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Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert, Monday, April 11: 7 Brand New Free Titles for You This Morning, plus … The President’s live-in private eye is back in Joseph Flynn’s The Hangman’s Companion (Today’s Sponsor)

Every teenage girl has secrets, but Melody Carlson pierces the thin veil between those secrets and grief, guilt, faith, and forgiveness in this morning’s latest addition to our 250+ Free Book Alert listings….

But first, a word from … Today’s Sponsor

“This is a page turner. The President’s Henchman was excellent and this is even better. A great read on it’s own, the two books mesh totally… Fast paced and great characters make this the best two book series I have read in years.” –Donald S. Feazell

The Hangman’s Companion (A Jim McGill Novel) 
by Joseph Flynn
5.0 out of 5 stars   10 Reviews
Text-to-Speech: Enabled 
Don’t have a Kindle? Get yours here.

“a rare feat, sequel that is every bit the equal of the original”

Here’s the set-up:

Always a good sport, Jim McGill, the first private-eye to live in the White House, agrees to accompany his wife, the president, to London to be her escort at a dinner given by the queen—yes, the one who lives in Buckingham Palace. Problem is, he’ll have a week in England beforehand, while the president attends a G8 meeting, with nothing to do.

Then a client comes to McGill, the daughter of a former Chicago cop McGill knew but didn’t like when he was a captain on the CPD. McGill’s former colleague went to Paris to scatter the ashes of his late, French-born wife in the Seine. While tending to that solemn obligation, the former cop managed to get into a brawl with and kill France’s national sports hero. The guy from Chicago claims he was only saving a blonde woman from being beaten by the Frenchman, as French law actually required him to do. Only problem is, the blonde has disappeared.

The former cop’s daughter asks McGill to find the woman and save her father.

Beats glad-handing the locals in nearby London, he decides. He just has to wrap up the case in time to get to dinner with the president and the queen.

ForeWord Magazine called The President’s Henchman “marvelously entertaining.” Its sequel, The Hangman’s Companion, is even more fun. With a French accent.

What the Reviewers Say
“This book contains, a monster that bathes in bear piss, gypies, NATO, a miracle, priests, the Queen of England[she is one smart old lady], child molesters, the President doing street fighting, a guitar playing French cop with a Silician body guard, and rice chrispe treats. In addition you have three different story lines going on. You are in the hands of writer who has his mojo going. Look every character could be turned into a book and I would read them. Sweetie, Deke, Father Nguyen, McGill’s kids, and of course Pruet who is the French version of McGill are worthy of novels of their own. Flynn just for the hell of it gives insight to The Undertaker’s past.

“Are you begining to see that this is must read. I loved The President’s Henchman, but I think I like this more.”
–Lost in Kansas’ James Corbett, Vine Voice

“Joe Flynn is a Zen Master in his writing; connected at many levels. His character development and relationships are thorough and fresh. Where he finds some of his characters is amazing as is his understanding of politics, not only national, but international. How Flynn gets all this inside info is beyond me. He has done his homework!! The Hangman’s Companion is full of suspense and tension; yes, a page-turner, one easy to follow even as the scenes and multiple plots switch from Washington to London to Paris. When does the movie version come out?? Love the strong, bold, smart US President!”
–Delinda Chapman

I loved this book! It is fast-paced and full of action. The main character, Jim McGill, is a detective with a great sense of humor and a quirky attitude… This character’s unique perspective is that he is the husband of the President of the United States, so you get international intrigue, diplomacy and current events thrown into the mix – which works beautifully!”
–R. Hammond

About the Author

Joseph Flynn was born in Chicago and raised in the shadow of Wrigley Field. He was one of three White Sox fans in the neighborhood, swimming against the tide of the Cubs faithful. Such adversity would later serve him well as he embarked on a career in writing. His education was both parochial and secular, including, St. Mary of the Lake School, Francis W. Parker School, Loyola University and Northeastern Illinois University. Mr. Flynn’s novels have been published by Signet Books, Bantam Books, Variance Publishing and his own imprint Stray Dog Press, Inc. Booklist said, “…Flynn is an excellent storyteller

Click here to download The Hangman’s Companion (A Jim McGill Novel) (or a free sample) to your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android-compatible, PC or Mac and start reading within 60 seconds!

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Free Contemporary Titles in the Kindle Store 

Just use the slider at right of your screen below to scroll through a complete, updated list of free contemporary Kindle titles, and click on an icon like this one (at right) to read a free sample right here in your browser! Titles are sorted in reverse chronological order so you can easily see new freebies.

Free Kindle Nation Shorts — April 9, 2011: An Excerpt from The Hangman’s Companion, A Jim McGill Novel by Joseph Flynn

Being the First Husband, married to the President of the United States, isn’t Jim McGill’s day job. He’s a private investigator, created by Joseph Flynn.

By the time you’ve read today’s generous 15,000-word Free Kindle Nation Shorts excerpt from The Hangman’s Companion, we suspect you’ll want to know more about McGill and his creator, who just happens to have plenty of other great reads waiting for you in the Kindle Store.

Jim McGill lives at the best-known address in the US:  1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC.  Fancy digs for a private investigator.

McGill, husband of the President of the United States, is back in reader’s hands after his previous adventure in
The President’s Henchman.  That’s when he turned his nose up at being the head of the FBI and decided to hang his private investigator’s shingle on the White House lawn.


Author Joseph Flynn, like McGill, is a contrarian as only a Chicago Irishman can be.  Chicago is a city of traditions, firm beliefs and passionate support of their sports teams.  There seems to be an unwritten law in the Windy City that residents have to make a choice:  root for the Cubs or cheer for the White Sox.


Flynn, born within sight of Cub’s home Wrigley Field, naturally chose to be a Sox fan.


