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

I turned up the volume on the television when I saw Peck’s face. He’d managed to strike an appropriate balance between mourning and confidence. He had just come from the funeral of Ronan Wright who—as I had suspected—had died in the explosion at Diggon tower.

Bruce Andrews. Jason Kurt, Lisa, and their parents. Lane Vargo. Ronan Wright.

Thor and Peck had a lot to answer for.

Peck had played the media magnificently. There had been a camera recording when I killed Larry and Beltran. The heavily edited footage had been seen by millions and, of course, didn’t come with audio. That would have caused too many questions.

“Mr. Peck,” the anchorwoman said. “Congratulations on your new promotion. How does it feel to go from being a college professor to the CEO of one of the largest and most influential corporations?”

“Well, as you can imagine,” Peck said, “it’s been quite a change. But I don’t want to talk about that today. There has been a lot of death and tragedy. My company has been the target of numerous terrorist attacks. I’d like to take this opportunity to announce a new partnership between Diggon and the federal government. We’re creating a citizen watch program called Spectrum.”

“And just what will Spectrum do?” the anchorwoman asked.

Peck help up his phone. “It’s an app that people can voluntarily run on their phone, tablet, or computer. The app will monitor what is going on around the user and report a live stream of data back to our servers. When alarming events take place, we’ve developed technology that will recognize what is happening so that local and federal authorities can be alerted.”

“I understand there is a unique feature to catch the person behind all these attacks on Diggon,” the reporter said. “Care to comment?”

“Yes,” Peck said. “We have programmed a special alert for Sam Chever. Or Jake Ramsey. Or whatever name he’s going by these days. Our system is designed to alert authorities the moment his face or voice pops up on the system.”

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

Even though the sun was setting, there was still enough light to make out where Shannon stood several hundred yards away. She was in the open and slowly turned in a circle with her rifle up and ready to fire.

I took as much time as I dared to make my approach, keeping an eye out for Martinez and his men as well. By the time I had almost reached her, I decided they were gone. I didn’t know how they’d been able to disappear so quickly, but I figured that Martinez had used a hidden passageway somewhere on the grounds to make his escape. He seemed to know this place better than anybody else. 

In the distance, I spotted a lone figure that had his back to me and was walking away at a normal pace.

The light was getting dimmer by the minute, but by the height of the man and the back of his head, I would have bet money that it was Thor. I’d spent a lot of time hiding from him and had gotten pretty good at recognizing him from a distance. What was he doing here? I squinted, wishing for binoculars, and thought about going after him. Lisa’s screams haunted me as I remembered Martinez’s claim that Thor had been behind the death of the Kurt family. I decided against chasing after Thor because there would be time enough to deal with him later. 

“I was too slow,” Shannon said when I reached her.

“We can chase him another day,” I said, neglecting to mention my theory for Martinez’s escape. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the night while she went from exhibit to exhibit looking for hidden passageways.

We didn't speak as the sun set. I wanted to reach for her, to take her in my arms and comfort her, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

“I’m sorry,” Shannon said at last. It was the first time I ever heard her apologize and it caught me off guard. “I shouldn’t have let Beltran convince me to break up with you.” It was hard to tell if she was sincere because it was dark and she was covered in shadow, but I suspected her words were genuine and I wanted to believe that she meant it.

“This isn’t really the time—”

“If we don’t get another,” Shannon said. “I wanted you to know.”

I didn't know how to respond.

“You guys trying to get caught?” Kris asked. I hadn’t noticed her approaching. “There's at least three corpses back there. We need to split.”

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

When I awoke the first thing I saw was one of the expensive chandeliers in Diggon's lobby hanging directly over me. I must have taken quite a knock to the head because I thought that it was falling and going to hit me.

I tried to roll out of the way and ran into something—a person by the feel of it. Blinking, I looked back at the ceiling. After determining that it was my head that was spinning and not the chandelier falling, I tried to collect my wits. There was a huge lump on the back of my head, but other than that I was fine and I was surprised to find that my hands and legs were free.

After several labored breaths, I sat up and immediately wished that I hadn't because it made me dizzy.

“They're starting to wake.”

I didn't recognize the voice.

Shannon was beside me, and she was out cold. I might have thought she was asleep, except the gash on her head and the blood that had dripped down her face told a different story.

Kris lay to the other side of me. Cherry and Tom were nearby as well. They were all unconscious. Where was Beltran? There had been other people in the conference room, what had happened to them?

Martinez was with a group of people nearby. All of them had gas masks pulled onto the top of their heads. I did a double take when I recognized Ronan Wright among the men. He didn’t have a gas mask and was talking to Martinez while gesturing animatedly. They were too far away for me to make out what was being said.

What did Wright have to do with all of this? As he spoke, he became more agitated, and he started gesturing towards something I couldn’t identify because a lavish garden was in the way. 

I searched my pockets. They’d taken away my pistols and ammo magazines. I cautiously moved my leg and hid a sigh of relief. I was still armed with my subcompact pistol. It wouldn’t be much good against so many people, but it was comforting still the same.

“Don't move,” said a voice from behind.

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

Kris and I parked in the closest parking garage for the new Diggon headquarters. It was almost a ten-minute walk from there to the main building. As we passed the grizzly bear exhibit, I examined it, trying to decide where Martinez had come from the other day. If there were secret passageways here, it would be useful to know about them. There were several doors into the enclosure, but I couldn’t tell just by looking at them which one he had used.

A few minutes later, we walked by a crowd of people that were looking down into a lion habitat. I shook my head, wondering if there was another corporate headquarters in the world with its own zoo and aquarium.

Kris gasped when we entered the building, and I did my best to keep my jaw from dropping. It was hard not to gawk. The lobby was six stories high and lavishly decorated. Chandeliers that were several stories tall hung from impossibly small cables. It was the most ostentatious display of wealth I’d ever seen.

I remembered reading that Diggon employed a full-time staff of over two hundred people to take care of the aquarium and the zoo.

The aquarium circled the reception area and in the middle of the room was an alligator display with bridges crossing over to where security officers waited to clear all employees and visitors. A modern-day moat. I would have snorted with laughter at the petty imperial symbolism, but it didn’t feel like a joke, especially with Peck positioning to become CEO. 

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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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