Title: DARK SPIRAL DOWN
Author: Michael Houtz
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China, looking for his brother.
Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.
Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father, along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the 14K gang nabs Cole.
Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites with Hammer. Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.
Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention. The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.
Praise for Michael Houtz
“If you’re in the market for a fast paced, action filled, page-turning thriller, Mike Houtz delivers a must-read novel. I highly recommend this emotional rollercoaster of a book for every die-hard thriller reader…Get it ASAP!”
~Lima Charlie Review
“…this work proves that author Houtz is undoubtedly a rising star in the publishing world.”
~Andrea Brunais, Author
“Mike Houtz takes us on fast-pace adventure in Dark Spiral Down, a thrilling ride along the border between China and North Korea, where Cole Haufner is in pursuit of his Delta Force brother and a device that has the potential to change the world forever or destroy it.”
~Dan Grant, Author
“Dark Spiral Down is a phenomenal debut novel by Mike Houtz. This book has everything readers of the genre love: a great plot, memorable characters, and a powerful voice. It’s a must-read!”
~Ammar Habib, Bestselling & Award-Winning Author, Editor-in-Chief of Thriller Magazine
ORDER YOUR COPY:
Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada Saturday night Main Event, April 21st
From his corner, Cole Haufner heard the cry all the way across the blood-smeared octagon. He held his opponent immobile, letting the clock run out on the second of three periods. He was well ahead in the fight, but a nasty gash over his left eye, one that opened in the late first round from a flying elbow, threatened the outcome due to the amount of blood pouring from the wound. The win was not his primary goal. A six-figure purse for a victory ensured his son’s life-saving surgery.
The referee separated both fighters while directing them to their respective corners.
Cole jumped up from the mat, fist-pumped the air for the crowd, and made his way to his corner where two men stood ready to attend to him. As he approached his team, Cole saw the fight doctor walk through the cage door opening with a look of concern. A sense of dread attacked Cole.
“Lemme take a look at that,” the physician ordered as he stepped forward to scan Cole’s injury.
“I’m good, Doc, I’m good.” Blood poured down his face, spreading across Cole’s sweat-covered chest
and pooling onto the canvas mat.
The fighter’s corner coach, Barry Liggit, and cut-man, Scott “Stitch” Bell, leaned in close to see the wound.
“I’m fine. Just get me ready,” Cole snarled. He needed the fight doctor to give him a break on the injury.
Beyond the blinding lights shining on the fight ring, more than thirteen thousand fans chanted, “Gentleman, gentleman, gentleman…”
The spectacle of the crowd embarrassed Cole. This unwanted praise railed against everything he’d been taught at the Chinese Buddhist monastery where he lived and studied as a young boy.
“You hear that?” Barry shouted over the noise of the crowd. “They want you, Cole. They know you’re the next middle-weight champion.”
The doctor repeatedly held pressure over the cut and released to see how quickly the wound bled. Each time he let go, a fountain of red erupted.
Cole saw the concern in the physician’s eyes. “Doc, you know I need this one,” he pleaded. “You know my family story. I swear I’ll finish this quick.”
“I’m giving you one minute.” the doctor shouted to Barry. “I’m not losing my medical license because of his injury.” The ER physician turned and nodded to the fight officials outside the cage that Round 3 would start.
The crowd erupted in a roar.
Stitch jumped in front of Cole with packing cream and the frozen steel plate to stem the bleeding long enough to ready the fighter.
Barry leaned close to Cole’s face. “You’ve never had a fight last more than a minute. What’s the deal?
You don’t have a lot of time! You got me?”
Cole looked to his right. An empty seat remained at ringside. His older brother, Butch, promised to attend. Cole started the headline match with some concern, but now, he worried over his brother’s absence. They hadn’t spoken in the last twenty-four hours, even though Butch was supposed to have received a special furlough from his military unit to be here. For Butch to break a promise wasn’t unusual—it came with his job. Amid one of the most important moments of his life, Cole couldn’t help but worry.
