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Beginnings – Blog Tour

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Beginnings
Beginnings is a romantic thriller set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London. Eleanor Chapman is 16. She has no idea her father is employed in a world of organised crime until the day he is forced to go on the run, leaving her at the mercy of dangerous people.
Her life is spiralling out of control yet on the night she plans to escape, she stumbles across a mysterious prisoner. His name is Jake, a rock musician from Holland and he has a contract on his life.
Their daring escape across London eventually draws them into a place of hiding before Jake’s chilling story begins to unfold. He was the one vital witness to a sinister scene leading up to the death of a British MP and now those responsible want him silenced. As two young people, thrown together by fate they develop intense feelings for each other. It does not take long for Eleanor to realise that she will do anything possible to keep Jake alive.
Their tender love bond keeps you turning the pages as they live on a knife edge, desperate to escape London. Will they outrun the deadly enemies who stalk them? Or are the people at the top more powerful than they think?
Purchase on Amazon – http://apn.to/prod/B0078L8858

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Author Bio –
Helen J. Christmas lives on the south coast of Sussex with her husband. With a love of writing since childhood, she started her decade spanning thriller series ‘Same Face Different Place’ in 2011. Her first book ‘Beginnings,’ set in 1970s London, combines romantic suspense with a hard-hitting conspiracy thriller. Writing is something she juggles around family and social life. Helen is self employed and enjoys running the web design company, she and her husband set up from home. They have no children but enjoy the company of a faithful border collie and a fluffy white cat. Helen confesses to have got most of her ideas for writing, whilst walking Barney along the beach.
Social Media Links –
Website: http://www.samefacedifferentplace.com
Blog: https://samefacedifferentplace.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.helenchristmas/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SFDPBeginnings
Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5838032.Helen_J_Christmas
Pinterest Book 1: https://uk.pinterest.com/helenxmas/same-face-different-place-beginnings-book-1-by-hel/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/helenchristmas7/

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Sketched – Blitz


Thriller
Date Published: November 2017
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Fledgling police sketch artist Piper Cooke has always been different.
Gifted with second sight, but cursed with a life of tragedy, she has survived the feral streets of Dixon and has triumphed over her troubled upbringing. Piper faces her biggest challenge yet, however, when her visions compel her to disobey police orders and send her right into the wicked grasp of a madman.
Her life should’ve ended back in the blood soaked suburban basement, but it didn’t. Instead, the brutal trauma that should’ve been the end of her only makes her unique abilities stronger.
Years after her escape, a series of hideous visions force Piper out of hiding and back into the city that almost destroyed her years ago. Plagued by premonitions of doom, she finds herself compelled to track down Dixon’s most twisted serial killer yet.
Follow Piper through a horrifically unsettling labyrinth of family secrets, corruption and the sickening workings of humanity’s darkest minds.
Excerpt
Chapter One
July 23rd 2012 12:35 pm
Dixon City – Suburbs
 She had given up on the hope of surviving this.
 Perhaps it was hours ago that the switch had been flicked in her brain, but it could have been minutes. It could’ve been days. Anything remaining of Megan’s sanity, that rational part of her that had the ability to form coherent thoughts had dissolved as quickly and completely as a sugar cube in a cup of scalding tea.
 The only thing she knew now for sure was pain. It had taken over her mind, hand in hand with a kind of fear that she couldn’t have possibly comprehended before. It was a combination that no one survives to talk about.
 Her world had been reduced to the basement she was being held in.
 Beth.
 She had assured Megan that the dealer was legitimate. The house had seemed safe enough. Nevertheless, a nervousness had blossomed the moment they stepped off the bus, and it had continued to grow in her stomach with every step the two of them had taken to the address Beth’s new online ‘friend’ had given her.
 “C’mon Megan. Don’t be a chicken shit,” Beth had scowled.
 Beth was scary when she was mad.
She always had been. Her narrow eyes and wiry red hair gave her an off-putting look that she’d used to her advantage since childhood. Beth had practically dragged Megan up the cracked concrete path that led to the house, her freckled arms so much more powerful.
There had been a dog barking in the background, she could remember that much. For some reason, its yapping had sent warning signals off all through her body, only increasing the tension that was building steadily inside her.
Megan had known that they were risking it by skipping school to buy drugs in the worst part of town. She’d seen enough horror movies to know that this was how all immoral teenage girls were punished. Instead of knocking on the door of a drug house, she should’ve been in first-period biology. But she wasn’t.
She hadn’t wanted to be chicken shit.
Megan blinked at the paneling and matted green carpet that decorated her prison. Beth had escaped. Of course she had, she had always been the stronger one. Thick boned and fearless like some kind of suburban Viking.
It hadn’t come as a shock at all when, through eyes clouded with tears, she saw Beth begin to successfully loosen her wrist bonds. Her skin had torn from the rope, and the blood that coated her hands like red satin gloves eventually helped her to slide free.
Beth hadn’t looked back at her when she slipped through the basement window. Her face had been so transformed with fear and outright panic that she looked more like a wild animal than a human.
It had been when Megan helplessly watched the soles of Beth’s sneakers disappearing through the casement window that the rational part of her mind had broken.
Two girls never escaped. There was always one left behind.
There was always one set of parents collapsing with grief in the background while the survivor’s family turned their elated smiles to the news cameras.
Megan Coogan, who had willingly allowed Beth to cheat off her in school almost daily. Megan Coogan, who had lied to Beth’s parents so that their daughter could make out with some nameless boy in the dusty corner of a playground.
That Beth would carry on, finish school, get married, get a job, maybe even have kids.
Megan Coogan would never leave this basement.
The sound of footsteps on the creaking stairs sent a surge of adrenaline through Megan’s system, drowning out her thoughts and causing her limbs to go rigid. Breathing heavily, she listened to the wood groan as he moved slowly down the steps, as if deep in thought.
The door opened carefully, and he stepped in the room.
About the Author


E.M. Townsend is an incredibly talented writer who hails from the Great White North. This amazing wordsmith crafts intricate tales of horror and suspense that will keep you up at night. S. Prescott Thrillers has named E.M. Townsend as one of the hottest new novelists in the genre.

