Vengeance Burn Brightly




Jimmy hated hot dog franks. Just the mere sight or smell of them made him nauseous. So for this part of the operation, he had obtained some mint cream (the same kind that morticians and coroners used) to place under his nose to mask the smell and had invited his old platoon buddy, Gunnery Sgt. Bud Regette, over to help. “So tell me again, why do hot dog wieners make you sick?” Bud asked, unwrapping a package of franks and then cutting them into small pieces. “Well like most things, it began as a kid. We grew up really poor as you know and when we did not have enough money for meat, mom would ask the butcher for expired packages of hot dog wieners.” Jimmy took a cut piece of frank and with gloved hands, carefully injected it with 3 Tablespoons of anti-freeze and then placed it in a small plastic sandwich bag. “Shit man I bet you got tired of eating hot dog wieners all the time!” Bud exclaimed. “Oh no man, my mom was creative. She would make different dishes out of them. Just substitute the wieners for the meat.” Jimmy replied.  “What kind of dishes would she make with them?” Bud asked, intrigued. “Oh shit man, casseroles, chili, stews, tacos, you name it.” Jimmy replied. “Weiner tacos huh? Sounds interesting!” Bud said smiling as he finished cutting up the last package of franks.

Thirty-minutes later they had cut up, poisoned and bagged six packages of hot dog wieners. “So tell me again what you plan to do with these.” Bud asked washing his hands at the kitchen sink. “Well he walks that little bastard dog of his every other day along this path out in the woods near his house. I figure to throw these out about an hour before he begins his walk.” Jimmy carefully placed the bags of poisoned franks in a black gym bag. “What about other animals? Aren’t you afraid of poisoning other people’s pets?” Bud asked, a concerned look on his face. “I have scouted this place for two weeks. Nobody else walks or runs at that time. Once he walks the dog and it has taken the bait, I will go behind him and collect any franks that have not been eaten.” Jimmy smiled. “Don’t worry bud, I have thought this through.” Bud walked over to the refrigerator and got a beer. “It just concerns me you are taking this a little too far Jimmy, I mean I understand the guy killed your dog, but me and you both saw what happened; it was an accident.” Jimmy spun around to face Bud. “An Accident! You really believe that shit? The asshole never braked until AFTER he hit my dog man! Who does that kind of shit!” Bud noticed that crazy glare in Jimmy’s eye and decided not to push the subject. He knew what Jimmy was capable of. He had seen it with his own two eyes in Iraq. “OK man, an eye for an eye, I get it. But promise me after this, no more plots against him, OK?” Bud extended his hand, hoping Jimmy would cool down and be reasonable.  Jimmy smiled and shook it. “Of course Bud, you have my word.” Bud smiled back, relieved to finally hear some civility in Jimmy’s voice, but in the back of his mind he knew Jimmy was not done with this. Not by a long shot.

Of course all this would not be taking place if Jimmy’s dog, Bullet, had not escaped the fenced in yard and got run over. Bullet was what they called a Chi-Weenie, a Chihuahua and dachshund mix.  It had belonged to Jimmy’s ex-wife, Patty, and when they had divorced two years ago, Jimmy got the dog because Patty could not have pets in her new condo in Florida. Jimmy was happy to take the dog because in his mind, Bullet was a definite companionship upgrade to Patty.  The day Bullet escaped Jimmy and Bud were working on building some PVC Target stands in his garage. They both liked to shoot and would often go out to Bud’s dad’s place who lived thirty miles out-of-town. When they finished up the stands both men grabbed a cold beer and sat down in some lounge chairs Jimmy had out front. “Got a call from Stevens the other day. Remember him, Corporal Stevens?” Bud asked. Jimmy nodded. “Stevens, yeah, didn’t he get wounded in Ramadi?” Jimmy replied taking a swig of beer. “Yep, That’s the one. He got full disability and is living down in New Orleans. Wants us to come visit around Mardi Gras time in February…” Bud replied shaking his head. Jimmy just smiled back. “Mardi Gras? Not a good ideal……” Jimmy’s words trailed off as he saw something up the street. “Oh shit, that’s bullet man, how the fuck did he get out!” In a flash, Jimmy was out of his chair and running down the street with Bud close behind. “Go right and try to head him off, we can’t let him get out to Third Street!” Jimmy yelled to Bud. Bud nodded and adjusted course, cutting through a small park. Third street was a major four lane artery than ran right through the middle of town and Bullet was hauling ass right for it. As Bud slowed down to catch his breath, he saw the dog sprint out in front of an oncoming car going fifty-miles an hour in the fast lane. “Nooooooo!” was all he heard Jimmy scream as the Truck made impact with the dog, splashing its intestines and brains all over the street in a gush. The guy never braked or swerved.

“You stupid motherfucker!” Jimmy cried from the sidewalk at the top of his lungs, his hands on his head and his face red with anger and tears. After the impact, the driver slammed on his brakes and pulled over to the curb. Out of breath, Bud tried to get Jimmy to stay put on the sidewalk, but it was no use.  Jimmy darted out into oncoming traffic, with Bud waving his arms like a retarded chicken trying to slow everybody down. Coming back to the sidewalk, Bud helped Jimmy wrap the dog’s remains in an old newspaper that had been laying on a park bench. Jimmy was crying now, his face red and puffy with snot coming out of his nose and running down on his shirt. The man was a mess. “Just calm down bro, let me talk to this guy.” Jimmy did not answer, he just clutched the bloody newspaper, his eyes wide and angry. As Bud turned around to walk over to the car, the driver had already gotten out and met him halfway. He was a tall, skinny banker looking dude in a grey suit with blonde hair in his early thirties. He was driving a new Mercedes C-Class Coupe with the license plate “MNYMAKR.” Before Bud could say anything the guy popped off. “That fucking mutt of yours just ran out in front of my car. I’ll have you know you are paying for the damages…”

Out of the corner of his eye Bud saw Jimmy get up. Bud quickly grabbed the asshole by the elbow to try to get him out of there but it was too late, Jimmy had already closed the gap. Jimmy’s first punch was a solid right jab. Bud heard the wind break from the snap of it next to his ear and then heard the guy’s nose break as the punch connected solidly. Bud instinctively ducked and felt Jimmy come over the top of him. By the time Bud was back on his feet, Jimmy was on top of the guy, pummeling him with wicked combinations that were turning this guy’s face to hamburger quickly. “Jimmy! Stop!” Bud yelled. But Jimmy didn’t stop. If anything he picked up the pace of the beating, throwing in nasty hammer fist just for fun. Bud knew it was no use, he had seen him like this before. There was only one thing to do or else Jimmy would kill this guy. Bud got a running start and threw his entire 215 pounds into an open field tackle to knock Jimmy off the guy. With a thud, Bud’s body made contact with Jimmy’s and both men flew through the air, crashing into the dirt and weeds a few feet away. The Mercedes man just laid there, bleeding and unconscious, looking like he had just been in a terrible car accident. Before Jimmy could get his feet underneath him, Bud got him into a rear naked choke hold. “Now, Jimmy, Dammitt, settle down man, its me, Bud…” Out of the corner of his eye Bud saw two cop cars pull up, somebody driving by must have called 911 and told the operator about two men on the side of the road beating the shit out of each other, Bud thought to himself. As Bud felt the Cops grab his arms to cuff him he let go.”Jimmy, don’t fight these guys” was all Bud could say before Jimmy raised up and tried to throw a punch. Bud heard the tazer deploy and saw Jimmy go down like a sack of potatoes, wiggling like a fish out of water on the ground. “Two in custody and we need Paramedics for a third, ASAP.” the cop said as he led Bud to the back of the patrol car.

