The fact that I had grown bored with the daily grind was an undeniable one. Every day since the end of my last mission had been the same routine, and I was seeking some sort of entertainment.
Entertainment besides the kind I found in the bedrooms of nearly every woman on the island where I was stationed. I wasn’t the type to settle for a monotonous lifestyle, but it wasn’t as if I could simply up and leave the base, so I was left to enjoy all that Hawaii had to offer—which, granted, was plenty.
Was it so unfathomable for a guy to actually want to do his job? I became a Navy SEAL for a reason: to see the world, to serve, for action.
Thankfully, I’d gotten out of my parents’ tiny shack in West Virginia some years ago, but this was the first time I’d had such difficulty dealing with a dry spell. Typically, the time between missions maxed out at a couple of weeks, during which I’d get hammered and do a tour of every eligible lady’s bedroom in town.
You could say I was getting tired of the same shit, different day routine. There was little I could do but suffer through it, going through the same daily workout practices and cleaning schedules.
This day started out like any other, and I only twigged that things were going to get stirred up a bit when Commander Gomez called me away from lifting weights.
I couldn’t ignore the swell of hope in my chest, praying under my breath that it would be the change of pace I desperately needed. Hell, I didn’t ask for much, just the occasional mission.
Meeting in one of the most secure debrief rooms on the base, Gomez watched me with a little half-smile as I settled into the chair across from him. He sipped his coffee in spite of how late in the day it was, though I wasn’t terribly surprised. Seeing Gomez without his coffee was like seeing a kid without his favorite teddy bear.
“Evenin’, Commander,” I said cheerfully, leaning back in my chair.
He nodded to acknowledge me, seeming to consider his words. He took a long swallow from his thermos, replacing it on the table and pressing his fingers together. I tried to maintain a casual air about me as I waited for him to speak, knowing Mark Gomez to be a man of few words.
“Good evening, Lieutenant,” he said finally, his tone somber.
I grinned, crossing my arms.
“You don’t have to be so stuffy around me,” I joked.
He smiled wryly, taking another sip of his coffee.
“You should know by now that this is just my winning personality, Caldwell.”
I shrugged noncommittally and he seemed to take that as a cue to change the subject.
“I suppose you’re wondering why you’re here,” he drawled.
“There’s a reason? My goodness, I just thought we were practicing your socialization skills.”
The commander rolled his eyes, and I realized, not for the first time, that I was the only person he would allow such comments from. At least, in the privacy of a maximum security briefing room.
“Sometimes I forget about that attitude of yours. Makes me wonder if I should reconsider giving you this mission,” Gomez mused out loud, and though it was obvious that he was joking, my eyes widened a bit.
The idea of finally being given a mission after a month of being bored out of my mind sent an all-too-welcome thrill through me.
“Aw, come on, Commander. You know someone has to liven things up around here.”
He seemed to consider that, resting his chin in his hand as he looked me over.
“I know I keep you around for some reason, at least,” he admitted.
I leaned forward, the metal feet of my chair scraping against the concrete floor. He jolted a bit, startled by the loud sound.
“All right, all right. You’re good at everything you put your mind to, Caldwell. Even if that irritates the crap out of me, you know your stuff. The FBI asked me to speak to the best man on the base, and I only had to think about it for a few hours before deciding on you,” he smirked, and I snickered at his attempt at humor.
“The best, huh? Did they also require that he be the most handsome bastard on the island?” I asked cockily, receiving an exasperated sigh in response.
“Well, while I can’t speak for the FBI’s intentions, I can see how looks might be of use in this particular mission. Are you ready to pipe down so I can go over this with you? Or should I go to the other guy I was considering?”
I folded my arms behind my head, resuming my casual leaning in the uncomfortable chair.
“You’re bluffing,” I said confidently.
The commander sighed, rubbing his temples for a moment.
“Your confidence is another reason I chose you. You’re right. I was pretty certain that you’d agree to the job, if just to get off the base for a few days. You’re not as mysterious as you like to think, Caldwell. It’s clear to everyone that you’re getting bored,” he said casually, producing a file from God knows where and slapping it down on the table.
