Sunday, January 24, 2010

Donovan Pike Podcast--Chapter 3

I'm a week behind, thanks to a brief illness and a couple of other issues. Thanks for the continued support.

Click to listen.

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 3

Pike saw Drake’s motionless body on the other side of the SUV. Over the years there had been many times Pike had wished Drake was dead and that Pike himself would be the deliverer of the older man’s demise. But now Pike felt no joy, only puzzlement and a rising anger.

Drake’s left hand twitched.

Pike cursed. He couldn’t leave the wounded man in the open. He stretched his arm beneath the vehicle.

“Drake, grab my hand. I’ll pull you over here,” he said.

The fingers of Drake’s hand twitched once before growing limp.

Drake raised to a crouch. The driver, a young guy named Craft, squatted by the open door. The man in the passenger seat slumped against the dashboard. His blood was splattered on the windshield.

“Close that door,” Pike said.

“Huh?” Craft said. He looked confused, like he couldn’t make sense of what was happening.

The sniper in the helicopter fired again. The shot came at angle through the roof of the SUV and into the top of Craft’s head. Pike was splashed with warm blood and tissue. Craft collapsed.

Pike turned the body to find the shoulder harness, and removed Craft’s handgun. It was a Glock, and it looked new. The sniper put two shots into the pavement near the body. Pike rolled away as fragments of asphalt mushroomed into the air.

He didn’t know what kind of ammo the sniper was using but it was something big. The SUV wouldn’t provide any protection. He had to get away.

But the rear entrance to the building was 50 feet behind him. On the other side of the SUV, the paved driveway quickly became a rocky hill that descended sharply to the Gulf. If he went in either direction he would be easy pickings for the man in the chopper.

Pike crawled forward, hoping the truck’s big engine would make a serviceable shield. As if to mock him, the sniper blew a hole through the truck’s side, just a few inches from Pike’s face.

Who were these guys? Pike had made a lot of enemies over the years, and so had the Ravenscroft family. It irritated him that he might die without knowing why. And the odds that he would survive this fracas were growing smaller by the second.

Another shot punched through the engine block and the quarter panel, this time just above Pike’s head.

He decided to run for the building. Heading for the sea offered no chance of cover and almost certainly assured his death, even if he miraculously avoided a bullet. The other direction gave him a fighting chance. A slim chance, to be sure. But it was something.

He examined Craft’s handgun. It was a Glock 27, with the extended magazine from a Glock 23. He popped the magazine out and saw it was full. He had 15 rounds.

15 empty, futile chances to hit something as far away as the chopper.

The pilot and sniper probably knew that. On the other hand, if someone was shooting at you, your first instinct would be to get out of the way. Of the two men he knew were in the chopper, the sniper likely had the most combat experience. Maybe the pilot would get spooked and make a dumb move. It was a big maybe, but it was all he had.

Pike sprang to his feet and raised the Glock. He added a scream, to make certain he had the attention of the chopper. Despite the distance he could clearly see the pilot. He wore a headset and sunglasses. The sniper leaned through the opening on the port side of the chopper. He also had a headset but no sunglasses. Nothing to mar his vision. He was sighting through the scope for another shot when Pike opened fire.

He aimed high and at the cockpit of the helicopter. He knew his shots fell far shot and would land harmlessly in the Gulf. If the pilot took a second to think about it he would realize the same thing.

Instead, the pilot jerked the stick, spinning the craft almost 90 degrees. The sniper was suddenly facing open water.

It had worked. Pike ran for the building, knowing it would take the chopper only a second or two to return to position. He had covered less than half the distance to the building when the first shot struck the concrete walkway directly in front of him. He instinctively veered to his right, beginning a zig-zagging path to safety.

A hot lance of pain seared his left side, and Pike knew he’d been hit. Almost simultaneously the sidewalk ahead of him cracked like a frozen lake. Either the bullet had passed clean through him or he had just been grazed. He didn’t pause to check.

He changed the angle of his run again. The sniper had the distance now and Pike figured the next shot would land between his shoulders.

The black metal door to the Ravenscroft building flew open. The woman who ran out was tall and thin, with a mane of hair that trailed like a scarlet halo behind her. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Once she cleared the building she raised a silver tube to her shoulder.

Pike saw a flash from the tip of the cylinder and heard a whoosh. He turned his head in time to see a thin trail of smoke flying toward the chopper. The pilot tried to turn the craft again, but it was too late. The object at the head of the jet trail hit the helicopter and there was an explosion.

