Category Archives: Nook

Guest Post by Mystery Author Paty Jager

Today I’m thrilled to have a guest post by mystery author Paty Jager. I met Paty online years ago through Sisters in Crime, and actually got to physically meet her a couple of years back in Portland at Left Coast Crime. She’s gracious, and interesting, and writes the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series featuring a Native American female sleuth. Without further ado, here’s Paty:

Thank you for having me on your blog! It was almost two years ago this time of year that I was cover for Double Duplicityexcited about my first, soon-to-be published mystery. The Shandra Higheagle Mystery series I’d imagined was coming to life.

Mysteries have always been my favorite books to read and while I’d tried writing a couple mysteries years ago when I first started writing novels, I’d swayed away to write western romance.  The lure of writing a mystery wouldn’t go away. I plotted out the main character, Shandra Higheagle. She’s a potter with a Native American father who is deceased and a Caucasian mother who remarried. Shandra’s Native American heritage was kept from her by her mother and stepfather.

As the series begins, Shandra attends her Nez Perce grandmother’s funeral and realizes what she has missed all these years, by first being kept away, and later staying away, due to being uncertain how she would be received. But the funeral is a turning point in her journey back to her father’s people. It also begins dreams where her grandmother visits her, dropping clues to who murdered a gallery owner Shandra is suspected of killing.

The weapon in this murder was something that had been stirring in my mind for many years. My brother is an artist who not only sculpts his own bronze statues he patinas for other artists. He told me about a large statue that was in pieces and how it would make a great weapon because no one would be able to figure it out. That inspired Double Duplicity, the first book in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series. You can download this book for free at all ebook venues, or click here to go to the book’s page on my website where you can find the main ebook vendor links.

If you want to learn more about Shandra you can find the info here.

banner Jager books

This first book of the series published January 2015. Since then Shandra and Detective Ryan Greer have solved mysteries in 7 books, the seventh having published this month. Yuletide Slaying is a mystery set at Christmas time in the town of Huckleberry, Idaho. This book has been getting great reviews. I’m happy to hear how much everyone is enjoying this story. When I came up with the idea to write a Christmas mystery, I knew I had to make Shandra’s big, scaredy-cat dog the one who found the body. Sheba has been a fun secondary character in the books, and I wanted to give her a bigger role in the Christmas book.

cover for Yuletide Slaying

Here is the blurb for Yuletide Slaying: Book 7 of the Shandra Higheagle mystery series:

Family, Revenge, Murder

When Shandra Higheagle’s dog brings her a dead body in a sleigh full of presents, her world is turned upside down. The man is a John Doe and within twenty-four hours another body is found.

Detective Ryan Greer receives a call that has them both looking over their shoulders. A vengeful brother of a gang member who died in a gang war is out for Ryan’s blood. Shandra’s dreams and Ryan’s fellow officers may not be enough to keep them alive to share Christmas.

Buy Links:  Amazon / Nook / Apple / Kobo  / Windtree Press

author photo

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure.  This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty’s Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest

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Big Sale and Giveaway

LOW PRICE ALERT. Just wanted to let you all know I’m having a big sale this weekend of the Leine Basso crime thriller box set–I’m pretty much giving it away for $0.99. Yep. Three full-length thrillers for a buck. Am I crazy? Maybe 😀

Here’s the link* to my webpage with the details. (*Sorry, the sale is over. The set’s still a great deal, though 🙂 )

Cover for Leine Basso box set

AND, just to make you guys’s Saturday a little more special, here’s a link* to an Instafreebie giveaway (*updated–promotion no longer available) that fellow author and pal Ed Kovacs and I put together featuring some of the best thriller authors writing today. 9 authors, 11 books. But you gotta act now–this deal ain’t gonna last forever.

Instafreebie banner

Like I mentioned before, I’ll be taking part in the Indie Author Day celebrations at University Place library today–I hope you’ll join me either by dropping by, or if you’re not in the area, by visiting a participating library near you 🙂 It’s a great time to be indie! logo for Indie Author Day

Have a great weekend!

