I’ve gotten away from talking about my writing projects. But with Against Flesh and Blood out there, the third in the Lawman Series will be coming out. I’m aiming for around Christmastime to release it.

It will be called The Judas Tree in reference to the tree the Bible tells us Judas hung himself on after betraying Jesus.

This particular Judas is one the characters in my novels named Max Laurie. His betrayal will be just about everything he ever believed in.

To understand him means we have to see him in the context of his past.

Max is a member of the so called “Regulators.” He is one of six of the original founding fathers. This is a group of friends who have a couple of things in common. They’re all (or were) MPs, they’re all cowboys, and they all went through Basic Training and AIT together. Through an odd set of circumstances (not so odd, I’m writing the story and can keep them together), they all went to the same units, and worked undercover narcotics and MPI together. They all served together in the Gulf War, and afterwards, they all went their own ways.

Two of them stayed in the military. Eric joined the Texas Rangers. Will Diaz, the central character in my books, and Terri both saw the writing on the wall and got out. Terri is with the FBI and Will is as detective with his old sheriff’s office. Jonesy left to go to the LAPD. And Max got out and opened a guide service.

The last evening this group would be together in the military, they went out into the forest, camped out, and made a fire. After they’d eaten, Terri broke out a bottle of brandy. As Will describes it, it was old Brandy bottled in a very ornate bottle. It gave a new meaning to word “smooth” and probably cost her a small fortune.

Terri poured each a glass. They all made an oath to be there for each other till the day they died. They drank the brandy. Then each cut a slash across their palm and became blood, in a ceremony older than time.

They swore one other thing. That they would hold each other accountable and if any of them needed to be brought to justice, the others would bring that person before the courts.

Flash forward a couple of years.

Max was one of the first characters I introduced. He’s always been living on the edge. In one chapter ends up in Will’s jail. Max has a problem. He drinks and he beats his wife, neither of which is acceptable in Will’s book. Because they’re all friends, Will uses his influence to get Max into counseling, tries to get him into church, but despite Will’s best efforts, Max doesn’t change.

One Christmas dinner, Eva reveals Max is still beating her. What follows is a Christmas Will is unlikely to forget. And it sets the stage for some of what happens in the next two books.

Next book has Max doing a little undercover work for Will and RJ. Now here’s a place where telling a story using first person narrative works rather well. Will is oblivious that Max is up to no good. It isn’t until we’re well into The Judas Tree (the third book in the series), that there’s even hints that he was up to more than they knew.

By book three, things are going badly for Max. His marriage is a shambles and it’s just a matter of time before the divorce goes through. He claims to be one step ahead of the bank in most things.

Then he puts RJ in ER. The assault on a man Will considers a brother stretches Will and Max’s relationship to the breaking point.

Will can’t help his friend now. Max has crossed a line from which there is no turning back.

Without saying too much, Will rolls the dice to save his friend and urges him to live.

But Max still believes in justice, and prophetically tells Will, “This will end with my death.”

The Bible warns us that the wages of sin is death.

Max will collect that payment for those wages.

But his shadow will loom over Will and all his friends for several books to come.