Crime Fiction Friday: ‘The Little Angel’ by Billy Kring

We are happy to have Billy Kring’s latest Hunter Kincaid novel, A Cinnabar Sky, on our shelves. Even better, he wrote a short story featuring a border patrol agent in the time of COVID for our Crime Fiction Friday. Settle in and enjoy.


The Little Angel

Hunter and Raymond squatted on their heels Indian style behind a clump of greasewood to observe the crowd below them on the bank of the Rio Grande. Both Border Patrol agents wore their face masks to protect each other during the pandemic, both of the masks were a desert camo fabric. 

At the edge of the crowd, a man stood on a ledge of rock and orated to them like a preacher, using wide arm gestures and other theatrical hand movements to lure the people closer. He wore no mask, but everyone in the crowd did. Hunter could hear him, but Raymond could not. “Too many gunshots with no ear protection,” he’d said.

Hunter said, “You’re not missing much. Guy calls himself Colonel Hardin, of the Light Brigade.”

 “As in, ‘The Charge of’?”

She pointed, “Look over there, his two assistants are unfurling a banner on the side of the mini-van.” Two women in sequined one-piece bathing suits hung a bright red and yellow banner on the vehicle. It read, Colonel Hardin’s Patented Corona-Virus Cure. Raymond read it out loud, “Made from rare jungle plants and special minerals only found at the peak of the Andes where the Amazon River originates. Blended by medicine men and chemists, and guaranteed as a cure to COVID-19, leprosy, and cancer.”

“No wonder he’s down here pedaling that stuff.” The crowd was good-sized for this area of the Big Bend country, and the two agents studied the men and women comprising it. Hunter spotted one woman off to the side, standing quietly and leaning on a wooden cane as she watched Colonel Hardin. There’s something about her, Hunter thought, then her attention returned to Hardin as he continued his sales pitch. 

Hardin spoke in perfect Spanish, saying, “We have with us today, a distressed individual riddled with the Corona-virus, and on death’s door. He was brought on a burro from a village at the foothills of the Sierra Madres, and he has barely made it with his life.” The man was grey-faced and sallow, and panted as he struggled to breathe.

Several people carried him on a stretcher to the ledge of rock and placed him at Hardin’s feet. Hardin knelt beside the cot, and the crowd pushed forward, all except the woman on the cane. 

Hunter stood up, “Let’s go down there and see this miracle worker up close.” 

Raymond stood, “As you wish.”

“You watched The Princess Bride again last night, didn’t you?”

“With my two nieces. It was great.”

“How many times have you seen it?”

“How many times has it been on television?” Hunter grinned, shaking her head.

They were off the hill in no time, coming to the crowd and having the people part when they spotted the badges. Hunter went first and was at the rock ledge when Hardin gave the wheezing man a small bottle of elixir. Hunter looked at his face as he glanced at the crowd. Light brown eyes in greyish skin showed his illness. He turned it up and drank a swallow, then staggered backward, almost going off the ledge. Hardin moved closer, and was a foot away from Hunter when he turned his eyes to her.

She felt the shock, for they were the blackest she had ever seen. The crowd rustled behind her, and Raymond was suddenly beside her so close their arms touched. Hardin frowned at him, and made a gesture at Raymond’s face, like opening all his fingers, and Raymond’s mask fell to the ground, and the man blew into Raymond’s face.

The sick man rolled to his feet and stood, and his eyes had changed and were as black as sin. A woman gasped and backed away from the ledge as she crossed herself.  

That was when the little woman with the cane nudged through the crowd and stood at the rock ledge by Hunter. Hardin backed from her, making a sound almost like a hiss. The woman said to him, “It is time for you to leave.” She didn’t shout it, but the man left without another word, driving away in the van, and leaving the river bank as if no one else had been there.

The crowd’s mood seemed to lift, and they also dispersed, leaving only Hunter, Raymond, and the small woman. Hunter asked her, “What is your name?”

“Angelina.” She was tiny, maybe five feet tall at the most, but her eyes were lively and she had beautiful smile. “I’ll be going now.”

“Do you live around here? We can give you a ride.”

“No need. I’m from just around the corner.” She touched both Hunter and Raymond in farewell, then left them, walking downriver from their position.

It was two weeks later when Raymond came down with Coronavirus, and came down bad with it. He struggled to breathe, and ran a fever that had him delirious, talking about the devil, and angels, mumbling and coughing in his fever dreams.

When Hunter, and Connie, Raymond’s wife sat together and worried about if he would die or not, A knock came on Connie’s door, and when she opened it, Angelina, the small woman from the river was there. She smiled and talked to both, then asked if she could see Raymond. Connie said, “He’s contagious, and not talking right now.” She cried, “We aren’t sure if he will make it through the night.”

