Another One

I said, “Do you think Cools has a place in Punta Banda?”

She smacked the table, “Stop working me.”


“A chat, you said, not a debriefing.” She leaned back. “Are you a target? Not because you exfil agents. Something with more scale?”


“Like I was restrained near the trailer when Dumb and Dumber had an argument. Two guys were supposed to feign a breakdown and take somebody. But they rolled their van into a ravine. Cools was irate.”

I said, “Why do you think they were after me?”

“When we walked out I saw the van down in a gorge. It proves there was a play against someone…?”

“And they—”

“A global crime syndicate wants you. Why?

“My Manhattan recipe?”

“You’re pissing me off!”

“Grace, I was the law. Cools doesn’t like the law.”

“You’re not the law. You’re something else. And why no head shot to finish you?”

Exactly. I stood, “I’m gonna get a bodyguard.”

“You’re so full of crap. And you have this thing—like you know you’re going to come out on top. Eventually. Where’d you get that?”

“Tony Robbins.”


“What law school?”

“JAG, San Diego.”

Grace McPherson was smart to get out of Baja. Me? Not so much.



The place was called Starfish. I bellied-up next to Parker and tossed his passport on the bar, “Merry Christmas.”

He snatched it, “I have ten minutes.”

“I need your help in Mexico.”

“You need a flight home.”

“And I want you to shoot a guy, Gabriel Cools, in the kneecap.”

“Forget it.”

“It’s an easy hundred thou.”

He looked at the door, “What makes you think I can hit a barn wall, let alone a kneecap?”

“Your Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge. First place in the All-Army Firearms competition three years in a row.” He looked irritated so I continued, “A sticky-note in your military file says you can hit a bee on a fencepost from a thousand yards.”

“You’re sacked and shamed but you get to look at my military file?”

I slid him Cools’ photo, “I just need the guy’s fingerprints.”

“I’m not working for you.”

“The guy shot me three times in my body armor.”

“I could coach him some.”

Parker made eye contact with a lovely black woman, the new client, he let me know—Ms. Daphne Grand. She was sitting at a high table under a statue of Siddhartha.

“Nice work if you can get it.”

“You can’t. How’s Karen?”

Karen. Now I wanted to escape. The island would have a bar with one stool. In the ceiling lights I saw nurses race between wailing monitors while ventilators wheezed and gloved hands reached into a bubble-shaped incubator.


I said, “Karen and I had a baby. He was born at twenty-nine weeks. Preemie. He lived three days.”

Parker’s eyes took on a sheen. He asked, “What was his name?”


“Geeze, Barney.” He looked down at the bar, scraped fingernails across five days of stubble, pulled his hair and flashed two fingers at the bartender, “Gail, Tiger’s Blood. And a bottle of Moët & Chandon.”

We toasted my son and when I looked again, Daphne Grand was gone.


I heard a rich contralto voice over my shoulder, “Who’s on trial?”

Parker and I turned. Daphne Grande said, “So, Parker’s pal? Why so sad?”


July 16, Pay attention

I wanted to know why Gabriel Cools shot me. And why was a wealthy, white-collar-criminal working in the dust of Baja?

I phoned Ms. Dice, “Do you know about the guy who tried to kill me in Portola?”

“Minor stuff for you. Why are you calling?”

“His name is Gabriel Cools. I want a dossier.”

“Never heard of him.”

“Ok, give me contact information for Grace McPherson, the lady I pulled out.”

“Quite impossible. Anything else?”

“McPherson says Cools is a money launderer.”

“And McPherson told you this, why…?”

“Come on, who is she?”

“A criminal investigator. And we don’t want you getting personally involved with clients.                        An ICE Criminal Investigator targets transnational criminals, like Cools. But he’d turned tables on McPherson. I located the agent and we met in San Diego.

  2. Createa conflict crucial to your characters. …
  3. Createengaging characters with opposing goals. …
  4. Keep raising the stakes. …
  5. Allow tensionto ebb and flow. …
  6. Keep making the reader ask questions. …
  7. Createinternal and external conflict. …
  8. Createsecondary sources of tension. …
  9. Make the story unfold in a shorter space of time.