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All Systems Down – Cover Reveal

All Systems Down cover
Thriller
Date Published: 8 February 2018
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24 hours.
That’s all it takes. 
A new kind of war has begun.
Pak Han-Yong’s day is here. An elite hacker with Unit 101 of the North Korean military, he’s labored for years to launch Project Sonnimne: a series of deadly viruses set to cripple Imperialist infrastructure.
And with one tap of his keyboard, the rewards are immediate. 

Brendan Chogan isn’t a hero. He’s an out-of-work parking enforcement officer and one-time collegiate boxer trying to support his wife and children. But now there’s a foreign enemy on the shore a blackout that extends across America, and an unseen menace targeting him.
Brendan must do whatever it takes to keep his family safe. 

In the wake of the cyber attacks, electrical grids fail, satellites crash to earth, and the destinies of nine strangers collide.
Strangers whose survival depends upon each other’s skills and courage.
For fans of REVOLUTION, Tom Clancy, and Thom Stark’s MAY DAY, ALL SYSTEMS DOWN is a riveting cyber war thriller which presents a threat so credible you’ll be questioning reality. 
 
Excerpt
The sun rising over the Yalu River was the best part of Pak Han-yong’s day.
It began with darkness. In the distance, on the far side of the river, his homeland lay swaddled in unbreaking night. The fields and the factories, the port and the mills all slept. Then the horizon would lighten, from black to blue to gold, and the three faraway smokestacks appeared from the port city of Sinǔiju; first as silhouettes, then as gray fists, casting long shadows.
Next, the sun. Crimson light burned at the edges of red pine forests and reflected off the rice paddies. River, land, and air awoke to the glory of the Supreme Leader and the world’s chosen people. Tears sprung, as they always did, as light brought his beloved North Korea to life.
He observed it all from his desk on the tenth floor of the Shanghai Hotel in Dandong, China, across the border from the land of his ancestors.
China. After two years, Han-yong still had trouble internalizing the wealth of this nation. The Chinese lived in skyscrapers, profligate buildings of steel and glass. So different from his home city of Chongjin, where families lived modestly in single-story “harmonica homes,” so named because of their resemblance to the tiny boxes that make up the chambers of a harmonica.
On Fuchun Street, ten stories below, cars bustled. Unnecessary, extravagant. In Chongjin, nearly everyone was content to ride a bicycle or take public transit. And when they did drive, his people didn’t smoke like the Chinese. If you smoked, you wouldn’t catch the constant engine problems of your soviet-made Volga or ZIL.
Even from thirty meters above, it was apparent how the well-fed Chinese had been made soft by water that flowed reliably and electricity that ran all day. Food here wasn’t rationed by the gram. No one in China grew strong and clever from struggle and strain. There were no hardships here. And for that, he despised the Chinese, military allies or not.
“Long live the Shining Sun of North Korea,” he said. These people aren’t better than us. We have nothing to envy in the world. He lowered himself into the seat of his desk, rearranged his mouse so it squared perfectly with his keyboard, took a final sip of tea, and continued to monitor the attack that had started hours earlier.
Today, Han-yong fell into his routine, despite the enormity of the day’s events. Routine was the scaffolding that held his life together. He had woken in the earliest hours, barely speaking to his five roommates in the converted hotel room, had slipped into his pressed uniform, and spit-polished the single silver star on his shoulder. Then, after quickly wiping dust from the portrait of the Supreme Leader that hung alone on the wall, he’d moved to the common area to drink his tea and work until sunrise.
Two years of waiting, and today it has finally begun. He rubbed his hands together. Every day Han-yong worked here, visited the canteen, and bunked in his room. He rarely slept more than five hours. And never, in those two years, had he left the tenth floor of the Shanghai Hotel.
For all the differences between China and North Korea, there was only one that mattered, and it was why Han-yong was here at all. The Internet. On the North Korean side of the river, the global Internet, for all practical purposes, did not exist. There was a limited internal network that pointed to a handful of websites. But North Korea had fewer Internet protocol addresses in the whole country than could be found on a block in some Imperialist cities.
Here in China, though, the Internet reached nearly every corner of the globe. And because of that, Han-yong and the other elite hackers of Unit 101 could touch a banking system in London, a hospital network in New York City, or a data center in Tokyo.
“Junior Lieutenant Pak!” The gruff voice of the senior lieutenant shattered Han-yong’s reverie and brought him spinning from the window, springing to his feet, fingertips raised to eyebrow in salute. “You are to come with me.”
The senior lieutenant was very different from Han-yong. He was loud and assertive, tall by North Korean standards, and good-looking enough that he probably did well with women when he took leave—an amenity provided only to senior officers. But, most grating, he was a traditional military officer, untrained in online warfare, and knew just enough to stick his fingers where they didn’t belong.
Still, there was nothing to do but obey.
They waded the corridors in silence, past the desks where scores of other hackers from his unit sat immersed in a war that had begun with an attack on an Imperialist supercarrier only hours earlier. As Han-yong sauntered through the ranks of Unit 101, his pulse quickened with pride. They were the elite, plucked from grade school from across the country and enrolled in Command Automation University in Pyongyang. They had trained with the singular focus of learning to hack into secure enemy networks. They had become warriors. Instead of tanks or drones, their weapons were in code. They had mastered digital viruses, worms, the dedicated denial of service attack, trapdoors, and botnets. They had simulated cyber war amongst themselves and infiltrated foreign targets. At every stage, they had been tested and evaluated, and only the most gifted had come to wear the uniform.
The senior lieutenant stopped the door that led to the stairwell. “The colonel has ordered a meeting with you,” he said, one hand placed haughtily on his hip, not bothering to meet Han-yong’s eyes. He’d assumed the pose of a Manchurian guerrilla fighter from the war movies. “You will speak when spoken to and answer all inquiries in full.”
Han-yong couldn’t help himself. “Sir, what inquiries?”
“About the interconnect logic bombs,” the senior lieutenant snapped, unlocking the door. The stairwell beyond was devoid of decoration, except for a creamy swirl on the vinyl tile, like the pattern on the lid of a paint can. “Hurry now.” And he started up the stairs, feet tapping a marching rhythm.
The Imperialists of North America had many weaknesses, but Han-yong had been ordered to focus on the power grid. The system was a relic of the 1960s, set up with no thoughts for security, but instead as a way to balance the supply and demand for electrical power across vast swaths of territory. In their arrogance, the Americans had organized just five power-grid interconnections across the entire country, electrically tied together and operating at the same frequency.
