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*includes a digitally signed author note*


Discover the origins of the incredible friendship that defines Hunted…

On a hot summer’s day in Boston, US Marine turned Homicide Detective Reid Halsey finds himself in the middle of a deadly shootout with a murder suspect.

When Lucas Soul, a seemingly innocent victim, rises from the dead moments after a fatal gunshot wound to the head, Reid comes to the shocking realization that the world he believes in may very well be a carefully fabricated lie masking an unearthly reality.

The Meeting is a short story set in the riveting world of A.D. Starrling’s award-winning supernatural thriller series Seventeen.


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Hunted (Book 1)
First Death (Short Story 1)
Dancing Blades (Short Story 2)
The Meeting (Short Story 3)
Warrior (Book 2)
The Warrior Monk (Short Story 4)
Empire (Book 3)
The Hunger (Short Story 5)
Legacy (Book 4)
The Bank Job (Short Story 6)
Origins (Book 5)
Destiny (Book 6)


The Colt Mustang Pocketlite is one of the smallest and most consistently reliable concealed-carry firearms on the US market today. A scaled down version of the original Colt M1911, a recoil-operated, semi-automatic, single-action pistol popular among the US Armed Forces and law-enforcement agencies alike, the Pocketlite is 5.5 inches long, weighs just under thirteen ounces, and has a 6+1 round capacity.

These facts ran through Reid Hasley’s mind as he stared into the stainless steel barrel of one such gun. Particularly the part about the round capacity.

How the hell did we end up in this situation?

‘You don’t want to do this, Dennis,’ he said in a steady voice.

Detective Chris Lockett, his partner in the Boston PD Homicide Unit, shifted slightly a couple of feet to his right.

Reid kept his gaze focused on the pale, sweaty young man who stood on the other side of the front room of the shabby, second-floor apartment in South Boston.

Dennis Wittman was a key witness to a violent armed robbery, assault, and attempted homicide perpetrated by two masked men the previous night at a 7-11 franchise on Broadway. It had taken Reid and Lockett three hours of going through CCTV recordings to finally identify him as the skinny male who had been standing on the corner of the road when the suspects ran out of the store. One of the men stumbled into Wittman and pushed him to the ground before fleeing into the night. As such, Wittman was one of two people who had gotten close enough to the suspects to be able to help with their identification. The other was Fernando Lopez, the 7-11 night store manager currently fighting for his life in the intensive care unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Wittman was known to the police for a previous DUI and two counts of possession of a Class D substance. According to his probation officer, he was now clean and ready to embrace a life free of crime. Which didn’t quite explain the presence of the gun currently clasped in his damp, shaking hand.

They hadn’t seen a license for a firearm in his records. And they certainly hadn’t expected to be faced with one when they came upon the open door of his rental apartment sixty seconds ago and entered the place to clear it.

‘Look, we just want to talk to you about what happened last night,’ said Lockett.

Reid avoided looking at his partner. A seasoned patrol officer and a sergeant, Lockett only made detective eight months ago. Although the man was an experienced cop, Reid knew this was Lockett’s first time looking at the wrong end of a gun. As a Marine turned homicide detective, Reid was a seasoned veteran who had seen plenty of firefights and knew how to handle them.

Right now, Lockett’s body language reminded him of some of the young soldiers who saw action for the first time on the battlefield. The jumpy ones who got themselves and their friends killed.

He consciously dropped his shoulders and adopted a relaxed posture. ‘You were outside the 7-11 on Broadway last night when those robbers ran out. We saw you on a CCTV recording.’

Wittman twitched. Reid’s gaze flicked to the wavering gun in his hand before returning to the man’s ashen face and dilated pupils. He could read more than fear in Wittman’s eyes. The guy was high on something.

‘The man those robbers shot is in a critical condition in hospital. We just want to talk to you about what you saw.’ Reid paused. ‘You’ll be helping us out, Dennis. Just put the gun down and we can—’

‘Na-huh!’ Wittman’s voice quavered almost as badly as his hand. ‘I had nothing to do with that shit! You—you guys are just trying to con me! I’m not going back to jail, you hear?’

