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

IT WAS THE FIRST warm day in months, and the students of Kingstone campus were taking advantage of it. A group of people on the grass in front of the Lincoln library were tossing around a Frisbee, and there were even a few ambitious girls sunbathing. It was warm, but it wasn’t warm enough for that.

Several women who walked by chatted animatedly. In the brief snippets of the conversation I overheard, it sounded like they were discussing a celebrity, but I didn’t hear enough to overhear who. Not that it would have mattered if I did, I didn’t know much about those sorts of things.

I marveled at their energy. To me, they looked like kids, but I knew they were the same age as me, if not older. How was it possible for me to feel like an old man when I was barely old enough to be in college? What would I have become if I hadn’t been raised by the government?

I headed into the library. I wasn’t sure if I intended to get anything done, but I had to get out of Black Brick. It had been two days since the train incident, and I was going stir crazy. Beltran hadn’t even made us attend class, which I’d been thankful for until I felt the walls start to close in.

When I passed the lobby, I noticed Thor sitting at a table near the librarian’s desk and decided to go to the second floor. I didn’t feel up to dealing with the man.  

I found an empty table in a corner and pulled out my tablet computer and set it down without turning it on. It had been a long couple of days and I still couldn’t tell up from down. The last week had been intense. Explosions left and right, people connected to Diggon dropping like flies, and hidden agendas everywhere I turned.

Beltran could call it a test if he wanted, but that didn’t make it any better. When we’d been told that there would be a final test to become active, I’d expected a hard mission that tested my personal abilities and limits.

What Beltran was doing tested my faith in him and our organization. What else would Beltran be willing to do as a test? How far was he willing to go? Would he let people die?  

I was certain about only one thing. Payne and Martinez needed to be brought to justice.

Turning on my tablet, I avoided the temptation to check the news because it would be focused on the train wreck. More than twenty-five people had died so far, with more deaths expected. My subconscious had somehow been able to accept the fact that the situation hadn’t been of my own making and that I’d done my best. This kept the guilt from overwhelming me.

Yawning, I looked around the library and saw I was alone. Shelves of books towered all around me, providing me with the refuge and solace I sought. Shifting, so that my back was facing a wall, I decided it was safe to open work related information and review it. I needed to do something to keep my mind off the madness. The only way out was through.  

As a team, we had expressed interest in helping chase down Martinez and Payne. Beltran had refused our offer but given us Martinez’s file to review.  

“Make no mistake, you’re not on this case,” Beltran had said, “But Martinez knows enough about us that it would be best if everybody kept an eye out for his meddling.”

I opened the Martinez file and began to sift through it. Snorting, I realized that much of the information had been redacted or password protected. Later, if I had time, I’d try to get around the encryption on the documents. For now, I sifted through what was available.

Martinez had been recruited when he was twelve after his mother had died in a car accident. That wasn’t a surprise; all of us came from similar backgrounds. We’d all lost parents at a young age and never been adopted afterward.

I guess Beltran had adopted us all.

Did that make him our father? The thought made me shift in my seat. I hoped Beltran didn’t think of me as his son, I would never think of him in that way.

I noticed a file called activity logs and tried to access it, but found that it too was password protected. I'd been hoping to learn what Martinez had been doing the night that Andrews was killed. If he’d been using Payne and Kurt to get at Diggon, that made him our best suspect for the Andrews murder. Had he killed Gina to keep her from ratting him out? He could have killed us, but that might have drawn too much attention from Beltran.

“You made a mistake with Peck the other day, you know that, right?”

The statement broke into my thoughts like a cannonball diver at the deep end of a pool.

I looked up into the face of the dark haired girl that had been staring at me all semester. The tight pink sweater and jeans complimented her dark hair and it was an effort for me to remember that I was already spoken for.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

The woman smiled and shifted her head to the side. She was holding several books which she set down on my table. Without asking, she slid out a chair and took a seat.

“Peck’s going to call on you more frequently, just to see if you’ve done your reading.” She smiled, her white teeth stood out against her brown complexion. “Should I just call you Mr. Chever or do you have a first name?”

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

THE CONFERENCE ROOM AT Black Brick smelled like sweat, and I wasn’t the only with a ring of perspiration around my neck. We’d all made it back within a few minutes of each other and were waiting for Beltran to join us. It wasn’t going to be a pleasant meeting. I took a sip of coke and stifled a groan as pain shot up my chest.

I’d spoken with Dolores, who had been manning the reception desk in the lobby again, and learned that my instincts about Martinez had been correct.

He had in fact betrayed us. After taking Payne, Martinez had called Beltran. Dolores hadn’t known what the conversation had been about, but Beltran had ordered Black Brick into lockdown and restricted Martinez’s access to our base and internal systems.  

