Authors: J. P. Sumner
Tags: #Fiction, #Retail, #Suspense, #Thrillers
Book One of the
Digital edition first
published in Nov. 2013
by The Electronic Book
A New York Times
Best-seller Listed Publisher
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I walked down
the highway that leads into Heaven’s Valley. My bag was weighing heavily on my
shoulder and the sun was shining bright in my eyes. In the distance, on the
horizon where the road dips, I can see the steam of the day rising off the
tarmac like Grandma’s pie in the oven.
It was mid-afternoon and hotter than hell.
I thought about taking my short, worn, dark brown leather jacket off, but I honestly
can’t be bothered to stop and mess around with it. Besides, it’ll only be a few
more miles before I reach the city limits and I’ve survived in warmer climates
They say once you enter Heaven’s
Valley, you never leave. The lure of the bright lights in the big city; the hot
temperature beaten only by the hotter women. It’s a broken, corrupt place that
thrives on the sins of the common man.
But I bet I leave.
I don’t like to stay in one place too
long. I don’t like familiarity. My work keeps me traveling, and I enjoy the
anonymity it requires.
However, money talks - and when it does,
This should be an easy hundred grand for
a couple of days’ work. After I’m done here, I might take a vacation. I’ve been
toying with the idea of seeing the Far East for a few years. My work hasn’t taken
me over there yet, so I might have a month off the grid and see a bit of the
world without my job dictating my actions.
I’ve been traveling for close to ten
hours now. I’d taken the Greyhound from Milwaukee up to Minnesota. It wasn’t a
bad ride – there was nice scenery along the way which made the journey more
From there, I flew into Las Vegas. The flight
was delayed by an hour or so, which had pissed me off. Then the plane had been
cramped and awful, surrounded by sweaty people from all over the world, putting
me in an even worse mood.
When I finally landed, I took another
Greyhound up to Heaven’s Valley. That last leg of the journey had been slow
going, with a lot of stopping and starting. Also, there was no air conditioning
on the bus, so everyone was hot and sweaty and agitated. I just wasn’t enjoying
it at all, so I decided to walk the last ten or so miles.
The heat was intense as I walked from
the state road along the highway, approaching the city limits. The last sign I
passed said I was four miles away. I needed a hotel, preferably with air
conditioning, a shower and some food.
But most importantly, I needed a drink.
An ice cold beer and a shot of single malt would do me just fine.
I was almost there.
I strode on, looking around me at the
expanse of sand and rock. Heaven’s Valley was situated in a basin of Nevada desert
roughly a hundred and fifty miles north of Las Vegas. On either side, leading
to the horizon where it reached the vague outline of mountain peaks, was
nothing but desert. It looked like such an unforgiving and barren landscape. I
smiled to myself at the irony that a place called Heaven’s Valley could be
surrounded by something that so closely resembled many people’s idea of Hell.
At the base of the mountain range to the
left, I could just make out the faint outline of a couple of buildings. Ahead,
bordering the city to the north was another range with a reservoir at its base.
The sweat trickled down my forehead,
stinging my eyes. I couldn’t swallow because my mouth felt like I’d eaten a
spoonful of sand and washed it down with saltwater. I glanced up at the sky and
squinted at the sun beating down on me in all its white-hot glory.
My name is Adrian Hell.
Welcome to my life.
I was sat at
the bar in a small, local non-descript place called Charlie’s, leaning forward
and resting on my crossed arms. In front of me was a half-empty bottle of Bud.
To the side of that was a double Johnnie Walker Black, waiting to be gulped. It
was just before eight p.m. and I was tired from my walk into town. I found the
first place that looked like it’d have a half-decent jukebox, picked my spot at
the bar and ordered a drink.
My jeans and boots were covered with a
thin layer of dust from the road. My white t-shirt was soaked with sweat, which
was the reason I’d still not removed my brown leather jacket. My shoulder bag
was on the floor, leaning against my bar stool.
