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Edge of Dark on Thunder Road

Edge of Dark on Thunder Road

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Edge of Dark on Thunder Road

359 pagine
5 ore
Oct 6, 2020


The meth war has exploded in East Tennessee, pitting a Mexican drug cartel against the Tennessee mountain men for control of the lucrative drug market. State, local, and federal law enforcement agencies adopt a "hands-off" policy to the carnage and, instead, employ Bradley International Security as their surrogate operative. Blood flows into streets and on the mountainsides as the struggle of cultures culminates to a cataclysmic conclusion. B. J. Quill, former military intelligence officer and combat veteran, heads up the surveillance and counter insurgency operations for Bradley—only to find out he has been set up by his own organization. Curt Townsend, respected businessman and community leader, is in fact the de facto godfather of the mountain men in the drug trade business. Working in conjunction with Leroy McBride, they have fashioned a lethal but loosely knit group of the McBride clan, their kinfolk, and other related mountain men. "Don Richie" Montoto is the acknowledged titular leader of the Mexican interlopers. With his brothers, other relatives, and blindly loyal pistoleros, they represent power, organization, and sophistication. The seesaw battle for territorial dominance grows increasingly violent with deadly reprisals as both groups attempt to destroy the others viability. But the stakes are high and the rewards substantial for the eventual victor.

Oct 6, 2020

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Edge of Dark on Thunder Road - J. V. Pelt


Chapter 1

The year was 2003 and the date February 17. Karsten T. Lindquist, vice president and operational manager of Bradley International Security Corporation, walked briskly down B concourse in Gerald R. Ford International Airport toward the exit. The United Airlines flight from Chicago had delivered him to Grand Rapids, Michigan, on time, 10:10 a.m., and he had no carry-on bags or other luggage. Upon departing the terminal building, he hailed a cab. Hilton Airport Hotel, he ordered the cabby with a determined and direct voice.

It was a short ride to the Hilton, and the lingering dreariness and overcast sky of winter presented a dismal setting. The middle of February in Western Michigan is not one of the nicest times of the year, with piles of gray snow being abundant and mixed ice and earth adding a dirty-brown tinge.

The taxi pulled up in front of the Hilton, and Lindquist got out, paying off the driver and giving him a five-dollar tip for the short ride.

Entering the hotel front doors, Lindquist proceeded directly to the front desk and sought the attention of the desk clerk. Bradley International has a suite reserved in my name—Karsten Lindquist—for today.

Yes, sir, Mr. Lindquist, replied the clerk after surveying his records. Suite 2A. All charges have been arranged for. And he handed Lindquist the key card for the room.

Just down the hall to right, sir, exclaimed the youthful clerk.

Thank you, young man, said Lindquist as he took the card and slowly strolled to the suite. There was no immediate need to hurry as events would play out at their own pace.

Karsten Thor Lindquist, vice president of Bradley International, and the probable successor to William P. Fingleton, the presiding President of Bradley International, was on another recruitment mission. The staffing of knowledgeable and experienced people into the company were paramount. Organizations live or die by the competency of their personnel. Lindquist was a hands-on manager and a stickler for details.

Entering the suite, he found a fresh pot of coffee, and Danish rolls were laid out—as previously ordered by his administrative assistant for the occasion.

Karsten Lindquist was an anathema in the Bradley International organization. He was strong-willed, at times rigid, but always the company man—absolutely fair and unbiased. His position and responsibilities demanded a strong countenance, highly developed intelligence, and intuition. He possessed the innate ability to see through the veils and trappings of mankind’s illusionary outer appearances—separating the truth from falsehoods and hidden agendas.

Notorious as the company hatchet man, he could also be the provider of great rewards. Almost absolute power was his mantle, and he respected it as a great and burdening responsibility.

