Chapter One of "National Burden"
It's funny what happens when creativity takes over. I thought National Burden was going to be 40,000 words. I'm wrapping up this week and it looks like it'll be closer to 60,000 words. Who knew?
The good news is that I think it's gonna be a good one. Cal, President Zimmer, Travis Haden and Daniel all kicking ass. A bunch more political intrigue because, well, because our political system is so jacked.
The good news is that I've got a little taste for you. Here you go:
(CAUTION: SUPER LIGHTLY PROOFED AND EDITED)
San Pedro Plantation Resort, Riviera Maya
1:30pm, February 15th
The resort was new. In fact, it was even open to the public yet. Mexican laborers could still be heard pounding away, rushing to finish before the hoped for Spring Break rush. Their stay was a perk of the station’s they held. A favor from an a new friend, a developer who owned properties all over coastal Mexico. They wouldn’t be bothered in the elegantly appointed private penthouse on the edge of the resort.
It was probably only seventy degrees, but to the man sitting in the white plastic chair, the temperature felt stifling. His senses were on edge, catching the whir of the air conditioning, the flip of the overhead fan, the light step of his captor.
Santos Lockwood squirmed in his seat, the fabric of his patterned board shorts suddenly clinging to his legs. “It’s not my fault. I tried.”
The man at the window turned, casting a shadow across his face. “I can understand how the last president’s departure was not your fault, but I cannot fathom why you couldn’t make yourself useful to Zimmer.”
Lockwood looked up at his old friend, the annoyingly good-looking, perfectly tanned and quaffed Republican congressman from Florida, Antonio McKnight. “Come on, Tony. It happens every time a new administration comes in. Out with the old, in with the new. It was bound to happen some time.” He added a nervous chuckle, hoping his friend would lighten up.
Tony McKnight put a hand on his trim stomach and closed his eyes. “Yes, that happens when there’s a traditional turnover, but Zimmer took over abruptly when your old boss abdicated the throne. From what I hear, Zimmer hasn’t cleaned house, so don’t feed me your line of bullshit. I’ve bailed you out more than once, Santos.” McKnight’s steel blue eyes flared open. It felt to Lockwood like they were burning a hole in his forehead. “I got you that fucking job! You’ve always been a fuckup, even in college. If it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t have made it out of Florida State with a diploma.” As quickly as his temper burst, it melted away with the tropical air, blown by the seventy degree breeze whirring the scent of the newly constructed condo. “Now, tell me why I should even listen to you.”
Lockwood gritted his crooked teeth. He’d always played second fiddle to his playboy friend, but he wasn’t without his worth. Lockwood thought back to the nights spent tracking down his freshman roommate, finally finding him stumbling home from another girl’s dorm room as the sun peaked over the horizon. Nursing him back to health. Dragging him to class.
McKnight’s moves and cunning improved with age, eventually landing him a republican congressional seat in Miami. Lockwood was the liberal, but their half Hispanic heritage always pulled them together.
“I don’t know what to say, I…tell me what you want me to say.”
Congressman McKnight shook his head. “Wrong answer, Santos.” A shrill whistle from McKnight’s lips caused a side door to open. Two deeply tanned hispanics entered the room, faces placidly menacing, almost bored. “You remember my cousins, Felix and Miguel.”
The blood drained from Lockwood’s face. “What are they doing here?”
Antonio McKnight flashed the brilliant smile that had captured many a young girl’s heart and now captivated much of conservative America. To Lockwood it looked more like wolf preparing to strike, stalking its prey. McKnight nodded to the two men, supposedly his cousins, but Santos Lockwood knew differently. Hired thugs.
Before he could react, they had his arms pinned to the glass table. “Let me go!” he yelled, panicking.
Neither man flinched, faces remaining expressionless. McKnight moved to the wet bar. “Now, the way I see it, normally there’s a time for forgiveness and a time for lessons. This may be a time for both.”
Sweat poured from Lockwood’s gray forehead. “Please, Tony, please don’t kill me.” He knew what his old pal was capable of. The friendly facade that the public knew masked a ruthless personality, chiseled and hammered into a vessel of power. His youth having turned him into a duplicitous monster, Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde.
