And here’s the first chapter. Think of this as the lead single from the album. You can download the book right here. And that’s all the pimping I’ll do for now. Commence regularly scheduled programming.
Grand Avenue Shooter
Harrison Rooke was the fifth richest man in the world. Pace Warner was going to kill him.
It was a cool November Tuesday in Chicago and Mr. Rooke was in a car traveling west on Grand Avenue. Pace was a mile and a half away in an apartment building, lying prone on the roof of a decommissioned elevator and peering through a broken vent slat.
Pace was a touch over thirty. He had brown hair, blue eyes, and a fake face. He had no pictures of the face his mother had given him. Which had been a handsome one; sometimes he missed it. Now his visage was bland enough that your eyes would slide right over him. He wore a black T-shirt and running shorts. And latex gloves, to keep the gunshot residue off his skin.
A Barrett XM500 anti-materiel rifle rested in his hands. An antique, but he had to use it. Newer weapons had microchips that would set off the alarms in the firearms scanners placed around the city.
Eye to scope, he tracked Harrison Rooke’s three-car convoy as it rolled his way. A blue sedan led while two gray SUVs trailed. He knew Rooke was in the middle car, an SUV with dusty doors and mud spatters on the bumpers. The dirt was camouflage; VIPs didn’t drive around in dirty cars. The SUV’s windshield was in Pace’s sights, but he couldn’t take a shot right now. It was made of the same compound used to protect spacecraft from meteors. A straight .50 cal round would do as much damage as a drop of bird shit.
Gray SUVs. Gray was a smart choice of color, no doubt selected by Rooke’s security team—a mix of former mercenaries and Secret Service goons. Black cars usually carried powerful passengers, while a gray car could be carrying anyone. In the end, the color didn’t much matter. Whatever camouflaging effect the paintjob had was negated by the vehicles’ blacked-out windows.
Very Important People, like Rooke, usually traveled in convoys. Three or more cars. Convoys were helpful in Pace’s line of work—a convoy essentially advertised the presence of someone worth protecting.
He waited. He had a list in his head five names long and Harrison Rooke was at the top of it.
A traffic light changed. Rooke’s SUV moved a little closer.
The vehicle could ride through Hell if it had to. Inside it were tear gas cannons, pump-action shotguns, and vials of Rooke’s blood in case he was injured and needed an on-the-spot blood transfusion. The tires were Kevlar-reinforced and puncture resistant so Christoph, the driver, could gear up and speed away even if they were shot out. Self-driving cars had swarmed and overwhelmed the auto market over the past decade, and now a human driver was something you just didn’t really see anymore. But Harrison Rooke required a human presence behind the wheel. Autonomous vehicles were programmed to never speed or cross the double-yellow. Traffic laws weren’t laws, they were goddamn commandments. But obeying them could get Rooke killed if his vehicle was ambushed at a red light. Enter Christoph.
Another bodyguard sat in the back seat next to Rooke, who was draped in pinstripes, tapping his way through a memo on his Card. Citizen’s Automated Registry Devices were flexible, transparent computer tablets. Issued to every citizen. Your Card was your everything: your phone and your computer and your life.
Christoph was an Agency guy. Trained for defensive driving on federal courses in Virginia. He blinked maybe once a minute. And he’d be ready to scrap if they got stopped. He’d tucked twin Glocks into speed holsters on his shoulder and ankle.
The SUV kept rolling down Grand.
Harrison Rooke might have fancied himself an untouchable titan, but Pace had found a crack in the man’s daily routine that he could wiggle into and exploit. Rooke was vulnerable in Chicago because he always went to the same coffee shop.
