Excerpt for Ricochet (William Bernhardt's Shine Series Book 15) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





RICOCHET



by Burke Holbrook


Copyright © 2015 Burke Holbrook

All rights reserved.

Published by Babylon Books

Distributed by Smashwords

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Other Books by William Bernhardt

The Ben Kincaid Novels:

Primary Justice

Blind Justice

Deadly Justice

Perfect Justice

Cruel Justice

Naked Justice

Extreme Justice

Dark Justice

Silent Justice

Murder One

Criminal Intent

Death Row

Hate Crime

Capitol Murder

Capitol Threat

Capitol Conspiracy

Capitol Offense

Capitol Betrayal

Other novels:

Challengers of the Dust

The Game Master

Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness

Dark Eye

Strip Search

Double Jeopardy

The Midnight Before Christmas

The Code of Buddyhood

Final Round

Nonfiction:

Story Structure: The Key to Successful Fiction

Creating Character: Bringing Your Story to Life

Perfecting Plot: Charting the Hero’s Journey

Dynamic Dialogue: Letting Your Story Speak

Sizzling Style: Every Word Matters

Excellent Editing: The Writing Process

Powerful Premise: Writing the Irresistible

The Fundamentals of Fiction Video Series

Poetry:

The White Bird

The Ocean’s Edge

For young readers:

Shine

The Black Sentry

Princess Alice and the Dreadful Dragon

Equal Justice: The Courage of Ada Sipuel

Edited by William Bernhardt

Legal Briefs: Stories by Today’s Best Thriller Writers

Natural Suspect: A Collaborative Novel of Suspense





For Alice, Beth, Kadey, and Madeline





“You laugh at me because I'm different. I laugh at you because you're all the same.”

Jonathan Davis


Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Note from the Author

Acknowledgements

About the Author


Chapter 1

Frenchie shivered. If she had to wait in these cramped quarters for another five minutes, frostbite would set in. Why couldn’t they have chosen a different apartment building, preferably one that wasn’t abandoned and absent of heat? She glanced over at Juliet, hoping for the sign to go, but Juliet’s eyes were closed. She was no doubt enjoying the frigid wind as it blew through Chicago. A sensation lost in the depths of Detroit’s old salt mines.

Lengthening her own hair was now an afterthought, almost automatic. There was no need to pinpoint the hair follicles before activating them like she had to do for others. She grew her hair along her chin and gathered the warmth from her breath.

The hard plaster that now made up the lower part of her right leg felt like it was encased in ice. Her new nub was going numb. The pain from her three-month-old amputation was returning with electric shocks that shot from her existing hip down into her prosthetic toes. She bounced on both feet and switched her weight from one foot to the other, desperate to keep the blood flowing.

The early morning sun did little more than provide ambient light to the building they were staking out, but it made it easy to see the FBI agents and local police surround the place. It was hard to believe they put so much effort into arresting a few Shines. And it made even less sense for Juliet to risk the safety of the entire Shine team for a few girls.

Juliet motioned for everyone to tuck in to the shadows as an armored, hovered, vehicle glided past the window and parked in front of the neighboring house’s door steps.

Four FBI agents sprinted to the vehicle, pulled out a battering-ram, and carried it to the front door.

Frenchie glanced back at the room she had just seen the girls in. They were still there, lying in their bunk beds just across the hall from the front door, no idea in the world they were about to become victims of the FBI’s latest raid.

Why didn’t they warn them? Why didn’t they bust in and save them already? Frenchie glared at Juliet once more and cursed under her frosty breath. She couldn’t sit here and watch more innocent Shines get incarcerated. But she remembered the gallon of Nair and the electrolysis that followed the last time she disobeyed a direct order. Even her own powers to wield and control hair were unable to resurrect the dime size of hair follicles on the back of her head. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to do a sweep over.

The battering-ram smashed into the front door. The door flew open. And a dozen federal agents rushed inside.

Juliet waved at Anvil who was already sharing the opposite roof with two snipers. Then she signaled to Empy, who crouched down low next to Frenchie.

Empy stood up and tried to blend in with the cement wall with her palms facing the front door of the house. Moments later an electromagnetic pulse caused the hovercraft to collapse to the ground. Those agents and policemen who’d been waiting for a chance to use their new laser stun guns would soon be disappointed.

The agents ran out of the house empty handed.

Juliet pointed a tiny satellite at them, allowing the Shine group to hear the conversation as if they were sitting next to them.

“Where did they go?” one of the agents asked, looking at his director.

