Writing in Process

Unedited Excerpt from Chain Reaction © Robyn Roze

NOTE: Readers asked. I listened. Chain Reaction is the upcoming sequel to Chain of Title.

Contacts and currency bought anything a man wanted, including ‘rental space’ on a freighter docked in the Port of Singapore. C-notes had worked like magic with underpaid, overworked officers and their crew, turning them deaf, dumb, and blind to a man strong-armed onto their ship. And with most of the crew ashore, gambling, drinking at the bars, and indulging at the Orchard Towers's infamous Four Floors of Whores, the noisy, bustling location of the world’s second-busiest cargo port offered ideal cover for the escalating situation.

Sean ducked through a door into a dim, windowless storage compartment near the ship’s clanking engine room. Taking a moment to allow his vision to adjust to the flicker of the choking fluorescents buzzing overhead, he scanned the wide area, noting ship equipment stored at one end and the shackled detainee eyeing him at the other. Then he pulled the heavy metal door shut, sealing in the reek of bunker fuel, grease, and sweat. He zeroed in and advanced toward the man immobilized in the humid space, his stride scattering motes in a grainy haze. He squared himself above the man; who, from below, had the balls to hold his executioner’s glare in some ridiculous challenge.

That could only mean one thing: the son of a bitch was clueless.

“You don’t know who I am.”

The rattle and grind of hard-working machinery rumbling next door and vibrating underfoot were the only response.

The operative he’d exposed at the pool yesterday on Sentosa, while lounging with Shayna, stared up at him with focused determination. A fresh gash split above one swollen eye, blood smeared across his face, and a red gush from his nose spilled over a busted lip. But his body bound tight to the chair betrayed him with the slight uptick in his breathing, the fresh sheen of sweat beaded at his brow, the flicker of fear in his dark eyes.

“You’re good—Marcus Black—but not good enough to get by me.” Sean’s head cocked in bemusement. “Of course, I know who you are; your real name, not the Daniel Morgan you registered under at the hotel.” He circled around the man, sizing him up, and thinking he looked young for thirty-two. “I knew you were tracking me from the beginning. But you’re just a scout, not the hunter.”

Towering above the squirming agent, Sean fine-tuned strategies in his head, calculating probabilities before making his decision. After some brooding silence, he aimed his eyes toward a murky corner in the space, then jerked his head back in the direction of the exit. Two hulking figures emerged from the oily shadows, trudged through the dank area, then squeezed out the door.

Sean scraped a chair across the steel floor, flipped it around and straddled it, forearms folded across the top of the metal back, eye to eye with the tracker. “Your handler intentionally did a piss-poor job of preparing you for me. And I know why. Do you?”

The prisoner remained silent, defiant.

“Because he wants you dead. You weren’t supposed to make it out of Spain alive last year—when he set you up the first time.” Surprise registered in Marcus’s widened eyes, although he’d tried to cover it. “But you didn’t follow orders. You followed your gut and survived. He wasn’t counting on that.” Sean paused, allowing time for the full weight of his words to sink in and take hold. “How do I know that? Because he tried to do the same shit to me. A long time ago.”

Marcus’s bravado faltered a bit. He tried to shift in his seat, test the bite of his bindings, ease the tingling in his limbs.

It was hopeless.

“Your handler, let’s call him—Simon,” recognition surfaced in the man’s slackened jaw, “doesn’t like it when his motives or tactics are challenged. I should know.”

Marcus, eyes narrowed and wary, assessed the dangerous merc situated within arm’s length from him. “How?” He asked, voice filled with suspicion.

“I know where his skeletons are buried,” Sean hesitated, the bloody hands of time rewinding, “including the real ones.” He gripped the top of his chair and pushed up to step back and away from the visceral stink of his past. “I’m a hard man to kill, and he knows it. So, we agreed to disagree, and to stay out of each other’s way.”

“And you reneged.”

Sean’s back stiffened. Had he heard contempt?

He kicked Marcus back in his chair, smacking the agent’s head against the steel surface, and waited for the groaning and cursing to stop before he shouted the callous truth. “I don’t give a fuck whether you live or die. Whether your mother IDs what’s left of you. Or whether you’re fed to the sharks—alive. But understand this: I’m your only chance of making it out of here to see your girl again . . . back in London.” He dropped to one knee, an elbow pressed on the other, curious. Then he squinted in recognition. “Her little boy sure looks like you . . .”

Marcus seemed to turn to stone, the remaining color draining from his olive complexion. Sean let him agonize over the implications of his veiled threat before pulling the curtain all the way back.

“What you need to understand is that the people coming for me,” he pushed a finger against the bound man’s forehead, “are also coming for you.”

That got his attention.

“You think you’re waiting for extraction orders? Or your next assignment?” Sean’s head swung slowly from side to side with the dire news. “You’re a sitting duck, mother fucker.”

Sean gruffly yanked the chair back up onto all fours, punctuated with a grunt from Marcus. Then he resumed his spot on the metal chair across from the man whose battered face, contorted in confusion and doubt, shifted to comprehension and fear. The kind of soul-cleansing fear that frees a man of all pre-conceived notions, and allegiances; when he learns he was dispensable, all along.

“You’re going to have a choice to make, Marcus Black. One I don’t need to spell out for you.” He paused, watching Marcus’s gears grinding, his loyalties wavering. “Our friend put you on my trail because he knew I’d spot you a mile away; and that I’d kill you without hesitation. That’s what he expects me to do. Because you’re not supposed to make it out alive—this time.”

Sean’s head cocked in remembrance. “But he’s always overestimated himself and underestimated me.” Sean stretched closer, raw hatred marring his face. “What do you say we surprise him?


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