I leaned back in my chair, trying to find a more comfortable position, immediately wished that I hadn’t, and sat up again. In addition to my chest screaming with every move, my lower back also hurt. I must have done something to it when I fell after getting shot. It was a miracle I’d been able to run as far as I had on the way back here.

The painkillers I’d taken hadn’t kicked in yet. I took another swig of Coke, wishing I’d thought to bring in another can or two because I was afraid this was going to be a long meeting.

When Beltran entered the room, the temperature seemed to drop a few degrees. His face was a cold mask, but the anger danced in his eyes as he struggled to retain his composure. Beltran would sometimes fly off the handle, and all we could do was wait until he was done shouting.

I took another sip of my drink as Beltran set a folder he was carrying onto the table. He leaned down, putting his hands on the top and scourged us with his eyes.

“Why did you let Martinez take Payne?” Beltran demanded. “I wouldn’t have assigned your mission to another team without telling you. You know that.”  

Shannon was staring out one of the windows, fiddling with a pen. Cherry didn’t appear to be listening. Tom was handling Beltran the best of any of us because he hadn’t been there for the Martinez part of it all.

I wasn’t in the mood to say “I told you so” or give the others a knowing glance. Meet back at Black Brick to sort this all out, indeed!

This failure was as much mine as theirs, if not more mine since I’d realized something was off. Beltran was angry, but not as furious as I was expecting. The betrayal of one of his most trusted agents should have been accompanied by a tirade of swear words and yelling.

There was something about all this that bothered me.

“How long have you known Martinez was a traitor?” I asked.

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

SHANNON GRIMACED WHEN SHE heard Cherry’s voice and her demeanor changed. Before, Shannon had been alert and ready for anything. Now, her face tightened, and she twisted her neck to either side. I hoped she wouldn’t do anything stupid. If she did, I’d have no choice but to back her up.

Of the four of us, Cherry was the most cautious and the least likely to do something that would get her caught, but I wasn't surprised that she was nervous.

It wasn’t that she wasn’t capable or a good shot—she was calmer in stressful situations than Tom—but I’d always seen her as the weakest among us. I wasn’t the only one. Shannon and Tom were protective of her too, which isn't a good sign if you're a spy.

The conversation continued, but I wasn’t paying attention to the words. I listened for the sound of her voice, willing away my desire to rush blindly to her aid. I grabbed Shannon’s arm as she made a move for the door. She glared at me and held up her pistol. She didn’t aim it at me, but her message was clear. Get out of the way.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered why Payne hadn’t just shot Cherry outright. He wasn’t one to have a conversation when a bullet could do his talking. I pushed the question away with relief that he seemed content to banter with Cherry, whatever his reason.  

I pointed to Becca. “We can’t let her get hurt.” Becca had become pale and was cowering in her chair. Her arms were folded as if she was trying to hug herself.

I whispered an instruction to Becca to get under the desk while keeping my eyes on Shannon, I expected her to bolt towards the door.

I tried to think of a way to keep Shannon from barging out, but by the time Becca had crawled under her desk I hadn’t been able to come up with anything. I couldn’t let Shannon go alone, but I also wanted to live through the day.

“Tell me how many more there are,” Payne said, “and it will go better for you.”

Cherry snorted, but it was cut off with a shriek.

“Wait to see if they walk past our door,” I whispered. “We’ll take them from behind.”

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

AS I STEPPED INTO the high-rise office building, I resisted shaking my head to get the ringing out of my ears. From what I could tell, my hearing was normal, even though it felt like there was cotton in them. It had been close to an hour since we'd left the site of the train bombing and I hoped that the ringing would soon go away. It was making my headache worse. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Shannon and I had popped into the bathroom of a gas station and done our best to clean up. I had smoothed out my hair and done what I could to make my coat presentable. I was lucky that I was wearing a black shirt as well as a black suit, the blood stains that I was sure were there weren't showing.

There were several minor tears in the fabric of my suit jacket, but nothing that would cause the casual passerby to take special note of me. If anyone looked too closely, they might wonder, but I doubted that anybody would suspect that I’d survived an explosion.

Despite our better judgment, we’d also taken a moment to call Black Brick to give an update on what happened. Beltran's voice was calm, but I could tell he was struggling to keep it that way. Initially, he'd ordered us back to Black Brick. I had pointed out that Cherry and Tom were chasing a mad man with a team of thugs by themselves so unless he was willing to call them back as well, we needed to catch up. There had been a long pause before he'd spoken.

“Find Lauren Griffith and Payne, kill Payne if you have too. Then get back here. It won’t be long before the police are looking for you. In all that confusion somebody took pictures of you two, guarantee it.”

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