Our next guest on the Crime Cafe podcast is James H. Roby, the author of the UrbanKnights thriller novel series.
James is giving away copies of Black Bear, the second novel in that series.
The first novel, The Random Affair, is available perma-free.
To get a copy of Black Bear for free, just go to the author’s website and click on “Find Out More”.
And, now for your reading pleasure, here’s the first chapter of The Random Affair:
Chapter One: Once Upon a Time in Miami
Four years ago…
It was moments like this Jordan T. Noble III really questioned his career choice. Shooting and violence he could handle, but being out of his lane – chasing down criminals…it wasn’t his thing. Spies didn’t do that.
Jordan looked over to his right. Leaning against the brownish, yellow stucco wall, Eric Manning, E-Man to his friends, had his face in a half grin. Jordan knew the look. Impatience.
“You got a date?” Jordan asked.
“A date? As in one?” E-Man chuckled softly like Jordan had said the dumbest thing in the world.
Depression and dread came out of every crack. The single hallway was black save for at each end, where dingy windows struggled to let in some light. It did not give the aura of being a pleasant site to live. An odor of human waste hung in the air.
From the north stairway, FBI Special Agent Joe Storey joined them on the Miami’s Overtown apartment building’s third floor. In his wake was a pair of agents. The trio came to a halt at apartment 312. One of them lugged along a battering ram. Storey held up the arrest warrants for the targets: Cody Random and the rest of his party. The FBI agents slapped their backs against the wall and slowed their breathing.
“The SWAT team will be here in a second,” Storey whispered. “Let’s get ready.” His words loped out of his mouth with a Southern charm originating from somewhere in Tennessee.
“Well, that’s very good for the SWAT team,” Jordan whispered back. “Agent Manning and I will tell them all about how we caught Cody Random before he could escape…again.”
A problem with this op was the FBI could arrest Random but they brought all their rules and procedures. Storey turned a harsh eye to Jordan and E-Man. Jordan knew two Top Secret level operatives from the Defense Intelligence Agency were cramping the FBI’s style and if he tried really hard, he could imagine caring. He knew who was in the apartment and was of no mind to wait.
“Whatever, man,” Storey said. “Just remember, you’re in the US of A now. This is my collar.” A heartbeat passed as all the men stopped to listen to the sounds from within the apartment. Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” crept from under the door.
“USA?” E-Man said. “Is that why there’re so many McDonald’s around?”
“Now, now,” Jordan said over his shoulder, “play nice.”
A small brown face appeared in the doorway across the hall. A pair of adult hands seized the kid and shut the door. Locks were heard being thrown up and down the hall. A sort of sixth sense reacting to the presence of government authority. Jordan turned his deep brown eyes back to Storey’s pale blue.
The FBI man broke the stare and turned to his team. “Prepare to breach.”
Jordan and E-Man drew weapons – a Glock 19, fitted with a sound suppressor for Jordan, while E-Man’s M9 was a bit more fantastic. It had a silencer affixed, an extended magazine and a large scope. All the attachments made the gun twice as large.
Storey said, “You think you got enough?”
E-Man narrowed his eyes. “Let’s go find out.” He turned to Jordan with a grin. E-Man liked to mess with the locals with these little acts. If it was to make them be a little more cautious around the ‘crazy’ DIA agent, or if he just thought it was funny, Jordan never knew. He, on the other hand, used the calm before the storm to focus. Eyes tightened, shoulders squared – even his heart rate dropped. He was almost a different person.
“You go in low,” Jordan said.
E-Man grunted an acknowledgment.
“On your mark,” Storey said.
Jordan looked to the agent carrying the battering ram and held up a fist. “Execute!”
The battering ram crashed through the thin portal and the agent recoiled and swiveled out of the way. Twisted Sister went up a notch. Jordan and E-Man sprung in the room. They poured into a makeshift lab where a living room should be. The brothers, Cody and Michael Random stood, beakers in hand, mouths agape.
