Excerpt // Dragon Head by James Houston Turner
Wu Chee Ming looked anxiously behind him. Where were they? Who were they? When would they strike? An attack in a crowded street like this would be over in seconds. A silenced pistol. A knife. A needle. Death would be quick and the assassin would vanish. One face in an ocean of faces.
He was not even sure they were onto him. In fact, they probably weren’t. He had taken extreme care over the last few months to make sure his movements went undetected.
One does not seek what one does not see.
It was a proverb that guided his every move.
And yet, in spite of his meticulous planning, he had to proceed as if they had noticed, which was why he had chosen Lan Kwai Fong, a small, bustling tourist district in the heart of Hong Kong, to make his escape. The narrow streets of Lan Kwai Fong were perfect for what he was planning. Flashing neon. Music. Thousands of people surging in and out of nightclubs and restaurants. The perfect place to disappear.
The perfect place to be killed.
The proverb, however, held the secret to his survival; namely, that the best place to hide is often in plain sight. That people usually do not notice what is right in front of them. Hence, his choice to pass through Lan Kwai Fong each night on his way home from work, so his being here tonight would not attract any undue attention.
Suddenly, an elbow caught him in the chest and knocked him into a group of Chinese girls texting one another. They were holding their phones so close their eyes glistened with light from the tiny screens.
“Kàn t?!” one of them barked.
Wu Chee Ming pushed on.
Ahead, the street bent ninety degrees and sloped downhill for a short block before meeting D’Aguilar Street. Wu Chee Ming turned at the corner and threaded his way uphill along another street filled with partygoers. Within minutes, he reached a short flight of steps that branched away from the street. Taking the steps two at a time, he reached the top and began running along a darkened walkway that angled between a pair of highrise office towers. Before long, the sounds and smells of Lan Kwai Fong had receded into the distance.
Wu Chee Ming knew he would miss those sounds and smells. But at least he would be alive to remember them. He glanced behind but saw no one.
One does not seek what one does not see.
His survival hinged on the truth of that proverb, and yet if he truly believed it, why was he running? Why was he not relaxed in the knowledge that he was but another face in an ocean of faces?
Under normal conditions, Hong Kong was the perfect city in which to vanish. But these were not normal conditions. He was running from a crime boss who knew every inch of the island. A crime boss with eyes and ears everywhere. A crime boss so skilled in the art of death that some people considered it an honor to die by his hand. Dexter Moran was his name, although no one dared address him that way. To everyone in Hong Kong and the New Territories, he was known as Dragon Head, and he was the supreme leader of the Shí bèi organized crime society, which was based in the Zhongzhen Martial Arts Academy.
The name “Dragon Head” was actually a title that had been seized by Moran in the same manner a lion becomes the alpha male of his pride: by defeating or killing his rivals. And not just known rivals, but anyone suspected of being a threat. Which was why Wu Chee Ming had chosen to run. He wanted to make sure he was not among them.
Ahead, beside a tree, was an old bicycle. Wu Chee Ming had purchased it from a repair shop with instructions that it be placed beside the tree this afternoon. It had a basket above the front fender and a tiny dome bell on the handlebar. Lifting the bike onto the path, Wu Chee Ming walked it to an intersecting walkway, where he turned left, jumped on, and began pedaling. In less than a minute he emerged onto a busy street.
Like New York, Hong Kong was a city that never slept. Even at this late hour, cars filled the streets and the sidewalks were gorged with people. A few dings on his bell caused pedestrians to stop long enough for him to bicycle across the sidewalk and into the bicycle lane, where he turned left and began pedaling with the flow of traffic. He kept pace for two blocks, then cut across to the other side of the street, where he began pedaling with the flow of traffic in the other direction. He bicycled past noodle bars, restaurants, and retail outlets offering everything from designer clothing to electronics, phone cards, and cosmetics. Before long, he turned down a side street and raced to the next corner, where he turned right and raced to the next corner, where he turned again. The zigzag pattern took him away from the neon madness of the tourist district and into Hong Kong’s shadowed side streets.
Within twenty minutes, Wu Chee Ming had made his way to a four-story apartment building in a rundown part of Wan Chai. Unlike the glamour and polish of the financial precinct where he worked, this part of town was stained with the gloom of poverty. There were no gleaming office towers of tinted glass. No stepped terraces with architectural flourishes. The buildings were rectangular and squat. Rust and soot were the predominant colors.