That was not the first time Bud and Jimmy had tangled with the Cops. Six months after they had rotated back to the world from their third and final deployment in Iraq, the Cops got called to Jimmy’s house. Neighbors complained about a couple screaming and fighting and possibly hearing a gunshot. One of the cops at the precinct was Bud’s cousin and had heard the call go out and called him. Bud dropped what he was doing and just made it over to Jimmy’s house before the cops did. “Where is the fucking gun?” was the first question he asked Jimmy walking though the door. Jimmy promptly handed over the Beretta 9mm which Bud stuck in his pants. “You got Ammo and mags lying around?” Jimmy went to the closet and handed over an extra mag and a box of Remington 9mm shells. Bud shook his head and headed for the back door. “Paula got any bruises?” he asked while walking through he kitchen.”No, we were just arguing man.” Jimmy replied calmly. “Arguing! Jimmy, neighbors reported a fucking gunshot man! The cops are gonna roll in here hard and heavy!” Jimmy just gave Bud a look of desperation that he had seen so many times in their friendship. “Yeah I shot into the ceiling to scare her.” Jimmy replied sheepishly. Bud just looked down at the ground and shook his head in disbelief. “You owe me one man…again.” And with that Bud opened the back door, ran across the back yard, scaled the fence, hit the back alley and disappeared into the summer night. Two minutes later the cops were beating on Jimmy front door with guns drawn.

Bud and Jimmy spent the night in jail and in the morning heard the guard call their names. As per usual Bud’s dad, Gerald, had bailed them out. “What the hell was it this time?”Gerald asked, lighting a cigarette on the way to the car. “Oh Jimmy beat the shit out of the guy who ran over his dog.” Bud answered. That one stopped Gerald in his tracks. “You mean Bullet? Somebody ran over Bullet?” Gerald shook his head in disbelief and put his arm around Jimmy. “Well, now this one I understand boys…” Gerald mumbled. Bud smiled. “I hope the judge is as understanding pop, our hearing is in a week.” Once in the car, Gerald hands Jimmy a flask of Crown Royal and they both take a long pull between sobs. Bud just stares at both of them amazed. Two grown men crying  like babies over a fucking dog! Gerald Regette was 67 years old, a former US Army Ranger, a Veteran of two tours in Vietnam and an alcoholic of epic proportions. Gerald came back home from Vietnam in 1972, and Bud was born three years later. Bud’s childhood was littered with memories of three and four-day benders where he and his inebriated father would take off into the mountains camping, often almost freezing or starving to death because Gerald forgot to bring basic camping gear like sleeping bags or food. One time Gerald had forgotten to tell Bud’s mom they were going camping and ended up getting a nationwide kidnapping APB issued. Bud still remembers the cops pointing their rifles at Gerald and making him lay face down on the ground as they arrested him. Good Times.




Bud asked his dad to drop him off at his house because he could tell where this day was already heading; An All Day and Night Drinking Session with his dad as the conductor and Jimmy as his faithful soloist. Jimmy and Gerald shared a strange kinship Bud never quite understood. For a long time he just thought they were both tortured souls who soothed their demons with booze, but it was never quite that simple. War had done things to both of them that it had not done to Bud. It had literally re-wired them as human beings. Changed them from the inside out. It wasn’t until Bud got back from Iraq that his dad confided in him the war stories he would never tell him when he asked him as a teenager. “War is not natural.” He would mumble as he passed out after a two-hour long story. “War is not natural.”

When Bud got home he took a shower, fixed himself something to eat and crashed. You never really sleep in jail, and he was exhausted. As always, when he drifted off, Bud dreamed of Iraq. Dust, Sand, gunfire, screaming. This time it was about Ramadi. The fucking meat grinder. Fighting had been fierce for three days straight. Nasty, street-to-street and house-to-house shit where death lurked around every corner like a shadowy ghoul. On the evening of the fourth day of fighting, Marquez, one of Jimmy’s closest friends in the squad, was killed by a sniper. Bud tried to console Jimmy, but as usual his rage was too powerful, too all-encompassing. The Company Commander had offered to pull Jimmy off the line for a couple of days of rest, but intel had reported a possible arms cache in an apartment building close to where Marquez was killed and Jimmy was the first to volunteer to go find it. The search of the building was uneventful until they reached the fifth floor. There the squad found two women in their twenties, three children below the age of eight and one male around nineteen. After turning the place upside down, Bud managed to find a “spider hole” under a dresser in one of the bedrooms. Two AK’s, ten magazines, couple hundred rounds of 7.62 ammo, some RPG-7 rockets, some bomb making materials and a Romanian Dragunov sniper rifle, complete with a new American made scope. Bud laid it all out on the floor and had it photographed. He then got the GSR test kit out and applied it to all the adult’s hands. Only the 19-year-old male came back positive for recently firing a weapon. As Bud was getting on the radio to command to have all the adults transferred out for interrogation, Jimmy stopped him. “Give me five minutes with this guy before you have them shipped off to Abu Ghraib.” Jimmy asked Bud. “Man you know the protocol, we gotta turn them over.” Bud replied in a hushed tone. Jimmy’s eyes flashed with anger. “This bastard is the one who killed Marquez and you are gonna just give him a pass?” Bud took a deep breath. “You don’t know that Jimmy.” Bud replied. Jimmy just stared at him with those cold grey eyes. Bud outranked Jimmy, which meant this could be as easy as giving him an order to stand down, but Jimmy was his best friend, and he understood the pain about Marquez. Bud told the other three Marines in the squad to set up a perimeter to get them out of the apartment. “You cannot hurt him too bad or they will ask questions.” Bud warned Jimmy. Jimmy nodded as he grabbed the kid off the floor and dragged him up to the roof. It seemed like time slowed down after that. Suddenly there was a blood curdling scream. Bud bounded up the stairs to the roof to find Jimmy peering over the edge. Bud walked over and looked down, knowing exactly what he would find. There, five stories below them on the dirty Ramadi street was the crumpled body of the kid. “Little motherfucker attacked me.” Jimmy said looking down at the street as if he were admiring his handiwork. Bud just stared at him in disbelief. Before the MP’s came Bud walked down and cut the plastic restraints off the kid’s wrist to reinforce Jimmy’s alibi. As they were loading up in the humvees to go back to base, Bud saw the three other Marines in the squad congratulating Jimmy, all of them with huge smiles on their faces. “War is not Natural.” Fuckin’ A Right it’s not.

Bud woke around five that evening in a cold sweat to his cell phone ringing. It was Jimmy. “You busy?” he asked. “Come on over.” Bud sleepily replied. He and Jimmy had a system. They both would call each other before coming over so in the event they had a female guest, nothing was spoiled. It was the ultimate show of respect as far as single dude etiquette went. Twenty minutes later Jimmy walked in the back door, sober, rested and refreshed. “So, what did you and my dad do?” Bud asked as he made himself a ham sandwich. “Oh he wanted to get drunk but I just wanted to sleep, so he dropped me off at the house and I crashed all day.” Bud shook his head. “Me too, man, I was so tired.” Jimmy pulled out his phone and began scrolling through some pictures. “What you looking at?” Bud asked as he sat down on the couch with Jimmy and began to eat.”I got a pic of that assholes front license plate.” Jimmy said smiling. Bud’s heart dropped. “Why Jimmy?” Bud asked. “I was gonna send it to that hacker kid PJ and see if he could get me an address off the DMV server.” Jimmy replied. “Why Jimmy?” Bud asked again. Jimmy crooked an eyebrow. “You know damn well why.” Bud got up off the couch and took his plate into the kitchen. He then grabbed two beers. Opening them, he sat back down on the couch and handed Jimmy one. “Listen man, we got a court date in a week and we can’t be fucking around with this guy. If the cops find out they could get you for intimidation on top of the assault.” Jimmy smirked and took a long drink of the beer. “No one is going to find out anything man, relax.” Bud just shook his head. He did not like this one bit.

