John Provo has joined the church staff to quietly investigate the church. But when he gets to close to the truth, the pastor’s lieutenants quickly move to silence John—by whatever means necessary.
Lies, blackmail, and even murder—they’re all means to end for the powerful leaders of Pyramid Church. And their plot to take control of America is likely to succeed—unless John Provo can figure out a way to stop them before he gets himself killed.
Read the six-chapter excerpt…
John Provo could smell it in the air—stronger than the beer and leather, more pungent than the Friday night cologne of pumped-up, citified cowboys—he smelled trouble. The cool Houston night had brought a maximum-capacity crowd into Stoney’s Rockabilly Bar, just off the North Loop. Stoney’s was the prime hotspot for young professional types. The food was good, the music great, and the booze ran the gamut—from Budweiser to Dom Perignon.
It was just after nine when John spotted a problem with the party of six near the east wall, close to the bandstand. He couldn’t tell whether they were angry about something or just too drunk to realize that their shouting could be heard over the band. Stoney and the Rockabilly Ramblers were belting out “Bad Moon Rising,” and Stoney always got seriously pissed when he was being upstaged by rowdy customers—even though those same customers had been emptying their wallets all night to his sexy little cowgirl waitresses.
Three men and three women were sitting at the round table, arguing. Mid-thirties. None had a wedding ring. At twenty-three, John preferred dealing with the college crowd, but this was the job. He was a paid problem solver.
“How are y’all doing tonight?” John asked, smiling.
“What do you care, punk?” one of the men asked, slurring his words.
The man next to him turned to his buddy and said, “I think he’s a bouncer. Cool it, man.”
“He doesn’t look much like a bouncer to me,” one of the women said. “He’s too—”
“Young?” the woman next to her asked.
“I was gonna say small.”
The third woman eyed John’s crotch and said, “How do you know?”
Everybody at the table started laughing—like it was the funniest thing they’d ever heard.
John didn’t consider himself short, but at five-foot-ten, he wasn’t tall either. And his lean frame certainly didn’t give him the look of a typical bouncer.
John knew that to be successful, you had to be subtle—not brutal. More psychologist than psycho. You had to have a knack for using just the right words to cool people down. On the other hand, there was a certain advantage to looking like the Incredible Hulk. Some guys just won’t listen unless they think you can beat the crap out of them.
For the rare instances when a customer attacked him, John was, of course, allowed to protect himself. He had a secret weapon for that: his Timberland PRO Pitboss steel-toe boots—size 15. One swift kick to the nuts usually did the trick.
The laughter was beginning to wane when one of the men asked, “Didn’t they have enough money to hire a full-sized bouncer?”
It was enough to get the whole gang going again—even louder this time.
He glanced at Stoney, who was not amused.
John took a deep breath, exhaled, and smiled. “I just need you to hold it down a little. Okay? There’s a roomful of people who want to be able to enjoy the band.”
“I don’t like this song,” one of the men yelled.
“Yes, you do,” another man said. “It’s Clarence. Clarence…Clearwater.”
“No. Creedence, you idiot,” the first man said. “Creedence Clearwater Revival.”
“Oh. Oh, yeah, I guess I do like this song.”
“We’ll try to be quieter,” one of the women said—the one who was apparently the least drunk of the six.
“Thanks.” John turned to walk away.
“Wait,” one of the men said. “Who are you voting for?”
John turned back around. “What?”
“For president of the United States. Who are you voting for?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” John said.
“Well, that’s what we’ve been talking about here,” one of the women said. “The election is just a few weeks away, and I say you should vote for Governor Bedallion. She’s a Christian and a role model for young women…like us.”
“You’re not young,” one of the men said.
“Shut up,” she said.
“Bedallion’s a tramp,” another man said.
“What? How dare you call the governor of California a tramp,” the woman said.
“Okay,” the man said. “You’re right—I shouldn’t have called her a tramp. I should call her JBed—like everybody else.”
The other men laughed.
“What are you talking about?” the woman asked.
“Didn’t you see it online today? Her video’s on YouTube. It went viral in two hours. And now the mainstream media’s picking it up.”
“Picking what up?”
“Honey, your sweet, wonderful little Christian role model used to make porn films.”
“Yep. That’s why they started calling her JBed. You know—like how Jennifer Lopez is JLo and Jennifer Lawrence is JLaw? So, now Jennifer Bedallion is JBed. It’s perfect.” He laughed.
“She’s screwed,” another man said. “Hasn’t got a chance in hell.”
“Dammit,” the woman said.
“So, you gotta vote for the Independent candidate—Landerson,” the man said. “He’s a good ol’ Texan.”
“Landerson’s a huckster,” another man said. “I’m voting for Cloverfield.”
“Are you kidding me?” the other man said. “He’s a lifelong politician, and both of his parents are Harvard Law professors.”
