John “Chant” Sinclair is precise, patient, perfect. A highly trained killer with a mastery of martial arts, he’s able to slip in and out of any situation, in any disguise, all while maintaining absolute control.
In a former life Chant was a soldier, but now he’s the world’s most wanted criminal, working for himself and taking only the jobs he wants. Governments want to either hire him or kill him. No matter the foe, Chant’s skills have made him untouchable . . . until now.
Years ago, one man taught Chant to be a dealer of death, a warrior whose very name, Bai, strikes fear into the hearts of men. Now, Bai has been hired to take out his former protégé, and when master and student face off, only one will emerge victorious—and alive.
Chant is the 1st book in the Chant Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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After he'd learned the truth, the man others called Chant decided that this phase of his life was finished too. Past spoken pledges and unspoken loyalties had been washed away with the blood of one American and dozens of Hmong who had died in the trap set for him, and these were deaths for which Chant felt at least partially responsible. If the cost of this decision was the loss of virtually every affiliation other men held dear, that was all right. He had learned the lessons of his father and teachers well and, despite his youth, had for some years been remarkably complete unto himself. He was linked to his own unbreakable code of honor, and in the end this was the only affiliation that mattered to him.
They came after him, of course, as he'd known they would, for he now possessed a terrible secret.
Combat boots laced together and slung around his neck, John Sinclair loped easily through the vivid greens and sweet rot odor of the rain forest. At the beginning of his flight he had discarded all gear and items of clothing that were not absolutely essential to survival. Even his M-16 had been thrown away; from the moment he had made the decision to erase his past, Sinclair had realized that to be in a situation where he was forced to fire a gun would probably mean that he must inevitably be killed or captured. The invisibility of silence was the one weapon he could not afford to lose. His coming long journey though space and time, across borders and oceans of the mind as well as the planet, had to be accomplished in a veil of silence as profound as that of the chiaroscuro shadow-patterns through which he ran.
If he were forced to kill, it would have to be done in silence.
Without breaking stride, Chant leaped for an overhanging branch and effortlessly swung up into a tree, where he crouched in the V formed by the trunk and a large limb. Camouflaged by shadow and thick foliage, he waited.
They knew the direction in which he was heading — northwest, directly into enemy-held territory. A half hour before, as he had passed close to the ambush site, he'd heard a helicopter flying low over the jungle canopy; he knew that the aircraft carried assassins, men whom Maheu assumed were as skilled at delivering silent death as himself. If it were a classic hunt-and-slay operation, and Chant had no reason to think otherwise, the helicopter would drop three men in a semicircle arcing across his presumed path. These men would come at him, then slowly converge in an effort to trap him themselves or force him to retreat to death at the hands of the two or three assassins sweeping the jungle behind him.
The point man in the advance press came directly down the trail, a wide-angle pump shotgun with heavy-duty choke silencer held at the ready. Although it would not have altered his course of action, Chant was glad that he did not know the man — which meant that this assassin had probably been borrowed from the Rangers, or another Special Forces Unit.
Operation Cooked Goose.
As the man passed beneath the overhanging limb, Chant dropped, twisting slightly in the air and snapping a short, powerful side kick at the man's head. His bare heel caught the man just behind the jaw, at the precise juncture where the skull cradles the top of the spinal cord. Chant hit the ground, rolled to break his fall, and was almost instantly on his feet, darting silently into the underbrush at the side of the trail. He did not even bother to look back, for he knew that the assassin had died even before his knees had begun to buckle.
He waited in the open, sitting cross-legged at the edge of a small clearing, for the second man. Within seconds, he had gone into a trance; with his iron-colored eyes slightly out of focus, he was able to see deep into his surroundings, his sight and hearing radiating out through the jungle like psychic X rays.
He "saw" the second assassin approach through the underbrush, then stop behind a wall of vines and stare in disbelief at Chant's exposed body.
Chant's knife flew through the air, parted vines, and pierced the assassin's heart a split second before the man's knife thudded into the tree trunk behind Chant's left ear.
Chant stalked the third man, a burly Chinese dropped by helicopter who had apparently been specially hired for the occasion, then rose from the matted jungle floor virtually in the man's face and slit his throat.
Each of the three assassins assigned to close the circle from the rear found Chant "hanging" from a tree limb by a rope of vines, his neck twisted at what appeared to be an impossible angle for any man who was not dead.
The first two to come upon him died as they poked suspiciously at his ribs — the first when Chant's index finger burst his right eyeball and pierced his brain, the second when a garotte lifted him off the ground and snapped his neck like a stick of dry wood.
The third assassin, overcome by terror when he came upon the "hanging man" with two corpses at his feet, died running away, Chant's knife blade buried to the hilt between his shoulder blades.