Sixty years of age, tall, dapper, slim, almost gaunt, Lindquist was the epitome of the aristocrat of an age gone by. His well-groomed, gray-silver hair combed straight back, manicured nails, a London tailored three-piece navy-blue pinstriped suit, with a designer coordinated silk cravat marked him as a man of culture, class, and distinction. A large gold ring engraved with his Norwegian family coat of arms was proudly displayed on his right index finger. White Aryan skin, high cheekbones, slightly pinched mouth, full Roman nose, sharp dimpled chin, and ice-cold blue eyes verified his Nordic heritage. A two-inch scar was highly prominent on his right cheek—a constant reminder to him that he was not immortal and that by the grace of God, the knife slash had not found his neck or jugular vein.

Lindquist reveled in his persona although not with conceit. It was usually mesmerizing to those who met him—especially for the first time. Some people thought that he looked like a German count directly out of a Humphrey Bogart movie—minus the monocle.

He poured himself a cup of coffee—black—and selected a Danish roll. The stage for the interrogation interview had to be properly staged. To this end, Lindquist put some blank pages of paper on the coffee table in front of the couch, scribbled some unintelligible words with his gold fountain pen, and left them to be visible. For appearances, these were his notes.

In reality, he had memorized all the pertinent information regarding James Thomas Quill.

Chapter 2

At 10:55, there was a short but strong knock on the suite door. B. J. Quill had arrived for his appointment—five minutes ahead of time. Lindquist admired punctuality, as it was one of his own traits.

Come in, he said in a cordial voice as he opened the door. Mr. Quill, I presume?

Yes. Thank you, sir, responded BJ politely as he entered the suite and closed the door, and the two men shook hands.

I’m Karsten Lindquist, vice president of Bradley International. This will be your final interview for the position of Southern Regional Field Manager of our organization. Help yourself to some coffee and a Danish if you’re so inclined, said Lindquist, and please be seated in the chair in front of the sofa.

BJ declined the offer for coffee and directly ushered himself to the designated chair.

Lindquist sat down on the sofa directly, facing BJ with his notes in front of him on the coffee table and immediately started the interview.

Now, Mr. Quill, I understand that you spent some time in our government service in El Salvador during the mid-1980s. And that you were awarded the Silver Star. Is this correct? questioned Lindquist.

That is correct, sir, answered BJ formally. He was surprised that Lindquist was cognizant of his Silver Star, as he had not put that fact on his résumé.

We are in possession of your full military, governmental, and civilian records. Obviously, we understand the personal nature of this information and assure you that it is handled most discreetly. We do extensive background and security checks on all final candidates for positions in our company. Your service record is exemplary and your civilian life unblemished, continued Lindquist. The unarming cordiality disappeared from his voice, and a slightly ominous tone replaced it.

BJ could feel his tension level elevate a notch.

Did you ever kill anyone, Mr. Quill, either in combat or in non-military conditions? Enemy combatants or civilians? The question was designed to elicit a spontaneous negative emotional response from BJ and was uttered in a direct monotone voice, almost accusatory.

BJ was taken back by the question and could feel the hackles rise on his neck. His face began to flush with the onset of anger to the inquiry. But he knew that he must answer the question straightforwardly with no hint of distress. After a brief pregnant pause, he replied with a noncommittal statement, Mr. Lindquist, like most guerrilla wars, in El Salvador it was extremely difficult to identify the insurgents from the civilians. Possibly some civilians were killed along with the guerillas. There was, and always will be, collateral damage to the locals under such conditions. There just is no way to avoid it. With all due respect, sir, I find the question offensive and choose not to answer. As you probably know, most men who have killed in combat are reluctant to talk about it—even to their families. They have to live with their own conscience. Most won’t share their experiences with others who haven’t seen combat and can’t understand the nature of the times, the emotional crisis, and sometimes, the devastating psychological aftermath.

Lindquist looked BJ directly in the eyes, raised his eyebrows and said, Mr. Quill, I withdraw the question—but you very eloquently and honestly have given me a proper response. Returning to a more conciliatory voice, he asked, How did you like Langley? I was with the CIA for a number of years and am quite familiar with the facility and personnel.