Flynn provides a full shelf of his novels in the Kindle Store.  As The Chicago Tribune says:  “Flynn [is] a master of high-octane plotting.”



Click here to begin reading the free excerpt



Here’s the set-up:


Always a good sport, Jim McGill, the first private-eye to live in the White House, agrees to accompany his wife, the president, to a G8 summit in London. But he’ll have a week in England with nothing to do.

Then a client comes to McGill, the daughter of Glenn Kinnard, like McGill a former Chicago cop. Kinnard went to Paris to scatter the ashes of his wife in the Seine. While tending to that obligation, Kinnard got into a brawl and killed France’s national sports hero. Kinnard claims he was saving a woman from being beaten by the Frenchman, as French law required him to do. Problem is, the woman has disappeared.
McGill has to find the woman to save Kinnard.
Beats glad-handing the locals in London, he decides. He just has to wrap up the case in time to escort the president to a dinner with the queen.Cove


Click here to begin reading the free excerpt now


The Hangman’s Companion

(A Jim McGill Mystery)

by Joseph Flynn
Kindle Edition

List Price: $2.99

Buy Now

Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled

Click Here to Buy Now in the US Kindle Store


(UK CUSTOMERS: Click on the title below to download The Hangman’s Companion

excerptFree Kindle Nation Shorts – April 8, 2011

An Excerpt from

The Hangman’s


“A Jim McGill Mystery”

by Joseph Flynn

Copyright © 2011 by Joseph Flynn and published here with his permission

Chapter 1

Pont d’Iéna, Paris, Sunday, May 17th


The fight under the bridge at the foot of the Eiffel Tower turned deadly when the Frenchman kicked the urn out of the American’s grasp. The pewter vessel shot into the air and smashed against a bridge support, leaving a dark stain there and scattering the remainder of the ashes of the American’s late wife into the Seine.

The Frenchman, Thierry Duchamp, an elite athlete, twenty-eight years old, was more than a little drunk and had been having a heated argument with a shapely blonde. Her makeup was smeared and she all but spilled out of her crimson silk blouse. The American, Glen Kinnard, forty-nine, a retired cop with a long list of excessive force complaints, had been standing on the walkway under the bridge. He’d been agonizing over whether to honor his wife’s last request, when the noisy French couple made their stumbling approach.

Kinnard was bone tired after a long, turbulent flight from Chicago. He’d had to stand in a block-long line to clear customs. Then he had to make several detours to exit Charles de Gaulle Airport because of some sort of minor terrorist scare. He hadn’t slept in thirty-six hours and he was jet-lagged to hell and back.

On top of all that, he wasn’t a patient guy even when he was fresh.

The only thing that had kept him from telling the raucous couple to show a little respect and shut the fuck up was that the French had been surprisingly kind to him since he’d arrived.

It had started off with the taxi driver leaning against his cab at the airport. He was a tough-faced little mutt, looked like he had a glass eye, was smoking a butt that smelled like he’d fished it out of a toilet. But he saw the pain on Kinnard’s face, took note of the urn the ex-cop had taken out of his suitcase. Saw how Kinnard cradled the urn like a baby. He nailed the situation at a glance.

Someone near and dear had died.

He held the door open for Kinnard like he was driving a limo not a cab. He tucked his fare’s suitcase into the trunk, and slid behind the wheel. Looking over his shoulder at Kinnard, he even spoke English after a fashion.

“My regrets, m’sieur,” the cabbie said. “Where may I deliver you?”

Kinnard gave the guy the name of the hotel where his daughter had booked a room for him. “The Hotel Saint Jacques.” He provided the address on the Rue de Rivoli.

“I know this place. We travel with all haste.”

The cabbie wasn’t kidding; he put the pedal down. Slalomed through traffic like a pro. Still had time to glance in the mirror at the urn Kinnard held close.

The American knew just what the driver was wondering: Who’d kicked?

Kinnard surprised himself by answering the unspoken question. “My wife. She asked me to bring her home.”

Elle était française?” the driver asked.

“Yeah,” Kinnard said. “Born right here in Paris.”

The driver turned the meter off. Said the ride was on him.

Kinnard nodded his thanks. He looked out the window at the city and told the man, “The shame of it is I never got to see the place with her.”

When they arrived at the hotel, the driver hopped out, retrieved Kinnard’s bag and had a quick conversation with the doorman, who held the door for Kinnard, and then passed the word to the young woman working behind the front desk. She, in turn, spoke to a guy in a sharp suit.

If he’d had the energy, Kinnard would have been embarrassed.

He wasn’t looking to come off as some Weepy Willie.

“Your name, m’sieur?” the young woman asked.

He gave it, watched her find it on a list in front of her. She turned to look at the guy in the suit and pointed the tip of her pen to a space on what Kinnard took to be a diagram of the rooms in the hotel. The guy in the suit nodded. She turned to Kinnard.

“We are sorry to say, m’sieur, all the rooms of the type you requested have been filled; we will have to offer you a suite, at no additional charge, if that is satisfactory.”

Kinnard knew they were kidding him, but he played along, grateful.

“That’ll be great,” he said.

He signed the register and the young woman gave him her card. “If there is anything we can do to make your stay more…consoling, please let me know.”

Kinnard looked at the card. The young woman’s name was Emilie. Same as his daughter.

“Merci,” he said.


The suite was cozy by American standards but stylish down to the smallest detail. Suzanne would have loved the place. He would have loved to see the smile on her face had they stepped through the door together. But he had always been too busy being a cop to go to Paris, and when he hadn’t been busy they’d gone places he wanted to go, Vegas or Miami. Suzi knew better than to push too hard to try to change his mind. He’d raised his hand to her often enough.

Once too often finally…and she’d divorced him.

His daughter had cheered her mother’s long overdue departure.

