Burke’s Revenge — Sample Chapter

1st CHAPTER – Sample

Fayetteville, North Carolina

With only four gates and a handful of flights going in and out each night, the Fayetteville Regional Airport isn’t very large, but it Thrilleris there and it is quick and easy if Fayetteville is where you want to go. Ten minutes after his flight landed, Bob Burke was out the TSA exit, down the escalator to the ground floor, and out the front doors, where he found himself standing in a warm, soft, late-summer, Carolina evening. Try doing that at O’Hare, he smiled to himself. It was 9:30 p.m. and the sun had already set. Without giving it any thought, he came to a dead stop in the middle of the sidewalk and paused to look up. Even through the bright airport lights, he could see a quarter moon and a few bright stars in the sky; causing him to take a deep breath, happy to be back home after four days in Chicago. Most of the other passengers who came in on his flight had peeled off toward Baggage Claim, so the sidewalk was empty, as was the parking lot and the entry road beyond. Well, Bob thought, at least they hadn’t rolled up the runways for the night.

Being a second-generation Army brat, Fayetteville was the closest thing to home for him. However, having spent the past few years working in Chicago and dealing with O’Hare and the ugly Chicago winters, he still found this small city on the Piedmont of North Carolina amazing. Unfortunately, he still had a business to run up north. Teleconferences and the internet were great, but he still had to show his smiling face in the office every few weeks. To maximize his time up there, he always booked the latest flight that would get him back to Fayetteville that night. That inevitably meant changing planes in Charlotte and taking a tiny Dash-8 commuter jet for the last leg over the mountains. He hated them, especially when those God-awful early-evening thunderstorms blew up. Still, a Dash-8 beat a three-hour drive. As they say, “You can’t get there from here.”

As usual, most of the passengers on his flight were Army, dressed in the latest camouflage Army Combat Uniform, beige combat boots, and maroon, tan, or green berets. They were headed up the road to Fort Bragg. Funny, Bob thought; he had been taking this flight once or twice each month for the past six months, and he had yet to run into a familiar face from “back in the day.” True, it had been almost three years since he quit the Army and took the job in Chicago, but he had been a fixture in Special Ops here at Bragg and in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost a decade. He knew almost everyone back then, and everyone knew him, or so he thought. Now, however, other than his own “guys” from the Rangers and Delta Force, it seemed that “the Ghost” really had vanished. Then again, he shouldn’t be surprised. There were 55,000 soldiers stationed at Bragg now, and three years was a lifetime in the Special Ops. Oh, well, he thought, time marches to its own beat, and so did he.

The Fayetteville airport was easy to get in and out of, but it was definitely “no frills,” — no food and no drink at night, and no shuttle buses to the parking lots. He stepped off the curb and began to hoof it across the Short Term Lot, crossing several treed medians, and on into the Long Term Lot, where he had parked his new Ford 150 pickup truck. He was dressed in his usual “gone-to-the-office-and-don’t-give-a-damn,” casual business attire — L.L. Bean chinos, a button-down blue Oxford cloth shirt, no tie, a wrinkle-free blue blazer, and his newest country affectation: a pair of lightweight cowboy boots. He carried no luggage, only two carry-ons. Over his left shoulder hung a small, black computer bag, and in right hand was a Halliburton high-security aluminum briefcase, which had a week’s worth of homework jammed inside. The Army taught him to pack light, and preferably to pack nothing at all; so he left his business suits, dress shoes, ties, and all the rest of that crap in the closet of his Chicago office. With Global Entry, that let him avoid the whole TSA hassle to begin with.

Midway across the dark parking lot, he stopped and looked around. He had only been gone for five days; but it had been “O-Dark-30” when he left, and he had been in and out of way too many parking lots since then. Apparently, “no frills” also extended to the parking lot lights. Half of them were out, while the other half were spaced too far apart to accomplish much of anything, leaving large, dark patches all through the large lot. Fortunately, the quarter moon gave off enough light for an old infantryman like him, so he set off walking through the rows and the median strips to his right, where he was pretty sure he had left the pickup.

He pulled the set of keys from his pocket and looked at the “keyless entry” key fob. It had one of those little red horn buttons for dummies like him who couldn’t remember where they parked. It also had a remote starter button designed for “Susie housewife,” so she wouldn’t need to plant her warm butt on a cold car seat on one of those nasty Chicago winter mornings. Unfortunately, the remote starter could also set off a car bomb, if the Gumbahs he crossed in Chicago and New York finally figured out where he was. So, all things considered, Bob usually opted for the third and somewhat safer button, which would only open the door locks and make the headlights flash.

