Authors: LS Silverii
Text copyright ©2015 by the Author.
This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by CJ Lyons LLC. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Shadow Ops remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of CJ Lyons LLC, or their affiliates or licensors.
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A Shadow Ops Novella
This third book in the trilogy is dedicated to my family. I love them.
I fully appreciate that one is only as good as the people who surround them. The writing community is amazing for surrounding each other with genuine support. These wonderful people generously support and mentor me without hesitation. I thank you for your time, talent and truth. CJ Lyons, Liliana Hart, Adrienne Giordano, Jean Jenkins, Whitney Stegall Michel, and Jk Danielle Dauphinet.
Turtle Bayou was quiet.
There were no fishermen, no hunters or trappers, no shrimpers or skiers—it was just quiet. Good Friday meant families gathered together for feasts of crawfish and storytelling. This Good Friday was no different.
“They’re burning.” Hollywood admitted as he pressed knuckles into the corners of his eyes.
“Must be the spices. You’ll get used to it—just drink more,” Voodoo said.
She handed him an ice-crested bottle of beer, and a napkin. Hollywood shuffled steps beneath the awning while his vision fought through the stinging agony of boiling Cajun seafood.
Napkin pressed into the moist corner of his left eye, he squinted greetings as Voodoo made a quick introduction to her family and the other cops who’d joined the feast. All stood around the long banquet table draped in old newspapers. The backyard festival was flooded with the same vibrant red crawfish that covered the morning’s headlines. Hollywood shrugged. Whatever those spices were, they stung worse than chemical spray.
The smell of cayenne pepper in the Zataran’s seafood boil tormented his tear ducts as the mist of steam and flavor clouded the air. The 142-quart stainless steel pot looked like a Creole cornucopia as spicy hot dogs, lush green bell peppers, corn, mushrooms, season-soaked cauliflower, garlic, and potatoes rolled out along with the mudbugs.
“Get ya some boy,” Lawless Boudreaux called over the rumble of butane burners. Hollywood’s uncomfortable smile signaled his uncertainty.
“Dude, you gotta pinch the tails and suck the heads,” Lawless said as he demonstrated the Southern way to peel a crawfish.
Hollywood drew back on his beer bottle, and still had no idea what all that meant.
He’d spent the last seventeen days in south Louisiana where he and Voodoo had been almost inseparable. The only times they were not making love or talking about making love were the interruptions when she’d returned to duty with the South Louisiana Violent Crimes Task Force.
This was their first time with her family and any cops other than the Task Force agents who’d gotten to know Hollywood through SWAT trainings. He’d rarely even seen those guys since most of his time over the last few weeks had been spent trying to rehab the shoulder he injured during the hunt for the Rougarou’s terrorist cell.
“I’ve had enough of these crawfish,” he told Voodoo as he wandered over to the swing set to soak up early spring sunrays and some fresh air.
The creaking of the cypress-slatted swing resounded through the marsh. Old zydeco swamp-pop music chimed in rhythm with rusted link-chains holding the swing just above the cool grass. Hollywood squinted into the glare reflecting across the brackish waters of Turtle Bayou. There was no stress, or aches, no bullets or bombs—just the quiet creaking of an ancient cypress swing and his bare feet rustling atop the grass.
“Where’d that come from?” Voodoo leaned over to kiss him on the forehead.
“What?” Hollywood was so at peace, the word barely eased between his lips.
“That smile. I’ve never seen you so relaxed. Bayou life suits you well,” she said as her inked arm slipped around the back of his neck. A soft hand swished at a swarm of gnats before she leaned in to kiss him again.
“Honestly, it makes me uneasy. It’s like I’m waiting for the shoe to drop on this feeling of calm.”
“I understand. Folks like us have to keep moving. We had an agent whose wife called him ‘el Tiburon’. Did you know sharks drown if they stop moving?” Her eyes were wide with delight as she shared the fact.
“I’ll eat you like a shark.” Hollywood laughed and pretended to chomp at her neck.
“You already did this morning, baby,” Voodoo whispered and nibbled on his ear lobe. Shivers coated Hollywood until heat rose in his groin.