While it may have so far proven a sufficient way to balance loads—power companies with little demand could transfer electricity to areas with greater demand—the reality was that a single significant disturbance could collapse all of the systems tied to the interconnection. And Han-yong did not have the means to cause just a single disturbance.
He had the means to cause thousands.
The project was code-named Sonnimne, after the smallpox gods of Korean mythology that long ago crossed the Yalu River. It was both a nod to the new pestilence they would unleash and a reference to how the plague had already spread in secret, machine to machine, substation to substation.
Han-yong had planted logic bombs—malware that could be triggered in response to an event—in substations across the United States. It had taken months of steadfast work. The difficulty was writing the combustible code within a Trojan application in a way that was at once difficult to detect, easy to spread, and powerful once deployed. While the wait and the work had been excruciating, the payoff would be enormous. And imminent.
They reached the top of the stairs, and the senior lieutenant produced a key to open the gray-painted industrial steel door. The eleventh floor was reserved for high-ranking officers, their quarters, and computer servers that required additional security.
Sweat beaded on Han-yong’s brow. The colonel ranked just three steps below a general, and was likely the most senior military official Han-yong would ever speak to in his career. A slipup here might find him dishonored and discharged, or eating rats in a reeducation camp.
They rounded the first corner through the carpeted corridor, where Han-yong noticed, with more than a little satisfaction, that the smell of mildew pervaded every bit as strongly as in the floor where the junior officers worked. The senior lieutenant pulled up short in front of a door with a brass room number in the Western style. Before they could knock, a man inside bellowed, “Junior Lieutenant Pak Han-yong. Come in. Come in.”
The voice was not what he’d expected. Friendly. Jovial, even. Han-yong poked his chin through the doorway.
Nothing about the scene that greeted them was as he had imagined. The hotel suite was gaudy by North Korean standards. The walls, which should have been bare except for the requisite photograph of the Supreme Leader, were decorated with paintings of mountains and birds in a style that Han-yong vaguely recognized as Japanese.
The room was not sleeping quarters, but an office far larger than the room Han-yong shared with the other soldiers. At the center of the space, a heavy-grain oak desk displayed unrecognizable artifacts: three swords on a wooden rack, an unfolded fan with red tassels and a painted orange sun, a clay jar in the shape of a boar, and a half-dozen other oddities that Han-yong had never seen. They were beautiful, and he felt guilty for admiring the work of foreigners.
The colonel himself was also a surprise. A crisp military uniform did nothing to hide his bulk. No one Han-yong had ever met carried more than a few pounds of extra weight. How could they, when even prison guards and soldiers, who received the best rations in the country, still lived off just enough to fill their bellies?
“Junior Lieutenant,” the colonel began, leaning back in his chair, “your commanding officer tells me we are ready to move forward with project Sonnimne. And I understand that you have implanted code throughout the US system of interconnects?”
“Not exactly, sir.” Han-yong hesitated, unsure of how much technical detail to provide. “I created a zero-day exploit. A new kind of virus, sir. It uses entirely original code.” The colonel raised an eyebrow. “That means it can’t be detected by malware filters,” Han-yong continued. “The virus triggered a patch update in the operating systems of the high-voltage distribution facilities and spread throughout.”
The colonel inclined forward, his chair squealing under the weight. “What do you mean by ‘spread throughout?’ How many facilities have the virus?”
Han-yong paused, careful to give the correct information. “All of them, sir. All of the distribution facilities in the United States now have the virus.”
The senior lieutenant let out a dry cough. Otherwise, for several seconds no one moved or spoke. Han-yong shifted his weight between feet.
“But … that must be thousands,” the colonel said.
A trickle of sweat trickled down Han-yong’s brow toward his eye, but he ignored it. “Yes, sir. There are over nine thousand electric-generating facilities and over three-hundred thousand kilometers of high-voltage lines spread between them. These substations alone carry seventy percent of the most-hated nation’s electricity. They all have the virus.” The sweat droplet fell into his eye. He blinked it away.
“Do you mean to say that we have a virus that can wipe out seventy percent of the American electrical grid?”
“No, sir. When the majority of the US power grid goes down, the lower-voltage lines won’t be able to sustain the added load volume. They will topple under the stress. This virus will wipe out one-hundred percent of the American electrical grid.”
The colonel’s mouth hung open as if he were about to speak, but couldn’t, while the senior lieutenant wore a self-satisfied smirk that reminded Han-yong of a least weasel with a bellyful of stolen eggs.
The colonel’s jaw tightened below a layer of fat. “If the virus is dispersed so completely, then why has nothing happened? The lights are still on in the West.”
Now it was the senior lieutenant’s turn to explain. “The virus has two stages. The first is the spreading stage, which is only recently complete. The second stage is activation, when the logic bombs that have been hidden in the code will deploy. We are ready to deploy that on your order, sir. Today, if desired. Along with the hundreds of other attacks Unit 101 has prepared.”
Han-yong nodded, proud that his efforts fit so well with the whole. Each team member had his own projects designed to attack global enemies; separate and equally deadly projects to take out Imperialist infrastructure. Some cyber soldiers had built malware to disable railways. Some had built code to choke airline traffic. Still others had built viruses to cripple the Imperialist military communications.
“At your command, we can activate the logic bombs with a keystroke,” the senior lieutenant continued. “The virus will cause the power grid to overheat and self-immolate. I have no way of knowing how long it would take to repair, but every time the Americans try to rebuild the lines, we can bring them down again.”
At that, the colonel laughed heartily, the fat of his jowls jiggling with mirth. “You both are too young to appreciate the irony in what we are about to do. You see, when the Soviet Union collapsed decades ago, our system also faltered. The subsidies that had sustained us fell away, and our power plants rusted into disuse. Our streets went dark. And many of our cities are still without power, as you know. The fatherland is still in the dark.”
Han-yong nodded. All too well, he knew of the humiliations his countrymen had suffered under the sanctions of their enemies.
“But our time has come,” the colonel continued. “Like the thousand-li horse, we are too swift to be mounted, too elegant to be cowed. At last, it has all come together. The fight has only begun, and already the enemy falters. So now we will strike at the heart. Today we will lash out with this and everything we have. This is our chance to repay, blindness for blindness, a world that sent us into blackness.”
About the Author