He’d never expected to hear from Suzanne again. Certainly not after five years without a word. He almost didn’t recognize her voice when she called. Her accent seemed to have faded, become more American, and she sounded old. Good reason for that. She told him she was dying, and would like to see him once more before she went.

The last thing Suzi was looking for was a reconciliation. She was thinking of Emilie. She didn’t want their daughter to be left without a parent when she died. She pleaded with Kinnard to find a way to make peace with Emilie.

At the age of twenty-four, though, Emilie considered herself to be her own woman, and the last person she wanted back in her life was the prick of a father who had made her mother’s life hell. If giving him another chance was what Maman was asking, then she was asking too much. She told Suzanne so to her face, with Kinnard in the room.

He saw the fear in his daughter’s eyes. She thought he might go off on her, knock her around good, though he never had, not in his worst days. When her father failed to meet Emilie’s expectation of brutality, she voiced a new suspicion.

The sonofabitch was after her mother’s money. After leaving Kinnard, Suzanne had started a small, successful travel agency. Emilie was her strong right hand. The business was going to her.

Kinnard turned to Suzi and asked, “Em’s your sole heir, right?

From her bed, Suzanne nodded.

“So let’s put the money question to rest,” he said. “Sign everything you have over to her right now. I’ll cover all your expenses, medical and otherwise. You need to see a doctor, I’ll take you. You need anything, I’ll get it for you. Help any damn way I can.”

Emilie had no doubt Kinnard would keep his word. To spite her.

Suzanne, though, was moved to tears. She put a hand over her mouth. She knew what she looked like. The chemo and the radiation had ravaged her. Her attempts to make herself presentable before her ex-husband arrived had only made her weep.

The damage the cancer had done to Suzanne almost made Kinnard sob, too. All the more so because it made him think of how he’d once marred her beauty. If another man had inflicted such hurt on her, he would have…

He would have to take care of her as best he could because there was no way to get revenge on a fatal illness. Thing was, as haggard and drawn as Suzanne looked, he could look past the present moment and still see her as beautiful. Her eyes were as blue as ever, and the irrepressible spirit that lay behind them was untouched by the cancer.

Suzanne wanted Emilie to have her father in her life. If that required her to forgive Kinnard for all he’d done to her, and do so in Emilie’s presence, she would do it gladly.

She extended her hand to Kinnard.

“Be at peace with me,” she said.

He took her hand, and now he couldn’t keep his eyes from glistening with tears.

Seeing her parents look lovingly at each other made Emilie gag.

She stormed out, telling her mother to sell the business and give the money to charity.

Emilie might have been able to maintain her anger if Suzanne hadn’t confounded her doctors’ predictions. They’d given her a month to live, two at the most. But she hung on for a year. It was a hellish year, but Kinnard never wavered in his commitment. Emilie tried to keep her contempt for Kinnard stoked, accusing him of being too damn late in trying to act like a decent human being. But he’d shouldered most of the load Emilie had carried, giving her time to have a life of her own. He was there through the worst of it, times when Emilie had to leave her mother’s room because it hurt so bad to see how she was suffering.

None of Kinnard’s ministrations, though, got Emilie to discontinue her verbal abuse.

While he never said a harsh word to her.

Suzanne was the one who knocked Emilie for a loop.

She asked her daughter to be the maid of honor at her wedding.

Glen Kinnard and Suzanne LaBelle were married for the second time one week before the bride succumbed to her affliction. She lay in bed throughout the ceremony, but clearly responded, “I do,” when asked if she took this man…

Other than the judge her father secured to perform the ceremony, Emilie was the only witness present. She helped her mother place the ring on her father’s finger. She kissed both her parents when the exchange of vows was completed.

Suzanne asked only one thing of Emilie: “Be kind.”

Of her husband, she asked, “When I go, please take me home.”


Kinnard tried to sleep, laying fully clothed atop the comforter on the small French bed. But he had too many demons dancing in his head to get more than a few minutes of rest at any one time. Emilie, from the front desk, called to ask if he would like to have dinner in his room. She could have the hotel’s chef prepare almost anything he would like. He thanked her but declined the offer. He asked not to be disturbed before midday tomorrow.

At two a.m. he rolled off the bed, took a shower, and made a pot of coffee using the machine provided in the suite. He dressed in fresh clothes, dark shirt, pants, and windbreaker. Rubber soled shoes. Feeling the caffeine jolt of the coffee, he picked up the urn with Suzanne’s ashes from the table next to the bed and left the suite.

If there was anyone on duty at the front desk, that person was not at his post when Kinnard passed through the lobby. He had to open the door to the street for himself, just as he’d hoped he would. It was two-thirty now. Early Sunday morning. Still late Saturday night to any revelers making a last stop on their rounds.

Kinnard looked right and left along the length of the Rue du 29 Juillet, on which the hotel’s side entrance faced. No pedestrians were visible in either direction. He turned left and walked toward the Rue de Rivoli. He waited in the shadows at the corner of the block as a single car passed, neither the driver nor the passenger looking in his direction. He crossed the thoroughfare and entered the Tuileries Gardens.

It was only after he was well into the parklike setting and was walking in the shadows of a stand of trees that he thought he should have paused to read the signs at the gardens’ entrance. He might have learned if the place was off-limits overnight, the way many American parks were. He didn’t think there was much of a threat that terrorists would attempt to blow up the shrubbery. But the Louvre was just down the street. Even he hadn’t been able to miss the place on the taxi ride to the hotel. If some jihadi SOBs wanted to rub the infidels noses in how corrupt their culture was, they could hide out in the trees and start launching rockets or mortar rounds at the famous museum.

That possibility had to occur to the French cops, Kinnard thought.

Had to.

Made Kinnard glad he was wearing dark clothes and running shoes.

He might not have destruction in mind, but he was a man with a mission.

