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 on his silver watch nervously in rhythm with his pulse rate, as if time would slow down. Worry lined his face, for 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 had read him the riot act several times about punctuality, placing the blame squarely on him. though it was rarely his fault.
When hired the thirty-four-year-old head of security didn’t quite understand, with no experience what it was like dealing with one female seventeen-year-old high school senior and a male fifteen-year-old who was a freshman. Each with 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. Which meant they 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, while 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 teenage growth spurt had alluded him, and was around 5’4” and a lean one-hundred-twenty pounds. He strolled out 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.
Checking his watch again, Lance began heading into the house, 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, 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 had 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, smiling as she passed Lance, and joined her brother in the backseat.
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 headed the limo out and down the winding driveaway from the Colorado Springs foothills-based home.
“Can we stop the music for a minute, so we can go over things?” asked Lance, waving to get the kids attention.
Deion looked up from his iPhone, a frown on his face, while Olivia seemed to ignore him completely, her head slightly bobbing while lip-syncing to the song saturating her eardrums. Lance reached over and swept back her hair and removed one of the 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. “You know we have to go over what to do.”
She 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 six weeks since the last incident. I keep telling mom it was just some muggers.”
Lance shook his head, unconvinced by her logic. “Highly unlikely. 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.
“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 at least get a BJ on the first date.”
Oliva punched him in the arm in a fit of rage. Deion tried to retaliate, but Lance grabbed his wrist, stopping him.
“Enough!” he yelled. “You two need to be there for each other. Do you understand?”
Olivia crossed her arms, putting on her pouting face 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, she still had a lot of growing up to do. His job wasn’t to babysit, 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. They likely would 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, he started going over what to do in case of trouble. The limo was built solidly, with steel reinforcement on the chassis making it bulletproof. The glass 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 them. 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 and normally you’d run into a backup of cars coming and going, making for congestion he wanted to avoid.
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.
Pulling out his phone from his inner jacket pocket, Lance unlocked the screen just as they turned onto Cresta Road from Constellation Drive. They only travelled a block, when they were rammed into by a moving, heavy 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 up, but not too badly, his eyes scanning to see what hit them. A heavy-duty jacked-up pickup truck with large metal grill had plowed into them, now backing up to bar them from going forward. From behind a big dark SUV spun sideways, obstructing the rear, impeding their escape.
Looking at his phone, Lance saw the “No Service” message as well, their attackers likely using cell jammers. He yelled up front to see if his men were awake. Reggie the driver was out cold, but the passenger, George was alert with some bruises and cuts he was shaking off. They needed to act quickly.
“Are you two hurt?” Lance asked of the two kids.
They glared at each other, then both replied they weren’t injured.
“We’ll be getting out,” explained Lance calmly, but with force in his voice. “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 OK. Just push the button and get down.”
They both responded affirmatively, and Lance opened the door rolling his toned six foot plus body to the grassy ground, closing it quickly, the lock in place. He had 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, a 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 pavement. Lance checked on him, the eyes open, but he was certainly dead. Lance reacted to noise behind him, firing a rushed round, missing the mark, before getting hit in the right shoulder, the force knocking him to the ground. He attempted to roll away, hoping to switch his gun to his other hand but couldn’t, stopped by a sun blocking big man, a large AR-15 pointed at Lance.
“Slide the gun over,” ordered the big man dressed all in black, his voice deep and raspy, face covered under his black hood.
Lance knew he was out gunned, seeing two other men with weapons, their faces covered. 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 at 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. 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, the scream echoing off the limo, the agony meter rising, despite what he’d hoped. He cursed at the man, his left hand now clutching the knee, but he held fast in defiance.
“Tough and stupid,” commented the big man. “But not worth killing you for.” He turned to his other men. “Pry it open.”
From behind him, came one of the men with a large pry bar. He jammed it into the gap and after a few tries got the door open. He looked inside but didn’t find anyone. The kids were nowhere to be found.
“Where the fuck are they?” yelled the big man.
Lying there motionless, the big man kicked at 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.
It didn’t take much to open it, but still nothing was inside but a spare tire and a toolbox. In the background sirens could be heard.
“Fuck,” uttered the big man. “Let’s get out of here. Grab our man and blow the truck.”
One of the men grabbed their dead team member and tossed him unceremoniously into the back of the SUV. The rest of the men loaded into the SUV, a second team member with a remote in hand. They drove off quickly, when the large truck they had used for the ramming, exploded into flames, blocking the road on all sides, sending debris everywhere. Their escape path had been mapped out and 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. But today violence had reached out and grabbed them, 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 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, a killing his team handled, their bodies dumped high up in the mountains in a snowbank. The chances of being found until 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 working perfectly, until they didn’t find the kids inside. This was a results business, and all he could report was they had failed. He 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.
“We didn’t get them.”
“Why the hell not?” Even with digitation disguising the voice, the anger was clear.
“The plan worked perfectly, but when we got inside the limo the children weren’t there.”
“Did they magically disappear?”
“I’m not certain. Their security man Lance wouldn’t tell me where they were, claiming the limo was a decoy. It appears they changed up on us or were hiding inside somewhere. 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.
“I understand. We’ll get them next time.”
“It won’t be easy. Now they’ll really close ranks.”
“Best we act quickly 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?” inquired the angry voice.
There was no response. Zackery thought it was best not to talk costs at this time. He’d cross that bridge once they had their target.
“Do you have someone in mind?”
“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 pretty quickly.”
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 what they needed.
“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, but they all knew it was a possibility 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, 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 the home base to begin quickly putting together their next mission with success the only conceivable option.
* * * *
Because of the explosion the bomb squad was called in, to make sure there were no other devices. 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 was 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 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 is another they’re working on now. Shot twice, but 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 paramedics working on Lance, still lying on the ground. They had removed most of his clothing to work on his injuries. Scanlon checked the pockets for ID and found his name, plus a business card. It said he was a private security consultant, providing protection to clients needing it. It appeared he had 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. 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 his ear. Lance stirred a little and spoke back. A couple more questions and Scanlon stood up and walked over to the back of the limo, the door still open. He climbed in, searching around, until he found a button well-hidden and pressed it. Part of the back seat went down, opening to a space, where Olivia and Deion were hiding, terror overwhelming their expressions. Scanlon smiled, attempting to put them at ease.
“Lance was badly hurt and can’t talk to you,” he explained. “But he wanted me to say ‘Pepper’ so you know it was safe.”
It was a keyword they had setup, the name of their dog, that would be used to signal an all clear. They both squeezed through the tight space and out of the limo door, each shaking from what happened. They had heard it all, but now 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. Only time will tell. Can you tell me what happened?”
“A truck rammed into us, knocking us off the road,” noted Deion. “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?”
“Yes. Part of the training Lance gave us. No matter what, we stay in there until he came and got us.” Deion was holding onto his sister, his body still shaking.
“I think we should call our parents,” proclaimed Olivia.
Scanlon nodded, so Olivia pulled out her phone and called. Her mother answered, and Olivia started crying. Scanlon grabbed the phone from her 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.