Double-Blind (Chapter III)

A Modern Crime Novelette

 

 

III.

Camp Inferno

After the meeting Luis’ head was spinning. He did not know what to worry about more. The fact they were involved in an illegal operation that could send them all to prison for the rest of their lives or that they were about to ambush a convoy of heavily armed narco’s jacked up on coke that outnumbered them four to one. “OK guys, the boss wants us to do a dry run’s of the ambush, but first I asked Steven to give us a little demonstration of the close air support that we are going to receive on this job.” With that Jolt got up and left and after a few minutes, the high-pitched whine of the helo’s engines could be heard. Logan opened the door and led Luis and Tarzan over to the east side of the camp behind the shoot house. “I had some old piece of shit junkers drove or towed out here just for this so you guys could be reminded of what close air support really is!” Logan laughed with excitement. The three men walked to the edge of an old dried up riverbed. Decades of erosion had created a natural depression in the land that resembled a huge salad bowl. The small valley was two miles long and a mile wide at the widest point. Five cars had been parked in a staggered, single file line on the valley floor. Logan handed Luis a pair of binoculars. “I even had a few mannequins set up down there just to add to the realism…” Luis smiled as he scanned the targets below. Logan keyed up the radio in his hand. “Whenever you are ready Jolt.” The radio crackled with static and then an excited voice broke through. “Coming in HOT from the south! Romeo Foxtrot Shall we Dance!”  All three men turned around at the same time to see the Little Bird approaching from half a mile out. Luis and Tarzan realized right away the distinctive whop-whop sound of the rotors was much quieter. “Logan how is he being so damn quiet?” Tarzan asked. Logan beamed with pride. “We had a new type of blade called Blue Edge installed, amazing, huh?” Both Tarzan and Luis shook their head in disbelief as the chopper, like a sleek, quiet panther, closed in for the kill.  The first salvo of 2.75 inch rockets were launched from just under five hundred yards. When the warheads hit the explosion shook the ground like a small earthquake and all three men instinctively went to the dirt with Tarzan laughing like a five-year old at the circus. While everybody else was covering up their heads, Luis looked down into the valley to see a panorama of fire and explosions, pieces of molten orange metal flying in every direction with indigo and yellow colored flames blooming out of each explosion like a deadly flower.  Jolt followed up the rockets with a burst from the twin .50’s. Green tracers had been loaded every fifth round, so every staccato burst resembled a loose, wavy rope of death as the big .50 caliber lumbered slow and sure to their intended target. All three men whooped and hollered like Comanche’s with blood lust. Something primal had been awoken deep inside and despite nobody wanting to admit it, each of them yearned for combat. Each of them yearned to see the enemy, regardless of who it was or what they represented, placed down there in that box of unforgiving death, being eviscerated like sheep in a meat grinder. Logan’s radio crackled to life. “How did that look down there?” Jolt’s voice asked with excitement. “Awesome. Spectacular gun work Jolt!” Logan replied with equal enthusiasm. “Cool! Gonna come around for another pass and clean it up!”

