That night Harkin, Etch and I meet up at a military bar in Littleton called GI Jodie’s. It’s small, crowded, and bristling with sad, angry, hungry men like us. Ceiling caked in nicotine, head-shaped holes in the walls. On the way in we do the preliminary sweep, the three of us fanning into the room like wolves, eyes hunting, reading: non-combative, non-combative, drunk, aggressive, non-com, non-com. When we’re fairly certain that everyone is going to behave, and that everyone who isn’t, isn’t sober enough to be a serious problem, we snag a booth in the back corner. The waitress saunters over, the staccato crack of her gum popping like attraction dying on her bug-zapper face. Etch smiles politely, says, “Pitcher of Coors, please.”
She says, “Whatever.”
Harkin shouts: “Marry me!” as she’s walking away, and if she hears him, she doesn’t show it.
People noises hum through the bar, college basketball on the TV drowning in the country music piping through the speakers. For a few minutes, we sit in that comfortable silence that only people who really know each other can pull off. The Bug Zapper floats back over to the table, slaps the pitcher down in between us, three glasses, and floats away before anybody can, God have mercy on them, ask her for something else. No one can blame her for being hostile. Jodie’s works like this:
Active duty servicemen from Fort Carson and ex-military shitheads like the three of us come here to drink, which makes the place inherently dangerous. There’s been at least one fight every time I’ve walked into the place, and the bouncers generally just let whoever’s fighting work it out, and sweep up the mess when it’s over. Keep in mind that I refer to fights in terms of quantity and not quality. Military training does not make you a good fighter. I once had a Combatives instructor who told us that Military Basic hand-to-hand combat training teaches recruits just enough to get their asses kicked in a bar. What military training does give you, however, is a nasty temper, and a willingness to use violence, suddenly and efficiently, whether or not the occasion calls for it.
We work on our pitcher while the bar dissolves around us. Watch a navy derp get knocked O.U.T. by an Infantry derp. Watch both of them get tossed out by the general public around them. Etch is working on a new lead. Denver Metro’s 50 Most Wanted Sex Offenders was updated yesterday, and one of the asshats popped up on Myspace. He passes Harkin and me a napkin with the guy’s name (Joe Orenthal) and the URL for his Myspace page. Harkin’s gonna pick up the slack on the guy’s record; I agree to put together some leads on his whereabouts, and maybe stake him out for a few days. We pocket our intel napkins, order another pitcher. Over the bar noise I hear “Low Rider” by War, sharp and tinny, and Etch scrambles for his phone, wiggles it out halfway into the chorus and moves away from the table with his finger in his ear.
I ask Harkin how the Stacy situation is going. He says, “Nope.” He’s looking at the table.
I say, “Huh?”
“I’m fucking done.”
“What does that mean, though?”
“I’m breaking up with her.”
“Oh.” This is where you ask why. I don’t ask why. I know why. Because they’re both nuttier than squirrel shit, and fighting fire with fire only works on paper, and not with actual fire. Harkin is a retired Army Ranger, who, when asked why he joined the army will reply, “To shoot people in the face,” and when asked what he misses about the army will look at you like you’re stupid, because the answer is clearly: shooting people in the face. Stacy is… Well, Stacy is dating Harkin. I’m sure she has other reasons for being insane, but I don’t know them and, bottom line, it doesn’t matter. The two of them do nothing but scream at each other until the neighbors call the police and have make-up sex until the neighbors call the police again.
Harkin says, “I’m just sick of all the bullshit. I’m gonna dump her ass tonight. I already changed the combination on the gun safe.”
“Good thinking, man.” As Etch finds his way back over to the table, I add, “Hide the silverware, too.”
Etch is glowing, which isn’t an easy thing for a burly Mexican guy to do. Etch is on the other side of the spectrum as far as relationships go.
“That Jen?” I ask.
“Yeah.” He can’t seem to stop smiling, and Harkin looks like he’s trying to set the surface of the table on fire with his brain.
“How’s the hospital? She gonna have room in the ER for Harkin?”
“Fuck you, Parks,” Harkin spits over his mug.
“The question is: has she ever sewed a penis back on after pumping it out of a stomach?”
Jen was a dispatcher when Etch was a volunteer firefighter, before he joined up with the navy as a combat medic. They’ve been dating for about six years now and, unlike Harkin and Stacy, the two of them are happy with one another 90 percent of the time.
Etch asks Harkin what’s going on with Stacy and gets waved off.
“Don’t worry about it. Same old shit,” Harkin grumbles. Asks, “What are you so happy about?”
“I’m not totally decided yet, but—”
Suddenly, there’s a Jarhead at our table. He’s swaying slightly, and his eyes are glazed and he wants to know if Etch is looking at his girl. Before anyone can respond, Harkin has stood, turned, and head-butted the fucker O.U.T.
The bar keeps moving. Harkin rolls the Jarhead onto his side, and we settle up the check.
Sebastian Parks is drowning in a flood of his own creation. Dishonorably discharged from the Army, he’s wracked with night terrors and an anger that he can’t abate. Unemployable and uninterested in anything resembling a normal job, Parks makes his living in fugitive apprehension, finding wanted felons on Facebook and thumping them into custody with his ex-military buddies John Harkin and Eric “Etch” Echevarria. When the body of a teenage Muslim boy is found in front of a downtown Denver nightclub Parks, Harkin and Etch are called on to do what they do best: Find bad men and make them pay.
First-time author Kellen Burden serves up edgy humor, brutal action and characters you can’t get enough of. Flash Bang will keep you turning pages until the end.
Received “Honorable Mention at Los Angeles Book Festival 2014″
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Genre – Thriller, Mystery
Rating – R
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