Here is the first chapter of the new book:
The Divine Devils
Lance Sheppard stood outside the sprawling mansion, on this cool middle of May morning, waiting patiently for the two teenage kids he was assigned to protect. He tapped his silver watch nervously in rhythm with his pulse, as if to make time slow down. Worry lined his cleanly shaved irritated face. If they didn’t leave soon, he was going to get the kids to school late, which would set off a chain reaction of anger from their mother. She’d read him the riot act several times about punctuality, placing the blame squarely on his shoulders, though it was rarely his fault.
When hired the thirty-four-year-old head of security didn’t comprehend what was involved organizing protection for two teenagers. Out of his element in dealing with a soon to be eighteen-year-old female high school senior and a fifteen-year-old male who was a freshman, a decision he often regretted these past weeks. Each of the teenagers had their own agenda, neither of which lined up with each other’s or Lance’s, which was to get them to their destination on time and in one piece. Even with a loaded Glock on his hip, hidden by his favorite black leather jacket, they had no fear of repercussions, and harsh words couldn’t convince them to move any faster. For Lance this meant that once the teenagers decided to present themselves his team would have to race to the school, opening the possibility of mistakes being made. Leading to danger he might not be able to prevent, even with the two other skilled members of his team as back-up.
The son was the first to show up. Dressed in brown shorts, high-top sneakers, a defiant t-shirt his parents probably hated, carrying a bright blue backpack that was overstuffed to the point it was tearing in spots. Deion’s long straightened black hair with crimson streaks, was swept back and held in place by a substance that came out of a spray can, making it look shiny and a bit oily. In contrast to his brown skin, his right ear sparkled from an earring that may have been a diamond, a statement of his family’s wealth. Though his genealogy said he’d be over six foot someday, the teenager’s growth spurt had thus far alluded him. Instead he stood around 5’4” and was a lean one-hundred-twenty pounds. He strolled outside without saying a word, his nose buried in his over-sized iPhone as he about ran into Lance, before climbing through the waiting open door into the backseat of the limousine. A normal part of the daily routine, that left Lance feeling more like an annoyance than a man trying to protect them.
Checking his watch again, knowing their first class would be starting soon, Lance began heading into the house, his aggravation growing, when he saw all 5’11” of Olivia coming his way. She was wearing a long black skirt, matching boots with a lot of heel, and a red blouse with open shouldered sleeves covering her slender frame. Her straight shoulder length ebony hair, with jade highlights flowed as she walked, covering her ears and hiding the wireless earbuds that were blasting the music she listened to every morning. She slung a shiny black purse over one shoulder and gray backpack over the other, her left hand cradling her iPhone lovingly. She strutted like a movie star in her black leather boots, smiling as she passed Lance, and joined her brother in the backseat.
Lance took a couple of relaxing breaths, trying to find calm. The two teenagers testing him, showing little respect for the job he was doing. He didn’t expect to be best buds with them, for they had little in common. Still it would have been nice if a time or two they would show him a little courtesy. Thankfully, the pay was top of the line, a fact he reminded himself each vexing morning.
The three members of the security team took their places, one behind the wheel, the other in the front seat, while Lance sat in the back with the two kids. Reggie the driver drove the limo out and down the winding driveaway from the Colorado Springs foothills-based home, leaving the one-percent tax bracket neighborhood for the public school their mother and father insisted they attend.
“Can we stop the music for a minute to cover things?” inquired Lance, waving to get the kids attention.
Deion looked up from his iPhone, a frown on his face. Olivia seemed to ignore him completely, her head slightly bobbing while lip-syncing to the song saturating her eardrums. Perturbed Lance reached over and swept back her hair, removing one of the cordless headphones.
“Hey,” she bellowed in anger, waving as if swatting a fly bothering her. “The song was getting to my favorite part.”
“Pause the music and listen,” Lance stated firmly, his expression serious. “You know we have to go over what to do in case of trouble.”
Olivia reached down and tapped the pause button. “Why do we have to do this every day?”
Lance handed her the white earpiece. “Because you need to be prepared in case of danger.”
“It has been several weeks since the last incident. I keep telling Mom it was just some muggers.”
Lance shook his head, unconvinced by her logic. “Highly unlikely.”
“And how would you know,” Olivia quipped back angrily.
“They showed up and tried to drag you out of the car. When your boyfriend attempted to stop them, they beat the crap out of him.”
“He wasn’t my boyfriend,” answered Olivia defiantly with a shrug.
“No. He was just some guy with his hand up her blouse,” uttered Deion with a snotty smirk.
Olivia turned her head. “How would you know?”
“Word gets out around school,” replied Deion, his nose still buried in his iPhone. “Who knows what else you’d have let him do if you hadn’t been interrupted. I hear the football players won’t go out with you a second time unless they get a BJ on the first date.”
