Thursday, December 29, 2011

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 22

To Pike, it seemed as though he regained consciousness immediately.

There was a deep blackness, then he came fully awake. He was in a room of indeterminate size. There was only a single light–a small lamp with a low-wattage bulb on a table to his left.

His hands were behind him, restrained by something. It felt like plastic. Probably riot cuffs.

Someone sat in the shadows in front of him, ten or twelve feet away. It was a man, but Pike could not make out his features.

From the breathing sounds behind him, he was guarded by at least two men. Or perhaps they planned to torture him. Pike didn’t think that he would be killed, at least not yet. They could have easily killed him on the roof.

“No hangover,” Pike said. “It wasn’t chloroform.”

“It’s a pentothal derivative,” the shadowed man said. “Something our people are still fine-tuning. I’ll let them know you appreciate it.” The voice was soft and cultured, with the slightest hint of an accent.

“Sure,” Pike said. He lunge forward and tried to stand up. The chair was heavy, and his shoulders and head were grabbed by unseen hands and he was forced back in his seat.

“Bad behavior will not be tolerated, Mr. Pike,” the voice said from the darkness. “Explain it to him.”

A large form stepped in front of Pike. The guy was at least six-five and built like a football linebacker. The lamp’s weak illumination didn’t extend to the man’s face, though Pike could clearly see one beefy hand slide a set of brass knuckles onto a scarred fist. He tried to roll with the punch to lessen its impact, but he had nowhere to go. The blow caught him on the point of his chin, driving his head back against the chair. Pike had been hit many times, but never like that. Pain overwhelmed his senses. He heard or saw nothing, save a roaring in his ears and bright pinpoints of light behind his eyes. He felt blood dripping from his chin.

It took at least a full minute before he could get his jaw to work. When he was able to move it he said, “Where’s Gemma Ravencroft?”

“Who?” The shadowed man said. He chuckled. “Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Yes, I represent the Brotherhood of the First. I’m going to ask you some questions, then let you go. Unless you piss me off.”

“Why would you let me go?”

The man sighed. “Apparently you intend to piss me off.”

“Where’s Gemma?”

“I could have Lenny punch you again, or you can answer my questions. If you cooperate, I’ll tell you about the Ravenscroft woman. Fair enough?”

“‘Lenny’?” Pike said.

The large man in front of him made a sound deep in his chest.

“What do you know about La Ciudad de los Dioses?” the shadowed man said.


The man was silent for a few seconds. “Excuse me?”

“You drugged me, brought me here and went through this bad-spy movie crap to ask me about a kid’s story?”

“La Ciudad de los Dioses is real, Mr Pike.”

“Bullshit,” Pike said.

“Now, now. It is best that I remain your friend. Tell me what you know about the City of the Gods.”

Pike drew in a deep breath. Gemma, he told himself. Think about Gemma.

“Look, it’s a crazy myth. Like Bigfoot or skinny Oprah. There’s a hidden city full of spaceman ray guns. Blah, blah, blah.”

“Yes,” the man said. “A myth your father believed.”

“He did,” Pike said. “How about you? Did your old man ever do anything crazy?”

The man ignored him. “I know the city is real because our search for it has produced many treasures. Like the back light weapon you encountered. Twice, I believe. And the technology that killed the unfortunate Mr. Swift.”

“You didn’t have to kill him,” Pike said. Now his head throbbed from anger as much as from the earlier blow.

“Mr. Pike, you vex us. How much information do we share? Should we kill you to eliminate a nuisance? Finally, it was decided. We will let you live. For that boon you will work for us.”

“Like hell.”

“We want you to find La Ciudad de los Dioses. We have been unsuccessful so far, but we know of your tenacity and skill. We will continue to search, of course. Another team in the field can only hasten the discovery.”

Pike smiled, even though doing so hurt his face. “Might as well shoot me now, cupcake. I’m not working for you.”

The man crossed his leg. His tapped a finger on the air of his chair. Pike heard the ring on the mans hand striking the wood. Tink. Tink. Tink.

Finally, the man spoke. “I’m sending you home with a gift. Oh, and to show I always keep my word. Ms. Ravenscroft sill lives. However, if you do not immediately do as I ask, she will be killed.”

“Where is she?” Pike demanded.

The shadowed man snapped his finger. Another man–tall and thin–slapped a damp cloth over Pike’s face. The room and everyone in it faded away.

When Pike awoke for the second time, he lay on a familiar couch. Sunlight filtered in from the open door.

He was in the living room of his warehouse.

Pug stood over him, looking like a worried mother.

“Can you hear me?” Pug said.

“How long?” Pike said. His mouth felt as if he’d been gargling sand.

“Almost seven hours since we noticed you were missing. I got a call on my cell 45 minutes ago saying we’d find you here. You were snoozing on the couch.”

Pike’s thoughts were moving at a snail’s pace. Apparently two doses in a row of the Brotherhood’s knockout drug didn’t go down as smoothly as the single treatment. He’d be sure to mention that to his shadowy friend as soon as possible.

That would be the friend who mentioned a gift.

Pike tried to push himself to a sitting position. He raised a few inches from the cushion before his trembling arm gave away and he collapsed. Pug helped him to sit up.

“He said they were sending me home with something. Was there anything on me or on the floor or out front?”

“Oh, we found something,” Pug said.

He stepped aside to reveal a man standing in the doorway. One arm was in a sling and he leaned on a wooden cane.

“Howdy, partner. Rough night?”

Standing to the side of Pug was Early Helton, the pilot who had been gunned down in the jungle.

To Be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another Apology

Three months?

It's really been more than three months since I posted a chapter?

No one is more shocked than me.

Donovan Pike and the City of the Gods has always been a spare-time project for me, one that I did between the zillion other details of my life.

There hasn't been a lot of spare time in recent weeks. So I have to work a little harder at carving out the necessary window to work on Pike's story.

The latest chapter is posted below.

Thanks for sticking with Pike and me. We both appreciate it.

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 21

“What is it?” Pike said.

The young technician was nervous working in front of a lab full of visitors. He seemed especially anxious about the Maynard twins, stealing frequent glances at them and swallowing as he did. His Adam’s apple was the size of a walnut.

“It’s, uh, a stone hand,” he said.

