Alex doesn't have much to her name despite her knack for thieving and her passionate love of Veronica. When Alex is arrested and her relationship with Veronica shattered, she has only one way to clear her name and avoid life in prison.
Years later, and now an asset of the US government, Alex has been transformed into a Special Ops assassin, and she has the engineered genes to prove it. Fighting her way through every blacklisted mission possible, and loving every minute of it, it isn't until she's de-listed and on the streets that she meets David, a genetic whiz, who suspects there's a flaw hidden in her new and improved DNA — a flaw that may prove fatal.
Forging an uncanny relationship with Dog, a canine with incredible abilities, Alex learns that there are more dark rooms filled with government conspiracies than even she knew existed. As they dodge a desperate military, Alex realizes she'll have to face one of her worst battles yet: one of the heart.
Alex and Dog Go Hunting joins the ranks of such female-kicking-butt offerings as La Femme Nikita, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Wanted and adds a bit of Alias and Aeon Flux. It's Christopher Charman's debut novel.
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About the Author
Christopher Charman is a real estate broker and has a degree from UC Berkeley in Ancient Near Eastern Art History and Archeology (Egyptian Archeology), and a more recently minted Master's degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He has done everything from washing trucks and selling coffee to consumer software support and playing the bass professionally. Alex and Dog Go Hunting is his debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
ON THE RED CAR
Alex was sweating. The Red Car was crowded and hot, the air conditioning not nearly adequate for the packed conditions and buffeting 110-degree Santa Ana winds. It might have worked better when it was first installed in the early 21st century, but now, the AC — and the streetcar itself — were showing signs of having long outlived their expected service lives. Alex was wearing the plaid mini, white shirt and blue sweater of St. Ignatius High School, even though she hadn't gone to classes in nearly three months. She stood, ancient leather messenger bag slung across her shoulder and hanging on one hip as she leaned against the metal pole closest to the exit door.
The thumb-sized Nokia tucked into her bra buzzed twice. Alex's cue. She glanced back at Sylvia and Eric. Eric raised his left eyebrow slightly and glanced at the mark, a young businessman in knickerbockers and a short- sleeved jacket. Alex thought he looked ridiculous. Almost made her feel sorry for the guy. He was completely absorbed in something on his handheld and talking loudly to someone only he could see. Asshole. Probably takes his phone into the pisser. Guess I don't feel so sorry for him after all.
Eric was cute, in a geeky way. He wasn't much taller than Sylvia and only a year and a half older. Eric and Sylvia had been on the street together since their alcoholic step-dad put their mother in a coma. Alex met them in a Catholic Charities soup kitchen downtown, though she had seen Sylvia around at school, before things went to shit for all of them. They'd worked out their hustle over bowls of mock chicken soup and stale bread that first week.
Sylvia wasn't too bright, but she had a light touch. It turned out that Eric was a whiz with radio frequency IDs. He'd taken a bricked iData and turned it into a portable scanner. Alex knew how to take a fall, thanks to years spent in her mom's Aikido studio, before some idiot banger paralyzed her mother from the neck down in a botched liquor store robbery.
Their play was simple. They'd ride the streetcars from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica or Long Beach, taking care to not work any line too often. Eric would find a mark, scanning wallets and briefcases until he found a fat pile of credits. Alex would wait in the doorway until the mark made his or her exit and "accidentally" stumble into the sap. Sylvia would lift whatever item Eric had found with credits to liberate. They'd all go their separate ways and meet back up wherever they were staying, at first under freeway overpasses, then after they got better, an SRO near the downtown metro stop.
Eric gave Alex a gentle nudge as he passed. She stumbled away from her station at the pole. Knickerbocker guy had to step back to avoid her. He looked annoyed and said, "Fuck ... hang on." He shoved Alex with his free hand, pushing past her and off the streetcar. Sylvia winked and kept moving towards the accordion doors that separated the front and back coach of the articulated transit car.
Eric and Alex had made out once, on the pier in Santa Monica, while Sylvia played video games in the arcade. Alex had shoplifted a Spanish volume of Pablo Neruda's poetry from a chain bookstore and gave it to Eric. The chemistry was all wrong though. Eric said it felt too much like kissing Sylvia, so they'd agreed to stop and never talk about it again. After that, they settled into a familial pattern, brother-protector and his two little sisters, riding the streetcars and hustling.
