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

I OPENED MY EYES with a start. The heavy smell of smoke, burning rubber, and blood filled the air. The train car had been cast in gloom, but there was light overhead. From my vantage point, I couldn't determine the exact source of the light, but I could at least tell that some of it was coming from a fire. Alarmed, I looked around and was relieved that I couldn’t see flames.

How long had I been out? I looked at my watch, but I couldn't remember what time it had been when the bomb had gone off. My best guess was that I'd been unconscious for only a few minutes. I hoped it hadn't been longer. The emergency response crews would be on the scene shortly, Shannon and I needed to be gone before that happened.

I tried to stand but slipped and fell, knocking my head against an armrest. The floor was wrong.  I looked up and saw rows of seats on the wall. I felt foolish for not remembering that the train car had been knocked over by the blast.

Once I was on my feet again, I could see that the light was coming through the broken windows that were now overhead. My original assessment that the reflected firelight had been coming from outside was correct. I could just see the tips of flames dancing out there.

When I took a step, shards of glass crunched underneath my foot. I paused and tried to listen for the emergency response vehicles over the sounds of the nearby burning fire and the cries of injured passengers. It was made doubly hard because there was a ringing in my ears as well.

Nothing.

A wave of guilt hit me when I heard a long groan.

I had done this. I’d thrown the bomb out the window.

Taking a deep breath, I released it and closed my eyes. I hadn't been responsible for this, and I knew it. I tried to put the matter from my mind; this was something to deal with later.

“Shannon?” my voice came out unsteady and cracked. It sounded far away. There was a dull ringing in my ears. I licked my lips and tasted blood. I tried a bit louder. “Shannon.”

“Nice job dummy,” Shannon said.

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

THE BLACK BAG HAD a large zipper at the top for the main compartment. There were several pockets on the side. After I checked the outside pockets and found them empty, I eased back the large zipper, wondering if it had been booby trapped. Once it was open half an inch, I put my index finger into the bag and felt the zipper as far as my finger could stretch. I felt nothing but the zipper teeth. Odds were it would be safe for me to open the bag but I would still have to be careful.

There was a disturbance behind me. I turned as a large African American man pushed to the front of the crowd that had gathered several feet away from Shannon and me. He had a good couple of inches on me in height and was broader as well. His suit hung off his frame in a way that underscored the fact that he was in good shape. As he pointed a hand at us, I could see his bicep threatening to burst open the sleeve of his jacket.

“What are you idiots doing?” he asked. “You’re gonna get us killed.”

I shook my head. “The man that left this won't hesitate to blow us up.”

The black man took another step forward.

“Stay back,” I said. He looked like he'd be able to handle himself in a fight but I didn't have time to duke it out with him. I needed to take care of the bomb.

As I sized up the man, I wondered how he would respond if I escalated the situation. Would he back off? There was little chance that he was armed. Knowing that Shannon would chastise me later, I took out my pistol but kept it pointed at the ground. We needed to get this bomb off the train or disarm it, and we needed to do it now. I couldn't afford to let this man become a distraction.

“He has a gun,” yelled a woman. She continued to yell, but I couldn't make out what she said because she was drowned out by screams from other passengers. I didn't take my eyes off the man in front of me as I waited for him to respond. His eyes went to my pistol. The lack of alarm on his face made me wonder what he did for work. Had I guessed incorrectly? I felt a stab of panic and hoped that he didn’t have a gun. Was he a federal agent? A detective?

“Well, that didn’t help,” Shannon muttered. “I’d put away your pistol before somebody decides to be a hero. That black guy looks like he could break you in half.”

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

THE CITY PASSED BY as I looked out the train window and tried to relax. The morning news coming out of San Diego said the explosion at the Kurt home was a gas leak, but I knew better.  Four people had died. In addition to Jason and his sister, their parents had been home as well.

Vargo would have a lot to answer for once I could prove he was behind it.

I yawned and tried to clear my mind. The train was slowing down, and I could make out the stop ahead when I leaned in closer to the glass. It had been a low key day, but I was afraid that wouldn't last for long. The morning had been spent in a biology class.

