Alan Beach and Jake Riley are back! More than a year after shutting down the Devlin Conspiracy, Beach and his new partner, James Foxx, are hot on the trail of a brutal serial killer. The killer’s modus operandi is startlingly similar to THE KILLING CODE’s infamous “Orphan-maker” Brian Adler. But Adler’s been dead for nine months.
On the other side of the world, Jake Riley’s hunting the man who killed his brother. The former Special Ops soldier reluctantly teams up with Mike Lee, his former CIA handler, and Dozer and Priest, two former Australian SAS operators turned mercenaries. Jake’s thirst for vengeance leads them on a breakneck chase from Thailand and Cambodia to America and the Ukraine in pursuit of a major Russian pakhan. But the powerful crime-lord is in the midst of his own battle with a rival gang of Romanians, hell-bent on seizing power in the region.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Based on the success of my first book, THE KILLING CODE, and feedback from readers, I was very happy to find my writing in demand. Most readers asked when the sequel would be out, so I went to work, and here it is. I’ve started writing the third book in the Beach Riley series, which will be THE KILLING COHORT.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I have built on the characters from the first book, and added more, using combined traits from friends and family.
“Hang in there, Beach – don’t you die on me!” Special Agent Foxx shouted through the swirling, grit-laced wind and sporadic gunfire. He leaned in close to Beach’s face while his hand, soaked in sticky, red ooze, maintained pressure on his partner’s chest. “I’m gonna get you outta here – just hold on!”
The enemy was closing in fast now, nearing the top of an ugly, bald rise just over thirty yards away from Beach and Foxx’s position. The howling wind grabbed dirt from the assailants’ footsteps, whipping it up in violent waves toward their quarry. Foxx knew he had to keep pressure on Beach’s chest, but he also knew that if he didn’t return fire, his efforts to save his partner would soon be futile. He grabbed Beach’s hand, pressing it hard onto the matted red rag on the fallen man’s chest, and shouting for him to hold it in place. Then Foxx dived onto his belly, taking aim at the advancing enemy.
He fired a burst of three shots until the slide on his weapon snapped open. Dropping the empty magazine from the handgrip, he slapped a new one in its place. One of the advancing attackers had braved the rise and was starting toward the FBI agents’ position. Another three-round burst rang out; this time Foxx found his mark. The man shrieked in pain, falling to the ground, holding his thigh. His teammates crouched, considering their next move. Paying no attention to their downed comrade, they strained to see over the rise and find the clearest path forward.
Foxx took the few seconds respite to check on his partner. Beach was now unresponsive, his hand falling loosely from the rag on his chest. It was decision time. The situation was dire, and Foxx was all in. Glancing toward the enemy, he sucked in a deep breath of dust-choked air, and holstered his weapon. Grabbing Beach’s right wrist, he pulled hard, upward and toward him, until the bulk of his partner’s body was off the ground. Then he leaned his shoulder into Beach’s belly, letting Beach’s body drape over him in a fireman’s lift.
Foxx stood, locking his left hand over Beach’s wrist, while dropping his right hand to retrieve his weapon from its holster. Stepping diagonally backward, he fired a series of covering shots toward the bald rise until he was left with only one round in the chamber. Foxx jerked his head to look behind him. Safety was tantalizingly close. The big man turned his body to match his gaze, gritting his teeth, and bending forward to use his partner’s weight to advantage. His powerful legs thrust up and down, mashing his feet into the ground, propelling him and his extra burden forward at a surprising pace.
The enemy responded immediately. Rising from their positions, they fired rapidly at the FBI agents. Foxx heard the shots from behind and for an instant considered returning fire. But he’d fully committed to his desperate retreat – it was too late for such defiance, especially with his weapon almost empty. Struggling with the weight of two, as though in the final meters of an Olympic sprint; engorgement and lactic acid began to overwhelm his legs. He could only hope their movement, the distance from the enemy, and the swirling dust devils, would combine to cover his frantic retreat.