 


Giveaway Mania

Got a couple of giveaways happening with the Leine Basso series and wanted to share. But first, look what came in the mail today 😀

photo of Cargo advance copies

Always a treat when the ARCs come…

back cover for Cargo

Back cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YAY. CARGO is almost live! The book is set to drop August 1st (Saturday). If all goes well, the print version will be available at the same time as the eBook, so if you’re a fan of paperbacks, I’ve got you covered.

I’m oh so happy with the cover art by Deranged Doctor Design~ it didn’t hurt that they were a dream to work with 😀 I think the back cover turned out pretty well, too. This time I broke down and finally ordered matte covers and I LOVE them. Yeah, I know they’ve been available for a while (okay, a long while) but what can I say? I’m stubborn. This shit takes time.

And now, on to the free stuff!

First up is a chance to win a signed ARC (advance review copy) of CARGO from the fine folks over at Goodreads. (Who knows? The copy in the photo above could be yours!) Ends this Friday, July 31, 2015. (If you’d rather read an eBook, you can click on the pre-order links at the top right of this post and order your very own copy today. C’mon. You know you want to 🙂 )

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Cargo by D.V. Berkom

Cargo

by D.V. Berkom

Giveaway ends July 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Next, I wanted to let y’all know that the first book in the series, SERIAL DATE, is FREE to download oncover for Serial Date most platforms:

iBooks

Barnes & Noble

KOBO

Amazon hasn’t reduced the price yet, but if you need a copy for your Kindle you can download the MOBI file from Smashwords here.

And there you have it. I’m still working on some posts for later in the week, so I hope you’ll stop by. I’ll be giving away more stuff, of course 🙂

Have a spectacular Monday!


And…We Have Lift-off!

The Body Market_wbrdrenhancedEXCITEMENTE! Frabjous joy! and all that 🙂 THE BODY MARKET is LIVE! A HUGE thank you to everyone who pre-ordered a copy and an extra-special shout out to the Advance Reader Team–you guys ROCK! (want to be a member? Send an email to dvb@dvberkom.com and I’ll hook you up :-D).

It’s been pretty cool to watch the book hit etailers around the world–pre-orders are a great way to launch (yeah, even when you’re patience-challenged like myself 🙂 ) The book has sold way better in a bunch more countries than is usual for one of my launches, and I have to give the credit to pre-order availability. It’s definitely a keeper.

Anywho, if you missed the super-special low-price offer on the pre-order, don’t despair! There’s still time to download your copy before the price increases! (although, admittedly, not a LOT of time…) There’s even a bonus short story at the end featuring a character from the book. Prepare to be surprised…

Here are the links–feel free to bandy them about with abandon on any social media sites you might frequent. And, as always, an honest review is greatly appreciated 🙂

Amazon: http://bit.ly/bodymkt

Barnes & Noble:  http://bit.ly/bodymktBN

iBooks:   http://bit.ly/thebodymktiBooks

Smashwords:   http://bit.ly/bodymktSW

KOBO:   http://bit.ly/bodymktKOBO

Have a GREAT weekend!

 

 


Yucatan Dead on Sale

Cover for Yucatan DeadHey there! YUCATAN DEAD is on SALE for the first time for $0.99 through tomorrow (Sunday 4/20) for Kindle and Nook (normally $4.99). For all you folks who shun the big etailers, here’s a Smashwords Code for 80% off.  Enter KX99S at the time of check out and the price will change to $0.99. (The Smashwords code is good until April 25.)

Here are the links:

Amazon (global link)

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords  (remember to use the code KX99S)

Enjoy!


Writing Process Blog Hop

The End BookToday I’m participating in the Writing Process Blog Hop, where you’re tagged by a fellow writer to answer some questions. In turn, you then profile 2-3 other writers to do the same.  The person who tagged me is the inimitable and always classy Charlie Ray (http://redroom.com/member/charles-a-ray). I interviewed Charlie a while back on Awesome Authors. You can blame him for what you’re about to read 😀

Question 1: What am I working on?
Currently I’m brainstorming scenes for the third as-yet-untitled Leine Basso thriller. It’s like old home week as I figure out which direction Leine and Santiago’s relationship is going to go, how to integrate Leine’s new line of work into the story, and re-introduce characters from previous books (if you liked Yuri’s uncle, you’ll enjoy this installment), all while keeping the suspense and action building throughout the book. Beginning a novel is all deliciousness and unicorns and mimics the first blush of infatuation: everything’s awesome and the possibilities are endless. Yes, I know that will wear off at the first hint of trouble, but as long as I blow something up I should be okay 😀

CFD_Cvr_2_200x300I’m also working with two different audiobook narrators: I’m excited to report that Melissa Moran has finished CRUISING FOR DEATH and the book is now in ACX’s capable hands.  Melissa also recorded the KATE JONES THRILLER SERIES boxed set and has been a lot of fun to work with–she has Kate’s idiosyncrasies down pat. Look for it in the next few weeks.