Pike sighed. When his father was apart of the organization, the Ravenscroft laboratories had been among the premiere scientific investigation facilities in the world.

“We didn’t need a lab rat to tell us that,” Pug said.

“Is it part of a sculpture,” Pike said, “or is it some kind of fossil?”

“D-definitely fossil. But of what, I can’t say, not without further examination.”

That was what Elizabeth had basically told them earlier, insinuating that the giant six-fingered appendage was something that Brotherhood of the First had discovered in the recent past. After that, she clammed up. As far as Pike knew, she was roaming the hallways here, possibly making a call to her former Brotherhood cohorts.

Larry Bob Maynard loomed over the technician. “Whatchoo name, boy?”

The young lab worker swallowed again. “Doo-Doo-Dwayne,” he stuttered.

Larry Bob smiled. “Okay, Doo Doo, why don’t you get your ass movin’ on that further examination, yo?”

Dwayne nodded. He continued nodding as he shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. Finally, he said, “May I go to the restroom, sir?”

“Go ‘head, Doo Doo,” Larry Bob said. The lab tech fled the room, hunched over like a child who was about to mess his pants.

Pike shook his head. As amusing as his friend was, he couldn’t stay in the lab any longer. There were no answers here. He wasn’t any closer to finding Gemma than he had been in Mexico.

He followed Dwayne into the hall.

“Where you headed, boss?” Pug called after him.

“To get some air.” And to ask some questions.

Once in the hallway, he and the nervous technician went in opposite directions. Pike followed discreet signs that directed him to the stairwell. He had some thinking to do, and the laboratory’s roof seemed like a good place to do it.

His head fairly buzzed from a combination of sleeplessness and caffeine. He knew he wasn’t at his best, but there was no time to rest. Pike needed to be on the move, to search for Gemma. He also wanted some answers about his father, a subject that would have to wait.

From the stairs, he heard the metal door to the roof open and he looked up as a slim figure went through the opening.


Perfect. Pike was tired of waiting for something to develop. He didn’t trust the young woman and suspected she knew far more than she was sharing. It was time to press her for information.

He reached the door and yanked it open. Elizabeth leaned on the ledge, her back to him. Dawn was still hours away, but there was enough light from the half-moon to allow them to see each other.

She turned. “Donovan?”

“We have to talk.”

“This isn’t a great time.”

“It never is,” Pike said.

“No, this really isn’t a great time.”

The white-garbed figures must have been concealed behind the small structure that housed the stairwell. There were five of them, all armed with automatic weapons.

“You guys seriously need to upgrade your stealth wardrobe,” Pike said.

He lunged at the closest man, swinging from the hips, and drove his fist into the center of the face. He felt a satisfying crunch as the man’s nose collapsed under the mask. In the faint light, Pike saw a dark stain spreading across the white material, even as he pulled the moaning thug in front of him. He needed a shield against the guns of the Brotherhood, and the man with the flattened nose would have to do.

One of the larger men in white charged at Pike like a linebacker. He spread his arms and launched himself into the Pike’s human shield. All three men tumbled to the rough surface of the roof. It felt like a horse had fallen on Pike. He squirmed his way from beneath the pile. The thug with the flattened nose lay on his back and moaned. The bigger man struggled to his feet. Pike kicked him in the face. He collapsed again on top of the other guy.

The other three Brotherhood agents had their guns pointed at Pike.

Why didn’t they shoot?

“Come on, you bastards,” Pike said, just before the cloth slipped over his face. It was drenched in liquid, something he barely had time to register before his consciousness drifted away.

Well, hell, he thought as the darkness enveloped him.

To Be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 20

It was dusk when they landed at Fort Meyers. Pug radioed ahead for transportation. One of Ravencroft’s big SUVs was parked on the runway. It was empty and the keys were inside.

Pug and Andre climbed in the front. Pike was in the back with Elizabeth, so they could continue their discussion from the flight home.

“It’s a waste of time,” she said. “I’ve been to that facility. There’s nothing there.”

Pike nodded.

“So you believe me?”

“Sure,” he said. “But I have to point out that Jimmy Swift told me the same thing about the Brotherhood place down in Mexico. Right before he turned to stone.” He smiled.

Elizabeth paled. She remained silent for the remainder of the drive to Pike’s residence.

After Pike cleared the security measures, the four of them entered the large warehouse. Pug and Andre headed to the armory.

“Where’s the bathroom?” Elizabeth said. She looked like she was going to be sick.

Pike gave her directions. After she took off, the sound of a big engine came from outside.

“They’re here,” Pug said.

In a moment, they were joined by the final two members of Pike’s crew, Travis Maynard and Larry Bob Maynard, jokingly called “the twins” because of their identical surnames. Travis was tall and black, and dressed like an accountant. Larry Bob was white, big as a barn, hailed from Geogia and wore more gold chains than a Rolls Royce full of rappers.

“Good to see you, Donovan,” Travis said.

“Word,” Larry Bob added.

Pike embraced both of them, then explained the situation. The five men were mostly silent as they loaded handguns and shotguns into the SUV and the classic Impala belonging to Larry Bob.

Elizabeth returned from the restroom just as the weapons were stowed away.

“Yo, little mama.” Larry Bob grinned at her, revealing four gold teeth. With her face scrunched up in disgust, she moved closer to Pike.

He introduced the pair.

“Am I staying here?” she said.

Pike shook his head. “We may need you there. After we secure the facility, we’ll bring you in.”

“Wait,” she said. “What if the brotherhood, uh, secures you?”

Larry Bob hefted his Pancor Jackhammer automatic shotgun. “Can’t happen, yo. We gone blow up they shit.”

Travis rolled his eyes. “Lord, help us.”

Pike and Pug laughed. Andre concentrated on sharpening his knives.

Pike herded them into the vehicles. He, Pug and Elizabeth took the SUV, while the rest rode in the Impala.

As they turned onto Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Pug said, “Hey, boss, does it bother you that these Brotherhood yahoos have a base 20 miles from your door?”

“A little,” Pike said.

That was the sum total of the conversation until they reached the warehouse on Sanibel Island. It was smaller than Pike’s place, sitting in the middle of a block of similar structures within sight of the Sanibel lighthouse. Pug parked about fifty yards away. The Impala pulled in behind them.

