I cannot tell you how excited I am for the release of my first novel, Gray Ghost (July 2013, Oak Tree Press). I have been getting requests to share a small excerpt from the book, so I'm including it below (Several chapters are also located on my blog at http://www.clswinney.com). I hope you guys enjoy this!
Gray Ghost, Chapter 8:
A.M. Thomas, Special Ops, retired, had been a mercenary for hire for the better part of three years. His most recent contract, which he received through secure lines, was to locate and disable a speed boat containing precious cargo. Thomas classified the mission as easy. He would be paid handsomely when it was over.
However, due to a slight miscalculation and a somewhat errand .50 caliber round, he found himself is an undesirable situation. He had successfully located the vessel, but he failed to collect it. Therefore, until he gained control of the speed boat, the lucrative contract would not be fulfilled.
He spent the last ten hours slowly, meticulously under the cover of darkness, getting into position to monitor the water above where Gray Ghost had sunk. He knew the coordinates of the speed boat because someone had placed a GPS tracking unit beneath the transom before it left Columbia the week prior.
Thomas was looking at the coordinates in his hand held GPS unit. The temperature was rising and he was getting warmer underneath his light duty ghillie suit. Thankfully, he was also wearing a hydration unit underneath the suit, filled with cold refreshing water.
Near as he could figure, the closest house, and therefore closest threat, was about a half-mile southeast of his location. It was occupied by a large family, about seven people, ranging in ages between eight and their mid-forties.
Two teenagers took the smaller children away from the house at about 7:00 a.m. daily. When the teenagers came back, it was about 7:45 a.m., and they were alone. Before this little bit of activity, Thomas had been bored out of his mind. As he got older, he grew more impatient with waiting. He welcomed the small break in boredom. It broke up the boring moments, but it also meant he had to be more cautious now.
Around 8:30 a.m., he noticed the Coast Guard arrived in the general area of the sunken vessel. If anyone could stumble upon the target, it would be these guys, he thought. Thomas knew the Coast Guard had no idea if a boat was involved with the bodies washing ashore; however, they had to wonder where the bodies came from. Bodies found in the ocean almost always came from a boat.
The Coast Guard would assume two options, either the boat the bodies came from was hijacked, or it sunk. As a matter or protocol, and to keep the news reporters off their back, Thomas thought the only real question was how long the Coast Guard would stay looking for a boat that may or may not be there. He guessed they would be there for a minimum of two to four hours. It would take well over eight hours to sweep the area with sonar properly.
As it turned out, they left in five hours, thirty seven minutes, 28 seconds. As Thomas had anticipated, the Coast Guard’s search efforts were unsuccessful. At least one thing worked out in my favor so far, Thomas thought.
Before he had much time to celebrate, he noticed a much smaller boat, probably a local guide with a client, heading directly toward the area marked on the hand held GPS unit. There were several of these flats boats moving all over the northern end of Andros, searching for tarpon, bonefish, and permit. It was a big time business for the locals, and for some investors from the United States who provided the financial backing for several of the larger lodges. The sight of the boat didn’t cause much concern for Thomas, however.
He watched the boat shut down over a flat and the guide jump up to the guard tower. He had a push pole in hand. The client, a middle aged white guy with a goat tee and shaved head, sprung to his feet and began manipulating a fishing rod and reel. Thomas could see through his expensive binoculars that the guys were excited. Almost immediately, he noticed both of them seemed to tense up. He had been trained to read lips, but the guide and angler were hardly moving their mouths. It seemed as though both men were holding their breath.
Thomas watched the angler work out some line and present a cast. The angler worked in a bit of line, paused, and set the hook. Both guys got extremely boisterous, and began hooting and hollering. But within a few seconds, it was all over. The Bahamian guide was laughing uncontrollably and the angler was obviously pissed off. Must of lost ‘em, thought Thomas. Thomas quietly chuckled because the angler may have just blown his one and only shot at a fish during the eight thousand dollar trip. After a couple minutes, the guide was back on the tower, prowling for fish, and the angler was ready at another go.
Thomas wondered if these bozos had any idea they were close, too close now that he thought of it, to more money than they could ever dream about.
The Bahamian guide poled the flat and quietly pushed the boat along slowly. Thomas determined these guys were very low during his threat assessment, so he began surveying the rest of the area for potential threats. He was motivated to retrieve the boat and its contents, but he was growing tired of lying under the suit. Then again, the suit was the only thing keeping him hidden from the locals.
He watched as children casually riding bikes along the partially paved road were laughing and having fun. Sometimes they stopped at a little fruit stand to get a quick snack.
About once an hour, a Royal Bahamian Police Force vehicle would slowly roll by the clump of small houses to his left. It seemed the officer driving the vehicle was as bored as he was. An ocean liner lazily cruised several miles offshore headed west. Ten minutes later Thomas panned back over to the guys fishing the flat and he felt like he was kicked in the stomach.
Where in the hell was the Bahamian? He thought. This was not good. He noticed weights for a dive belt and a spare air tank canister on the bow of the boat that were not there moments before. Thomas suddenly realized the guide must be underwater.
