Since my first novel, Post Traumatic Stress, is finally nearing completion, it’s time to share a sample chapter. This chapter is from roughly the middle of the book. A bit of context:
Soldiers always bring demons home from war with them. But when Michael Alexander returned home from Afghanistan, literal demons followed him home. Michael must stop their reign of terror. The Army can’t decide whether to lock him up or recruit him. Meanwhile, his not-quite-father-in-law carries his own old war secret, and Michael must resolve the issues that sent him to war in the first place.
The following chapter takes place about midway through the book. It’s a tad light on the urban fantasy elements, but it makes up for that with a lot of fun.
The six cylinder, three point six liter turbo charged boxer engine let out a deep growl as Michael pressed the gas pedal to the floor. An all wheel drive system and four fat contact patches on eighteen inch tires helped transfer most of that power straight to the ground. Even so, the tires squealed for a moment on the wet pavement before they stuck.
The country roads just outside the Covington estate weren’t built for high speed traffic. The hills and trees impeded visibility and provided plenty of obstacles that the narrow, winding roads made it difficult to avoid. Fortunately, Michael had spent his teenage years driving these roads at a far higher speed than sanity would dictate. Even more fortunately, none of the neighbors seemed to be out on the road this late in the evening.
The bumps and potholes jostled them around but the 2002 Porsche Carrera 4 Turbo stayed locked to the pavement. Michael kept his eyes just as firmly fixed on the road. Through unspoken agreement, Peter watched for the Land Rover. It had enough of a head start to be well out of sight, and it had an engine almost as powerful as the Porsche’s. But it also weighed twice as much and couldn’t handle the curves of the country roads the way the German sports car did. If it went off road the story would be different, but Peter saw no signs that it had.
Their first challenge approached as the road ended into another unnamed county highway. They’d have to pick a direction. Michael prayed as he eased on the breaks and downshifted.
“There,” Peter called out as he pointed to his right. Michael didn’t even look, instead he simply threw the car into a hard right turn and gunned the accelerator again. As they power slid through the stop sign at a speed higher than the posted limit, Michael caught the flash of red light himself. The giant MagLite rolled around the floor boards.
Peter slammed his fist into the dashboard in frustration as the taillights dipped under a hilltop about a quarter mile in the distance. But Michael knew these roads. He knew that this stretch would be almost perfectly straight well past the horizon. He pushed his foot to the floor and the engine roared as the little car gave him everything it had. The road was in poor repair and hadn’t been paved in some time. At their speed, they felt every bump.
The car rocketed over the hilltop at a hundred and ten miles per hour. Peter gripped the sides of his seat for all he was worth as raw speed carried them airborne for nearly twenty yards. The landing was hard, but it was square on the wheels and barely interrupted their motion. They skidded for a moment on the wet asphalt, but then the tires found their grip. Michael kept the wheels pointed dead straight on the landing and they continued to rocket down the road.
Rain poured down on them and the wind buffeted the car around. On every turn, the squeal of tires pierced through even the overpowering sound of the torrential downpour. At the speeds Michael took the turns, the tires would have squealed even on dry roads. Lightning occasionally lit up the sky, but otherwise visibility was terrible.
“How can you see anything in this?” The nervousness in Peter’s normally unflappable voice stood out like a sore thumb.
“Last time I did this I couldn’t even see this well.”
Peter’s eyes popped out of his head.
“You’ve chased a Muslim terrorist down these roads at three times the speed limit in the middle of a rain storm at night before?”
“You think he’s some kind of Islamic terrorist?” Michael answered, genuinely surprised. Peter winced as they entered a windy section of road. Michael rode the center line, which allowed him to navigate the turns as an almost-straight line. Peter didn’t want to think about what would happen if they encountered an oncoming car in the other lane.
As they pulled out toward the end, Peter caught a glimpse of headlights rising over a ridge and whipped hard back into his own lane. he knocked his head on the window and let out a groan. He made a mental note to bring his motorcycle helmet next time he let Michael drive him anywhere. On second thought, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t let Michael drive again. Ever.
“Well, I don’t know if he’s Muslim,” Peter allowed
“As far as I know, he’s your typical non-religious, rich son of a rich oilman.”
“Fine, not Islamic! But those things at the house and that yellow eyed creature seem pretty terrifying to me!” Peter answered. Michael allowed that he had a point before responding to the charge.
