I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
A lifetime ago, a young naval aviator took the Oath. Tom McGuire, now a San Francisco PD Homicide Inspector, hadn’t thought about the Oath in years. That was all about to change.
A famous San Francisco newspaper columnist has been murdered. Some would say “executed”. Shot through the head, her arms tied behind her, knotted together from shoulder to wrist.
McGuire feels an eerie chill of recognition. After being shot down over North Vietnam, he suffered seven years as a Prisoner of War in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, enduring rope torture many times – his arms tied in exactly the same way.
A lifetime ago, another young naval aviator took that Oath. He also was shot down over North Vietnam, and joined McGuire as a POW in Hanoi. Almost forty years later, their lives were about to intersect once again.
This time with explosive consequences.
"Dennis Koller's mystery-thriller debut is a strong one. The novel has it all; intrigue, politics, murder and romance. Combined with characters and dialogue that are ultimately believable, The Oath is a real page-turner."
The Irish Herald Book Review
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Alex and Oliver live in worlds, poles apart; new worlds shaped by a terrible world war and the emerging freedoms of the Sixties. A killer stalks, and five people are drawn into the intrigue surrounding a serial murderer; a series of events set in the Seventies, influenced by the past… a string of events—a daisy chain.
Daisy Chain; an erotic thriller from the masterly pen of Mark Montgomery.
Gary sat alone in a cell. He could hear others shouting insults through the bars at each other, a mixture of Welsh and Cockney voices. The custody sergeant and one of the arresting officers had been swapping stories of how it had kicked off big time after the match, with fighting all the way from Upton Park to Paddington. Those arrested represented the tip of the iceberg.
Squeezed into a police van, Gary had been denied the return of his walking stick by the arresting officer, who just laughed. “So you can use it on me? Not likely mate, that’s an offensive weapon, that is.” At the station Gary was booked in by the custody sergeant, who made jibes about his “hardness” and asked him if he had anything to say. He was going to protest his innocence, but figured it would fall on deaf ears.
As time passed he sensed his situation was becoming more serious. Scenes of Crimes officers wandered around and he noticed one had his walking stick in a protective plastic covering. Bit late for that, he thought, remembering the way it had been manhandled from him by the cop at the scene. At one stage he heard a couple of thick Welsh accents shout a word that sent a chill through his bones. “Murderers!”
What could they mean? Had someone been killed? Who? Every week there were battles between warring fans but rarely were they fatal. Gary had always considering football rucks a laugh. You could end up with a few war wounds but they earned you extra kudos when you showed them off in the pub later. A life lost, though? A loved one not returning to their parents, wife or kids? That was going too far.
Finally a key rattled in the lock and two police officers came in, roughly hauled him up and dragged him, limping, to an interview room. A tall, stern-looking man with thick black hair was waiting, a tape recorder at his side. Gary was pushed down in the chair opposite and waited for the man to finish reading the papers in front of him. He felt edgy, as if he was being deliberately kept in the dark about something. He rubbed the troublesome knee, which had been throbbing constantly ever since the fight. The officer looked up. “You OK?”
“I’ve got a busted knee. It can be a bit painful.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t be running around the streets of east London fighting Welshmen, then,” suggested his interrogator. Gary ignored the jibe. “My name’s Detective Inspector Ashley Wilburn. This initial interview is beginning at 8.30pm. Your name is?”
“Gary… uh, Gary Marshall. Do I need a solicitor?”
“We’ll get to that. This is just a preliminary chat. You’re one of the Boxer Boys?”
“Um, no. Not really.”
“You don’t seem sure. You live on the Boxers Estate though?”
“Well… yeah, but…”
“I think you qualify as a Boxer Boy then, don’t you? Care to tell me what happened after the match today, Gary?”
“Hammers won 2-0.”
“It was three actually, but I wouldn’t expect you to know that. Too busy looking for trouble…”
“That’s unfair,” said Gary. “I was heading home with my mates when we were attacked and chased by Cardiff fans. I can’t run because of the leg and they caught me and gave me a good kickin’. End of story.”
“Hmmm,” said Inspector Wilburn. He leafed again through the papers. “Wasn’t quite the end of the story though, was it?” he said, removing a picture and placing it in front of Gary. “Recognise him?”
The face was battered and bruised and splattered with blood, a nasty gash spreading across the forehead. The eyes were closed. Their owner could have been asleep, resting peacefully, though the pillow was tarmac and the blanket made of black plastic.
“No,” said Gary. “One of those Cardiff yobs I guess…”
“He’s dead, Mr Marshall,” interrupted the Inspector. From beneath the desk he lifted Gary’s walking stick, still enshrined in the plastic evidence bag. Gary’s heartbeat quickened, but he said nothing. “Your ‘crutch’, I do believe and, look here,” his finger pointed at the bottom where a dark smear was clearly visible. “That, Mr Marshall, is blood; this man’s blood,” he tapped the picture. “Now I’m no Cluedo expert but I believe I’ve found the body and the murder weapon. All I need to do now is find out who our Professor Scum is. That shouldn’t be a problem either because we’ve some pretty good CCTV footage from one of the local shops. They show a man in a West Ham shirt… come to think of it a shirt exactly like that one you’re wearing – a No 10 on the back – bashing this poor bloke over the head with this stick. Refresh your memory, Mr Marshall?”