The chopper hung in the air for a couple of seconds as flames burst from the cockpit and the now-empty door where the sniper had been. Then it fell straight down to the water and disappeared beneath the waves.

Pike stopped running before he collided with the woman. He lifted his shirt. A six-inch furrow had been gouged into his side. The cut was barely bleeding.

“Need a Band-Aid?” the woman said. “We’ve got the kind with pictures of little balloons on them.”

Three men came through the same door the woman had just used. They were dressed in the familiar black outfits.

“The others?” the woman said.

“Drake may still be alive,” Pike said. “Craft and the other guy--” He shook his head.

The woman said something to one of the men, who spoke into a small radio. The other two Ravenscroft employees jogged to the SUV.

Pike nodded at the silver tube the woman now held casually against her leg. “What the hell is that?”

She smiled. “A new RPG we’re working on for the military.”

“What’s the payload?” Pike said, thinking of the size of the explosion that had destroyed the chopper.

She shrugged. “Something big, I guess. Come on, you know that’s not my department.” With her free hand she pointed at the Glock Pike still carried. “Shooting at a chopper with that? What were you thinking?”

“Hey, it worked,” he said, then added, “For a second.”

“You want to know the sad part?” she said. “It wasn’t even the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen you do. As a matter of fact, it’s not even in the top five.”

Pike sighed. He felt like he’d never left this place.

“Thanks for save, Gemma,” he said. “Now can we get this over so I can get back to my life?”

Gemma Ravenscroft smiled and held open the door for him to enter.

To be Continued

© Mark Justice 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Donovan Pike Podcast--Chapter 2

Click to listen.

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 2

Drake nodded to one of his men, who produced a knife and cut the plastic ties that bound the Triton’s crew.

Pug was the last to be freed. The instant his restraints were cut away, the little man sprang from his chair like he had been launched from a catapult. His fist landed against the jaw of the man with the knife. The black-garbed intruder collapsed against the deck. His jaw was twisted out of shape.

Drake’s other men raised their weapons. Though unarmed, Pike’s crew tensed for battle.

“Hold it,” Drake said. He motioned to his men. They lowered their guns.

“Sorry, Donovan,” Pug said as he rubbed his knuckles. “That was the prick who snuck up on me. If he hadn’t slugged me first from behind we wouldn’t be in this spot.”

“It’s okay,” Pike said. “This isn’t your fault. Professor Chapin is in the Zodiac. I need you to get him on board. Then take the Triton back home. I’ll be there as soon as I can. “

“Sure thing, boss.” Pug sounded fine, but Pike knew his old friend blamed himself for the capture of the crew.

Pike first met the fierce bulldog of a man when they both served in the military. Pike’s enlistment was short lived due to what his superiors called an unwillingness to take orders. During his time in uniform, he and Pug had fought in a war together. Since then, they had been on the same side in a few unofficial wars.

Pike turned his attention to Drake. “You know how I hate it when you keep me waiting, sweetheart.”

A flicker of emotion crossed Drake’s face and instantly vanished. Good enough, Pike thought. That was the best you could hope for when you dealt with Drake.

Drake used a satellite phone – the Triton’s phone, Pike noticed – to make a brief call. Within minutes Pike heard an approaching plane.

Drake herded his men and Pike to the main deck. One of Drake’s squad helped the man with the broken jaw to his feet.

Pike leaned against the railing on the port side of the deck and watched the lights of a seaplane grow closer. The craft landed smoothly and held its position about 30 feet from the Triton. Thanks to the moonlight he could see the logo on the side of the black plane. It was identical to the design on the tunics Drake and his men wore.

Drake clamped a big hand on Pike’s shoulder. “Time for homecoming, Donny Boy.”


Pike sat in the back of the passenger compartment of the Antilles Goose. The seaplane had room to carry six people. Drake was up front next to the pilot. The other men were seated with Pike, including the one with the broken jaw. He turned out to be named Savini. He moaned every time the plane hit turbulence.

A few minutes into the flight, Drake came back to the passenger compartment and dropped into the seat next to Pike. He held a satellite phone.

“It’s for you.”

Pike held the phone to his ear and waited.


Pike said nothing.

“Okay, you’re pissed at me. I get that. Really, I do. But this was too important to wait.”

“Still the drama queen,” Pike said.

