Financial Thriller: A Joe Robbins Clip — dog racing

Ferocious barking came from the back of the cabin, followed by a man’s shout and then nothingdoberman-untouched. I got out of the Jeep and walked toward the door. A faded blue Mercedes sat parked in the sun. The covered porch was made of unfinished hardwood.

As I approached the porch a movement caught the corner of my left eye. I glanced that way and saw dark shapes moving across the ground, sleek, fast, and quiet. A low guttural noise came at me, interrupted by inhalations of air to feed the charge.

The Dobermans sprinted toward me, closing from a hundred feet away.

Pressure surged in my chest. I ran for the porch, my heart thumping as my toes dug into the dirt. My eyes tracked the lead dog, his teeth bared, his legs stretching fully with each stride. I stepped once more on a bare spot of dirt, and then leaped to the porch to grab an upright beam. I scrambled up the beam, sucking in huge gulps of air, my hands grabbing, slipping, and grabbing again.

I got a hand on the porch roof, the shingles tearing at my skin. The lead dog jumped, his jaws open, his body in full flight, and I shot a kick in his direction that glanced off the left side of his face. His jaws clacked shut on empty air, and he slammed into the beam. His mate ran behind him. She slowed her pace to study me. With eyes wide I pulled myself up, my other hand on the roof and legs wrapped around the beam. As my legs began to sag they fell into range. The bitch ran onto the porch and leaped from there, her jaws closing around my left shoe, pinching my heel. Her weight pulled my leg from the beam just as the male jumped again. I kicked blindly and clubbed him in the snout with my right foot. He whined and fell to the ground. The weight of the bitch stretched my arms as I kicked at her, finally landing a hard enough blow to loosen her jaw.

I wrapped my legs around the beam again, my chest heaving, while the dogs barked insanely. They took turns attacking, snapping jaws at the apex of their leaps. Each time they jumped my stomach tightened, my legs retracted, and I stared as their jaws snapped. My arms ached. Sweat stung my eyes. I had battled them to a temporary stalemate, but how long could I hold on? No more than a minute, maybe two.

A man laughed.

He strode toward me at a leisurely pace. He wore work boots, khaki pants and shirt, and a safari hat. A dog leash hung from his right hand. He shook his head as he continued to laugh, big chuckles that crashed against the cabin and thundered out to the hills.

“My, my. You’re up a tree.”

“Get your dogs off me.”

“Lady. Heel.”

The bitch immediately left the porch and stepped to her master’s side, silent. The male kept barking and jumped again, his jaws snapping as they closed on empty air inches from my leg.

“Brad. Stop that.”

Brad barked again, coiled for another attempt. His master deftly looped a choke chain around his neck and pulled him from the porch.

“You can come down now,” he said.

I eyed the female suspiciously.

“She won’t attack unless I give her a command.”

Unwrapping my legs, I dropped to the porch, exhausted and out of breath. My hands shook; I leaned to press them against my knees. I focused on breathing in and out, inhaling lungsful of air, until I could stand upright again.

“Those dogs are vicious,” I said.

“They’re protective. You’re trespassing.”

“You should post a sign on the gate.”

“Yeah, I meant to do that.”

The bitch sat obediently at his side, panting. The male growled low in his chest and struggled against the chain.

“Anyway,” he said. “Why are you here?”

For the first time I studied the man carefully. Tall. Blond hair. He looked a little different without the fedora and sunglasses, but I recognized him.

“Hey,” he said. “I know you. I’m not talking to you.”

Suddenly, standing there, still breathing heavy, it all seemed worth it: the hours of driving on back-country roads, the frustrating answers from county clerks, even the mad scramble to stay clear of the dogs.

Lady began to growl. I didn’t worry much about her so long as Brad stayed on the leash. One dog I could handle. Two were a problem.

“You’d better talk to me,” I said. “You help me, and I’ll put serious coin in your pocket. You don’t, and I promise the police will be out here tomorrow.”

