A vicious street gang is terrorizing the homeless of Birmingham and no one seems able to stop them, not even the police. But Derrick Olin isn't the police, and he isn't bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape either. He's a highly skilled man of action, ready to do whatever it takes to stop the terror and protect those who've been abandoned by society. But he'll have to watch his every step, and his back, because there is more going on than he realizes. On the one hand is a brutal gang of thugs, but on the other, hiding in the shadows, an old friend turned bitter adversary with a score to settle. But Derrick isn't worried. Settling scores is just another day at the office for this battle-tested operator. And he has no problems settling them in blood!
It is curious that although I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and have been living there off and on for most of my adult life, that only recently have I actu- ally come to Atlanta for more than a quick change of planes at the airport. This is my third actual trip here, and the second to the Hilton Atlanta Towers in downtown. Another job. Close-protection. An artist from Birmingham is here to exhibit some of his latest works and to give a speech to what is sup- posed to be an adoring and receptive crowd.
But if the crowd is supposed to be so adoring and receptive, then you might ask why Gino Molina needs the services of a professional bodyguard? The answer is quite simple: because not everyone appreciates Mr. Molina's art or his political views. Imagine that in such a tolerant society as the one we occupy today.
I'm not much of an art lover and I don't usually travel in circles where it is discussed all that much. However, prior to taking this assignment I had heard of Gino Molina. He is sponsored by a wealthy Birmingham citi- zen for whom I have worked a number of times before and she had mentioned him and his work on more than one occasion. Plus there had been a few local news reports, and one on CNN that I had caught regarding him. Supposed to be very talented, the next van Gough according to some. I wonder if this means he'll have to lose an ear before his career can really take off.
Anyway, not everyone appreciates Mr. Molina's artistic expression or what he has to say regarding current American national and foreign policy. And as a result there have been numerous verbal and written threats against him, some rather graphic. A few times someone has broken into his down- town loft back in Birmingham and wrecked the place, spraying graffiti all over the walls. And once, about three months ago, somebody shot the windows out of his car in a drive-by. Fortunately for Mr. Molina he was not in it at the time; it was the middle of the night and the vehicle was parked on the street in front of his building. Even with all this he still refused to move.
So now there were private guards employed to protect his home, and on occasion they shadowed him from place to place in order to make sure no harm came to him as he went about his business in Birmingham. However, these guards were not really trained in the field of close protective services and since Atlanta would not be familiar territory to them, Molina's sponsor decided it would be a good idea to hire somebody who was well-schooled in close-protection and comfortable operating in Atlanta.
Yours truly fit the bill in both respects and I was called in.
And now here I am. Derrick Olin, personal bodyguard to the arts and artists.
Ordinarily I don't do celebrity jobs. Too much of a profile and usu- ally the clients don't really need protection so much as chaperons or babysit- ters. I'm neither, and despite how good the money is, I would prefer to starve rather than work those kinds of assignments. My temperament is just not compatible with that kind of job.
However in the case of Gino Molina, I was pleasantly surprised. He was not spoiled, he was not arrogant--well not so arrogant that I couldn't stand to be around him--and he actually listened to my suggestions and did his best to adhere to them. Quite refreshing because one might be surprised at the number of clients who refused to listen to the advice and instructions that were given to them by the very people they had hired to keep them alive. Molina was different. I suppose he took the threats to his life seriously. And so did I.
That was the second reason I took this assignment. In my estima- tion, the threat was real. That had been rather dramatically demonstrated more than once. Even before the shooting up of his car. I would not be win- dow-dressing hired to make him look more important or to scare photogra- phers. Although the latter could be fun sometimes. In particular if the pho- tographer was a real dick.
Before I took the job I did a thorough threat assessment, spending some time reading what information had been acquired regarding the threats and break-ins by the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Birmingham Police Department, thanks to a detective I know there. My conclusion was that there
probably was no organized, direct threat to Mr. Molina, but he was definitely on somebody's shit list. Probably a few nutcases who were sitting around drinking beer one day and saw him on TV, didn't like what he had to say, got pissed, got even drunker, and thought it would be a good idea to make some trouble for the guy. Eventually they would be caught. They were stupid. Careless. The only reason they had gotten away with the harassment so far was because Birmingham PD had a lot more pressing matters to deal with at the moment, chief among them the increasing unsolved murder rate and the further loss of officers through attrition.
A search on the internet revealed a number of right-wing blogs dedi- cated to deconstructing the works and positions of Mr. Gino Molina. I found some sites that rather explicitly suggested ways that his kind could be dealt with. One went so far as to call for his lynching with a very long and coarse rope. That blog was disseminated by someone who lived in Smyrna, Georgia, barely a hop and a skip away from Atlanta. I asked my detective friend to see if she could discreetly inquire into the background of the blogger, but her at- tempts to do so met with negative results, as we used to say many centuries ago when I was an agent with the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations. And since we didn't have a warrant or subpoena, further official inquiry would have been illegal.
Be that as it may, the blogs just added weight to the seriousness of the threat that Mr. Molina faced, and therefore I took the contract and ac- companied him to Atlanta. We actually flew instead of driving the two hours because neither of us likes long car rides. Of course, I'm not really a fan of flying either, but it does beat a couple hours in a car on the interstate. But there was one unpleasant moment on the brief flight that is still bothering me three days later.