zoe sharp short story rules of engagement

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

A short story

For a limited period, Rules of Engagement includes a 24-chapter excerpt from Zoë Sharp's exciting standalone crime thriller, The Blood Whisperer, introducing strong new female protagonist, Kelly Jacks.

A long time ago, when Angel was just starting out in the business, an old pro she met lurking in a doorway opposite the Russian embassy in Paris laid down the Rules of Engagement. “Get in. Take the shot. Get out,” he’d said, with the careful solemnity of a man not quite sober at ten o’clock in the morning.

To this advice Angel had since added a bitter rider of her own.

Always get the money.

The fees for Angel’s particular line of work were elastic, only sometimes connected to the difficulty of the shot. In this case, the money was nowhere near enough to justify attempting to evade capture across two hundred acres of jealously guarded parkland in Buckinghamshire. Not for an off-chance glimpse of her targets at the limit of her operational range.

zoe sharp short story last right

LAST RIGHT

A short story

In 'Last Right', a prodigal son, a vanished wife, and a dying patriarch combine in a tale of betrayal and revenge on the Mexican border.

The youth arrived like a peasant, hitching a ride on the flatbed of a rusty pickup truck to the end of the driveway—two bales of straw, a goat, and an iPod, his travelling companions.

The guards watched him walk the last half-mile in, shouldering his rucksack and trudging between the citrus trees, his feet kicking up the dirt into the shimmer of the hot dry air. They took lazy beads on him with their rifles, and joked with each other about whether they should shoot him before he reached the main gates, just to relieve the boredom.

It was only when he drew nearer that they recognised his face, despite the simple clothes, and they shivered at the thought that they had even contemplated killing Manuel de Marquez’s son, just for sport.

zoe sharp short story tell me

TELL ME

A short story

'Tell Me' is a poignant tale of the meeting between CSI Grace McColl and a young girl found attacked in a local park. The victim may be reluctant to tell Grace who she is and what happened but the evidence will speak for itself and Grace is a very good listener.

“So, where is she?”

CSI Grace McColl ducked under the taped cordon at the edge of the crime scene and showed her ID to the uniformed constable stationed there. The policeman jerked his head in the direction of the band shelter as she signed the log.

“You'll have your work cut out with this one, though,” he said.

zoe sharp short story the night butterflies

THE NIGHT BUTTERFLIES

A short story

Retired ‘insurance’ man Tommy Renshaw runs a quiet little bar in Bali, enjoying a dream retirement with girlfriend, Pia. Until an unwelcome visitor arrives to remind him you can never outrun the past—only hope to outlive it . . .

"Last name I woulda picked out for you is somethin’ lame as Tommy Renshaw," Manfrotti said, lifting the drink with the fruit and the parasol wedged amid the rapidly melting ice. He was a big man not coping well with the high humidity that came before the monsoons. "What made you go for that, for cryin’ out loud?"

The man who had become Tommy Renshaw shrugged and gave a fractional smile. "Possibly because it’s the last name you would have chosen," he said.

He, too, had a drink in front of him on the weathered table. A bottle of the local Bintang beer. Condensation ran down the outside as freely as the sweat along the fat man’s temples.

zoe sharp short story across the broken line

ACROSS THE BROKEN LINE

A Charlie Fox short story

In 'Across The Broken Line' we follow Charlie Fox through a fragmented timescale of cross and double-cross as she fights to keep her principal alive—whoever that might be.

Fifteen minutes ago . . .

Shoving a loaded gun in somebody’s face is never going to make you friends but it certainly works for influencing people. The uniformed guy on the business end of my SIG Sauer P229 looked both unfriendly and influenced, that was for sure.

He froze halfway through bringing his own weapon clear of the holster on his hip. From what I could see of the hammer and the top of the slide it looked like a big Colt. A useful piece. I was glad he didn’t get chance to finish the draw.

I couldn’t blame the guy for trying, though. I’d just crashed a reinforced Lincoln Navigator through the security barrier he was supposed to be manning. That kind of thing tends to have that kind of effect.

zoe sharp fox five charlie fox short story collection

FOX FIVE

A Charlie Fox short story collection

FOX FIVE is a collection (or should that be e-thology?) of stories all featuring ex-Special Forces soldier turned self-defence expert and bodyguard, Charlie Fox. Four stories have been published elsewhere in highly-praised anthologies and prestigious outlets such as Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Bonus material includes an excerpt from KILLER INSTINCT and a taster of each of the first ten books in the Charlie Fox series.

In A Bridge Too Far, we meet Charlie before she’s become a professional in the world of close protection. When she agrees to hang out with the local Dangerous Sports Club, she has no idea it will soon live up to its name.

Postcards From Another Country has Charlie guarding the ultra-rich Dempsey family against attempted assassination − no matter where the danger lies.

