More than $50 million in mineral royalties are up for grabs. The legal heir has disappeared. Two Texas oil barons, who will stop at nothing to win their bitter rivalry, desperately need to locate her before it’s too late.
In a hunt stretching from dusty, hot West Texas to snowy Saskatchewan, Flint finds himself caught in the crossfire between dueling tycoons and greedy mercenaries out for their own piece of the pie.
On Flint’s side? A knack for keeping himself alive, a hard-won moral code, and buried questions about his own family that drive everything he does.
With blood-pumping action and adventure, twists and turns pile up until the final nailbiting conclusion as Michael Flint searches for a woman whose very life depends on never being found.
What readers are saying about Blood Trails:
“Fabulous book. Could not put it down!” Amazon Reviewer, 5 stars
“Great fast-paced novel! Has ALL the requirements to keep me seated and reading. Not an easy task! Very well written. An excellent read!” Amazon Reviewer, 5 stars
“The best I have read this year!” Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars
“Flint is today's James Bond, and I can't wait to see where his adventures will take him next!” Amazon Reviewer, 5 stars
“The characters are so real and the story line keeps you in suspense.” Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars
“Outstanding new characters. Intriguing plots that kept me totally involved. Loved Flint and looking forward to more novels involving him and his cohorts. Whole new arena for Diane Capri. Kept me up late at night not wanting to put it down. Recommended!” Amazon Reviewer, 5 stars
“In my little world of mysteries and thrillers, what gives me the greatest joy? Easy: Characters I enjoy reading about and - be still my heart - discovering that I'll be able to read about them again and again as part of a series. So color me delighted to find this book, which introduces "heir hunter" Michael Flint.” Net Galley Reviewer, 5 stars
“Flint strikes sparks – then fire! The action comes fast and furious. There's great procedural/forensic detail and engaging looks at each character with very well executed and exciting twists and turns, enough to keep things in suspense right up until the final page. Diane has not only given us a truly fascinating novel, she's laid the foundation for an epic new franchise populated with truly memorable characters.” Amazon Reviewer, 5 stars
Award winning New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author DIANE CAPRI Does It Again in the Michael Flint, Heir Hunter Thrillers
(This title was previously published under limited distribution.)
Release date: June 21, 2022
Print pages: 332
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Blood Trails: A Michael Flint Novel
Michael Flint shivered in the damp morning chill. He was a long way from Houston, the place he called home these days. He hadn’t planned to be here in London long enough to need a coat.
Get in, get out, and no one gets hurt. That was his goal.
Flint watched and waited while each element fell according to plan.
He had a great view. Mayfair was one of the most exclusive areas of London, and the neo-Georgian houses that surrounded Grosvenor Square reeked of very old money used to full advantage.
The verdant park in the center of the square reflected the British climate that ensured no plant went unwatered for long.
Bronze statues of Eisenhower and Reagan stood rigidly proud in the corners. They were an unlikely sight in this most British of spots, but the affluent district had long been popular with Americans, which explained Flint’s presence here.
At 8:20 a.m., a postman appeared at the end of the street, precisely on time, as he had every day this week. He worked his way from door to door, pushing bundles of mail through ornate brass letterboxes.
Flint was dressed in black jeans, black leather jacket, and supple black leather gloves that fit like a second skin. He balanced easily on the deserted gantry platform halfway up the tower crane.
The construction crew working on the north side of Grosvenor Square would arrive in forty minutes. An American crew would have been on the job hours ago, but construction times were strictly limited here to the hours wealthy residents found acceptable.
Plenty of time to get what he came for if the postman followed his routine.
Flint scanned the large garden square seventy feet below once more. Frost crusted the grass inside the park, which was uncharacteristically empty of people. Otherwise, he saw nothing out of the ordinary.
He shivered and hunched deeper into his jacket. He’d been waiting only an hour, but the damp cold compressed his body from all sides like he was standing naked in a meat locker.
He felt as stiff as the statues in the park. By the time the air had warmed enough for the usual crowds to enjoy being outdoors, he’d be long gone.
He had a clear sight line to the home, thirty-five yards away, of James Ashton, the ostensible owner of a priceless painting.
The painting wasn’t rightfully his.
Ashton’s uncle, Reginald Taylor, had inherited it from his father. But in 1940, the Nazis had stolen it from a French woman.
A month ago, the same French woman had turned to Flint after her other attempts to find it had failed. She wanted her painting back and Flint’s job was to get it.