After they all had run through the basics of the ambush and put in some trigger time on the range and in the shoot house, Tarzan held a shooting clinic on how to take out somebody wearing body armour. “The default shot to defeat body armour has always been the head shot, we all know that. We also know a head shot is a shit low-percentage shot in any situation. Here’s an alternative: Aim for the gap above the clavicle. Most body armour vest, unless they are wearing a full suit, will leave anywhere from a 3 to 4 inch gap between the top of the vest and the neck.” Tarzan took some paper plates and drew a line through the middle. “Work on hitting the top half of the plate from varying distances, especially while moving…” After a while, the competition mentality took over and all four men were betting on who could place the most rounds from 15 yards with a pistol while moving. Two hours later all four men sat under the lounge canopy drinking cold Dos Equis. “The key to this ambush is going to rely on us separating the semi from the escort vehicles. Only then can Jolt open fire and take them out. Under no circumstances can the semi be fired on or damaged. We have to be able to drive it away.” Logan looked around at all three men so they understood. “What about collateral damage?” Luis asked. “We chose an ambush spot that is fifteen miles outside the city limits and not close to any residential or commercial areas. Combine that with the time this is going down and I think we will be OK on civilian casualties.” Logan replied.  “Tarzan, you have the most experience with convoys, what do you think is going to be the best way to separate the semi from the escorts?” Tarzan leaned back in his chair and took a long drink of beer. “May I see the proposed convoy route again?” Tarzan asked. Logan reached into his portfolio and handed it to him. After studying the map for a few minutes Tarzan spoke up. “At first I was thinking of using IED’s. The only problem with that is if they stagger their escort, meaning one vehicle in the front and two or three in the back, that means we have to separate the two or three vehicles from the semi at the same time and in the process not damage the semi and trailer. That means we have to have perfectly spaced and timed explosions not to mention having to take out any stragglers that survive. Even with air support, I just don’t see that as having a high probability of success.” Tarzan sat forward in his chair and looked at Logan. “OK, then what are our other options?” Logan asked. Before Tarzan could speak, Jolt answered. “We stop the entire convoy at once.” Jolt looked around at the rest of the crew. Tarzan looked at Jolt for a long moment and shook his head in the affirmative. “I agree. We stop the entire convoy, take out the escort vehicles at the same time then secure the load.” Logan stood up and began pacing. Luis could sense the nervous tension building. “OK, so how do you stop an entire drug convoy on a dime?” Logan asked looking at the entire crew. There was a long moment of silence as everybody racked their brains. Luis, sensing the nervous tension, also got up and began pacing. As he walked to the end of the trailer he turned and looked in the middle of the camp where the road ended. “That’s it!” Luis exclaimed out loud. “What!” Logan said walking over. Luis pointed to the orange and white barriers with the quote from Dante hanging down. “Road Construction!” The next day Logan made a phone call to Skeeter and told him their plan. “Since we are all dark-skinned and don’t look like your typical yanqui, gringo asshole, I think we can pull it off…”  Logan said excited, He told him he was going to need three road construction outfits, barriers, flags, the whole nine yards plus some small C4 magnetic charges with detonators. Also he asked that he talked with his contacts in the D.F.S., the Federal Security Directorate, which was Mexico’s version of the F.B.I. and C.I.A. all rolled into one. They could pass the word to all local and Federal cops alike to steer clear of the ambush area on Highway 85 between the hours of midnight and four a.m.”You will have everything you need .” Skeeter replied and the line clicked dead.

 

15 Miles South-East of Nuevo Laredo on Hwy 85

By 10 p.m. that night the entire crew was loaded and ready to go. Logan, Luis and Tarzan began setting up the barricades on the highway while Jolt ran recon at a higher than normal altitude with Night Vision to watch for the convoy to approach. Three nail-biting hours went by before Jolt radioed in. “I got em’! Four escort vehicles, two in front and two behind. Will be at your location in twenty minutes or so.” Logan called a quick meeting. “OK, first things first. Radio silence from here on out. They will most likely have radio comms and a scanner going, so we can’t risk tipping our hand. As for the plan of attack, Tarzan and Luis you take the front two escort vehicles. I will be responsible for the semi driver and the back two. When I am ready to go, I will get where you both can see me and set down my flag. When you two have planted the charges and are ready to go, take up position in the median and then take off your hard hat. That will be the GO signal. Luis you will detonate first and then everybody will follow, understood? Remember: if you have to shoot, head shots only. These guys will most likely be coked up, so wounds are not gonna impress them.” Tarzan and Luis nodded with excitement. All three men gave each other one final look and then took up their positions. As he waited he nervously to reassure himself Logan felt the bulge of the suppressed MP-7 SMG hanging concealed under his arm. He wondered to himself if the combination of the concealed sub-machine gun and the Body Armour vest made him look too bulky and might give him away to the narco’s? “Shut down your anxious brain Luis and focus on the Op!” he told himself.

The three earpieces crackled with Jolt’s excited voice. “A thousand yards from you, get ready.” Luis looked up to see the headlights of the convoy approaching. He took a deep breath as he felt the nausea give way to adrenaline. All three men began waving their flags, directing the convoy over to the shoulder where flares and flashing barriers had been set up. As soon as the convoy spotted the flashing lights and flags, they did exactly what any good Convoy security team would: The lead vehicle separated from the pack, leaving the other three vehicle with the semi. Logan was the first to meet the scout truck. It was a Red Chevy Avalanche and looked to have four men inside. Luis could hear Logan conversing with the driver in Spanish telling them they were repairing pot holes and re-striping up ahead. After a few minutes, the truck moved forward toward  Tarzan and Luis. They both waved their flags to the left directing them to the shoulder. As the scout vehicle passed it was close enough that Luis could look into the cab. Luis could tell right away the guys were sicario’s and not common street thugs. All of them were suited up with body armour and had AK’s resting between their legs. After they parked Luis knew this was the best time to plant the C4 before the other truck pulled up behind them. Luis casually walked around the vehicle, kneeled down as if he was tying his boot and placed the charge beneath the gas tank. The sound the magnet made when it attached was loud but thank God the semi’s engines covered it up. As Luis stood up he saw Logan motioning for the semi driver to stay put. This would keep a safe distance from the lead vehicle explosion.

