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

I heaved a small sigh of relief a few moments later when I opened the door exiting the George Washington building and spotted the rental car where I’d left it. As we crossed the parking lot, I surveyed the area looking for any sign of the police and came up with nothing. The whole exchange with Shannon and Peck had taken less than ten minutes, and I figured we still had another five before things would start to be locked down.

Taking a deep breath of the warm afternoon air and ignoring the desire to be somewhere outside enjoying myself, I led Kris to the vehicle. When I’d offered her a ride, she’d readily accepted.

We were a few blocks away from campus when the first police cars started to pass us. Ignoring my desire to speed up, we continued at a normal pace.

“You know Shannon has a point.” Kris had been silent for most of the trip. Her voice had an edge to it earlier when we’d left the classroom, but it was gone now.

“What do you mean?”

“At the end, she said that it wasn’t supposed to be like this. I think you were close to the mark when you were grilling Peck about whether or not this whole thing was your final test. You could probably go back to them, even now.”

I snorted. “I’m going to destroy them.”

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

Taking a deep breath, I let it out and checked the hidden camera on the pen in my shirt pocket. I was outside of Peck’s class, and my insides were churning with fear and trepidation. Shannon would be on the other side, playing the part of my shell-shocked ex-girlfriend Jessica.

I touched the fire alarm panel.

Kris would be there as well. She was so confident that I would do her bidding. Hopefully, today would disabuse her of that notion. Thor would probably be in attendance too, I still didn’t know if he somehow fit into all of this or not. I just wanted to make sure he had left before I went in.

Looking around to make sure the way was clear; I broke the glass that protected the fire alarm with my elbow and pulled down on the lever. A moment later, the alarm sounded, and lights started flashing. It took several seconds before students began to empty out of the classroom doors.

Leaning up against the wall by the door, I kept my eyes peeled for whoever would come through the exit first. Depending on who it was, I’d have to react quickly if they recognized me.

My guess was that Kris or Thor would be the first person I’d spot as the students evacuated the classroom. Shannon sat in the back and would be coming out last, and I was counting on Peck waiting to make sure the room cleared successfully.

As people began to file out, I pulled the ball cap that I was wearing down a little lower. In all the confusion, nobody seemed to notice me. 

I was relieved when Thor walked out the door, chatting amiably with another girl from the class. He looked my way, but his eyes went right on past. One day, I’d have to solve the puzzle he posed, but not today.

When Kris came out, I ducked my head a little and hoped that she wouldn’t notice me. One of the major flaws in my plan was the fact that she’d seen me since I’d changed appearances. That’s why I was sporting a ball cap today.

Despite my efforts, she noticed me right away. 

 

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

It was idiotic to return to Kingstone University so soon after everything had gone down. Leaving the country and never returning would have been the smart thing to do. Moving to an obscure part of the U.S. and living in the woods, would have been better. But returning, hoping to find answers or a way to set things right, was not the brightest idea.

I had been used, and I wasn’t going to let Beltran get away with it. In order to do that, I needed to find Kris. If she didn’t work for the government, she might be the only friend in the world that I had right now.

It had been almost two weeks since the assassination of Lane Vargo, and I was certain that classes should have returned to normal by now. I timed my arrival at the George Washington building to coincide with the end of Peck’s history class. As I waited for the class to end, I looked around, expecting to see police officers or easily recognizable government men swarming all over the place, but instead, I found things to be pretty much normal.

I sat on a bench, pulled out my tablet and turned it on but only pretended to use it while I kept an eye on the door to the classroom.

Thor passed by chatting with several people. I’d never paid much attention to the little runt, but with the warmer weather, he wasn’t wearing a coat, and I realized now he was in good shape and had an air of confidence about him that I hadn’t noticed before. Was his interest in me a coincidence or something more?

Did he work with Kris? Was he a federal agent? As Thor disappeared, I wondered if I’d underestimated the little man. I should have been more careful about brushing him off all those times he’d tried to befriend me.

Shannon passed but didn’t recognize me. It made me glad that my disguise was thorough, but it was tough seeing her again, and I had to refrain from staring. I was reminded of all the time we’d spent together, and I had to suppress my desire to chase after and confront her.

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

Half an hour later, Shannon and I were walking towards a downtown hotel that was next to Martinez’s location. We were going to provide backup while Beltran went in after him. Because of the gravity of our mission and the fact that all the other teams were out on assignment, Beltran had recruited several Black Brick analysts to accompany them as well.

I wondered if Cherry and Tom were with Beltran, or providing backup somewhere else, Beltran hadn't been clear on what their role was going to be and I hadn’t thought to ask until it was too late.

Beltran seemed to think that having four analysts at his back made up for their collective lack of experience and training.

