BY: J. J. BURKE
Having barely survived a fight for his life with an international terrorist, former covert operative Jon Morton is now plunged into a nerve-wracking quest for a killer who knows everything about him, but whom he knows almost nothing about. Jon can rely on only three people to solve this puzzle—his ex-commander, Carlos Montoto, and himself. Jon’s former commander has the resources. Jon and Carlos have only their instincts and the experience of their years as covert operatives. Their choice is singular—locate and eliminate this killer before the killer eliminates them.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Scattered Pieces by J. J. Burke, we are reunited with Jon Morton and his elite team of former special ops soldiers. El Tigre is dead, killed in the first book, but his reach is still long and it comes after Jon again. This time, Jon suspects it’s one of his own who is the assassin trying to kill people in the team, but who? And will his skills from his time as a covert operative be enough to keep him alive?
The story is fast paced and intense. Told from several different points of view, it keeps you totally enthralled from beginning to end. A real page-turner.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Scattered Pieces by J. J. Burke is the second book in his Jon Morton series. This time, someone new is trying to kill him. A former elite forces operative, Jon thinks it may be one of his former team members who is after him now. As Jon begins to investigate, we are treated to a number of flashbacks involving El Tigre, and a lot of things that were not quite resolved in the first book are finally cleared up. At the same time, a foundation is laid for those who might not have read the first book, while those of us who have are not subjected to a lot of repetition. A pretty neat trick and skillfully done.
Scattered Pieces, like its predecessor The Lethal Fisherman, is a down-to-earth, gritty, fast-paced, and intense thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from the very first page. You won’t want to put it down.
The guest room in Carlos and Rosita’s home was quite comfortable, and the atmosphere in their home was definitely relaxed. It was in their home where Rosita had, vehemently, insisted that Jon should spend the time needed for his recuperation. Now as Jon lay in bed recovering, the all-consuming thought both vitriolic and insidious in his every waking moment was, How the hell did El Tigre track me down? That final wild showdown with El Tigre nearly cost me my life. In fact, another second or two underwater, and I would definitely have drowned.
Now Jon’s every day thoughts, unavoidable and foremost, were wrapped up in trying to solve a deadly puzzle. Who sold me out? Who had the ability to get information that is buried in secured files–files available to only a handful of the highest levels of armed forces officers. That was a far as the information ever went. Not even the President could gain direct access to those hidden files. Whoever this traitor is he’s got to be located and neutralized, and that leads me to only one conclusion.
It looks as if I’m going to be forced, for a second time, to re-enter the shadow world of covert operations. This time on home soil, and once again it’s a matter of survival–mine as well as Carlos’s and probably Commander Ertugal’s. There is also the very real likelihood that currently active agents could be compromised by this traitor. When the hell is my past going to stay in the past?
Jon had, in the midst of the deadly cat and mouse game with El Tigre, found a woman who he was sure he could spend his life with. Now he had to put their relationship on hold in order to ferret out a killer who knew him, knew Carlos, and probably knew Commander Ertugal.
The game had changed, and the stakes had been raised to the ultimate! In past operations, Jon knew the target, and the target’s location, putting the odds on his side. This time Jon, Carlos, and Commander Ertugal were the ones being hunted, and by an unknown hunter, or possibly hunters. They needed to solve this puzzle, and quickly. Time was running out, and the odds weren’t good.
The ocean depths were crushing him with vise-like pressure. His desperate situation was more than compounded by the unseasonal and extremely cold water temperature. He was struggling with every fiber of his body to break free, to reach the surface. The saltwater was stinging his eyes and searing his open wounds. His lungs were straining. A thin trickle of saltwater got past his clenched lips, triggering a gag reaction–
Jon came bolt upright in bed, heart pounding. Reflexively, he gasped and took a deep breath. A thin film of perspiration covered his body. Just a nightmare! Too real! Too soon! Hope that’s the last time I re-live that situation. He lay down, rolled over, and in a few moments was again peacefully asleep.
‘Are you free for dinner next Saturday night?’ Jon’s last question was indelibly stamped in her memory. Sheri chewed on that question like a dog worrying a bone. She was desperately trying to arrive at a positive scenario but, no matter how she tried, couldn’t. Why wouldn’t he answer any of my questions? What has happened? Is he okay? These were just a few of the questions she had asked herself when she finally received his phone call. That after he told me to get far away from him and leave nothing that could tie me to him. He had told me, most emphatically, leave immediately for Texas. He emphasized that his life was in danger and, by being with him, mine would be too. He said he would contact me when the danger was eliminated. After all of that, all he could do was tell me he’d answer all of my questions at a later date. Then to simply ask me if I could have dinner with him next Saturday night. Well, of course I had answered with an upbeat and positive, “Yes.” What else could I do?