But the assailants were running too, just as desperate to achieve their goal as Foxx was his. As they ran, their firing accuracy decreased, and despite Foxx’s additional burden, they weren’t gaining ground fast enough. One attacker dropped to his haunches, attempting to achieve steadier aim, but flying grit tore at his eyelids. He squinted through the swirling dust, but found it impossible to focus properly. He stood up to rejoin the chase, and was soon overtaking his comrade, but to no avail. Foxx had reached the barn door and quickly disappeared into the large, red structure. The pursuing assailants’ arms fell to their sides as they shook their heads in frustration. Holstering their weapons, and rubbing grit from their eyes, they slowed and walked on in open resignation toward the barn.
Raucous shouts and taunts erupted from their right. Heads bowed in shame, the assailant team ignored the derisive chorus, continuing past a squad of spectators arranged like a gallery at a golf tournament. Reaching the barn door, the disgraced men entered the building. The gallery of onlookers continued jeering as they followed them in. There stood Beach and Foxx laughing; congratulating one another.
Foxx slapped Beach on the back. “I guess you can’t keep a good man down.” He swiped more dust off his partner’s shoulder.
“I’m just glad Holly doesn’t have to wash these coveralls,” Beach said. “Hope this red stain hasn’t leaked through onto my new shirt. She’d hit the roof!”
“Hey, just tell her we won and take her out to dinner. She’ll get over it.”
“Easy for you to say!”
The course examiner interrupted: “You two finished?”
“Sorry, boss, just goofing around,” Foxx said. “Not often you get the same team winning both sides of the training scenario three times in one day.”
“Well, keep it in your pants, Agent Foxx.” The examiner gave a stern glare. “Now – everyone hand in your training weapons, unspent rounds, and magazines, then head to Meeting Room A for the debriefing.”
Foxx grumbled something about no one having a sense of humor as he gathered his gear. At a long table the munitions master ticked off items on a sheet as they came in. Foxx handed over their gear then turned to Beach. “First round’s on me, partner.”
Beach wiped grit off his forehead. “Sounds good. I can’t wait to get off this farm and back to the real world.”
With their advanced field tactics and partner rescue training complete, they could soon leave the converted rural property in Northwest Kentucky that had been their home the past ten days. Five former Special Forces operatives had bought the failing farm a year earlier and converted it to a state-of-the-art training facility. The venture’s proper name was a lengthy and obscure acronym, but participants and instructors alike referred to it simply as The Test.
The facility’s reputation had grown quickly as the grueling training courses became popular with law enforcement agencies and special military groups. The heavy government patronage of the facility had caught the collective eye of civilian gun and law-enforcement enthusiasts, so the owners of The Test had also implemented reduced-intensity, amateur training programs to capitalize on that lucrative market. Business was booming.
Beach and Foxx had showered, changed into their street clothes, and were getting ready to leave The Test when Beach stopped his partner: “I’ll be right with you. Just want to say goodbye to someone.”
Foxx knew his partner had a special relationship with the owners of the training facility. “Okay, but don’t be cutting into my drinking time.”
“Five minutes – meet you at the car.” Beach said, turning toward the facility’s administration office. He gave the door a quick knock then entered without waiting.
A big thick-set man in his mid-forties sat behind his desk, staring at his computer screen, immense arms guiding carrot-sized fingers to peck at the tiny keys. He had a military haircut, sparkling blue eyes, and prominent square jaw. As Beach entered the stark white room, the man peered up over his reading glasses before looking back down to his keyboard.
“Still not waiting for an invitation, I see.”
“Remind you of the old days, Boss?”
“I ain’t your boss no more, Beach,” said Tom Walker, Beach’s former captain at the Columbus, Ohio police. “And since when do you fancy FBI types have time for nostalgia?”
Beach smiled. He knew this game well and had always found amusement in the big man’s crotchety manner. Walker, who had been in charge of the Columbus homicide unit for a number of years, had a soft spot for Beach but didn’t like to show it. His brusque tone was a signature personality trait he used to avoid suspicion of favoritism. In his former position, with the diverse range of personalities within the department, any hint of nepotism, particularly toward the unpopular Beach, would have made everyone’s life more difficult.