“Stay here,” Pike said to Elizabeth. He had Pug leave the keys in the ignition. Pike and his four friends walked to the lighthouse.

“What if she runs off with the truck?” Pug said.

Pike shrugged. “You can sit on Larry Bob’s lap in the Impala.”

“He be like my ventriloquist dummy,” Larry Bob said. “He ‘bout the right size.”

“Bite me,” Pug said.

“The place looks empty,” Travis said.

“Yeah,” Pike said. “Maybe Elizabeth was right.”

“We find out,” Andre said. A long knife with a serrated blade was in his left hand.

“Maynards, you and Andre find the back door.” As they moved away, Pike and Pug approached the front of the structure. Two large garage doors faced the street. Between the big doors was a smaller metal door. A glass window was set in the upper half of the door.

“Got your pry bar?” Pike said.

“I never leave for a petty crime without it,” Pug said.

“This isn’t petty,” Pike said. “Bust it.”

Pug jabbed the metal bar against the glass. The first impact produced a large crack. The second blow knocked out most of the glass. Pug used the edge of the tool to clear the jagged piece from the bottom of the window. Pike slipped his arm through the opening and unlocked the door.

They both stood outside for a moment, waiting for the wail of an alarm.

“Maybe it’s silent,” Pug said. “Wired directly into the police precinct.”

“Oh, goody,” Pike said. They walked through the door. Pike found a panel of light switches on the wall near the entrance. As the large fluorescents came on, Andre, Larry Bob and Travis entered through the back door.

There was a small enclosed space against the rear left corner, probably an office. Otherwise, the warehouse was one big room.

The warehouse was empty, save for a table in the center of the space.

Travis sniffed the air. “They haven’t been gone long.”

Pike smelled cigarette smoke.

Pug stood next to the table. “Looks like they left us something.”

The others joined him. After staring at the object on the table for a long minute, Pike said, “Somebody get the girl.”

“I’ll do it,” Larry Bob said. “She into me.”

Nobody laughed.

In a minute, he returned with Elizabeth.

“What? Did you find something?” she said.

Pike stepped aside to give her an unobstructed view of the item on the table.

It was a stone hand. It might have been chopped from the arm of a very large statue. The hand was twice the size of Andre’s, and he possessed the biggest mitts among Pike’s crew.

The stone hand also had a thumb and five fingers. It ended in a jagged stump just below the wrist. The end of the stump showed bone and, Pike presumed, veins or arteries.

He thought of the way Jimmy Swift had died. If Pike had cut off Jimmy’s stone hand, it might have looked like this.

If Swift had been a six-fingered giant.

“Tell me that’s fake,” Travis said.

“No,” Elizabeth said. “It’s not”

To Be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 19

Pike embraced his oldest friend.

“Good to see you, you old bulldog.”

“Aw, don’t get all sentimental on me,” Pug said. He stepped back from Pike, removed his ever-present Cincinnati Reds ball cap, and bowed in the direction of Elizabeth.

“And you, my dear, are a vision of loveliness. Percival Thaddeus Benson, at your service.”

“Percival?” She seemed perplexed by the short man.

“My mother drank,” he said with a shrug. “In any case, you don’t have to worry about hanging out with my backwards friend any more. Donovan has never been kissed, so he’s a little shy around the ladies. But have no fear; a real man has arrived.”

Elizabeth glanced at Pike, who rolled his eyes.

The passenger door of the chopper opened and Andre Romanov unfolded himself from the cabin. The tall man was the chef on Pike’s yacht, but he was also one of fiercest warriors Pike had ever fought alongside. Pike specifically recalled an incident in a seedy bar in Myanmar, when Andre dispatched four opponents with a broken beer bottle.

“Hey, Mister Pike,” Andre said. His eastern European accent was gradually fading, thanks to the influence of Pug.

Pike shook Andre’s hand. “Thank for the save, pal.”

“Pug did the driving,” Andre said. “I just shoot.”

“Good shooting,” Pike said. “Not to sound ungrateful, but what are you doing here?”

“We were bored,” Pug told him. “Sitting around Florida with nothing to do is fine if you’re, like, 90. I still have some friends at Ravencroft. They told me about Drake checkin’ in. So me and Andre caught a ride to Mexico.”

“Not on that,” Pike said, nodding toward the Apache.

“Naw. I, uh, borrowed a little jet from Ravencroft,” Pug said. “Hey, after the way they jumped us back in Somalia, they owe us.”

“Where did the chopper come from?”

“Oh, that,” Pug said. “See, there’s a Mexican girl who’s brother is in the military...”

Andre sighed loudly.

“...and she always told me if I was down this way and needed anything to give her a call.”

Pike turned to Elizabeth. “He wasn’t joking about being a ladies man.”

The petite archeologist stared at Pike’s short companion with something like amazement etched upon her pretty face.

“Oh, and boss,” Pug added, “we’ll need to reimburse the brother for the ordinance.”

Pike shook his head. He wasn’t a Ravenscroft, but thanks to his father, he had access to a good chunk of the family fortune as part of his inheritance. He also had to admit that the military chopper had come in very handy.

“Anything you need to pick up before we take off?” As Pug spoke, he kept his eyes of the demolished house. “I’d like to get out of here before I have to see–well, shit.”

Pike followed his gaze. Drake walked across the lawn toward them. His face and sling were blackened with soot, but his posture was ramrod straight.

Elizabeth stepped behind Pike. She gripped his shoulders and tried to make herself appear small.

“It’s okay,” Pike said. “He won’t hurt you.”

“But I saw him kill that man.”

Drake stopped in front of them. He looked first at Pug, then Andre. A thin smile twisted the corners of his mouth.

Andre raised his fist, which clenched a knife with a long serrated blade. “Let me give you a bigger smile, govniuk.”

“That’s Mr. Govniuk to you,” Drake said.

Pug glanced at Elizabeth. “Why is she cowering from tall, old and crewcut here? He threaten to kiss her?”

“She says she watched him murder Jimmy Swift,” Pike said.

“Jimmy? The mook who never won a hand a poker?” Pug narrowed his eyes. “You killed an old poker buddy, Drake.”

“Nope,” Drake said. “Not me.”