Lady continued to growl. Cunningham considered my offer with a snarl on his face. If he made a move toward Brad’s leash, I planned to run two steps and kick Lady hard in the stomach.

He smiled an ugly smile. “Or I could just let these dogs loose and watch them tear you to pieces.”

“Do you really want to add murder to your résumé? Murder? Or would you rather make some money?”

He cocked his head to one side as if listening for something. For a moment I thought he was going to unleash Brad. Lady thought so, too, for she stood on all fours and growled louder. We remained like that for long seconds, with me ready to move on Lady, Lady readying herself for battle, and Cunningham trying to decide what to do.

“Lady. Heel.”

The dog obediently returned to a sitting position. I inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly.

“Is there someplace we can talk more peacefully?” I said.


This thriller scene was taken from chapter 20 of Hill Country Siren: A Joe Robbins Financial Thriller (Book 3). Check it out on Amazon.


Hill Country Siren: A Joe Robbins Financial Thriller (BOOK 3) Episode 10

The final episode: Joe scales the stonewall outside Sophie’s estate and creeps toward the house. He finds the side door open. Forced. Johnson has a new crowbar.

Once inside, Joe discovers he can still save Sophie. Joe fights Johnson to a climactic finish upstairs.

Back in Austin, a shattered Joe has an eventful meeting with his ex-wife, Rose. In the last scene Joe takes Chandler and Callie to Krause Springs.

Read episode 10 (the final episode.)

Sanjay tries the rope swing at Krause Springs.

Sanjay tries the rope swing at Krause Springs.

Excerpt from the final episode of Hill Country Siren.

The wall stood eight feet high. I jumped to grab the top, hoisted my legs up and over, and dropped lightly amid the junipers. A high wind rustled fronds in the fan palms. As I walked toward the house a thrashing noise came from the ferns beside me.

I turned that way, my nerves on edge.

It was only a small animal. I took slow, measured breaths to steady my heart rate.

At the edge of the patio I crouched behind a flower bed to survey the backyard. The outdoor spots lit the pool and deck area. Bright lights shone in every room in the house, but I detected no movement.

Rico’s words rang in my ears.

But Sagebrush is a serial killer.

I ignored the words and flexed my shoulders to stretch the muscles in my back.

I crept from chair to chair on the patio, pausing often to watch the windows. The bamboo wind chimes rang on the back porch. The palm trees swayed. I looked behind me, and all around the yard. I made it to the back right corner of the house and tiptoed up four stairs to the side door.

It stood open. Forced. Johnson had a new crowbar.

He might have watched my every move from the security room inside. Had Rico reached the local police? I pulled out my cell and dialed 911. When they came on the line I whispered, “I’m outside Sophie Tyler’s residence at 1102 Benedict Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills. A serial killer is inside the house. Tell the police to be careful. He could have hostages.”

“What is your name, sir?”

“Joe Robbins. I’m a friend of Sophie Tyler’s.”

“Please stay on the line while I contact the police.”

Seconds could mean everything.

I hung up and rose to look through the door window. The mudroom on the other side was empty. I had to be silent now. Luckily, the door opened without squeaking. I stepped inside and searched the room for a weapon. I found an umbrella, not much use against Johnson’s crowbar.

I opened the door to the kitchen, every nerve alive, the umbrella held at the ready. The overhead lights shone brightly. I heard faint human voices. It sounded like an argument, but I couldn’t discern the speakers. My chest tightened.

A broken plate lay wedged in the corner at the far edge of the floor. In search of a better weapon I quietly opened a drawer on the left and saw odds and ends: spatulas, mixer attachments, can openers. I took another step into the kitchen.

A pool of blood seeped from the edge of the butcher block.

Read all of the final episode.

Check out the photo gallery for Hill Country Siren.


