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Mission Critical

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Police sniper Allison Rane faces a trio of bank robbers who do it by the book - literally. A wave of armed robberies is traced to a how-to book and an insane motive. As she searches for the perpetrators, she must also endure a grueling physical and mental ordeal in her attempt to join the elite SRT unit as their premiere sniper. But as the case unfolds and the body count rises, she faces an unexpected test as the final takedown goes horribly wrong and she is forced into the role of hostage negotiator. Can she bring the crisis to a successful resolution, or will she have to resort to lethal force to end the deadly standoff? The third book in the Allison Rane series.

Action / Drama
Haley Donohue
4.8 10 reviews
Age Rating:

Chapter 1 - Detective Sergeant Allison Rane

Here’s a little-known fact for you: while you might be able to talk a cop out of giving you a ticket, you’re never going to talk a cop out of arresting you for drunk driving. Oh, and while we’re on the subject? Forget about trying to ace the field sobriety test and draw a walk. It really doesn’t matter how well you do on that thing. If you’re driving under the influence, a good cop is at least ninety percent certain that he or she is going to arrest you before they even pull you over. They’ve got all the probable cause they need to make the arrest before you even get out of the car. Case in point: this dickface! One of our patrol units pulled him over for straddling two lanes, weaving all over the place, and stinking like a distillery as soon as they walked up to the car and he started talking. He’s going to jail. It’s a done deal. The field sobriety test – or FST, as it’s called – is pretty much a formality. You can “pass” the test and still find yourself charged with a DUI. This guy? He isn’t going to pass the test. He probably won’t even finish it. He’s totally plastered! I can tell. My mom was a mega-alcoholic and he reminds me of her right now. The officer is less administering the test than he is just going through the motions. This dork is already bought and paid for.

“Sir, do it exactly as I demonstrated for you. Put your arms out to your sides, tilt your head back and close your eyes, and touch your fingertip to your nose with each hand; one at a time.”

Exactly by the numbers. Arnie. Arnie Pasche is a good cop, but I think he really should’ve slapped the cuffs on this drunk by now. I think he’s just dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” because I’m standing here watching this freak show. See what I mean? Mister dickface just about poked his eye out! Fail!

“Sir, how much have you had to drink today?”

Notice how he said “today?” Not “tonight.” It’s one o’clock in the afternoon and this guy looks like he’s been drinking since about nine in the morning! What’s wrong with this picture?

“One beer!”

Total fail! Claiming you had only one beer is probable cause to arrest you for DUI on the spot! It’s the oldest drunk’s lie in the book! It’s also about the only English this guy seems to speak. He’s been kind of mumbling to himself in Spanish since I got here. I don’t think he’s what you’d call bilingual, though I could be wrong. And since he doesn’t have a driver’s license or any other ID, I’m thinking he’s a recent arrival, if you know what I mean. I don’t get it: why the hell would anybody drink and drive here if they’re from Mexico? They slam you ten times harder for that crap down there! You can actually do serious prison time for a DUI in Mexico. Knowing that, you’d think he’d be the last guy in the world to do it, but here we are!

“Sir, I’m placing you under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. Place your hands behind your back, please.”


“Because you’re under arrest.”


This is like that scene from that old movie with Paul Newman: “What we have here is…failure to communicate!” The really sad part? I get the feeling this idiot knows exactly what’s happening and why. He’s just trying to play it off in the hope that Arnie will let him go. Not happening, dickface! You’re going to jail! Suck it up! Or drink it up, if that’s your preference!

“Arnie, just cuff him! Hey, guy? You’re going to jail for drunken driving!”


God, how I hate this crap! At least I know how to shut him up! Something I learned from the annoying, spoiled Gen-Z kids we have to deal with!

“Because reasons!

And that vacant look on his face is exactly what I was going for! No matter what we tried to tell him, he’d just keep asking “why?” So when you come back with a stupid answer like “because reasons;” he’s got no response! At least he’s not fighting. Then again, he’s about five-foot-three and Arnie’s six feet and I’m five-eight. He knows better than to fight. He might puke in the back of Arnie’s car, though.

“Leave his car parked here and take him back to the station. Put him on the machine and don’t let him play any games with you. If he won’t blow in the thing, don’t waste time with him. Just put him down as a refusal and book him based on your observations. Make sure you put my name and number down as a witness.”