Normally, his persuasive powers were formidable, but experience proved they rarely worked on the dead. And Reginald Taylor was very dead.
Which was what had led Flint here. To James Ashton, Taylor’s heir.
He was also Taylor’s murderer.
When Flint tracked Taylor down, he’d found that Ashton had killed his rich relative in Taylor’s New York apartment some time ago and left him stuffed in the freezer.
Because Taylor was something of a recluse, his death hadn’t been discovered until Flint had reported the murder anonymously.
Ashton was now running from the law, holed up in his London penthouse with a savage little Welsh Corgi and a professional around-the-clock security detail.
Ashton hadn’t once stepped outside the luxury apartment since he slid inside, cloaked by darkness, last week.
Flint had watched the place for seven days before a plan had emerged.
Not a perfect solution, but a workable one.
Flint adjusted his earpiece. He heard only the expected silence from inside the residence.
Ashton and his companions didn’t routinely gather in the common rooms until after nine o’clock.
Flint raised his binoculars to check the sensitive listening device he had propelled with an illegal air pistol from his position atop a tourist bus two days ago. He confirmed that the device remained glued to the top-floor window.
He checked his pockets.
He felt the remote control and the small crowbar resting against his sides where he’d placed them.
The pistol snugged into his belt at the flat center of his back looked lethal enough at a glance, which was all the inspection time he planned to allow. The puny thing was one of the few remaining legal weapons in Britain only because it had no stopping power.
Ashton might not recognize the gun as worthless, but his security detail would if they got a close enough look.
Flint picked up a crossbow fitted with a serrated dart designed to embed itself into wood. The dart was secured to high-strength wire. He’d secured the wire to the tower crane.
A leggy, lithe brunette crossed the square, chattering away on her cell phone.
Two nights ago, Flint had followed her to a bar, where she bent his ear for an hour. She was broke and only too happy to carry his message for the right price.
He checked his watch.
He’d paid the right price, and she was right on time. He’d promised her a generous bonus when she completed the job, and her eyes lit up like sparklers. He nodded as if she could see his approval from that distance.
She crossed the road, made her way between rows of security barriers, and entered the large concrete building that occupied the entire western edge of the square. The American embassy.
The message she carried was simple. He’d instructed her to say that Ashton would be surrendering himself into custody. She would also mention that the authorities might have to turn a blind eye to the manner in which Ashton actually surrendered.
Flint had supplied her with enough details to interest law enforcement on both sides of the Atlantic.
But she would reveal those details only after Ashton signed the necessary documents—which Flint carried in his pocket—relinquishing all legal claims to the French woman’s painting.
Flint’s gaze returned to the postman, who had now reached Ashton’s residence.
He climbed the steps.
He pushed a bundle of mail and a small yellow envelope through Ashton’s letterbox.
The postman descended the stairs and moved on toward the next house.
Flint moved his tongue over his teeth and pulled the remote from his pocket. He counted slowly to ten, giving the postman time to move a safe distance away and the security detail time to retrieve the envelope.
At precisely 8:45 a.m., Flint pushed the button on the remote.
He imagined the yellow package expanding exactly as it had during his tests.
The edges of the package would burst. An almost invisible dust would spray out, covering everyone within a ten-foot radius.
Only it wasn’t just dust.
It was Mucuna pruriens, an itching powder so incredibly powerful that the plant from which it was derived was known as the Devil Bean in Nigeria.
There was enough powder to disable the security detail for the length of time Flint would need. Longer if they tried to wash the powder off with water.
Flint fired the crossbow at the solid wood center of Ashton’s rooftop garden.
The dart landed squarely as aimed, taking the long wire to its destination.
He tested the wire with his full weight, and the dart held. Flint clipped himself on and zip-lined straight to the flat rooftop.
He pulled the crowbar from his jacket and pried open the door that led from the roof to the interior of the penthouse. He headed straight for the stairs, pulling the pistol from his belt as he ran.
He’d estimated sixty seconds to find Ashton, collect his signature, and then convince him to walk down five flights of stairs, across six hundred feet of the most expensive real estate in London, step onto American soil, and capitulate.
No problem, right?
Flint reached the top floor of the penthouse apartment.
The floor plans he’d studied showed the kitchen at the base of the rooftop stairs. The remaining two thousand square feet on the top floor was an open floor plan with breathtaking views of Mayfair.
The spiral staircase in the center led down to bedrooms on the floor below.
