I missed what would have been the deadline for Episode 11. There’s a reason for that, though. I decided to break format and release this Season Compilation as a single book only. I polled some readers and the overwhelming response was that they preferred this format.
It worked better for me, as well. From a management standpoint, I’d have to do six times the amount of work with formatting, covers, and so forth to release the five individual episodes plus the season compilation.
The other deciding factor was that the point I wanted to end Episode 11 at came after nearly 150 pages. That would have been a tough precedent to set for a thriller in this day and age. In addition to that, this one flows much more like a traditional novel than the episodic formula of the previous editions of Noble Intentions. So, while the book will still be broken up into five equal episodic parts, you’ll get it all at once.
The first three drafts of Season Three are complete and the manuscript is with my editor. She’s fairly quick and already has 75% of it back to me. I’ll should be working on edits this coming week and maybe the following depending on how well I did my job. After that I have a review process I follow using a tablet with a digitizer screen and a digital pen. A few more changes will be made at that point, then it’s off for proofreading.
My goal is May 23rd. Lots to do and little time to do it in!
I’m approximately two-thirds through Noble Intentions Season Three. Most of what is written has already been revised and sent off to editing. So all in all, things have been moving along well and my pace is picking up. It usually happens that way. As I near the end, my fingers have trouble keeping up with the story taking place in my brain.
I finished up the outline a few days ago and felt good knowing that I had the story locked up, for the most part. I’ve known all along the general direction it was heading, but some of the “guts” of the story have been missing. So visualizing those remaining pieces is a big help to my typing speed. There usually end up being a few changes… a scene doesn’t go the way you expect it to, a character does something a bit different than planned. Those are easy to account for.
So two days ago I was feeling good.
Then two things happened.
First, I reviewed my outline and realized that there was something pretty major to the story missing. Now, I know that occasionally I spin up a thread and leave it hanging. In some cases, this is intentional and I have plans to get to it in a later release. Occasionally it is accidental and someone in passing catches more interest than I expected.
But this, well, you would have been upset if I left this one. This character needs resolution.
So I go back to the outline and end up with another seven or eight scenes. Not bad. A could days of writing for me. A little extra reading for you.
The second thing….
She took me by surprise at first. I never expected to see her. She had yet to show up and I figured that maybe my books weren’t good enough for her to take part in.
You see, there is a woman that appears in several of the books I’ve read. She’s never the same character, and she acts her roles according to the wishes of the author and reader, not her own demands. Most notably, she’s appeared as Rachel Walling, the FBI special agent in several of Michael Connolly’s novels. I’ve seen her elsewhere, too.
Never in one of my books, though.
She came out of nowhere. There wasn’t a note for this character to appear. When I first visualized this part of the scene, it was going to be a male agent who was to harass Jack for being at a crime scene. But the voice that called out for Jack turned out to be female. And when Jack turned around, it was her.
The hair, the eyes, the smile… all her.
I found myself faced with a dilemma. At first, I decided to ignore the sighting and continue with the scene as planned. But dammit, she started to charm me with her witty responses and that smile she flashed. And I swear she blocked my pinky finger from reaching for the delete key.
So this mystery woman who has appeared to me in several books I’ve read has finally managed to seduce her way into Noble Intentions Season Three. I mean, I couldn’t possibly have turned her away. But I’m not quite sure what she’s doing here.
Isn’t Jack’s life complicated enough?
I haven’t published a Noble Intentions Episode in almost 4 weeks. It’s making me antsy!
The good news is that I’ve completed the manuscript for Noble Beginnings: A Jack Noble Novel. This is a stand alone novel that takes place in March of 2002.
I start work on Noble Intentions: Episode 6 this coming Monday and expect to have it published well before November 1st. Episode 6 kicks off Season Two. 5 episodes are planned and you can expect them to be published every two weeks. I’m very excited about Season Two and have plenty of twists and turns planned for the characters.
After Season Two is complete I’ll write the second stand alone Jack Noble novel. More details to come on that too.
Now for the part you most likely came to this page for. Chapter 1 of Noble Beginnings. Enjoy!
