Mob “troubleshooter” Kevin Markinson returns in this thrilling prequel to Lead Poisoning. Kevin Markinson hasn’t been broken… yet. Serving as a Marine sniper in Vietnam didn’t make him snap. Working as a CIA assassin didn’t faze him. Doing time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit was hard, but he managed to keep his tough and cool façade in place.
But when his mob boss decides to break him out of prison, he begins to discover the cracks in his emotional armor as things go from bad to worse. Little fissures open larger stress fractures as first he is injured and then taken hostage by a gang of thugs—along with a troubled teenage boy.
With law enforcement closing in, can Markinson keep himself from falling completely apart long enough to protect the kid and avoid a return trip to prison?
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“An action-packed tale of one man’s search for the truth, and his desperate escape from injustice. It’s a tale of love, hope, and decency in the face of almost-certain death. Kevin Markinson is a truly unique hero, flawed and dangerous, but with an unbreakable strain of nobility that makes this story so compelling.” —Mark Pryor, author, Hugo Marston series and As She Lay Sleeping
“Stress Factures is a fine criminal novel involving society’s outcasts — an accused killer and a young, troubled boy — who help each other and learn from each other as they try to make their way through a hostile world. With twists and turns and fine plotting and characterization, the pace never lets up. Very much recommended!” — Brendan DuBois, author, Fatal Harbor and two-time Shamus Award winner and three-time Edgar Award finalist
“Fugitive Kevin Markinson comes back into the spotlight in this suspenseful story of a father and husband who acts with a moral compass even while trying to save himself from the law. New England noir with a conscience, the prequel to Lead Poisoning is a fast-moving story that keeps you up nights until you finish and leaves you asking, ‘Was he wrongly accused or not?’” Edith Maxwell, award-winning author of ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part, and Speaking of Murder (as Tace Baker)
“Seymour skillfully juggles three storylines, dazzling your attention with Kevin, Sally, and Danny as their paths cross and intersect. Then she fires a shot from the woods.” — Stephen D. Rogers, author, Shot to Death and Three-Minute Mysteries
Kevin let go of the boxcar and jumped, hitting the ground hard, then tucking and rolling down the steep bank. His arm throbbed and his head felt light. It was still too dark to see the blood, but he could feel it running down his left arm to his hand, dripping off the fingers. Fighting the dizziness, he got to his feet and looked around. He should have stayed on the train, but he knew he couldn’t hold on any longer. Bad luck or bad planning had handed him a line of closed boxcars instead of the open and empty ones he’d expected. Because he couldn’t get into the train, he’d ridden this far by hanging on the outside of one of the cars. Better to jump and have a controlled landing than to pass out and fall under the wheels.
His plans had involved getting off in the state park near Staatsburg around two a.m. It wouldn’t be that time yet, because he’d jumped off early. A look at the sky showed no sign of the sun. No kidding. Nothing there but the clear black sky, blanketed with the pinpoint lights of the stars, a few white clouds, and a hazy ring around the half-moon. Something in the recesses of his brain told him that meant rain. Perfect. Then he’d be wet and cold as well as hurt and tired. He shrugged it off. If it happened, he’d deal with it.
He scrambled back up the bank and began to walk along the tracks, following the long-gone train. He twined the fingers of his left hand into the fabric of his tee shirt and grabbed the open wound on the arm with his right hand, applying direct pressure. That brought renewed pain, but he fought it, keeping his head above the rising tide of black nothingness, and forcing himself to keep going.
He’d been alternating between resting and walking when he realized he could hear and smell running water. He took a deep breath, and then slid down the embankment off the railroad tracks, pushing through the brush and wading into a stream. The water came over the tops of his boots and filled them. He cupped his hand and splashed some of the cold water on his face. He gritted his teeth and tried to wash his arm without touching it; there was still a persistent ache from his earlier attempts to stop the bleeding. Then he began to walk in the stream. His feet slipped on the smooth rocks once in a while, but he managed to keep his balance, despite the dizziness and steady ringing in his ears. He was still losing blood; he could feel it oozing around his fingers. No way of knowing how bad it was, but it didn’t matter anyway.
The sun was just starting to cast slivers of light across the sky to his left when he spotted the concrete drainage pipe running under the tracks. It looked like a good enough place to rest. He knew he had to stop for a while, or he would drop, and he didn’t want to rest in the open. Besides the danger of being spotted by someone—as unlikely as that seemed out here in the middle of nowhere—the mosquitoes were becoming intolerable every time he stood still. He studied the culvert for a second or two, then, without thinking, reached out with his left hand to grab the side of the pipe. He had to bite his lip as the pain screamed at him.
