Nothing Special #5
The boys are back and fiercer than ever!
"We were a unit tonight, moving as one. Even apart, we are deadly, but when combined – we are f**kin’ unstoppable." ~~ God ~~
Atlanta's notorious narcotics task force is at it again. They are stronger, bigger, and better than ever. Especially when a city councilman sends RECON Marine, Edwin Steele - who’s been blacklisted from his Oakland department - to join the team. God and Day weren't recruiting. They have a lot on their plates, like the fact they're supposed to be getting married soon. They don't have the time or the patience to integrate a decorated war hero with a slight chip on his shoulder into their well-oiled machine.
A hothead that's uncontrollable and terrible with authority… but wasn’t that their team motto?
Steele was ready to hang up his shield. He was done fighting with bigoted bastards that couldn't respect the job. He was good at fighting; he just needed the right team to fight with. When his uncle - City Councilman, Rasmus Steele - shows him a video of God's team in action, he knows right away, it's where his nephew belongs in order to restore his faith.
Steele pointed to the driver, a behemoth of a man wielding those massive firearms like a true beast… like a soldier. “And him. Who the hell is he?”
“That’s your new boss. Lieutenant Cashel Godfrey… they call him… God.”
Steele was skeptical about his new placement, but when he meets God's technology specialist/computer genius, “Tech,” he's willing to give it his all, and he definitely shows and proves.
Tech is stunning. His sweater vest and khakis, a stark contrast to the blue-jeaned roughnecks he works with. A beautiful sheep amongst the wolves. Steel thinks there's no way the brilliant man would be interested in a hardhead like him, but Tech has a few badass hidden talents of his own and manages to fool him... fool all of them.
This story is a part of a series but can stand alone. It does not end on a cliffhanger and has a HEA. There are no multiple pairings in this novel.
Damn, why couldn’t people just leave him the hell alone? Steele had arrived back in Atlanta only three weeks ago and his uncle had already sent for him. He wasn’t the least bit concerned about making a difference anymore. All he’d done was fight for the good, the innocent, fight for his country, and look what it got him. Look at all it took from him. Half of his battalion killed behind enemy lines. Then his partner shot and killed because his backup was a goddamn homophobic sonofabitch. But Steele’s last straw was when his own department covered it up. He was turning in his shield and there wasn’t anything his uncle could do about it.
Steele took another shot of Jack, not caring that it was only one o’clock in the afternoon. He’d heard that day drinking was the new trend, anyway. Everyone’s doing it, he grinned at himself, kind of liking his new sense of freedom. He pulled on his tan, rustic leather jacket and bent over to tie his black shit-kickers but stopped when his head protested. Shit. He groaned and stood back up, looking around for his badge before realizing he didn’t need it anymore. Ever again. Fuck Oakland.
His phone buzzed in the back pocket of his ratty jeans, but he ignored it again. He knew who it was and he knew he was late, but he was too fucked up to get on his bike. He might not care about his own miserable existence right now, but he wasn’t going to kill anyone else.
Because you care. You’ll always care: it’s who you are, Steele.
Steele growled at the sound of his best friend’s voice in his head and pulled the half-empty bottle of whisky back out of the cabinet, this time not bothering with a shot glass. He tipped it back and gulped a couple times, wincing at the harsh burn. He’d do it until he couldn’t hear that voice anymore. Until he could get some peace, maybe even some sleep.
You won’t find peace unless you’re fighting for what’s right.
He stepped outside the broken screen door of his singlewide trailer and lit the last half of his Swisher Sweet Little cigar. The air was brisk and comfortable this time of year, reminding him that he’d always liked Atlanta in the fall. It was boots and leather coats weather, perfect for riding his bike. He needed to ride, wanted to feel the vibration against his balls, feel the freedom that came with it. But he’d have to sober up enough first.
He looked around the rundown trailer park, kicking a couple beer cans to the side as he stood on the rickety porch surveying the filth around him. He was never a man of expensive taste or much class. Give him a decent television with good reception and a roof, and he was satisfied. He didn’t need a walk-in closet, overpriced furniture, or a fancy kitchen with stainless steel appliances; shit, he couldn’t cook anyway, hence the garbage bags full of takeout containers and pizza boxes. He worked out enough to combat the negative effects of his diet.
“What up, cop?” A man who lived a few trailers down threw at him on his way by. It wasn’t a friendly greeting or one that warranted a response. He wasn’t a social neighbor and most that came across his path never had the urge to want to see him again. Which suited him just fine.
