This week’s episode features Chapter Twenty Four of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

I looked up from my tablet and noted that I still had ten minutes before I needed to get off the train. I had too many questions and what Kris had said to me about my parent’s killer was eating away at me. Beltran had insisted everybody take the day off and I’d been only too happy to have a break.

I’d looked for pictures of Stanley Redder online, but the only one I'd found had been of him being led from the courthouse. His face had been covered. I should have been able to find his mugshots, and it bothered me that I hadn't.

Had my parents been killed so Beltran and Peck could recruit me? I didn’t know of a single agent who didn’t come from a background like mine. Redder had called somebody else the day he and his partner had murdered my parents. Who? Peck? Beltran?

If I'd learned anything during the last couple of weeks, coincidences shouldn't be ignored. When Kris turned up while I was alone in the library wanting to talk, I should have seen through that right away. Something in the back of my mind told me that this led to paranoia, but I refused to pay it heed. Paranoia was a useful asset in this business.

After the incident with my parents, I’d never been interviewed by the police about what had happened. As an adult, I’d just chalked it up to shoddy police work, but I couldn’t deny that it was yet another coincidence tied to that day.

I shook my head. This was taking me nowhere. And to what end would that serve? It was unthinkable that Peck and Beltran had been involved in the murder of my parents, but the coincidence nagged at me like a hanging nail.

 

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This week’s episode features Chapter Twenty Three of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show:

I rubbed my ears and tried yawning. I could hear, but it felt like cotton had been rammed down into them, forcing me to partially rely on lip reading. Perhaps that was why I wasn’t guarding my tongue as closely as I should have been.

Beltran stood at the front of the conference room, red in the face, gripping a whiteboard marker in a fist that was turning purple. At any moment, steam might start coming out of his ears. On any other day, that thought would have made me chuckle. It was just as well that I wasn’t in that kind of mood, laughing at Beltran might push him over the edge, and I wasn’t sure that I was prepared to face that today.

Tom and Cherry sat to either side of me. Cherry was looking away from Beltran trying to pretend that she was somewhere else. Tom was just as avidly avoiding the conversation by concentrating on his tablet.

“You left,” I said, repeating my accusation for the third time.

“What was I supposed to do?” Beltran asked, with his teeth bared and lips tight across them. “We only had moments to get out. How can you of all people question me about the casualty count? You've racked up the most collateral damage of any of my agents. Think of that before you accuse me.”

“I didn't walk away from people I could save.”

“I could have been killed as well and then where would we be? If we die, who will be left to hunt Martinez and Payne? Our responsibility is greater than the life of any single individual.”

“Forty-three dead and over seventy wounded. That's a lot more than a single individual.”

“I don't need to remind you of the considerable effort it’s taken to keep the lid on your involvement in the train bombing, Bruce Andrew’s murder, your rescue of Shannon, and the mess you guys made running from the cops! I protected you. All of you. On top of that, I now have your shooting at the mall to contend with which I wouldn’t mind so much if you would have killed him.”

“Us?” I snorted, standing up. “You protected Black Brick. We're supposed to be saving lives, not ruining them.”

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This week’s episode features Chapter Twenty Two of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show:

I tapped my fingers on the wheel while I waited for our parking receipt to print. I had a bad feeling about today, and I couldn’t do anything to shake it. I was afraid that Martinez had planted the evidence that had led us to the bookstore in the mall. I’d tried convincing Beltran that it was a trap, but he was insistent that we would be careful. Once the ticket appeared, I grabbed it and proceeded into the mall parking garage. It had been close to forty-five minutes since Peck had called Beltran. Payne was due to leave soon.

“You going to keep your head on straight?” Beltran asked as I parked. It was the first time Beltran had accompanied me on a mission in some time. While he hadn’t said as much, I believed it was because he didn’t trust Shannon to not shoot Payne as soon as she saw him. She was waiting a block away and would pull up to the mall once we’d grabbed Payne. Beltran probably figured it would be safer that way, but I wouldn’t put it past her to blow him away once we had him in custody.

