It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of the month. Even harder to believe that Beyond Betrayal was released two-and-a-half months ago (and is still hanging around the top 500 books on Amazon!). I fully expected to have Noble Intentions: Season Four completed by now, and in the hands of editing.
Didn’t quite work out that way.
Glad you asked. I introduced a new character in Season Four. Let’s call him… oh, I don’t know… Brett. Any character in Jack’s world is going to serve one of three purposes. On his side, in his way, or out to get him. While I won’t give away which of those pertains to Brett, I will say that there is a history between the two men.
An unwritten history.
So, I set out to create some back story and quickly realized there was just too much. Like, way too much. I then received a revelation whereupon I said to myself, “Self, you must create a story about this past event where Jack and Brett crossed paths.”
And that’s what I did. I tried to convince myself it would be a short story.
Nope. That was never going to happen.
But a novella, that’s doable, right. Right?
It grew past novella stage. And more characters popped in for a visit: Clarissa, Charles, the Old Man, Pierre. Before I knew it, I had a full blown novel on my hands.
And so, after a packed house at the holidays (some twelve people and six dogs), MY dog nearly dying from an intestinal disorder, and now Snowmergedden ravaging the Atlanta metro area and shutting down school for the balance of the week, I am nearly done with this book tentatively titled Thin Line.
Unless the editors and beta readers hate it.
I pray they don’t hate it.
And so, while Thin Line (which might not end up being the title, so hold off on searching Amazon non-stop for it – anyway, if you’re signed up for the mailing list, you’ll be one of the first to know) is off being edited, which will happen sometime next week, I’ll return to writing Season Four.
And I am really excited about that.
If all goes according to plan, Thin Line (insert title disclaimer again) will be out in February, and Season Four will be available by April, give or take a couple weeks.
Stay tuned to this space for a sampling of what the new book has in store 🙂
I’m liking this book the more I get into it. Clarissa is somewhat of an enigma as a character in the Noble Intentions series. You get a sense of what she’s capable of, but not the whole picture. She’s obviously street smart. She was raised by a hard-nosed Marine Lieutenant Colonel. She lost her mother at a young age. And she was barely an adult when her father was gone. But other than that, we know little.
This book will remedy some of that. I’ll let you know upfront, there’s not a lot of info dumping or back story thrown into this book. By this point, you know that’s not how I write 🙂 This story picks up where Clarissa’s story left off at the end of Noble Intentions Season Three.
Now, for the excerpt (unedited!). Still working on the title and cover, but will reveal when they are ready.
General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport. Logan International for short. Adjacent to East Boston and the Boston Harbor. Six runways, and over one hundred gates divided among four terminals. All located on twenty four hundred acres.
Nearly thirty million people pass through those gates each year. Business, pleasure, returning home, going home, and some who fly for the hell of it because they can.
Clarissa Abbot, one of those thirty million passengers, had no choice in the matter. She departed the 777, proceeded through the hot and humid jetway, and walked out into the open gate adorned with blue and white striped seats, and manned by three disinterested airline employees, because Sinclair, her boss, told her to do so.
Or suffer consequences that would brought out words such as ‘fatal,’ ‘dismemberment,’ and ‘never to be found again.’
Sinclair hadn’t told her who would carry out the acts. She had no reason to ask. Clarissa knew. They had people in their employ who could do such things without batting an eye, and without leaving a shred of evidence behind. These were the kind of men who didn’t care who it was they were terminating. The lived for their jobs. They got antsy when they went two long without cleaning a scene, or ridding the world of a bad seed.
Had she become one?
In both her heart and her head, she didn’t think so. Clarissa had done everything she’d been asked. Relationships that meant the world to her at one time were now fading memories, like a paper boat placed on the water as the tide headed out. Whether those relationships drifted away or sunk into the abyss, she had no idea, and it did not matter.
Neither did her last assignment. Forget it now, Clarissa. Those had been Sinclair’s final words to her while she worked frantically to eliminate evidence in her room in London. Clarissa destroyed all her belongings, including her cell phone and laptop, in the compound’s incinerator. She left with the clothes on her back, a few thousand in cash, and a passport with a false identity. She boarded the plane and departed from Heathrow shortly after nine in the morning. Her flight flew back in time and arrived noon Eastern.
