Above Protection (Imperfect Heroes Book 1)

By: C. J. Pinard

Chapter 1


Three wrong turns aren’t going to get you anywhere. They’re going to bring you right back to where you started.

Intense, wise brown eyes narrowed at me through clear glasses then back down to the report he was reading. His desk was littered with papers, manila folders, a clunky government phone, and a scuffed Blackberry that looked as if it had been dropped too many times. His entire office was just as dull as he was.

I didn’t want to admit to being nervous, so I discreetly wiped the palms of my hands on my slacks and waited for my boss to say something – anything.

“This is the third one, Hawthorne,” he finally said, yanking his reading glasses off and fixing me with his beady stare. He pinched the bridge of his nose and continued, “What am I supposed to do with you?”

I threw him a cocky smirk. “You could let me off with a couple unpaid days of leave. I could use some beach time.”

“Not funny,” he growled, letting out a huff. He reached up and hooked a finger into his tie at his throat, loosening it.

“A guy’s gotta try,” I replied, trying to sound cooler than I felt.

He shook his head, closed my file, and then folded his hands on top of it. “Three counts of excessive force and you think Headquarters is gonna be satisfied with a few days of unpaid leave? Yeah, nooo. Not gonna fly.”

“It wasn’t that excessive,” I muttered, shaking my head.

“Three strikes, Duke. This is serious.”

“Whatever,” I snarked, waving a dismissive hand.

Lifting an eyebrow at me, my boss, Jeffery Howard, turned toward his laptop, hit a few buttons, and then turned it around to face me. On the screen was a cleverly constructed montage of my not-so-excessive force infractions, filmed by, of course, bystanders who would rather record cops doing their jobs from their cell phones than actually help people, or, God forbid, support law enforcement.

My jaw clenched hard. I tried to keep my face impassive while he showed me the first clip of my knee digging into the back of a suspect on the ground. The shitbag was drunk and resisting arrest after rear-ending a school bus full of kids on an Indian reservation. I was just a tad pissed off. So what if I broke his wrist? He shouldn’t have been resisting – or drinking and driving. Screamed like a little bitch, too, that one. I bit back a grin at the memory.

The second clip was of a guy convulsing from my Taser. I really didn’t understand the issue with this one. We had a warrant to search his house, and the result was about six kilos of cocaine, thirty grand in cash, and a bunch of pipes and other drug paraphernalia. He didn’t want to go to prison, I get it, but he took a swing at me. With a knife. I pulled out the Taser and let him have it. So what if I didn’t exactly pull the Taser prongs out in a timely fashion? The asshole had taken a swing at me! With a knife! He had stopped convulsing eventually. Did he die? No.

The last clip was the worst. We’d responded to an armed robbery at a local bank. Banks were federally insured, therefore, the cases always belonged to the FBI instead of the local police, and honestly? I really hated those types of calls. But my partner and I had been the first responders, and I had seen the suspect speed away on a motorcycle. Hopping in my government ride, I’d given chase. The dumbass crashed into a guardrail on the freeway during rush hour, and when I stopped the car and got out to arrest his ass, I jumped on him before he could get up from his bike. Except he pulled a gun from the bag where the stolen money was kept. He pointed it in my face, and seeing the gun, I’d completely snapped. Snatching it out of his hand, I tossed it to the ground and… I may or may not have smashed his face into the pavement more times than maybe was necessary. He sort of needed facial reconstruction on his cheekbones and nose after that.

I snorted out loud, trying not to smile. I didn’t mean to. Jeffery shot me a warning look. I straightened up, putting my eyes back on the screen, my lips pursed.

Some shithead had filmed that one from their car while traffic had been stopped on the bridge due to our scuffle. The greedy dick had even tried to sell it to the local news before so kindly turning it in to the local P.D., who then forwarded it to the FBI.

“That last one was the worst, Duke,” my boss said.

I shook my head and stroked a hand over my beard, replying, “I don’t care who you are, you pull a gun on a cop, it’s gonna end badly for you.”

He nodded. “While I agree with that, you and I both know that once you disarmed him, the threat was gone. The face bashing was excessive…”

I cut him off. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Just dole out the punishment so I can get the hell out of here.”

His face got red and he pounded a fist on his desk. “First off, you aren’t running anything here, so just shut up and let me speak!”

I gave him the briefest of nods while I kept my narrowed eyes on him, my lips clamped in a firm line, my jaw pulsing in annoyance.

“You’re a good agent, Hawthorne, but you’re a loose fucking cannon. The government is cracking down on excessive force, especially in light of the news lately of police in the funny papers. Ferguson, Baltimore, you get the picture. The FBI needs to maintain its squeaky clean reputation.”