As promised, guys, I’m posting a sneak peek every 10K. Since I hit 20, 000 words yesterday, here’s the excerpt. Nearly 1K of nothing but Hunter.
Pure panic appears on the wizard’s face. Not just a momentary lapse of courage, but sheer unthinking terror. His response is half-an octave short of a scream.
“Don’t do that! You can’t do that, not yet! It took me years to capture that animal, Hunter. If you let it out… No, no you won’t let it out.”
He’s beginning to look calmer and more collected. Which isn’t saying much.
“You don’t know enough about it, not enough to risk letting it out. It’s the reason that airport is abandoned, you know that now, right? Broke out of its cage on the helicopter that brought it in… I had ten Hunters working that job. One of them made it back out, but he didn’t live long.”
“Why not? Poison claws, or teeth? Blood loss? Something worse?”
He looks a little sick.
“No, nothing like that. Greed. I doubled his pay and he went back in. Took thirty other Hunters with him, ones he scrounged up out of the bars and a couple who flew in from South America. Owed him a favor, those ones, I think. Four, maybe five of them came back and he wasn’t one of them. But they got the job done. A million apiece has a motivating effect on a men, doesn’t it?”
He grins up at me, but it looks forced. He’s not wrong, though. I’ve taken worse jobs for a lot less. The difference is, I survived them.
“You went in afterwards, didn’t you, Pagonis? To lock up the airport and figure out your next move.”
I’ve seen healthier colors on sick-ward patients.
“Yeah. I’ve seen some ugly things in my day, but that was the worst. I just burned the whole place. When the fire guttered out, there wasn’t anything left but the steel shells and that cage. Turned the burn-out hangars into a nice little base and started planning how to get the other animal out of the Pocket. Then Keenan came along and… well, you can guess how that went.”
That I can. Keenan wouldn’t need to call in one of her pet wizards, not to deal with him. Sneak up on the little wizard and stick a gun barrel in his face and he’d probably wilt like a flower in a furnace.
“I’ll do it.”
“I’ll do it.”
“I heard that part. I missed the demand for fifty percent up front. I missed the threat of violence on my delicate person if I don’t tell you how to get into the Pocket.”
“Shut it, wizard. If you want me to the job, you’ll have to tell me how to find the second of the two animals. As for the money, you know better than to try to cheat me.
You heard the stories about what I did to that man in Burma? Well, the stories don’t even come close.”
He doesn’t look convinced, but he reaches into his desk and pulls out a map. It’s much, much newer than the two I… appropriated. It’s also missing one of the inked-in locations.
“Alright, Hunter, these are,the coordinates. If you can get your hands on both animals, you’ll get your eleven million. After delivery to my location.”
I glare at him. The little worm wants me to catch these beasties, double-cross Keenan and personally deliver his merchandise? That takes gall.
“I’ll get them for you, but you ship them, little man. I don’t play post-boy.”
Pagonis grimaces, but he know better than to argue. One nod from him and threatening stare from me later, I’m on the way out. The little man doesn’t say anything about the Storm-warped pythons on his front door-step, so it doesn’t seem polite to mention them.
Taking the stairs rather than the elevator, which is probably still reptile infested, seems the smartest move. At the bottom step, I halt, checking my shotgun loads. No point venturing into snaky territory without a readied weapon, even if it might not help much. I automatically wince as I push open the door, expecting a loud creak and a hissing response.
Nothing. Not even a rasp of scales on marble. Interesting; it appears that the beasties are Pagonis’ pets. That, or it’s a staggering co-incidence that they attacked me when I broke in, but leave me alone now. Around wizards, there’s no such thing as co-incidence. Even after reaching the front door, there’s still no sign of the pythons, which is a real shame. I’d been looking forward to playing appetizer at their party.
The street is just as empty, which is a relief. Even in this deserted end of town, a running fight between a man with a shotgun and two forty foot snakes might attract some notice. It would also attract the police.
If I didn’t want to be answering questions from a jail cell while Keenan was offering seven grand, eleven million has an even greater motivating effect. Specifically, great enough that I’m seriously considering finding myself a hole and waiting till dark before heading back to Keenan’s little airport base to collect my seven thousand.
And then I remember; my pack. If I’m going to steal that beastie from Keenan, or capture its mate from the Shipyards Pocket, I’m going to need some of the more interesting toys out of that pack. The only problem is, the last time I had it, I was sitting in a police car, having a nice little conversation with three of my biggest fans.
Immediately after that, the car got blown upside down and two of Keenan’s thugs hauled me out. Without the pack. They didn’t even say “please” for that matter, but that part could be overlooked. They had just attacked three of New Tonio’s finest and kidnapped their prisoner, so they were in an understandable hurry. But leaving most of a man’s gear behind, that’s just rude.
Well, guys, I hope you enjoyed it! That’s all for now, but keep an eye out. If you have to read more NOW…. check out the library.