When you hunt a serial torturer, what do you need the most?
Two toddlers in your care of course.
For so long, Kyle "Achilles" Dunn's biggest challenge was to keep all four of his fellow G.E.E.K.S. Inc. vigilantes alive as they work on bringing down the most powerful man in LA.
But when a violent sandstorm grounds them in Phoenix, and twin toddler girls suddenly come to be in their care, he's faced with a disaster. Chased by police and SWAT teams and lost in the deadliest haboob of the century, Kyle finds out a serial torturer from his mercenary past is after them as well, but only after the first tortured body hits the floor.
No electricity. No internet. Only thugs and cops roaming the howling hell and closing in on them.
Dealing with the serial torturer might wake all the demons from a past Kyle thought he'd left far behind.
But if he fails, the G.E.E.K.S. – and a small family in their care – will all die.
Read Double Trouble, the first book in the G.E.E.K.S. Inc. crime thriller series.
Books 5, 6 and 7 will be published in spring of 2021.
'Double Trouble' by Mike Clayton is a fast paced, page tuner. Meet the G.E.E.K.S. vigilante squad as they solve mysteries, chase killers, and deliver some much needed justice. – Marissa Farrar
"Non-stop action, an unforgiving fast-pace, and an intriguing cast of characters set the stage for this heart-thumping thriller. Don't miss this one!"– Award-winning crime writer Sue Coletta
"DAZZLING! Complex characters, more twists than a corkscrew, and sprinkled with humor. I only put it down halfway because I had to get SOME sleep!"– Amazon Review
Of course, Preston was thinking of letting Kyle do it, and the shame still felt bitter in his mouth. He didn't have a single thought to form into any sort of plan, and his brain screamed with the images of knives, Catalina, knives, a man with no face, knives, and oh god, Catalina. Kyle's offer, the possibility of finding out where she was, came with a treacherous companion; he would do it, and Preston's hands would be clean. And Catalina would be alive and safe.
But looking in the eyes of the man before him, and the slow dread which must be swirling inside Kyle, brought another image – the same dread in Catalina's eyes when she found out what price had been paid for her safety. He couldn't do it to her. He couldn't do it to Kyle.
He couldn't do it to that man in the other house either. Preston would pay any price with his own life, but not with someone else's. Yes, the thug was probably a killer too, but it didn't matter. A moment when one's life was measured by its worth, was a moment of stepping over the line, with no turning back. Life was life.
Before, he knew it was the right way. Now he felt it. Maybe they should've found somewhere else to be their HQ, and not that church. Reverend-playing had clearly messed up his thinking.
Creepy's face was ashen when he carefully closed the door of the living room, stirring Preston from his pondering.
"Keep working on your laptop, do whatever you can," Preston said to Creepy. "And stay together. I'm going to stop Kyle and bring him back."
"How?" Creepy shook his head. He slumped toward his laptop, but didn't click a single key.
"By adding one more concussion." Preston put the gun in his pocket and opened the door. "He won't expect Preston Chamberlain to hit him when his back is turned."
"Your funeral." Creepy darted him one stupefied glare and started typing.
There was nothing more to say.
He ran across the street – again – with almost the same panic he felt the first time.
Kyle couldn't close the shattered door, thank god, so Preston simply slid inside, holding his breath.
Any other time, coming so close to Kyle without him noticing was impossible, but the storm covered every sound. He even lowered his breathing and silenced his thoughts, knowing Kyle's sense of another's presence didn't depend on sounds alone.
Kyle had dragged the bald thug away from the lobby, through the arched passage, and into another room. Faint light helped Preston pass the lobby without stumbling over any debris.
Kyle had secured the flashlight upward, pointing toward the ceiling, so the soft light spread from above, giving enough light to see everything. It was a dining room, and the massive wooden table was still there. The thug's hands were tied behind his back, secured to one leg of the table, and he sat on the floor.
Preston stood one step away from the arch, in pitch black shadow. Even if they looked directly at him, they wouldn't be able to penetrate the darkness. But they were more than thirty feet away from him, and he had no chance to get closer to Kyle without him first noticing.
His stomach churned when he realized he would have to wait for Kyle to start with this, until all his concentration was directed upon the man before him. Only then would Preston have a chance to knock him over the head with the gun, and live. In reality, it will probably end the same way as hitting a hungry tiger with a tennis racket would. But he had no other option, not now when Kyle had made the decision. He gripped the gun tighter, his palms sticky with sweat.
Kyle watched the thug with his hands in the pockets, standing a few steps away.
Before Preston could hope he was having second thoughts, he moved.
Kyle's every move was lazy, as if he had all the time in the world. He put a chair in front of the man, very close, turned the backrest to him and sat. He hugged the backrest in one comfortable move, and Preston couldn't tell if he was hiding the restrained movement of his shoulder, or if he simply didn't feel any of his pain now.
"De Bruin has my friend," Kyle said. "I don't have much time to get her out. I need you to tell me where they are."
"Go to hell."
"I know you're afraid of him. We can make you disappear and protect you from him."
"Two other men thought the same. He found one of them in a village in Nigeria. The other thought the witness protection program was safe enough. It took de Bruin less than a week to find him." There wasn't any fear in the man's voice, just bitter defiance. "But before he killed them, he tracked down their families. So whoever you are, just go away. I won't tell you anything more."
"My name is Kyle 'Achilles' Dunn."
Preston closed his eyes to get himself together. No, this wasn't Kyle letting the man know he would kill him at the end. He simply let him know with whom he was dealing with. That name meant something.
And it meant something to this man, it seemed, as a brief silence fell.
