Six years as a covert operative had left Jon Morton with a lot of
memories…most of them bad, all of them bloody. He returned to civilian
life, seeking refuge in commercial fishing. This simple, somewhat
solitary life allowed him to avoid the dark side of humanity. Hopefully
the ocean would, in time, wash away his mind searing memories. He had
learned to live with them, and the occasional flashback, accepting the
fact that this was just how it was going to be…the price he had to
pay. That was until one ordinary day that was to become the first in a
series of unusual events, which spawned a reawakening of one deadly
memory, and the beginning of a very real nightmare.
Two men lay completely concealed, maintaining total silence, among the
crevasses and boulders of a mountainside in Afghanistan, near the
Pakistani border. They had climbed up the back side of the mountain to
their secure position under cover of night. These men weren’t friends,
just acquaintances of the moment--neither fully trusting the other. One
was an American, the other Albanian.
Both were both dressed in white Alpine winter camouflage suits and
everything they carried was also carefully concealed in white. It had
been snowing lightly and sporadically for the last two hours, adding
little to the already existing, heavy accumulation. The Albanian
whispered two words. “Snow good.”
The American simply nodded. They both knew the snow acted as a muffler,
deadening any slight sounds they might make.
Jon Morton, a covert operative, was there as a spotter for the Albanian,
Tovar Kostarovich. Kostarovich was arguably the world’s best known
extreme distance sniper. Eleven hundred yards away was a tiny village,
just a group of huts clustered together, alongside a rough dirt road.
Intel indicated the village to be this day’s destination for one of
the world’s most notorious white slave traffickers, dealing only in
boys and girls under the age of sixteen. This human vulture, Anton
Breshlav, was their target.
Jon had been continuously scanning the single road that serviced the
town with ultra-high power optics. He tapped Tovar’s arm and
whispered, “Car coming.”
Tovar snapped the protective lens covers off the telescopic sight
mounted on his fifty caliber, Russian-made sniper rifle.
Tovar had become a free agent--a rogue--for sale to anyone willing to
pay his price. The price for this hit was fifty thousand US dollars. In
his light backpack was a bundle of cash, twenty-five thousand dollars.
The arrangement was simple. Twenty-five up front, the other twenty-five
when the hit was confirmed. But there was to be no second payment after
this target was hit. Intelligence had confirmed that Tovar was the
shooter who had terminated a high-ranking British MI-6 agent. Tovar was
playing both sides and now had to be eliminated.
The air was amazingly still, snowflakes fell straight down, perfect for
the shot. Jon confirmed the target, now out of the car. “Black fur
hat. The only one.”
Jon kept his optics trained on the target. He heard the hiss as the
silenced weapon fired and, in just under two seconds watched the
target’s head explode in a burst of red droplets. That son-of-a-bitch
sure can shoot.
Both men hugged the frozen ground, crawling quickly back over the ridge
until well out of sight of the village. Tovar held out his left hand,
sniper rifle in his right, a sardonic smile on his lips. The meaning was
dangerously evident. At the same time, he kept a wary eye on Jon’s
side-arm and right hand. Jon reached back, pulling off his light
backpack. He zipped it open and reached in. “Your completion
When his hand came out, it was not with money, but a silenced,
semi-automatic, Beretta M9. The first shot hit Tovar in the forehead and
the second, an instant later as Tovar’s head snapped back, in his
mouth. A scattered spray pattern of crimson now profaned the new snow.
Jon quickly retrieved the initial payment from Tovar’s pack. He then
proceeded to pour a small vial of powerful acid, into the breach of the
sniper rifle. In minutes, it would be useless. Jon left the scene with
both missions accomplished. He carried but one addition--the twenty-five
thousand dollar deposit for the hit. The snowfall was getting heavier as
he started down the back side of the mountain toward his extraction
Jon opened his eyes and sat up abruptly. Damn! Didn’t need that.
Rehashing a seven-year-old op. Got to work on getting away from that
habit. He glanced at the clock on his night table. Three-forty-one. Why
do I even bother? He reached out to shut off the alarm clock, pre-set
The start of each day was usually a carbon-copy of the one before. Not
that it was planned that way, just that it had become a smooth and
comfortable procedure. Toilet, wash, shave, brush teeth, comb hair, and
then dress. He would, occasionally, stop in the kitchen for a glass of
orange juice then out the door for his solitary walk to the docks. His
routine was purposely simple and repetitive--a direct opposite from his
former, covert world.