Moments ago, I’d walked across the bar
to where the jukebox was, cycled through all the crap I’d never heard of until
I found a couple of good songs to listen to. I fed my money into the machine,
selected my tracks, sat back down in my seat and quietly resumed sipping my
The music wasn’t too loud, and bar wasn’t
too busy. I closed my eyes and listened to the world around me. The clack of
the balls on the pool table over my right shoulder, in the corner that was dark
and lit by a neon blue sign advertising a beer I’d never heard of. The idle
chatter from the table to my left - three women discussing work and shopping
and men. Two guys just to the right of me at the bar, exchanging one-line observations
about the current state of the government. The bartender in front of me, wiping
down glasses until they squeaking.
I opened my eyes and stared at the
mirrored wall behind the bar. I took another long pull of my beer, then
examined my reflection in front of me.
My ice blue eyes were like searchlights
on the dark landscape of my face. I stroked my chin and throat, feeling the
coarse, three-day-old stubble grate on my hand like sandpaper.
Definitely needed a shave.
I then rubbed my hand over my shaved
head, briefly massaging my temples and taking a deep breath as I felt the
strain of a full day’s traveling start to catch up with me.
I smiled to myself. I felt comfortable.
This was my kind of bar. Dull lighting, sticky floor, no pleasantries exchanged
between strangers. Just me, the music and a glass of whiskey.
I’d come a long way to be here. Never
been here before either. I’ve heard of Heaven’s Valley, and I’m familiar with
its reputation, but I’ve never worked here. And certainly wouldn’t come here by
choice. A sun-soaked city in the middle of the desert, divided into districts
of varying levels of grime and corruption. Gambling, girls and gangsters. Some
people’s idea of a good time, but certainly not mine.
One man’s Heaven is another man’s Hell.
Unfortunately, in my line of work, the
people who liked places like this were usually the kind of people who employed
me. See, despite my somewhat calm exterior and likeable demeanor, I’m actually
one of the world’s best contract killers. I’m not being egotistical when I say
that, I’m simply stating a fact. Over the last decade or so of my life, for all
the ups and downs I’ve had, I’ve always been really good at killing folks. I
nearly always do it for money, and I never kill someone who I don’t believe
deserves it. I’ve forged a good reputation that allows me to charge ridiculous
sums of money to all types of unsavory people who want other people dead.
A good contract killer, in my opinion,
needs certain qualities. Probably the most important, is you have to be okay
with taking a life. Sounds stupid to say that, I know. It’s one of those things
that’s easy to talk about, but when it comes down to you staring some poor
schmuck dead in the eye before you pull the trigger - that’s something else
altogether. I’ve been doing it over half my life, and it’s only been in more
recent years that I’ve truly become at ease with it.
I appreciate that makes me sound like a
psychopath, but I promise I’m not. Like I said, while I might make you question
my mental state and moral compass by charging people for me to do it, I only
kill bad people. It makes me feel like I’m getting some justice.
I also don’t like nice, normal people
being made to suffer. Most of the time the people I’m paid to kill do things
that negatively affect normal people like you, so personally, I can happily
justify killing the bastards.
The reason my reputation precedes me
like it does, is because of a hit I was given a few years back. I won’t give
you the full lowdown, because it’s very unpleasant. But to cut a long story
short, I was hired to kill the head of a gang who liked young girls and hard
drugs - and transported them both around the world for a sickening amount of
money. I took my target out with minimum hassle, but when I saw the extent of
the operation and the damage it had caused so many people, I kinda lost it. I’m
not proud of it (that much), but I... I went to a dark place. That’s probably
the best way to describe it. Took out seventeen armed, horrible pieces of shit,
burnt a building to the ground and left the bodies in such a deliberate state
that it sent a message to anyone who felt like taking up the business that it
wasn’t in their best interests. Word spread pretty fast in some pretty bad
circles, and I earned the nickname Adrian Hell. I liked it, so I rolled with
it. The work came thick and fast after that.
That’s the second thing any good
contract killer needs - the right attitude. If you play the game just right,
your name will put fear in the hearts of every man in the room, even if you’re
So there I sat, reflecting on what got
me where I am today, sipping a beer and listening to “
Creedence Clearwater Revival.
God I love that song.
Which is why I was so disappointed when
it was turned off from behind the bar halfway through.
I looked up and threw the barman a quizzical
what the hell?
look. He was staring behind me with wide, regretful eyes.
Then he looked at me for a second, before lowering his gaze in silent apology.
I sighed. Sadly, I figured I had a
pretty good idea what was about to happen.