“Roger that, Sarge. Thanks for the backup.”

“Any time. I’ll see you back at the station.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your typical DUI arrest around here: saw obvious drunk driver and arrested same! About as routine as it gets, wouldn’t you say?

“Three Lincoln, show me clear from this call and out to the station.”

“Three Lincoln, roger.”

Simple, uneventful, and downright boring. You have no idea how good it is to be able to say that for a change!

Heading back to the station. Yes, it’s your old pal Allison Rane here. That’s Detective Sergeant Allison Rane, actually! That’s right! I made it! I passed the sergeant’s exam and got my stripes nine days ago! I spent five days in sergeant’s school and now I’m out in the field as a patrol supervisor and a wanna-be SRT sniper. I’m still the Sniper Girl, of course. Now I’m trying to make it official with a spot on the Special Response Team, or SRT as we call it. I’ve been going through the selection process and let me tell you, it’s hell! They’re really picky about who gets on the team. Even though Lieutenant Shears knows me and said he wants me in the unit, it’s no guarantee that I’ll make it. I already did the interview part and I did really well on it, but now comes the hard part: the actual testing. The assessment phase, as it’s called. It’s all sorts of stuff: physical fitness, tactical knowledge, patrol officer knowledge, marksmanship, you name it. None of the tests are written and none of them are easy. They’re all real-world tests: some individual and some in a group. I studied my ass off for the sergeant’s exam and I studied my ass off for this, but it’s still a hell of a challenge. I’ll make it. I’m not worried. I’m really good at this job and I’m a pretty good sniper if I do say so myself. Go figure, huh?

I told you during the great biker war that I’d decided to go for sergeant and go back to patrol, and now here I am. I’m really glad I did. I was proud to have made detective, but it just wasn’t for me – especially not after what I went through in my short time as a detective. My first big case? The damned sniper case! That’s how I ended up becoming a sniper myself, as I’m sure you’ll remember. And what did I get for my first big case? I got shot; that’s what I got! And then no sooner did I get back to the job than I wound up embroiled in a huge outlaw biker war! I ended up shooting more people than I can count on that one! I’m sure you remember it too. I’ll certainly never forget it! That’s what cinched it for me: I missed patrol. I missed the uniform. I missed being out here doing the job. Training with Sergeant Varanasi to become a sniper made me a better cop than I ever thought possible, but it also made me realize that I wasn’t cut out to ask questions and fill out follow-up reports for the rest of my life. No, I want to be out here where it really happens. I want to be part of a tight community of cops, which is what patrol is all about. Making it onto the SRT unit would just be the icing on the cake. I feel a lot better now that I’m back in uniform. And now I’m a sergeant. I’ve got stripes on my sleeves, so my uniform looks really cool and citizens have to call me sergeant or Sarge or ma’am. When they’re not insulting me, of course. It’s a good feeling all around. I like it. I like it a lot.

The best part about it? Ever since I became a real-life sniper thanks to the Sarge, I’ve learned so much about the tactical side of the job that everyone in uniform has a whole new respect for me. Most of them respected me before all of that, but nowhere near as much as they do now. It’s a very good feeling. I highly recommend it. The sniper case and the biker war gave me a certain status amongst my fellow officers that I never would’ve had if it weren’t for the Sarge’s training. Well, that and all of the shootings I’ve had since then. I’m not exactly crazy about having a body count to my name, but I can’t deny it gives me a level of credibility that most sergeants would envy. I used to stand out around here only for my boobs and my ass. Now it’s my abilities and my firefights. It’s pretty cool, actually. I wish it didn’t come at such a high cost, but I’ll take it.

Technically, my rank is now Detective Sergeant, but you only get to use that title if you’re working as a detective and anyway, most Detective Sergeants don’t call themselves that unless they’re trying to impress somebody. I told you I’m done with that part of it. No more suits and skirts for me. It also saves me money on wardrobe, though I used to buy all of my clothes at discount outlets, as I’m sure you’ll remember. No, I wear a uniform now and we get a pretty decent uniform allowance, so I save money that way. I’m still finding my way in the role of a sergeant. I’d been away from patrol for over a year, after all. But I’m settling back in nicely. I’m hoping to be transferred to the night shift: three to midnight. That should happen pretty soon. I’m not crazy about working the day shift. I like the hours, but this is the Arizona desert and it gets hotter than Satan’s anus during the day, especially in the summer. Try spending all day in that kind of heat while you’re wrapped in a bulletproof vest and you’ll see why I can’t wait to get to the night shift. I also tend to burn rather than tan. That’s no fun. The nights around here are usually pretty warm, but nowhere near as hot as during the daytime. I’ll take night work over the day shift any time. Besides, that’s when the really crazy stuff happens. That’s true just about anywhere, isn’t it?