Kristi Alsip is in the process of recording BAD TRAFFICK, and I can’t say enough good things about her work. When I first heard her voice I KNEW she would make a great Leine Basso and, from what she’s done so far, she’s nailed it. Once the audiobook’s completed it will go to ACX’s sound engineers for approval and should be available next month.Night traffic

Question 2: How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I write thrillers, and there’s an expectation on the part of thriller readers that the books will be fast-paced and have a lot of action. Of course, I LOVE writing action scenes, so that’s no problem. What I think I do a bit differently is incorporate suspense and action and a likeable, kick-ass-but-flawed heroine with humor. One reviewer put it this way: “The humor serves as good balance to the fear and anxiety that [the character] freely expresses in the face of her predicament, providing a sharp and refreshing contrast to the typical stoic, grim-faced male hero of the thriller genre.”   Another difference: my female characters aren’t superheroes–in fact they are all too human–but they aren’t helpless women who need a man to save them, which is a particular pet peeve of mine. Why would I want to read about a woman who doesn’t know how to get herself out of trouble and who waits for the alpha-male to “save her”?  Yes, I have strong men in my stories, and yes, they help the heroine out occasionally, but I try hard to write female characters who are plenty capable themselves and know their way around a weapon. And explosives.

Question 3: Why do I write what I do?
DVBerkom_YucatanDead_200Growing up, I loved reading spy novels and watching James Bond movies, but always yearned for books and movies that had a female equivalent in the lead. When I caught the novel-writing bug I thought why not write what I’d want to read? My first female character, Kate Jones, went through several incarnations, moving from a smart ass Jeep tour guide in a humorous mystery to the current thrillers where Kate grows into a capable and dangerous enemy. She’s still a smart ass, though.

As for the Leine Basso novels, SERIAL DATE was in response to a twisted dream I had about serial killers and reality shows, and I needed to find a character to write who could go toe-to-toe with one of them. An assassin seemed perfect: they both killed people. The dynamics of having one of the characters (Leine) question her motivation for being a hired assassin and whether that made her different from a serial killer intrigued me. The second novel, BAD TRAFFICK, was in response to watching a documentary on child sex trafficking and I knew I had to write Leine into the story. I was torn though, as SERIAL DATE has quite a bit of dark humor and satire, and I wanted to try to keep the tone consistent in each series (okay, it didn’t work with Kate, but at least I tried). There’s nothing humorous or satirical about human trafficking, so the tone in that book ended up being more of a straight thriller. There’s still some humor, but only in Leine’s smart ass reactions to specific characters. Hmm. Do I detect a theme here?SDBookCover170x260_3_11_13

Question 4: How does my writing process work?
First, I clean my house. Really. My husband loves this stage, since I’m woefully challenged in the domestic arts. Then I sit down with a notepad and paper and draw a timeline across the top of the page, putting little hash marks at the beginning, 1/4 point, midpoint, 3/4 point, and two near the end, labeling them: inciting incident, 1st turning point, midpoint, 2nd turning point, black moment, resolution. Then, I set to work brainstorming scenes, moving them around on the timeline to see where they fit. If I have trouble coming up with enough scenes to start writing, either I trash the idea, or I ask my husband and writer friends to help come up with scenes. Once I’ve got a good sense where the story’s going, I sit down to write (I use a computer and MS Word). I’m pretty linear, so I go from chapter to chapter, editing a bit as I go, until I reach the end. During this first draft stage, every two weeks I send sections to my critique group for their suggestions. Then I do a read through before sending it out to a dozen or so beta readers. While I’m waiting for their responses, I catch up on all the stuff I ignored while writing. Once the betas get back to me, I do one more read through incorporating many of the suggestions, and then send it off to my editor. At that point I usually have the title, so I work on the book’s description and then send that info off to my cover designer. Once I get the edits back I incorporate them, do another read through and publish.

