Bullies, thugs, and killers, all the scum that regular people fear and try to avoid. But Derrick Olin has never been confused with a regular person, and there isn't much that he fears. So when he's asked to help out a group of people who've recently found themselves on the receiving end of a series of bad tidings, Derrick doesn't hesitate. The usual course of events follows. The violence escalates, Derrick retaliates, and soon there are a lot of very unhappy people everywhere. The only difference this time is that Derrick is no longer the lone wolf that he's used to being. Now there's someone in his life, someone who really cares about him, and someone that he really cares about. For the first time in his life this usually coldblooded operator is having serious doubts about his chosen path, and these doubts could jeopardize his current mission. So now, in addition to dealing with the armed killers who've targeted his latest clients, Derrick also has to decide whether or not he should continue with the life he's been leading. It's the end of the series, but is this the end of the Derrick Olin that we've all come to know and love? Will the fear consume him, or will Birmingham's best bodyguard emerge... Fearless!
M.J.—Marcus Brenner, Jr.—was fifteen years old and already as tall as me, but much more slender; and quite handsome with unruly dark brown hair like his father’s and light brown eyes like his mother’s. In many ways he was just a typical average American teenager, complete with divorced parents, but in his young life he had had to grow up kind of fast and in some respects was far wiser than his years. Still, he was kid though, with all that entailed.
It was six o’clock and Traci, M.J., and I were sitting at the dining table having supper. He had come home an hour ago after finishing up with wrestling practice and Traci and I were downstairs in the kitchen making dinner. He was smiling when he saw us and made some half-assed remark about domesticity. His mom tossed an uncooked slice of potato at him and M.J. caught it with lightening quick reflexes, then put it in his mouth and chewed it down. Traci shook her head as she laughed at him, and then told him to go and wash up for dinner.
Traditionally, I am led to understand, the man sits at the head of the table during evening meals with the family. But since we are anything but traditional—and not exactly a family—Traci sits at the head of the table with M.J. and me on opposite sides. Everyone seems comfortable with the arrangement.
“So like I was saying earlier, Derrick, that leg lock you showed me really worked out good. Jimmy Fisher couldn’t break it and he got really mad when I had him pinned down. Coach came over and counted him out and Jimmy got really red. First time anybody got him in a lock he couldn’t break out of.”
I took a sip of the Earl Grey tea I was having with my dinner and nodded.
“Well I’m glad it worked out for you,” I told him.
“Yeah,” M.J. said, taking a quick mouthful of potatoes, cooked this time. “It was really sweet. What did you say it was called again?”
“Well it’s a Sambo move,” I told him. “Sambo being a Russian mixed martial art. It's actually an acronym for the Russian words that roughly translate to self-defense without weapons. I’m not really an expert, but I’ve picked up a few things here and there. Sambo requires a lot of discipline to learn, but as you already know it can be quite effective.”
“You’re not kidding. Where’d you learn it? In the Air Force?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I was still in service at the time. It was one of several defense styles I was taught. The most effective one is also a Russian style known as Systema, the System. Probably one of the best unarmed combat styles I know of.”
“Sounds awesome,” M.J. said with a grin, looking over at his mother. “Hey, mom, do you think it would be alright if Derrick taught me some more stuff? Maybe this Systema thing?”
Traci sighed and put down her fork, staring directly into her son’s eyes. I knew that despite what she had said earlier about being happy he was concentrating on something other than computers, she was still not entirely happy with the fact that her son had chosen wrestling and fighting for a diversion. It probably reminded her too much of the life her ex-husband had lived, a life she truly did not want for her son.
“I think that would be up to Derrick,” she said evenly. “I’m not sure if he has the time. But you could ask him and see.”
Great, I thought, taking a bite of a homemade buttermilk biscuit. She was shifting it off to me. Perfect.
The boy looked at me expectantly.