As my résumé states, sir, I was schooled at both Langley and Quantico—depending on the nature of the training. I found both schools to be very valuable, said BJ, not wanting to expound further. His jaw was still set from the previous question and his manner formal and rigid.

Mr. Quill, continued Lindquist, as you are aware, Bradley International is the largest private security and intelligence gathering organization in the world. We are confidants to most of the world leaders and captains of industry. Our assignments are sometimes clandestine, but we always, always, operate within the confines of prudent discretion. We employ as many operatives as the CIA, and our research and analysis capabilities rival those of the US government agencies. As a nonpolitical entity, we are not subject to the same scrutiny and regulation as our counterparts in government, and that is why they contract for our services.

Without a pause, he continued, We employ only the most highly skilled operatives in their respective fields. But vocational skills are not enough because the character of the man or woman who joins us is even more important. Personal integrity, dedication, the ability to think and react, being able to cooperate as a team member with others, but still maintaining personal values and independence of thought and believing in you is essential. It is truly the character of the individual that supersedes the learned technical skills. Understanding these factors, you can surely understand why we are so rigid in our selection of operatives and support personnel. Our clients allow us no room for error—nor should they! They compensate us very well for our efforts. We are the best in our respective specialties. The paladins to those who strive to keep an orderly and functioning world—free from terrorism, anarchy, and crime.

Pausing briefly Lindquist again continued, Notes of your initial interview, personal résumé, psychiatric and physical evaluations, and military, governmental, and civilian records have all been reviewed extensively by Mr. Barton, our corporate vice president of Internal Operations, William Fingleton, our corporate president, and me. We are in unanimous agreement that you are the right individual for the position of Southern Regional Field Manager for Bradley International and would like to take this opportunity to offer you that position. You’re already familiar with the compensation and fringe benefits package, and we have a home leased for you in Louisville, Tennessee, if you accept our offer. Will you join us as an active participant in our endeavors?

Yes, sir. I would be very honored, Mr. Lindquist, said BJ without hesitation. And I also checked out Bradley International with some of my colleagues in the intelligence field. I’ve known of your operations through some of my past assignments and will say that your organization is held in very high esteem in the governmental intelligence community. It will certainly be my personal pleasure to join the Bradley International organization.

Chapter 3

Kentucky State Police Trooper Sergeant Orval Johnson sat quietly in his cruiser on the West shoulder of the southbound lanes of I-75. He was only three miles from his post in London. His radar gun was aimed at the oncoming traffic, and it was time for Orval to fish—and he never failed to catch his limit.

The big black Ford 150 extended cab pickup truck rolled on to Interstate I-75 at the Lexington, Kentucky, exit, the Triton V-8 engine hardly putting out any RPMS. The side pipes rumbled with the sound of the throaty exhaust being expelled. BJ liked the throbbing sound of the exhausts. It made him feel calm and confident.

Sitting next to him in the passenger seat, riding in the shotgun position, was Clyde Boy, the Michigan Coon Cat.

Clyde Boy was no ordinary house cat, weighing in at twenty-five pounds of masked muscle. The sumo wrestler of cats, with his calico coloring making him look like a small patch quilt. It was unusual for a male cat to be a calico, but he was different. Clyde Boy was BJ’s faithful companion—like Tonto and the Lone Ranger.

The massive cat wore a leather patch over his left eye tied by a leather thong around his large head, the result of an alternation with a large and mean German Shepherd dog two years prior. BJ only made Clyde Boy wear the eye patch when he was in public and thought it made him look like an intimidating feline pirate. The left eye was sewed permanently shut to the general viewing public and only BJ and a few selected friends ever saw the real Captain One Eye.

Glancing at Clyde Boy for a moment, BJ watched the big cat take in the country scenery through the passenger side window—with his one eye. He could almost see the wheels turning in Clyde’s head. Clyde Boy was one smart and badass cat.

