YATES FIELD HOUSE
Dewey Andreas was lying on his back. He stared up at the long steel bar above him, his hands holding it loosely. Attached to each end of the bar were two fifty-pound barbells, two hundred pounds in all. With the bar itself, he was looking at a two-hundred-and-thirty-pound lift.
“You sure you should be doing this?” asked Rob Tacoma, who was standing behind Dewey, ready to spot him. “You’re not supposed to do any heavy lifting. That’s what Hector told me.”
Dewey leaned his head back and looked upside down at Tacoma, shooting him an icy stare.
“From this angle it looks like you were just smiling at me,” said Tacoma.
“You mind shutting the hell up?”
Dewey clenched his hands a little tighter around the bar. He took several deep breaths. He pushed up on the steel bar; it moved with a slight wobble up into the air, his arms straightening. The pain in his right shoulder went from a dull ache to electric, like a sharp object was inside. He grunted as he slowly lowered the bar to his chest, pausing a half second, then pushed it back up.
“Not bad,” said Tacoma absentmindedly as Dewey struggled to push the weight up again. “You’re using your legs too much, though.”
After several wavering seconds, Dewey’s arms were straight above his head. He locked his elbows and breathed rapidly. The pain in his shoulder was intense. Yet as much as it told him to stop, he knew he needed to keep going. He had a hundred pounds to go until he was back to the strength level before Sirhan el-Khan stabbed him in the shoulder.
“Please, Rob, shut the fuck up,” Dewey groaned.
Dewey was the only individual who made him understand what it was like to have an older brother. There was no question who was in charge, but that was the way he wanted it, the way he liked it. Sure, there had been other mentors in his life: upperclassmen on the UVA lacrosse team; older SEALs who took him under their wing; after the Navy, other agents within Special Operations Group who helped him out, who showed Tacoma a trick or two. But Dewey was different. He was the only operator Tacoma had ever met whom he knew he could not defeat in battle, unless luck was involved. He was the only man who’d ever made him wish he had an older brother.
The last month had been a blast. Katie was off in Rwanda, spending six weeks volunteering along with a group of six other CIA agents, working to create a more secure route for food shipments into the region. Katie was his business partner, and her hiatus had given Tacoma time to hang out and help Dewey recover from the nearly fatal knife wound.
Dewey enjoyed it too. The problem was, at certain times Tacoma acted like that little brother Dewey never had. Little brothers sometimes couldn’t resist the temptation to make things difficult for their older brothers.
Dewey let his arms bend and lowered the barbell, where it touched his chest, harder this time, slamming against his breastplate. He pushed up, grunting loudly, the entire barbell wobbling as if it might at any moment drop like a ton of bricks on top of him.
“Have you ever considered getting a llama, Dewey?” asked Tacoma. “I hear they make great pets.”
Dewey’s face suddenly contorted as he tried not to laugh, but it was no use. The barbell dropped as his arms went weak. It sank rapidly. Just as it was about to land on his chest, Tacoma leaned down and grabbed it. With relative ease, he lifted it and set it back on the brackets.
Dewey’s eyes were closed, his face was bright red, and he fought to catch his breath. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked at Tacoma.
“You’re an asshole, you know that?”
Dewey sat up, still trying to catch his breath. He clutched his shoulder.
Tacoma eyed Dewey warily. “Sorry.”
“I’m hitting the showers.”
“Want me to wait?”
“Well, actually, Hector wanted me to wait and make sure you went to that appointment.”
Dewey glared at Tacoma. “Oh he did, did he?” he snapped.
Tacoma’s eyes took on a slight edge, an edge Dewey knew all too well. Beneath Tacoma’s disheveled frat boy exterior lurked an altogether different person: an ex–Navy SEAL with martial and paramilitary skills that were rare; a cold, deadly serious, brutally tough individual who’d twice saved Dewey’s life.
“Yeah, he did. I’m just the messenger.”
Copyright © 2017 by Ben Coes