The analysts knew how to work their guns and occasionally went into the field, but they weren’t ideal companions for a mission like this. If we really did have connections to local police, the FBI, or any other government organizations, wouldn’t Beltran have preferred to have their personnel on hand rather than barely trained analysts who might freeze when the gunfire starts?

As I thought about the past couple of weeks, other inconsistencies began to jump out at me. Beltran had never been able to get us the police file for Bruce Andrews’ murder. Other times, he’d had no problem getting useful information from police. Was that just because he had contacts in some precincts but not others?

Shannon walked slightly ahead of me, pulling her luggage with one hand. The setting sun cast her face into shadow.

Since I was going to quit soon anyway, I decided to take a risk and open up to her. She could be quite levelheaded when the occasion called for it, and I needed to bounce some of my questions off somebody else, or I was going to go crazy.  Speaking quietly, I floated by her my theory that Martinez’s defection had been intentionally planned as part of our final test.

“You’re an idiot,” Shannon said, but I could tell there was something she wasn’t saying.

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

Half an hour later, Shannon and I were walking towards a downtown hotel that was next to Martinez’s location. We were going to provide backup while Beltran went in after him. Because of the gravity of our mission and the fact that all the other teams were out on assignment, Beltran had recruited several Black Brick analysts to accompany them as well.

I wondered if Cherry and Tom were with Beltran, or providing backup somewhere else, Beltran hadn't been clear on what their role was going to be and I hadn’t thought to ask until it was too late.

Beltran seemed to think that having four analysts at his back made up for their collective lack of experience and training.

The analysts knew how to work their guns and occasionally went into the field, but they weren’t ideal companions for a mission like this. If we really did have connections to local police, the FBI, or any other government organizations, wouldn’t Beltran have preferred to have their personnel on hand rather than barely trained analysts who might freeze when the gunfire starts?

As I thought about the past couple of weeks, other inconsistencies began to jump out at me. Beltran had never been able to get us the police file for Bruce Andrews’ murder. Other times, he’d had no problem getting useful information from police. Was that just because he had contacts in some precincts but not others?

Shannon walked slightly ahead of me, pulling her luggage with one hand. The setting sun cast her face into shadow. 

Since I was going to quit soon anyway, I decided to take a risk and open up to her. She could be quite levelheaded when the occasion called for it, and I needed to bounce some of my questions off somebody else, or I was going to go crazy.  Speaking quietly, I floated by her my theory that Martinez’s defection had been intentionally planned as part of our final test.

“You’re an idiot,” Shannon said, but I could tell there was something she wasn’t saying.

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

Shannon was in the driver seat of our Dodge Charger, and I sat on the passenger side. I wasn’t certain, but I suspected that Beltran had a thing for this type of car because Black Brick had a fleet of the Chargers. After our botched rescue attempt the other day when we abandoned the Charger, he’d almost been more concerned about the loss of the Charger than the fact we’d spent all day evading the police.

I had my rifle, the F2000 on my lap and it was covered with my jacket. It wasn't my favorite weapon, but the bullpup design was easier to work with in many of the situations we encountered. We’d already been waiting for close to an hour, during which time, Shannon and I had barely spoken.

After trying several times to start a conversation with her, I’d given up and resigned myself to the awkward silence. I missed the way that Shannon had been before the kidnapping.

I should have been able to talk to her about the fact that the wrong man was in jail for killing my parents, but I didn’t know that I could trust her anymore because she’d changed.

Shaking my head, I surveyed the area. We were parked on a road that ran parallel to Diggon’s new headquarters. Cherry and Tom were several cars ahead of us. The space between us and the new building was nothing short of ostentatious. There were flower gardens, art exhibits, and a large amphitheater. My eyes stopped on the zoo.

While the zoo had its own place beside the tower, there were several impressive wildlife exhibits that led up to the massive complex. The closest to us featured grizzly bears in a sprawling habitat. I doubted most captive grizzly bears had it so lucky.

From here, although our heavily tinted windows made it hard to get a good view of them, I could make out several of the bears moving around. It had warmed up in the last few days, and I wondered how recently the bears had come out of hibernation.

I looked past the habitat, and beyond the wide expanse of gardens to the tower rising into the sky. It was my first time getting this close to the new Diggon building. I’d seen it go up from a distance while the construction had been underway because it was impossible to miss the building as it towered over most of the others in the city, but I’d never bothered to get closer.

Martinez was inside the Diggon headquarters and apparently already causing a scene because people in yellow jackets—Diggon Security—were milling around the entrance and had the place on lockdown. Originally, our orders had been to go in after Martinez, but we'd arrived too late and were now watching from a distance.

There was a flurry of activity near the entrance, and several Humvees arrived with more armed guards. Even though there weren’t any roads close to the front of the building, the sidewalks were wide enough to function as such. Diggon was quickly amassing a small army outside.

Had Martinez gone suicidal?

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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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