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Jearl's books

A Dance with Dragons
The Death Factory
Gravity
The Footprints of God: A Novel
Winter of the World
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Mockingjay
A Game of Thrones
A Storm of Swords
Cross My Heart
Girl Missing
Bloodstream
Spandau Phoenix
A Feast for Crows
Odd Apocalypse
A Clash of Kings
Fall of Giants
The Art of Racing in the Rain


Jearl Rugh's favorite books

Scorpion Run

The only way she can find the balance between family and career is to stop the murderer determined to destroy both.


An award winning novel is now available FREE on Wattpad

 

Reviews of Scorpion Run:


Although this is not always my genre of choice, I had a difficult time putting the book down. Definitely a page turner...

 

The climax ... had all the tension and fast pacing of an action movie and I had to stop from skipping ahead to see the conclusion... Definitely well done.


An excellent book and one that I'm sure fans of the genre will truly enjoy!


 

Click the cover to read.
Preview Chapter 1 here:

THE BLAST RIPPED Dirk from a pleasant dream about a family he’d yet to know in a future he hoped to live. As the images dissolved with the sleep webs, his heart responded with an anxious cadence and an unwelcomed, but all-too-familiar, disquiet supplanted his euphoria. Tucked in behind a broad-trunked tree on a small rise, he rolled to his stomach. The plastic grip on his rifle filled his hands but offered no guarantee of safety, no matter how much his mind grappled for it. With the sights pointed in the direction of the thundering peal on retreat into the distance, Sergeant Knight stared through the barrel-mounted Starlight night-vision scope, and scanned the field. Not thirty meters out, six green heat signatures, warm from the life he’d stolen from them, lay victim to the tripwire of a single M18 Claymore mine.

     The first day of Tet Nguyen Dan, the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year, a two-day ceasefire had been agreed by both sides. Most of the allied troops had taken a reprieve from the fighting but Knight’s squad had been assigned to keep ears to the ground.

     His eyes drifted above the gun barrel. The fading stars set against the black canopy marked the beginning of the second day of their three-day recon mission. Until this discharge, they had observed not one confirmed trace of enemy movement.

He scanned the near proximity though the crosshairs, anxious to find the dead, like his own squad, were just a few scouts on patrol. Despair clouded with dread, however, as he witnessed scores of men crouched and running for cover across the open field to a tree line fifty meters away. He drew several deep breaths of tepid jungle air. The scent of dirt, foliage decay, and his own stale sweat filled his nostrils, but there just wasn’t enough oxygen to subdue the relentless fear for the lives of his men clawing at his now fully conscious mind.

     During the next two uneasy minutes, while he scanned the brush in front of him for each of his men, he hoped his team remembered the mission briefing he had given before they left base: “Don’t fire unless you’re absolutely sure they’re shooting at you, and not to see if anyone’s home. Return fire throws the door open wide enough to drive a battalion of tanks.” With each one hunkered behind whatever cover they could find, he rolled to his left side, traced the Sign of the Cross over his chest, and flung a prayer to the creator of the stars that they’d be safe if the force on the other side of the clearing decided to ring the doorbell.

     When Charlie’s volley erupted, Knight sat up and pressed his back against the tree trunk. The bark jabbed into his flesh as if it was a bed of rough-cut gravel, but he waited, unfliching, with his finger on the trigger of his M16. Thirty seconds later the rain of hot lead stopped tearing through the jungle. He pursed his lips and forced the breath he only now realized he’d been holding from his lungs. He raised the scope again, peered around the trunk, and glanced over the enemy. Their crouched green glows indicated they were prepared for a response. Just hold on, boys, he thought. Wait ‘til they collect their dead and move on.

     No sooner had the thought passed through his mind when the silence was broken by the chatter of automatic weapon fire to his right. He jerked the scope around to see who had engaged. Hal stood with his rifle at his hip like Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, spraying short bursts toward the opposite stand of trees.

     Over the last day, a gnawing uneasiness had grown in Knight’s gut for Hal. He had landed, gung-ho, in Southeast Asia three days ago. On this his first mission, his bravado said, “I’m here to kill gooks.” But after a day of playing duck and cover with every sound the jungle uttered, his nerves were as taut as the E string on Jimi Hendrix’s Fender Stratocaster.

     Proof of life was just what Charlie needed. After firing three bursts, with a single shot from the opposite side of the clearing, and without a noticeable flinch, Hal tipped backward like a felled tree. The rest of his magazine sent a single stream of pointless bullets into the air.

     Twenty minutes and exhaustive rounds later, the sulfuric trace of spent gunpowder came with Knight’s every breath. Behind the far trees, dawn painted the black horizon with a deep blue brushstroke. While the firefight had raged, Knight kept vigil on the body-heat signatures in the tree line. Vietcong reinforcements had been gathering from adjoining sectors like spotted hyenas on the scent of a kill. Because the morning light threatened to expose just how few of Uncle Sam’s GI’s opposed them, at any moment Knight expected to see a wall of pajama-clad AK-47-bearing guerillas swarm from the trees behind a frenzy of fire power.

     One of Dirk’s men started the nickname tradition while cleaning his weapon after a grisly mission. Seated on his bunk, without looking up, he had said to anyone listening, “Clive doesn’t live in this hellhole. He’d never do the things Uncle Sam demands. From now on it’s Black Hail out there raining death and destruction. And if Hail survives ‘til that ride home, Clive will meet him at the airport.” Since that day, even those making their final trip home in a box earned their moniker.

