If you didn’t already know, I’m fast at work on my next Montana Bounty Hunter story, Mica. It’s scheduled for release on February 28th.
I’m having fun with the story, I hope you will too. Naturally, we meet our hero in the middle of a takedown of a skip. I love dropping my heroes and heroines in the middle of the action. Action scenes fly by fast, and there are so many things that can go wrong. I hope you enjoy meeting Mica. He hasn’t met his love interest yet, but she will make a big impression. 🙂
Be sure to get to the end of this post. I have a big ole list of contests you still have time to enter!
Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, Montana — Mica
Mica Ford wasn’t one to hold grudges. At least not these days. Grudges required fury and bile, and he’d had his fill of pointless anger and heartburn.
However, he was beginning to get a bit perturbed by the crew of bounty hunters working out of an office in Dead Horse, Montana. This was the third time they’d crept into one of his stakeouts. Twice now, he’d had to withdraw from a takedown and let them score his target. There were just too many of them, and again, he hadn’t wanted a dustup, wasn’t looking for a fight. But this time, he’d be damned if he let them scoop a third bounty right from under his nose.
This time, his target was one Norman P. Rudd. The bounty was high enough that Mica could live off the proceeds for a good four months. According to the bail bond company’s description, Norman had failed to appear before the judge to begin his trial for numerous charges stemming from an incident where Norman had gone “postal” on a neighbor whose political campaign posters didn’t share his flavor of affiliation.
Norman hadn’t stopped at simply pulling up the neighbor’s signs and burning them in a bonfire in the middle of the man’s front yard. No, he’d taken a tree branch, set the end on fire, and then torched his neighbor’s house and RV and then set wood he’d stacked beside a propane tank on fire. The explosion from the tank had rattled and broken windows throughout the neighborhood, including Norman’s. Even before the firetrucks and police arrived, the neighbor had pulled in front of his house, jumped out of his pickup, and the two men had entered into a brawl. The neighbor had been horrified by the damage to his home and belongings, but worse, his favorite blue tick hound had been locked inside the house when it was set on fire.
The house and RV? Mica wouldn’t have bothered to do more than shake his head and collect the insurance—belongings didn’t matter much, and you couldn’t take them with you when you left this world, but he could understand someone goin’ loco over the murder of a four-legged best friend. For that alone, Norman was a piece of shit who deserved to spend the rest of his days in jail. However, since he’d lost his mind and fired up his neighbor’s property, Norman had proven himself to be a bit smarter, evading police and bounty hunters while hiding out in the Absaroka Range. Mica couldn’t guess his intentions, but he suspected Norman thought he could hopscotch through mountains and forests to hide out there for a while until he lost some weight and grew a beard—something to disguise his ugly, memorable features. His mistake had been coming in for a night to shower and sleep in a soft bed.
Mica had tracked him to a motel in Belgrade, Montana. The night manager had just confirmed that someone of Norman’s broad build had indeed rented a room at the end of the building. He’d asked for menus from restaurants that offered delivery, then he’d kept quiet, not budging from his room.
Mica had already walked the perimeter of the building and tried peeking into the room, but the curtains were pulled closed and the frosted glaze on the bathroom window behind the building didn’t allow him to make out anything other than the fact there was a light turned on inside the room.
Before he could bust in the door, he had to know that Norman was inside. So, he’d hunkered down in his truck, waiting for his break, hoping Norman ordered food before the last restaurant closed for the night.
He watched through his tinted windows as another SUV and a truck pulled into the lot. He groaned when he saw the female hunter, Marti of naked-body-shop-video fame, enter the motel office. When she’d come out, she’d scanned the parking lot, and her gaze had locked on his vehicle.
So, she knew someone else was on Norman’s trail. Mica snorted. They might have the advantage of more hunters to enter the chase, but he had the better vantage, parked right in front of Norman’s room while they had to park farther down the row.
A small compact sedan entered the lot. It had a lighted sign on top of it, advertising Papa Ralph’s Pizza. So, Norman wasn’t starting his diet anytime soon. The sedan moved slowly down the row of parking spaces, then stopped right behind Mica’s vehicle. A car door slammed, and a lanky teenager ran toward the door, carrying an insulated pizza delivery bag that looked like it held two pizza boxes. Mica partially lowered his driver’s side window so he could listen as he watched the kid knock on the motel room door.
The lights inside doused. The kid stiffened and backed away a step, his head turning side to side like he was unsure of his safety.
The door creaked open, and a hand stuck out of the narrow space with bills clutched in it. The kid reached for the bills and moved back another step as he counted. Then he thrust his hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out a wallet. “I’ve got your change, sir.”
“Keep it,” came the muffled reply. The hand shot out again, and the teen opened the delivery bag and slid out two boxes of pizza, steam rising from the cardboard boxes.
Mica leaned forward waiting for the door to widen. When it did, Norman P. Rudd’s chubby cheeks, thick eyebrows, and lips were illuminated in the golden light of the motel’s outdoor lighting.