“We had eyes on them,” the director screamed looking around the small army. “We had agents covering every exit and eyes up above. The girls were there no less than one minute ago.” The director held a walkie-talkie to his lips. “Eagle, Shad, did you see what happened?”

There was no reply.

“Eagle, Shad, over.”

Frenchie smiled as she imagined the two snipers crumpled up like accordions and Anvil sitting nearby fighting the urge to answer the call. She had to have known there was no way her deep voice could sound like a man’s.

The director sent two men into the neighboring building to check on the snipers. By the time they made is upstairs, Frenchie knew they too would be out of commission.

“Here they come,” Juliet said. “Ground yourself.”

Do what…

The Chicago winds stopped for a moment and the entire room felt full of static. Every hair on Frenchie’s body stood on end. And then, as if someone had touched something metal, the static electricity discharged with a sudden zap. A brief flicker of light filled the room as a shock wave rippled through Frenchie. When her eyes adjusted again to the darkness, two twenty-something year old girls stood in the middle of the room holding each other.

How? What? Frenchie glanced at Juliet for an explanation.

The FBI scrambled over to their building.

“And here comes the cavalry,” Juliet said as she turned toward the newcomers. “Srini, Clara, we thought you could use some…”

The door burst open. Two agents jumped into the room, weapons raised.

“Don’t move,” one of them said. “Unless you want to find out what fifty thousand volts feels like.”

Srini and Clara’s hands shot up. Frenchie started to follow.

“Put your hands down. They won’t shoot,” Juliet said as she walked out onto the lanai. “Let’s go ladies.”

Empy followed. Frenchie did as well. When a series of clicks shot out from the Taser’s empty shell, she spun around in time to see the FBI Agents pulling their back-up weapons.

Frenchie, grew-out both of the agent’s arm hair, braided their hands and heads together, and gagged them with ratted ponytails, before they could line up a target.

After closing the apartment door behind the two agents, Frenchie joined the other girls on the lanai. It would take the rest of the agents another ten minutes to search through the rest of the apartment building. That’s plenty of time for the group of Shines to slip into the night.


Chapter 2

Lake Herron’s frozen air was so cold it burned Thierry’s lungs as if he’d just inhaled a few embers of magma. His fingers and toes were numb and tingling some time ago, and his insides would soon follow. He’d never seen snow. In fact, he’d never been north of Florida’s panhandle. Not until a few days ago anyways.

Thierry reached for Janice’s hand. It felt just as it had earlier, like the hand of an old mannequin. How much longer did Janice have before the fever consumed her? If nothing else, coming north in the middle of winter should have cooled her down. And it did for a few days, giving them hope that they wouldn’t have to go forward with their plans.

Thierry’s entire body ached for the tropical sun and some rice and beans. It was a simple job they said - fly to Detroit, break-in to Krunzeto and take a few files. It didn’t matter what the files contained, they were paying him two-hundred-grand, and better yet, had promised a cure for his sister.

“Thierry,” Janice trembled.

He scrambled for a syringe, uncapped it, and slipped it into his sister’s thigh.

“Owe,” she shrieked. Her jaw continued to twitch long after she'd spoken.

Maybe he should have finished his training as an EMT instead of getting wrapped up in the fast life of South Beach. Thierry patted the box in his pocket. There was only enough antiserum to last until the rendezvous.

Thierry and Janice slipped behind the garage of another abandoned house, the red and blue lights of a police chopper-car reflected off a broken window. In the 1960s this was probably one of the more prominent neighborhoods. And now there was no running water or electricity. The entire community appeared to be vacant, except for a few smoking chimneys.

After the chopper-car passed, Thierry cracked open the side door. “Crap,” he whispered in Creole. The garage, like all the others he’d checked, was empty and worthy to be condemned. The only things of interest were the three-foot pillars of ice hanging off the roof top. He glanced down at his phone, 7:30 pm and in dire need of the sun, a new battery pack, or somewhere to charge the phone.

Janice had a coughing fit. At least this time her mouth didn’t end up full of blood. Thierry patted her on the back. “It’s going to be okay. Just a little bit longer.”

Where were they and why did they have to meet here? It would have been less conspicuous to meet somewhere buzzing with people. But here, they seemed to be the only people in town with the exception of a few cops patrolling the streets.

Thierry’s cell phone rang. He scrambled to get it out of his pocket and up to his ear hoping the battery would last. “Hello.”

“Put the files in the brick mailbox of the house on the corner.”

“What about my sister?”

“After we’ve verified the files, you’ll get you the antidote.”

“No. It’s not happening like that. You give me the antidote and after I’ve given it to Janice, then you’ll get your files.”