     Knight looked again to the position of each man who had trusted him with his life. The bitterness of bile rose to his tongue as he found at least five whose confidence he’d betrayed. Lone Wolf on the far left flank still returned fire, but favored his left shoulder. A good soldier, he kept his distance from the squad whether on a mission or back in the barracks. Lefty, known for his accurate southpaw grenade tosses, writhed with his hands clutched to his stomach as if his guts were spilling out. Besides Hal, on the far right, Boomer, the explosives expert, lay still as stone. And in the center of the line, ten meters below Knight, DJ, the radioman, sprawled motionless.

     Since no air cover had arrived once the shooting started, Knight figured DJ must have been taken out at about the same time as Hal. With so many of his men already dead or wounded, holding their position for much longer gave no hope of anyone’s survival, which meant they wouldn’t fulfill their mission—to report Charlie had canceled their holiday plans.

     The thick brush on the grade between him and DJ offered visual obscurity in the dull morning light, but the broad leafs were no shield from the bullets strafing the ground around him. He placed his hand over his left breast pocket and drew strength from his fiancée’s tear-stained letter. The hope birthed on that one page covered his heart like a cloak of chainmail.

With his rifle resting in the crooks of his arms, in a flurry of elbows and knees, he dug into the carpet of decaying leaves and grass, crawled down the slope, and wriggled to the right side of the remains of the twenty-year-old’s days on Earth. He turned toward DJ. His helmet lay next to him upside down like a turtle on its back. Knight picked it up. A bullet had pierced it and then burrowed into DJ’s brain. Left behind, a moist stream of blood crossed his forehead just above the “what the hell just happened?” stare in his eyes.

     “Sorry, kid,” he said, choking on the tears jammed in his throat. He dropped the helmet and reached across DJ’s body to slip the radio from his lifeless left hand. Rolling to his right side, he triggered the switch. A loud hiss of static smacked his ears. On impulse he shot his fingers to the knob to silence the volume. Once adjusted, as he lifted the instrument to speak, like a small tree branch under the thwack of a machete, his left arm fell useless. He gapped at the flaccid limb twisted across his chest at an incongruous angle, and then clenched his teeth. “Damn it,” he muttered, as if that’d take the bite from the sharp ache already radiating from the bone-fragging wound.

     He grabbed the device in his right hand and growled into the mouthpiece, “Taking heavy fire. At least five down. Request an airstrike now!”

     “Negative, Sarge,” the voice through the speaker crackled. “Pilots are on holiday.”

     “There is no holiday, soldier. Half the damn Cong army’s on the move and at my doorstep.”

     “It’ll be at least forty-five before I can find one who ain’t hungover.”

     “We’ll be dead by then. Find that pilot ... but get me a chopper, now!”

     Since they were twenty klicks from base, Knight knew the timing of the retreat was crucial. He looked to his left. The closest man, O’Leary, swapped magazines. Nicknamed after the infamous Catherine O’Leary of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, if he had toted his flamethrower on this patrol, they might have faced a more favorable outcome. Knight yelled, “O’Leary, Scorpion Run. One klick. Five minutes.” O’Leary nodded. Knight knew he’d carry the order to the others on the left flank.

     With Charlie’s sleet of lead buzzing like a swarm of angry hornets around Knight’s ears, and since DJ hadn’t survived this position, he dragged himself to the right under the brush searching for better cover. With his weapon slung over his back and his useless arm in tow, he crawled up next to Tarzan. So named because during battle he lurched from tree to tree firing into oncoming bullets. At the moment, pinned down, he reloaded magazines. So, over the fray, Knight repeated the order.

     “Five minutes,” Tarzan called back.

     Knight slid the two meters to Hal. Only on the ground two days, he hadn’t earned his nickname yet, but after this debacle, the kid might go down in squad history as Itchy-Finger Gun Slinger. Knight wanted to be angry with him for causing this disaster, but Hal was just a boy under extreme stress who, like many teenagers, thought he was invincible and didn’t consider consequences. I’ve seen it too many times.

     From Hal’s web belt Knight pulled a roll of gauze and bound it around his own arm. The blood flowed with such a heavy stream it took several layers of wrap to stop the injury from soaking through red. Once he tied it off, he moved forward and repeated the retreat order to two other men laying down fire. When he reached Boomer, his blood-drenched olive drab blouse should have been convincing enough, but Knight placed a finger to the silent man’s neck anyway. No throb greeted his fingertips. He shook his head in disgust and then looked around the ground near Boomer for the triggers.

     “Scorpion Run,” Knight said as he looked past Boomer to Boa.

     Boa, whose moniker derived from the night he slithered into the enemy’s camp and put several soldiers into chokeholds, stopped firing and turned toward Knight, waiting.

     “You’re hit,” Boa said.

     “The least of our injuries.”

     While the rest of Knight’s squad ceased fire, he rolled toward Boa and scooted until he had a view across the clearing between two thick tree trunks. In less than a minute, the enemy’s bullets also stopped.

     After another minute, in the bloom of morning light, a head bobbed into the clearing. He raised his field glasses and watched a small troop of about a dozen, not the entire force, emerge from the tree line. They crouched low with their weapons ready as they crossed the open field. Each step came slow and watchful as if dead men’s bones lay in their path.

When they were twenty meters out, Knight gritted his teeth against the carnage he was about to inflict but squeezed the detonators to the remaining Claymores anyway. The fire, smoke, and dust kicked up by the massive discharge hid the advancing guerillas. Yet the deafening explosion and the shrieks of the dying as the pellets tore through their flesh was the signal. Only seconds remained before the enemy waiting in the trees, disoriented by the blood and horror and thanking their god that it wasn’t them, realized the discharge wasn’t another accidental blast, but a diversion.

Knight jumped to his feet. After two steps, when Boa hadn’t followed, he turned. The soldier squatted next to one of the trees with a readied grenade. Dirk forced a whispered order, “Now, soldier. Fall back.”