Wounded Animals (Whistleblower Series Book 1)































Jim Heskett


All material copyright 2015 by
Jim Heskett
. No part of this work may be reproduced without permission.


Published by Royal Arch Books

Cover design by Kit Foster



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Read on after the main text for a preview chapter of the second book in the series,

















I’m not a religious guy, but somewhere around my third rum and coke, I got the notion I’d seen Jesus across the bar from me. He didn’t have the iconic long hair, blue eyes, and beard. He wasn’t wearing robes and he didn’t have a crown of thorns on his head.

Instead, he had a tumbler of ice water and an empty wine glass. I watched him order them both from his booth in the back of Ernie’s. I was sitting at the bar, and something about this guy caught my attention before I even saw him order.

He had short brown hair and dark skin. No beard, only a wispy mustache that looked like something a teenager might wear once he’d unearthed the ability to sprout man-whiskers. The irony there was, judging by the wrinkles on his forehead and around his eyes, he appeared to have at least twenty years on me.

He was wearing jeans and a black Led Zeppelin t-shirt. A little bit under-dressed for November in Colorado.

When the waiter brought him the ice water and empty glass, this man closed his eyes and gripped the base of each. He mouthed something to himself, then poured the water into the wine glass, and as soon as the liquid spilled from one place to the other, it changed color. Blood red. Once he was done, he had half a tumbler of water and a glass full of wine.

I literally spit out my drink.

The man must have seen my reaction because he smiled and nodded at me. Was I supposed to look away? That’s not the kind of thing you ever expect to see in a crappy sports bar outside of Boulder. Or anywhere, I suppose.

He kept his eyes on me and waved me over. Like an idiot, I pointed a finger at my own chest. Me?

He laughed and nodded, and I felt a pull to get up and meet him. The urge unsettled me because I wasn’t there to meet people. I was there to clear my head after the shittiest day at work any human being had ever had.

Still, I felt myself stand up, leaving the rum and Coke behind. He grinned as I crossed the bar and took a seat in his booth.

“Hello,” he said. Thick accent. Something Middle Eastern.

“Um,” I said. “I’m sure I’m hallucinating, but did you just turn water into wine?”

He put three fingers around the stem of the glass and twisted it. The overhead light caught the edge of the glass, sending a pulse into my eyes. He sighed. “Not very well, I fear. I was trying for a Cabernet, but I suspect this is a Merlot.”

I blurted the only thought running through my head. “Holy shit.”

“You could say that. I used to be much more skilled, and I just wanted to see if I still could. I have not made an attempt such as this for a long time. I forgot how much practice it takes.”

“You turned water into wine.”

He shrugged. “Yes.”

“With your hands,” I said. I was starting to feel stupid not having anything useful to contribute, but what the hell are you supposed to say to any of this? “You’re… are you…”

He held out his hand to shake. “Kareem. Pleased to meet you.”

“I’m Tucker, but everybody calls me Candle. Because my last name is Candle, so… you know.”

“Yes, I do know. Tucker Candle. You work at IntelliCraft in Denver, but here you are at a bar in Boulder. Why is that, Candle?”

You’d think I would have jumped back from the booth in horror that this stranger knew so much about me, but I didn’t even flinch. He hadn’t said anything you couldn’t learn about me on the internet with a little bit of effort.

Then I considered his question. I started to feel the pressure on my shoulders as memories of my horrible day flashed through my head. “Just blowing off some steam. What else do you know about me?”

Kareem dipped a finger into the wine glass and licked a drop of the liquid. “Damn. Definitely Merlot. I also know you are married, and you and your wife are expecting your first child early next year. Congratulations for that, by the way.”

“Thanks,” I said as the words spilled out of my mouth automatically, as they had three or four times a day since my wife and I went public a couple months ago. Then, a wicked thought grabbed ahold of me and wouldn’t let go. “Are we having the antichrist baby or something? Like Damien? Are you here to destroy my son before he drags the world into darkness?”

Kareem belted out a massive laugh, casting his head back into the cushioned rim of the booth. “My, Candle, you have such a fantastic imagination. No, I am not going to destroy your child. I have no reason to believe your wife is going to birth some hellspawn.”

“But you are here for a reason, right?”

He nodded gravely. “Yes. Ernie’s has magnificent cheese fries.”

This guy was messing with me. Maybe the water and wine thing had been some kind of trick of the light. Next thing I knew, Kareem was going to pull a business card for his magic store from behind my ear. Offer me half-price on fake vomit during my next visit.

“Alright, Kareem, I’m going to get back to my drink, then.”

His hand shot across the table and gripped my wrist. “Wait, Candle, please. Before you go, I need to show you something. Would you step outside with me?”

