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The Housewife Assassin's Gambit

IN BOOK 23 OF THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN SERIES:

Donna and Jack Craig are on an around-the-world mission to retrieve nine digital directories listing names of intelligence operatives—one belonging to the United States, the other eight belonging to its allies and enemies—as they are sold by the highest bidder by an anonymous terrorist. 
 

At the same time, Jack thinks he has reasons to question Donna's love for him.
Will saving their country cost the Craigs their marriage?

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IN BOOK 23 OF THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN SERIES:

Donna and Jack Craig are on an around-the-world mission to retrieve nine digital directories listing names of intelligence operatives—one belonging to the United States, the other eight belonging to its allies and enemies—as they are sold by the highest bidder by an anonymous terrorist. 

At the same time, Jack thinks he has reasons to question Donna's love for him. Will saving their country cost the Craigs their marriage?

3 WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN!

Each has won a $50 gift card to a bookstore of their choice!

RULES

1: No purchase necessary.

 

2: Read the excerpt below. Then, correctly answer this question:

 

WHO IS CHASING THE DRUNK?

 

3: Only one entry per person is allowed.

 

4: If your answer is correct, within 24 hours, I'll post your name below the excerpt as a “Potential Contestant.”

 

5: DO NOT ANSWER  VIA A COMMENT ON THE CONTEST PAGE, OR YOU WILL BE DISQUALIFIED.

 

6: If your answer is wrong, your name won't appear. Never fear! You can try again.

Resend the correct answer, and I'll include you in the contest.

 

7: The contest is worldwide.

 

8: All correct answers must be received no later than 11:59 PM, Sunday, September 24, 2023.

 

Good luck!

 

—Josie

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED IN MY NEXT NEWSLETTER.

Sign up for it, and get a free book 

 

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CHAPTER 1

Blunder

In chess, the term “blunder” indicates a very bad move; for example, one that may take a win and turn it into a loss or a draw. 

Just as bad is a move that turns a draw into a loss.

In either case, you’ll experience a setback.

The best way to protect yourself from a blunder:

First, examine possible offensive moves that your opponent can make. Think like they would.

Next, think through your own subsequent offensive move. That way, you’ll find any weakness in your game play.

Finally, since a blunder can cost you the game, play as if it can cost you your life.

* * *

It’s almost two in the morning, and only nine of us are on Los Angeles Metro’s Number Two bus, heading south on Santa Monica Boulevard from San Vicente to North Canon. Right now, I couldn’t tell you which of the other passengers is the domestic terrorist here to give a thumb drive containing intelligence vital to our nation’s security to a Russian spy.

Acme Industries, my black-ops intelligence organization, doesn’t know what it contains. All we’ve been told by our contact—U.S. Director of National Intelligence, Marcus Branham—is that it’s of great national importance. The traitor, who works at the Pentagon, was smart enough to stay anonymous while negotiating the deal on a Signal encrypted messaging account. If the traitor is working with another Pentagon insider who could alert them that the mission is on the FBI’s radar, it becomes a job for Acme.

A good thing since our mission isn’t just to capture the culprits but exterminate them via an “accident” and then return the stolen intel.

Your guess is as good as mine whether a suspect is one of the two gorgeous drag artists. The tallest sports a strapless body-hugging Alexander McQueen asymmetric leather dress in galactic blue. The redhead is in a hot pink vintage Dior suit to die for.

Frankly, I hope it’s neither. It would be a shame to ruin either outfit with a bullet hole.

Maybe our suspect is the drunk snoring in the back of the bus. Then again, it could be the guy in a Brioni suit perusing an issue of Fortune.

Or is he one of the three Lakers fans burning off their winning game high by flirting with the blonde decked out in a berry-red belted cashmere coat?

The old bag lady sprawled out on a seat facing the middle passenger exit door of the bus is moi. It’s a new look for me and, frankly, one I find freeing. Unlike the posh pashmina-draped princess, I don’t have to pretend to ignore the rowdy basketball fans’ catcalls. And while I’d covet both of the cross-dressers’ ensembles, chasing down a suspect is a sure way to ruin their magnificent couture. It’s bound to end up drenched in sweat. 

Or worse yet, blood.

This isn’t a solo mission. Abu Nagashahi, one of the operatives on my team, is driving the bus. Frankly, when he realized the pay for the overnight shift was so generous, he told our boss, Ryan, he may swap professions. (The blood ran out of Ryan’s face, and rightly so. Abu is the best getaway driver-slash-wet work handler we’ve got.)