Angelina reassured her that she was immune to Corona, and would only be a moment, so Connie let her enter. When she came out of the bedroom, she smiled at both of them and said, “He seems to be breathing better. Good night.”

Raymond recovered rapidly, and before long, he complained because his bosses wouldn’t allow him to go back to work for a few more days.

Hunter felt as if a big weight had been lifted, now that she knew her best friend was going to be okay. On a whim the next day at work, Hunter drove down to the river, where Hardin had been situated. She turned downstream, wanting to see if she could locate Angelina. Around the river’s curve were the long-abandoned ruins of a small village church, and a cemetery. One Grave marker remained from all the years that floods had washed over the location. She walked to it and read the inscription: Angelina Milagro, born 1801 died 1888 – The angel who watches over our town.

Hunter sat down on the grass, took off her hat and remained there for ten minutes, touching the stone. Then she rose, dusted off her pants and said, “Thank you, Angelina.”


You can find more from Billy Kring when shop at BookPeople in-store and online.

INTERVIEW WITH BILLY KRING

If there was any justice in the publishing world Billy Kring’s Hunter Kincaid series would be as well known as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Full of action, great plotting, and always topical, the Texas Border Patrol agent and her cohorts take on the baddest of the bad from two separate counties. In Hunter’s Moon, she is recruited by a CIA agent, Art Gonzales, to track down those who killed his partner, she finds herself up against a cartel who use drones in various illegal ways. Billy will be joining Reavis Wortham and Ben Redher at BookPeople on July 8th at 2pm to talk about the book as well as Texas crime writing, but is flying solo for this interview we did with him.

Hunter's Moon Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: How did drones become a big player in Hunter’s latest case?

Billy Kring: I’ve been watching the technological advances in drones, both in use and in their capability, for the last five or so years, and have read little blurbs here and there on drones being used on the border to smuggle drugs into the country. Some reports from Mexico were more helpful than those from the U.S. side, talking about how their use is expanding, and in a lot of areas, including some that talked about weapons brought into Mexico by drones. And, in the last year, about things like the Sarin gas I used in my story. The possibilities are almost endless. And of course, then I thought about how Hunter would handle them, which started the entire story spinning in my head.

MPS: What was the most surprising thing you learned in the research?

BK: The most surprising thing was how prevalent and specialized homemade drones were becoming. Some are capable of moving loads of several hundred pounds, and flying individuals around on them, like something out of Star Wars. It’s amazing that all of them were made in someone’s garage or workshop. Arming them with weapons was inevitable, but even that surprised me because of their use as potential sniper or assassination weapons with locally purchased firearms.  Commercially manufactured drones like the Predator cost over a million dollars, but handmade drones can run less than a thousand dollars, often much less. And the rate of technological advancement in drones is incredible, both in the homemade area and in the scientific/military arena.

MPS: Did using them present any challenge to you as writer, particularly with many of the action scenes?

BK: Yes, because I’m not a flyer. I learned how to fly them while researching the story, but it still took some thinking about the scenes, because I wrote them from several viewpoints at the same time: the victim, the drone itself, and the flyer. Sure was fun to write, though!

MPS: One thing the Hunter series is known for are the villains. What did you want to explore with Pascual?

BK: Pascual Osorio is an opportunist, with a criminal bent, but not necessarily a killer like some of his associates have been. His power and influence has faded since the death of his deadly ally Prendell “Conan” Taylor, and when he joins with the mastermind of the terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo, he does so out of desperation and that sense of lost power. When the terrorist takes over and shoves him to the curb (while Pascual is suffering from cancer), I thought his mental state and desperation would be interesting to explore. Where does a dying man turn? What does he dwell on about this life? That he turned to Hunter Kincaid, his old nemesis, made for a unique alliance. It also played into the old saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

MPS: Hunter is off the books in this mission, did that make the story tougher or easier to right?

BK: It was tougher. When writing about Hunter working in her official capacity, the rules are set out by the agency. When she goes under the radar, she’s operating in an environment with no rules, none. She’s surviving by her wits while still trying to accomplish a mission that’s not sanctioned, well, at least on the surface. Lots of things to think about when there are no rules.

MPS: Art Gonzales, the CIA agent Hunter has to work with, is a great character because he seems like he could go either way as ally or enemy to Hunter. What do you have to keep in mind when writing that kind of character?