“He’s lying,” Elizabeth said from her place of sanctuary behind Pike.

Drake didn’t respond.

“Well?” Andre waved the knife at Drake. “You got something to say?”

“Yep.” Drake walked past them in the direction of the road. “Adios.”

“Where’s he going?” Pug said. “It ain’t like there’s a motel close by.”

“I don’t care,” Pike said. “I need to get back to Florida.”

“We can make that happen. What’s on the agenda?”

Pike started in the direction of the chopper. Elizabeth trailed him like a shadow.

“We’re going to make a house call on the Brotherhood of the First.”

To Be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 18

A split second before the wall exploded Pike grabbed Elizabeth’s wrist and pulled her into the hallway.

He’d instantly recognized the signature flash of a helicopter-launched missile. This was a military attack, or an assault by someone with access to military weapons.

His ears rang from the explosion, and the back of his neck stung from some kind of shrapnel. There was no time to check it now. He towed the petite archeologist through the hall. Behind them, there was another explosion. Several framed photographs fell from the walls. Plaster dust from the ceiling coated their heads like snow.

“Nugget won’t be happy about this,” he said. His voice sounded like it was coming from under water.

“What?” Elizabeth said.

Whoever was attacking them intended to bring down the whole house. Pike would have to take his chances outside.

They made their way to the mansion’s foyer. Explosions shook the entire structure. Next to the front door one of Jiminez’s men lay unconscious or dead. A large metal shield, like something out of a Roman gladiator movie, had fallen from the wall onto his head.

Pike knelt to check his pulse. The man was gone. Reaching under the dead man’s jacket, Pike removed a gun. It was a Sig Sauer P220 Combat model with a 10-round magazine. It wasn’t much against missile-firing helicopters but it would have to do.

Pike threw open the door. The sun’s harsh glare was in sharp contrast to the rumbling explosions behind the house and the cacophonous thumping of the chopper blades. He pulled Elizabeth out of the house.

“We can’t stay here,” he said.


He spoke louder. “We have to go. We’re going to run to the jungle, okay?”

She nodded.

With the enemy choppers concentrating on the back of the house, they would have to take an indirect route to cover. Pike would head for the road, then enter the jungle slightly north of where he and Drake had first stumbled onto Jiminez’s property.

“Let’s go.” He released Elizabeth’s hand and they ran.

They had covered less than 40 yards when one of the choppers sailed over the house. The road was at least two hundred yards away. Pike stuck out an arm to stop Elizabeth. He turned and fired at the chopper. One shot cracked the cowling in front of the pilot before the man nosed the craft up. Pike’s other shots bounced harmlessly off the undercarriage.

“Come on,” he said.

They ran toward a long detached carport. The sides were open to the air, but the roof was metal and might offer some protection.

Unless the chopper launched a Hellfire missile at them.

There were only two vehicles parked under the carport: a Mercedes SUV and a Bentley Continental Supersports convertible. Jiminez’s other transportation must have been stored somewhere else. If they were behind the house, they were probably already gone.

“Notice anything about that helicopter?”

“It was white,” Elizabeth said. “Do you think it’s the Brotherhood of the First?”

Pike nodded. “I think whoever killed Swift called in the air strike.”

“Your friend?”

“For the last time, Drake is not my friend,” Pike said. “Let’s get behind the SUV. Try to keep it between you and the chopper.”

They heard the Brotherhood’s helicopter hovering overhead. Then came the chattering of automatic gunfire. Bullets pierced the carport’s roof and shredded the top of the small convertible.

“Slide under the truck,” Pike ordered.

They both crawled under the SUV. Elizabeth fit easily. The space was cramped for Pike’s large frame, but he made it.

Once again, gunfire rained down on the carport. He heard the metal tearing into the roof of the SUV.

“What are we going to do?” Elizabeth said.

Pike wasn’t sure. He only knew that if was going to die it wouldn’t be on his back, hiding under a drug lord’s Mercedes.

When the gunfire ceased, he said, “Stay here.”

He pulled himself out from under the truck and climbed to his feet. He checked the magazine of the Sig Sauer. Six shots remained. If he chose his targets carefully, he might be able to do some damage. He stepped out of the carport’s cover just as the sound of the chopper blades doubled.

Both Brotherhood choppers were hovering over his position. They looked like Russian KA-52s, the attack helicopter of the air force there. Both were painted white. Pike couldn’t see any more missiles. Maybe all of the heavy stuff had been used on the house.

One of the KA-52s came closer to the ground. The cowling in front of the pilot was unmarked. So this was the second craft. Pike waved a hand in greeting and smiled. Two men were in the craft. One pilot and one weapons man, he guessed.

“Hey! How’s it going?” Pike shouted.

Then he raised the Sig Sauer P220 and emptied it into the pilot’s cabin. The cowling starred, then shattered. The gunner slumped in the seat. Pike saw blood spread across the chest of his white jumpsuit.

The pilot yanked the stick, and the chopper rose into the sky.

Pike tossed the empty gun away as the other helicopter opened fire again.

But the gunfire instantly stopped.

Pike heard the roar of an engine and felt the vibrations of another helicopter rotor. He shielded his eyes with his hand and looked to the north.

The new arrival was a black AgustaWestland Apache, the British version of the U.S. Army’s AH-64. The Apache fired a missile. The Brotherhood chopper vanished in a ball of flames.

Pike stepped back under the flimsy protection of the carport as metal and flaming fuel and body parts fell to earth.

He heard the distinctive sound of the other KA-52 growing fainter. The other Brotherhood pilot was fleeing.

The black Apache landed lightly on the expansive front lawn. When the rotors stopped turning, the pilot’s door opened.

The man was short, but built like a fireplug. An unlit cigar was clenched between his teeth.

He removed the stogie and smiled at Pike.

Pug Benson said, “Boss, is this a good time to ask for a raise?”

To Be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 17

Pike touched Swift’s shoulder. The shirt had the texture of rough stone.

Pike, a man who spent his life in perpetual motion, was stumped. This was beyond anything in his experience.

Seconds earlier, Swift had been alive and providing useful information. What happened in the brief time Pike was out of the room?

Drake stepped through the open doorway, adjusting the sling on his wounded arm.