The next day after work, Jimmy was waiting for Bud at his truck. “PJ came through. Got the asshole’s address. Wanna do a little recon with me?” Bud got an annoyed look on his face and got in his truck. Jimmy walked around and got in the passenger side. “I cannot believe you man! I mean don’t you think we are both in enough trouble as it is?” Bud exclaimed, looking at Jimmy wide-eyed. Jimmy just smiled. “You worry too damn much. Here, something to take the edge off.” Jimmy handed him a silver flask with their USMC 2nd Division logo embossed on the front. Bud reluctantly took a long swig. The whiskey burned going down but settled in his stomach nicely. Bud started up the truck. “OK, where does this asshole live?” Jimmy smiled. “Now there the old Bud I remember! But first, here, put this on.” Jimmy handed Bud a ball cap. “Just a precaution.” Jimmy said as he put one on too. Bud’s windows were tinted dark so he was not that worried about the asshole making them. Bud drove across town to the gated community of Spring Hill. “Average house here is $300K man. Talk about asshole central.” Jimmy mumbled as he stared out the window. There may have been assholes living in them, but these houses were beautiful, Bud thought to himself. Spanish brick, manicured lawns, hell, some of them even had palm trees in the backyard by the pool! As they made a left on to the street where the guy lived, Jimmy perked up. “Oh shit, there the guy is out in his yard! Keep driving normal and make the block.” Jimmy hissed. Bud casually drove past, keeping his eyes straight ahead on the road, resisting the urge to turn and look.. “Jesus, the guy looks like he was in a fucking airplane crash!” Jimmy exclaimed. The man was sporting two swollen black eyes, a neck collar and also had a cast on his left arm. “Did I really beat his ass that good?” Jimmy replied, looking over at Bud smiling with pride. As they made the block and came to a stop sign, Bud’s looked over and watched the guy. Bud’s heart sank when the man went into his house and brought out a small dog on a leash. “Well, well, what have we here!” Jimmy said, his grey eyes glaring with hatred.

Bud did not hear from Jimmy all of the next day. When he tried to call it went straight to voicemail. He hardly ever turned his phone off. That evening, curiosity and worry got the better of Bud and he decided to drive over to Jimmy’s house. Seeing his truck in the driveway and a couple of lights on, he took a deep breath of relief. Bud knew Jimmy had CCTV and motion detector alarms all over the outside of the house, so by the time Bud had got five feet from the front door, Jimmy was ahead of him. As Jimmy opened the door, Bud noticed right away he had his Glock .45 in an Appendix Holster. “I’ve been trying to reach you all day but you turned your cell off…” Bud said walking in. “Yeah, I was busy doing something and did not wanna be disturbed.” Jimmy replied, leading Bud into the kitchen. As Bud followed Jimmy through the living room he noticed all types of gear lying around on the couch: Black Fatigues, Combat Boots, A digital camera with a zoom lens, Several trail cameras and a Night Vision Monocular. As Bud walked into the kitchen he noticed a bottle of Prestone Anti-Freeze and six packages of hot dog franks laying on the counter. “Interesting choices for Dinner.” Bud smiled looking at the Anti-Freeze. Jimmy smiled back. “Yeah, it’s definitely an acquired taste. Hey, I am glad you came by, I need your help with something.” Jimmy reached over and got the packages of Franks. “You mind cutting these up into two-inch pieces for me? You know how I hate the smell of hot dogs!” Bud smiled and started unwrapping the franks.

Two days later Bud is sitting at home watching the Cowboys game when his cell rings. “Got something really cool to show you…” Jimmy said excited. Before Bud could say anything his doorbell rings. “Come on!” he yelled, not feeling like getting up to answer the door. Jimmy comes bounding into the living room like a ten-year old on Christmas morning. “Wait until you see this, you are gonna shit!” Jimmy exclaims. He opens up his laptop case,and inserts the SD card from the trail cameras. “OK, so I set up three trail cams, two on the path he walks the dog on, and one looking into his backyard.” Bud watches as the video begins to roll. “OK, so here the asshole is with the dog.” Jimmy points to the top of the screen. “Now watch this, I could not believe my luck. I threw out a piece of frank about every 20 feet or so along this path.. Because the guy was on his phone the whole time, like 10 minutes, he never noticed the dog gobbling them up!” Jimmy laughed hysterically, slapping Bud on the back. “And let me guess, you had something to do with him being on the phone at this exact time?” Jimmy asked cocking an eyebrow. Jimmy have a sly smile. “You remember PJ? He got the guy’s cell number and when I called and gave him the cue, he called him up and pretended to be from AT&T offering him a free upgrade to the I-Phone 8. Worked like a charm!” Bud shook his head in disbelief. “But wait, you have not even seen the best part!”Jimmy takes out the SD card and replaces it with another. “This is about thirty minutes later in the assholes backyard.” Bud watched in horror as the dog began to run in circles around the yard, sometimes stumbling and crashing in the dirt. “I figured with as many pieces as the dog ate he got about triple the regular killing dose…” Jimmy said, his eyes glued to the screen. After a few more minutes Jimmy slaps Bud on the back in excitement. “Look at that little fucker! He is dying a slow, painful death!” Bud continued to watch as the dog finally collapsed and stop moving. “Oh and for the coup de’ grace, watch this!” Jimmy said, smiling. Bud watched as the owner comes walking out into the backyard to find the dog’s lifeless body. Bud want’s to look away as the man appears to break down and cry hysterically for several minutes. The footage ends as the owner picks up the dog’s lifeless body and carries it inside the house.

Bud glances over at Jimmy who is still smiling, his eyes glued to the monitor. “Isn’t that fucking awesome!” Jimmy asked looking at Bud with wild, wide eyes. “You wanna see him burying it later that night?” Jimmy asked. “No Jimmy, I have seen enough man.” Bud said as he got up from his recliner and walked into the kitchen for a beer. Jimmy closed the laptop and followed behind him. “What? Don’t tell me you don’t like what I did!” Jimmy asked as Bud handed him a beer. “It’s not that man. I understand why you did it, but now that it’s over and you got your revenge, you gotta promise me you are going to leave this guy alone.” Jimmy took a long drink of beer and smiled. “Yeah, I guess we are even.” Bud shook his head and walked closer and looked Jimmy in the eye. “No Jimmy, that won’t cut it. You gotta promise me. No More.” Bud stared at Jimmy for what seemed like two minutes before Jimmy answered. “You got it Gunny. I will stand down.” Bud smiled and both men shook hands. “Good deal. Now do me a favor and get rid of anything and everything incriminating because you know this guy is gonna go whining to the cops.” Bud asked. Jimmy smiled. “Already ahead of you. It’s all taken care of.” Bud nodded his head and both men went back into the living room with their beers and watched a middleweight boxing match on ESPN 2.




A week passed and Jimmy nor Bud heard a peep from the asshole or the cops about the dog. At their court date, the judge dismissed all charges against Bud and gave Jimmy one year probation and a thousand dollar fine, which Jimmy could pay out over time. In closing he told both Jimmy and Bud that their service to their country played a huge role in his decision but if he ever saw them again they would not get off so easy.  “What did I tell you!” Jimmy asked smiling. It was the weekend and they had decided to drive up to Bud’s dad’s place to do some celebratory shooting, fishing and Bar-B-Q.   “I know, I know. I worry too much.” Bud replied smiling back. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day. The kind of day that just makes you feel good about being alive. Gerald’s cabin sat about half a mile from the highway. “The longest driveway in the county.” Jimmy often joked. About halfway down you passed two huge fishing ponds Gerald had dug out  when he first bought the place back in the seventies. He had stocked them with perch, bass and catfish. Bud saw the head of a turtle quickly duck under the water as he passed. The only really good memories he had of his childhood were fishing in these ponds. Bud would often spend all day in the summer camped out on the bank with a cane pole, a sack lunch and his single-shot .22 in the event he ran across a snake.  Driving back down here and feeling the sun on his face and the smell of the woods and water brought it all back in a rush. Jimmy snapped Bud out of his daydream. “Looks like your old man has fallen behind on the mowing, might have to crank up the bush hog and take care of that for him.” Bud nodded in agreement as they pulled up to the cabin.

