Friday, February 15, 2019


The Past

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

- from the Presidential Oath of Office.

11 months ago, 02:08 hours,
outside Las Vegas, Nevada

Seventy-six kills. Seventy-six. If circumstances were different, he’d rank amongst the most prolific serial killers of the twenty-first century. Taking another life, another human life, carves a piece out of your soul. That’s what the popular writers would have you believe. Anson Moore knew otherwise. Forty-seven of those deaths, deaths up close and personal, had given him… what? Pleasure? No, not pleasure. Something else. Something… a sense of doing what was right, what was needed? Perhaps…

Moore knew what he felt. The emptiness he carried inside, filled, a little, by a new victim. Some in his business, kept a record. A small notebook, coded notations; who, how, when, where, never why… and, above all, the Number, worn as an invisible testament to their efficiency. Moore didn’t bother with such details. He felt the number; felt the emptiness remaining. She would have been thirty-nine today, two years younger than him. He had failed, not kept his promise, not been there when needed. Failed!

He shifted position in the car. The seat bottom, too short for comfort, had tried to cut off the circulation in his legs hours ago. His shallow, measured breath streamed through the small window opening into the cool night air. His hands were thrust into opposing armpits, deep under his jacket. He hated the cold; too many bad memories associated with the cold. Too many missions in the cold. Too many deaths. Seventy-six; an old hand; a Pro. Yet this one was different. The man was innocent. Just some misguided tech who thought he was doing the right thing. Just like Moore. Only difference was, the guy’s actions had stirred-up some serious concern; so serious they had sent him to eliminate the problem.

Moore knew this was a test. The make or break for him. He knew the mission came first, and an innocent life could not stand in the way. Quietly, he swallowed, clearing the bile at the back of his throat; something he had never experienced before on the job. This wasn’t a kill. It was murder, plain and simple. Easy for the General to say it’s justified; if Moore didn’t do it, someone else would. Then they would eliminate him. End of mission. End of months living on the edge. End of the deceit. End of his emptiness.

Four hundred yards away a light blinked off. At last, thought Moore. He would wait another fifteen minutes before leaving the car, just to make sure. He raised a warm hand to rub tired eyes. His mind drifted. Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Hong Kong, India, and many more. All the exotic stamps in so many false passports. This was the first one on home soil. Not the first time he had killed a fellow American though. There was that bastard in Karachi, selling troop details to Al-Qaeda. Then the guy in Madrid; more terrorist connections. Even the rogue CIA agent in Liege. All sanctioned, all approved, all justified. This guy? He’d done a phone-in on a live radio program for conspiracy nuts. That’s what would get him killed; a damn phone call.

His left hand left its warmth, the ghostly glow of a watch face telling him what he needed to know. Can’t put it off any longer. The emptiness surfaced. And something else. A tension, a sixth sense. He knew they were watching. He had tried, all the way from L.A., to spot the tail. They were good, very good, and he felt tired. Two days without sleep now. Not good for reflexes. He reached across to the passenger seat and picked up the .22LR Sig Mosquito pistol, the suppressor already screwed in place. The familiar tactile sensations calmed his mind.

Anson Moore went into Psychopath Mode.

At least that’s what the Base shrinks had called it. No emotion. No feelings. Detached. So they said. They were wrong. The emptiness was always there. More so tonight. “Forgive me, Jen,” he said quietly as he opened the car door.

The walk to the house was circuitous. The target’s bedroom was at the back. His plan was to approach from the desert. Recon showed no dogs, either at the target or at the neighbours. He slipped between the houses. No lights anywhere. The neighbours on the left were home, but had gone to bed three hours earlier. Those on the right were celebrating their anniversary in Hawaii, not due back for five days. So far he was just a prowler; not too serious.

As he neared the corner of the target’s house, a sound froze his advance. An empty can hitting dirt; bouncing against a stone. The target was awake. The target was outside, fewer than ten feet away.

Moore crouched slowly. He leaned forward, his left eye clearing the side wall.

There was an old wicker lounger on the porch, its back to Moore. It creaked as the target reached down to grab another beer. The moon, high in the clear sky, briefly highlighted a young profile, about Jen’s age. Moore felt his throat constrict, his mouth became an extension of the desert. He fought the urge to cough, to yell even. “Run, dammit! Get the hell away from here! Get the hell away from me!”

Psychopath Mode triumphed, slowly.

Moore raised himself in silence; a snake uncoiling. He extended his right foot half a pace, placing it, heel first, with care on the dirt floor. Weight transferred, his left leg crossed over, foot at ninety degrees. The action repeated. Mae Aruki, a stealth walk, taught to him many eons ago… by a gardener! Moore’s right arm extended, the muzzle of the silencer unwavering on the back of the chair. Seven feet… six… five.