Gary looked back into the earnest, unblinking eyes. “Can I have a solicitor now?” he asked.
Branimir emerges from the Netherworld as a living legend and learns the Ash Tree is still in danger from the cursed dagger, kaelandur. An old friend compels Branimir to finish what they started at Melkorka. Once again, the former slave must keep kaelandur out of uncertain hands, while struggling to separate heroes from villains and friends from foes.
Ocean views. Exquisite beaches. Phenomenal food. Jubilant vacationers. Grisly murder. Welcome to Stone Harbor.
Calvin and Sophie have been married for over a decade. Residing in the idyllic beachfront town of Stone Harbor, the couple live a charmed, pleasant, and quiet life.That is until, one carefree morning, a S.W.A.T team bombards their home and arrests Calvin — for Sophie’s murder.
Sophie is alive, but an identical body on the beach causes chaos for a seasoned detective on the case, a diligent reporter looking to reignite her career, and a couple facing a crossroads they could never have imagined.
Over the next twenty-four hours, the upscale town deals with the ramifications of this incident. All the while, uncertainty and menace lurks around every corner for the residents of Stone Harbor, as they discover the brutality hidden within themselves.
Hearing the Voices of the dead is something Gracie Charles has endured her entire life. When the power grid suddenly fails across the globe, she finds herself alone and facing a dark and dangerous journey through an unforgiving landscape, in hopes of finding sanctuary with friends who share her gift.
In the middle of the night, Claire flees her abusive, alcoholic husband Scott, taking their four-year old daughter along with her. Seeking some long-needed peace, Claire goes to her sister Annie and her family, hoping she can at last begin the process of healing.
As she embarks on this new life she meets a family friend. Buck, who seems to be everything any woman would want-successful, handsome, charming. Claire wants to let him in, but how could she be ready to love again?
And can they even survive when Scott will not stop until they are where they both belong?
How could it have come this far? She had sworn it would never happen again, and yet here she was, climbing the stairs into the open air at the top of the building. It was nighttime, cool, still, and starlit. She followed, hand trapped in his—if she could only find some strength, pull him down and watch him
tumble to the landing, she could step over him and go home and forget. She was here, she told herself, of her own free will. This would be the last time, and it would be easy to say so.
They stepped out onto the roof. He put his arm around her, nuzzled his face in her hair, and then led her toward the wall at the perimeter. He leaned her against it and moved up behind her, close, his face in her neck as she looked out over the blazing lights of Westwood. They were directly up two flights from her apartment, fourteen stories from street level. His arms crossed in front of her and his hands cupped her breasts under her robe. How did this happen? I despise this person! Yet she shifted her shoulders to accommodate his embrace from behind. She had liked him once. With reservations, yes, but he had been so charming.
He had helped her when, without even knowing it, she most needed help. She felt his left hand slide down past her belly, grazing the soft hair with his fingertips. He placed his right foot between her feet, prompting her to set them farther apart. A finger curved and found its mark—she gasped and realized she was moist, betrayed by her own body as it reacted, as if in pleasure, in spite of her feelings.
Her hair was still wet from a bath. He liked her freshly bathed for these sessions. Our little times together, he called them. As if they were lovers, but without the love. She concentrated on the rough texture of the stucco wall. He withdrew his hands and turned her around, then lifted her so that she sat on the wall. This is the last time, you son of a bitch.
Absentmindedly, she placed her hands on his shoulders as he parted her robe and bent to brush his lips high against the inside of her thigh. The wall was narrow and uncomfortable to sit on. Behind her, LA’s affluent Westside stretched all the way to the ocean. It had all seemed so thrilling when he first brought her up here—the danger, the craziness of it—she had convulsed in orgasm before falling into the safety of his arms and weeping in relief.
Now she felt nothing, not even fear. Just an odd detachment, like staring out a window into the rain, or waiting in a long line at the market. Soon she would simulate an orgasm so that it could all be over.
There was a pressure at her stomach and she felt herself tilting backward. It happened so suddenly she lost hold of his shoulders, and now she felt the sharp points of the stucco scrape the backs of her calves.
Falling, she thought of her brother, Jeff, and the time he saved her life. They were teenagers, bodysurfing at Santa Monica Beach, and he plucked her out of the ocean after a wave tumbled her for so long she thought her feet would never find the sandy bottom. Her last thought before she hit the ground was of the man on the roof. How clear, how perfectly clear, that everything they had done together had always pointed relentlessly toward this.
Jeffrey Fenner found out about his sister’s death while waiting for a plane to take him home. By the time he arrived at San Francisco Airport it was almost midnight, and now he had to decide between a nearby hotel and the redeye special. He needed a drink but the airport lounge was closed. He opted for the flight back to LA. He bought his ticket and headed for the men’s room. Locked in a stall, he sat on the toilet seat and put his briefcase on his knees. There was over an hour to wait, plus forty minutes on the plane, then the taxi ride home meant another forty minutes—it all added up to at least a half-gram of coke required for the duration. He opened the briefcase and pulled out a bank deposit bag, inserted the key into the lock, and pulled the zipper. Inside were a variety of neatly labeled vials and plastic bags. He located the bag marked “personal” and the orange vial that said “Valium.” From the bag he pulled a flake of soapy white crystal the size of his thumbnail.