In the past when they visited, Bud could always count on Skipper, Gerald’s Golden Retriever running out to greet them and typically, unless he was on a bender, Gerald would be following close behind. This time though, nothing. No Skipper. No Gerald. Both Bud and Jimmy stood there for a second taking stock of the situation. “His truck is here. You think he’s working in the back forty or something?” Jimmy asked. “No, he said he was going to be getting stuff ready for the Bar-B-Q.” Bud replied.  Bud slid out his phone and called Gerald’s cell. As soon as it started ringing they heard his ringtone coming from inside the barn beside the house. It was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary”. Bud had downloaded it for him when he first got the phone. They both ran to the barn as fast as they could.

Jimmy was the first one through the door and Bud could tell by the way he skidded to a stop something was wrong. There, nailed to the barn wall was the head of Skipper, Gerald’s beloved Golden Retriever. The dog had been decapitated, it’s body nowhere to be found. Flies had already started to gather around the eyes and the blood dripping from the severed neck had turned a dull brownish color in the hay. “What the fuck!” Jimmy said in anger. Before Bud could say anything, Proud Mary began playing again on Gerald’s phone. Bud looked behind him in the direction of the sound and found the phone sitting neatly on a bale of hay. Bud quickly grabbed up the phone. “Dad?” Bud answered in a rush. “No, this is not Daddy.” a man’s voice replied. “Who the fuck is this!” Bud growled. The man laughed on the other end. He laughed! Bud could not fucking believe it. “This is the man you should not have fucked with Bud.” the man’s voice was cool and calm. “Where is my father, Who are you!” Bud yelled into the phone. By this time Jimmy had walked over, his eyes beaming with curiosity, anger and hate. Bud put the phone on speaker. “Oh, Daddy is with me right now. We are just hanging out, talking….” Bud was getting so angry his lips began to quiver. Jimmy put his hands over his head. “Let me tell you something motherfucker, you lay one hand on my dad and I will end you….” The man cut him off. “Enough with the threats Buddy. You are in no position to threaten. You and your asshole friend Jimmy started all of this when first he attacked me and second when he poisoned my fucking dog with anti-freeze.” The man’s voice was angry now, quivering. “What has any of this got to do with my dad?” Bud asked.  “Me and Jimmy are the ones you want! Let him go and we will take his place!” Bud was pacing around the barn now with Jimmy watching and listening intently. The man took a breath. “You know Bud, you are not the only one with connections in the Police Department. It only took me ten minutes to find out who bailed you out last week and to be honest, I was ready to let all this shit go until your buddy killed my dog, then I decided I could not let it go…” The man’s voice trailed off. “Hello! Are you there?” Bud screamed. “Oh yes, I am here Bud. You want to talk to your daddy?” Bud and Jimmy could hear the phone being moved around. “Bud? Is that you?” Gerald weakly asked. “Dad! Are you OK? Listen Dad, we are gonna come get you, don’t worry…” Bud began to cry, his voice breaking. Gerald’s voice was calm and even. “Bud, Bud, listen to me. You remember when you were a kid I used to take you camping? Remember that? You remember that campground where we saw the bear eating out of the garbage can?…” Suddenly Gerald’s voice trailed off and the man’s voice came back. “OK, that is enough reminiscing for now…” he said angrily. “Look, you still have not told us what it is you want.” Bud replied. The man laughed again. “What do I want? Well Bud that should be fairly fucking obvious! I want you and your scumbag friend to suffer like I have suffered the past two weeks.” Bud put his head in his hands while Jimmy paced. “I’ll be in touch soon and oh yeah, if I get one whiff of the Cops, your Dad’s head will be the next thing going up on your Barn Wall.” the line went dead.

Bud just sat there, his lips still trembling with anger. “I cannot fucking believe this Jimmy. We gotta call the cops.”  Jimmy walked over and put his hands on Bud’s Shoulders. His voice was calm and measured. “Bud, listen to me bro. You heard the guy. We cannot call the cop’s or your Dad will die. Now normally I would call bullshit on that threat but seeing what the asshole has done so far…” Jimmy’s voice trailed off looking at the barn wall.  “Well what are we going to do then? Wait for him to kill him for Christ sake!” Spittle flew from Bud’s mouth. His face red with anger and frustration. Jimmy grabbed Gerald’s phone and led Bud out of the Barn and into the house. Before walking in, Jimmy grabbed his laptop case out of the truck and both men walked into the kitchen. As Bud sat down Jimmy opened a cabinet and retrieved two glasses and a bottle of single malt scotch Gerald kept hidden behind the spice rack. Pouring each of them a finger Jimmy made a quick toast. “To Gerald, we are going to find you.” They both drained their glasses. “Now listen to me Bud. Your dad is smart and has had training for hostage situations while in the Rangers. You remember when he was talking to you about going camping and the bear and the garbage can?” Jimmy asked while pouring himself another small snort. Bud cocked an eyebrow. “Yeah, what about it?” Jimmy drained his glass. “Where was that?” Bud thought a minute and his eyes suddenly lit up. “Eagle Lake Park, about an hour up the road.” Jimmy nodded slowly and opened his laptop. After a few keystrokes he turned the screen around so Bud could see. “Is this the place?” Bud leaned in so he could closely examine the screen. “Yep, that is it.” Jimmy nodded and turned the screen back towards him. He took a few minutes examining the terrain and features. “The place is huge, but if I were guessing, I would think he would be holed up in one of these six cabins along the main trail.” Bud got up from the kitchen table and walked to the window. “Shouldn’t we wait for his call?” Bud asked, staring at Gerald’s homemade bird feeder outside the window. “No. We can’t take the chance, This guy is unstable and we need to get Gerald out of there now.” Jimmy replied still studying the map. Bud took a deep breath and continued staring outside for a few moments. He then turned around to face Jimmy at the table. “OK then, let’s go get him!” Jimmy closed the laptop and nodded. Bud noticed Jimmy’s cold grey eyes beamed with what their old Company Commander termed “War Lust”.

Both men began collecting gear and weapons. “Luckily your dad let me use his garage and spare bedroom as my personal storage unit so we should have everything we need.” Jimmy said half-smiling, laying out an assortment of fatigues, gear and weapons. “Especially this beauty.” Jimmy pulled out a black hard rifle case with his last name stenciled on the front. Popping the latches Jimmy took out a M40-A5,  the USMC issue .308 Sniper Rifle. It still had its custom desert paint job, even down to the AAR Suppressor on the end. Jimmy had added a few personal modifications recently including a better trigger, lightweight bipod, new Killflash glare filter for the scope and a new Schmidt and Bender 3-27×56  scope. Bud walked over and swallowed hard while looking at the rifle. It was an amazing piece of weaponry. “Let’s hope you don’t have to use this Jimbo.” Jimmy grinned as he opened the bolt and examined the action. “Yeah, well, from the sound of things your Dad is in extreme danger Bud and since all this is essentially my fault, I intend to bring him back in one piece.” Jimmy reached into a small black bag and removed a box of .308 Ammo and began loading the rifle’s magazine. Bud read the description out loud: “Black Hills Match Grade 168 grain Boat Tail Hollow Point.” After loading the magazine Jimmy slammed it home into the rifle. “Yep, Only the best for this asshole!”

