A BIG GIANT THANK YOU to all of you fans for helping the List Conspiracy to break through the top 100 on Amazon in a thriller category! And you did it all in less than a week! BEST FANS EVER! Things are really starting to pop and there’s a lot of fun things in this one little newsletter. First things first – A NEW short story featuring the two fan favorites – Fred and Maureen Bowers in a holiday short story – A Bowers Christmas. FREE starting tomorrow till December 18th but for all of you – one day EARLY! CLICK HERE to get a little holiday munchie and spend some time with the Bowers before the bullets really started flying. CLICK HERE to see over 70+ books and short stories in a Potpourri giveaway that includes the Bowers – and a CONTEST that I’m sponsoring, just in time for Christmas. After all you guys have done for the series, well… FIRST PRIZE – $25 Amazon gift card and SECOND PRIZE – Free eBOOK of The List Conspiracy. Just spot the two Easter Eggs in the BANNER. Here’s a clue because I love you – Think Harriet Jones – that twisted grandmother – and what she always has handy. More instructions are at the Potpourri on how to play and how to get a mountain of books!

The experiment continues with AuthorBiz host Stephen Campbell as Part Two of our podcasts airs in just a couple of days (I’ll post a link on the series Fan Facebook Page when it’s available) with more background scenes from how the series is doing (including that awesome breakthrough to under 100 on Amazon), what I’ve been doing to build this thing, and all of the people who’ve contributed to the success. Stay tuned…

And, The Traitor’s Revenge goes on sale Thursday, December 8th, just when The Keeper Returns, Book 3, goes on pre-order. Keep those pages turning and find out – Who will make it through alive?

An urban cold war, the oldest shadow government… Wallis Jones realizes she will have to learn to work from within to bring it all down or die trying.

In the meantime, here’s a snippet from The Keeper Returns to tide you over. More adventures to follow and THANK YOU AGAIN!

A banjo, a machete, night vision goggles, a used Play Station. Detective Arnold Biggs liked to run lists through his head. It calmed him down, helped him to focus. He needed to focus if he was going to be able to pull this off and not end up dead.

His teenage son, Maynard had spent his first real paycheck on a big splurge. A banjo, a machete, night vision goggles and a used Play Station. Arnold smiled just thinking about it and felt his breathing get a little easier. He had been way too young when he accidentally became a father and still remembered what it was like when money crossed paths with youth.

The detective was standing on the edge of the three-story brick building, ready to run. He had mapped out the route and was playing it in his head over and over again. Go down the old black iron fire escape along one side of the empty tobacco warehouse. Take the turns as fast as he could on his busted knee. It would have to hold up long enough to let him take a few more steps, get down into the alley and along the old pavers.

The detective was only in his early forties and had only been made detective after putting together who had been responsible for a string of murders in the quiet West End of Richmond, Virginia just a couple of years ago, where he had been a patrol cop for years. He had really liked one of the victims, old man Blazney and the whole thing had felt a little personal.

It was unfortunate that it had turned out to be a deputy named Oscar Newman, a fellow law enforcement officer who just seemed to lose it one day and went on a rampage. In the end, he was shot down by an old lady, the mother in law of a friend of the detective, when Newman broke into their house and shot up the place.

When Biggs was made a detective they had immediately paired him with an older detective, Jason Busby, Buster to everyone else, who at first had mostly grunted out orders and made him drive.

Detective Biggs knew enough about how to get along with his elders to not ask too many questions and quickly carried out orders. Not only did he learn a lot and fast but he earned Buster’s trust at the same time.

It was the only reason they had ended up standing watch for Rodney Parrish, against direct orders on a couple of flat rooftops. If the snitch was telling the truth that would put him right in the path of Parrish. Biggs long suspected Parrish of a lot of things but had been warned off of him. Parrish, though had finally crossed the line.

Detective Biggs was a hulking figure and at least twice Parrish’s size. His meaty hands resembled a catcher’s mitt and could easily throw Parrish around like a doll. He was looking forward to the satisfying thud Parrish would make when he hit the ground.

Biggs dropped his shoulders and let out the breath he was holding in a rush of air. Just a couple of years of being a detective and the entire thing was about to go to hell for all the right reasons.

He blinked his eyes hard to let go of the image of the woman’s dead body so he could concentrate on the alley.

He tapped his gun again, a light tap. His heart was already pounding and the feel of the cold metal calmed his nerves just enough.

Something darted by the alley and his nerves gave into old training and immediately reacted.

“Now,” he said in an excited whisper as he ran a few steps, the rooftop gravel crunching under his thick-soled shoes. “Dammit,” he whispered. It was just a rat.

No one was around but the pressure was weighing on his chest. Doing the right thing seemed downright stupid but living with himself if he didn’t would have been a long, hard road and he wasn’t willing to walk it this time. He wasn’t sure why but that was one dead body too much. He could figure out all of the reasons later.

Consequences were a hard thing to live with sometimes. That was something he was always trying to teach Maynard.

The rat that had suddenly darted out of the alley down below, startling Biggs, was followed closely by a lean yellow cat. It had been just enough to make Biggs jump. He was glad Buster couldn’t see him from where he was standing down below.