Joe finds Hector Romero at the lobby bar of Los Cabos Royale resort

Joe finds Hector Romero at the lobby bar of Los Cabos Royale resort

Joe travels to Cabos san Lucas, Mexico, in search of Hector Romero, a former lover of Sophie’s. He tracks Hector down at the lobby bar of Los Cabos Royale resort, where they have a heated conversation. Afterward Joe scales the dunes to Sophie’s former beach house in search of an alias for Johnson Sagebrush.

Read episode 9.

Excerpt from Episode 9

The house stood on the side of a hill that rose up from the dunes. Similar high-end homes occupied the surrounding hills. Sophie’s old house had two floors, a tile roof, and floor-to-ceiling windows across the back. A pool deck area overlooked the ocean.

I had half expected the home to be dark; many around it were, but bright lights shone in Sophie’s place, and on the ground floor a person walked from room to room behind plate glass windows.

Sanjay had learned that the shell company that bought Sophie’s house had flipped it two years later to a Graham Whitaker. The house was part of a gated community with an unlisted phone number. I had guessed that my best chance to meet Whitaker face-to-face was with an old-fashioned knock on the door.

As I climbed the dunes to get closer the going got tougher. Fine grains of sand, whipped by the wind, stung my face. I grabbed at sea grasses that clung to the dunes. The terrain changed from dune to hillside, and I ran into rocks, cactus, and native shrubs. At the top a six-foot concrete wall formed the back edge of the pool deck. I reached for the upper edge of the wall and heaved myself high enough to grab the lower railing of the patio barrier.

Sophie once owned a Cabo Dream house like one of these

Sophie once owned a Cabo Dream house like one of these

Large potted plants and four palm trees framed the deck area. The wind rustled the leaves and made ripples on the water in the pool. Behind me the waves crashed and rolled up the beach. I clambered over the rail, crept halfway to the house, and crouched behind an outdoor bar.

The ground floor was one great room, with the kitchen and dining area on the left and a living space to the right. A woman stood in the kitchen leaning against a counter, talking on a cell phone. She wore slacks, a sweater, and had short gray hair. A man sat reading a book in a big chair in the living space, his legs resting on an ottoman. He wore a sweatshirt, running shoes, and had reading glasses. They had left the sliding doors open, and the soft sounds of a Steely Dan song carried out to the patio.

The woman continued to talk on the phone as she watched a coffeemaker on the counter. She closed the flip phone and put it down; then she poured coffee into two mugs and walked into the living space. She handed a mug to the man, leaned to kiss him, and sat in a nearby chair.

Lurking outside the windows, watching the older couple, I felt like a peeping Tom. Climbing the dunes had been harder than I expected, but I had made it that far, and they seemed harmless enough, so I pressed forward.

I stayed in the shadows and walked to the side of the house. A narrow strip of smooth gravel stones separated it from native foliage. I walked along the strip of gravel, past two central-air units, and came out to the front yard. From there I crossed the small lawn, climbed two steps, and looked at the front door—no doorbell. I knocked twice.

After twenty seconds of no response I knocked again. A shadow moved behind the glass at the side of the door.

“Who is it?” said the man.

“Joe Robbins. I’m a neighbor.”

I waited in silence. The lie was an attempt to induce him to open the door.

“Just a minute. Be right there.”

Footsteps walked away. After a short interval they returned. A dead bolt clicked and the door opened. The man stood about six feet. He had removed his reading glasses and wore a windbreaker with his hand in the right pocket.

He hadn’t worn the windbreaker in the back room, and his hand looked funny in the pocket, as if he held something.

“Sorry to disturb you,” I said.

“We’ve been coming here for years, and no one’s ever knocked on the door at night.”

Whitaker spoke in a flat tone and eyed me with a steely gaze. My blood pressure jumped ten points.Hill Country Siren - Ch 31 Joe grills Hector in the open courtyard

“Let’s take it easy,” I said. “I’m going to raise my hands.” I lifted my arms until my hands were face-level, palms forward.


