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The Lazarus Men

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The Lazarus Men
It is the 23rd century. Humankind has reached the stars, building a tentative empire across a score of worlds. Earth’s central government rules weakly as several worlds continue their efforts toward independence. Shadow organizations hide in the midst of the political infighting. Their manifestations of power and influence are beholden only to the highest bidder. The most powerful/insidious/secret of these, The Lazarus Men, has existed for decades, always working outside of morality’s constraints. Led by the enigmatic Mr. Shine, their agents are hand selected from the worst humanity has to offer and available for the right price.

Gerald LaPlant lives an ordinary life on Old Earth. That life is thrown into turmoil on the night he stumbles upon the murder of what appears to be a street thief. Fleeing into the night, Gerald finds himself caught in a war between the Lazarus Men and Roland McMasters, an extremely powerful man dissatisfied with the current regime and with designs on ruling his own empire.
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“Please Mr. Gaetis, I need to hear you say it,” Shine insisted. His eyes took on a wicked glow.

“Yes, Mr. Shine. I accept your offer.”

His words lacked the conviction with which they were meant. Carter was a strong man but even the severity of the moment left him weak in more ways than he was willing to admit to any man, especially Shine. He didn’t like the thin man at all. Carter imagined there’d come a time for reckoning before the end. He only had to wait until that day.

Shine nodded back and clapped his hands in front of his waist twice. “Good! I knew you’d make the logical decision. Very smart of you, Mr. Gaetis. Now, if you’d please follow me inside, we can conclude tonight’s business and be off.”

“You can’t be serious!” Carter all but exploded. Making the decision was one matter, having to participate entirely another. He wasn’t prepared to endure the endless stream of nightmares from what came next. No man should.

Mr. Shine fixed him with a withering glare. “Oh but I am. This is not a game, Carter. The only way I can be assured of your commitment is by having you participate. Anything less is inexcusable. Our employers demand unconditional obedience.” He paused, letting Carter stew. “Perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps you are not the proper candidate for this position. Good night, Mr. Gaetis. I wish you the best of fortune in the future.”

He’d never know what spurred the following words, but Carter grasped at the tiny rope Mr. Shine dangled before him. “No, wait. I’ll do it. It’s just going to be…”

“Hard? I understand. We have all gone through similar.” Shine pat him gently on the back. “Consider it being part of a brotherhood.”

Pulling the lapels of his black, trench coat tighter around his neck to keep the harsh wind coming off of the river from creeping down his back, Shine started across the street.

 

Mr. Shine peeled the bloodstained, leather gloves off and tossed them down on the flower pattern comforter. He wasn’t smiling, but lacked the seriousness Carter expected after murdering two people in their sleep. Instead he wore the look of grim satisfaction that only a man trapped in such a profession could produce. And professional he was. Only a single speck of blood escaped the bed, landing squarely on his right cheek. He looked down to where Carter had collapsed in a pile of vomit and tears.

 

Excerpt 2:

Gerald plopped a cigarette between his lips and buttoned up his thick overcoat against the fierce winds blowing in off of the Atlantic. It was the last day of April and still too close to winter for his liking. Living in the city usually protected him from the worst of winter though the cold never seemed to leave. He looked skyward, hardly noticing the full moon looming overhead. Taking a quick drag, Gerald instantly felt some of the tension leave. He’d been working almost nonstop for weeks in the hopes of scraping together enough cash for a vacation. The strain was taking its toll. Frowning, he decided he needed a drink.

The winds blew harder as he headed towards the taxi stands. Trash blew across the pavement. He rummaged through his pockets in search of enough loose change for a quick drink before heading home. Days like this shouldn’t end any other way, or so he’d always imagined. Just another reason to move south, or off planet. This life isn’t for me. He came to the end of the terminal building and was about to round the corner when strange sounds brought him to a halt.

No stranger to the crisp sounds of urban violence, he recognized gunfire when he heard it. He glanced down the alley in time to see a tall, slender man dressed in black fire four rounds into an already injured man. The very same man who had slammed into him inside. The smell of gunpowder and blood sickened Gerald almost immediately. It took a second longer than necessary for his body and mind to arrive at the same conclusion.

His cigarette slipped from his lips as he turned and ran. The only sounds he heard were his hurried footfalls on the pavement and the thunder of his breaths. He ran for his life, knowing the murderer would soon be after him. A thin film of sweat quickly coated his face and hands. Gerald found a little luck as a crowd of returning passengers filed out of the terminal. He pulled his collar higher around his neck and face and tried to blend in, hoping against hope the murderer hadn’t gotten a good look at him.

Gerald followed the crowd to the taxi stand and jumped in the first available. The driver adjusted the meter and, without looking back, asked, “Where to, Mac?”

“Queens,” Gerald said nervously. “Just drive.”

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