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Jagged Edge (EBOOK)

Jagged Edge (EBOOK)

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A grieving detective with nothing to lose.

A dying town with everything to hide.

 After the shocking death of his daughter, suspended detective Edge Malone seeks oblivion in a bottle and plans to photograph a rare blood moon in isolated Whispering Hills, Montana. But his night takes a deadly turn when a high-tech drone is shot from the sky—and a ruthless gunman murders an innocent bystander who dares to visit the crash site. Driven by instinct, Edge seizes the drone and escapes into the woods.

Now being hunted, Edge unwittingly thrusts Nina Hamilton into the chase—a street-smart beauty who is no stranger to men with dangerous motives. But when the drone data leads them to a shocking discovery, they quickly learn that no one in Whispering Hills can be trusted. The truth of the small town is anything but quiet, and the price of secrets runs six-feet deep…

Jagged Edge is a full-length, stand-alone thriller featuring a kick-ass woman and a jilted man who needs to find himself again.

"Edge and Nina's explosive meeting, followed by a highly-charged and deadly chase, leads to a great team-up as they hunt for justice. This page-turner is non-stop action with bad guys aplenty!" ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Sylvia Fraser

“With a conspiracy worthy of Erin Brockovich, crossed with The Pelican Brief, you're sure to be up all night to enjoy this riveting suspense-thriller by Kendall Talbot, as Jagged Edge is unputdownable and will keep you on the edge of your seat, right up to the nail-biting finish!” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rosemary56

“I found this was a hard book to put down. I kept wanting to know what's next. I cringed for pain a few times. I found I bobbed my head as if I was avoiding bullets or punches. I felt like I was inside the book.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ DKW

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Main Tropes

  • Anti Hero
  • Vigilante Thriller
  • Race aginst time

Synopsis

A grieving detective with nothing to lose.

A dying town with everything to hide.

After the shocking death of his daughter, suspended detective Edge Malone seeks oblivion in a bottle and plans to photograph a rare blood moon in isolated Whispering Hills, Montana. But his night takes a deadly turn when a high-tech drone is shot from the sky—and a ruthless gunman murders an innocent bystander who dares to visit the crash site. Driven by instinct, Edge seizes the drone and escapes into the woods.

Now being hunted, Edge unwittingly thrusts Nina Hamilton into the chase—a street-smart beauty who is no stranger to men with dangerous motives. But when the drone data leads them to a shocking discovery, they quickly learn that no one in Whispering Hills can be trusted. The truth of the small town is anything but quiet, and the price of secrets runs six-feet deep…

Jagged Edge is a stand-alone crime thriller featuring a kick-ass woman and a jilted ex-detective who needs to find himself again.

