Excerpt from Chapter One of VANISHED IN VALLARTA (Rounder Publications 2014)

It was coming on twilight—the lavender hour. A masked figure hugged the shadows beneath a cliff-top villa. Toned as a panther and poured into black Lycra, his muscular outlines suggested this wasn’t someone to be toyed with. Had anyone been watching, the man’s swift movements and canny senses would have prevented him from being spotted, but in this secluded Puerto Vallarta neighborhood there were no watchers.

Blue eyes flashed up concrete pillars to an open-air deck high above. Built into the side of a cliff and surrounded by dense jungle, the dwelling appeared impregnable. Anyone wanting access from below faced a death-defying climb up a sheer wall of rock, while entry from above was possible only by crossing a narrow walkway wired with a deadly electric charge. A helicopter might have touched down on the upper deck while a practiced paratrooper could have landed directly on the roof, but the element of surprise would have been lost. And surprise was a must.

A light blinked on above. The figure shrank against the wall. He waited breathlessly as seconds passed, but nothing further ensued. Get on with it, he told himself. There were worse places to die.

He glanced up. If he scaled the support beams to the deck, he’d have direct access to the house, but he risked being seen. If that happened, it was a long way back down—even longer when you were being shot at. On the other hand, if he attempted to cross the walkway, one false move with those wires and he’d fry like a mess of chicharrones. It was an awkward moment, but the walkway won out. Somehow the threat of electrocution seemed preferable to falling to his death.

Crouching beneath the walkway, he aimed a grappling gun and fired a streamer of nylon overhead. The hook tugged securely and he began hauling himself up. From this side, the villa resembled a Mayan fortress complete with stone-carved turtles, jaguars and jacaranda blossoms. Suspended mid-air, the intruder stopped momentarily to remove a pen-like object from his lapel, aiming it at a grimacing monkey head. The beam sliced through the monkey’s eye, neatly disarming the electric charge. Laser was such a beautiful thing.

Next, he swung confidently onto the walkway and crept to the front door. Bolted. Now what? Forcing it would undoubtedly trip an alarm within. He looked up. There was only one thing left to do—go higher. The roof was a long way above, but there was no turning back. Now things promised to get interesting.

He had to work fast. Anyone approaching by the road would catch sight of him. Not to mention anyone exiting the villa. He aimed his grappling gun and fired—once, twice, three times. Each time, the hook slid over the tiles and back down. What to do? Think! To the right, a chimney jutted up. His next shot caught on the lip. He secured the rope and began to pull. Halfway up, he realized he was holding his breath. Just don’t look down, he told himself. One day he would conquer his fear of heights—but not today. He exhaled and continued to climb. Another few seconds and he’d grasped the roof edge. Whew! So far so good.

He pulled himself panting onto the red tiles radiating warmth in the evening sun. Here, he found himself face to face with a roof dweller. A fat pigeon watched him warily, its bright yellow eyes following his progress. For a second, each regarded the other with extreme suspicion.

A glance back along the bougainvillea-lined roadway assured the interloper he was safe for the time being, but he’d have to hurry…

From the novel VANISHED IN VALLARTA by Jeffrey Round (© 2014), published by Rounder Publications, released in North America February 2014


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