Marked for Revenge: First Ten Chapters

Marked for Revenge: First Ten Chapters

On May 17 my sixth novel – Marked for Revenge – will be released as paperback and eBook! I cannot wait to share this thriller with you. It was so much fun to research and write – I hope you enjoy the faster pace and additional action in this novel, Book Three in the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series!

Here’s the description:

Marked for Revenge: An Art Heist Thriller

An adrenaline-fueled adventure set in the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey about stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance.

When researcher Zelda Richardson begins working at a local museum, she doesn’t expect to get entangled with an art theft, knocked unconscious by a forger, threatened by the mob, or stalked by drug dealers.

To make matters worse, a Croatian gangster is convinced Zelda knows where a cache of recently pilfered paintings is. She must track down an international gang of art thieves and recover the stolen artwork in order to save those she loves most.

The trouble is, Zelda doesn’t know where to look. Teaming up with art detective Vincent de Graaf may be her only hope at salvation.

The trail of clues leads Zelda and Vincent on a pulse-pounding race across Europe to a dramatic showdown in Turkey that may cost them their lives.

You can download the first TEN chapters now (Marked for Revenge 10 chapter preview) or read Chapter One now:

 

Chapter 1: Nighttime Flight

August 11, 2018

Marko Antic softly hummed the Dutch national anthem as he cut another watercolor from Vianden Castle’s cold stone wall. As the gilded frame dropped into his free hand, he automatically looked to the life-sized portrait of William II hanging at the opposite end of the narrow room, almost sensing the Dutch king’s disapproval.

“Will you stop already?” his partner-in-crime whispered.

Marko ceased mid-chorus, the last bar of ‘Het Wilhelmus’ hanging eerily in the air. He opened his mouth to reprimand Rikard for being such a killjoy when he realized his friend was right. Although the Turret Room was at the back of an unoccupied medieval castle—and the sole security guard had already completed his rounds—they’d do better to be prudent.

Marko slipped the painting into a padded canvas bag, careful not to put unnecessary pressure on the other two watercolors he’d already plundered from the castle’s walls. He looked to his friend and saw Rikard was placing the tenth and final painting into his bag. As soon as all of the watercolors were secure, it was time to complete this job. Marko sucked in his breath, excited yet nervous about their exit, inspired by the castle’s extraordinary location.

Vianden Castle seemed to grow out of a rocky promontory jutting out into the Our Valley. It was the jewel crowning the tiny village of Vianden—literally. The town’s homes, businesses, and church carved into the steep ridge had a thick blanket of tall trees that covered them. A single road led up to the castle at the top.

At first, Marko and Rikard were overwhelmed by the castle’s position and the seemingly insurmountably high stone wall built around it. Once inside, they were pleasantly surprised by how easily looks could deceive. The castle itself was the main tourist attraction, and that was impossible to steal. Cameras were trained on the main entrances and exits but were not hung up in each room. During their tour, Marko realized why. Only a few inexpensive pieces of art were permanently displayed, and none appeared to be hooked up to an alarm. But then, his trained eye told him they weren’t worth more than a few thousand euros, thus probably not worth insuring. The only additional measure taken to secure the temporary exhibition of watercolors they’d just stolen from was a single camera pointed at the entrance to the Turret Room. One that Marko had covered with tape before entering the space.

Breaking in had been incredibly easy. Because the castle’s entrance was literally at the end of the road, there was little chance of a random passerby seeing them return at two in the morning. Marko and Rikard used rappelling hooks to climb over the massive stone wall surrounding the castle and were inside in a matter of seconds. Thanks to the waning moon, they didn’t have to look hard to find shadows to climb in. Getting out would entail a different route entirely.

Marko triple-checked his canvas bags before glancing over to see Rikard doing the same. The burglars locked eyes and nodded, then rose and crossed the darkened stone floor.