He moved deeper into the trees, picked up his pace.

He had deliberately failed to inquire if it was legal to dump someone’s ashes in the Seine. He didn’t want to know so he could claim ignorance, if worse came to worse. Of course, the river flowed 480 miles. He could have picked a quiet spot out in the countryside somewhere, deposited Suzanne’s ashes and no one would ever have been the wiser. But Suzanne had been a Parisienne and as far as Kinnard was concerned there was only one place to fulfill her wish.

Right where the Seine flowed past the Eiffel Tower.


The walkway under the Pont d’Iéna struck him as the perfect spot. The overarching bridge gave it a sense of privacy. A terrace of shallow steps led down to the water’s edge. A support pillar ten feet out in the river shielded him from the view of anyone on the opposite bank. All he had to do to honor Suzanne’s last wish was to crouch, perhaps kneel, open the urn and let the ashes swirl away with the current. They’d flow out from under the bridge right past the Eiffel Tower.

Only thing was, Kinnard just couldn’t let his wife’s remains go.

The last year he’d spent taking care of Suzanne had been the most meaningful of his life. He’d felt closer to her than when they had first started dating. It was the only time he’d ever cared about anyone without thinking about himself first. His selflessness had been apparent even to Emilie. In the minutes after Suzanne had passed, he’d thanked Em for playing along, pretending she’d reconciled with her father.

“I know giving me that kiss must have cost you,” he said.

She shrugged. “Just trying to do what Mom asked.”

“It’s all right now. She’s gone. You can stop acting like I’m not a total asshole.”

Emilie studied him. Thought about how he’d changed over the past year.

“Maybe total is too strong.” She smiled when she said that.

Almost made Kinnard cry again right there.

Emilie’s forgiveness inspired him that night under the Pont d’Iéna.

Maybe the thing to do, he thought, was hold on to Suzi’s ashes until he croaked. Then have Em bring the two of them back to the Seine and-No, he’d leave Suzi’s remains in Paris, buy a space for them at some cemetery or something. That way, Em would have to carry only his urn with her. She could bring their ashes to where he was standing right now. Open the two urns, let their ashes mix in the air and flow away in the river.

Together forever. He’d make sure to treat Em right, live like a monk, do good works, make people forget the old Glen Kinnard. He was sure his daughter would honor his request.

The idea pleased Kinnard right down to the soul he never knew he had. He didn’t know how long he stood beneath the Pont d’Iéna lost in thought, but he was certain what brought him out of his reverie. An angry female voice. Screeching in French.

He looked to his left and saw a young couple approaching. The guy was having trouble keeping his balance as they walked. The woman’s voice was loud; the man’s was low. The man was slurring his words; the woman was bellowing hers. The woman put a foot wrong, lost her balance and started windmilling her arms. She tottered toward the water with a shriek.

The man caught a wrist and yanked her back. For a second, Kinnard thought they were going to kiss and make up, be on their way and leave him in peace. Only the guy didn’t kiss her, he said something too quiet for Kinnard to hear. Whatever he said, it wasn’t well received. The woman replied with a shrill rant. Her voice was enough to make Kinnard’s ears ache.

Back home, on the job, he would have taken a billy club to both of them.

But he remembered where he was and how well he’d been treated up until now.

The Frenchman, though, had heard enough from the woman.

He finally raised his voice. “Mon Dieu, ferme la bouche!” Jesus, shut up!

Mademoiselle wasn’t of a mind to turn down the volume. She planted her feet wide, put her left hand on her hip, and vigorously waved her right index finger under the guy’s nose. She kept that up, Kinnard thought, things were going to take a definite turn for the worse.

As if to confirm his expectation, the guy’s face grew tight with anger and he began to shake his head back and forth with increasing vigor. Kinnard was sure he was about to clock the broad: break her nose, blacken her eyes, knock out a few teeth.

The prospect of which made Kinnard’s own jaw tighten. He’d learned enough about France from Suzi to know the country had a Good Samaritan law. It said people were legally obliged to come to the aid of someone in danger or distress, as long as you could help without putting your own precious backside at risk. What you couldn’t do, though, was just turn your back and walk away. The least you were expected to do was call for help.

Kinnard didn’t have a cell phone on him. Didn’t know the police emergency number even if he could find a public phone. There wasn’t a cop or anybody else in sight. So maybe he was in a legal gray area, had a loophole. Yeah, right. A gutless wonder with a microdot conscience might rationalize the situation that way. But a street cop with twenty-five years experience? No way could he split. Even if a hassle was the last thing he needed right now.

His temper climbing fast into the red zone, Kinnard was about to speak out when the Frenchman took him by surprise. Kinnard thought he’d seen it all, but this guy showed him something new. He caught the woman’s wagging finger in his teeth. Bit down hard enough that she couldn’t yank it free.

The woman’s voice, now filled with pain, rose to operatic heights. So the guy decided to give her something more to complain about. He started whacking her with rights and lefts to the head. Openhanded blows, but hard enough to make her head jerk back and forth.

For a dizzying second, Kinnard’s subconscious projected his face onto the Frenchman and Suzi’s face onto the woman. He felt flush with shame. But self-loathing turned quickly into fury. The shout that erupted from his chest drowned out the sounds of the fight.

“Hey, asshole, leave her the hell alone!”

Kinnard’s outburst made the French couple jump a foot into the air, the woman finally freeing her mangled finger. They both turned to gape at him. Kinnard saw it was the first time the Frenchman realized he was there. But the woman…it seemed to Kinnard almost as if she had been expecting him. Was pissed he hadn’t intervened sooner.

By now the Frenchman saw who he was dealing with: a gray-haired fart holding a vase. He snarled at Kinnard, “Va te faire foutre, papie.” Fuck off, grandpa.

The woman tried to seize the moment to flee, but she turned an ankle and fell.

