Bounty hunter Dan Reno never thought he’d be the prey.
When a pair of accused rapists from a New Jersey-based gang surface in South Lake Tahoe, bounty hunter Dan Reno is called in. The first is easy to catch, but the second, a Satanist suspected of a string of murders, is an adversary, unlike any Reno, has faced before. After escaping Reno’s clutches, in the desert outside of Carson City, the target vanishes. That is until he makes it clear he intends to settle the score.
To make matters worse, the criminal takes an interest in a teenage boy and his talented sister, both friends of Reno’s.
Wading through a drug-dealing turf war and a deadly feud between mobsters running a local casino, Reno has to hunt a ghost-like adversary who is calling all the shots.
The more Reno learns more about his target, the more he’s convinced that mayhem is inevitable unless he can capture him quickly. He’d prefer it to be clean, without further bloodshed. But sometimes that isn’t possible, especially when Reno’s partner Cody Gibbons decides it’s time for payback.
Mortal Outcomes is a fast-paced thriller full of action and adventure. The Dan Reno series appeals to fans of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series as well as authors like; Rob Sinclair, David Baldacci, Mark Dawson, Michael Connely and David Archer.
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.64(d)|
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When I finally tracked down Billy Morrison, he was in the middle of the mosh pit at Zeke's Bar off Highway 50. There must have been thirty sweat-drenched men in there with him, stomping and flailing to the music, their violent energy like a rebellion against humanity. I assumed they considered this dancing, but it looked more like a gang brawl. The death metal band on the small stage pounded out a relentless assault on the ears, the singer's guttural growls imploring the wild-eyed participants to maim and kill the weak. My initial instinct told me to retreat to my truck and wait for Morrison to leave. Instead, I waded into the churning melee of knees and fists. That was my first mistake.
I caught Morrison from behind and jerked his arm into a police lock. "You're under arrest," I shouted in his ear, and started pushing him toward the exit. When he resisted, I cranked his wrist hard into his back, while he yelled something I couldn't hear over the deafening wall of sound blasting from the band's stacked cabinets. I'd almost steered him out of the ruckus when some dude jumped on my back. The man wasn't heavy, and I probably could have carried him and still walked Morrison outside, but he got his arm tight around my neck.
"I'm gonna kill you, bitch," he screamed, his breath reeking of rotting meat and liquor. I drove an elbow into his ribs, but his grip only grew tighter. Cursing, I let Morrison go and peeled the man's arm from my throat. Then, I turned and busted his nose with a straight right. That was my second mistake.
Within a second, I was on the ground, trying to defend against a storm of boots and fists. I rolled into a ball and covered up the best I could, but Morrison was intent on kicking me in the face. I dodged a few shots, then he connected with a glancing blow, his heel gouging my forehead. "All right, then," I said, and yanked my Beretta .40 caliber pistol from beneath my coat. When Morrison tried to kick me again, I shot him in the ankle. The Beretta's report was barely audible over the band.
I scrambled to my feet and waved the gun, but the musicians wouldn't quit playing until I shot the guitar player's amp.
"That was uncool, asshole," the lead singer said.
"Too bad," I said, and put a bullet in the mixing board behind him. A loud buzz came from the speakers, then the board sparked and went dead, a wisp of smoke rising from the expired circuitry. The place became quiet, except for Morrison's cries of pain.
"This man is coming with me," I said, grabbing Morrison's good ankle and dragging him toward the door.
"Bullshit he is," another man said. He was a good six feet and two hundred pounds, nearly my size. A loose-fitting white T-shirt hung off his torso, and the black shorts he wore went well past his knees. His arms were a blur of tattoos, as were all the men's surrounding me.
I ignored him and continued lugging Morrison toward the exit. The man followed, trying to get in my face, but I raised my gun, and he slowed. A different man tried to rush me from the side, but stopped in his tracks when he found himself staring into the large bore of the Beretta.
"Next man that comes at me is gonna get shot," I said.