Her gate was located at the end of the terminal. Glancing back, a wide window offered a panoramic view of a runway. A plane, she couldn’t tell what style, lifted off. Dust and dirt and exhaust swirled in two sideways mini-tornadoes. She turned her attention forward. A sparse crowd walked away from her, down the hall that split the terminal in two. She joined the other travelers, attempting to blend in. Not an easy task for a woman like her. She was tall. Her dark red hair, pale skin, and looks drew the eyes and attention of most men and some women. Hatred, scorn, lust, curiosity. She saw it all.
She didn’t fear them, though. Her concern laid in the fact that Sinclair had provided no further instructions to her to follow after departing the plane. Unfamiliar faces turned into potential enemies. Throughout her time in Sinclair’s group, she had been exposed to few of the members. It had been in her best interest, he’d said. The fewer people that knew her, the better off she would be.
You never know, he had told her, who might turn on you.
Would Sinclair? Better yet, had he?
A pair of dark eyes fixed their gaze on her. Eyebrows flexed down. The man’s face was cut from steel, handsome, and covered with four day’s growth. His black hair was adorned with flecks of silver. He wore a dark suit and no tie. He left the top two buttons of his white pinstripe shirt unbuttoned.
She had no recollection of ever seeing or meeting the man. He stared at her like they’d been lovers the night before.
Clarissa kept her stride at an even pace. She didn’t deviate to the left or the right. She couldn’t. There was room to either side. She stayed true on a path that led her right past the man.
He glanced over her head. She resisted the urge to look back. His focus shifted from above, to the left, to the right, then back on her. She watched as his right hand slipped into his pocket. He couldn’t have traveled this far through the airport with a weapon. Even something as discreet as a ceramic knife would be spotted in the new imaging machines they had installed at the security checkpoint.
He pulled a black cylinder from his pocket. Maybe two or three inches in length. Before she could identify the object, he’d tucked it in his palm and passed it off to his other hand. His fingers wrapped around it.
The guy took a step forward. A couple walking along the outer edges of the corridor took two steps in. The man nodded, flashed a smile, and merged into the line. He was three paces in front of her. She glanced down at his shoes. They looked expensive. The soles were hard and thick. The uppers made from leather. A lot of the guys paid for custom shoes, she’d heard. They wanted comfort, the ability to kick ass, and to look good.
The man slowed his pace. He took a step and a half for every two Clarissa made. She saw the object in his left hand. They were almost side by side. He glanced over his shoulder, made eye contact, smiled. There became even with each other. She matched his pace. They stayed close to the outer edges of the walkway. His left hand permeated her peripheral vision. She reached for it with her right. They continued on as if they were a couple reunited after time spent away. Between their hands, the cylinder pressed against both their palms.
“Central Parking Garage,” he said. “Level three. Backed into a spot in the middle of the last row. Now close your hand.”
The man unthreaded his fingers from hers. She made a fist around the object, pulled her hand tight to her side, and slipped it into her jean’s pocket beside her cell phone. She left her hand on top of the object. Her index finger traced it. Six buttons, and a hole at the top. Something metal, pointed inside the hole.
“I’ll go back and get it for you, honey,” the guy said, stopping and stepping to out of the flow of traffic. He leaned in and kissed her cheek. The stubble around his mouth scratched at her. “I’ll catch up at baggage claim.”
Clarissa looked around, smiled, continued on. In the end, no one there would care. Unless they did. And if there were someone there who took anything from the interaction other than a husband or boyfriend going back to claim his significant other’s laptop or carry-on, then the rest of the act wouldn’t have fooled them either.
She pulled the object out. It was a car key. Everything was built into the device, the key, alarm, remote start, and lock and unlock button.
She continued on, navigating through the airport. At one point she reached into her purse and pulled out a pair of knock-off designer sunglasses. She wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be Gucci or Armani or Prada or some other brand. Clarissa didn’t care about such things anymore.
