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Puncher’s Chance: A Kira Brightwell Short Story

Puncher’s Chance: A Kira Brightwell Short Story

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Local hero and problem solver for hire, Kira Brightwell finds herself on the run. Again.

Her running shoes pound the crowded sidewalk. A trickle of sweat slithers down her back in the California heat. And the damp remains of scrambled egg spatter the front of her favorite Nine Inch Nails T-shirt.

The egg stain earns her a few looks from passers-by. That and her breakneck pace.

Kira’s quarry remains two blocks ahead of her. She needs to haul ass if she wants to catch him.

...Because when a bad guy messes with her favorite shirt, the case gets personal.

A stand-alone misadventure story from the Kira Brightwell Quick Cases mystery series by the author of the Mackenzie Quinn mysteries, Jacquelyn Smith.

(This adventure takes place between the Kira Brightwell novels Black and Blue and Low Blow.)


Kira Brightwell ran through the downtown streets of La Valentia, her long, dark-brown ponytail streaming in the air behind her.

The soles of her running shoes pounded the sidewalk as her arms and legs pumped in a steady rhythm. A trickle of sweat dribbled down the back of her scrambled egg spattered Nine Inch Nails T-shirt, snaking its way to the waistline of her jeans. Even though it was only mid morning, the summer air was already warm, thanks to the California sun.

Her quarry was roughly a block ahead of her.

He glanced back over his shoulder. His tousled, ginger hair was starting to plaster to his forehead. His chain mail patterned T-shirt and flapping apron earned him some odd looks from passers-by.

His eyes widened as he saw how close Kira was.

He turned back around and pumped his gangly legs even faster.

Kira stifled a curse and forced herself to a sprint. A familiar, male voice called out to her from somewhere behind, but she ignored it. She focused on the sound of her own breathing and the pounding of her heart in her ears instead. Her green eyes narrowed.

She could still catch him.

Thanks to four years of MMA training, she had cardio for days. She doubted the scrawny young man she was chasing had ever set foot in a gym. Yes, his legs were longer, and he had a head start, but he would gas out eventually.

That was what she told herself, anyway.

She stifled a yelp of surprise as a woman with a stroller wheeled out of a bakery storefront in a waft of cinnamon, directly into Kira’s path. Kira sidestepped to avoid crashing into her and nearly collided with a burly, biker type with sleeve tattoos on his muscled arms and a long, grizzled beard.

She dodged him, only to just miss tripping into his parked bike as she stumbled onto the street in her haste. A car honked as the driver swerved around her, missing her by inches. She couldn’t hear the driver’s curses at her through the car’s closed windows, but she could read his lips easily enough, especially with the accompanying hand gestures.

She shook herself and stepped back onto the sidewalk, ignoring the stares she had earned.

Where is he?

She craned her neck to look.

There. He was almost two blocks ahead now. She would have to haul ass to catch up…

This time, she kept a wary eye on the passing storefronts, giving them a wide berth whenever possible. Why were so many people out and about today?

Then again, maybe this was the usual traffic for this area. Kira didn’t exactly get out much, other than to go to the gym.

…Or chase down bad guys.

She shook her head to herself and pushed her pace. The gap between her and her quarry slowly began to close. He looked back a few more times, but he couldn’t seem to push himself any faster, despite the panicked expression on his freckled face.

Soon, she was less than half a block away.

Kira put on a final burst of speed and caught up with him.

He sensed her behind him and turned around as they neared the entrance to a side street. Kira skidded to a stop in front of him.

“Please,” he said in a breathless voice before swallowing. His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat as he raised his hands in a warding gesture. “I—”

The rest of his words were drowned out by the loud beeping of a construction vehicle, somewhere down the side street behind him. Kira shook her head with a frown of incomprehension.

The young man’s head turned in the direction of the sound. He stepped backward off the curb.

“Hey,” Kira shouted at him over the beeping. “Where do you think you’re—”

His back foot slipped on something. His blue eyes widened as his arms began to flail.

Kira leaned forward to grab him, only to end up getting clipped on the jaw by one of his fists.

Her head snapped backward and stars danced across her vision as her legs wobbled beneath her.

She clung to consciousness with every fiber of her being. The anger definitely helped. She might be rocked, thanks to one lucky punch, but she was damned if she was going to get knocked out by some gangly, untrained kid, who had probably hit her by accident…

She realized she was looking up at the cloudless, blue sky and falling backward. She struggled to steady herself. She uttered a breathless grunt as she connected with something solid behind her that was too high up to be the ground.

She stumbled forward to compensate. Her right foot slipped off the curb at an odd angle with all her weight on it. She uttered a frustrated hiss of pain.

This was not going well. At all.

“Whoops… Are you OK?” the same familiar, male voice that had called out to her earlier asked from behind. “I was trying to catch you, not knock you over.”

She turned around to find Trevor Wright standing behind her. He gave her a rare look of chagrin as he ran his hand through his blond curls before running them over his blue polo shirt and khaki shorts to straighten them. He looked down at his sandalled feet with a grimace.

“Not exactly made for high-speed chases on foot. I’ll have to book a pedicure for tomorrow.”

Kira rolled her eyes at him before remembering the young man who was the cause of this whole mess. She whirled toward the side street with a groan that was only partially from her throbbing ankle.

A large dump truck was backing out onto the main road.

The man she had been chasing had already slipped past the side street during the confusion. Kira caught a glimpse of him through the narrow gap between the bed of the reversing dump truck and the cab as he ran away.

A few moments later, when the dump truck had finally cleared the main road entrance, Kira caught sight of the young man again.

…Just as he was getting inside a taxi.

Trevor clapped a consoling hand on her shoulder as the taxi sped off. “You almost had him.”

Kira shook his hand away with a string of curses. “Maybe I would have had him if some blundering oaf hadn’t knocked me off the sidewalk and twisted my ankle…”

“Oaf? Me?” Trevor shot her a look of askance and gestured toward his own lean, muscular frame. “Are you sure you didn’t catch him because he almost knocked you out with a single punch? That’s not going to help your reputation, you know.” He raised an eyebrow at her.

Kira scowled. “He got lucky. I don’t even think he was trying to punch me.”

“Then how the hell does someone like that kid manage to rock an MMA-trained crime fighter?”

She gave him a dark look. She had never set out to be any kind of crime fighter. All she wanted was to find and take down the man who had abducted her four years ago.

“Everyone has a puncher’s chance,” she grumbled.

It was true. The constant potential of a major upset was one of the main things that made fighting so popular as a sport.

She winced as she stroked her aching jaw and shifted her weight from her right foot to her left. She glared at the place where she had seen the man responsible climb into a cab.

“Trust me, he won’t be so lucky next time.”

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