“No, there was no rain last time,” Michael answered the original question in his calm voice. “And definitely no Islamic terrorists.”
“What were you thinking, man?”
“I was just driving fast for the hell of it… and maybe also because my blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit. So it was actually a lot harder to see.” Michael stated calmly. Peter stared at the crazy man in the driver’s seat, wondering if he really knew his friend at all. Michael didn’t take his eyes off the road – not even for a heartbeat – but he could sense the young man’s reaction. “I was also driving faster. But I know these roads like the back of my hand. We’ll be good, I promise.”
“Were you always so brilliant in your youth?”
“Oh, some of my youthful ideas were far better than that.” Ahead of them the road ended abruptly. The road it emptied into was technically a state highway. To Peter, it didn’t look like any improvement over the county road that was rapidly running out beneath them.
“How did you ever survive to adulthood?”
“I credit my guardian angel.”
“He must have put in a lot of overtime.”
“He never really stopped,” Michael countered.
A family of white tailed deer jumped out into the road in front of them. Tires squealed as Michael swerved right and brought the car to a complete stop. Peter’s face was ashen, but Michael never lost his cool. He’d trusted the German engineering, and the gigantic anti-lock brakes hadn’t let him down. He smoothly shifted back into first gear. The instant the deer gave him an opening, he pressed firmly on the gas pedal and released the clutch.
The engine stalled out.
His right foot continued to press down, but nothing happened. Something blocked the accelerator. He looked down to find that the MagLite had rolled under the pedal. He kicked it out with his foot, mashed the clutch in again, and restarted the engine. He revved the flat six engine high and popped the clutch out again. Four hundred and sixty two horses squealed through the tires at once. When the tires finally stuck, the silver car took off like a jackrabbit on steroids.
The Land Rover was once again out of sight. Michael pushed the car as hard as he dared on the wet country roads. It was faster than Peter would have liked, but he said nothing. Instead he resumed his scan, trying to pick up any trace of Khalid’s getaway car. Another intersection approached.
“Left!” Peter called out, pointing for emphasis. Michael lifted the parking brake handle and twisted the wheel throwing the Porsche into a hard sideways slide. Before they’d even slid through the intersection he gunned the accelerator again. The wheels screeched on the wet roads, fighting hard for traction, but eventually they stuck and the car rocketed out of the turn.
“I said left!” Peter shouted at him.
“These old roads all come out at the same spot,” Michael responded calmly. ” This way’s faster – we’ll shave off some time and catch up to him.” Without warning he braked hard and yanked the wheel hard to the left. Peter let out a small yelp and closed his eyes.
“Hail Mary, full of grace…” he prayed. To his great surprise they did not crash into a tree. The ride did slow a bit, but the extra bumps made up for it. The cavalry sabre rattled in it scabbard between his knees.
He finished his prayer and opened his eyes again. In the limited visibility, he could see that they were rocketing down a small dirt road – more mud, really, in this mess. Its single lane, if you could call it that, was barely big enough for the Porsche.
“I didn’t even see that road there,” he admitted to Michael.
“This place was still a working tobacco plantation up until the late 1950s. The farm hands had to get around a lot. There are Jeep trails like this all over the place out here.” He flashed Peter a quick grin. “I told you, I know these roads like the back of my hand.”
A moment later the dirt road ended. Michael took a hard right again. The smoother asphalt allowed them to gain speed, but the road wasn’t much wider than the mud path they’d just left. They drifted around another hard turn before the road opened up. The straightaway wasn’t huge, but it was significantly larger than any they’d had so far. Michael took advantage of it and opened up the throttle.
“There they are,” he pointed across the field at a pair of headlights moving at an oblique angle toward them. “We’ve got them now.” They could see the SUV clearly now, even through the rain. The Porsche’s headlights illuminated it enough to be sure it was the right vehicle. As Michael had predicted, the two roads converged at an intersection ahead. Peter flinched as he saw the stop sign approaching.
“Michael, that intersection is coming up awfully fast.” The bulky Land Rover loomed before them, growing quickly in their field of view.
“Yup,” the older man replied. “Please return all tray tables and seat backs to their full upright position and make sure your seat belt is secure.” His own already was.
“Huh?” Peter said, double checking his belt. With his right hand he fastened a tight grip around the handle above the door. With his left he grabbed the seat underneath him. The crash came a few seconds later.