His pursuers eliminated, Chant loosed the harness of vines from his shoulders and chest, and dropped lightly to the ground.
At the edge of a stream, he erected a small totem to the memory of the many Hmong who had died so that he might live, and be free After an hour of silent, intense meditation, he set the totem afire, sprinkling bits of clay, dirt, and vegetation from the jungle floor over the root of the fire until the flames burned black. After a few seconds he abruptly kicked the flaming brands into the stream, smiled grimly as the fire hissed out and the blackened sticks were carried away downstream.
Then, his private ceremony of life and death and freedom completed, Chant went away.
Mordan County, Washington, 1985
Chant, disguised, stopped in a hardware store to pick up the item he wanted. Back out on the busy street, he paused for a few moments to watch the comings and goings of people getting an early start on their Christmas shopping. It was a bright, clear day in late fall, cold but still. The air was filled with an acrid smell wafting in from the huge paper mill ten miles to the east.
Although there were thousands of Hmong immigrants in the county, Chant saw none here on the streets of Sachmore City, the county seat. He wasn't surprised. To the Baldaufs, who wielded their great wealth like a sledgehammer in order to control law and economics in the county, the Laotian refugees were used exclusively for fueling the family's evil, underground empire; the Hmong were used as stock for whorehouses, slave labor in the family industries, and as drugged, unwilling subjects for pornographic films and magazines. Certainly, they were not fit to shop on the streets of Sachmore City and, when not being used by the Baldaufs for personal pleasure or business, were kept virtually imprisoned in a complex of Baldauf-controlled slum housing in a remote area of the county — out of sight, and obviously out of the other residents' minds and collective conscience.
It was, Chant thought with a cruel smile, time for a few minor changes.
The huge clock on the tower over City Hall read ten minutes after one, which meant that Lester Baldauf would have sent all of his deputies out on patrol; the county sheriff would be alone in the jailhouse, drinking and conducting a "training session" with the latest Hmong woman or girl he had chosen to sell to one of the Baldauf-controlled prostitution rings in Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.
Chant bought a newspaper in a drug store on the corner. He took a few minutes to rearrange it in the way he wanted, then put the rolled newspaper under his arm and headed across the street to the county sheriff's office.
The kid went dry too goddam quick, Lester Baldauf thought as he pumped away at the whimpering Hmong teenager beneath him She couldn't talk dirty convincingly, cried too easily, just went through the motions when she fucked, and wouldn't stay wet long enough for a man to enjoy a decent lay without getting blisters on his prick. He'd decided that oral sex was about all this girl was good for, and he'd get to that right after he finished....
"Get up, Baldauf."
Lester Baldauf yanked himself out of the Hmong girl. He tried to spin around in order to see who had come up behind him, then fell off the foul-smelling bunk onto the rough concrete of the cell floor Sweat was squeezed from between the rolls of fat on his naked body as he attempted, in a panic, to scramble to his feet while at the same time reaching for his gun. He tripped over his own feet, and sat down on the floor with a loud sphut.
Baldauf watched, chest heaving and eyes wide with fear, as the big man with red hair and dark aviator glasses reached out with a rolled newspaper. The man flicked his wrist, and the flap on Baldauf's holster unsnapped with a loud pop. Still using the newspaper like a mechanical arm, the red-haired man pushed back the flap, slipped a folded end of the paper over the butt end of the Colt Special, and withdrew the weapon from the holster. Another flick of the wrist; the gun spun in the air, and the man caught it by the barrel in his paper. Then, to Baldauf's amazement, the man held the gun out to him.
"Here," the stranger said in a deep, even voice. "I believe you're looking for this. I assure you that you won't need it. I'm here to discuss some business, and my proposal is definitely to your advantage. Get rid of the girl."
Baldauf snatched the Colt from the end of the newspaper, cocked it, then aimed it with a trembling hand at the big man's chest. "How the —?" There was no moisture in Baldauf's mouth or throat, and he swallowed hard. "How the hell did you get in here, mister?! Both the door to the office and the door to the cellblock were locked!"
"They opened for me."
"Who the fuck are you?'"
"The girl; you don't want her here while you and I talk business."
"The only English she knows are the dirty words I taught her."
"She's a distraction. Get rid of her."
Without taking his eyes off the stranger, Baldauf reached behind him to where the Hmong girl was cowering in a corner, at the edge of the bunk. He poked her hard in the ribs, then nodded toward the open cell door. Still whimpering, the girl jumped off the bunk, pulled on her clothes, then ran down the narrow corridor leading out of the cellblock.
Four cells away, the two Hmong men whom Baldauf had caught trying to hitchhike out of the county stood with their hands on the bars of their cells, staring at him impassively. It was then that Baldauf realized how foolish he must look, sitting naked with his legs splayed out to either side of him on the floor. He gestured angrily with the gun, and the men turned away.