He jutted his chin out and tightened his grip on the gun.

Reid bit back a sigh. Great. Drug-induced paranoia. That’s all we need right now.

A balmy breeze blew through the open window to the left and rattled the metal blinds. Sweat prickled Reid’s scalp.

It was the height of summer and Boston was in the grip of one of the worst heat wave the city had seen in over a decade. The crime rate had risen proportionally, with assaults and homicides skyrocketing to levels seldom seen before.

Reid allowed a small smile to cross his lips. ‘No one is going to take you to jail, Dennis.’

Well, not straightaway, anyway.

‘I’m sure we can persuade the prosecutor’s office to look leniently on your case,’ Lockett added stiffly.

Wittman’s eyes widened, panic radiating off him almost as badly as the stench of sweat.

Reid masked a wince. Bad choice of words.

At this rate, the breeze was going to be blowing through a hole in his or Lockett’s stomach in the next minute or so. It was time for action. He took two steps forward.

Wittman startled. ‘What—what are doing?’

Reid shrugged. ‘I’m going to take that gun off you.’

Lockett drew a breath in sharply behind him.

Wittman gaped. ‘Are you crazy?’

‘Well, no,’ Reid drawled. ‘You see, I can tell you haven’t had that gun for long.’

‘Huh?’ Wittman blinked owlishly. ‘How—how can you—?’

‘The safety’s still on.’

By the time Wittman looked down and realized he had just been told a lie, Reid was already moving. He leapt onto the coffee table, jumped just as Wittman’s arm rose, and tackled the skinny man to the ground. They landed hard on the floor.

Wittman’s finger flexed on the trigger. A bullet whistled past Reid’s head and ricocheted off the metal lampshade in the ceiling. He knocked the gun out of Wittman’s hand, saw the man’s other fist coming toward his face, blocked the blow, and punched him. Blood spurted from Wittman’s nose. His eyes rolled back in his skull and he went limp.

‘Shit,’ said Lockett.

Reid looked over his shoulder. His gaze dropped to where his partner stared; the bullet had smacked into the ground a couple of inches from the detective’s left foot.

‘You okay?’ He took his cuffs out, rolled the unconscious Wittman onto his front, and closed them around the man’s wrists.

‘Er, yeah.’ Lockett sounded dazed.

‘You better call it in.’

Reid hauled Wittman up onto the couch, patted him down, and extracted two small bags of a white powder from the rear pocket of his jeans.

Lockett took his cell out, dialed Control, and requested a uniform patrol unit to transport Wittman to the local District C-6 station.

It was 14:00 by the time they finished processing Wittman’s apartment. Apart from a couple of spare magazines for the Pocketlite and another stash of drugs taped to the back of a wardrobe, they found little of interest.

Reid stood on the hot asphalt outside the police station and glanced at the dazzling, golden sphere in the sky. Wittman had been charged with obstructing a law enforcement officer and assault by means of a dangerous weapon. It would be several hours before he was in a fit state to answer questions about the incident at the 7-11. The more time passed, the slimmer their chances of catching the perpetrators of the crime became. He sighed and climbed in the car with Lockett.

They were approaching Dorchester Street when the call came through on the radio.

‘All units in the vicinity of Fox, please be advised that we have a Code 105 in progress on East 3rd St, near the corner with P St. Rapid Deployment Protocol is in effect. Responding officer requesting assistance.’ The dispatcher gave the full address.

Lockett looked at Reid. ‘It’s the heat isn’t it? It’s gotta be the heat bringing all the crazies out.’

Reid switched the emergency light on and stepped on the gas.

Fox was the unit designation for the District C-6 station. Code 105 meant an active shooter situation. They were one mile from the location.

Lockett called dispatch just as they barreled across the junction onto East Broadway. ‘Control, this is 2459. Please advise the Duty Supervisor in Homicide that we’re responding to the request for assistance at the Code 105.’

‘Copy, 2459.’

Their Duty Supervisor for the day was Lieutenant Reginald Brooks. Reid smiled grimly. An army veteran himself, Brooks would be pissed if they missed the action.