“What’s the hell is this?”

Pike turned to face him. “Where were you? I told you to watch him?”

“Just a minute. You told me not to let him leave. I had to take a leak, so I cuffed him to the table.”

Pike ran a hand over his short, black hair. He heard commotion from another part of the house. Footsteps were headed his way.

Drake moved closer to the thing that had once been Swift. He leaned forward and studied the texture of the remains. “Looks like stone.”

“Thanks,” Pike said. “Big help. Really.”

Drake ignored him. “What could do this to a man?”

That was the question that gnawed at Pike. “You didn’t run into a woman with snakes for hair?”


“Never mind.”

Someone had done this to Jimmy Swift. Someone in this house. But how had it been done? Was it a disease? Another futuristic weapon?

“I am tired of this damn Brotherhood,” Pike said.

Two men stepped into the room. Once was a bodyguard Pike had never seen. He was nearly seven feet tall. The other was Jiminez.

“What have you done?” Jiminez said.

“I didn’t do that,” Pike said, poiting a thumb in the direction of Swift’s granite-like corpse.

When he saw the shock of Jiminez’s face, Pike realized Nugget had not been talking about Swift.

“Madre de Dios.”

“I saw who did it.”

They all turned to the voice in the hallway. Elizabeth Crassberg stepped forward. Her skin was pale and her eyes were wide with fear. She pointed a trembling finger at Drake.

“He did it.”

Drake’s left eyebrow raised a quarter inch, but he otherwise did not react.

“He did what?” Pike said.

“He killed him. The man who saved me.” A sob broke from Elizabeth’s throat, and she covered her face with her hands.

Pike stared at Drake. “Well?”

“She’s wrong. She’s making it up or she mistook someone else for me.”

“You’ve always been a dick,” Pike said, “but a traitor...”

Drake made a noise that might have been a chuckle. It sounded like a rusted hasp on a ancient door. “If you’re worried that someone here works for the Brotherhood, then why not take a look at the gal that, you know, actually works for the Brotherhood?”

Jiminez cleared his throat. “This is very heart-warming, amigos, but I have a bigger problem.”

Pike heard the unmistakable thump of rotors. Choppers. At least two, maybe more.

“Who is that?”

“You tell me,” Jiminez said. “Your friend uses my phone and we have incoming. Is it your people? DEA? My competition?”

“He’s not my friend,” Pike said.

The choppers moved fast. The vibration from the rotors could be felt in Pike’s chest.

Outside the window of the football room he saw a flash like the lighting of a very bright flare. He instantly knew it was far more dangerous than simple illumination.

“Move!” he shouted.

The window and surrounding wall collapsed with a thunderous roar.

To Be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Start Looking

My collection Looking at the World With Broken Glass in My Eye is now available for pre-order from Graveside Tales. For a limited time, as they say on TV, the book is only $13.95.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 16

In less than an hour, they were back at Jiminez’s compound, in the big room with the football memorabilia.

Jimmy Swift sat in one of the leather chairs, drinking from a mug of hot coffee. He winced with every sip.

“Got a cut on the inside of my lip,” he said.

“I’ll cry myself to sleep,” Pike said. He sat on the couch across from Swift.

The house was quiet. Elizabeth was nearly hysterical. Jiminez had given her some kind of pill and she was lying down in one of the many bedrooms in the massive house. Somewhere else in the mansion, Smith was being treated by Nugget’s personal physician–quite against his wishes. His boss had insisted.

Drake was in another room, using the satellite phone to make travel arrangements with the Ravenscroft people. When they got a line on Gemma, Pike wanted to be free to take off as soon as possible.

“Where is she?”

“I already told you I don’t know,” Swift said.

“I don’t believe you, Jimmy.”

“Christ, Pike. I’m not lying.”

“Smith wants to kill you. You get that, right?”

“The guy I shot?” Swift smiled.

“I might be able to talk him out of it. Or talk his boss out of it. Jiminez owes me.”

“Whatever. He wants to kill me. You want to kill me. The Brotherhood will definitely kill me when they found out I brought the chick to you. What difference does it make?”

“I don’t get you, Jimmy. You told me you were getting out.”

Smith shrugged. “I was, but something came up. It included a nice bonus and I, ah, owe some money to a certain pushy guy.”

“What was the job?” Pike said.

“Muscle, like always. The Brotherhood has a warehouse on Isla Mujeres, right off the coast. I was supposed to guard the place. I waited around by myself for a day or so, then all these choppers landed, with a couple of prisoners.”


“I guess,” Swift said, “but I didn’t see her. The guy in charge was a real asshole named Gustav.”

“We’ve met,” Pike said.

Swift nodded. “So you know. That’s why I keep my distance. They put somebody in a little room at the back of the warehouse. I know one of the chopper pilots. He filled me in on what happened. That’s how I knew about you. In less than an hour, the choppers took off again, leaving me alone. I busted the lock on the room and took a look around. That’s when I found the other broad.”


“Whatever. I was bringing her back to you, buddy. Maybe she overheard something that will help.”

“You did it out of the goodness of your heart, huh?”

“Hey, I’m tired of all the secrets and weird shit. It’s like being in a cult or something. I thought if I helped out, you could put a good word in for me with Ravenscroft and maybe I could get my old job back.”

Pike stared at Swift for a moment before he replied.

“Back in Florida you mentioned some kind of weapon the Brotherhood had. Was it the black light gizmo?”

Swift grinned. “You saw that?”

“Twice,” Pike said.

“Ain’t that crazy? Like some kinda Martian ray gun.”

“So that was the secret weapon?”

“No way, man. That’s like a tinker toy compared to some of the other stuff they have.”

Icy tendrils seemed to crawl over Pike’s scalp. “Like what?”

“Nope.” Jimmy Swift crossed his arms over his chest. “I can’t give you everything, man. Then you’ll just let that Smith dude shoot me.”

“I won’t let him shoot you, Jimmy.”

“You won’t?”

“No,” Pike said. “I think he wants to beat you to death.”

“Nice. So that’s it?”

“Maybe not, if you get me to this warehouse.”

Swift shook his head. “Waste of time, man. The Brotherhood won’t be there. They’ve got, like, a million of those places. And they’re the most paranoid bunch I’ve ever seen. They’re always moving around, sending out coded instructions, secret passwords, the whole deal.”