Resealing the bag, he took out two Valiums, placing one in his mouth and the other in his pocket. He fished in his left shoe in the hollow of his arch and located a small amber glass vial. Using the vial, he mashed the piece of cocaine into powder and scooped it onto his driver’s license, which he then bent into a curve as he tapped the powder into the mouth of the vial. When the vial was full, he capped it and replaced it in his shoe. He transferred the rest of the coke on his license to the back of his left hand and lifted it to his nostril, inhaling sharply.
Refreshed, he closed up his briefcase, checked his nostrils in the mirror, and went back out to the lobby. The lighting was grim and everything looked dingy. The people had an equally grim look, as though lost or sentenced to an endless purgatory for travelers. It occurred to him that he hadn’t eaten in a long time.
In the middle of the lounge was a fast food stand. He joined a line of ten or twelve people who stood, zombie-like and silent, waiting for a Middle Eastern-looking guy with a red-and-white striped cap and matching apron to microwave a new batch of chilidogs. The food looked plastic, like the permanent display meals at a cheap chain restaurant.
He stared ahead and listened until the sounds around him merged into an abstract buzz. He looked forward to getting back home, although in fact he wouldn’t be going home; he had to stop by Rich’s place first and make a delivery. At least he could relax, have a drink, while they weighed product and did the math. Then he could finally go home and go to sleep. Sleep—he hadn’t slept in three days.
Muscles in his leg twitched with exhaustion and toxins; he felt creaky and brittle, cranky, jumpy, and increasingly sour. From the background of babble, one particular noise seemed to be demanding attention. It had a red flag on it, like a loud knock in the middle of the night.
“You are wanting something, sir? We have veddy good chilidog. You are wanting how many chilidog?” He found that he was at the counter, oblivious to how he had arrived there. In a moment of panic he realized his hands were empty; he looked down and saw his briefcase on the floor, locked between his ankles.
“Two.” He held up two fingers to verify. The guy handed him a pair of paper boats containing long lumps covered with something that looked like steaming dog food. Jeff paid, scooped up his briefcase, and turned away.
The food was ugly, but he was surprised at how good it smelled. He devoured both dogs, wolflike, sitting in the row of hard plastic seats farthest from the other waiting passengers. Afterward, he headed back to the men’s room to wash his hands. It was large and very bright, but vacant, so he took a quick blast from the cap of the amber vial. There was still some time to kill, so he pulled out his cell phone and thumbed Rich’s number.
“Hello?” Rich’s girlfriend answered on the first ring.
“Hey Lilah, it’s Jeff.” His voice echoed weirdly in the bathroom stall.
“Where are you? Rich waited, but he had to go out.”
“I’m at the airport in San Francisco. Things got a little hung up but I’ll be there by two thirty.
Think Rich’ll be back?”
“I haven’t been able to reach him. Are you still coming by?” He pictured her, with her high cheekbones and pouty little mouth. Her crazy mess of hair. They had been friends for years, but someone else was always in the way. He went to a concession stand and bought mints and a paper, then went to sit by the terminal at Gate 5, where Southwest Airline Flight #3714 would be leaving for Los Angeles at 12:10 a.m.
It was in the Metro section of the LA Times:
SUICIDE IN WESTWOOD
Twenty-eight-year-old Marilyn Fenner, a research assistant at UCLA, was found dead Monday morning, apparently after jumping from her twelfth-floor balcony.
Shit, he thought, no way.
James 'Big Jim' Peck is a professional game hunter in Africa whose life has evolved from wartime encounters to hunting animals; but when a client is killed in a hunting expedition gone awry, he's forced to hang up his guns and retreat to his plantation in the face of an ongoing investigation.
When a rogue Cape buffalo whom villagers believe to be infused with an evil spirit terrorizes local natives, Big Jim is asked to track and kill the creature. With the help of his trusted friend and partner, Caesar Wilde, and American photo-journalist Mary Watkins, they embark on an adventurous journey through the African bush.
After a series of inexplicable deadly encounters the hunters soon realize they are up against a creature unlike any other they have hunted, and it will take all their combined experience and courage to destroy the beast...or be killed!
Why read 7 short stories?
7 is a special number for people all over the world. There are 7 days in a week; 7 deadly sins, 7 virtues; 7 colours of the rainbow; 7 Wonders of the Ancient World – and, of course, the 7 year itch!
These 7 stories are special, like the number itself.
Why an extra ½?
We all like a little extra and this extra comes with a bonus.
You get to decide how the last story ends. ‘The Night Before Christmas’ leaves Emily with a choice – and it’s not an easy one! Read her story and go for what you want to happen. Wonder what you’ll decide.
Grimly he shuffled forward a decisive five centimetres. Nothing was ever going to change the world or his place in it. Just one second of courage,then it would be over. He would be over, on his way to the pavement and certain death.
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