A Modern Crime Novelette
45 Miles South-East of Nuevo Laredo – Off Highway 2
They kept following the road for a few more miles as the little bird made wide circles around them.”That helo pilot is a real hot dog isn’t he?” Luis asked. “Oh yeah, that’s Jolt, he’s a certified retard.” Logan replied nonchalantly. Eventually the road ended into a large embankment of orange and white construction barriers. Luis had to laugh at the home-made sign hanging down. It was a line from Dante’s Inferno:
“CAMP INFERNO: ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE”
As Luis got out of the vehicle he took stock of this “camp”which consisted of a few run down portable buildings, some honda generators, two huge above ground gas tanks and a water well. A make shift helipad had been constructed in the rear of the camp along with a shooting range and two-story shoot house. “Not much of a going concern.” Luis muttered under his breath. About that time Logan and the bearded lumberjack appeared, “Luis I would like you to meet Chris Bell, aka Tarzan.” Luis extended his hand and the lumberjack grabbed it and shook it as if he planned to rip it off and beat him with it. “Welcome to Camp Inferno! Logan tells me you are a Marine. Damn nice to finally have a devil dog on the team…” Luis smiled and thanked him. He was intrigued by both the name of the camp, which made sense because of the quote on the sign and the man’s accent. It wasn’t British or New Zealand, maybe Australian? “Say where are you from?” Luis asked. Logan and Tarzan looked at each other and started laughing hysterically. “You owe my $20 bucks Logan.” Tarzan said smiling. Logan reached into his wallet and produced a twenty. “We made a bet on how long it would take you to ask where I’m from. Logan said 10 minutes, I said Immediately…” Tarzan smiled as he folded the money and placed it in his pocket. “We are gambling degenerates just so ya’ know.” Tarzan said as he smiled and looked at Logan. “Got some stuff to do in the office, introduce him around will you? And don’t fill his head full of too much bullshit, OK?” Tarzan nodded and as Logan began walking away he casually flipped him the middle finger. “I feel your disrespect.” Logan said walking away. Both men laughed. Tarzan gave Logan a serious look. “We get really bored around here sometimes…”
“Come on Marine, let’s go over to the lounge area and get out of this heat.” Luis nodded and followed Tarzan behind one of the portable buildings. There he had a huge beach canopy set up with very nice high-end patio furniture. “Have a seat. Something to drink? Tarzan opened a Yeti cooler beside him and got two ice-cold bottles of water. “Yes, thank you” Luis replied taking the water. “We don’t start drinking alcohol around here until 1830 just so ya know. Bosses orders.” Luis noticed two gunshot wounds on Tarzan’s right arm as he shut the cooler. “So yeah, I am from South Africa. Jo-Berg. Bred and spread. Retired from the Recces when I was thirty-seven after twenty years of crawling around in the fucking dirt. I was not retired a year when I decided I had not had my fill of people shooting at me in anger, so I got into the Contract Security game.” Tarzan laughed and shook his head. He was in his mid forties, but his face looked much older. He stood around six feet tall and one hundred ninety pounds. He had dark skin like a Greek with a huge black wiry beard that stretched at least six inches below his chin. He wore a filthy, sweat stained New York Yankees cap turned backwards and was dressed in a pair of British DPM BDU’s and a Brown army t-shirt with a chest rig in which he carried a Glock 17 in one of the AR Mag pouches. “The beard right? Everybody wants to know about it.” Tarzan said looking at Luis through his Ray-Ban’s. “Call it extreme fucking vanity” Tarzan replied with a smirk. Luis could tell this was a touchy subject, so he quickly apologized. “Sorry bro, did not mean to pry.” Tarzan smiled. “Hey no worries man. It was an accident while in the Recce’s. Me, my platoon leader and our EOD guy were ambushed near Mogadishu; our jeep took a RPG rocket up the ass and I was trapped underneath with it on fire. I got third degree burns on my face and back before they eventually cut me out of there. I was the only one to survive.” “Jesus brother, I am sorry!” Luis replied with empathy. “Yeah it sucked. Spent six months in a burn unit in Jo-berg. The only upside was the ice cream and the nurses. They would give you banana splits and sympathy blow jobs…really nice perk.” Tarzan smiled broadly and laughed. “So what’s up with the chopper pilot, Jolt is it?” Luis asked.. “Oh yeah, where is that fuck-tard?” Tarzan replied, looking around in the sky. About that time the little bird made a fast low pass over the camp, imitating a strafing run. Tarzan un-clipped a Motorola push to talk from his chest rig as he got up and walked out from underneath the canopy. “Hey Jolt, when you gonna stop wasting gas and come and say hello to our newest team member?” About that time the helo made a wide circle and flared up in front of them, the rotor wash sending anything not nailed down flying into the air. Tarzan yelled into the radio. “Dammit Jolt! Land that fucker!” Luis could see the pilot smiling through the cockpit glass. After a few more minutes of hot-dogging, the pilot finally relented and landed.