Flint barely noticed the stunning views as he passed down through the sixth floor and entered the master suite directly below, on the fifth floor.
He stopped outside the massive door to the master suite for a quick breath. He raised the gun to shooting position. He silently pushed the door open and stepped inside.
A quick scan of the enormous bedroom revealed an exceptionally high king-size bed against one wall. Sheets mussed. Pillows tossed.
Except for a snoring, short-legged Welsh Corgi, the bed was empty.
The house had no exits, secret or otherwise, that Flint had failed to monitor, so Ashton was somewhere inside the house. Hopefully alone.
Because the air pistol would not fool anyone for long.
Flint scanned the bedroom walls until he located the nearly invisible panel that could have been a doorway.
He padded quickly to the panel and pushed. It opened silently to a modern bathroom, massive even by his Texas standards.
He glanced back at the Corgi. Still sleeping. Some watchdog.
In the center of the dark granite tile was a matching marble bath large enough to accommodate four adults.
On Flint’s right the same marble lined a similar-sized shower with curved glass.
On his left were a bank of blindingly bright gilt cabinetry, mirrors, countertops, sinks, and golden faucets fit for King Louis XIV.
Straight ahead, opposite the swinging panel door, was a hinged, six-foot steamed-up glass panel that led to a sauna.
Flint headed across the marble floor, rapped on the glass, and stood back, poised to shoot.
Ashton pulled the glass door inward and stepped through the steam. His well-muscled body was naked and glistening with sweat.
“James Ashton, I presume.” Flint leveled the air pistol directly at the shorter man’s heart, as if the gun’s payload might actually cause more than a bad bruise if his aim landed even a millimeter off target.
Ashton’s dark eyes narrowed. He pulled his arm from behind his back.
Flint instantly recognized the weapon Ashton held in his hand because he owned one himself.
Glock 19 Gen4. Utilitarian, tough, reliable. Comfortable grip, controllable recoil, easily concealed. Used by law enforcement because of its stopping power.
A perfect choice for a man anticipating precisely this situation.
“Drop it,” Flint said, as if he could back up the threat with the puny air pistol.
His life and history lacked many things.
He’d never known stability or human warmth or a conventional existence of any kind.
He counted on danger first, unpredictability second.
He accepted everything exactly as it came.
He felt no shock, no surprise, no disbelief.
His entire life had trained him for moments precisely like this. Ashton was a problem in need of an immediate and practical solution.
Flint’s brain registered the micromovement of Ashton’s right index finger beginning to apply pressure on the trigger.
He knew where the first bullet would be aimed.
Flint dropped onto his left side as Ashton fired.
He twisted away as he hit the floor.
He heard the shot and felt the air move past the empty space where his right shoulder had been a split second before. Glass exploded and filled the room with reflecting shards like a kaleidoscope.
Ashton’s eyes widened in surprise. He’d expected the first shot to do the job.
His combat skills were rudimentary. He’d practiced a specific plan, probably on a range somewhere, with a tutor. He was unable to react to the unexpected.
The Corgi began barking from the bedroom.
Ashton twisted his body, moved his right arm stiffly, and aimed the Glock toward Flint again.
Flint ducked behind the marble bath in the center of the room.
As Ashton aimed and fired, he moved in the opposite direction, shooting on the run.
The Corgi’s barking intensified.
Ashton’s second shot hit the marble. A boulder-sized chunk blasted off and landed four inches from Flint’s leg. Chips slashed his face. He felt the blood trickle down his cheek.
Ashton reached the open panel door. He grabbed a pair of sweatpants from the hook with his left hand and struggled to don them as he moved into the bedroom, firing again and again into the bathroom where Flint crouched behind the marble tub.
The Corgi was frantic now. His barking was almost as deafening as the gunshots bouncing inside the tiled bathroom.
Ashton fired again until the Glock’s fifteen-round clip was done, tossed the gun aside, and dashed through the bedroom door into the corridor.
Flint scrambled to follow after he registered the empty weapon’s clang on the floor. He was two steps toward the bedroom when he turned and went back for the Glock.
A man like Ashton would keep his gun close while he slept.
Flint ran to the bedside table. He rummaged around in the drawers while the Corgi’s snarling, snapping barks continued.
He found two more fifteen-round magazines.
He slapped one of them into place and dropped the second into his pocket before he rushed out in hot pursuit.