Now that I’ve bored the bejeezus out of you all, it’s time to give a shout out to the writers I picked to continue the blog hop. All three are in my writing group and all are published in some form of romance (I’m the token heathen who doesn’t write in that particular genre). We’ve been friends for years and yes, I know where the bodies are buried. We’ll leave it at that…

Darlene Panzera writes sweet, fun-loving romance and is the winner of the “Make Your Dreams Come True Contest” sponsored by Avon Books, which led her novella, THE BET, to be published with Debbie Macomber’s FAMILY AFFAIR. The full length novel, re-titled, BET YOU’LL MARRY ME, released December 2012 and her bestselling series, THE CUPCAKE DIARIES, released its first installment in May 2013. Born and raised in New Jersey, Darlene is now a resident of the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her husband and three children. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her family and her two horses, and loves camping, hiking, photography, and lazy days at the lake.

Jennifer Conner  is a bestselling Northwest author who has published over forty works. She writes Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance, Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance, and Erotica, and has been ranked in the top 50 authors on Amazon. Her romantic suspense novel, SHOT IN THE DARK, was a finalist in the Emerald City Opener, Cleveland, and Toronto RWA contests. She lives in western Washington in a hundred year-old house, blows glass beads with a blow torch (“which relieves a lot of stress and people don’t bother you…”) and is a huge fan of musicals.

Chris Karlsen is a retired police detective who writes time travel romances populated with 14th century knights, and thrillers featuring a nautical archaeologist and Turkish agent. She spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. The daughter of a history professor and a voracious reader, she grew up with a love for history and books. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and Northern Africa satisfying her passion for seeing the places she’s read about. A Chicago native, Chris has lived in Paris, Los Angeles, and now resides with her husband and five rescue dogs in the Pacific Northwest.

If you have a minute, please stop by and visit their blogs–they’ll be posting their own answers to the above questions next Monday. Have a great week!


A One Way Ticket to Dead is NOW LIVE

cover for a one way ticket to deadIT’S ALIVE! The latest Kate Jones Thriller, A One Way Ticket to Dead is now LIVE. This book has been a loooong time in coming and I am really stoked.  It will be available March 7th-15th for the special price of $2.99 at all your favorite etailers. (After March 15th, the price changes to $4.99.) Here are the links: Amazon, BN. The Smashwords version will be available either later today or tomorrow (The print version will be available later this month. Look for it at the iBookstore, Diesel, Kobo, et al.) **UPDATE** Here is the Smashwords link.

There’s plenty of action and suspense in A One Way Ticket to Dead, and some of your favorite characters are back: Sam, Cole, Angie, and the commandos from Yucatan Dead all make an appearance in this high-octane, edge of your seat thriller. To celebrate (and because I can’t wait, either) here’s a taste:

Chapter 1

 I NEVER DREAMED I’d come back.

I shouldn’t have.

Even though I told myself things were safer compared to when I’d passed through all those years ago, deep down I knew I was only kidding myself.

The deepening shadows brought scant relief from the blistering heat, although the lower the sun dipped on the horizon the more bearable it became. The sun set early in this part of the world. I took a deep drink from my water bottle and wiped the sweat from my face with the back of my hand.

And waited.

I’d changed my hair for the umpteenth time and wore brown-tinted contacts so I’d blend, but there’s only so much a girl can do to change her appearance short of surgery. Thanks to Quinn and his lies, the men who had tried to kill me thought I was dead. For now. The ruse wouldn’t last long, not if someone from the old days got curious about the new American woman in town.

No sense lingering longer than I had to. Find the stash if it was still there, then get the hell out of Mexico.

The tiny house on the even smaller lot looked like the owner had lost interest and decided to let nature take its course. Dirt-green vines strangled the walls as if they were trying to squeeze the last drop of moisture from the filthy stucco. The cracked and faded flower pots flanking the walkway grew dirt in profusion, their long-dead occupants a distant memory. Two lime trees in the side yard still shaded my target. The ground looked like it hadn’t been disturbed in all the time I’d been gone.

If my luck held.

