Monday, January 21, 2013

N0 Greater Love

                                              N0 Greater Love

          Tommy Gunn was a nomad in a sense and never stayed in one place for long. He had lived his life this way for over ten years. In his senior year book, he was voted most likely to succeed. He was smarter than most of the students in his class and also one of the most gifted. He always got the lead role in the school play and mastered a few musical instruments. He dated the same girl for three out of the four high school years, a relationship that ended just a few months before graduation. Ellen had been the one who wanted to go to a different college after they had agreed to both attend the same school. She didn't give him any notice to the change in the plans they had made. When graduation was over, Tommy went home packed and headed for Hollywood California that same evening. His parents always believed in allowing their children to make their own choices once they had finish school. He arrived in California after driving for four days cross country. His dream was to become a movie star, get rich and after the heart break with Ellen to never be faithful and trust his heart to another woman.  After two years in Hollywood he enrolled in the U.S. Marine Corps when he was unable to land any movie deals even as an extra. He had been living in his car for the last eight months when one day as he walk by a recruiting office, he just stepped in and signed up. Tommy figured that rather than living on the street, the military would provide him food, shelter and a little adventure. Within two years he had advanced in rank and was selected to head up special recon missions in the Middle East. Eight years later and not wanting to re-enlist, Tommy left the armed forces and returned to California. He took a job working for Pro-Sec, a company that provides private security for movie stars or anyone who was willing to pay for protection. At times his employer’s company was hired out by the U.S. Marshals to help provide protection when they were short handed. With his back ground, Tommy would always be the one to draw that straw. He became friends with Captain Harris who took a liking to him for his professionalism and would always ask that it be him to work his details.

          Mike had to testify against his former boss and that would land the man in prison for twenty five years without any chance of parole for tax evasion, racketeering and a number of other charges. Mike’s boss would be getting life without parole, but only because the prosecutor’s office could not get anyone other than Mike to testify, that was not going to happen. The prosecutor also had no proof that Mike Lupino knew anything about that end of his bosses business. Mike’s boss had put a half million dollar contract on Mike’s head and the Marshals had been called in, to keep him alive. Tommy Gunn and his partner Jeff Clayton showed up at the condo where the Marshals had secured their witness. The minute Tommy walked into the room Mike began to push the wrong buttons by ordering the men around like they were his servants. “What are you getting me for dinner?”  Mike told Tommy in a cocky tone. Tommy just look at him with as serious a look as he could put on his face, then walked off to do what he had come to do. After making sure that the place was secure, Tommy and his partner pulled out some subs they had picked up and sat down to eat. After they were done they handed Mike a sub that one of the Marshals on patrol before their shift, had asked them to bring. It was 0100 in the morning and Jeff was in the kitchen looking in the refrigerator when he heard someone test the lock that lead from the condo to the building’s hallway. The condo had two egresses, one that entered into the living room and the other into the kitchen. Jeff heard the person walk away and head in the direction of the second door. He took a few steps and was at the entrance to the kitchen. He could see Tommy on the couch with his laptop. Catching his attention with a soft snap of his finger and his weapon in the other hand, he went back to man the kitchen door. Tommy tip toed across the living room carpet with his Glock already drawn and standing behind door number two. The dead bolt had already been unlocked by the time he had reached his post and the person on the other side was working the lower lock. Looking through the peep hole in the kitchen door, Jeff saw one man to his right. He was standing away from the door Tommy was guarding looking both ways at all times. He slowly and quietly started to undo the locks to his door and kept his gun pointed at the door. By Tommy’s door the lower lock came undone and the person waited a minute before twisting the knob; then he proceeded to swing the door open. The intruder sticks his hand with a gun throw the opened door. Still standing behind the door Tommy put all two hundred pound into the door and slammed the door on the person’s forearm and then grabbed his wrist while stepping out from behind the door. The weight of the man slammed the door to the wall and Tommy had his wrist twisted behind his back on his way to the floor. No sooner had he pinned the man to the ground, he heard the two shots echo in the hallway, and he turned for a second to see the second man slowly slid down the hallway wall and land on his buttocks leaving a blood trail on the wall behind him.  The man on the floor took advantage of the distraction to flip, and with one leg tripped Tommy, also bringing him down. Tommy had turned when he heard the shots and now found himself in a fight. The intruder, who had lost his firearm when his forearm had been slammed into the door jamb, was now trying to disarm him. Tommy rolled to his left and then rolled back to his right all in one action and brought his elbow to connect with the man’s jaw. He then rolled twice to his left and in one fluid motion was up on his feet. The assassin was on all fours attempting the same but met the butt end of Tommy’s Glock before going to sleep. One call and the Marshals were there to clean house, the dead was transported in a body bag to the morgue and the one that was out cold, was taken in cuffs. Tommy, Jeff and Mike were on their way to a new destination within the hour.  Tommy was going to make sure that Mike would live to testify and would not see him harmed on his watch.