Through a strange and painful quirk of fate, I lost my dad and found Jon. He’s the first man I’ve ever felt truly worthy of loving. Now my nagging concern is that something is dreadfully wrong, maybe it was all a story, and this is going to be his way of letting me down, easily. Her mental anguishing was interrupted by the sharp screech of tires, as they made contact with the concrete runway surface at one hundred forty-five plus miles per hour. With no bounce or wobble, the pilot of the Cessna Citation Encore executed a textbook perfect landing, on runway S-11, at the Wilmington International Airport in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Sheri relaxed her tense grip on the armrests of the plush, custom-fitted seat, and breathed a barely audible sigh of relief. For all of the air travel I’ve done, I’m still ill at ease when flying. She looked over at the woman sleeping peacefully in the window seat next to her, and couldn’t help thinking. God, I wish I could relax like that. Especially with what she’s been through in the past three weeks. The sudden roar of the jet thrusters being reversed caused her to momentarily tense up, tighten her grip on the armrests then quickly relax again. “Mom–” She gently shook the sleeping woman’s shoulder. “–we’re here, time to get up.”
Carlos stood in the private plane receiving area, watching the sleek, silver jet as it taxied toward the private aircraft receiving terminal. His thoughts wandered to the concept of having that kind of money. I wonder what it costs to own, or even just fuel that baby? He couldn’t conceive of the cost of either, and that thought was quickly abandoned. Based upon the arrival time and information that Rosita said she was given, Sheri Kreitzer should be on that plane. Shimmering waves of heat, rising from the tarmac, gave a rippled impression of the streamlined private jet, and indicated the onset of another hot day in the Cape Fear region. The heat waves had the effect of making objects appear to waver or float, as if they were a mirage or apparition. Carlos turned away from the window and walked casually, his mind wandering toward the incoming gate. So much has happened since that crazy day when we discovered the body of Sheri’s father floating in the ocean. All of those events still had both Carlos and Jon trying to put the whole chain of events into a logical sequence.
Carlos paused at another window and watched the ground crew direct the sleek, streamlined aircraft to a stopping point within twenty-five feet of the terminal entry. Chocks were slipped in the front and rear of the tires, and the jet engines went silent. In less than a minute, the forward door of the airplane swung out, with steps unfolding out, and down to the tarmac. There she is, at the door. Sheri was talking with a man who, by the manner of his dress, was the pilot.
Unexpectedly, another woman appeared at Sheri’s side. She was conservatively dressed and looked to be in her fifties. I wonder if that’s her mother? Rosita had mentioned casually that, if Sheri’s mom felt up to the trip, she would be coming too. Her intent was to thank everyone for what they had done, and also to satisfy her desire to meet Jon. She looks like one classy lady. Carlos continued to the passenger arrivals door.
The door swung open, held by a member of the ground reception crew. Sheri stepped through the door, followed closely by the older woman. Sheri searched the reception area for a brief moment, until she spotted Carlos.
“Hola, Carlos!” She paused and continued in English. “How are you? I was hoping Jon would be with you.” She gave him a warm hug of welcome, which he returned somewhat awkwardly.
“Rosita refused to let Jon come with me. He tried but she was adamant and let me tell you, when that woman makes up her mind, you need to move mountains to make her change it.”
Sheri laughed lightly. She was more than just aware of the matriarchal trait of Spanish women.
“I think Jon knew that she was right because he didn’t put up much of a fight.”
Sheri had not been fully informed about Jon’s condition and, other than knowing that he had received some injuries, still remained in the dark. She had reasoned that whatever it was, it couldn’t have been that serious or he wouldn’t have asked her out to dinner for this weekend. Suddenly, she remembered the woman at her side. “Oh, I’m forgetting my manners and being rude at the same time. Carlos, meet my mother, Janet Kreitzer. Mom, this is Carlos Montoto, Jon’s closest friend.”
They shook hands politely.
“A real pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Kreitzer.”
“The pleasure is all mine, Carlos. I’ve heard many wonderful things about you, and your wife Rosita.”
The warmth of her greeting endeared her to him, immediately.
Sheri turned and walked back to the entry door where she directed that their luggage be brought to the arriving passenger pickup area.
That done, she returned to her mother and Carlos who, by this time, were carrying on an animated conversation.
Sheri interrupted. “The luggage will be at curbside within five minutes. Where are you parked?”
“I’m in the short-term lot. It’ll only take a minute for me to run over and return with the car.”
Sheri was about to offer to pay for the parking when she remembered about male Spanish pride and machismo. The intended offer was instantly forgotten. Carlos had already turned and was casually jogging toward the exit.
© 2017 by J. J. Burke