** NOTE that I may have to take this excerpt down once the novel is published on Amazon **
I leaned back against the sandstone front wall of a house on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq. Muffled voices slipped through the cracked door. The night air felt cool against my sweat covered forehead. The air smelled like raw sewage. Orange tinted smoke from a distant fire rose high into the sky. Wisps of smoke streaked across the full moon ahead of the mass of artificial cloud cover. The thick smoke threatened to block the moonlight I used to keep watch over the sleepy street while the CIA special operations team did their job inside the house. The smart team leaders kept me involved. The dumb ones left me outside to guard the entrance.
I’d had this gig for the past eight years. For most of that time, the only thing that changed were the names and faces. The job stayed the same. Then the attacks happened. Within forty-eight hours everything changed. Most teams were deployed to Afghanistan. Bear and I were sent to Iraq. We spent the last six months raiding houses like this one inside and on the outskirts of Baghdad. For the most part, we were kept outside the house.
The only connection we had with the Marine Corps were the other ten Marines over here with us. And we only saw them a couple times a week. I had no idea where our the rest of our Marine brethren were. Didn’t care. They didn’t consider us Marines any more than we considered them brethren.
“Jack?” Bear said.
Riley “Bear” Logan had been my partner and best friend since our last day of recruit training. A recruit training experience cut four weeks short.
“Yeah,” I said.
“I’m tired of this.”
I turned my head. Kept my M16 pointing forward. Bear stared out into the distance. The faint orange glow of the fire cloud reflected off his sweat covered brow.
“They just keep us posted outside,” he said. “They ain’t never treated us like this.”
I shrugged. He was right. But there was nothing we could do about it. Bear and I were on loan to the CIA and had to do whatever we were told. Before the attacks we were part of the team. But the guys we normally worked with stayed behind in the U.S. and Europe. The teams over here weren’t used to having two Marines with them and they weren’t very receptive to the idea.
“What do you suggest we do?” I said. “Quit?”
Bear shook his head and straightened his six foot six body. He shifted his M16 in his hands and walked toward the end of the house. Beyond his large frame I spotted a group of men. Figured that was why Bear went on high alert.
There were six of them huddled together. They spoke in whispers and appeared to look in our direction. Another three men walked toward the group. From this distance they didn’t appear to be armed, but they had the cover of night on their side. Best to assume they were prepared to wreck havoc on our position.
“What do you make of that?” I asked.
Bear looked back at me with narrowed eyes and a clenched jaw.
Trouble indeed. Trouble lingered everywhere in this damn city. No one trusted us. Every time I turned a corner I worried someone would be standing there waiting to take me out. The only person I could trust in Iraq was Bear. The CIA spec ops teams we’d been attached to looked down on us. They all seemed to be waiting for the right moment to drop us. Hell, for all I knew, they were inside that house negotiating our arrest.
Bear cleared his throat. Pointed toward the group. The nine men fanned out and approached our position. The sound of their voices rose from a murmur to light chatter. I made out distinct sounds. Despite being in Iraq for the past six months, I had a weak grasp on the language, so none of what they said made any sense to me.
“What are they saying?” I asked.
Bear held up his hand, fingers outstretched. He cocked his head like he was looking up at the moon. His body crouched into a defensive position. The barrel of the M16 rose to waist level. He reached out with his left hand to support the heavy barrel. I did the same. We both preferred the M16A3 because of its fully automatic firing capabilities in addition to single shot and semi-automatic options. The A3 was a much better option for security teams than the Marine standard issue A4. We could drop the entire group of men in under five seconds if we chose to do so.
“Talk to me, Bear,” I said.
He took three slow steps back, blocking my view of part of the street. He yelled something in Arabic.
The group stopped their advance. One man stepped forward. His tall, gangly body stood out from the short stocky men in the group. He lifted his arms, a handgun clutched in his right hand. I tensed and tapped my finger against the M16’s trigger. The harsh sounds of words spoken in Arabic filled the air. They echoed through the street. Then silence penetrated.
Bear turned to look at me. Smiled. Looked back at the men. He shouted in Arabic again and lifted his M16 to his shoulder.
