Thirty-year-old Megan Cruise sat patiently behind the wheel of her 2010 silver Toyota Prius waiting for the light to turn green. She had a near permanent smile fixed to her face and try as she might she couldn’t stop. She glanced in the rearview mirror and saw her face was practically glowing. Her big brown eyes were always noticeable but more so today because she had her contacts in instead of wearing her thin-rimmed glasses.
She stared at the sapphire bracelet she wore. Nick had sent it to her when she had turned twenty-one. She took her foot off the brake as the light turned green and turned right off Kneeland Street and onto Washington Street, blowing a piece of her brown hair out of her face. It ended several inches past her shoulder blades and normally she would have put it in a ponytail but she hadn’t wanted to take the time for it today.
She passed Max’s on the left corner of Avery Street, the dojo being only two more blocks away. There was supposed to be a big fight going on there tonight. She had gone to Max’s a few times to see what it was like and each time Nick had been right there with her. She found it to be too loud and filled with too many people no matter what night she went but she had enjoyed spending the time with Nick.
Megan was much more comfortable in front of a computer, which caused most people to write her off as a geek because of that. She also liked to read comic books and she played RPG’s. She was a huge fan of fantasy stuff and her Blood Elf Mage had kicked all kinds of ass on World of Warcraft back in the day. Now that honor fell to her Orc Berzerker on Elder Scrolls Online. They were set to release a new dlc later this year and from what Megan had been able to gather from a friend of a friend, was that it would be epic.
She didn’t just limit herself to computer games though as she had been one of the first to sign up to playtest a lot of the Pathfinder stuff from Paizo and was a huge backer of Kickstarters. One of her favorites had been Numeria by Monte Cook Games as she had liked the thought behind it.
She still held a particular soft spot for the game that started it all, Dungeons & Dragons, especially since it was her dad who had taught her how to play. She had a lot of memories of snow days home from school with all day sessions with him. Her gaming group was currently playtesting the newest setting for 5th Edition D&D, Dominaria. It would be the first ever hybrid of D&D and Magic The Gathering, both owned by Wizards of the Coast. Megan had largely stayed out of all the internet chats about it, mainly because Chris Perkins was the lead designer and if anyone could make it work, he could.
She turned left onto Temple Place and then right, down to her parking spot. She saw Nick’s Trailblazer already there and she pulled into the spot opposite of his. Her friend and teammate Clarissa was also part of her gaming group. She was away on a secret assignment at the moment, which left them a player short for tomorrow night’s game. Surprisingly Nick had agreed to fill in for her, hence why she couldn’t stop smiling. She couldn’t wait for tomorrow night as it would be a much welcome respite from her otherwise very serious work.
Megan locked her car and went around front. She took out her key and unlocked the door. She saw the Bradley brothers on the gym side and went in. Shane was on a bike machine in a black sweat suit. Sweat was pouring from his face and most likely all of his pores.
“Hi guys. What’s going on?” she asked while waving.
Mark, who had been lying down in the corner of the ring, quickly stood up and got out of it once he saw her.
“Hey Megan,” he said.
“Just helping him cut weight for his fight tonight,” Sean replied while glancing at Mark.
“You coming tonight Megan? You can be my good luck charm,” Shane said, giving her a big smile.
“Certainly a degree of luck does factor into your match but the overall outcome could be better determined by many variables. Such as your dexterity, striking power, how much energy you’re using up by cutting weight so close to a fight, the air quality you’re taking in at-”
“Megan,” Shane said.
“I just wanted you to… never mind,” Shane said.
The door opened and the four of them turned to see Nick walk in, an open can of Mountain Dew in his hand.
“Oh thanks Nick, I’m parched. It’s really warm in here,” Megan said.
She took the Mountain Dew from him and proceed to take a long drink from it. Mark and Shane stared at Nick with a ‘are you serious’ look on their face, as he fought back a smile.
“Um, you’re welcome Megan.”
“Are you ready?”
“What are you guys doing?” Mark asked while looking at Nick.
“Nick’s taking me out for lunch so we can go over our plans for tomorrow night.”
“Oh yeah. You still want us to show up at your place by six for the Super Bowl, right Nick?” Shane asked.
He had stopped peddling at this point and grabbed the towel Sean was holding.
“Tomorrow’s the Super Bowl?” Megan asked.
“Yeah. You didn’t know that?” Shane asked.
She glanced up at Nick, a bit of a worried look in her eyes. He smiled and put his arm around her.
“Don’t worry Megan, we’re still on for tomorrow night.”
“I promised you didn’t I?”
“So wait you’re seriously not going to be there bro?”
“The girls are getting stuff for it now. Bobbi called earlier from the store. And before you ask Shane, she’s making wings.”
“I’ll see you guys later tonight,” Nick said.
“Bye,” Megan said and waved.
“Bye Megan,” Mark said.
They watched as Nick and Megan left. Megan’s arm hooked around Nick’s as they did. Sean watched Mark and Shane, their eyes were on Megan, or in Shane’s case, her butt the whole time.
“Seriously bro, how can a chick that hot be such a geek?”
“What’s wrong with being a geek?” Mark asked though they both ignored him.
“Don’t know. Don’t care,” Sean replied.
“What? You telling me you wouldn’t want a piece of that? Her ass is awesome.”
“Didn’t you say the same about Clarissa?”
“That’s different bro.”
“Why, because Mendoza clocked you when you said that about his sister. What do you think Nick will do if he hears you talking about Megan like that?” Sean asked.
“Oh like you’re one to talk bro. I’ve seen the way you look at Carol.”
Sean ignored him and said, “Go clean up Shane,” then walked over to the office.