Logan could not believe it. The two trucks behind the semi only had two men each. Combined with the eight men in front two trucks, plus the driver of the semi, that made for only thirteen men total. Of course there could be a fucking platoon hiding in the trailer with the drugs, but that was highly unlikely. He decided right then he was NOT gonna use the C4. He would shoot them. That way there was less chance of damaging the load. After they parked, the driver of the third truck rolled down his window and got Logan’s attention. “Hey vato! How long is this going to take? We got someplace we need to be.” Logan just smiled. “Please be patient sir.” he replied in Spanish. He knew it was a lame reply, but it was all he could think of at the moment. The driver gave a smirk and said something under his breath and rolled up the window. Logan’s heart jumped when he saw him take out his phone and make a call. “Shit, he’s calling the other trucks to tell them he doesn’t like this. They are all gonna blow trough the barriers and then we are fucked. He glanced up the road to make sure no cars were coming and then took up a wide position where he could see Tarzan and Luis plus all three drivers. Logan took a breath and laid down his flag. Seeing this, Tarzan and Luis moved to the median and took off their hard hats. As Logan gripped the MP-7 to bring it around an explosion shook the ground. He felt a hot wind blow past his face and the smell of gas-filled his nostrils. As Logan stood transfixed at the fireball in the night sky, he heard several truck doors open. “Shit!” he said to himself as he spun around to see the semi driver, who was every bit of three hundred pounds, plus all four sicario’s getting out. At first, there was confusion on everybody’s face. But it only took a few seconds for the sicario’s to piece together the game that was being played.  Logan saw fat boy, the semi driver, move first. He did not know how he had missed it, most likely the excitement of the explosion, but the bastard was palming a small .38 revolver. As the driver straightened out his arm to shoot, Logan had already brought the MP-7 up from underneath the workman’s vest. The five watt red laser was automatically activated by a pressure switch in the grip and as soon as Logan saw the red dot on the drivers chest he pressed the trigger. The MP-7 belched and a controlled, suppressed burst of 4.6×30 caliber hit the driver right above the sternum and zippered him right up into his neck and jaw. The bullets made splashes of pink and red as muscle and bone were ripped apart.The obese man dropped like a puppet whose strings had suddenly been cut. By this time the four sicario’s had taken up positions behind the trucks and Tarzan and Luis had made their way down the median to help.

The sicario’s first few AK burst were wild and off-the-mark, kicking up dirt and grass and causing Luis, Logan and Tarzan to go to the ground behind the protective berm of the median.  “Well fuck! This did not go as planned!” Tarzan yelled. “Does it ever?” Logan replied, slamming a new magazine home. Luis rolled over and crawled up the bank of the median to try to get a shot, getting a face full of dirt and chipped asphalt for his trouble. “Son-of-a-bitch!” Luis yelled, as he recoiled back, touching his face to see if there was blood. “Fuck it!” Logan said. “I’m calling him in!” “Eagle One, Eagle One, this is War Hammer, do you copy?” Logan spoke calmly into his mic, despite being jacked on adrenaline and fear. Immediately their earpieces crackled with Jolt’s excited voice. “Loud and Clear War Hammer, So I am guessing that Radio Silence thing did not work out?”  Logan smiled and shook his head. “Always the smart ass, huh? Listen, I Need you to come in with Gun’s Only, no rockets. We got 4 assholes behind two trucks. Will signal our Position with the IR Beacon. Please Jolt, DO NOT Shoot us!  War Hammer OUT.” Logan took out a small IR Beacon, turned it on and placed it on the ground. “Well guy’s let’s hope his aim is as good as it was yesterday.” Logan said half-smiling. Tarzan crossed himself and Luis hunkered down behind the berm even tighter. Soon the faint drone of the helo’s engines could be heard but it was hard to distinguish the direction because of the wind. Suddenly all three men went to the dirt on instinct as a chain of green .50 caliber tracers rained out of the dark sky from a quarter-mile away. Luis peered over the median to see pieces of sheet metal, tires, a human head, an arm, all flying up into the air like a wood chipper was spitting them out. “Jesus God!” Tarzan yelled as he covered up his head and tried to get lower into the ground. There was a sudden loud boom as one of the tracers pierced a fuel tank and one of the trucks exploded. As soon as the attack had begun, it ended and Luis felt the rotor wash as the helo passed low over their heads. Luis then crawled to the top of the berm to examine the damage. There was nothing but bits and pieces of junk scattered all over. Radiator fluid mixed in with dark pools of blood, an arm, pieces of a foot. “How does it look up there?” Logan asked. “Like the end of the fucking world.” Luis replied. Logan crawled up beside Luis and scanned the area. Not seeing any movement, he got up and ran over to the semi, making a quick check of everything. “Outside looks good!” he yelled. He then opened up the back and quickly shut the door. “Cargo intact!” he yelled. He then crawled up into the cab. “Gauges are in the green! Let’s get the hell out of here!” he yelled. Neither Tarzan or Luis had to be told twice. As the Semi began to roll away from the carnage, Logan keyed up Jolt. “Hey Brother, awesome shooting! Four bad guys dead and the Goods are intact. We are rolling to the rendezvous!” All three men could hear Jolt laugh and howl like wolf through their earpieces. “Something really fucking wrong with that guy, but damn do I love him!” Logan said smiling as he shifted gears and the big diesel engine roared to life, busting through the construction barriers as if they were paper mache.

