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Copyright © Edward T. Milligan, 2020

Cover Design by Donika Mishineva


All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. This is a work of fiction. The events and characters portrayed are imaginary. Any resemblance to real-life people or locations is entirely coincidental.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved.


Excerpt from The Blake Cutter Detective Series | Book 2 

On a crisp and cool late September morning, Georgia SBI Agent Blake Cutter walked into BPD headquarters for the morning briefing.  His mind was preoccupied with figuring out a covert way to split time between the Jimmy Delray and Phillip Drummond murder cases without his SBI Chief Harry Ryker or any other police officials getting wind of it. 
    At that same moment, two unidentified men entered the front door of Bullet Regional Medical Center and walked into the ground floor lobby. They were dressed to look like the other hospital maintenance workers, in dark blue custodial pants, industrial stripe poplin work shirts, and nondescript black work boots; similar in design to military boots. They paused and viewed the atrium to verify they weren’t being noticed or followed.  Then, they proceeded to walk across the atrium to a set of elevators located on the east end of the floor.  One of the men was a skinny Caucasian male in his late 30s with thinning blonde hair, a scraggly goatee, and heavily tattooed arms.  He went by the nickname Spector.  
    Spector carried two oversized, black canvas cargo bags, similar in size to military-style parachute bags. The bags had no identifiable markings and the bar codes had been torn off so the bags couldn’t’ be traced to any particular store purchase if someone happened to find them. The other man, Rico, was a tall, black, muscular-built man with dreadlocks down to his shoulders and several small facial scars along both cheeks and across his forehead.  
Despite the oddity of wearing sunglasses inside a building in the early morning, the two surprisingly drew no attention from the crowd of workers and hospital staff passing through the lobby.  Even the front entrance security guard who stood near the information desk saw them but didn’t give the two a second thought as their falsified badges were visible on the pockets of their shirts.  They managed to blend in with the normal cluster of hospital employees and staff passing the ground floor lobby every morning.
    As they reached the elevators, they encountered another security guard who had not been on the ground floor when they conducted their dry run the day before.  Spector was nervous as he reached at his badge with his left hand to reassure himself it was visible. He surmised the obvious; extra security had been put in place to defend the target they were commissioned to take out, the patient named Penelope Lane.   
    Rico, acting more composed, stepped in front of Spector as they approached the elevator furthest to the right.  The security guard glanced at them from his post at the elevator on the far left.  Luckily, the elevator that opened then was the one at the far right.  Rico glanced back at the security guard for one second then turned to mimic talking to Spector. The young, newly hired security guard was preoccupied with reading the text messages on his cell phone.
    “They’ve got more security in here than we expected,” Spector pointed out. “Can we do this?” 
“Don’t wimp out, dog. I’ll take care of my end.  You just make sure that thing goes off,” Rico replied confidently.
“Where are you’re going to be when it detonates.” Spector asked.
“Don’t worry, bro. I’ll find a safe place,” Rico replied confidently.
“Good luck with that,” Spector warned. “This is some bad shit about to go down.”