“Sir, that’s…” The digital display faded, and the phone went dead.

Janice hacked so hard she vomited. The crackers and soda from her last two meals speckled the ground and her sleeves. But she was too weak and weary to care.

Thierry wiped her mouth.

“Are they coming?” she croaked.

“They’ll come. They sent us here to get something and they’re not leaving without it.”

The cold air seeped through Thierry’s jacket as if it were rice paper. He shivered as the frigid humidity seeped into his spine. He wrapped his arms around his little sister to protect her from the cold and settled against the wall. Waiting here was as good a place as any.

• • •

Someone kicked Thierry's foot.

Thierry tried to crack open an eye. He couldn't have been asleep for more than a few minutes but his eyelids were already frozen shut. He brushed his face with the back of his hand. A bull of a man hovered over him.

“That the file?” the man asked. The amount of glare off his bald head seemed impossible in such low light.

Thierry nodded while he pinched his sister, trying to rouse her. She didn't respond.

He pulled Janice to her feet and leaned her against the door, encouraging her to stand. Then he removed a manila folder from his jacket. “Here's the first half of the file.”

“The first half,” the man screamed, steam bellowing from his teeth like some kind of locomotive. He knocked Janice to the ground and had Thierry by the throat before anyone could respond.

Thierry stumbled to the left. A jab to the man's wrist and then ribcage did little more than inherit Thierry a new found pain in his chest from the man’s fist. His breath was gone. The rampant rhythm of his heart rattled in his skull.

Thierry landed a lucky shot to the man's groin only to find that the man was either robotic or had worn a full-fledged hockey uniform.

A second punch to the abdomen seemed to displace Thierry's spleen. And he crumpled to the ground unable to move.

“I was hoping you would be more reasonable,” the man said as he scooped Janice off the floor. “Now tell me, where is the second half of the file?”

Thierry coughed up some blood and considered pulling the chain out from underneath his shirt. But he knew what would happen. He and his sister were both dead if he gave them what they wanted.

“You should leave the tourists alone,” said a voice said from the shadows.

“It’s none of your business, lady. I suggest you move on.”

“And if I refuse?”

The man turned to look at the girl in the doorway. Sure she was built like a tank but she couldn't have been over twenty years old and the man outweighed her by at least seventy pounds.

The man flung Janice to the ground and turned toward the girl in the doorway. “When I’m done with you, even the dogs won’t touch your scraps.” With lightning speed, the man closed the gap and put all of his weight behind an uppercut.

The girl didn't dodge the punch. She just stood there as if this was a game of chicken.

Thierry flinched. He knew what was coming. He didn't want to watch what would happen to the poor girl who had tried to save them.

When the man's hand connected with her jaw, he screamed out in pain, crumpling to the floor, cradling his arm which appeared to be fractured, dislocated, and mutilated in at least three different places.

The screaming stopped as the man slipped off into unconsciousness.

“Good job, Anvil,” a second girl said as she stepped past the first and knelt down beside the man to take his vitals. “Hey, Frenchie can you knit this guy a coat or something to keep him warm until he comes to?”

“Already on it,” Frenchie said as she walked into the room with a slight limp. “Though it’s a shame we'll have to ruin his bowling ball.” The red head slid her hand across his bald scalp. Seconds later the mob boss looked like a Flock of Seagulls groupie.


Chapter 3

Frenchie was rather proud of the eight-ball’s hairdo. Normally it would take a lot of product to make hair stay like that. She smirked and glanced at the couple on the ground.

The boy swept his long brown hair out of his eyes and hooked it around his ears. His chiseled chin was shadowed like he’d skipped shaving for a few days.

Frenchie braced her good foot against the wall and put out a hand to help him off the ground.

He scrambled along the garage’s cabinets as if Frenchie had some kind of disease. Trembling, he hovered over the girl that lay almost unconscious on the floor. His eyes bounced from Frenchie, to Anvil, and then Juliet and back. “How, how did…” he asked with a French accent.

“How did I what?” Frenchie asked as she caught a glint of his gorgeous brown eyes that seemed to capture everything on film. “How did I Shine? Let’s just say that I have something in common with Wonder Woman.”

“Frenchie, you guide Thierry. Anvil, you grab his sister,” Juliet said. “We need to get back before the cops loop through the neighborhood again.”

At the mention of his name, Thierry did a double take at Juliet, the color draining from his tanned face. “How’d ya know my name?”

“Don’t worry, Thierry,” Juliet said. “We intercepted your phone call when we were on our way through town. That’s how I learned your name.”