“Freeze! Federal Agents!” Jordan shouted.
Cody Random’s thin blond brows arched up under a mane of flowing hair. Jordan felt his body loosen. The mission was over.
The sound was soft, still, Jordan refocused back into the machine of operational precision. He whirled to his right. A man with a gun. Aiming.
Jordan dove backward and fired twice. The first bullet flew high and through the poorly constructed walls of the apartment. The second struck the gunman in the shoulder. The FBI agents ducked back into the hall. E-Man fell backward under Jordan. Cody and Michael dropped their work and made a break for the fire escape. Jordan and E-Man both got on their feet. E-Man cleared the lab equipment with a bound. Beakers and Bunsen burners crashed to the floor as Cody’s wiry frame squeezed out the window. E-Man stuck his head out the window and a split second later jumped back. Jordan caught him as the telltale sound of a Smith & Wesson .357 discharging twice filled the room. Cautiously, Jordan checked to see if Random was still overhead. Seeing nothing but the darkening sky over the building, he leapt through the window onto a fire escape.
“Let’s go, E.”
“Wait,” Storey said from the door. The rest of his team secured the wounded gunman. “This is my bust!”
“We’ll save you a piece,” E-Man said and vanished out the window after Jordan.
At the roof, the forms of Cody and his brother grew smaller. Jordan bit down an oath and sprinted for the escaping duo.
All this for a couple of drug dealers…
“Give it up, Cody!” Jordan shouted. No sooner than the words left his lips, the Randoms disappeared off the side of the building. Jordan’s right brow climbed an inch. He skidded to a stop at the roof’s edge. The pair jumped off the building to the next, a floor shorter. E-Man arrived a second later.
“After them,” Jordan said.
“You mean, jump?”
Jordan backpedaled a few steps. “If they can do it, so can we.” He set off in a run and cleared the distance between the buildings. E-Man flew next. The chase was on once more.
The Randoms gained a lead, but not much. Another building approached. The brothers jumped again. Prepared, Jordan and E-Man leapt the gap without missing a beat.
“This is the last building on the block,” Jordan said.
“We’ve got ’em!”
Random rotated around and fired his gun. Jordan ducked. E-Man dove to his left. He slid and fought for balance at the building’s edge. He lashed out and caught the edge. He screamed for his partner.
Jordan fell on his stomach and reached to pull up E-Man. “You OK?”
“Yeah. Shit, where’s the Randoms?”
Jordan whirled around. The roofs were empty. A wave of anger traveled through his body. He willed it away. With no building to jump to, the Randoms had few options. Jordan sprang to his feet.
If I were Cody…
“He climbed over the edge.” He spoke the words like they were fact. “Down a fire escape.”
E-Man sprinted for the right side of the building. “I’ll go this way and cut him off.” He found a fire escape and descended. Jordan headed forward. He found another fire escape leading to the alley. A quick check revealed the Random brothers weren’t below him. Jordan went down. He stretched out with all his senses. He couldn’t see either brother, but he knew the criminals couldn’t be far. On the ground, he spun in a tight circle. No Randoms. The alley blackened with the oncoming twilight. He heard something to his right. The Glock before him, he moved toward a dim figure of a man. The out of place blond mane identified him as Cody Random.
Random jerked. He was before a door, apparently locked. Slowly, almost casually, he turned. A sly grin played on Random’s lips. It was the first time Jordan and Random were ever face to face, but Jordan knew his opponents’ features well. Mug shots gave him a glimpse of Cody Random’s thin colorless lips and wild blue eyes. He knew much about Random from the files but still wondered what he was thinking. Did he feel cheated – his career as an international criminal was coming to such an anticlimactic end? Jordan tensed and prepared for the possibility Random’s cocky smile was because he had no intention in going quietly, but in a blaze of glory.
“It’s strange, ending like this,” Random said. His voice was like a crooner from some bygone age of nightclubs and speakeasies. “My brilliance, snuffed out in a darken alley.” He smiled as if he was talking about a bad day at the racetrack and not the beginning of imprisonment.
