EXTENDED EXCERPT FROM

Book 5

Monday, March 19th


Wes Crockett settled behind his desk. Inhaling and exhaling, he tried to relax. Even the four- mile run followed by a two-mile swim did nothing for his rumbling gut. Today, the Chase Center for Training was expanding its programs with the addition of new staff he knew only by resumé and interview notes.


His fingers held the message his secretary handed him. It was only seven in the morning. He took a sip of coffee, ate some of his egg-white omelet, and dialed Mike Johnson’s number. The Deputy CEO of Chase Security International was doing double duty while the CEO, Martin Bailey, was on paternity leave. Why was he calling so early?


“Good morning?” Wes asked tentatively when Mike answered.


“Morning.” Mike’s voice was light. Too light. Wes cringed. “What’s going on?”


“Are you alone?”


“Yeah, hold on, I’ll close my door. Okay, we’re private.” His stomach tightened around his breakfast.

“I need to discuss something with you.” “Discuss,” Wes sighed, stood and began to pace.


“Pat Hedges called me. Troy is plateauing in his treat‐ ment. His February surgery is paying dividends, and he’s gaining movement and strength in his legs.” Troy Bremen, former co-leader of the rapid response Bravo Team and current Assistant Executive Director of the flagship San Diego branch was gravely injured during an undercover operation in August.


“That’s great. Why didn’t he tell any of us?” His lips turned up into a brilliant smile.


“It is. He wanted to be sure the improvements were real. Now, he’s begging to come back to work. His vision has improved to 20/30; his upper body strength is growing, and with the improvement from the surgery, he is able to drive.”


“God help us. He couldn’t drive before,” Wes teased. “Can we get him a Humvee?”


Mike laughed, then turned serious. “Hedges is worried about his emotional health. He and the company leader‐ ship, plus Julian, discussed the situation. We were thinking with your new program, we could send him to you. We figure you could let him help you here and there.” Julian was the chief executive at the San Diego branch.


Wes’s shoulders rose. “Absolutely not. If you send him to me, he comes on as a full assist, an equal. As far as the program goes, if Hedges thinks it’s the right thing for him, we offer it to him. I won’t play games with Troy and jeopar‐ dize our friendship and his recovery,” Wes advised, his blood rustling through his ears.


“Jule knew you’d say that. What if he encounters diffi‐ culty?” Mike sighed.


“Same thing we do for any of us. We work through it.


Period, end of sentence.” His muscles tensed.


Mike chuckled. “I’m signing off on Troy’s new assign‐ ment now. I’ll have his file sent to your new medical director.”


“Good. I promise I’ll take care of him. You won’t regret this decision.” Wes smiled.


“Good luck with the orientation today. Are you ready?” “And if I said no, what would you say?” Wes asked flatly.


“I’d tell you to suck it up, buttercup. Call me if you need anything.”


“Thanks, Crockett out.”


Wes opened his desk drawer and popped two antacids, then tossed his coffee into the trash and opened up his schedule on his computer. At 0900, new staff would begin arriving to usher in a new beginning for the training center with the addition of three new programs and a satellite medical clinic. He ticked off his day’s agenda. “Staff meeting. Trip to building department to drop off underwriter’s certificates, individual division head meetings, check on arrival of new animals for equine-assisted therapy, canine program and children’s programming.”


Yvonne, his secretary, knocked on his door. “Hey, Wes. Can I come in?” she asked with a teasing yet maternal tone. At Wes’s direction, she walked inside. “TJ and Kenny called; they’re running late, stuck in traffic. Are you ready for the big day?”


“If I’m not, I’m destined to be a gate guard.” He chuckled a little too long, then looked over at two files. At least he knew them. TJ “Cuda” Poole and Kenny “Jockey” Clarke would be joining his staff as his new first deputy directors. Both from the Eagle’s Talon Bravo Team, they had recently completed leadership training at George Washington University.


“Knock, knock.” Christian Paulsen, his executive officer, joined him, sipping a green concoction from a clear plastic cup.


“Blech, I draw the line there.” Wes’s face contorted when he saw the drink. “Morning.”


“Morning. Well, how was the ceremony?” Christian asked.


Wes smiled. Zach Wentworth, head of the domestic law enforcement training division, and a Dominant, surprised Saoirse Kennedy, head of New York’s legal department and his submissive, with a commitment ceremony. “It was beautiful, and he surprised us all by proposing to her. I got in late last night. Anything I need to know about?”


Christian looked down. “Friday, Cabe Baldwin came to speak with me.”


“About?” Wes crossed his arms.


“I asked him to wait to speak with you. His daughter’s best friend was found murdered last week. She was identi‐ fied Thursday night. He left this for you.” Christian passed him a file.


“Yvonne?” Wes called.


“You do have an intercom. What do you need?” Yvonne walked in.


“Call Cabe Baldwin and fit him into my schedule.” 


“Sure.”


Wes turned back to Christian. “I gotta tell you, I’m nervous. I’ve been back and forth to New York so many times in the last two months, I can’t keep track of my days.” Wes tapped a pencil on his keyboard.


“It’s Monday,” Christian deadpanned.


“You’re no help. No offense, but with the exception of Kenny and TJ, I only know the new hires by their resumés and the interview notes.” Wes chewed his lip.


“Look, everybody is a temp for thirty days. You have time to make final decisions.” Christian shrugged.


“The person I am most concerned about is Eleanor West, our new head of equine-assisted therapy and hippotherapy programs. She’s younger than most of the other therapists. Tell me about her.”


“Eleanor West prefers to be called Ellie. She has glowing recommendations. Her vision for the program is to start small and grow it with time, her therapy staff’s and client’s experiences. She wants to make sure every partici‐ pant receives the best care to reach their goals. What I really liked about her is her belief in an intense body-mind connection. Besides her degrees in equine therapy and counseling, she is also a certified physical therapy assistant. She wants to develop a good working relationship with our medical team too. All of that combined overrode Kieran’s concerns.” Kieran was the younger Chase brother and coowner of the company.


“What concerns?” Wes searched his drawer and pulled out her file.


“She was very uncomfortable talking about herself. Kieran noted her accomplishments, and she seemed embar‐ rassed by the praise. She also seemed uncomfortable with us when we discussed anything other than the program. I dismissed it as anxiety. Kieran asked Yvonne to sit in. With her there, she was more relaxed.”


“You sure she’s the best candidate?” Wes asked.


“Her behavior seemed incongruous to her resumé. I watched her do a lesson at Coventry School. She is perfect for the program. Kieran called me the next morning. He signed off on the hire.”


They discussed a few other issues, and Christian headed out. Yvonne returned with a fresh cup of coffee and a roll. “This will take the edge off the sour stomach. Cabe is still on the grounds. He will be here in fifteen minutes.”


“Thanks, Yvonne, for everything.” Wes took a sip of coffee and nibbled some of his roll.


Copyright © R.L. Dunn