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John Locke


The ninth book in the Donovan Creed series, 2011

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John Locke


Miles Gundy.


Sunday, last week of May, Derby City Fair, Louisville, Kentucky. Food and people everywhere. Rock bands. Tents. Roaring rides, rumbling roller coasters.

…People are screaming.

Not from rock bands or rides.

People are screaming!

Women’s hands. Babies’ faces and children’s hands are suddenly…melting.

The Derby City Fair is under attack.

But from whom?

And how can the attack be isolated to babies’ faces and women and children’s hands?

Within minutes, hundreds of cell phones call 911. Hundreds more record the victims and post the videos on YouTube.

The system designed to work swiftly does so. 911 operators contact police, police call the FBI, the Feds call Homeland Security, and by the time Miles “Mayhem” Gundy pulls his late model Honda Accord onto 1-65 South, Homeland Security has Lou Kelly on the phone. Homeland patches the president into the call, along with several members of the Pentagon, who have assembled in the War Room at the White House.

“Where’s Darwin?” the president asks.

“We couldn’t find him,” a man says.

“Who’s Lou Kelly?”

“Associate Director, Sensory Resources.”

“Mr. Kelly,” the president says, “What’s happened to Darwin?”

“I have no idea, sir,” Lou says. “But I stand ready to help.”

“Good man. Mr. Kelly, you’re on the phone with Sherm Phillips, Secretary of Defense. Sherm, tell Mr. Kelly what you told me. We need to know what we’re up against.”

Sherm Phillips does, and Lou tells the president of the United States to hold while he calls Donovan Creed.


Donovan Creed.

My daughter, Kimberly Creed, and I are visiting Callie Carpenter at her Las Vegas penthouse. I just told Callie that Kimberly’s on the team.

Callie looks amused.

“That seems funny to you?”

She looks at Kimberly. “Mildly so.”

I run a group of assassins for a branch of Homeland Security called Sensory Resources. Darwin’s my boss. Callie’s my top operative. We also do freelance hits for the mob.

Callie says, “When you called from the airport you said Lou Kelly killed Darwin.”

“That’s Lou’s story.”

“Seems unlikely,” Callie says.

“I agree. But why would he lie?”

“Well, he did try to kill you recently.”

“True,” I say.

Kimberly’s eyes grow wide. “I don’t understand. Why would Uncle Lou try to kill you or your boss?”

Lou isn’t related to us, but Kimberly’s term of endearment shows how close he’s become to our family. I don’t mind her calling him uncle, though like Callie said, he tried to kill me last year. That incident set our relationship back somewhat, but Lou’s a valuable asset, best in the world at what he does, and he’s gotten me out of some tight spots over the years. What I’m saying, when he’s not trying to kill me, I trust him with my life.

Sounds crazy, right? But that’s the type of business I’m in.

I give Kimberly the short answer. “Last year we conducted a sting operation. Large sums of money were involved, and Lou saw a chance to make billions if he could kill me. He couldn’t, but I gave him a second chance. To prove his loyalty, Uncle Lou killed Doc Howard, who he claims was my boss, Darwin. He said Darwin was trying to kill me.”

Callie says, “What part will Kimberly play on the team?”

“Believe it or not, she’s an accomplished assassin.”

Callie looks dubious.

“Remember Jimmy T?” I say.

“The one who guarded Kimberly last year?”

I nod. “He quit the business and became a professor at Viceroy College. His real name was Jonah Toth. Kimberly put him down in the men’s room.”

Callie arches an eyebrow. “I’m impressed.”

Most people would ask why Kimberly killed Toth. Not Callie. She could care less why. That’s what makes her the world’s best assassin, aside from me.

“Including Toth, she’s got nine notches on her belt,” I say.

“You must be so proud,” Callie says, with more than a little sarcasm.

“From now on, we’ll call her Maybe. Maybe Taylor.”

“I like it,” Callie says.

Maybe says, “And I should call you Creed, like everyone else.”

“Good point. No sense in broadcasting the fact you’re my daughter.”

From the kitchen Gwen Peters yells, “You’re ignoring me again!”

Gwen is Callie’s current love interest. I dated her first, but Callie stole her from me. Kimberly-I mean, Maybe-has met Callie before, but this is her first exposure to Gwen.

“Every time that man enters our house you completely ignore me,” Gwen pouts.

Callie smiles and says, “That man.”

I smile and say, “Our house.”

Callie says, “That man is worse than our house.”

I agree.

“Hard to imagine how quickly I’ve sunk so far,” I say. “What’s she doing in there, anyway?”

“Burning cupcakes.”


“She’s the world’s worst cook.”

“Maybe I should tell her you said that.”

“Maybe I should tell her about Rachel.”

My phone buzzes in my pocket. I check the screen.

“It’s Lou,” I say.

Callie turns to Maybe and says, “Let’s go salvage the cupcakes.”

As they walk from den to kitchen, I say, “What’s up, Lou?”

“Donovan, I’ve got Homeland Security on the phone, several members of the Pentagon, and the president.”

“Hello, Mr. President,” I say.

A voice says, “This is Sherm Phillips, Secretary of Defense. The President’s monitoring the call, so I’ll cut to the chase. We’ve got word of a bio-terrorist attack at the Derby City Fair in Louisville, Kentucky.”

“How can I help?”

“Lou Kelly says you understand terrorists better than anyone in the country.”

“I won’t argue the point.”

“He says you understand how they think. We’re blind on this one, and need to know what’s happened.”

I get a whiff of burnt cupcakes from the kitchen, put my hand over the phone, and yell, “Are you frosting them?”

“We are,” Maybe says. “You want one?”

“Chocolate, if you have it,” I say.

Back on the phone I ask Sherm, “What do you know for certain about the attack?”

“No bombs detonated, but people’s hands and faces have been affected.”

“Affected how?”

“The flesh is falling off their bones.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“People’s hands, babies’ faces-appear to be melting.”

“How many victims?”

“Somewhere around twenty.”

My mind starts racing.


“That’s right.”

“Their entire face or just the lips and cheeks?”

There’s a pause. “Lips and cheeks. How’d you know?”



2011 - 2018