Omnimystery News is delighted to welcome Elliott Sawyer as our guest blogger. Elliott's debut thriller, The Severance (Bridge Works, Hardcover, November 2010, 978-0-9816175-3-4), is a mystery set amid war.
Today, we're excited that Elliott has chosen to provide us with a first look at the sequel to The Severance.
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I really struggled to write this blog post. See, I found myself in “Novel Writing Mode” which for me is totally different from blog writing mode. I must have started and stopped this thing like 10 times trying to come up with something I could stand. Nothing worked. I just came back to the conclusion that I wanted to pen another novel.
Should The Severance does well (and I hope it does) I have a prequel and a follow up planned. The prequel, titled The Burnout, is already done and I’ve just starting working on the The Severance’s sequel The Payback.
What I want to share with you is the first 1500(ish) words of The Payback. When I say the first words I really mean first words. This is my work at its absolute rawest. Spell check is the highest level of editing the following has seen. Not even my editor, Barbara, has seen this stuff. If it’s a real bomb then it should stand as a testament to her skills as an editor. Read it and let me know what you think (There are half a dozen ways to get in touch with me.) Rip on it, correct it, mock it, hate it, or love it. Do your worst. I have a thick skin. I would love to hear what you have to say, good or bad. Just know that I rarely write novels sequentially so while these words came out first they might not be first in the finished product.
If you want to see more of this, grab a copy of The Severance. It’s your way of voting “yes” for The Burnout and The Payback.
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“Kodiak 6, Acknowledges all, standing by, out,” Jake Roberts said into his radio handmic.
Captain Jake Roberts stumbled in the sandstone rubble and nearly fell flat on his face. Looking down at his boots he noticed there was blood on them.
“Not again,” Jake said trying to scrape the cranberry red sludge off on a large piece of debris. It was the second pair of boots he’d bloodied that week. If he wasn’t more careful he’d be barefoot soon. He thought it ironic that he was wiping his feet in the middle of what had been someone’s living room. He would have considered moving over to the front door if there were any way to figure if where that had been.
The smell of human feces mixed with the lingering chemical odor of explosives. It was the stench of death in 21st century warfare. Jake Roberts was all too familiar with this horrible stench. Years ago the smell used to gag him but now he breathed deeply and let it fill his lungs and nose. It might as well been his wife’s favorite perfume.
He surveyed his troops as they methodically removed bricks from the seemingly unending mountain of bricks that was once an Afghan’s compound. Five hours of digging seemed to make little difference in the size of the brick pile. Yet the Soldiers of the Kodiak platoon continued to dig. They dug hoping to find a survivor.
No, Jake thought, they dug hoping they’d be given the order to stop digging.
It would have been easier to think if it weren’t for the incessant wails of the baby. That baby had been the only person the platoon found alive when they’d arrived on scene. It had howled for five hours non-stop. Sometimes Jake could tune out the cries but now the baby had transitioned to a high pitch squeal that simply couldn’t be ignored. They were the kind screams that could cause a brain tumor.
“Ramirez, isn’t there anything you can do to shut up that kid?” Jake asked looking over to his medic.
“No, Sir,” Doc Ramirez said lighting a cigarette, “Baby Rosa’s legs are completely shattered and the only thing that’s going to calm her is morphine, which, as you know, they don’t let me carry.”
The one draw back to having Ramirez, a reformed drug addict, as a medic was that he couldn’t carry any painkillers stronger than aspirin. It was going to take a lot more than aspirin to help baby Ros–
“Wait a minute, did you name that baby Rosa?” Jake asked.
“Yeah, Rosita actually,” Ramirez said with a shrug.
“Well I figured that since baby Rosa’s mom and dad are living in dead-ville there was no way we’re ever know her name and since I’ve spent so much time with her that I decided to give her a new name,” Ramirez said.
Jake nodded his head and didn’t say anything. What was the point of naming an orphaned baby? Then again, what was the harm in it?
“Got an arm here,” Corporal Peter Harris said from the apex of the brick mountain.
Reaching down Harris ripped the severed limp form out of the pile. Jake could see from his vantage point that there was still a wristband attached.
“Hey Petie, I need an arm,” Specialist Benakowsky said standing over a body.
“Bullshit Bena, that arms got my name all over it,” Private First Class Parsons said from the opposite side of the pile. He was standing over his own body in a partially zipped up body bag.
“No way, Asshole. I saw it first,” Benakowsky said and then looked up at Harris, “Toss that baby down.”
Harris looked down at the arm and then to both Bena and Parsons bodies.
“Hey Bena, Left or right?” Harris asked.
“Do you need a left or right arm?”
Harris smiled holding up the cherished arm so Bena could see the right thumb, “This just isn’t your day, my friend.”
Parsons thrust his latex gloved fists above his head and let out a victory howl.
“Damn, I’m never going to get this one put together,” Bena said.
“Toss that motherfucker down to me,” Parsons said.
“Coming at you,” Harris said throwing the arm down in a football style lob.
Parsons caught the arm and immediately compared it to the stump on the body.
“Perfect match,” Parsons said zipping up the bag with all the components inside. Looking around at the other soldiers around him he continued, “That’s four bodies tagged and bagged. You motherfuckers need to step your game up. I’m the king of this shit!”