“God, it’s dark!” That softly whispered statement was the first
conscious thought in today’s solitary and daily journey. This morning
was one of those rare mornings when the moon, and the last scattering of
morning stars, had fled the night sky. However, the first vestiges of
dawn were late in brightening the eastern horizon. It was often, at
times such as these, that his mind would mercilessly dredge up and
replay the multiple scenes of cruel death, torture, and violent
destruction that had, at one time, been an integral part of his
existence. The aftermath of these flashbacks were at times so vivid, he
could actually see the carnage, smell the stench of death. One of these
episodes would usually leave him drained, both physically and
emotionally. His early recognition of this mental stress had been the
primary cause for his retirement from the service. On several occasions,
he had considered that these unwanted mental regressions into his past
could be a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. Jon would not,
however, allow himself the truth of a clinical diagnosis. For this
reason, he carried a hidden inner resentment toward special ops--not for
what he had done, but for what it had done to him. He took another deep
breath, inhaling the mildly pungent salt air. The air, close to the sea,
was laden with the ocean’s overtones of seaweed and fish. Each breath
allowed the cathartic value of the ocean air to envelope his mind and
body, driving the demons of his past back into his subconscious. I hope
that, in time, they’ll stay buried forever.
He had been a superbly trained operative, with a unique mindset that had
allowed him to run covert operations throughout the world, exterminating
the scum of humanity, whether criminal or political then return home as
if it had been just another day at the office. His superiors had called
him “one of the best”. Now all he wanted to do was put that life far
behind, buried in the recesses of his mind, to stay there forgotten and
Jon was neared the water’s edge. He could now hear the persistent, yet
still faint, sound of the gentle swells, sweeping the shore as if
attempting to brush away unseen specks of dirt. There was a light
contact on the back of his left hand. Reflexively, he swiped it across
his pants leg. Damned mosquitoes.
Within minutes, the coal black sky began to gray then brighten and
undergo a metamorphosis into multiple shades of blue. In the previously
indefinable distance, a hairline crack in the fading black void
appeared. At first just a faint line, with subtle hues of white and
pink, dividing the ocean from the sky and beginning to define the
existence of objects, living and inert. The line slowly expanded and
began to glow with an orange hue and then as if by magic, the top edge
of the huge, fire red sun appeared over the horizon. It was as if the
foreboding, dark, ocean had suddenly given birth to this radiant symbol
of life and a new day. The sun continued on its upward path, burning off
the predawn, gossamer haze as it rose. The surface of the ocean, once a
black, undulating and unknown expanse, took on a new life, painted with
shades of blue and turquoise with bright, shimmering, hues of reflected
red and gold sunlight.
Jon left the narrow path and made his way over the wet, moss-covered
rocks that were littered with a vast assortment of seashells. These were
the weather-bleached external skeletons of thousands of shellfish that
had, as all life, served their brief purpose and passed into oblivion,
leaving only a hint of their former existence. His high rubber boots,
designed to be both warm and waterproof, were scarred from long use on
such surfaces, cut by the razor edges of the numerous shells and gouged
by both the unforgiving surfaces of the rocks as well as the spiny fins
of his daily catch. By now the sea birds had begun to appear, filling
the air with their raucous cries, once again to start their daily, and
endless quest for food.
The rocks under his feet gave way to pebbles and then just sand. He
turned toward the small cove, which sheltered the pier where his boat
was docked. There was definitely a much easier way to the pier--down the
main road and then onto the paved path to the harbor, but the path he
chose to travel each day gave Jon a feeling of inner peace and a closer,
more welcome relationship with his present life. The white and green
excrement from one of the circling gulls hit the sand nearby and
splattered onto his right boot.
“Shit!” Then he laughed aloud, realizing that his utterance was both
a statement of annoyance as well as a fact.
Excerpted from "The Lethal Fisherman" by JJ Burke. Copyright © 2017 by JJ Burke. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.