          Mornings or evenings it made no difference to Tommy as long as the sun was not beating on him, he would jog three to five miles a day. He kept free weights around to work on his upper body knowing that in his line of work, fitness was important. After a workout, he showered and as part of his daily habit, he sat to read the news on his iPad. He was accustomed to keeping up with current affairs whether national or international. On this particular evening one story caught his attention. Even though he had not seen Ellen since the day he graduated from high school eighteen years ago, the picture on the screen was no doubt that of the only girl he ever loved. Her last name was different, but she had not changed and in fact she was more beautiful than ever. He was halfway through the story when he paused, opened a new window and logged on to a secure site he uses to order airline tickets, thus remaining dark to anyone nosing around. By eleven O’clock he was on a red eye heading to Panama City Florida. He arrived in Jacksonville at 0800 the following morning and immediately turned on his phone and dialed; the person answered on the second ring, “Hey must be important because I ain’t heard from ya in a bit.” Tommy replied quickly, “Sorry old friend, they been keeping me in hiding for the last six months with a dirt bag, but a state witness never the less” Tommy paused and waited for the voice to speak. “So what’s up, is this business or are we hanging?” the voice replied. “I’m also sorry, but it’s all business on this trip, when I’m done maybe.” Tommy said with a little regret but continues.  “I had to fly under the radar and empty handed and need to borrow one of each, a few extra refills and the usual things.” The voice blew out a breath then a small laugh before he replied, “Got ya and I’ll text ya an AO as soon as I’ve got hands on those puppies, see ya.” Tommy disconnected and headed to the car rentals, picked up his wheels and exited the airport.  Three hours later he was standing in front of his old friend Tiny, six foot six inches and over three hundred pound, his name was a common joke when they had served together in the Marines. After a few minutes of pleasantries, Tommy drove off trading his rental with Tiny for a Cadillac with limo tint, a Glock, a snug nose thirty eight with an ankle holster and a small duffle bag with various other items that might come in handy.

          Ellen sat in her house watching TV and going out of her mind. What had she been thinking when she had testified against her ex-husband. Two and a half years ago she had filed for a divorce and was granted one by a judge and latter was a key witness in his murder trial. As his wife, she was not going to be allowed to take the stand against him, so she divorced him to make sure he paid for his crime. This had been her second marriage to a man she barely knew for six month. Her first husband had been killed in a crane accident when the crane had toppled over and he fell over five stories to his death. Unbeknown to her, her second husband was involved in laundering money through his parking lot business which is mostly cash transactions. Frank had swept her off her feet two years after her first husband had died. She had met him through a friend who had talked her into a blind date, and a day she wishes she had said no as always, when it came to blind dates. She had stopped by Frank’s office on her way home one Friday after work. She had come to asked him out to dinner because lately he had been putting her off. When they were first married he was always available, but lately that had not been the case. She opened the door to the reception area when she heard the gun go off. Thinking that something had happen to her husband and not thinking of her own safety she burst into his office. She found him holding a gun, and then firing the fatal bullet that ended the life of his partner.

