Read Blown Online

Authors: Chuck Barrett

Blown (28 page)

Kaplan looked down at the man's dead body and was once again reminded of his Special Forces mantra.
Two in the chest, one in the head works 100 % of the time.
Moss did okay.

Ten seconds later, six men stormed the mansion.

They weren't Tony's men.

They were dressed in black.

They wore helmets and carried rifles.

And badges.

Emblazoned on their armored vests was a now familiar and relieving sight.

U. S. Marshals.

Epilogue

L
ittle Rock
, Arkansas

One week later

K
aplan wasn't
sure why he was still in town.

Maybe he needed to say a few goodbyes. Or make a few apologies. He owed them that much. Jeff and Kam claimed they were happy to help an old friend. Deep down he knew how much trouble he'd caused, how much anxiety his intrusion had created. Jeff said given the circumstances, he'd do it again. That's what being a true friend was all about—and Kaplan didn't have many friends left.

Life in his secret world was lonely. And thankless. The job was full of deceit and danger where most would question his sanity for not getting out of his clandestine job at a younger age. There were times he had questioned it too, but he knew why he stayed.

Patriotism.

At least that was part of it. Deep down, though, he knew he craved the thrill of the chase. Bringing evildoers to justice—or simply just eliminating them.

A large man with a cane limped into the restaurant; Kaplan raised his hand and motioned to him.

"Got your message." Moss leaned his cane against the table and carefully sat in the chair. "Surprised you're still in town. Figured you'd be long gone by now."

"Me too, but sometimes I surprise myself." Kaplan looked at Moss's leg and motioned with his head. "How's the leg?"

"Sore as hell, but better.” Moss paused. “Why are you still here, really?"

Kaplan picked up his glass and swirled the ice. "Felt like I still owed you a drink."

"You owe me a hell of a lot more than a drink," Moss scoffed. "Your harebrained scheme almost cost me my life…and my career."

Kaplan waved the waitress to the table. "I'm buying so order something and quit whining."

Moss looked at the waitress. "Since he's paying, I'll have the New York Strip, medium, baked potato, loaded, and the house salad." Moss looked at Kaplan's glass. "A glass of water and whatever he's drinking."

"You're that hungry? At three in the afternoon?"

"I'm always hungry." Moss patted his belly. "How else am I going to keep this rock solid body?"

Both men laughed.

It felt good to laugh. Moss had become a good friend in a short time and he wanted to touch base with the deputy one last time before he rode out of town.

"I hear you're on administrative leave. Word on the street is you don't follow orders and went rogue. I'll bet you've always been a pain in the CIA's ass." Moss unfolded his napkin and removed the silverware hidden inside. "What now? Continue your trip to Texas to find that woman Tony Q told me about?"

"Tony Q talked too much."

"Not anymore," Moss said.

Kaplan smiled. "No, I guess not. So what about you? When will you be headed back up North?"

"I have been remanded to stay in this WitSec office until a new inspector is permanently assigned."

"How long will that take?"

"Couple of weeks," Moss replied. "Then I've been ordered to take a long vacation and think about my future with the Marshals Service."

"What are you talking about?" Kaplan asked.

"Didn't you hear? I put the Director in a pickle. I got slapped with a list of Marshals Service infractions from willfully endangering the life of a witness to breach of WitSec protocol, and a whole lot more. The list was long and extensive. Fortunately, though, the end result washed away most of my sins and I got off with nothing more than a reprimand."

"Got any vacation plans?" Kaplan asked. "Go to a beach? Work on your tan?"

"Nah. Never was much of a beach person. Too much sand. Plus I don't like the water. And, in case you haven't noticed, I already have a tan."

"If you get bored, you can always join me in Texas."

"I hear black men in cowboy boots and hats are the rage in Texas these days. The women can't resist them."

Kaplan pursed his lips, took a long draw from his drink, and then said, "Perhaps you heard wrong."

The pretty young waitress returned with Moss's drink. Kaplan stood, fished a hundred dollar bill from his pocket, and gave it to the waitress. "This should cover everything."

The waitress took the money. "Mister, this is way too much. Let me get your bill."

Kaplan pointed at Moss. "Get him whatever else he wants and keep the rest for yourself."

Kaplan looked down at Moss and stuck out his hand. "Deputy Moss, I'd say it's been a pleasure working with you, but then I'd be lying."

"Likewise.” Moss gripped his hand and gave it a firm shake. “I never realized what a pain in the ass you CIA spooks were until I met you."

There was a moment of awkward silence and then Moss said, "If you ever get to Chicago…"

"You can count on it." Gregg Kaplan turned and walked out of the Little Rock restaurant, leaving behind his newest friend, Deputy U. S. Marshal Pete Moss.

