At the bottom of the elevator shaft, John carefully pulled the doors apart. With Marlon covering him, he stepped out into the passageway.

“Clear,” he said.

Marlon took point, while John kept his rifle aimed at the corners and doorways as they approached the lobby. It was unusually quiet. John anticipated an ambush.

The attack didn’t come. They reached the lobby and found it deserted. Strewn across the floor were the remainders of the employees’ workloads. Their folders, paperwork, briefcases, and envelopes created a maze they would have to navigate through to avoid detection. Through the open doors, the shriek of fire engine bells clanged stridently. The fire engines would make good cover to avoid snipers.

“Move up!” Marlon said.

Sliding against the wall, John checked again for any sign of concealed enemy. He spun around in a circle as he checked the second floor of the lobby. In front of him, he looked for the tiny marks of human presence near the two rows of six classical-ordered columns supporting the ceiling.

John moved to the first column on the left, motioning to Marlon, who then entered the lobby as John covered him.

Gunfire erupted from the front doors. Covering his face with his elbow, Marlon dove forward as he landed safely behind the column. John provided more cover fire as he studied their enemy. It was evident they were raw recruits. Their shots were wild, they spoke too loudly, and he could hear their heavy, nervous breathing.

John looked to his right. Marlon was moving up along the columns to flank them. He took out a grenade attached to his belt, pulled the pin out with his teeth, and then threw it. The grenade’s trajectory curved, spinning as it rolled around the corner of the last column next to the wall.

Three men screamed. “Get rid of it!”

John stepped out in between the columns. One of the guards had the grenade in his clumsy hands. He had his arm cocked back, ready to throw it. John shot him in the hand as he dropped it.

The others didn’t have time to react. The shrapnel from the explosion blew them apart.

“Room clear!” Marlon called from across the lobby.

“Do you have a vehicle, or will we have to get one”

“We don’t want a vehicle. We’ll be easier to track. As soon as we get out, we take an alternative route, if you know what I mean.”

John wanted to feel relieved. They were so close to escaping. But so far, it had been too easy.


Alexander Shukhov and the men of Unit 18 ran down the stairway, his feet hardly touching the steps. He had ordered them to avoid the elevators; there was no way to tell if they had been rigged to blow. Fortunately, he had maintained a physical training regimen and had high stamina.

At the bottom of the stairs, he kicked open the door and hurried through the corridor until they reached the lobby. In the far distance, he saw John Savage partially concealed by one of the columns. Holding his shotgun close to his chest, turned to the men behind him. He seemed calm, but he was not.

Unit 18 stormed the lobby as they unloaded their weapons. At first, he followed at a safe distance. Then, he suddenly broke into a sprint, as though chasing after his destiny.


“Get down!” Marlon cried.

John saw the mass of men charging them like a stampede of wild bulls. Judging by their ability to absorb bullets, he knew they couldn’t take them all out. One of them would get off the shot they needed.

Acting fast, John abandoned his column and retreated to the end of the lobby. They kept charging even as Marlon emptied his entire magazine. It was enough to take out one of them; the rest spread out and disappeared behind the other columns.

John grimaced as a bullet ripped through his shoulder, ignoring it as he kept firing.

“You still there?” Marlon said.

“Still here.”

Marlon saw the blood on John’s shoulder. He then looked over at the door. John felt the same temptation to run for it. However, their new enemies were well-trained, and their shooting was much more accurate. He watched as they slowly gained ground on both sides. They were attempting an envelopment. Once they had the two of them pinned down, it was over.

Above the shooting, John heard Malchev’s distinct laugh. “How do you like it now, my friends? These are the iron men of the Revolution! Your kind of man is outdated.”

John checked his ammo supply. He had one magazine left.

“Got any of those charges left?” he asked Marlon.

“No, but I got some Composition B and gelignite.”

“You thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Already thought of it.”

Marlon slid some Composition B across the floor over to John, along with a detonator. Slapping the charge on the column, John stuck the detonator into place, setting the timer to 30 seconds. When the two of the columns were destroyed, the remaining columns wouldn’t be able to support the ceiling’s weight. It all would come crashing down on them.

The Samson Option.

Malchev and his men would die, but they would go down, too.

John heard a soft noise off to the side. He looked up from his kneeled stance to see one of the men had crept up on him, a gun barrel pointed at John’s eyes. In a millisecond of time he had left, he searched for the most likely way to save himself.

Nothing. It seemed this was his time to die.

Six gunshots were fired.

John held his breath, then exhaled slowly as he wiped the blood from his shocked face.