Dismissing Kinnard as inconsequential, the man turned and started to kick the woman hard. Kinnard couldn’t see the guy’s face just then, but nonetheless recognized himself again in the role of the pitiless bully.

Without a moment’s hesitation, he joined the fray.


A street fighter to his core, Kinnard never worried about what was fair. He hit the Frenchman with a straight right to his cheek while the guy was still kicking the shit out of the woman. It was a good solid punch with plenty of shoulder and hip behind it, but it was a bit off target. Kinnard had been going for the hinge of the guy’s jaw. Had he hit the nerve bundle there, it would have been all over. As it was, Kinnard had busted the side of the guy’s face for him, but left him upright.

Well, almost. The force of the punch knocked him back into the woman lying on the walkway. The Frenchman lost his footing, but where a normal guy would have keeled over like a felled tree and smacked his head on the pavement, this SOB went horizontal in the air, spun like he was a plane doing a barrel roll, and his right leg came whipping around. As if he had it in mind all along, he locked onto the urn Kinnard cradled in the crook of his left arm. The bastard’s right foot lashed out and kicked the urn free from Kinnard’s grasp. Sent it rocketing into the night.

Kinnard howled, “No!”

The laws of physics ignored his plea. The urn shot out over the Seine, smashed into the bridge’s support pillar and burst into innumerable pieces. Suzanne’s ashes fell into the river, the portion that didn’t become a dark smear on the damp bridge support.

For a moment, Kinnard could do no more than stare in stupefied disbelief.

A clatter of retreating footsteps reminded him that his business under the Pont d’Iéna  remained unfinished. He turned to see the battered blonde hobbling off, her high heels resounding off the pavement. The asshole Kinnard had punched was back on his feet, running a hand over his bruised face and wincing. He wasn’t done, though. He didn’t give a damn about the woman now. He wanted Kinnard. Wanted to put him into the river, as lifeless as Suzanne.

But Kinnard wasn’t ready to go.

Not while the French cocksucker was still drawing breath.

Kinnard watched the Frenchman as the guy moved in on him. Even drunk and with his balance less than perfect, he was light on his feet. He had his hands up, but they wouldn’t be his primary weapons. The Frenchman was a kicker. That was when it came to Kinnard where he’d seen a move like the one the prick had used to kick Suzi’s ashes into the river. SportsCenter. When the cable channel didn’t have enough real sports highlights to show they’d put on some of those soccer trick shots. Guys doing somersaults, kicking the ball past the goalie.

So he knew what to expect: feet. Maybe a head butt. Like the guy who cracked that dago’s sternum with his head in a big game a few years back. He’d been French, too. So watch for that.

The Frenchman was smiling at Kinnard, blood on his teeth from Kinnard’s first shot. Looking like he was a wolf about to eat a lamb. Confident little fuck. Kinnard figured he had three inches and thirty pounds on the guy, none of it fat. Maybe it was Kinnard’s gray hair that had him fooled. That was the case, hooray for gray.

The Frenchman spat out a gob of blood and started to say something.

Kinnard loved it when assholes talked. Their minds were on getting out whatever it was they had to say. Not on fighting. Kinnard shot forward and hit the prick with two lefts and a right while he was still yapping. The lefts set him back on his heels and the right lifted him off his feet.

Damn, if he didn’t do a backflip instead of going down hard. Fucker went into a roll right out of the flip and popped back up to his feet. Like he was made of rubber or something, the asshole just kept bouncing back. He was still hurting from three shots to the head, though, and Kinnard wasn’t about to give him any time to recover. He closed on the guy fast.

Not fast enough. The Frenchman’s right foot shot out, going for Kinnard’s groin. Would have ended the fight right there if he’d connected. Kinnard would have collapsed like a sack of shit and been available for stomping. No fancy getaway moves for him. But he managed to turn just enough to take the kick on his left thigh. It felt like he’d been hit with an axe.

He staggered backward and now the frog pursued, kicking right, left, and right again. Like a boxer throwing combinations and, Jesus Christ, were his legs strong. His first two kicks were directed at Kinnard’s head, only Frenchie hadn’t gotten the range yet, underestimating Kinnard’s height. The kicks caught Kinnard on his shoulders, felt like he’d been hit with sledgehammers. The last kick was another try for Kinnard’s crotch. He managed to sidestep that one completely, get both hands around the guy’s ankle, lift it high into the air, and then hold on so the fucker wouldn’t be able to do any more acrobatics.

Kinnard used his grip on the Frenchman’s leg to drive him straight down to the pavement. The back of the guy’s head hit first, followed by his torso and keister. A series of satisfying cries of pain reached Kinnard’s ears. He’d finally put some real hurt into the sonofabitch. There was a question in Kinnard’s mind, though, whether that last gasp of agony might have his own.

The pain in his left leg was ratcheting up fast. God, had that bastard frog ruptured his femoral artery or something? Was he dying on his feet? Not that he was going to be standing long if the throbbing in his leg kept getting worse.

And, God Almighty, that French bastard was getting to his feet again. No fancy moves this time. He was using both hands to push himself upright. If Kinnard had had his gun with him, he would have emptied the whole clip into this guy. Then crack his skull with the barrel. But he didn’t have his gun, and here came the Frenchman again.

He was trying to take a run at Kinnard but the fall had messed up his wiring. He wasn’t light on his feet anymore. In fact, he was having trouble just staying upright. If Kinnard had had two good legs to work with, he could have stepped out of the way, given the guy a little shove and sent him into the river. With any luck, the prick wouldn’t know how to swim.

But fancy footwork was no more available to Kinnard than his gun. Still, he was able to see what the Frenchman intended to try. No kicks this time. Not with those wobbly legs. Not with the raw hatred in those eyes. The guy was going to try to kill Kinnard with his head. He wasn’t tall enough to go tête à tête-head to head-so he had to try to crack Kinnard’s chest. Just like that other French guy in that big game.