I glared at his tanned and hairy hand, and he withdrew it. I didn’t get the feeling that Kareem was dangerous, but I also wasn’t sure if I was buying it. And then, the third part of me didn’t much care. I needed to get home to my wife. I could pacify him, and then be on my way. “Okay, Kareem, but if you ask me to get into your van or anything like that, I’m telling you right now—”

“No need, my friend. But there is something crucial that you need to hear, and I must find a way to prove it to you.”

I held up a finger to pause him, then I walked back to the bar, flipped a twenty dollar bill on the counter, and donned my jacket. I flicked my head at Kareem and he followed me outside.

The full clouds lit up the night sky and thick white flakes of snow were cascading all around us. My car, parked just across the street, was already wearing an inch dusting.

“I love the snow, don’t you?” he said, and I noticed the strangest thing: no shivering, no goosebumps. It must have been thirty degrees outside, but he seemed perfectly fine in his t-shirt. The ample hair on his arms wasn’t even standing up.

“I like it when I can ski on it,” I said absent-mindedly. I couldn’t stop thinking about how he seemed unaffected by the cold. I blinked a few times. A little buzzed, maybe even a little drunk, but I seemed clear-headed enough.

“Where I am from, we do not get snowfall such as this. Anyway, what I want to show you is in the alley around the corner. Please come with me.”

And there was his final sales pitch. I held out my hands. “I don’t think so. It’s been a pleasure, Kareem, but I’m going to have to call it a night.”

He lifted up his shirt and turned in a circle. “I have no weapons, my friend. But if you will check your back pocket, you will find something there; something new.”

I did feel a weight in my right back pocket that hadn’t been there before. Like a wallet, but I always carried mine on the left. I reached back and found an object, about the size of a remote control.

“Careful,” he said.

When I pulled it out of my pocket, I was holding a plastic device five inches long, with two nubbins like horns on one end and a button on the side.

“Press that button to turn it on,” he said. “It’s fully charged. But please, be careful.”

I pressed the button and a burst of light danced and crackled between the two nubbins. My heart jumped, but I knew what it was. “Stun gun.”

“Yes. But only if it would make you feel more comfortable to go into the alley with me.”

How the hell had he sneaked it into my back pocket? This was getting too freaky. But I had to admit, I was bubbling with curiosity about what might happen next.

“Okay,” I said. “Lead on, Kareem.”

He took me around the side of the bar into an alley. There were no lights, but the cloud cover above provided almost as much light as a full moon. He stopped about halfway down and crouched. He pointed at a rat, laying on its side.

He looked up at me. “Do you believe this rat is dead?”

I squinted to focus. The eyes were open, but its limbs were rigid, its mouth open and tongue slightly sticking out. Certainly smelled dead, like it had been out here in the cold for some time. “I guess.”

“Would you like to touch it and be sure?”

I poked at it with the stun gun, and the whole body moved. The little creature was as stiff as a rock. “No, I believe you. But what’s the point of all this?”

He scooped the rat into his hands and held it close to my face. The smell almost made me gag. I jerked my head back, away from the thing. Could be carrying plague, for all I knew.

Kareem smiled. “No need to be afraid, my friend.”

He clasped his hands together and closed his eyes. He mumbled to himself, pushing air in and out of his nose. In a moment, his hands changed color. No, that wasn’t it. There was a glow coming from them, as if he was holding a light bulb as it slowly reached full power.

The rat twitched.

He opened his hands, and the rodent started squirming, now fully alive. No stink. No matted fur. It squeaked and chattered. As if he’d traded it for a brand new rat.

This couldn’t be real. But it had to be real. What the hell was I looking at?

“Jesus Christ.”

“No, I am Kareem. Do I have your attention now, Candle?”

The world spun around me. The wine, the stun gun, the things he knew about me… those could be explained. But this trick seemed a few miles left of logical. Unless he carried a live rat around in his pocket, which was too freaky for me to consider.

And then, my inner skeptic roared. Did I believe this man had magical powers? No. I am definitely not a follower of poltergeists, goblins, monsters in closets, or the Illuminati. But did he have my attention? Hell yeah.

“Okay, yes, I’m listening. I’ll hear whatever you have to say.”

He set the rat on the ground, and it scurried away, along the side of the building. “Tomorrow, when you go into work, your boss is going to call you into a meeting.”

I felt pressure at the base of my neck. Couldn’t I not have to think or talk about work for just a few hours?


“Your boss is going to ask you to go back down to Dallas, to train a new group of people. You must listen to me, Candle. You must tell your boss that you cannot do this. You must tell her anything to get out of going. There is someone in Dallas, and if you come into contact with that person, a bad thing will happen. Do you understand?”

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