Brad Taylor’s new Pike Logan novel hits shelves January 7

"Anywhere else in the world I would have silently cheered at the luck, but here, in Salvador, it raised the hackles on my neck.  Empty roads in Brazil were like hearing the wildlife in a jungle suddenly go quiet, all the birds and monkeys realizing there was a predator afoot."

 

Excerpted from Hunter Killer: A Pike Logan Novel by Brad Taylor. Copyright © 2019 by Brad Taylor.  Excerpted with permission by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

Chapter 1

 

The road in front of me was empty.  Just a narrow alley leading to the entryway I intended to penetrate.  A fetid, cobblestone lane built centuries ago, it was dimly lit, with more shadows than light and piles of trash hiding what may lie within.

 

Anywhere else in the world I would have silently cheered at the luck, but here, in Salvador, it raised the hackles on my neck.  Empty roads in Brazil were like hearing the wildlife in a jungle suddenly go quiet, all the birds and monkeys realizing there was a predator afoot.

 

I was in the historical section of the old capital city, with plenty of folks less than a hundred meters away at restaurants and bars, but nobody was walking down this alley.  Meaning there was a reason for the lack of activity.  It was counter-intuitive to anything I’d felt before, where the bystanders were most often the threat.  Crowds allowed camouflage for individual hostiles, like pickpockets, but more importantly to me, these prevented offensive actions by a team. 

 

There were just too many cameras and cell phones in today’s world, devices that recorded an event no matter how careful one was, so an empty alley was the perfect approach for me, and yet, I’d learned in my short time in Brazil that empty meant dangerous.  For some reason, the humans here knew not to enter, an instinct that I should pay attention to.

 

Unfortunately, that was out of the question because a bad guy, my target, held my best friend’s life in the balance. 

 

I turned to Aaron, and said, “That damn alley is going to be trouble.  I can feel it.”

 

He knew what I meant.  We didn’t worry about the “trouble”, per se, we worried about the mission, and whatever was waiting for us there could hinder that.

 

He said, “Hey, we only have twelve hours before the clock is up.  That’s a blink of an eye for hostage rescue.  We need to go tonight, or we’re not stopping what the police have in motion.”

 

I said, “Shoshona seems to think this is bad Ju Ju because of the monks.  Maybe she’s right.”

 

He chuckled and said, “My wife is a little off.  Like you.”

 

I nodded, but still hesitated, running through my options.  He squinted his eyes and said, “You believe her.  You think this is going to go bad because of what she felt.”

 

I said, “Aaron, cut the crap.  She’s crazy all right, but sometimes she has a point.  That’s all.”

 

He withdrew a Glock pistol, press checked the chamber and said, “One way or the other, we need to make a decision.  And I think you’re afraid of her saying ‘I told you so’ because of this alley.”

 

I grunted a laugh and said, “Yeah, something like that.  But you’re right.  Too late now.”

 

I clicked my earpiece and said, “Koko, Koko, I’m about to penetrate.  What’s your status?”

 

Koko was the callsign of my partner in crime, Jennifer, so named because she could climb like a monkey.  She said, “I’m good.  On the roof over the balcony.  The OP is in position, and I have a clear shot.”

 

“Roger all.  Carrie, Carrie, you have lockdown of the front?”

 

Carrie was Shoshona’s callsign.  Because she was bat-shit crazy just like the Stephen King character. 

 

Ironically, the man I was working to save had anointed both of them with their callsigns.  Which is why they were both willing to risk their lives to free him.  They loved him as much as I did.

 

She came back, “This is Carrie.  Front is secure.  But I still think this is a mistake.  We should not be assaulting a church.  It’s bad.  Bad all the way around.”

 

I looked at Aaron and said, “Yeah, I agree, but I don’t get to pick where terrorists stay.  I just wipeout the nest, wherever that ends up.”

 

She said, “It’s not the church itself.  It’s something else.”

 

I took that in, then looked down the alley.  I said, “You want to help here?  I think I have your bad feeling too.”