The woman on the phone sighed. “This is like dealing with a child. As always.”

Pike smiled.

“Then let me get to the point,” the woman said, “since I know you have a short attention span. We found something.”


“It involves La Ciudad de los Dioses.”


“I assume I have your attention?”

“What did you find?”

“I think it’s a message, Donovan. A message from your father.”

“Tell me.”

“It’s better if I show you.”

“Gemma – ”

“I’ll see you in a bit.” The line went dead.

“Damn it.”

Pike handed the phone back to Drake, who accepted it without comment. The older man returned to the cockpit.

Pike suddenly found his seat to be uncomfortable. He shifted restlessly and tried to calm his thoughts.

La Ciudad de los Dioses. It wasn’t possible.

But he knew Gemma Ravenscroft very well. While she certainly had an overdeveloped sense of drama, she was serious about this topic.

He closed his eyes and forced himself to relax.


The seaplane landed in Madrid. Pike and the others transferred to a small jet adorned with the Ravenscroft logo. Savini, the man with the broken jaw, was left behind for medical treatment.

It was late afternoon when the jet landed in Fort Meyers. After taxiing to a small private hanger, the passengers were transferred to a black SUV. Pike sat in the back with Drake.

He grew restless again on the drive to the island. When they finally turned onto the long bridge that stretched across the water, Pike thought he was going to come out of his skin. He decided that punching Drake would be very satisfying.

But he stayed still.

Soon, they were on the island, which was dominated by the massive glass and stone headquarters of the Ravenscroft Corporation. When he sighted the buildings, Pike’s first reaction was to quickly head in the other direction. He had spent a lot of time here in his youth, much of it unpleasant. He wasn’t happy to be back.

The SUV stopped behind one of the buildings. The residential quarters. Drake opened his door and stepped out. Pike could smell the salty tang of the Gulf.

“Let’s go,” Drake said. “You’re somebody else’s problem no– ”

Drake made a funny noise, like air squeaking out of a balloon. Pike turned to see him fall to the ground.

He heard the gunshot almost immediately. And he heard the beating thump of a helicopter’s rotor.

Pike climbed out of the SUV. He shielded his eyes from the sun and spotted the chopper. It was painted gunmetal gray. Completely unremarkable. Expect for the sniper leaning out of the side of the craft. Sunlight glinted from the scope of the rifle in the sniper’s hand.

He fired again. The rear window of the SUV exploded.

Pike dived to the pavement.

To be Continued

© Mark Justice 2010

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Donovan Pike Plug

Thanks to Bill Thom at Coming Attractions, the pulp field's number one source for news, for the mention of Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods. Bill updates the site every Friday night with the latest pulp-related data. It's amazing that so much is happening in the field, and I usually end up making a purchase or two after reading each week's column.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Chapter 2 goes up Sunday, along with the podcast. I appreciate all the feedback.

Here's the blurb for the novel, as it would appear on the back cover of a cheap paperback on a spinner rack at the drugstore:

Ten years ago, the father of Donovan Pike disappeared while searching for the City of the Gods, a mythical metropolis that legend says contains technology from the stars. Now a clue turns up that could mean Pike’s father is alive, and the City of the Gods is real.

The adventurer must team up with an old enemy to battle a dark army that will stop at nothing to prevent Pike from finding his father and discovering the location of an ancient city that will change the world – or destroy it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Donovan Pike Podcast--Chapter 1

I'll be podcasting each chapter of Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods. To listen to Chapter 1, click. here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods

Chapter 1

Donovan Pike felt the wind from the bullet as it zipped past by his ear. He hunkered down and increased the throttle. The Zodiac leapt across the uneasy waves.

“They don’t seem inclined to let us leave peacefully.” The speaker crouched down in the big rubber boat. A battered leather satchel was clasped tightly by liver-spotted hands.

Pike smiled. With his free hand he wiped a trickle of blood from his lower lip. The wind whipped his black hair. He stood well over six feet all and had to squat down to make a smaller target for their pursuers. He was thankful the moon was hidden by the clouds. At least that was in their favor.

“Professor, when we reach the Triton, it won’t matter,” Pike said. “Hang on to that bag and keep your head down.”

As if to punctuate Pike’s words, more gunfire sounded in the distance. Something shattered on the Zodiac’s instrument panel, and Pike responded by pulling the wheel hard to starboard. After a moment he turned back to port, continuing a weaving motion that he hoped would increase their odds. The night was dark and he wanted to make it difficult for the men who followed them to take aim.