Head butts were fight finishers, sometimes fatally so. There were only two good countermoves. The first was to get out of the way. But it was already too late for that. The second was too meet the hard surface of the attacking skull with something that could absorb the blow without damage, something that would overwhelm the integrity of the cervical spine.

The heel of Kinnard’s right palm shot forward to collide with the Frenchman’s thrusting forehead. The bones of Kinnard’s arm were stronger than those anchoring the Frenchman’s head. The smack of flesh on flesh was followed by the crack of the frog’s neck breaking. He went down like he’d been shot. His legs twitched twice and then he was still.

Kinnard didn’t see any of that. The jolt of hitting his opponent’s head was instantly transmitted to the shoulder the Frenchman had kicked. That pain combined with the agony in his left leg was more than consciousness would tolerate. He collapsed alongside the Frenchman, his head coming to rest atop his opponent’s outstretched arm.

When the cops found them two hours later it looked as if the battered American lay in the fond embrace of the Frenchman he had killed.

Chapter 2

Washington, DC, Sunday, May 31st


As much as possible, which was usually not all that much, Sunday was a day of rest for President Patricia Darden Grant and her husband James J. McGill. Thing was, for the majority of the world, Sunday was not the sabbath, and there were plenty of godless cruds who worshipped only their own blood-soaked ambitions. Dealing with them, regardless of the day of the week, was the duty of the president. McGill kept more regular hours, but Saturday and Sunday were often given to maintaining paternal ties to his three young children living in Evanston, Illinois. But on that Sunday at the end of May the world’s more serious miscreants were in passive mode, and Abby, Kenny, and Caitie McGill were all content to speak with their father for five minutes and pass the phone along, ending with their mother, Carolyn.

“Things really that quiet?” McGill asked his ex-wife, with whom he maintained amicable relations and a common devotion to their children.

“Abby’s bottling something up,” his ex said. “You’ll probably be hearing from her soon.”

“I’m going to London with Patti, remember.”

“We’ll still be able to reach you, won’t we?”

“Yeah,” McGill said. “All I meant was if anyone needs me, it’ll take longer to get home.”

McGill, a former police captain in Chicago and a former chief of police in Winnetka, Illinois, now worked private investigations under the business entity of McGill Investigations, Inc. He was between cases at the moment, conveniently allowing him to accompany his wife to that summer’s G8 meeting in London. The president had told him she’d like him to be her dinner date at a little get-together the Queen of England would be hosting at Buckingham Palace.

Being a dutiful husband, McGill had, of course, accepted.

How often did a private eye get to eat with the president and the queen?

But if any of his kids really needed him, he’d have to express his regrets.

“Hold on a minute,” Carolyn told him.

She must have placed her hand over the phone, but McGill could still hear muffled shouts back and forth between Carolyn and their kids.

“They said they’ll be all right for the next week or so.”

“Caitie want me to get something for her in London?”

“Of course. They all do. Caitie’s just the only one to ask.”

McGill laughed.

“I think she’s got something cooking, too. She’s had some secretive phone calls.”

“A boyfriend already?”

“No, I don’t think so. But something.”

“Kenny’s fine?”


“How about you?”

“Just had my annual physical. All systems go.”

“That’s great. Say hello to Lars for me.”

“Will do. Tell Patti to keep up the good work.”


After brunch, McGill and the president repaired to the cozy room in the Residence known as McGill’s Hideaway. The furnishings were two immensely comfortable leather arm chairs with hassocks and a matching sofa. The chairs were used for reading or, in season, staring at the flames in the fireplace. The sofa, eight feet in length, had been used for moments of First Couple impetuosity, after fluffy White House towels had been spread to keep the leather unblemished.

McGill and Patti had vowed to each other that such instances would never be included in either of their memoirs.

At the moment, the president’s henchman was absorbed by a story in the sports section of the Chicago Tribune. The Bears, the headline story said, had shocked the city by pulling off a blockbuster trade for an All-Pro quarterback. This was such an unlikely event that many of the team’s faithful, including McGill, had felt it would be preceded by the return of a Republican mayor to City Hall.

Given the decades of dismal performance the team had suffered at the quarterback position, McGill, like many, was suspicious of this development. He scanned the story to see if there was any mention the incoming player had, say, turned up lame before the Bears acquired him. That, possibly, his old team was going to put the poor fellow down before they got the Chicago team to fall for a chump trade.

The Trib reported no physical defect in the would-be hero.

Daring to hope, McGill looked up from the paper and smiled.

He saw that Patti was looking his way. She’d been amusing herself for the last hour reading briefing books on the upcoming economic summit. There had been a lot of agonizing in the U.S. press lately about China overtaking the United States as the world’s largest economy. McGill thought comparative measures were overvalued. You didn’t see the Swiss sweating things like that. They kept making their chocolate and precision timepieces and yodeling in their mountains.

Individual wellbeing was more important than national aggregates, McGill thought. But what the hell did he know?

“Jim,” the president said, “I’d like you to tutor me.”

Apparently, he knew something.

“In what?” he asked.

“I’d like to learn some basic Dark Alley.”

The anything goes, street-fighting-codified, martial art McGill’s uncle had taught him. He gave Patti a look.

“You intend to kick someone’s ass when you get to London?”


Rather than answer directly, Patti gave him a politician’s bob ‘n’ weave.

Sometimes she couldn’t help herself.

“I’ll do a favor for you,” she told him.

“What’s that?”

“I’m dissatisfied with the lack of progress the Secret Service is making in finding out who shot Special Agent Ky.”

The president, as caring a wife as a man might want, was also trying hard not to let concern for her husband’s wellbeing distract her from the burdens of her office. This was despite McGill having only his driver, Leo Levy, as an armed companion. For the past six months, he’d had no Secret Service protection whatsoever.