Because Alex was curious, Eric had taught her to break banking encryption. She had an aptitude for it, so it became her job to crack the black plastic cards they lifted from unsuspecting commuters and then take them to random ATMs for conversion into cash. As driver's licenses and work chits were a bit trickier, Eric usually did those himself. He took the cracked cards down to an old Korean gangster who paid decent cash for them, and he always came back with cornstarch containers of burning hot kimchee that Sylvia adored, but Alex thought tasted like feet sprinkled with vinegar and pepper flakes.
Since kleptomania wasn't a full-time occupation, Alex spent most of her afternoons near the water. She liked Hermosa Beach in particular, where the shopkeeper at an ancient bodega was indifferent to her obviously fake ID and would sell her cigarettes and bottles of cheap Italian wine. She would walk down the long concrete walkway and find a secluded spot to drink, smoke, and watch the huge ships slide out of the setting sun, heading into the port of Los Angeles with their containers of cheap Chinese electronics, Indonesian clothing, and Indian and Korean cars. No one makes shit here anymore, Alex thought, taking a hit off her Rembrandt van Rijn.
Veronica Schultz was in many ways Alex's opposite. Tall, half Chinese, half German, pale, thin, angular, stylish, and from a family with money. She had short red-brown hair, almond-shaped light brown eyes, and thin lips under a short, pointy nose that crinkled when she laughed. She drove a tiny Spanish convertible her parents had given her for her eighteenth birthday and came to Hermosa Beach "because no one knows me here."
It was a Thursday afternoon in early summer. Alex watched this skinny girl in a nearly invisible thong walk past her, then turn and scan the beach, her long, elegant fingers shading her eyes from the sun. Alex had seen her around before, always alone, though usually in more clothes. Her microscopic top barely covered her small breasts, pink areola peeking out on the right side. Alex was surprised when shetromped back up from the quarantine line and plopped her towel, beach bag, chair, and bottle of spring water in the sand next to Alex.
"Hey. Hi. You got spray? I don't want to trek all the way back to my car, huh?"
Alex nodded and gestured to the metal spray bottle of SPF 95 dug into the sand.
"Thanks! I'm Ronni. What's your name, gorgeous?"
"Alex. You're kidding, right?"
"Nope! You're a total cutie. I pretty much want to take you back to my place right now."
Alex laughed. "Sure, you do. Help yourself to the spray, chica."
"Chica yourself, chica. I'm totally serious. Help me with my back, okay?" Veronica rolled over and untied the floss-thin straps of her top. Alex leaned over her and sprayed, rubbing in the clear sunscreen. She noticed a silver can of Coppertone among the crumpled magazines, comb, and cellphone in Veronica's beach bag. Slick, Ronni. Very slick.
They lay in the sun. Veronica flipped through a copy of Cosmetic Design, while Alex went back to her reading — a well-thumbed third edition of Practical Cryptography.
Half an hour passed.
"You must think I'm an idiot, huh?" Veronica looked up at Alex.
She flicked ash onto the hot sand. It was clear that Veronica was deliberately flashing her. Alex didn't find the view at all objectionable.
"No, I think you're maybe a freak, and you're coming on pretty strong."
Veronica smiled broadly, flashing her bright white teeth. "Yes to both. I've been watching you, Alex. You busy later?"
"Come to a party with me?"
Alex hesitated. She took a deep drag on her cigarette.
"It's in Santa Barbara. Everyone's going. It'll be fun."
"Santa Barbara? How do you think I'm going to get to Santa Barbara?"
"I'll give you a ride. Come on. It'll be fun."
Alex thought about it. Eric had gotten pinched and wasn't going to be out for at least a week. Sylvia was off with her "boyfriend," some Triad wannabe who called himself Wei Chen but who was really Donald from Encino. Sylvia liked him because he had a car and a steady supply of some designer shit she liked getting high on. Alex thought, What the hell. Not like I have anything better to do.
"Okay, but you have to promise me two things."
"Oh? What's that?"
"One, you have to give me a ride back. Two, that you'll use your own sunscreen next time."
Veronica's laugh was genuine and silvery, like little bells. "You noticed that, huh? Pretty lame. Took me all week to think of it, and then I spaced and brought the damn can with me today."
Veronica and Alex made it to Santa Barbara, but not quite all the way to the party in Isla Vista. Veronica had taken Highway One up through Malibu, top down, her pink Spanish convertible humming. Veronica's right hand strayed from the shifter, first to Alex's shoulder, then down over her bikini top, fingertips lightly on Alex's nipple, then gently across her belly, to her knee, and up her thigh. By the time they reached Summerland, Alex suggested in a thick voice that maybe they should stop someplace, and Veronica agreed, licking Alex's wetness off her long, manicured fingers.