After that, Shannon and I had met up with Cherry and Tom, and we began to make plans to apprehend Lauren Griffith. It turned out that Beltran had already known of her connection to Janessa and wanted to exploit the division in her loyalty.

I’d been a little surprised when we’d followed Lauren onto the train. When she and her bodyguard had taken the seats at the back, Shannon and I had opted for seats just behind the doors at the center of the train car. Cherry and Tom were several rows behind us.

We believed that Griffith sometimes acted as a courier for Vargo by moving information and items that were too sensitive to be trusted to the normal ways of communication and transportation. At some point in the day, she was going to make a pickup. After that, we were supposed to bring her into Black Brick.

I was surprised at the boldness of our orders but couldn’t help but wonder if Beltran had leverage on her or Janessa. We didn’t bring somebody in unless we had evidence that they were involved in something serious. As far as I knew, we didn’t have anything like that on either of them.

It made me curious about what Griffith was picking up. If the pickup was supposed to happen on the train, we wouldn’t notice from our vantage point. But we didn't have any other option.

“If it looks like she’s heading back to work after this,” I said, “we’ll have to move in.”

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

IT TOOK CONSIDERABLE CONTROL to not wolf down my food when our orders arrived. I was famished and bit into the hamburger, swallowed, and took another bite. This was the first chance to eat since some stale peanuts I'd had on the plane.

There hadn't been time for a meal after my run on the beach with Tom and Martinez earlier that morning. As soon as we finished cleaning up, we had left for Kurt's house. I’d downed a Gatorade and eaten a Cliff bar on our way.

After our work there, I'd been too distracted by my worry about what police had on us to think about eating. When we'd gotten off the plane, Beltran's order to return had stopped us from getting dinner.

I ripped off another bite and looked around the restaurant, trying to appear like a casual observer. It was unfortunate that I wasn't going to be able to enjoy my meal properly. We’d had to scramble after our briefing with Beltran and the others to get here before Vargo. It was loud and hard to hear. The stale smell of fries and onion hung in the air.

My eyes glossed over Vargo and the woman he was with, Janessa Carlton. They were several tables over, and their conversation was being relayed to us from the surveillance van several blocks away. A member of the surveillance team had been able to slip a bug onto Janessa before they’d entered the restaurant.

Vargo was paranoid and had his office, his person, and everything else around him swept for bugs on a regular basis. It was lucky our team had been able to get to Janessa as they entered the restaurant; otherwise, Shannon and I would have been sitting here in the dark.

That wouldn’t have been so bad, it had been weeks since the last time we’d managed to slip out of work and enjoy ourselves.

I was only giving casual attention to Vargo’s conversation over my ear bud. Based on what I’d heard already, Vargo didn’t seem likely to discuss Diggon’s covert activities with Janessa. At the moment, they were discussing an employee that was giving Vargo a headache.

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

I REMAINED IN MY seat on the airplane when the seatbelt sign turned off and the pilot announced we could get up.

Those around us stood and began to remove luggage from overhead bins. Beside me, Shannon was flipping through emails. She hadn’t waited for the plane to stop moving before she had turned on her phone.

I checked my watch, it was almost seven in the evening, it had been an eventful day and we'd still need to brief Beltran once we returned to Black Brick.

We’d waited for clearance from Black Brick before heading to the airport. It turned out that the video that we’d been panicking about had been too grainy to give the cops anything useful. I hadn’t seen it yet, but it showed us approaching the alley, taking out our weapons and then heading in.

Despite the assurances from Black Brick that we were safe to return, I was a little nervous that we’d find police waiting for us at the airport.

“I’m starved,” Shannon said. “Think we have time to grab a bite before heading back to Black Brick?” As she spoke, her phone rang. She listened for a moment and answered affirmatively before hanging up. “Beltran wants us back immediately. He just learned that we took a later flight. Apparently, we’re late for a meeting.” Shannon stood and pushed past me, almost running over an elderly man in the process.

