As I sat at my desk, finalizing a few contracts for concert security, I got so focused on the task at hand that I slammed my knee into the edge of the desk. Grumbling, I scooped up the phone and managed a completely normal tone of voice, despite my facial expression of rage and agony.
“Hey, uh, I know I called before, but I think I could use some security service.” a man said, the name briefly escaping me.
“Remember, I called about the insurance?”
“Mr. Goldstein, of course I remember you.” I said, more than a bit flabbergasted at the man’s sudden need for security service.
“I think something is trying to kill me.” he said, his voice breaking badly as he stumbled over the words.
“If someone is trying to kill you, that might be more of a police issue….” I started.
“No, not someone, something…” he replied.
I blinked staring at the clock for a moment. We had a few other contracts floating around, but anything would keep the boys busy for awhile and morale had been shaky the first few months. So, I kept Mr. Goldstein on the phone.
“Ok, so ‘something’ is trying to kill you. What does it look like?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it.”
Okay…well, this is going well.
To make a long story short, I signed Mr. Goldstein up for a contract and put Dizzy on as team lead.
I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I figured even putting his mind at ease couldn’t hurt. Frankly, the man seemed to be under a hell of a lot of stress. The man insisted it was a ghost. In all reality, it turned out to be rats that we discovered a few days into the security contract. He actually chose to keep a few of our guys on for another week, just to “make sure”. Sure enough, he was free and clear.
Just call us “Ghostbuster Squad”.
Me and Connie had sat down for dinner in one of the nicer Italian places around town. Nothing like a good Italian meal to fill you up after a long day’s work.
“Have I told you how much of a romantic you are, Des?” Connie said, her smile radiant in the low candlelight.
I couldn’t help but smile back but quickly composed myself.
“Miss Waters, may I remind you this is a business meeting. Let’s keep it professional.” I said, borrowing a tone I’d heard in a Burnside interview.
Connie punched me on the arm. That was the woman I married. She knew I loved her and that’s what mattered.
Still, God help me, I tried to keep up my little joke.
“I have the opportunity of a lifetime for you, Miss Waters.” I said, holding up a Sentinel badge with one of my favorite pictures of Connie I’d scanned into the computer. It was from a recent trip we’d done with Chip to check out the Eternal Flame.
“Des, I can’t do anything over there. I already shorted out one computer.” she said. She wasn’t down on herself, but she’d resigned herself to thinking Sentinel was my child. It was as much hers as mine, honestly.
“Yeah, well, this job doesn’t require you to come in. Unless you want to of course.” I said, setting the badge down in front of her.
“And of course, you’re always welcome. Think of it as a full time consulting expert position.”
“Des, you don’t…” she said, thinking I was doing it to patronize her.
“If anything, I want you to have the insurance at least.” I said, putting a hand up to stop her. “Wizard or not.”
I took a sip of my drink before continuing. The Italians know wine.
“Besides, I don’t think the supernatural world is going to leave us alone at Sentinel just because it’s a legitimate business.”
Connie’s gaze grew worried.
“You know I’ve made a…name for myself.”
“Well, it’ll probably look like I’m raising an army.”
Connie nodded, understanding, at least.
I looked into her eyes and added. “Besides, we’re going to need help when this all comes full circle with the Black Council.
I handed her my list of folks to bring into our “Special Operations” team. Most of them were older guys. They’d seen some shit. And most importantly, I knew them all pretty damn well. “I need your help. And I want your help putting together a group of guys we can count on. We might need some extra manpower when the time comes.”
As me and Connie drove back from dinner, I brought her in for my next plan. “I need your help getting the guys ready for this. I’m pretty sure they’re all in, but I want to have you come in and show some of your, uh, stuff.”
She raised an eyebrow at me.
She laughed warmly.
“Get us home, Des, and I’ll show you some of my magic.”
How can I argue with that? Chips’ doggy bag would have to wait.
I’d gone ahead and gathered most of the “Spec Ops” guys together. I’d selected them based on a myriad of things, but it turned out most of them had served with me or were damn close to me. Hell, I’d shared a few nights on the streets with a couple of them. The fact was, these guys were people I cared about. Everyone at Sentinel was. In this line of work, you can’t afford to not give a shit. And these guys had to know what they were signing on for.
I glanced around the room, as the folks filtered in, some taking seats, others preferring to stand. Connie was at my side, ready to provide a bit of a demonstration.
“So, I’m sure you’re all wondering what you’re doing here.” I began.
“I’ve hand picked you all for a special unit. I picked you both on pure tactical and expertise grounds, but also on the fact that you all have had quite a bit of experience packed into your lives. I know you’ve seen some shit, and some if has probably gone unexplained. I don’t know what those things were, but I know you wish you could have done something about it.”
“Bottom line is, there are things out there that are more dangerous than your average thief, or even some would-be assassin. Things slink in the dark and walk out of our darkest nightmares. There might come a time when we have to take them on.” I said, pausing to let all of this sink in. I saw most of the looking on a bit apprehensively. They weren’t out the door, but they weren’t quite buying my spiel.
“We’ve got some of our own supernatural weapons in this fight. Case in point…” I motioned to Connie, who’d set up a watermelon across the room. She gathered her power and pulverized it with a blade of air before everyone’s very eyes. Mouths dropped open, a few sly smiles broke out on some of the guys faces. I could tell they were more than along for the ride.
“Also, I’m a bit of a, well, ah, fuck it.” I said, shifting into my grim form right before them.
I stood at head level to a few of them, or at least close. Honestly, that sealed the deal for quite a few of them. I changed back just as quickly. I’d proved my point and I wanted to offer an out.
“If you’re not in for this, you guys can walk out now, and come back tomorrow for the regular deal. No hard feelings. No loss of status. But I want you to know that this fight could be coming to our doorstep. I don’t know when. I don’t know how. But its’ coming. If you want to be on the line for it, you’re more than welcome with us here. If not, hell, I don’t blame you. You’ll have a home here regardless of your choice. If you are in, meet back here tomorrow at 6. We’ll be doing some training to get you guys ready for all this.”
The room slowly filtered out, hushed conversations flowing between friends, piecing together what they’d just seen.
One of them was a larger and stockier white guy. He was short, but packed a hell of a punch for his size. He was one of the vets I’d met right at the church’s homeless shelter just before moving in with Connie all those years ago. He made his way over and shook my hand.
“What’s on your mind Walt?” I asked.
“I, uh, know what you mean…about seeing unexplained stuff.”
I nodded. “Yeah?”
“I remember Manny. I want to make those bastards pay.”
I looked away for a brief second. That was a ghost I hadn’t intended on dredging up for myself.
“Well, I can’t say that we’ll make those particular bastards pay, because that guy’s been dead, twice over, for about a decade or so. But you can make a difference against the other creatures of the night. They prey on innocent folks, same as those fuckers did for Manny. We’ll need good men like you out there Walt.”
He nodded. “I plan on giving them a good dose of hell, Des.”
“Good.” I said as I clasped him on the shoulder. “Now go get some dinner, man. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
Everyone showed up the next day and training started without a hitch.
We had some extra support on the field. I wondered if it would be enough, but as I walked into the house to see all of my friends and family gathered for a surprise 40th birthday, I remembered that it was all of this that I would be fighting for, and more.
It might not be enough to hold back the tide of supernatural vermin that would come after us.
But we were damn sure not going to just roll over and die. Every last one of these folks had been there for me, in one way or another. These were the people that needed my protection. Hell, some of them would even be at my side when the time came.
I just hoped I didn’t have to lose anyone else.