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 Prologue

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2004 – Minnesota, U.S.A.

     10:30 a.m. Typical Duluth weather. Cold as hell. Fingers of
fog creeping up West 1st Street. Somewhere high above Lake
Superior, ghostly, echoing in the mist, an eerie sound of the 60s.
The sweet melodic voice, the prophetic warning: “I think it’s time
we stop children, what’s that sound, ever-body look what’s goin’
down...”
     Down along the icy I-35,  a beat-up old red Explorer, windows
open wide, CD player cranked high, rattling along atop the deadly
black ice.  Oblivious to the danger, the driver, Quentin Hawk, was
busy singing  out-of-tune harmony with the Buffalo Springfield.
He wasn’t into Old School, but his policeman father had just sent
him an oldies CD for his 37th birthday. And he was dutifully
following the old man’s scribbled admonition. “Rap’s for crap,
Boyo. Stick this in that pile of junk you drive and turn it up. This
is real music.”                                                

     Joseph Quentin Hawk was on his way home from a little game
of hoops with his buds. He drained the last bit of yellow from a

bottle of Gatorade, did a half-genuflect at the 2nd Street stop sign,
and hung a quick right into the lot at Parkland Pharmacy.
Stopping in the handicapped zone, he jumped down from his
truck and left the motor running.
     Only take a minute.
     Pushing through the automatic door, Quent jogged to the
freezer and thumped a frosty yellow bottle out of its tray.
Before the refrigerator door had re-sealed itself, he was
standing at the
front register, gulping down the cool sweetness.
     With his free hand, he ripped a wrinkled fiver out of his gym
shorts and slapped it down in front of the young purple-haired
checker.
     She looked up into his compelling green eyes. A coy smile
bloomed on her freckled face. The silver spikes sticking out of
her lower lip flashed in the neon overheads.

     “Anything else I can get for you, sir? Anything at all?” she cooed.
     A sexual in-your-end-ohThat bit of 6th grade humor was
coined when Quent's little sister, Mary Kate, noticed her grammar
school girlfriends acting weird around her handsome older brother.

    
                                                                          ♦

     And the same cheesy flirtations had continued non-stop into
adulthood.
Over the years, Mary Kate had witnessed a ton of
startled women caught doe-like in the lure of big brother’s
notorious green orbs.

     To his credit, Quent remained honestly oblivious to his own
appeal, which only served to make him all the more appealing.

     “HELP!  Somebody! Help me!” A woman’s terrified scream
ripped through the silence of the Pharmacy, ruining Miss Purple-
Hair’s big moment.

     Quent had already spun around and was running toward the
source.

     “Hel...” The sharp crack of breaking glass cut the woman’s
second scream in half.

     Quent reached the last aisle of the store, looked around the
end cap of ready-to-wear eye glasses and froze. The prescription
girl was slumped over the pharmacy counter, her head flattened
in a pool of her own blood. A huge man in a triple X muscle shirt
was staring down at her. His neck was wider than his head; his
bulging arms heavily veined and tattooed.

     The giant oaf was hopping back and forth from one foot to the
other as if the floor were on fire, his bloated calves jiggling like fat
brown balloons. A foamy white smear of saliva bubbled on his lips.

     Howling like a wounded bull, he screamed down at the girl’s
unconscious form, “Euw supid bitch gurk!”

     His arms and upper torso twitched spasmodically; his face
contorted as he tried to form his next words. Then suddenly, he
stopped moving. His shoulders slumped. His eyes glazed and the
big face froze.  He stared into space as if his system had crashed.

     Three seconds passed. Then, suddenly, he snapped back to life,
spun away from the counter and awkwardly lurched down the aisle
toward the pharmacist’s window.

     Quentin leapt over the counter and caught the injured girl just
as she was sliding off the blood soaked counter. Her eyes fluttered
open. He could see she was slipping into shock. 

     Then came another fearsome howl, “Gob-lin. Goblin. You hab
lis?”

     An elderly white-haired pharmacist cowered behind the
window. Raw panic in his eyes.

     The animal screams growing more intense. “You hab lis. I
know. Gib heow to mee. Now. I’ll uck euw up geud...”

     The old man forced his lips into a tremulous smile. “Certainly
sir, now if you could repeat...”
    