The best part? I still get to work with the Sarge a lot of the time. He’s not only the best partner I ever had; he’s the best friend I ever had. Since he’s officially a reserve sergeant, they don’t give us any crap about working together. There’s also the fact that I’m constantly training with him for my sniper skills. If anything is going to get me a spot on SRT; it’s that. Sniper training is the hardest specialty for an SRT officer and I’m way ahead of the curve on that one. There are only two certified snipers on the team and not to toot my own horn, but I can smoke both of them already. Doug Surma is pretty good, but I’m better. I think I’ll make it. I just have to maintain my focus, as the Sarge is fond of reminding me. I’m really good at that, too. Who would’ve thought it?

And here we are! Our police station: one of four designated SRT stations in the city. If I make the team, I’ll be assigned here for any SRT callouts so that’s really cool. Our little home away from home. Another nice thing about being a sergeant? All the sergeants’ parking spaces are right near the back door so you don’t have to walk all the way across the parking lot in this heat. It’s one of the little perks of having three stripes on your sleeve. Pretty sweet, huh? Rank hath its privileges. Parking spaces, too.

Enter the station! My little ritual: as soon as I get in the door, I stand here and enjoy the air conditioner. Yes! Rapture! I just have to make sure I don’t stand here too long because my sweat evaporates and if I’m not careful, I end up getting nasty chills. I also end up soaking wet. All right, that’s enough. Time to get back to work. The Watch Commander is Sergeant Richard Jardine. He’s a good guy. He’s got twice as much time of the job as I have, so he knows his stuff. That helps, because I’ve had a ton of questions for him since I got my stripes. Passing the exam doesn’t make you a real sergeant. Experience does. You discover that in a hurry.

“Sergeant Jardine? Pasche got a DUI and I think the guy’s going to screw around and refuse to blow in the machine. Is there a Traffic unit here to help him out? I’d rather he got a useable reading instead of a refusal.”

Those Traffic guys seem to have a way with drunk drivers. They can usually get them to blow in the machine, even if the dickhead doesn’t want to do it.

“Mitch Conwell’s around here somewhere. Tell him to hover over the guy and make sure he gets a good sample.”

That’ll work. Mitch Conwell’s from Texas. He stands about six-foot-five and his arms are so long, I swear he can scratch his knees without leaning over. He’s very intimidating.

“That’ll work.”

“Check you in-box. Shears dropped off some paperwork for you. You made the first cut in the SRT selection. Congratulations.”

Yes! I knew I made it! First hurdle cleared!

“You know, Allison? If you make it all the way, you’ll be only the second woman on Lima team. A lot of people are pulling for you.”

“I won’t let them down.”

“See that you don’t. It’s a real honor to make the team.”

“I know. How come you never tried for it?”

“I don’t like taking orders. I prefer to give them.”

Fair enough. SRT’s got a procedural manual about two inches thick. You have to be willing to follow the rules and take orders without question. Some people chafe at that. It’s not for everybody. A lot of really good cops never even consider trying out for it.

“You’re looking damned good in those stripes, Rane!”

Sergeant Varanasi, or the Sarge, as he’s known to everyone. I didn’t even see him there.

“Thanks. You know, the holes in my arms have healed up finally! No thanks to you!”

An explanation is in order here: the Sarge is an old Marine Drill Instructor as well as a Marine Scout Sniper. When I got my stripes, he insisted on a little promotion ceremony that they do in the Marines, or so he said. The old coot actually pinned my sergeant’s stripes to my arms by sticking a pin through each one – and right into my arms! Right into the flesh! It hurt like a bitch! I asked around and none of the other sergeants ever had to go through something like that! He was totally picking on me!

“Get over it, Rane! A promotion is supposed to cost you a few drops of blood! It’s tradition!”