The man stood.

He turned, seemingly ever so slow. In his right hand, a can of beer dribbled its contents to the earth. In his left, a big revolver, pointed down. The target’s mouth opened. No sound came forth. His brain must be refusing to process the nightmare before him, thought Moore.
Moore stared at the target, unblinking.

“Sorry.” A one-word expiation. The pistol bucked. Again. The blood rushed through his head dulling his senses. No sound perceived. The target crumpled onto the chair, tipping it sideways. All silent, like some old Chaplin film. A moment passed; then two.

Moore forced himself to advance. He knelt and checked the carotid. A clean kill. No, just a kill. The emptiness unsatisfied this time. Moore felt bile bursting from within. He clamped his left hand over his mouth. Can’t leave DNA! His nostrils flared, trying to force air into desperate lungs. He ripped off his jacket, formed a makeshift bowl, ejecting the acid vitriol. He collected the spent cartridges, on autopilot. Business as usual.

Moore regained the relative calm of the car. He dumped the balled-up jacket on the passenger side floor, and slid behind the wheel. No, this one was different. No Psychopath Mode now.

9 months ago, the Oval Office,
Washington D.C.

The President’s hand came crashing down on the desk. The report echoed briefly around the curved walls and the room’s other occupier flinched. On the President’s left, a door edged open and the concerned face of a Secret Service agent poked in.

“It’s okay, Evan. No problem.” said President Tyler. The agent withdrew, closing the door with exaggerated slowness. When they were alone again, the President turned back to his visitor.

“Hell, no, it’s not okay! It’s far from okay! Who the hell do you think you are talking to?” The object of the question paled.

“Mr President, Sir, I meant…”

“I don’t give a damn what you meant.” He stopped, abruptly aware that his tirade would not help the matter. Time for a change of tactics. After a short pause, he continued, his tone much calmer.

“Let’s see if I understand this situation. I am the President of the United States. You are my National Security Adviser.” So far, so good. “I gave you a direct, legitimate order which you refuse to carry out.”

The National Security Adviser swallowed hard. He could see where this was going; did not like it one bit.

“It’s not that I refuse, Mr President…”

Again the President interrupted the man. Speaking now in the low, quiet voice all his aides knew meant ‘no bullshit’.

“What is the problem here?”

“It’s a question of security clearances, Sir.”

“I say again, in case you are a little hard of hearing. I am the President. You are an adviser. I’m not asking for advice here. I’m giving you a direct order. So again, what’s the problem?”

“The material you ask for is classified above Top Secret. It’s compartmentalised on a need-to-know basis. Even I don’t have access…”

The President interrupted again.

“I am the highest elected official in this nation. I am expected to run this country to the best of my abilities. No, even better than that. How do you expect me to do the job if the penny-ante, power-hungry, secret-keepers won’t collaborate?”

“I…” began the other man.

“Just make it happen. Now! I want a complete, uncensored presentation on this matter by the end of THIS week. Tell my staff just how much time you will need, but no later than Friday afternoon, I want to see you, and whoever you need to do this briefing, in here. Is that understood?”

“Yes Sir. There are many issues with this subject, Sir, far-reaching issues. Some of them will cause major unrest. I’ll…”

Tyler crossed the distance between them in two long strides. He forcibly took the arm of the National Security Adviser and half-dragged him to the opposite end of the Oval Office. Standing with their backs to the unlit fireplace, the President pointed down to the wheat-coloured carpet at their feet.

“Do you see that? Read it. Aloud.”

The Adviser looked down. He stepped back so the text woven into the edge of the carpet was clearly visible. He cleared his throat, swallowed a couple of times and started reading.

“No Problem of Human Destiny is Beyond Human Beings,” he said quietly.

“Do you know who said that?” demanded the President.

“I believe it was President Kennedy, Sir.”

“Damn right. Now, just to make this absolutely clear to you. If you were military, you’d be on your way to a full court martial now. But as you’re not, my options are more flexible. I’m thinking along the lines of doing what many White House staffers have done in the past; a quick, anonymous phone call to some hack on the Post. Then I’ll follow that by an Official Press Release announcing your immediate dismissal.” The President paused, letting the significance of the last word sink in. “Yeah, I said dismissal; there will be no politically-correct “resignation” here. Hell, man, the way this city works, before the day’s out you’ll need to move to Idaho to find someone who’ll talk to you. Now get out and do the job I’ve given you.”