          The report Tommy had read on his iPad was that the prosecutor had assigned a periodic patrol around Ellen’s house. Due to a shortage in man power they were unable to put a permanent detail on her. He arrived on her street and two houses down from Ellen’s house he found a house with a sale sign and pulled into the driveway. He steps out of the Cadillac and walked up to the door and knocked twice, when no one answered he looked through the window and saw that the house was empty. He walks over to sign and removed it from the ground and set it on the side of the house, thinking that it would be less obvious. He removed his lock kit and opened the front door; walked back to the car retrieved his bags and set up camp inside. Closing the blinds to remain unnoticed and with a lawn chair he found on the rear patio, he sat with his dual action NVG’s set on day vision and started his surveillance. He knew that if he didn’t spot Ellen soon, he would have to enter her house in the cover of darkness to make sure she was in there or find a way to figure out where she was hiding. Before the sun went down the lights on the second floor window came on but with all the blinds and curtains drawn close, he couldn’t tell who was in the house. The police cruiser was making its rounds about every two to three hours and Tommy knew that they were not overly concern with her will being.

          Tommy sat there remembering many years back to those days when he and Ellen had been happy. The football games they had attended and cheered together. The plays they had both been a part of, and the many hours they spent learning their lines. He smiles to himself at the thought of the first time he got up enough nerve to kiss her. That thought also made him choke from the frog he felt in his throat. He wishes she would see that after all these years; he still cared enough to protect her. She will probable hate my guts for sticking my nose in her business without her permission, he thought to himself.

          Two days had passed since he started the personal detail and not one sighting of Ellen. He knew she or someone else was in her house, of that he was sure from the lights that came on at night. He had created a schedule staying up all night and taking cat naps during the early afternoon. While he slept he would start the surveillance camera and recorded the house and viewed the tape when he woke up. He had brought his favorite turkey and baby swizz along with bread, power bars and lots of water so he would have no reason to leave. About 0100 on the fourth night, he notice a late model Crown Victoria do two passes and slow down when it pass Ellen’s place. Suspicion was part of what made up his DNA, the third time the car stopped about twenty five yards before it reached her house and he just knew by pure instinct, that her killers had arrived. Tommy reached for the duffle bag and removed a few items while not removing his eyes from the two men in the car. After putting the items in his pockets he stood and stretched while not removing his eyes from the two men in the car. He turned on the recorder and turned his back to the window and decided to retrieve a few more things that might come in handy while staring at the screen that played what the camera was seeing and didn’t remove his eyes off the two men in the car. He knew it was game time and the stakes were high when the passenger got out and headed for the rear of Ellen’s house. Tommy went to the side door of the house not wanting to exit out the front. He then walked to the front and looked down the street at the parked car. Acting like he was on a midnight run, he jogged on his side of the street till he was directly across from the man in the car. He slowly stepped off the sidewalk and headed towards the man. He approached the car and tapped on the window, the man rolled down his window. Tommy bent down in a non threatening manner and asked, “Is everything okay?” The man look at him, smiled and replied, “Sure I’m just waiting for a friend who lives in this house.” Pointing at the house in front of where his car was parked, which further more told Tommy that the man was clearly whom he thought he was. Before the man knew what hit him Tommy’s left hand slapped him in the face with a rag. The man started to pull at Tommy’s hand but Tommy had his right hand behind the head rest pressing forward and the left holding the rag pressed to the man’s face. Ten seconds later the man started to relax and the chloroform did the rest. Tommy left the man sitting up looking like he was still on the job and on duty.