McGill had said he’d be okay until Deke was fit to return to duty, and he’d worked several small cases in that time without so much as blistering a lip. SAC Celsus Crogher, chief of the White House security detail, however, had seen his hair go completely white from the stress of pushing the team investigating Deke’s shooting-and worrying the president’s husband, code name Holmes, might get his sorry ass shot.

McGill shrugged. “Patti, some cases are stainless steel whodunits.”

The Secret Service had looked at all the militant antiabortionists whose ilk had been responsible for the death of Patti’s first husband, philanthropist Andrew Hudson Grant, had threatened McGill’s children, and when that was deemed beyond the pale had turned their hostile gaze towards the president’s henchman himself. But that avenue of investigation had met a dead end. As for the possibility Deke’s shooting had been the product of personal enmity, that hadn’t led anywhere either. He was the dutiful son of a single mother, and almost monastic in his lifestyle.

“So you’re content to let the investigation proceed under its current leadership?” the president asked.

“If your favor was to let me take the reins, no thank you.”

McGill was not about to join the federal government in any capacity.

Other than being married to the woman who headed it.

“I thought you might be more motivated to bring things to a conclusion.”

McGill said, “Believe me, Patti, no one could be more motivated than Deke’s brother and sister agents. Look at Celsus. This thing is literally eating him up. One day soon, if we don’t catch a break, there’ll be nothing left of him but his scowl sitting atop his brogans.”

“He worries about you, too,” the president said.

“He’s pissed at me because I won’t follow orders.”

The president knew she’d get nowhere debating that point.

“So will you help me? Teach me a little Dark Alley?”

“Be happy to. Sorry I can’t do more.”

She still hadn’t told him why the best protected woman on earth felt the need to know how to personally bust someone’s chops. That remained a mystery.

But he was a detective.

One who always liked a good challenge.


It helped that Patti was fit, well-coordinated, and possessed a fair portion of fast-twitch muscle fiber. Quickness was also McGill’s greatest physical gift. But mastering Dark Alley required more than athleticism; it demanded a deep ruthlessness.

Which anyone who made it to the Oval Office, even McGill’s dear wife, had in spades. Politics, though, for all its back stabbing, was a bloodless exercise. Dark Alley more often than not involved the spilling of actual corpuscles.

A primary point McGill was about to bring to the president’s attention.

She stood across from him on a mat in the White House workout room. Three walls of mirrors bounced their reflections back at them. Both wore T-shirts, sweat pants and sneakers. The front of Patti’s shirt bore the acronym POTUS. President of the United States. McGill’s said: Totus bonus. Latin for “It’s all good.”

His only other clean T at the moment said: Eddie’s Bar & Grill.

Now that he thought of it, Eddie’s might have been the more apt choice.

McGill told his new student, “Dark Alley is serious stuff. The cover charge is often broken bones. The final tab might be death. You’re not planning to assassinate anyone, are you?”

“Don’t think so,” the president said.

All right. That was as far as McGill would fish. But he did need some information.

“Well, what kind of mayhem are you looking for?”

Patti paused to formulate her needs, as if she hadn’t thought it through.

Out of character for her.

Then she said, “I might need to give someone bigger than me a good jolt.”

“How much bigger?” McGill asked. “Big as me?”

He was six-one, carrying one-eighty these days.

“In the neighborhood, yes.”

A man most likely then, McGill decided, saying nothing.

“You want this jolt to leave the person standing or knock him down?” he asked.

“Why don’t you show me both?”

McGill nodded. “You want to go for the throat? Cause a real scare?”

POTUS recoiled at the idea, horror written on her face.

“Maybe we’ll save that for later,” McGill said. “It’s easy to go too far with that one.”

Patti advanced to the spot from which she’d retreated.

“Jim, I will let you know what this is all about as soon as I can, okay?”

“Sure,” he said. “Let’s start with an old favorite called the foot-trap.”

“One other thing,” the president said, “I might have to use what you’re going to teach me while there are cameras present and rolling. Whatever I do has to look like an accident.”

The president’s henchman nodded and took that into consideration.

Sunday Evening-Paris


Investigating Magistrate Yves Pruet sat on the large flower filled balcony of his apartment four floors above the Quai Anatole France quietly playing Variations from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, Movement Number Two on his Alhambra classical guitar. It was a melancholy piece, and his playing captured perfectly both the composer’s intent and his own mood. His fingers moved without conscious thought over the strings of the instrument that had been his near constant companion since his days at the Sorbonne.

Midway through the piece a large, menacing shadow fell across the tiles at Pruet’s feet. He ignored it and kept playing.

“Yves, please,” a deep voice said, “your virtuosity is unquestioned, but if you continue, I will begin to weep.”

With a chuckle the magistrate stopped playing and looked over his shoulder. He saw his friend and police bodyguard, Odo Sacripant, a block of Corsican granite carved into eccentric planes of muscle by many a fight. Odo never wept at anything, except when his wife, Marie, presented him with another child.

“The time has come?” Pruet asked.

“As we both knew it must,” Odo answered.

The magistrate placed his guitar in its stand and went to the balcony’s railing. He looked out at the nearby Seine from his Left Bank vantage point. The current criticism of the Rive Gauche was that what was once the bastion of the city’s artists had become the refuge of its bourgeoisie. The artists had been pushed across the river to less expensive enclaves.

Pruet took such critiques philosophically. He was still free to play his guitar here, express his art. And he appreciated his rising property value.

Odo said, “You are looking emaciated, Yves. You need to eat more.”

Approaching fifty, Pruet had once been a bit plump, but now his rumpled sandy hair, smart blue eyes, and genial smile resided in and around a visage gone gaunt. His clothes hung loosely on his reduced frame.