I apologized to the man before following Shannon off the plane and into the airport. When Shannon decided on a course of action, heaven help anybody who stood in her way, even an old man with a cane.

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

I WAS WAITING FOR Jason Kurt’s last computer to power down when there was a sound at the doorway to Kurt’s bedroom. I turned from the bank of computer screens expecting to find Shannon but instead recognized Lisa, Jason Kurt’s younger sister. Somehow we’d missed the fact she was still here when we’d broken into the home.

“Hey mister,” Lisa said in a small voice. “Whatcha doing?”

The little girl stood in the doorway, her hair in pigtails and a smudge of something on her cheek. Grape jelly? She wore a shirt that sported cartoon characters I didn’t recognize and clutched an ugly orange stuffed animal that looked like the progeny of a horse and a dolphin.

I covered up my surprise. Shannon and I had already been in the home for half an hour and had gone through every room. How had we missed her?

Cherry and Tom must have assumed Lisa had left with Kurt’s mother. I should have confirmed that they’d seen Lisa leave as well.

“Oh, I’m just helping your brother out with a few things.” I smiled at the girl, wondering why she wasn’t afraid of me. Lisa twisted around and disappeared into a room down the hall. I thought about pulling the plug on our mission as I watched her go.

She didn’t appear bothered by our presence, but I was uncomfortable having her here. Innocents were supposed to be left out of things like this. Shannon would have overheard the exchange through the earpieces that both of us wore. Her silence was telling. That meant she’d found Lisa and hadn’t told me.

I had already removed several cameras that Kurt had set up in his bedroom and Lisa had seen us. If we didn’t snag the hard drives now, we might not get a second chance. Things would be okay, Lisa was too young to give a reliable description of us, and we’d be gone soon.

I looked back at the computer monitor; I still had a few minutes before it shut down. I shifted, brushing more garbage from the desk onto the floor. How could somebody live like this? Candy wrappers and empty soda cans littered the desk and a nearby bookcase. The floor was barely visible and covered with clothes, books, a half-eaten bag of chips, and loose paper. How could Kurt’s parents tolerate an adult child who chose to live in squalor?

My mother would never have put up with this, I was sure. Unbidden, my focus shattered and the memories came rushing back. I could see every event vividly as if watching a movie, but more real. The smell of fresh vomit, the feel of my father’s cold, stiff body when I tripped and fell on top of him, the shrill screams of my mother, the loud explosion of the revolver and the acrid smell of gunpowder. The man’s laugh still echoed in my mind.

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

THE FROTHY WATER REACHED out to lick the tip of my shoe, but my foot wasn’t down on the sand long enough for it to matter. The pounding of my legs on the beach seemed to be in harmony with those of Bill Martinez and Tom Vandyke who ran to the side of me. The crashing waves kept time with our gait and the sunny day was a welcome change to the cold back home.

When we'd arrived at the airport the previous day, I'd been surprised to see Martinez, Tom, and Cherry Mann waiting for us. Beltran's email hadn't mentioned anything about them. Like Shannon and I, Cherry and Tom were still on temporary status.

Martinez wasn't part of our usual team, but I'd worked with him in the past. I wasn't happy to have him along because I didn’t like the way that he operated. The last time we’d been on an assignment together, he had broken a man’s kneecap to get him to talk. I could still hear the man’s screams whenever Martinez was nearby.

The flight had been uneventful, and we'd spent the evening before doing surveillance and research on our target, Jason Kurt. This morning, Kurt was still sleeping, and we'd all agreed that we could afford some time at the beach before he woke up.

I allowed myself to relax so that I could take it all in and was glad I didn't have to attend class today. A run on the beach was a much better substitute.

The breeze was slight, the air warm, and the sun was out. It had been months since I’d experienced pleasant weather.  

One day I wanted to retire and live in a place like this. I took a deep breath and let it out.

I closed my eyes and was a kid again, running through the desert sun of Texas, the beating sun cleansing my soul. That brought with it the disapproving face of Sister Bautista. I pushed it away and allowed my focus to return.

