Bridgett Lemons was a young woman on the verge of realizing all of her dreams. In just a few short months she would be on the path to the life she had always wanted. But when an abusive Ex comes back into her life and threatens to destroy everything she's worked so hard for, Bridgett has no place to turn. Or maybe just one. Derrick Olin, at one time a top Air Force antiterrorism operative, now a freelance professional bodyguard. He agrees to take on Bridgett's case and soon finds himself confronting an unbalanced combat vet obsessed with his client and seemingly bent on self-annihilation. Complicating matters further, there's someone even more dangerous stalking the Ex. Someone who wants to make sure that the dark secrets torturing the young soldier's twisted mind stay buried forever! And if Bridgett and Derrick get in the way, they'll bury them too. If they can!
I was standing at the back of the lower pistol range watching as the four men and one woman I'd been working with for the last five days calmly squeezed the triggers of their semiautomatic pistols, expended rounds striking the cardboard targets downrange in tight, precise patterns. Standing to my right, dressed somewhat inappropriately for a dusty firing range in mid-May in Ala- bama, was Marc Guyerson, Executive Vice President and Director of Corpo- rate Security for the Colonial Bank Group of Alabama2, the second largest bank in the state. Everyone else, myself included, was wearing loose-fitting and comfortable lightweight clothing. Marc had on a charcoal gray suit, white shirt with button-down collar, and a red striped tie. His black leather oxfords had been highly polished when he first arrived, but no more. Still, he did look every bit the corporate executive that he was. I guess he couldn't leave the office even when he had left the office.
The five shooters were the newest members of the bank's Special Response Team (SRT), responsible for handling crisis situations ranging from bank branch robberies to kidnappings or attacks on key bank executives. They also acted as protectors for senior executives when they traveled over- seas or during times of increased threat. Marc Guyerson took a direct interest in the activities and training of SRT members and usually found the time to come out and watch at least part of their training when he was able to arrange it. Today he was able to make it out for their final firearms qualification and he was smiling like a proud papa, pleased to see the progress that each team member had made. He turned to me.
"Excellent work, as usual, Derrick," he said, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Once again you've worked your magic and turned raw material into highly efficient operators. I just wish you'd agree to come to work for me full-time. The bank could really use you. Like I said before, you'd be a vice president right off..."
I held up a hand to silence him, still watching what was happening downrange, the team just emptying their weapons and quickly reloading in unison. Turning to Marc, I reached up and adjusted my eye protectors.
"You know I like working on my own, Marc," I told him simply. "Be- ing my own boss. Had enough of other people deciding what I should do and when during my ten years in the Air Force. Now I'm a free-agent and am quite happy. I appreciate the offer, but once again, no thanks."
Before he could reply, there was more gun fire and we both turned to watch the team. When they finished this time they pulled the empty maga- zines from their weapons and holstered them. The range officer called the range safe and turned toward me. I nodded, removing my ear protectors and walking forward.
"Thanks, Pete," I said to the thickset range officer who wore jeans, a black range T-shirt that was tight across his muscular chest, and a matching ball cap. "We're done down here for the day. At least with the shooting part. They'll police the area and break down and clean their weapons before leav- ing."
Pete Newhouse nodded, removing his own ear protectors, wiping the sweat from his brow underneath the brim of his cap.
"Alright, Derrick," he said, walking over to the shaded cover where Marc and I had been standing. "They did real well, all of 'em. Even the young lady, and I had my doubts about her in the beginning."
"Yeah," I said, choosing to ignore the hint of sexism in his remark. "Thanks for all your help, Pete. I'll stop by the clubhouse before I go."
He nodded, adjusted his cap, and then started off for the hill that led up out of the range and to the main clubhouse. Marc Guyerson was already standing in the middle of the small group of SRT members telling them how proud he was of them. I walked over, slipping a blue ball cap onto my cleanly shaven brown head.
"Does anybody here think they could use some improvement?" I asked no one in particular.
After a slight hesitation, they all raised their hands.
"Right answer," I said. "Never let yourself get to the point where you think there's no more you can learn or no room for improvement. Each of you is a hell of a shooter and an even better security agent, but none of you is perfect. You can all become better, and you should always strive for that. And having said that, let me say this, you all did very well this week and I would like to echo what Mr. Guyerson just told you. I'm proud of what you've accomplished, and I am happy to sign off on each of you becoming full mem- bers of Colonial's SRT. Congratulations."
There were smiles, hoops and hollers, and some hugs.
I smiled, mostly to myself. None of these kids was older than twenty-eight. Marc was nearly fifty and I was forty, a generation older, and we had seen a lot more of the hard things in life than any of them. If they stayed in this business for any great length of time they would see plenty too, and then they wouldn't be smiling so much or so eager to take on jobs that stood a good chance of getting them killed one day. But that is not a relevant thought for today, not for them and not for me. My work is done. Collect my pay and go home. Pretty soon there would be another job, there always was.
I had them pick up all their brass, take down the targets they had shot up and drop them in the big garbage cans at the back of the range, then watched with Marc as they expertly broke down and cleaned their weapons. It was noon when they were done and Marc invited everyone out to lunch on him to celebrate. I had to decline because I had a prior commitment, but I shook everyone's hand and told them I'd be checking on them from time to time.