          Tommy took off at a fast pace knowing that these men came with the intention of finishing a job, and they meant to do it quickly. He reached the rear of Ellen’s house and moving in stealth but careful manner he approached the rear of the house. He found the rear door unlocked and slightly ajar. He pulled it back just enough to step inside and walked quietly with his ears tuned to pick up every sound. He found the first floor vacant and headed for the floor above. As he reaches the stairs he knew that her room had to be to the left because it was the last lights to go off at night. At the bottom of the steps he heard a grunting sound that told a tale of its own. He took the steps two at a time to minimize the chance of a squeaky one giving him and his position away. At the top he quickly turned left and reaches for the door to her room. He dares a quick look and then just sprung in throwing caution to the wind. Ellen lay on her back with terror in her eyes while the man on top was chocking the life right out of her. She saw Tommy and knew she was going to die, thinking that he was a second man coming to help finish the job a bit quicker. She closed her eyes not wanting to see what the end of her life would be and for the first time in years she prayed for forgiveness.  The man saw Tommy a little too late and by the time he looked up Tommy had tackled him to break his grip on Ellen's neck. Tommy had taken two quick leaping steps and grabbed the man by his neck after his forearm and the weight of his body push the man off Ellen. Using the nook of his arm with elbow bent and wrapped around the man's neck he went flying over the bed and Tommy landed on his back hard against the floor. The man landed on top of him and he still had his arm around the man's neck and applied enough pressure as not to kill the man, but ten seconds later the man went limp and the sleep hold had finished its job. Tommy pushed the man off of him and stood to his feet to see Ellen with her back towards him sitting on her bed still coughing, gagging and trying to get air back in her lungs. Tommy walked around and knelt in front of her and told her to pick up her head to help open her wind pipe fully. She looked at him, still not being able to talk and not knowing what to think of her knight in shining armor. The only light in the room came from the street lamps, which helped him to see the worried look on her face as he looked up at her. Tommy knew that she was thinking that her killer would get up and would finish the job, so he said assuring her, “don't worry, he won't be up any time soon and when he does wake, he will have a headache for a few days.” Still staring she asked, “Where did you come from?” He was worried that if she knew who he was, that she would turn cold on him. So he just said, “I was sent to look out for you.” He was hoping that he wouldn't have to say much to convince her. She most likely wouldn't recognize him; he was forty pounds heavier with a lot more bulk then back in high school. He now sported a crew cut, well trimmed mustache and between the Middle East and living in California he always maintained a year round tan. Plus he was counting on the fact that eighteen years was a very long time. Tommy got off his knees walked around the bed and flips the man on his face. He then put both of the man's hand behind his back and cuffs him with a pair of plastic cuffs. He reached to the rear of his belt and pulled out his Ka-Bar 1218 USMC fighting knife, walked over to the window and cut the cord of the vertical blinds and hog tied the man. “Listen to me if you wish to remain alive.” Tommy said looking at Ellen, and then continued, “There probably is more where these two came from, so I would pack a small bag as quick as you can and come with me.” He reaches down and picked up the assassin like a sack of potatoes and left the room leaving Ellen to hopefully pack.  He dragged the man down the stairs and dropped him by the front door, opened it and then carried him the twenty five yards to the car. At the car he opened the rear door and threw the hit-man in with such force that it cause the man to ram his head against the opposite door, then slammed the one he went in threw. He went back in the house and was glad to find Ellen nearly packed and ready to go. They walked out of the house after Tommy had checked and knew that all was clear. They quickly walked across the street where he deposited her things in his car. He then walked into where he had been staying, retrieved his belongings and returned in less than a minute. Once in the car he took out his cell phone, dialed 911 and told the operator where to find the two would-be assassins. He quickly backed out of the driveway where the car had been for four days and headed east to Jacksonville. The first hour neither said a word to the other and that was fine with Tommy. No sooner had he given thanks for the silence, she spoke the words Tommy didn't want asked. She looked over and said, “I want to thank you, but I don't even know your name.” He stared straight ahead and didn't know what to say or how to answer, “Miles” he finally said still not wanting to look at her.  Thank you again for saving my life, Miles, and can I ask where you’re taking me?”  “Some place safe where no one will find you till it’s time to testify” he replied. About an hour before entering Jacksonville he reached in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone and hit speed dial. The phone rang four times before the voice of Tiny said, “Hey brother what’s up?” Tommy thought for a second than replied “Hey buddy this is Miles, me and my company need a place to crash.” Tiny paused and then said, “Miles, got ya, so Miles, how long is the stay?” Tommy paused and replied “Three weeks or until the trial starts” than he asked, knowing what the answer would be. “Is this going to be a problem?” than waited for the answer. “Nothing is a problem old friend when it comes to your needs, you should know better than to ask” Tommy grinned and replied “Sorry, just making sure” with a small smile on his voice Tiny said, “So Miiilllesss” Tiny stretched his code name to emphasis that he understood the name he would be going by and still laughing asked “Is she as pretty as you remember?” Then he laughed out loud. Tommy smiled and replied, “Much more than that” then he just clicked end.

