This month’s excerpt is from my upcoming book,

Secret Agent Analyst

It’s a spy romance that features a loving look at the spy genre, with lots of laughs and death-defying escapes. There’s even a Kraken (because the sharks with laser beams attached to their heads were busy). There’s even a Happily Ever After… well, as long as you’re not the super villain.

Secret Agent Extraordinaire Anthony has been assigned a new partner, Elliot, who’s more at home in his cubicle with the rest of the analysts. They’re flying to Bulgaria to take on the evil villain Cicero when suddenly everything goes wrong (as things in spy novels are wont to do)…


“I tried to convince Bea to keep you at Headquarters—” began Anthony.

“Huh,” said Elliot, still staring at the video. He didn’t sound scared at all.

“—to keep you out of this… what?” Anthony cocked his head, confused. “What do you mean, huh?”

“Well,” said Elliot, “Cicero rarely threatens to kill you.”

“What are you talking about?” said Anthony, irritated. “Of course he threatens to kill me. Half his plots involve trying to kill me.”

Elliot rolled his eyes and reached up to the video. “Yeah, that’s why he makes you sit there while he monologues at you for half an hour instead of just shooting you and being done with it.”

“He likes an audience!” protested Anthony, watching in amazement as Elliot stretched out his hand and with a competent flick of his wrist rewound the video. “Wait—how do you know how to do that?”

“I watch a lot of movies,” said Elliot, which wasn’t an explanation at all. “What’d they call this other guy—Mastermind?”

Elliot released the video, and it played forward again, this time the part when he and Anthony had been talking.

“I can’t let you do that, Cicero,” said the mysterious Mastermind.

Cicero snorted derisively. “Don’t like the idea of me harming your little pet, do you? Well, tough. I’ve been dancing to your fiddle for long enough. I can’t do this, I can’t do that. You spent so much time telling me what I couldn’t do—you never once included what I could. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT! This is not a foreign concept, you crazy old bat! It’s a highly recommended method of dealing with problematic adversaries!”

O’Leary sighed, as though exhausted. He looked it, too. “Oh, Syl.”

Cicero, however, rounded on him. “You can’t tell me you enjoy having that masked lunatic hold us back, Archie!”

Elliot tapped the pause button. “Ha!” he crowed with delight. “I knew it!”

“Knew what?” said Anthony, trying not to sulk. Why was it the analyst who suddenly knew how things in the field worked? Honestly, the nerve!

Elliot tapped the video to pause it, then used both hands to enlarge the screen. He tapped both O’Leary’s and Cicero’s faces—somehow, both of them enlarged even further—and rotated them, as if they’d always been 3-D. Anthony’s mouth dropped open in shock.

I did not know it did that. How did he know it did that?!?

“They definitely know each other,” continued Elliot, completely oblivious to Anthony’s surprise. “O’Leary called Cicero ‘Syl,’ and Cicero answered to it. It’s got to be short for something—maybe Cicero’s real name. And Cicero was calling him Archie. Not Mr. O’Leary, or just O’Leary. Archie. Not even O’Leary’s wife calls him Archie.”

Anthony frowned at the screen. The plane shook as it hit a patch of turbulence; nothing terribly unusual, but holding onto the table was going to make him look even more incompetent than Elliot was already making him feel. “They’re… friends?”

“Maybe. I get the sense there’s some seriously long history between them, even. Something more than just world domination.” Elliot flicked the image; the focus shifted to the side, where the third person had likely been. “Mastermind—have you ever heard of them?”

“No. Have you?”

“No,” admitted Elliot. “And I probably read a lot more of the traffic than you do.”

Anthony tensed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Elliot shrugged. “Well, you never come in to consult with us.”

“I’m usually in the field. Working,” Anthony reminded him.

“I’m just saying. Every one of your partners came by whenever they swung through Headquarters. Enrique practically had his own desk.” Elliot frowned, his fingers tapping against the table. “You said Enrique took this video—”

“Yes,” said Anthony. “The day before the raid on Cicero’s warehouse in Kazakhstan. Where he was—”

Anthony couldn’t continue for a moment; the knot in his throat was too thick.

Where he was murdered by Cicero in cold blood. Anthony still saw the bullets ripping through Enrique’s body as he ran for cover—right into Anthony’s arms. That Enrique had even been able to speak—Get him next time—was a miracle.

Just as much a miracle as the tiny fragment of video surviving in Enrique’s shirt pocket.

Elliot’s jaw tensed. But if he’d known Enrique—then he’d be mourning, too. Viewing the last intelligence Enrique had collected would be hard for anyone to handle. Besides, Elliot didn’t have the experience with losing partners like Anthony did.

“Last time I saw him, he planned to investigate O’Leary,” mused Elliot. “But why Kazakhstan? I didn’t think O’Leary had an office there.”

Anthony frowned. “No, our mission was to investigate Cicero. Who has a very large office in Kazakhstan. Cicero. Not O’Leary.”

“Yeah, but—”

The plane shook as it hit another batch of turbulence. Elliot stumbled, and then slammed into Anthony as he lost his balance. Anthony only barely caught him, even though his hip rammed up against the table, exploding in pain.

“Sorry, gentlemen,” said the pilot over the intercom. “Can I ask you both to take your—”

The plane exploded.

Copyright 2023 Penelope Peters

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