*************************

Curacao, Venezuela – Two Days Later

McRay’s intermediary with the Gulf Cartel (CDG) had finally gotten back with him via one of the burner numbers. They would meet but only at a place of their choosing. McRay stressed the meeting had to be with somebody in the top-tier of leadership. The confirmation finally came back. The meet would be in Curacao in twelve hours under the legend of Daniel Andrews. A Houston Banker.  Against Company regs, McRay decided he would fly himself. He took his normal security detail with him of course. Five D-Boys that had been with him since the early days of hunting Guzman. He did not know why the agency always got their panties in a twist over him flying himself. He had never crashed a plane and could out fly any Agency jock, except maybe the old-crusty Air America yahoos, but there were only a few of them left. No, McRay’s flying record spoke for itself. He had been burning up the skies over the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America since the early eighties. He knew every homemade narco airstrip between the Keys and Bogota by heart, including the one they were going to at Curacao. It was located on the Northwestern tip of the island near Watamula. For this trip they gave him one of the older Hawker 900XP’s. They required less runway and had good fuel capacity to boot.

McRay did not know the exact location of the meet until after they landed and were in the car. McRays burner rang and a very British woman’s voice told them to head south toward the Beach Lodge at Westpunt. An hour and half later they pulled up to the lodge and after letting the valet take the cars, McRay walked to the front desk and asked for a Mrs. Virginia Adams. “Well of course sir. Mrs. Adams and her party are expecting you. They are in the Aruba Bungalow. Juan will show you the way.” The lodge was swanky and reeked of indulgent European excess,  It was Full of wealthy European families on holiday. Walking up to the front door  of the suite, McRay was greeted by two large security men. A Good Sign he thought to himself. Scrubs don’t have security like this. After the standard pat down, McRay left his team there with the other attack dogs and was led into a huge living room by a butler of some kind. “Mr. Morales will be with you shortly.” Skeeter’s stomach did a back flip and his bowels suddenly became loose. Morales? As in Alberto Pena’ Morales? The el patron of the Gulf Cartel? Holy shit! Straightening his shirt,  McRay mentally composed himself and walked over and sat down. He began mentally going over what he was going to say. He could not give the standard “come work for us” sales pitch he had been giving to would-be assets for the last three decades. No, that would not do. Morales was in a class all by himself. This time ole’ Skeeter was gonna have to do what he did best: Improvise.

When Morales walked in he did not look like the billionaire cartel boss who got his start guarding poppy fields in Sinaloa at twelve years old, but a man carefree and happy, on vacation with his family. “Mr. Andrews you will have to excuse my tardiness. My 10-year-old son has discovered snorkeling and I must admit, it is very fun, even for a fifty year old man!” McRay got up as Morales came over and shook hands. He was a short, round man, around five foot seven and two hundred pounds. He had curly black hair but was clean shaven. He was wearing a Hurley T-Shirt and his khaki board shorts were damp on the bottom from wading in the ocean. “Can I offer you a drink?” Morales asked as the butler brought over a towel. “Yes, ice water please.” McRay replied. Morales nodded to the butler as he dried himself off and sat down. “So, you will forgive me for being direct, but my time is valuable as you can imagine. My associate told me you are in banking and had a proposition for me.” Morales made himself comfortable on the couch. McRay noticed how the man’s demeanor had changed in an instant. “Yes, I…” McRay was interrupted as the butler brought over his ice water and Morales a cold Heineken. McRay smiled as he took a sip of water and began again. “Yes, I work for a rather large bank in Houston and I…” Morales interrupted him. “I’m sorry, Did you not hear me Mr. Andrews? I said my time is valuable. Now what does the CIA or DEA or whatever other crooked ass yanqui agency you represent want?” McRay was caught off guard by the remark but not really surprised. You did not live to fifty-years old in this business by your organization not having a good intelligence branch.