“Love birds mind if I nest here a bit?” Lawless Boudreaux’s weight caused a noticeable dip in the swing’s height and capacity. Hollywood’s body tensed. He scooted closer to Voodoo.
They’d met a few weeks ago when Hollywood reported for temporary assignment with the South Louisiana Violent Crimes Task Force. Lawless, the group’s commander welcomed the STR operative into the undercover investigative unit without question, yet the two never seemed to hit it off. It wasn’t an issue of control—Hollywood was a solid team player, and Lawless was firmly established as the leader. The issue was Voodoo.
“Go ahead Lawless since you’re already seated,” Hollywood sneered. His body canted away from the big-bodied Cajun. Early on, Voodoo had confessed she and Lawless were once friends with benefits. Hollywood hated that term—more now than ever.
“I appreciate what you did for my brother.” Lawless pushed his sunglasses onto the top of his head. The stems of his shades pulled his hair the way back, he reminded Hollywood of Justice. The brothers were almost identical in looks and build. Lawless didn’t have the steroid-enhanced musculature, but he was solid.
“Is that why Lucky Cavanaugh got pulled off that undercover gun deal with the Savage Souls, because you tipped off Justice?” Voodoo asked.
Hollywood ignored her. “He’s square—you should call him sometimes.”
“Maybe on the other side.” Lawless nearly expressed emotion, but quickly reined it back in.
“You seem a lot like him, can’t imagine the riff, but I know how tough family matters can be,” Hollywood said.
“Best left alone,” Lawless said in a tight-lipped threat that changed the mood on the swing. The cypress flexed in relief once Lawless got up and walked away. Hollywood was relieved too.
Voodoo swung around and laid both legs across his lap. Her short blue jean cutoffs exposed the smooth skin covering her toned thighs. She trained hard for that physique, and in turn enjoyed giving it to Hollywood to do with as he pleased.
She giggled once his erection swelled beneath his shorts to press against her hamstrings. They’d spent so much time alone, he found himself forgetting about her family and friends. Hollywood had never been much on PDA, but Voodoo was irresistible. Lately, he didn’t much care who saw his public displays of affection.
“Good to see you back.” Agent Chu, one of Voodoo’s task force teammates made his way over to the old swing.
Hollywood’s erection disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. He wondered if this was a conspiracy of her Task Force peers to check him out for stealing “their” girl. Cops were protective of their own—even when it involved another cop.
“Hello Chu, good work during the Rex, Mardi Gras situation. You guys came through,” Hollywood said.
Actually, NOPD Detective Alphonse “Fats” Hebert had duped Chu and his partner, but no need spoiling the good will. He wondered if Fats would show his face at this party—probably too clueless to figure out his secrets were out of the bag.
“Thanks, Hollywood. Just wanted to say hello.”
Chu made his way back to the party and Hollywood turned to Voodoo, “What was that about?”
“You know how they are. I’m like their little sister, and you’re the big bad…”
“No. The big, bad boy.” She laughed.
“Well my dah’lin, all the better to eat you with.” He grinned with a low guttural moan that rumbled in his throat. “Speaking of eating and you, I’ve had enough of these crawfish. I need a real delicacy.” He pressed his fingers into her legs and stroked them with a light touch.
“Oh, baby, we just got here. You know I’d do it all for you, but I ain’t seen my peeps in weeks. Plus, we got the inner tube ready for the bayou.” She pointed toward the launch, and the bass fishing boat with a rope tied to a giant, fat inner tube.
“I didn’t spend twenty-four weeks in BUD/S School to play romp-a-stomp across that nasty swamp bog.” He pinched his nose with one hand, while fanning the other.
“Excuse me, I grew up in that swamp and in that water. Tread lightly mister California surf.”
“I’m sure you were super cute in there. Swimming with gators and catching catfish with your bare hands. It made you this amazing woman who’s here with me now.” Hollywood squeezed her hand lightly, but winced while tucking his right shoulder in pain. “Damn injury. All this rest and rehab and it still hurts like hell.”
“It’ll get better. We’ve got time.” She laid his face against her shoulder, patted his cheek.
