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Teaser: Hackett’s War

As the novella Hackett’s War gets ready for release in a couple of days, I thought I’d go ahead and release a teaser:

“This making war for cash thing is almost starting to get old,” Otis said as he lay stretched out in the hide site. Rivulets of sweat ran down his bald, black head, and his breath was heavy, almost labored. Ever since leaving the U.S. Army, he had put on forty pounds. Everyone in the company said the extra weight would kill him one way or the other. Otis presumed that meant his fat black ass was getting too slow for the battlefield, so he proved them all wrong by entering into an extreme exercise regimen that none of the other troops could match. The funny thing was, it did nothing to reduce his expanding midsection and nascent man-boobs. As long as Otis continued eating like a horse, he was going to be a hefty, hefty boy.

“Anytime you want to quit, you just let me know,” Hackett said. He was stretched out beside Otis, lying on his stomach on a hillside some 60 meters from the road. He scanned the area below through his binoculars. The humidity was high and uncomfortable, and like Otis, Hackett sweated beneath the bug spray and sun block. Unlike Otis, he was not five foot nine inches tall and two hundred and sixty pounds; he was six foot three and much leaner, tipping the scales at one ninety-five.

“I’m gone after this year’s bonus,” Otis said.

“No bonuses this year.”

“Then next year, damn it.”

“No bonus next year, either. I’ve decided I want to buy a Lamborghini in every color of the spectrum. Sorry.”

“Well shit then, boss. Guess you’re stuck with me and my bitchin’.”

Hackett smiled and surveyed the gently rolling hills on the other side of the road. “Only until I decide to fire you.”

“Man, with all the money that’s supposed to be in this convoy, we could all get a nice little bonus,” Otis said.

“The money is not our objective, Otis.”

“Yeah, yeah, I get that—I’ve been awake for the past couple of days, I know what we’re doing here, Hack. But all of that cash is gonna be right there, just waitin’ for us…”

Through the binoculars, Hackett could just barely make out the second sniper team, crouched in their own hide site. The only reason he could see them at all was because he knew exactly where to look. No one else would have such luck.

Below, the assault teams were hidden from view. Two elements lay on either side of the road. The old Ford flat bed truck they had was parked across the road, as if it had experienced a blow out and went out of control. Two of Jerry Fletcher’s shooters milled around the vehicle. They were dressed in civilian clothes, and their weapons and body armor were hidden in the truck’s cab. They acted as if they were looking for a jack. In the far distance, small boats dotted the royal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. Fishing boats, plying their trade.

What I wouldn’t give to be on one of those now, Hackett thought. He dropped the field glasses from his eyes and removed his Kevlar helmet, taking a moment to run a gloved hand across his close-cropped dark hair. He looked over at Otis. Even though the corpulent sniper was all mouth today, he was still on the job; he peered through the M24’s scope with his right eye, keeping the weapon oriented on the road.

“If we have the time, we’ll scope out the cash. If it’s really in dollars, you can have some of it. All right?”

“And the rest of the guys too,” Otis said. “Don’t let it be said I’m a greedy muthafuck. The other guys get their share too, right? I mean, why let a drug lord keep all of that cash? It’s just immoral, man.”

Hackett sighed. “If it doesn’t get stolen from us or explode into flame, then sure.”

He didn’t see the grin spread across Otis’s face, but he could hear it in his voice. “Man, that is simply awesome. Taking a couple of million bucks from a drug lord. That’s money well earned.”

Hackett grunted and checked his watch. It was almost a quarter past twelve in the afternoon. The targets would be arriving at any moment now. Below, a man pulled a laden burro down the hillside road. He looked like a common campesino, his skin coffee-colored from years of exposure to the sun. The packs on the burro’s back were full of some produce. Bell peppers? Hackett wondered idly. The burro’s plodding pace kicked up a small amount of dust as it walked.

“Shotgun Six, Floater. Vehicle traffic headed southbound. Three targets matching the description. Headed directly into the engagement area, over.”

The voice was loud over Hackett’s tactical radio headset even though the speaker was dozens of miles to the west on a ship outside Mexico’s territorial waters. Despite the distance, the folks aboard the ship had eyes in the sky high overhead, small unmanned aerial vehicles that saw everything. Hackett pointed the binoculars down the road. Sure enough, there was the gleam of sunlight reflecting off glass and chrome.

“Roger that, Floater. Hammer Two-Six, you are a go, you are a go. Remember, we need the principal alive, everyone else can go tango uniform if required, over.”

Jerry Fletcher’s voice was clipped but even. “Shotgun Six, Hammer Two-Six, roger all.”

“Time for some shootin’,” Otis said, as he stretched one last final time. “Then hopefully, it’ll be time for some countin’.”

“Blessed are the beasts with the one track mind,” Hackett said. “You ready to line up on some targets?”

Despite everything, despite all the razzing he took for his weight, no one could ever pretend that Otis Johnson was anything but a cold-hearted predator. As he looked through the M24’s telescopic sight, his index finger moved from the trigger guard to the trigger itself as the first red Range Rover came around the bend. His voice was barely more than a whisper when he spoke.

“Oh yeah…”

This is the first of a series of three novellas that will chronicle the adventures of Hackett and company as they set about righting wrongs and feverishly attempt not to wrong any rights at the same time. I’ll post links when the final product is available, and of course, it will debut at the requisite 99¢!

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