Intro to Chapter One

Chapter One

EDGE


It was a perfect night. . . fresh air, clear sky, full moon. . . perfect for murder.
That observation didn’t have Edge Malone chuckling like he used to. Back in his rookie days it’d been a joke he and his partner had shared every full moon. But once the joke became reality a few too many times, it’d lost its hilarity.
The blood moon slithering into the midnight sky cast an eerie red hue over the deserted valley below Edge’s elevated position. Blustery breezes that’d howled up the steep hillside for hours had abruptly ceased and other than the metallic ticking of his truck’s cooling engine, the silence was both complete and disturbing.
The road trip from Seattle toward Montana yesterday had been hectic. But when he’d left Helena this morning, he’d taken his time cruising up to Silvertop Ridge, deliberately avoiding the main roads.
Despite the serenity, Edge’s gut was tingling. Silence had become his double-edged sword. He needed peace to truly focus, but the second his attention was broken his mind would commence its slippery slope to his demons. Once he got there, it was a battle to claw his way back.
It’d been two years since his life went to shit. Still felt like yesterday.
He scanned his surroundings for a full two minutes before he was ready to move. Clutching his camera and the six-pack of beers from the passenger seat, he climbed out. Gravel crunching beneath his feet echoed about the tranquility. He unhooked the tailgate. It thudded open, and the sound ricocheted off the surrounding cliffs like a bullet.
Edge crawled onto the pitiful mattress he’d borrowed from his cheap motel and positioned his beer and camera within easy reach. He pulled his phone from his back pocket and checked the time. Nearly eleven thirty. On account of the steep incline and the rental truck’s non-existent grunt, the drive had taken much longer than he’d anticipated.
Tossing the phone aside, he punched the pillow and wriggled on the flimsy foam, attempting to get comfortable. He’d planned to spend the night on that damn mattress. . . out in the open. . . glancing at the stars. . . enjoying nature.
Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.
Edge cracked open a Bud, swigged a quarter of the can, then settled it upright on the truck’s flatbed and grabbed his camera.
He’d done extensive research before buying this new toy, and according to the sales pitch, its strength was its excellent low-light photography. Perfect for a night like this.
Attention to detail was something he was good at. It was a skill that had propelled his career. Solving cases had come naturally and he’d climbed the ranks to detective quicker than anyone in his rookie class.
He missed it all. His buddies. The job. Cracking the cases.
But he wasn’t ready to return yet. He doubted he ever would. Or could.
Shoving the bullshit aside, he swigged another mouthful of beer and savoring the bitter brew, he clipped the lens cover off the camera and nestled back on the pillow. Peering through the viewfinder at the blood-red moon that’d just popped free from the horizon, he whistled. “You’re a beauty.”
Edge clicked off a series of shots and paused to examine them in the LCD display. After adjusting a couple of settings, he inhaled deeply, let out the breath in a long slow stream, peered through the viewfinder again, and took a series of controlled photos of the blood moon.
After fifty or so shots, he lowered the camera and scanned his surroundings again. Ever since he’d heard of the natural phenomenon, he’d been planning this trip to Montana. The solitude was surprising. He thought he’d be sharing this spot with at least a few star-gazing nutters. Maybe the late-night appointment with the moon’s arrival had put everyone off. Not that he was complaining. It was nice to be all alone in the middle of nowhere, far away from the usual chaos.
Tonight had been a lucky reprieve from the torrential rain that’d been plaguing the area for the last week and the smell of wet earth laced the air. The moon and the stars were the only lights, and other than the rugged road, not one man-made feature was visible. He really was secluded.
A flickering glow pierced the darkness lower down the hill, and after a couple of seconds he decided it was someone’s campfire. It was reassuring to know he wasn’t the only human out there.
Cocking his head at a weird hissing sound, he peered over his shoulder.
“Holy shit!”
A fireball fell from the sky like a burning cannonball in a thirteenth century battlefield. He clutched his camera, aimed and squeezed the shutter release button, snapping dozens of photos of the fireball’s plummet. It was no bigger than a basketball, yet in the blanket silence it made one hell of a noise when it crashed.
A brilliant flash confirmed that whatever it hit was a goner.
Grabbing his camera, Edge jumped from the flatbed, slammed the tailgate shut and ran to the driver’s side. He simultaneously tossed the camera onto the passenger seat and started the engine. With his foot on the gas, he spun the wheels in a quick 180 and raced toward the crash site.
The rental truck had shit suspension and his head slammed into the cabin roof with every pothole he plowed through, but he didn’t ease up. His focus was on getting to the flames before they snuffed out.
