The PARALLAX Contest
So here’s the deal: I’m trying to sell TONS of copies of my latest suspense thriller PARALLAX as an ebook. It’s a big experiment for me-testing the waters, so to speak. So I’m going to sweeten the deal to get you to buy and then tell your friends to buy it as well.
Right now, you can order a copy of PARALLAX as an ebook in the following formats: .pdf, .rtf, .epub, .mobi, and as zipped HTML files. You order that direct from me by clicking the button here (please specify the format you want):
You can also get it for your Kindle right out on Amazon. Click Here to Buy PARALLAX at Amazon.com
AND if you don’t like PayPal, Twitter users can now use TWITPAY to pay for PARALLAX as well via an Amazon Payment account.
I’ve tried to make it available on virtually every e-reader. But some of you may not have had a chance to read my work before. So here’s where I tempt you with the fruit of another…
My latest Rogue Angel book, SACRIFICE is still about six weeks away from hitting the book stores. I, however, just received a number of copies in yesterday’s mail. As the author, I get a few of them to hang on to, put on my wall, admire them, that sort of thing. It’s nice, right?
Well, I’m giving a bunch away.
Here’s the poop: order a copy of PARALLAX within the next few days (this weekend to be exact) and if we get 100 orders, I will choose five (5) people at random and send them this gorgeous Rogue Angel paperback, signed by me.
But wait, this little experiment gets even better. If we sell at least 1,000 copies then in addition to giving away some copies of SACRIFICE, I will also choose one person at random to receive a copy of every book I’ve ever written and every book I will yet write. My entire collection both past, present, and future. All signed by me. You get the books in whatever form they come out in. An entire author’s collection of over a dozen books already published, and many MANY more to come.
Oh, and one final bit of bait, if we get over 2,000 orders, one person will be chosen at random to come visit the set of THE FIXER, the television series I’m producing (based on my Lawson Vampire novels) for a full day and will have a walk-on role for one of season one’s episodes! Insane, right? Yeah, my business partner thinks so, too. But we will fly you from anywhere on the planet to visit us in Boston. We’ll put you up in a luxury hotel and you will get to hang with the cast and crew of the show for a full day of shooting. We’ll get you glammed up for your on-screen shot as well. THE FIXER is a multi-million dollar professional production. This is the real deal, folks.
So get out there and get your friends to come and buy a copy – and here’s why you should: the person selected to win the trip to the set of THE FIXER will be bringing along a friend – YOU! If you refer someone who buys a copy of PARALLAX and they then win the trip to THE FIXER, you’re coming along as well. Same star treatment, same great time, and you get a walk-on role as well!
This is crazy stuff, right? Well, I need to see if there’s a market for my material as an ebook and this is how I’m going to test the waters. But I need your help. So, I’d really appreciate you buying a copy of PARALLAX, either from me or Amazon, and then getting every last one of your friends to buy a copy as well. These are some pretty cool prizes. And PARALLAX is a pretty damned cool book. Here’s a rundown of what it’s about:
What happens when two professional assassins – one a Mafia hitman and the other a former German terrorist – kill at exactly the same moment in time? For Ernst Stahl and Frank Jolino the result is a psychic bond that slowly blossoms in each man’s mind, enabling them to see into the other’s world. Frank Jolino doesn’t like what he sees, especially when he realizes that Stahl is headed to his home turf of Boston to kill a scientist who may hold the key to solving the world’s deadliest diseases. But for Stahl, there’s no other option. Virtually bankrupt and with his son in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant, he’s got little choice to take the assignment. Jolino has other ideas. On the run from his crime syndicate for refusing to kill his ex-girlfriend-turned-government-informant, Jolino sets a plan in motion that will bring the two men face-to-face and gun-to-gun…with no
guarantees either will survive.
A psychic connection.
One inescapable destiny.
Free Rogue Angel books, a free collection of books by Jon F. Merz (past, present, and future) and not one but TWO trips to set the set of THE FIXER complete with WALK-ON ROLES.
I’m a total nut job.
Buy PARALLAX. My doctors say it’s good for me. Then tell your friends. It’s good for you!
SPECIAL NOTE: Throughout the month of April, I’ll be doing smaller giveaways of my previous novels and swag from the upcoming TV show THE FIXER (based on my Lawson Vampire novels). Everyone who buys a copy of PARALLAX is automatically entered to win both the smaller giveaways and the larger overall contest! Tons of winners! Get your copy of PARALLAX today!
PS: If you’ve already ordered from me direct, then you’re already entered to win! And for anyone buying from Amazon for the Kindle, just forward me a copy of your receipt to jonfmerz AT verizon DOT net to enter the contest! THANKS!