After a few minutes Jolt came wandering over. He was short and squat, around five foot six and a hundred and sixty pounds. He had dirty blond hair cut high and tight and was wearing a pair of classic aviators. His OD green flight suit was “sterilized” with no name tags or unit ID patches of any sort. “So how goes it ladies?” Jolt said as he walked over to the cooler and grabbed a water. “Luis this is Steven Percy, aka Jolt, our resident helo pilot and town retard.” Jolt smiled at the jive as he walked over and shook hands with Luis. “Nice to meet you Luis.” Jolt then collapsed in one of the chairs. “Man this heat is something else!” He took a long drink of water. “What the hell was all that hot dogging for Jolt?” Tarzan asked. “Logan wanted me to practice some maneuvers and strafing runs. I think he has a job coming up.” Jolt replied as he leaned his head back in the chair, exhausted.”So Steven, why do they call you Jolt?” Luis asked, leaning forward in his chair. Both men burst out laughing. “You owe me $20 you cheeky bastard!” Tarzan exclaimed looking at Jolt with tears in his eyes from laughing. “I told you Luis, we bet on everything around here!” Tarzan replied. Luis began shaking his head, remembering the exchange they had an hour or so earlier. Steven got up from his chair and slapped Luis on the back. “It’s the cola bro, Jolt Cola. I’m addicted to it and have it flown in sometimes special if I cannot find it at the local shops.”About that time Logan’s voice came over a bullhorn. “Attention! All Personnel report to the Conference hut ASAP.” Tarzan gave Luis and Jolt a strange look. “Conference Hut? Since when are the fucking trailers referred to as Huts? What are we back in 1942 at Bletchley Park?”All three men gave a chuckle and started making their way over to the “hut”. Walking inside, the three men were met with a blast of cold arctic air. “Come on in guys, we got a lot to go over.” Logan said excitedly, closing the door behind them. The inside of the trailer was decorated like an upscale executives office. A half-moon shaped polished oak table with padded chairs took up most of the space while a Sony seventy-inch 4K TV on the wall took up the rest. As the three men sat down, Logan began passing around red binders with he word SETBACK printed on front. “This is Operation Setback Gentleman.” Once the binders were passed out Logan took a seat at the end of the table and using a wireless keyboard began punching in commands. “As you will see on the screen here is the expected route of the convoy…”
For the next two hours Logan laid out the plan to rob the CJNG ‘s (Jalisco New Generation Cartel) four ton cocaine shipment. After an extensive Q and A session, Logan directed his attention to Luis. “So I know this is your first gig like this and you got questions about what it is we exactly DO here Luis, so this is your chance to ask them now versus finding out as you go along…” Logan paused and waited to see Luis’ reaction. Surprisingly, Luis did not hesitate. “OK, so who are we working for? the CIA?” There was a long pause and immediately Luis felt stupid for asking such a blunt question. He glanced at the other men nervously. “No, it’s the usual deal of contract deniability. Officially, on paper, we are Private Security for Optimo Trading Inc.” Logan replied. “So what up with the Op? Why are we messing around with drug shipments, isn’t that stuff for DEA or Border Patrol?” There was a murmur in the room and again Luis felt like an ass. Logan paused for the ruckus to die down before answering. “Think of it like this: We are in the drug recycling business.” A funny look came across Luis’ face. “Recycling? Are you telling me we are ripping off drug shipments so the CIA can sell or trade it?” Logan laughed at the look on Luis’ face. The rest of the room was silent. “Don’t act so surprised man, Uncle Sam has been doing this kind of shit forever. Remember Iran-Contra?” Logan exclaimed “Are you telling me the CIA is having us rip-off four tons of coke so they can sell it on the black market?” Luis asked, his mouth agape. “Yeah.” Logan replied flatly, still looking at him seriously. “For what reason?” Luis asked, his eyes wide. “So the United States can prevent ISIS from spreading across the globe of course.” Logan replied, leaning back in his chair smiling.