Sure it is, old man! It’s not like I can afford to do a lot of bleeding. In case you’ve forgotten? My blood type is AB-Negative: the rarest blood type in the world. I live in fear of ever being hurt so badly that I need a blood transfusion and he knows it. With my luck? They’ll wheel me into the emergency room and I’ll find out they don’t have any. Then I’ll die.

“You know, you promised me you were going to teach me how to do a real spit shine on my gear. Now that I’m back in uniform, I want to learn how.”

I used to get written up all the time in the academy because I could never figure out how everyone else got a mirror finish on their leather gear. It was kind of embarrassing sometimes. I ended up finding a shoe shine stand and paying the guy to do it for me. Twenty bucks a pop, twice a week. It wasn’t like I could afford it back then. I can’t spare the cash now, either. I need to be able to do it for myself.

“Don’t worry. I’ll show you how to get that leather gear looking good enough to see your face in it! What did you get at that traffic stop?”

“A drunken driver. Pasche is bringing him in now. I’m thinking he’s not going to blow in the machine. I’ve got to find Conwell and have him convince the guy to do it.”

“What do you need him for? You’re a sergeant now! Command presence! That’s all you need!”

Uh-huh. As a reserve sergeant, he never had to deal with the more mundane aspects of being a uniformed patrol officer – like dealing with drunken drivers who screw around in the hopes that somehow it’ll get them off the hook. It’s frustrating like you wouldn’t believe – not that he would know anything about that!

“I think I’ll use my command presence to get Conwell to help with it. You didn’t see this dork at the traffic stop. He’s full of crap and I’m betting he won’t blow in the machine. Wait right here.”

There he is. When a guy is six-foot-five, he’s kind of hard to miss. Conwell’s a lifer: a Traffic officer and a motorcycle cop for life. Those guys know everything there is to know about traffic and traffic enforcement. Name a traffic violation; they’ll give you the exact vehicle code section for it. They also know how to deal with dickhead drunk drivers.

“Hey, Conwell? Can I get you to help with something? Pasche arrested a DUI and the guy’s playing games; pretending he doesn’t understand anything. I don’t think he’ll blow in the machine for us.”

“Oh, yes he will! I’ll make sure of it! Where is he?”

And the back door of the station opens and…there they are. Nice timing, guys!

“That’s them.”

That guy? I know that little shit! He got pinched for DUI in the last roadblock we did!”

Which was what? A week ago? Well, that doesn’t surprise me. A lot of DUI drivers who fuck around and pretend they don’t understand what they’re being arrested for and it turns out they’ve been popped for it several times. They know exactly what’s going on. They’re total dickheads!

“Arnie, log him in and put him on the machine. We’re going to stand by and make sure he doesn’t give you any trouble.”

“Too late! He already yakked in my car!”

That doesn’t surprise me, either. That dork is totally smashed and he knows it!

“Get him over here. Conwell says he’s not a first-timer, so we know he’s done this before. Hey, guy? When we tell you to, you blow into the mouthpiece as hard as you can and don’t stop until we say so. Got it?”


Oh, here we go! He’s pretending he doesn’t understand! This dickhead is really getting on my nerves!

“I said you have to blow in the machine when we tell you to. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m saying. You’ve been popped for DUI before, haven’t you?”

“No! Never!”

See what I mean? That, he understands! He’s got what we call a case of “selective understanding!” I’ll bet if we told him he could go home if he could name all fifty states, he’d recite them in alphabetical order! Hang on! It looks like Conwell’s not having any of his bullshit!

“Listen up, asshole! You’re going to blow into that machine, just like the last time you got arrested! Do you know what happens to people who fuck around? We take them in the back and poison them! We tell the coroner they got bit by a snake and died! We poke two holes in your ankle and say that’s where it got you! Do you want that to happen to you, asshole?”


“Then do as you’re told! Got it?”

“OK! You don’t have to yell! Damn, man! What the fuck?”

See? Now he speaks fluent English! I knew he was full of shit! I guess he’s not a recent arrival after all, huh? No, he’s a frequent flyer! What is it about drunk drivers? They’re all a bunch of total lying assbags!

“Put this mouthpiece in your mouth and start blowing!”

I guess he saw the light. Keep going! Keep going! Keep going! And the winner is…eighteen! He’s well over the legal limit! One more time, pal. After that? Have fun in the drunk tank until you sober up!

“Thanks for the assist, Officer Conwell.”

“My pleasure. What’s the pool?”