Rico entered the elevator and pressed the fourth-floor button. As the elevator door closed, Spector looked around the pavilion to ensure no one was observing as he waited for his ride. He glanced at the security guard who again was shirking his duties by rapping to a nurse and delaying her from her assigned duties. Despite the events of 9-11, the preponderance of active shooters, and the overall threat of terrorism at large crowded facilities, individual complacency was still the norm. 
Sensing a general laxity in security, Spector heaved a sigh of relief as he stepped into the blue service elevator and punched the Level A button, the first of three below-ground floors. Level A housed the hospital’s storage rooms and linen depository.
A few minutes after Rico and Spector had entered the lobby and then disappeared into the labyrinth of the facility, Cutter stopped at the parking lot in front of the main entrance of the hospital.  As he got out, he noticed a nondescript, white panel van parked near the front atrium.  As he walked through the front double doors, he looked back and noticed the van pulling away.  It left a subtle blip in his memory, but again only a blip.  
Moments later, when Cutter reached the ICU, he was buzzed in and found the ward at its usual early morning pace. Nurses scurried about with clipboards in hand as they made their rounds to dispense patients’ morning medications.  As he walked up to the nurses’ station, he noticed Rico standing next to a water cooler near the end of the hall.  
As Cutter stared at him, Rico didn’t move but kept looking around as if he was waiting for something to happen.  Although Rico wore a custodial worker’s uniform, something about him didn’t seem right to Cutter.   
Positioned behind the reception desk was a tall, slender African American female nurse in her mid-thirties.  At that moment, she was speaking to an elderly couple who were visiting a patient on the ward.   
“Excuse me,” Cutter said as he stopped near her and interrupted her conversation with the couple.  
The nurse stretched her lower lip to indicate her displeasure with the interruption.   
“Can I help you?” she asked in an unpleasant tone.
“I’m Agent Cutter with the State Bureau of Investigation on assignment with Bullet Police Department.”
“How do you do, sir,” she responded respectfully.  “Is there something I can help you with today?”
That guy down the hall there,” he said, gesturing with his head.  “Is he one of the hospital staff?” 
“I-I suppose so,” she replied carelessly, glancing at the man.   “I don’t know these custodial people personally. They rotate so many through here. Why do you ask?”
“He just doesn’t seem like a custodian-type,” Cutter remarked.
Her eyebrows rose. The receptionist looked over at the elderly couple and signaled with her hand for them to wait a minute, instinctively knowing that the inquiry by Cutter was a matter regarding security.     
“What’s a ‘custodian-type’ supposed to look like?” she asked. 
“I don’t know. I thought they usually had a mop or broom in their hand,” he clarified. “He seems to be just hanging out at that water cooler doing nothing.”
She lowered her eyes to the clipboard and then turned to speak to the elderly couple. “Mister Cooper is down in room seven, straight down that hallway on your right.” She walked a few steps with the couple until she knew they were headed in the right direction, then returned to talk to Cutter.
As she approached Cutter, she peered down the hallway at the man. “He doesn’t look like he’s working,” she agreed.  She dropped her chart on the desk and stared down the hall at Rico again. “Maybe he’s new.  You think something’s wrong?”
“I don’t know,” Cutter replied. “Do you know how long he’s been up here?”
“We just buzzed him in maybe a few minutes ago. He had an ID badge,” she replied, her tone now more serious.  “Is there something wrong?  I can go see if anyone else on the staff recognizes him.”
“No, that’s okay, Cutter responded with an appreciative smile.  He wasn’t satisfied with her response but was cautious about causing a panic. “I’m just wondering if you keep a log on people who work on this ward.”
She scoffed, “Look, sir.  I prepare morning charts. If you’ve got some questions about this guy, you need to talk to my supervisor, Miss Pearl Simmons and she can contact housekeeping.  She’ll be up here shortly.”
“Thank you,” he replied cordially.  “Yes, I’ve met her before. I’ll wait here and talk to her.”
Meanwhile, Rico continued standing carelessly by the cooler.  Cutter kept staring his way until Rico noticed him. Rico could smell a cop like fresh-brewed coffee.  He turned his back to Cutter and began filling a paper cup with water from the dispenser.  He swallowed rapidly, balled the cup in his fist, tossed it in the trashcan and walked toward the end of the hallway.  Cutter had seen the reaction many times before by both drug dealers and terrorists.
At the end of the hallway on the right was an unlocked utility closet. As Cutter’s attention was diverted by the arrival of the ward supervisor, Rico opened the utility closet door, stepped in, and locked the door from the inside.  
Nurse Simmons walked up and spoke briefly to the desk clerk who informed her of Cutter’s concern.  She then approached Cutter.  “My desk clerk said you have a question about one of our custodians,” she said. 
“There’s a man down the hall who seems to be acting suspicious,” Cutter informed her. “I just wanted to verify his identity.  He……” 
Cutter stopped talking as he looked down the hallway and no longer saw Rico.  “Oh crap, where is he?” Cutter said softly.
As she furrowed her brow, Pearl replied, “There’s an equipment room, medical room and break room down there. Maybe he went in one of those rooms.  What’s going on?” 
“Can you escort me down to those rooms, ma’am,” he asked.  Cutter didn’t want to be wandering around the ICU without authorization.
“Sure, we can go take a look,” she responded cooperatively. They scurried down the hallway, glancing in patient’s rooms as they passed.  Miss Simmons opened the equipment room and medical room doors and Cutter glanced inside.  There was no one there. They then looked inside the break room which was the last room on the left side of the hallway.  There was one nurse sitting at the table, finishing a bagel and coffee.
“Good morning, Sarah!” Miss Simmons spoke.  Then, Cutter noticed a room she hadn’t mentioned, the last one on the right near the double doors. 
“What’s that room,” he asked pointing.
“That’s just a utility closet where we keep cleaning supply and other stuff,” she noted to Cutter.  She paused a second expecting Cutter to tell her not to worry about it, but those words didn’t come.  Cutter could tell by the tone in her voice and her annoyed facial expression that she felt put out by having to open these various rooms for reasons unknown.  Nevertheless, they walked over together.  
Exasperated she said harshly, “It’s locked, so no one went in there.” 
Before Cutter could object, they overheard the ping sound as the ICU double-doors opened. A Caucasian male dressed in custodial attire walked in.  
“Excuse me, but did you notice a tall black man with dreadlocks pass by you, a man who looked around thirty years old?”
Startled, the man replied, “Just now? No sir.”
“Who are you?” Cutter asked him.
With a furrowed brow, he answered, “I’m the ICU floor custodian.  I’m just starting my shift.”  He noticed the concerned look in Pearl and Cutter’s eyes.  “Is there a problem?”
“Are you the only custodian working in the ICU?” Cutter asked.
“I’m the only one assigned to this entire wing of the hospital,” he qualified the question. What’s going on?” 
Cutter sighed heavily while thinking, then replied. “No problem.  Don’t worry about it. Thanks a lot for your information.” Cutter nearly knocked the man off his feet as he pushed him aside and sprinted out the double doors into an empty hallway.  Peering in both directions, he saw no one, then sighed heavily again, exhibiting frustration.  He returned to the ICU front door. 
As he stopped and dropped his head, Pearl asked him, “Is everything okay?  Did you see him?”
He paused for a moment and then said, “No, but just let me know if you see him return to the floor.  I won’t interrupt your work any longer for now.  Here’s my card. Call me if anything suspicious happens.”
As he walked off the ward, he wondered whether he really had reason for suspicion or if he was becoming overly paranoid by his concern for Penelope’s safety.  Nevertheless, he clicked onto the radio net and called each security checkpoint within the hospital, ordering a search of every nook and cranny of the facility for the mysterious man.  