I’d spent the day and evening before casing the place, watching for signs of life. The house appeared abandoned. How much longer could I stay without arousing suspicion? More time than absolutely necessary in Los Otros made me nervous, and I itched to get the deed done.

My stomach growled as I walked back to the rental. With a loan from Luis, my contact in the Drug Enforcement Administration, I’d chosen an unassuming Nissan Versa with plenty of dings and scratches. I told him I needed to find someone before going back to the States now that Roberto Salazar was dead. At first Luis had argued, asking why I’d even consider staying in Mexico, but finally relented when I told him I owed my life to this person. Nothing he said would change my mind.

Memories of the old man who’d saved me from being gunned down in the street eleven years before flooded my mind. Oggie. Vincent Anaya’s right-hand guy, Frank Lanzarotti, put a bullet in him as we left Oggie’s house. I’d never forgiven him and felt grim satisfaction when Frank had been shot. This final trip through cartel-country wasn’t only about the money.

I got in the car and turned on the air while I ate the now-cold tamale I’d bought earlier. I could have gone back into town and gotten something else, but wanted to keep my visibility to a minimum. Old friends would not be a welcome diversion and I’d already risked discovery by staying the previous evening at a nearby hotel.

Hours later, after I’d moved the car twice and taken a fitful nap, I parked in the dirt-track alley behind the house and cut the lights. From behind, the abandoned house took on a miserable, thoroughly depressive mien. I could almost make out the dark windows and back door, all three of which appeared as though they hadn’t been seen to in years. The backyard where Lana served me dinner so many lives ago was grown over with tenacious vegetation, the kind that could survive drought-ridden, remorseless summers.

What had finally prompted Lana to leave? I tried to imagine her happy, dragging her sadness and the fallout from the choices she’d made to wherever the wave of her life deposited her. All that came to mind were bottles of cheap tequila on a beat-up nightstand and dark, lonely sojourns with men who didn’t care.

Bad choices put me in this backyard of a tiny, run-down two-bedroom casa at the end of an unpaved street in a one-horse Mexican town. I hoped this wasn’t another of those.

Bad choices, I mean.

I popped the trunk and walked around to grab the pickaxe and shovel I’d purchased the day before, along with a large backpack. My idea was to work as quickly as possible until I’d unearthed the stash of gallon-sized plastic bags, backfill the hole and leave. I glanced through the rear window at the glowing clock on the dash: a quarter past three. The post office wouldn’t be open for hours. I’d have a long wait.

I walked along the back of the house to the side yard, picking my way past rampant prickly pear and creosote and paused in the shadows to listen. The wind slid past me, circling my bare legs, churning the dirt at my feet into a dust devil that swirled and crested, and then disintegrated into the night. The breathy hoo of an owl nearby assured me I wouldn’t work alone.

The three other homes on the street remained dark, signifying no one on the block suffered from insomnia, at least not tonight. The houses were far enough apart and on the opposite side of the unlit street from where I’d be working so it was reasonable to assume my efforts would go unnoticed. One of the three boasted a noisy swamp cooler that clanked in protest at the stifling night air, helping to further disguise my activities.

I proceeded to the lime trees and leaned the shovel against the house. The new pickaxe broke through the caliche easier than I remembered and soon the earth resembled a miniature plowed field. Afraid I’d damage the plastic bags or wake up light-sleeping neighbors I reined in my enthusiasm a few inches deep and switched to the spade.

Though not as noisy, the shovel took much longer to dig the remaining depth of the hole. About an hour later, when I still hadn’t hit what I was looking for, worry crept in like a feral cat scrounging for food. What if it’s not here? What if Lana somehow found it, dug it up, and is now living large somewhere in South America?

Well, then I’d have to figure out something else. If it was gone, I’d be shit out of luck. I straightened and took a deep breath, collecting my thoughts. Panicked and wired from dodging death that night so long ago, I thought I’d be back to retrieve the stash long before now. A faulty memory could be the reason I hadn’t found it yet.

Or Lana was dancing the tango in Argentina.

Discarding the tango possibility, I stepped past the freshly dug hole to survey the yard. Closing my eyes, I thought back to that night, the memories resurrecting long-buried emotions. So many years of running, of looking over my shoulder, never being able to live a normal life.