He means are we having a pool to determine how many prior DUI arrests the guy’s got. Traffic cops do that all the time. I made a lot of money from the pools when I was working Traffic. It’s officially frowned upon, but who cares?

“If we’ve got one, put me down for two.”

“Two? I’m thinking four at least!

For this guy’s sake, he’d better not have four priors! DUI turns into a felony under certain circumstances. If he’s got two convictions in the last seven years, then it’s Aggravated DUI and that’s a Class 4 felony. Same thing if he lost his driver’s license for DUI. That’s a minimum of four months in jail. The fines are also pretty severe. They take drunken driving really seriously around here, but we’ve got no shortage of total douchebags who keep doing it!

“Arnie, do you need anything else?”

“No, I’ve got this. Thanks for stopping by, Sarge.”

“Any time. Have a good one.”

I’m still not used to being called Sarge. I got used to being called Detective pretty quick, but Sarge? When people call me Sarge, I turn around and look for Sergeant Varanasi. I guess I’ll get used to it eventually. Speaking of the Sarge…

“Hey, Sarge! We’re going to have to find a new name for you now that I’m a sergeant. How about we call you ‘Old Sarge?’ It fits, don’t you think?”

“I’m not old, Rane. I’m just well-seasoned.”

That’s that patented Varanasi modesty for you! It’s something else, isn’t it?

“We could call you ‘Old Man?’ Or how about ‘Old Coot?’ Either one would work for me.”

“How about I have you lifting cement blocks over your head tomorrow until your arms give out and they come crashing down on your pretty little skull, princess?”

He’d do it, as I’m sure you already know. Ever since I started the selection process for SRT, our training sessions have become practically brutal! And I thought they were tough before! Not even, people!

“Just don’t have me do anything that would force me to get recycled in the program. The practical assessments are about to start and I don’t want to have to go through them again.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll have you whipped into shape in no time.”

“I’m already in shape, Sarge. I need to be ready for whatever they throw at me. Some of the tests look pretty extreme.”

“They are. I helped design them. They want to weed out the ones who aren’t fully committed. Don’t worry, you’ll do just fine. I’ll see to that.”

Yes, he’ll put me through a private course of training that’ll make what the Navy SEALs go through look like a picnic! Well, if that’s what it takes. I want to make the team. I knew it would be rough. I’ll rise to the challenge. And when it’s over, I’ll probably collapse into a quivering mass of jelly for a week.

“I’ve been working on the PFQ part. I’ve got my pull-ups up to thirty. Since you’ve had me do ten billion pushups since we started training, I’m sure I’ve got that one down pat.”

“Good. Starting tomorrow, everything you do is going to be in full tactical gear. The SRT PFQ requires you to perform everything in full gear, so you need to be ready for it. The obstacle course can be a bitch if you haven’t trained for it with a full load on your back.”

I was expecting that. I’ve seen our guys train. A full tactical gear load is a lot of weight to carry. I’ll manage, but I want to go through it a few times so it won’t come as a surprise to me when it’s time for the real thing. For any grueling test, preparation is everything, right?

“Bring it on. I’m ready for it.”

“We’ll see about that.”

Whenever he says that? It usually means he’s going to do something to hang me up and generally make me miserable. He does that a lot. A week ago, he said he was going to give me a few things to read. He ended up dumping six books written by SWAT guys on tactics and procedures and told me I had to finish them all in six days! I did it, but my brain was practically reduced to mush by the end of it! It’s a good thing I still have no life, right? It gives me plenty of time to read things like that. Just the sort of thing a woman wants, right? Who needs flowers or sexy underwear or a good bang-fest when you’ve got tactical books to read? My life is seriously pathetic, isn’t it?

Back home after a relatively boring shift. After what I’ve been through in the last year? That’s fine with me. At least for now, anyway. I like a little excitement from time to time, but biker wars? Mad snipers? Getting shot? Those, I can do without. The problem is, in this job? You never know when something like that is going to pop up again. Best to enjoy the down time while you can. I never appreciated that until all hell broke loose on the job and I was up to my neck in one dangerous situation after another. With age comes wisdom, I suppose. Last month? I hit the big three-oh: thirty years! That’s right: I’m thirty now! I don’t feel any different and I don’t look any different, but I feel like I’m supposed to feel different. Weird, huh? Part of me thought I’d be terrified of turning thirty, but now that I’ve been through hell twice over, I don’t mind it. Then again, one night I’ll probably be in a club in my sexy little red dress and some guy will call me “ma’am” and ask if I’m there with my daughter and I’ll suddenly feel like I’m eighty years old. Now that scares me!

