BLOOD FLATS: Heart-pounding action in the heart of rural Kentucky! Lee McCabe, an ex-marine and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, must do battle with local narcotics traffickers, mafia hit men, and a lawman with ulterior motives.
Lee walked through the wood-paneled hallway toward the kitchen of his trailer. The trailer was old. Its flooring creaked and groaned beneath his feet.
The trailer was temporary, of course—just like his present job as a lathe operator at the SJR Machine Shop. He had banked a fair amount of his Marine Corps pay, resisting the temptation to spend it on leave like there was no tomorrow, as so many men did—since there might well be no tomorrow for any particular person in a time of war. And the lathe operator job paid decent wages. In the fall he would begin to take evening classes. There was a satellite branch of the University of Kentucky right here in Hawkins County.
It was funny how your power relative to others changed, he reflected, sometimes moving you upward, sometimes pushing you back down the ladder. In the Marine Corps he had been a sergeant, grade E-5, with authority over other men and responsibility for other men’s lives. Now he was a lowly lathe operator. That was all right. In Iraq he had given commands that had brought death—mostly to the enemy, but once or twice to men he was leading, through his own misjudgment of the circumstances, the superior tactics of the enemy, or plain and simple bad luck.
God, I have had enough of giving orders for one lifetime, he thought. From here on out, let me neither take orders nor give them. Let me simply enjoy my freedom.
This was something that civilians seemed incapable of grasping. They all wanted to know what the war had been like—and how it felt to be back; but they gave Lee slightly embarrassed smiles when he told them that it was simply good to be alive and free in a familiar place where no one was taking potshots at you.
No, civilians didn't understand. No matter how circumspect their questions, civilians all wanted to know about the violence. They were practically obsessed with it: Were you in any shootouts? Did you see any al-Qaeda fighters? And always that one unspoken question that no one dared to ask: Did you have to kill anyone?
Lee avoided these questions as much as he could. He simply wanted to reacclimate himself to the ways of peace. He had gotten to know violence intimately, and he wanted no further part of it. And no, he had no interest in telling war stories. Perhaps he would tell them when he was an old man. But he had no desire to tell war stories now. This, also, was an inclination that civilians could not fully grasp, he supposed.
He was in the kitchen when he heard the heavy footsteps in the gravel outside his front door. His body stiffened. Judging by the heaviness of the crunching noises, three to four men were passing by his trailer. They were walking deliberately without any banter or conversation between them.
Lee made an instant connection between these footsteps and the engine he had heard a few minutes ago. He let go of the notion that he could simply ignore the situation. Rational or not, it was bothering him now.
He stepped to his front window and drew the white ruffled curtain back a few inches. There were in fact four of them. He could see their backs now: each one was wearing either a trench coat or a hunting jacket, which didn’t make sense at this time of year. Then Lee noticed an angular bulge inside one of the trench coats. This made the reason for their unseasonable attire immediately apparent.
The men obviously were not planning to pay him a visit. They were headed toward the adjacent lot. The trailer occupied by Tim Fitzsimmons, and his girlfriend, a young woman whom Lee knew only as Jody.
Just past the edge of his own trailer, one of the men briefly turned around, as if making a quick survey of the surroundings. Lee froze.
The man had a dark beard and a bulbous nose. He looked vaguely familiar, though Lee could not place him. When you lived in a small town, there were many people outside your circle of friends and acquaintances whose faces were nevertheless familiar to varying degrees. Probably this man was someone whom Lee had seen around town. He was definitely a local.
The man apparently had not noticed Lee looking out the window. He turned back around and continued walking with his companions.
One of the men pointed to Tim Fitzsimmons’ trailer and gestured to the others. Yes, that was definitely where they were going. Where else would trouble of this kind be headed?