McRay smiled. Morales was stone faced, his eyes a bluish-grey, like dirty smoke. “OK, so here it is. With Guzman out of the picture, everybody is scrambling to fill the vacuum and get their piece. It’s a bloodbath. The bodies are stacking up so fast the coroner is having to use refrigerated meat trucks to store the corpses. What you need right now is calm. Nobody makes money when everybody is killing each other.” Morales took a drink of his beer and looked out the window at the beach where his wife and kids were playing and surrounded by half a dozen men who looked like the starting D-Line for the Dallas Cowboys. “So far all I am hearing is a recap of the evening news.”  Morales replied smirking. McRay smiled. He liked this guy. “What WE want and when I say WE I am talking about the United States Government, is to help you consolidate your Power in Mexico.” Morales turned and looked at McRay. “And Why would you want to help me do that Mr. Andrews?” McRay stood up and walked over to the window. As a salesman he was now in his element. He had the customer interested, now it was time to close this fucker.

“As you may or may not know Mr. Morales, America is no longer the shining beacon of Democracy and Freedom. We are an Oligarchy, pure and simple, where Business and Government are intimate bed partners, actually, come to think about it, ‘fuck buddies’ would be a more appropriate term.” Morales cracked a smile. Good. He was building rapport, McRay thought to himself. “I represent a large portion of those business interest to whom this consolidation would benefit greatly. Now like all great business partnerships, this one is symbiotic, meaning we could provide services to you that in the past you had to go overseas to find such as large-scale money laundering, real estate investments, etc. We could also help you on the distribution end in certain capacities in the major cities. In return, we would only ask for a few bust and major arrest each year to keep up appearances that the ‘War on Drugs’ is progressing nicely.” McRay sipped his water and looked at Morales. His eyes betrayed nothing, but McRay knew he had a hook in him.

“You know what you are suggesting is nothing new. If my memory serves me correctly this was tried with Escobar back in the eighties and it fell apart, and when I say ‘Fell Apart’ I mean your Government killed him.” Morales looked at McRay with disdain. But McRay was ready for this one. “You are correct. We did try this arrangement with Escobar, except it was HE, not US, that broke the deal. You cannot be in business with a man who blows up airplanes and detonates car bombs in his own country, killing hundreds of innocent civilians.  I mean his own press invented a brand new word for the kind of shit he was doing: Narco-Terrorism. You just cannot be in business with a man like that.” McRay walked away from the window and over to the book-case. “You see what I am saying Mr. Morales? You have to be prepared to keep your end of the deal.” McRay pretended to look at the books on the shelves, all the while watching Morales in his peripheral vision. Morales was looking square at him, thinking hard.

“OK, let’s say just for the sake of speculation I agree to this. How do you intend to use your words ‘Consolidate’ my Power? I don’t have the manpower or resources to take on all my enemies at once and wipe them out.” Now McRay was getting excited. But he had to be careful not to overplay his hand. “You are correct in your thinking that war would be a mistake. Me and my associates feel the same way. What we do think will work is to take your biggest threat right now, which my analyst tell me is the CJNG, the Jalisco New Generation and bleed them until they come to the table.” McRay walked back over to the couch and sat down. Morales cocked an eyebrow and sat down across from him. “By Bleed them you mean jack their loads.” McRay paused for a few moments to let it sink in. “Yes. Jack their loads, shut down their processing sites, assassinate their command structure. Basically wage guerilla war until they come to their senses it would be more profitable to join you than fight you.” Morales shook his head and cursed in Spanish. “Hijo de puta loco.” McRay smiled. Yes, he was a crazy motherfucker. “And before you give me any more reasons why you CANNOT do this, we know the Los Zetas, The Templars and the Juarez Cartels are all on peaceful terms with you and would be receptive to a respectable offer, an offer we can help coordinate.” McRay set back on the couch. He had nailed it. A fucking home run, the crowd goes wild. Morales had nowhere to go except to agree. Several minutes passed while Morales mulled it over. “OK, let’s say I say yes, what can you offer me right now to prove you are serious?” McRay smiled like the cat who ate the canary and leaned forward. “How is four tons of CJNG Coke sound for starters?”

 

To Be Continued….

 

 

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