"You're messing with HCU, motherfucker," the first man said, displaying an assortment of misshapen and crooked teeth.
I backed out the saloon-style doors and pulled Morrison down the four wooden stairs to the parking lot, holding the moshers at bay with the automatic. They followed as I dragged Morrison toward my truck, and I thought I'd likely have to shoot at least one in the leg to discourage the rest. Then, I saw flashing lights, and Sheriff Marcus Grier's squad car bounced into the lot. The gangbangers slowly retreated.
"What the hell is going on here?" Grier said, stepping from his car, his hand on his holstered revolver.
"Good timing, Sheriff," I said. "This here is Billy Morrison. He's got warrants in New Jersey for rape, robbery, and assault."
"You got paper on him?"
"Yes, sir. He skipped two month ago."
"What happened to his leg?" Grier said, his black skin shining in the moonlight.
"He fuckin' shot me," Morrison hissed through gritted teeth. His white sock was soaked through and dripping with blood.
"Mr. Reno?" Grier said.
"His buddies jumped me." I gestured to a group of about ten men standing in front of Zeke's. They glared back, arms crossed, feet planted wide. One shot his arm straight out, middle finger extended.
"Did you have to shoot him?"
"I could have just curled up and let them kick the shit out of me, I suppose."
Grier let the remark slide. "That gash over your eye is bleeding pretty bad," he said. "It probably needs a couple stitches." He reached in his car and handed me a wad of paper towels.
"Do you know any of them?" I asked.
"The big guy with the bad teeth is Joe Norton. He's their ringleader."
I eyed Norton as he walked toward us. "He is, huh?"
"That's right. They call themselves HCU. Stands for Hard Core United."
Grier went to his cruiser and began talking on the radio. Joe Norton knelt down to Billy Morrison, who lay holding his ankle. He whispered in his ear, and they clasped hands. Then, Norton locked his eyes on me.
"You screwed over my friend pretty good. You know that, right?"
"Your friend raped a woman. He's got to pay for it."
"You don't know shit, understand? Billy was framed. Try that on for size. What's your name?"
"My name?" I looked over at the sheriff, who was still occupied with his radio. "Chuck U. Farley."
"Hey, I get it. You're a funny guy. You live around here?"
"Do you?" I said. Despite his oversized T-shirt, I could see that Norton had spent some serious hours in a weight room. His biceps stretched his cotton sleeves tight when he bent his arms, and his forearms rippled with veins underneath his tats.
"As a matter of fact, I do. I'm what you would call a permanent resident. Me and all my friends there," he said.
"You must be new in town."
"That's right. I love it up here, man. The mountains, Lake Tahoe — freakin' beautiful, man. The only problem I see is a lack of poontang."
"Try the whorehouses in Nevada."
He narrowed his eyes and spat. "Is that supposed to be funny?"
"Take it any way you want," I said.
One of his group walked behind my pickup truck and began writing my license plate number on a matchbook. I started toward him.
"You don't like it we got your license plate?" Norton said, right behind me. I spun around, and he cupped a match and lit a cigarette. His eyes were a pale brown, and each was shaped differently, as if they belonged to separate faces. He smirked and patted me on the shoulder. When he spoke, his breath was rife with beer and testosterone.
"Your life is about to get real interesting, pal," he said. Then, he blew a stream of smoke in my face.
I could feel the cords in my arms straining against the skin as the beginnings of an old and familiar refrain began playing in my head. Walk away. Don't empower your adversary by playing into his threat. But my hands squeezed into fists, and in my mind, I saw myself punch Joe Norton so hard he left his feet and rotated in the air.
At that moment, an ambulance bounced up the curb, and Sheriff Grier walked to where I stood face to face with Norton. Grier told Norton to back away from the scene so the paramedics could attend to Morrison.
"Making new friends, I see," Grier said, smiling, his sheriffs cap too small for his jumbo-sized head.
"Have these guys caused you much trouble yet?" I said.