The tall Iraqi raised his arms once again. He had put his gun away. He turned his back to us, said something to the group of men and started walking away. The mob held their positions for a moment. The tall man pushed through the men. He spoke to them in an authoritative tone, his voice rising to a yell. They turned and followed him. A few looked back at us over their shoulders.
I exhaled loudly. Cool, calm and collected when others would panic. Now, I felt my hands trembling slightly. A deep breath reset me to normal. Typical reaction.
“Christ, Bear. What the hell was that about?”
He chuckled. “I think they’re on our side, Jack.”
“What makes you think that?” I used my sleeve to wipe a layer of cold sweat from my brow.
His smile widened.
“They didn’t shoot.”
“What did you say to them… ah, forget it. You’re a crazy SOB. You know that, right?”
He shrugged. Pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. Lit two. Handed me one.
I leaned back against the cold concrete wall again. Took a deep drag.
“You think this is what Keller had in mind when he shipped us off to the CIA?”
I had kept in touch with General Keller since he took us out of recruit training and placed us into the CIA sponsored program. This was not what he had in mind.
“Beats what we’d be doing otherwise.”
I threw my head back and nodded over my shoulder toward the door. “You sure about that?”
Bear shrugged. His big head shook slightly. He wiped his face, then looked at me.
“I’m not sure of much anymore, Jack. This is what I know. They ship us somewhere. We do our job. Pretty simple.”
I nodded. It was pretty simple. Eight years now and we knew the routine. We do our job. Only here, our job had been castrated down to nothing but a security detail while they did the work that would get the glory. Hopefully they’d get it soon and ship us back to the U.S.
I said nothing. We stood in silence, smoking our cigarettes. I stared at the orange glow of the smoke cloud that covered half the sky.
The voice ripped through the air like a mortar arcing over our heads. The door whipped open. Bealle stood in the doorway.
“We need you two inside.”
I turned to face Eddie Bealle, fourth man on the totem pole of the four man CIA spec ops team. I took a deep drag on my cigarette. Exhaled. Dropped the smoke on the ground and stubbed it out with the heel of my boot.
“We’re ready to go, Bealle.”
* * *
We followed Bealle through the narrow doorway and down an even narrower hallway. The smell of burned bread filled the house. I looked over my shoulder and saw Bear shuffling sideways behind me. His broad shoulders too wide to fit square between the thin plaster walls. We turned a corner to another stretch of hall that opened up to a dimly lit room.
“What’s the deal here, Bealle?” I asked.
Bealle said nothing. Kept walking. His rank on the team was too low to justify acting like a prick. I had wanted the opportunity to beat it out of him for weeks now. He stepped through the opening, walked across the room and rejoined his team.
I followed, stopped and stepped to the right. Bear stepped to the left.
Scott Martinez looked over and nodded. He said something in Arabic to the Iraqi man sitting on the floor. The man’s arms and legs were bound with the thick plastic ties we carried. Martinez rose from his crouching position and walked toward me. He ran a hand through his sweat soaked short brown hair and wiped blood spatter off his cheek. He stopped a few feet in front of me. Like most spec op guys he was a good four inches shorter than me and a head shorter than Bear. There were exceptions. My eyes drifted across the room and locked on Aaron Kiser. He stood six foot two and could look me directly in the eye.
I scanned the room. My eyes inched along the yellow stained walls and ceiling. Paintings and family photos hung crooked in obvious spots. The furniture had been pushed to the far end of the room. The captive family huddled together at the other end. The man stared blankly at the floor between his bound feet. His wife sat behind him. Her black hair frizzed and disheveled. Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth. Her hands rested in her lap, bound at the wrists. Two small children, one boy and one girl, hid behind her. They scared faces peeked over her shoulder. Their eyes were dark with fear and darted between the men holding their family captive.
I hated this part of the job. If we had something on the man, fine. He likely did something to bring us here. But why keep the family held up like this? Seemed to be the MO over here. And I had no choice but to go with it.
“Your job here,” Martinez said, as if he had read my mind, “is to provide support. No different than any other day. I give an order, you follow. Understand?”