Bud walked over to the bed and examined the assortment of fatigues and chose a pair of green MARPAT’s that were his size and put them on. He then eyed the assortment of handguns Jimmy had laid out. Immediately he gravitated to a Colt Lightweight Commander. Ejecting the magazine, Bud began to load it with some Winchester Black Talon Hollow Points. When he was done he slammed the mag home and holstered it in a black leather hip slide and let his t-shirt fall over to cover it. “Just in case things go really sideways, I want you to have this also…” Jimmy said walking over to the closet and pulling out a CMMG Mid-Length AR-15. “I take it you remember how to run one?” Jimmy said smiling handing him the carbine and a bandolier of mags. “Absolutely.” Bud replied, admiring the weapon. It was a flat-top with a Aimpoint H1 Red Dot. “OK then, let’s roll.” Jimmy said picking up the rifle case and heading for the door.

Ten minutes into the ride to the park Gerald’s phone rang. Jimmy pulled over and answered it on speaker. “Yeah asshole whatta you want?” The man was silent on the other end for a long moment. “This must be Jimmy.” The man said. “Yep. This is Jimmy, the guy who kicked you ass about a week ago.” The man was silent again. “OK Jimmy, if this is how you want to play it, listen to this and then check your text messages…” the phone went silent for a minute and a shuffling noise could be heard. “No! No! You don’t have to do this!” it was Gerald’s voice pleading with the man. Suddenly there were two loud pounding noises with Gerald screaming out in pain. “You Motherfucker!” Bud cried out. The line went dead. A minute later Gerald’s phone chimed with a text and Bud snatched it up. Opening up the attachment photo Bud cried out again. “That sorry son-of-a-bitch!” Jimmy took the phone and looked at the picture. It was Gerald’s mangled hand, his pinky and ring finger smashed to hamburger with a bloody hammer setting beside it. The caption below it read “#PAYBACKISABITCH.” Jimmy put the truck in Drive and got back on the highway. “We gotta get to him soon or the bastard will kill him.” Jimmy said as he hammered down on the gas, pushing the truck past eighty miles an hour.




They made the hour drive to the park in just under forty minutes. The day was sunny with not a cloud to be seen. As he was admiring the tall pine trees and fir’s, Bud saw a fox squirrel dart out in front of them with a pine nut in his mouth and for a brief moment he forgot about the shit storm he was in. Jimmy slowly rolled into the park. The first small parking lot was empty. “Shit, maybe we were wrong Jimmy.” Bud said, frustrated. “Hang on, there is another parking lot further up.” Jimmy pulled past a Ranger station that was empty and continued around a wide right turn. As soon as they made the turn they saw that the parking lot was empty and parked down at the end was the Mercedes Coupe with the license plate “MNYMAKR”.  “What did I tell you.” Jimmy smiled as he pulled around and parked. “A Ranger never forgets his training!” Jimmy said looking at Bud still smiling. “Gerald is gonna be fine.”  Both men got out and walked around to the back of the truck. “The first cabin is about quarter-mile up the trail to the east. Let’s gear up and we will make our approach from the south.” Bud looked around and was thankful they were all alone in the park. There was no hunting in this park and if people saw two guy in camo with guns they might get nervous and call the cops. “How do we know which cabin he will be in?” Bud asked while slinging his rifle. “We don’t. Process of elimination I am afraid partner. Before I forget, remember sound discipline. Let’s put all the cell’s on vibrate.” Both men took out their phones and switched them to vibrate only and then set off up the trail.

After about a hundred yards on the trail they turned south through the woods, dipping down into a high bank creek and following it for about three hundred yards. The day was warm, but not too hot. Blue Jays and robins hopped and skirted through the trees as a slight breeze rustled the tops of the tall pines.  “The first cabin sits right down there in that draw.” Jimmy whispered and motioned with his hand. “I am gonna  go set up and see what I can see. You pull security. If I see anything I will text you.” Bud gave Jimmy the thumbs up and un-slung the AR and found a place under a huge oak that had good fields of vision in both directions and squatted in the shade. He watched as Jimmy bounded down into the draw and disappeared into the undergrowth. Five minutes later Bud’s cell vibrated. “This is the cabin.” the text read. “I had to maneuver around to the back where there is a big picture window looking into the living room and kitchen. I can see Gerald’s leg’s tied up, but nothing more.” Bud gave a sigh of relief. A moment later another text came through. “No sign of asshole yet. Waiting game.” Bud put his phone back in his pocket and took a deep, cleansing breath as his anxiety level cranked down a few notches. This called for a celebratory drink. Reaching behind him, he grabbed the camelback hose and took a long, cool drink of lemon-lime gatorade. He then reached into a side pocket on his pack and found a peanut butter granola bar. Suddenly he felt a phone buzz. It was Gerald’s. “Yes” Bud answered. “So, how do you want your dear old dad sent back to you Bud?” the man asked. Bud could tell from his slurred words and tone the man had been drinking. “I want him back whole and unharmed.” Bud replied. The man laughed. “Wishful thinking my friend, wishful thinking.” Just then Bud’s phone vibrated. “He is in Kitchen, No clear shot” Jimmy’s text read. Shit! Bud thought to himself, what to do? Keep him talking is the only option Bud had. “So why is that wishful thinking? Don’t you think me and you can come to some amicable agreement?” The man breathed heavily into the phone and laughed. “Amicable agreement, huh?” Bud could hear ice cubes in a glass and him taking a drink. He also heard the faint noise of a television. Bud quickly texted Jimmy. “Maybe in living room?” Suddenly the man hung up. Bud could not stand it any longer. He got to his feet, slung his pack and rifle and began making his way to Jimmy.

Bud crawled the last ten yards to Jimmy’s perch, staying in the thick undergrowth. Jimmy was hidden under a sniper’s OD green veil with only the tip of the suppressor peering from the weeds. “What the fuck you doing here?” Jimmy hissed. “The guy called me.” Bud replied, settling down beside Jimmy. Bud relayed the short conversation to Jimmy. “Any sign of him?” Bud asked. “Negative. All I can see is Gerald’s bound-up legs.” Jimmy shifted around and grabbed a pair of high power binoculars and handed them to Bud. “Here make your self useful and be my spotter.” Bud took the nocs and noticed Jimmy had used black electrical tape over the lens to make a homemade killflash. It was an old trick from Iraq. As Bud scanned the house he zoomed in on the kitchen window and examined the bound legs that were visible. It only took him a minute to realize something was wrong.”Uh Jimbo, those are not Gerald’s legs down there.” Bud whispered. Jimmy quickly got up on his scope and dialed in the zoom. “Notice how they are hairless and shapely? That is definitely not Gerald but a woman down there!” Buds heart began to thump as he repeated to Jimmy the last thing the guy said to him. “How do you want your dear old dad sent back to you?” Jimmy quickly folded down the bipod legs on the rifle and slid it back in the case. “We are gonna have to breach and clear that cabin Bud, we don’t have a choice. Time is of the essence.” Bud nodded as he stashed his pack with Jimmy’s and they began making their way down the draw to the backside of the cabin. They both knelt down in the treeline and got ready. Bud unslung his rifle and double-checked that the mag was seated and a round was chambered. Jimmy un-holstered his Glock and did a chamber check as well. Jimmy glanced at the cabin. “I vote we distract him. You go around to the front and knock on the door, and I will come through the back at the same time.” Bud took a moment to consider the plan. “How about we both stack up at the back and I call him, see what we can hear? Worst case he has it on silent and I can distract him while you go in?” Jimmy considered that for a second. “Sounds good, let’s roll.”