Sam has worked as a wildland firefighter, journalist, and owner of a mid-sized marketing agency. Though he’s lived in France and Spain, his heart belongs to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, Tehra, two wonderful children, and a messy cat that keeps them from owning anything nice.
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ABUSE OF DISCRETION – PROMO BLITZ

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Mystery, Thriller
Date Published: September 2017
Publisher: Goldman House Publishing
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A Kid’s Curiosity … A Parent’s Nightmare
The award-winning author of “Anybody’s Daughter” is back with an addictive courtroom drama that gives readers a shocking look inside the juvenile criminal justice system.
Graylin Alexander is a model fourteen-year-old. When his adolescent curiosity gets the best of him, Graylin finds himself embroiled in a sexting scandal that threatens to ruin his life. Jenny Ungerman, the attorney hired to defend Graylin, is smart, confident and committed. She isn’t thrilled, however, when ex-prosecutor Angela Evans joins Graylin’s defense team. The two women instantly butt heads. Can they put aside their differences long enough to ensure Graylin gets justice?
Unbeknownst to Angela, her boyfriend Dre is wrestling with his own drama. Someone from his past wants him dead. For Dre, his response is simple—kill or be killed.
 
Other Books in the Dre Thomas Series:
 
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Buying Time
Dre Thomas Series, Book 1
Publisher: Goldman House Publishing
Waverly Sloan is a down-on-his-luck lawyer. But just when he’s about to hit rock bottom, he stumbles upon a business with the potential to solve all of his problems.
In Waverly’s new line of work, he comes to the aid of people in desperate need of cash. But there’s a catch. His clients must be terminally ill and willing to sign over rights to their life insurance policies before they can collect a dime. Waverly then finds investors eager to advance them thousands of dollars—including a hefty broker’s fee for himself—in exchange for a significant return on their investment once the clients take their last breath.
The stakes get higher when Waverly brokers the policy of the cancer-stricken wife of Lawrence Erickson, a high-powered lawyer who’s bucking to become the next U.S. Attorney General. When Waverly’s clients start dying sooner than they should, both Waverly and Erickson—who has some skeletons of his own to hide—are unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail and murder.
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Anybody’s Daughter
Dre Thomas Series, Book 2
Publisher: Goldman House Publishing
Is Anybody’s Daughter Ever Safe?
Based on the real-life horrors faced by thousands of girls, award-winning author Pamela Samuels Young takes readers deep inside the disturbing world of child sex trafficking in a fast-paced thriller that educates as much as it entertains.
Thirteen-year-old Brianna Walker is ecstatic. She’s about to sneak off to meet her first real boyfriend—a boyfriend she met on Facebook. But Brianna is in for a horrifying surprise because her boyfriend doesn’t exist. Instead, Brianna unwittingly becomes the captive of a ring of drug dealers- turned-human traffickers who prey on lonely girls from dysfunctional homes. But they’ve made a big mistake in targeting Brianna because she doesn’t meet either of those criteria.
Brianna’s Uncle Dre, a man with his own criminal past, is determined to find the niece who is more like a daughter to him. Rather than sit back and rely on police to bring Brianna home, Dre scours the dark corners of Los Angeles looking for her. He is stunned to learn that the trafficking of children isn’t just happening in other countries. It’s occurring at epidemic levels right in his own backyard.
Dre is not alone in his desperate search. Loretha Johnson knows this world well. A social worker who previously lived “the life,” Loretha now dedicates her time to saving as many young girls as she can find. She turns out to be an invaluable resource for Dre, who ultimately gets a lead on The Shepherd, a mastermind in the trafficking world whose every move is fueled by ego and greed. Dre vows to bring his reign of terror to an end.
While Brianna makes a futile effort to thwart her captors, Dre is getting closer and closer to finding her. The woman he loves, attorney Angela Evans, knows the dangers faced by sexually exploited children because she represents them in juvenile court. Angela lends her moral support and, eventually, an important clue to Brianna’s whereabouts.
As he races against the clock, Dre ultimately comes up with a daring plan—one that puts many lives in danger, including his own. But will he find Brianna before it’s too late?
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Excerpt
 
Chapter 1
 
Graylin
“What’s the matter, Mrs. Singletary? Why do I have to go to the principal’s office?”
I’m walking side-by-side down the hallway with my second-period teacher. Students are huddled together staring and pointing at us like we’re zoo animals. When a teacher at Marcus Preparatory Academy escorts you to the principal’s office, it’s a big deal. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I’m a good student. I never get in trouble.
Mrs. Singletary won’t answer my questions or even look at me. I hope she knows she’s only making me more nervous.
“Mrs. Singletary, please tell me what’s wrong?”
“Just follow me. You’ll find out in a minute.”
I’m about to ask her another question when it hits me. Something happened to my mama!
My mama has been on and off drugs for as long as I can remember. I haven’t seen her in months and I don’t even know where she lives. No one does. I act like it doesn’t bother me, but it does. I’ve prayed to God a million times to get her off drugs. Even though my granny says God answers prayers, He hasn’t answered mine, so I stopped asking.
I jump in front of my teacher, forcing her to stop. “Was there a death in my family, Mrs. Singletary? Did something happen to my mama?”
“No, there wasn’t a death.”
She swerves around me and keeps going. I have to take giant steps to keep up with her.
Once we’re inside the main office, Mrs. Singletary points at a wooden chair outside Principal Keller’s office. “Have a seat and don’t move.”
She goes into the principal’s office and closes the door. My head begins to throb like somebody’s banging on it from the inside. I close my eyes and try to calm down. I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s probably just—Oh snap! The picture!
I slide down in the chair and pull my iPhone from my right pocket. My hands are trembling so bad I have to concentrate to keep from dropping it. I open the photos app and delete the last picture on my camera roll. If anyone saw that picture, I’d be screwed.
Loud voices seep through the closed door. I lean forward, straining to hear. It almost sounds like Mrs. Singletary and Principal Keller are arguing.
“It’s only an allegation. We don’t even know if it’s true.”
“I don’t care. We have to follow protocol.”
“Can’t you at least check his phone first?”
“I’m not putting myself in the middle of this mess. I’ve already made the call.”
The call? I can’t believe Principal Keller called my dad without even giving me a chance to defend myself. How’d she even find out about the picture?
The door swings open and I almost jump out of my skin. The principal crooks her finger at me. “Come in here, son.”
Trudging into her office, I sit down on a red cloth chair that’s way more comfortable than the hard one outside. My heart is beating so fast it feels like it might jump out of my chest.
The only time I’ve ever been in Principal Keller’s office was the day my dad enrolled me in school. Mrs. Singletary is standing in front of the principal’s desk with her arms folded. I hope she’s going to stay here with me, but a second later, she walks out and closes the door.
Principal Keller sits on the edge of her desk, looking down at me. “Graylin, do you have any inappropriate pictures on your cell phone?”
“Huh?” I try to keep a straight face. “No, ma’am.”
“It’s been brought to my attention that you have an inappropriate picture—a naked picture—of Kennedy Carlyle on your phone. Is that true?”
“No…uh…No, ma’am.” Thank God I deleted it!
“This is a very serious matter, young man. So, I need you to tell me the truth.”
“No, ma’am.” I shake my head so hard my cheeks vibrate. “I don’t have anything like that on my phone.”
“I pray to God you’re telling me the truth.”
I don’t want to ask this next question, but I have to know. “Um, so you called my dad?”
“Yes, I did. He’s on his way down here now.”
I hug myself and start rocking back and forth. Even though I deleted the picture, my dad is still going to kill me for having to leave work in the middle of the day.
“I also made another call.”
At first I’m confused. Then I realize Mrs. Keller must’ve called my granny too. At least she’ll keep my dad from going ballistic.
“So you called my granny?”
“No.” The principal’s cheeks puff up like she’s about to blow something away. “I called the police.”
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About the Author

