"Rogers writes with confidence and authority about everything from African politics to Houston police procedure to Mexican drug gangs. There's plenty of action, and the book is populated with interesting characters from political figures to tattoo artists. Check this one out when you're looking for a real slam-bang change of pace." -Bill Crider, author of the Dan Rhodes mystery series
On a desperate mission to save his entire race from extinction, Emissary Ruell travels to Earth equipped with his two most powerful bargaining currencies -- health and longevity -- hoping to convince the most powerful leader in the free world that collaboration can save both of their civilizations. Having no way to communicate directly with humans, Ruell must inhabit President Addison Hale's body to carry out his mission.
He quickly discovers, however, that humans are more complex and volatile than anticipated. Only after admitting defeat does he encounter Kirk Longshadow, and ordinary cop who might be Ruell's last chance.
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Gunfire! Longshadow’s heart thundered, urging him toward the core of the problem, toward the sonofabitch shooter. He resisted turning to see. Resisted drawing his weapon.
His focus had to be here, on the crowd.
He glanced at the other two officers maintaining the barricade. They looked rattled, too. He inhaled deeply to counter the adrenaline pumping through his veins. Judging by the number of shots, and their sudden end, Secret Service had already secured the situation.
The crowd exploded in chaos. Some pushed to break through the barrier. Others scrambled away. Longshadow grabbed his baton.
“Who got shot?” shouted the vet in the wheelchair. “The president?”
“No-no-no-no-no!” a woman screamed.
“She can’t be dead. No!” Words bled into a wail.
“Maintain your positions,” the chief barked over the radio.
Behind him, Longshadow heard only confusion. In the agitated crush of spectators milling near the barricade or hastening for shelter, a group of young men, all in green polo shirts pressed close to the barrier. Longshadow scrutinized their faces. No obvious ethnic affinity or gang affiliation. No placards. No slogan embellished the preppy shirts. He couldn’t match their features with any of the terrorist suspects he’d studied in preparation for this event. The men lined up along the barrier, silent and still. Oddly, their stillness seemed to calm people nearby.
Dismissing them temporarily, Longshadow continued scanning, memorizing faces. Searching for signs of trouble. Considering the direction of the inciting shots—a handgun, judging by sound—the shooter had maneuvered near enough to the president that agents were able to return fire without hitting innocent bystanders.
Longshadow recalled the unmarked car that broke from the motorcade to move ahead. Not unusual, security vehicles moved in and out of the motorcade constantly according to radio instructions. So why had he noticed it? And there was something else, something that didn’t quite fit.
Strangely, despite the adrenaline rush, he felt no panic. The city had geared up to contain a hostile situation. Trained personnel were performing their assigned duties. Longshadow’s bit filled one miniscule place in the matrix. So far, his portion of the crowd appeared shocked, frightened, angry but not hostile.
A siren announced the arrival of an ambulance.
“It was a cop!” This came from a man two rows back in the crowd. “Got a picture of it right here with my zoom. A motorcycle cop shot President Hale! Secret Service blasted the crazy bastard.”
No! Not a cop. Not one of us.
Longshadow exchanged a glance with the officer nearest him. The man’s mouth turned hard. Misinformation, the look said. A fucking lie.
The car that exited the motorcade—hadn’t a motorcycle also moved out just before the unmarked car? It must have been the timing between the two vehicles that struck him as odd and caused him to notice.
Today marks the start of a new world. The placard-waving woman was gone. Had she known this shooting would happen? Was she involved? He recalled the details of her face to relate later during debrief.
Scant minutes had passed, but in slow motion. Longshadow felt numb. A blank book, nothing inside. Addison Hale was more connected to his personal life than any president, any national figure, any politician national or local. Terry had worked so hard with Forward America to help get her elected. Now Terry was dead. Hale was possibly dead.
He felt a dull disconnect from the reality that surrounded him. Maybe he’d lost his ability to respond to tragedy.
What was that flash? Camera, probably. Everyone behind the barrier seemed to have a camera or videocam, or at least a cell phone, talking on it or snapping photos.
The flash came again, this time as bright as a flame yet as tiny as a dust mote, and it flew straight into his eye before he could turn away or blink. No pain. No sensation at all.
He dismissed it with scarcely a thought.
Ruell dimmed his spark a fraction too late. The new host had sensed his presence.
Wrenched from his former host despite his resistance, Ruell had deduced that his self-preservation reflex must be stronger than his desire to retreat with Addison Hale into death. Once ejected, he resorted to instinct. Thinking had brought him one failure after another, so he relied instead on sensory direction and searched out the calmest mind within the sea of Human anger and fear. He wanted only to lie undetected and dormant.
This new emotional landscape, a flat, mist-shrouded lake, void of emotional coloration, offered the most placid escape from the chaos surrounding the conference center. He instantly constricted his spark to escape detection, wrapped his tiny bead of diminished energy in the color of despair, and slid deep into the least active tissue of Kirk Longshadow’s neocortex.
Chris Rogers was born in Texas and raised in the days of EC Comics and B horror flicks that could chill you down to your funny bones. She resides in a small community within commute of the four major Texas metropolises, where she ghostwrites business books and memoirs while turning out her own novels and short stories. Chris has taught mystery writing at the Rice University School of Continuing Studies, the University of Houston and in private master classes. Her students have received numerous awards and acknowledgements for their works. After a career in graphic design, Chris became a writer the easy way: She read voraciously and filled blank pages with drivel until her fingers cramped and her brain defected. Eventually, she learned to craft a decipherable sentence. Author of the Dixie Flannigan series, Bitch Factor, Rage Factor, Chill Factor and Slice of Life, Chris has published stories and essays in, among others, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Writer s Digest.
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