly a Glock 17. But it was something.

A burst of nausea. That’s how quickly the adrenaline surged. These two guys—if there were only two—were out to finish the job now.

Voices. Singsong, at least to Fisk’s ears. Fisk spoke Arabic like a native, fluent Spanish, high school French, a little German, a little Thai, some Bahasa Indonesia. His father had been a diplomat; Fisk had traveled a lot as a kid and had a natural ear for languages.

But he didn’t speak Swedish. He couldn’t tell what they were saying.

One man’s voice, low and terse. Another responding. They sounded near, almost on the other side of the tree . . . but it was a trick of the snow. They couldn’t see Fisk if he couldn’t see them.

They sounded like soldiers to him: calm, self-possessed. He could tell from the sound of the ambush that these two Swedes had military training, as opposed to being amateur goofballs who’d taken up jihad because they were bored with their jobs in IT.

His phone was in the car, too, charging. But it didn’t matter. Zero cellular service here in the ass end of nowhere. Mary Rose had a satellite phone, didn’t she? He needed that phone as much as he needed a handgun.

He saw the colors reappear, vague against the white. Under even sparse tree cover, their visibility would improve dramatically. Fisk tightened his grip on the broken plastic window scraper and took off running through the trees. The snow cover was more shallow here, around a foot deep. He expected gun reports at his back yet heard none.

He felt something expanding inside him, something he had experienced a half-dozen times before in his life but had never been able to put a word to. The threat of imminent death has a way of uniquely focusing the mind.

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