A finalist for the CWA Short Story Dagger, Served Cold puts another tough woman centre stage − the mysterious Layla, with betrayal in her past and murder in her heart.

Off Duty finds Charlie taking time away from close protection after injury. She still finds trouble, even in an out-of-season health spa in the Catskill Mountains.

Truth And Lies is an 11,500-word tale in which Charlie has to single-handedly extract a news team from a rapidly escalating war zone.

 

zoe sharp short story a bridge too far

A BRIDGE TOO FAR

From Fox Five, a Charlie Fox short story collection

In 'A Bridge Too Far' we meet Charlie Fox before she’s become a professional in the world of close protection. When she agrees to hang out with the local Dangerous Sports Club, she has no idea it will soon live up to its name.

I watched with a kind of horrified fascination as the boy climbed onto the narrow parapet. Below his feet the elongated brick arches of the old viaduct stretched, so I'd been told, exactly one hundred and twenty-three feet to the ground. He balanced on the crumbling brickwork at the edge, casual and unconcerned.

My God, I thought, He's going to do it. He's actually going to jump.

“Don't prat around, Adam,” one of the others said. I was still sorting out their names. Paul, that was it. He was a medical student, tall and bony with a long almost roman nose. “If you're going to do it, do it, or let someone else have their turn.”

zoe sharp short story postcards from another country

POSTCARDS FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY

From Fox Five, a Charlie Fox short story collection

'Postcards From Another Country' has Charlie Fox guarding the ultra-rich Dempsey family against attempted assassination—no matter where the danger lies.

Somebody once said that the rich are another country—they do things differently there. It didn't take me very long working in close protection to realise that was true. Hell, some of them were a different planet.

The Dempsey family were old money and that put them at the outer reaches of the solar system as far as real-world living was concerned. Personal danger came a distant second to social disgrace, which was always going to make life tough for those of us tasked to keep them from harm.

The family didn't seem bothered so much by the attempted assassination—and that was how they referred to the botched hit that sparked my involvement—so much as the fact it was carried out with no regard to the correct etiquette.

zoe sharp short story served cold

SERVED COLD

From Fox Five, a Charlie Fox short story collection

A finalist for the CWA Short Story Dagger, 'Served Cold' puts another tough woman centre stage—the mysterious Layla, with betrayal in her past and murder in her heart.

Layla's curse, as she saw it, was that she had an utterly fabulous body attached to an instantly forgettable face. It wasn't that she was ugly. Ugliness in itself stuck in the mind. It was simply that, from the neck upwards, she was plain. A bland plainness that encouraged male and female eyes alike to slide on past without pausing. Most failed to recall her easily at a second meeting.

From the neck down, though, that was a different story, and had been right from when she'd begun to blossom in eighth grade. Things had started burgeoning over the winter, when nobody noticed the unexpected explosion of curves. But when summer came, with its bathing suits and skinny tops and tight skirts, Layla suddenly became the most whispered-about girl in her class.

zoe sharp short story off duty

OFF DUTY

From Fox Five, a Charlie Fox short story collection

'Off Duty' finds Charlie Fox taking time away from close protection after injury. She still finds trouble, even in an out-of-season health spa in the Catskill Mountains.

The guy who’d just tried to kill me didn’t look like much. From the fleeting glimpse I’d caught of him behind the wheel of his brand new soft-top Cadillac, he was short, with less hair than he’d like on his head and more than anyone could possibly want on his chest and forearms.

That was as much as I could tell before I was throwing myself sideways. The front wheel of the Buell skittered on the loose gravel shoulder of the road, sending a vicious shimmy up through the headstock into my arms. I nearly dropped the damn bike there and then, and that was what pissed me off the most.

The Buell was less than a month old at that point, a Firebolt still with the shiny feel to it, and I’d been hoping it would take longer to acquire its first battle scar. The first cut is always the one you remember.

zoe sharp short story truth and lies

TRUTH AND LIES

From Fox Five, a Charlie Fox short story collection

'Truth And Lies' puts all Charlie Fox’s skills and ingenuity to the test as she has to single-handedly extract a news team from a rapidly escalating war zone. At 12,000 words, it is almost a novella.

As long as they didn’t strip-search me at the airport, I knew I’d be OK. Not that I was trying to bring in anything suspicious, never mind illegal. The government security forces were jumpy enough without giving them more of an excuse to imprison or expel yet another foreigner.

But I was attempting to enter the country as a harmless civilian, and I knew if I was forced to undress there was no way anyone could misinterpret my scars. Old knife and bullet wounds are hard to disguise, especially from people who are experts at inflicting them. To me they were a physical reminder of past mistakes—lessons painfully learned and not forgotten.

Three of us had set off from New York twenty-four hours earlier. A rush job—emergency evac. Some news team who’d got in deeper and stayed in longer than was good for them and suddenly needed out. Now. Probably a month after common sense should have told them to leave.