Another team member, Arnie Locklear, slumps into one of the front seats. He sports saggy jeans, a baseball cap, and a tee shirt that declares:

ASKHOLE:

A person who constantly asks for your advice,

yet always does the opposite of what you’ve told them.

Possibly a gift from his wife, Emma Honeycutt, our ComInt director. 

My mission co-leader, Jack Craig (my husband and the love of my life), is tailing the bus in a panel van. Another member of our team, Dominic Fleming, also follows us in a car.

We wear earbuds and special contact lenses that give feedback on what we see and hear to Emma back at Acme headquarters. Having eyes and ears on us, if she notices obstacles that may trip us up, she’ll let us know.

Three stops later, the Lakers fans give up on the woman who’s clearly out of their league and jump off the bus. I wince when I see that they’re headed for a car and pray that, before they do any real damage, some cop stops them for a DUI. In any case, I can check them off my list.

Brioni Guy pulls the bell to get off at the next stop. He leaves the magazine on the seat and walks toward the front door.

Interesting.

I cough to alert Emma.

“Yep, I see it,” she says. “Jack, cover the male suspect who’s now getting off the bus.”

“On him,” Jack assures her.

Just before the next stop, in unison, the drunk and Pashmina Princess pull the bus’s departure bell.

Hmmm…

Drunk Dude, seated behind the bench holding the magazine, moves toward the front. At the same time, Pashmina, who sat several rows in front of the magazine, moves toward the exit door in the center of the bus.

As they pass each other—and the magazine—Drunk Dude leans in for a kiss.

Pashmina practically falls into the magazine’s bench to avoid him. They both topple onto the floor.

Shoving Drunk Dude away, she screeches, “Get off of me, you smelly brute!”

Trying to get his footing, Drunk’s hand lands on her breast. Yelping, Pashmina slaps it away, then starts pounding him with her Dolce & Gabbana clutch.

Abu is so busy watching that he has to stop short to avoid rear-ending a car.

Drunk Dude falls backward onto the seat across the aisle. “Admit it!” he whines. “You…you’ve been making goo-goo eyes at me all night!”

By now, Abu has eased into the next bus stop.

Drunk scrambles to his feet and then careens toward the middle door.

Pashmina also rights herself and huffs off the bus through the front door.

I move toward the bench holding the magazine—

Which is gone.

“Talk about intriguing cosplay,” Emma murmurs.

“Arnie, follow the drunk, on foot. Detain him,” Ryan orders Emma’s husband.

“On it, Boss.” With a sigh, Arnie breaks free of the fantasy conjured by his wife’s innuendo and scrambles off the bus.

“Dominic, give Arnie backup,” Ryan adds.

Our British colleague groans. “The pissed git? I was hoping for the posh bird—”

“Too bad,” Ryan growls. “Get on him now. Donna, you–”

“Yep, I’m already on her tail.” I leap off the bus from the middle exit.

“And I’m on yours,” Abu assures me.

“Woah—wait! Hellooo?” Dior yells. “Who’s driving us to WeHo?”

Ignoring him, Abu looks left while I look right. Since Pashmina is not in our sight lines, I motion for him to move in his direction, and I move in mine.

I run three blocks. But seeing and hearing nothing, I backtrack—

Until I notice a small alley, the width of a driveway, on my right. I would have missed it, except that the wind is strong enough that the tattered banner hanging off the roof of one of the flanking buildings slaps against its second-story window. It’s the back end of a gas station and its auto repair garage, but I can barely make out anything except for rows of open crates, stacked five high, lining both sides of the alley. The crates are filled with metal gas canisters. 

The alley is deep and pitch black—

Until Pashmina opens the driver door of a black BMW M4-CSL. Its dim light shows her shrugging off her coat, then flinging it onto the backseat floor, all the while murmuring on her cell phone. A moment later, she strips off her wig, revealing short dark hair.

She’s now putting what was in the magazine into her purse.

Only then does she notice me and the gun I’ve got pointed at her. “Drop it on the ground!” I bark.

Instead, she leaps into the car with her purse, slams the door shut, starts the engine—

And heads right at me.

When I shoot, the bullets ricochet off the glass and metal.

A reinforced car?

Oh, darn.

Since the model is the Competition xDrive Coupe and the alley is even narrower than my two-car garage, I’ve got about three seconds to jump out of her way. Otherwise, I’ll get laid out flatter than a pancake.

Instead, I do something that is either stupid or genius...

(c) 2023 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

 

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