Before he did, however, he took one more look around. Sure enough, he saw his white, Ford 150 three vehicles down in the next row, parked in the shadow of a humongous, midnight blue, Chevy Tahoe SUV. When he got within fifty feet, he pressed the button to open the electric door locks, which also triggered a quick, bright flash from the truck’s headlights, revealing a cluster of men huddled between his Ford and the SUV. First impressions are usually right 99% of the time, he knew, and what flashed in front of him was for men with long hair, blue jeans, beer guts, leather biker jackets, and some serious tattoos. In the row beyond them, the headlight beams had reflected off four chromed-up Harley-Davidson motorcycles, where the bikers must have had left them standing. They were so focused on breaking into the two trucks that the bright flash of the headlights took him by surprise.

“Turn off them goddamned lights, and get yer ass out ‘a here!” the closest biker turned and growled at Bob. He looked to be the biggest of the bunch, perhaps ‘6 “3 tall and 225 pounds, probably the dumbest of the bunch too, which was why they left him standing guard. Behind him, one of the others held a “Slim Jim” in both hands, working its thin metal strip on the driver’s side door of the Tahoe, pushing it up and down and trying to pop open the door lock. Another biker leaned over his shoulder, watching and waiting, while the fourth held a ball peen hammer at the ready, in the event the more sophisticated entry methods failed.

“Sorry, Gomer,” Bob answered back, “but that’s my pickup truck and I’m not leaving here without it.”

“Wuddju call me?” the first biker’s eyes flashed as he straightened up and turned angrily toward smaller man approaching them.

The biker behind him with the ball-peen hammer, wasn’t nearly as shy. “Is this here yer truck, boy? This piece ‘a crap 150?” he asked, as he swung the hammer into Bob’s passenger side window, smashing it into a thousand little pieces of glass.

Even a freshly-minted country boy like Bob Burke, knew you don’t mess with a man’s woman, his hunting dog, or his pickup truck down here, probably not in that order, and the goober with the hammer had just made a really big mistake. At only ‘5 “9 tall and 165 pounds, Bob Burke was easy to underestimate, but people rarely did that twice. When he left active duty as a Major with twelve years and six combat tours in the Rangers and Delta Force, he walked out the door with most of the top medals the Army hands out for doing what he did — a Distinguished Service Cross, a couple of Silver Stars, and five Purple Hearts — plus three bullet wounds and enough shrapnel in various body parts to require “hand wanding” at TSA checkpoints. He also walked out as an expert with most things that fired bullets, from a 9-millimeter Beretta semiautomatic pistol to the M4 Assault Rifle, a 105-millimeter howitzer when needed, and his personal favorite, the 50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle. He was even more skilled in most of the Asian martial arts.

“You know, Jethro,” Bob told the biker with the ball-peen hammer, as he lowered his computer bag to the pavement, “you should think twice before you pull stuff this around Fort Bragg. There’s no telling who you might piss off.”

“Yeah?” Ball peen eyed him up and downlooked. “What are you, another army puke?”

“Used to be,” Bob answered as he continued walking straight at them, his steel briefcase in his right hand and his eyes scanning every angle and opportunity he saw. “Now, I’m just ‘the telephone guy.’ ”

“The telephone guy?” the biker frowned, not understanding.

“What?” Bob asked as he closed on them. “Are you stupid and deaf? That’ll be $200 for the window, you dumb grit.”

“Dumb grit?” the biker seethed. “Why you little…”

“What the hell you doin’?” the biker using the Slim Jim on the Tahoe’s front door turned and snapped at Gomer. “Go shut that guy up!”

“Yeah, come shut me up, Lem,” Bob smiled. There might be four of them, each at least three inches and thirty pounds bigger than him, but four-out-of-shape bikers trapped in the narrow space between the two trucks didn’t concern him at all, especially not after they broke his truck window.

“Once Special Ops, always Special Ops,” Bob remembered someone saying, and that the best offense is always a good offense. Of the martial arts styles he knew, his current favorite was Krav Maga, the radical fighting discipline developed by the Israeli Defense Forces. There was nothing defensive about it, however, and it was no art. Krav Maga was “street fighting with an attitude,” where you got in the first punch, the last, and everything in between, with the intent to maim or kill.

Despite his extreme daily workouts and peak physical condition, Bob Burke had no bulging Gold’s Gym muscles, and looked anything but intimidating. However, he was a man with a lot of “sharp edges,” as Ace Randall once put it. Whether he was using his hands, feet, a knife, a rock, or a steel-clad briefcase, he was incredibly fast, precise, and well-practiced. The four bikers had already made several large tactical mistakes. In addition to having larger mouths than brains, they had bunched themselves together in the narrow, three-foot-wide gap between the Ford 150 and the big Tahoe. They’d have flunked tactics at West Point, he quickly concluded; but speed usually tops stupid, anyway.