“Sounds pretty well qualified to me,” one of the women said.
“Bullshit!” the man yelled. “He’s from Massachusetts. Just another tax and spend liberal.”
“Okay, okay,” John said. “You can argue about this all you want—as long as you keep your voices down. Okay?”
Three of them nodded their heads. The other three didn’t seem to know what the hell he was talking about.
John walked away. If that was the worst trouble he’d have tonight, it was gonna be a breeze. His phone vibrated in his pocket and he took it out. Annabeth, his ex-wife, was calling. He’d call her back on his break.
He put his phone away, and when he looked up he saw a young woman sitting at the bar—a blond. From the back she looked a lot like his ex-wife. He was still in love with Annabeth even though she had remarried.
A tall black man was sitting beside the woman, badgering her. John could read their body language from across the room. The guy was looking to score, but she wanted nothing to do with him. Typical stuff.
John walked toward the bar, keeping an eye on them all the way. The man slid his hand under the woman’s skirt, and she hopped off the barstool.
“Get your hands off me!”
The guy stood up. He was at least six-foot-nine. He grinned at her. “Come on, baby, don’t you know who I am? I’m Big Bill Bollock. I played center for the Houston Rockets. All the women love Big Bill.”
“Not me! Why do all you basketball players think you’re God’s gift to women?”
He grinned. “Let’s go get us a room and I’ll show you why.” He laughed as he reached down and cupped his junk with his enormous hand.
John stepped in between them. “Sir, the young lady is not interested.”
Big Bill laughed. “Stay out of this, boy.”
“Look, Mr. Bollock, I work here—I’m a bouncer—and I’m asking you nicely to please move on.”
Big Bill began to laugh so hard that he nearly choked. When he finally regained his composure, he said, “You know, this is perfect, because it just so happens that I’m looking for a part-time job to supplement my income. And I think I’d make one hell of a bouncer, don’t you, son?”
“Maybe so. I’d recommend you come back tomorrow during business hours and talk to the owner.”
“No, you know what I think? I think we should have a little showdown right here, right now. Prove who’s the better man for the job.”
John took out his phone. “I’m calling the police, sir.”
Big Bill slapped John’s phone out of his hand. “No, you’re not. You’re gonna fight me.”
“In all fairness, sir, I must warn you not to underestimate me. I’ve killed men with my bare hands—big men. One time I fought four men all at once.”
“And you killed them all, huh?”
“Only one of them died. One is a paraplegic. The other two spent a couple of weeks in the hospital.”
A man in the crowd said, “He’s not kidding, Bill. He’s a badass.”
Another guy yelled, “Shut up. Let them fight.”
John put his palms together and lifted his elbows. “I’m going to close my eyes, and when I open them, I hope you’ll be gone.” John closed his eyes.
Big Bill said, “What the hell are you doing, jerkwad?”
A woman said, “It’s yoga. He’s meditating and trying not to kill you. Run while you’ve got a chance.”
“Yeah, right.” Big Bill picked up John like he was a cardboard cutout and slammed him on top of a table, collapsing it. “I win.”
John jumped to his feet. His face turned bright red and his entire body began to shake.
Somebody in the crowd said, “Oh, shit—get back!”
John picked up a table leg and ran at Big Bill.
Big Bill grabbed the end of the table leg and swung it—and John—across the room.
John got up and ran at him again, staying low to the ground this time.
Big Bill swung his foot at John.
John grabbed the foot, twisted it, and lifted it to shoulder height.
Big Bill grimaced, fell over backward, and hit the floor hard.
Still holding onto his foot, John yanked it to the side, spreading Big Bill’s legs, and kicking him in the balls with his steel-toe boot. It was a direct hit—a real nutcracker.
Big Bill groaned as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pistol.
John jumped on top of him and grabbed the hand holding the gun. He hadn’t noticed that Stoney and the band had stopped playing. And he didn’t hear Stoney ordering them to stop fighting. He was struggling to redirect the pistol away from himself when it went off. The bullet struck the underside of the bar.
John continued to turn the pistol to direct it at Big Bill’s face. “Don’t you know it’s illegal to bring a firearm into a bar?”
Big Bill panicked. “No, please. Don’t kill me!”
“John, stop!” Stoney said.
John forced the barrel of the gun into Big Bill’s mouth. “Say goodbye to all your fans, you son of a bitch.” He began to squeeze the trigger. Two electrodes struck his back and sent a jolt of electricity through his body. He lost control of his muscles, released the gun, and fell off to the side of Big Bill, shaking violently.
Big Bill sat up and pointed the gun at John.
Stoney used a second Taser to zap Big Bill in the chest.
He dropped the gun and fell back down on the floor, his body convulsing.
Several police officers ran into the bar and took the two men away.