In anticipation of the 2nd Orphan X novel by Gregg Hurwitz, The Nowhere Man (available January 17, 2017), we're thrilled to offer you a sneak peek at “Buy a Bullet,” the short story that shows us the very first outing of the Nowhere Man. You can buy the full short story for only $1.99 below!
The Nowhere Man is a figure shrouded in secrecy—a near legendary figure who helps those lucky few who are given the means to reach out to him.
Before he was the Nowhere Man, Evan Smoak was a highly trained government operative known to a few as Orphan X. This is the story of Smoak's first outing as the Nowhere Man, where after completing a mission in Northern California, he happens to spot a young woman at a coffee shop. Brutalized and under the control of a very powerful, unscrupulous man, she knows her life is in danger if she doesn't escape. And the only person that can help her do that is a man with the background and skills of the Nowhere Man.
She takes the pain, takes it so well. This is evident the moment she enters the upscale coffee shop in downtown Palo Alto. She is on the arm of a trim man with artfully tousled hair, two-day growth, and Bono sunglasses. Or rather, he is on her arm, his fist wrapped around her slender biceps, steering her, conveying ownership. She winces against the pressure of his grip, allowing a slight crimp of the right eye, but her grin doesn’t so much as flicker. Experience has taught her.
Bringing up the rear is a head-taller, broad-chested specimen of a bodyguard, ex-military judging by hair and posture. His deferential bearing suggests that when tasked, he also performs the services of a personal assistant, as do most employees in the orbit of the very rich. He is youthful. His body fat is single digit; muscles sheathe him like armor.
In the corner of the shop, a man notes this little retinue over a lifted cup of espresso. He is around thirty years old, not too handsome, unobtrusive. Just an average guy. At his feet sits a bag bulky with night-vision gear handed to him hours ago through the rear door of a Sand Hill office in exchange for a banded stack of bills. He is not a regular in the Bay Area; having collected what he came for, he has pit-stopped for a quick cup before the five-hour haul back to Los Angeles. But now his interest is piqued by this woman and the man clamped to her.
The coffee shop on University Avenue gets all kinds—or rather all Silicon Valley kinds. A trio of Scandinavian engineers in their Dockers and rumpled short-sleeve button-ups. Entrepreneurs-to-be hunched over slender silver laptops, plugged into headsets. Twentysomethings wearing Havianas and slurping free-trade coffee, key-chain carabiners dangling off their belt loops. The wood-paneled confines smell of Guatemalan roast and ambition, and hum with caffeine and a variety of pleasingly accented voices.
At the couple’s entrance, activity ceases for a moment but it is not, surprisingly, at the woman’s considerable Midwestern beauty. The ensuing stir appears to be due to the man in the yellow-tinted shades. From the whispers making the rounds, a name emerges—Steve Radack.
The watcher at the corner table lowers his demitasse to the tiny saucer. The name rolls around in his mind for a moment before slotting into place. Radack is a dot-com success story, which makes him, in these parts, royalty. A member of the three comma club, he is unaware of the attention or, more likely, inured to it. His knees jiggle beneath tailored pants. An unlit cigarette bobs from his lips. Sweat sparkles at his hairline. He is amped on something and the condition seems not unfamiliar to him.
Radack orders the bodyguard to bring him a Dead Eye—three shots of espresso added to drip coffee—and leads the woman to a table, his fingers still indenting her smooth pale skin. Patrons clear a path. At the table, the woman says, “Would you mind getting it to go?” and he slides his hand to her wrist and deals it a cruel twist. Her full lips part but she makes no sound. She lowers her head and sits, her emerald eyes slightly dulled. One side of her neck is streaked with faded bruises. Finger-width. Her nose is sloped just right with a scattering of freckles across the bridge, and her front teeth are Brigitte Bardot–pronounced, just shy of buck. She is stunning, and yet there is a blankness behind her features, the blankness of compounded trauma.
The watcher at the corner table knows this expression. He knows it well.
He has spent a lifetime in the vicinity of trauma, usually inflicting it. He is known by some as Evan Smoak. To a few, he is known as Orphan X. But generally he is not known at all.
He decides to extend his visit.
Copyright © 2016 Gregg Hurwitz.
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Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers including You’re Next and Orphan X. Critically acclaimed, Hurwitz is a two-time finalist for ITW’s Best Novel prize and a finalist for CWA’s Steel Dagger. In addition, Hurwitz is a screenwriter, TV producer, and comic book author. The first book in the Evan Smoak series, Orphan X, has been sold in twenty-one countries. Hurwitz, who lives in Los Angeles, is writing the screen adaption of Orphan X for Warner Brothers and Bradley Cooper.