Shane looked over at Mark who said, “Your brother is such a pain.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“What, I’m starving.”
“You have to lose another ten pounds by this evening and you’re really going to sit there and stuff your face with a burger?”
“It’s a triple Whopper with cheese.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Sean ‘Cassidy’ Bradley stared at his brother Shane. Shane was a year younger than Sean was but taller by a few inches at 6'5 and had a shaved head, whereas Sean had a head full of black hair. They grew up on a farm in Maine where they both worked it until they left to join the military right after high school.
Shane had since spent a lot of time in the gym to tone his muscles and look more like a pro wrestler whereas Sean still had that big country farm boy look to him, with six-pack abs of course.
Shane was a former Marine while Sean was a former Green Beret. Had he stayed in the military there was little doubt that Sean could have been a Delta Force Operator.
“You guys might want to settle this. Nick’s coming.”
They both glanced at the third person in the gym, twenty-nine-year-old Mark Sung.
Mark was considered a tactical prodigy. While he would never see credit for it, Mark Sung was the one who had originally brought up the idea of a ‘surge’ during planning sessions with his commanders in Iraq. The problem with that, he was only nineteen at the time. Months later, older and more seasoned commanders had adopted his ‘idea’. Mark had just turned twenty when President Bush gave his speech in January 2007 about the ‘Troop Surge’ going forward, which in turn led to the success of Iraq.
For all his brilliance, Mark found most things to be too much of a pain to bother doing. After redeploying to Afghanistan, he became increasingly tired of their Rules Of Engagement and frustrated with what appeared to be a lack of desire to fight to win the war. He joined Nick’s team right before the Bradley brothers.
Sean took a step toward his brother going for the Whopper.
“Hand it over.”
“Back off bro,” Shane said and moved the Whopper out of his reach.
Shane had been stationed at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Honolulu years back with his unit for the briefest of moments and went surfing once while he was there and had been hooked on it ever since. Sean knew he only talked like a surfer dude just to piss him off.
“What is going on?”
They both turned to see Nick standing there.
“I told you,” Mark mumbled.
“He’s trying to take my lunch away,” Shane replied.
“You make weight?”
“Not yet but-”
“Give it to him then.”
Shane looked at the Whopper before giving it to Sean.
“You guys suck you know that,” he said.
“You shouldn’t have made the bet then,” Nick said referring to the bet Shane made with the team that he could drop fifteen pounds before his fight and still win. The fights at Max’s were straight up cage fights with no regard to things like weight classes and such but Shane had felt the need to give himself another challenge to overcome.
“The only thing that sucks here is your ground game,” Mark said. He was now leaning on the ropes in the boxing ring.
Even though he lived on the second floor of the building, Mark rarely came down to the gym except on big fight nights to help guys with their strategy.
“Yeah well where’s Mendoza? He was supposed to be helping me with my Jiu-Jitsu.”
“Mendoza’s still down in South America on that job he took.”
“Man, what a pain, it’s been like a month now,” Mark said.
“Yeah but he went with that sniper chick. The one from Columbia with the big jugs.” Shane said holding his hands out far from his chest.
Sean glanced at Nick then said, “Okay enough stalling, go get a sweat suit on and get in the sauna,”
“Stop bossing me around bro,”
“Do you want to win tonight?” Nick asked.
“Of course I do. There’s a guy from the WFL going to be there. I win my fight, he gets me in.”
“Into the World Fighting League?”
“Yeah, how cool is...” Shane stopped as Nick, Sean and Mark were all looking at him.
“You can’t accept that offer you know,” Sean said.
“I’m not throwing the fight.”
“Hey now. You know that type of talk is not tolerated anywhere and especially not here Shane,” Nick said.
His tone leaving no mistake that Shane should stop now.
“Sorry Nick, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“It’s alright. Go cut the weight. And listen to your brother. He’s gotten you this far in your ‘MMA career’.”
“What about me?” Mark asked.
“Oh hey Mark. I figured you’d be taking another nap by now seeing it’s after one already.”
“I thought about it but it’s such a pain to walk back up all those stairs to get to my bed you know. Wouldn’t want to work up a sweat.”
Shane gave him the finger then went over to the sauna, grabbing a black sweat suit as he did.
“What’s gotten into him?” Nick asked Sean.
“I don’t know but I’m beginning to think that this whole cage fighter alias is starting to get to him. He’s starting to believe that he could someday be World Champ or some bull...” Sean stopped as he saw Nick give him a look.
“Shane Cassidy WFL heavy weight champion of the world,” Nick said.
Sean shook his head.
“He won’t sign any contract Nick, I’ll make sure of it.”
“Good. One more thing Sean, something has come up, so I won’t be able to make that basketball game with you and the guys tomorrow afternoon.
“Maybe next time?”
“Sure. Shane will probably be too tired anyway. So we’ll still have an even number of players,” Sean replied. He’d been looking forward to the game, as it would have been the first time just the guys had been able to hang out for weeks. Oh well, they all had busy lives, Nick more than the rest of them. He seemed to take his cover a little too far at times, Sean thought.
“I’ll be in my office waiting for Megan if you should see her first.”
With that, Nick left. Sean looked at the Whopper he was still holding.
“Do you want it?” He asked Mark.
“No thanks. I’d have to get out of the ring. Then I’d want a drink to go with it. Which means I’d have to walk over to the offices and get a Mountain Dew from Nick which then means-”
“Okay Mark. Never mind. Sorry I asked.”
Sean went and sat down on the stairs to the ring before taking a bite out of the Whopper. He waved to his brother just as he closed the door to the sauna.
