The Solitaire Series Reminder: Each week, a story will appear on my blog, and be free to read for one week only. The next story will take its place, and the first story will be available on Amazon and other e-retailers. But if you follow this blog, you can read the stories for free every single week! Read more about the Short Story Deal here.

Throughout the series, there will be collections of stories, and we will even be producing some really cool swag along the way. Watch for contests, prizes, and even some fun “in-person” events!

Stephan opened the driver’s door of his car and stood.

He stretched for the sky first, brought his arms down to his side in a huge arc, and then reached down to touch his toes.

Once he’d done that, he straightened. The drive from Vegas to Phoenix wasn’t horrible, but then again it wasn’t his favorite either. It took a little over four and a half hours if he obeyed speed limits. Stephan never did, not since he replaced his old beater with this new ride. It was a Lexus, so an upscale Toyota, but still much better than what he’d had before.

He looked at the home, located off a street called Indian School and near 59th Avenue. In his mind, he wondered that the name of that street had not been changed yet in these politically sensitive times.

Gravel replaced grass in the front yard, and tall cactus substituted for trees. Some of them must be quite old, and that made sense. He’d bet this neighborhood had been started in the 1970s and a lot of the homes, while repainted, retained that style.

This one was constructed of pretty standard stucco, tan in color, and the only thing that set it apart from the others in the neighborhood was the front gate—painted a bright red with a giant brass knocker in the shape of a heart on the outside.

Well, that was the only thing at first glance. At a second, more attentive glance, the cameras became visible. There were no less than two covering the front gate, and Stephan counted at least six on the property, high resolution, wide-angle at a guess. Those were just visible above the fence surrounding the back yard, but at a little under six feet tall, he didn’t have the view a taller person might.

It didn’t matter. They always knew he was coming.

The bruises from his last encounter had healed nicely. The money he’d earned went to the new ride sitting by the curb now, one that seemed oddly out of place in this neighborhood. He walked to the gate, and tried the handle, finding it unlocked.

Stephan drew a pistol from a holster in the small of his back. He had a fake U.S. Marshal’s badge that, while it would not pass deep scrutiny, usually put off anyone curious enough to ask for it. Arizona was an open carry state anyway, and he had a permit to carry concealed in all but a few states ever since he’d taken the Utah course.

That was something he’d done on his own, even before he took this job, and it certainly came in handy now.

He toed the gate open and stepped inside. The door knocker clicked lightly as it swung. A screen door protected the regular door behind it, and everything looked ordinary at first glance.

All of the shades were drawn, some windows covered in blinds, the others covered by curtains. From what he knew of his target, this was also to be expected.

He’d been described as a night owl, a redundant term Stephan hated. Owls were already nocturnal. Day owls were nearly non-existent, as far as he knew.

He moved forward and studied the screen door. There was an alarm strip on the top, one easy enough to disable, but if that was the obvious one, there was probably another hidden one.

“You might as well come in,” a deep voice said, startling him.

This story is now available on Amazon! I hope you are enjoying reading this series as much as I am. You can the rest of this series on Amazon here! Stay tuned for another FREE story right here next week. I hope to see you then!