Steele pulled a deep inhale off his cigar, blowing half of the sweet-smelling smoke out of his nose. His phone buzzed again and he let his cigar hang out the side of his mouth while he pulled his jacket open to get it. He read the short text, frowning at the audacity of his one and only relative.
A car will be there in two minutes… get in it.
Damn. He figured he might as well get this over with. His uncle would be disappointed in his decision to leave law enforcement, but if there’s one thing Steele never did, it was let anyone tell him how to live his life.
He listened to the depressing sounds of the place he currently called home, the crying babies, the fighting spouses, the god-awful heavy metal music that his neighbor blasted no matter what time of day or night it was, but still he felt no desire to be anywhere else. Ackerman was gone, his best friend, the man that he’d wanted more than anything to become his lover, was gone.
He stood there with one hand braced on the rusted overhang while he watched a shiny, black Lincoln Town Car navigate around the deep potholes of the one street that curved through his neighborhood. One way in and one way out. As the car got closer, Steele heard the door across the street bang against the side of the metal trailer, and a toddler that looked too old to still be in diapers hurried out into the yard, heading toward the street.
Steele’s heart lurched and without thought his body sprang into action. He ran across the dirt that made up his yard and grabbed the little boy before he could run out in front of the Lincoln, the fender clipping the heel of his boot. He was just able to get his footing and not drop the kid.
The boy was at least three or four. His hair was a tangled mess of sandy brown curls and he wore nothing except his Pull-Up, which was barely hanging on since it was weighed down with urine. He had bright brown eyes and he looked at Steele like he was Superman, not the slightest bit concerned that he was in the arms of a stranger. The benefits of being young and oblivious.
Steele placed the kid back inside the front door and locked it from the inside, not bothering to notify the parents. This wasn’t the first time the little one had run outside; Steele would most likely see him back out again when he came home later.
Steele climbed in the front seat of the Lincoln.
“No smoking in here.”
“Fine, I’ll stay here.” Steele went for the handle.
“No wait,” the driver hurriedly said.
“Mm hmm. Drive,” Steele grunted and pulled another long drag on his cigar. He didn’t care when the teen in a grown-up outfit put the window all the way down, he simply reclined back and enjoyed the cool breeze in his hair.
“That was awfully heroic of you with that kid. I didn’t see him.”
“You should pay attention where you’re going. Especially in residential areas.” Steele was barely opening his mouth when he spoke. He wasn’t in the mood for conversation. Especially with him. The guy’s perfect haircut, impeccably pressed navy blue suit and red, stripped tie screamed do-gooder.
“I was distracted by that piece of crap tin box you live in. But you’re right, I should’ve been looking. You move fast. One second, you were on your porch and the next second, you were across the street. That’s amazing… especially being three sheets to the wind. You smell like a distillery. I’d be intrigued to see what you could do if you weren’t wasted.” The man turned a cocky grin at him and Steele had a mind to knock that smug look off his adolescent face.
“How old are you, kid?” Steele tossed his small cigar out the window, watching the scenery of Atlanta’s busy streets fly by.
“I’m not a kid, I’m twenty-five.” The guy balked, his frown almost making Steele laugh in his face. Was that his mean look?
“What exactly do you do for my dear old uncle, huh? Besides pick up his hard-headed nephew?”
The guy didn’t respond, as if Steele had hit a soft spot. Instead, he turned the corner hard onto Trinity Avenue and pulled into the parking lot of the Atlanta City government building. Tall oak trees surrounded the building, the once green leaves already turning their bright reds and oranges. Steele walked through the cold, heartless lobby ignoring the disgusted looks of the distinguished gentlemen that milled about and went straight to the bank of elevators on the north hall. He overlooked the classic beauty of the historical building, its tall columns and grand staircases; no longer interested in the magnificence of things. He wasn’t here on a field trip – he’d been summoned.
Steele paused, staring at his uncle’s last name on the glass, double-doors. The name his father held, grandfather, great grand…, and him. Instead of using the brass handles, he placed his large palm over the word Councilman and entered the city official’s office. He walked across the thick carpet, stopping in front of the only individual behind one of three desks that made up the waiting area. A petite blonde smiled brightly and gave him a courteous greeting before she asked how she could help him.
“I’m here to see Councilman Steele.”
“Do you have an appointment?” she asked, flipping open a bulging, black calendar book.
“Nope,” he replied curtly, sticking a well-chewed toothpick in his mouth that he’d pulled from his coat pocket.