“Man all I seem to find are feet,” Specialist Joe Eastman said. The towering soldier held up two left feet, “Anyone need a foot?”
“I’ve been working on this guy for over an hour! Does anyone have this guy’s left arm?”
Sergeant First Class McBride crested mountain of destruction. Jake noted the NCO didn’t look happy. Then again there wasn’t anything to be happy about.
“Shut your mouths, assholes! UAV reported 18 heat signatures in this compound before the bomb hit and battalion won’t be satisfied until we have 18 bodies accounted for and HIIDE’d. Hurry the hell up,” McBride said to everyone in earshot then looked to Sergeant Olsen, “Where are we at with the HIIDE?”
Sergeant Olsen released the hand he was scanning and let the Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment hang loose around his neck.
“This thing is a hunk of junk,” Olsen said motioning to the black electronic brick, “It only wants to work half the time and when it does work it takes me 20 minutes to¬–”
“Bullshit Gramps,” McBride said with the wave of a hand, “You have to be smarter than your equipment. We need retina and fingerprint scans on all these assholes.”
“Do it, or I’ll find someone who can work the HIIDE and you can go back to digging.”
Olsen looked down at the HIIDE device and sighed, “Roger, Sergeant.”
McBride nodded in only partial satisfaction as Olsen went back to work and then stumbled his way through more of the rubble until he was standing next to Jake. The officer could practically smell the misery coming off his senior NCO.
“I need a cigarette,” McBride said.
Jake smirked, “I can tell.”
“I only packed 4 days worth of cigarette for this mission.”
“I know. You’ve mentioned it.”
“We’ve been out here 7 days.”
“Really? I thought we spent the last week in Bermuda.”
“No Sir, we’ve spent the last 3 days stirring up a hornets nest for airstrikes.”
Jake nodded that had been the mission in a nutshell. It had officially been called a “dismounted reconnaissance” but the Kodiak platoon had been air lifted deep in Taliban controlled territory and ordered to walk around in hopes that the enemy would shoot at them so they could be targeted with artillery and airstrikes. They’d been sent in as bait for the green monster. For four days and nights they’d been successful in drawing Taliban fighters out into open combat so that could be killed en mass by 155mm artillery shells and thousand pound guided bombs. They’d been so successful at being cannon fodder that they were dropped additional food, water, batteries and ammunition so they could continue their mission. Typical fare for the “rehabilitation” platoon.
Finally after 7 days of endless walking and fighting the platoon had caught the attention a mid-level Taliban leader. Once he’d come out of hiding and intel picked up on his trail his death had become a priority. That Taliban leader thought he’d been hunting the insolent American platoon meandering through his territory but, in fact, he was the one being hunted. Half a days walk and 2 thousand pounds of aerial explosive later the platoon was standing on that man’s tomb. He and 17 or his closest friends. Again, typical fare.
“We’re going to be here for another 2 days until we get all these fuck heads dug out,” McBride said leaning down to pick up a baseball-sized rock and examining it.
“No we’re not,” Jake said.
“You super fast way to move this rubble that you’re not sharing, Sir?”
Jake patted his radio handmic, “Battalion just called, XV2212 has been declared dead. They’re sending exfil birds with the medevac for the baby. They want HIIDE data on whoever we dig out before then.”
“Praise Jesus,” McBride said throwing his hand in the air in a faux exaltation, “What’s the ETA?”
“3 hours. The commander wants to wait until after dark to send the birds. Can’t risk a daylight extraction.”
“Yeah, every insurgent for 100 kilometers is on high alert, but I guess that’s our fault,” McBride said.
“Cost of doing¬–”
“I got one! I got one,” Big Joe said. The soldier began jumping up and down like he’d just won the lottery.
“Major power move from the big guy, fellas,” Parsons said craning his neck to see what Joe had uncovered. From where Jake was standing he couldn’t see Joe’s prize.
“Man, you’re in it to win it for the sickest shit of the day,” Harris said looking down from his perch.
“Thanks guys, I owe it all to perseverance,” Joe said grabbing at what he found to pull it out.
McBride stepped in front of Jake blocking his view, “That’s crazy fucked up.”
Jake moved to McBride’s right and finally saw it.
A cold sweat formed on the back of his neck and his knees began to give way. Joe was holding a white toddler dressed in American clothes. Joe was holding John Roberts.
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Elliott Sawyer was an officer in the 101st Airborne Division. He saw action as a combat patrol leader in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and during a second deployment in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and an Army Commendation Medal. Now, back in the United States, he commands a training company of up to 240 soldiers. He and his wife live in Elgin, Oklahoma. Visit his website at ElliottSawyer.com.
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About The Severance: A mystery set amid the war in Afghanistan, its authenticity derives from the author's combat experience there.
The protagonist is an officer who ran afoul of Army discipline, and was assigned to lead a rehabilitation platoon of similar troublemakers. While fighting the Taliban they discover a corrupt contractor's cache of dollars, plot to smuggle it home- only to find themselves fighting a deadly unknown foe trying to highjack it.
The Severence is also available in a Kindle edition. You can read the first chapter of it below:
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