          It was still two weeks till the trial and Tommy stayed away from Ellen as much as possible and when he did talk to her he tried his best to not make too much eye contact. Ellen assumed that he was quiet, a little introverted and maybe a little shy, but for some reason she couldn’t put her finger on, she trusted him with her life. The next two weeks went by quicker than Tommy had hoped for because he liked looking out for her and they had somehow, on a strange level, bonded. From the time they had arrived at Tiny’s place, he wore a hat and sun glasses which she liked because it gave him a mysterious look that she had come to associate him with. She sensed his strength and determination with keeping her alive. He had promised her that he had never lost a detail assigned to him. At night she would lie in bed and think about Miles and what his private life looked like. After the second week she couldn’t wait to get out of bed, clean up and apply a little make up before running into him for their coffee and early morning conversation. He had even begun to loosen up a little but always the hat and sunglasses were part of the attire.

          Finally the time came to head back for the first day of the trial and Ellen was already starting to miss Miles. They had not even started the ride when she asked, “What will you do and where will you go once you drop me off to the prosecutor at the court house.” A one word answer “Home” he replied not saying another word or looking at her. “That’s a little vague” she said before asking, “And where do you call home?” At this point every answer had to be thought out before exiting his mouth. “The west coast” he replied not saying another word or looking at her. The rest of the trip was all small talk and more silence then either wished for. When they finally arrived at the court house, Tommy pulled into the parking lot and sat for a minute and scanned the lot before stepping out of the car. “I believe it’s safe to head inside; the Marshal’s office will have their men waiting for you and will take it from here” Tommy said as he removed his hat and ran his fingers through his short cropped hair. The two walked up the court house steps with Tommy still on the alert letting his gaze roam to catch everyone in sight. After walking through security and leaving his weapons with the sheriff in charge, they went to find the Marshals. Coming towards them when they rounded the corner was Captain Harris which Tommy was not expecting but was also not surprised to see. The man spoke before Tommy had a chance at a private chat. “Good to see you Mr. Gunn” he said extending his hand. Tommy shook the man’s hand and looked at Ellen to see if she had picked up on his last name but she seemed not to have been paying much attention. A few minutes after he had introduced her to the Marshals, Captain Harris spoke again, this time a bell went off in Ellen’s head and Tommy knew it. “Okay Thomas, thanks, we can take it from here and I’m sure you’ve done enough for free.” Tommy had only told his boss that he was “doing a little looking out for a friend,” as he had put it. He also knew that the captain and his boss were close, so the man had first hand information that he was not on the clock on this detail. The names made Ellen stare at Tommy and for the first time she saw her old boyfriend, slim, long hair and almost twenty years younger. The fact that he did not look away told Ellen that her assumption about the man in front of her was correct. “Thomas Gunn, Tommy from Cleveland Ohio?” She asked with tears running down her face. Tommy stood there, all that secrecy to end up with the results he tried so hard to avoid. “Why did you tell me your name was Miles?” She asked through the light sob. “That’s what my friends call me because I move around a lot and I love to run.” He replied looking down at the flooring and fumbling with his sunglasses not able to look straight at her. “Do you know that I went looking for you the night of our graduation; didn’t your folks tell you Tommy?” She was asking while everyone else just stood there not saying a word. “No they never mentioned that to me” he replied a little chocked up. and now looking her in the eyes. “If I wasn’t one of your details as you like to call them, and from what the captain implied you’re not being paid to protect me, how did you know I needed protection?” She asked.  “News travels” he replied. “And you just took it upon yourself to come and protect me?” and now looking her in the eyes, he replied, “Yes” stunned, she asked “Why?” Staring her straight in the eyes, Tommy Gunn replied, “Because there is no greater love, then to lay down my life, for the only woman I have ever loved”

13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

John 15:13

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