For some reason, a feeling of repressed melancholy suddenly overcame BJ. He had taken some hard hits in life but hoped things would be better in Tennessee with a new life and new challenges. He had been in a tail spin for five years of failures—marriage, business, and women in general.

It was a beautiful spring day in central Kentucky—very warm for the first week of March with the traffic being heavier than usual for a Thursday. The spring flowers were just starting to bud, and the waterways were filled with the new rain runoffs.

The air had that wonderful sweet smell of spring, and the azure sky was cloudless.

The drive from Cannonsburg, Michigan, had been, for the most part, uneventful, if you didn’t count the three-car accident a little south of Fort Wayne. That event only cost BJ and Clyde Boy thirty minutes of down time.

BJ was becoming bored by the drive to Marysville. It would be an eleven-and-a-half-hour trip with stops only to pee and gas up. Tennessee was a long haul from Michigan, but the comfortable bucket seats of the 150 made the journey easier. The trip was still a pain in the butt, and he hoped that his new home in Louisville, Tennessee, would be ready for his inspection on Friday, as he was anxious to settle in as fast as possible and get on with his first assignment at Bradley International.

A motorcycle passed BJ at a high rate of speed in the left outside lane, just a little south of Mount Vernon, waking him out of a temporary road trance and making him once more concentrate on his driving.

He noticed the biker’s white ponytail sticking straight out in the blow back from the Fritz helmet, a white full beard, and black leather jacket with some type of emblem—and the beautiful black and chrome Indian Chief motorcycle he was riding—vintage 1948.

Chapter 4

BJ’s mind started to drift again, his driving becoming more mechanical and instinctive instead of thoughtful. He flipped open his US Army Zippo lighter and lit up a Marlboro Red, slowly drawing the white cloud of smoke into his lungs.

A Johnny Cash CD was playing Folsom Prison Blues.

The miles seemed to peel away like old bark from a birch tree, and again, BJ went into his never-never dream land of half-conscious and elusive thoughts. A panorama of past wrongs, lost loves, divorce, his daughter, life’s victories, defeats, and missed opportunities.

His mind drifted back to his memories of El Salvador and the US Military Group El Salvador—and his clandestine work with the Civilian Intelligence Section, a little known and secretive agency of the US government attached to the operatives.

Although the thoughts of his past were painful, sometimes they were also reassuring, and he was confident that he could—and would—do what was necessary for whatever life handed him. BJ was a warrior and survivor, and he would need all of his martial and survival skills for the uncertain future that lay ahead of him.

It was 5:30 p.m. when the big Ford 150 passed the last exit to London, Kentucky—the only town of any size before the Tennessee line. Traffic was backed up in all the southbound lanes for a two hundred yards or so, making BJ wonder if there had been another accident like the Fort Wayne incident.

After about five minutes of stop-and-go action, he came upon the scene of the trouble. His right hand instinctively reached into the back floor area behind the center console. There he felt the case enclosing his twelve gauge Coach gun—double barrel loaded with double aught buck shot, and enough firepower to shake even the most aggressive foe if necessary. It was his comforter.

A biker had been pulled over by two Kentucky state troopers. They were doing a real number on him. He lay sprawled across the hood of the lead trooper’s car in a spread-eagle position. One of the troopers had his Beretta 9 mm out of this holster and pointed at the bikers back while the other trooper was conducting a search of the big black and chrome Indian’s motorcycle saddlebags.

The biker’s Wellington boots were laid next to the side of the driver’s door of the lead trooper’s cruiser. BJ thought he caught the glimpse of a knife handle protruding from the inside of a boot. He could see that the troopers were sweating from the heat by the perspiration that had already penetrated their uniforms and recognized the biker as the same rider that had passed him back near Mount Vernon. The biker’s leather jacket was on the ground next to the Wellington boots with the back facing the passing traffic. He noted that the jacket emblem was not a Hell’s Angel symbol but was a picture of a skull and cross bones semi-imposed over a Confederate flag. He had seen similar emblems on flak jackets in El Salvador.

