New excerpt March 2016

                It had been a long, slow haul for Ben but the pain he carried with him never seemed to dissipate. Occasionally it eased a touch and occasionally it grew in strength with each passing heartbeat but it never ceased its relentless pounding upon the door of his broken soul. It was Sunday - normally a day of rest but matters more pressing had propelled him to the nearest town for provisions. Big Sky, Gallatin County, Montana was a small town set within a huge country. It was the town he chose to settle in a little over a year ago after the sudden death of his wife. The tragedy forced him to look around, take in what he had achieved in life - and then throw it all against the wind with reckless abandon. Seeking solitude and silence he chanced upon Big Sky via a wrong turn and was instantly entranced by its immense beauty. Huge expanses of azure blue lauded down upon you from above and melded effortlessly with the snow covered peaks that traversed their way up into the pearlescent heavens above. After losing himself in the beauty he vowed to remain and honour Diane’s memory until the world saw fit to take him away to that next big beautiful sky.

                Manoeuvring his SUV into the usual spot in front of Aaron’s store he climbed out, briefly marvelling at the majestic snow-topped peaks that surrounded the town.

                It was only the second week of March but the constant snowfalls of the winter were gradually beginning to fade leaving only a faint slither of white underfoot.

                An unmarked black van parked across the street to his left caught his eye. Big Sky was home to a handful of affluent residents and he made it his business to acquaint himself with each and every individual. Allowing his training to take command had furnished him with the knowledge of every soul in town - their vehicles included. He did not recognise the van opposite but thought no further of it as he entered the store.

                Aaron stood behind the counter and was glancing quizzically out towards the street.
“Morning Ben, you see that van out there?”

    Ben smiled; small towns sure are as heavy on surveillance as any professional.
    “You never miss a thing do you Aaron?”
    “You got any of that Spanish beer you had in last week?”
    “San Miguel?”
     “Yeah that’s it, kinda liked that.”