A door on the left side of the Turret Room led to a wide balcony extending far out over the valley below. As soon as Rikard opened it, a strong wind blew inside, chilling Marko to the bone.

Both men dragged the bags of artwork out onto the balcony then closed the door firmly behind them. Marko knew from their previous visit that the views from here were breathtaking. Because the balcony extended a few feet out over the abyss, visitors could see for miles up and down the valley. Now, a swath of blacks and grays met their eye. The Our river was invisible. A handful of lights—presumably from homes—sparkled through the dense foliage of this sparsely populated region.

Before looting the Turret Room, they had placed two large tote bags on the balcony. Marko opened one and took out a harness shaped like a padded chair. He slipped it over his back and quickly strapped himself in. Then, using a series of bungee cords and carabiners, he secured a crate of artwork to each side. The extra-thick padding should cushion any jarring, and both Marko and Rikard were skilled enough to land softly. Their job depended on it. Once satisfied, he slipped on night-vision goggles, buckled on his helmet, then picked up a small nylon sack with two lines hanging out of it. Marko hooked them into the specially-built loops hanging from his chest. He yanked on each, ensuring they were secure before unfurling the nylon wing. The soft fabric billowed up and out above him. Marko turned on a flashing red beacon attached to his chest and stepped out onto the wide stone railing. The strong winds tugged on the nylon, pulling him forward.

The balcony wasn’t large enough for both to jump simultaneously, but Marko could see that Rikard was almost ready. Pulling tight on the controls, Marko waited until his friend had his wing clipped in properly. As soon as Rikard gave him the thumbs up, Marco released the hand brakes and stepped off the ledge, giving in to the wind’s desire. Marko’s heart raced as his stomach dropped away. For a brief moment, he was plunging toward the earth. Seconds later, his chute grabbed an upward draft and raced up the ridge, jerking him high above the treetops. A smile split his face; he loved the rush. He used his hand grips and weight to control his lateral movements, slowly maneuvering himself away from the tree-covered ridge and back above the river, his night-vision goggles helping him orient.

A minute later, he heard the whooshing sound of another chute catching the wind. He turned his head back toward the castle and searched until he could see his friend’s red beacon flashing. Marko’s grin intensified when he noticed there were no lights visible inside the castle. The robbery probably wouldn’t be detected until morning.

Marko relaxed the tension on his hand grips, allowing his wing to race down the valley, relishing the brief moment of freedom. He couldn’t believe his luck. Marko had always loved his work, but since he began working for his uncle a year ago, his job satisfaction had increased significantly. Thanks to years of stealing paintings and antiques from private homes, Marko had developed a real eye for quality. The mental thrill of creating a devious plan and seeing it through was a real adrenaline kick but getting rid of these illicitly gained goods was always such a pain. There was much risk involved. More and more of his associates had been tripped up by selling them to undercover cops. And when Marko did find a trustworthy buyer, they offered minimal payout.

Marko always knew he could count on his family if he ever got into real trouble, but he had enjoyed following his own path. That is until several of his friends were arrested during a recent sting operation. When his uncle Luka offered to take care of all of that hassle, Marko couldn’t refuse. And his uncle did pay top dollar, more than he’d been able to organize on his own. From time to time, Luka even supplied him with an interesting theft, to boot. There was no shortage of greedy people willing to pay anything to acquire what they wanted, especially when the object of their desire was entirely out of reach even to people of their financial stature.

He kicked his legs around, reveling in the liberating feeling of flying. Too soon, he made out a set of headlights blinking in the distance. Marko adjusted his direction and relaxed into the harness, determined to enjoy the rest of his short flight.

He looked up to the moon and turned his face into the wind, letting it whip across his cheeks — God, how he loved his job.

*    *    *

You  can read the first TEN chapters of Marked for Revenge now ((Marked for Revenge 10 chapter preview) or pre-order the eBook now for the pre-release price of 99 cents on Amazon.com or Amazon worldwide now!

Happy travels and reading!

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