“Sorry I lied. I’m not a neighbor.”

“You have dirt on your hands and a lump on your forehead. I figured you weren’t here to borrow sugar.”

Whitaker seemed calm, which gave me comfort; he wouldn’t casually shoot me or accidentally pull the trigger.

“As I said, my name is Joe Robbins . . . and you’re Graham Whitaker.”

“How did you know my name?”

“The Internet.” It felt like I was standing in front of a rattlesnake trying to avoid making a stupid move. “You want to take the gun out? It will shoot straighter that way.”

“Why not?”

Graham pulled the gun from his pocket and pointed it at me. It looked every bit a serious pistol, large-caliber.

Read all of episode 9.


The final episode of Hill Country Siren will be published here on June 2.



Johnson Sagebrush calls Joe out of the blue. During the call Joe learns that Johnson followed him and Sophie as they walked through thousands of people at the ACL festival. But why did Johnson follow him?

The next day at the festival Joe spots a suspicious man in the crowd, but when he tries to catch him, he is surprised.

After the show Joe learns that Sophie is expecting him at the after party.

Fallen behind?



Zilker Park is transformed for the ACL music festival

Sophie’s voice cracked as she announced to the crowd, “A terrible thing happened two nights ago. . . . a close friend of mine was murdered.”


Excerpt from Episode 5.

I stood taller than most of the fans and looked right to see Adrian walking at the edge of the crowd, the two security guys at his side. When I raised my hand to wave they saw me and moved into the crowd.

I cut my eyes left and saw the man looking at me, a weird smile on his face. He turned toward Adrian.

“He saw me looking at him,” I said over the radio. Adrian and the security guys pressed through the crowd, still a good way off. When I looked back the man had moved. He walked directly toward the stage, shoving people out of his way.

“He’s moving,” I said. “I’m following.”

My adrenaline kicked in as I jostled by the couple in front of me. “Excuse me. I need to get through. Thanks.” I breathed deeply, my nerves on edge, and moved to the next couple. “Sorry. Yep. Thank you.”

I saw him. He pushed hard by two women. They glared as he passed.

“Pardon me. Thanks. I need to get closer.”

“Hey, man, that’s not cool.”



He had gained five feet on me. How did he get through them so quickly? People stood closer together now. Sophie sang one of her fast-paced country-rock tunes.



I couldn’t see his head clearly, only the straw fedora. Sophie stood a hundred feet from me. I waved my hands at her, trying to warn her. A thousand hands waved along. I grabbed a man’s arm and shoved him to the side.

“Watch it, dude.”

“I need to get through.”

“Fuck you, man.”

“It’s an emergency.”

The hat was gone. Where? I squeezed through the crowd in the same direction, struggling.

“Shit. Yeah. Someone stole my hat,” a man complained to his girlfriend.

She watched the stage without listening to him.

“Where did he go?” I asked.

“I didn’t see him. He just stole my hat.”

“What does your hat look like?”

“It’s a Longhorn cap.”

“What color?”


The man had switched hats. I pressed ahead, searching for a black cap. I moved through a bunch of teenage girls in skimpy clothes. There . . . a black cap.

I stepped between a blond-haired man on the left and a young woman in an orange T-shirt on the right. The watcher had blond hair, but that important fact slipped my mind, and as I stepped again a metal water bottle swung from the left and struck my forehead.


Pain. Sharp pain. No vision. Knees gave out.

I fell onto a small man. He jerked out of the way, and I hit the ground.

I couldn’t move. More pain. My ankle throbbed when someone stepped on it.

My vision returned. Legs were all around me, perpendicular to my line of sight. The tempo of the song was wrong, too slow. A woman in boots stepped on my hand, sending swirls of fire up my arm.

“Shit, what was that?” said the woman. “It’s a person. Someone’s on the ground. Stand back.” She pushed at people around me, shouted at them. “Back up. Give him some space.”

