Kindle Edition - 99 cents from 7/01-7/05
Publisher SATCOM Publishing
Kindle Edition - 99 cents from 7/01-7/05
Jason Conrad is an Air Force student pilot, struggling to graduate pilot training. He quickly finds the friends he relies on have bigger secrets than his own. On the other side of the world, a former KGB leader is plotting to overthrow the Russian government. While the 'Cold War' is believed to be over, a renegade group of Russian officers launch a plan that could possibly ignite World War Three! As these two vastly different worlds weave together, they accelerate into an action packed roller coaster ride from the skies over Enid, Oklahoma, to the streets of Moscow, to the steps of the Alamo!
June 16, 1995
Sport coat in hand, Dr. David Edwards stepped out of The Void, grinning as he shook his head. Not a striking man, his five-feet nine inches sported a full head of hair, making him look years younger than forty-five. Slightly overweight for a man his age, his tailored clothes hid this physical imperfection. His most notable feature, and perhaps his most valuable asset, was his smile. A smile that told the world he knew something they did not.
As he passed the front window, he stopped to wave to her one last time.
“She looks kind of hot,” a male voice said from behind him.
“What?” he replied, startled at the strange voice.
“Are they real?”
Edwards turned, his brow furrowed. “Can I help you?” he said.
“Are they real? You’d know, right Dr. Edwards?”
He glared at the obnoxious young man standing next to him. Edwards had walked into the bar two hours earlier. The afternoon he spent with his lawyer lasted early into the evening, and he desperately needed a Scotch. One of Los Angeles’ more prominent plastic surgeons, Edwards started frequenting establishments like The Void four years earlier following a nasty divorce.
The Void sat in the middle of Sunset Boulevard in downtown Hollywood. Like most restaurants in the area, it served a variety of customers. Tall windows trimmed with brass and a wooden bar with inlaid marble accentuated the interior. Small coffee tables in the middle of the room and a small stage in the back catered to a counterculture living on the fringe of society. Dim lighting gave each table the illusion of privacy, but the alternative music reminded the customers in which town they were partying. Discretion was not an option at The Void.
He had sat at the end of the bar furthest from the entrance, surveying the clientele. Several others sat at the bar, none of whom he considered carrying on a conversation. Smoke wafted in his direction when an older woman sat next to him, her cigarette held loosely in her long wrinkled fingers. She and her partner were talking incessantly, chain-smoking between sentences.
Lost in his thoughts, Edwards lifted his glass to his lips, wiping the condensation from his glass off the marble bar top. The loud clang of the bell behind the bar snapped him out of his trance. Everyone normally tips well here, but somebody must have tipped the bartender very well. They normally didn’t ring the bell in The Void.
The restaurant filled up quickly. The smoke at the bar grew thicker as another couple replaced the chain-smoking pair that sat next to him earlier. One of them, apparently a struggling actor, had made his first commercial that morning and was now celebrating his new career. It was a tough town and a tougher career. For every lost soul who made his or her first commercial, there were a thousand out there who never found out where to start. Edwards decided it was time to leave the bar.
Until he saw her.
A show-stopper. Period.
A beautiful woman no older than twenty-two, she wore a lime-green mini-dress; skintight all the way up to the spaghetti straps that disappeared under her long blond hair. The dress strained tautly across her pert breasts. They were real enough. He should know. Her long legs descended to slender feet fitted into lemon-yellow pumps that matched her hoop earrings. A little gaudy, but in Hollywood, who cares? Besides, it matched her personality. Her age, to him, was irrelevant. She represented something he no longer had. Youth.
All heads turned, following her through the restaurant. She moved around as if she knew everyone. After another five minutes of flirting throughout the restaurant, she stood at the end of the bar next to him, talking to the bartender.
“Would you care to sit down?” he said, offering her his seat.
“Thanks,” she said. She climbed onto the stool and turned back to the bartender.
After several minutes the bartender moved to the other end of the bar and Edwards leaned over. “Can I get you a drink?” he said.
She glanced at him briefly. “Sure,” she replied and continued looking around the bar.
Edwards waved the bartender back over and pointed to the blonde.
“Manhattan,” she said.
“I’ll have another scotch,” Edwards said. He pulled out a roll of hundred dollar bills to pay for the drinks and her eyes grew wide as edges of her mouth curved slightly upward.
“Are you in the business?” she said. The “business” is Hollywood code for the movie industry.
“Sort of,” he replied.
“What do you mean ‘sort of’?”
“I’m a doctor. A plastic surgeon.”
She tossed her head back and laughed. “Yeah, I guess you’re sort of in the business.” Her eyes narrowed as she paused and tilted her head. Her tongue wet the hot pink lipstick covering her upper lip and she stuck out her hand. “I’m Nikki.”
Edwards shook her hand. “I’m David.” Typical. He could spot one a mile away.
She took a sip of her drink then bit her lower lip. “Okay, if you’re a plastic surgeon, let me ask you something.”
“Okay,” he said setting his drink on the bar and turning to face her.
Nikki turned on her stool to face him. “What would you do to make these better?” she said sitting upright and pulling her shoulders back, her breasts sticking out majestically.
Edwards glanced down briefly and his eyes locked on hers.
“Not a thing,” he said with a confident grin. “You’re absolutely perfect.”
Her eyes grew wide and her cheeks flushed. She reached over and slapped his forearm.
“That’s a great line,” she said with a big smile.
“Trust me,” he said. “I’m a professional.”
They scooted closer together and Edwards was confident he knew the outcome. The later it got, the more the lights dimmed and the volume of the music increased. At some point during his chat with Nikki, the background music stopped and a guitar player took the stage in the back. A regular in The Void, he was popular with the crowd, but Edwards barely noticed. He wasn’t paying attention to anything besides Nikki.