Time to force the first biker to do something, Bob thought, as he closed in. What Gomer did, was to telegraph a looping, round-house right at Bob’s head. Too little, too late, and about what he expected, Bob told himself as he shifted his weight far enough back for the biker’s big fist to miss. As it flashed past his nose, Bob turned and snapped a quick kick into the guy’s crotch with his right cowboy boot. They were light and surprisingly flexible, but the “pointy toe” was sharp and hard.

The biker never saw it coming. “Oooph!” was all he managed to get out, accompanied by a painful grunt and a burst of air. His eyes went round as hockey pucks as his hands went to his crotch and he doubled up in serious pain. Never one to risk breaking bones in his hands by hitting a Neanderthal in the head, Bob, let the briefcase finish him off. He swung it up and its hard, reinforced steel edge caught the biker in his forehead, snapped him upright. As his eyes rolled back in his head, Bob saw he was out on his feet, so he shoved him backward into the next two bikers behind him before they could react. As he waded into them, he remembered Napoleon’s old maxim, “Audacity, audacity, always audacity!”

The next one in line was Jethro, the one holding the ball peen hammer. He found himself struggling to shove Gomer aside and stay on his feet at the same time. Still, a hammer could be an extremely nasty weapon, as Bob well knew, and he had no intention of letting him use it again.

“You’re the moron who broke my window, aren’t you?” Bob asked. “Like I said, that’ll be $200.”

With an angry snarl, Jethro drew the ball-peen back, intending to bring it down on the top of Bob’s head. Like his pal, however, he was way too slow to pull that off. He was still turned, with his arm at the end of a long back swing and his neck fully exposed, when Bob sprang into the air and executed a perfect “Mae Tobi Geri” karate flying kick. The hard edge of his leather boot sole caught the biker flush in the throat and shattered his larynx, ending his night. Gasping for air, the biker’s hands went to his neck and the hammer went flying as he stumbled backward into the next clown in line behind him.

So far, Bob had used a simple street fighting move followed by a high-level karate kick to disable the first two, but things were still a bit crowded between the trucks. The next in line was the big mouth who told Jethro to “shut him up.” He was the smallest of the bunch, and Bob figured that made him the “Leader of the Pack.” At least he was smart enough to quit playing with the Tahoe’s door, rip the Slim Jim out with both hands, and turn to face Bob. As he did, Jethro’s ball peen hammer hit him flush on the shin bone. “Ah! Ah!” he screamed, wide-eyed, grabbed his leg, and began hopping around. However, with two of his men already lying at his feet, that wasn’t a good idea either.

“You bastard, you bastard!” Slim Jim screamed at Burke as it finally dawned on him that this night’s hijinks weren’t quite going according to plan.

“Be careful you don’t let your mouth get your ass in more trouble,” Bob warned.

The long, thin, blade of a Slim Jim wasn’t designed to cut, but in the right hands and with enough angry malice behind it, it probably could. Still, grimacing, the biker managed to get it in a two-handed baseball grip, regain his balance, and swing it at Burke like a scythe. Bob had continued moving forward, intending to finish this guy off, but he was quicker than Bob expected. He managed to pull back at the last second as the blade whistled past, missing him, but slicing through his shirt. Bob felt a sharp stinging across his chest, but that wasn’t enough to stop him. The biker’s follow-through left him over-extended and fully exposed, so Bob stepped in, dropped his left elbow on the biker’s clavicle, and snapped his collar bone. Without pausing, he smashed the elbow into the guy’s face, flattening his nose like a ripe banana and driving him backward.

Three down and one to go, Bob thought as he turned on the last biker at the end of the queue. “You’re next, Lem,” he told him. This one appeared to be no more intelligent than the other three, but he had more time to see what was headed his way. The biker reached behind for the rear waistband of his blue jeans, where he had a blue-steel Desert Eagle .357-magnum semi-automatic hidden under his vest. The Desert Eagle was a huge and very heavy handgun. It was the perfect choice, if you want to clear-out a bar-full of Hell’s Angels, stop a charging rhino, or intimidate some little guy in dark, airport parking lot. However, given what the biker was actually facing, something smaller and lighter would have been a wiser choice. The night air was warm, his hands were sweaty from trying to break into the trucks, and he snagged the tall front sight of the Desert Eagle in his underwear. Boxers or briefs? That didn’t “make no never mind.” His confidence vanished as he frantically pushed and pulled on the big handgun, finally managing to rip it free. Unfortunately, by the time he did, Bob had picked up Jethro’s Slim Jim from the pavement and brought it around in a short, compact swing, like Derek Jeter punching a hard line drive into the hole between third and short. Speed translates into power. The thin blade slashed Lem across his chest, arm, and shoulder, slicing through his pectoral, deltoid, and bicep muscles, and cutting them to the bone.