"Nothing major, so far. Why, what did Norton say to you?"
"Not much. But I don't think we'll ever be best buddies."
* * *
By the time Grier had taken my statement and determined my actions were in self-defense, it was nearly midnight. I drove the two miles to my house, checking my rear-view mirror when I turned from the highway onto my street. The last of the season's snowpack lining the pavement had melted away, leaving the neighborhood pitch black, except for a porch light or two. It was late April, and though the ski resorts surrounding Lake Tahoe had closed, the evenings still felt like winter. I parked in my garage, went inside, and threw a log on the embers in the stove. The black coat I favored while working was ripped and streaked with dirt. I threw it in my laundry basket, but it would probably need to be replaced.
I drenched the scrapes on my face with alcohol and applied a butterfly bandage to the wound over my eye. Then, I made a whiskey-seven and drank it while I sat on the couch, icing a bruise on my elbow. When the drink was gone, I moved to the desk below the large window in my living room and wrote an e-mail to the bail bondsman in New Jersey who had hired me to bring in Billy Morrison and a known associate of Morrison's, a man of mixed Asian and white blood named Jason Loohan. It was the first job I'd taken since renewing my bounty-hunting license a couple months back and posting my name on an internet site frequented by bondsmen.
Billy Morrison had plainly surfaced in South Lake Tahoe, but this was not the case with Jason Loohan. There was no evidence he'd ever left New Jersey. The only rationale for Loohan being in the area was his history with Morrison. The two were reportedly close friends and had been arrested together on three separate occasions, the most recent being the New York home invasion for which Morrison was accused of rape. For his role, Loohan was charged with rape and sodomy, as well as armed robbery.
I still had no clue as to the whereabouts of Loohan. As for Morrison, he'd been an easy man to find, but a difficult one to catch. First, he had given me the slip in a crowded casino in Stateline, Nevada. I had caught up with him the next day after following his car into a residential area, only to lose him when he pulled over and sprinted into the woods. His trail went cold for a week, and when I'd found him again, he had outrun me in a 1970 Chevy Chevelle I thought was probably supercharged. I was beginning to think I'd lost my touch, which might have been part of the reason for my recklessness at Zeke's. Pulling Morrison out of the mosh pit was plain stupid, and my injuries were probably well-deserved. Regardless, Morrison would soon be on a plane back east, likely to face twenty years at Sing Sing.
I eased out of my chair and mixed another highball, promising myself it would be my last of the night. When I came back to my PC, I logged on to a site requiring multiple passwords. As a licensed private investigator and bounty hunter, I subscribed to a service providing access to information typically only available to law enforcement agencies. I typed in Jason Loohan's name, hoping there might be an update, something to suggest he'd come out west with Morrison. I came up empty, then ran a search for Joe Norton.
Soon, I was staring at his weirdly disconnected eyes, choppy brown hair, and a set of teeth that grew from his gums at every angle.
Norton had spent most of his twenty-eight years in New Jersey. He was a high school dropout whose record began with a shoplifting arrest at age fourteen. His activities escalated from there — burglary at sixteen, a pot dealing bust at seventeen, drunk driving and assault at eighteen, and then, he did three years in Trenton State Prison for a purse snatching that had left an elderly woman seriously injured. After that, he stayed clean for a few years, until he was arrested and charged with manslaughter for his role in a gang brawl that had left a man dead. He was acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Before I retired for the night, I sprinkled a couple handfuls of two-inch nails on the street in front of my home. Then, I tied a length of fishing line to the pine tree next to my driveway, stretched it ten feet into the street, and nailed it to the asphalt. After checking the locks on my doors and windows, I set the Beretta in my nightstand drawer and went to sleep.
