Monday Sampler: Storm Crashers by Richard Wickliffe

 

SC Book cover

In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Monday’s Sampler features an excerpt Storm Crashers by Richard Wickliffe. It is a unique thriller featuring nature’s deadly power, realistic military action, and a heart pounding plot.

As one reviewer said: An original, page-turning thriller. Man against nature, man against man, woven together with a twist that will keep you guessing until the end.  Wickliffe is not only a talented author but writes with an inside investigator’s perspective to lend rich detail to an already riveting suspense plot.

The Story

Nature’s most deadly force just got more terrifying. Alexandra, a single mother, hides in her home during a category-four hurricane. She’s suddenly terrorized by dark figures with gleaming eyes who enter –they are the Storm Crashers: high-tech thieves who prey on storm evacuations.

They must race the clock and are fearless – until they come across the mysterious young mother who fights back.

Dan Holms, a disparaged investigator, and a rookie female detective are disciplined for believing Alexandra’s story about “mystery soldiers.” The Crashers want to silence the woman who has seen them, and a new Cat-5 is on the way. Holms and the officer unravel their origin with action and twists that could inevitably impact our national security.

A story inspired by real crimes and so unique and action-packed, it was optioned by a “big-six” Hollywood studio.

 The Sampler

Richard Wickliffe
Richard Wickliffe

In formation, the five figures continued towards the estate’s backyard. The men wore identical black armor, helmets and gear, yet they carried no evident firearms. In the shelter of the patio, they stopped to face each other. The tallest man lifted two fingers and signaled to two of the others. The two men nodded and moved out, jogging in unison away from the property. The three remaining soldiers turned towards the patio’s French doors.

The tall man removed a small, flat mechanism from his belt. It emitted a glowing spectrum through the door’s glass. The man’s mask crackled with a mechanical voice. “Impact glass.” He turned to the smallest man. “LeBeau?”

The diminutive soldier, LeBeau, stepped forward holding a pen-sized device. He inserted its tip into the key hole. Within seconds, six LED lights illuminated as the lock’s pins and tumblers were matched. The lock clicked and LeBeau opened the door.

The tall man led the smaller LeBeau and a third stocky soldier into the home’s richly-appointed library. The men aimed no weapons and entered the house with no attempt at discretion. They seemed confident no one was home.

Small lights from an emergency power source illuminated a marble foyer and a winding staircase surrounded by opulent fine art. On pedestals were priceless nineteenth-century urns. On the walls were gold-framed oil paintings appearing to be over a hundred years old. Ornate antiques and books adorned the entire room.

The men split into three directions. The tall man proceeded to the staircase. The stocky man turned to the left into a hall leading to bedrooms. The short LeBeau moved to the right into a corridor.

The tall man ascended halfway up the staircase to approach an oil painting. The oil on canvas was an original by French artist Jean-Luc Brulé. It depicted a French general, circa mid-1800s, riding a white stallion. The soldier reached to his helmet to turn on a small light that gleamed forward towards the painting. He methodically inspected the art. As smooth as an archer reaching for an arrow, he reached to his back to retrieve a long, thin tube. The cylindrical tube was attached to his back with hoops and a Velcro material.

Holding the tube with one hand, he lifted a retractable blade and gently cut the painting from its frame. He rolled the art and inserted it into the cylinder, which he returned to his back. He proceeded up the stairs to the next painting.

The stocky man entered the large master bedroom. The room was appointed with a four-poster bed and a sitting area. The back wall had a row of French doors leading to the backyard. The escalating wind was howling against the doors.

The man approached a photograph on the wall. He turned on his helmet light and lifted his goggles to inspect the portrait with his own eyes. The photo was of an exotically-beautiful brunette lady and a pretty five-year-old girl. The woman appeared mid-thirties with high cheekbones and striking almond eyes. She and her identical daughter beamed smiles of undeniable happiness.

“This is your house..?” The stocky man smirked as he studied the lady’s face. He moved an inch closer to observe the little girl. The man’s face was sweaty and seemed incensed. He narrowed his eyes to observe the jewelry worn by the woman in the photo. He turned to a dresser. Within seconds he located drawers filled with jewelry. In plain view was a ladies two-tone Rolex and diamond bracelets. There had been no attempt to hide or secure the valuables. Either the jewelry meant nothing to the homeowner, or she’d believed her house would be untouched. The man raked the jewelry into black pouches on the thighs of his uniform.

In a dark hall, the smaller LeBeau used night vision to navigate. Within a green glow, he looked at his watch that was counting backward from “0:56:30.” He flinched at a crack of thunder and looked up at a shriek of wind. He turned on his helmet light to inspect a security alarm pad on the wall. He lifted his goggles to read the model number. He smiled.

 

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office was a flurry of activity. Officers and employees were stumbling into each other to answer phones. A twenty-year-old Public Service Aide was eating Funyons when something on his monitor captured his attention.

“Sir, several burglar alarms are going crazy,” the PSA shouted.

A frazzled deputy clutching a Styrofoam cup of coffee squinted at the computer. “Alarms always go wacko with all the power outages. Electrical surges make the alarms go off and on. I’ve seen a dozen already. You can disregard ‘em.” The deputy moved on towards a vending machine.

The assistant shrugged. If they didn’t care, he didn’t care.

 

At the top of the Larriott staircase, the tall soldier concealed a third painting. He turned to see the stocky man approach from downstairs. They moved to the second-floor corridor to speak.

The thicker man panted as he spoke, “There are cameras. We’ll hit ‘em on the way out.” He leaned closer, “I found the safe, like in the blueprints. Torch proof. We need C4.”

The tall man nodded. He lifted a hand to his headset, “LeBeau, bring the fire.”

Standing around the corner, paralyzed with fear, was the brunette lady –the once-beautiful homeowner from the portrait. She trembled as she stepped back into the darkness of the corridor.

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