He wondered what the troopers had found on the biker—drugs, weapons (besides the boot knife), and why they had stopped him. Maybe an outstanding warrant? As BJ slowly passed the state police cruisers, he noticed the face of the biker was turned toward the ongoing traffic—and the venomous sneer on his lips. His face was contorted, and BJ noted that half of the biker’s nose was missing—having only a right nostril and simply a hole where the left nostril had been at one time.

It must have been one hell of a knife fight, thought BJ, and it looks like he came in second.

Chapter 5

Curt Townsend ran his fingers through his thinning sandy-colored head of hair as he perused the financial statement for his company ending December 2002.

He was not overly imposing in stature, weighing in at two hundred pounds and standing five ten inches tall, a little overweight, with a pasty white complexion and round chubby face with a hawk nose. There were deep circles under his hazel-colored eyes with noticeable crow’s feet, and his cheeks showed evidence of tiny red blood vessels. The drinking man’s scourge. Years of hard boozing and fast living had taken their toll, and he looked like a man who bore some heavy burdens, real or imagined.

A large desk faced a huge picture window that overlooked the production area of his company—Townsend Enterprises. Pictures of his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Helena, faced him. He slid back uneasily in his executive leather chair.

Townsend Enterprises had been established by Curtis M. Townsend in 1993 and was located in Maryville—about fifteen south west of Knoxville, in East Tennessee.

An important factor in the selection of Maryville area was the fact that Curt Townsend was a native of the city of Maryville, understood its inner politics, knew who did what to whom, where the bodies were buried, was a local good old boy, and knew what it took get things done. It didn’t hurt his good standing in the community that a town just down the road a piece was also named Townsend after one of his forefathers.

Curt had graduated from Maryville High School in 1975, just missing Vietnam, and went on to the University of Tennessee in the field of mechanical engineering.

After graduating from UT, he took a position at Regal Quality Homes in Maryville as a production foreman at age twenty-two.

Being a quick study, he advanced rapidly with Regal Quality Homes and was recruited by the sales department. It was the sales area where Curt sparkled, and it marked him as a man to watch for the future. His first position in sales with the company, after a couple of years in the production area, was that of district sales manager in the East Tennessee area.

Curt’s family background was certainly no hindrance to his success on a local level, and his experience in the production and fabrication of mobile homes, as well as his natural affinity for sales and innovative thought made him an instant success. At age thirty, he was promoted to national sales manager.

Like all men with the entrepreneurial spirit, Curt longed to have his own operation—to be his own boss, to take his own risks and reap the rewards from his efforts or the failure of his actions. The opportunity was afforded to him only after he let his desires be known to the top management at Regal Quality Homes.

The move to his own business was heartily supported and approved by his wife Barbara, as she felt that her husband would be more accessible if he had his own local business. Barbara was not keen about the entertainment part of his job at Regal Quality Homes, although she never related anything to him about her feelings. She was a regular standup wife—but she had her suspicions.

Curt proposed the forming of an injection molding company to produce parts for the mobile homes being produced by Regal Quality Homes to the Regal Quality Board of Directors—and he was approved as a subcontractor immediately. His new company, Townsend Enterprises, LLC, and his new career was now in place.

Chapter 6

Curt had another business venture known to very few people located in Greenback, Tennessee—just a few miles from Maryville. Even his wife was unaware of the existence of Black Rock Distributing. He had made sure that there was no commingling of activities or paper trails leading to Townsend Enterprises.

Black Rock Distributing Inc. was a distributor of over-the-counter medicines such as antihistamines, cough syrups, aspirins, and other nonregulated pharmaceuticals, and business was good. No narcotic drugs were stocked, as a red flag would go up to any government inspector monitoring sales. All Black Rock Distributing activities were very low key.