I shifted my eyes to his and said nothing.
Bear coughed and crossed his arms across his chest.
Martinez dropped his head and shook it. A grin formed on his lips, but his eyes narrowed. We’d butted heads more than once and I figured he had become as sick of me as I was of him.
“I’m so tired of you two Jarheads.”
I looked over at Bear and mouthed the phrase “Jarheads” at him. He laughed.
The bound man on the floor looked up. His glassed over eyes made contact with mine. I felt my smile fade and my lips thinned. The man’s eyes burned with hatred and desperation. He took a deep breath, looked back down at the floor.
“Follow, Noble,” Martinez said. He turned and held up his hand while gesturing for me to follow him. He walked across the room and stopped in front of the Iraqi man. Kicked him in the stomach.
The man fell forward into Martinez’s legs. His face contorted into a pained expression while he struggled to fill his lungs with air.
“Get this sonovabitch off of me,” Martinez said.
Kiser stepped forward, grabbed the Iraqi by the back of his head and dragged him to the middle of the room.
Martinez moved to the middle and crouched down. He looked the Iraqi man in the eyes.
“I want you to see this. See what your failure to give us any information has led to.”
Martinez stood and walked over to the man’s wife. He reached under her arm and yanked her to her feet. She gasped and her children cried out as their tiny hands slipped off her sweat covered body. Bealle and Richard Gallo led the woman by her elbows to the wall across from me. Martinez followed. He stood in front of the woman, leaned in and whispered in her ear.
Her eyes scanned the room and met mine. A tear rolled down her thin face. Her mouth opened slightly. Her lips quivered. She bit her bottom lip and then mouthed the word “please” to me. Martinez brought a hand to her cheek and she started crying.
Martinez moved to his right and looked over his shoulder at the man on the floor.
“Isn’t your wife worth it?” His face lit up as he said it. Eyes wide. The corners of his mouth turned upwards. His breathing picked up. The spec ops leader appeared to find the exchange exhilarating.
The Iraqi man said nothing. He held his head high and his shoulders back. He stood defiant on his knees.
Martinez brushed the woman’s hair back behind her ears. Leaned again. Whispered. She let out a loud sob and then took a deep breath to compose herself. She looked toward her children and said something in Arabic. Then she turned to Martinez and spit in his face.
He stepped back. Wiped his face. Struck her with the back of his hand. Her head jerked back and hit the wall with a thud. Her body slumped against the wall. He reached out with one hand and grabbed her by the neck. With his other hand he pulled his pistol from its holster. He pressed the black gun barrel against the side of her head. His hand slid up from her neck and squeezed her cheeks in. The pressure of his hands against the sides of her face jarred her mouth open. He jammed the barrel of the gun in her mouth.
“Is this what you want, bitch?” He paused a moment. “Huh? Want your kids to see your brains blown all over this wall?”
I felt rage build. This was wrong in every sense of the word. I took a step forward. Bear’s large hand came down on my shoulder and held me back.
“Get the kids out of the room, Martinez,” I said.
Martinez straightened up and cocked his head. His arms dropped to his side and he turned to face me. He stared at me for a few seconds and lifted a finger in my direction. The woman slid down the wall and crawled on the floor to her kids.
“Noble,” he said. “I told you that you follow my orders. Not the other way around. You got it?”
“Let,” I took a step forward, “the kids,” another step, “leave the room.” I kept moving forward until we met. Chest to chest. Eyes to chin.
I heard weapons drawn around the room. The floor creaked behind me, a sign that Bear was moving into position.
“Gallo,” Martinez said.
“Yeah?” Gallo said, stepping out of the shadowy corner he had occupied.
“Move the man to the corner then the woman,” Martinez said.
Gallo did as instructed. The family huddled together in the far corner of the room.
“Now stay here, Gallo” Martinez said. “Rest of you, outside. Now.”
I felt the barrel of a gun in my back. Didn’t turn to see who it was.
“You two leave your weapons behind,” Martinez said.
We moved back through the narrow hall to the slightly wider doorway. Bear stepped outside first. Me second. Kiser came out behind me with Bealle and finally Martinez in tow.