He would have jumped too, thinking Biggs had actually seen something and then called him an asshole for shaking him out of his calm. No one would have even cracked a smile. Parrish was that much trouble.

Biggs pushed out the worry of what this was going to cost both of them and kept watch on the narrow backstreet that ran down between the old brick office buildings. He was standing on the roof of the old warehouse, determined to nab Parrish.

Most people thought of Parrish as a thief and a local numbers runner, even a sound guy for some barely talented hip-hop bands. Definitely not worth this much trouble.

Biggs had his own suspicions for a long time though that involved a lot more if he could just prove it. Only problem was that Parrish was protected by too many legit people and for reasons that Arnold Biggs didn’t completely know yet. He had bits and pieces of the answers and that’s what made all of this so dangerous. In the past he couldn’t be sure if pursuing Parrish was only going to cost him his career and the start of a decent pension fund without yielding some kind of satisfying conclusion. The dead body had tipped the scales even if grabbing Parrish would set off some people.

Lieutenant Greevey had given a direct order more than once to leave Parrish alone but Arnold Biggs knew right away that the day would come and it wouldn’t be possible. Buster knew it too. They did a nice impression of paying attention and without a word went back to work.

They knew better than to even try to have a conversation inside the police station. There were eyes everywhere and they couldn’t be sure who was watching and who cared. Greevey was fond of saying that he was part of management, for what that was worth and they could be too if they would just follow orders. Detective Biggs decided he was as far into management as he wanted to be and was just fine staying a detective.

“Buster,” he said, “Come on, let’s get going. There’s still a few more people we can talk to about the Queen’s thing.”

He had started the day with the idea of just working a case. Parrish was not on his radar, not really.

There was a string of robberies that were bugging him, mostly because he couldn’t make everything fit together.

A growing list of small mom and pop stores had been broken into through air vents followed by a quick smash and grab of mostly cigarettes and baby formula. Both could fetch someone a quick profit on the local black market and not leave much of a trace. Several of the stores had security cameras but they were always disabled before the thief entered the building. The latest break-in was in the Queen Stop ‘N Shop.

Somehow by late afternoon that trail wound itself around and had led both detectives to this place, standing watch for Parrish on the top of old brick warehouses in what was still known as the tobacco district, in the hot sun with no shade. It didn’t matter that it was fall in Richmond. The sun was relentless.

Biggs kept watch on the alleys below as he ran the pieces of the case through his head again, trying to see where Parrish fit in but the trail wasn’t clear.

That didn’t mean it wasn’t there. If Parrish was a part of it, there was something larger going on with all of it. Both detectives were sure of it.

Looked at separately, the robberies didn’t form much of a pattern and seemed at best, random attempts to make some quick cash.

However, Biggs approached every new case by laying out everything he knew about the crimes in long lists. He loved lists.

Where the victims lived, if they went to the same diner, even their religion and if they showed up anywhere on a Sunday. Things like that mattered in a small town like Richmond, Virginia.

“Always go local. Even a crook has to lead some kind of life,” said Buster. It was one of the best things Biggs had ever heard him say.

That’s how he started to spot the beginnings of a strange pattern. All of the robberies stretched neatly across only two police precincts and all of the owners belonged to the same men’s civic club, some kind of circle. Biggs still needed to ask more about that.

There were other stores in the area, stores that had more merchandise or had locations that would seem to make better targets. None of those owners though had the same connection. Someone was targeting these particular stores.

A pattern could be as telling as a fingerprint even if Biggs couldn’t tell what it was just yet.

Biggs suspected the Browning brothers who were always getting into trouble and were known for just this kind of heist. Only catch was that they weren’t smart enough to make up a plan and they wouldn’t have thought to take care of the cameras.

They usually acted on impulse and hoped everything would turn out alright. That’s why they were constantly being caught and charged with something but just as often evidence would go missing or a witness would lose their nerve. They were being protected. Both detectives suspected they were doing favors for cops on the side, whether it was of their own free will or not.

“They’re in someone’s pocket,” said Buster, in that gravelly voice that only years of smoking could produce. His wife worked for nearby Phillip Morris and still got the company perk of a free carton a week.

“That part is obvious,” said Biggs at the time. “The question is whose and do we care?” Biggs learned early in life that every town has its lines that you don’t cross.

They stopped the younger brother, Paulie Browning as he was coming out of the free clinic run by the Episcopal Diocese that was set up in an area just across the dividing line of Main Street. On one side sat St. John’s Church where Patrick Henry made a famous speech about liberty or death next to rows of carefully renovated houses that had been constructed just after Sherman’s march.

On the other side, not too far past the rows of old businesses that fronted Main Street sat one of the largest housing projects in the country, Gilpin Court, named for an actor who had been born there on Charity Street. Its other nickname was Apostle because so many of the streets had been named after St. James, St. Luke or one of the other original twelve men. Things hadn’t quite worked out the way someone had hoped for most of the residents. The choice between liberty or death seemed to have already been made.

 

 

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