Here's a slightly rough teaser - a bit of chapter one in draft to give you a taste.
Excerpt from chapter one, Behind the Ruins
Copyright Michael Lane
All Rights Reserved
Grey watched the men working his back trail. He lay concealed under a clump of juniper bushes halfway up the slope of a brushy gorge, and the bitter smell of the plant would mask his scent. The trio below didn't seem to have a dog, but he took the precaution anyway. Crickets chirred in the dry bunchgrass that tufted between the blocks of peach shale and birds whistled in the larger clumps of vegetation.
The trio moved quietly up the path that Grey had descended an hour ago. They took their time, and the birds continued to warble, unbothered by their progress.
Grey had glimpsed the three when they crossed his trail in the foothills and looped back at a cautious jog to see if they'd try to backtrack him. He frowned and rolled his head to the right, onto the stock of his old rifle.
He studied each through the telescopic sight. The man in the lead was thin to the point of emaciation; muscles moved like bundled wire under the sunburnt skin of his neck and arms. He wore ragged, filthy jeans, a colorless canvas jacket with a hood pulled up and a pair of heavy boots. He carried a shotgun and moved in a crouch, eyes constantly flicking from the ground to the walls of the gorge and back.
The other two wore clothing equally dirty and hard-used, but they also wore packs and carried folded hides for bedrolls and the greenish cylinders of rolled tarps. They were both heavily armed, with belt knives, pistols and long guns. The heavier, blonde-bearded man in the middle of the tiny column carried a black assault rifle across a crooked elbow.
The gully took a sharp turn just below the hidden watcher; it was a blind corner and Grey expected the three to pause there, unless they were fools. They weren't, and they did. The men were close enough for him to smell them on the warm updraft; rancid grease, sweat and badly cured hides. The rocky walls of the gorge funneled sound to him, and he could hear each pebble their feet dislodged.
The scout spoke, and the watcher realized he'd been mistaken. The skeletal tracker was a woman.
"This is stupid," she said. "We should just lay up on the hill here. We can get him when he comes back through." She pointed the hillside where Grey lay watching.
That would be smart, he mused. Smarter if you had just gone away.
Beard shook his head, glancing where she had indicated for a bare second.
"I'm not crawling up a hundred feet of rock and brush when we can find his camp, get comfy there and pop him when he comes back. Besides, he might not come back this way."
"Why are you so set on killing him?" the tracker asked, straightening and rubbing the small of her back. She propped the shotgun across her shoulder while she kneaded with her left hand. "We're just supposed to be mapping and keeping quiet. You remember what Harris said."
Beard spat. "I want his rifle, Ang." His brow crinkled and a dull cunning settled on his features. "Harris don’t need anybody running around with sniper rifles when we come back."
Grey sighed and slipped the rifle's safety off.
It's not a sniper rifle, you idiot, he thought as he watched the three argue. It's a deer rifle.
The man in back cursed and turned away, fumbling at his fly.
"You got a bitch?" Beard called, his voice ugly. The other man rooted around in his layers of clothing. Fishing for his dick, Grey thought with a thin smile.
"Naw I just need to piss. You're the boss, boss."
"Don't fucking forget it," Beard said. "Hurry up and let’s get moving."
The problem, Grey reflected, was that his camp wasn't at the end of this particular trail. He never left anything important at his hunting camps, anyway. At the end of this trail, about three miles further on, was Doc's cabin, and these three weren't the sort of visitors Doc needed.So be it, he thought.
If you assume something bad happens from here, Editing Cat says you're right.