Pamela Samuels Young is an attorney and award-winning author of eight legal thrillers. Her most recent courtroom drama, Abuse of Discretion, tackles a troubling sexting case that gives readers a shocking look inside the juvenile justice system. Pamela is also the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction for her thriller Anybody’s Daughter. The former journalist received a bachelor’s degree from USC and also earned graduate degrees from Northwestern University and UC Berkeley School of Law. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of child sex trafficking, online safety, fiction writing, and pursuing your passion. To invite Pamela to a book club meeting or speaking engagement, visit her website
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Greco’s Game – Blitz

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Thriller / Suspense / Action / Romance
Date Published: November 1, 2017
Publisher: Regis Books
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Colonel Aleksandr Talanov – the “ice man” – is married to a woman he wishes he could love. But he can’t, and it’s an ugly consequence of his training with the KGB. Even so, no one should have to experience what Talanov experiences: the brutal murder of his wife in front of his eyes.
Wracked with guilt and suspected of plotting her death, Talanov spirals downward on a path of self-destruction. He should have been killed, not her. He was the one whose violent past would not leave them alone. Months tick by and Talanov hits rock bottom on the mean streets of Los Angeles, where he meets a hooker named Larisa, who drugs and robs him.
But in the seedy world of human trafficking ruled by the Russian mafia, Larisa made the mistake of stealing the ice man’s wallet. In it was Talanov’s sole possession of value: his wedding photo. Talanov tracks Larisa down to get that photo because it reminds him of everything that should have been but never was, and never would be because an assassin’s bullet had mistakenly killed his wife. Or was it a mistake?
 
The answer lies in Greco’s Game, a chess match played in 1619 that is famous for its queen sacrifice and checkmate in only eight moves. In an unusual alliance, Talanov and Larisa team up to begin unraveling the mystery of what Talanov’s old KGB chess instructor regarded as the most brilliant example of how to trap and kill an opponent. The question is: who was the target?