The man standing in front of him wobbled as he gazed at the exit wounds on his chest. Another bullet had penetrated his throat.

With his head resting against his shoulder, he fell forward. John moved to get out of the way.

Perry appeared with a smoking revolver. “Need a little help?”

Before John could answer, a pair of men made another attempt at them. Perry turned his .357 Magnum on them, bewildered when they managed to withstand the gunshots.

“Aim for their heads!” John said.

Perry fired once more. This time, they dropped. John observed the patches on their arms. He then looked at their lapels. No insignias, no way to determine rank.

However, he did make out a name: Unit 18.

Marlon signaled to John as he reached for the timer on the explosives. With a twist of his hand, he began the countdown. John repeated the same with his timer.

“We have 25  seconds,” John said to Perry. “Cover me while I head for the door.”

“Just make sure you do the same for me.”

John dropped his rifle and lowered his head, training his eyes on the door. He glanced at Marlon, who nodded; he’d provide cover fire, too.

He got the signal and started to run for the doors.


Alexander Shukhov put a hand to his ear. What was that sound?

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…

He recognized it immediately. The fools! Didn’t they know it would kill them, too?

Ah, yes. That was the plan.

Ramming another shell into his shotgun, he moved to the left of a column, holding his gaze on the door. The silence was telling. They were going to make a run for it. With sweat drizzling down his nose, he raised the trench gun as he watched Savage run for the door.

He aimed with still arms, squeezing the trigger lightly.

A loud blast echoed through the expansive room. A bright flash lit up the front of his shotgun as it kicked back. A thin cloud of smoke seeped out of the barrel.

Lowering it, he looked over anxiously at where he had fired. A sense of euphoria swept across his face as the smoke cleared.

Lying on the floor was John Savage.

A smile of unfettered joy fell across his face. The death of his dear friend, Peter Nikolayevich, had been avenged. He hadn’t felt so alive since the Civil War.


John lay on the floor, apparently lifeless. With his eyes closed and his chest still. The shot had graced the side of his arm. His shirt was now wet with blood in a third place.

His right hand covered by his torso, he slid out the small throwing knife concealed inside his boot lining. Grasping the tip with his fingers, he recalled his training where he had done this a thousand times before.

It was done in a single motion. He sprung to his feet, turned, and threw the knife into the air toward his target.

John didn’t wait to see if the blade found its mark. The moment it left his fingertips, he threw himself toward the door. Perry and Marlon collapsed their flank, laying down suppression fire as they moved backwards. Outside, an ambulance sitting by the curb.

“That’s our ride!” Perry said. “Get in!”

Opening the back, John let Marlon and Perry jumped in before he himself entered and closed the door.

Seamus Barrett was in the driver’s seat. With the engine idling, he shifted gears and drove down the road. Flipping the siren on, he pulled away as fire engines raced back toward the building. John went to the back doors and peered through the window. He had to see the explosion with his own eyes.

They turned a corner before that happened. All he felt was a slight tremor, followed by clouds of smoke rising into the sky around the building.

Surely Malchev was dead.

Now beginning to feel the full pain of his wounds, John bandaged them with a medical kit. Marlon seemed unharmed, but had collapsed out of exhaustion.

Perry took out a small flask and sipped on it before offering some to John. “About time you partook.”

John chuckled as he sipped from the flask.

“You’re welcome,” Barrett said.

“I didn’t think you would come for us,” John said. “I’m glad you did.”

“Who were those men in there?” Perry asked. “I’ve never seen someone take a bullet like that.”

“Now we know what those medical experiments were all for,” Barrett said.

John grinned. “I just hope you’ll stay with us.”


“You were right. We’re going to need every man we can get.”

New York Times, January 10, 1932




John folded the newspaper before placing it on his knee. Marlon was across the table mending one of his shirts with a thread and needle. They still hadn’t talked of Malchev. It seemed too fantastic that he could not only survive the plane crash, but become a U.S. senator and infiltrate STIGMA before dismembering it.

“You think he’s dead this time?” he asked Marlon.

Marlon took a quick indifferent glance at the newspaper before he continued sewing. “Do you?”

“I learned my lesson. He’s not dead until I see the body myself, and not before.”

“We can arrange that. It would be in the morgue.”

“Or not. Either way, we cannot get a confirmation unless we have witnesses. There are none.”

“If he survived, Malchev will go underground. He may assume a new alias.”

“Either way, we hunt him down.”

Marlon raised his eyebrows, looking at John with a strange expression. “Yes, we do. But we have to remember something.”


