The character of Matt Clipper, aka Watchdog, is one of my more unusual and intriguing characters. Loosely based in equal parts on a friend with a very rough upbringing and a well-earned attitude that won’t quit (and covers a heart of gold), and my brother, from whom (among other details) Matt Clipper draws part of his core personality and name, Watchdog is an unusual blend of streetwise tough guy, a gang-banger whom Rick and Tamia, at different points, refer to as having an attitude the size of Texas, and the lonely, sensitive artistic type, given to a romanticism he rarely even shows a glimmer of.
One of the things I most looked forward to, with writing these later books in this Evolution, was finally being able to actually delve into this character and what he really experiences. In the first few books, we only ever get to see how he interacts with the team, and all we know about his interactions outside of the Underground are based strictly on what he reveals to other characters. He comes across as a thug with a few chinks in his armor, but generally not deep.
Well, hold onto your hats, folks! Starting in HERO’S HOPE, you get to see a whole other side to Matt Clipper… This is a man with a surprising amount of depth, and who, for his biological youth (he’s only 25), feels ancient because of what he’s seen and experienced. And, finally, we get to start seeing exactly what Watchdog does out there on the streets, at night. And his world isn’t a pretty one…
So I thought I’d share one of those glimpses into Watchdog’s world outside of the Underground… On the streets, where he’s known by the pseudo-alias “Clip.” Here you go…
“The Score” – Excerpt from Hero’s Hope (Underground, Book #4) —
He told himself he was ready for this. And he knew he was full of shit. No one was ever ready to tangle with a dude like Terrence Walker. One wrong move, one wild card in the mix, and it would all end in a bloodbath. Matt Clipper sealed his lips in a grim line over the worried oath that pressed against his tongue as he primed his Colt Racer – a recent addition to street warfare, the weapon was a cross between a conventional handgun and a Super Taser – and double-checked that he had his backup. He glanced into the rearview mirror of the Lincoln Continental. “Y’all ready?”
“Let’s roll.” Snooks brandished his weapon with a grin just this side of sadistically gleeful, and Matt bit down on the wave of nausea that spiraled through him at the sight. Similar anticipation preceded too many of his nightmares. He resisted the urge to shudder. He was getting way too old for this shit. Problem was, he didn’t see how he was of any use to the Commandos if he left the streets behind. He didn’t have Blade’s skills, or Jen’s brains, or Red’s background. He had nothing to offer but what he learned out here, and the one thing Matt Clipper wasn’t was a leech. So he did the only thing he knew how to do. Even if it killed him.
To combat the queasy uncertainty in the pit of his stomach, he pasted on his most cocky grin and reached for the driver side door. He was about to put it on the line to get Big T to this meet-up. The Man had best represent.
Like a pack of wild animals, the gang-bangers piled out of the vehicle with none of the stealth or finesse Matt grew accustomed to as a Commando. He winced inwardly, and triple-checked his weapons again. He had a bad feeling this was about to go to Hell, and Jen would kill him if he got sloppy. Hell, the Voodoo woman would probably dig him up just to kill him again, if he got himself whacked.
A snort of dark laughter nearly broke his lips, and he caught the wary look the kid beside him cast his way. Rance stuck close to him since JT went down. Poor kid wasn’t cut out for this life; too bad Matt didn’t know how to get him out.
Matt’s gaze went to the building before them, and the scene was far too familiar. Rundown and solitary among the empty lots that flanked it on three sides, this pre-World War Three tenement was where JT was murdered, and Matt’s fall into Hell began. No one knew how much he hated every time he had to come back here. The queasy sensation in his gut talked loud and clear. When Matt Clipper checked out, it would be in a place just like this one — a building on the edge of forgotten.
Damn. He was dipping into the morbid, again. That was a distraction he didn’t need. Matt shook it off and cocked his weapon with a grin only he knew was forced.
“Playtime. Just remember, the Big Man wants T alive, or we’re in deep shit.”
He wasn’t worried they’d fuck it up. These boys might need some lessons in finesse when it came to assaults, but they were far from incompetent novices. They had their own silent language, and while it didn’t have the sophistication he’d learned by hanging with Booters like Blade and Ace, he was comfortable with it. These were streeters. They knew the score.
The gang fanned out to surround the front door, waiting for Matt’s signal. He edged up to the door and listened intently. The sound of an old building settling, and the drip of water somewhere in the distance, reached his ears. No voices, no footsteps. Relief wound through him. No ambush; and that was good news to him. He jerked his head toward the door, then eased it open to scoot inside cautiously. The same couldn’t be said for his gang.
Snooks barreled through the door like a maniac. Damn it, was he high? Matt couldn’t tell; he couldn’t see the kid’s eyes, but Snooks was sweating. That was a bad sign.
“Yo, Snooks, hold up a min-” His caution fell on deaf ears as Snooks took the stairs three at a time, disappearing into the upper levels of the old building. There was a loud crash, and the Snooks’ voice echoed down the stairwell.
“Prayer time, muthafu-” His words died in a spray of gunfire that lit up the stairwell and echoed off the tile walls. Matt immediately dropped behind cover, his instincts honed to self-preservation by years of Commando missions. He knew what that gunfire meant.
“Damn it.” Anger tightened his chest. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. God damn it, Snooks knew better than to get high right before a hit.
“Shit, dude!” Rance dropped back as well, his face a shade between green and gray. Kid was scared. Smart. “What was that?”
“That,” Matt responded grimly, “was trouble. Everyone, hang back.”
With that quiet instruction, Matt started slowly up the stairs, forcing himself to draw even breaths as he went. This was it. He’d never told anyone, but he always knew he’d die alone. And here he was, climbing into the lion’s den, alone. Still, if he wanted this to go down without any higher of a body count, he had to go it solo.
As he reached the first landing, Matt flipped his Racer to stun. He didn’t want anyone going down for a permanent nap, least of all his mark. The Man would never forgive him for that, and nor would anyone else. Set to stun, the energy weapon would release a non-lethal electrical charge in a beam that would render the target unconscious. He wanted Big T down, not out of the picture. He had orders, after all.
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