Authors: Russell Blake
JET VII – Sanctuary
Copyright © 2013 by Russell Blake. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used, reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law, or in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, contact:
Cover Photo by: Regina Wamba of
Thrillers by Russell Blake
THE GERONIMO BREACH
THE DELPHI CHRONICLE TRILOGY
THE VOYNICH CYPHER
UPON A PALE HORSE
The Assassin Series by Russell Blake
KING OF SWORDS
NIGHT OF THE ASSASSIN
RETURN OF THE ASSASSIN
REVENGE OF THE ASSASSIN
BLOOD OF THE ASSASSIN
The JET Series by Russell Blake
JET II – BETRAYAL
JET III – VENGEANCE
JET IV – RECKONING
JET V – LEGACY
JET VI – JUSTICE
JET VII – SANCTUARY
JET – OPS FILES (prequel)
The BLACK Series by Russell Blake
BLACK IS BACK
BLACK IS THE NEW BLACK
BLACK TO REALITY
Co-authored with Clive Cussler
THE EYE OF HEAVEN
Non Fiction by Russell Blake
AN ANGEL WITH FUR
HOW TO SELL A GAZILLION EBOOKS
(while drunk, high or incarcerated)
About the Author
Wall Street Journal
featured author, Russell Blake lives full time on the Pacific coast of Mexico. He is the acclaimed author of many thrillers, including the Assassin series, the JET series, and the BLACK series. He has also co-authored
The Eye of Heaven
with Clive Cussler for Penguin Books.
“Capt.” Russell enjoys writing, fishing, playing with his dogs, collecting and sampling tequila, and waging an ongoing battle against world domination by clowns.
Amber veins of light trickled down the surrounding slopes, giving the metropolis a festive aura even at eleven on a moonless night. The cool mountain air huffed benignly, a welcome deliverance after a passing cloudburst had rinsed the city clean, leaving behind an essence of ozone, jungle, and wet earth mingled with the smell of wood-fired barbecues and exhaust. The downtown nightclub area had just found its stride, and young lovers ambled along in time as they toured the car-clogged boulevards, the atmosphere crackling with excitement and possibility.
In a working-class neighborhood near the clubs, a blue neon toucan clutching a whiskey bottle and waving an AK-47 blinked over the doorway of a colonial façade nestled at the bottom of a deserted side street. The faded lettering on the frontage promised cold beer and air-conditioning. Strains of plaintive music drifted from the entry, a salsa ballad equal parts heart-wrenching lament and diatribe against love gone wrong. A collection of rusting sedans and battered trucks lined the curb for the entire block. Roving stray dogs loped along in the shadows in search of scraps or better booty, their occasional warning growls competing with the mélange of ambient music.
Inside the gloomy watering hole, a pall of smoke hung over the customers like a cloud of mosquitoes. A wiry bartender with heavy acne scars and a thick black mustache stood behind a dark wood bar polishing a glass, one eye on a television silently blaring out Shakira’s greatest hits as the feisty singer’s hips ground with rhythmic veracity. The clientele was awash with middle-aged men, alone and serious about drinking, doing so in muted tones and with the steady efficiency of automatons. Blind by now to the image of the gun-toting warrior toucan – an unfortunate theme on the dingy walls – they had long since stopped feeding the half-century-old red jukebox that glowed in the far corner, and conversation was muted. The smattering of ladies among them were professional companions for hire who’d been plying their trade there for so many summers they now played the jukebox out of habit.
Five men sat near the back of the room at a circular wooden table, a small pile of American money in the center – tens and twenties. Bottles of half-drunk beer sat sweating as wooly tendrils of gray smoke streamed upward from two oversized ashtrays.
Four of the players were obviously local, faces hard, skin the color of burnished brass – men who spent their lives outdoors, the sun’s toll a badge of honor. The fifth man had light-brown hair, a goatee and a fair complexion. His face was unremarkable except for the eyes, which were grayer than sharkskin beneath their hooded lids. He reached for his nearly empty rum and Coke and drained it, then set the glass back on the table and laid his cards face down in front of him.
The other men suppressed their disapproval as he leaned back and fished a cigarette from the pack beside his cocktail, every movement slow, as if the alcohol had caught up with him and the simple act was exhausting. He flipped open a steel Zippo lighter and thumbed it alight. Once his Marlboro was glowing, he blew a long stream of smoke at the ceiling.
“Come on. What’s it going to be?” a player snarled in Spanish, his patience at an end.
“Why, Jaime – that’s right, isn’t it – Jaime? It’s rude to intrude on another man’s thoughts when he’s considering how to play his winning hand to maximum effect.” The American could have been chiding a child – in acceptable Spanish.
“We don’t have all night,” Jaime’s companion complained from beside him. “Enough of the big talk. All night with the big talk. Put up or shut up.”
“See? That’s the thing. I took the time to remember your friend’s name. Yours too, César. And yet I’d win a side bet you didn’t do the same for mine, which is just plain rude.” The American supplemented his declaration with a cold stare.
As César leaned forward, the lines of hardship on his face deepened under the glare of the lamp suspended over the table. “I don’t care. I’m not here for a date. What are you going to do?” he demanded, nodding at the American’s cards and the pile of dollars.
“Are you always in such a hurry to lose your money?”
Jaime slammed his hand down on the table. “Enough with the talk. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
The American shook his head. “That’s not how poker is played, gentlemen. A man has to have time to make a decision.”
The snub nose of a Smith & Wesson revolver glinted in the light as César placed it on the table. He glowered at the American, and when he spoke, it came out as a rasp. “This is how we play it here.”
“Well, if we’re going to do it that way, we might as well play for it all, your gun included. Looks like it might be worth a couple hundred.” The American pushed in everything in front of him. “Raise. All in.”
César nodded. “Call. The pistol too.” He pushed his remaining few bills into the pot. “Showdown,
The thickset man eyed the gun without blinking. “I’ll show when you do,” he said, stretching poker etiquette to the breaking point.
“Don’t be an old woman,” César scolded and fanned his cards out with a triumphant smile. “Three aces.” He gave the American a dark look. “Time to go home broke,
The thickset man rolled his cards onto the table and snorted. “
. Beats my two pair.”
Jaime tossed his cards into the muck. “I’m out.”
The American hesitated, the tension building as he lifted the edge of his cards and looked at them. He drew a long pull from his cigarette and flipped over the pasteboards, revealing queens full of sevens.
César’s left eye twitched once. His gaze locked on the American’s, and then he was groping for his gun as the thickset man pushed away from the table.
The American reacted in a blur. Cigarettes flew everywhere as the heavy glass ashtray caught César across the bridge of his nose. Blood erupted onto his shirt, and he howled in rage as Jaime clumsily drew a Ruger 9mm pistol. The American rounded the table with a lunge, and his beer bottle caught Jaime in the temple. The bottle shattered, leaving the American holding the jagged neck, which he twisted across César’s throat before grabbing the revolver from the tabletop and slamming the butt into Jaime’s jaw. Bone cracked with an audible snap. Jaime’s cry of anguish was cut short by another blow to his skull. His eyes rolled into his head, and he slumped to the floor with a groan. César clutched his traumatized neck, trying to stop the spurting river of blood with his splay of wooden fingers.