He careened through a giant puddle, casting a wall of muddy water over the windshield and the wipers squealed a protest with each pathetic attempt to swipe it clean.
The road, if it could be called that, was cut into the hillside in an east/west direction, and both sides were swathed in rugged bush. Of course, the damn fireball had missed the road altogether. Halfway down the hill, he skidded to a halt, cut the engine, grabbed the flashlight he’d bought that afternoon and abandoned the truck.
There was no such thing as a path, and Edge thanked his lucky stars he’d thought to buy the flashlight. It was a good one too, lighting up a decent ten-foot circle ahead of him. The flickering flames were barely visible through the vegetation, but at least it gave him something to aim for.
As he squelched over rotting leaves, he contemplated what the fireball could be. A chunk of aircraft? A satellite that’d given up the ghost? Hopefully, the photos he’d snapped were good ones. All the ducks had lined up nicely to put him in the perfect spot to take the blood moon photos. Maybe fate had also put him there to see that thing fall from the sky. There could be something in it for him. A salvage fee maybe. That’d be nice.
It was high time his luck changed for the better.
With every spindly branch he pushed through, the flames diminished a little more and he picked up his pace. If he didn’t reach it before it went out, he’d have no hope of finding it until daybreak.
Another light caught his eye, a single circle just like his own flashlight. He sighed. Looked like he wasn’t the only one who saw the flaming fall from grace after all. Both of them were converging on the same spot, some fifty or so feet between them. As if they’d choreographed it, he and the stranger arrived at the impact zone at exactly the same time.
If they were laying claim to the space junk, they’d have a serious debate on their hands as to who found it first.
“Oh, hey there, neighbor. You saw it too?” The man’s quivering voice put him in his retirement years and Edge resisted shining his flashlight in the man’s face to confirm his assumption. But he saw enough of the newcomer’s long gray beard, and pale, willowy arms, to support his guess.
Edge strode the couple of paces to close the distance between them. “Couldn’t miss it.”
He turned his attention to the dwindling fire. Just a couple of craggy bushes remained ablaze. The damp leaves had provided little fuel and if he’d been just a few minutes slower he’d have missed it altogether.
“What do ya reckon it is?” The old guy combined his flashlight glow with Edge’s.
“Not sure.” Edge collected a sturdy stick from the ground and handed his flashlight over. “Hold this and I’ll see if we can get a better look.”
Using the stick, he wrestled the twisted metal from the burnt underbrush and it sizzled as it rolled over the wet leaves. A foot-long arm of metal protruding from the charred, angular body snagged as Edge wrestled it from a gnarly shrub. “Looks like a drone.”
“A drone, huh. Maybe someone was using it to photograph the moon.”
“Maybe.” Edge reclaimed his flashlight and shone it onto the burnt remains. “Yep, that’s a drone. Looks expensive too. Whoever lost it is gonna be pissed.” Edge attended a seminar once where the benefits of using drones for crowd control had been demonstrated. But the ones they’d featured looked like toys in comparison to this one.
The drone was bigger than he’d originally thought. Its central component was diamond shaped, like two opposing pyramids atop each other, and four arms had protruded from the central join. Only one of them remained intact, yet its propulsion propeller had miraculously survived impact.
“Wanna take it back to my campsite for a closer look?” The old guy’s escalated voice was that of an excited cheerleader on a sugar high.
“Sure.” Edge grinned at his enthusiasm and held his hand forward. “I’m Edge Malone.”
“Roland, nice to meet ya.” Roland’s handshake was firm and true.
Edge gave Roland his flashlight. “You lead the way. I’ll carry it.” He tested the heat of the metal first by gingerly tapping it with his thumb, and after confirming it wouldn’t take his fingerprints off, he lifted the drone by the solitary arm, and nodded at Roland. “After you.”
“Roger that.” Roland spun on his heel and managed to navigate the dense vegetation with an agility that contradicted his age. “You out here for the blood moon too?”
“Yeah, taking a few photos up on Silvertop Ridge. You?”
“Me and the missus were up there earlier, but she wanted to get back to camp before sunset. She don’t trust my navigation skills no more.”
Edge smiled. Despite his comment, Roland’s tone was jovial.
“Say, you wanna come for a cup of tea? Pearl made some campfire donuts earlier. They’re probably still hot.”
“Thanks, but I’ve already eaten.” His stomach churned as if it knew what Roland had offered. The greasy hamburger he’d demolished about five hours ago was still burdening his gut.
“Yeah, probably a good choice. My missus is good at many things. Cooking ain’t one of ‘em.” Roland chortled and Edge joined in. It felt good to laugh. . . he couldn’t recall the last time he’d done so.
A flickering light ahead of Roland signaled their arrival at his campsite. A white-haired woman greeted them with a wave and pushed up from her seat by the fire. “There you are. Thought you’d gone and got yourself lost.”