"I asked you your name!" Baldauf snapped, swinging the gun back to the stranger's massive chest.
"My name is John Sinclair," Chant said easily as he sat down on the bunk across from the portly, red-faced county sheriff. "Why don't you put the gun down and put your clothes on?"
"What have you got in the paper bag?"
Chant held out the bag, which the sheriff grabbed from his hand. Baldauf looked inside, frowned. "What the hell is this?"
"Just what it appears to be. It's something I remembered on the way here that I had to pick up. There's a hardware store across the street."
Baldauf tossed the bag and its contents into a corner of the cell where it landed with a loud clang. He placed the gun on the bunk, scrambled to his feet. When the stranger did not move, the county sheriff began dressing. "I don't need a gun to take you anyway, pal," Baldauf mumbled. His small pig eyes never left the other man. "I've got a black belt in karate; state champ the last three years."
"Yes," Chant replied evenly. "I've heard that you're a real master of the martial arts. However, I've also heard that the Hmong who work for you are even better, most say they're much better."
Baldauf flushed an even deeper crimson as he pulled on his pants. "They're gooks, so it doesn't count. Besides, their asses belong to me; they'll shit whatever color I tell them to." He started to button his shirt, paused, and narrowed his eyes. "John Sinclair? Seems to me I've heard or seen your name someplace ... maybe on a law-enforcement bulletin."
"I wouldn't know," Chant said as he abruptly removed his wig and dark glasses.
Baldauf tensed and started to reach for his gun. "What the hell are you doing?!"
Chant shrugged. "You don't need the gun, and I don't need this disguise any longer."
Baldauf slowly took his hand away from the gun, then stood very still. His breathing became shallow and his stomach muscles tightened as he stared into the other man's cold, iron-colored eyes, which almost perfectly matched the color of his close-cropped hair. The face, with its pronounced cheekbones and square, firm jaw, was as impassive as the Hmongs', but there were strange shadows moving in the eyes: a hint of amusement, a touch — more than a touch — of cruelty, implacability. The eyes made Baldauf feel decidedly uncomfortable. It also disturbed him that the man, although sitting perfectly still, somehow projected the feeling of some great jungle cat ready to pounce at any moment.
Baldauf looked away from the eyes, and immediately felt better. He quickly finished dressing, put the gun back in its holster, then positioned his huge bulk in the cell door in order to block any escape attempt. With his uniform on, and his Colt only inches from his fingertips, Lester Baldauf once again felt like he usually did — in complete control. He was, he thought, going to teach this jerk-off with the cold eyes a lesson about respect for authority the man would never forget — not even when Sinclair was out of the hospital and able to walk again.
"You said you had a business proposition," Baldauf said with a sneer.
"It had damn well better be a good one, Sinclair, because right now you're looking at a year or two in the slammer."
"What I said was that you'd benefit."
"You'll remain alive."
Baldauf stiffened. "What did you say?"
"If you do precisely as I ask, I won't kill you."
Baldauf stared into the iron-colored eyes and laughed; he'd meant the laugh to be mocking, but the sound that emerged from his throat was nervous and high-pitched. "You must be crazy," he said as he curled his fingers around the butt of his gun.
"Why? Is the proposition too complicated for you to understand?"
Baldauf's eyes narrowed to slits, and his lips slowly drew back from his teeth. "You're earning yourself one very bad time, Sinclair; you can't imagine how bad. But even crazy men interest me. Make me laugh; tell me what it is you expect me to do in order to keep you from killing me."
"Actually, there are a number of things. First, you'll pick up the phone in your office and report the criminal activities of you and your family to state authorities, and then to the FBI. During the subsequent investigations, you'll cooperate fully by turning over all of your family's business records to the authorities in order to facilitate prosecution on charges that will include extortion, illegal confiscation of immigration papers, sexual abuse of minors, pornography, slavery, evasion of state and federal income taxes, illegal business practices, trafficking in drugs ... and, of course, murder."
Baldauf blinked in disbelief as he ran a hand through his thinning, greasy brown hair. It was a few moments before he realized that his mouth had dropped open, and he quickly closed it. He removed the Colt from its holster, cocked the hammer and leveled the long barrel on the other man's heart. "You're not funny at all," he said in a hoarse whisper.
"You're a tough audience. I was going for the easy laugh, so I left out a couple of dozen other things, like prostitution —"
"It's hard to keep track of all the foreign currency and stock market fluctuations," Chant said evenly, "but, as of noon yesterday, my best guess is that the Baldauf family is worth upward of thirty-three million dollars, and change."
"Hey! How the hell do you know so much about my family's business? I don't even know how much we're worth!"
Excerpted from "Chant"
Copyright © 2017 George C. Chesbro.
Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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