Baggage claim was packed with hundreds of people. The result of dozens of flights arriving at one time. Midday madness. She stopped and stood on the tips of her toes and looked for the man who handed her the key. Had he meant it when he said he’d catch up at baggage claim, or had he said that to make the act more believable. She wandered the snaking area full of travelers, conveyor belts and yet to be claimed bags. A tall man in an airport uniform pulled a red suitcase off a belt that had stopped moving. The bag looked overstuffed. He pulled the extendable handle all the way out and wheeled it to an office.
The land of abandoned luggage, she thought.
Ten minutes later the man from the terminal still had not arrived. She took one final glance around. Two-thirds of the faces had changed over. That was fine with her. The fewer people around to remember her standing there, the better.
It was the middle of June, not even officially summer yet. But when she stepped outside, it felt like North Carolina in August. The temperature was over ninety, as was the humidity. By the time she found the parking garage, to bottom half of her shirt was in danger of sticking to her back. It grew worse in the garage. Airflow was non-existent. The structure reeked of exhaust and gas fumes.
Some idiot honked his horn in tune with a song. Or perhaps he was just a jerk. The sound echoed off the floors and walls and ceiling. The car drove past her. The young man behind the wheel looked over at her and winked. Although her first instinct had been to extend a gesture toward him, Clarissa ignored the guy. There was no point in getting involved in something that could result in her being arrested, especially while using an identity that could have been compromised without her knowledge.
She found the stairs and walked down one flight. The air felt thicker on the third level. It smelled worse. The front of her head ached, and she felt nauseous.
“Keep it together,” she told herself. “A little further is all.”
The last row was visible from where she stood. Rather than following the road to the left or right, then back, she cut through the middle, sidestepping between cars whose owners who were incapable of parking in the middle of a spot.
She reached the last row, pulled the key from her pocket and pressed the alarm. A silver Infiniti G Coupe chirped and screamed and honked and flashed in response. She mashed the lock and unlock buttons with her thumb until the car went silent.
“Not bad, Sinclair,” she muttered, approaching the vehicle from the driver’s side.
She pressed the ignition button on the key. The engine roared to life. She hoped the air conditioning had been left on full blast. She turned to the side in front of the car and shuffled to the door. Voices and laughter and footsteps echoed throughout the concrete structure. She glanced around while pulling the door open and sliding into the driver’s seat. The leather seat and steering wheel felt cool. The vents piped ice cold air out. She felt the ends of her hair lift and blow in the artificial breeze. The radio had been left on a local classic rock station. She didn’t bother to change it. The navigation unit had a destination pre-programmed. She pressed buttons in an attempt to pan out or display a list of the directions.
She was interrupted before she could figure it out.
Everyone has a past. Jack never revisits his. At least not until an unfortunate event brings him back home. And trouble follows Jack wherever he goes.
Never Go Home is part mystery, part suspense, and all Jack Noble thriller.
Below is an excerpt from the novel
The woman emerged from a pack of pedestrians. They parted as she passed. They stared at her in awe. I imagined them asking each other, “Who is that woman?” She drew attention in part because of her beauty. In part due to her confidence.
Surrounding her were six men.
Dressed in black.
Not a sight you see every day on the outskirts of London.
Yet people didn’t notice them. She made them look invisible.
I presumed the men had training on a level close to my own.
The woman and the men continued their approach down the street. Her black hair was parted down the middle. It splashed across her shoulders. The breeze lifted it at the edges and it danced in the wind.
They stopped in front of Cataldi’s. The restaurant had a wood burning stove. The cooks had started it a few minutes ago. The exhaust fan spit flavored smoke into the sky. It passed by me. My stomach ached with anticipation. As much for the meal as for the job.
The woman and her bodyguards continued on. They’d stopped in front of the restaurant the previous three days. They never went in. Three doors down sat the cafe. If the woman was as much a creature of habit as I thought, and counted on, they’d go in there again this morning.