Walker had eventually left the Columbus police, after his former protégé in the Rangers, Jake Riley, had suggested a partnership, and The Test was conceived. They’d also enlisted some of Walker’s other former students, who had left the Rangers and become members of the highly regarded Columbus SWAT Team. Riley was a silent financial partner, buying the property and funding the capital equipment required, while Walker ran the show. Walker had resisted the idea at first, until Jake convinced him it was no act of charity. Jake, a shrewd investor, had quickly convinced Walker that the venture would generate enough revenue to double his captain’s salary, generously reward their partners, and return substantial dividends for himself as the majority shareholder. It was a win-win proposition the captain couldn’t ignore.
The rest was history, and as Jake had promised, his government connections and the quality of training the team provided at The Test, combined to ensure the business flourished. With the newly begun amateur training packages becoming even more lucrative than the government contracts, Walker was soon thinking about expansion. He had many former trainees from the military who had become Special Forces operators, so recruiting talent wouldn’t be an issue. His only dilemma was whether to use his own money to buy a neighboring property, or take the low-risk option of proposing further investment from Jake Riley. It was this quandary with which he’d been wrestling, when Beach walked into his office.
The big man smiled mischievously. “So, I guess you think you’re top-shit now, huh?”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“You know damned well what I mean. I heard you and your partner, what’s-his-name, made the rest of your FBI pals look pretty lame out there.”
“His name is Foxx. And you know me, Boss. I aim to please.”
“So, what do you want, a medal?”
“Man, you’re harsh! I haven’t seen you in almost a year, and you’re already busting my balls!”
“Gotta keep you humble, Beach. Between your wife and mine, I swear those women have got you thinking you’re something special. And then the Bureau gives you that fancy-ass title. Somebody’s gotta swat your head outta the clouds.” Walker leaned his enormous frame back in his chair, a smug challenge on his face.
Alan nodded at Walker’s huge shoulders eclipsing the back of his chair. “I hope that chair is properly reinforced. Looks like Mrs. Walker ought to put you on half rations.”
Alan had always enjoyed the playful repartee with his former commander. Now that he no longer worked for the man, he felt emboldened. But Walker’s next comeback was physical, not verbal; the huge man bolted from his chair with startling speed and agility, not stopping till his face was just inches from Alan’s.
“Fit enough for you?” Walker asked calmly.
Before Alan could answer, Walker’s barrel chest started to shake – slowly at first, then building to a massive heave, as his signature belly laugh began in earnest. Watching the big man bent over, laughing uncontrollably, Alan found himself giving way until both friends were in hysterics.
“Oh man,” Walker said when he was able to speak, “You should have seen your face!”
“You think that’s funny? I need to go check my shorts!”
When the final round of raucous laughter died away, Walker slapped a bear paw on Alan’s shoulder then wrapped his arm playfully around Beach’s neck before turning toward the door.
“I’ll walk you to your car. Great to see you’re doing so well with the Feds. And make sure you give Holly our best. The missus wants to catch up soon.”
The two friends walked down the hall toward the car park, still chuckling, when Alan’s cell phone began to vibrate.
“Speaking of Holly, that’s probably her now.”
He dug into his pocket for the device. Instead of Holly’s caller ID on the screen, he saw his new commanding officer’s name.
“Sorry, I’ve got to take this.” He pressed the receive button. “Beach.”
It was the only word spoken from his end of the conversation. As the call proceeded, his demeanor darkened. The Senior Special Agent listened, wide-eyed, for nearly two minutes before his new boss terminated the call, and Beach’s hand dropped loosely to his side.
Walker examined Beach’s face. It was a look he hadn’t seen on his former star detective before. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s up?”
Alan’s face had turned ashen and vacant. “I have to go.” Then he walked away, trance-like, toward his waiting partner.
Craig Hurren spent many years as a sales and marketing manager and executive in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. He also has a background in commercial television and news production, and was a SCUBA instructor. A long held passion for thrillers has driven him to aspire to the ranks of his favorite authors, such as: Campbell Armstrong, Clive Cussler, Vince Flynn, Michael Crichton, and others. His writing style is clear, concise, and briskly paced. His use of clever plot twists, gritty imagery and crisp action sequences, reflect his interest in the thriller masters, and his knowledge of medical technology makes his stories relevant and realistic.
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