“This is not a one-man show. He’s a big-league hitter for the baseball team.”

“What’s your suggestion?”

Marlon laughed, his deep voice echoing down the abandoned corridor. “Kill every last one of them.”


Dr. Archon’s voice was full of angst as he rubbed his hands together. “I hope you will find this facility to your satisfaction, Senator Kessler. It’s the best one we have available.”

Alexander Shukhov looked up at the doctor from his hospital bed, wheezing as he tried to breathe despite the immense pain it caused. Each breath emphasized the cracked ribs on both sides of his chest. He could barely open his eyes. His limited strength left him almost paralyzed. Yet, his spirit was stronger than ever.

“It will suffice,” he whispered.

“Good. Good. I will see to it that our best doctors are put at your service. We will have a 24-hour watch and treatment. I just gave you a shot of morphine to stop the pain. Whenever you need more, don’t hesitate to ask for more. Whatever makes you more comfortable.”

Alexander Shukhov nodded gratefully. Archon was a lab rat, but his accommodations had been generous. Considering how many millions he had managed to allocate to the doctor’s projects, it was no wonder he was being so considerate.

“How did the test subjects do?” Dr. Archon asked.

“Commendable. But much more work is needed on the serum.”

“Do you have any ideas?”

Alexander Shukhov looked over at the tray next to his bed. On it was a set of syringes, all of them filled with morphine. He abruptly reached for one and stabbed it into his leg before Dr. Archon or his flock of attendants could stop him. Draining the liquid into his blood, Alexander Shukhov sighed and laid his head against his pillow as the pain flaring up in his chest instantly vanished.

Dr. Archon departed, his flock of attendants trailing after him as Watkins entered the room with a concerned expression. Alexander Shukhov recognized the look; somehow, the young operative had inherited it from Peter Nikolayevich, as though his old friend’s spirit had reincarnated inside Watkins. In many ways, he could see their similarities, the way Watkins stood beside his bed with a taciturn demeanor.

However, Alexander Shukhov held back his sentiment. “We will begin further work on the project as soon as I am well.”

Watkins nodded his head supportively, but his eyebrows rose. “Won’t you have to return to the Senate? We’ve looked into it, and there is a solid alibi to account for your injuries.”

“I’m not going back. I’m tired of the politics. I want to work on the project. It is where real change will occur.”

Allowing some time to pass before he spoke, Watkins gazed at Alexander Shukhov with both admiration and respect. “I’m glad you’re alive, but it is lamentable the Unit did not survive.”

“It was necessary to test them. Now that I have seen them in action, I know what improvements need to be made.”

“Sir, I must express my view that you should step back from this until you are fully healed.”

“This is my decision to make. Inform the committee that I will have a detailed report of my observations within a week. In the meantime, I want a typewriter, an ink ribbon, and a stack of fresh paper brought to my bedside.”

Watkins bowed his head before as left, walking down the hallway back to the elevator. His stride was just like Peter Nikolayevich’s. He had much to learn, but the enthusiasm was there.

Now alone, Alexander Shukhov brought his hand in front of his face. The twisted scars to him were an obvious sign of destiny. He should have been killed instantly. The explosion had wiped out the remainder of Unit 18. They had had serum to protect them, and they had still been recovered in small pieces. Yet he had been found alive and intact.

His pursuit of Savage and Trent would not be hindered. In time, he would kill them. But he had more important work to accomplish before then. The dirty work would be left to others. It was evident that the STIGMA enclaves would not mount a counteroffensive. Without a leader like Ewen to fully unite them, they would remain stagnant.

In the meantime, he could build a new Unit and perfect the serum to aid them. His time would come. Savage and Trent would be destroyed. Then the final stage of the Revolution would unfold.

With this resolute thought stirring in his mind, he closed his eyes and slept.


For all installments from The Shadow Men, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1: Excerpt 1
  2. Part 1: Excerpt 2
  3. Part 1: Excerpt 3
  4. Part 1: Excerpt 4
  5. Part 1: Excerpt 5
  6. Part 1: Excerpt 6
  7. Part 2: Excerpt 1
  8. Part 2: Excerpt 2
  9. Part 2: Excerpt 3
  10. Part 2: Excerpt 4
  11. Part 3: Excerpt 1
  12. Part 3: Excerpt 2
  13. Part 4: Excerpt 1
  14. Part 4: Excerpt 2
  15. Part 4: Excerpt 3
  16. Part 5: Excerpt 1
  17. Part 5: Excerpt 2
  18. Part 6: Excerpt 1
  19. Part 6: Excerpt 2