The roof offered a view of the entire street. The downside to that was that I could be seen from the street from both directions. With the woman and her security team close by, I retreated. No big deal. Their plans weren’t secret.
I touched the button on the device connected to my ear. Steady static ensued. “I’ve got visual confirmation. Heading inside now.” I tapped the button again. The static faded away.
Noise crawled along the building’s two hundred year old facade. The chatter of those passing, a moped racing by, the steady thud of the bodyguards’ hard soled shoes, and the woman’s stilettos attacking the sidewalk.
They stood out from the rest.
Staying low, I crossed the rooftop, coming to a stop in front of the building access. Nothing in the surrounding environment had changed. I pulled the door open, kicked the prop out of the way and hit the stairs, taking them two at a time.
The lobby door crashed open. Heavy steps hit the stairs. The person ran up. Their heavy breaths indicated that they had been running even before they entered the building.
I froze in place, pulled my Beretta and leaned back against someone’s door.
A mother scolded her child. The little kid raced through the apartment behind me. A door slammed. The mother let out a frustrated sound.
The footsteps kept coming toward me. Had they spotted me? I moved away from the wall and toward the stairs. The person stopped. I held my breath. They let out theirs. Then they took a deep breath and exhaled again.
“Good run,” they said, followed by a door opening and closing.
Shaking my head, I reflected on how close I’d come to killing an innocent bystander. No time to dwell. I continued my descent.
Sasha’s voice filled my ear. “She’s in front of the cafe, Jack.”
I didn’t stop to reply. Five steps separated me from the lobby. I’d see for myself in a few moments.
Black and white checkered tile led to the front of the room where double doors swayed back and forth a few inches. I ran up to them, stopped, scanned the street in front of me. I couldn’t see her. The two men positioned behind her were too tall and too wide.
Where’d they find these guys? The pro wrestling circuit? They sure as hell weren’t former Special Forces.
I drove my shoulder into the door, pushed it open and stepped onto the sidewalk. Down here, the smell of the grill was stronger. It combined with that of the pastry shop next door. It was almost enough to throw me off.
I turned left and started walking, using the windows next to me to watch the scene on the other side of the street. One of her security detail studied me. He was mammoth in size. He stayed outside along with another big guy, while the other four accompanied the woman into the cafe.
“They’re heading inside, Jack.”
I reached up and activated the speaker. “Are we set up?”
“We never got inside.”
“They had two waiting.”
“So she’s got eight bodyguards today?”
“The threat was high. You knew this. You said you were prepared for it.”
Three elderly women approached. I said nothing with them in earshot. One of the women smiled at me. Bright red lipstick coated her lips, and the area above and below, and her teeth. I nodded at her.
“Jack? Do you want me to call everyone back and abort?”
I looked over my shoulder. The woman was no longer in sight. Two men stood in the doorway. The elderly women crossed the street. One of them skipped a step. Must be one good cup of coffee inside.
The older women approached the two behemoths standing guard. The guards demanded that the ladies open up their purses so they could search them. They tossed items on the ground. One of the women protested loudly. The guy said something to the effect of, “Don’t like it? Get lost.”
“Jack?” she yelled.
“Call them off,” I said.
“You’re giving up?”
“They weren’t doing this yesterday.”
“I’ll see you in an hour.”
“Jack, what are you going to do?”
I pulled the device off my ear, tossed it into the trash, continued on another half block. I reached behind my back and drew my Beretta. It went into the trash, too. I stepped off the curb, paused for a white Fiat that honked at me as it passed, then crossed the street. A group of teenagers told me to go back to America. I ignored them.
Ahead, the last of the elderly women stepped inside the cafe. The guard closest to me turned his head in my direction. He watched as I approached.
I stopped in front of the cafe. Placed my foot on the first step.
The guy stuck his thick hand out. He wagged his finger in front of me. When he spoke, his accent was Irish, thick, like he was from Cork. “I saw you exit the apartment building and head up the street.”
I nodded. “Had a coffee date with a woman. She called it off. Kind of happy, actually. This place has the best brew in town. First time I’ve seen security here, though. What’s going on? Did the Queen stop by today?”