Hollywood sighed. He’d been more at ease over the last week and a half than anytime in recent memory. The peace, and the time with Voodoo had worked wonders.
“Come close, let’s take a pic. I want to remember this day,” he said with a hint of sadness, wishing he could freeze time. The cell phone aimed, and they both cheesed giant smiles. Until they saw the text message alert.
Hollywood and Voodoo lost an hour flying east. Although it was still daylight, they fidgeted impatiently as their driver hustled them from the Learjet at C. Cash’s Airfield just outside of Alexandria, Virginia to STR headquarters. Hollywood felt the crush of returning too soon. Breaths set heavy in his chest. He tried to connect with Voodoo, but the tension visible in her neck and shoulders told him he’d best leave her alone.
The nondescript, multistory complex didn’t scream federal government like most “top secret” offices did. More the combination of IBM meets House of Blues—STR’s headquarters had been selected and outfitted by its leader, Rose Prospero. Her real-world experience as a CIA operative guided her in designing every detail of the office. Affectionately called the warehouse, the building’s security was second to none. The White House had even designated it as a COOP location for the President’s top cabinet appointees. Continuity of Operations was a buzz term that had surfaced and faded since the terrorists attacks of 9-11, but the funding helped offset shortfalls in Rose’s budget.
Hollywood watched Voodoo’s rigid posture as she took in the location for the first time. Cords twanged in her neck as her wide eyes recorded every detail. There was no use explaining the importance of the mission—all she knew was there’d be no inner tube ride along Turtle Bayou. He reached for her credentials to hand to the entrance sentinel. A code confirmation and retinal scans, and they were on their way inside.
Opulent yet comfortable, the space appeared benign but sported deadly state of the art equipment behind the decorative touches. He’d show Voodoo those details another time. For now, he placed his hand against her back and ushered her toward Rose’s office.
“Hi Rose. When’s briefing?” He asked, leaning in the doorway.
“You two are last in. Hit the head and fall in.”
“Yes, hello to you too, Rose,” Voodoo said, her Creole attitude on full display.
But this wasn’t the time or the place. Hollywood took her by the elbow and led her toward the restrooms.
“I’m not a child—let go of me,” she snapped in a too-loud voice, her eyes big and green. Her body twitched and he knew it surged with adrenaline. He stepped back.
“Not now,” he said. His thoughts of her weren’t the kindest at that moment, as he compared her to some of the brats he’d dealt with through his years of service.
“Why the fuck not? There’s no call for—”
“Because, someone’s been butchered to death and another one’s being tortured while you have a bitch fit about missing your bayou taxi ride.” His feet were planted wide apart, and hands jammed hard into his hips. “Matter of fact those people are friends of yours,” he said with a tight expression.
“Friends?” Her head lugged forward, looking as if it had come unhinged from her neck. She brought a hand to her mouth, open palm pressed against her teeth. Green eyes that always set Hollywood’s heart to racing, now filled with questions and tears. “Who?”
* * *
Rose Prospero drummed her fingers as she watched over the assembly of operatives. They murmured quietly amongst themselves while getting settled. She’d recruited them, and was fond of each—well, most. There were the traitors who had set off the entire debacle with the Preacher’s terrorist network hell-bent on world domination.
Her team was the federal government’s vision for addressing the most dangerous threats against America. The Special Threat Response team was comprised of the absolute best warriors, regardless of where they came from. STR operated on the fringe of government service, and moved beyond the darkest shadows of black bag operations.
The early days saw unlimited budgets, hands-off oversight and verbal assurances. More recent times drew Senators with selfish ambitions and presidential appointees either wanting their own version of STR to use as a tool against political opponents, or desiring control over STR. To date, Rose’s unit was the one and only organization authorized by the President of the United States—or so she thought.
Air sucked outward as the door’s vacuum seal was broken and accompanied by a swish of cool air. Hollywood slipped into a chair near the rear wall without making eye contact. Voodoo followed him—her face ashen. She offered Rose a sheepish grin. Rose nodded.