“Well look who’s up. Nice to see you made it in time for lunch.”
Bobbi ignored Carol as she walked into the kitchen rubbing the sleep out of her eyes as she took a bowl from the cupboard and a spoon from the drawer.
“We have any Lucky Charms left?” She mumbled.
“No. Julie ate the rest.”
Bobbi frowned but grabbed a box of Coco Puffs before sitting down at the breakfast bar that overlooked the kitchen. Carol took out a Poland Spring bottle of water for herself and put the milk on the table for Bobbi, who proceeded to overflow her bowl with it. She took a huge spoonful and milk and several Coco Puffs fell out of her mouth.
“Where’s Julie?” She asked her mouth still half-full.
“She went home.”
“It’s after one,” Carol replied. “And thanks for letting her sleep in the living room last night cause you know how much I like walking in and seeing her half naked on the couch.”
“Yeah, well once I started puking she didn’t want to stay in bed with me. And my head hurts so I stayed in bed a little longer than usual. And it’s not my fault she didn’t stay in one of the guest rooms,” Bobbi said, mumbling the last part.
“Your head always hurts Bobbi. Maybe you should cut back on the drinking.”
Bobbi looked up from her bowl of cereal, her long dirty blonde hair obscuring most of her face.
“Where’s the fun in that?” She asked.
“Maybe it’s where your pants are.”
Bobbi looked down to see she was only wearing her sleep cami and light lavender boy shorts underwear. She didn’t remember taking her pants off.
“Nick here?” She asked with a grin on her face.
With any luck he’d give her a slap on the butt and tell her to get dressed.
“No. I haven’t seen him today.”
Bobbi replaced her grin with a pout before eating more cereal. She remembered Nick helping her to bed but that was about it.
“Are we still going to get food for the Super Bowl today?” Carol asked.
This time Bobbi finished chewing and said, “Oh hells yeah. You still want me to make wings?”
Bobbi stared at her. Carol was almost smiling.
“I don’t know. You seem awful cheerful about it.”
“Just looking forward to the party is all. Should be a great game right?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Good. Go shower and put on some clothes so we can get going. I’ll drive,” Carol said and walked out of the kitchen.
Bobbi looked at her bowl, there was still cereal in it but she wasn’t hungry any more. She placed it in the sink, not bothering to dump it out, then went upstairs wondering why Carol seemed so excited about a football game.
Frost stepped out of the still moving black Chrysler Mini Van, landing on the sidewalk as the side door automatically closed behind him. Hudson continued driving as if nothing had happened. Frost broke into a stride as he headed toward Senator Greenwell’s house a block away.
It was an overcast afternoon and a chill filled the air. It wasn’t as cold as Maine had been but it was one you felt. The streets had people on them but overall it was quite outside. Everyone was getting ready for their Super Bowl parties.
He took his next right and worked his way toward the back of the Senator’s house. Normally Frost would never have agreed to meet at Greenwell’s place but there had been this real sense of panic in his voice that had intrigued him. Frost had been given orders to ally himself with the Senator a few years ago. To approach him as a spook that needed an ally fighting for him up on the Hill.
Greenwell was a decent enough man but could be very timid at times. While that made things easier when dealing with the man, Frost didn’t think that had been the main factor in selecting Greenwell. He thought it was because the Senator would leave him alone. There was the occasional question or two but generally Greenwell stayed out of his way as he believed in principal what it was Frost was doing for the country and that his time was better spent fighting the enemies of this nation than constantly being called in front of various committees. In return, any time Frost came across a rare painting in his travels he would send one here and there to Greenwell. The Senator didn’t know anything about Frost’s current project, SCI, and Frost was to keep it that way. To be honest, Frost wasn’t sure if any politicians knew about SCI.
Frost cut through the Senator’s backyard and went up to the backdoor. It was unlocked just as he asked. He stepped inside, shutting the door behind him. He was in what he guessed served as the Senator’s den. A good size television and several recliners. Senator Greenwell was sitting in the recliner with a drink in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. The shades were open and a single light was on by the Senator.
“Where’s your security?” Frost asked.
“Towards the front. I told them I wanted to be alone,” Greenwell said as he got up leaving the piece of paper on the stand next to the recliner.
Frost nodded and said, “So what can I do for you Senator?”
“My briefcase was stolen. I need you to get it back for me.”
“So you said on the phone. What was in it?”
“Are you familiar with Webb Security?”
“They’re a private security company who were hired to protect a government facility in New Hampshire. This past fall there was an incident.”
“What kind of incident?”
“I’m on a subcommittee looking into it but early reports show that the chemical this facility was working on was released. Webb Security sent in a team to help contain the situation, but everyone there died.”
“You’re talking about that huge fire this past October?”
“That’s the one.”
“My understanding was that Trilling Technologies was at fault since it was their facility.”
Greenwell shook his head, as much to disagree with Frost, as it was to hide his shock that Frost knew about Trilling’s involvement with the facility.
“As if a fire of that size wouldn’t be bad all on its own, my investigation has uncovered that the Webb Security Team lost control of the situation and killed everyone. Over two dozen people murdered and they may have set the fire themselves to cover it up.”
“That’s quite the accusation. Do you have proof of this?”
“All my notes and data are in my briefcase. There was also a disk containing security footage of what happened that night.”
“How did you come across that?”
“There were a few surviving members of the Webb Security Team. One of them sent it before our meeting and has agreed to give me a written testimony of what happened that night.”
“You’re meeting with him?”
“Yes, this evening in fact. It might be the only thing that saves this investigation. Combine that with the stuff in my briefcase and I know I can nail these guys. Otherwise Webb Security will never be held accountable.”