 

She said nothing on the net.  Aaron whispered, “Good call.  The front is facing the tourists.  She’s not needed out there.  Get her in play.”

 

Through a combination of means, we’d tracked our target to the back of an old convent tacked on to a UNESCO world heritage site.  Called the Sao Francisco Church, it had existed since the sixteenth century, with an ornate gothic façade that now was the anchor of a square housing outdoor cafes and art galleries. 

 

The front of the church – and the square it faced - was a completely safe place for tourists in the old capital of Salvador, but just outside the light, down the cobblestone streets we were on, the predators prowled, waiting on a stray lamb to leave the lights and laughter.

 

 I took a look down the dimly lit alley, seeing the narrow confines of the ancient street snaking down the left hand wall of the church, reconsidering whom I was asking for help.  I’d left Shoshana to pull security within the crowds of tourists for a reason.

 

Off the net, to Aaron, I said, “I’m not sure that’s so smart.  She’s better protecting us defensively.  Out front.  Away from the action.”

 

Aaron said, “Because you don’t trust her offensively?”

 

“You’re damn right.  She’s a walking disaster.  Better for Jennifer to do it.”

 

“Jennifer’s on the roof.  Shoshona’s perfect for this and you know it. Jennifer would be better as bait, with her blond hair and innocence, but Shoshana’s the next best thing.”

 

He turned away for a moment, then looked me in the eye, saying, “Shoshana’s a killer, but she’s pure.  She won’t do anything if it’s not warranted.  Honestly, I’m more concerned about you.”

 

Aaron had seen what I was capable of, and he was hitting at the core of the mission.  Could I maintain control?  It was a good question, because in an earlier life, he’d almost killed me, and in so doing, he’d killed a friend of mine.  The results hadn’t been pretty.  He’d seen what I was capable of when I was walking the edge, leaning way over, and now I was operating in that same zone.  Something he knew about. 

 

I said, “I’m good.  Don’t worry about me.  Just worry about the threat.”

 

He nodded, but I could see he wasn’t convinced.

 

Shoshana came back on the net, whispering with an urgency neither Aaron nor I understood, “You feel something too, Nephilim?”

 

Aaron grinned, and I returned it, holding up a finger before he got on the net.  I said, “Yeah, but it’s not because of some damn ancient church.  It’s because I can’t get to entry.  I don’t want a gunfight.  I need quiet, which means I need you.”

 

“So you want me to do what?”

 

“Walk down this alley from the back.  Expose any threat that may prevent our entry.”

 

She said nothing for a moment, then came back, “That’s what you want?  Me as bait?”

 

Aaron’s eyes widened, and I saw him reaching to key his mike, him saying, “That’s not how to get her to execute.”

 

I held up my hand again and beat him to the punch, saying, “Carrie, this is the threat.  This is what I feel.  And this is what I need.”

 

Aaron and I looked at each other, and I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket.  Shoshana came back on and said, “This is Carrie.  I’m moving to the south of the alley.  I’ll be coming south to north.  I’ll have the light on my phone going.”

 

I pulled out my cell, saw it was Jennifer, and realized she didn’t want to talk on the open net.  I held it up, then whispered to Aaron, “Tell Shoshana that all we need is to flush out any threats.  We’ll handle it.  I don’t need any crazy shit here.  She just walks toward us until someone triggers.  Or until she reaches us without a trigger.”

 

Aaron nodded and I answered the phone, saying, “What?”

 

Jennifer said, “You’re going to let Shoshana loose in that alley, after you felt a threat?  Let’s back off.  Attack a different way.”

 

I saw a pinpoint of light at the back of the alley and said, “Too late.  She’s in.”

 

Jennifer said, “That’s a bad call.  She’ll kill anyone who threatens her.”

 

I said, “If it’s the guys that we’re hunting, I don’t give a shit.”

 

She said, “Pike, don’t go there – ”

 

And I hung up, watching the light.  Not wanting to think about what I’d just said.  Not after what had happened to my friend.  She knew where I was headed, because she’d seen it once before.  I knew it too.

 

The difference was I wanted it.