Excerpt
CHAPTER 1
TALANOV slowly opened his eyes to the sound of canned laughter. You stupid idiot, he thought, fumbling for the remote. After switching off the TV, he swung his feet down onto the floor and sat hunched over for a long moment. Finally, he stood and looked around the bedroom for his clothes. In the wash of light coming in through the window, he could see them strewn across the floor. He remembered kicking them in various directions when he and “Tash” had giggled their way into the hotel room earlier that night.
Tash sure knew the routine. With legs like a sprinter and hair the  color  of  honey,  the  twenty-something  Ukrainian  had moved up and down him like a pole dancer while slow- waltzing him into bed. Talanov knew it was a set-up long before his head began to spin from whatever it was someone had slipped him back in the nightclub. Even so, he didn’t care. He had quit caring long ago.
He picked up his underwear from a tangle of covers at the foot of the bed. A remnant of what would never be a memorable night of lovemaking. He could still see Tash jumping from the bed in her hot pink g-string, contemptuous at his inability to “do it.” It was always the same, whether with Tash or any of the other hookers he had picked up over the last few months in an effort to try and forget. But try as he did, he could not get Andrea out of his mind.
Memories of that night were still embedded in him like shrapnel. On stage for the award. Waves of applause. Andrea’s sudden urge to lean over and kiss him. Suddenly a shot. An explosion of blood. The brilliant red spatter floating before him like a nightmarish special effect in a movie. And in that split second before his wife hit the stage, Talanov saw movement high on the catwalk. A fleeting shadow making an escape. Then came the shrieks. People scattering. Andrea’s fingers desperately reaching out for him while she lay quivering in a spreading pool of red.
In all his years with the KGB, Talanov had never felt panic.
But he felt it then. Diving to her side, he placed his hands over the gaping holes in her neck. He screamed for help while Andrea’s life continued to squirt through his fingers.  He looked down and saw Andrea’s eyes smiling up at him. She tried to speak.
“Save your strength, help’s on the way,” he instructed, his eyes betraying the confidence he tried to portray.
“Love … you,” Andrea whispered as her eyelids sagged closed.
“Stay with me!” Talanov shouted as the tears streaked down his cheeks. He screamed again for help.
Sitting in the ambulance minutes later, Talanov strained to breathe. But the coils around his chest were crushing, relentless, and cruel. The hope once visible in his eyes had melted into dark puddles of despair. Suddenly, a high-pitched squeal sounded and the paramedics sprang into action. Readings were shouted, drugs were administered, heart massage was commenced. Then came the paddles.
“Clear!” one of them shouted an instant before a jolt of electricity convulsed Andrea’s ghostly white body. The high- pitched squeal did not waver. The paddles were charged again. Talanov did not know how many attempts were made to save his wife before she was finally pronounced dead. He did not remember the hospital waiting room or the questions asked by police, or the young female officer who finally drove him home. Numbness was all that he felt as he lay curled up on the side of the bed where Andrea had fallen asleep on countless nights, wrapped in his arms.
And numbness was all that he felt now as he stood at the hotel room window, buttoning his shirt.
After staring absently at the lights of West Hollywood for several minutes, he looked toward the nightstand for his watch.
It was nowhere to be seen. With a sarcastic snort, he walked over and picked up his slacks. A wrinkle of worry then creased his brow. My wallet, he thought. It’s gone. He felt his pockets, then turned a full circle, hoping to see it on the floor. He then dropped down onto all fours and searched under the bed.
You little bitch.
Jumping up, Talanov yanked on his slacks, pulled on his shoes and stormed out of the room. Outside, he paused on the sidewalk and tried to remember which way he and Tash had come. He looked right and saw a darkened stretch of asphalt lined with apartment blocks and parked cars. Half a block to his left was an intersection with a traffic light. I remember that light, he thought. He ran to the corner and paused. Which way now? Both sides of the boulevard in both directions were lined with cafés and clubs. Think, he told himself. How far had they walked? A few minutes at most was his recollection. That meant the club was not far away. He remembered its green awning, long and narrow. The kind that stretched out over the sidewalk. With bushes on each side. And black walls, half a block wide, like a warehouse.
He looked right and saw it, a hundred yards or so on the other side of the street. He waited for a break in the traffic and crossed against the light. When the next wave of cars rushed past, he felt a blast of exhaust fumes.
Guarding the front door were two bouncers dressed in black slacks and t-shirts. Flirting with them were several girls in micro skirts. Everyone was laughing. The more muscular bouncer, Gunner, was taller and bald, while the other one, Daz, had a ponytail to the middle of his back. Talanov ignored them and headed straight for the door. Gunner stopped him.
“I need to see some ID,” Gunner said. “You’re kidding. I’m over fifty.”
“Fifty?” blurted one of the girls named Tracy. “I thought you were, like, thirty-something.”
“Shut up,” snarled Gunner, glaring at Tracy. To Talanov:
“Do I look like I’m kidding?” “Someone inside has my wallet.”
“Not my problem.”
Talanov took a calming breath. He was furious. Tash, or whatever her name was, had stolen his wallet and he wanted it back, assuming, of course, that Tash was inside, which was entirely doubtful. “Ten minutes, that’s all I ask,” he said. “I go in. I look around. I get my wallet and leave. If she’s not there, I leave, anyway. You never see me again.”
“And I’m telling you that’s not going to happen.”
Talanov took another calming breath. This one was not as effective. “I’m not looking for trouble,” he began.
“Then get the hell out of here. Or trouble is going to find you.” According to Gunner, the choice was simple. Leave voluntarily or leave forcibly. And it didn’t seem to matter to Gunner which choice Talanov made. For Talanov the choice was like- wise simple. Was his wallet worth a fight? Logic told him to either forget the wallet or try and work things out peacefully.
He opted for option number two. After all, Gunner was a big guy. He was also twenty, maybe twenty-five years younger. Besides, what were the odds that Tash was inside? His wallet had had nearly two thousand dollars in it. More than likely, Tash was partying someplace else.
Talanov looked at the other bouncer, who was staring at him with unfriendly eyes. The groupies were also watching. Everybody was waiting to see what the old guy was going to do. “Don’t make this worse than it is,” he said. “Ten minutes.
Then I’m gone.”
There was a long moment of silence, almost like a vacuum. Nobody seemed to breathe. Then Gunner’s arms shot forward, the heels of his hands like battering rams aimed straight for Talanov’s chest.  It was a preemptive two-handed blow designed to knock the wind out of Talanov and send him flying into the bushes. A lesson about who was boss.
But Gunner had made the mistake of broadcasting his intentions with a number of subliminal signals. Flaring of the nostrils, tightening of the lips, setting of the jaw, the drawing in of a breath and holding it. So when Gunner’s hands shot out, Talanov stepped to the side, grabbed Gunner’s wrist and twisted it down and back. This forced Gunner to compensate by straightening his arm and bending left in an effort to pull away. That allowed Talanov to twist the outstretched arm behind Gunner. He then used Gunner’s momentum to drive him facedown to the sidewalk in one smooth motion. The whole maneuver took less than four seconds.