“Please Frost. You’re the best I know who can do this and be discreet about it. I’ll owe you one.”
Frost stood there for a moment. He didn’t think this would take too long now that he knew what he was dealing with, but he still had other stuff to take care of. He did however like the idea of being able to call in a favor down the road from the Senator.
“Alright Senator. I will personally start looking into this today but I’m going to need full cooperation from you and your security guards.”
“Yes of course. I have this for you too.”
Greenwell went over and got the piece of paper he had been clutching when Frost first came in.
“I wrote down the description of the woman that I met yesterday and the name of the place where I met her.”
“You think this woman took it?” Frost asked as he took the piece of paper and glanced at it.
“I don’t see who else it could have been. We came back here for drinks and dessert and I passed out. When I woke up she was gone and so was my briefcase.”
“Was it out in the open?”
“No. I keep it in my safe, hidden behind one of my paintings.”
“Sure. Follow me.”
Greenwell led him upstairs and showed him his room.
“There’s a lot of paintings in here Senator.”
“You should see my house in New Hampshire. The collection is even better there too.”
Frost turned to look at him. Greenwell smiled.
“Who was in charge of your security last night?”
“Where is he now?”
“I sent him home for the day. I couldn’t even stand to look at him this morning. I mean how does he not see her leave with my briefcase?”
“Did you ask him about it?”
“Yeah. He said she must have hidden it under her coat and that they’re not in the habit of patting down my visitors when they’re leaving.”
Frost nodded then said, “Okay Senator. I’ll be sending someone over for your security camera footage a little later, so if you can get that ready.”
“Sure. You got it Frost.”
Frost checked his watch before leaving the same way he came in.
Nick put his right turn signal on and waited for a young couple to go across. Someone behind him beeped which he ignored and let several other people go across. Once the way was clear, he turned down a side road that was just barely big enough for two cars, assuming they were small cars and each person stuck to their sliver of road. Nick put his left turn signal on and pulled into the decent sized parking lot.
The road went on a little longer past the parking lot to a stop sign and a no right turn sign. Traffic from Washington Street could cut through what Nick and Bobbi called ‘Alley Road’ as the road was a glorified alley, but it bypassed the three lights on Temple Place, the street his building was on, and brought people out onto Tremont Street. Nick tried to always go home that way as it was easier than trying to get back onto Washington Street.
Nick parked his black Chevy Blazer facing Alley Road in between Shane’s white truck and Sean’s red truck. Both were 2014 Ford F-150’s, the year before the F-150’s switched to a mostly aluminum body. They were fully loaded with all kinds of bells and whistles from GPS to the chrome bug shield. Nick knew so much about the trucks because he was the one who purchased them for the ‘Cassidy’ brothers as payment for a job they had done for him. As to why they could never park next to each other he didn’t know. Nick was just glad to have his parking spot.
There were eight spots. Four facing Alley Road and four facing the back of his building. Back when the business first opened, hardly a day went by without someone taking his spot. Or every spot for that matter, it was Boston after all. Carol had suggested the ‘Tenant only or you get towed away’ sign after she had to park on Winter Street, the next street up from Temple Place, and walk back in the pouring rain. One of the area gangs affiliated with the Chenghu brothers had taken it upon themselves to park their Yamaha motorcycles in the spots to provoke them. They stopped after their bikes ended up in chop shops and the Cassidy’s put eight of their members in the hospital. Now everyone knew to stay away from Alley Road.
He locked his Blazer and looked up at the building he and Megan owned. It was five stories high and over 9,500 square feet. It had been on the market for over a year before they purchased it. The seller had wanted close to four million for it but Megan had talked them down to a little over two and a half million dollars, paid in cash. They used the extra million plus they saved to renovate the place.
It was paid for using a front company Megan had set up a year before in Vegas. The company was a MMA sponsorship for training fighters in Vegas and was looking to expand into New England. Their home office was out in Las Vegas, Nevada. They used Regus Offices so that they had an actual office and someone who would answer phone calls, which where than forwarded on to Megan so she could keep track on who was looking into them.
The company had also bought land and a cabin up by Rangeley Lake in Maine. That was the team’s first ‘bug out’ spot. They would take trips there in the summer to hang out and freshen up supplies but it was only considered a waypoint and red herring to the teams second and bigger ‘bug out’ spot.
Megan had used a separate front company to buy their bigger plot of land even further up Maine in Aroostook County, close to the Canadian border. They owned plenty of farm land up there not to mention something else that made the Walker Compound look like child’s play.
A second front company bought land in Montana, while a third front company bought a large amount of land in Texas, near the Dallas area. This of course was assuming anyone could connect them to actually being the Vegas front company and not just employees of them. Megan tended to have a healthy paranoia and liked having backups to the backups, but seeing as how she use to work for the NSA he could see some of it being justified.
Nick glanced at the backdoor to the dojo but decided to walk around to the front, taking his key out along the way. Megan had wanted him to get the keyless locks for here too but he countered that it would draw more attention to the place by arising suspicion as to what was so valuable inside. Megan had agreed to ‘shelf’ the issue for the time being. She would never completely drop a subject if she had not won. She would merely ‘shelf’ it until a later time when she had come up with a better case for it. While that sounded like it could get annoying fast, Nick knew Megan still had things on that ‘shelf’ since they were teenagers together and had yet to bring them back up.
A closed sign hung up right under the Summers Security graphic stenciled into the glass. There were no hours as they didn’t take walk ins. Customers were recommended or referred to them by someone else. There was an exception from time to time but that was rare. He stepped into the small foyer locking the door behind him. To his right was a glass door that led to the offices. Stenciled onto the door was Summers Security “Protection and Self Defense Lessons”. To his left was a glass door that led to the dojo area, the lights already on. Shane most likely getting ready for his fight tonight.
