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In the near future, America is experiencing a dramatic increase in terrorist attacks-by jihadists, White supremacists, and Mexican cartels. In the face of these failures by the U.S. Government intelligence and law enforcement bureaucracies, an ad hoc vigilante effort has exploded on the scene. And, surprisingly, this shadowy and deadly vigilante group appears to be led by one of the U.S. Government's most senior and trusted Counterterrorism (CT) insiders.

The President convenes a top secret Task Force to uncover who is spearheading this rogue, inner circle operation. Will his gamble pay off? Or will things spin even further out of control?

As the story careens between the action of the vigilantes’ murdering the terrorists and the attempts of the senior CT officials to discover the rogues’ identities, neither the reader, the President, nor the innocent Task Force members know the real identities of the vigilante leaders.

As they close in the questions then become: what are the risks to America if the public gets wind of the vigilante murders? What does the president intend to do with the vigilantes if, in fact, they are found alive?

The Paladins

THE ADRENALIN KICKED IN AND SHE FELT her heart race as she knew

what awaited around the corner. She slowed to eighty as she felt the old

Chevy take the turn.

Reached down to turn up the volume on her playlist. “A Thousand Miles

from Nowhere” blaring from the speakers.

And there he was. Thumb out. Backpack at his feet. Hoody covering all

but his eyes.

She braked hard, slid screeching toward the center yellow line, and

laughed as she realized she’d reached for the Glock 17 merely out of habit.

There’d be time for that. Tucked it back into the holster in the back inside of

her jeans.

She pulled over on the shoulder and watched in the rearview mirror as

the kid she knew to be Abdul grabbed his pack and started trotting along the

shoulder toward her car.

She turned down the volume and rolled down the front passenger window.

“Where you headed?”



“That’s ten hours from here. What were you doing in Laramie?”

“I actually started in Chicago.”

“And somebody just let you out here on the road? In the middle

of nowhere?”

He shrugged. “Guy was a jerk.” Sayin “jerk” like “herk,” but with a poor

Spanish pronunciation and accent.

You ain’t seen nothing yet, Abdul.

“What’s your name?”

“Jose. Jose Gonzalez.” Acting like an innocent little Mexican kid.

She had to suppress a smile. “I’m Bobbi Sammons. But everybody calls

me Samms. With two m’s.”

She leaned toward him. “I can take you part way. I’m headed in that

direction until I head north to Pocatello.”

Abdul, pretending to be Jose, looked around. Licked his lips.

“Doesn’t matter to me, Jose. You can wait for the next ‘herk’ or hop in.

Up to you.”

He opened the back door and started to climb in.

“Unh uh,” she said. “Front seat, Jose, or wait for the next ride.”

He looked at her menacingly, no longer pretending to be a timid

Mexican. But his face betrayed that he thought better of it, returned to being

the fictional, timid Jose, closed the back door on his pack, and climbed in next

to her.

“Seat belt,” she said as his door closed. She restarted the song, turned up

the volume for Dwight Yoakum, and floored the car toward ninety.

Out of the corner of her eye she could see that Abdul was no longer

playing either the timid Mexican or his true malevolent, hating self. He was

nervous. Looking like he was asking himself, “Who is this crazy lady driving

like a maniac?”

She glanced back at the satchel, knowing the contents. Abdul was trans-

porting this bomb to a meeting with his partner in Hanford, Washington

tomorrow, where the two of them were planning an attack on the nuclear

waste cleanup site there.

She looked down at the phone in her lap. Hit send. “Mission accom-

plished...see you in five.”

“Isn’t that illegal?” Abdul asked. “Texting while driving.” Spanish accent

now gone as he took a closer look at her, smiling awkwardly.

“It’s not illegal to erase an unwanted or unwelcome message or object with

one finger, Jose. You have the right to exit the vehicle at any point you want.”

He shrugged. Looked back at his pack. Reached back and adjusted it to

lean against the back of the seat.

Samms lurched the wheel to the right and then back to the left as he

reached back, watching him catch himself on the dashboard.

“What’s in Boise, Jose?” Accent on ‘Jose’, teasing him, making sure he

remembered his name.

“Friends.” He hesitated, then added, “Amigos from Mexico City.”

“What do they do there?”

“Students. They go to college in Boise.”

