Two Birds: Introducing Gabe Rayner

Seven targets and six rounds make a Hard Problem, so Snipes Rogan pushed the visitor to practice his reloads first.

“Soon, Snipes?”

The visitor looked up as he spoke, without pausing the clack-click of rounds into the box mag. Snipes liked how he handled his ammo. A squeeze and a shake for each of the heavy brass darts as they went in, like a cashier deskwhacking a coinroll. Taking ownership.

“Yup. Make the count?”

Prone in the dirt, the visitor hefted the M107 into his shoulder and slapped in the mag, one leg of the long rifle’s stabilising V sinking slightly into the loam. Long-limbed, with hair a tangle of browns and eyes a cocktail of greens, he seemed strangely in sync with the landscape of soil and stem surrounding them.

“Six,” the visitor murmured, moving the barrel parallel to the fencework a few hundred metres east. A fence Snipes said started in Arkansas and went on ’til Kentucky.

“No. Seven.” Snipes was sure of the total, but raised his binoculars and counted again.

Ahead stretched scraggy rows of green fronds bent double by ripening cantaloupes the size of human heads. The figures in the distance were all different, but answered the same type. All tall, scrawnily built, clothes faded from years of outdoor work. Brothers.

And all facing east, late afternoon sun at their backs. The time was approaching…. 

The job’s on the East Coast. So what’s Gabe Rayner doing face down in the Tennessee dirt?

Well, business consultancy sometimes needs more than smarts with a spreadsheet. That’s why the Voice on the Phone keeps Rayner on a list. Rayner’s approach to consultancy is so far outside the box, the box isn’t even a dot. Exhibit 1 being the sniper rifle he’s holding.

The figure in the crosshairs is a mile away. The real target, a thousand times further. Rayner never expected a simple investment analysis to lead to a melon field with a dark secret and a blood feud spanning three generations. But unexpected is what Rayner does best.

He planned his trip Stateside with a single goal. But the brief’s suffering some mission creep. And of course, nothing ever goes wrong when that happens.

Two Birds is the novella introducing Gabe Rayner: a British-American problem-solver with a broad skillset. He’s the first business consultant action hero. Copyright © Mark Charteris 2013. Published by Redpump Ltd. ASIN: B00GGNQH6G. ISBN: 978-0-9927470-0-8.

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