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Acknowledgments

F
irst things first
, to my wife Debi, who always gets first read and the first shot at keeping from seriously embarrassing myself. With each manuscript she reads, she claims it will be her last. So I'm honest and tell her that her input makes it a much better book.
Thanks for keeping me in line, on track, and for reeling me in when I needed it. Thank you for your ideas, your suggestions, and your criticism. Without your valued input, these books would always be lacking. Lastly, thank you for your patience and support, as the arduous task of cranking out stories must seem like a never-ending process. I love you with all my heart and soul.

W
ith each new
book I write, the list of acknowledgements grows. I am indebted to those who have graciously volunteered their time and energy to steer this author in the right direction. Perhaps it's their occupational expertise or a past experience that has provided me, through our interviews and discussions, a rudimentary foundation to write about things I know nothing about. To each of those listed below, you have my sincerest gratitude. Thank you for making
Blown
a better book.

S
pecial thanks
to Mary Fisher Design, LLC who always creates awesome covers; this time with the special touch of Kelly Young. She patiently listened to my ideas and used her talents to take this cover well beyond my expectations.

T
hanks
to the following subject matter experts who graciously allowed me to pick their brains and kept me out of trouble on topics I know nothing about and some that I do. Whether it is health care fraud, police procedures, Aikido moves, Special Forces, or background on the Mafioso. In no particular order—David Raines, Artie Lynnworth, G. J. ‘Cos' Cosgrove, Ruth Corley, and Francesco Milana.

A
special thanks
to a U. S. Marshal, who must remain anonymous, for his insight in the inner workings and procedures of the U. S. Marshals Service and WitSec.

S
ome authors call
them
test-readers.
Others call them
beta-readers.
Whatever the title, every author understands the true value of extra eyes reading their material. Thanks to Cheryl Duttweiler, Terrence Traut, Ruth Corley, Beth Murray, and Early McCall for your honest, unbiased, and unabashed input.

W
henever real people
get their names in fiction stories, they run the risk of being cast as good, bad, and sometimes downright evil. Thank you to the
real
J.P. ‘Jon' Hepler, Tony Quattrochi-aka Tony Q, Jeff and Kam Harrell (and for the use of your home in this story), and lastly to April J Moore for making such a wonderful villainess/assassin. I hope your characters met your expectations.

L
astly I want
to thank you, the reader, for buying this book. It is my genuine hope that you found this story entertaining and that those unexpected twists and turns left you smiling…or perhaps cussing…either way, it works for me.

Afterword

WRITER'S NOTE

O
n April 27
, 2014, an EF-4 tornado cut a 41-mile swath of destruction through Arkansas destroying much of the town of Mayflower. Fortunately, my friends' home was spared receiving only minor damage in comparison, however most of his neighborhood was not. Many homes were completely demolished and lives were lost. Weather is unpredictable at times, and certainly pinpointing exactly when and where a tornado will form in impossible with today's technology. However, meteorologists can predict when conditions are right and the likelihood of tornados is high. These warnings should not be taken lightly. When a tornado forms, seconds count. Seconds that could mean the difference between life and death.

T
he United States Marshals Service Witness Security Program
(WitSec) has been in place since 1970. For the sake and safety of the witnesses in the program, WitSec procedures and safe-site locations were shrouded in secrecy. However, with today's technology, most of that shroud has been removed. Even the location of the U. S. Marshals Service Safe Site and Orientation Center (SSOC-pronounced “sock”) can be determined by some savvy Google Earth searches of the Alexandria, Virginia area. Rumors of a new site have surfaced and funding authorized by Congress. It is currently called the Alternate Safe Site and Orientation Center. You guessed it, ASSOC. Location not publicly revealed.

T
he B
& B (CIA safe house) in Lexington, Virginia is a fabrication of this author's imagination. Although these types of facilities exist, this isn't one of them.

T
he Big Dam
in Little Rock, along with the Arkansas River Trail and Emerald Park quarry, are accurately depicted.

T
he fortress
of Tony Q's on Isle de Antonio is all a fabrication. However, Martinique is real…and beautiful.

About the Author

C
huck Barrett
is
an Amazon bestselling author of the Award-Winning Jake Pendleton series—
Breach of Power
,
The Toymaker
,
and
The Savannah Project
. In addition to thrillers, Barrett conducts seminars on the art of self publishing based on his book—
Publishing Unchained: An Off-Beat Guide To Independent Publishing.

Barrett is a Florida native, a graduate of Auburn University, and a retired air traffic controller. He enjoys hiking in the Rockies with his wife, Debi. They currently reside in Northeast Florida.

 

Awards:
—
Breach of Power
Winner of the 2013 Indie Excellence Award in Political Thrillers.
Finalist in the 2013 International Book Awards Thriller/Adventure category.

—
The Toymaker
Finalist in the 2013 International Book Awards Thriller/Adventure & Mystery/Suspense categories.

—
The Savannah Project
Finalist in the 2011 International Book Awards Thriller/Adventure category.
Second Place in the 2011 Reviewers Choice Awards Mystery/Thriller/Suspense/Horror category.
Honorable Mention in the 2011
ForeWord
Reviews Book-Of-The-Year Awards Thriller/Suspense category.

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