A little more than two years before the events of Bounty, Jill Andersen makes a life-altering decision. But this decision comes with consequences she didn’t foresee, and her first night as the vigilante Bounty winds up being something for which she was wholly unprepared.
A crisis of faith eventually gives way to certainty: both in terms of discovering who killed a young man named Johnny Ruiz and in terms of coping with the latest change in her own life.
Along the way, Jill defies death and discovers just how deep the city’s corruption runs. But will she survive the experience long enough to decide if a life of vigilantism is for her?
Jill was glad the left side of her face was made of metal.
Otherwise, the shards of glass raining down around her would have hurt far more. Her face stung as it was, having smashed against the window like that. A large hand tugged on the back of her bodysuit, meaty fingers wrapped around black leather with surprising give. Jill's assailant yanked her away from the plane glass, and a gust of wind rushed onto the twentieth floor of the downtown high-rise. A flick of the man's wrist sent Jill across the room, her back slamming against the wall and a framed photograph crashing to the floor.
More shattered glass.
Jill Andersen had crawled back to her feet by the time her attacker drew close again. She ducked his left fist, which buried itself in the wall behind her. She slammed her own fist into the man's stomach, and when he doubled over, she wrapped her hands around his neck and flung him face-first into the carpet. She yanked off his black ski mask before he could get back to his feet, tossing it aside and grabbing him by the collar.
"Alright, fuckface," she growled through labored breath, "you're paying for that window."
The silver on the left side of Jill's face surrounded an infrared eye, which shone brighter than usual in the darkness of the office. She made sure the light hovered in her attacker's field of vision. His red beard was close-trimmed, his eyes impossibly blue. They were also useless, with the red light shining in his face. He reached out to wrap his hands around Jill's neck, but his aim was off and Jill's grip on him was impossibly tight.
Jill was decked out head to toe in black leather and matching combat boots, the lone holdover from her military days. A layer of silver mesh armor laid beneath the suit, and Jill wore black gloves that reached her elbows. A katana was strapped to her back, though she hoped she wouldn't have to use it. During the day, Jill was one to wear her brown hair in a ponytail, but in this outfit, having her long locks hanging down over her face seemed more fitting.
It added to the mystique, but it also helped keep her identity secret. The eyeplate on her face, which ran from her cheek to her hairline, also helped. The infrared sensor and microscopic supercomputer in her brain made all this possible, as did the titanium coating her entire skeleton.
"I know what you did," Jill said, tightening her grip. Her attacker's eyes grew wide and his legs swung when she lifted him off the floor, not unlike the way her younger brother Brian's legs used to swing off the pier whenever they visited Baltimore's Inner Harbor as children. Back in those days, Jill had always wanted to jump right into the Chesapeake Bay, but Brian had always been content to sit on the edge.
"Doesn't," the man began, cringing when Jill tightened her grip. "Doesn't matter."
Jill frowned. The man was scared, but not of her. Not that she necessarily wanted someone to be scared of her -- okay, maybe just a little -- but fear of the mysterious other meant things were more complicated than she thought. Still, some fear directed her way would be nice. This costume wasn't cheap, especially on her salary.
"Kill me if you want," he added. "You'll never touch him."
"I'm not gonna kill you," Jill said. "But I'm thinking whoever 'he' is might, once he finds out what went down here."
Bounty Jill Andersen Mysteries Book 1
Jill Andersen is one of Baltimore's best and brightest detectives, but she harbors a dark secret -- a secret that threatens to come out when the body of Dr. Trent Roberts is pulled out of the Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Roberts' connection to Jill reveals a past that involves a tour in Iraq, a secretive cybernetic experiment, and a conspiracy that involves a native son.
Can Jill solve the case while still keeping her secret? Will her partners at the Seventh Precinct find out what she's so desperate to hide? What was Dr. Roberts looking into that led to his murder? And perhaps the biggest question of all...
"I knew Trent was fucking lying,” Blake had ignored the question, craning his neck until Jill heard bones pop. "Telling me his little science project didn't exist, yet here I stand lookin' at his greatest success."
"That why you killed him?" Jill swallowed. "Cause you knew he lied?"
Blake gritted his teeth and lunged at Jill, pushing her against the wall and grabbing her wrists to keep them -- and the katana -- pinned above her head. He pressed his left foot, stiff and metallic, down on her right foot, and Jill was silently glad for her skeletal reinforcements. She was looking at weeks, if not months, in a walking boot otherwise.
"If I was gonna kill Trent,” Blake’s lips curled into a vicious snarl, “I'd have done it a long time ago."
Gritting her teeth, Jill pushed Blake off of her, freeing her arms and swinging her blade at his hands. Blake managed to lunge just out of the way, but the katana clanged against his revolver, sending the weapon careening over the side of the yacht and into the water. Truthfully, Jill was disappointed in how easy disarming him was, rolling her eyes before twirling the blade above her head again.
