The Shadow SEALs
Devlin Kreed used to be one of the best Navy SEAL snipers in the business. They called him Moon Devil, because he preferred to hunt his targets during the darkest part of the night.
When he took out a high-value target, his career disintegrated. The SEALs kicked him out the door as a liability. It had all been a ruse, though, part of a CIA relocation op. The CIA promised him they would have his back, but they hung him out to dry, letting him take the fall for killing the target.
Now, there's a voice on the phone offering him an astronomical amount of money to take out the same man again. Because the CIA messed up. While trying to extract information, the murderer escaped them, and the world is now a much more dangerous place.
CIA agent Amberly Temple knew something was hinky as soon as the folder hit her desk. It was a cold case, but one of the most high-profile ones in her department, and she suspects a dirty agent. She must be getting close because as she tracks down witnesses and backtracks the investigation, someone tries to take her out.
Luckily her former SEAL ex-husband is there to save her ass...
Dev sighed as he glanced over at the buzzing cell-phone. Unknown again. In the days of spam call after spam call, the caller had to assume that he wouldn’t pick up. If they left a message, he would return the call, but until then they could rot in hell for all Dev cared.
“No, I don’t need to renew my car’s warranty,” he murmured to no one in particular.
He reached for the yellow wire at the back of the camera he was mounting and paired it with the corresponding wire coming out of the wall. Using a blue butt, he twisted the two wires together and secured the connection. Then he did the same with the blue wire and screwed the device into the pre-drilled holes. Fitting the smoke detector over top of it, he snapped it into place. The camera was secure when he was done, and he knew most people wouldn’t even see it when they walked through the main door of the Allen Insurance Company.
Jack Allen was a bit of a drinking buddy, and he’d given Dev this job when he lost a bet as to whether or not Dev could find whoever was responsible for stealing all the creamer from his personal fridge. It was a ridiculous bet, but a genuine concern for Jack, because someone had been in his private office when he wasn’t there. Anyway, it got Dev’s foot in the door to do security hookups for the entire Allen Insurance Group, which covered most of the lower half of Tennessee state. It was a good gig, a big gig, and Jack had signed the contract, shaking his head and chuckling the entire time.
Dev didn’t care. It started out as fun, but there’d been a thread of calculation when he’d made the bet. There might have also been a thread of calculation when he picked the bar he knew Jack drank at every Friday. This was a big contract, and he would not let it slip away. When the direct approach hadn’t worked on Jack, he’d had to be a little sly. Whatever, it was a long-term contract, and he would do the best security work he could. Might even be enough work to pay for another tech.
Dev had five men on staff, now, working every day to keep up with the contracts. They were all men he trusted and had vetted and trained himself. Two of them he considered true friends.
His phone buzzed again, this time with a text message.
Senses suddenly on high alert, he flicked his gaze around, but didn’t see anyone or anything suspicious. The windows, though, only showed dark night outside, with a few parking lot mercury vapor lights, their orange glow not enough to chase away the night. There could be an entire SEAL team on the other side of the lot, and he would have no way of knowing.
Moon Devil. Two words that sent chills down his spine. No one had called him that for a very long time, going on three years. Had it really been that long? Yes. He remembered the date his life had gone to hell as if it had been yesterday, because it had sent him into the worst professional crisis he’d ever had. Worst personal crisis, as well. It had ruined him in every way imaginable, and now someone was using his name to get to him.
His throat closed up and he turned his attention away from the phone and windows. Whoever was on the other end of that text message he wanted to avoid, because all the old shit would get stirred up; the betrayal, the loss, the desperation. It had taken him a long time to get back on an even keel, and he wasn’t going to risk it for anything. That name was dead to him.
The phone buzzed again, and he looked at it, reluctantly. Tango 11 is on the loose.
His determination not to submit wavered, shock rolling through him. Whoever it was, they knew how to get to him. Was it the Navy? CIA? One of his former best friends that had turned on him when his life and reputation had gone to hell?
Jaw firming, he powered down the phone and tossed it into the toolbox. It was after seven at night, so he technically wasn’t on the clock anymore. Since he was the boss, he ran his schedule as he liked, preferring to do the wiring of the security after business hours so that the employees had no idea he’d even been there. Because that was who he was after, the employees. When a business got to be as big as Allen Insurance Group, internal theft and embezzlement could be an enormous problem, and since insurance companies were one of the top three companies that experienced employee theft, Dev knew he would find something. Or someone. Even Jack knew something was going on with his bottom line, but he couldn’t pinpoint it.