“How?” Pike said.

“How what?”

“The coded instruction. How do they get them to you?”

Swift nodded to coffee table. His pockets had been cleaned out. The only thing he had carried was a couple of hundred dollars in a money clip and a Blackberry. Both were on the table.

“Text message.”

Drake came through the door, his usual smirk plastered across his face. “Talked to Florida.”

“The state?” Pike said. “Did you tell them I said hi?”

Drake ignored him. “A jet will be at Cancun in four hours.”

Pike considered that. It would be good to have a destination in mind. He turned to Swift.

“Last chance, Jimmy. I need a location. Someplace to get a line on the Brotherhood.”

Swift shook his head. “I don’t know, man. I hear stuff. There’s supposed to be a lab in the Rockies somewhere. And the head dude has a castle or something in Europe.”

“What about the London headquarters?”

“That place? It’s for the tourists. They hand out brochures and stuff. Other than the place in Florida, I’m not sure–”

Pike stopped him. “What place?”

“It’s a lab, where they work out the bugs in the stuff they find. Two big buildings. The other is a barracks and training facility for their foot soldiers.”

“Where is it?”

“On Sanibel Island.”

One of Jiminez’s men opened the door and gestured to Pike. “Senor, you have a call. Someone named Pug. He said it was muy importante .”

“Drake, don’t let him leave.” Pike pointed at Swift.

He followed the Mexican down the hall, to a small alcove with an old fashioned rotary phone. Why the hell wouldn’t Pug call him on the satellite phone? He lifted the receiver.


He heard only a hum and the crackle of static.


When there was no answer, he hung up and turned around. Jiminez’s man was gone. Pike headed back to what he thought of as the football room.

“Okay, Jimmy, you’re going with us.”

He paused. Drake was gone. Swift’s wrist was handcuffed to the leg of a heavy table next to the leather chair. But whoever handcuffed him needn’t have bothered. Swift wasn’t going anywhere.

Jimmy Swift gazed sightlessly in Pike’s direction. His skin had the look and consistency of gray stone. He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t breathing.

Jimmy Swift was a statue.

To Be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 15

From the van, the man dressed in white swung the cylinder at them swiftly, pouring forth the destructive black beam. There was no way to outrun the light.

“Down,” Pike said. “Hug the ground.”

Pike planted himself as flat as he could against the earth. The thick, black dirt smelled of jungle, which the area had been a couple of decades earlier. The right side of his faces pressed into the shells that surrounded the shrubbery. With his left eye, he followed the progress of the black beam.

It passed mere inches above Pike’s head. This close, the texture of the light was odd. It was glossy, like a sheen of oil on concrete. He hoped it wasn’t going to be the last thing he ever saw.

The black light cut through the shrubbery cleanly, raining leaves and thin branches onto Pike’s head.

He heard Jimmy Swift curse. The sound came from a few feet behind him and to the right.


“Here,” the man’s said, from Pike’s left. By pulling his head toward his chin, Pike could see the top of Smith’s head.

“Don’t let Swift get away.”

“Si.” Smith sounded happy.

“And don’t kill him.”


“At least until I talk to him.”

Smith chuckled. It was an evil little sound.

“Pike, where the hell are you going?” Swift sounded understandably nervous.

Pike didn’t answer. He crouched low to the ground and scrambled toward the road. Within a few yards, he was past the arc of the black light. The man wielding the weapon couldn’t reach Pike without cutting through his own van.

The surviving Federales found cover between vehicles and the rubble of the resort. They opened fire on the van.

Great. He was out of range of the weird ray gun, but now stray shots flew over his head.

When he reached the road, Pike moved until the bulk of the dark van was between his body and the Federales. He sprinted for the van.

The driver must have seen him. A gunshot shattered the passenger window. The bullet missed him, but small shards of glass cut Pike’s cheek and lip. He flattened his body against the side of the van. The metal hummed and vibrated from the black light weapon. Pike wondered about the weapon’s power source and how long it could fire.

A hand holding a gun poked out of the wrecked passenger window. Pike knew he was visible in the passenger side mirror, so it was only a second or two before the driver could shoot. With the black beam spewing death on the other side of the van, and the gunfire of the Federales peppering the van, Pike had few options.

Pike grabbed the hand and the gun. He pulled. The driver’s face slammed into the top of the door frame. The man was Caucasian, dressed in a white jumpsuit like the other members of the Brotherhood. Still holding the man’s gun hand, Pike drove a fist into the center of the driver’s face. The man dropped the gun and slumped back across the seat.

Pike opened the passenger door. The back of the van was filled with unidentifiable machinery. The loudest noise came from a box the size and shape of a large generator. From the front of the box, a thick silver tube connected to the base of the cylinder that fired the black beam. The second white-garbed man was focused on using the weapon to destroy the remaining cops.

“Nice suit,” Pike said. “Way to blend into the night.”

The man with the weapon whipped his heard around to look at Pike. Recognition filled his eyes.

“You,” he said.

“Me.” Pike fired the driver’s gun. The shot hit the man in the right shoulder. He looked vaguely familiar to Pike. Maybe he was an ex-Ravenscroft employee who had defected along with Jimmy Swift.

More shots poured in through the van’s open side door. The man Pike had shot was hit several more times.

“Give me the ray gun and I’ll get you a doctor,” Pike said.

“You’ll...never stop us,” the man said. Bright red stains flowered on his white uniform. He turned the cylindrical weapon toward Pike...

...and kept going until it was pointed at the bank of machinery. The black light arced from the tube and sliced through the equipment.

Pike pushed himself out of the van. He ran for the street.

The explosion lifted him from his feet and pushed him through the air. He crossed his arms over his face and tried to go limp. He struck the pavement with his arms first, then his chest. The air was forced out of his lungs. Something sharp and hot landed on his back. He had enough sense to move his hands to protect the back of his head.

Someone took him by the arms and pulled him to his feet. Pike’s vision was blurred, but he could make out the figures of Miguel Smith and Jimmy Smith.

And he could clearly see the flaming remains of the van. Most of the vehicle’s body was gone, along with the Brotherhood’s mysterious weapon.