“I was wondering the same thing about you,” I said, ignoring his gaze as I parked. I refrained from slamming the door as I left the car and headed up into the mall. Beltran would follow me in a few minutes.

This was insane, and Beltran knew it. A takedown in public like this wasn’t going to be a smooth process. Especially because we were dealing with a madman who’d already proven his ability to kill indiscriminately.

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This week’s episode features Chapter Twenty One of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show:

I paused outside the door to the classroom, not wanting to go in. We were ten minutes late, and my inclination was to skip it altogether. Shannon shrugged her shoulders as if to say that the decision was mine. There was a world of difference in her appearance now versus several days ago when I’d rescued her. Much of that was due to makeup, but it was nice to see her doing better even though she was keeping her distance from me. The scar was scabbed over and unfortunately it was wide enough that I figured she’d have a hard time covering it up with makeup. Perhaps a plastic surgeon would be able to do something about it for her.

Nothing would have made me happier than to skip class, but I didn’t want to give Beltran any additional reasons to be upset with me. He’d been furious that I’d gone after Shannon alone.

I opened the door and walked in. Heads turned our way, and I immediately thought better of it.

“Mr. Chever,” Peck said. The entire class turned their attention to us. Kris smiled and gave me a little wave. Normally, Shannon would have bristled at the attention, but she didn’t react. “I haven't seen you in some time. Have you been well?”

“Been visiting family.”

“Well, I'm glad you're here because I haven't had a chance to follow up with you on our topic last time. Did you read the articles I sent you?”

I remembered that he’d given me a personal reading assignment at the end of the last class I attended, several weeks ago. Peck had sent the email, but I had never opened it. Enough had happened in the meantime that it felt like months had passed.

“Never got around to it,” I said sitting down beside Shannon at the back of the class.

“I see. Please have the reading prepared for next time.”

I nodded my assent and pulled out my tablet and stopped paying attention.

“She's looking at you again,” Shannon said a few minutes later. “It's time you did something about this.”

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This week’s episode features Chapter Twenty of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show:

The sun had long since reached the middle of the sky and was on its way down by the time we returned to Black Brick. It had been hours since we’d last seen a cop and I hoped that we’d completely left the chase behind.

While Cherry had driven like a mad woman, I’d bandaged up Tom’s leg so we could move to another car. His wound wasn’t bad, and I was relatively certain he would be on his feet in no time. We had changed vehicles twice in the last couple of hours and had finally decided it was safe enough to return.

“Five dead found at the scene,” Cherry said. I looked over from the wheel. I’d told Cherry she was risking our lives with her crazy driving and had taken the driver’s seat when we had switched cars.

“They give any details?” I asked, thinking about the two people that I’d shot—the woman with the tattoos and the man at the front of the van—and hoping I’d only killed two. I couldn’t remember if Tom had used his weapon or not, but if he had, he hadn’t used it much.

“Yep. Four men and one woman. Strange I didn't see a woman. Must have been a bystander.”

I shook my head. “She was in the Toyota that sideswiped us.”

“I see. Looks like I got two with the car because they were run over.” She didn’t sound pleased or bothered, it was just a comment. I knew her well enough to know that it was a facade and that she was dealing with some inner turbulence. As far as I knew, it was the first time she’d killed on a mission.

That left two for me in addition to the woman, assuming Tom hadn’t gotten off a shot.

I tried to avoid thinking about the woman and found I couldn’t. It had happened so fast, and I'd acted out of instinct.

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This week’s episode features Chapter Nineteen of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show:

IN THE PARKING GARAGE of the hotel, Cherry gave us a final admonition to be careful before getting into her black Chevy Suburban. Like the rest of us, she was gasping for breath. We’d covered the distance between our room and the garage in such a fast time that I doubted that we’d ever be welcomed back. I couldn’t remember how many people we had to dodge around, but it hadn’t been a few.  