The overhead projector whirred throwing splashes of bright light upon the front wall. Rose’s left side was technicolored by the first barrage of images. The room filled with a collective gasp.
“Last night, the ATF in all of their wisdom decided to yet again initiate an undercover operation targeting outlaw motorcycle clubs. Citing national security concerns, they’ve ignored the Department of Justice’s order for cessation of undercover ops until the DOJ has eliminated every batch file sold by the Preacher, or trained a new recruit class of agents.” Rose shielded her eyes from the image of the mutilated body as she crossed to the other side of the briefing room.
“Please tell me that’s a biker in that pic?” Chase said angrily. KC, Chase’s wife and STR partner, wrapped her fingers even tighter around his bicep before tucking her head into his shoulder like a teenager at her first date night horror flick.
Rose fumbled with the remote clicker and advanced the slide. Groans erupted from most of the team as the next image transitioned onto the wall.
“You know him as Falcon. Those who didn’t have the honor of meeting him, he’s one of the SEALs who assisted us last month in tracking down Bonny’s plan and people,” Rose said.
She’d delivered high-level disaster briefings to the president before, but now had difficulty going forward. Her mind raced with Billy Price’s concerns that she took things too personally. But this man was one of them—he’d fought alongside them. How could she not take it personal?
“What did they do to him?” Voodoo’s lip quivered. Tears lined her cheeks. Hollywood touched her shoulder and nodded for Rose to move on.
“He and his partner, Cobra, volunteered for the undercover mission right after we wrapped up in Chicago. Since they’d never worked U/C for the feds, ATF figured they were safe. Sent ’em into a biker den in New York to broker weapons,” Rose said.
She noticed Billy’s expression and forced a smile to assure him she was okay. His head wag showed he didn’t buy it.
“ATF failed to consider they might have been identified as having worked with us in the short time since New Orleans. There are monster leaks in this federal system.”
The next slide showed a building encased between other multistory structures. The sign on the wall read Devil’s Own Motorcycle Club—1%’ers—Stay the Fuck Out.
“Oh great, more bikers,” KC said in disgust.
“Yes, and these are straight up no good. Public enemy number one. They’re looking to buy very specific weapon types. Ultra range sniper rifles and scopes,” Rose said.
“Assassination,” Hollywood murmured.
Rose nodded. “We believe there’ll be an attempt on Easter Sunday. There’s a memorial service planned on the 9-11 site. First responders from across the country will be there along with POTUS.”
“No wonder they need the extra yardage rifles—probably fifty cals,” Billy added.
“Kinda late in the game to buy weapons, but we figure the botched up deal with Savage Souls last month gave everyone the willies about buying big guns. Too bad someone tipped off Justice, but it might have saved Lucky Cavanaugh’s life.” Rose gave Hollywood a long stare.
He shifted uncomfortably. She wanted a confessional admission from him, but he wouldn’t break that easy.
“You said partner,” Voodoo interrupted. Her body stiff, she leaned forward.
The next slide was a picture of the other Navy SEAL, Cobra. He too had joined STR the month before while tracking the bio-chem weapon’s shipment from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Chicago. His official commission photograph showed a short –haired man whose full-length shaggy beard made him appear older than his twenty-something years. Deep-set gray eyes revealed a warrior who’d seen the worst hell had to offer. Unfortunately, he was now living more hell at the hands of the Devil’s Own OMC.
“His partner, Cobra. The Devil’s Own still have him. They’re holding him ransom in exchange for the guns. He’s about in the same shape as Falcon was before he lucked out and died. He’s apparently hanging on by a thread while the FBI and ATF play tug of war over who’ll rescue him.”
“Did you reach out to Justice?” Hollywood asked.
“Department of Justice?” Rose’s slight head jerk and twisted mouth showed her confusion.
“Department of Savage Souls,” Hollywood clarified. “Maybe ask Justice what he knows about this other OMC.”
“Actually I did. He said not to fuck with them,” Rose said.
“Where do we come in?” Chase asked.
“We go get our brother,” Rose snarled, showing her badass ability usually concealed under bureaucratic blouses and silks.
Hollywood stood. “You took the words right out of my mouth.”