Veronica used her dad's credit to pay for an ocean view room at The Miramar. As soon as the bellboy closed the door, she pressed her tongue into Alex's mouth. Her pale, gentle fingers untied the strings at her back and neck, then at both hips. She leaned in, caressing Alex's breasts and licking the corners of Alex's mouth, across her cheekbones then along her earlobe. Alex slid her hands around Veronica's narrow waist, feeling her hip bones, gliding one finger along Veronica's spine. Veronica smelled of roses and sunscreen, sand and salt, and the muskiness of strong arousal.
Alex yanked back the bedclothes and sank into the softness of the bed, spreading herself open to the tender explorations of Veronica's pinching and kneading fingertips, and her quick tongue. Veronica's hard nipples grazed Alex's as she slid upwards. Alex could taste herself on Veronica's mouth. Veronica's bare pubis rubbed against her thigh, two fingers deep inside her. They came together hard, the first time, and the second, and the third.
Veronica took Alex to the Mission. They picked up a late- night picnic of Cripps Pink apples, grapes, a hard Italian cheese, and a bottle of French champagne. After Veronica spread out a blanket on the lawn above the rose garden, Alex lay with her head in Veronica's lap. Veronica stroked Alex's hair with one hand while feeding her slices of apple and cheese with the other.
"Did you read Island of the Blue Dolphins when you were in grade school?" Alex asked.
"Mom always said Juana, that was the girl, she always said Juana was her great, great, great-something aunt."
"Who knows. Maybe. She also said Dad was dead, and that turned out to be bullshit."
"Do you get along with your parents?"
Alex looked up at Veronica.
"No, Ronni. I don't. Mom is in a home someplace. I haven't seen her in a year, at least. Dad, well the guy who contributed half my DNA, I've never met. He's serving thirty to life in Folsom."
"Whoa. What the fuck, Alex. Who do you live with?"
"Honey, I haven't lived anywhere in particular since I stopped going to school a year and a half ago."
"You graduated? I thought you were my age ..."
"Graduated? Who said I graduated? I just left. How old do you think I am, anyway?"
"Um ... eighteen? Nineteen?" Veronica tensed, her hand still on Alex's hair.
"Ha. Try sixteen, Ronni. I'm jailbait. Is that a problem?"
Veronica relaxed, and then slid her hand down under Alex's T-shirt, resting her index and middle finger around
"No ... I just thought ..."
"Good, I'm glad we have that settled, because it sure didn't seem like a problem when you had your face in my pussy earlier."
"No, that was no problem at all."
"Good." Alex smiled, turning her face towards Veronica's stomach to kiss her just below her belly button. "I think we'd better pack this shit up. You need to take me back to the hotel and fuck me again, the sooner the better."
"Your parents don't mind that you stay out all night?"
Alex leaned back on a pile of pillows against the headboard, while Veronica lay prone on her stomach, her sharp chin in her hands, watching some cheesy old up-all- night movie on the hotel's flatscreen. Alex liked the contrast of her full brown leg twined around Veronica's skinny pale one. She could see the faint traces her fingernails had left across Veronica's narrow lower back and on her ass.
Veronica made a snorting noise. "As long as I finish high school with honors and go off to college like a good little girl, they could give two shits." Veronica laughed, harder now, the silvery bells jingling up and down Alex's spine, turning her on again. "Of course, if they knew I was using Daddy's credit to hide out and screw some underage Mexican girl from the hood I picked up on the beach, they'd probably go into apoplexy."
Alex frowned. "Is that what I am? Some nothing homegirl fling you're using to piss off your parents?"
Veronica flicked off the TV. She turned over and sat up, leaning forward to hold Alex's face. She kissed her, slowly and deeply.
"No, Alex. Come stay with me. We'll tell them some story. I don't care. I really like you. Yesterday, last night ... it's not enough."
MEET THE PARENTS
Mom? Dad? This is my friend Alex Phillips, from school. She's going to stay over for a while, okay?" Alex was a little overwhelmed, distracted by a pale boy who must have been Veronica's younger brother. He sat in the middle of the kitchen floor, pulling on the tail of an extremely tolerant Persian cat. The boy, who was several years younger than Veronica, looked up. His eyes focused somewhere close to the tops of Alex's knees.
"Coat," the boy said to no one in particular. He stood, leaving the cat alone, and scooted over to Alex's side. "Coat."
"He wants your coat," Veronica said. "Simon, leave Alex alone."
Simon reached out, looking away from Alex, and tugged at the sleeve of her hoodie.
"Coats go here," he said. "And shoes."
"Sure, okay," Alex said, slipping off the hoodie and her shoes. Simon grabbed them both and ran towards the entry.