Nick unlocked the door to the offices. He flipped the lights on and went past Sean’s desk by the window to his desk to check his e-mails on his laptop. There were two other desks further down in the room that faced his. Carol’s was on his left giving her a view of the window and Sean on the rare occasions he sat at his desk. The other desk belonged to Megan. She sat on the right out of sight by those who passed by on the sidewalk and faced Nick. Past her was their hidden safe on the wall behind a picture of an island in the Caribbean, a full size refrigerator, and the bathroom. There was a fake wall in the bathroom that led into the back of the building by the exit.
Carol was the head instructor there and also served as the VP to Summers Security, at least as far as the public was concerned. Megan took care of the actual contracts and paperwork. Nick was the lead bodyguard with Sean helping here and there but he and his brother Shane were primarily trainers. Bobbi also worked there as a part time kick boxing instructor. With the current popularity of Mixed Martial Arts, there was no shortage of guys willing to pay cash for training that would help them win a big fight even if some of the trainers were women.
Carol was a former Karate Instructor for the US Army and Bobbi’s reputation for getting it done in the cage was usually enough for most guys to check their ego’s at the door. Those that didn’t ended up getting hurt. Bobbi was more forgiving when it came to guys ‘accidentally’ touching something but Carol not so much. Twice she had warned one guy, which was once more than usual and he still touched her breasts. She dislocated his shoulder seconds later and was moving on to an ankle lock when Sean stopped her.
Of course men weren’t the only paying customers. Through word of mouth, Nick’s dojo had quietly gotten a reputation where female operatives for the US government could go to and get some great training in. Only Nick and Carol handled those training sessions. The agreement being that Nick wouldn't ‘know’ they worked for the FBI, Secret Service, US Marshals, CIA, etc… and they would ‘buy’ that Nick Summers was just a laid-back bodyguard who only took easy jobs and failed to make the cut for the US Army Rangers. So far, it had worked out well.
For all the money Summers Security made as a legit business it was yet another front company for his mercenary team, Red Diamond, though he would argue just how much it really was his team.
The idea had been all Megan’s. She had been working on it in secret for some time. After Nick’s Sensei Junzo Iwasaki passed away, Nick had decided it was time to come back to America. He had been gone for eight years. No sooner had to gotten off the plane Megan began telling him all her ideas and that she had already bought this building.
Red Diamond would be made up primarily of the sons and daughters of Tony Walker's old mercenary team, The Foundation. Nick wasn’t too keen on the idea but apparently everyone else was and were waiting for his approval. Well almost everyone. One person was missing from the group as he wanted nothing to do with Nick. He instead moved out to Las Vegas.
Nick told them they didn’t need his approval but they insisted. He finally agreed with the condition being that Morgan leads it, with Sean serving as second-in-command. The team was run like his father’s in that he didn’t have a huge company that employed hundreds of ‘security contractors’. Instead they were a small but elite team of professionals who could be tailored for specific off the book jobs that the government or certain individuals needed taken care of discreetly.
If Nick was the glue that held the team together then Morgan Ramsey was the team’s moral compass. A former Green Beret he had become like a second dad to Nick and they all knew that if Morgan had agreed to take on a job then there was a good reason for it besides making a quick buck. He had been the first person the two of them had hired for Red Diamond. Megan, like her father before her served as the computer and math genius of the team and took care of all the finer details as well as everyone’s alias.
Nick finished reading the e-mail CJ sent him then closed his laptop. CJ Chambers was until recently a US Marshall and before that a Texas Ranger and in a few weeks, she would be part of the team. A rough-and-tumble Texas blonde, CJ had a number of things going for her, but for Nick it was her accent. He never got tired of listening to her talk. Factor in the cowboy hat she was fond of wearing and it was a hard combination to resist.
He cracked his neck then went over to get a Mountain Dew from the refrigerator and looked at the clock above the picture of the island. Megan should be arriving anytime now.
Frost set the cooler on the floor in front of the passenger seat before getting in. He wasn’t sure what the fingers were for but he had been asked to get them by his superior so that’s what he did. He had only met his superior in person twice. The first time had been while he was lying on an operating bed dying.
It was August 6th 2011. He had been in a Chinook helicopter with members of the Naval Special Warfare Developmental Group, more commonly known as SEAL Team Six. They were flying to the eastern Afghan province of Wardak as a quick-reaction force to provide backup to troops on the ground. Things were moving so quickly at the time, Frost, then known as Lynch, hadn’t thought much about why so many Navy SEALS were on the same chopper together.
Before they could even get to the troops on the ground, their Chinook was hit with a rocket propelled grenade, aka an RPG, and they crashed. It was recorded as the single biggest loss of life at one time for US Navy SEALs. The only reason Frost was even able to crawl out of the burning wreckage was because the SEAL Team Captain had switched spots with him at the last minute before takeoff.
A Med Evac Chopper showed up shortly after to put his badly burnt body onto it and fly him to a medical station. Once there they began working on him. At some point a two-star General showed up and asked him if he would like a chance for revenge against the bastard that did this. He could offer that to him but it would mean leaving everything about his old life behind. Frost nodded. And in that moment the CIA lost Agent Lynch as well in the chopper crash and the SCI gained operative Ryan Frost. A new man with a new background to go with the new face they had to replace his old half burnt one with.
