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It wasn’t a tough gig, but what it also wasn’t was very exciting. He had been tasked, along with two other U.S. Marshals like himself and an FBI Agent to baby sit a witness at a safe house out in the middle of nowhere.
On paper, it sounded like a plum assignment.
In reality, he was bored to death.
Their witness was a mid-level scumbag who kept book for the Manelli crime family named Bates Hewell. Although the Manelli’s had been keeping a low profile in recent years, save for a slight altercation a year earlier that ended in a shootout. Instead, they had focused the investigation on their legitimate enterprises as opposed to their less than legal means of income, they hadn’t abandoned their criminal ways. They just learned how to keep those endeavors out of the limelight.
What their witness knew would mean mass arrests and convictions. Once the word got out that Hewell had turned State’s evidence, if it hadn’t already, all hell was going to break loose. This guy’s life wouldn’t be worth a plugged nickel if the Manelli’s got a hold of him. For the past two months, Agent Messer and a revolving team of agents had been babysitting the witness, moving every few days to a new secure location in an effort to keep anyone looking for Hewell off balance. They had to keep him safe until his deposition later in the week. After that, they would repeat the process until the trial, which could take anywhere up to a year or more to begin. Longer no doubt, once Manelli’s high priced attorneys got in on the act.
Messer hoped there was a plan to rotate him out of babysitting detail soon. He needed a break, not just from the monotony of the assignment, but from the annoying protectee in his charge. So far, he was the only Marshal on the detail to not be swapped out and he was starting to wonder if he was on someone’s shit list back home or if they had simply forgotten about him.
“Ours is not to question why…” he muttered and dropped the cigarette on the driveway before grinding it out with his shoe. He had given up the cancer sticks once upon a time, but when on these seemingly never-ending protection details, he craved a smoke if for no other reason than to have something to do. Out of respect for his coworkers, he always took it outside when time to light up. Slipping on a sweater jacket and hoodie over his button up shirt and tie to keep up the illusion that it was a nice, normal family renting out the old Patterson place off Old Country Road 3 near the intersection of Highway 81.
To his co-workers, he was walking the perimeter while grabbing a smoke.
The safe house sat on a fairly secluded piece of land in a quiet northeast Georgia area just a few miles north of the middle of nowhere, a perfect place to hide out. The house they had rented under false, government created identities, was a ranch built in the 1980’s when the house had once been a farm house. There were several acres of fairly flat, overgrown with grass, terrain surrounding them, which meant they would see anyone coming their way long before they reached the house.
From the outside, there was nothing extraordinary about the old Patterson place.
The inside wasn’t much different, which made it the perfect safe house to keep their witness on ice until time for him to stand before the grand jury and spill his guts.
The safe house was your typical ranch style house that was built in the 1980’s all over the southeastern United States. Three bedrooms, two of them tiny, two bathrooms, kitchen, den, living room, dining room, small fireplace, and two car garage that only fit two cars if you didn’t have to open the doors on either of them. The house sat on fourteen acres of flat farm land, which allowed them to keep an eye on all directions. It was a foreclosure that had been purchased under a dummy corporation’s name to keep it secure. On paper, it was a rental property.
Only a handful of people knew its real purpose.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Messer walked into the living room and yawned. The sun had set less than an hour earlier and since he had been on duty since midnight, he was ready to crash.
“I’m beat,” he told the Parker and Cutler, who were playing what was probably their hundredth game of poker. One of them had brought cards and chips. Messer wasn’t sure if they were actually playing for real money or not.
Messer, along with Deputy U.S. Marshal Simon Parker, Deputy U.S. Marshal Amy Street, FBI Agent Mike Cutler had spent the past week rotating shifts around their witness, an annoying man who rarely slept and watched a lot of TV when he wasn’t pacing nervously. He was an anxiety attack just waiting to happen.
“Yeah, sack out, man,” Parker said as he folded and tossed his cards atop the pile of chips he had just forfeited. “You look tired.”
“You’re a peach, Parker,” Messer said.