Kneeling on Gunner’s back, Talanov lifted the arm in a direction that could easily pop it from the socket. Gunner cried out and Talanov eased off.
“I asked you not to make this worse than it is,” Talanov said, glancing at Gunner then up at Daz. “What’s it going to be?” Daz glared angrily down at Talanov but knew better than to try anything with Gunner’s arms bent backward like that.
Talanov raised an eyebrow expectantly. “Ten minutes,” growled Daz. “But if you cause anyone any trouble – and I mean, anyone – I guarantee you won’t be leaving in one piece.”
Releasing Gunner’s arm, Talanov glanced at Tracy and stood. And with a hint of a smile, he disappeared inside.
“Did you see the way he took Gunner down?” Tracy whispered excitedly to her friends. “Man, he’s like friggin McDangerous! C’mon, let’s go and meet him.”
“What is wrong with you, Decker?” a friend responded, giving Tracy a slap on the arm. “You don’t even know that dude. Know anything about him!”
“Yeah, but he’s, like, totally hot.”
The inside of the nightclub had a high ceiling, exposed truss beams and flexible ductwork, all painted black. On the dance floor, a churning mass of young people gyrated wildly to a deafening blast of music played by a DJ with dreadlocks and sunglasses. Mounted above the dance floor were numerous tracks of colored stage lights that kept time to the music.
There’s got to be three or four hundred people out there, thought Talanov, squinting through the noise at the waves of arms bending back and forth. But he had to start somewhere and the dance floor was the logical place.
Finding Tash, however, was not his only problem. She also had a partner: the person who’d spiked his drink. He’d been in enough nightclubs to know one should never leave a drink unattended. And he had not. So who had spiked his drink? The waitress? One of the bartenders? Someone watching him from the service area? Whoever it was, it was imperative that he spotted Tash before she or her partner spotted him. Which meant he had to work fast.
Threading his way through the crowd, Talanov was grabbed by several laughing girls. Lost in the rhythm of the music, they whirled and swayed enticingly around him while motioning him to join in. Talanov pushed past them and made his way to the end of the bar, where he stationed himself unobtrusively in the slashes of spinning lights. There, he allowed his eyes to systematically comb the dance floor. There were lots of blondes, but none of them was Tash.
Suddenly, on the far side of the nightclub, Talanov saw Daz and Gunner enter the club. Daz spoke into a filament mike positioned near his mouth. Within seconds a large man in a suit approached. Standing a full head taller than either of them, the man looked like a Sumo wrestler, with a buzz cut and folds of flesh creasing the back of his neck. The two bouncers spoke to him briefly, then fanned out to begin sifting their way through the crowd.
So much for getting ten minutes.
To his left was a short flight of steps that led to a mezzanine full of café tables and booths. Talanov waited for a group of young people to climb the stairs and fell in behind them. At the top he stepped to one side and surveyed the room. People were everywhere. At tables, in booths, standing in the aisles. Most were laughing and drinking. Many were sending text messages or talking on their cell phones. Again, lots of blondes but none of them was Tash.
Talanov started back down the stairs, then abruptly reversed direction and excused his way to the top. You’re angry and in a hurry. This time, do it right. Thus, calling on skills learned more than thirty years ago at the Balashikha training center near Moscow, former KGB colonel Aleksandr Talanov stood in a darkened corner and methodically double-checked each face in the room. In less than a minute he saw her, seated with a businessman in a darkened booth.
“We go to quieter place now, yes?” Tash asked the businessman in broken English. “Get comfortable. Have some fun.” With a seductive smile, she kissed his ear and began stroking his thigh.
“I don’t normally do this,” the businessman replied nervously. He was a florid-faced man in his fifties, with fleshy jowls and thinning hair.
“Me, too,” Tash replied, scooting closer.
“Where are you from, anyway?” the businessman asked, staring into her gothically-shadowed eyes.
“Wherever you want,” answered Tash. Her hand suddenly went higher and the businessman’s eyes widened. “Hurry. Finish drink,” she cooed.
The businessman was gulping the remainder of his mojito when Talanov slid into the booth. “Zdravstvuy te, Tash,” said Talanov in Ukrainian. Tash’s mouth fell open.
“Who are you?” the businessman asked, blinking several times.
“I came for my wallet,” answered Talanov, his eyes on Tash.
“You know, the one you stole?”
The businessman looked at Tash, who shook her head emphatically.
“I think you’ve got the wrong table,” the businessman said.
“Oh, I’ve got the correct table, all right,” answered Talanov. “Tash here slipped something into my drink a few hours ago. And by the look on her face, I can tell she wasn’t expecting me to wake up anytime soon.”
“He is lying, Tom!” cried Tash. “I don’t know who this man is. Or what he is talking about.”
“It’s Todd,” muttered the businessman, glancing at his empty glass.
“Let me out,” demanded Tash.
“Not until you hand over my wallet,” said Talanov.
“She said she doesn’t know you,” responded Todd. “Then how did I know her name?”
Todd started to respond then looked at Tash with a wrinkle of doubt. “How did he know your name?”
Tash replied with a disdainful huff. “I told you, I am model! He see me somewhere.”
 Todd gave Tash a dubious scowl. “Whatever,” said Tash. “Let me out.”
“As soon as I get my wallet,” declared Talanov.
“How many times do I have to tell you? I don’t have your stupid wallet.”
“Let’s just see about that,” said Talanov, grabbing Tash’s tiny pink leather purse.
“Give that back!” cried Tash, lunging for it.
Blocking her hand, Talanov opened the purse and turned it upside down. A tube of lipstick, mascara, two condoms, and a folded wad of cash landed on the table.
Talanov stared at what was not there.
“See, I don’t have wallet,” said Tash, snatching back her purse. “Now, get out of here. Leave me alone.”
A petite Asian waitress named Jade came up the stairs with a tray of drinks. She had blue streaks in her hair and wore bright red lipstick. When she saw Talanov, she placed the drinks on a table, ran back down, and pushed her way through the crowd.
She found Gunner and grabbed him by the arm.
“Not now,” Gunner replied, shaking off her hand while continuing to scan faces in the crowd.
“Upstairs. The Russian guy that was here earlier with Tash. He’s back and he’s causing trouble.”
Gunner stared at Jade for a moment then touched the micro- phone near his mouth. “On the mezzanine. We’ve got him.”
Sliding out of the booth, Todd stood. “I’m calling the police,” he said, fumbling clumsily with his cell phone.
“Go for it,” said Talanov. “When they get here, tell them to run a drug test on your glass. Provided you’re still conscious by then.”
Tash tried scooting out of the booth. Talanov grabbed her by the wrist.
“Hey, wut’re you doing?” said Todd, fumbling his words as much as his phone. “I think you’d bedder leave.”
“You’ve got ten, maybe fifteen minutes before you pass out,”said Talanov while Todd wobbled in front of him. “If I were you, I’d get some help.”
Todd blinked several times but did not move. “Go!” commanded Talanov.
Todd nodded and hurried off.
“Okay, where is it?” Talanov asked Tash, turning to face her. Tash folded her arms and looked defiantly away. Talanov grabbed her by the chin and forced her to look at him. “For the last time, where’s my wallet?”
Talanov and Tash locked eyes.
“Out back. In dumpster,” she said quietly. Talanov let go and settled back in the booth.
A long moment of silence passed while Tash rubbed her chin. “I want to go now,” she said.
“No driver’s license. No credit cards. No keys.” “What are you talking about?”
“You’re carrying no driver’s license, no credit card, and no keys.”
“So what? Why do you care?”