"We really gonna do this?" Jill scoffed. "You can hardly move, and now you're unarmed."
Blake lunged at her again with a growl, catching her off-guard as his arms wrapped around her waist and their bodies flew past the wall separating the cockpit from the yacht’s main cabin. Jill's back slammed into the steering wheel and she yelped in pain, crumpling onto the floor and losing her grip on her weapon. Blake hobbled to the katana, grabbing and tossing it into the Chesapeake Bay before snatching Jill by the back of her head, yanking on her hair and dragging her onto her knees.
"You were saying?"
Shifting all of his weight onto his good leg, Blake heaved Jill over the side of the boat, watching as she bounced off the edge and splashed into the bay. The yacht rocked with the resultant waves, and a flock of seagulls cawed in protest as they scurried off into the night because of the commotion. Blake had interrupted their late-night dinner, and the birds wanted to make sure he heard their displeasure.
As soon as she plunged into the water, Jill searched for her blade. The water was still relatively shallow this close to the pier, but the water was cloudy enough that Jill couldn't quite make out anything. She felt a current pushing against her, trying to steel her body against it so she wouldn't be pushed out too far away from the shore. Unfortunately, lung capacity was not one of Jill's many upgrades. She pushed herself back to the surface, gasping loudly when her head poked out of the water. She gasped as many mouthfuls of air as she could, wading in the suddenly choppy waters. While trying to catch her breath, Jill glanced back at the yacht -- but if Blake was still there, she couldn't see him. Who am I kidding? He's bolted by now.
With one more deep breath, Jill plunged back into the bay, swimming toward the bottom in hopes of finding her weapon. She switched on her infrared vision, because clearly the muddy waters were not doing her human vision any favors. Just as Jill was about to swim to the surface again for another helping of oxygen, she found her blade stuck in the sand at the surface. She grabbed the hilt and tugged, only to find the blade stuck. She then grabbed the weapon with both hands, trying to press her feet into the ground for leverage, but she kept losing her footing against the soft terrain. The katana wouldn't budge.
She needed to get back to the surface for air again. But Jill needed her weapon first. She tugged again, feeling the blade move ever so slightly. She tried again. Nothing.
Each tug was weaker than the last, the oxygen she'd stored up in her lungs dissipating. Jill felt lightheaded. She could see stars in front of her right eye.
Another half-hearted tug. Still nothing.
Reluctantly, Jill pushed herself back toward the surface, hoping she'd make it before finally running out of oxygen. She could see the moonlight piercing through the water, though the light actually got dimmer the closer she got to the surface. Her lungs felt like they were on fire. She couldn't feel the hand stretched out in front of her.
Finally, a splash of cold air hit Jill in the face and she gasped. She gasped so hard, in fact, that she sputtered into a violent coughing fit, her arms flapping around in the water in a desperate attempt to keep herself afloat. She gasped in as much air as she could, coughing and thrashing about. At this hour, there was no one around to help, no one around to even signal someone else for help. One more gasp of air, and Jill slipped underwater again.
Blood Ties Jill Andersen Mysteries Book 2
For as long as Jill Andersen could remember, her father was a hero.
But heroes don’t commit murder, do they? The state of Maryland said Paul Andersen did just that, three times over, and was set to execute him for it. But Jill and the rest of her colleagues at the Baltimore Police Department come across the murder of a law student that leaves her hopeful that she can clear her father’s name.
While Jill and her colleagues work against the clock to clear her father’s name, new players emerge, hinting to a deeper, darker conspiracy than what was previously known. An enigmatic faction known as The Order reveals itself, and the mystery surrounding Paul’s alleged duplicity leaves more questions than answers.
Along the way, Jill must not only face the possibility that her father was not who she thought he was, but she must also face the prospect of her secret being revealed. The stakes are higher than ever in Blood Ties, the intense follow-up to J.D. Cunegan’s debut mystery Bounty.
Can Jill save her father before it’s too late? Will she even want to?
For Jill Andersen, being part of the Baltimore Police Department has always been both a tremendous honor and a serious responsibility. Her father, before his fall from grace, had instilled in her a great respect for police and the work they do day-to-day. But when a teenage boy winds up dead on the outskirts of downtown Baltimore, Jill finds herself once again faced with those who would abuse their badges to fulfill personal agendas and uphold biases.
Jill still has a job to do, but she soon finds that not everyone is in her corner. For the first time in almost four years working Homicide, Jill finds herself at odds with people who claim to be on her side. From other cops to suits downtown all the way to the Mayor’s office, it becomes increasingly clear that Jill will need to rely on more than just her badge if she’s to solve this case.
But even if she finds justice, what’s the price?