Both men broke through the treeline in a jogging crouch. There was about fifty yards of open ground in the backyard with an old wood shed about ten yards from the cabin. When they made it to the shed Jimmy peered around to look through the picture window. No bound-up shapely legs. “Shit! He’s moved her.” Jimmy hissed. Bud stole a glance. “We gotta get in there Jimmy!” Bud replied. His eyes were wide and his heart was pumping like he had just ran a marathon. Jimmy took notice. “OK, but you gotta take a breath man. Remember, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Bud nodded and both men peeled around the corner and bounded up and stacked up at the back door. “OK Call him.” Jimmy whispered. Bud took out Gerald’s phone and hit redial. “It’s ringing” Bud whispered. Jimmy listened intently but could not hear a ringtone from inside the house. “Went to voicemail.” Bud whispered. “Fuck it, we are going in.” Jimmy said. After first trying the doorknob to find it locked he rared back and donkey kicked the door, planting his size 12 boot just beside the doorknob. The door was made of flimsy wood and gave a loud cracking sound on the first kick, swinging back violently into the cabin. Jimmy immediately proceeded through the door with his Glock up and as soon as he saw the layout of the cabin called out “Going left”. Bud immediately was right behind him with the AR shouldered, the 3 MOA red dot glowing in front of him as he peered down the sight. “Going right” Bud replied. As Jimmy cleared the kitchen, Bud began to clear the small living room. Nothing. No lights, no sound. Jimmy made a small circle and came back in front of Bud, his Glock aiming left while Bud’s AR aimed right. They moved down a small hallway with a bedroom to the right and a little further down, a bathroom to the left. After both rooms were cleared they backtracked to the living room. “You think he left?” Jimmy asked, confused. Bud’s heart was really pumping now and his mind was running overtime with mental images of his dad’s lifeless body in a casket. Bud shook his head to clear it and when he did he noticed a door on the other side of the kitchen that looked like a pantry. Bud immediately moved toward it with Jimmy following.

When Bud opened the door he immediately caught the smell of wet concrete and mold. It was a basement. A set of old wooden steps descended and the faint glow of a single light bulb could be seen swinging below. Bud nestled his shoulder into the stock of the AR and centered his vision into the red dot sight. Taking one step at a time he descended into the dank basement with Jimmy right behind him. When they got about halfway down they saw the basement was not that big. It has a washing machine and dryer against one wall and the water heater on the other. Reaching the bottom of the stairs Bud swept the room with the AR. As he made a full circle he saw another door under the stairs. Since the basement was dimly lit He could tell a light was on in the room as a faint beam of yellowish light danced around the door frame. Bud motioned to Jimmy and he came around him. As both men came closer to the door they could hear commotion in the room and the buzzing of a motor of some kind. Bud glanced at Jimmy and nodded and then turned the door knob.

It opened and the cheap wooden door swung back lazily. As Bud stepped into the room the bright flourescent light above blinded him temporarily, but as his eyes adjusted, he saw guy standing there in the corner with a yellow raincoat and yellow trousers, his back to them not six feet away. He had a skill saw in both hands and was in the process of sawing the leg off a human torso. Bud’s heart rate seemed to slow down as did everything else when he saw that. Bud caught movement out of the corner of his right eye and for a split second he saw his dad laying there on the ground squirming and kicking trying to get their attention, his mouth taped over with duct tape and his eyes wide with fear. In this moment Bud’s brain did not have time to compute everything that was happening but in the next moment Bud realized the guy had heard them and turned around to face them. Blood covered his face and the front of the raincoat from top to bottom. He had grown a scraggly beard since Bud has last seen him on the road and what looked like pieces of bone and gore had lodged there. Bud’s eye immediately centered in on the skill saw he was holding in front of him. Suddenly, the man raised the saw above his head and began yelling like a crazed banshee. His eyes were wild and unhinged with a white forth appearing at the edges of his mouth. The man took a step toward Bud, the saw still raised above his head. Bud’s mind re-centered and all he saw before him was the red dot of his carbine scope floating on the man’s chest and in the next instant Bud pulled the trigger three times in quick succession. The 5.56 rounds kicked up small pockets of material of the raincoat in the air and in the same instant the man crumpled to the floor in a heap. The report of the rifle was loud inside the confined space and Bud’s ears begin to ring with a single note harmony. Bud saw the skill saw drop to the floor but did not hear it and for the first time he noticed the concrete was wet with pools of sticky blood.

As time began to move back to its original pace, Bud immediately dropped his AR and let it hang on the sling and kneeled down beside his dad and removed the duct tape from his mouth. Tears were in both of their eyes as Bud turned his dad over and cut loose his bonds. “Are you hurt Dad? Did he hurt you?” Bud choked out, trying to restrain his emotion and at the same time examine his dad’s body for wounds. “No, I am fine son.  I am fine.” Gerald replied. Bud gently lifted his dad upright and let him lean against the wall. Bud noticed Gerald’s color was off and his cheeks were sunken. “You’re dehydrated Dad, here, drink this.” Bud took of his camelback bladder and brought the hose up where his dad could drink. After taking a long drink Gerald took a deep breath. “My God son, you came in the nick of time! That crazy bastard told me he was gonna cut me up and mail me to you in pieces!” Bud’s eyes were still filled with tears as he wiped them away. “It wasn’t just me Dad, Jimmy is the one who figured out where you were…” Both Bud and Gerald turned to look at Jimmy who was examining the body of the woman in the corner. “Who is this poor woman Gerald?” Jimmy asked. “I think it’s the crazy bastard’s wife.” Gerald replied, taking another drink. “From what I overheard on the phone, she was going to turn him in so he went and kidnapped her. Sumabitch’ strangled her right there and then started cutting her up. He was crazy as a shit house rat!” Jimmy shook his head in disbelief as he stood up. “Well, we got a helluva mess to clean up here. Bud you take your dad upstairs and get him comfortable and then come down here so we can get to work.” Bud nodded and helped lift Gerald to his feet. Before leaving Gerald limped over to Jimmy and extended his hand. “Thank you Jimmy for helping to save my life.” Bud noticed a big tear had formed in Gerald’s eye. Jimmy’s eyes softened and very softly he replied “It was my honor Gerald.” Bud helped Gerald up the stairs and sat him down in one of the recliners in the living room. “See if you can find me something to drink son, if you don’t mind.” Gerald said wincing in pain. Bud walked in the kitchen and found half a bottle of Wild Turkey. He brought the bottle and a glass and sat it down on the coffee table. “Hot damn!” Gerald said smiling. Bud just shook his head at his old man. He was so glad he was OK.

When he came back down Jimmy was already laying out a huge sheet of plastic. “You gotta hand it to this guy, he may have been nuts, but he came prepared:  Sheet plastic, sulphuric acid, bleach, skill saws, he brought it all.” Bud shook his head. “Jimmy, you sure this is the direction you want to go man?” Jimmy stopped what he was doing and looked at Bud like he was crazy. “Whatta you mean Man? You just killed a dude! Yeah it may have been in self-defense, but all the circumstances leading up to this are not good! Besides, I am the one that got you in this mess and I am not gonna allow you go to Prison for something I did!” Bud stared at the bloody, gory shitty mess before him. It was too much to handle. He took a deep breath and walked out into the basement. “Bud? Where you going? What’s wrong?” Jimmy got up and followed Bud out. “Bud! Come on dude, we gotta get to work, we have a lot of…” Bud turned around and cut him off mid-sentence. “Why did you have to do it Jimmy? Why did you have to throw that kid off that roof in Ramadi?” Jimmy’s face went blank. “Ramadi? What the hell you talkin’ bout man? Listen, you just killed a man, you are in shock, it’s OK, we all been there, but right now we have to knuckle down and man up…” Bud took two-steps closer to Jimmy. “I am not in fucking shock man. I am thinking as clearly as I ever have.” Bud stared into Jimmy’s eyes without blinking. “Why do you always have to push things too far man? I should have never went along with letting you poison this guy’s dog, that was a mistake. But then again, I should have never covered for you in Ramadi either, but I did. Why did I do it Jim? Why?” Bud turned around and walked to the other side of the room shaking his head. He felt like he was trapped. Trapped in a friendship that was most likely going to send him to prison or the morgue. There was a long pause and the air felt heavy in the dank basement. “You did it because we are brothers and you always gotta back your brother’s play.” Jimmy said. “Now you gonna help me or not?” Jimmy asked. Bud could feel his stare on his back. So many thoughts raced through Bud’s mind. He had a hundred good reasons why he should pick up the phone and call the cops and tell them everything. On the other hand he had only one better reason why he shouldn’t. Jimmy saved Gerald. If Jimmy had not had been with Bud, Gerald would most likely be dead right now. But the irony, and this is what kept repeating in Bud’s mind over and over like a broken fucking record is Jimmy is the reason they were in this spot in the first place! Bud let out a small laugh and shook his head. “Yeah Jim, I’ll help you.” Bud said as he turned around and both he and Jimmy walked into the small basement room and began the arduous process of getting rid of two bodies with a skill-saw and sulphuric acid.