Olivia punched him in the arm in a fit of rage. Deion tried to retaliate, but Lance grabbed his wrist, stopping him. It was enough they didn’t respect Lance, but it was another that they didn’t respect each other, which pissed him off.
“Enough!” he yelled. “You two need to be there for each other. Do you understand?”
Olivia crossed her arms, pouting while mumbling under her breath, it was a reaction Lance had seen many times and wasn’t affected. Even though she was a week from turning eighteen, Olivia still had a lot of growing up to do. His job wasn’t to babysit spoilt children, but to protect them. Though he often wondered if he wasn’t a highly paid nanny.
“You both need to be clear on what to do when danger arises,” stressed Lance, his finger pointing at them. “If you make the wrong move and panic, you’re dead. Is that clear enough?”
He was being a little dramatic for effect, but he needed them to get the seriousness of their situation. They would likely be taken and not killed, at least not immediately. The threat to them appeared to be real, though for what reason was still a mystery. His job right now was to make sure they remained safe until the police had a better idea of what was going on. Though nothing to date had brought the investigators to any concrete conclusions.
Now that he had their attention, Lance started going over what to do in case of trouble. The limo was built with steel reinforcement on the chassis making it bulletproof. The glass was also resistant to gunfire but could be penetrated with a powerful enough weapon. It was an impressive vehicle but still, anyone making an aggressive attempt could get to the children. Fortunately, it was a short drive to Cheyenne Mountain High School, down Cresta Road—a hilly, winding street that led to the main driveway of the school. Because they were running late, there would be a lot of traffic dropping off students. Normally you’d run into a backup of cars coming and going, making for congestion he wanted to avoid, but once again couldn’t thanks to the tardiness of his clients.
Lance noticed Deion had a frown on his face, looking at his iPhone screen in disgust.
“My streaming music stopped playing,” he stated out loud, tapping on the screen. “My phone says, ‘No Service’ for some reason.”
Olivia looked at her phone, confirming what her brother had said, shaking it as if that would help.
Lance had never experienced a dead zone at this location previously, which concerned him. Pulling out his phone from his inner jacket pocket, he unlocked the screen seeing “No Service” just as they turned onto Cresta Road from Constellation Drive. He moved the phone up and down, hoping for a connection, which never came. They had only travelled a block, when they were rammed by a heavy, moving object, halting the limo’s motion as it slid sideways off the street and onto a grass shoulder that dipped downward slightly.
Lance was shaken, immediately gathering himself checking the teenagers for obvious signs of injury.
“Are you two hurt?” Lance asked of the two kids.
They glared at each other, shock and surprise filling their expressions. After a short pause and a quick check of their extremities they both replied they weren’t injured.
“What the hell happened?” shouted Olivia, uncertainty causing her body to shake.
Deion glanced around wondering the same thing, his hand gripping the armrest tightly.
Lance was uncertain what had happened. He glanced outside the window to see what hit them. A heavy-duty jacked-up pickup truck with a large metal grill had plowed into them, and was now backing up to bar them from going forward. From behind the truck a big dark SUV spun sideways, obstructing the rear, impeding their escape.
Checking his phone again, Lance continued to see the “No Service” message, their attackers likely using cell jammers. He yelled up front to see if his men were awake. Reggie the driver was out cold. George was alert, suffering a few bruises and cuts he was shaking off. They needed to act quickly.
“Remain calm,” explained Lance with a tranquil force in his voice. “I’ll be getting out. You know what to do. No matter what, don’t come out unless we use the safe word, despite what you hear. Do you understand?”
He saw fear in their eyes and a bit of panic. It was an emotion he wanted to avoid, though he knew that would be difficult under the circumstances, even for himself.
“It will be okay. Just like we talked about and trained for. Push the button and get down to safety.”
They both responded affirmatively, doing as they had been trained.
Confirming they were now concealed, Lance opened the door rolling his toned six foot plus body to the grassy ground, closing it quickly, the door locked behind him. He’d seen men through the one-way rear glass getting out of the SUV, appearing to be heavily armed. The front passenger door opened and out jumped George, his Glock in hand. A man came around the front, his high-powered weapon pointed, and George fired. He hit the assailant in the throat, but the man got off two shots striking George, who clutched his chest before slumping over onto the group. Blood seeping over his clothing and pavement, his eyes open, but clearly dead, no pulse to be found. Lance removed his hand from the neck, reacting to a noise behind him, firing a rushed round, missing the mark, before getting hit in the right shoulder. The force knocked him to the ground, and he attempted to roll away, hoping to switch his gun to his other hand but couldn’t. Lance found himself stopped by a sun blocking big man who had a large AR-15 pointed at him. The combined emotions of anger, fear and pain gripping him.
“Slide the gun over,” ordered the big man who was dressed all in black. His voice was deep and raspy, while his face was covered by a black hood.
