Finn hit the floor.

The fucker had a gun. 

A surgeon with a gun. 

Now, there was an image for you. 

Twenty-four hours earlier he’d fought off a former SEAL wielding an obsidian scalpel. Now he had a surgeon with a gun. 

Finn listened for the sounds of alarm in the hallway outside, the shouts, the running feet, then realized there wouldn’t be any. 

Nobody would come running down the hallway. 

There would be no knocks on the door. 

No hotel staff wanting to know what was going on. 

Because this was Iceland. On a bad year they had one gunshot death. In the entire country. Most years, none at all. No one even knew what a gunshot in their hotel would sound like. The pop of a handgun muffled by the penthouse’s soundproofing would be just one more New Year’s Eve hoorah. 

The surgeon could empty his magazine at Finn, and nobody in the hotel would think twice about it.

Finn examined the afterimage left by the combustion of gasses from the gunshot.

Two afterimages, actually, a second apart. One from the flash of the fireworks outside, the second from the muzzle blast. 

Plus his impression of the darkened room beforehand, before all the flashes started. Which wasn’t much. The penthouse’s floor-to-ceiling window let in just enough ambient light to make out basic shapes, nothing more. But that was still something.

There was a lot of information to process.

2022 Cold Fear Book Tour – FINN X BOOK TOUR

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And just fractions of a second to do it.

The room was a large rectangle, close to a square. The big picture window faced roughly northwest, out over the harbor. The door through which Finn had entered was cut out of the suite’s southeastern wall, so he stood opposite the big window. At noon he’d probably be able to see Snæfellsjökull, the volcano with the melting glacier. But not now. 

The northeast wall was mostly taken up by a bar, with an access door set on the right, probably to a bathroom or bedroom. 

The southwestern wall featured a couch, a tall narrow bookshelf containing a few vague art objects, and another access door, probably to a hallway and one or more bedrooms.

His own wall, the southeastern wall, sported a large overstuffed chair with ottoman, a few end tables with lamps, and nothing else. A few pieces of framed art on the walls. One now in pieces on the floor.

The room’s center had held a small squat glass-top coffee table and a few curved hardwood chairs, but these had all been pushed away toward the bar, apparently to make room for something else. Finn thought he’d seen a small rectangular carpet placed on the floor, its near end pointing directly southeast. 

Toward the suite’s entrance, in other words. 

Also toward Mecca.

A prayer rug.

Why not. 

He’d known killers who did the rosary before murdering their victims. There were probably people who petted crystals and threw the I Ching while getting ready to kill. The world was a big place. Finn didn’t judge.

That was pretty much the blueprint. Four walls. Four directions of the compass. Straightforward. 

Finn placed the muzzle flash as coming from about eleven o’clock, which put the surgeon in the room’s southwest corner. Not visible from the window, because the last foot or two of the window’s span was blotted out by the retracted folds of floor-to-ceiling curtain. 

Which was no doubt exactly why the surgeon had chosen that particular spot to hide in. 

Also why Finn hadn’t seen him in his initial scan of the room. He blended in with the bunched curtain.

The man was not dumb. 

The fireworks flash hadn’t provide the visual field of depth it would take to calculate distances. The second afterimage, from the muzzle flash, was no more helpful. But if he had to guess—and he did—he’d say the man was about eight yards away. Twenty-four feet.

Aiming a handgun at any range much over point blank was harder than it looked. Most amateur handgun shots were misses. So were most police-held handgun shots. It wasn’t like on TV. And in the half second the surgeon had after the fireworks’ flash to register Finn’s location, aim the pistol, and squeeze the trigger, he’d missed by only inches. 

At twenty-four feet. 

That was pretty damn good.

In the dark, Finn kept silently moving.



A hole the size of a cigarette burn punched itself into the wallboard inches behind Finn’s head.

Another shot, more data.

Pistol shots at close range did not go BANG, or BLAM, or POW. A typical muzzle blast from a handgun generated a shock wave with a sound pressure level of 140dB or more. Louder than a fighter jet taking off at 15 meters. The sonic boom produced by the projectile shoving air aside at supersonic speeds caused a loud whip-like snap or crack

Different calibers and types of explosive round had different sonic signatures. 