CHAPTER ONE (Sample from PARALLAX)
Revere, Massachusetts – 6:55PM
The first thing Gia ever said to him was, “You’re Patrisi’s hitter.”
She’d already known. And Frank, still marveling at her blue eyes, brunette hair, and full lips, found himself struck dumb for the first time in his life.
Eventually, he’d found his voice. And things got better from there.
For a time.
The last thing Gia ever said to him was, “It was fun. Sort of.”
Then she was gone.
Movement to his left drew his attention back to the present. The kid sitting next to him had decided he needed a cigarette. Frank’s voice cut through the darkness.
“You don’t smoke when you’re getting ready to kill a man.”
Bobby froze. The cigarette floated in the space halfway to his mouth. “I heard you had to give ‘em up. You turned preacher now?”
Frank watched the red brick-faced bar through the January downpour and frowned. Nasty weather to kill in, he decided. “Health’s got nothing to do with it. A lit butt looks like a flare in the night.”
Frank sighed. Don Patrisi asked him to do this favor. But babysitting the transplant from Philadelphia and his cavalier attitude grated on Frank’s nerves. “So, our boy sees a red cinder in a dark idling car across the street, who the hell’s he gonna suppose is out there waiting for him? Not the Publishers Clearinghouse people.”
The cigarette vanished. “You really the best, Frankie?”
“How old are you, kid?”
He could sense Bobby shift in his seat, drawing himself up. Frank never stopped watching the bar.
Barely out of diapers, thought Frank with a smirk. “First off, don’t ever call me Frankie. To you, my name is Frank. Or Mr. Jolino. Never Frankie. We clear on that?”
Frank let the silence hang for a few seconds. “Do yourself a favor, don’t ever go through life thinking you’re the best at anything. You know why?”
“Because there’s always someone out there been doing it longer and better than you have. Start thinking you’re the best, someone’ll show up and prove you wrong.”
“Do your business the best you know how. Learn from those you can learn from. Maybe pass on a bit of that knowledge to the next generation. Live humble, kid. The world’s already got enough prima donnas.”
Bobby’s head bounced like an eager puppy. “Yeah, but are you really the best?”
Frank glanced at him, sighed again, and then went back to watching the bar. Another spate of rain sloshed down on the windshield, turning the neon sign across the street into a melting swirl of pink and purple.
He pressed his spine into the seat cushion. Truth was, he wanted a cigarette, too. But he’d dropped them a year ago. Right after the quacks told him to either quit or die within six months from a series of massive heart attacks.
Frank hated kicking the butts to the curb. All his heroes smoked. Mike Hammer, Sam Spade, Nick Ransom, all of them – they all smoked. Of course, in the pages of pulp fiction there weren’t such things as heart attacks and lung cancer. At least not for those guys.
But for Frank? Mr. Myocardial Infarction lived right around the corner. Lung Cancer hung out on the front stoop. And Emphysema had his phone number on speed-dial.
So Frank ditched the tobacco.
In the distance, bloated clouds hugged the Boston skyline pissing down raw January misery. Cold. But not cold enough for snow, thought Frank with a sigh. He liked snow. Its virgin white made him think some things in nature couldn’t be corrupted.
Human nature, though, that was something else entirely.
“Turn the heater on.”
Bobby flipped the switch. As a rule, Frank didn’t keep the engine going. Idling cars ranked just above lit cigarettes on the Stupid Moves Scale. But he made an exception tonight. If they didn’t keep the engine hot, they’d be stepping out every ten minutes to relieve their cold-constricted bladders.
A rush of heat poured from the vents. Frank directed them down at the floor and cracked his window to defog the windshield.
He glanced at the dash clock. Just after seven. Next to him, Bobby tried stretching his legs.
“Stay loose, kid. He won’t be much longer.”
Bobby nodded once. Curt. Sullen.
Kid hates my guts, thought Frank. He grinned. So what? He wasn’t here to make friends. Fear and hatred were the foundation you built respect on – at least in the Family.
Frank waited. Plugging Vito Vespucio wasn’t what he’d wanted to do on a freezing drizzly night like this. Curling up with the old Raymond Chandler first edition he’d bought from an antiques dealer on Beacon Hill sounded a lot better.
But a job was a job.
And to Frank, the job was everything.
* * *
Munich, Germany – The Same Time – 1:55AM
Stahl felt the office lurch; its walls billowed like sails and then shrank in toward him, a fist crushing his world. Cancer? Impossible. But he seemed so healthy. He looked so healthy, even.
“What are the options?”
“Treatment, of course. A bone marrow transplant is the best method we have available. But it’s costly. You do have insurance?”
Stahl glanced up, biting back the surge of emotion. “You’re callous enough to ask about money at a time like this?”