                                                                          

     A massive hand shot over the glass and grabbed him by the
throat. The end of the sentence died in his windpipe. He lunged
sideways, coughed and squirming, trying to pull himself away.

     No use.  The giant’s other hand caught hold of his tie and
jerked him off his feet like a weightless rag doll. The old man’s
head cracked through the glass partition.

     The big hands lifted him high into the air and shook him
violently. The garbled scream now pitched into a furious whine.
“Gob-lin. You hab. I wunt it! Gib me neow. I sweaaa I kill euw.”
     Quentin Hawk was hunched behind the counter packing
Kleenex into the gash on the girl’s head.

     "Syringes! Where?"
     Her eyes opened wide, unblinking. Unresponsive. He pulled
her head close.

     “Syringes!  Where do you keep the syringes?”
     She raised a shaking hand and pointed. He crawled toward a
stack of cardboard file boxes and looked back at her. She nodded.

     He pulled out the bottom drawer and grabbed the largest
needle he could find. Snatching two vials of liquid off a shelf, he
jammed them into his pocket and raced back to the girl. He
pressed her hand firmly against the darkening wad of Kleenex in
the wound. “Hang on. I’ll get help.”

     Quent hurdled the counter and ran to his left.
     The giant weightlifter was holding the old man’s limp body
high above his head, slamming him against the “Prescriptions”
sign.

     "GATOR," shouted Quent, calling the big man by his
professional name. “Hey Gator Man!”

     The oversized head whipped around in Quent’s direction, one
hand still holding the druggist off the ground. He strained to see
who’d called him by name, his eyes blinking the sweat away.
“Whah?!” he bellowed.

     "I'm a doctor," said Quent. “Sports medicine. Dude, you’ve
been stacking. Synthol, Dianabol prob’ly. I can fix it. Let me get
this into your arm. Now!”

     Quent held up the syringe and the two vials of liquid and
moved in closer. "Nubain!  Like oxymorphone. Stop the pain.
Guaranteed, man. Two minutes. You need it. Let me give it to
you, man.”

     Immediate recognition from the big man. He’d already
ingested a pharmacy full of enhancement drugs.
                                                                          
                                                                          

     He knew their names as well as he knew his own. He knew
their antidotes as well.
     Gator Jennings, professional Pride Fighter, dropped the
pharmacist on the floor like a flimsy T-shirt and lumbered toward
Quent, his eyes jiggling in their sockets.

     He stopped awkwardly in front of Quent. And like some huge
obedient child, he knelt down on one knee, pushed up the sleeve
of his sweatshirt and stuck out his huge right arm. It looked like
a giant, bloated, purple-veined sausage.

     Quentin took a step in closer. He raised one of the vials to eye
level, examining the liquid, ready to insert the syringe. Then,
without warning, he slammed downward violently, plunging the
long hypodermic needle directly into the center of the monster’s
right bicep.

     The pain was instant, intense, and debilitating. Gator
Jennings screamed in pain and grabbed at the syringe with his
left hand. Quentin reached to his right, caught the top of a red
fire extinguisher, and swung it as hard as he could into the left
temple of the giant head. Gator crumpled to the ground, face up.

     Quentin dropped to the floor and slammed both of his legs
across Gator’s throat. He grabbed the big left arm and levered it
backward across his own knees, hoping to set the hold before his
opponent regained consciousness. Quentin leaned back to get
maximum leverage and pushed down hard on the massive arm.
Gator came to – screaming, the pain causing him a moment of
articulate clarity.

     “Stop. Enuf. I give. I give. Stop!”
     “Move and I’ll break it,” shouted Quent. He released the
pressure – but only slightly.

     Behind him, there was a rush of commotion: metal hitting the
ground; stamping of feet; the squawk of a radio.

     Something hard jammed into the back of Quent’s left ear. "Let
him go asshole!” said a male voice. "Parkland Police. It’s over.
You’re a bad ass, okay? Took the big man down. But it’s over. Let
him go. Now!”

     The barrel of the cop’s revolver jammed repeatedly into the
skin behind Quent’s ear. “You hear me, asshole?” yelled the cop.
“Let him go. Now!"

     "He’s a juicehead,” shouted Quent. “It’s roid rage. You better
cuff him before I let him go."

     "Who the hell are you?  Doctor Seuss?" A second policeman
un-holstered his weapon.
  