“Yeah, it was all that,” Jordan said. “Probably shouldn’t have killed those airmen back in Germany. The Air Force’s funny about that sort of thing. Now put your hands up, you’re under arrest.” The word felt uneasy…out of place in his mouth. Arrest. He was an intelligence officer – a spy. What the hell was he doing here?
Random’s mellow mood didn’t change as he raised his hands. Ten digits pointed upward far too casually for a man looking down the business end of a Glock 19. “Whatever you say, officer.”
Jordan felt the fingers of emotions claw at his steely resolve. Random’s cockiness got to him. He was clearly captured, with no hope of escape. Alone. No one could get away from a gun pointed at his head.
Wait. Where was his gun?
The click of a revolver’s hammer was like thunder in the alley. Jordan whirled around and the training took over. Two rounds spit out of the Glock. The whole scene lasted a second, but it seemed to take years for Michael Random’s body to fall to the ground. With a wild howl born from a man filled with rage and sorrow, Random tackled Jordan to the ground. Blows rained and Jordan curled into a ball and cursed himself for letting his guard down. Random inexplicably went limp and collapsed next to him. Jordan looked up to see his partner’s hand extend to help him up. He took the gesture and came to his feet.
“I heard a shot,” E-Man said. His brown clean shaved face streamed sweat. His chest bounced in rhythm with his labored breathing. Jordan gave his friend a reassuring smile and clasped E-Man’s shoulder.
“Good work,” Jordan said. He walked to Michael Random’s body. Just a kid – nineteen according to the file. It was some sort of decoy play. Cody would distract and Michael would finish Jordan off. Good plan…kinda.
Michael looked alive except for the pinpoint in his forehead. The eyes stared into Jordan’s. The face appeared to be shocked. Shock, the last thing he experienced as Jordan suddenly turned and pushed a sizable amount of Michael’s brain through the back of his skull.
Jordan holstered his weapon as he shook his head. The Reaper had been close to him today. His mind was on its way to the dark place of doubt and recriminations.
“You cool?” E-Man asked.
Jordan looked away from the corpse. “Yeah, I’m good. It never gets easy, ya know?”
E-Man scoffed. “We shouldn’t have been here, man. This ain’t our beat, being all Five-O with it.”
“These guys were more than just drug dealers.”
Another scoff. “National security, right?”
Jordan nodded. “Uh huh. And Random doing those guys at Ramstein made it all kind of murky as to whose jurisdiction is what. And you know, your uncle and mine ain’t down with that.”
“Your Uncle Sam,” E-Man said. Jordan let it slide. He didn’t have the time nor energy to debate the righteousness of the US government, its clandestine operations or the logic of two black men from Detroit being involved in said operations. He did, however, miss the blanket of security being such an operator normally provided and he lamented the upcoming confrontation with Agent Storey over the death of young Michael Random.
The first stars appeared in the Miami sky as the sound of police sirens shattered the still of the night. And Jordan Noble wished he could just disappear into it.
About the Author
James H. Roby is a Detroit son, born and raised. He served in the US Air Force as a commissioned officer – tours included Mobile, AL Peterson AFB, CO, Clear AK and four years, three months, twenty-three days, seventeen hours as a Missile Launch Officer in the 91st Missile Wing, Minot AFB, ND.
The novels that would be the UrbanKnights almost never came about. It was only after a spouse of one of his fellow instructors got a hold of an incomplete Past Debts that James was inspired to continuing writing. When he isn’t foiling crimes through his character, Jordan Noble, James lives in the Chicago area with daughter and the ‘Warrior Princess’, Mayla the Bichon.
James has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s from Central Michigan University. He’s been to World Cities like London and Toronto, seen three icebergs come together 500 miles above the Arctic Circle, and watched dolphins play in the Caribbean. Still, no matter what, even when he’s not in Detroit, Detroit is in him.