The National Security Adviser moved toward the door on his right. He took several steps backwards, as though leaving the presence of royalty, or maybe subconsciously reacting to a primitive instinct to safeguard his own rear.

As the door closed, President Tyler took in a deep breath, forcing it out with a strident sigh. He walked back to the burnished timbers of the large desk near the southern end of the office. His fingers stroked the elegant wood, seeking communion with the sentiments the desk represented. The origin of the wood was HMS Resolute; he needed resolve above all now. He looked down at the edge of the carpet behind the desk. Perhaps I should have shown him this quotation instead, he thought. With the sole of his shoe he caressed FDR’s words, curved upside down, at his feet.

* * * * *

Outside, walking briskly down the corridor, trying to put distance between himself and the Oval Office’s occupier, the National Security Adviser took out his Sat-phone. He dialled a number from memory. Instead of a ringing tone, he heard a single click. He nervously typed in a seven-digit code, invoking high-level encryption software. More clicks followed. Then, he spoke.

“We have a problem. I need to see you now.”


The Sat-phone clicked once. The National Security Adviser pocketed the device, muttering under his breath.

“Shit, Shit, Shit!”

8 months ago, Washington, D.C.

The Secret Service agent introduced the key card in the hotel room lock. The mechanism emitted a harsh click, and the door swung inward a couple of inches. His hand went to his right hip, seeking the familiar comfort of the Glock's grip. He pushed the door with his foot. As it opened, he scanned the room. All seemed in order. Before advancing inside, he swivelled his head from side to side, taking in the hallway. No one had seen his entry to the room. The security camera system was disabled; the hotel still waiting on a call-out to the support people. All as planned.

Secret Service agent Crawford slipped inside the room and, pocketing the key card, quietly closed the door. His training took over as he meticulously checked the bathroom and bedroom for anything unexpected. Satisfied all was as it should be, his attention centred on the male figure lying alongside the double bed. The man was unbound, but drugged; no ligature marks for forensics. The agent bent down and felt the man's carotid artery with two fingers of his left hand, his right still gripping the Glock in its holster. A strong pulse, good. The agent pried up an eyelid. The pupil reacted slowly to the change in light. He glanced at his wristwatch; an hour remained.

On top of the bed was a plastic shopping bag. The Secret Service man upended its contents. Five objects: a pistol and suppressor, a pair of black, heavy-duty latex gloves and a small roll of plastic wrap. He quickly snapped on the gloves. Next, the suppressor and the Beretta. He screwed the silencer onto the barrel of the automatic and dropped out the magazine. Deftly he flipped the cartridges out of the clip. He bent and, with some difficulty, used the unconscious man's left thumb and forefinger to reload the clip. He clicked off the safety and pulled back the slide, also using the man's fingers. For extra measure, he placed the suppressor in the man's right hand and wrapped his fingers around it. Now he carefully folded the left hand around the pistol’s grip.

Agent Crawford thought about firing the weapon now, but decided to hold off until later. Too many Crime Scene shows on TV - you never know if someone will smell the barrel or check its heat. The acrid smell would still linger, but the metal would have cooled; inconsistent with the desired effect. He dropped the gun on to the bed.

Crawford turned his attention to the other unusual objects in the room: the Javelin Anti-Armour Missile. Unassembled, as requested. He took hold of one of the two missile tubes and, using the drugged man's hands, left suitable fingerprints and DNA in the places where such trace evidence would be expected. He repeated the actions with the second missile tube. He lay this down on the floor and turned to the CLU. The stubby Command Launch Unit was easier to handle and placing more trace on the device was easier. Carefully he positioned fingerprints in the area where the CLU clipped onto the missile tube and then rubbed this area on the bedspread, relying on Locard's Exchange Principle to transfer minute fibres between the bed and the CLU. Any Doubting Thomas, in the resulting investigation, would be convinced the man on the floor had assembled this weapon in this room.

The Secret Service man glanced at his wristwatch again. Only forty-three minutes. He raised his left fist to his mouth and keyed his communicator.

"Position West Nineteen. Position West Nineteen to Control. All quiet and secure. Continuing area sweep."

"Copy that, West Nineteen. POTUS party will leave on schedule. Check again in fifteen," the tinny voice of the Secret Service Mobile Control Unit echoed in his left ear.

"Copy, check in fifteen. Out."

The agent sat on the floor, in the middle of the room, and started to assemble the missile.