Beefy the dog is still with me; my ever-loyal companion and total pig. He rarely listens to a thing I say, same as always. He eats me out of house and home, he pushes me out of my own bed, and he scratches at the door when I’m in the bathroom and expects me to let him in. Still, what would I do without him? He’s about the only one I’ve got to talk to on a regular basis. That’s pretty damned sad, isn’t it? I must be doing something seriously wrong!

“Beefy, come sit with me and keep me company!”

Nothing. He’s just laying over there, chewing on his rawhide bone. Now that I’m a sergeant, I can afford better dog treats. He seems to appreciate that. Of course, it means he ignores me a lot more because he’s got something cool to chew on.

“Fine! I’ve got chicken tortilla soup and a salad and you’re not getting any of it!”

The microwave awaits! No, becoming a sergeant didn’t magically make me able to cook. If it weren’t for the microwave? I’d be living on potato chips and sandwiches. And Cheerios for breakfast, of course. You don’t have to cook your breakfast cereal, thank the Lord!

Sexy, single, and a sergeant. Sounds like the total package, right? Then why am I alone and talking to a dog who ignores me? In spite of my increased stature, confidence, ability and what-have-you; I’m still largely the same mess I’ve been since the divorce. My two attempts at a serious relationship ended in disaster, as I’m sure you remember. Anthony? The guy I thought might actually be the one for me? Gone. Disappeared into the Federal Witness Protection Program. How many women can say that about a guy and not be lying? He had to testify against members of every outlaw biker gang who participated in that war last winter and the feds whisked him off to parts unknown. I’m under direct orders not to try to contact him and I’m sure he got the same warning from the Department of Justice. I haven’t seen or heard from him since he got whisked off by the Marshals. I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to him. I miss him. I’m slowly getting over it, but it’s definitely slow going. I’ve been in a funk ever since then. I’m totally cursed! That’s the only possible explanation for it. I’m destined to be alone and miserable. I’ve kind of given into it. I don’t go out, I don’t go looking, and I tell myself that I’m done looking for Mister Right about every other day. The really sad part is, I can’t decide if I should get over it and start looking for a guy or convince myself that being alone isn’t so bad. I guess I’m still a little scrambled in that department. It really sucks, doesn’t it?

So what is this freewheeling babe going to do with her night? First, I’m going to eat my irradiated dinner. Then I’m going to clean my gear, including my sniper rifle. That’s become a daily ritual with me, as you probably know. And then I’m going to watch one of those mind-numbing old schlock films that I love so much. Since I’ve watched everything that Roger Corman had anything to do with, I’ve moved into the whole grindhouse genre. They’re pretty much the same, but with a lot more cheesy gore and scream-queen screaming. Tonight’s fare? Master of the Flying Guillotine. Imagine the worst possible martial arts film in history, drop it down about fifty notches, and you’ve got this one! At least, that’s what I’ve read on the grindhouse websites. I’ll let you know if it lives up to my expectations. Just remember: I have deeply weird expectations of movies so mine might not be the best endorsement, if you know what I mean.

I should drag the Sarge over here and make him teach me how to do a proper spit shine on my gear. We’ve got an inspection coming up in a couple of days and I don’t want to embarrass myself. I’m a sergeant now, after all. Of course, I’m not counting on the Sarge to make good on his promise. Remember how when we first met, he told me he was going to take me fishing and teach me how to fish? I’m still waiting on that one. He’s a great guy, but when it comes to the more mundane aspects of life? The man has the memory of a baked potato!

“Speaking of going fishing; Beefy? I’ll get a vacation pretty soon. I still don’t have much money for it, but Lake Havasu is still an option. What do you think? We get ourselves a cabin over there? Take a boat ride or two? I put on a smoking hot bikini and see if I can’t catch a hot guy? Nothing serious, mind you. Just a little wild bang-fest for the weekend? Sound like a plan?”

The only plan that little pig is interested in is that rawhide bone he’s eating! You know, it’s really hurtful when your friend and roommate totally ignores you! It’s also bad manners!

“If you don’t get your fat ass over here and start paying attention to me, I’m going to go for a walk and leave you here!”