Leaning his bicycle against a metal roller door, Wu Chee Ming entered a darkened stairwell and dashed up a flight of steps. There were no lights in the stairwell because Wu Chee Ming had broken the bulbs. No one must remember his face to anyone asking questions. And there would be questions, and Dragon Head would be asking them. By that time, however, he would be long gone, which meant Dragon Head would have no choice but to hunt down the only other person who could give him answers. That person was former KGB colonel Aleksandr Talanov. Talanov, of course, would have no answers because he would not know what had happened. Torture would be employed, and Dragon Head would be merciless, but Talanov would not be able to reveal what he did not know. Yes, Talanov was a walking dead man, while he, Wu Chee Ming, was about to become a ghost.
Excerpt from Dragon Head by James Houston Turner. Copyright 2020 by James Houston Turner. Reproduced with permission from James Houston Turner. All rights reserved.
Support your LOCAL booksellers via the links below.
This thriller works beautifully … a highly enjoyable potboiler of plot twists, action, and suspense.Kat Kennedy, The US Review
Snappy dialogue … humor and heart … scenes crackling with life as Talanov races against the clock in this complex spy thriller that delivers charm and thrills.John M. Murray, Foreword Reviews
Dragon Head is an explosive story packed with plenty of action and excitement. Like all good spy stories, it’s unclear exactly what everyone is up to and who can actually be trusted. Facing threats on all sides, Talanov is a great hero to follow, tough and quick to dive into the action, but also smart and more than capable of outmaneuvering his enemies. Dragon Head is an exhilarating story that tackles contemporary issues … a top-notch thriller.Erin Britton, The Manhattan Book Review
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for James Houston Turner. There will be 7 winners. One (1) winner will receive an Amazon.com Gift Card. Six (6) winners will receive DRAGON HEAD by James Houston Turner (print). The giveaway begins on May 1, 2020, and runs through June 2, 2020. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Winner of numerous awards, including “Best Thriller,” bestselling author James Houston Turner is known for his Aleksandr Talanov series of spy novels. Talanov the fictional character was inspired by the actual KGB agent who once leaked word out of Moscow that James was on a KGB watchlist for his smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain. “His act of heroism – he could have been executed for what he did – gave me the idea of a good-guy KGB agent who became a spy for America,” Turner explains.
A native of Kansas, James Houston Turner has been writing since he was ten. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Baker University, he moved to Texas, where he earned his master’s degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake). He then headed west to California, where his love of writing turned into a profession with publication of The Spud Book: 101 Ways to Cook Potatoes. Publisher’s Weekly called it “A cookbook with ap-peel.” Between TV cooking tours, he worked as a journalist at the famed Los Angeles Union Rescue Mission, where he revised their magazine, Lifeline, from a needs-based ministry appeal to a collection of interviews from the streets about changed lives. Those interviews included numerous victims of human trafficking. The magazine won several awards.
During this time, James also worked as a smuggler into Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe, where he transported tons of food, clothing, Bibles, and medical supplies, to needy hospitals and churches. While there, he interviewed many heroes of death camps, gulags, Siberian exile, persecution, illness, hardship, and torture, including assassination squads.
James is also a cancer survivor after doctors in Australia removed a tumor the size of an orange from his face. “I was told if I lived eighteen months I would probably live to be one hundred. That was in 1991, so I am happy to report I am well on my way toward that goal. These experiences continue to influence my storytelling, whether in novels, or, now, in film. My stories are ‘overcomer stories,’ because that’s what I’ve had to do, and is why I want my stories to leave people with the same hope and faith that strengthened me.”
As a self-published author who made the deliberate choice away from traditional avenues, he has accomplished what he calls “the writer’s dream” with a film option on one of his novels, Greco’s Game. He is also one of a small handful of writers who can function both as a novelist and a screenwriter, with two of his screenplays having also been optioned, with production on his projects scheduled to begin in 2020.
After nearly twenty years in Australia, James and his wife, Wendy, now live in Austin, Texas.
Click here to view the Dragon Head by James Houston Turner Participants