The moon now hovered directly above the street, beyond the cover of the orange smoke. I scanned the street and spotted a group of men hanging out a few blocks away. Were they the same men from earlier? Perhaps a new group of men not as friendly as the last. Their chatter stopped and they turned to face us. A few stepped forward. Were they planning to attack? That wouldn’t be a bad thing. Might give us and the CIA spec ops something in common to fight instead of each other.
“You guys keep an eye on him,” Martinez said.
I swung my head around and saw Kiser and Bealle aim their guns on Bear. Like us, they carried Beretta M9 9mm pistols. Weapon of choice, it seemed. I followed Martinez’s movements as he paced a five foot area in the middle of the street.
“Noble,” Martinez said. “Step on out here.”
I looked at Bear. He nodded, winked. I crossed the packed dirt yard and stepped into the street.
Martinez lunged at me the moment my foot hit the pavement.
I ducked his blow and followed up by pushing his back. His momentum sent him into the side of the house. He reached out with his arms and came to a grinding halt. He turned, rolled his head. His neck and shoulders cracked and popped.
Kiser and Bealle kept their weapons pointed at Bear, but their eyes were fixed on Martinez.
I made the next move and engaged Martinez. We danced in a tight spiral, trading blows of fist and foot. Every connection sent a cloudburst of sweat and blood into the air. The two of us struck and countered with the precision of two highly trained prize fighters. We were equals now.
Martinez threw a flurry of punches. One landed on the side of my head. The blow knocked me to the ground. I knew his next move would be to kick me in the midsection. I quickly rolled and got to my hands and feet.
Martinez backed up.
I looked to the side. Saw black combat boots less than four feet away. I didn’t have to look up to know the boots didn’t belong to Bear. He wore brown boots.
Martinez started toward me. I had to time my attack just right. If I struck too soon Martinez would be out of my reach. Too late and he’d be upon me before I would have a chance to react.
I took a deep breath. Time slowed down. Martinez’s boots hit the packed dirt. Heel then toe. Left then right. Ten feet way. Eight feet away. Six feet away.
I launched into the air to the right and twisted my body. Kiser didn’t have time to react other than to turn slightly toward me. His outstretched right arm moved too slow. My body continued to twist to the right and I whipped my left arm around. My hand wrapped into a fist and struck Kiser’s windpipe hard and fast. He let out a loud gasp. Dropped his gun. His hands went to his neck as he stumbled backward and fell to the ground. He tried to suck air into his lungs, but his crushed throat wouldn’t allow it. His lungs shriveled. His face turned red then blue and scrunched up into a contorted look of agony.
Martinez closed the gap between the two of us. Dumb bastard. He should have pulled his weapon. Again I ducked and slipped to the side, letting his momentum carry him a good ten feet away.
I cast a quick glance toward Bear who held Bealle’s limp body against the building with his left hand while his right delivered punch after furious punch.
With Bealle and Kiser out of commission, I turned to deal with Martinez, who had just scraped himself off the ground and was approaching. I still couldn’t figure out why he didn’t pull his gun on me. End it quickly. He stepped over Kiser’s limp body. Stopped a few feet away from me.
I heard a body hit the ground behind me. Bear stood next to me.
Martinez lunged toward me. I moved to the side and brought a fist down across the bridge of his nose. He went to the ground. Bear picked him up, drove two hard blows to Martinez’s face and tossed him next to Bealle.
We reentered the house, guns drawn. Confronted Gallo. He gave up without a fight.
“You people should leave,” I said to the family. “Tonight. Now.”
Bear removed the thick plastic ties that bound their arms together.
The family huddled together. Each parent scooped up a kid.
“Follow us out and then go.” I grabbed my M16 from its resting spot on the wall. Led the family down the narrow hall. Stuck my head outside. Deserted. Even the group of men down the street had bailed. Flashing lights reflected off surrounding buildings and colored the sky. Sirens filled the air.
“Bear,” I called down the hall. “We need to get out of here.”
*********** End Excerpt ***********
Well, I hope that has you excited for the full novel!