I used the “W” word. That got his attention. Here he comes; tail wagging at full speed!

“It’s all about you, isn’t it? Come on, fat boy! Dinner can wait. Go get the leash!”

And he runs over to the wall and starts jumping up and down. At least he doesn’t try to tear it off the hook anymore. I’m tired of nailing that thing back up there when he rips it out of the wall. You know, now that I’m making more money, I should really get some pictures for these walls. The fact is, I’m going to be living here for the foreseeable future. I might as well try to turn it into something more like a home. Right now, it’s pretty much just a cube. Two cubes if you count the bedroom. You know: the place where absolutely nothing happens? How sad is that?

“If I weren’t so picky, I could probably have a different guy in there every night. Not that you’d be happy about that.”

Who am I kidding? It’s not that I’m so picky. Face it: I’m damaged goods. I need to repair the damage before I get a reputation as the department’s spinster. You wouldn’t believe that to look at me, but it’s true.

“I’m not going to have this kicking figure for the rest of my life. I really need to strike while the iron’s still hot. Maybe I should get one of those life coaches? No, they’re probably just a scam. Come on, big boy! Let’s go for a walk and see if we can’t figure this out between the two of us.”

See? This is what I’m reduced to: asking for life advice from a dog! It’s crazy when you think about it: I know exactly why I’m such a mess, but I have no idea of what to do about it! I’ve tried to read some of those self-help and life-coach books, but they all seem so…what’s the word I’m looking for? Bullshit! That’s the word! They all seem like total bullshit to me! Any suggestions? I’ll be happy to entertain any you might have. As you can see, I really, totally, desperately need help!

Well, I just finished watching Master of the Flying Guillotine. My God, that was bad! I mean unbelievably bad! I loved it! The guillotine was like this weird red hat with a ripsaw blade on the brim that was really cool! It was your typical bad martial arts flick, complete with hopelessly cheesy overdubbing in English. I really need to watch more of those films. There’s like a million of them out there, so I can’t exactly binge-watch the whole series of them. I’d be sitting here for a month at least. It would be a fun month, though. What? You think I’m crazy? You may be right, but a girl’s got to have a hobby, doesn’t she? Besides crawling around in the desert with a rifle and shooting things at eight hundred yards, that is. And that’s not exactly a hobby for me. It’s my job anymore. It’s actually a part of my identity. How weird is that?

My gear is cleaned and oiled for tomorrow. I have a feeling the Sarge is going to put our training sessions into overdrive now that it’s all about me making the SRT team. I’m not just doing this for myself, you know. I don’t want to let him down. Not after everything he’s done for me. Sometimes I can’t get over the fact that he’s got so much respect for me. I mean, he’s as old-fashioned as they get and I’m a woman cop. You’d think he’d be outraged that we have women on the job; let alone that one of them is trying out for the SRT team, but he isn’t. And at least I’m not the first woman to go for it. There’s currently one woman on the team full-time: Lena Rossini. One look at her and you wouldn’t be a bit surprised: she’s a semi-pro female bodybuilder. She’s fucking huge. I think she bench-presses five hundred pounds. I can’t do that, but I wouldn’t want to, either. Call me a prude or a traditionalist or whatever, but I just don’t think a woman should look like Mister Universe. Still, she’s won a few trophies and she’s happy, so what the hell, right? It must be a bitch for her to shop for clothes, though. I don’t think they’ve got a lot of stuff in her size.

But I’m not just trying to make the team. No, I’m trying to make it as a sniper: the hardest spot to qualify for. Everyone on the team is a Designated Marksman – or a Designated Markswoman, if you will – but there are exactly two people on Lima team who are qualified as snipers. The weird part? Everything I’ve read about tactical teams says we should have at least four snipers for a Tier 1 or a Tier 2 team. So why don’t we have them? One word: money! Our department doesn’t have the money for it. If it weren’t for the Sarge training SRT on a regular basis, we might not have an SRT unit at all. Why the hell our city council people don’t go to Phoenix and tell the state legislature to stick a crowbar in their wallet and pony up is beyond me; especially after we went through a couple of back-to-back major emergencies: the sniper and the outlaw biker war. Maybe they’re talking about it, but I haven’t heard anything about them cutting us a check. Cheap bastards! It’s always about the money, isn’t it?