“Knock first. Street’s in there.”
Thanks. He knocked and there was no answer so he assumed she was asleep. Messer gave his colleagues a half-hearted salute before heading into the master bedroom and quietly closing the door behind him. In the dark, he couldn’t see Amy Street in either of the two beds that sat against opposite walls of the master bedroom, but he entered the room quietly anyway.
Both beds were empty. Once the door was closed, he heard the shower running in the bathroom and saw light from beneath the door. It didn’t take a twelve-year law enforcement veteran to put two and two together.
Messer kicked off his shoes and climbed into the bed farthest from the bathroom without bothering to change clothes, although he did loosen and pull off his tie and unbutton his shirt. He hung his shoulder holster on the bed post along with the tie then laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. He was tired, but sleep constantly eluded him, especially on the job. It was not a new problem. He couldn’t shut off his brain long enough to doze off. There were too many variables running through his head, schedules, check ins, perimeter searches, things like that. His mind was on the job twenty-four/seven. While that made him good at his job, it had killed more than a few relationships. Occupational hazard.
Messer could still hear the TV from the living room through the door, but it was a muffled roar. Their witness was obsessed with old TV shows. Thanks to the abundance of cable channels showing classic TV lineups these days and the witnesses inability to sleep for more than two or three hours at a time, each night he was able to watch one episode each of each Star Trek series, the A-Team, Quantum Leap, Magnum p.i., Nash Bridges, Night Court, Cheers, and Simon & Simon before passing out for a few hours when the house fell into blessed silence.
The deputy marshal did not see the appeal, personally. He had seen many of those shows as a kid, but after seeing an episode once, he never felt the need to watch it again. He couldn’t understand people like his brother who collected box sets of old shows and watched them over and over again. It seemed weird.
Messer had just started to doze off when the bathroom door opened and Street came into the room. In the short time he had known her, he came to realize that she never walked through a door so much as she burst through them.
“Sorry,” Street said softly as soon as she realized she wasn’t alone. She flipped off the bathroom light and plunged the room into darkness. The only light came in under the door from the living room, the red numbers on the clock, and from around the edges of the closed blinds on the window.
“Did I wake you?” Street asked as she tiptoed across the room on bare feet.
“Nah. I just got in,” Messer mumbled. “You turning in or heading back to the final frontier out there?”
“Nap time,” Street said. After securing her weapon in the nightstand, she climbed into the other bed. She was dressed more comfortably than he was, in sweats and a baggy T-shirt, her long, dark hair pulled up into a ponytail.
He and Street got along pretty well, probably because he was the only man in the house that hadn’t tried to hit on her yet. He found her attractive, but she wasn’t really his type. He hadn’t been able to say the word gay out loud yet, despite John pressuring him to at least tell his parents about them moving in together. They both agreed that keeping it out of the workplace was probably smart, especially on these long babysitting gigs. Based on the way some of the guys acted around Street, he could only imagine the kind of bullshit he would have to put up with if they knew. He hated having to hide who he was, but there were some fights he found were easier to avoid than have. This was one of them.
Messer said good night, then rolled over to face the wall, and eventually drifted off.
He woke to an out of place sound.
Marshal Messer’s eyes snapped open at the sound. Without sitting up, he glanced around the room. The clock showed that it was twenty minutes to four in the morning. He could still hear the TV playing in the other room, but the sound that woke him had not come from there.
He sat up on the edge of the bed softly, quietly. He focused, carefully listening for another clue that he hadn’t dreamt the sound that woke him. He slipped his feet into his shoes, then stood and pulled the service weapon from his shoulder holster still dangling from the bed post.
“Time to get up?” Street asked sleepily from her bunk.
“Shhh…” he said. “I thought I heard…”
That’s when the shooting started.
Messer eased open the door for a look. The living room was empty so he opened the door all the way and stepped out.
Amy Street was two steps behind him, gun also in hand. She was still barefoot, which seemed like a bad idea, but he wasn’t about to admonish her in the middle of a shootout. She moved toward the fireplace that jutted out from the wall off the master bedroom to divide the living room from the dining room. It provided good cover.