McKnight laughed, turning back to the trio, now holding a long filet knife in his right hand. “If I wanted to kill you you’d already be dead.” He admired the blade, caressing its length with his index finger. “You had a very simple job. Stay close to the President. Did you do that? No.”
“Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to give you one last shot, and only because I love you like a brother, and your mom was always nice to me. But if you fail me this time, if you once again forget everything I’ve done for you and for your family…” The wicked grin on McKnight’s face left little doubt in Santos Lockwood’s mind. What had happened to the affable kid he’d met that first sunny day of school on Tallahassee?
Lockwood’s shoulder’s slumped and his chin dropped to his chest. “Tell me what you want me to do.”
“I’ll tell you that later, right now,” Lockwood’s head snapped up at the feel of another grip on his hand. It was McKnight’s. “Now, I need to give you an excuse and a lesson.”
Without warning the razor sharp knife bit into Lockwood’s hand. The smile never left the congressman’s face, even as his friend screamed, he sliced away, blood spraying unceremonious across the table, accompanied by the wild cackle from his friend.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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What's The Definition of a Patriot?
Being a patriot means different things to different people. For me, the word "patriot" invokes memories of the American flag, smoky battle in Gettysburg, sweat-stained Marines in Iraq, little kids in a 4th of July parade...
Here's Merriam-Webster's definition of patriot:
patriot: a person who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country
Military Service Not Required
You don't have to serve in the military to be a patriot. We honor our brothers and sisters on the front lines, patriots shedding blood for our country, but they're not the only patriots.
Let's not forget about the policemen, public servants, wives, husbands, firemen, all patriots, all living an honorable life.
What Makes A Patriot?
The definition above says a patriot is someone who "loves and supports or fights..."
The first element is LOVE. I love my country just as much as readers I've connected to in the U.K. or in Australia do their own. There's nothing better than coming home to the country we hold dear.
The second element is SUPPORT. We don't have to agree with everything that happens in our nation's capitol (trust me, I don't), but we do have to support the overall mission. In America I believe our mission is to spread freedom, inclusion and prosperity throughout the world. Do you agree?
The final element is FIGHTING. How many men and women have died throughout the ages fighting for their countries? We honor them by remembering their sacrifices, by taking care of the loved ones they've left behind.
How Can You Be A Better Patriot?
Define Your Love: Instead of complaining about the crooked politicians and the rising cost of milk, remind yourself about why you're here, why do you love your country?
Help Your Fellow Patriots: You're surrounded by patriots. Open your eyes. Say hello to your neighbor. Buy a soldier a beer. Lend a helping hand.
What else can we do to be better patriots?
Quick Corps Justice Update
Thank you all for spreading the word. Thanks to you March was my best sales month ever. Being able to connect with more and more readers really makes my day.
"National Burden" Chugging Along
As you might've noticed, I upgraded the book cover. Looks pretty good, don't you think?
I'm about halfway through writing the book. Looks like this one's gonna be a little longer than the last two. These damn politicians keep throwing piles of crap at President Zimmer. Good thing he's got Cal and the boys on his side.
In the next update I'll include Chapter 1.
Until next time...
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Based On Your Votes
Thanks for your votes on the next novel in the Corps Justice series. Based on your feedback, National Burden is in the works. Tentative release date will be sometime in May 2014.
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With The Editor
Adrift survived Round 1 of proofing and is now with my editor. If all goes to plan, you'll have the new Daniel "Snake Eyes" Briggs installment at the end of March. Here's the first chapter:
Chapter 1 (Unedited)
Your fault. The accusation floated along the edges of my subconscious, teasing me, blaming me, haunting me. I moved to swat the thought away, but my hand smacked into something hard. Wincing, I tried to open my eyes. They felt caked closed, rebelling from the night before.
The smell of must and dirt made their way into my muted senses. Finally cracking my lids open, I saw that I was lying on my side, facing a hay bale. I tried to rise, my stomach lurching at the movement. I closed my eyes again, willing the nausea to subside even as the spike headache stabbed painfully. Where was I?