That was why Dev was in here doing all the grunt work himself. Just like with the damn creamer, he would figure out who it was and let Jack decide how he wanted to deal with it.
Glancing at the toolbox, he almost gritted his teeth, then he breathed through it. Who was it trying to pin him down?
Definitely no one he needed to talk to.
What if 11 was loose, though?
Normally, his nerves were rock solid, but when the phones in the office began to ring in stereo, his anxiety spiked. The front windows were dark. Jack had given him the alarm code to let himself in and do what needed done. There was no one else here, which meant no one should be calling trying to reach someone.
Looking up the number to the insurance company was probably not that hard, but getting every single phone at every single desk in the place to ring at once? When they all had to have separate numbers? That was skill. Or good technicians.
They weren’t going to let him avoid them.
The sense of being under surveillance was not comfortable. Normally, he was the one surveilling, so the feeling chafed. He did not want to answer to whoever was jerking his leash.
Did he dare not respond?
Reaching into his toolbox, he retrieved his phone and powered it on. Once it went through the startup, it immediately began to ring. He swiped his thumb across the screen and sank down into an office chair. “Hello.”
“Hello, Chief Petty Officer Kreed. I’m glad you decided to pick up.”
He’d expected a gruff man’s voice, something military, but it was the exact opposite. The woman on the other end of the line sounded polished and educated, her voice mellow and a little sardonic.
Dev scowled. “I’m not in the Navy anymore, ma’am, so you can drop the title.”
“As you wish, Devlin. My name is Charley, and I’m about to change your life.”
Dev snorted and shook his head. “I don’t want my life changed, Charley. I’m content doing what I’m doing.”
On the other end of the line, Charley sighed. “I thought you might say that, and I’m glad you’re doing so well, but I don’t know that the world is going to fare as well.”
Dev clenched his jaw, hating that this nameless, faceless woman was trying to guilt trip him. “I did my time in the Navy. Someone else can take care of 11. He’s the CIA’s responsibility.”
“Hm, yes, that’s what we’ve been told as well, but he’s too dangerous to leave free. We’ve already gotten reports of missing shipments of components. One of his former compatriots is also missing, and we assume they’re together. It’s only a matter of time before he wreaks havoc and kills again, we assume around the September 11th anniversary.”
Dev rocked back in the chair, anger surging through him. “Why the fuck are you even calling me? 11 is not my issue anymore. The CIA made that very clear when they burned me after I went along with their crazy extraction plan. I’m done. The man can blow Washington off the map for all I care.”
He said it off-hand, but Washington probably would be Cole Regent’s target. It had been his focus for many years, and he’d been blowing up smaller targets to prepare for his main target, the heart of evil, as he called it, Washington, D.C. Honestly, Dev kind of agreed with the guy, but it wasn’t his responsibility anymore.
When Dev’s team had gotten the call to escort the homegrown paramilitary extremist from CIA Headquarters to the airport, Devlin had thought little of it. It was just another job. Then two men with CIA badges had approached him. Actually, looking back, he thought it had been the Special Activities Center that had approached him. They were the black ops side of the CIA, doing the especially dirty stuff that the government would disavow if caught. They wanted Devlin to shoot Regent, but they wanted him to ‘wound’ rather than ‘kill’, because Regent had information to share on a wider network of international collaborators, the Russians specifically. They wanted it to look like a legitimate kill, though, to throw off those international friends that were watching Regent. The operatives would remove the target from the scene and make it look like the informant had died. Then Regent would be housed in a secret facility while the Agency tapped the info he had. Once he’d been interrogated and the information extracted, then Regent would quietly disappear. Devlin assumed that they would take him out themselves, and clean up the mess when they were done extracting information.
But it sounded like the team had botched the job.
Of course they had.
The two men had presented Dev with a doctored recording of his own voice making a deal with some international conglomeration for half a million dollars to take out Regent, and it was at that point he knew he was fucked no matter what he did. If he cooperated with the CIA extraction story and took the shot, they would dishonorably discharge him. If he didn’t cooperate, an ‘informant’ would offer evidence that Amberly was dirty, and she would go to prison for the rest of her life for helping kill Regent for money.
That was the deal breaker. Amberly was his weak point, and he’d known he would go along with whatever they said in order to keep her safe.
The CIA had sworn to him that his sacrifice for the country had been noted, then they’d burned him, reporting that Devlin had gone rogue in some kind of revenge killing. Since the killing worked in their favor, the CIA would not be pursuing charges. That was actually what they’d told his commanding officers, that they’d taken his record into account and that he should just be dishonorably discharged.
