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Hard Line | Excerpt


Hard Line book cover

After thirty years, fourteen books, and countless thrills, award-winning author Gerry Boyle writes the exciting and bittersweet final chapter for his signature character Jack McMorrow in the gritty novel, Hard Line. In the dynamic, whipsaw finale, Boyle takes readers on a wild ride with everyone’s favorite investigative reporter—a ride that leaves no one unscathed. Filled with action ripped from current events and nods to old characters and past stories, Hard Line builds with breathtaking pace to a dramatic stand-off between the forces of violent chaos and law and order—all set amidst the quiet pines, rough towns, and gray skies of rural Maine. In his conclusion to the McMorrow series and the two-book story arc he started in Robbed Blind, Boyle delivers his most gripping book yet.


The excerpt below is adapted from Hard Line by Gerry Boyle.

 

I drove one-handed thirty miles northeast, to Augusta, fought off the temptation to stop and see Jason, if only to put a gun on his head again. I pictured the round muzzle mark on his forehead, smiled. Caught myself as I felt the line blurring again.


Passing the bottle redemptions, shops that sold pizza and weed, I pressed on, crossed the ice-pocked Kennebec and continued east. Grown-over pastures, leafless sumac huddled in the snow, housing developments that never went beyond the now-faded sign posted at an unplowed road to nowhere. Places I’d been on the trail of someone. As I drove, their faces flashed by. Missy Hewett. Bobby Mullaney. Tammy and Rocky. Abram and Miriam. Mick and Vincent. Mennonites and mobsters. Some were alive, a few were dead.


I always got my story, for what that was worth.


I chased them off, like loitering ghosts. The road was more or less deserted now, most people off doing productive things, like real jobs. I drove fast, eased off when an oncoming trooper appeared, watched the mirror to see if the brake lights came on. They didn’t and I hit the gas again, an urgency flowing through me, like if I let up, all of it—Jason, Zombie, Marta, Mr. Ziggy—would overwhelm me, and I’d go down in a knot of flailing fists and swirling lies.

What was true anymore? How would I know it when I saw it?


Halfway to Camden, I swung off the main road, headed south. The road was icy in the shade and the truck slid, the rear end waggling. I waited for it to settle, drove on, finally saw the landmark. A boulder in the woods. I started braking, turned off onto a gravel road, halfheartedly cleared.


There was a set of tracks, and I followed it, curious to see where it led. The twisting road wound through the woods, climbed a steep hill, then ended in a rough turnaround, trees bulldozed deeper in the forest, stumps left upturned like fallen giants.


The vehicle—a truck, judging by the width of the tracks—had made a half-circle, stopped and backed up. There was a McDonald’s coffee cup on the ground, a brown stain like blood. No footprints.


I turned around, headed back, slowed at the entrance to a single-lane driveway. A heavy metal cable hung on hooks on a tree, the entrance left open. The truck tracks went past the entrance, continued down the road. I followed them back to the intersection, saw that they’d turned left, headed north. I pulled out, backed up, drove slowly back to the entrance to Louis’s compound, put the truck in four-wheel drive, and turned in.


There was a single set of tracks showing under a couple of inches of fresher snow. I drove on, the drive swinging left and right, up and down, rumbled across a small bridge made of tree trunks and timbers that crossed a partially frozen stream, black open water showing where the current ran fastest.


Another half-mile in, there was a second bridge over a smaller stream, and then the driveway snaked to the left, leading to a quarter-mile straightaway that ended at a log cabin. Louis’s Jeep was parked to the side. There was smoke coming from the stone chimney. I drove up, parked, watched for a minute. Nobody showed. I looked left and right. There was a four-wheeler inside the shelter of a pole barn, tracks leading in and out. I glanced at the mirrors, half expecting Louis to come up from behind me. Nothing. I bent and took my gun out from under the seat, slipped into my jacket. Watched. Listened. Still nothing.


I popped the door, waited a moment, then pushed it open and got out. I shut the door, took a step toward the front porch. Heard a low growl. Stopped and turned back, slowly. Louis’s dog, Friend, was standing five feet from me, his big head level with my chest.


“Hey, Friend,” I said softly.


He took a step forward, growled again. No teeth showing, just 130 pounds of wolfhound, with some Lab thrown in for good measure.


“It’s Jack. Long time no see.”


He walked around me, a creeping sort of step, came between me and the house and turned and took up his guard position.


“Good dog,” I said.


Another growl, this time a glimpse of canines fit for a lion. I wondered if Louis was home or out in the woods, how long this standoff would last.


The door opened and Louis stepped out, gave a quick whistle, said “Down.”


Friend relaxed, moved to me and sniffed, his tail wagging. I scratched behind his ears. My right hand.


“I missed you, too,” I said.


Louis whistled again, and the dog bounded up the steps and into the house.


“Sorry about that,” Louis said. “He’s a little on edge. He knows when it’s time to take it up a notch or two.”


“How many notches does he have?” I said, stepping up onto the porch.


“Quite a few. Some I’ve never seen, I have a feeling.”


“This could be the time?”


“Hard to say,” Louis said. “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”



 


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