Beads of perspiration appeared on Curt’s forehead. His armpits were becoming soggy, and he knew he was going to smell of sweat. Deep trouble was on the horizon, and something had to be done to stop the profit erosion or his injection molding company would be in the Dumpster.

God, thought Curt, I just hope those rednecks at the lab in the mountains can keep turning out the good stuff.

Curt Townsend was a dichotomy. A successful and respected businessman—and the kingpin of the largest meth ring in East Tennessee. It was a juxtaposition of respectability and the ugly darkness of crime that lurks unseen in a passive and uncaring world. He had helped foster upon his part of the world, East Tennessee, the most insidious of poisons, creating an insatiable appetite in his victims that could only be infused with more toxic corruption. Paradoxically, Curt never ingested any of his baneful drugs himself—much preferring cocaine as his personal high of choice. Laughingly, he referred to meth as the poor man’s drug and looked down on his customers, the users, as lowlifes.

Chapter 7

Leroy McBride lay spread eagle on the hood of State Trooper Orval Johnson’s Ford Crown Victoria’s hood, his black leather jacket in plain sight for the entire world to see. His hands were cuffed neatly behind his back. His nose (what there was of it) itched. Trooper Johnson unholstered his Beretta 9 mm and pointed it directly at Leroy’s middle back. Go ahead, asshole, make my day, thought State Trooper Sergeant Orval Johnson in his best Dirty Harry imitation. Holstering his Beretta, he gave Leroy a jab in his left rib cage with his service issue flashlight, causing two hairline fractures in Leroy’s ribs.

How y’all doin’, Leroy? Trooper Johnson said to his prisoner—a smirk on his face and disdain in his voice. Trooper Johnson and Leroy McBride had met on many occasions, and Leroy always got the worst of the event, even when they were youngsters.

Damn, Leroy, you just don’t ever learn, do ya? Trooper Johnson said in his best Tennessee hills drawl. We told y’all never to come back here to Kentucky. Ya Tennessee rednecks jus’ never gets the point—until we shove it up yer redneck asses. Hesitating for a few seconds, Johnson continued, Reckon I may be yer only way outa this screwup o’ yours.

No incriminating evidence had been found in Leroy’s saddlebags or motorcycle crankcase, but Orval thought he would bluff him anyway.

Grabbing Leroy by the nap of the neck and pulling him off the hood of his cruiser, not too gently, Trooper Johnson directed him to the right rear door of the lead cruiser. Leroy’s hands were still firmly bound behind his back, secured by the handcuffs.

Don’t crap with me, cousin Orval—what ta hell you want? You didn’t bust my butt because I be just ’nother pretty face. Ya know a speedin’ ticket ain’t jack shit, and you ain’t goin’ nail my po’ boy ass on no concealed weapons charge with my little harmless boot knife—’cause I’m jus’ poor farmin’ folk, and that be part of my trade. I’ll git me some Jew lawyer that’ll cost the Commonwealth of Kentucky plenty. So, cousin Orval, no more bullshit. What’s your program—put up, shut up, or book me—after ya read me my rights.

Trooper Johnson’s first impulse was to punch Leroy’s lights out. But he didn’t.

He eyed Leroy knowingly, opened rear door, and deposited Leroy into the cruiser’s back seat. He was pleased that there was a thick metal screen between the rear prisoner’s bench seat and the driver’s seat—even if Leroy still had on his handcuffs.

Orval had seen too many redneck hillbillies in his time—lived with them, been one of them, and they were all trouble. They all had the same arrogant, defiant attitude.

Sergeant Orval Johnson was a Southern Kentucky man, schooled, and on the right side of respectable society. Proud that he had education and a fine family and proud that he had earned every accolade bestowed upon him in his life. Leroy was nothing but Tennessee trailer trash—but he was Orval’s first cousin, not necessarily by either

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