A hand jerked his head. “Are you even hearing me?” Barry yelled.
Cole shifted his gaze back to the ring, catching Stitch looking in the same direction.
“Holy shit. Are you dragging out this fight waiting for Butch?” Stitch shouted.
Busted. Cole looked away from Barry, unable to hold his coach’s gaze.
Barry put his hands on his hips, lips smashed into a line. “You gotta be kidding me! Well, that would explain why we’re in round three. You’re one lucky punch away from losing this fight. Don’t you think your son needs this win?”
You know he’s off limits. For the first time in the match, rage filled his body. The immediate image of his son’s physical struggles with a failing heart sent a powerful surge through his nervous system. He glared at his trainer, blood running down his face as the cold plate slipped from the gash. “Shut your mouth,” Cole hissed.
Barry swallowed. The corner man quickly recovered “This is it, brother. The crowd wants ‘the
Gentleman,’ but give them the ‘Beast’. Let’s see some of that monk shit and finish this fight.”
Sorry, Butch, I can’t wait any longer. I know you’ll understand. Cole opened his mouth so Barry could slide the mouthpiece into place. “Don’t blink or you two are gonna miss an old move of mine.”
Barry and Stitch grinned.
Dragging out the fight was a stupid move. Even though he’d never met his match, not even close in the ring, Cole faced a professional fighter. Barry was right. Another lucky punch like the one that cut him in round one could lose him the one hundred- thousand-dollar bonus offered for a win. His son needed him.
Focus. Breathe. For Max.
The referee made his way to the center of the octagon and motioned for the fight corners to clear the ring.
Stitch held the cold plate to Cole’s forehead cut for three more seconds then followed everyone else out with the door clanging shut.
Vision in Cole’s left eye blurred—the blood was already seeping from around the edges of the packing cream.
The ref signaled to the ringside table he was ready then waved with both hands for the fighters to approach the center.
Cole stepped forward in his usual calm manner— the source of the nickname “the Gentleman.”
The other fighter bounced on the balls of his feet, just out of reach.
“Ready.” The referee continued with a slight pause in between. “Let’s bring it!” With that, he jumped back out of the way of the combatants.
Cole ducked as his opponent unleashed a flurry of combinations, trying to finish the fight almost as quickly as it had resumed. He parried the punches and kicks, toying with the other man, aware he had less than a minute before the doctor returned to the ring. Cole only needed a fraction of a second. He searched for an opening.
The onslaught carried on for a full ten seconds before the fighter dropped back, his nostrils flaring like a bull’s.
Blood flowed freely again, saturating Cole’s chest and shorts while clouding his vision.
The opposing corner yelled to their fighter to go to a defensive position.
“I’m sorry,” Cole shouted to his opponent.
The sweating mass of muscle furrowed his forehead. “The hell you say?”
“Sorry about this.” Cole stood from his crouch and lowered his fists.
“What are you doing?” Barry screamed from just outside of the cage. “Hands up. Hands up!”
In the blink of an eye, the other man slid forward and threw a powerful right hand.
This moment was Cole’s. Rather than defend, he leaped from the canvas, performed a front somersault in mid-air, and extended his right leg, bringing his heel crashing down on top of the man’s head. A sickening thud sounded upon contact, and the other fighter collapsed to the mat, unmoving.
Cole rolled forward after the strike, coming to rest in a crouch some five feet away. Though he suspected the instant he’d made contact he’d finished off his opponent, Cole took nothing for granted. He spun in
case of a counterattack.
The ref, initially stunned, dove onto the unmoving man. The crowd’s collective gasp morphed into a deafening roar when the signal was given the fight was over.
Panting from the effort, Cole watched as the cage door opened, and medical personnel raced inside.
Barry and Stitch rushed through the portal and drew him into crushing hugs amid incredible noise. Literally lifted off his feet, Cole only felt relief in accomplishing what he’d set out to do; he’d likely saved his son’s life.