The woman gave him a look that barely masked her revulsion. “I’m sorry. The Councilman’s calendar is full for today, but I’d be happy to take your—”
“Not a problem, I’ll come back when he’s not busy.” He winked and turned to leave. He was almost home free when he heard a sharp, “Stop right there. Don’t even think about it.”
Steele stopped midway out the door and took a couple steps back, letting the glass close in his face. No matter how much he’d like to, he couldn’t ignore that voice or the tone. One that sounded exactly like his father’s.
“Come on, Edwin. Inside.”
When he turned around and looked his uncle in those light eyes, his chest ached with a need to see his father just one more time. It was his twin standing in front of him, but if he closed his eyes, he’d swear it was his dad. That Estonian accent lingering just barely on the tip of his tongue, but overshadowed by the extensive time spent living in America.
“Please hold my calls, Renee. Thank you.”
Steele walked past the wide-eyed receptionist, her face showing her confusion. Confused that the regal Councilman would consort with such a vagabond. His uncle closed the door and walked up to him, pulling him into a hug. Steele didn’t have the strength or willpower not to hug him back. He embraced his father’s twin with the ferocity of needing him to make everything not only right in his life, but right in the world. Life was screwing him too hard and he couldn’t take it anymore.
Steele knew some of his family’s native language, but he didn’t speak fluent Estonian, always ran when his father started up lessons, not wanting to miss a second of having fun with his isa, instead of learning. But he knew the word nephew. It’s how his uncle always greeted him. Steele held on and closed his eyes while his last remaining family member tried to comfort him.
“You’re going to be okay. You will. You’re strong, Vennapoeg. You are your father’s son. You will pull through this.”
“I’m tired of fighting,” Steele whispered painfully, clutching his uncle’s expensive suit jacket in his fists.
“You’ve just begun.” His uncle pulled back and placed his hands on his cheeks, looking him in his saddened gray eyes.
“I can’t fight for that city anymore. I won’t. They let him die… they just ignored his call for help. I know they did.” Steele felt like he wanted to take another drink. The weight of living with his battalion’s death, and now his partner’s death, ate at him. Though he’d never felt comfortable in Oakland and he and his partner never got a chance to form a more definitive bond. Steele knew his partner had been a good cop.
“I’ve done everything I can, Edwin. I can’t prove that unit could’ve got there in time to save him,” his uncle said sadly.
Steele gritted his teeth to keep from cursing up a storm. He’d never humiliate his uncle in his place of business. “Those bigoted bastards,” he hissed. Shaking his head, his voice strong again. “I’m not going back.”
“I know you’re not. Because god help ‘em all if they hurt you too.” His uncle spoke in that fear-provoking tone that all the Steele men were notorious for. “I’ll be in prison for the rest of my life. Don’t let the suit fool you, Vennapoeg.”
“It never has, Onu,” Steele answered. He absolutely knew of the power beneath that suit. His uncle was still a warrior – only now he had to fight from this office because of the metal plate in his hip – he’d fought right alongside Steele’s father in many protests right here in the United States before joining the Marines to fight abroad. It was in their bloodline. His great, great grandfather was a general in the Estonian Defence Forces – a peacekeeper that participated in the 1921 forming of a League of Nations. A man who was loved and respected by his countrymen until he saved the life of an American soldier that was being tortured by Estonian commanders.
Even as far back as Steele could remember, the men in their family stood up for those weaker than themselves, stood for what was right, no matter the cost. It’d not only cost his great, great grandfather his position in the military, but the love of his homeland. It was a blessing his grandfather wasn’t too proud to leave, wasn’t afraid to call America home, that’s why they fought for it.
Steele himself was a third generation Marine Force Recon lieutenant. He performed sixty-two successful black ops missions before taking bullets in the ribs and the thigh, ending his military career. The Navy doctor said he’d walk with a limp the rest of his life and would never be battle ready again.
He may have lost his unit, but he’d never stopped living for them. Living for Ackerman. Until this day, he still hadn’t chased a man that could out-run him. It took him three years, but he did it.
“Why’d you call me here, Onu? Not only to your office, but to Atlanta.” Steele stared out the tall window, looking down on the parking lot full of official vehicles.
“Because I believe you need new surroundings. Because I believe if you stay in Oakland, you won’t stop digging into Ramos’ death. They’ll never admit to stalling on the call, Edwin, and neither you, nor I have any way to prove it.”
“I can beat them until they confess.”
“Now you’ve answered your own question.” His uncle stood next to him, his firm hand resting on his shoulder.
“Ramos had a family. A husband, children, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews who loved him. Now he’s gone. Why? Because he choose to have a husband instead of goddamn wife. He was a good cop. He didn’t deserve it.”