Messer went wide, heading to the far wall so he could back her up.
Street pointed two fingers at her eyes then pointed in the direction of the dining room and the kitchen beyond.
He shook his head. He didn’t see anyone.
He pointed toward the open door leading to the other bedrooms, bathroom, and stairwell to the attic that was on his side of the room.
She shook her head. It was clear.
Messer inched forward, ready to head toward the kitchen when he heard glass break.
He turned into the hallway, gun leading the way. The bathroom was ahead. It was clear. So was the back bedroom.
Where the hell is everybody?
He heard glass shatter again and bolted for the front bedroom. He entered just in time to see their protected witness leap out of the broken window into the bushes below.
He’s escaping! Where’s his detail?
Hewell shouted as the prickly bushes bit into his flesh, cutting and scratching him as he freed himself from their grasp. Once free, Hewell ran for the field ahead, hoping to lose himself in the tall grass.
“Stop!” Messer commanded.
Hewell looked back, but kept running.
For a second, the marshal considered shooting him, but couldn’t risk it. Hewell was a scumbag and a crook, but he was also under the protection of the U.S. Marshal’s Service. Shooting him would not be looked on favorably.
He heard the sound of footsteps come up behind him. They were heavy. Boots. Not Street. She was barefoot, he recalled.
He turned just in time to see a stranger enter the room.
The man was armed and seemed just as surprised to see someone there as Messer was to see him.
The man raised his gun.
Messer pulled the trigger first, two slugs to the heart, dropping the man where he stood.
He ran back into the living room.
“Street! We’ve got a runner and shooters! Watch your…”
That’s when he saw her.
Street was leaning against the fireplace, a pool of blood beneath her. She had been shot, belly wound.
“I got… got him,” she said through the pain.
There was no time to question her. He had to get them both to safety and call in medics for Street. He decided he would catch up with Hewell after he was sure she was okay.
“We got to get out of here,” he whispered into her ear as she helped her back to her feet. With one hand, she put pressure on the wound. She still held her gun in the other. They reached the front door without incident.
Messer opened the door and stepped out onto the small concrete porch. It was barely large enough to hold a chair. There was one step between the ground and the porch. He took one step forward.
He didn’t feel the blast until they were airborne.
The house exploded in a giant blazing ball of fire and smoke. Walls were reduced to shrapnel that hammered Messer and Street like tiny missiles as they were propelled across the front lawn.
They hit the ground hard as wood and plaster rained down all around them like a fiery thunderstorm. The grass ignited and spread quickly to the nearest tree.
Street was lying face down in the grass.
She wasn’t moving.
Messer tried to get to her, but he couldn’t move either. He tried again and felt something tear in his side. It was the most unimaginable pain he had ever felt in his life.
Before he passed out, Pete Messer caught a glimpse of Bates Hewell before he disappeared into the tall grass.
Good news! The audio version of my novella, SAMARITAN has been released. Written by Bobby Nash. Narrated by Dan St. Andre. Published by BEN Books. Samaritan can be found in ebook HERE and in audio HERE and HERE. Bobby
The science ship Aquarius, under the command of Captain Jeremiah Rains has finally reached the end of its exploratory mission to the depths of uncharted space and is returning home to Earth.
Captain Rains and his skeleton military crew are tired and bored from the lack of adventure they expected to find out in the great beyond. The scientists, however, are extremely happy with their many discoveries.
When the ship comes upon the wreckage of a destroyed space vessel, the crew is surprised to find one survivor; a woman, quite possibly the most beautiful woman any of them have ever seen. Her name is Lari and all she wants is someone, some Good Samaritan, to take her home.
The catch is that her planet is located at the center of a black hole.
Samaritan is a novella by author Bobby Nash, narrated by Dan St. Andre, and published by BEN Books.
Look for the SAMARITAN omnibus in print coming soon with an all-new SAMARITAN II story by Bobby Nash.
SAMARITAN can be purchased in ebook format from the following retailers: