The Archivist

Hot off the press, The Archivist is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and approximately twenty other e-commerce sites in hardcover, softcover and e-book formats.
Below is a preview of the first chapter. Enjoy!
The footsteps were getting closer. They weren’t the fast-paced tempo of someone running. Instead, the pursuer had a methodical pace, which echoed down the moist cobblestone streets. Yesterday she wouldn’t have given these footsteps a second thought. Yesterday her life had been different. She stopped and listened. A moment later, there was only silence. Then it dawned on her. If she could hear him, then the reverse was also true. She silently cursed herself for not realizing it sooner. How else would he have been able to follow her through the maze of narrow streets she’d been traversing? She slipped off her shoes and put them in her backpack. When the footsteps started again they were no longer behind her. Instead, they went off in another direction and soon faded into the distance. Even so, she realized she was far from safe. Daybreak was five hours away, and no one was likely to come into this area until then. Of equal concern was the fact that she was lost. The erratic path she’d taken, in trying to evade her pursuer, had brought her into the city’s business district. But exactly where she was within that area, she had no idea. She thought about breaking into one of the surrounding shops and hiding until daylight. But every store had steel shutters, which protected both the doorway and display windows, leaving her no option but to remain in the open.
She continued running, hoping to eventually recognize a landmark which would allow her to pinpoint her location. When that happened, she’d know how to get to her destination, where she’d leave the package she had in her backpack. Ten minutes after taking off her shoes, she again stopped and listened for her pursuer. Absolute silence permeated the area. She decided to crank up the pace and, even though she didn’t know exactly what was ahead of her, she wanted to get as far away from her pursuer as possible. But on her second stride something sharp sliced deep into the sole of her left foot. She stumbled and fell on her right side, the backpack cushioning most of the fall. Her foot felt as if it was on fire. She wanted to cry out in pain, but instead bit her lip, knowing that any sound might give away her position. Looking behind her she saw, in the dimly lit street, a long piece of jagged metal jutting from between two cobblestones. Her foot was sliced from end to end, and blood was seeping out of the gash with abandon. Trying to stem the flow, she removed the shoes from her backpack and put them back on. Hopefully the tight fit would compress the slice enough to slow the bleeding. She’d try and compensate for the sound of her shoes on the cobblestones by walking slower. Hopefully her pursuer wasn’t close enough to hear it. But the first time she put weight on her foot she collapsed in excruciating pain. She clenched her teeth to keep from screaming, as tears of pain streamed from her eyes. Using the shoe to compress the wound was a bad idea. If she had any chance of continuing, she’d have to go barefoot.
She was angry for not taking her cell phone, which she’d left charging in the bedroom. But everything happened so quickly, there hadn’t been time to grab it. She barely had an opportunity to write down the recipient’s address, stuff everything into her backpack, and escape into the alleyway behind her residence. If she hadn’t been working on her computer at one in the morning, she was sure she’d be dead. Her pursuer would apparently do anything to get the package she was carrying. She understood why, as its contents was critically important to at least countries, and possibly more. But she wasn’t even certain what she was carrying wasn’t just an elaborate hoax. That’s why earlier that day she tried to send it by special courier to someone she knew could verify its authenticity. The problem was, the transportation company she regularly used was on strike. It seemed there was always a labor disruption of some kind going on in Italy. In a strange way, the worker’s demand for higher wages had saved her life. If the courier had taken it, she wouldn’t have been up late getting the recipients address off her computer. Nor would she then have heard the approaching footsteps or seen, against the courtyard wall of her residence, the shadow of a man carrying a gun.
As she continued walking, every step was an agony. Her pace was now so slow that she’d all but given up hope of finding a landmark and escaping her pursuer, resigning herself to the fact that he’d eventually find her, if by no other means than from the blood trail she was leaving. She was looking for a place to sit down and let fate take its course when she recognized the name of the business directly across the street from where she was standing. She’d been there a couple of times, but only during the daytime. It looked different in the dim street light. Nevertheless, she had her landmark, and it was less than a block from where she needed to deliver the package. Adrenalin and hope permeated her body. She decided to drag her injured foot across the moist cobblestones, and limit the weight she was putting on it. She wasn’t going anywhere fast, but there was no question in her mind that she’d at least get to her destination.
The piazza was deserted when she entered. She decided to put on her shoes to try and keep the blood trail from leading her pursuer to the package. She knew the pain would almost incapacitate her, but she felt there was little choice.
Stepping with one foot and dragging the other, she eventually reached the destination. As she turned and looked behind her, she was pleased to see that there was no trail of blood which would expose the path she’d taken. She immediately felt as if a burden had been lifted from her. The package was safe. Now it was time for her to escape. She began dragging herself back through the piazza, hoping to get to one of the side streets, and then a nearby residential area where she could summon help. She’d gotten nearly two-thirds of the way there when, believing she heard something to her left, she turned slightly. That’s when something slammed into her back with such force that the air rushed from her lungs, and she was hurled to the ground. She couldn’t breathe. It felt as if someone was sitting on her chest. With some effort, she turned over on her back. Looking up she saw a tall, well-dressed Asian standing over her. He held his shoes in his left hand, and a gun with a suppressor in his right.
            The stranger squatted next to her. “Where are they?” he asked, in a voice that was not much above a whisper.
            She had no breath. Gasping for air, she saw that her white knit top had a red spot, and that it was growing.
            “Where are they?” he repeated, in almost perfect English.
She was starting to get cold and her eyesight was becoming unfocused. She didn’t want to die, but she knew that was the only possible outcome.
            “Where you’ll never find them,” she said, her voice barely audible.
            “Pity,” the man replied just before her head snapped back and her empty gaze fixed on the her own right who is also seeking the original documents. Only time will tell, however, whether they will
manage to keep them out of the hands of the general.
In this thriller, a former Army Ranger joins forces with China’s top assassin to recover secret documents that could topple the Chinese.

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