By the look in Cherry’s eyes and the way her lips were tightened, I could tell that the guilt I’d used to convince her to come had turned to anger. Whether she was mad at me or the situation, I didn’t know. I just hoped she’d be able to channel it to good use.

Tom took the wheel of the Dodge Charger while I jumped into the rear passenger seat. I hadn’t even closed the door by the time he’d started the engine and was moving. I slammed it shut as he sped away. I’d chosen the rear because I’d have access to the windows on either side.

Pulling up a rectangular case from between the seats, I checked the rifle that we kept in back. It was an FN F2000. The bullpup design would make it an ideal weapon for the type of close quarter situation we were likely to run into.

I loaded a magazine and chambered a round before setting it on the seat. I wouldn’t bring it up until we were closer to our quarry and knew more about the situation. I didn’t want some concerned citizen calling the police and reporting men with guns speeding through traffic.

The sun hit our windshield as Tom pulled out into the morning traffic and I squinted from the glare. The traffic was heavy, but hopefully, it wouldn’t keep us from catching up. I could just make out Gurley’s van turning the corner several blocks down. I caught my breath and restrained myself from telling Tom to hurry.

It took us forty-five minutes to catch up to Gurley’s black van. It had been a tense drive, and we’d lost sight of it several times, only to find it again as if by luck.

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This week’s episode features Chapter Eighteen of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show:

Cherry let me into their hotel room a short time later. It was cramped for three people, but the windows were facing the direction we needed. It smelled of cigarettes, and the bedspread had to have been twenty years old. There was a television, but it looked like one of the first ones ever made. The walls had probably been white once upon a time but were now varying shades of yellow and covered in grime.

Tom was sitting at a small table and monitoring the video cameras we’d set up earlier. The bed was covered with guns, computers, and cameras.

Cherry had rings underneath her eyes, but she greeted me with a tight smile. Shannon's kidnapping had been hard on her for multiple reasons, not the least of which was Martinez. Beltran was cracking the whip, and everybody was running on less sleep.

“Did it work?” I asked, glad to have the hotel door shut behind me. I’d been looking over my shoulder since the club. Cole Gurley was part of the Fifteenth Street gang which was known for its creative brutality. It wasn’t uncommon for them to mutilate their victims.

We didn’t know for certain that they were connected with Martinez, but security camera video from that night had shown Gurley and a few others entering the headquarters a few minutes before Martinez and Payne.

In addition to keeping an eye on this place, there was a bookstore in a mall several blocks from here that had a connection to the gang. We didn’t know what the connection was, but members of the gang frequented the place. Beltran had set up surveillance over there as well.

My actions at the club were intended to flush Gurley out. I was hoping to either prove that he was working with Martinez or that he was unrelated.

“Yep,” Cherry said. “The bug picked up Gurley calling Martinez, and he’s on his way back to their lair now. Any hiccups?”

“None.” I didn’t tell her about Kris and the problem she posed. I knew that my contact with her was something that Beltran would expect me to report, but I didn’t think that Kris would cause me any trouble.

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This week’s episode features Chapter Seventeen of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

THE FLASHING STROBE LIGHTS and pulsing music were enough to deaden my senses. The club was teeming with people, and the air was hot and smelled of body odor, perfume, and sweat. I scanned the crowd looking for my target and hoped that I hadn’t missed him.

“Want to buy me a drink?” asked a voice from beside me.

It was a surprise that I was able to hear her shouting over the beat of the music. I wondered how long it would take my hearing to return to normal after I left as I focused on the woman who had spoken. A flash of light revealed her face and somewhere in the back of my mind I realized that she was pretty but I didn’t let the realization surface as I smiled my best smile and looked over her shoulder.

Where was my target?

Shannon had been missing for a week. I hadn't been able to sleep and was more tired than I had ever been. I was afraid of making a mistake that could cost Shannon her life. The last thing I needed right now was somebody making it even harder to concentrate.

“A drink?” the woman repeated as she moved in closer and dragged her hand down my chest. The bruise from where I’d been shot was gone, but I still felt a small tingle of pain when she touched it. Maybe it was just my imagination.