The Triton, Pike’s personal yacht, was waiting less than a mile into the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Somalia. That was the plan, and Pike never doubted that Pug and his crew would be ready.

Pike yanked a small radio from a mount next to the wheel. The device didn’t have a tremendous range, but the Triton should be close enough to hear him.

“Pug, we’re coming in and we’ve brought some friends. I need you and the boys up top to give us some cover.”

Pike waited a few seconds for a response. When none came, he keyed the radio a second time.

“Pug? You read?”

The only answer was another bullet flying overhead.

“Donovan, is there a problem with your ship?” Professor Jefferson Chapin’s voice was relaxed, even though he squatted in a wet boat while bullets zipped past him. Pike knew if there was more light, his old mentor would look tired and ill.

“We’ll see in a minute,” Pike said. He was committed to protecting Professor Chapin, even though the man would be dead in a matter of months, if not weeks. When he asked Pike to accompany him to Somalia, Chapin had disclosed his illness and his prognosis.

Chapin had been an anchor for Pike several years ago when the younger man had been lost and without purpose. The two bonded over a mutual love for Chapin’s areas of expertise: history and archeology. Chapin’s passion had always been the early Somali civilization, one of the oldest in the world. Somalia had an ancient written language that had never been deciphered. But that was about to change. Professor Chapin had been contacted by a source within the country who claimed to have what had been a mere rumor for decades, a Rosetta stone for the ancient Somali language. Like the original stone discovered in the 19th century, this artifact was said to be inscribed with a dedication written in not only the ancient Somali language but also in Greek and Egyptian, two cultures the early Somalis regularly traded with.

Chapin’s contact couldn’t leave the country. But he would be happy to meet Chapin and turn over the artifact for a reasonable consideration in the form of gold.

Pike and Chapin landed on Somalia’s northeastern shore at night and easily found Chapin’s contact, a small wiry man with the nervous demeanor of a drug addict. The transaction went smoothly until the following night, when it was time to depart. Chapin’s contact apparently shared the news of his recent good fortune, and the local warlord wanted his share.

Pike and Chapin were ambushed as they approached the hidden Zodiac. The attackers were four in number. Pike dispatched two with his favorite weapon, the reliable M1911 automatic, before the gun was knocked from his hand and lost in the darkness. Pike had to subdue the remaining two thugs with his fists before he and Chapin could put out to sea. Pike ended up with sore knuckles, but was filled with the exhilaration he always got when faced with physical danger.

“Donovan, I fear our ‘friends’ are growing closer,” Professor Chapin said.

Pike risked a glance behind him. Less than a hundred yards away, their pursuers were in a cigarette boat, that favorite of drug runners back in the Miami Vice era. Ordinarily, the fiberglass go-fast boat would easily catch the Zodiac. Pike suspected this particular craft had been poorly maintained. And the Zodiac was faster than the standard model, thanks to some engine modifications by Pug.

Despite the gloom, Pike was pretty sure the cigarette boat only carried two men. Two armed men. From their silhouettes, he suspected the Somalis had a couple of old bolt action rifles. Old but reliable. Those .22 caliber rounds weren’t fancy, but they would get the job done if they hit the right spot.

“Sit tight, Professor. Our salvation is dead ahead.”

The Triton’s running lights were visible just just off the Zodiac's bow. Even if the radio was dead – which seemed unlikely – Pug and the others should be on deck watching for him.

The guns of the Somali thugs grew silent. They, too, had spotted the Triton, and were likely waiting to see what kind of response was coming from the yacht.

“Professor,” Pike said, “when I come to a stop, lay flat and put that satchel with the artifact over your head. Don’t move until I say it’s okay.”

“Whatever you say.”

The running lights provided enough illumination for Pike to get a fair idea of the location of the Triton’s ladder. He jerked the wheel and threw the engine intro reverse. In one motion, he put the Zodiac into neutral, then launched himself at the ladder.

He was only off by a few inches. He grabbed the right side of the ladder with his left hand, swung his body over and scampered up the rungs. Within seconds he was on the main deck. It was empty.

He would have to worry about the crew later. Pike flipped up the seat of a bench and removed two objects.

The first was an HK417 assault rifle, capable of firing 600 round per minute. Pike didn’t plan to waste that much ammo on his pursuers. He stood quietly for a few seconds. The Somali pilot killed his engine. In the stillness of the night Pike heard the water lapping against the fiberglass hull of the smaller boat and the furtive whispers of two men.