The men glanced at each other. They looked like two defensive linemen about to converge on the quarterback at the same time.
“Come up here,” the guy on the right said. He was local.
I stepped up, held my arms out to the side.
“Turn around,” Cork said.
I faced the apartment building. A kid walking by looked up at me. I stuck my tongue out at him and crossed my eyes. He smiled. The guy behind me patted me down, stuck his hands in my pocket, and cupped me somewhere he shouldn’t have. I rose up on my tiptoes.
“You gonna buy me a pastry now?” I said.
“Shut up,” Cork said.
“Go on in,” the other said.
Neither held the door for me. I felt cheated after how close we’d become.
I used the hard toe of my right shoe against the door’s kick plate and nudged it open. The aroma of dark roast met me. My mouth watered. It was necessary to stay focused, so I scanned the room, breaking it down into quadrants.
The woman sat in the corner, surrounded by guys smaller than the two at the front door. These were the pros. The other two were meat heads whose only purpose was to scare the store’s patrons. I kept my eyes moving. Didn’t want to linger on her too long. Or on the men.
There were three people behind the counter. The day before there had only been two, and those two weren’t present today. I figure most people would assume that the biggest one would be the plant, if there was one. Not me. And not the skinny guy with red hair and acne either. I pegged it as the cute girl with the dimples. She smiled and winked and put my mind at ease.
Not an easy thing to do.
I ordered a Cafe Americano and took a seat across at a table fifteen feet away from the woman.
Her name was Marcia Stanton. The name meant nothing to me. I’d been told Marcia was an up and comer in politics. She had gained relevance by attacking and bringing down some powerful people. A grassroots movement built, and next thing she knew, people encouraged her to run for office.
At first, she declined. The offers didn’t stop. So when a heavy hitter stepped in and told her she owed it to her country, she agreed.
And that opened up a Pandora’s Box of hell for her. Death threats came. Bodyguards were hired. Three attempts on her life had resulted in the hiring of three more bodyguards to replace her core four.
All of that led to me being seated in that cafe, mid-morning, hungry, tired, unarmed and uncaffeinated. At least one condition was close to being remedied.
I glanced up at the cute girl with the dimples. She threw a pale elbow on the counter and held out my mug with the other hand. I rose, stole a glance at Marcia and her bodyguards, and walked to the counter. The girl watched me the whole way. One hand wrapped around the mug. The other dropped a tip on the glass top.
“Cream or sugar?” she asked.
I shook my head. “Black is fine. The rest of the stuff gets in the way.”
She shrugged. “Anything else?”
Behind her, the big guy glared at me. I noticed a swastika tattooed on his wrist. We engaged in a stare-off. He looked away first.
“Sir?” the girl said.
“I’m fine,” I said.
She turned around, rolling her eyes. I was just another schmuck to her, and that was OK. I returned to the same table, sat in a different seat. This one allowed me to see the counter and Marcia’s booth. The downside to that was that the table created an obstacle that I had to go around in order to do my job.
One of the bodyguards rose. He headed toward the hallway that led to the restrooms.
Hand Tattoo passed through a beaded curtain. I figured he went into the kitchen. Dimples glanced around the cafe. Her gaze came to a stop on Marcia’s table. A minute later, the girl joined the guy in back, leaving the skinny red-head all alone.
I stood, walked to the counter and leaned against it.
Skinny Red said, “Help you?”
“I’m good,” I said.
Skinny Red seemed too calm, relaxed, confident. If there was a plant, it had to be him.
The front door opened. A man stepped inside. A sheet of sweat coated his forehead. His breathing was erratic. His eyes shifted side to side. They never settled on anything. He looked at me, Skinny Red, the beaded curtain, and at Marcia. And when he saw her, he bent over and reached for his ankle.
Looking for the rest? CLICK THE LIKE BUTTON TO READ CHAPTER TWO!
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt. Remember to mark your calendar for the September 24th release of Never Go Home!
To ensure that you’ve read all the Jack Noble books, visit the following page: http://ltryan.com/noble-intentions/