Endangered Species

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The following material represents the first chapter in the second book in the Sleeping Dogs series, Sleeping Dogs: Endangered SpeciesIf you enjoy it and want to read more of the book, the complete novel can be purchased in print or ebook format here.

Princes and governments are far more dangerous than other elements within society.

     —Niccolo Machiavelli

PART ONE: DOG BITES MAN

Chapter 1—Dingle, Ireland

Barring sleep disorders, most people’s sleep patterns are distributed in the center of the bell curve. But there are outliers. Some can sleep through an earthquake or hurricane. A few will wake at the sound of a fly landing on the wall—in the next room. Brendan Whelan was one of them.Something woke him, but it wasn’t an insect. It was something common, yet out of the ordinary for the place and time of night, like a guitar riff in the middle of a trackless desert. He couldn’t place the sound immediately, but he sensed danger. So he kept his eyes closed and listened. His genetic makeup gave him enhanced physical abilities. That, and years of highly specialized military and survival training, made him value caution. It had been reinforced by years of living a lie, constantly glancing over his shoulder for the pursuers he knew would come someday.

Almost imperceptibly, he slid his hand across the sheet and gently touched the warm, still form beside him. He could hear Caitlin breathing gently and steadily. He strained to hear sounds coming from the room their boys, Sean and Declan, shared. There was only silence and darkness. He opened one eye slightly, just a sliver. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he slowly opened both eyes. Nothing seemed amiss. He slid silently from beneath the covers and slipped out of bed.

The original part of the Fianna House Bed and Breakfast, or teach an Fianna in Gaelic, had been built in the late eighteenth century as a small farm bungalow on the outskirts of Dingle, Ireland. By the early part of the twentieth century, it had gradually been expanded into a three-story manor house. Whelan and Caitlin had acquired the property before they were married and developed it into a ten-bedroom, ten-bathroom inn with kitchen, dining room, library/sitting area, and a small office. Their third-floor bedroom was part of the original structure. The wood floor in that part of the house had been worn smooth over the decades. Now, it felt cool on the bottoms of his bare feet. Whelan had long ago found the old floor’s creaky spots and was careful to avoid them. 

It was April and the temperatures in Dingle ranged from the mid-forties to the mid-fifties Fahrenheit. Whelan, who slept naked regardless of the temperature, grabbed a pair of well-worn denim cutoffs lying across the chest at the foot of the bed. He thought momentarily about reaching for the SIG Sauer P226 MK25 he kept in a special holster attached to the sideboard of the bed, but decided against it. It had been converted from the original nine-millimeter to forty-caliber. With three family members and a guest in the house, that weapon would be too dangerous to use. An errant slug could rip through the walls and strike an innocent victim.

The Kel-Tek KSG shotgun would have been his weapon of choice. Its internal dual-tube magazines each held six rounds of three-inch twelve-gauge shells. The chamber held a thirteenth. But he’d let his oldest son, Sean, practice fieldstripping it, and it was still in the room Sean shared with his younger brother. Whelan was six feet two inches and 225 pounds, with no measurable body fat. And he had those unique genetic gifts. Unless there were armed intruders in the house, a firearm would be overkill.

The Dingle peninsula, in Southwestern Ireland, jutted out into the wild and stormy Atlantic. As a result, the area experienced a more difficult and unpredictable climate than almost any other location in Ireland. Whelan was grateful this night was one of the rare calm moments. It made it easier for his ears to distinguish aberrant sounds. He paused in front of the closed double doors that opened into the hallway and listened intently. Somewhere in the house he heard what sounded like a muffled cry. It was there for just a moment, and then it was gone.

He flattened himself against the left panel of the door and slowly cracked open the right panel. Nothing moved in the hallway. He heard only silence. Moving quietly, he eased the door open farther and slipped through it, closing it softly behind him. Somehow the gesture made him feel that Caitlin was more secure. Gliding silently along the hall dimly illuminated by nightlights, he reached the door to his sons’ room. It was open a crack. He hoped it was because one of the boys had gone to the bathroom and neglected to close it all the way on his return.