He turned to look at Odo. “I have gone on the Alienated Wife Diet.”

“Nicolette never cooked for you or anyone else,” the bodyguard pointed out.

“True, but she dragged me to every expensive restaurant in Paris.”

Odo took a seat at a glass-topped table.

“Whenever you are ready, mon ami.”

Pruet reluctantly joined him at the table.

“The American is ready for you to examine,” Odo said.

“There is no chance he will make things easier for me and die?”

Odo shook his head.

“Remind me of his name,” Pruet said.

“Glen Kinnard from Chicago.”

“And he came all the way to Paris to kill France’s most celebrated football star.”

“That was not his intent, he says.”

“But it was the result,” Pruet said. “That and to make us miserable.”

“Such would seem to be our lot in life.”

Pruet had become infamous for sending a former interior minister to prison. The man had been stealing government funds on a scale that couldn’t be ignored. Everyone had expected the fellow to be sacked. To live out his life in disgrace in some remote outpost of French culture. But if that were allowed to happen it would have meant the thief would be allowed to take a goodly part of his booty with him and enjoy the life of a tropical potentate. Any claim that the man had been punished would have been a vile joke.

So Pruet had presented a case to the court so meticulously documented and so persuasively argued that the judge had no choice but to send the miscreant to prison for twenty years. A period likely to encapsulate the remainder of his life. Such a sentence was unprecedented in modern France. The high and the mighty were not supposed to face such harsh realities.

Once the precedent had been established, though, the thief’s friends and colleagues at the top of the government and society came to fear Pruet. To loathe him. To plot his demise.

Now, he’d been presented with another disastrous case.

If his investigation were to result in this American, Glen Kinnard from Chicago, spending the remainder of his life in a French prison, that decision could very well rupture the warming relations between France and the United States.

If his investigation exculpated Kinnard, it wouldn’t be only the habitués of the haut monde who would seek vengeance on Pruet. Every Frenchman who cheered for les bleus-the national football team-would come for him with blood in their eyes.

Pruet sighed and said, “My father wanted me to go into the family business.”

“You are allergic to cheese. How could you spend your life making it?”

“I don’t know,” Pruet said. “But I should have tried harder.”

Chapter 3

Monday, June 1st – Washington, DC


The president was at her desk in the Oval Office by five a.m. She had more reading to do than a class of law school students cramming for final exams. Tomorrow, she and the circus that accompanied her everywhere she traveled would depart for the G8 summit in London. The president was routinely described as the most powerful person in the world, but the one thing she could never do was travel light. She required two highly modified Boeing 747-200Bs, known as SAM 28000 and SAM 29000, more commonly referred to as Air Force One whenever she was aboard one of them. A C-130 cargo aircraft would bring her personal helicopter, a VH60N WhiteHawk, Marine One when she was aboard, and two armored Cadillac limousines, previously called The Beasts, renamed by the president in a Seussian moment as Thing One and Thing Two.

That was just the hardware. The senior advisers, their support staff, the Secret Service contingent, the military personnel, the White House press corps, and special guests approached a number that a convention planner would have been hard put to deal with. In fact, the White House had its own travel planners. You didn’t just throw together a trip for POTUS.

There was, of course, one other traveling companion for this president.

Her henchman.

Patti winced as she shifted her weight on the seat of her desk chair.

Jim had been gentle with her, showing her the Dark Alley techniques she’d asked to learn, but he had insisted she have at least some understanding of the pain she might inflict on others. Even so, Jim had stressed that knowing the damage she might do must not inhibit her from inflicting it if necessary. You did what you had to do, and reflexively, if your own precious hide was at risk.

He’d given her a wintry smile and said, “There are even times, harsh as it may sound, when you’re pleased to know the price some jerk has paid for messing with you.”

All in all, the president thought her husband’s approach to the use of force was well considered for someone in her line of work.

With that in mind, Patti took out her personal iPhone, an instrument she’d insisted she had the right to retain, and placed a call to California, where it was still the middle of the night. She needed to talk with an old friend, a fellow former actress, who stayed up late. Her friend, the closest thing the president had to a sister, had accepted an appointment from the preceding administration as an honorary cultural ambassador to the UN. Her duties had taken her to countries around the world where her beautiful face and charming personality had made several friends for the United States. This was at a time when the occupant of the White House had been creating legions of the disaffected.

For the most part, the friend’s efforts may well have created a wealth of good memories for her, but Patti had heard a rumor of one disturbing story that, if true, could have blighted the whole experience. News of the event had only a limited circulation as far as the president knew, and that was within the pinnacle of the acting community. It hadn’t reached the Washington gossip mills at all. Not yet.

Patti’s call was answered on the second ring, and the conversation began with a warmth usually reserved for family. It continued for the next fifteen minutes, spoken entirely in French.

Just as it was drawing to a close, there was a knock at the door.

The president, caught up in Francophony, said, “Entrez.



The president was speaking French, Chief of Staff Galia Mindel wondered as she entered the Oval Office. She saw Patti was on her personal phone as she closed the door behind her. The president also had an open briefing book on her lap, one of the volumes provided to Patti that contained biographical information on the other heads of state with whom she’d be meeting at the G8 gathering in London.

Galia had been one of the people who had advocated that the president not use a personal phone, and the mere idea that Patti might have been sharing information from a presidential briefing book with someone outside the government-someone not approved of by Galia herself-it was all the chief of staff could do not to wince.

And why had the president been speaking in French?

Patti said, “Au revoir,” and ended her call.

Turning her attention to her chief of staff, she asked, “Everything well in hand for our departure tomorrow?”

The president closed the briefing book and put it and her iPhone in a desk drawer before Galia could see whose bio Patti had been reading.

“Yes, ma’am,” Galia said, crossing the room to st