This Means War! by John Locke

“Anything yet?” Bronson asks.

I shake my head.

“All silent. Our guy is still asleep.”

I follow my routine of checking the camera feeds. The laptop’s screen is split into six windows, each shows a distinct part of the apartment we are watching. In the top right corner, our guy is sprawled in his bed, heavily snoring. Even I know where the guy is, I check all the feeds one by one.

Bronson sighs, gets up from the couch and walks to the desk where I’m sitting. He bends over to see the screen better.

“Lucky bastard,” he says. “I wish I had the time to finally have enough sleep.”

I notice the book in his hand he was reading. There is a silhouette of a woman on the cover, and the title says This Means War!

“Is it any good?” I nod towards the book.

“Certainly more interesting than watching this guy sleep, eat, take a shit and go back to sleep.”

“That’s surveillance for you.”

I check six feeds. The guy is still sleeping.

“What is it about?” I ask.

Bronson looks at the book as if the answer is written on the book cover.

“There is this guy, Donovan Creed, ex spy, now head of a security company, counsellor of the White House. He is obsessed with security threats and working out countermeasures. The White House didn’t act on his report on potential threats, so he makes an example–“

I lift my hand, stopping him.

“Don’t spoil it. I might give it a shot. Tell me what did you like.”

“Well, it’s fast-paced. You can hardly can come up for breath as you follow the story. Locke doesn’t really bother with descriptions.”

“How do you know how the characters look like, then?”

“Of course, there is some description, but minimal. For example, you are told that Callie is a beautiful blond and has grey eyes, but not ouch more.”

“Hm…,” I say.

“Actually, I don’t mind.”

“How do you know how the places look like?”

“If I tell you a guy walks into a bar, you already have a picture in your mind about a bar. Maybe I throw in something short like a bar with full of glass and mirrors and shine chrome. Do I need more?”

“I can picture it.” I do another round of checking the feeds on the laptop. The guy is still snoring.

“Right. I don’t say I would mind some more details here and there, but I can live without it.”

“What else?”

“The characters are crazy.”

“In what way?”

“Mentally. Not asylum-crazy, but not normal like you or me.”

“We are normal?”

“Compared to Creed or Callie? For sure. We don’t kill people because we don’t like them, for one. We don’t kill people to achieve some higher purpose, either.”

“But Creed does.”

“Callie too. And a bunch of others.”

“It supposed to be a trait?”

“It sure makes it interesting. I wouldn’t read a book about six days of sheer surveillance boredom.”

“You have a point.” After almost a week of sitting on my ass and watching this guy, I want to kill someone myself.

“Is the story interesting?” I ask.

“Yeah, man. It keeps you guessing until the end. And when you think you don’t have loose ends, there comes the twist.”

“I like twists and turns.”

“Sometimes the plot seems too complicated, but in the end everything comes together.”

Another round of video feeds, and I still got snores.

“I think I give it a shot,” I say.

“Start with the first one in the series. You need the backstory to understand everything. But you will go through them real fast, I promise.”

I nod, but before I can say anything, one feed catches my eye. I pick up the radio.

“Bravo team, this is Eagle nest. I need immediate intervention! Over.”

Bronson drops his book. “Son of a bitch,” he says, staring at the screen.

“This is Bravo team, copy Eagle nest. What is the situation? Over.”

“Intruder in the hall. Six feet, male, armed with a handgun, slowly advancing towards the bedroom. Over.”

“Twenty seconds until intervention. Bravo Team out.”

In less than a minute, the Bravo Team breaks into the apartment, and after some shooting, catches the intruder, wounded but alive. Our guy wakes and he is visibly shaken but unharmed. I save the recording for the report. Then I stand, stretch a bit to work out the kinks.

“We are done here,” I tell Bronson. He is already disconnecting the cables to pack the equipment.

“What is the title of the first book?”

It takes a moment for him to register that I’m not talking about the operation.

“Oh,” he says, “Lethal People.”

Sounds good. Let’s see what this Creed guy is up to.

photo: amazon.com

Buy a Bullet by Gregg Hurwitz

Buy a Bullet by Gregg Hurwitz New York Times bestselling author
photo: audible.com

I close the door behind me. Eight spikes slide into place. I walk to the kitchen island where I left my laptop earlier. I boot it up and log into the house alarm system. Six cameras shows distinct parts of the house. No movement. Good.

I pour a glass of vodka on ice, dim the light and settle down on the couch. I pull my phone from my pocket and press my thumb to the right place. No one else can unlock my phone, so no point in stealing it. Unless they take my thumb too. But they would have to come close, and that would be a mistake. I’m quite attached to my thumb. 

I sip some vodka. It’s ice cold, but burns my throat. I like it. 

I open the app and locate the file. I tap Download and watch the clock-like icon to grow and become full circle. The file is not as big as the others, but important nevertheless. 

I put my earbuds in and tap Play.

The story is brief, but tense. I know the man from another story, so I need no introduction. I follow how he notices the woman for the first time and realizes that she is with the guy against her will. The man recognizes the signs of rudeness and harassment. It comes with his profession. He must help the woman, and I agree.

He is a professional. He does recon at the guy’s house and hacks his alarm system. I’m happy that I introduced several layers of security, and any hacker who wants to get into my alarm is up for a surprise.

The guy is crazy. Drugs and guns crazy. But it isn’t a problem. The man dealt with his kind before. He has a plan.

As it turns out the guy and his bodyguards disagree with the plan, but the man doesn’t care. The guy is an animal who doesn’t deserve to live. 

There is blood. Shots are being fired. Knife is in use. And by the end, what has to be done is done.

The girl is free.

The file ends, and I sit in silence for a while. My glass is empty, and I like the nice fuzzy feeling the vodka left. Then I tap on my phone’s screen. I need to send back my evaluation to the people who provided me with the file. That’s the gentlemen’s agreement between us. I get a nice discount and they get my professional opinion. I tap the star on the right, and all five stars become yellow. Then I start to type and don’t stop until I write all. Then I tap Send.

I put away my phone and I think about the file. How I should have done it? Probably with more bullets and less knife-work. But in my profession there is no wrong or right way to do it. The result that counts. 

Then I get up to pour another vodka. There are more files to evaluate.