“No, no.” The doctor leaned back, hands coming up. “It’s just that if you aren’t able to afford it, there are certain alternatives we could discuss. I wasn’t implying-“
Was it that visible? Could everyone see just how broke Stahl truly was? That his bank account had a grand total of seventy euros in it? That he had electricity and gas bills months overdue? He’d stretched what he had as best he could, but it wasn’t enough. The stress of trying to keep his head above water, of providing a life for his son, it was breaking him.
He didn’t have insurance.
He didn’t have much of anything. Except a broken past. And a handsome son who’d taught him more about love than any woman ever had.
Stahl felt dizzy. He closed his eyes and opened them again, settling his gaze on the doctor. “Schedule the transplant. No matter what it costs.”
“Are you sure?”
Stahl took a breath, steadier now. “My son gets the very best care. He’s all that I have left.”
The doctor’s office vanished; its white walls replaced by a frigid darkness that enveloped him.
Next to him, a thin rickety man shivered behind the steering wheel. “Herr Stahl…p-p-please, could we turn the heater on?”
Stahl checked the slide on his Beretta. Again. In the darkness, the gun looked longer thanks to the homemade suppressor he’d fashioned earlier. Good for six shots. Plenty more than he’d need.
“No. You don’t want our prize seeing us out here, do you? You don’t want him to get away again, do you?”
“Of course, not. I only thought-“
“I know. It’s cold. It’s freezing, in fact. We might even see some snow.” He nodded outside. “But this man has not eluded capture by being stupid. He will hear us. Maybe he will even smell the car engine. And then he will know. He will know we wait for him.”
“Forgive me, this is…unusual for me.”
Stahl smiled. “Not used to dealing with criminals, are you?”
“Certainly not. Nor am I used to dealing with men like you, Herr Stahl.” He coughed once. “I don’t even know if that is your real name.”
“Does it matter?”
The answer came quick. “No, no. I’d rather not know.”
“Let your anger be your warmth,” said Stahl. He peered at the red brick tenements bordering the alley, towering over the car they sat in. At this time of night, darkness bled from all the windows.
The thin man’s teeth chattered. “This man must not be allowed to live another day.”
“How many?” asked Stahl.
The man frowned. “According to what the Polizei told me, twenty. Most of them between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two.”
“None. He is meticulous in his task. The Polizei believe he uses drugs to subdue his victims first,” the older man shuddered and coughed again. “Before he begins.”
“He’s compulsive,” said Stahl. “Addicted to his work – it’s his passion.”
“There is nothing passionate about raping a young woman, Herr Stahl.”
“Of course not. I’m not implying what happened to your daughter was anything but the most heinous of crimes.”
“Still, to capture prey, you must first understand them. You must be able to see the world through their eyes. Only when you see their world will you know how to catch them.” He nodded. “And kill them.”
The man pointed at the pistol Stahl held. “You’re sure it will not be heard?”
“If the tubing is fashioned correctly, the washers inside will break up the gases and the wadding will dissipate the noise. This small a caliber doesn’t sound like much more than a firecracker anyway. The tubing will cut the noise down to a vague muffled pop.”
“We must leave as soon as it is done. You understand that?”
Stahl’s eyes narrowed. “I have no intention of staying around.”
* * *
Across the street, the maroon door opened. “Heads up.”
Bobby straightened, alert now. “He’s early tonight, huh?”
“He’s early every night,” said Frank. “He stops by the bar, has a drink, takes that dame up to the Tailwind Hotel on Route One for an hour, bangs her brains out – or as best he can manage – and then heads home to tuck his kids in bed by nine. Real family man, this guy.”
“Not after tonight,” said Bobby with a grin.
Frank watched Vespucio walk through the slush. The blonde ornament clung to his arm like a wet newspaper.
He fixed Bobby with a hard stare. “Wait until I cross the street. When I get behind him, you drive around. Let him hear the engine. See the car. Long as he sees you, he won’t see me. Not ‘til it’s too late.”
Frank stared at him for another second mentally willing the young gun not to screw things up. Then got out of the car. His shoes slid into the muddy slush, sinking two inches into the grime. He ignored the sudden cold biting through his cotton black socks and stinging his feet. He’d learned to shut off discomfort a long time ago. He checked for oncoming traffic and hurried across the street.
Vespucio walked leaning into the blonde. She must have hydraulic jacks for arms, thought Frank, being able to support that much flab.
The parking lot sat twenty yards away, surrounded by a rusty chain link fence that bowed out in certain sections.
Frank closed the distance. Readying his mind.
Vespucio wasn’t a big fish. He was a small-time bookie working for the Patrisi family. But Vespucio thought that since he flew under radar the Don wouldn’t care if he skimmed a few grand from the books.
Vespucio thought wrong.