The two-star general’s project is called The Shadow Cell Initiative, or SCI. It was a way off the books Black Ops project. Their goal was to hunt down and eliminate terrorists before they could do any damage. On the surface they sounded much like any other secret assassination unit out there. What made them different was that SCI found and eliminated sleeper cells. The people who played out their fake lives before being activated to do serious harm to the innocent men, women, and children of this country.
SCI operatives had to be both intelligence gathers and assassins. People like Frost had been selected to join from just about every agency within the government and they used those agencies to piggy back their operations. They rarely met face to face and were off the grid in more ways than one. Frost had been assigned to the East Coast and tasked with the New England Area specifically. The Patriots Day bombing in Boston back in 2013 proved that it wasn’t just the big cities like New York and Los Angles that had to worry about terrorists.
One of the more blatant problems with SCI tactics on the surface was the fact that they did kill. They didn’t kidnap a suspect then torture them to find out more intelligence about other groups. They went in, killed the bad guys, and left others to go through the data left behind. Anything important would find its way back to SCI operatives one way or another.
Frost was aware that some people out there would consider his group nothing more than vigilantes taking the law into their own hands. Especially since they had a habit of ruining other agencies surveillance and undercover operations by killing the targets. Frost didn’t lose any sleep over it because every kill mission he ran had already been approved by someone higher up in the government.
Frost knew he didn’t always have the full picture but someone above him did and if they wanted the trigger pulled, Frost had no problem being the finger on that trigger. America was still at war and they were losing. Killing a four-man sleeper cell took them off the field of battle for good.
Unfortunately, there had been a problem with his latest operation in that he had to bring in Morgan Ramsey to help carry it out. Frost didn’t want to bring in one of his usual men, like Hudson, to take out the cell just on the off chance he was spotted or someone questioned his whereabouts at the time. One of his oversees operatives was suppose to make a trip into the US to take care of the job but he had vanished a week ago. As of now, no one knew where he was. In the black ops world it wasn’t uncommon for operatives to have to go underground for a bit and wait things out so Frost wasn’t worried about him just yet but he still needed this particular cell eliminated.
That's where Morgan Ramsey came in. He had used him and his mercenary team on several jobs and they were worth the money. He didn’t tell Morgan anything about SCI just that he needed these four men dead and it couldn’t look like a government hit. No silenced pistol shots to the head. Morgan told him he could take care of it, for a price, and he had come through Frost thought glancing over at the cooler.
Frost had just crossed what Morgan referred to as the ‘High Level’ bridge that connected Maine to New Hampshire when his cell phone began to ring. He got it on the seventh ring.
“Frost, its Jerry Greenwell.”
“Hello Senator. What’s wrong?”
“Why do you think some things wrong?”
“Why else would a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee call a Defense Intelligence Agent at this hour on his private, secure line?”
“Well you’re right. I need your help Frost.”
“Sure. What is it Senator?”
“My briefcase was stolen from me and I need to get it back before it’s too late.”
Forty-nine-year-old Morgan Ramsey shut off his black Ford Excursion and looked out through the windshield at the ocean waves as they crashed onto the rocks. He lowered his window, feeling the chilly February wind on his face. He preferred the cold to the heat which is why he decided to build his house in New England. It offered a nice change of temperatures, so when he did get tired of the cold it would already be time for a warmer season.
The passenger side door opened and Ryan Frost got in. He was roughly the same size and build as Morgan but younger and was dressed in a gray business suit with matching coat.
“Morning Captain,” Frost said.
“Don’t call me that Frost,” Morgan replied.
“Sorry. I’d have brought you some coffee but ran out of time,” Frost said.
“That’s fine,” Morgan said.
He reached behind his seat and pulled out a small red Coleman cooler. He gave it to Frost.
“As promised,” he said.
Frost nodded then opened it to see four pointer fingers packed in ice.
“You still continue to amaze me Cap… Morgan,” Frost said after Morgan looked over at him. “Especially when you had such short notice on a very difficult job.”
“Your point Frost?”
“Just curious who you used is all.”
“A distant acquaintance,” Morgan replied.
“As in none of my business?”
“Well their work speaks for it’s self. Nobody has mentioned it yet. It’s still undiscovered.”
“My acquaintance likes to do things quietly.”
“Well, I hope your acquaintance will be available should any other situations come up,” Frost said.
“I believe that could be arranged. For a price of course,” Morgan replied.
“Of course,” Frost said.
He reached into his pocket, pulled out a business card, and gave it to him.
Morgan took it and looked it over. There was an account number on the back.
“I trust she’ll know what to do with it?” Frost asked.
“I should warn you, the FBI is looking for her. Heard they think she is in Boston right now.”
“Appreciate your concern Frost, but you don’t have to be. Megan will be fine.”
“Me worried? Not at all. Besides what could be safer than working for Morgan Ramsey, right?”
“It’s been two years Frost. You need to get over it.”
“Oh I am. But you know how DIA works. They don’t like being out bid, especially by a mercenary no less. No offense,” Frost said.
“None taken. Besides the DIA doesn’t seem to have any problems coming to a simple mercenary like me when they need stuff done.”
“We like employing professionals,” Frost said.
“You like having the best,” Morgan corrected.
“So have you found your missing operative yet?” Morgan asked.
“Not yet. But I’m sure he’ll turn up. He’s a good man.”
Frost glanced at his Rolex.
“Well I have to go catch my flight back to Washington. Nice seeing you again Cap… Morgan. You’ll have to come to Washington some time.”
“No thanks. Too many politicians,” Morgan replied as he started up his Excursion.
“True,” Frost said and got out.
Morgan put his Excursion in reverse and drove off, leaving Frost alone with the cooler.