To Be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 14

Pike pulled Jimmy Swift to his feet and jammed the barrel of his pistol into the center of the larger man’s back.

“March,” Pike said. “I want to be out of hear before the Federales arrive.”

“Fat chance,” Swift said. It came out as Bat chance.

They climbed the steps to the resort. At the top, Jiminez’s man was standing, albeit weakly, and leaning against the railing.

“You’re alive,” Pike said.

“I’m a tough little wetback,” the man said in Harvard-accented English.

“Not so little,” Pike said. “What’s your name?”

“Miguel Smith.”

“Smith? You’re kidding.”

“That’s what everybody says.” Smith pointed his gun at Swift. “Is this the bastardo who shot me?”


Smith lifted his pistol in preparation to strike it across Swift’s nose.

Swift covered his face with his hands. “Not the nose! Not the nose!”

“Later,” Pike said. “We have to get out of here. The police...”

“Won’t be a problem,” Smith said. The three of them walked through the resort, back to the lobby. Smith kept up pretty well for a man with a gunshot wound. Sirens were sounding as they started back, growing closer, and finally dying out. Law enforcement had arrived at the Imperial Laguna.

By the time the lobby came into sight, the sky was throbbing with red and blue lights. Many of the resort’s occupants were standing on their balconies or peering through their glass patio doors.

“So, is there another way out of here?” Pike said. “We could never slip past them, not with the way you look.” Smith’s shirt and jacket were stained with blood.

“You’re right. No one would believe such a handsome native would be hanging out with two such ugly gringos. But, really, it won’t be an issue.”

Two Federales, sub-machine guns hanging from their shoulders, crouched over the body of Jiminez’s other man. One of them looked up as Pike and the other two men approached. He whispered to his companion and pointed. Both officers stood and unlimbered their weapons.

“Stay here,” Smith said. His pistol stashed under his jacket, he walked toward the two Federales. One hand was raised in the air, the other held his side.

“This day sucks,” Swift said. Sucks came out as suds.

“Jimmy, if they arrest us, I swear to God I’m punching you in the nose again before they cuff me.”

Swift stayed quiet.

Smith returned to them. The two cops stood talking to each other.

“Come on,” Smith said. “We can leave.”

“How did that happen?”

“I’ll explain later.”

The three of them climbed the steps to the lobby, where more Federales stood. Most of them smoked cigarettes and ignored Pike, Smith and Swift. When they reached the parking lot, they found several Mexican Federal Police trucks and more officers smoking and trying not to pay attention to them.

Smith pulled a cell phone from his pocket. He spoke into it for maybe two seconds.

“The car is on the way,” he said.

“So how come we’re not on our way to jail?”

“Mr. Jiminez is very generous to many of our government institutions.”

“Right,” Pike said. “And what about your late friend in there?”

“Mr. Jiminez will pay for a nice funeral and supply his family with a healthy stipend.”

“What about me?” Swift said.

“We’re gong to have a nice conversation, Jimmy, and pretty damn soon,” Pike said.

“Let me talk to him,” Smith said. “I won’t take very long.”

“Easy, buddy,” Pike said. “I think you need a hospital first.”

As they spoke, a black van pulled up in front of the resort. Pike noticed it, primarily because it wasn’t their limo. It was probably the Mexican version of crime scene techs.

The van’s side door opened, and Pike saw a man dressed in a white jumpsuit. Yeah, a crime scene guy.

The man in white picked up a metal tube. The design looked familiar. The man placed it on his shoulder like a rocket launcher.

That was odd.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. Eventually, sparks flashed from the tip of the cylinder.

Black sparks.

Pike knew why he recognized the design.

“Run,” he told the others. “Move your asses.”

He grabbed Swift’s arm and jogged for the topiary at the edge of the drive. Smith was close behind.

“Tell your cops to get out of the way,” Pike said.

Smith shouted something in Spanish. It was too late.

Black lightning roared from the cylinder, followed a dark shaft of light. The light sliced through three of the Federales, cutting them in half. The lower halves of their bodies stood for a moment, as if refusing to acknowledge the end. Then the body parts tumbled to the asphalt, spilling fluids and ropey loops of intestines to the hard surface.

The beam continued to the front of the Imperial Laguna, cutting a swath of destruction through the structure. The path of the black wave of death changed. It moved in the direction of Pike, Smith and Swift.

“You’re right,” Pike said to Swift.


“This day sucks.”

To Be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 13

“Get her back to the chopper,” Pike told Donovan. He didn’t stick around to see if Drake did it.

Pike ran full out, his gun in his right hand. He was already behind the curve in the situation, and if Gemma was in the resort, he wasn’t going to stop until he found her.

He sprinted up the steps to the lobby. The portico opened up into a huge, room with an exquisite marble floor. To the left was a massive counter that must have been sixty feet long. If there was a concierge on duty at three in the morning, he had found a hiding space when the shooting began. The right side of the room was devoted to a bar. There were dozens of tables, and soft music played from speakers mounted in the ceiling. There was no one present here, either.

There was no back wall to the lobby, just open space that provided a view of the hotel rooms and a pool that apparently wound its way through the resort. A dozen steps led down to the edge of the pool. One of Jiminez’s goons – the one who hadn’t spoken – lay on the concrete, curled into a fetal position. Pike didn’t stop to check on him. Another gunshot spurred him on.

The sound of the shot echoed off the concrete walls of the guest quarters, making it difficult to tell how far away it was. So Pike took a straight path, east toward the ocean. The resort grounds were illuminated by streetlights that were constructed to look like Mayan statues.

He ran for more than a quarter mile, though it seemed longer, thanks to the detours he had to take to get around that damned labyrinthine pool. Finally, he reached the edge of the resort property. The concrete turned to sand, and a set of wooden stairs gave access to a beach. Jiminez’s other man, the one who spoke English sat at the top of the steps, leaning against the railing support. He held his left hand against his side. Even in the pale moonlight, Pike could see a lot of blood around the wound and spattering the sand. The man’s eyes were closed and his chin rested on his chest.

Pike knelt next to him. He realized he had never asked the man’s name.

“Hey, you okay?”

The man slowly lifted his head. “Sure, never better,” he said.

He spoke so softly Pike had trouble making out the words.