Beside me, there was a swift movement as Tom kicked out and connected with my shin. I shifted my weight to compensate and was barely able to keep from toppling into the surf and got my foot wet in the process. So much for dry feet.

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

THE SUN PEEKED OUT of the clouds as Shannon and I walked onto Kingstone Campus; it was nice to have a brief moment of heat to temper the cold of the early spring. As the sun disappeared again, I dug my hands deeper into the pockets of my coat and tried to clear my head from the morning’s research. Everything I’d read was starting to jumble together, and I was glad for the exercise.

“Why can’t the news sites get anything right?” Shannon asked as she walked with her phone in hand, eyes glued to the screen while she flipped through stories. “Here’s one that claims you and I were Latino men. I just finished another that said it was a fight between three rival gangs.”  

I was glad the media didn’t have their facts straight. It made it harder for the incident to be linked back to us.

“Any word on the ID of the victims?” I asked, wishing that we would have had time to snap a few photos of Andrews’ assailants. At least then we would have had something more to look into.

Shannon shook her head without looking up. I took her arm and guided her to one side of the sidewalk so that a cluster of approaching girls could pass on the other side.

Jeff Beltran’s contact with the police hadn’t got back to him yet, so we didn't know what evidence they'd been able to collect. Depending on what came back, Beltran might use his connections to obfuscate anything that led to us.

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This week’s episode features Chapters One and Two of Black Brick. Here is an excerpt from the show:

I COULDN’T SILENCE THE alarm bells ringing in my head as Bruce Andrews and his date walked out of the restaurant. They were heading to the ballet but weren’t going to make it.

With a glance towards my partner Shannon, I dropped enough cash on the table to cover the bill.

Shannon was staring after Andrews, and I almost reminded her to not break cover, but I thought better of it when I saw the silent snarl on her lips. I headed towards the door instead.

I was nervous now that Andrews was out of our sight. He had just made a lewd comment to his date, and she had giggled. Shannon growled, and I shook my head.

Our surveillance team had planted a bug on Andrews earlier in the day and I was beginning to wish that they hadn’t. Ignorance would have been useful. We couldn’t be expected to stop something if we didn’t know about it. When Andrews made his next comment, I almost removed my Bluetooth ear bud altogether.

“I’m gonna let her kill him,” Shannon said as she darted past me and waited for me to open the restaurant door, I zipped up my coat before grabbing it. “I swear I will. I don’t care if he thinks she’s an escort, nobody should have to put up with that kind of abuse. I hope she tortures him too. I’m gonna watch and enjoy every minute. This smelly city will be better without a scumbag like him.”

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This week’s episode features Chapter Thirty Two and the Epilogue of War of the Fathers. Click here to download it or press play below. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

After exiting the Arches, they found themselves emerging from the rock face of another mountain and Jorad looked up when he felt the rising sun on his face. An overgrown trail led from the arch down the mountain and the majority of the leaves on the trees were orange and yellow. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The hardest task that he ever faced was now only a couple of days away, but the scent of nearby flowers filled him with a feeling of hope that he might succeed. It was not going to be an easy path, but the fact that he had fought and killed Hunwei multiple times provided him with the confidence that he was ready.

Soret had cried through the night, and Jorad hadn’t been able to comfort her or do anything to ease her mind. After a sufficient amount of time had gone by to allow the Hunwei to lose interest, Karn and the others had tried in vain to reopen the Zecarani arch. After they had given up, despite the fact that Jorad could barely stand, he had tried as well. He didn't know how long he had stood there, leaning against the wall while touching his thumb to the top of the arch, but it finally got to the point where he had to sink down to the floor or fall over from exhaustion. Whatever it was that had made it work before, it wasn’t working now. Xarda had ventured a guess that the Hunwei had somehow done something to damage it and that had become the prevailing theory as to why it wasn’t working.

Even as Jorad’s heart now went out to Soret, that didn’t dampen his mood much. They’d saved almost two hundred people from Zecarani. He smiled. It was his first real smile in quite some time, and it felt good.

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