Miranda let out a yawn as she turned onto the road she needed. She couldn’t wait to finally be done for the night so she could change out of what was now her third outfit of the night. Even though it was by far the sexiest, it was also the most uncomfortable.
Despite what that bitch Rose Thornton had said to her earlier, Miranda was in fact smart enough. With an IQ right around a hundred and sixty-three, she knew good looks were one of the reasons she was so good at what she did. Like her father before her, she was a spy and a damn good one at that. She was training at the Farm, the CIA’s secret training ground when she was only sixteen and graduated top in her class. Her real asset was her ability to speak four other languages besides English.
The CIA has several levels of proficiency when it comes to speaking another language. In Chinese, she scored an S-4, which was advanced professional proficiency. In Russian she scored an S-4+, which stood for advanced professional proficiency plus. It was Spanish and Arabic though that she scored the highest in, an S-5, functionally native proficiency.
Even though she didn’t have certain dialects down it was still her ability to speak Arabic that was reason enough for then several current agents to help sneak her into the Agency, by doctoring her age and rigging the polygraph test the Agency uses in the screening processes. It didn’t hurt that her father was Michael Gomez either.
Miranda saw the turn to the motel on her left and pulled up next to the entrance. She had received Baines message twenty minutes before Rose had showed up. After she had called him back, Miranda found an empty parking lot and changed yet again. The plan was to go to Baines motel whether he called or not. It was a bit easier with him calling but the outcome would have been the same regardless.
Miranda killed the high beams and got out. She was dressed the same as she had been in Miami on the night she killed that man tied to the bed. He was a reporter based in DC who was doing an investigation piece on Webb Security, the people who had hired the company Miranda and Rose worked for. This reporter also happened to have a very close working relationship with Senator Greenwell. Whenever a quote or interview with a Washington insider was needed for a story, nine out of ten times this reporter got it from Greenwell. Killing him wasn’t part of the original plan but when they found out he was going on vacation in Miami this week it was too good an opportunity to pass up. It also eliminated a potential loose end later down the road.
She was wearing a one-piece black leather outfit with a zipper down the front. Even with last week’s salad diet, it was tight. She had zipped it up as far she could get the zipper, just below her breasts, exposing the matching bra she wore with it. She also wore matching boots that added a good three inches to her height and a dark curly red hair wig. She unzipped her small purse and stuck her disposable cell phone on top of the Taser hidden inside. The only other item it contained was her ID. It was a Las Vegas driver’s license, which said her name was Jean Pryde. She carried her knife inside her boot and had a tiny one hidden on her thigh just in case.
She stood by her car for a second as she stretched her back. The overweight clerk at the motel counter was making no attempt at being discreet and stood staring out the window at her. She waved at him before heading to Baines room and knocked. Seconds later the door flung open and he was standing in front of her. He took one look at her then grabbed her by the arms and pulled her into the room where he slammed her up against the wall. He held her there with his left forearm while closing the door with his right foot.
“Word is you like it rough?” He asked.
“Why do you think I cost so much,” Miranda replied with a smile.
Baines smiled back and let her go, before he slapped her across the face. Miranda said nothing but stumbled in the direction of the bed. Baines backhanded her with his other hand and she made herself fall onto the bed. Her phone spilled out of her purse and landed on the floor past the bed. He mounted her and ripped her bra apart, exposing her breasts. He squeezed them hard, leaving red marks before he wrapped his hands around her throat and began to choke her.
Or at least that’s what Baines thought he was doing. Miranda laid there surprised at how easy this was going. She had been expecting at least a few punches or something. Baines may have been good at his job when he was a Navy SEAL a decade ago before he was dishonorably discharged but now he was a piece of shit ex-convict who could only get it up by beating on women. Baines let go of her throat and Miranda pretended to gasp for air. Her training by the CIA and her father had been far worse than anything he could hope to do to her.
“Now you’re really going to choke,” he said as he got off her and unbuckled his pants.
Miranda moved her purse closer. Baines had just dropped his boxers when she sat up, Taser in hand, and hit him in the chest. She glanced down and smirked.
“Nobodies choking on that baby,” she said.
She tightened up her fist and punched him in the face before he fell to the floor. She stood over Baines, pulled the knife from her boot, and looked at her ruined bra.
“It’s been a very long day for me, so I’m really going to enjoy this asshole.”
Baines struggled to move but failed and Miranda plunged the knife into him.
“Is that all?”
“Dollar five please.”
Nick placed the dollar and five pennies into the clerks hand then took his large fountain Mountain Dew off the counter and went outside. Even at this late hour there were a few cars outside the local Seven Eleven. He walked over to his black Chevy Trailblazer and saw three teenagers hanging around it. They were all football players from the high school up the street. He recognized one of them immediately. A tall heavy set senior named Kenny who was twirling a hot pink keychain with a single shiny silver key on it. His dad was a Maine State Trooper, which Kenny took to mean he could be a prick to anyone and never have to face any consequences. Kenny also happened to be the ex-boyfriend of one of Nick’s clients, Joyce Diaz.
“Help you guys?” Nick asked before taking a sip of his Mountain Dew.
“Thanks. You boys stay in school, get a job and work hard, you can get one someday. I’d lose the football jackets though, seasons over and you guys suck.”
They all glared at him but knew he was right. They didn’t win one game all season, compared to just a few years ago when they almost won the state championship. To say it would be a rebuilding year would be an understatement.
“Or maybe I’ll just do what you do,” Kenny said taking a step toward him.
The kid probably had a few pounds on him but where Kenny was all-fat, Nick was well-conditioned muscle. He took another sip of his Mountain Dew, this one longer than the first. He knew Kenny expected him to ask a question but he didn’t feel like humoring a bunch of bored teenagers on a Friday night any more.