Behind the Badge, the gripping, hard-hitting third novel in the Jill Andersen series (Bounty, Blood Ties), gives readers another taste of author J.D. Cunegan’s comic book-inspired brand of fast-paced prose, with chapters that fly by and plot twists that will leave readers constantly guessing and waiting for more.
It’s hard to be a hero when everyone’s out to get you.
Once upon a time, Jill Andersen considered herself a hero. Not just because of the badge handed to her by the city of Baltimore and the pledge she once made to protect and serve. Her secret life, as the vigilante Bounty, had allowed Jill to protect her native Baltimore in ways her day job never could.
But all that has gone to hell now. One case pushed Jill past her limits, to the point where she made choices she can’t take back. As a result, the entire city is on the lookout for her. Allies can no longer be counted on. People who were once in her corner might very well be trying to bring her down… to say nothing of those she has crossed along the way.
But that is the least of Jill’s problems. A shadowy figure emerges among the chaos, and his link to Jill’s past has the potential to be her ultimate undoing. Jill thought every link to Project Fusion has been settled once she solved Dr. Trent Roberts’ murder almost one year ago, but if she’s not careful, her past might just kill her.
Behind the Mask, the gripping, hard-hitting fourth novel in the Jill Andersen mystery series (Bounty, Blood Ties, Behind the Badge), gives readers yet another taste of author J.D. Cunegan’s comic book-inspired brand of fast-paced prose, with chapters that fly by and plot twists that will leave readers guessing and waiting for more.
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.
Those who follow me with any regularity will know I said one of my 2019 goals was to produce a Bounty graphic novel (hell, I’ve even announced it). I thought I’d provide some insight into setting that goal and what I’m learning as I dabble into the world of creating comics.
Those of you who’ve been around a while know how much I love comics, and how that love is lifelong and originally sparked my creative streak. Even though I’m a published author, my love for superheroes and comic books is evident in my work. So doing a graphic novel just makes sense. Bounty started as a comic book character; writing and drawing a Bounty graphic novel returns her to her roots. It brings her home, so to speak. And it returns me to my roots.
I started out wanting to create comics. So I’m creating a comic.
Now I realize how ambitious doing that this year is. Especially since I’m both writing and drawing it. Both steps are time-consuming on their own, but together? Especially since I’m learning a) how to draw again and b) how to tell a story in this medium. It’s not just drawing a bunch of pictures.
Were I at my peak as an artist, maybe this would be easier. But I like the challenge. I *need* the challenge. I haven’t grown bored with writing novels — far from it — but adding this challenge has actually given me a boost of creative energy. I’ve needed that.
I’m not abandoning novels. Far from it. This graphic novel is just me challenging myself, as a writer and artist. Pushing myself to set a goal and finish it, to encounter obstacles and overcome them. To prove to myself that I can take on a task and accomplish it.
Maybe this graphic novel doesn’t see the light of day until 2021. That would be okay — so long as I see this project through and finish it. As Chuck Wendig (and others) says, FINISH YOUR SHIT. I intend to do just that — but I’ll admit, this is hard.
I’m practically learning, as I go, an entirely new method of storytelling. How to tell a story with images as well as words. How the two work in concert with one another. There’s a method there, and there’s gonna be a ton of trial and error here. I’m okay with that.
(Come to think of it, this very process would make a great future Pixel Wretches podcast.)
I fully anticipate being occasionally frustrated to the point of wanting to stop. The point is getting myself to not stop, but to push forward and create in spite of that. Abandoning projects midway through is not how I’m gonna get better. Finishing my shit is.
So I’m pushing myself, challenging myself to return to my creative roots. To remind myself where my love for telling stories started, and to show up at a con one day with both my novels *and* a Bounty graphic novel on my table.
Maybe that’s 2020. Maybe it’s not.
I used to dream about being the next Jim Lee. Now I just wanna be the best J.D. Cunegan I can be. That means novels. And comics. And who knows what else is down the road for me. But if I don’t push myself, if I don’t test myself, how will I know what I’m capable of?
Four years ago, I pushed myself, and the result was my first novel. Bounty proved to me that I can complete a creative project and see it through and put it out there for the world to see.
Now I have five novels, a novella, a collection of short stories, and two anthology credits to my name. And there are plenty more such stories coming in the next few years. That’s not nothing, and I keep having to remind myself of that, even when sales are… yeah.
But, and I think other creatives can relate, I want more. More stories to tell. More ways to tell them. More ways to push myself and flex my creative muscles. Make them grow. Make them better. Make *me* better. This graphic novel will do just that.
In a perfect world, there’d be a con in the future where I have graphic novels to sell. I don’t know when that will be, though. This is a lengthy, involved process, and I’m going to make sure it’s worth every moment of it.
And I want you on the journey with me.
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