The shame that had come from that two-month period would follow him for the rest of his life. Over and over again, he’d had to bite his tongue in fury at not being able to lash out at the sneers and jibes, at not being able to defend himself. His supposed friends had all abandoned him. And Amberly… Well, she’d done what she needed to do to protect herself.
“What if I told you I could get you reinstated, retroactively, and your back pay reimbursed to you? All charges would be struck from your record and the discharge would be noted as honorable.”
Dev laughed bitterly. “I’d say you’re full of shit, just like every other bureaucrat out there. I couldn’t care less about the Navy anymore. They have nothing for me. You all can burn in hell for all I care.”
“Does that go for Amberly Temple as well? Because she’s about to walk into a shit storm, and right this minute you’re the only one that can save her.”
Amberly Temple… yeah, she was his Kryptonite. And even this long after she’d left him in the cold, he would go to her in a heartbeat if she called. “And why is that,” he asked, trying to sound as disinterested as she had. “Amberly is a big girl, able to make her own decisions about her life. She certainly doesn’t want me involved in any part of it.”
“That may be true,” the woman agreed, “but she’s digging into things that could get her killed.”
Yes, his gut clenched, but he forced out a laugh. “It is not my job to look after my wife. I gave that up three years ago when she kicked me out of the house.”
He hated even responding to the woman on the phone, but his pride demanded it. If Amberly had stood by him, it would have been one thing. But she hadn’t even blinked, as she’d told him he needed to get out of the house before she shot him. He’d packed a bag with the bare essentials and walked out, knowing, hoping, that she would be protected if he took the fall.
At least that had been the plan. If Regent was on the loose, obviously the plan had gone to shit. Whoever the two men had been had fucked up. Regent was never supposed to hit the streets again.
“She works for the CIA. I think she’ll be fine.”
There was a silence on the other end of the line, as if she were waiting for him to catch up. “Why do you think she’s in trouble,” he asked, in spite of himself.
“Because she’s about to stumble onto a very dangerous piece of information that is going to get her killed if she approaches the wrong person with it. She needs backup, and there’s no one in her department she trusts. And very few that she should.”
Dev knew that feeling well. For the past few years, he’d been on his own, rebuilding a life that didn’t revolve around the Navy and killing people. If Amberly was out in the cold…
Fuck me running…
“So, what exactly are you calling me for? To get me to kill 11 or backup Amberly?”
“Why can’t it be both,” Charley asked, her voice low. “Plus, you’ll have an incredible payout in the end.”
“I don’t care about money,” he snapped.
“Then maybe you’ll care about reestablishing your good name? You had an incredible record in the SEALs. Your kill count still stands in your team, and people still talk about some of your shots.”
Who the hell was this woman? “You’re not CIA, or any of the other alphabet soup agencies I’m familiar with. Who are you?”
Charley hummed on the other end of the line. “Let’s just say I’m an extremely concerned citizen with a lot of money and friends in prominent places and leave it at that.”
Of course, she would not tell him. The higher-ups never did.
“You have 12 hours to get your ass to Chicago, where Amberly has a meeting with an informant. I’ll send you location details.”
“I haven’t even agreed to do this,” he said, voice aggravated.
“Yes, you have, Devlin. As soon as Amberly was a part of it, I knew you wouldn’t tell me no. Your task is to rescue your ex because she has a general love for her country and always does what’s right, and take out 11, for real this time. No botched shots, no CIA interference. I want him gone, before he starts killing again. And you have carte blanche to take out anyone affiliated with him. We’ll watch and tamp down response, if necessary.”
Dev sighed, wondering what the hell he was thinking, because he knew he was going to do it. “Fine. Do I have any backup at all or is this a one-man op?”
“Well, save your wife and you’ll have a team.” Her voice was sardonic.
Devlin snorted. “Right... Assuming she just doesn’t kill me on sight.”
“Regent will head to the upper Midwest, Montana, we assume. His brand of crazy fits pretty well up there. He still has connections to his father’s paramilitary group, but he’s created his own, as well. They’re called The Blade.”
Actually, he had notes at home about the escort job, and the preliminary dossier when Regent was designated a VIP. Dev probably had all the information he needed to find the man, especially if he was bright enough to return home. “How do I contact you?”
“I’ll keep this line available, though I can’t always answer it.”
He hung up then, because there wasn’t anything else to say. Glancing around the office, he sighed. Jack was not going to be happy.