“That type of hate is never deserved, Vennapoeg. But I can’t have you blaming yourself for it all. He was off duty. He tried to stop a store robbery. He lost his life, but he saved two others before he did. He did his job, and it wasn’t your fault, Edwin.”
“I’m still done,” Steele repeated. He wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince his uncle or still trying to convince himself.
“Oh, you’re far from done. Joseph told me what you did when he was pulling up to get you. Your instincts, your reactions, your need to do good is in here, Vennapoeg.” His uncle held his shoulder and placed his other hand over his heart. “There’s no quitting in here. There’s no quitting who you are. You’ll fight until your last breath, and that’s a long time from now. What do you think you’re going to do without your shield or a platoon? Become a Walmart greeter? Or, become an alcoholic?”
His uncle’s gray eyes hardened and blazed with anger, his voice a menacing snarl. “Drowning yourself in the bottom of a bottle is beneath you. You will not disgrace your father… my brother. I won’t allow it. You are not tired, you’re not weak. It’s impossible,” he hissed, close to Steele’s face. “Your last name is Raud. Iron… steel. You think your great grandfather changed the meaning of our family surname… he only translated it to English. You are unbreakable. And I demand you act like it.”
Steele didn’t speak. His uncle was right. He’d let hurt and injustice control his actions.
“Believe me. I understand loss. I’ve experienced my fair share. My biggest hurt was losing my brother. He was a part of me, a part I’ll be without from here on. But I’ll work hard every day to continue fighting for what he believed in. He believed in this country, Edwin. Keep fighting, son. You just need a team you can fight with.”
Steele snorted. “Yeah, right. Who the hell can handle my shit, Onu?”
His uncle smiled that crooked grin, the same way his father used to whenever Steele’d fall into his trap. “I think I know someone. Come over here and sit down. I want to show you something.”
Steele sat on the low back suede couch in the sitting area in his uncle’s large office while he turned on a flat screen television sitting atop a cherry, oak TV stand. Immediately, a black and white grainy video began playing. His uncle didn’t watch the screen, instead he watched for Steele’s reaction.
He saw a column of big SUVs lined up in a row with men – firearms drawn – getting into position for something big. As he watched the video play out, his jaw ticked and his eyes narrowed. He didn’t understand what this was. An execution first… then maybe a hit. Twenty or so men – gangsters – were firing in one direction. “What the hell is this, Uncle?”
“Just keep watching.”
Steele wanted to pull out another little cigar but he knew better. Instead, he stroked the rough stubble on his jaw, looking like he wanted this footage to stop until he saw a huge garbage truck roar up the narrow street and mow down the men that were shooting. “Jesus Christ.” He watched a man appear from the back like Houdini, firing machine guns like he was in Desert Storm. It was two of them. They moved as a synchronistic unit, like they could read each other’s thoughts. Quickly and efficiently, they took out every thug they aimed their weapons at.
His uncle pushed a button on the remote. “This is film taken from the back side, at another angle that was caught by a chopper. It’s pieced together, but check this out.” The image flickered a few times before another feed began. “This is the back side. The gangsters that we just saw were in the front; this is the back of that house.”
There were at least ten to fifteen men back there firing. “All these guys are firing at one house?” Steele said disbelievingly. “They were probably wasting ammo at that point.”
“Nope. The officers inside were still returning firing,” his uncle said with a determined expression. “Only three of them.”
Steele stood up and moved closer, unable to take his eyes off the screen. There was no audio to the video but he could almost feel the chaos of that battle inside him. A silver truck appeared around the corner – taking the curve like a NASCAR driver – with undercover police vehicles trailing it. He watched a man slide out the passenger window and perch his ass on the door, firing an automatic rifle over the top of the truck while the driver spun it in a perfect three sixty, bright flashes of explosions erupting from his own handgun. A Desert Eagle. It was one of Steele’s favorites. He could easily recognize that flashbang in the dark night. The man firing over the hood was an expert, a marksman. Nothing could shake him.
“Goddamn. Who is that?” Steele pointed at the man looking down the scope and knocking off men as the truck spun him in a circle.
“That’s Detective Austin Michaels.”
Steele pointed to the driver, a behemoth of a man that was now darting across the road – he could move fast – towards the house, both arms raised, shooting anything in his path. Wielding those massive firearms like a true beast… like a soldier. “And him. Who the hell is he?”
“That’s your new boss. Lieutenant Cashel Godfrey… they call him… God.”