In this hardboiled science fiction thriller, Juno, having been booted off the police force, is barely getting by as a low-level bagman and photographer for the scandal rags. But it gets worse: his wife is in critical condition at the hospital and Juno doesn't have the money to pay her bills. Desperate for cash, Juno agrees to help his ex-partner, Maggie Orzo, solve a difficult case. A young girl sits on death row, accused of brutally murdering her own parents. She's confessed to the murders, but Maggie isn't buying it, so she sends Juno out to get some answers.
Working with Maggie, Juno comes into contact with her new partner, Ian. As dirty as they come, Ian is eager to rise in the police force no matter what the cost. Somehow Ian, a vicious serial killer, and the girl on death row are all connected. It is up to Juno and Maggie to find out how before more people die.
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WARREN HAMMOND lives in Denver, Colorado. Ex-KOP is his second novel.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
November 29, 2788
I relished the brandy as it burned down my throat. The knot in my stomach was acting especially hateful. I sucked down a few more gulps to dull the cramping in my gut. I didn’t feel sufficiently soothed, yet I capped and pocketed the flask.
My knees were hurting so I readjusted, trying to find a comfortable position in the cramped closet. I bumped the door, knocking it slightly out of position. I pulled it back in, just short of closed, perfectly slivered for my camera.
I reached for my flask, but stopped when I heard footsteps in the hall. My heart began to race despite the alcohol’s tranquilizing effect. I resisted the urge to hold my breath; I just kept breathing-nice and natural. I heard a key in the door. I pushed my eye up to the crack and saw the two of them enter. Mildew tickled my nose, and I had to hold my breath to keep from sneezing. Clothes fell to the floor-first a halter top, then a mini, and finally panties. She took a seat on the bed, wearing nothing but a strained smile. She moved her hands up her stomach, across her bare breasts, and up into her hair. She looked nervous; her movements came off stilted. What was supposed to look erotic wound up looking clumsy and silly. Her nervousness started to infect me. I was afraid that I’d misjudged her, that she wasn’t ready for this. My pits prickled with sweat.
He came into view and stood in front of her. “Lay back,“ he said. “I want to look at you.”
The hooker lay back, putting her hands behind her head. “You like what you see?” She tried to sound playful, but the words came out forced and anxious.
He studied her like a monitor sizing up its prey. He didn’t look at her; he looked through her, just a piece of meat. “Spread,“ he said with a malicious vibe.
She parted her legs for him, but kept her knees nervously angled inward, like she was about to submit to a cold-fingered gyno.
I focused on my task. I used my left hand to pull the black plastic away from the lens and immediately covered the lens back up. A short exposure was all I needed. I used my shaking right hand to turn the metal rod three times then pulled the plastic away again.
He took off his clothes, slowly, methodically, leering at her all the while. As he stripped, he flexed his sculpted offworld body. Pecs and abs rippled under baby-smooth skin. He told her to watch as he pulled out his megamember. She oohed and aahed, her voice cracking uneasily on the ah. I could tell she didn’t like the way he was looking at her. She wasn’t ready for this, dammit. He, on the other hand, was getting off on her discomfort, the two of them stiffening in very different ways.
I kept up my silent picture-snapping routine-my left hand acting as a shutter, and my shaky right advancing the film three twirls at a time. Uncover-cover-twirl-twirl-twirl. These pics were going to score some serious cash. A high-powered offworld lawyer doing a small-time hooker. I hoped he was married. It would only increase the value.
He crawled on top of her, his offworld-white skin looking pale as he thrusted within the clutches of her Lagartan-brown limbs. I uncover-cover-twirl-twirl-twirled to the rhythm of their sex.
I had spent half a day taking test shots until I got things just right-the lighting, the camera angle, the shutter speed, not at all easy with this improvised camera. The lens was salvaged from a real camera, but I had everything else special-built to my specs-no motors, no flash, no zoom, no power of any kind. Back when I was a cop, my partner and I once surveilled an offworlder with a flycam. We thought the thing was undetectable. We had it flying in the shadows, but the bitch had some shit wired into her brain that detected the thing at fifteen meters. It was only the size of a coin for chrissakes. I wound up in the hospital with a fried hand that healed up nicely except for the fact that two decades later it started shaking like a fucking leaf- some kind of nerve damage.
We should’ve known better. Trying to match an offworlder’s tech was a fool’s game. Us Lagartans were so outclassed it was a joke. The only way to beat an offworlder was to go low tech. The arrogant SOBs were so caught up in their souped-up gizmos that they couldn’t imagine how they could be hurt by anything that didn’t have a power source. I kept uncover-cover-twirl-twirltwirling.