BK: Art is just that way: he’s placed with Hunter to assist her to complete the assignment, or to push her out of the picture if she’s obstructing things. He’s one of the elite members of the CIA’s Special Operations Group, and can, if need be, perform sanctions. But, he winds up liking Hunter and they hit it off very well. As for what develops between them, that comes later in the story!

Crime Fiction Friday: “The Hanging Judge” by Billy Kring

This week’s Crime Fiction Friday is an original from MysteryPeople favorite Billy Kring. We hope you’ll enjoy the sly humor and fast-paced action of “The Hanging Judge,” all set here in this fair city. You can find copies of Kring’s crime novels on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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The Hanging Judge

By Billy Kring

The bats under Austin’s South Congress Street Bridge swirled upward in a brown-furred,  leather-winged cyclone because of the body hanging in their nesting area.

Below the bridge six kayakers floated on Town Lake. They displayed signs saying, No Hanging Around This Area, and Pretty Fly For A White Guy, and John Holmes Wishes He Was This Hung, upholding the unofficial city motto: Keep Austin Weird. One kayak with an albino couple dressed in black turtlenecks and white Andy Warhol hair shouted an angry mantra of, “Bats have rights, too!”

Homicide Detective Joe Hardin stooped under the yellow tape, went to the edge of the bridge, and leaned over the rail into the vortex of winged mammals as he studied the rope from the knot on the bridge rail to the suited body dangling below. He snapped photos with his iPhone as bats shot toward his head like small brown jets.  

Walkers and cyclists on the bridge approached the scene until a look from Hardin nudged them on down the road. A shirtless jogger with a P90X body and major attitude bent low to come under the crime scene tape. Joe opened his jacket to show the shield on his belt, “This is a crime scene, Ace.”  He glanced beyond the man and saw his Homicide partner, Detective David Ornelas walking to the scene.

P90X thought about pushing it, then looked in Joe’s eyes.  He shot Joe the finger as he trotted away saying, “This is America, not Nazi Germany!”

David ducked under the tape and said as he passed the angry man, “Don’t get your lederhosen in a bunch.”

Joe said, “Glad you could make it.”  

“Got any gum this morning?” Joe gave him the flat pack of Eclipse gum he habitually carried. “Who do we have?”

“Judge Matthew Rodgers.”  

“Maximum Matt?”

“Uh-huh.”

David thumb-pushed three pieces of gum out of their pockets and returned the pack to Joe. One piece of gum remained.  

“Why didn’t you just take all of them?”

David waved his hand in front of his mouth as if moving away dragon breath, “Lethal halitosis this morning. I’m saving your life here.” David looked over the edge. “Who called it in?”

Read More »

MysteryPeople Q&A with Billy Kring

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Billy Kring will be joining Martin Limón and Manning Wolf for a panel discussion on writing from experience, coming up this Tuesday, July 12th, at 7 PM. Billy draws from his experiences as a former border agent for his heroine Hunter Kincaid. In his latest, Tonton, Hunter is reunited with homicide detective John Quick in his Miami stomping ground for a case involving the Haitian community of Miami, the legacy of the Tonton Macoute, and the practice of vodou. We caught up with Billy to talk about the book.

“Hunter’s a woman working in a predominantly male environment, and she suffers from PTSD (but won’t acknowledge it) as she attempts to do her job, and do what is right, which in her mind isn’t always exactly what the law spells out on paper.”

Read More »

Crime Fiction Friday: “A Cool Swim” by Billy Kring

 

MysteryPeople_cityscape_72 Introduced by Scott Montgomery

We’re happy to have author and security consultant Billy Kring joining us this upcoming Tuesday, July 12th, at 7PM, for our “Using Your Experience for Crime Fiction” panel discussion. He was kind enough to give us this original short story set in the same state as his latest novel: Tonton, Florida.


“A Cool Swim” by Billy Kring

Al The Butcher was in Ft. Lauderdale to pop some loser named Schwartzman. Al liked the Florida gigs, enjoyed fishing, really liked spending time in Lauderdale, even better than Miami, although he missed eating at Wolfie’s before it closed, and Joe’s Stone Crab, and walking along South Beach with the young, hard-bodied models everywhere you looked. Of course, they always looked down their noses at you unless you dressed or acted like some showbiz hotshot.

A lot different than when he first came down here years ago. Back then all you saw were old retirees with brown, wrinkled skin like creased shoe leather, or bodies white as albinos, and constantly whining about one thing or another. What a pain they’d been. Some of them had also been hard to kill, surprising him with their grit and spidery, clinging strength.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Q&A with Manning Wolfe

 

  • Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

Manning Wolfe will be joining Billy Kring and Martin Limón for a panel discussion about using your professional experiences to craft great crime fiction on Tuesday, July 12th, at 7 PM. Her debut novel features Austin attorney Merit Bridges. Meike Alana was able to ask her a few questions about the book and her characters before the event.