“Sure, whatever.” The response had been automatic before I could stop it. The light flashed on her face again, and I realized I knew her. The name came to me slowly. The last week had been long and painful, everything had become a blur.

It was Kris, the girl who always stared at me during class and had stalked me in the library.

“Forget the drink,” Kris suggested. “Let’s get outta here.”

“Where to?” It just popped out because I had spotted my target.

Cole Gurley. He was a tall man and stood a head above the other people in the crowd. For all his height, he was still thin. Despite his lanky appearance, rumor had it that he could be vicious.

Kris grabbed my hand. “Anywhere, just not here.”

I barely heard her as I watched Gurley move towards a doorway on the far side of the room. I didn’t have time for Kris and pushed her hand away with a smile.

“Maybe another time, I gotta run.” I moved towards my target before she could answer. The flashes of light and thunderous reverberations of the music fell into the background as I approached Gurley.

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This week’s episode features Chapter Sixteen of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

BEFORE THE LAST LIGHT of day was gone, I checked my phone for any new email or text messages and put it away. The windows of our black Chevy Suburban were tinted, but I didn’t want to take the chance that the light from the screen would draw attention to our vehicle. There was a small chance of that happening because we were parked on a busy street outside of the building that used to be Diggon’s headquarters, but it was best to be cautious.

The new Diggon headquarters was several miles away and had just been completed. I hadn’t been into the building, but there had been a lot of publicity associated with its completion. Not only did it tower above all the other buildings in the city, but it also had a fully fledged zoo and aquarium on the premises.

The old building in front of us was still being used by Diggon but it was slowly getting phased out.

I thought about reaching out to Vargo’s surveillance team to see if Vargo was in the area but decided against it. They wouldn’t appreciate me bothering them while they were on the job. With the events of the last couple of days, I’d been too busy to keep tabs on the information they’d been gathering about him. I made a mental note to review the logs when we returned to Black Brick later tonight.

I mulled over Vargo’s strange words the night that the Kurt family had been killed. They made more sense now that we knew Martinez was behind things. Vargo’s denial of involvement to Janessa may have been genuine.

I wish we knew what Vargo and Andrews had hired Payne to do because it might help us understand why Martinez had recruited Payne out from underneath them. We couldn’t find any evidence from the files we’d taken from Kurt’s home.  

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This week’s episode features Chapter Fifteen of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

STEELING MYSELF FOR WHAT lay on the other side, I opened the door to the conference room and entered. Shannon, Cherry, and Tom were already sitting around the table. Beltran was pacing.

My eyes locked onto Shannon first, and she gave me a small frown.

“You didn’t think it was important to mention that you lost a pistol?” Beltran snarled.

“Doesn’t matter,” I said, the pain flared in my back as I sat down and my chest felt like I had large leaden weights fastened to my ribs. “I always wear the latex covers.” That had been one of the principal rules from the very beginning, and I’d never broken it. I always wore gloves when cleaning my guns and was religious about changing the latex fingerprint covers that I wore on my fingers. Every morning I’d peel off the set I’d worn the previous day and put on new ones. “This is a setup. In the report, did it mention two pistols found in the train car?”

“When we screw up, we admit it,” Beltran grimaced, dodging my question, I could tell that I’d scored a point. There had been two pistols.

“I lost a pistol, but it shouldn’t matter, it didn’t have my prints. Martinez gave Payne a pistol to plant.”

My words hung in the air. Usually, I would have apologized by now, because that’s what Beltran was looking for, but I’d been given enough trouble for how the train incident had gone down, that I just couldn’t bring myself to utter the words.

“You should never lose a pistol,” Beltran said, much of his anger dissipating. He picked up a remote and pressed a button. When the screen came on, it showed a picture of Martinez with an older man. “We have an emergency, and unfortunately, you’re the only team I have available. This picture was taken earlier this morning. We caught this by accident, neither Martinez nor the old man was the subject of the surveillance.”

“Who was?” I asked.

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