Charlie Fox book thirteen
One bad turn... deserves another.
Charlie Fox has quit her job in close protection, been turned out of her apartment, and is apparently out of options.
House-sitting in rural New Jersey has to be the pits—TV and TV dinners. A far cry from Iraq... Bulgaria... Afghanistan. Unlucky or not, she happens to be around at the right time to foil a violent kidnap attempt on Helena, wife of billionaire arms dealer, Eric Kincaid.
Kincaid offers her a job looking after Helena. The rumours about Kincaid’s business empire say he’s gone over to the dark side, but Charlie is in no position to be fussy. And protecting people against those who want to do them harm is what she’s good at. But when the threats against the Kincaids escalate, and then follow the couple over to Europe, Charlie’s really going to have to up her game. It’s time to take the fight to the enemy.
"Good story, fantastic series, and great to see Charlie of the early books. The series shows no signs of wearing thin. If anything, it's been revitalized and is going in a new direction."
ARC review by goodreads reader Rachel W (BamaGal)
Charlie’s at her best putting an end to trouble. Now she must learn to strike first. And hope that the Kincaids don’t discover the secret she’s been keeping from them, right from the start.
From the Author's Notebook
After the events of the last book in the series, FOX HUNTER, I knew I wanted to break Charlie out of her mould a little. So, she’s on her own again—for the moment, at least.
She’s quit her job with the prestigious Armstrong-Meyer executive-protection agency in New York, and let’s just say that Parker Armstrong himself has not taken that well. His relationship with Charlie has always been a complicated one. Time and circumstance have never been quite right for them. And maybe there’s a good reason for that. (I do like to lay in threads I know I may want to pick up later in the series.)
Although the book starts in rural New Jersey, the action soon moves over to Europe—to a private island on an Italian lake and an ancient chateau in the French countryside. And, as is always the case with Charlie, trouble goes along for the ride.
Having driven from Italy through the Mont Blanc tunnel years ago, I knew I wanted to include it in a book. Plus a long trip to the Aveyron area of France last year convinced me it was a perfect hunting ground for Charlie Fox. I based Gilbert du Bourdillon’s dramatic castle on a real location, although with names and details changed, of course.
Other real touches in BAD TURN include the names of some of the characters. Eric Kincaid very kindly loaned me his apartment in New York several times, although we’ve never actually met. This was my way of saying thank you. I promised to include Mo Heedles after she won a Bouchercon charity auction. And both Hermann Schade and Helena Hoare were written in after a competition among my email subscribers. It was a challenge and a pleasure to include them all.
Excerpt from Chapter Twelve
Helena’s day began a little after 6 a.m. with a run. Accordingly, when she stepped out of the master suite the following morning, she found me already in the corridor, in similar sweats to her own.
The only major difference between us—or so I hoped—was that I wore the Kramer rig clipped to a leather belt underneath the drawstring waistband of my sweatpants. It wasn’t the most comfortable option, but the only way to guarantee the SIG would remain firmly in position, exactly where my hand expected it to be.
Helena didn’t try to keep the annoyance out of her face when she saw me waiting for her. But there was a hint of underlying embarrassment, too, for the way she’d reacted—or maybe overreacted—the day before.
I kept my expression totally bland. “’Morning, ma’am.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she said, more weary than exasperated. “If I can’t shake you, then you may as well at least call me Helena. ‘Ma’am’ is for my grandmother.”
“Better.” She walked past me and I fell into step alongside, felt rather than saw her cast me a sideways glance. “I don’t suppose there’s any use in me pointing out that I’ll be staying on the trails inside the property?”
I already knew from talking to Schade that the extreme boundaries were covered by a range of electronic and automated security measures that made the CIA headquarters at Langley seem as wide open as a public park on the Fourth of July.
“Not much,” I agreed cheerfully. “And anyway, I could do with the exercise.”
She set off at a pace she couldn’t hope to sustain. More to the point, one I hoped she couldn’t. I was more than capable of a half marathon at a steady jog, or a flat-out dash over a hundred metres or so, but I wasn’t much good at combining the pace of the latter with the distance of the former.
Fortunately, after the first half mile or so she throttled back to a more reasonable speed. One I was able to manage without the disgrace of going into a full cardiac meltdown.
Helena didn’t go much for small talk while she ran. A good thing, since I didn’t have the breath to spare. Every now and again, I flicked my eyes across at her set features. The fixed line of her mouth told me this was one occasion when playing dumb would serve me better than any other strategy I could come up with. I said nothing.
As we reached the home stretch, Helena lengthened her stride. Maybe she was hoping to leave me floundering in her wake at a moment where her husband was likely to see us and decide I wasn’t up to the job.
I kept pace.
I stayed half a step behind and to her right, with my eyes on the treeline and any possible chokepoints in between. We were moving slightly uphill now, along a sandy path that separated two of the paddocks and provided a convenient lane to separate the groups of horses and walk them to and from their grazing unmolested.
Each of the paddocks had a wooden structure next to the fence to provide shelter for the animals from the weather, hot or cold. One was coming up on our right and I instinctively moved a little closer to Helena, forcing her further over to her left.
“You’re crowding me,” she snapped. They were the first words she’d spoken since we left the house.
And right at that moment, as her attention was on me, a man stepped out from behind the shelter with a gun in his hand.
I’d reacted before I had time to think, to blink, to draw breath. A visceral, response that went straight from optic nerve to muscle.
I grabbed Helena’s shoulder with my left hand, yanking her backwards as my right went for the SIG behind my right hip.
As I cleared the rig, I piled my weight sideways, twisting so Helena was flung behind me, almost swung off her feet, while I put myself between her and the threat. Aiming low centre mass as an extension of my arm, I had taken up half the poundage on the trigger when my brain finally caught up with what was happening.
I froze, breathing hard—not simply from the running—and waited a beat longer before uncoiling my finger from the trigger and laying it alongside the guard.
Behind me, Helena picked herself up, slapping sand from her clothing.
“God-dammit, Schade,” she barked. She glared at the man, who calmly put away his weapon with apparently no concern for how close he’d come to being gut-shot. “What kind of an idiot game was that to play?”
Schade, meanwhile, had not taken his eyes from mine. He stood entirely relaxed. It was hard to read what was going on behind those wire-framed spectacles.
“Big on idiot, clearly,” he admitted. “Just wanted to check the girl knew how to dance.”
“And?” Helena demanded, moving up beside me, her eyes scanning from my face to his. I kept my gaze on Schade a moment longer, then broke away, lifting the side of my T-shirt and tucking the SIG back into its holster. I tried to keep my face neutral, to suck the air deep into my lungs without gasping for it, to will my hands not to tremble from the nitrous shot of adrenaline punching through my system.
When Schade spoke again, his voice was low with a kind of wonder. “And, damn me if she can’t do a mean tango…”