The End









Double-Blind (Chapter V)

A Modern Crime Novelette





Camp Inferno

Reyes sat blindfolded with his arms and legs zip-tied to a chair.”This is getting to be too fucking familiar” he said to himself. Two hours ago he had been at the D.E.A. safe house when his burner got a text. Logan needed to talk to him about a change in plans. Kessler did not like letting him go without a tail or a GPS tracker, but he had no choice. These guys were way too smart for any of that. Besides, Reyes was expendable. It was worth the risk letting him go to get one step closer to these guys. He hoped, anyways.

Logan removed the blindfold. Reyes shook his head and blinked several times waiting for his vision to adjust. “Where am I?” he asked. “The end of the road.” Logan replied, staring at him through his Oakleys. Reyes looked around. Besides Logan there was another man there. Not the driver but a guy he had seen in the pictures Kessler had showed him. “So, Captain Reyes, here is how this is gonna work. I am gonna ask some questions and you are going to answer truthfully. If I feel you are not being 100% honest, my associate here, Mr. Tarzan, is going to have some fun with this table full of tools over there…” Reyes glanced at the man and then at the table full of power tools. He knew right away he was fucked. “So first question: How long have you been an informant for the D.E.A.?” Logan asked. Reyes’ heart began thumping in his chest and he became nauseous. Tarzan picked up a pair of needle nose pliers. “Jesus en la’ Cruz! It’s not what you think!” Reyes exclaimed. He was beginning to sweat so bad it began dripping off him like he had just taken a bath. “OK, so explain to me, in detail…” Reyes took a breath. “The girl I was with that day, Jasmine, they had gotten to her. She drugged me and the next thing I know the D.E.A. is asking me questions.” Tarzan kneeled down at Reyes feet. “You really should take better care of your feet their Captain.” Tarzan touched Reyes’ toes with the pliers. Reyes begin to whimper like a child. “Look, I swear to Christ that is the first time I had ever talked to them…” Tarzan looked up at Reyes and then over at Logan. Logan nodded. Tarzan jabbed the serrated edge of the needle nose pliers underneath the big toenail and then clamped down on it and ripped it out. Reyes yelled out in pain. “Oh dios me ayude!” Reyes jerked against the zip ties as terrible, searing pain pulsed through his body. Tarzan stood back and held up the bloody nail for him to see and then tossed it in the garbage. After a few minutes of Reyes crying. Logan spoke up. “OK, so let’s start over. Obviously you did not understand the rules.” Reyes interrupted him. “Logan, look, I swear to Christ. I had not talked to the D.E.A. before four days ago, Why would I? I was doing fine. You think I want to fucking cross the cartels!” Logan took off his glasses and stared at Reyes. He gestured with his head for Tarzan to back off. Reyes took a deep breath of relief. “OK then, so them seeking you out specifically was just blind luck? Come on Reyes! You know how that sounds!” Reyes shook his head. “No, of course it was not blind luck. The Federal Police is full of snitches. Somebody ratted me out.” Logan put his glasses back on. “And you led them straight to us.” Logan motioned for Tarzan to continue. Tarzan smiled he was getting to play again and picked up an electric grinder. Reyes’ eyes got big. “Jesus! No! Not on purpose! Look, the D.E.A. knows all about what you guys are doing OK? Some former spook who works for them now told them yesterday.” Logan stood up when he heard that. He moved Tarzan out-of-the-way and squatted down so he was eye level with Reyes. “And what is it exactly that we are doing Captain?” Reyes gave a smirk. “Helping Consolidate the Cartels of course. Instead of seven or eight cartels fighting for control, there will be one cartel divided into several areas. One cartel, one boss.” Logan stood back up and looked over at Tarzan. Both men had a look of utter confusion. What was this crooked cop playing at? Reyes noticed the look on their faces. What the hell? They looked as if they truly were confused. What the fuck was going on?

Logan took Tarzan by the arm and walked over to the other side of the trailer. “What the fuck is that crazy spick talking about!” Logan said, wide eyed. Tarzan placed his hand on his shoulder.”Brother, relax. The guy is scared and is just spouting off crazy bullshit in an attempt to get us to stall taking him apart piece by piece. I’ve seen it a hundred times before.” Logan shook his head. “No, that is not what that is. That sounds to me like he is serious.” Tarzan laughed. “Look man, I know you have not had as much experience with interrogation as me, but a drowning man will do ANYTHING to stay alive. It’s a survival instinct. Let me continue working on him and you will see.” Tarzan turned to go back and Logan stopped him. “Wait. Let me talk to him first. Go over to the shoot house with Jolt and Luis or something.” Logan walked around the trailer to find Reyes praying. “Have you suddenly found God Captain?” Logan asked. “Well, either that or I hope he finds me, Pronto!” Reyes replied, half smiling, still in pain. Logan walked over to the table and opened up a first aid kit and took out some anti-biotic and a band-aid. Kneeling down he took out his knife. Reyes began fidgeting in his chair. “Relax, I am not going to hurt you.” He cut the zip tie and began doctoring Reyes’ toe. “Thank you.” Reyes said with a tear in his eye. Logan walked behind him and cut the zip-tie on his wrist as well.  Logan then walked over to the cooler and got a cold bottle of water and handed it to him. Reyes downed the water in one go. “Muchas gracias.” Logan grabbed a beer out of the cooler and sat down across from him. After a few minutes, Reyes spoke up. “So let me ask you a question Logan. Why did you guys act so damn surprised when I told you what I had overheard? Isn’t that what you have been doing?” Logan smiled and took a long drink. “Let’s put it this way Captain, It appears you are not the only one getting played .” Reyes look at Logan funny. “What do you mean?” Logan shook his head. “I probably should not tell you this but who gives a shit now. We were hired to jack loads of CJNG coke so the CIA could sell it on the black market and buy weapons and material to fight ISIS.” Reyes’ eyes got big. “What the hell? That’s what those assholes told you!” Logan nodded his head. Both men began laughing. “Unbelievable!” Reyes exclaimed. Logan stood up and began pacing. “And all the while what I was really doing instead of fighting terrorism was expanding the global drug trade!” Reyes shook his head. “Well, I am not innocent in that regard either Mr. Chandler.” Logan stopped pacing and realized what Reyes was saying. “Oh Hell Captain, I know that, but at least you are honest about what you do. Yeah, you are corrupt and help the cartels, but my employer had to lie to me to get me to do this shit! I would have never agreed to do it if I had known the truth!” Reyes nodded his head. “I understand where you are coming from. It’s a matter of principle.” Logan stared at Reyes for a long minute and pondered how strange it was to hear that word come from the lips of a man like Reyes.