I’ve been going over this obstacle course layout and it looks like it’s going to be a bitch to do it in full gear. This looks more like it was designed to be done in a track suit and running shoes. I’ll get through it all right, but I’ll have to get used to being that agile with a full tactical load. Since I’m going for a sniper spot, I have to carry that rifle at all times. The only part of this course I’m concerned about is the tire roll. It’s not exactly an obstacle as much as it is a test of strength. It’s a giant tire that I have to flip four times in a row and it weighs almost two hundred pounds. I’m pretty strong now, but I’m no Hercules. I’m sure there’s a trick to it that the Sarge will explain to me right before he makes me do it fifty times in full gear in the middle of the desert in hundred-plus degree heat. The rest of it? The wall, the tunnel, the zig-zag course? That should be pretty easy. I can smoke that part of it.

The shooting part of the assessment? I’ve got that one down pat thanks to Sergeant Varanasi’s School of Marksmanship and Sadistic Punishments. I can handle this rifle like a pro out to its maximum range of one thousand yards, and even out here, our snipers don’t take many shots at that distance. I think the longest sniper shot SRT ever took was four hundred eighty yards. I can hit at that distance in my sleep. And with my pistol out to fifty yards, I’m almost as good. The only thing I’m going to have to practice is shooting the other SRT weapons: the M-4, the MP-5, and the semiauto shotgun. I’m sure the Sarge will have me doing that until my trigger finger falls off. I almost feel like I’ve got an unfair advantage because he trains me, but we’ve invited other officers to train with us and we haven’t gotten any takers. I think they all figure he’s a surly son of a bitch and they don’t want to get anywhere near him unless they have to. Hey, he’s not always a surly son of a bitch. Just whenever things don’t go exactly the way he wants them to go. Other than that, he’s a regular sweetheart.

“Beefy, I’m going to read one chapter of this book and then I’m turning in! That’s fair warning: make room in that bed for me! I have to get up early!”

I’m sure he’s taken over the entire bed already. Getting him to move once he’s settled in is next to impossible. He’s greedy like that, you know. He also weighs almost as much as I do.

Room clearing tactics. Four-man teams. See, this is why I want to make the team: these guys are the best. They’ve got these drills down pat. And they work like parts in a well-oiled machine. Anyone can work together with others, but these cops are a real team. Everyone knows their job and they do it perfectly. It’s about the task in front of you, not about yourself. Hot dogs and cowboys need not apply. I want to be a part of a team like that. Let the superstars and lone wolves work things like the Fugitive Squad or Narcotics. Those are the places for people like that to shine. I want to be part of the best team on the department. That’s SRT. I’m going to make it. I know it. I won’t settle for anything less.

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Julia yamiled: Me gusta mucho y por que no haces una segunda parte

Tracey: Thank you for really sweet loving story everyone don’t matter what size you are all deserve loving can’t wait to read more of your stories

AngelaInes MunozCordero: Lectura rápida, un poco enredado con tanta información sobre la historia de cada familia y su vinculación con cada una de las otras, me gusto la trama, gracias por la lectura, me atrapo.

aduerr46: I enjoyed this story so much, it is so exciting! I need more. Please update soon

cathreen: So far I really like the book. It's got me hooked to wine what is going to happen next

2jlynn: This is the dream of most unpopular girls throughout high-school in every state. To be loved and accepted for who you are regardless of the "nasty spirited" people think. So much pain in this book, yet love is made known erasing the woes of the past. Not many people have a story such as this, but...

Teresa Knapp: Getting better!Still feel like you could have gone into more detail in some areas and I see where you left it open at the end for another one!

Carla N: YES ✅ YES ✅ YES ✅

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Janine: Die Story ist angenehm geschrieben und hat ein spannendes High-Schule Thema.

nadianicolle: Je l’ai dévoré encore une fois ! J’aime beaucoup votre style, l’histoire, le p’tit suspens, les personnages bref tout ! Troisième livre que je dévore, toujours cette légèreté fraîche, bref j’vous adore !

themesslmarion: Irgendwie cool. Für mich trotzdem zu kurz. Hab das Gefühl, da ist noch was drinn in der Story

Katherine: Es muy buena

Chantal Will: Ich finde es einfach nur fantastisch 🫶 freue mich wenn es weiter Kapitel geben wird 🫶🤩😇

delia: Me ha gustado el cuidado que tiene en cuanto a la redacción y a la ortografía

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