He flipped it open, pointing to a blurry photo of a young woman. I was immediately struck by her looks, though I would never admit as much. Even for the poor quality of the photo, it was obvious that the girl was beautiful.
“This is Emily Madden, only daughter of big-time criminal Randy Madden. He’s been on the radar for some time, but has so far managed to evade our attempts to bring him in. We managed to track him to his latest base of operations, but the FBI needs more information before they can actually justify an arrest.
“If things go as planned, he’ll either confess in order to get his daughter back, or she’ll have the information we need to get the charges to stick,” Gomez explained, and I glanced towards him with a glint in my eye.
“Sounds easy enough. Break in, steal the girl away, and then have my wicked way with her,” I chuckled.
The commander rolled his eyes.
“Focus on the mission, Lieutenant. You’re to take her to a safe house and see that she’s taken care of. As much as I’d like to believe you were joking, I feel I need to clarify that getting involved with Miss Madden could do little but jeopardize the mission,” he said wearily.
I held my hands up in a placating motion, and he seemed to relax somewhat.
“You know I would never risk a mission. Even if the girl’s cute, I’m sure I’ll find some way to resist her womanly wiles,” I offered with a smile.
Gomez rolled his eyes, pushing the file towards me.
“It’s not her that has me worried,” he said bluntly. “I’m putting my ass on the line for this one, kid. I trust you to get the job done without things getting too sticky.”
“You have nothing to worry about, Commander. I’ll be the picture of professionalism,” I assured him.
He watched me for a moment longer, seeming to debate whether there was anything else that needed to be said.
“So, I take it that you’re agreeing to the job? If so, you’ll need to prepare tonight. You’re scheduled for departure at sunrise,” Gomez said decisively.
I didn’t bother to fight my smile, reveling in the idea of being able to escape the base.
“The sooner, the better, as far as I’m concerned. Thanks for the opportunity, Commander. You won’t be disappointed.”
He nodded, rising from his seat and circling around the table. He saluted, and I stood to return the gesture before making for the door.
“Goodnight, Caldwell. Remember, on your best behavior with this one,” he called out.
I smiled, pushing my way out of the briefing area, and walked with my head held high as I crossed the base. While I intended to stay true to my word of being the picture of professionalism, I couldn’t deny that there was something appealing about spending time with this gorgeous little thing—a forbidden fruit sort of vibe, if you will.
Making my way to my bunk, I went through the few belongings I kept with me on the base. I shoved some clothes into a duffel bag, hesitating as I considered the gravity of the mission. I was confident enough to pull it off, just as confident as I was when approaching any sort of challenge.
I decided that I would spend the night looking over Emily Madden’s file, learning as much about my target as I could in the time I had been granted.
A stab of sadness lanced my heart as I settled into my bunk, reading over the information that had been collected on the girl. Apparently, her father had swept her away to Guam at age thirteen, just after her mother had been killed in a botched assassination attempt of which her father was the target.
Thinking of my own parents, so far away from where I lay in that moment, I breathed a weary sigh. I couldn’t really remember the last time I’d spoken to them, though my mom still sent me letters.
My dad had never really approved of my decision to leave our small town, resenting the fact that I’d left them behind. I wondered if this Emily girl struggled with the hand life had dealt her, if she resented her father for ripping her away from everything she knew, likely so he could just continue his life of crime.
I could only wonder just how much of a fight she would put up, but blood tended to be thicker than water—perhaps she even planned to follow in her father’s footsteps someday.
My heart went out to the girl, no matter how this mission turned out. It couldn’t have been easy to lose her mother because of her father’s foolish decisions in life. It wasn’t often that I allowed myself to get so swept up in missions, but perhaps Gomez had been right to be a little nervous about sending me off on what was essentially a rescue mission.
I knew the FBI didn’t see it that way, but I saw a girl who needed to be saved. I’d be damned if I’d let her down like everyone else in her life had.