After a few deep breaths, I eased to my feet, clutching a moldy wood railing for support. Tongue scraping along my parched lips, I looked around, squinting at the bright rays of sunshine streaming in through a crack near the door.
“He’s around here somewhere,” came the shout from the sunlit morning.
“Let’s check in the barn.”
I ducked behind two stacked hay bales just as three figures stepped into the barn, cautiously peering into the relative darkness. As my vision adjusted, I saw that one of the guys, a hulking figure in overalls, had a bandage covering his nose, the next one, almost a twin to his buddy, had his arm wrapped in a sling. The others looking healthy, one sporting a baseball bat, the other a long crowbar. By their appearance, they looked like brothers, or at least cousins.
“You two look behind the hay, I’ll take a look up in the loft,” Mr. Busted Nose whispered harshly.
They’d find me in a second, and I didn’t want to hide.
“You guys looking for me?” I asked innocently, standing up, stretching with a yawn.
Their eyes whipped around at the sound of my voice. “You’ve got some payback coming, boy,” said the leader.
“I’m sure we can talk about this, fellas. Why don’t…” I started as the farmboys cut off my lanes of retreat.
“Ain’t gonna be that easy. You broke my nose and busted Honey’s shoulder. There’s…”
“Wait, his name is Honey?”
Honey’s face turned beet red. “Let me take him, Johnny. I swear he’s…”
“I told you he’s mine,” said Johnny, slowly pulling an old revolver out of his pocket. “Now, it’s up to you whether you just lose your pecker or I fucking kill you.”
I raised my hands, not wanting a fight, wondering if my weakened body would respond to commands. “I don’t want any trouble, why don’t I just walk away before we do something stupid.”
“You shoulda thought of that last night, faggot. Tell you what, I’ll give you a chance. You take my cousins and win, then maybe I’ll let you walk away.”
I looked over at his cousins, noticing the bulbous nose of one and the cauliflower ears of the other. They were fighters. “Let me guess, boxer and wrestler?”
The cousins both smiled wickedly, showing off their yellowed teeth. Surprising they still had them all.
“Doesn’t seem fair to me,” I said. “I’d be happy to pay for…”
Without warning, the boxer cousin charged, swinging his baseball bat, aimed straight at my pounding head. Click.
My mind switched and reflexes took over. Crouching under the lumbering swing, my fist smashed into his groin, his momentum taking him over my right shoulder. One down.
Cousin #2 roared, but came on more tentatively, sobered by the easy takedown of #1. Thwap. Thunk, thwap, came the swings, hitting the elevated hay bales and railing, narrowly missing my dodging body. He was methodical, slowly corralling me into a corner.
The chop came, and I stepped into it, catching his hands overhead, a dribble of tobacco juice seeping out of his grimacing mouth. We struggled there for a moment, knowing that in a straight up strength contest, #2 would win. Not a possibility. I stepped wide with my left foot, swung my right leg behind him, and kicked back, pulled forward with my arms, flipping him over my right hip.
He landed with a thud, barely stunned, but I was on top. Take out the threat, came the order. #2 looked up, eyes wide, seeing the demon in my eyes, hand cocked, ready to deliver the death blow.
“I think that’s enough,” came a deep voice, followed by the rack of a shotgun shell.
I didn’t lift my eyes, still poised to strike, seething.
“Let him go, son,” came the order from whoever had entered the fray.
It took an extended moment. Inside, I uncoiled, easing off my opponent.
“Now look here, Mr. Herndon, this guy attacked us…”
“Let me guess. This happened at Pappy’s last night?”
“Yes, sir. Sent me to the hospital with a broken nose, and Honey with a bum shoulder.”
“Seems like I already heard the story, Johnny. A little bird told me you boys were harassing that pretty little waitress and this kid stepped in. Now, you gonna tell me that didn’t happen?”
“That’s what I thought. Why don’t you take your cousins on out of here. Enough fun for one day.”
“I said, get your tails off my property. I could just as easily call the sheriff for trespassing and assault. Your choice.”
The leader of the redneck band grumbled, but ended up gathering the wounded and headed out the barn door...