Steve Vincent is a thriller writer whose work I dig, so I was pleased to see him giving it away. (In return for the usual consideration of an email address and a tiny little piece of your soul. Seriously, a very small piece. You won't even notice the sting).
Steve's got a copy of Fireplay for you, right here.
And I have the prologue below:
A flash of lightning illuminated the cell with pale light for only a split second, long enough for Hewad Ghilzai to see his friend on the floor. Positioned unnaturally, he hadn’t moved since the American soldiers had left several hours ago. Hewad hadn’t moved either. He was too scared. He’d been hurt too many times.
Hewad held his knees to his chest and kept his back against the wall. His mind was empty and his tear ducts were dry. Only his grief and the smell of human feces kept his attention in this world at all. He awaited the next. He’d taken the fight to the infidel and ended up in a place worse than hell.
He’d done everything right. Had Allah abandoned him? On most nights the stars provided enough light to see the outline of his bed, the latrine pail and the grilled steel that penned him in, but tonight he couldn’t see an inch in front of his hand. The world was as dark as the heart of his captors, except when lightning lashed at the mountains.
Footsteps approached and a feint light lit the corridor outside his cell. He instinctively hugged his knees tighter and his eyes shot towards the door. As he waited the footsteps grew louder and the light brighter. He whimpered as the heavy door unlocked with a clunk and opened with a squeal.
“Evening haji.” The soldier’s drawl was unmistakable, even as the cell door slammed shut. “I thought you could use some company, what with the storm and all.”
Hewad said nothing. He hadn’t always been so passive and afraid. The blows from combat boots and rifle butts had started a conversion that mutilations and degradation had completed. He was a broken man, a spent soul trapped in a body that had nearly expired.
“Nothing to say?” The soldier sighed as he held the flashlight up to Hewad’s face. “You had some spunk, haji, but now you’re as lively as your friend over there.”
Hewad lifted his hands to shield his eyes as the soldier laughed at his own joke. The light felt like another assault after so much darkness, though it was nothing compared to whatever struck him across the side of the head. It staggered him. He fell onto his side, curled into a ball and tried to protect himself as best he could.
Blows rained on him and he felt himself starting to black out when he heard an earsplitting boom and felt an enormous shockwave. He rolled onto his back and opened his eyes, confused. The flashlight was on the ground, illuminating the chaos. The soldier lay still and half of the wall was missing.
Hewad blinked several times and his senses slowly returned. His pain was intense but in the depths of his mind excitement sparked. He looked at the soldier for several minutes, waiting for him to move. Finally he inched closer, paused and then scurried over and felt for a pulse. None. Allah had delivered him.
He shoved the man. When the body didn’t move Hewad’s eyes widened and he clawed for the man’s canteen, unscrewed the lid and drank deeply. Some of the water spilled to the sand as he sucked at it, gulping and coughing as he fought to overcome the most incredible thirst.
When the water ran out he glanced at the soldier’s sidearm. To take it would be to re-enter the fight, to forget the next life for the moment and take up arms again in this world. He stared at the pistol for several long moments and then looked at the hole that had been blown in the wall. He knew the will of Allah.
Hewad took the soldier’s pistol and boots and then staggered to his feet. He walked towards the hole in the wall, where the lightning had struck the steel window grill and fractured much of the poor quality wall. He hesitated briefly. To step through would mean death if he was captured, but to stay would be to spit in the face of Allah’s mercy. He spat on the soldier instead.
Hewad stepped outside.