“See what I mean?” Roland whispered over his shoulder. “She’s always worrying about me wandering off and never coming back.” They stepped into a clearing that was about the size of a basketball court. The glow from the moon was sufficient to view the entire area and based on the well-worn grass, Edge decided that the camping site was used regularly. But tonight, the only vehicle was a Jeep Cherokee with a camper trailer that he assumed belonged to Roland. The car was positioned several feet from the fire, blocking the view to the entrance road and also giving them some privacy from the other campsites. Not that it was needed tonight.
“We got ourselves a guest, Pearl.” Roland placed his hand on her shoulder. “This is Edge. He saw the fireball too.”
She ran her palms down the front of her pants. “Hello, nice to meet you.”
“Evening. Nice to meet you too.” Edge strode toward the fire and lowered the drone to the dirt.
“What is it?” Pearl stood shoulder to shoulder with her husband.
“Edge reckons it’s a drone.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Her curt nod had a wispy curl bouncing into her eye and she flicked it away.
“Really?” Roland’s question was loaded with sarcasm. “You don’t even know what a drone is.”
“I do too. We saw them on that movie we watched. . . you know the one where the soldier was accused of. . .”
Edge blocked out their banter and leaned in to examine the charred remains. A circular indent in the body of the drone caught his eye and he adjusted its angle in the firelight.
“What d’ya see?” Roland eased up beside him.
Edge pointed at the circle. “Must’ve been where the camera lens was. Shattered to bits now though.”
“Like I said, it was probably being used to photograph the moon.”
The sound of an approaching car had Edge glancing toward the campsite entrance. “Looks like more company.”
“Maybe they’re the owners of the drone,” Roland said.
“Hmmm. Maybe.”
The car’s headlights bobbed up and down as it wove along the road toward them. A few minutes later, the black SUV crawled into the clearing and stopped a good forty or so feet away from them. But whoever was behind the wheel didn’t cut the engine, nor did they climb from the vehicle.
“Come on Pearl, let’s go welcome them.” Roland reached for her hand and the two of them waddled toward the headlights.
Edge used the solitude to examine the drone more thoroughly.
“Hey, how are ya doin?” Despite the distance, Edge heard the quiver in Roland’s aging voice. “You see that thing fall from the sky too?”
“You guys see it?” The newcomer’s tone was deep and authoritative. Military, maybe?
“We didn’t just see it; we got it.” Edge could picture the grin on Roland’s face as he revealed that juicy titbit.
“You did?”
“Yup. It’s over by the fire.”
A jagged hole in the metal snagged Edge’s attention, and he angled the drone toward the campfire to get a better look. His heart skidded to a halt. A bullet hole. He’d seen enough of them to recognize one. The discovery did two things. Explained the drone’s demise, and shot a bucket load of dread into his belly.
A scream shattered the silence, and Edge launched to his feet.
Gunshot’s exploded. One. Two. Three.
Edge dove for cover behind the Cherokee.
“Pearl!” Roland’s shrill cry was one of mortal fear.
Roland scrambled on his hands and knees to his wife and Edge wanted to yell at him to run, yet at the same time it was pointless. Pearl’s bloody body confirmed she was dead, and the killer’s weapon was now aimed at Roland.
The assassin paused, as if savoring the moment. It told Edge a whole heap about the killer, and none of it was good. Edge jumped at the second round of gunshots and his gut twisted at the spray of blood highlighted in the SUV’s headlights. Roland fell face first in the dirt. His hands didn’t halt his fall as he sprawled next to Pearl’s lifeless body.
The killer stepped into the headlights, giving Edge a silhouetted view of his physique. Edge’s training kicked in, and he mentally noted the brute’s build. Approximately six foot seven. Right shoulder higher than left. Buzz cut across the scalp. Thick-set thighs, maybe from weightlifting. Right-hand grip on the weapon, unwavering. The killer strolled to Roland, taking his time, aimed the gun at the back of the old man’s head, and pulled the trigger.
Edge had seen the aftermath of murder hundreds of times. Hell, he’d been pushed to the brink of it once himself. But this was the first time he’d witnessed one. It was nothing like the countless clinical scenarios he’d recreated in his mind.
This was brutal, shocking. Sadistic.
And the swift indifference with how it’d been perpetrated was chilling.
The killer turned on his heel to face where Edge was hiding and strode toward him.
“Fuck!” Edge’s heart set to explode. Wrenching his fingers from the wheel hub, he spun on his heel and with eighteen years of detective training working against him, he did the one thing that he’d probably regret later.
He grabbed the drone and dashed into the bushes.
Seconds later a bullet slammed into the tree to his left, shredding a limb to pieces.
It really was the perfect night for murder.
Except now it was Edge being hunted.

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