“What school is that, Jose?” stepping up the pressure. Having fun with

him now. Torturing him.

He frowned. Started to say something, then stopped.

“What college, Jose?”

“I don’t want to talk to a strange lady about my friends.”

“I’m not a strange lady. All my friends think I’m normal. Boring, but normal.”

He grimaced. Looked like he was thinking of a way out of this situation

with this crazy lady. “Why are you going to Pocatello?” he asked.

“None of your business. But I own a string of housecleaning businesses.

Franchises in each city. Do you know anybody that cleans motels and houses

in Boise? We mostly hire illegal Mexican aliens.”

He glanced at her quickly, doubt in his eyes. “No, I don’t. Can you turn

down the music?”

“No. You want me to stop and let you out?”

He didn’t respond.

“I know many Mexicans in Boise, Jose. But none of them are college

students. Are you sure nobody you know in Boise works for me? Cleaning

houses and motels?”

He shook his head.

“Maybe our meeting on the road today was meant to be. Do you want a

job supervising illegal Mexican aliens for me in Boise, Jose?”

Each time saying the false name ‘Jose’ a little louder, emphasizing it.

Taunting him.

He was sweating now. Shook his head again. His body language saying,

“How do I get out of here?”

A service station appeared up ahead on their right as they sped around a

hill, a lone car at the gas pumps.

Abdul looked at it, started to point at it.

“I need to stop to pee and get gas,” Samms said, braking hard and

turning into what she knew to be the last service station after Laramie. No

other buildings in sight.

She screeched to a halt outside the rest room doors at the side of the

station and got out.

“You better go to el banos too, Jose. We won’t be stopping for another

four hours.”

She opened her door, stepped out, and stepped around the front of the

car to the ladies’ room. Watched him hesitate and look back at his pack as she

stopped one step inside the bathroom, the door hitting her on the butt.

He opened his passenger door, stepped behind her, looked hesitantly

once more into the back seat, walked the ten yards to the men’s room, and

opened the door.

The man in the driver’s seat in the car parked at the pumps watched them

both closely.

He glanced at the young girl behind the counter in the service station’s

convenience store. She was as oblivious to the two entering the bathrooms

as she had been of him, sitting at the gas pump, but getting no gas. In fact,

getting nothing. Just sitting in the car, watching.

The girl turning the pages of what certainly she thought was a fascinating


He sat and watched.

As Abdul took his first step into the men’s room, Samms put the

suppressor on the Glock in the darkness of the ladies’ room, and stepped

back out of the protection of the open door.

The men’s room door hadn’t fully closed behind Abdul yet, so she took a

second to look around.

Nobody in sight, except for the car and its lone occupant at the gas pump.

She strode the six strides to the still-closing men’s room door, ripped

it open, and slammed into Abdul’s back as he started to turn, knocking him

against the wall on the other side of the urinal.

“You don’t make a very convincing Mexican, Abdul.”

He looked up, puzzled, then alarmed at the pistol pointed at his chest.

Too late.

The first two bullets killed him instantly as they went through his center mass.

She leaned over and put the third bullet into his forehead.

She dropped a business card on the bloody mess that had been his head,

stepped out of the men’s room, glanced at the pack on the back seat, and

tossed her keys and the Glock into her now-abandoned car as she walked past

it and out to the center island.

There, she opened the front passenger door of the car, looked at the

driver and said, “Jose, my ass.”

Though to be fair, she added only to herself as she lowered herself into

the passenger seat, my name’s not Bobbi Sammons. Or Samms, either.

Three hours later a phone rang at FBI headquarters in Washington.

The man who picked it up heard a man at the other end say, “She’s done

it again.”

“You sure it was her?”

“She left the card.”

“What was on it?”

“Same as always. Samms.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, some initials on the back. ‘BOBS’.”

“Bob, like the name?”

“No, ‘BOBS’, like in many men named Bob.”

“Any idea who the Bobs are?”

All he heard was the line go dead.

About the author

Steven W. Kohlhagen is an award-winning author whose novel, Where They Bury You, received the National Indie Excellence Award for Best Western 2014. Steve and his wife Gale, who he co-wrote Vanished with, divide their time between their homes in the San Juan Mountains and Charleston, South Carolina. view profile

Published on July 12, 2017

Published by

80000 words

Genre: Thriller & suspense

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