The biker screamed and the muscles in his arm, hand, and fingers must have involuntarily contracted, because the.357-Magnum went off with a thundering Blam! The barrel must have still been pointing down after he ripped loose from his pants, because the bullet ricocheted off the concrete and caught him in his own thigh. His grip on the heavy automatic failed, and he dropped it on the pavement, where he soon joined it and his other three pals, screaming and moaning.

It’s never a good idea to leave temptation lying around, Bob thought as he picked up the big automatic, bent down, and pressed it against the biker’s forehead. Through the pain, the guy’s eyes went wide cross-eyed as he found himself looking up the wrong end of the barrel of the Desert Eagle.

“You know, Lem,” Bob spoke to him in a calm voice. “This is a pretty nasty handgun to go pulling on strangers. Nobody’d blame me very much if I put a few more holes and you, just for spite, but I’m not gonna do that. I figure the one in your leg is going to keep you limping around rehab for a good long while. When you get out, though, you might consider finding another line of work, ‘cause you ain’t very damned good at this one.”

Looking around at the others, two of them were clearly headed for the hospital, but big Gomer, the first one he put down, was already shaking his head and trying to get back up on his hands and knees. Other than a broken nose, a badly dented forehead, and no doubt some very painful testicles, he was becoming ambulatory and a viable threat again. “Can’t have that, now can we?” Bob asked as he took the .357 by the barrel, swung it around and cracked Gomer on the side of the head. He went back down again like a sack of potatoes.

Not one to leave a job finished, and still pissed about the window of his truck, he turned back to the fourth biker and asked, “Okay, Lem, who are you punks? Outlaws? Pagans? Maybe the Warlocks? I sure hope your local chapter has some good health insurance, ‘cause you guys are gonna need it.” Looking up, he saw their four Harleys, mostly old, heavily-chromed, chopped down, street hogs standing in the next aisle. Two were 750s, one was a 500, and one was a big old monster with so many modifications that Bob couldn’t tell what it started out as. The Desert Eagle held a nine-round magazine, which meant he had eight shots left; so he stepped closer and fired two quick ones into the round, chrome plates, which covered the carburetors on the four bikes. That should do it, he thought. Those hogs were now dead pigs. They weren’t going anywhere, except to the shop for an engine rebuild.

As he turned and headed back to his truck, he realized the loud cannon shots were certain to draw some unwanted official company. Using his shirt tail, he wiped his fingerprints off the grip and trigger of the now empty Desert Eagle and tossed it under the Tahoe, well out of the biker’s reach. As he passed, he tapped Lem in his bad leg with the toe of his boot. The biker groaned again as Bob told him, “Next time, try Chapel Hill, or give the Dookies a try over in Durham, because you’re way out of your league down here. If I ever see you again in Fayetteville, you won’t even limp away. You got that?”

He turned away, retrieved his computer case, and opened the driver side door of the Ford 150, knowing it was time to vanish. He brushed the broken glass off his seat, started the engine and quickly backed out of the parking space, not particularly caring if any arms, legs, or random biker body parts were in the way. The parking lot’s lone exit was at the far end. As he got closer, he could see the gate was down and the shed was manned. He pulled up to the window, reached up for his parking ticket, which he always tucked behind the visor, and handed it to the attendant with two $20s. As the old guy in the booth ran the ticket, he kept looking back to his left, staring nervously into the dark parking lot.

“Say,” the attendant finally asked, “You didn’t hear no gunshots back there, did you?”

Bob turned, followed the attendant’s eyes, and shrugged. “You know; I suppose that’s what it could have been. There’s a bunch of bikers back there on Harleys, so I gave them a wide berth.”

“Yeah, I wish I could,” the attendant replied nervously as he handed Bob his credit card and the receipt, still not sure.

“If I were you, I’d  if I were you, call the cops and let them handle it,” Bob advised as he drove away into the night with a thin smile on his lips.

Never one to go looking for a fight, every now and then, it’s nice to know you’ve still got it, he thought. Still, what he wanted more than anything else right now was a life of dull, boring, peace and quiet. After all, that’s why he moved back down to North Carolina in the first place.


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