DIE EASY

Charlie Fox book ten including an excerpt from 'Stone Cold,' a public defender Alex Stone novel by Joel Goldman

Synopsis

In the sweating heat of Louisiana, former Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard, Charlie Fox, faces her toughest challenge yet.

Professionally, she’s at the top of her game, but her personal life is in ruins. Her lover, bodyguard Sean Meyer, has woken from a gunshot-induced coma with his memory in tatters. It seems that piecing back together the relationship they shared is proving harder for him than relearning the intricacies of the close-protection business.

". . . once again, in Die Easy, Zoë Sharp is at the top of her game"

New York Times best-selling author, Harlan Coben

Working with Sean again was never going to be easy for Charlie, either, but a celebrity fundraising event in aid of still-ravaged areas of New Orleans should have been the ideal opportunity for them both to take things nice and slow.

Until, that is, they find themselves thrust into the middle of a war zone.

When an ambitious robbery explodes into a deadly hostage situation, the motive may be far more complex than simple greed. Somebody has a major score to settle, and Sean is part of the reason. Only trouble is, he doesn’t remember why.

And when Charlie finds herself facing a nightmare from her own past, she realises she can’t rely on Sean to watch her back. This time, she’s got to fight it out on her own.

One thing is for certain, though − no matter how overwhelming the odds stacked against her, or however hopeless the situation may appear, Charlie is never going to die easy.

From the author's notebook

One of my favourite movies from years ago has to be Die Hard with Bruce Willis, and I’ve always had in mind that one day I would write a book that saw Charlie in an enclosed space with a load of bad guys after her, and she had to evade capture while thwarting their plans.

On top of that, I’ve wanted to write a book set in New Orleans for a long time. When we visited NOLA (New Orleans LouisiAna) in summer 2010, we were struck by the marked dividing line between rich and poor, between the tourist areas that were all ‘business as usual’ and other areas that seemed to have been abandoned by the rest of America. It would be very easy, I thought, for people living here to become bitter and angry about being forgotten. And then what?

And when I was looking for a logical next job for Charlie after FIFTH VICTIM, I realised it was the perfect time to use this location and this story.

Charlie goes into the events of this book with her life in turmoil. Sean is awake from his coma but is a long way from the man she knew and loved. He has lost a chunk of his recent memories after the gunshot injury that almost killed him. He seems to have reset to his time in the army with all the inherent problems for Charlie that state of mind poses.

So, this book is my own personal version of Die Hard, with Sean himself as Charlie’s ‘bare feet’ handicap. As New Orleans is known as the Big Easy, what else could I call it but DIE EASY?

One final point: Tom and Marie O’Day, who play such a large role in DIE EASY, bid for that right in the charity auction at the Left Coast Crime convention in Santa Fe, March 2011. Their bid helped to support the ReadWest Inc charity, encouraging adult literacy in New Mexico.

Excerpt

The surprises weren’t over yet.

As I ended the call and walked back across towards the hotel entrance, Morton gave the valet a sideways flick of his eyes that was an obvious signal for the guy to make himself scarce.

The valet threw me a slightly panicked look, as if he’d been happy enough to take whatever gratuity Morton had palmed him to leave the two of us alone together, but now it came down to it he was having second thoughts. Didn’t stop him leaving, though.

I braced unconsciously, tried hard to keep the stress out of my frame as I approached. Knees soft, shoulders open, hands ready. In my left I still carried my cellphone, carefully gripped so I could weight a punch with it if I needed to. Or use the hard plastic corners on any one of the strategic strike points. The list of exposed areas scrolled through my head as I moved.

Better than shooting him, however much satisfaction that might bring.

Because I knew I didn’t trust myself not to simply keep firing long after the target went down. If I had a second magazine on me I would probably empty that into him as well.

About half a dozen strides away, I stopped. There was no point in letting him get too close. Better for him to telegraph his first move—if he was planning on making one—to give me time to consider.

To consider just how much damage I might possibly get away with doing him.

I let my awareness expand outwards but he’d picked his time and place well. Apart from the single security camera, which we both knew provided only rotating views with four other fixed-position cameras relayed to the monitor behind the reception desk, we had the space to ourselves.

He took a drag on his cigarette, deep enough to hollow his cheeks, then regarded me with narrowed eyes through a long exhale of smoke. I assumed it was supposed to make him look dangerous. All it did was give him a slight squint.

I almost laughed. I’d once been terrorised by this man, woken in abject sweats in the night from the memory of what he and the others had done to me.

Of what I had allowed them to do.

I felt the pressure begin to build inside my head, my body, until I vibrated with the force required to keep it contained.

The urge to kill—the need to kill—was a chant in my head, a buzz in my ears, an acrid taste in the back of my mouth like smoke from a chemical fire. And now I knew just how small a step I needed to take to satisfy that urge.

A stark image flashed into my head. A figure lying on a darkened walkway, blood oozing from the single bullet wound that had killed him, the gun still warm in my hand. And most of all, the fierce gladness in my heart.

I shook my head a fraction and the vision folded, blinked out. But while it was there it had been sharp and vivid. The realisation of what I had allowed myself to become scared me far more than I’d been prepared for. Far more than I liked to admit.

I had to clear my throat before I could speak, found I could do so only with effort.

"There something on your mind, Morton?"

He noted my reaction and misinterpreted it badly enough for a tiny smirk to form at the corner of his lips.

"Never thought I’d come up against you again, Foxcroft. Or should I call you Miss Fox now, eh? Heard you changed your name. Trying to escape your past sins, were you?" He paused. "Didn’t think you had the balls for this kind of work, though."

I took my time about replying, let my eyes do a slow survey with my face blank as if what I saw had no meaning. As if I was staring at nothing. Through nothing.

"Sometimes not having balls has its advantages," I said coolly. "At least I don’t have to think with them all the time."

He kept the hit out of his face but couldn’t prevent the reflexive twitch of his fingers around the cigarette. As if realising the betrayal he dropped the half-finished butt on the concrete and ground it out. He stepped forwards, aiming to get in my face with a sneer.

"Did you think you’d be any safer here, Fox? Did you think anybody was going to stand up for you when they never did before?"

Instead of backing off I stepped up too, got in his face toe-to-toe. He didn’t have much on me in height anyway.

"You haven’t changed a bit, have you, Morton?" I murmured. "And that’s a pity—for you. Because I have changed—a lot." It felt like the mother of all understatements.

My eyes dropped to his mouth, lingered, then I lunged forwards a fraction, as if either to kiss him or bite out his tongue. He jerked away automatically, annoyance ticking at his jaw.

"You really think I give a flying fuck if anyone’s prepared to stand up for me?" I said, keeping my voice entirely conversational. I dialled down both the volume and the temperature. "Well, you might like to keep in mind that this time you haven’t got three other cowards backing you up, and I don’t need anyone backing me up. Not any more. You try to mess with me, sunshine, and this time I will fucking bury you."

I stepped back, arranged my face into a smile that did little to reassure him. "Have a nice day."