He glanced through the crack and neither saw nor heard anything out of the ordinary. Gently pushing the door open, he slipped into the room. Except for the two boys curled up in their respective beds, there was no one there. As he was about to turn and leave, Sean sat up. Whelan quickly raised a finger to his lips. He pointed at each of the boys, then at their beds, signaling that they were not to get up. Sean nodded.

Whelan stepped back into the hallway and continued noiselessly toward the staircase at its end, checking each empty guest room before moving on. He descended the stairs quietly and carefully, still straining to hear anything besides the night sounds an old dwelling makes. He thought he heard a bedspring squeak followed by what sounded like a shoe scraping against a wood floor.

It was a slow time of year for tourists in Dingle. Only one guest room was occupied that evening, by Elenora Tankersley, a retired schoolteacher from Sheffield, England, who’d been an annual visitor for several years, preferring to come during the off season when rates were at their lowest. Her days were spent strolling the surrounding countryside between the frequent rainstorms, or alone in her room editing her memoirs—a source of amused speculation for Brendan and Caitlin. How such a solitary, introverted soul could have memoirs that would interest anyone? Although she was invited frequently to join the Whelan family for dinner, Miss Tankersley preferred to dine alone at one of the pubs she favored in Dingle. Following dinner, she usually retired early. Tonight had been no exception.

Whelan paused at the bottom of the stairs. Miss Tankersley’s room was two doors down the hall and on the left. Her door was open, as were the other empty guestroom doors. That was an anomaly. A very shy and private person, she always kept the door closed when she was in her room. His adrenaline level began to climb. He moved to the first open door, crouched low against the jamb and peered quickly into the room. Empty. He edged along the hallway to Miss Tankersley’s room and repeated the process.

Two men loomed in the shadows of the room. One was stretched across an inert body on the bed, pinning the elderly woman down. The other man held a pillow over her face. Both men were large, but that wasn’t what stopped Whelan from rushing into the room. It was the Makarov PM 9mm suppressed pistol being brandished by the man pinning Miss Tankersley’s body. Whelan silently cursed himself for deciding not to bring the Sig with him. He needed a plan, and quickly.

As his mind raced to connect the necessary dots, the man who was smothering Miss Tankersley raised the pillow. He placed two fingers against her neck above the common carotid artery. After a moment, he glanced at his colleague and nodded. The second man rose from his victim’s lifeless form and spoke softly. Whelan recognized the language as Eastern European—possibly Ukrainian, a language he had encountered in the recent past.

He edged away from the doorframe and backed along the hall to the room nearest the stairs. Ducking into it, he flattened himself against the wall just inside the door. He could hear the two men as they exited Miss Tankersley’s room and moved down the hall toward him. From the open doors, it was obvious that they’d completed a search of the second floor in order to eliminate anyone there. It was Miss Tankersley’s misfortune to be on holiday at the wrong time.  Whelan knew they would take the stairs to the third floor, where his wife and sons were. He harbored no doubts about the men’s intentions.

As they walked past his hiding place, Whelan slipped out behind them. He grabbed each man by the nape of his neck with a grip so tight it all but paralyzed them. He smashed their heads together with bone-crushing force. Only a handful of individuals with similar genetics were capable of such strength, and tonight, rather than hiding his skills, Whelan would use every ounce of power he possessed to defend his home.

Instantly rendered unconscious, the men collapsed. Whelan cursed silently as the Makarov fell from one of the men’s hands and hit the floor with a dull thud. He pinned their bodies with a knee to each man’s chest, and wrapped a hand around each of their exposed throats. His fingers and thumbs closed around the pharyngeal muscles, aortae, trachea, and esophagus with such force that his fingertips and thumb nearly met in front of the cervical vertebrae. He leaned forward at the waist, then straightened, yanking his arms upward. The motion ripped most of the anterior portion of each victim’s neck completely free of their bodies—a huge wolf dismembering lesser beings that threatened his mate and their pups.

He wiped his hands on the dead men’s clothing, picked up the Makarov, checked its magazine, and rose to continue the hunt.

 

© John Wayne Falbey 2017 All Rights Reserved