Lance had no idea who he was facing, only knowing he was out gunned, seeing two other men with weapons surrounding the car, their faces shielded by cloth. He pushed the gun away as best he could with his injured limb.
“We want the kids,” demanded the big man after pocketing the Glock. “Tell them it’s safe and to open the door.”
While clutching his bleeding shoulder, Lance shook his head, pride and toughness preventing him from giving up the kids. He was holding out, hoping to buy time until the police arrived.
“The limo is a decoy,” Lance announced, trying to sound convincing through the pain. “They aren’t with us.”
“We know better,” replied the gunman, not believing the revelation. “Call out to them or I take out a knee!”
“It can’t hurt much more than the shoulder,” stated Lance through the agony.
“So be it…”
The man fired the gun striking Lance above the left knee. His scream echoed off the limo when the agony meter rose, despite what he’d hoped. Lance cursed at the man, his left hand now clutching the knee, but he held fast in defiance. It was his job to protect them, even if it meant his life.
“Tough and stupid,” commented the big man. “But not worth killing you for.” He turned to the other men knowing time was short before the authorities arrived. “Pry it open.”
One of the men came from behind him with a large pry bar. Lance watched as he jammed it into the gap between the door and the frame of the car and after a few tries got the door open. He looked inside but didn’t find anyone. The kids were nowhere to be found. A final thought of happiness filling Lance’s soul knowing they were out of reach of these men, before he closed his eyes.
“Where the fuck are they?” yelled the big man, pissed at the revelation.
The big man kicked at the motionless Lance, finding him passed out from the pain, not able to answer. Could it really have been a decoy? Was their inside information wrong?
“Check the trunk,” ordered the big man.
The crunching sound of metal on metal filled the air, as the spry bar opened it easily to find nothing inside but a spare tire and a toolbox. In the background sirens could be heard, the men knowing their time was short.
“Fuck,” uttered the big man. “Let’s get out of here. Grab our man and blow the truck.”
With the dead team member unceremoniously tossed into the back of the SUV, they drove off, the large ramming truck exploding into flames via remote detonation, sending debris everywhere blocking the road on all sides. Their escape path had been mapped out before the job had been done and with precision they disappeared down backroads before two Colorado Springs patrol cars arrived. A shocking moment in what was normally a quiet, crime free area of the city. Violence today had reached out and grabbed hold, leaving a war zone of debris and bodies.
* * * *
From inside the Cadillac Escalade, the masked big man pulled off his hood while pulling out his satellite phone to make an important, encrypted call. Zackery Unger wasn’t thrilled when dialing the number, but he knew he needed to report on the events that had transpired. Failure wouldn’t make the man paying for this mission in the least bit happy. The previous duo hired, who were local, had failed in their task and paid for it with their lives. Zackery knew this as his team had handled the killing. The bodies of those locals being dumped high up in the mountains in a snowbank. The chances of them being found until the melting happens in the summer months, minimal.
Unger had been brought in from out of town with his team because of their expertise, but at a higher cost, which his client didn’t seem to have a problem paying. Careful planning had brought them to this day. The whole mission had been working perfectly, up until they didn’t find the kids inside the limo. For what reason he had no clue which wouldn’t bode well for them, which was a concern. This was a results business, his employer expecting a positive outcome and all he could report was that they had failed. Zackery hoped to convince his client it wasn’t due to their incompetence. He didn’t care to end up rotting away in the tundra of the Rocky Mountains.
“Is it done?” queried the digitized voice on the other end of the call.
Zackery paused, bracing for a reaction. “We didn’t get them.”
“Why the hell not?” Even with digitation disguising the voice, the anger was clear, for the sound of fist pounding a table was audible.
“The plan worked perfectly, but when we got inside the limo the children weren’t there.”
“Did they magically disappear?”
Zackery paused thinking over his response, his free hand twitching nervously. Thoughts of his possible demise for the failure filling his head.
“I’m not certain, their security detail wouldn’t tell me where they were. He claimed the limo was a decoy. It appears they switched their daily routine on us or were hiding somewhere inside. We ran out of time trying to find them and had to escape before the cops arrived. Either way their security team is down. One dead and two others injured.”
“Not the results I was paying for.” The voice sounded frustrated, more fist pounding pushing through the filter.
Zackery’s hand continued to twitch, knowing another mistake would doom him.
“I understand. We’ll get them next time.”
“It won’t be easy, now they’ll close ranks even tighter. I wanted the children in hand so I could spell out my demands.”
“Best we act quickly then before they can regroup. We did lose one of our own, so I’ll need to bring in a new member to the team.”
“Which will cost me more money no doubt!” bellowed the angry voice.
Zackery thought it was best not to talk costs at this time as his employer was already pissed. He’d cross that bridge once they delivered the teenagers. His client could certainly afford it.
