Let's start with something new. I've always wanted to try a giveaway with you guys. Another way to say thanks for all the amazing support. If this round goes well we'll do it again. So here's what I'm giving away to start:
What Do You Have To Do To Enter?
It's really easy. If you're subscribed to Corps Justice updates, you already get 5 entries just by verifying that you're part of the team!
Then you can add more entries for tweeting about the giveaway, referring your friends, and more.
Make sure you check back every couple days because I'll be adding ways to increase your chances of winning. Oh, and if you guys show me you're into it, I'll even see if we can add some more prizes.
The giveaway starts now and ends Midnight U.S. Central time on Friday, April 19th. So don't wait. Enter HERE: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/329230db6/?
Thanks to the help of some Corps Justice VIPs, I've recently completed the second installment of The Chronicles of Benjamin Dragon. For those of you who don't know about it, it's about a kid who discovers he has "gifts". It's fantasy-ish, but not with dragons and wizards.
I wrote the first book so I could actually read something I'd written to my kids. Turns out some other people liked it too.
As a thanks to all my friends, I've lowered the price to 99-cents (USD) for a couple of days. It's appropriate for all ages, so feel free to get the family involved. Here are the links to purchase now:
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1PO73pw
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00VYWILPY
Amazon CA: http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00VYWILPY
B&N: Coming Soon...
Papal Justice Excerpt
The first draft of Papal Justice is well underway. Here's an unedited taste for you...
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined)
12:06am, March 11th
Father Pietro wiped a bead of sweat with the sleeve of his black cassock and leaned against the crumbling concrete wall. The muggy blanket of Mexican steam felt even more intense despite the late hour. Maybe it was the booze. As he stopped to catch his breath, he heard singing in the distance, capped by the distinctive tenor of Father Josef, the head of their small church.
Father Pietro pulled the small bottle of rum out of his pocket and took a burning gulp. He relished the heat moving down his throat as he listened to the hymns signaling the start of the midnight mass. He said a silent prayer of thanks for the bartender who’d given him the bottle, on the house of course. No doubt the man thought it would usher him into heaven when the time came. If that was the man’s wish, who was Father Pietro to disagree? He’d seen all manner of wonders since arriving in Mexico, none of them of the miraculous nature.
Five-year-old drug runners. Nine-year-old prostitutes. Thirteen-year-old cartel enforcers. They were supposed to be his flock, but his gifts had done little to bring them in. Instead, it was Father Josef’s love of music that had persuading a trickle, then a steady flow of new parishioners to join their young community. “Music,” Father Josef had said, “has the power to touch the hearts of even the most lost of God’s flock.”
When Pietro thought of Father Josef, he hiccuped a giggle. Josef had admonished him on more than one occasion for being late or missing an event completely. But what could Pietro do? He knew his weaknesses, had admitted them to Josef. And although he tried his best to improve, to wipe away his sins, he knew in his soul that it would take a momentous occasion to turn him from the bottle. It was, after all, the least of so many sins.
Father Pietro was a good man. The poor of Acapulco loved to hear his stories, and even stopped by to say hello when they were passing through. He’d found a home of sorts, but missed his home in Italy almost every minute of every day.
He sighed and took another drink before tossing the empty bottle into a pile of trash overflowing from the curb and into the street. The Catholic priest moved on down the dusty sidewalk before the flies he’d disturbed took their wrath out on him. Dealing with Father Josef would be bad enough. At least now he would have some liquid courage. Thank the Lord for the smallest blessings.
Father Pietro was just rounding the last corner, a block before the squat church building came into view, when the squeezing of old breaks filled the street. He’d been caught in more than his share of shootings, and knew this could be another. He hid behind a dented blue dumpster and watched as men poured from three cars and a pair of oversized delivery vans. His chest went tight when he saw where they were going, straight into the midnight mass at La Iglesia De La Virgen Bendecida (The Church of The Blessed Virgin).
The screams followed, but were silenced by two gunshots. Father Pietro trembled, mouthing a prayer, his drunken haze gone. Two more shots sounded, snatching the prayer from his lips. There was shouting, and he could just barely make out a few words, “No one move,” and “Quiet that baby.”
He had to do something, but what? Thankfully whoever was in charge of replacing streetlights in the neighborhood had never done so. Cloaked in black he would be very hard to see. It would be easy to turn and run. No one could fault him if he went to find help. But who would he seek? The police would be of little help at this time of night. They knew the risks of roaming the streets at this late hour as much as common citizens.
Despite his other flaws, Father Pietro was no coward. He’d served in the Italian army before finding God and The Church. He’d killed other men and nearly lost his own life. Dying wasn’t something he was afraid of. He’d faced it before and somehow come out unscathed.