It took under two minutes to reach the junction of East 3rd and P St. Reid saw two cops crouching behind the open door of a patrol vehicle angled across the road some hundred and fifty feet ahead. He braked and spun the steering wheel around. The Ford Victoria screeched to a stop with the broadside facing the intersection. Sirens blared behind them as they stepped out of their vehicle; a patrol car was charging down East 3rd toward the junction.

Lockett signaled to the officers behind the windshield. The driver flashed his lights and turned north in a squeal of tires; he would go around and block off the other end of the road to establish a perimeter.

Reid and Lockett drew their guns and jogged along the north pavement toward the responding officers’ vehicle. Curtains and blinds twitched behind windows on both sides of the road. Reid caught glimpses of pale, worried faces. This was a nice, working-class neighborhood, with tidy front gardens and well-kept houses; the residents had likely never seen anything on this scale before.

A shot rang out just as they reached the corner of a drive. They ducked and ran across the road to the patrol car.

‘Detective Sergeant Hasley, Detective Lockett, Homicide,’ Reid said briskly as they dropped by the side of the cops squatting in the cover of the vehicle.

‘Officer Johnson,’ said the female officer. ‘This is Officer Tolino.’

Reid acknowledged the somber man beside her with a nod.

‘Can you brief us?’ he asked Johnson.

The patrol car that had gone around the block screeched to a halt across the junction four hundred feet away, sirens muted and lights flashing.

‘We responded to a domestic disturbance call twelve minutes ago,’ said Johnson. ‘On our way here, Control informed us that the neighbor who reported the incident called 911 again and said he’d heard screaming and two gunshots. We got here at 14:03. A man came out of the property and fired at our patrol car and the neighbor’s garden before running back inside. He’s fired two more shots out of the left front window since, including the one you just heard.’

Reid eyed the pretty, one-storey, blue clapboard house fifty feet northeast of where they crouched.

‘We just heard from Control,’ said Tolino. ‘The property’s owner was involved in a traffic accident last year, so they had some records. The house is registered to a Burt Suarez. Married. Works the tollbooth at the Tobin Bridge. Firearms Records Bureau shows a License to Carry for a Smith & Wesson 908. Description from motor vehicles registry matches the gunman.’

‘Kids?’ said Reid sharply.

‘Not that records show,’ said Johnson.

The officer looked as relieved as Reid felt. The last thing anyone wanted was children involved in an active shooter situation.

‘He shot the neighbor’s dog,’ Tolino added with a grimace. ‘Poor thing’s still alive. Neighbor ran out and carried it inside the house two minutes ago. You can hear it whining if you listen hard enough.’

Lockett’s grip tightened on his Glock. ‘What kind of sick bastard shoots a dog?’

‘One who isn’t thinking straight,’ Reid murmured, his gaze focused on the house. ‘Is that his car out front?’

Johnson and Tolino glanced at the black Volvo parked at the curb.

Johnson frowned. ‘No. His is the Toyota behind it. There are no other vehicles registered at the address.’

More sirens sounded from the west and south as other patrol units raced toward their location.

‘Have you heard anyone scream or shout for help since you got here?’ said Reid quietly.

‘Negative,’ Johnson replied. ‘And 911 hasn’t received any calls from this address either.’

Reid studied Johnson and narrowed his eyes. We all know this doesn’t look to be a hostage situation with a barricaded gunman. There are dead or injured people in that house. And God only knows how many spare magazines the guy has.

‘Broadcast our assessment of the situation to all responding units, tell them the safest approach, and get a secure perimeter established,’ Reid said curtly.

Johnson reached inside the car and grabbed the radio handset.

Reid twisted on his heels and indicated their Ford Victoria at the crossroad. ‘We can establish a temporary command post there until S.W.A.T. arrives—’

‘Oh fuck,’ Lockett whispered.

Reid whipped his head around and followed his partner’s frozen gaze. His mouth went dry.

A girl in her late teens had come out of a house one hundred feet up the road. She had headphones on and was leading a small white terrier on a leash. She turned and headed along the north side pavement toward them, eyes cast down and head bobbing along to whatever music she was listening to.

She was fifty feet from the front porch of the gunman’s house.

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