Flint sprinted down the corridor, following Ashton’s only possible route toward the elevator. He reached the elevator after the doors had closed and the car was already descending.
He shoved the Glock into his waistband and dashed down the emergency stairs to the ground floor.
He pulled the door open.
Two armed security guards stomped and shouted in the entranceway, covered in Mucuna pruriens powder, cursing and scratching their arms raw.
Flint glanced at the elevator, which was still descending.
He ducked behind the door and ran down two more flights to the basement level, where the staircase ended. He opened the fire door and stepped into a parking garage.
The elevator had been called back upstairs. Ashton must have exited into the garage.
Flint looked around for Ashton’s head bobbing above the vehicles. He spied a valet stand on the opposite side of the elevator door.
A powerful engine roared to life. Flint watched as a glistening black Ferrari with Ashton at the wheel raced up the ramp and out to the street.
Flint surveyed the closest vehicles and the keys on the valet stand. He grabbed a key marked “Suzuki” and inserted it into the only Suzuki motorcycle near the stand.
Seconds later, Flint raced up and out of the garage, following Ashton’s Ferrari along the small street behind Grosvenor Square.
He couldn’t see the Ferrari, but he could hear it straight ahead before it turned south along Park Lane.
Flint ignored all distractions and concentrated on the Ferrari.
Ashton drove wildly, dangerously, looping around Hyde Park Corner to get away.
Flint leaned forward over the Suzuki and accelerated flat out behind, but it was no match for the powerful sports car.
Flint had come too far to give up now. He whipped his head around looking for an opening. It was still early. Still cold. Not many pedestrians and tourists along the sidewalks.
He found his chance. A wide pedestrian walkway, almost empty.
Flint pointed the Suzuki and opened the throttle around Wellington Arch.
A young woman pushing a baby stroller yelled and shook her fist.
Flint saw the Ferrari ahead, speeding up Constitution Hill toward Buckingham Palace. Flint gained ground on the long, straight road.
He glanced up to see deep red traffic lights at the top of the hill and a line of vehicles waiting for the green.
Ashton moved into the empty oncoming travel lane and sped around the stopped vehicles and through the red light.
Horns blasted in protest.
Flint’s Suzuki followed right behind, almost on the Ferrari’s bumper.
Ashton turned across the plaza toward the Victoria Memorial.
Pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles moved out of his way, horns blasting, fists shaking, voices raised to outrage levels.
An old man hobbled into the car’s path. Maybe he was blind or deaf or even suffering from dementia, but unlike the others, he didn’t hustle out of the way.
The Ferrari bore down on the man, almost right on top of him before Ashton jerked the wheel to the left to avoid running the old fellow down.
The Ferrari spun dangerously and stalled. Angry onlookers surrounded the car, yelling.
Flint stopped the Suzuki and dismounted.
He pulled the Glock from his waist.
People stepped aside when they saw the gun.
Flint approached the Ferrari. He tapped the window with the Glock. Ashton looked up, wild-eyed and disheveled.
“Get out,” Flint said.
Ashton nodded. Flint backed up to allow him to open the door.
Ashton started the Ferrari and floored the accelerator.
The wheels were still cocked hard left.
Flint jumped out of the way.
The wheels spun, pushing the Ferrari sideways. Ashton couldn’t correct. He slammed into the steps of the memorial.
Flint dashed toward the Ferrari but before he reached the car, Ashton leapt out, still barefoot and wearing only sweatpants.
Flint chased him down and jumped onto his back, propelling them both into the kidney-shaped pool surrounding the memorial.
Dazed, but not defeated, Ashton swung a looping right.
Flint blocked with his left elbow, deflecting the weak arm, and countered with a hard right uppercut.
Ashton’s jaw snapped shut. His head whipped back. His eyes closed, and he slumped forward.
Flint’s blood boiled, but he had come too far to kill the bastard without getting what he needed first.
He pushed Ashton up against the low wall and held him there with his forearm while he steadied his breathing.
Then he reached down and scooped a handful of the icy water, and threw it in Ashton’s face.
Again. And again.
Until Ashton looked up and glared at him.
“What the hell do you want, man?” Ashton whined, blinking and shaking the rivulets off his cheeks. “I don’t even know you.”
“Drop the gun!”
Flint looked behind him. Five men wearing bright red ceremonial uniforms were pointing very unceremonial assault rifles at him.
The man in the middle motioned toward the ground with the barrel of his gun. “Queen’s Guard! Drop the weapon!”