* * *
I woke later than usual the next morning. After starting a pot of coffee, I fried three strips of bacon, then grabbed a granola bar and went out to my back deck for breakfast. The sun was already bright in the blue sky, warming the redwood table where I often sat to eat or read. I looked out over the meadow beyond the low fence separating my lot from miles of federally protected forestland. A family of beavers was building a dam in the creek that ran a hundred feet from my property. I kept an eye on their progress, hoping no flooding would result. The stream was high with snowmelt, and sections easily crossed by foot in the summer were now four feet deep and running hard and fast.
When I finished eating, I took my coffee cup and walked out to the street. The fishing line I'd strung was broken. I looked up and down the avenue. My neighbor's homes were quiet and still. A large black dog came trotting down the street. I called him over and scratched his head for a minute. Then, I backed my truck out from my garage and drove toward Highway 50.
It only took ten minutes to find what I was looking for. Behind a gas station, a few miles from where I lived, sat a car with two flat tires folded under its rims. I can't say I was surprised at the car's make and model — it was a 1970 Chevy Chevelle. I had run the car's plates before, after Morrison outran me. It belonged to Joe Norton.
Marcus Grier returned to the station from his lunch break to find two plainclothes cops waiting for him in the lobby. They were men Grier had met before, perhaps six months ago. He couldn't remember their names, but vaguely recalled they were recently hired transplants from out of town, and worked for Douglas County PD, a few miles up the road in Nevada.
"Got a minute, Sheriff?" one asked.
"Not really, but come on back." They followed Grier through the card-activated door and down a hallway to his office.
"What can I do for you fellows?" Grier said, sitting at his desk and frowning at the stack of paperwork left from the morning.
"Not a lot, Marcus," said the larger man, sitting without invitation. His eyes were bulbous under meaty lids, the skin heavily freckled. Grier stared at him, thinking he bore an uncanny resemblance to a large fish. The man picked up a framed photo on Grier's desk, studied it for a moment, then smiled and put it back down. "You got a good-looking wife," he said.
"I'm just paying you a compliment." The man stood, walked over to the window, and stared out at the sunny afternoon. He was tall, but despite his large frame, he moved with a casual grace, as if he'd be equally comfortable on a football field or a dance floor.
"God, nothing like Tahoe in the spring," he said to his partner, a slim man of uncertain race with a pockmarked complexion and eyes that didn't blink.
Grier shook his head, an incredulous expression taking hold on his face. He placed his hands on his desk, his thick neck threatening to burst the buttons on his collar. "I've got a busy day, men. You mind getting to the point?"
"Now, slow down there, champ," fish face said.
"I'm not sure what you yahoos think you're doing here," Grier said, his words coming from deep in his throat. "State your business. And you can start with your names."
"Why, of course, Sheriff. I'm Pete Saxton, and my partner there, that's Dave Boyce."
"What do you want here in California?"
"You had a shooting in a bar last night," Dave Boyce said. His skin was coarse, and the crow's feet around his eyes flared when he squinted at Grier. "A man was shot in the ankle, and from what I hear, the perp admitted his guilt and is still on the street."
Grier straightened the pile of papers on his desk. "You want to read my incident report?"
"Yeah," Saxton said.
"Sorry, you can't. I don't know what you think you're doing here, but I've got work to do. If that doesn't sit well with you, tell Don Cunningham to call me."
"Old Man Cunningham? I don't think so. He had a heart attack last weekend. Looks like he gonna retire." Saxton smiled and made a popping sound with his lips.
"If that's true, it's news to me," Grier said.
Boyce stepped forward, a pungent aroma wafting from his clothes. Apparently, he believed an overdose of cologne was the solution for his body odor.
"What's your deal with Dan Reno, Grier? You two queer for each other?"
"Get out of here, you jackasses," Grier said.
"Come on, Dave," Saxton said. "We're wasting our time."
After they left Grier checked his blood pressure with a portable device he strapped to his wrist. Then, he opened the window and turned on his fan, trying to blow the stink out of his office.
Excerpted from "Mortal Outcomes"
Copyright © 2018 Dave Stanton.
Excerpted by permission of Bloodhound Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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