Companions are being hunted…and killed.
When the Black Riders obtain a death list revealing
their identities, companions start dying mysteriously.
Officially, the Gatekeepers are condemning the deaths.
Unofficially, a new purge has begun, targeting blood-
Now, Porter and Bug must uncover who controls the
Black Riders, sanctioning the deaths of companions.
They must step into the shadows, unravel Gatekeeper
secrets, and destroy the Black Riders, before it’s too
Together, they will step into a world of darkness and
death, where only the lethal survive.
Release date: August 14, 2022
Publisher: Bitten Peaches Publishing
Print pages: 186
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Blood Bond: Tales of the Gatekeepers Book 3
Orlando A. Sanchez
“The blood-bond between Gatekeeper and companion can only be broken by death, despite what others may claim.
Once on this path, only death can separate you.”
We sat in the Nomad as the engine rumbled at a low growl, the sound mimicking a pack of menacing wolves. Apt, since the driver, Bug—my companion, now Gatekeeper—was just as, if not more dangerous, than several packs of wolves combined.
I glanced over at her.
“I said fire a warning shot.”
“I did,” Bug replied. “I warned him, then I fired.”
“Warning shots are not supposed to actually hit the target,” I answered with a small sigh. “You’re a Gatekeeper now.”
“I was and am a companion first,” she added. “Companions don’t do warning shots that miss. What kind of warning is that? I’ll tell you what kind: a bad one. I prefer instructional warning shots.”
“Instructional warning shots?” I asked against my better judgment. “Which are?”
“Shots that leave you alive…barely,” she said. “I find them to be motivating and effective warnings.”
“Shooting people is not motivating.”
“Did we get the information we needed?”
“Yes,” I admitted. “Bleeding out has a way of making people talk.”
“There you go,” she said with a satisfied nod. “Instructional and productive warning shot. How credible was that source?”
“According to the data I collected, fairly credible,” I said. “He was either telling the truth, or at the very least, the truth as he knew it.”
“So, unreliable and we may be walking into a trap?”
“Always a chance of that,” I admitted. “I would’ve asked him more questions, but the pool of blood forming under him indicated he needed medical attention, not an interrogation.”
“Hey, don’t look at me,” she said. “I told him to stand still. I warned him to stand still. Did he? No. He did not. He went for his gun. That’s how people get shot.”
I stared at her for a few seconds before opting to drop the subject.
There was no way I would win this one. She was right. She was a companion first and had only recently become a Gatekeeper. It would take some time to get her to change her methods…if ever. Hopefully, I would survive her transition.
I winced as I strapped in and she noticed.
“You good?” she asked, concerned. “We could always swing by GM.”
“No time. Besides, Gatekeeper Medical isn’t going to fix this,” I said. “I’m bruised, not broken. Just need a few days to recover. I’m not nearly as indestructible as a companion I know.”
“Maybe you’re getting old?” she asked innocently. “You have been extra cranky lately. What do they call it when Gatekeepers get old again? Cranktankerous?”
“It’s cantankerous,” I corrected, “and you’re describing Corman, not me.”
“Are you feeling any hot flashes, chills or night sweats?” she asked with a smirk. “Could be you’re suffering from the manopause.”
“Could be I could still kick your ass if needed.”
“Now I know you suffered head trauma,” she said. “How badly did they beat you?”
“Bad enough,” I said. “I was the bait, remember? You were the target. They wanted to make sure they sold it.”
“You know,” she said, gripping the steering wheel in a stranglehold, “If I could go back and kill them twice, I would.”
For a moment, I thought she was going to rip the steering wheel off.
“I’ll settle for finding and stopping the Riders,” I said, looking at her grip on the wheel. “Killing them once is enough. Speaking of, you plan on using the steering wheel as a weapon?”
She looked down at her hands and eased her death grip.
“Sorry about that,” she said, shaking out her hands. “I’m sure Flo at GM can give you something for the pain.”
“Pass,” I said with a grunt as I adjusted the strap. “The pain lets me know I’m alive.”
“I’ll make sure they inscribe that on your tombstone,” she replied, after revving the engine. “The pain let him know he was alive, right before he was taken out. Rest in Peace, Gatekeeper.”
She gear-shifted the Nomad and sped down the street, heading west.
“Pier 88,” I said. “Old converted warehouse, supposed to belong to the Black Riders.”
“Why not just call in an airstrike?” she said. “Hit the building from above, then we examine what’s left.”
“Our next target is supposed to be an information hub,” I said. “We need to approach with stealth. I don’t want them destroying the information before we get there. An airstrike would negate the point of using stealth.”
“Airstrikes are stealthy, until the explosions begin.”
“Somehow a fireball lighting up the night sky doesn’t sound like stealth,” I said. “Are you sure you know the meaning of the word?”
“At least we stopped the toxin distribution,” she said, changing the subject. “Getting that off the streets must have hurt them.”
“We stopped a cell,” I said. “There is still more toxin out there. We won’t get it off the streets until we remove the head of the snake.”
“How many Riders are still operational?” Bug asked. “More importantly, how did they get this list?”
“You tell me,” I said, leaning my head back and closing my eyes against the drumline pounding in my head. “How would the Black Riders get their hands on a list of deep cover Gatekeepers and their companions?”
“I think a better question is: why?” she said. “Why would they want that list?”
“You know why,” I said. “Companions pose the only threat to their operations. Gatekeepers are complicit. Which means?”
“This goes pretty far up the chain of command.”
“So how did they get the list?”
“I’m thinking,” she snapped. “Give me a moment.”
She went silent for a few seconds, turning the puzzle over in her mind. The throbbing in my head subsided to a gentle stomping, allowing me to enjoy the silence, which vanished when she suddenly pounded the steering wheel, shattering the fragile peace and forcing my eyes open.
“Inside job,” she said, swerving around some cars and nearly crushing a pedestrian. “Someone in the stars leaked it.”
“Too obvious,” I said, closing my eyes again. “You’re a Gatekeeper, start thinking like one. Of course it’s an inside job, dig deeper. Dig quietly if possible.”
“My first instinct is to go from zero to homicidal in two seconds.”
“Now you want me to think like a Gatekeeper?”
“Yes, it’s called deductive reasoning.”
“I prefer reductive reasoning,” she said. I could hear the smile in her words. “You know, where I reduce the targets of opportunity to zero?”
“No such thing,” I said. “Except in your twisted mind. Now think. Where would the Riders get a list of non-official companions?”
She became silent again. I felt the power of the Nomad’s engine roar as we headed across town to the Piers. She didn’t answer until we stopped twenty minutes later in front of Pier 88.
Pier 88 was located at the edge of Hell’s Kitchen, between 48th and 49th Streets, sitting on the water, jutting out into the Hudson River.
What had once been abandoned warehouses had been converted to office buildings in the last decade, creating a smaller version of the skyline facing Jersey. A few blocks away, I could see the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum located on the decommissioned USS Intrepid aircraft carrier.
Bug parked the Nomad some distance away from the pier, stepping out into the cool night air. I kept my gaze fixed on the aircraft carrier as I stepped out.
“You know,” I said, pointing to the Intrepid, “that beast survived four kamikaze attacks and a torpedo strike without sinking.”
Bug gazed over to the large ship and nodded.
“What’s her name?”
“The USS Intrepid.”
“If she’s that tough, they should rename her,” she said. “Give her a name worthy of her indestructible status.”
“Rename her?” I asked. “To what?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” she said as we headed toward the buildings on the Pier. “The USS Freybug.”
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