So many friends lost.

Fallout from a bad choice made long ago. Payback, I supposed, for being stupid and young and attracted to shiny things. My fingers curled around the onyx jaguar figurine I wore around my neck. Now that Salazar was dead, I hoped my life could get more or less back to normal.

Then again, what the hell was normal?

I opened my eyes and took in the lime trees, the house, the surrounding vegetation. The yard had looked different back then. Well-tended. Then it hit me.

Unchecked catclaw choked the tree trunks, creating an optical illusion. I’d misjudged the distance of the stash from the base of the tree and had dug too far out. Once again working the pickaxe, I hacked away with new purpose at the base of the overgrown shrub until I cleared a space where I gauged the target should be.

Rinse, repeat. Switch to the shovel.

Focused on digging, I didn’t realize I had company until it was too late.

“Hey,” a voice demanded in slurred Spanish. “What’re you doing?” The rank smell of cheap tequila accompanied the words. Slowly, I turned.

His features semi-distinct in the darkness, the man swayed on his feet, his thick torso and muscled arms reminiscent of a man who worked long hours lifting heavy things. I gave him a half-smile and tightened my grip on the shovel.

“My friend Lana asked me to stop by her house and pick something up for her. I noticed the vines were choking the tree.” I glanced over my shoulder at the offending catclaw. “She’d be very upset if one of her trees died, so I thought I’d clear some of it away before I left.” Not a great story, but the man was obviously drunk, so I didn’t think I’d have to be too convincing.

With a puzzled expression, he swiveled unsteadily on his feet, glancing first down one side of the street, and then back the other way before returning his bleary gaze to me and the shovel. His expression morphed from perplexed to concerned, transitioning to a leer.

“You’re a liar,” he slurred as he lurched toward me. “No one lives here.” He took another step closer. “You do somethin’ nice for me, an’ this’ll jus’ be our lil’ secret, yes?” he stage-whispered, reaching for his fly. I hoisted the shovel over my head. I couldn’t afford to wake the neighbors.

“One more step and you’re going to have one hell of a headache come morning,” I said, my voice low.

“Huh?” He gaped at the shovel in my hands, incomprehension clouding his face. Frowning, he wiped his hands down the front of his shirt, his confusion obvious. He closed his eyes for a moment but lost his balance and stumbled to one side, barely catching himself before taking a header onto the street.

Aye carumba,” he muttered, shaking his head. Obviously unhappy with the way things were turning out, he waved me away, mumbling incoherently to himself as he zigzagged a path down the street.

I lowered the shovel with a sigh. I’d have to work faster, in case he came to his senses and raised an alarm.

Forty-five minutes later the muted clang of metal against dirt changed to a dull thud. I cut in around the spot with the edge of the shovel and then scooped out the rest by hand, revealing a dirt-encrusted bundle. My heart beat faster as I slid the tip of the shovel underneath the plastic bag and pushed down on the handle, leveraging the first package out of its resting place.

Eight gallon-sized bags later, I stopped to take a breath. I leaned the shovel against the tree and knelt down. The outer bags had become stiff from the dry and the dirt and the heat, but remained intact. I grabbed one and opened it, removing the inner bag, which was surprisingly flexible. I flashed on how long it would take for plastic to degrade when it wasn’t subjected to light, like in a landfill. Our civilization would be long gone before that ever happened. For now, I had immense gratitude for the durability of plastic.

I slid open the plastic zipper holding the bag closed and reached inside for a stack of bills. Money in hand, I flipped through the hundreds with my fingers, fanning my face.

Still there. Still intact.

Yes.

Once all eight bags were safely inside the backpack, I zipped it closed and stood, kicking some of the dirt back into the hole to make it look less obvious. Since the house had evidently been abandoned and my visitor had been quite drunk, I doubted anyone would take notice, at least long enough for me to disappear. I picked up my tools and the hefty pack and returned to the car, my heart light. With Salazar dead, even if the home had been on a cartel watch list, it wouldn’t be now. They were tenacious, yes, but that would be too obsessive, even for cartel thugs. Besides, they thought I was dead.

I threw everything in the trunk and climbed into the driver’s seat. One more errand and I’d be long gone.

Goodbye, Mexico. Hello, freedom.


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