 
 
                                                                           

     “CIA. I’m with the god damn CIA. Agent Quentin Hawk. My
badge’s out in the car.”

     “Yeah. And I’m the Easter Bunny. Put your arms behind your
head jerkwad and step over here. Slow.”


CIA Satellite Office, Duluth Minnesota
     Agent Joseph Quentin Hawk entered the Fremont Building on
West 34th Street, shoved his I.D. card into the slot at the back of
Elevator 3, and rode up to the penthouse level. Dark oak panels
spanned the length of the reception area. In the center of the
polished wood, the familiar blue and gold insignia, the name
deeply etched in two-dimensional letters:


                              Central Intelligence Agency
                           Charles Fontina, District Director


     A dark-haired, middle-aged woman looked up from behind the
marble counter and smiled. "Good morning, Agent Hawk."

     "Morning Diane, I hear Chucky Cheese wants to see me.”
     "The Director is waiting for you. He’s in a bit of a mood. I
wouldn't let him hear you call him that."
     "You mean I’m on the shit list again? Gee, what a surprise,”
Hawk smirked. “Thanks for the warning, Di.” He walked to the
chief’s door, knocked firmly and entered.
     At 5’5,” 145 pounds, Director Charles Fontina was a small
man...with an even smaller brain. One of several colorful
descriptions offered by Agent Hawk when dining with his buddies
at the Oktoberfest Bar and Grille. To say that Hawk and his boss
didn’t exactly get along was an immediate cause of laughter
among field agents at the CIA’s Duluth office.
     Chucky Cheese was crouched behind his massive brown
desk, holding an incident report in front of his 59-year-old face.
His opening words came from behind the report.
     "You picked a fight in the back of a Rite Aid drug store out in
Parkland?  Is that right, Agent Hawk?"
     "I’m sure, sir, after you’ve have time to read my report, you'll
see that's not what happened.” Quent had chosen to begin with
an appeasement approach.
     As usual, it wasn’t going to work for him. Director Fontina’s
response came back heavy with condescension. “Where was your
weapon when all this happened?"
     "The guy's a Pride Fighter, sir. Name’s Gator Jennings. 6'7,”
weighs in about 340. I've seen him fight.

                                                                          

"When I got there, he was in the middle of steroid rage.
Strangling the pharmacist; holding
the guy’s ass about three feet
off the ground.” Quent
demonstrated with his hands. “My gun
wouldn't have done me
any good, sir."
     ”Yeah. We all know you’re a tough guy, Hawk. Tai pong…
or some crap like that.”

     “Muay Thai, sir, it’s a form of mixed martial…”
     Fontina cut him off. “I don’t give a shit, Hawk. An agent is
never to be without his piece in public. Where the hell was
yours?”
     ”I was on my way home from the gym, sir. Little intra-agency
half court game. We play every Tuesday. Ya see, I was still
wearing my shorts, so I left my gun...”
     Hawk could see he was wasting his breath. So, he reverted to
form. “Not trying to brag, sir, but there isn't enough room in my
jock strap for me and my gun at the same time. You know what
I’m sayin’?  Besides, it keeps falling out in the middle of my jump
shot.”
     Director Fontina’s face colored slightly. His teeth clamped
down hard several times before he responded. "Agent Hawk, while
you’re serving out your two-week suspension from duty without
pay for that last insubordination, you might consider this. The
U.S. Government has a strict code of behavior for its law
enforcement agents. You took an oath to uphold that code when
you joined. We of the Central Intelligence Agency are just that,
an intelligence gathering organization. We’re not a gang of street
fighters.”
     Before Quent could respond, Fontina held up his hand for
silence. “This is not the first time you’ve received a suspension for
‘acting in a manner unbefitting an agent in the service of his
government.’ You’re skating on thin ice.”
     “So, what was I was supposed to do, sir? Just walk away and
let this juicehead kill the druggist? Maybe a couple of women
and kids too?”
     “Fist fights are for the local police. Next time you see some
domestic violence, call the cops, and butt the hell out! Is that
clear? And stay out of Parkland. We don’t go there. It’s not our
kind of area.”
     Director Fontina slammed the incident report into the out box
at the top of his desk, a look of disgust on his ferret face. “Leave
your badge with my assistant on your way out, Hawk. Now get
out of my office.”



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