Today we have a sneak peek from the thriller by Lance Charnes: South.
Life is cheap and hard in the America of 2032. Fugitive FBI agent Nora Khaled and her family must escape the detention camps holding over 400,000 American Muslims. Ex-coyote Luis Ojeda must repay a crushing debt to the Pacifico Norte cartel. Luis’ task: lead Nora into civil war-wracked Mexico. But when the FBI accuses Nora of terrorism, Luis learns her real motive for heading south: she has proof that the nation’s recent history is based on a lie that reaches to the government’s highest levels. Success may set Luis – and the truth – free; failure means disappearing into a black-site prison…or a gruesome death for them all.
Here is an excerpt from South…
SATURDAY, 25 MAY
Luis Ojeda scanned his binoculars along the rusty sixteen-foot fence to the dirt road’s visible ends. Nothing. A dead floodlight at the curve over the arroyo left a patch of twilight in the line of artificial day. The lights on either side leached all color from the night.
The patrol was late. He’d been out here face-down in the dirt for over an hour, waiting for the right time. These desert mountains turned cold after sunset, even this late in a nasty-hot May. He was prepared for it. Army field jackets and winter-weight ACU trousers like he wore now got him through January in the ‘Stan all those years ago. He could wait all night. Usually, the travelers couldn’t.
He glanced downslope over his shoulder. Five brown faces stared back at him, their eyes glowing orange in the floodlights’ glare. This run’s travelers. Each wore a backpack holding everything they could bring with them from their old life to their new one.
The young mother lay at the group’s left edge. Her dark anime eyes stared at him from under a road-weary hoodie. Her little girl—four, maybe five tops—pressed her face into her mom’s shoulder, the woman’s hand wound through her tangled black hair. Luis usually tried not to bring kids this young, but they had nobody else anymore, and when Luis looked into the girl’s eyes he saw his daughter at that age, scared, sad and trusting. So here they were.
Back to the binoculars. Dust shimmered in the floods to the west, then a whip antenna, then a tan cinder block on wheels crawled up the rise. The BRV-O’s six-cylinder diesel clattered off the rocks around them. It swung around the dogleg over the arroyo, chunked along at around fifteen, then trundled east.
Two men heaved out. Tan utilities, helmets with no covers, desert boots: contractors. Mierda. They strolled back the way they’d come, M4s slung across their chests, hands resting on the grips. One lit a cigarette. They stopped at the edge of the pool of dark to look up the pole.
The one not smoking leaned into the radio handset on his shoulder. Then he turned to look straight at Luis.
Luis became a rock. The guard was probably half-blind from the light; Luis doubted the guy could see him in the semi-dark, even if he knew someone was out here. Chances were the gringo was going to take a leak. Then the guard’s hand went for the tactical goggles hanging around his neck.
As the guard seated the goggles over his face, Luis went flat. As long as he didn’t move, his infrared-suppressing long johns and balaclava would defeat the goggles’ thermal vision and make him fade into the petrified sand dune under him.
The travelers didn’t have that gear.