Concrete Clockwork by Laura Breck
Published: March 2021
Ex-military operative Lottie Nightshade is enjoying civilian life helping her widowed sister raise three teenagers. When a last-minute job interview turns out to be blackmail, her peaceful days are over. Lottie is given two choices, and the least deplorable of them is doing wetwork for an eccentric millionaire.
Philanthropist Dane Harrington has no option but to blackmail Lottie Nightshade. Dane was contracted to terminate a bomber who threatened to level a new arena in St. Paul, Minnesota. The stakes are too high to trust the time-critical mission to anyone but a skilled operative, and Dane knows Ms. Nightshade will not do the job willingly.
When the bomber realizes he’s been targeted for extermination, the hired killer is already closing in on him. The only way he’ll live to trigger the arena’s destruction is by stopping Lottie Nightshade.
Lottie feels the bomber’s cold stare watching her every move as the timer ticks closer to detonation. When he sets off a series of explosions and people begin to die, Lottie realizes she may need to give up her own life to end the bomber’s.
Loud ringing jerked Lottie out of her dream. The papers on her chest slid onto the bed as she sat up and looked around for the source.
The sound came from her backpack. One of her burner phones? Lunging for the bag, she dumped the contents on her bed and picked up the live one.
“Is this the woman who handed out pictures of the old man?” The female voice sounded jittery. “I have information for you, but you have to meet me right now.”
Lottie stood; the phone pressed to her ear. It had to be one of the hotel or restaurant staff she’d given Balfour’s photo to.
“Can you just tell me…”
“You promised money.” Was she crying? “Meet me at the RestRight motel downtown, room 528. I need the cash. Right now.”
“Okay, I’ll meet you, but not there.” Lottie checked the time. 9:15 PM. She couldn’t risk losing the contact, but she wouldn’t walk into a trap. “No hotel, though. Meet me inside the train station on Kellogg. You know where that is?
The woman sucked in air three times “Um, yeah, okay, where?”
“Inside the front door, to the left side there are bathrooms. The women’s room. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“Hurry. Please.” She ended the call.
Lottie jumped off the bed and used her phone to call the security team. “I need a car. Right now.” She grabbed the tactical bag with her phones and guns, the rucksack with her disguises, and the cash Harrington had given her, and stuffed it all into her backpack.
“Got it.” A woman’s voice. “Head west down the alley to the fourth garage after yours, the one with the green lightbulb.”
“I need a body cam and comms.”
She relayed the meeting place. “Get a team there now, the security crew. Low profile but armed.”
“Already on their way.”
She ended the call. Harrington’s team knew exactly what was happening. Did they listen in on every call she made and received?
Why hadn’t Harrington told her? Why hadn’t she realized that earlier? She should have known he’d keep her under a microscope.
Lottie stopped and breathed for a minute, checking off everything she needed to bring, everything she needed to do. Walking toward the root cellar exit, she dialed Harrington’s number on one of the disposables. After their confirmation routine, he asked, “Yes?”
“I got a tip off one of the photos. I’m going to meet her now.”
Lottie gave him the info as she walked down the dark alley toward the green light.
“Your body cam, they’ll feed it live to me. I have to jump.” Harrington ended the call.
Lottie stepped into the open side-door of the garage. Stone held a small device which he attached to Lottie’s waistband. “When you enter, turn full-circle to scan the room so we get the lay.” He tipped his head. “I didn’t need to tell you that, did I.”
Lottie held back a smirk.
A woman approached. “Earpiece.”
Lottie put the tiny speaker in her ear and held out her hand. “Car fob.”
Lottie slid into the driver’s seat of the pantyhose-colored car and rolled down the window. “What’s the team’s 20?”
“Five minutes out.”
The garage door rolled upward.
Stone leaned close. “We’re right behind you.”
Lottie shifted and drove out of the garage. She needed to go. Fast. Before the caller had a chance to change her mind.
As she raced along side streets, she tucked a gun into her waistband and one in her boot. She put a disposable phone in her pants pocket.
She pulled into a Security Only parking spot in front of the station and walked up the steps to the huge front doors. Running through her prep, she cleared her mind, and pinpoint focused.
“Stealthy at the front door.” Stone’s voice in her ear bud. “Caller already in the designated room.” The woman was here already.
By the time she stood outside the women’s room, she was a rock. She pushed the door open and put her foot out to stop the door from closing. She looked behind it. Nothing.
On the far side of the room, a short woman with dark, shoulder-length hair gestured Lottie into the room, her movements jerky, her eyes wild, red, like she’d been crying. She wore a baggy t-shirt and shorts, flip-flops on her feet.
Lottie went on full alert. “Pull up your shirt, turn in a circle. All the way up to your neck.” Lottie needed to check her for explosives and weapons.
She did as she was told, stumbling once, then froze and stared at something.
“Around again, please. Slower.” She performed the turn again. Her shorts were too tight to conceal anything. “Pull up your hair now and turn again.” She was clean.
Turning her body, Lottie let the camera see what she was looking at. Two toilet stalls, empty. Further into the room, two sinks on one side and on the other wall a plastic baby changing table that held a small, propped-up tablet.
No window, drop ceiling, the flimsy kind.
Lottie stepped into the room and let the door close behind her.
“You called me?”
The woman stood in front of the changing table looking at the tablet. She nodded, not looking at her.
“Tell me what you know.” Lottie kept her voice soft to calm the woman.
“He.” The woman pointed to the tablet, her hand shaking.
Shit. Was she saying the man in Lottie’s photo was someone online? This would be a waste of time. Lottie spoke slowly. “Where is the man?”
“I’m here Lottie.” A deep male voice. From the tablet.
Chills ran down her spine.
About The Author
I’ve written more than 40 books in my career, and I’m very excited to have a new pen name, and a new genre – Suspense! My hot new series, The Philanthropist, features books that bring you Gripping Suspense Outside the Law. I’m sure you’ll find them as unique and interesting as I do.