“That tells me you’re part of something you probably don’t want to be a part of,” Talanov said. “That maybe someone’s holding you against your will. Making you do things against your will.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” “I think you do.”
Tash stared at Talanov for a long moment then looked away. Talanov watched her for a moment. Tash – or whatever her name was – was a pretty girl. A pretty girl with a look of fear in her eyes.
“Sorry for getting so rough,” he said.
Tash gathered her lipstick and mascara and slid them into her purse. She placed her hand on the cash but paused when she saw Talanov watching her. “Here,” she said, sliding the money toward him. “It is all there. Count, if you wish.”
“It was never about the money,” Talanov replied, ignoring the cash and sliding out of the booth.
“Then what is this about?”
“Her photo. It’s all I’ve got left.”
“You do this for picture?” Tash asked incredulously.
“I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”
The next few seconds were one of those rare moments when time seemed to linger.  And in that moment, Tash saw Talanov’s anguish. She remembered the photo – a wedding shot – in a plastic window where a driver’s license should have been. The picture was of Talanov and his bride, happy and smiling, holding flutes of champagne on a beach. Tash studied him more closely and saw desperation and a certain “lostness” reflected in his eyes. Her photo. It’s all I’ve got left. No divorced man thinks that way. My God, she’s dead, you’re in mourning, Tash realized. No wonder you couldn’t do it.
By now, Talanov’s thoughts had drifted back to happier times, what few there had been, mainly because he had been unable to love his wife the way she deserved. Transparency and love – qualities that defined a good marriage – were contrary to what had been hammered into him at Balashikha. Love would get you killed. Or worse: those you loved.
Then the world changed. But Talanov could not change with it. And just when he was beginning to learn how— Talanov noticed Tash’s eyes widen an instant before the room flipped upside down as he crashed hard on top of a table before tumbling head-over-heels to the floor.  Around him, people shouted and ran.
For a long moment, Talanov lay stunned and motionless. What the hell just happened? He opened his eyes and saw Gunner standing over him like an angry bull. Gunner grabbed Talanov and pulled him effortlessly to his feet. When Gunner drew back his fist, Talanov closed his eyes. Do what you want. I’m already dead.
The blow hit Talanov like a freight train and sent white spots exploding through his brain. He floated limp for an instant, then landed on another table before rolling down onto the floor.  In the distance he heard Tash screaming.  Talanov groaned and rolled onto his back. His head was pounding and it hurt to breathe. He saw Gunner push an overturned table out of his way and bear down on him, teeth bared, hands like claws, his neck muscles taut and veined. Gunner took a quick half-step and swung his foot at Talanov’s head. Talanov rolled away and Gunner missed “Leave him alone!” cried Tash. She grabbed Gunner and tried to stop him but he brushed her aside and kicked again. Gunner’s kick was comparable to an extra-point kick in a football game. Full-force after a quick hop, aimed straight at
Talanov’s head. That meant one foot was in motion while the other foot supported all of his weight. Talanov swung his leg like a scythe and caught Gunner in the back of his ankle. Gunner’s leg flew out from under him and Gunner hit the floor hard. When he did, the crowd of young onlookers cheered.
Gunner immediately scrambled to his feet just as a winded Talanov struggled to his, one hand holding his ribs, one hand waving back and forth, an indication that he wanted to stop.
“I’m leaving! I got what I wanted!” gasped Talanov.
“You’re leaving, but not in one piece,” growled Gunner just as Daz pushed his way through the circle of spectators, many of whom were recording the action with cell phone cameras.
“There’s no need for this!” said Talanov, looking back and forth between the two bouncers.
“Stop it, Gunner!” yelled Tash. “He got what he wanted. Leave him alone.”
“Shut up, you worthless whore!” shouted Gunner.  He clamped a meaty hand across Tash’s face and shoved. Tash crashed into a table and back-flipped down onto the floor, where she lay crying, legs sprawled, her short skirt hiked up to her waist. Her blonde hair was tangled and her lipstick was smeared. Her cheeks were streaked with mascara.
Talanov saw the crowd laughing as Tash rolled slowly onto her side and looked helplessly over at him. She tried to get up but Gunner pushed her back down and kicked her. Tash tried crawling away but Gunner grabbed her by the hair.
Five minutes ago, Talanov would have been happy to let Tash get what was coming to her. She had drugged and rolled him. She had taken the only item that meant anything to him. She had left him passed out in a hotel room in order to fleece some other guy. And now, here she was, trying to defend him.
 A thieving whore. Why couldn’t she have left well-enough alone?
Gunner lifted Tash to her feet by the hair and drew back a fist just as Talanov slammed one of the aluminum café chairs on the floor. Gunner paused when he heard the noise and saw Talanov fall into the chair. With his head lowered, Talanov sat motionless against the pulsating reflections of light keeping time with the music. Surprised by this apparent act of surrender, Gunner let go of Tash and looked over at Daz. An instant later, they both rushed forward.
Sensing their decision to attack milliseconds before any movement occurred, Talanov grabbed the leg of his chair and sprang left, slinging it straight at Daz, who stumbled backward while trying to wrestle it away from his face. Continuing his pivot, Talanov sank a roundhouse kick into Gunner’s kidney. With a bellow, Gunner stumbled forward. Talanov stepped behind him, seized Gunner by the back of the neck and hammered his forehead onto a table to the crazed delight of the crowd. He then whirled to face Daz while Gunner slid limp to the floor.
Daz picked up a chair and threw it. Talanov grabbed one of the café tables and used it to deflect the chair. Daz hurled another chair, then another, but Talanov used the lightweight table like a shield and sent each of them tumbling to the floor. Daz turned to flee but was stopped by the wall of spectators. Cut off, he turned and charged. Talanov blocked several wild punches, stepped inside and smashed Daz in the jaw with an elbow. He then grabbed Daz by the shirt, twisted inward and flipped him over his shoulder. When Daz landed on his stomach, Talanov grabbed him by the ponytail and slammed his face on the floor.
“I told you not to make this worse than it is,” Talanov said, leaning close.
With his nose dripping blood, Daz swallowed and coughed. Talanov leaned closer. “So I’ll ask you one more time. Are you ready to call this off?”
Daz coughed again.
“Are you?” Talanov demanded.
With his attention focused on Daz, Talanov did not see the big Sumo move in from behind. He did not hear the collective gasps as Sumo’s hand came down like an axe. All he felt was an explosion of pain. An instant later, everything went black.
 
About the Author

James Houston Turner is the bestselling author of the Aleksandr Talanov thriller series, as well as numerous other books and articles. Talanov the fictional character was inspired by the actual KGB agent who once leaked word out of Moscow that James was on a KGB watch-list for his smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain. James Houston Turner’s debut thriller, Department Thirteen, was voted “Best Thriller” by USA Book News, after which it won gold medals in the Independent Publisher (“IPPY”) Book Awards and the Indie Book Awards. His novel, Greco’s Game, has just been optioned for film. A cancer survivor of more than twenty-five years, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Baker University and a master’s degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake). After twenty years in Australia, he and his wife, Wendy, author of The Recipe Gal Cookbook, now live in Austin, Texas.
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