Hushed Guardian - Shandi Boyes




Six years later…

“Our window is small. We need to be in and out in under ten minutes.” Tobias, head operative of my unit, points out the most direct entrances of the Sicilian militant compound we’re about to raid. Our objective is simple—seize the operation of an underage sex-trafficking ring with minimal casualties. “Martin, Copen, and Ellis will go in via the west entrance, Trace and Lloyd via the east, and Charlton and I will take the north.”

Tobias spins back around to face the group of twelve heavily-armored men hanging off his every word. It’s like this everywhere we go. From the moment I joined his team as a ‘consultant’ to repay the debt I owed when he kept my ass out of jail after the stunt Grayson and I pulled at the airport saw us being arrested for terrorism to right now, he’s forever admired and respected.

Many men have come and gone from Tobias’s team the past six years, but not once have they left on bad terms. Tobias is big, crude, and Russian, but he’s also one of the most respected members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

He climbed the ranks quickly when he caught the eye of the Associate Deputy Director after a sting in Ravenshoe almost eighteen years ago. A Russian sanction was attempting to sink a foothold in the sleepy town where Tobias was once a detective.

There was no way in hell Tobias would ever let that happen.

I don’t usually endorse rumors, but the story about how Tobias singlehandedly took down a consortium over ten years in the making is hard not to believe. The story was shared with me many times during the three years I worked as a ‘consultant’ for Tobias’s team, over a dozen times during my six-month stint to become an official member of the Bureau, and more than a handful of times the past three years I’ve been a field agent, yet, the facts have never altered. Not once. They stayed exactly the same.

I can tell you from both experience on and off the job, that doesn’t happen unless it’s true. So, as the rumors have it, Tobias ran a Russian sanction out of his hometown for one reason and one reason only—his daughter, Isabelle.

The tales never included the reason why his daughter was the focus of his campaign, and her name was never mentioned in any of the write-ups he logged with the Bureau, but it must have been important. Even now, years after Grayson unknowingly disclosed Tobias’s operations are solely chosen on if Tobias sees his daughter in the eyes of the children we’re endeavoring to free from captivity, his team is still fighting the crusade he commenced over eighteen years ago.

Usually, operatives like his fold within six months. If they’re not shut down completely due to a lack of resources, they’re passed on to less-experienced agents whose funding would be sliced to a pittance of what’s needed to bring down a massive cartel ring like the one we’re endeavoring to seize today.

The only reason that hasn’t happened is because despite Tobias’s team not netting the primary player of an operation believed to be worth over 7.8 billion dollars, his team has notched up an impressive number of arrests since it was founded. They have disbanded more notorious crime syndicates the past six years than all the other divisions combined for the entirety of the Bureau’s history.

Some say Tobias’s unusual fondness for the man we’re hunting is the reason he’s failed to snag the number-one-wished-for-item on the FBI’s hit list. Others say it’s because Henry Gottle is always one step ahead of the authorities.

I’m somewhere in the middle.

It’s clear Tobias’s relationship with the mob boss of New York City blurs the line between corruption and righteousness, but Mr. Gregg taught me it’s okay to cross lines when it comes to keeping your family safe. As long as you know how to find your way home, you can cross as many boundaries deemed necessary to uphold your pledge. You just eventually have to return to the right side of the law.

It was those infamous words ringing through my ears six years ago that kept my feet planted on the ground when Melody boarded her flight to California. They also had me looking at the bigger picture when Tobias explained exactly how long the piece of string I was endeavoring to unravel was.

At the start, my ‘consultant’ position with the Bureau involved scrubbing toilets, shredding files, polishing Tobias’s boots, and any other