Meanwhile, Spector had reached Level A, the first below-ground floor of the hospital.  He surveyed the cavernous hallway until he located an inconspicuous spot in a far corner.  He knelt and began unpacking the first black canvas bag.  
Being a former U.S. Marine demolitions expert, Spector was the right man to bring into the crime world and for pulling off a bombing of a multi-floor building.  He had fallen into the underworld after being dishonorably discharged from military service and spending a three-year prison stint at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas Disciplinary Barracks because of a string of drug offenses while deployed and assigned to an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in Afghanistan.  Spector honed his demolition skills and knowledge of constructing improvised explosive devices.  He became self-taught on other incendiary devices through surfing the dark web at internet cafes.  It wasn’t long until the mafia kingpin of South Florida, who needed a demolition expert, had his people contact him. 
When DeSalvo learned of his skills, he had his contacts on the street rein him in.   Spector’s life of small-time bomb making was officially over.  For this assignment, he’d been dispatched to Bullet from Miami two days earlier.  Upon arrival, he laid low in a seedy motel on the outskirts of town until he received DeSalvo’s phone call to execute.  Spector had no connections to anyone in the area.  His materials had been stored in an abandoned warehouse on a remote dirt road outside Bullet.  Rico Calderon provided everything he needed.  
Spector managed to fit everything he needed into the two black bags. The contents of the bags included several one-pound blocks of C-4 wrapped in pressure-sensitive adhesive tape, a container of ammonium nitrate, blasting caps, relay switches, timer-activated fuses, shaped charges, 500 feet of  detonation cord and a hammer drill and various sizes of drill bits. 
After a visual scan of the floor to ensure privacy, Spector unloaded the second bags and began using the hammer drill to systematically drill holes in concrete at different places along the exterior walls. Later, he inserted C-4 blocks inside the holes at every corner, stringing the blocks together in a daisy chain with detonation cords which were wrapped together at the ends with duct tape.  Due to the low lighting and the white color of the detonation cord which matched the walls, Spector wasn’t concerned about the wires being detected. He was more concerned about the C-4 being concealed inside the walls.  Spector then fastened a blasting cap to each explosive and attached detonation cords to a relay switch which could be remotely activated by his cell phone. It took him more than two hours to get everything in place before he repacked the unused materials back into the two black bags.  He then grabbed the bags, walked over, and punched the ground floor button of the elevator and took it to the lobby.  The information he’d received regarding the arrival time of Level A employees for the day shift had been accurate.  He now had plenty of time to casually make his way out from the hospital.





Blue Smoke

A good cop never goes past the line in pursuit of justice. But when Miami Police Detective Blake Cutter's wife is killed in a mafia-planted car bomb intended for him, his need for justice and revenge will take him past the line.

Blake Cutter has fought his way through the criminal world to confront one of America’s most notorious mob bosses. But his pursuit of justice for his murdered wife must wait as he tries to foil an international terror plot that threatens to destroy the sanctity of the Sabbath Day, in the heart of Miami. 

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