“Gotcha,” Mica whispered. As the door slammed shut and the kid walked away muttering about weirdos, Mica hit the button on his glove box and pulled his Glock from inside. Then he slipped from his truck and ran for the brick wall beside the motel room door.
Footsteps scraped behind him, and he gritted his teeth, not bothering to turn around because he knew what he’d find if not specifically whom.
“You about tired of us poaching your targets?” came a deep-timbered drawl from behind him.
Mica cast a glance toward a man whose face was shadowed by his cowboy hat. “Just about,” he said, keeping his tone even.
“He’s yours—unless you need our help.”
“Just stay back.” He had no reason to disbelieve that the bounty hunters wouldn’t poach if he could take Norman into custody on his own. They had a decent reputation among other hunters. Their cable TV show might raise eyebrows and smirks, but Mica had to admit they seemed to know their shit.
He reached out and pounded on the motel room door. “Fugitive Recovery Agent!” he called out. “Norman P. Rudd, unlock the door and step back.”
The thuds of feet on a carpet, and then the slam of an interior door, indicated Norman had likely retreated to the bathroom. Mica wasn’t worried he’d try to escape. The man would never make it through the small window.
He moved swiftly in front of the door and kicked it near the door handle. The door didn’t budge, so he kicked it again. This time the wooden frame around the door gave. With the door tilting now in the opening, he smacked it so it fell to the floor inside the room then rushed inside, heading straight back to the bathroom door.
Behind him, he heard the cowboy say, “Hardman, you got eyes on that bathroom window?”
Radio static sounded, then, “I do. Bastard’s got his shoulders in the opening.”
Mica still wasn’t worried. Norman would never get his belly through it. Standing to the side of the bathroom door, he raised his voice. “Norman, you got nowhere else to run. How about you get out of that window and open the door? I don’t want to come in after you.”
“Can’t breathe,” came a faint voice from the other side of the door.
“Ah, shit,” came the voice on the radio.
Then Marti’s dulcet tones followed. “Norman, you stupid asshole. What did you think was gonna happen?”
Mica’s shoulders dropped. He stepped back and easily kicked in the bathroom door.
Standing in the doorway, he shook his head. Norman’s large body was wedged tightly in the space, his feet dangling above the floor.
“Can’t breathe,” the man repeated, this time with a hint of panic in his voice.
The cowboy tapped his shoulder. When Mica glared back at him, the other hunter smiled. “You got this?”
Mica barely suppressed a snarl. A little help would be needed to rescue the man stuffed in the window. He holstered his weapon. “If you don’t mind…”
The other man grinned. “They call me Cowboy, by the way.”
“Figured that,” he said, eyeing the hat. But he already knew who he was due to a certain TV show. “I’m Mica Ford.”
Cowboy raised his radio. “Hardman, go get your toolkit. We’ll have to disassemble that window.”
“Think we could just raise his ass and his torso and slide him out?” Mica asked, frowning.
“Can’t breathe, man,” Norman said again.
“Shallow breaths, dumbass,” Marti said from the other side of the window.
“You’re her,” Norman whispered. “The girl in the video.”
“Save your breath,” she said in a flat tone.
“Musta watched it a hundred times.”
“Do you want me to let you suffocate?”
Mica didn’t know why Norman continued to engage with her while her tone was lowering and she bit out her words. Marti Wells was an intimidating woman. Norman had to be lacking some oxygen to his brain.
Cowboy cleared his throat. “I’ll go around back and hold him up so he’s not folded over the sill.”
“Once you’re there, I’ll lift his legs,” Mica said. “Then he might catch a breath.”
“Your face is getting mighty red,” Marti muttered.
“Guess the window wasn’t a smart move, huh?” Norman said, then tried to laugh, but it sounded like a sob.
“Neither was torching your neighbor’s house,” came Marti’s irritated reply.
“He had it comin’.”
“It’s Montana, dumbass. All you had to do was wait for election day, and you could’ve happy-danced all over his yard. Wasn’t like his candidate had any hope in hell.”
“That’s what my momma said,” Norman said mournfully.
“And now, you’re going to jail. Didn’t help yourself trying to run.”
Mica watched through the top of the divided window as Cowboy moved beneath Norman and propped Norman’s chest on one broad shoulder. Mica hunched down and stuck his shoulder under Norman’s hips and raised him. “I got the heavy end,” he muttered.
“That better, Norman?” Marti asked.
“Yeah, but how you gonna get me out.”
A drill revved nearby. “I got that handled,” Hardman’s voice sounded to the side.
Twenty minutes later, with the window disassembled, they slid Norman back into the bathroom. As soon as he melted to the floor, Mica flipped him on his belly and used two sets of cuffs to secure his arms behind his back.
Cowboy appeared beside him. “I’ll help you get him on his feet.”
It did take two of them to help the man up. By the time Mica escorted him from the hotel room, he was sweating.