The man cleared his throat and when he spoke again, his voice had a little more volume.

‘It’s one guy. White man. American, I think. Got a Glock. He ran down those stairs a couple of minutes ago.”

Pike nodded. He didn’t have time for words of comfort, and he didn’t believe the wounded man desired them. He followed the steps down to the beach.

It was a private beach, as it turned out. Beach chairs were stacked by the dozens at the top of a small rise of sand. Below, the Atlantic rolled in and out with a soft, pleasant roar.

There was movement to the right, about 40 yards away. A shadowy figure was tugging at something next to a stack of pedal boats, the kind of plastic contraption Mom and Dad could take out in calm waters to give the kids a ride in the ocean. The man pulled a rubber raft away from the pile of pedal boats. It had a small motor attached. He must have used it to come ashore with Elizabeth, then hid the boat from sight, in case anyone patrolled the beach.

The man used both hands to tug the rubber boat toward the water, so the gun must be stuck in a holster on in the waistband of his pants.

Pike ran again. The soft sand and the ocean’s murmuring masked his footfalls.

The dark figure was at the tide line when Pike stopped six feet away, gun raised.


The man raised his hands. There wasn’t enough moonlight to make out his features, but he was larger than Pike.

“Who are you? Where is Gemma Ravenscroft?”

“Well, hell,” the man said. He talked like he was suffering from a bad cold. Yet the voice sounded familiar.

“Who are you?” Pike stepped closer, and the big man jumped on him.

Pike couldn’t shoot him, not if he had any information about Gemma. Pike landed on his back with the other man on top of him.

Pike’s gun hand was free. He swung the barrel into the other man’s face.

“Shit!” The man rolled off Pike and covered his face with both hands. “Not the nose again! Jesus!”

A cloud moved away from the moon and there was enough light for Pike to see his opponent clearly.

The man who brought Elizabeth to the resort, the man who had vowed he was out of this, was Pike’s old pal Jimmy Swift.

To be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 12

“It’s a trap,” Drake said.

“Probably,” Pike said. They were speaking into the microphones of the headsets they had to wear in the chopper. Even with the earphones, the drone of the engine was nearly overwhelming. “Even if it is a trap, it may be a chance to get Gemma back. I have to try. But you didn’t have to come.”

Drake merely smiled.

Two of Jimemez’s men sat behind them. The drug lord’s personal pilot flew the chopper. He wouldn’t take part in the rescue. The co-pilot’s seat was empty. Pike hoped that space would be occupied by Gemma in just a while. He looked at his watch. 2:40. Pike tapped the pilot on the shoulder.

“Are we going to make it?”

“Si,” the pilot said. He was a small man, younger than Pike had expected. Apparently used to flying with armed men, the man was as calm as if he were riding a golf cart on the back nine.

“Is it me, or does this crate still smell like chicken nuggets?” Drake said.

Pike just looked at him.

“So sue me. I’m hungry again.”

The lights of Cancun came into view. The chopper set down on a rooftop. Pike, Drake and Jimemez’s two men quickly exited.

“Where are we?” Pike said.

One of the other men answered in perfect English. “On a building that belongs to Mister Jimemez. About two blocks from our destination.”

They took an elevator to the lobby. A dark limousine waited for them at the curb.

Pike checked the time again. 2:53.

The limo dropped them off in front of the hotel next to the Imperial Laguna. All the resorts looked the same to Pike, like something a McDonald’s architect thought Mexico should be.

It was 2:58. Pike and Drake moved to one side of the Imperial Laguna’s front drive. The other two men covered the opposite side.

At exactly 3:00 A.M. a woman was shoved out of the dark opening of the lobby. She stumbled across the parking lot, her head and face shrouded in shadows.

Drake pointed a gun a the parking and said, “Go.”

Pike ran, his own gun in his hand. He knew this could be a set up and that he was exposing himself to enemy gunfire, but he didn’t see any other way.

As he neared the woman, he said, “Gemma.”

The woman took a step forward and her head was illuminated by one of the resort’s streetlights.

Her hair was red, but it was a shade or two lighter than Gemma’s. He recognized her face.


Elizabeth Crassberg, the Brotherhood archeologist, looked at Pike as if she didn’t recognize him. There was a large bruise on the left aside of her face. Her eyes were wide, scared.

With his free hand, Pike grabbed one of her wrists.

“Where’s Gemma?”

Elizabeth moaned and twisted in his grip.

“It’s me, Pike. Calm down. You’re safe now.” Of course, she wasn’t. Neither of them were, standing in the open drive with no shelter. One of Jimemez’s men approached, the one who spoke English.

“What do you need?” he said

“Someone shoved her out here. See if you can find him.”

The man nodded and gestured to his colleague. Both men entered the lobby.

As if she had surrendered to her fate, Elizabeth stopped her resistance. She allowed herself to be led to the side of the resort’s entrance.

“Where’s Gemma?” Drake said.

“I don’t know. I hope she can tell us.”

“Who brought her here? Don’t tell me this brotherhood has its headquarters in a damn resort.”

Pike started to answer.

Until he heard the gunshots from the resort.

To be Continued

© Mark Justice 2011


Hi. If you’ve been here before, welcome back. If this is your first exposure to Donovan Pike, thanks for dropping by.

Donovan Pike and the City of the Gods is a pulp adventure novel I began writing last year. It is a work in progress, not a case of pasting in chapters of a novel I have previously completed. I write each installment shortly before it’s posted.

And as you can easily tell, it’s been a while since I wrote a new chapter.

Several events in 2010 derailed my writing output. In 2011, I’m fighting to catch up, move past the things that delayed me in the past and make some progress. If you’re interested in reading a tiny bit more about my last year and my hopes for 2011, I talked about it here.

For what it’s worth, I am committed to finishing Donovan Pike and the City of the Gods. Writing it has been a blast. I will continue to post chapters as often as I can.

Using my time more wisely is a big priority this year. That’s one of the reason I’ve discontinued the Donovan Pike podcast. I know that disappoints a few of you, who have told me that you prefer to listen to the story. If my bucking bronc of a schedule is ever under control, I’ll consider resuming the podcast. Until then, I hope you’ll be satisfied with just the written word.

Thanks for your time. Let’s get back to the action.