The crowd had grown larger. There was a sea of men, women, and children along with a few dogs standing well back from the memorial.
Sirens approached from a distance. Flint saw blue flashing lights rounding the corner and heading his way.
He raised his arm slowly and placed the Glock on the edge of the stone wall. He turned to face the guard, both hands in the air, palms out. He donned his best smile, the somewhat friendly one.
“I’m an American citizen. I—”
He felt Ashton thrashing around in the water.
He turned back as Ashton reached the stone wall and grabbed the Glock.
Flint lunged out of the way a split second before one of the guards fired three times in rapid succession.
Each shot hit Ashton squarely in the torso and punched him back like a rag doll. He collapsed into the shallow pool as his blood pumped briefly and turned the water around his body sickly red.
The guards trained their weapons on Flint. He didn’t move.
With Ashton dead, Flint’s mission was stalled but not over. He’d find another Reginald Taylor heir and get the required signatures before the deadline. He always did, and this time would be no exception.
But first he’d need to avoid the criminal consequences of their screaming car chase across London, a task that would undoubtedly involve a lot more than the embassy turning a blind eye.
He’d be lucky if he spent only one night in the cells, but he’d spent plenty of time in worse places.
The trip to Paddington Green Police Station was routine. All presumed terrorists were processed in the typically blue-and-gray Harrow Road facility.
Sixteen cells were located belowground for high-security prisoners held for questioning in a separate custody suite. Flint had been there before.
He was no terrorist, but the Queen’s Guard would naturally have assumed otherwise.
He didn’t fault them. He’d have made the same choice.
The long list of crimes he had committed today alone justified the assumption.
If they ran a routine background check, the situation would become infinitely more difficult.
Simply possessing the Glock was enough to make them lock him away somewhere. Ashton would have to be explained, too.
As Scarlett had told him when they were young miscreants long ago, cops judge you by the creeps you’re arrested with, whether or not the dudes are worse than you.
Flint’s first hour in the interrogation room passed slowly.
The chairs were uncomfortable, the room was too hot, and no one offered him coffee or anything else.
He wasn’t charged immediately, which was a good sign. He had a better chance of quick release if no formal charges were made.
Once paperwork entered the system, it took on a life of its own and would need to be dealt with.
Shortly after his arrival, the Metropolitan Police began their tedious processes and one of the young officers read him his rights.
After the formal reading, Flint remained silent. The officer said, “You want a lawyer or not?”
Flint pretended to consider the question for a few seconds. A quick response would cause additional problems. “I think things will go faster if we skip lawyers, don’t you?”
“Suit yourself.” The young officer turned and left the room.
Flint had made the lawyer mistake before. Lawyers delayed and complicated these situations beyond all reason. He was better off on his own.
Scarlett knew whom to call if he didn’t check in with her before close of business today. He could rely on her to follow through.
After another hour, the investigating officer entered. This one was older and more experienced. He introduced himself as Deputy Inspector Gates.
Flint didn’t alter his relaxed posture. Gates sat on the chair across the table, rested his forearms on the metal, and folded his hands.
“We’re investigating your situation, Mr. Flint, and we have a few questions for you.” His Cockney accent was thick and his tone firm.
Flint didn’t engage in role-play. “I have the right to make a phone call.”
“You can do that after you answer my questions.” Gates was a heavy man and the room was uncomfortably warm. Sweat trickled down the sides of his face.
“I’ll hear your questions after I make my phone call.”
Gates frowned and wiped the sweat away. “You were offered a lawyer and you refused.”
“I don’t want to call a lawyer, obviously.”
“No one else can possibly help you right now, Mr. Flint.” Grant’s patience was already in short supply. Predictably.
“That’s my decision to make, isn’t it?” Flint’s tone remained calm and steady.
“We’ve run a background check. We found your passport, but no further information about you. Nothing but a brick wall. Why is that, Mr. Flint? What are you hiding?” Gates wiped his brow with his palm and rubbed sweat onto his pants.
Flint said nothing.
The back and forth continued like that for a while. Gates varied his techniques, but Flint never varied his nonresponses.
In the end, Flint stonewalled until Gates recognized the stalemate. He’d left Gates no choice but to lock him in the cell and leave him there.
Flint lay on the cot and covered his eyes with his arm. A nap was a good idea.
He wasn’t worried. He had plans for the weekend.
Scarlett would make the phone call and he’d be back at the hotel before midnight.
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