* * *
“There. That is he.”
Stahl nodded. He looked just like his photograph. Perhaps forty years of age, thin, balding on top with thick glasses. He didn’t look strong but Stahl knew that appearances deceived. A weak man could explode in strength if the situation called for it. Stahl himself had adopted the guise of a weak nobody many times in the past. And each time such instances had ended terminally for those who had underestimated him.
“This won’t take long,” said Stahl. “Crack your window. As soon as you hear the first shot, start the motor.”
“I thought you said I wouldn’t be able to hear the shots.”
“You’ll hear something, for God’s sake. Not much, but something. Now do as I said.”
Stahl pulled the door handle and slid out of the car.
The cold night air embraced him.
* * *
In the zone now, Frank fell into step behind them.
His hand – still in his overcoat pocket – gripped the pistol.
Sights and sounds registered like simple check marks in a type of staccato log.
Bobby’s car engine slid into drive.
Headlights bounced over him.
The engine gunned as Bobby stomped the accelerator.
A loud bump as the car jumped the divider and came down with a scrape.
Ahead of Frank, Vespucio turned.
The headlights drew parallel with the sidewalk.
Frank walked faster.
Vespucio looked at the car.
He knows, thought Frank. He knows it’s on.
And saw Frank.
Frank drew his hand from his pocket, already thumbing the safety off and leveling it on Vespucio’s head.
Vespucio’s eyes went white.
Blood sank out of his face.
The blonde screamed when she saw the gun.
But Frank didn’t care about her. He only cared about Vespucio.
He took a deep breath and exhaled it slow, starting to squeeze the trigger.
* * *
Stahl covered the distance quickly. He bounced into the side of the alley, stumbling as he walked. He giggled.
The man looked up, suddenly hurrying to open his door. He fumbled with his keys.
“Excuse me,” said Stahl. “Is there a pub around here that’s open at this ungodly hour? I need a drink in the very worst way.”
The man looked up. Stahl could see the tension in his face.
But Stahl kept smiling. Always smiling. He was just an innocent drunk after all. Just a foolish man who’d had a few too many and wanted a few more before calling it a night.
The man hesitated but then grinned. “I think there’s a place around the corner.”
Stahl put his hand out to the man’s shoulder. “I cannot thank you enough, my friend.”
And then he shoved him back against the doorjamb, twisting the man’s body as he did so. His keys skittered to the ground.
Stahl’s hand came up aiming the Beretta between the man’s eyes.
* * *
Frank squeezed the trigger.
Stahl squeezed the trigger.
Even as their bullets found the heads of their respective targets – something rocked both Frank and Stahl. An explosion of pain surged through their skulls; a roar like standing next to a jet engine filled their ears; their vision blurred and then blackened.
Then the roar faded.
Frank opened his eyes. A dead bald guy with two entry wounds in his skull looked up at him with vacant eyes. Blood and bits of brain splattered the nearby doorjamb.
Where the hell am I?
Stahl opened his eyes. He saw the fat man dead at his feet, blood already mixing with the cold rain that coursed along the gutter. Next to the body, a scantily dressed blonde screamed.
He was in Germany – wasn’t he?
Another explosion roared in their heads; another wave of pain crashed down.
Frank’s eyesight clouded.
Stahl grabbed his head.
* * *
It cleared then. Frank saw the terrified tart on the sidewalk before him.
He saw Vespucio.
Two tiny holes punctured his forehead.
Frank took a shaky breath and trained his .22 on the blonde. “You know me?”
She shook her head like a rattle. “N-n-no.”
“If you ever do, I’ll find you.” He stared at her once more for effect.
He pocketed the gun and slid into the car.
Next to him, Bobby whooped and jumped on the gas pedal. “Wow!”
The car shot away from the curb. Frank took a breath. “Slow down. I don’t want any cops pulling us over for speeding for crying out loud.”
The pain in his head lingered, but diminished quickly.
In the rearview mirror, he could still see the blonde screaming for help. Vespucio’s body filled a large portion of the mirror, but it kept getting smaller. Like the pain.
Bobby took a corner and the image vanished.
What the hell happened to me back there?
* * *
Stahl’s vision cleared. He was back in the alley. The rapist lay dead at his feet, a long trail of red blood scarred the white entryway. The bullets had exited the rear of the man’s skull, jetting bits of gray matter about. Odd that the .22 rounds had exited the skull. They usually stayed inside and danced around the cavity. No matter, the rapist was dead.
He heard the car come up.
Stahl turned and slid into the front seat. The pain in his head subsided. He nodded at the older man. “Let’s go.”
“He won’t be raping any more children in this lifetime,” said Stahl.
He glanced at the doorway one last time.
That pain. Those images. That roar.
What had just happened to him?