Swallowing what was left of his apprehension, Pietro picked a point across the street, and sprinted their as quickly, and quietly, as he could. After taking another hiding spot at the corner, his heart in his throat, his breath coming in gulps, Father Pietro looked down the block. The sentries were still standing in the same spot, one looking down the road and the other watching the front door of the church.
Thank you, Lord.
Now that he was on the same side of the street as the church, he had more options. One of the benefits of his late night binges, was that he knew the area well. He’d snuck into the rented apartments he and his four fellow priests lived in next door to their humble church, on more than one occasion. Without waiting to let his fear get the best of him, Pietro took his familiar path around the building and down the back alley.
Either the attackers didn’t know the back entrance was there, or they didn’t care, because he was happy to find the rear avenue empty. With his right arm almost grazing the wall, he moved quickly to the back door. He slipped his key out of his pocket and into the lock. The door opened with a muted click. Slowly, he pulled the door open and slid into the darkness within. Another blessing that whoever had left the apartment last, had also tuned off the lights.
He could hear more shouting now, the thin walls separating the chapel from the living quarters doing little to muffle the sound. Father Pietro hurried to the small shared bathroom and the discovery he’d made only days before. Whether a product of bad construction, or perhaps the needs of a past tenant, the priest had one day found a loose ceiling tile that allowed anyone who knew it was there, to slide it aside and peek into where the modest chapel now sat.
Now came the sounds of children crying and women pleading. They made him move as fast as he dared, stepping onto the edge of the bathtub and getting his hand on the faded tile overhead. He had to place his other foot on the soap holder across the tub in order to lift himself up. Once he had, he pushed the ceiling tile aside and pulled his head up into the space.
He almost fell when he saw the scene next door. Two bodies lay sprawled on the floor, both heads laying in pools of crimson blood. They were only children. Thankfully he couldn’t see their faces because surely he would have lost his footing. He knew ever person in the congregation.
Other than the men in masks, Father Josef was the only person standing. The rest of his flock were on their knees, cowering from the intruders. After a quick scan of space, Pietro counted at least thirty worshippers on the ground, including the two boys who were already dead.
“All men and boys over five, stand up now,” came the order from one of the masked men. The voice was accented, but not in any Mexican dialect Pietro had ever heard. The man was speaking Spanish, and well, but there were hints of something that tingled the edges of the priest’s brain.
“Please, take me instead,” pleaded Father Josef.
“We don’t need you, old man,” said the man with the AK-47. “I said get up!” He swiveled his weapon at the huddled figures for effect, a handful of young men finally standing. “You too, boy,” he said, pointing at small boy named Francisco.
“He’s only a baby!” wailed his mother, her armed wrapped protectively around her newborn.
The man’s weapon shifted mere inches, and a burst of machine gun fire sent bullets slicing into the mother and her tiny child.
Father Pietro clapped his free hand over his mouth. He knew the mother well, had baptized her baby a week before. In that moment, the Catholic priest wished that he had his rifle back in his hands. At least then he could have done something. He felt hot angry tears streaming down his face.
“Now, who else wants to die?” asked the masked man.
“Please, no more,” said Father Josef, bending down to comfort the boy who’d just become an orphan.
Just then, Father Pietro’s foot slipped, and he barely caught himself from falling, banging his knee against the wall. Every weapon turned. Luckily his head had slipped from view.
“What was that?” Pietro heard the man say.
Father Josef answered quickly. “Bad pipes. They make sounds all night.”
Father Pietro tried to calm his breathing as he waited the extended moment, fully expecting a combined spray of bullets to pierce the wall then his body at any second. They never came.
“Get up, all of you. Boys and men to the door. Women and babies with the priest.”
Pietro heard shuffling, and the murmuring of his people. He had to know what was happening, so he retook his prior position, this time making sure he was more stable on his precarious perch.
The parishioners were doing as ordered, even the two newest priests were over by the front door. Four masked men herded the male group out to the street. The women, babies and two older priests gathered near the makeshift alter.
The leader of the masked men, joined by two of his compatriots, stepped closer. As soon as the front door slammed closed, he lifted off his mask, glaring at Father Josef. “Say your last prayers, priest, because tonight you will meet Allah’s vengeance.”
If the threat frightened the proud priest, he didn’t show it. Instead he nodded, and turned to his people.
“Please kneel, and pray we with.”
Father Pietro watched as they all obeyed, whimpering at the death looming close by, all getting down to their knees with the priest whose magnificent voice had gathered them together.
Father Josef bowed his head and began, joined by what was left of his congregation, “Our, Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”
The rest of the words were drowned out by the thundering rattle of machine gun fire, rounds assaulting the bodies of the assembled innocents, blood spraying and bodies slumping in piles. And all Father Pietro could do was watch in horror, fists clenched, hoping that their murder would one day be avenged.
To be continued...