He placed his elbows upon the counter
                “Usual place, think there’s a couple left.”
                “Nope, Sunday’s never busy.”
                “So why open?”
                “You came in didn’t you, someone will always come in. Any how it’s either me down here with my own thoughts or back up there with Marian chewing my ear.”
                Ben laughed. “No brainer heh?”
                “You got any steak left? Can’t seem to see any, oh and some of that mixer for Nacho.”
                “Steak’s all gone, think there’s a delivery on Wednesday I’ll have to check, mixers behind the          counter here. How many bags you want?”
                “Better give me three, should keep him going for a while.”
                Aaron disappeared behind the counter then came back up with a huge, bulging white sack.
                “Its chicken flavour this time that okay Ben?”
                “Yeah, fine. He’ll love it.” He shouted from the back as he retrieved the last two bottles of San Miguel.
                “Where is he, in the truck?”
                “Nah left him back at the cabin today as I wouldn’t be gone long.”
                “Pity.” Aaron coolly stated. “Maybe if he was in the truck he would have barked at those fella’s.”
                “What fella’s?”
                “Those fella’s looking round your truck; they just got out that van.”
                “They’re looking for me.”
                He glanced over towards the window and cursed himself for being complacent
                “How many are there?”
                “Looks like four of em. A guy in a black suit with three Marines I think. They’re carrying semi automatic weapons...They look kinda mean.”
                “All Marines look mean, first thing they teach you at the academy
                “They’re heading this way...Ben...Ben...”
                He was away before Aaron uttered the words and made for the back storeroom.
                Living in Big Sky was a small slice of heaven compared to his former life. Presuming everything up until the point of his Big Sky settlement was now way behind him had prompted the nurture of newly found contented neurons to initiate their long dormant start up program. He assumed his old set of skills had allowed his contended neurons to flourish and fallen back to sleep. To his utter delight the van outside earlier had begun to activate his dormant, faithfully missed senses. In his former life - one guy in an immaculate suit usually signalled trouble but one suit and three Marines was something he’d never experienced. Unable to decide if the presence of the four males would be the greatest or the deadliest encounter he’d ever partaken in, he decided on the latter and burst through the rear door of the storeroom.
                Outside in the cold alleyway he turned and glanced back towards the store - a solitary two storey building housing both Aaron’s livelihood and his humble abode above. He scanned the area and located the appropriate means of apparatus - two dumpsters against the far outside wall. He sprinted towards them and assailed them with ease. Their tops were open but he stood on the rim, feet protruding at a 90degree angle in a perfect display of symmetrical balance. With one more bound he launched himself upwards from the rim towards the first story window ledge. Swiftly pulling himself up to the ledge he launched himself once again and lunged for the roof-top above. In a matter of mind numbing seconds the required set of manoeuvres had been completed as he scampered stealthily across the roof towards the front of the building.
                He was just in time to observe the four males enter Aarons then turned and scampered back across the roof-top...and waited.
                As planned, the back door to Aarons flew open after little more than a minute and out spilled two Marines. They scanned the alleyway, their backs to the store.
Only got milliseconds before they turn...or the others follow.
Without a second thought he soared from the rooftop with a deadly precision, landing mere inches behind the two Marines. They administered just half a blink before he was upon them. Placing a firm hand upon each of their heads he directed them swiftly together, culminating in a nauseating, bone crunching crack. They fell to the floor just as he reached out and snatched the right hand Marines semi-automatic weapon with a superb display of dexterity.
                He spun around and fired just as suited male and the remaining Marine entered the alleyway. Instinctively they split and dived for cover as bullets tore into the brickwork sending shards of clay across their pristine attires.
                Luckily a rotting set of semi-squashed cardboard boxes had cushioned suited males dive. Unluckily they contained a rancid pot-pourri of rotten vegetables that began to permeate his nasal passageways.
                “Hold your fire Marine.” The suited male hollered. “Ben, stop it goddamnit, we’re not here to hurt you.”
                He halted his assault but still trained his gun at the duo.
                “You look important.” Ben yelled.
                “I am. We need your assistance. We’re not here to hurt you; you’re extremely valuable to us alive.”
                “And who be?”
                “The United States government Ben.”
                “Not interested, worked for them once.”
                “I know you did Ben, I believe you left on good terms though”
                “Precisely, so I owe them nothing.”
                The suited male took a chance and began to rise to his feet.
                “Look Ben, I’m putting my gun on the floor and I’m gonna walk over to you and show you my badge okay?”
                Ben remained silent.
                “I take it that’s okay?” he re-iterated, taking a step forward with his hands raised before him in an open gesture.
                “That’s far enough; throw me your badge from there.”
                The Marines weapon was still trained upon Ben.
                “Put your weapon down.” Suited male indicated to the Marine.
                “Do it.”
                “Your badge.” Ben repeated impatiently.
                “Okay here you go.”
                Suited male retrieved his badge and tossed it over. Ben’s right hand remained tight around his weapon as his left flared up automatically, retrieving the badge mid flight. With nimble fingers he flipped open the holder and briefly scanned the contents.
                “Secret Service, that’s new. Says here you’re Agent Bryson Ashwood, so tell me agent Ashwood what do you want with me?”
                “I have orders from the President to bring you back to D.C.”
                “Why what have I done?”
                “More kind of what you can do...for us. President LaMaire has personally asked for you.”
                “She requires my skills then?”
                “I don’t know about that, but at a guess...yes. I just have orders to bring you back.
                Ben sniggered. “So what’s in it for me?”
                “Anything you wish.”
                “I don’t need anything, I’m happy here...I’ve thought about it now, and it’s a no.”
                “There’s nothing you need then?”
                “No nothing...Good day.” Ben concluded. He backed away slowly, gun in hand.
                “Wait.” Cried Ashwood. “What about Karl?”
                It was only to be used as a last resort but it got Ben’s attention.
                A line of anger crept across his face.
                “You will not use him to get to me...Understood?”
                “We could help him.”
                “In what way? We both know he’ll face the chair sooner or later.”
                “LaMaire can grant him a full pardon if you help us.”
                He stepped forward and lowered his weapon. Karl - Diane’s kid brother and the only one alive that reminded him of his precious love - had been a good kid once. When the low life came, they beckoned to his sweet nature and slowly worked their persuasive conditioning upon his impressionable young cortex until the seeds of hatred had been deeply and irretrievably sown. Ben never got to know the full circumstances of that night as he sat ashen-faced at Karl’s trial. Diane’s dying wish was for her sibling to be free, prompting a loving promise from Ben to seek no solace until this was accomplished. He’d witnessed enough in his life to know that the persuasions of others could be so strong... so decisive, firmly believing that Karl was either influenced to commit that heinous crime or take the heat for it.
                He met Ashwoods eyes with a certain degree of hope.
There’s good in that kid I know it, I could get him back on track, this is what Diane wanted.
                “Okay I’ll come with you but I want a guarantee that Karl will receive that pardon.”
                “I cannot guarantee that but President LaMaire did assure me she would if you came with us.”
                “Lead the way then, oh and sorry bout your soldiers. Don’t think I killed them, they’ll just be a little sore for a few days.”
                The Marine at Ashwoods side scowled and paced over to his men.
                “They’re okay, they’ll report in when they wake up.”
                They turned and headed for the van.
                Ben found the interior surprisingly luxurious as he jumped aboard.
                Ashwood turned to Ben as they sped off.
                “So tell me Ben Leftfield will you give us any more trouble on the journey to D.C.?”
                “That depends.”
                “On what?”
                “On whether I gather if you’re genuine or not.”
                “I’ve shown you my ID.”
                “Can be faked. Now, shall we go visit the President?”




Copyright C.Anthony Boot 2014-2016

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All characters contained in these tales are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.