“You got it from here?” Hardman asked after Mica removed the cuffs and placed Norman’s hands in front of him to attach the cuffs bolted to his floorboard.
“I’ll need one of you to ride along,” Mica said, “seeing as we’re divvying up this bounty.”
“We trust you for it.”
“Holy shit,” came a voice from farther down the parking lot.
Mica glanced sideways and saw the clerk hurrying over to them.
“My boss is gonna have my ass,” the man said, eyeing the shattered doorframe.
“I’ll cover the damages,” Mica said, pulling a business card from his wallet. “Have him call me.”
The clerk took the card then turned to stare at Marti, then Hardman, and then Cowboy. “Holy shit,” he said again, his jaw sagging.
Marti reached out and tipped his jaw closed.
“We gonna be on TV?” he asked.
“Nope. No film crew. Just us doing our jobs,” Hardman said.
“Dang, no one’s gonna believe me.”
Marti grinned. “Got your phone handy?”
He blinked, reached into his back pocket, then handed her the phone.
Marti pulled him against her side, then tapped the screen a couple of times. When she raised the camera high, she said, “Say cheese,” then stuck out her tongue and tapped the screen again.
When she handed the phone back to the man, he was grinning so wide Mica’s cheeks ached.
Marti pointed into the trashed room. “There’s fresh pizza in there if you’re hungry.”
Cowboy held out his hand, and Mica shook it. “We’ll have to stop meeting like this,” he said with a waggle of his eyebrows.
Mica’s mouth twitched. Yeah, he was out several thousand dollars, but he’d have been up shit creek without a paddle if they hadn’t been there. “Thanks for the backup,” he said.
“Any time. You get tired of goin’ solo, you ought to come by and talk to us. We could use a man like you.”
Mica drew in a breath. His gut instinct was to snort and give them a Hell, no. However, he’d been doing this on his own long enough to see the advantage of working with a well-oiled machine like the MBH crew. He wasn’t about to shut that door before he’d given the offer a bit of thought. “I’ll drop by with your money in a day or two,” he said, not addressing the offer. “I’ll have to get an estimate for the damage to the doors before I can figure your cut.”
“No worries. Give us a call before you head over. I’ll buy you a meal.”
“Ever been to Dead Horse?” Marti asked.
“Nope. Haven’t had that pleasure. I work mostly in central Montana and down into Wyoming.”
“Dead Horse is a good little town,” Cowboy said. “There are worse places to hang your hat.”
Mica nodded. “Don’t wear one, but I hear you. What I’ve seen of Dead Horse on the TV, it doesn’t look like it’s been the most welcoming place to bounty hunters.”
“Most residents aren’t as ornery as Nadine at the diner,” Cowboy said with a grin.
“That’s good to know. She’s kind of scary.”
Marti laughed. “I’m convinced all that sass covers a heart of gold. We just have to dig a bit deeper to find it.”
Hardman grunted. “That woman’s mean through and through.”
Mica cleared his throat. “I better get down the road with this guy.”
“I’m glad we finally met,” Cowboy said, touching the brim of his hat.
Hardman and Marti gave him a wave and turned on the walkway to make their way back to their vehicle.
Once he’d stowed his weapon in a lockbox under his seat, he climbed into the cab and gave Norman a quick glance. “It’s a couple of hours to the detention center in Bozeman. Might as well get some sleep. We’re not stopping along the way.”
“What if I have to pee?”
Mica gave him a cold, hard stare.
Norman pursed his lips and turned to stare out the window. “Don’t suppose you’d play some music? I might not get to hear anything nice for a while.”
“What’s your pleasure?” Mica asked, tapping the ignition button and backing out of the space in front of the room with the missing door.
“Rock ’n’ roll, man.”
Mica tapped the button on the radio, which opened instantly to a classic rock station he liked. CCR’s “Suzie Q” started. A moment later, Norman began singing along—and not softly. His off-key warbling made Mica wince, but then a grin stretched across his face.
This life he’d chosen wasn’t so bad. It beat moving through desert towns, wondering where the snipers were or driving down dusty highways checking out every darkened patch of dirt or tarmac for mines or IEDs.
Sure, he’d been shot at, spit on, bitten once, and cussed often, but bounty hunting gave him just enough of an adrenaline rush that he didn’t regret leaving the Army. Plus, he was his own boss. He didn’t have to follow orders. Didn’t have to keep his quarters or his truck clean—and he hadn’t for the first few months after he’d mustered out. But old habits died hard, and he’d missed the sense of orderliness boot camp and frequent inspections had instilled. Now, his truck and his apartment were pristine, ready for a white-glove inspection.
The warbling ended abruptly, and a loud snore sounded beside him. Mica shot Norman a quick glance. The man’s head lolled forward, and a long piece of drool was slowly stretching toward his lap.
Turning back to stare at the dark ribbon of highway in front of him, Mica smiled then tilted back his head and sang, “Oh, Suzie Q…”
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