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Chapter One






    A mere eighth of an inch and four ounces of pressure is all that exists between life and death's door. And many have passed through that door because of Frank Bonnet. It was his job. He did it well.

    At six years old he killed his first stag. By nineteen, his first gook. Six to eighteen may have prepared him, but Nam in 1970 trained him as a first rate sniper and set the course for his life. And he liked it.

    From his flat camouflaged hide, prone in Ghillie suit, or high and dry from elevated platform― the UH-1Y Huey Gunship, or low and wet among the reeds of the Song Huong River, he was good; eighty-nine confirmed kills and 170 probable kills. The best in Alpha Company's Recon kill team. His captain called him The Carousel, round after .308 round he just kept going. But his platoon called him Kelpie-three-oh-eight. Sometimes just Kelpie. Named for the mythical Scottish water spirit, a ghost-like entity that killed victims by drowning―but his was by bullet.

    The .308 caliber kind.

   After long stretches of sniping, sometimes days and nights at a time, Frank would return, hanging triumphantly out the door of the hovering Huey, affectionately called the crate by his platoon. Popular chart-climbing music from back home in the States would blast its familiar and comforting tunes to the troops from the skies above as the crate returned triumphantly and landed.

Frank's buddies coined a ditty about him and his Viet Cong gook sniping, to the tune of Chicago's big hit of that same year, 1970s Twenty-five or 6 to 4.


“Waiting for the break of day... Searching for something to slay... Flashing lights down from the sky... Lighting up, he squints his eye... Sitting cross-legged in the crate... Twenty-five or three, oh, eight?”


    Frank's glory days.

    But this was not Vietnam. And it was not 1970. This was Thailand, 2022, and he was 71, not 19.

    It was not sanctioned.

    It was not his job anymore.

    He was long retired . . . as far as Uncle Sam knows.

    This was obligatory.


    Frank clenched his teeth.

    It's your own fault, Kensington.

    His fingers wrapped tightly around the patterned nubs of the forestock.

    You should never have stuck your nose where it didn't belong.

    With grip secure, he pulled backward, the stock's buttplate nestled firmly into his shoulder.

    Your blood is on your own hands.

    He paused to flick a bead of sweat dripping from his twitching brow and returned to his engagement sequence; left eye squinted, his right dominant eye, trained since youth, focused more intensely, zeroing in on his intended target―the side of the man's head. A minor ocular adjustment; range: 300 yards, as indicated by the scope's mil-dot reticles, a dotted crosshair pattern used to gauge distance. Ballistic drop: he adjusted for four inches. Wind drift: zero compensation needed.
He inhaled deeply. Slowly exhaling, all distractions left his mind and body. Four ounces of trigger-pull pressure, barely enough to squash an ant, and the sweet taste of revenge would be his.

    His target? Forty-four-year-old Ian Kensington, chairman of The Kensington Foundation, a wealthy British philanthropist and explorer. And it was easy to track him. He'd been the subject of every news cycle for the last three weeks. His picture has been plastered across the cover of every major publication worldwide. His was the face of the man who recently found Blackbeard's treasure. The same treasure Frank and his older brother Emmett had searched for since they were kids. The same treasure Blackbeard cheated his partner out of over 300 years ago; Frank and Emmett's ancestor, Captain Stede Bonnet, history's Gentleman Pirate. The same treasure Kensington killed his brother Emmett over.


    Already living in Thailand for many years, in his eyes, it was fate that brought his brother's killer to his own backyard killing fields.

    He looked into the scope.

    It would be a shame to take the shot now. Evie Chapman, the half-naked, bikini-clad woman Kensington was currently locking lips with, would be covered in blood and brain matter, traumatized for life. But then, didn't she deserve to be? She was dead to rights in the whole damn thing.


    It was her fault. Her lover, Kensington, the British limey, wouldn't have killed my brother if not for her. All my brother wanted was for Evie to help him understand some words in a damn diary. A clue to the treasure's location. My family's treasure. Yeah, my brother may have kidnapped her, but he would have let her go . . . eventually. No, probably not. Emmett would have killed her too. He would have had to, wouldn't he? Doesn't matter. They stole my family's treasure. I should kill them both. Finish what Emmett would have done anyway.


    Frank's ballistic vantage point, 300 yards deep into the tropical forest, was a 100 yards short of the 400-yard textbook minimum distance a sniper should ever engage his quarry from. But that was only to ensure a higher probability of escaping and/or surviving the enemy's counter sniper fire. There would be no counterfire from Kensington. Nor from the half-naked Ms. Chapman, the instigator of his brother's death.

    Two shots.

    Back to back.

    But, if they'd just twist 90 degrees, he'd only need one shot, one bullet to the back of either head. A through-and-through kill shot―like the two birds with one stone cliché.

    Frank frowned. “I hate clichés.” More like one bird and one Brit, with one bullet. He grinned and applied the four ounces.


    “That's too easy. No sport whatsoever. Kensington, next time, and there will be a next time, I promise you, I will have a full magazine and a bullet in the chamber. And the two of you will see it coming. Just like my brother Emmett did when you shot him pointblank. You sons-of-bitches.

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