It’s Snippet Saturday again – today’s topic is secondary characters. Personal Protection has a half dozen secondary characters, and I liked this snippet because it includes two that are in what hopefully will be in the next Hauberk book. Chad originally was Sam’s boss over at the FBI but desperate to protect his sister, he inserted Sam into a situation that wasn’t approved by the bosses with disastrous results. Now their roles are reversed as Chad works for Sam as the head of Hauberk’s Washington office. The second secondary character is their uber-efficient assistant, Sandy. Which may give you a hint to the next book I’m working on (but don’t be deceived by appearances.)
When the outer door opened and Chad walked in, Sandy’s head lowered. She stared up at Chad through her bangs in a Lady Di pose. With anyone else, Sam would have said it was practiced, but with Sandy it was a natural movement.
“Good morning, Chad. Can I get you a coffee?” Her voice had a little breathy hitch to it he’d never noticed before. Now wasn’t that interesting?
“No, thanks, Sandy. Sam, you got a minute?”
Anyone not knowing Chad would look at his businessman’s haircut with a few prematurely silver strands at his temple, and his double-breasted black suit, and be taken in by the relaxed image he projected. They’d assume he was just another mid-level management type. Or perhaps they’d catch his dark grey eyes and notice his sharp assessment and think him one of the hundreds of lawyers that populated the nation’s capital. Only if they managed to spot the shoulder holster he wore beneath his jacket, or the baby Glock strapped on his ankle, might anyone guess he was former FBI agent now in charge of the D.C. office of Hauberk Protection.
But today all trace of his relaxed persona had vanished. He prowled into Sam’s office and paced until Sam followed him. Once the door was closed, he folded his arms across his chest. “Why do I have to hear from my receptionist of all people that you had a break-in while you were away?”
“It’s no big deal, Chad. There was no damage.” Other than the word “Bang” written in ketchup on the comforter his mother had given him last Christmas. Sam pulled the envelope containing the photograph and slid it across the desk. “It’s basically the same as the others, though this one is a bit better quality.”
Chad cursed under his breath. “You touch it?”
Puh-leaze, like he’d make such a rookie mistake. “Nope.”
Once they’d both donned latex gloves, Chad peeled open the envelope and shook the contents onto the desk. When he saw a photo of Sam standing in line at Reagan National, half his head missing, brains trailing down his shoulders like snakes, Chad exhaled noisily.
“Jesus! It’s worse than the last one.” Chad grabbed a pen from his pocket, and turned the photo right side up. “I’ve seen real crime scenes with less gore.”
“Yeah, the addition of the blood and exposed brains is a new touch.” Sam pushed himself away from the desk, wanting to pace, but forced himself to stay seated. There had to be a clue here. More than just a threat. Some key to the identity of whoever was stalking him.
“Good thing the bastard didn’t have a gun at the airport instead of a camera,” Chad muttered. “Ink jet quality photo paper, eight and a half by eleven, same as last time.”
“Yup.” Sam lifted his coffee cup then swore when he realized it was still empty.
“Which means it was probably printed with a home quality printer as opposed to a professional printer.”
“Yeah, can’t see Wal-Mart processing that.”
Chad carefully slid the photograph back into the envelope. “This has been going on for three months now, Sam. At least let me assign a couple of CPOs to you.”
Sam scowled and flopped into his chair. “Come on, Chad, I don’t need close protection. Of all people, you know I’m trained in escape and avoidance techniques. In fact, I’m better than anyone you’d assign.” Sam shifted in his chair. “Besides, what’s it say to clients if the owner of a protection agency can’t protect himself?”
“It says he’s smart that he knows he needs an extra set of eyes. Damn it, Sam, this is no idle threat. You’re being followed. Stalked. And someone broke into your apartment, remember? The bastard could have set a bomb to go off when you opened the door.”
“What’s Mark say about the threats?”
Sam shrugged one shoulder. He’d meant to talk to his Dallas-based partner last time he’d flown down to Dallas but then Mark announced Jodi’s pregnancy and Sam hadn’t wanted to intrude on his friend’s happiness. And now he felt uncomfortable discussing it via email. Oh, by the way, thought you should know, someone’s taking pictures of me. Yeah, that would make him sound a real lame-ass weenie.
“You haven’t told him about them, have you?”
“Damn it, Chad, there’ve been a half dozen pictures in the past three months. And the phone calls—it’s some kid who dialed a random number and got lucky, that’s all.”
“Christ, Sam, listen to yourself. You get a picture doctored so it looks like your brains have been shot out, you’re getting phone calls with some mechanized voice telling you to prepare to die—”
Sam covered one fist with the other, cracked his knuckles. “If they wanted me dead they could have shot me any one of those times, but they didn’t. They took my picture a couple times and made a coupla calls. Big deal.”
“What about the break-in? No,” Chad corrected himself. “They didn’t need to break in, they had a key. And they knew the code to disable your security system so they could take as much time as they wanted. And yet here you sit trying to pretend it’s…what? A kid pranking you? Some practical joke?”
Yeah, the break-in had been hard to ignore. But damn it, that meant he knew whoever it was who was stalking him. Intimately. This wasn’t something he wanted to call the cops in on. He’d handle it himself. “So they emptied the ketchup bottle on my bed, along with one of those damned photos. That’s it. They’re not trying to hurt me, Chad.”
Chad forced his shoulders down and exhaled through his mouth in a long slow blow. “Sam, if I were a client receiving these pictures, you’d recommend I wear a vest every time I went out in public. You’d tell me to change up my routine—to take different routes at different times—”
“I’m already doin’ that. I check my six regularly—no one’s following me. They’re trying to psych me out, that’s all.”
Chad continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted. “You’d insist I used one of our special bullet-proof limos with a bodyguard trained in defensive driving as the chauffeur, and you’d assign a team of Close Protective Officers to guard you twenty-four/seven. And if I still didn’t listen, what would you say?”
Sam slumped back in his chair. “I’d ask you if your will was in order.”