He swore out loud, lowered the arm, and closed his eyes for a second. As he clamped his teeth even harder on his lower lip, a fuzzy blackness tried to overtake him; approaching with a loud ringing and making his head feel as though it would float off his shoulders. This time he reached out with his right hand and caught the side of the pipe, steadying himself. It took a few minutes for his surroundings to stop spinning; then he scrambled up into the pipe and collapsed.
# # #
Sally Barnard parked her Volvo in the garage at the Federal Courthouse in southern Manhattan. She looked around as she walked into her office, a large open expanse of desks ringed by filing cabinets set against the wall. The room was empty and dark; most people who worked for the Marshal’s Service didn’t have to be here at this ungodly hour. The smell of coffee was strong though, which meant somebody was here.
A young man with curly brown hair walked into the room with a stack of files. “Right here.”
“How you doing? What’ve we got?”
“New York State Police have asked us to help out on a fugitive task force. The FBI has been called, too.” He handed her a grainy photo. “Blond hair, blue eyes, late forties, broken nose—nasty looking.” Thomas continued. “This guy escaped from an upstate medium security correctional facility this morning just after midnight.”
“Who is he, and why do we care?”
“His name is Kevin Markinson. He’s a cop killer. This is his third escape.”
“But what about Northern District? Why didn’t they call them first? They’re closer, right?”
“It’s on the border. Hudson is in Columbia County, which is in the southern part of the Northern District. The prison officials say he hopped a train headed south, and we’re going on the assumption that he’s actually in Dutchess County at this point.”
“Okay then. Let me put a team together, and we’ll hit the road.”
“I’m right behind you, boss.”
She glanced at the clock. It was nearing five hours since their man had broken out. The State cops were already looking for him. Probably county, too. Yet it would be her responsibility to pull all of the agencies together, start a serious investigation, figure out where the man would be heading, and make sure he was caught. She was in charge here—the veteran of this crew—which meant she was responsible. They were part of the new plan on the part of the US Marshal’s Service to reciprocate help to the State and local authorities that had been helping them for years. They would help, when asked, with violent fugitives or drug related cases. Sally figured they were called in on this case because the fugitive in question had a history of violent and repeated escapes.
Sally looked up from the fax as Elizabeth Doucette walked in. “God, Sally, what the hell are we doing here at this time of the morning?”
“Hey, Liz. Fugitive task force. Upstate. You want in on it or not?”
“I’m in. I just don’t understand why these guys can’t break out in the middle of the day instead of the middle of the night. Did Thomas make the coffee?”
Sally nodded, sipping at a mug of what could only be described as thin mud. She would add a packet of hot chocolate mix to every cup, but even that wouldn’t help.
Craig Wallace walked in as Elizabeth was pouring some of the suspicious brown liquid into her mug. He was a few years older than Liz, who was in turn a few years older than Thomas. Craig was a former Marine, who still wore his blond hair super short, and still worked out. He had a neck like a tree trunk, but a wide, easy grin. Craig’s area of expertise was communications—radio and computer stuff, electronic surveillance—things Sally didn’t understand or want to.
He spoke to Elizabeth. “You’re not really going to drink that stuff?” His coffee was from Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Too cheap to buy my own,” responded Liz.
Craig turned to Sally. “What’ve we got?”
She tossed the fax from the state onto her desk as her team gathered around, all of them taller than she was, bending over to scrutinize the material.
Craig scowled. “Medium security? What do they need us for?”
“He’s a cop killer with a history of violent escapes.”
“Yeah, but he’s old.”
Sally frowned up at him. “He’s a couple of years younger than I am.”
Craig grinned. “Like I said.”
She shook her head. “Y’all ready to move?”
Her team followed her out the door and down into the garage, where they all threw their gear into the back of a black Suburban.
“Thomas, you drive.”
Thomas groaned, but climbed in on the driver’s side. “You want me to run code?”
“Nah. He’s already out; we’re not in that much of a hurry. You get stuck in traffic, go ahead and use the lights. Otherwise, forget it.” Sally pushed an Elvis Presley CD into the player and took one more sip of foul mocha, humming along with “Jailhouse Rock” as Thomas turned the behemoth north, towards Columbia County.