The Tracker

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The Tracker (Sam Callahan Book 1) 

Trust no one. Sam Callahan learned this lesson from a childhood spent in abusive foster care, on the streets, and locked in juvie. With the past behind him and his future staked on law school, he is moonlighting as a political tracker, paid to hide in crowds and shadow candidates, recording their missteps for use by their opponents. One night, after an anonymous text tip, Sam witnesses a congressional candidate and a mysterious blonde in a motel indiscretion that ends in murder, recording it all on his phone.

Now Sam is a target. Set up to take the fall and pursued by both assassins and the FBI, he is forced to go on the run. Using the street skills forged during his troubled youth—as well as his heightened mental abilities—Sam goes underground until he can uncover who is behind the conspiracy and how far up it goes. A taut thriller with an unforgettable young hero, The Tracker is a heart-stopping debut from an exciting new voice.

Revised edition: This edition of The Tracker includes editorial revisions.


Saturday, 1:18 a.m. Boerne, Texas Two days, twenty-two hours, forty-two minutes till Election Day The cheap motel-room ceiling was stained. Like muddy yellow clouds. A smoker’s room. I’m not a smoker. But I’d have lit up just about anything if it would have calmed me down. My heart felt like it was going to explode. I stared at the ceiling. I should have been asleep. The motel bed was comfortable enough, but every limb of my body felt rigid. I was unable to relax. Unable to breathe easy. Unable to slow my mind. The room temperature was a pleasant seventy degrees, yet beads of sweat dripped down my neck onto the hard pillow.

Twenty-five. A few months away from grinding out a degree from Georgetown Law, finding a decent job, and finally making a real living after a lifetime of getting my butt kicked over and over again, in and out of foster homes, having to prove how tough I was every six months. Finally, I would put the years of living on the streets behind me. But now, I was going to have a heart attack in a filthy motel room in the middle of nowhere.

I thought about my mom, tried to catch my breath and calm down. I told myself everything would be OK. I was having a hard time believing it. I’d made two phone calls. One to my boss. He was on his way. The other call was to the only calming presence I’d ever had in my life. She didn’t answer. She hadn’t answered in more than five months. I didn’t leave a voice mail. I checked my phone again. The text from my boss was from eighty-six minutes ago. Eighty-six of the longest minutes of my life. What was taking him so long?

Stay put. On my way. Don’t say a word to anyone until we talk! The drive west from Austin proper to Boerne could take an hour and fifteen minutes. Maybe a few more if you got caught behind an 18-wheeler on one of the area’s countless one-lane country roads. Rick knew this was urgent. I’d texted him back twice already. Where are you? Hello? No reply. Cell-phone signals sucked out here in the Texas hill country.

Two lamps were on in the room. One in the corner. One on the nightstand. The cheap kind you’d find at Walmart for thirty bucks. The blinds were cracked, so I would be able to spot headlights in the parking lot. Nothing. I stared across the room into the mirror above the flimsy dresser, surprised I couldn’t see my heart flitting up and down under my shirt. I was still fully dressed. Blue jeans; dark-blue flannel button-down; old, gray Nike running shoes. Common law-school student attire. Crap I wore every day to class. But I’d been skipping classes for three weeks for this job to earn some quick cash—a little for rent and books, and everything else to help with my mom’s escalating medical bills, trying to beat the cancer somehow. I wasn’t sure there was enough money in this job to win that battle. Leukemia sucked. I wouldn’t really call it a job. I was what you call a political tracker.

My job was to follow our opponent from small town to small town on the campaign trail and record with a video camera every word that came out of his mouth every single time he stepped into public. And sometimes in private. I had no business card. Nothing that said Samuel W. Callahan, Political Tracker, Esq. And I doubt there was ever a job posting. But there were others like me hiding in the crowds of every political contest going on around the country right now. Eager young law students or government majors looking to make a name for themselves in their own political party, jockeying for position, already climbing the powerful and influential DC political ladder.

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Chad Zunker