Annie the Anvil scooped the girl off the ground and cradled her in her arms. The young girl groaned but made no attempt to move.

Thierry jumped to his feet and ran after the sick girl.

Frenchie placed her throbbing, self-designed prosthetic leg across the doorway. The 3D printer had made the appendage look like an evil, praying mantis.

Thierry stopped in his tracks. He was not looking at Frenchie’s legs in the way she’d hoped.

“Not so fast,” she said holding a black fabric bag out in front of her. “Put this on.”

“But…”

“It’s the only way you’re coming, pretty-boy. Our ‘all girls club’ takes the secrecy of their lair seriously. You can either stay here, get knocked out with a sedative, or place this bag over your head and hold my hand.”

Thierry bit his lip, brushed his hair back, and then slipped the bag over his head.

Frenchie slapped his butt, grabbed his hand, and led him outside as if they were on their first date. The group crossed the street, snaked around a few blocks until they were satisfied that no one was following them, and then they entered the salt mines.

• • •

Sitting in the closet for an extended period made Shinal understand how Harry Potter must have felt when his foster parents locked him under the stairs. It didn’t matter how much music, movies, or soda they put in there, being trapped in the closet to monitor the surveillance cameras for a week was driving her crazy. This was by far the worst job at the base, and she had another three days to go.

Shinal cracked open another can of Coke as the rest of the Shines came home. Anvil carried one girl all the way down the staircase. Frenchie was guiding someone else.

What have you got there? Shinal wondered as she zoomed in on them. The figure had broad shoulders and stood a full foot higher than Frenchie’s bangs. Her friend was towing somebody tall, dark, and unmistakably male. She waited until they entered the mine and locked the door, then she ran down to greet them. She had to be there when they took his hood off. This was the closest thing to a Christmas present she could expect this year.

Frenchie guided him through the salt mines main entrance. The 20 foot off-white ceilings dwarfed him, but they did that to everyone. The door slammed shut behind them and echoed down the long corridor. Frenchie slid the deadbolts in place and walked the black-hooded stranger to a park bench. She playfully nudged him backwards.

The top edge of the park bench hit the back of his knee and he collapsed into the seat. His covered head reclined backwards and thudded against the wall. “We don’t have time for this,” he muttered. “My sister. She’s sick. She’s dying.” He patted down his pockets. The speed of his hands increased as he moved from one pocket to the next. “No. Where?” He shot to his feet and sprinted across the room.

He made it several feet before smashing headfirst into the wall and destroying a camera that filmed the Salt Mine’s entrance. His body crumpled to the ground. He held his head, moaning.

“Ooh, that must’ve hurt,” Frenchie said.

Shinal ran to his aid.

He sat up and mumbling foreign words with a French accent. His hands tried to take the hood off.

Shinal placed her hands on his warm and brown fingers. “Leave the hood on. It’ll only be for a little longer.” She took him back to the park bench.

A few minutes later, the man spoke through the black bag again, this time in English “What did you do with it?” He asked through the bag. “Where’s the anti-serum?”

“Undergoing evaluation, same as your sister,” Juliet said as she stepped into room. “Do you know how she got sick?”

Thierry shook his head. “Don’t know. I guess she got bitten by one of those McNasty mosquitoes. People everywhere in Florida are getting sick. There’s a flicking plague. Just two weeks ago my sister was spinning cartwheels across Palm Beach, the next day she couldn’t even make it to the toilet. The ER doctors didn’t know what’s wrong and our insurance consists of a Band-Aid box filled with loose change.”

Shinal shivered. The disease had been fluttering around the Southern states for a few months, claiming one victim after another. Thankfully it had been contained to the coastal regions until now. She took a step back and wanted to run from the room and rinse her hands in a battery acid.

“Where did you get the anti-serum?” Juliet asked.

“I ah.” The black bag turned to the left, Shinal imagined his eyes rolling while he searched for a suitable lie. But it wouldn’t matter, somehow Juliet would see through it. “I got it from a new employer,” the man said. “They hired me to get hold of a few things here in Detroit and offered the cure and a bundle of cash. The anti-serum has been keeping my sister alive until we could get the cure.”

“Come on Thierry, what did you steal?” Juliet demanded.

Thierry sat silent for a minute. Juliet, Frenchie, and Shinal let him bide his time, sulking in the black bag. Lola came into the room and slipped a sheet of paper to Juliet.

“We’ve got all day and then some, Thierry. And you’ve got no chance of seeing your sister unless you cooperate.”

“Come on,” Thierry complained. “It really wasn’t a big deal. It was just a few files from Krunzeto.”


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