He was pumping quickly now, and she was rocking her hips, earning her fee. His hands slid up her sides, across her chest, and settled threateningly around her throat. She tensed, her hips stopping their grinding. He began to caress her throat, slow and gentle. She responded with tentative hip undulations. I thought he was going to choke her out, but he didn’t. He just kept the threat going as he pistoned harder and faster.
What the hell? His tech-enhanced skin shifted from offworld white to red-bright red. I watched as his feet shrunk down to hooves. Demonic cackles rang around the room as horns sprouted from his head. He completed the transition in seconds, topping it off with a pair of goat legs and a goatee. She was in a full panic now. Shit! Calm down! He was just getting his kicks, making her think he was the devil.
She sucked in panicky breaths, her chest heaving under his thrusts. She turned her head, her eyes reaching for me. Oh shit! I wrapped my hands around the camera, ready to bolt. Don’t say it! She tried to call my name but thankfully couldn’t get out more than a fear-strangled grunt. He tickled her throat with black fingernails that were more claw than nail. He wrapped his hands around her throat. She was jerking her body, trying to get out from under him. He wasn’t choking her; her squealing proved it. He just got off on the thought of it.
Get a fucking grip! She paid no heed to my unvoiced order, her mind probably freaked on the thought of giving birth to some demonic spawn. She scratched his shoulders and his back, but the wounds self-healed instantly. Her face was so panic-stricken red that it practically matched his hellfire skin. Relax, relax, relax, I told her in my head as I kept uncover-cover-twirl-twirl-twirling. He’s not really the devil. He’s just another perverted offworlder. Just hang in there a little longer.
He grunted through a final plunge and collapsed onto her. She coughed and wheezed through the tail end of her hyperventilation. She tried to wriggle out from under him
Then I heard her scream, “Juno! Juno! Get him off me!”
SHIT! He was up in an instant, scanning the room, his face full of satanic fury. She rabbited for the door. I heard the door fly open. Fucking hell! She calls out my name and then she ditches me. My hands were on the camera, my shaky right out-of control gyrating. He went for the bathroom first-lucky, very lucky. I burst out of the closet and sprinted for the hall; it was only a couple meters.... Lucifer spun on me; his hand went up, taking aim. Needles came firing out of his fingertips. I heard the snicks as they stuck into the wall behind me. I busted out the door, the tripod hitting the doorjamb and collapsing onto my fingers. I ignored the pain and surged for the elevator across the hall. The damn hooker was already onboard, and she had the doors closing. I paid good money to have that elevator waiting for me. I slammed my body between the closing doors, momentarily sticking, and then falling through, only my foot still outside. I yanked my foot painfully through doors that slapped shut an instant later. I looked back, seeing needles bounce off the glass doors as the elevator began to descend.
Before I got a chance to breathe, she was all over me, slapping and scratching, nails and hair. Staying on the floor, I used the makeshift camera and tripod to fend off the worst of her adrenaline-fueled attack. The thrill of the escape made a smile break across my face. I couldn’t help it. Mistaking amusement for mockery, the whore intensified her attack. I covered my face as best I could and succumbed to the beating, my smile continuing to widen.
The elevator finally opened onto the lobby. I peeked through the hooker’s blows and saw a tour group gawking at the naked woman beating on the old guy. A couple smacks later, she, too, noticed the onlookers and plastered her naked body against the elevator wall. Security was approaching- must’ve spotted us on the elevator’s cams.
I stood up, grinning from ear to ear on a close-call high. My smile wilted when I spotted a set of needles embedded like darts in the sole of my shoe. No, no, no! Panic struck like lighting. My lungs seized. My stomach went to lead. I frantically checked my legs and ankles to see if any of the filament-sized needles had gotten through. I yanked off my shoes and looked inside them to see if any of the needles had penetrated through the leather-nope. I whirled around, using the mirrored elevator walls to search for the telltale sparkle of a needle. Looks clear... calm down. I checked again... And again... And one more time. Finally satisfied, I forced oxygen into my starving lungs and wiped my sleeve across my brow. Not wanting to touch the needles, I scraped my shoe over the gap between the elevator and the floor until they safely fell free. If one of those things had gotten through, it would’ve infected me with fast-acting plague that would’ve brought me a medieval death inside thirty minutes.
Security had the hooker wrapped in a blanket now, and they were hurrying her out of the lobby. I made for the back exit. Security didn’t try to stop me. I paid them well.
Excerpted from Ex-Kop by Warren Hammond.
Copyright © 2008 by Warren Hammond.
Published in October 2008 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured ...
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