Luis’ heart rate was elevated and sweat had begun to form on his forehead despite the air conditioner blowing full blast. He could not believe what he was hearing. “I did not think this kind of illegal shit still went on!” Luis exclaimed, looking around the room. The room, in turn, erupted in laughter. Logan was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. After a few minutes Logan raised his hand for quiet. “OK, guys, let’s cut him a break, we all had our cherries popped at one point too…” Slowly the laughter died down and Logan looked at Luis. “You gotta look at it this way man. We are killing two birds with one stone. On one hand we are helping stop the flow of illegal narcotics across the border and on the other we are helping to kill terrorist.” Luis shook his head as if he was trying to keep some kind of bad thought from taking root in his brain. “But where do the drugs go once we steal them? Who does the CIA sell them too and what do they get in return? Money, Guns, Both?” Logan smiled at the question and knew there was no easy way to put it. “I’m a contractor just like you bro, but what I am told is the Agency has contacts all over the World. The drugs are often traded for weapons and sometimes converted into other forms of currency.” Logan looked around the room. The rest of the guys looked bored. “So what you are saying is the drugs end up being circulated in other parts of the world, just no the U.S.?” Luis asked, still amazed. “Yeah I guess so.” Logan replied. Luis had to take a breath. All of this was just too much. After a few moments Tarzan spoke up. “Look, Luis, I can tell this is a big shock to you man, but you gotta realize this is the way the world works. Governments do illegal, crazy shit all the time. Most of the time it for a good cause, sometimes, it is for personal gain. Either way, we are just cogs in a machine man; small parts of a massive endeavor. Now you can sit here having a personal moral crisis or you can get your shit together and act like a soldier. Besides man, you are getting paid a Shit Ton of money for this job, so what’s it gonna be bro?” Luis felt the eyes of the rest of the team on him. His heart was still racing like a rabbit and he could feel sweat popping out of the pores on his back. “Yeah. I hear you Tarzan. Let’s go to work!” Luis replied and the room erupted into cheers. “That’s the spirit Devil Dog!” Jolt yelled, getting up and slapping Luis on the back. Luis looked up to see Logan smiling across the table. giving him a thumbs up. After a few minutes, Logan stood up and addressed the room. “OK guys, so let’s develop a training schedule for today starting with a mock-up dry run of the ambush…”
D.E.A. Safehouse, Nuevo-Laredo
Captain Reyes awoke with his hands and feet zip-tied to a hardback chair. It was pitch black but he could tell he was naked. A slight breeze from above him made him keenly aware he had no pants on. “Shit! I thought I was dead” he thought to himself quietly. Unlike most people in a situation like this, he wished for death instead of having to endure the torture he knew was coming from these cartel barbarians. But how did they get to him? His last memories were being with Jasmine in her house. It was like remembering a foggy dream but he had seen her standing there by the bed with a, what was that? a syringe? Why a syringe? Had that bitch betrayed him to the cartel! He had her vetted and followed for a month after they met, how was this possible? He shook his head slowly. “Done in by a traitorous, double-crossing woman, that is so fucking cliché Reyes!” He began to laugh and then sob. It was all so fucking pitiful. He was ready to ask these bastards just to shoot him now and end it. “What a fucking idiot I am!” He said to himself in Spanish. His grandiose session of self-pity was suddenly broken up by the sound of a heavy metal door opening and light spilling into the darkness of the dungeon like room. Reyes squinted at the bright light shining out of the next room. He could make out the profile of two people standing in the light but he could not see their faces. Wait! Maybe he was already dead and these people or beings had come to take him to the other side? Yes! That was definitely a possibility. Suddenly he worried what the other side would be: heaven or hell? He hadn’t exactly led a virtuous life. Suddenly all of his senses were shocked as ice-cold water was thrown on him. He tried to catch his breath in several gasps, but failed. “Captain Reyes! Captain Reyes! Can you hear me?” It felt as if he was surrounded by a group of people. Why? Wait! The man’s voice was in English, not Spanish! Were these people not the cartel? He kept hearing a strange mumbling, like a drunk man speaking in riddles, until finally he realized it was his own voice. “Captain Reyes! Can you hear me? Get a Doctor in here! I think he’s going into shock!” the voice said. He tried to open his eyes to see these people’s faces but he couldn’t, a warm black blanket, like the one he felt after he got stung in the neck ,was wrapping around him again. He tried to fight it, but it was so warm and cozy. Suddenly he felt a pinch in his arm and just like that his eyes opened and the bright room he was in came into view. It looked like a hospital room? He was surrounded by several people he did not know. White people, all with looks of concern on their faces. “Captain Reyes! Thank God! We thought we had lost you!” The voice that had been talking to him this entire time finally came into view. It was a white man in his thirties. He had sandy brown hair and blue eyes. “Captain Reyes, I am Special Agent Kessler of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Welcome Back! We have a lot to talk about!”
To Be Continued….