The realization of all this caused him to jerk, which made his head raise up slightly. The action ruffled the ghillie suit and brought attention to his location. Calm down, dammit, he said to himself. He exhaled and took a breath. He started to calm down, but only momentarily. Thomas was not sure if these guys were poaching for conch, or even if they were actually diving near the speed boat. It was impossible to know where the flats boat was in relation to where the man was diving since he did not also have the coordinates of small fishing boat.
Thomas trained the powerful scope of the sniper rifle on the chest of the puzzled looking fisherman leaning over the back of the boat. If he needed to squeeze off a round to eliminate the threat it would be okay. The rifle had a quick detachable sound suppressor which allowed it to be fired fairly quietly. Thomas would have liked to have his other sniper rifle, but he destroyed and disposed of it after he killed the two Bahamians.
Thomas watched as the fisherman stared from the water to his watch and back to the water. Quite a bit of time went by and the fisherman repeated this action several times.
Another flats boat, with another Bahamian guide and white guy, arrived at the location of the first boat he was monitoring. The goat tee guy began talking to the men in the second boat. As they talked, the missing Bahamian guide surfaced. Thomas thought about taking a shot at the man in the water, but as he hesitated, the hull of the flats boat moved between him and the diver. The brief hesitation would end up being Thomas’ most costly mistake.
He trained the cross hairs back and forth from each man. He could easily take all three out before they knew what happened. The man in the water could stay there for awhile, but he would have to eventually come out of the water, at which point he would be dead along with his friends. The other option was for the diver to swim all the way back to shore while pushing the flats boat for concealment. Thomas determined the second option was not physically possible and dismissed it.
He figured the longer the man stayed in the water, the better chance he had at surviving. And, if he fired three rounds at the other men, even with the high-end sound suppressor, someone might figure he was there or discover his location.
When he was younger, and faced with life or death decisions, he never hesitated. It was why he had such a distinguished sniper career. Now he found himself trying to figure out the best option to secure the speed boat without giving up his location. Compromising his safety was not an option. Thomas wanted to confer with his boss, but retrieving his cell phone would cause too much movement in the middle of the day.
Thomas had already killed two men on this mission and he decided four more would be necessary. It would ensure there would be no witnesses to the operation, which made things much cleaner. He watched as the man in the water handed another man a kilo of cocaine. Two more kilos followed. Clearly, the Bahamian had located the Gray Ghost. God damn it! How else could this get screwed up? He thought. No more indecision. He decided they all needed to die, right now, by his trigger finger.
He doubled checked the distance, the rifle for any imperfections, and the wind measurements. He shot better from right to left, so he trained the scope squarely in the back of the man farthest to his left and drew a breath in to help steady the rifle. He planned to slowly pull the trigger, watch the other men panic, line them up, and take them out. He exhaled. Thomas drew in another breath, and moved his finger to the trigger. These poor bastards, He thought.
As his brain told his right index finger to smoothly pull the trigger, he heard what sounded like a twig cracking. He exhaled slowly and froze. Probably just a rabbit or bird, Thomas speculated. He began to wonder if he was somewhat complacent and over confident. There was no way anyone figured out his location and was able to get to him before he knew about it. I’m retired Special Ops, ain’t no way these Island bozos could get to me, he said to himself. He let his guard down slightly and began breathing more normal again. It was close to twenty minutes before Thomas was ready to eliminate the threats and wait for night to move.
The sniper looked through the scope and saw the men again; he counted four of them this time. The Bahamian guide had exited the water and was eating a sandwich. Thomas lined the man in the dive suit up, and began controlling his breathing again for another chance at taking a shot.
He calmed himself, drew in a final breath, and again heard what may have been another bush or shrub cracking, this time, it was just two or three feet from him. He held his breath and froze again, but this time it was too late. He heard and felt the air space around his head push across the ghillie suit as he was crushed along the temple with a blunt object.
Retired Special Ops, turned mercenary for hire, A.M. Thomas was knocked out cold. The teenage boy from earlier, and his father and uncle, picked Thomas’ lifeless body up and took him to the basement beneath their little house. They sat him in a chair in a blacked out room, with a single bulb hanging over his head, barely illuminated.
The captured man was breathing but unconscious. Significant bruising and swelling developed along the right side of his head. His sniper rifle was unloaded and it and his ghillie suit were placed in a safe. His captors knew as long as he was kept alive, he was valuable.
The family members left the sniper in the basement and returned to the main part of the house. Some of them were overwhelmed by the discovery. Others were infuriated. Recent events had caused a whirlwind of events on their tiny island and now they had a man bound and gagged in their own downstairs.
Roger Fellows, the man of the house, walked back outside, looked through binoculars and noticed two of his friends, Bubba “Tiny” Jones and Wilfred Jones, sitting in their boats just talking. He thought it was odd their clients weren’t fishing. Fellows felt it was bizarre that a sniper, obviously trained in the United States, would have killed his friends and their clients were it not for his nosy son. He watched for awhile and didn’t see anything unusual, except that they continued not to fish.
Fellows retrieved his cell phone and placed a call to Tiny. He hoped the big man had his cell phone with him and service was available.