"De Bruin has my friend," Kyle repeated slowly, and this time, those words sank in differently. The thug seemed to shrink in size, a disturbing sight from someone so heavily built.
"No. Not talking." This time, his words came with a tremble in them, the same tremble Preston felt in his fingers.
Kyle's concentration seemed to be set on the man completely, and maybe now was the time for Preston to come closer and—
"Do you know what de Bruin will do when he finds you here?" Kyle's voice changed. It fell into a colorless rasp, and Preston held his breath. "He will look at you with pity."
"What…what are you sayin'?"
Kyle slowly got up and moved the chair away. He knelt on the floor in front of the man, then sat back on his heels.
The thug withdrew with a whimpering sound.
"I'm saying," Kyle drawled, and the softness of that sound scraped over Preston's every nerve, "Torturers who enjoy their work, lack efficiency. He might be the best. He might know and feel every little reaction from his victims. He might even play with their pain, making a work of art, submitting each victim to his will. I don't have time for that. I need an address of tonight's gathering point. And I need it now."
He still didn't make a move toward the man, and his hands remained still, resting on his thighs. But Preston could feel, more than see, the compressed forces whirling inside Kyle's muscles.
Preston used a nasty slam of the wind to his advantage and took one step closer.
"But I know one more thing about de Bruin," Kyle continued. "I know that pain isn't the main thing that makes his victims talk. It's hope. He feeds them with hope and pain in equal measure. His cuts and stabs aren't life threatening, and he makes sure they know they will live if they tell him what he wants. He rarely does, but that's beside the point. That's the real sadism; watching their hope, not pain. Again, I have no time for that either."
His left hand reached forward. One more whimpering sound came from the thug.
"I will give you no hope." The softness was gone, and his voice sounded absent, disconnected. "There's no eventual normal life for you, even if you tell me. Because," Kyle leaned a little forward, and a coldness went up Preston's spine. "Because at the same time, that hope is what prevents his tougher victims from telling. Funny, isn't it?"
Kyle's hand finally reached the man's face, and his fingers drew a vertical line from his forehead, down the bruised cheekbone, to his jaw. And stopped there.
"First, I will cut all the tendons in your limbs," he said with that awful toneless sound. "Shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles. You will never walk or move your arms again. Then I'll take your sight. I'll take your hearing last, so you can hear all my questions. All of that will take only ninety seconds. Just after that, I'll start with pain, after you're destroyed. Because I have no time for playing. After you tell me what I want to know, you will beg me to kill you, and I'll let you live – all those long, long years of agony in bed, in complete darkness, and in utter silence. And I'll start in ten seconds, so take a deep breath."
"A warehouse." The whisper was barely heard above the wind. "234 Mason Street."
"How many people?"
"N-none, as far as I know."
Kyle moved forward; his elbow slammed into the already purple bruise, and the thug went limp without any sound. But Kyle stayed on the floor, not moving, not getting up. His head lowered and hung there.
Preston stared at his back for a few seconds. Time, he reminded himself. They were losing time. But his fingers were numb, and his phone danced in his hand when he pulled it out.
"Creepy," he said. "234 Mason Street. Search everything about it on your laptop. …. No, he didn't, he just scared the hell outta him. Tell Michael to put the mother's computer in the car, pack everything, and pick us up. Hurry."
He ended the call. Kyle still hadn't moved. He'd give him a few more seconds before going over to him. God knew he needed those seconds too.
"It wouldn't work," Kyle whispered. "Knocking me out. When you passed through the front door, you interrupted the steady flow of wind coming inside. It changed the sound. But thank you for trying."
Preston went to him and leaned upon the table so he could see his face. Nothing alarming, nothing physical to see, but he felt his inner silence rumble. It echoed emptiness.
Kyle hadn't killed the man, but Preston knew the price had been paid nevertheless. A regret coiled deep inside him, mixed with fear that still held him in its tight grasp.
"I had to try," Preston said. "Some things just aren't acceptable."
Kyle's shoulders tensed, an involuntary twitch he could no longer hide, and he lowered his head again.
"And there are some things," Preston continued, "I would never make you, force you, or even let you do."
"And some things aren't your call."
"We just saw some things aren't your call either." Preston said. It was the closest thing to comfort he could give him now. No time for what he really wanted to say, for all the words that had accumulated in his chest. Sometimes, self-sacrifices weren't measured in scars, or lost lives. The ugliest ones took parts of the soul.
"Stop it with that crap," Kyle said, and his snarl was back in place. Even if Preston knew how to tell him, Kyle wouldn't let him say another word.
"Yeah, you're right." Preston forced his smile and reached out with his hand. "Now get up, we have to go."
Maybe Kyle wouldn't let him talk, but this time, he did let him pull him up onto his feet. He could barely stand.
Kyle wouldn't let him talk, but he let him support him while they walked out onto the porch. Preston had to hide a smile; an amount of trust – and an acceptance of all the words he hadn't been able to say – was measured by the amount of his weight he let him carry. They worked the best without talking anyway – the unspoken things, gestures and boundaries, worked for them instead.
A car horn honked when they entered the wind again. The others were ready and waiting.
Creepy lunged out to help them with those last few steps to the car, to the back seat where Kyle could again half lie.
Michael started the engine, and they flew with the speed of light. Nobody said a word until they left the block.
Then Creepy turned around to them.
There was no humor in his careful eyes. "You wouldn't do it?" he asked Kyle. "If he didn't buy it, if he saw through your bluffing – because it was bluffing, right? You wouldn't, actually torture him to make him talk?"
Kyle put a smile on his face and softened his jaw. "Of course not," he said.
He didn't look at Preston. Preston didn't look at him.
When Mickey tried to snuggle up to Kyle, he gently pushed her away.