Bullet Rain should be out sometime next month, and for the weeks leading up to its release, I thought it would be fun to post a chapter of the book every Saturday. This book is a bit of a departure for me, as it’s mostly just a straight-up action thriller. There are a few twists, but nothing as complex as most of my stuff. Nova, of course, is Holly Lin’s sidekick in No Shelter. Bullet Rain picks up right after the events of No Shelter, and will lead into the next Holly Lin book, The Devil You Know. Enjoy.
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The sniper sat on top of the ridge, his back against a boulder. He had his eyes closed, earbuds in his ears, listening to an audiobook.
He listened to an audiobook almost every day, having nothing else to do except sit here in this makeshift hut and wait. There was a cooler with water and Gatorade and the remains of his lunch—tuna fish sandwich and barbecue potato chips, a can of diet soda—and that was it. If he needed to loosen his bowels, he did so in a hole one hundred yards away.
His transportation was a 2009 Honda CRF dirt bike. It was parked five hundred yards away down the embankment, in the shade of a Utah Juniper tree.
In the next hour or so he would ride the dirt bike three miles across the desert to town. His home, a doublewide trailer, sat on the outskirts. A wooden shed was beside it, and it was into the shed he would ease the dirt bike, snap the padlock on the door, and head inside the trailer. Strip out of his clothes, take a shower, then lower himself down into his recliner with a cold bottle of beer, turn on the TV, and watch sports until he drifted off to sleep.
But that was later, and this was now, and currently he sat with his back against the boulder, his eyes closed, listening to his audiobook. It was a murder mystery, a book in an ongoing series that he liked. What he liked most was the narrator’s voice. It was smooth and confident. The narrator had the uncanny ability to change his voice to match any character in the book, even a secondary character, sometimes even a tertiary character.
The sniper was impressed.
He was also bored.
This job paid well—exceedingly well—and it was relatively easy, but not much happened. Hence the earbuds and audiobook. Hence the hut with the corrugated steel roof that protected him from the sun. The desert was dry and played hell on his sinuses, but he had become accustomed to it over the past two years. That was how long he had been doing the work, ever since he had left the Marines.
He had had thirty-seven kills during his service to his country.
He was a killer, he supposed, though he thought of himself more as a marksman. A very skilled marksman, to be exact, one of the best in his platoon, so it made sense why he had been snapped up so quickly after leaving the Marines.
Of course, the fact that he had a gambling problem, and that he had been down nearly one hundred thousand dollars, also factored into his decision to be where he was right now.
His debt had been paid off long ago, and if he wanted, he could have left this job and perused another, but hell, the money he was making for the little work he was doing, it was just too good to walk away from.
He had gone to war to fight for the American dream, and now he was living it.
In his pocket, his cell phone vibrated.
He opened his eyes. Outside the narrow opening of the steel hut the desert stretched out in front of him. The day had worn on and the sun was already headed toward the horizon. In another hour it would be gone. Night would come, and the temperature would drop, and the desert would become alive with the nocturnal sounds of nature. And the sniper? By then he would be home, his feet up on the ottoman, SportsCenter on the widescreen.
The audiobook was getting to a good part, the detective close to finding out who the killer was, and part of him wanted to just keep listening, while another part—the rational part, the part that liked money—woke up his iPod to stop the audiobook. He plucked out the earbuds just as he withdrew the phone from his pocket.
A text message was on the screen: RED MUSTANG, FOUR MILES EAST.
The sniper set the iPod and earbuds aside. He climbed to his feet, stretched his arms, his legs, his neck. He stepped over to the mesh case on the ground, bent and opened it up to reveal an XM2010 enhanced sniper rifle.
The XM2010 was a fine machine. The Army had issued it in 2011, so he hadn’t had the pleasure of using it during combat, but he thought he got better use out of it now as a civilian.
The rifle weighed twelve pounds and was nearly four feet long, the barrel exactly twenty-four inches.
He hefted it and exited the hut, keeping low as he advanced to the edge of the ridge. From here he had a perfect view of the valley, and the highway that snaked through it. The closest section was almost a straight shot, nearly two miles of macadam, and oftentimes drivers put the pedal to the metal, either to try to save an extra minute or to get a rush.
The red Mustang the text notified him about was still three miles away. He could just make out the dot on the horizon. If the car was going too fast—and he had to assume it would be—it made his job harder. But that was why he got paid the big bucks. Nobody ever said it would be easy.
He lowered himself down into his usual spot. He attached the sound suppressor, made sure it was tight and secure, then opened up the tactical rails, locked them in place, and set the rifle down on the ground.
He closed his left eye and with his right eye peered through the scope.
The range on the rifle was 1,300 yards.
From where he was crouched up on the ridge to the place the Mustang would pass was just under 1,000 yards.
More than enough room for him to play with.
In fact, it was almost child’s play.
The XM2010 had a five-round detachable box magazine. He attached it now, though he would only need two bullets. All he ever needed were two bullets, .300 Winchester Magnums.
He took a breath, released it. Took another breath, let it out only halfway.
He looked through the scope again.
There was the Mustang, coming right at him.
His finger touched the trigger.
He waited … waited … waited …
A slight squeeze of the trigger, the kick of the rifle, a quick adjustment, another slight squeeze of the trigger, another kick of the rifle, and that was it. His job for the day was done.