* * * * *

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

The opening chapters of CHASING SHADOWS

Book 2 of the Shadows series
(Copyright Eric J. Gates 2018. All rights reserved)


It watched from unwavering, hooded, reptilian eyes. Its massive body, at least four meters long, remained immobile as he stepped off the edge. Less than fifteen meters away, open jawed, soaking up the sun, watching, waiting. A foul footfall and he would roll down to within striking distance. These beasts could move rapidly over short distances. Faster, much faster, than a human. With the clamping of those teeth around a limb, it would be all over. A short drag to the river, a death roll, drowning and...

The red dust clung to the sweat on his lower legs as he slid down the scree. He used the geologist’s hammer in his left hand to brake his descent. This only served to raise more of the burgundy-colored dirt. His once-white shirt now stained with claret streaks where sudor and soil had mixed. He coughed, a rasping resonance as the cliff face reflected the noise in the still air. The caw of an unidentified bird responded from somewhere above. Otherwise the silence was marred only by the loose soil sluicing under his boots. A furtive glance below to ensure the reptile had not encroached on safe separation.

Perhaps he should have asked Joao, the official minder assigned by the Ministry, to accompany him. He could find himself in all kinds of trouble here. Everything from venomous snakes to crocodiles, from poachers to thieves. Not to mention he had exceeded the restrictions of his work permit just by being in this remote part of the country. If a patrol chanced upon him there was no telling what would happen.

He slowed his downward travel almost to a stop and glanced below. Another couple of meters and he could see a ledge which offered firm footing. More interestingly, the earth slide he had caused now exposed the rock face he sought. A darker brownish grey pierced the red tint of the African dirt. The prize, if his expectations were to be fulfilled, hinted at when the February rains had flushed the topsoil.

Now safe on the ledge, he looked up. The chisel point of the hammer would help him climb back up easily enough; that and the rope he had secured to the tow hook on the rear of his 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser LC79 pickup. Going further down, toward the thankfully still croc, was not an option.

He turned his attention back to the exposed rock. Its color and composition seen this close up matched what he was looking for, but he needed to perform more tests before he could be sure.  He reached into the bag hanging from his shoulder and extracted an insulated metal tube. After unscrewing the lid, he placed the tube carefully on the ledge. Next he extracted a pair of thick gloves and a small trowel. After donning the gloves, he held the trowel under the exposed brown-grey rock then chipped away with his hammer’s chisel point. In a few minutes, a decent sample had collected on the trowel. This he deposited in the tube and reapplied the lid. He returned everything to the bag and used the hammer and rope to climb the rock face.

Once alongside his truck, he stashed the bag out of sight under the passenger seat. For now, his find needed to be verified and then reported back. Once that was done, people way above his own paygrade would negotiate exploitation rights on an International level. He might receive a substantial bonus if everything turned out as he hoped.

He dropped his hammer on the floor of the passenger well then closed the door. Untying the rope and stowing it in the lockbox in the bed of the truck took a couple of minutes. Now he was ready for the long drive back to the coast.

He glanced up at the sky. At least no rain was expected, so he would only have the dust to contend with. Dust and potholes, mudslides, stray fauna. The usual assortment on West African roads.

Just as he was about to climb into the cab, a glint of bright light caught his eye. He reached into the door pocket and extracted his binoculars. Cranking them up to maximum power he could make out a plume of dust, no, two.

Vehicles coming fast from the west.

This could be a problem.


Two military Jeeps.

Four men in the first, three, and a .50 caliber machine gun, in the second.

He slowed to a stop and awaited their approach. The braking tires of the oncoming vehicles sent a red cloud tsunami at the closed windows of his own car. By the time it had settled, he was surrounded by angry faces, all porting the Israeli Galil ACE 31 assault rifles that had been issued to the country’s army the previous year after some astute arms trader had made the deal of a lifetime. All, that was, except the last man to descend from the jeep. His face was instantly recognizable. Hardly a day went by without Colonel Nelson Dembo’s visage gracing the few pages of the local, state-run newspapers. Officially he was the second most powerful man in the country, though many whispered his reach was far longer, and more deadly, than President General Jordan Savimbi. The joke was he had acquired the rank of Colonel after the coup that had placed Savimbi into the President’s Palace in the capital as a dig at his fellow rebel, the new President. Both Savimbi and Dembo had been Corporals in the armed forces of the previous regime. Savimbi, however, had sought to make his intentions clear and assumed the rank of General the very next day.

Dembo approached the Toyota taking every step as though time was irrelevant. The geologist lowered his window. When the Colonel spoke, the slow, plummy tones of his affected British upper-class accent grated on his ears.

“My dear fellow, what a surprise! I did not expect to find you out here, so far from the area your contract restricted you to. Please, do step out of your car.”

