Before You Break

By: K.C. Wells & Parker Williams

To all those readers who loved the Collars & Cuffs series and have followed Eli and Jarod on their new journey.

Welcome aboard.





Acknowledgments





AS ALWAYS, a thank-you to our wonderful betas.

A very special thank-you to Sharon D. Simpson for her invaluable help with regards to Ellis’s situation.

And we would like to extend our gratitude to LM Somerton and Pride Publishing, as well as Elizabeth North, for allowing Joe and Olly from the fantastic series The Edge to visit on the opening night of Secrets.





Prologue





July 2016



WAYNE DWYER sat in the back seat of the ARV, Ellis Mann beside him as usual, and Shaun Temple at the wheel. Wayne’s loaded carbine lay across his knees, a pistol strapped to his thigh. The early morning was wet and quiet as the convoy of seven police cars, two police vans, and an ambulance crawled its way across South London, the drizzle misting the windscreen.

Wayne was calm, his thoughts focused on the briefing that had taken place an hour previous. They were on their way to arrest a suspect the police had reason to believe was in possession of a weapon. Intelligence came from the officers who’d spent the last few hours reconnoitering the address.

“If anything goes wrong,” Shaun commented in his quiet voice, “this could be a long night.”

Beside Wayne, Ellis twitched, clenching and unclenching his hand on his thigh.

Wayne chuckled, more to ease the tension in Ellis than for any other reason. “And he could already be tucked up fast asleep in his bed by the time we get there.” The surveillance team had reported their suspect was home. As they neared the target’s building, an ARV and another police car, this time with local officers on board, veered off to cover the back of the building.

“Then let’s hope he doesn’t wake up and decide to seize a hostage,” Shaun muttered. He pulled the car over to the curb, and the other vehicles did the same. “Okay, rendezvous point.”

Wayne knew they were out of sight and sound of the flats. He’d studied the Google Earth images and the large-scale maps of the property and neighboring area.

“I’m with you,” Ellis murmured. “I hope he’s off in the Land of Nod. Makes things a damn sight easier.” They already knew what had occurred earlier that evening; the suspect and another man, both with records of violence, had threatened someone, demanding money they claimed was owed to them. The report said both men were armed.

The three men got out of the car and were joined by four more officers, all of them armed and fully kitted out with helmets, goggles, and body armor. Lewis was in command.

“Okay, check mobiles are off and radios turned down,” he instructed in a low voice. “Cassidy and Phelps have a carbine and pistol trained on the fourth floor in case our man gets desperate and decides to try and escape through the window.”

In a close-linked single file, they moved stealthily to the ten-story block of flats, part of the depressing seventies concrete jungle of gray with its raised footbridges and stone stairwells. Lewis was the first at the downstairs glass door, which he opened with a key as quietly as possible. Shaun slipped inside first, a bulletproof shield held up to protect himself, his Glock in his hand. Behind him the six officers made their way up the flights of concrete stairs, and Wayne’s nose twitched at the faint yet unmistakable aroma of stale urine. Peters carried the battering ram.

The building was silent when they lined up outside the flat’s door. Lewis signaled for Peters and Derwent, and the quiet was shattered as they rushed forward, breaking down the red front door. All of them rushed in, weapons ready, and Lewis called out, “Armed police! Armed police! Come on out. And let’s see those hands!”

Wayne trained his carbine at the bedroom door as it opened and a young man emerged from it, unsteady on his feet, dressed in a pair of boxers. He blinked at them, mouth falling open.

“Okay, okay,” he said, waving his hands in the air. “Not armed, all right?” His chest heaved.

“Find something to cover him with before you take him outside,” Lewis directed. Shaun cuffed him, all the while reading him his rights. Wayne ducked into his bedroom and grabbed the black bedspread from the bed. He returned to the scene, threw it over the suspect’s shoulders, and watched as Shaun led him from the flat.

Ellis jerked toward the second bedroom door and froze when a small girl appeared, rubbing eyes that went wide when she saw the officers. She began to wail, and another child and a woman spilled out of the room.

“What the fuck are you doing in my home?” the woman screeched, automatically indicating for the girls to stand behind her before pulling her robe around her.