Edward Owen – Author

Ray Bradbury Challenge #44- Olivia’s Story

#44 Olivia’s Story



“It’s his birthday today,” she said. “He would have been fifty-three.”

Her dark brown hair, pulled back in its customary pony tail, flipped as though agitated while she scanned the room.

“You can relax here,” he said. “Give the swivel a break and have some wine.”

She let out a sigh and reached for the glass.

“Sorry, old habits.”

He chuckled. “Twenty-four years is hardly enough time to have ‘old’ habits, Liv.”

Olivia Jordan was ‘Liv’ to only a handful of people close to her. At the top of the list was Napoleon Owen, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, Retired; her dinner companion and grandfather.

“Yeah? How many operatives do you know that started training when they were eight? He gave me a gun for my tenth birthday. Not a bike or a video game. A Beretta M-9. I was shooting a two inch cluster at thirty yards before I started puberty.”

Olivia jerked the glass off the table, drained its contents and slammed it down.

“He was trying to protect you. Can you blame him?”

“Every day. Her blood is on his hands and nothing will change that fact. I need a real drink.”

Napoleon waved to the server.

“A bottle of Jack Daniels and two shot glasses, please.”

He turned back to his granddaughter.

“No, you can’t undo the past, but you can do something about the future.”

“Nappy, please tell me this isn’t the ‘find a man and settle down’ speech. I think Aunt Jo’s already gone platinum with that one.”

His laughter boomed through the restaurant. “What a colossal waste of time and whiskey that would be. Josephine means well but she’s not the brightest bulb on the tree. Does she even know you own a gun? Never mind. Anyway, what I’m talking about is the future of the United States. Russell and I had an interesting discussion over poker last week. That’s why I asked you to dinner.”

The waiter arrived with their ordered whiskey and Olivia had two shots poured before the man left the table.

“By Russell you are referring to Russell Thomas, current resident of the White House? Something tells me I’m going to need more than one of these.”

Olivia tossed the drink back and refilled the glass. She slid the other across the tablecloth.

“You’re already behind one.”

Napoleon drained the brown liquid and placed the glass in front of him.

“Yes, President Thomas. Things aren’t going well for our side. 9/11 caught us with our pants down and now every two bit thug with a bomb thinks he can have his way with us. It’s getting harder to deal with all the threats against our country.”

“Yeah, well isn’t that the job of the Foster Grant crowd? NSA, FBI, CIA, Thomas has a whole alphabet soup of meat-heads who are supposed to keep us Americans safe in our beds at night.”

Olivia drained another drink and sat back with her arms crossed in front of her.

“You’re right. We’ve got the best intelligence agencies money can buy. The problem is, the world has become much too small and everyone is watching everything we do. On top of that, these kids come out of Langley and Quantico and you can practically smell the government on them. They’re categorized, registered in a database and on the government payroll with a three thousand page ops manual stuffed in their back pocket. Our enemies have changed the rules of engagement and we aren’t keeping pace.”

“I know I’m going to regret asking this, but what am I supposed to do about it?” Olivia said.

“We need eyes and ears our enemies don’t know about. And if things go south, boots on the ground that can do what needs to be done, regardless.”

Olivia had her next drink halfway to her mouth and set it back down on the table.

“You’re serious?”

“As a bullet to the brain. You put together the team. I have some suggestions but you have the final say so.”

Olivia retrieved her drink and stared at it for a moment before sending it to join its bottle-mates.

“I want double my current rate. I assume you have some shell company set up already?”

“On paper you’ll continue working in executive protection. You’ll even have clients when it’s necessary to establish a cover. Your carry permit and other details will attract less attention that way.”

“One more thing.” Olivia filled the shot glass and downed it.

“What’s that?”

“I want all women on the team. None of your testosterone-driven knuckle dragging SEALs strutting around and stinking up the place.”

Nappy let out a chuckle. “Point taken. I will ask you to make a small concession on that, however. I already have your military liaison chosen. Young hotshot lieutenant looking to make a name for himself.”

“Dammit, Nappy! That’s just what I’m talking about. First he’s a liaison…” Olivia put her fingers in the air to mimic quotation marks. “… and the next thing you know he’s trying to run things. No deal.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and turned away.

“It’s James.”

Olivia turned and glared across the table.

“No shit?”

“No shit. The whole team at the ready but only if you call them in. You still make the calls in the field.”

“In the field? What does that mean?”

Napoleon tipped the whiskey into his glass and swigged it down.

“It means that someone has to have your back on the outside. It means that a mission might get scrubbed and you won’t always get to make that decision. If it’s any consolation, you still get paid.”

Olivia stretched out her arms, laced her fingers and cracked her knuckles.

“You sure Mr. Gung-Ho SEAL boy is okay with all this?”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” said Nappy. “He’s the one that suggested you run the team.”

“Really? Then I guess I’m in.” Olivia tipped her glass against Nappy’s and downed her drink.

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