Meike Alana: Your character, Merit Bridges, is an attorney living in Austin. You’re an attorney living in Austin. What other similarities are there between you and Merit? What are some differences?

Manning Wolfe: Merit and I share a sense of justice, which is probably what brought both of us to the practice of law. We both fight for the underdog and champion women. I am not Merit, however; she is a hybrid of several lawyers – both female and male – that I’ve known over the years. She sleeps with younger men, wears designer gowns on a regular basis, and is chased by dangerous villains. I’m not nearly that glamorous.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Martin Limon

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

In Ping-Pong Heart, Martin Limón’s latest case for his South-Korea-stationed 1970s Army CID cops, Sueño and Bascom, the two try to save a woman from a murder charge, yet soon get involved in the underworld of North-South Korean espionage. Martin was kind enough to talk with us about the book.

MysteryPeople Scott: What drew you to an espionage story?

Martin Limón: Remember that the George Sueño and Ernie Bascom stories are set in the early to mid-seventies, right in the heart of the Cold War. The North Koreans had plenty of spies in South Korea (and probably still do). The U.S. Army took counter-intelligence (the art of stopping spies) very seriously, not only by having plenty of CI agents around but also by constantly inspecting the security needed to protect classified information. Still, I often wondered how effective those measures were. GIs are notorious blabbermouths, not only when they’re sober but especially after a couple of drinks out in the ville.

“The main effect though was that—because of anti-war demonstrations—the Nixon Administration switched to an all-volunteer force. Deprived of the draft for the first time in memory, the Army panicked. Sub-standard recruits such as felons and men with long rap sheets and people with only a few years of education were allowed to enlist. The crime rate shot up, although as best as I can tell this information was kept hidden from the public. I saw the effects. As did George and Ernie. They had to deal with it.”

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Crime Fiction Friday: “The Orphan” by Billy Kring

 

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  • Introduced by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Billy Kring draws on his his experiences as a former border patrolman for his series featuring Hunter Kincaid, starting with Quick. In this Shotgun Honey story, Kring takes a gritty and moving look at life on the border from the criminal side.


“The Orphan” by Billy Kring

“Felix Olivares, called The Orphan, guided the flat-bottomed boat loaded with men and backpacks of meth across the Rio Grande.

Ramon asked him, “Why they call you the Orphan?”

“My mother abandoned me when I was four.”

“It happens. You did all right, looks like.”

“You call eating garbage from trash cans, stealing food from dogs all right?”

Read the rest of the story.

If you liked THE CARTEL, by Don Winslow…

  • Recommendations from Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

the cartelOne of the biggest books this year was Don Winslow’s The Cartel, a dark, violent, yet human look at the drug war and its effect on Mexico. For more crime fiction covering Mexico, past and present, I suggest these books.


9780615916545Federales by Chris Irvin

This novella about a former Mexican agent protecting a mayor who has taken on the cartels is the solemn and moving chamber piece to The Cartel‘s symphony. Both use the actual politician, Maria Gorriesta Santos, as a template for a major character. You can find copies of Federales on our shelves and via bookpeople.com


9781489561541Quick by Billy Kring

If The Cartel didn’t give you enough grim violence on the border this one will. The Quick has one of the scariest villains I’ve read in the past few years and I read a lot of books with scary dudes. You can find copies of Quick on our shelves and via bookpeople.com


9780805091298The Return by Michael Gruber

When a book editor gets a mysterious diagnosis, he fills a van full of guns, grabs his loose canon buddy from Vietnam, and heads south of the border to settle some scores. A rich prose style and engaging characters give us a look at life and death in Old Mexico. You can find copies of The Return on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Crime Fiction Friday: JOLIE BLON by Billy Kring

crime sceneBilly Kring is known as an author with a feel for life on the Texas-Mexico line where he worked as a border agent. His debut, Quick, captured it in all it’s gritty glory. In this story published on Shotgun Honey, he goes to Cajun country.

“Jolie Blon” by Billy Kring

“Henri Arceneaux said, ‘Member what I teach you, you.’ He straddled the body in the bottom of the pirogue, making the small, green boat bob like a cork, ‘We want dem to stay down, so we gots to tickle dem diaphragm.’ He was seventy years old and shirtless, his chest and stomach marked with old scars from knife and bullet. He looked hard, like he was made of gristle and bone. He motioned at me with a finger, ‘Take off dat shirt, it’s too hot dis morning.'”

Click here to read the full story.