The crowd spread away from me. I touched my forehead. Blood covered my fingers. I looked up and saw the watcher making his way through the crowd.

“Christ. Look at that blood.”

“What happened?”

“Watch out. Stand back now.”

A man knelt and studied me with concerned eyes. He put his hand on my shoulder. “Are you okay? Can you stand up?”


Episode 6 will appear on May 5, 2016.

Hill Country Siren: A Joe Robbins Financial Thriller (BOOK 3) Episode 1

Read episode 1 of Hill Country Siren
HCS ebook cover 2.4M


November 2, 2003

I loved Sophie Tyler long before she hired me.

She was a hometown hero, a musician who grew up in Austin and made the big time. Sophie got her start in the mid-seventies working live venues with a band called the Texas Strangers. She worked the southwest circuit until she got her break as a solo artist in the early eighties.

In high school I couldn’t afford the ticket for a live performance, but I bought her albums and played them over and over, studying the covers and the liner notes, mesmerized by her voice. I would put her album on the record player in my upstairs bedroom and climb onto the roof to look at the stars.

When an incident affects me profoundly enough to invade my dreams, I write about it. The setting down of words on paper helps me think through the events, the role I played, the gains and losses, and the lessons learned, if any. I’ve been writing this story for weeks now, typing away in solitude, earbuds in, listening to Sophie’s music.

Though my journey began with a simple investigation it eventually meandered, step by avoidable step, onto a path more wondrous and perilous than any I had ever known. To the wonders I contributed nothing, but as for the perils . . . well . . . you must be the judge.

Read Episode 1 (Prologue plus chapters one through four). Feel free to leave comments below, and if you enjoyed this episode share it with your friends.

Date palms line the streets on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills

Date palms line the streets of Canon Drive in Beverly Hills

Synopsis: Joe Robbins (freelance CFO) is hired by Sophie Tyler, an aging rock star, to conduct a fraud investigation and winds up on the trail of a serial killer.

Check out photo gallery for Hill Country Siren.

For those readers returning to the series, Episode 1 provides an update on Joe’s relationship with his first love, Rose, and also a brief visit with his daughters, Chandler (twelve), and Callie (ten). You’ll also get to see Lieutenant Rico Carrillo, head of the Austin Police Department’s homicide division.

If you are new to the series, fear not. Hill Country Siren stands on its own, and if you like the story you can catch up later by reading Hill Country Greed and Hill Country Rage.

Read the rest of Episode 1.

Follow the blog to receive future episodes automatically. Episode 2 will debut here on April 7, 2016. Tell your friends.



Financial Thriller: Hill Country Rage: Cover Photo ===>>>> Photo Gallery

In a pivotal scene of the Joe Robbins Financial Thriller, Hill Country Rage, Joe sneaks up to a mansion on Lake Travis from the water side and climbs into a boathouse. For the book cover I wanted to use an actual photo of Lake Travis.

To get this shot I went to Mansfield Dam Park and walked across a narrow isthmus to an island that is normally submerged but visible when lake levels are seriously low.

Once inside the boathouse, I hoisted the dry bag onto the decking and pulled myself out of the water.

Joe Robbins hoists his dry bag from the water into a boathouse like this one in Hill Country Rage.


For more visual images of scenes from Hill Country Rage check out the photo gallery.

Those of you who live in Austin know that Lake Travis was about sixty feet below normal in the spring of 2014. Recently the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) declared that Lake Travis had reached capacity once more due to rains received since last summer.

In the photo above you can see a rock wall well above the floating boathouse. Today that wall is under water.

Take a look at the final cover to sort out the portion of the photo we used in its design.

Hill Cover Rage cover used an actual photo of Lake Travis when water level was sixty feet below normal.

Hill Cover Rage cover used an actual photo of Lake Travis.

Derek Murphy, my cover designer, spliced a photo of a lone boatman onto the cover as well. The boatman was taken from the below photo. You can see the boathouse in the distance.