Two more drinks, followed by an exaggerated version of his life greatly embellished by Scotch, and she was hooked. He made promises of elegant dinners and weekends on his sailboat; she made promises of evenings in his hot tub. They flirted for a while longer then made plans for a rendezvous next week. Edwards collected her phone number, paid his bill, and left.
Outside, staring at her through the window, he was still captivated. But now his focus shifted from Nikki to the man who approached him outside the bar. He sized up the man. Vaguely familiar, he was young, early to mid-twenties. The man dressed in a black, oversized hockey jersey. Blue jeans, too big and too long, dragged beneath his Reeboks. He wore an Anaheim Ducks ball cap backwards on his head.
“I thought I recognized you,” the young man said. “I wanted to say hello.” As the young man started to walk off, he said over his shoulder, “By the way, you do good work.”
Edwards’ eyes followed him as he rounded the corner. He felt like he knew him from somewhere . . .
Unable to place him, however, he dismissed him for more important matters. He turned back to the window and waved to Nikki. She waved back enthusiastically, her tight frame bouncing in the formfitting dress. Customers around her looked out the window to see who caught this young vixen’s attention. The doctor lingered for a moment, then walked toward the parking lot, his grin wider.
As he rounded the corner, Edwards left the bright lights of Sunset Boulevard. The street lay dark and the overcast evening sky blocked out any moonlight. Despite the mantra that it never rains in L.A., the weatherman had forecast rain showers for earlier this afternoon. He missed his mark by several hours.
Edwards noticed the lamppost overhead had been broken, the shards of glass crackling under his feet. Damn punks. You’d think this type of vandalism wouldn’t exist in this section of Los Angeles. The cops must be busy elsewhere. Perhaps some producer beat up his girlfriend and every cop in L.A. is keeping the paparazzi away from his mansion.
A cool breeze started to pick up on the quiet street; the air felt moist. It’s going to rain any second now. The streets were deserted. There weren’t even any hookers out. He figured the ones who hadn’t picked up their Johns for the night headed for shelter or more suitable working conditions. Several drops of rain hit his Italian-made sport coat, and Edwards started walking faster.
The silence broke with a loud crack. Edwards jumped, then realized he was the source of the noise. More broken glass. He looked up. The lamppost he stood next to was also broken. Damn kids . . . Oh no, my car! If they’ve done anything to my car . . . Scanning the vehicles in the immediate vicinity, none of them appeared to have been vandalized or robbed. Several BMWs, Mercedes, Saabs, Cadillacs, and a Jaguar XJ-6 convertible all untouched. Edwards increased his pace to a jog, his mind spinning between thoughts of the girl and fear for his car.
At the next intersection, Edwards saw his car across the lot through the darkness. Slowing to a walk, his breath came in large gasps. As he ran his hands through the slightly graying hair matted against his head, he grinned. The effects of the Scotch he’d had in The Void made him oblivious to the impending storm as the rain started to drizzle. He didn’t care. Nikki . . .
Twenty yards from his Porsche, he pulled out his keys and triggered the alarm. Two loud blips pierced the increasing rhythm of the rain, and the parking lights flashed as his car alarm deactivated. The rain fell heavier now, and he picked up his pace to a brisk walk. He approached his car from the front, failing to see the silent figure move in behind him.
The assailant grabbed Edwards from behind, gripped his forehead with his left hand and jerked him back. Edwards’ arms were free, struggling to loosen the grip holding his head. Flailing helplessly, his strong attacker had no difficulty sending Edwards off-balance. He saw a screwdriver in the attacker’s right hand. He struggled in vain, franticly attempting to free himself. Unable to do so, frustration and fear rapidly took over his thought process. Edwards felt the tip of the screwdriver against his flesh where the skull joins the vertebrae. Visions of this nightmare raced through his consciousness as the dull tip pushed its way through his skin at the base of his skull. Edwards screamed as his face twisted in pain. The screams went unheard.
* * * * *
Without pause, the attacker thrust the thin metal tool through the base of Edwards’ neck into his brain. The screwdriver pierced the outside layer of brain tissue. A few quick rotations of the crude weapon and it was done. Death came quickly. Edwards’ body went limp as the killer let it fall to the ground. Blood trickled out of the small but fatal wound in the back of Edwards’ skull, mixing on the ground with rainwater and washing away in seconds. The killer briefly stared at the lifeless form on the ground before him. Kneeling next to his victim, he dropped the screwdriver by the body, deftly removing the wallet and watch.
“I do good work, too,” he said as he stood up, turned, and walked away, his job here complete. He had a plane to catch.
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Award winning author and Pilot Michael Byars Lewis is a man of various talents. Trained as an artist as a young man, he worked his way through college selling paintings and working as an illustrator for a Baton Rouge advertising agency. After graduating from Louisiana State University, he set his sights on a flying career, sold everything he had that would sell, and began taking flight lessons. His first flight, in a Cessna 152, was a memorable one. It took place on a grass runway and the first approach to land had to go around because a cow was on the runway! Things improved from there and Michael went on to become a professional pilot, accumulating over 5,000 flying hours in military and civilian flying, including his time as an airline pilot flying the 737-200 and the 737-800. Michael's adventures have given him the opportunity to travel around the world but he lives happily in Florida with his wife Kim. Many years ago, Michael was contemplating writing a book and had the opportunity to meet with the late western author, Johnny Quarles. This was an inspirational meeting and Johnny's words of encouragement resonated with Michael for years. What had started out as a glimmer of an idea, quickly evolved into SURLY BONDS, Michael's first novel.