“You guys moving or do I need to do it for you?” He said to the two blocking the driver’s side door.
While these two looked to be in better shape than Kenny, they still didn’t impress him.
“I was talking to you,” Kenny said.
“I’m sorry. You must have confused me with someone who cares.”
“Maybe you’ll care when my dad hears you’ve been raping an underage girl.”
Nick stood there staring at Kenny, his eyes narrowing slightly, as a dozen different ways to cripple or kill him flashed before his eyes, two of which involved his straw. He didn’t though. Instead he took a third sip of Mountain Dew then took out his keys and stepped toward his door. The two teenagers moved over next to Kenny.
“You better keep your hands off my girlfriend asshole!”
“Ex-girlfriend Kenny. And watch your mouth.”
He gave him the finger and Nick smiled back as he pulled out of the parking lot. He went around the Kittery traffic circle passing the Dairy Queen on his right. It was currently closed for the winter but would reopen come spring time. He and the girls usually went there two or three times a week as he had a weakness for soft serve ice cream. He went under the little bridge and headed down Route 236 toward the town of Eliot. He took a left turn at the light just before the town line and after a minute drive down the road, veered right onto a dead end street.
He slowed his speed down as he dialed Bobbi’s cell phone. On the eighth ring, it went to her voice mail. He switched it off without leaving a message. He rubbed his eyes before focusing on the fairly dark road ahead.
It was a mile long stretch of nothing but trees. His dad had the road built back when the land was first purchased in 1990. His house was in Kittery as was the three acres of land it sat on. He also owned another five acres of wooded land next to it in the neighboring town of Eliot. A few years ago while he was still in Japan, Nick had the road paved again and new lampposts put in to light it up a bit better. He also had cameras mounted on them to alert him to any visitors. Each lamppost also had a M2 SLAM or selectable lightweight attack munitions attached to it. There were four different detonation modes to pick from. Nick had chosen to use the M3 version which could only be triggered from the ‘war room’ in his basement and were intended to stop or slow down ‘unwelcome visitors’.
His dad had their house built in the middle of nowhere for that very reason. No one turned onto his road by accident. There were no other houses on it and the ‘dead end’ and ‘no turn around’ signs helped to add to that. To this day he still wasn’t sure why his dad had picked Kittery to live in especially since Nick had spent the first seven years of his life in Japan before ever setting foot in this house.
He hit the button to his titanium gate and increased his speed. Bobbi always flew down the road in her red Ford Mustang convertible. So far there had only been two incidents with that habit of hers and the gate. The first one had required some bodywork and new paint for her car. The second one had him buying her a brand new Mustang. Even after that Nick knew Bobbi still did it, but she was more discreet about it when around him.
The gate was all the way open when he got there. Once through he hit the button again to close it. He parked up by the front door and got out, his Mountain Dew in hand. He touched his finger to the door and entered his pin number. His best friend Megan, who also happened to be the computer expert on his mercenary team, had insisted they get keyless locks for the doors. It was just one of many features that she had put into the house. The door unlocked and he went in. No lights were on and he left it that way as he took his shoes off by the door. Normally with the system, lights would turn on automatically but Nick currently had it set to voice activation only.
While the house he grew up in had been torn down and rebuilt to go with their log cabin front company, Nick still remembered how it use to look, especially the kitchen. That was the room where his mother had died in his arms and it was the main reason why all the windows had state of the art bulletproof glass. A part of him still hated snipers.
His father had died upstairs in his bedroom along with three other men. As long as he lived, Nick knew he would never forget that night. He was twenty and had killed five men that night. Two with a gun, two with a knife, and one with his bare hands.
He paused, hearing something. While he didn’t believe in ghosts, he couldn’t deny the fact that he felt his parent’s presence at times. This October would make it eleven years without them. Eleven years since his parents were assassinated. Eleven years since he almost died as well. And to most of the world, Nick Walker had died that night. Replaced by Nick Summers, a laid-back bodyguard who had nothing to do with Tony Walker, one of the world’s best mercenaries. A man who had taken down the Quinn Family, the most powerful criminal family on the East Coast.
Nick smiled then took one last sip of his Mountain Dew before heading upstairs to bed.
Halfway up though he heard a not so unfamiliar sound, that of Bobbi throwing up in the toilet in the bathroom at the top of the stairs. No wonder she didn’t answer the phone he thought. He left his Dew on top of the banister, across from it on his right Carol’s door was closed and the lights off. Nick stepped into the bathroom. Bobbi was face first in the toilet. Her ponytail was gone, she was in gray sweat pants from Victoria’s Secret that said ‘pink’ on the butt with a matching sleep cami that was a size too small for her that said ’all night long’.
“Go away,” she groaned while trying to hide unsuccessfully from him.
“Sure, in a second.”
He opened the cupboard, took out a washcloth, and ran it under warm water while filling up a cap full of mouthwash. He shut the water off, knelt down next to her, and gave it to her while moving her dirty blonde hair out of her face.
“Scorpion Bowls suck.”
“You told me you’d only been drinking a little.”
“I drank more later.”
“Clearly. You good?”
Bobbi wiped her mouth with the washcloth and swigged the mouthwash before spitting it out. She flushed the toilet and said, “Yeah.”
Nick picked her up and carried her to her room, right next door. His feet fought to move through all the junk on her floor.
“Nope,” she replied before groaning again.
Nick covered her up then went down to the kitchen. By the time he came up with a can of Ginger Ale and a package of crackers, Bobbi was fast asleep. He left the stuff on her nightstand then went to his room to bed.