“Do you have someone in mind?” inquired the digital voice when Zackery didn’t comment on his last statement.
“Not off the top of my head,” replied Zackery. “Since we aren’t from around here, I don’t have any local contacts.”
“Check with The Train Man. He can get you someone quickly with the proper skill set.”
The Train Man was an odd gentleman who had provided the tools they needed for the job. Zackery had felt uncomfortable around him due to his odd behavior, but he seemed to have all the right connections for the needed hardware. Finding a new man for the job shouldn’t be too difficult for him.
“I’ll go see him tomorrow.”
“Is there any way they can trace your dead man back to you?”
Zackery glanced over his shoulder and glared at the bloody body. He felt a tinge of remorse at the demise of his team member. They all knew it was a possibility that death could come a knocking with no notice.
“No. We gathered up the body before leaving and will make sure he isn’t found by the authorities, just like the other two.”
“Fine. Put your plan together swiftly and get the job done or I will have another team come after you.”
The line went dead and Zackery slammed the phone down on the seat next to him. He wasn’t used to failing and had no intention of it happening again. He directed the driver to take them to their home base to begin quickly putting together their next mission. A mission he had no desire to lose. Success was the only conceivable option his team had for survival.
* * * *
Because of the explosion the bomb squad was called in, to make sure there were no other devices present. It took twenty minutes for them to declare the scene safe. Firefighters doused the flames and paramedics took care of the injured, the one dead covered up when it was determined there’s no hope for him. A Colorado Springs detective arrived and took over the scene. Tim Scanlon was making the rounds stunned by what he saw before him, trying to figure out what had happened. He’d seen much in his thirteen years on the force, but this was a first.
“Why the attack?” he asked the head of the bomb squad. “What were they after?”
“I have no clue. One man is dead, and the driver of the limo is unconscious. There’s another they’re working on now. He was shot twice but is still breathing.”
“Is he alert enough to talk?”
“Not certain. You’ll have to check with the paramedics.”
Detective Scanlon walked over to the two masked and gloved paramedics who were working on the injured man, who was still lying on the blood covered ground motionless. They had cut off most of his clothing to work on the gunshot wounds to his shoulder and knee. Scanlon checked the pockets of his jacket for ID and found his name, plus a business card. It said he was a private security consultant, providing protection to clients. It appeared he’d failed at the protection part of the job. The question was—what or who was he protecting?
“How is he?” queried Scanlon of the paramedics.
“He will live, but his injuries are serious. We’re having a hard time finding a pulse in the lower part of his injured leg. Might lose it if we don’t get him to the hospital in time.”
“Can he talk? I need to ask him a couple of questions.”
“He has been going in and out of consciousness. You can try, but we’re attempting to get him stable enough to get him to the ER.”
Scanlon leaned down closely and whispered in the injured man’s ear, careful not to touch him. Asking who he was and who he was protecting. He stirred a little and spoke back, his words forming slowly, but clearly, giving responses. A little more back and forth provided Scanlon what he needed. He stood up, walking over to the back of the limo, the door still open. He climbed in, searching around until he found a well-hidden button and pressed it. Part of the back seat went down, opening to reveal a space, where Olivia and Deion were hiding, terror overwhelming their expressions. Scanlon smiled, attempting to put them at ease.
“Olivia and Deion, your security guard, Lance was badly hurt and can’t talk to you,” he explained, learning their names from the injured man. “But he wanted me to say ‘Pepper’ so you knew it was safe.”
It was a keyword they had setup, the name of their dog, to be used to signal an all clear. Both teenagers squeezed through the tight space and out of the limo door, each shaking from what had happened. They had heard it all, but now they could see and smell the carnage and death around them.
“Is Lance going to be alright?” asked Olivia, seeing the blood as they worked on him.
“They’re doing the best they can,” replied Scanlon, trying to sound reassuring. “His wounds are serious, so only time will tell. Can you tell me what happened?”
“A truck rammed into us, knocking us off the road,” noted Deion, his hands on his face. “Lance ordered us to get into the hideaway space, which we did. Then we heard gunfire and yelling. Shortly after, an explosion shook the limo.”
“And you stayed put until I opened the compartment?” wondered Scanlon, impressed they hadn’t panicked.
“Yes. It was part of the training Lance gave us. Every day since this mess started, he trained us that no matter what happened we were to stay in there until he came and got us.” Deion was holding onto his sister now, his body still shaking.
“I think we should call our parents,” proclaimed Olivia.
Scanlon nodded in agreement, watching as she pulled out her phone to make the call. Her mother answered, and Olivia started crying. Scanlon grabbed the phone from her, identifying himself and began explaining, hoping to get some details. The mystery floating in the air of why someone would go to such lengths to get these two kids was something he wanted to solve.