Watch for the first episode of Hill Country Siren, which I plan to post here next week.


Patrick Kelly delivers thrill ride with HILL COUNTRY GREED: AN AUSTIN, TEXAS MYSTERY

My debut novel, Hill Country Greed: An Austin, Texas Mystery, was recently published and is available on Amazon and other online retailers.  Woo Hoo!!   Hill Country Greed ebook-final-1536x2048

Click to read the first five chapters free.

Click for the Amazon listing.

Here are a few of the Amazon reviews the novel has received.

I need a second helping of Hill Country hijinks now! – Larry Sykes

Honestly, I found it hard to believe this was Mr. Kelly’s first effort. The story sucked me in quickly and never bogged down. The mystery kept me guessing until the very last, when everything came together in a most satisfying manner. Hill Country Greed is chock full of sexy, sleazy, smarmy, and smart characters, all well developed and fascinating in and of themselves. Joe Robbins is a complex and flawed hero who’s grab for the golden ring left him bruised and bedded, but not beaten! I don’t know what Mr. Kelly has planned for his second novel, but I’m anxious to find out more about Joe Robbins’ back story and what makes him tick!

In the words of Oliver Twist, “Please, sir. I want some more.”

Hill Country Great! – Karen D. Snyder

Great read! Well constructed. Characters were well developed. Pat Kelly has created the next Stone Barrington with a twist. Looking forward to the sequel.

Great dot-com era thriller – Ryan C.

I worked in the high tech sector in Austin during the dot-com era, which is the backdrop for this book. And I can tell you, this book captures it perfectly. Anyone who was in this business in the ’99-’01 timeframe will recognize the people and the mindset that permeate the software company depicted in the book.

Really captivating story, lots of good plot twists & turns, and very hard to put down. Buy it, read it today, you’ll love it!

Don’t Miss This One! – Bolin Millner

If you like thrillers, and even if you don’t, you’ll love this book. First of all, the protagonist, Joe Robbins is a highly skilled and complex character. He is a family man as his relationship with his young daughters shows. I hesitate to say that this relationship with his girls is “endearing” because I don’t want to give you the wrong impression – he is hard as nails in a lot of ways. He knows his way around the board room and he knows martial arts. (He knows his way around the bedroom too!) This book has an immediacy to it – you feel like you may have heard about the corporations and the personalities involved on the evening news. The reader gets to enter an intriguing world, filled with power players and greed, while at the same time the book is an imaginative and engaging mystery. Personalities and plot make this a great read. Don’t miss it.

Very fast paced and entertaining read – highly recommend it! – Peter Zapple

I received Hill Country Greed on a Friday night and finished reading it by Sunday. I found it to be a fast paced and very engaging read that I found very difficult to put down. The story contains enough twists and turns to keep even the most veteran detective story reader off-balance and wondering what is going to happen next. Patrick Kelly does a great job of bringing the dot com era to life, from both the financial and human perspective. I also enjoyed his descriptions of Austin and Las Vegas and eagerly look forward to his next book!

A great mystery that will have you guessing until the end – Andrew

Hill Country Greed is an exciting mystery that will pull you in and keep you guessing until the very end.

The story is told by the CFO at a fast growing software company in Austin in the late 90s. The company is gearing up for an IPO as the markets crater.

Austin residents will find it particularly as much of the action takes place at well known Austin locations.

Definitely worth reading.

Very entertaining story! – KS

Hill Country Greed is a fantastic debut novel that I found myself unable to put down until it had revealed all of its secrets. Mr. Kelly’s story is full of great characters, scenes and dialogue that truly make you feel as though you were there. I highly recommend this.

Conclusion: If you like financial thrillers or business mysteries or stories about Austin, Texas, you should DEFINITELY read Hill Country Greed. Click to read the first five chapters free. You WILL be entertained.

Thank you for visiting.  P.K.