 

The light bounced down the alley until it was abreast of our entry point, and Aaron and I began slinking down the lane, hiding from the streetlights behind us, stepping over the trash to avoid the noise. We closed the gap, both wound as tight as a tripwire, waiting.  And it came.

 

Two men assaulted Shoshana from both sides of the alley, one from behind a dumpster and the other from a gap in the bricks.

 

They slammed into her in a synchronized assault, and we took off running, reaching them just as they gained the upper hand.  I saw one man cinch his hand into Shoshana’s hair, then bash her skull into the cobblestones. The second had his arms wrapped around her legs, pulling out a blade that glinted in the moonlight.

 

They were in total control, right up until we reached them.  Aaron slammed his boot into the man holding her hair and I jumped on the man holding her legs.  I caught a glimpse of their fight, and then was subsumed with my own.

 

He began attacking me, attempting to hammer my face with elbows and fists, and then hit me with the knife in my forearm.  I blocked the initial blows, returned them with my own, then felt the blade slice through my jacket, nicking my flesh. 

 

The wound he caused split open the blackness, the anger inside me boiling out.  I gave him everything I’d bottled up over the last week. I abandoned my ‘team leader control’ and let the beast run free, looking for vengeance.

 

I battered his face, trapped his wrist against his torso, the blade now useless, circled around his body and wrapped him up in my arms, pressing his head forward into his chest.  He began frothing at the mouth, flailing his one good fist, and then gave up, dropping the knife and raising his other hand in an effort to surrender.  It did no good.  I wanted a release, and I worked to achieve it.  I pressed him further, going deeper, until I felt his neck snap.

 

The sound split through the pain, jerking me out of my darkness.  I let him sink to the ground, looking at Shoshana and Aaron.  Both were staring back at me, Shoshana holding the other attacker in a joint lock, face down on the ground.

 

She said, “You were worried about me going crazy?  What was that?”

 

I shook my head, clearing the beast, not sure what I’d done.  I said, “Let’s go.  Put him out.”

 

She nodded, then asked, “Permanently?”

 

Because that’s just how she thinks.

 

Not liking what I’d just done, I said, “No.  Not permanently.”

 

She said, “He’s Russian.  He’s not a common predator.  He’s here for you.”

 

For the first time, I noticed that the man I’d fought wasn’t from Brazil.  I searched him, finding a passport from Saint Kitts.  The same passport I’d found on the Russian I’d killed in Charleston.  The one who had murdered my friend. 

 

The blackness came rushing back.

 

This is all tied together.  And it ends now.

 

She looked at me expectantly, and I closed my eyes, reliving the explosion and the charred body.

 

Shoshana said, “Pike?”

 

I locked eyes with Aaron, and he didn’t flinch, just stared at me, letting me make the choice.  Not judging in any way.

 

A part of me wanted to call Jennifer.  Wanting someone to stop the slide I was on.  She was the only one who could prevent it.  I didn’t.  Like a junkie feeling the heroin, I enjoyed what I was doing. 

 

I stepped over the edge of the abyss.

 

“Kill him.”

 

Excerpted from Hunter Killer: A Pike Logan Novel by Brad Taylor. Copyright © 2019 by Brad Taylor.  Excerpted with permission by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

Brad Taylor was born on Okinawa, Japan, but grew up on forty acres in rural Texas.  Graduating from the University of Texas, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army Infantry. Brad served for more than twenty-one years, retiring as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel. During that time he held numerous infantry and special forces positions, including eight years in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta where he commanded multiple troops and a squadron. He has conducted operations in support of US national interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations.

 

His final assignment was as the Assistant Professor of Military Science at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He holds a Master of Science in Defense Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School, with a concentration in Irregular Warfare. In 2011, Brad published his debut novel, One Rough Man, which was an immediate success and launched the Pike Logan series. Now with more than thirteen installments and more than two million copies sold, the series has consistently hit the New York Times bestseller list. When not writing, he serves as a security consultant on asymmetric threats for various agencies. He lives in Charleston with his wife and two daughters.