He fired a short burst across what he hoped was the bow of the boat, then fell to the deck and rolled to his left. He popped up six feet away and peeked over the rail in time to see the muzzle flashes as the Somalis returned fire. Bullets smacked against the Triton’s superstructure very close to where Pike had been standing.

Now that he knew the position of his enemy Pike lifted the other object he had removed from the bench. The RKG-3 anti-tank hand grenade wasn’t a very sophisticated weapon but it was brutally effective.

Pike raised the cylindrical device to his mouth, grasped the pin between his teeth and pulled. He hurled the Russian-made grenade into a high arc, where it was instantly lost in the darkness. He knew from experience that the tiny four-panel parachute had opened and the RKG-3 was drifting down toward the cigarette boat. Pike dropped to the deck again.

Within seconds the night was ablaze with a spectacular light, followed almost instantly by the hollow thump of an explosion. Small pieces of debris slapped against the Triton’s hull.

Pike ran back to the bench. He removed two flares, ignited them and tossed them over the rail.

The Zodiac appeared to be untouched. Beyond it, the water’s surface was covered with the wreckage of the cigarette boat.

“Professor! You okay?” he called.

“As well as can be expected,” Chapin answered. “Permission to come aboard?”

“Not just yet,” Pike said. “Hang tight.”

Pike retrieved the assault rifle. He carefully stepped through the aft entrance to the salon. The large room was empty. He moved to the next door and entered the galley.

The Triton’s galley was open and comfortable. When Pike had the yacht built, he knew he would be spending most of his time here with a small crew, and he wanted that time to be enjoyable. The galley was outfitted with a state of the art kitchen, a massive oak dining table and large, study chairs.

Tied into four of those chairs were his crew. Short, barrel-chested Pug Benson, the Maynard twins and Andre Romanov, the ship’s chef, were gagged with duct tape. Their arms had been secured behind them to the back of the chair by the type of plastic ties used by law enforcement.

“Easy with that gun, boy,” a gruff voice said.

Four figures stepped forward. They had been huddled together in a dark corner of the room. Dressed all in black, each man’s tunic was adorned with an insignia, the silhouette of a black bird in flight over a scarlet, stylized letter R.

The speaker was older than Pike. His steel-gray hair was worn in a crewcut. He had a scar beneath his left eye.

Pike knew him well.

“Thank God it’s you, Drake,” Pike said. “From the smell in here, I thought Andre let the meat spoil.”

Drake smiled. “We came to take you home, Donny.”

“No thanks,” Pike said.

“The boss is very insistent.”

“When you get back you can tell her to go to hell.”

“She said we couldn’t mess you up,” Drake said. “She didn’t say anything about your playmates.” He removed a handgun from his holster and placed it against Pug’s head.

Drake’s other men produced their own guns, which they used to cover the other three members of the Triton’s crew.

Pike's pulse throbbed in his neck. This was his boat, and he was strongly tempted to unleash hell with a gentle squeeze of the trigger. Damn the consequences.

He drew in a breath before lowering the assault rifle to the deck.

“Okay, I’ll go,” he said. “But I owe you a serious ass-kicking.”

To Be Continued

© 2010 Mark Justice

So It Begins

Welcome again to Pulp Nocturne.

I grew up with the pulp adventures of Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger. I even published a Doc Savage fanzine with a high school friend, back in the 70s. In that one issue I began a Doc Savage pastiche novel which, thankfully, remains unfinished and forgotten.

I moved on to different forms of fiction, but I always came back to the pulps, having discovered G-8, Operator #5 and The Spider. I also enjoy modern pulp fiction, particularly the works of Clive Cussler and, more recently, James Rollins.

When I started writing for publication, it was initially in the horror field, with an occasional foray into science fiction. As in my reading, though, I came back to the pulps.

I plan to use this blog to serialize new pulp fiction. Some of the stories will have a contemporary setting, like our initial offering. A future project will be set in the blood and thunder 1930s pulp world.

Regardless of the era, my goal is to bring you tales of two-fisted adventure, venomous villains and larger-than-life heroes.

I hope you have fun with the stories. I know I will.

Thanks to Walt Hicks for the name of this blog. Walt came up with the Pulp Nocturne moniker for an aborted project we were both involved with. He graciously allowed me to use it here.