At the end of each workday, Rooke departed the skyscraper that housed his empire, the Blackburn Center. It rose eighty-seven stories above the streets. Blackburn was his maternal grandfather’s surname. His vehicles would then take a slow left onto Grand Avenue to pick up coffee at a little place called Lulu’s. The cafe served a hearty Kenyan blend that had made it Rooke’s favorite place in the city. He liked to have fresh coffee on the drive home. A liberal dose of caffeine to amp him up for the dinner schmoozing hour and then the intercontinental conference calls. But to reach Lulu’s, the convoy had to drive west up Grand Avenue, which fed him into a direct line of fire from the apartment building Pace was in.
The almighty dollar had collapsed about two decades earlier. Rooke’s father had made some good money exchanging the replacement currency, the bancor. Harrison Rooke graduated around the same time from Yale School of Management and had taken the ten million bancors from his trust fund and spent the next twenty years doing all the right things with it. His eventual conglomerate, the Blackburn Group, had become a major player in the robotics, surveillance contracting, quantum computing markets. Those, and probably a few hundred other things. There wasn’t a full list in the public domain of all the pies Rooke had his fingers in. He was just forty-eight and already capitalism’s eternal poster boy. No one had bootstrapped up to the mountaintop quite like Harrison Rooke.
Pace had no objection to Rooke being rich. Pace himself was far from poor. One hit last year earned him six-figures. His point of contention with the Blackburn CEO stemmed from one of the man’s unscrupulous business models, from a classified operation Rooke had authorized.
The blue lead car was still over a mile away. Pace watched it slowly grow larger in his sights as it worked through traffic. When the lead car was a block away from Lulu’s Coffee, a black four-door rolled itself away from the curb, opening up a free spot for Rooke’s SUV.
Yep, Pace thought. He just got the call.
He knew Cristoph paid the manager of Lulu’s an even hundred bancors a day to move his car for a few minutes. The manager didn’t know who exactly Christoph worked for but was happy to make that much money off a few cups of coffee.
The lead car in the convoy crawled past Lulu’s. And the gray SUV, the one carrying Rooke, leaned into the open parking spot and stopped. Everything was unspooling as Pace needed it to.
The manager strode out of the shop with three red cups in a drink carrier.
Here we go, Pace thought.
Christoph unlocked his door by tapping his wrist against it. The American Federation, and a handful of other countries, tracked their citizens with a Radio Frequency Identification chip embedded in the right wrist. Keyless entry everywhere; just brush your wrist against a door for access. The tracking was mandatory. You had to get the tracking chip implanted your wrist, but they tossed in the Card to sweeten the pill.
Christoph left the vehicle. He came around the front of the SUV to meet the manager.
This is just perfect, Pace thought. Harrison Rooke, self-made man, captain of industry and master of the universe, was going to get shot in the face in front of a shop with a silly name like Lulu’s.
Pace had gone through his breathing cycles and was settled into a clean mix of focus and relaxation. He wasn’t thinking about Rooke or his reasons for killing the man. He had a mechanical, robotic job to do. There was a .50 caliber round chambered in the Barrett. He needed to get it out of the barrel, across the gap, and into the target.
The scope would help him get a hit without the aid of a spotter. It was newer than the rifle, a computerized little eye that would automatically adjust for the gusts and thermals heaving between the buildings of the Windy City.
It was here at Lulu’s every day where Rooke made his mistake. There was a bulletproof glass partition between the driver and rear compartment. Rooke always lowered the partition to allow Christoph to hand him his coffee—before Christoph closed his door.
Christoph tapped his wrist against the driver’s door and it opened itself.
Now came a very fast second where every star in the universe slid into alignment and the bullet had a clear path for it to travel. From the rifle barrel, out the broken vent slat, through just under a mile of city canyons, through the open SUV door and over the lowered partition, all the way to Harrison Rooke’s head. Pace couldn’t see his target’s face through his scope. Bullets drop as they travel so to make his shot from this far away he had to aim high.
Time tripped and dragged and then oozed to a halt, like God had just paused all life on Earth. Pace’s heart took a long intermission, freezing him still. His finger curled back on the trigger and he shot the round high into the wind.