Finn judged this one to be a compact .38. 

From the distinctive soft rack of the slide, he guessed a Walther PPK. A small semiautomatic that would fit nicely in the delicate hands of a surgeon. 

Finn had by this point crept about five feet to his right and slipped into a low crouch, so the surgeon had had to make some quick adjustments before his second shot. Still, his miss was closer than his first.

Very damn good.

Finn silently plucked a picture off the wall. Holding it by its edge, he drew it back across his chest and flung it like a Frisbee in the general direction of the room’s southwest corner.


Dull crash.


The surgeon’s third shot went wild. 

Finn hadn’t expected to hit the guy with the hotel art, or even come close. Just close enough to provoke a reaction. 

And he got exactly the reaction he was looking for.

Scuffle—the surgeon dodging and diving.

Dull crash—the picture making contact with the far wall and breaking apart.

Crack!—another gunshot, this one nowhere near in the same league as the first two, which was good, because that might rattle the shooter’s confidence, might even induce a flicker of desperation, and desperate people made lousy shots and bad decisions.

Still, none of those three sounds—scuffle, crash, crack!—yielded any useful information. Finn didn’t need them to.

It was the fourth sound he was after. 

The sound that came on the heels of the first three.

The surgeon knew the suite’s exact layout. Finn did not. 

The surgeon had a handgun. Finn did not.

But Finn knew how to project total silence. 

The surgeon did not. 

The surgeon was quiet as a cat. 

But even cats made noise. 

Thus the fourth sound. The hh, hh, hh of rapid, shallow breathing, the kind of breathing you’d hear from a cornered animal. Or a person winded from exertion and trying not to make a sound. 

Which gave away his location with a high degree of accuracy.

Finn wouldn’t have a second opportunity to pry open doubt or desperation, or to gain a few seconds of leeway. The man was a surgeon: he knew how to focus under stress. He wouldn’t react the same way twice.

The situation would only get worse from here.

If Finn was going to move, it had to be now.

He reached down in the dark with both arms, grabbed the coffee table by both edges, hoisted it in the air, and took off at a sprint, directly toward the surgeon—


holding the table in front of him like a police officer’s riot shield, not perpendicular to his line of movement but at a sharp angle to increase the chances of the .38 round deflecting to the side rather than penetrating the glass—




because pistol shots fired at thick break-resistant glass, such as that used in expensive Danish glass-covered coffee tables, seldom penetrated with straight-line accuracy, which was the main reason cops carried twelve-gauge shotguns, so they could blast out car windows or apartment windows or any other obstructive glass that stood in the way of making an effective arrest—




The surgeon’s last shot finally shattered the tabletop, but too late—

Because in the next instant Finn hammered his left knee into the surgeon’s gut and as the man’s head went down it met Finn’s right knee with an impact that caught him on the chin and took him out cold. 


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Brandon Webb is founder of SOFREP and the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Circle and Benghazi: The Definitive Report. A former U.S. Navy SEAL whose last assignment was Course Manager for the elite SEAL Sniper Course, he was instrumental in developing new curricula that trained some of the most accomplished snipers of the twenty-first century. Webb has received numerous distinguished service awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Commendation Medal with a “V” for “Valor,” for his platoon’s deployment to Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks.

John David Mann is coauthor of more than thirty books, including four New York Times bestsellers and five national bestsellers. His writing has won multiple awards and been featured in American ExecutiveFinancial TimesForbesLeadership ExcellenceHuffingtonWired, and CrimeReads. His bestselling classic The Go-Giver (with Bob Burg) has sold over 1 million copies and won the Living Now Book Awards Evergreen Medal for its “contributions to positive global change.”

John and Brandon have coauthored ten books together. Steel Fear, the debut novel in their Finn series, was nominated for a Barry Award and hailed by Jack Reacher author Lee Child as “an instant classic, maybe an instant legend.” Cold Fear is the second book in the series; the third, Blind Fear, comes out summer of 2023.

Visit Webb & Mann here.