Dembo nodded to one of the men who stepped forward, yanked open the Toyota’s door, then dragged the geologist onto the dried mud ground.

The Colonel waited until he regained his feet then spoke again.

“Do you have a legitimate explanation for why you are here? A special permit, perhaps, from our beloved President Savimbi?” His smile was as wide as it was false.

“I, er, no, Colonel Dembo, I don’t have permission to be this far up-stream. It’s just professional curiosity. I’m due to finish my work in your country in a couple of weeks and decided I’d like to examine the rock strata along the river bed. Curiosity, nothing more.” He lowered his head hoping a humble demeanor would count in his favor.

“Ah. What do we have here?” The Colonel reached collected the geologist’s bag from the soldier who had been rummaging inside the Toyota’s cabin. He held aloft the metal sample tube. “And this, dear boy?”

“Just some dirt and rock samples I wanted to analyze back at base camp.”

“Why? Do they hold some kind of special interest for you?”

“No, nothing out of the ordinary. I just wanted to check for the presence of any indicators for minerals you might like to mine. You know, see if it would be worth your country’s time to sink a few boreholes and uncover economically viable mineral resources.”

“All without seeking permission…”

“I know, I’m sorry, I…”

“Do not interrupt me again!” Even the Colonel’s snobbish airs failed to hide the venom in the voice.

Seconds passed as though some divine figure had pressed the pause button. No one moved. No one spoke.

“Now, as I was saying before being so rudely interrupted, even if your motives are, shall we say, altruistic, this isn’t your country where you can travel anywhere without restriction and dig holes in the earth to satisfy your curiosity. We own this land, not you. There is no Public access by default here.”

“I am sorry. It wasn’t my intention…”

“What have you found?”


“Your sample. What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know for sure. I need more tests as I mentioned.”

“But a man of your experience…” Smiling to punctuate his phrase, a toothy reminder of the crocodile below the scree.

“I really don’t know, Colonel…”

“Don’t vacillate me. I am a man of learning, not one of these rag-tag blacks. You would do well to remember that.”

“Sir, that was not my intention…”

“Enough! You are to consider yourself detained.”

The geologist stepped forward, extending an imploring hand.

The soldier behind also advanced, bringing the butt of his assault rifle down hard on the man’s neck. As he slumped to the ground, fighting the blackness that rushed to engulf him, he heard the Colonel shout at the soldier.

“You fool! You might have killed him. I need him alive…”

Colonel Dembo pulled out his pistol, levelled it at the soldier’s head, and pulled the trigger.

“Sergeant Okeke, put him in the jeep.” He indicated the crumpled form of the geologist.

“What about…?” The sergeant’s bulging eyes were focused on the other body.

The Colonel, holstering his own weapon, stooped over and retrieved the dead soldier’s Galil. He turned and stepped into the nearest vehicle. His eyes caught movement down by the river.

“Throw it to the crocodile.”

*     *     *

A suicide mission no one wants to take on!

An international criminal as an ally!

Could this be the end of CACS
…and the death of its operatives?


available soon - special pre-order offer for Newsletter readers.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

WINNERS of the MEME competition

Hello everyone.

As you may know, I ran a competition with an audiobook edition of my
'the CULL - Bloodline' novel as the prize:

Your Amazon link for the audiobook & books

It was an easy competition; all you had to do was come up with either a meme or thought bubble text for a photo of my furry footwarmer.

We were inundated with entries.

After much head scratching, we chose 14 who should have received an email from me by now with instructions of how to download their prize.

(If you haven't and see your entry below, contact me immediately via my website). 
(If you have and haven't downloaded the audiobook yet, remember there's a time limit.)

Here are the winning entries:

from Jennifer:

from Angie:

from Bonnie:

(I actually grimaced when I read this! Worst nightmare EVER!)

from Bob:

from Elizabeth:

(scrappy - yeah! ...and the werewolf bit explains a lot)

from LaClau:
(who sent in the complete image! kudos!)

from Christy:

(Kata was Scottish and drank tea... usually mine when I wasn't looking)

from Cheryl:

(I'm sure that if Kata was still here, she would be writing this)

from Jeanine:

(I'm not THAT mean... I'd take her after finishing one page)

from Paula:

(You have to be politically correct, so they say?)

from Dianne:

(Ouch! Too close to home!)

from Ian:

(I confess, this one brought a tear to my eye.)

from Judith:

(My secrets revealed!!!)

and lastly

from Kim:

I thank you all for your entries, there were so many great ones.

Watch out for more competitions only for my newsletter friends soon.

Not a newsletter friend yet?

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