He carefully hung Alex's hoodie in the entry hall closet and placed her shoes in a cubby. Meandering back, he squatted next to the cat and began tugging at her tail again.
"Coats go here," he said again to no one in particular. "Shoes go there."
"Sorry, Alex. Simon's high-functioning autistic, and he doesn't do well with new people," Veronica said. "They disturb his sense of order."
Mr. Schultz barely glanced up from his dataset. Mrs. Schultz pulled an extra plate out of the cabinet and loaded it with two grilled cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off and set it in front of Alex.
"Nice to meet you, Alex. Ronni, does she get good grades? Where is she going to college next year?" Veronica rolled her eyes. "Mom, she's right here. Ask her yourself!"
"What? Oh, yes, I do fine," Alex lied. "I don't know about college ..."
Veronica kicked her shin under the table.
"Maybe ... UCLA? Berkeley?"
"Oh, that's nice. Would you like apple juice or pop, dear?"
What Alex really wanted was a vodka martini. "Juice would be fine, thank you, Mrs. Schultz."
Alex gave Veronica a look. Jesus, you must have been serious. Less than two days and I'm already meeting your parents.
Frank Schultz was tall, large-boned, and ruddy, with a large head, cleft chin, thick fingers, and an overwhelming need for a structured existence that went well beyond his Teutonic ancestry and bordered on the pathological.
Every work day began at 5:30 AM, when he woke his wife for twenty minutes of sex. A two-to-one ratio of orgasms was acceptable. By 6:00 AM, he was on the treadmill for thirty minutes of cardio, followed by twenty minutes of weights, and a ten-minute shower. It took him five minutes to down a nutritionally balanced blend of soy protein, trace minerals, and wheatgrass juice and another ten to dress in his habitual, heavily starched, white cotton shirt with French cuffs, highly polished brown leather shoes, tan pants with a subtle pinstripe, and blue sports coat. He made no concession to the inhospitable Los Angeles heat, moving by 7:25 AM from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned garage to air-conditioned self-navigating car for his one hour and fifteen-minute commute down Topanga Canyon to the air-conditioned tower in Silverlake, the location of the company he'd helped resurrect from financial wreckage in the early part of the century.
He expected to find the shop floor buzzing with quietly efficient, well-dressed, highly paid data traders by the time he arrived at 8:45 AM. Due to his draconian policy on tardiness coupled with the generous benefits he offered, it generally was.
Excerpted from "Alex and Dog Go Hunting"
Copyright © 2017 Christopher Charman.
Excerpted by permission of Ragnarok Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
I. A CHANCE ENCOUNTER,
II. JUST COFFEE,
COLLA VOCE: DOG,
PART 1: I. ON THE RED CAR,
IV. MEET THE PARENTS,
V. LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT,
VI. CENTRAL BOOKING, RAMPART DIVISION,
COLLA VOCE: DOG,
XI. OOH, THAT SMELL,
XII. GRADUATE STUDIES,
XIII. THE INTENDED,
XIV. SUPPLY PROBLEMS,
XV. JUNGLE BOOGIE,
COLLA VOCE: DAVID,
PART 2: I. A DEBT INCURRED,
III. THE MANDRILL,
COLLA VOCE: DOG,
V. THE EDWARDS CLINIC FOR THE EXTREMELY AGED,
VII. PRETTY SURE,
VIII. TO THE UNBURNING OF BRIDGES,
X. ON THE TOWN,
XI. ODD JOBS,
XII. NORMAL FOLKS,
COLLA VOCE: DOG,
PART 3: I. LOGISTICS,
II. A CHANGE IN PLANS,
III. COLD WAR JUNKSHOP,
IV. BASIC HOME IMPROVEMENT,
V. AN INTERESTED PARTY (OR PARTIES),
PART 4: I. L. FUCKING A.,
II. CDM TOWER,
III. LA JÉFA,
IV. CHOP SHOP,
V. THE GETTY,
VI. JUST LIKE OLD TIMES,
VII. FAMILY REUNION,
VIII. THE CLIENT,
IX. SPECIAL DELIVERY,
X. PANDORA'S BOX,
XI. MEET THE NEW BOSS,
XII. DATA PROCESSING,
XV. INSIDE MAN,
XVI. ENDINGS, AND BEGINNINGS,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I bought this book on a lark, not knowing what to expect, and was beyond pleasantly surprised. Alex is an engrossing character- the product of a unique environment and shaped by forces beyond her control. Dog lends a unique alternative perspective to the plot, beyond human, and yet in many ways more human than many people. I'm already looking forward to the next installment.