Instead of going over to the shoot house with Jolt and Luis, Tarzan had stayed put on the other side of the trailer and had heard every word of the conversation between Reyes and Logan. Confused about what to do next, he stepped away and retrieved his cell phone and battery and called McRay. After Tarzan had given McRay the cliff-notes version of events, McRay had to make a command decision. Since he had been discovered in his scheme he had to do two things quickly: Justify his Actions and Eliminate the Problem, which in this case and at this point in time, was Logan and Reyes. McRay quickly got to work on the first part. “Tarzan you need to understand I was under orders from the top brass to keep this operation under wraps. It is of vital national importance that we get the cartel situation in Mexico sorted, do you understand where I am coming from son?” Tarzan hesitated to agree. He hated being lied to, especially when it involved killing people. He would much rather have had the whole truth before going into this job. Still, this was the C.I.A. we were talking about, not fucking Sears and Roebuck. “Yes, I understand Sir.” Tarzan replied with military bearing. “Good, Good. Glad to hear it. You think Jolt and Luis will be as understanding?” Tarzan hesitated. “Well, I can talk to them sir…” Tarzan felt a knot in his stomach forming. “Good. I will leave that up to you to convince them. In the mean time, Chandler and Reyes need to meet with a terrible accident.” There was dead silence on the line. “Say Again Sir?” Tarzan’s heart began thumping like a rabbit. “They know too much and are not on-board with the Operation, I know it’s a tough call, but it has to be done.” Tarzan’s mouth got dry and his stomach was turning flips. “Tell you what Chris, I know this is a tough thing to ask, so I will add $250K to your paycheck and get you on-board full-time, how does that sound?” Tarzan was amazed. The man’s tone was calm and measured, as if he was ordering a pizza. There was a long moment of Silence on the line and then, as if Tarzan was watching himself in a tragic play, he answered. “Yes sir, you can count on me.”

When McRay hung up the phone he reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a burner with a red dot sticker on the back. He pressed the #2 to speed dial the only number programmed into it. After three rings a young American female voice answered. “Doctor Kellerman’s Office.” “Yes I need to make an appointment for 1pm on Tuesday ” There was silence on the line, then a series of clicks. A male voice came on. “Number of targets?” McRay did some quick math. Even though Tarzan signed on he would eventually be a liability. “Five.” More silence. “Location?” McRay opened his laptop and signed into his encrypted email. A tech in Langley had already triangulated Tarzan’s location from their short chat. “Location is Known. GPS coordinates to follow.”

Sliding his phone into his pocket, Tarzan took a deep breath and then casually walked over to his trailer. He suited up and grabbed the suppressed MP-7, some extra mags and two grenades. Before walking out, he wrote a quick email as he took one last look at a picture of his daughter taped to the wall. The jagged border of the picture where he had cut out his ex-wife reminded him of the night several years ago when, after a few drinks he had decided to “drunk dial” his ex. The conversation was short. “Just think of us as dead and gone. That’s how we think of you” then she hung up.

The email was short and simple, addressed to his lawyer in Panama.

Mr. Victorio:

I hereby assign you as EXECUTOR of my estate.

Please see that the balance of my two offshore accounts including ALL of my stocks, bonds and property are placed into a trust and go to my only daughter, Rachel L. Bell.


Chris Bell

When Tarzan came out of his trailer he was met by Jolt and Luis who had just finished up in the shoot house. “Hey just the guy’s I need to talk too…” Tarzan said smiling nervously.

When Logan came around the corner from the Lounge and saw Tarzan standing there fully kitted up and armed talking in an animated fashion to Luis and Jolt he got a really bad feeling. As he began walking toward them he began asking himself questions. “Why is Tarzan armed?” “Why does he look nervous?” and as he got closer the big question he hated to ask but had to:  “What if McRay already got to him somehow?” Fifty yards away Tarzan looked up and saw Logan coming. Logan smiled but Tarzan did not. Suddenly Luis yelled out “Logan, watch out!” At that point Luis went to draw his Glock, but Tarzan was so close he fouled his draw and the fight was on. As Tarzan and Luis clinched up, Jolt took off in a sprint, heading for the Little Bird. Logan was running toward them now with laser focus, looking like a Linebacker getting ready to make an open field tackle. As Logan was lowering his shoulder for the hit, a gunshot rang out. A pink mist blew up into the air like a geyser as the top of Luis’ head was blown away, his lifeless body dropping with a thud. Logan came to a screeching halt just ten yards away. Tarzan quickly spun around, his face splashed with blood. Pieces of skull and brain had lodged in his thick beard making him look like some crazed viking fresh from battle. The sound of the little bird’s rotors began to hum loudly as Jolt quickly got the helo into the air. With Tarzan distracted, Logan thought about going for the bloody Glock in his right hand but quickly realized Tarzan had the drop on him. A broad smile spread across Tarzan’s face. Logan watched as the massive tendons and muscles began to constrict in his right arm as Tarzan brought the Glock up to fire. Logan’s only move was to close the distance as fast as he could and hope the vest protected him. Logan lunged for the gun.

Suddenly Logan’s face felt wet and something gritty was in his eyes, blinding him. “Son-of-a-bitch!” Logan stopped in his tracks. Fully expecting to be shot, he reached out but felt nothing, no Tarzan, no gun. Bringing his hand up to his face, Logan wiped blood and bone matter from his eyes, all the time thinking “Am I Shot? Is this my blood?” Finally able to see, Logan’s vision came into focus and that question was answered. There on the ground beside Luis was Tarzan with his head almost completely blown away. As Logan stood there dumbfounded a voice came from behind him. “I have not shot a rifle since like forever. Amazing I was able to make that head shot!”  Logan spun around to see Reyes with a huge smile on his face, an HK 416 in his hands. “Muchas Gracias Captain.” Logan said, taking a breath.  As both men stood there, trying to process what had just happened, the familiar buzz of the Little Bird broke the silence. Suddenly, Logan remembered Jolt was airborne and he was not sure which side he was on. “Cover, Reyes Now!” Logan yelled. Both men bolted for the nearest cover, which was underneath one of the trailers. Just as they were diving underneath the trailer Jolt passed over them, flying so low Logan felt the prop wash. As they were both laying there catching their breath the radio clipped to Logan’s vest came alive. “Hey Chandler what you running around like a scared rabbit for?” Logan smiled. “Wasn’t sure what side you were on partner. I am sure McRay made you a tempting offer via Tarzan.” Logan could hear Jolt laughing over the radio. “Hell I ain’t gonna lie to you brother, I thought about it. But the way I look at it, a man gotta have some things he does not put a price tag on.” Logan smiled and shook his head. “How much did that bastard offer you to kill us?” “One-Hundred Thousand.” Jolt replied. “Man, I though I would be worth more than that!” Logan joked, smiling. “For your southern-fried redneck ass! Hell, I would have taken fifty!” Jolt replied laughing. Reyes got Logan’s attention. “Hey, you can bullshit with your buddy later, right now tell him to come pick us up!” Logan laughed. “Hey I got a pissed off Mexican down here, you better come pick us up.” Jolt could be heard laughing over the radio. “Roger that, on my way.”

Jolt landed a few minutes later and after Logan collected a few things him and Reyes loaded up on the helo. Before shutting the door Logan gave one last look at the bodies of Luis and Tarzan. “Damn shame about Luis. that is no way for a warrior to die.” Jolt said over their headset. “Yeah, he deserved better.” Logan said. As they lifted off Logan kept his eyes on the bodies of the two men he called brothers. “I can’t believe Tarzan tried to sell us out man, what an asshole.” Jolt said flipping the bird as they passed. Logan did not reply. “So where to Logan?” Jolt asked. “Panama. I got some friends down there that can help us all disappear.” Jolt gave a thumbs up and turned the chopper South. “You really think we can hide from the CIA?” Reyes asked. “We are gonna try.” Logan said. Suddenly a loud alarm went off on the control panel. “What the hell is that!” Logan asked. “Radar Lock! Somebody is locking on to us!” Jolt asked as he jerked the stick up trying to evade. “Locking on to us with what!” Reyes asked. “Anti-Aircraft!” Jolt said as he jerked the stick left this time trying another evasive maneuver. The helicopter jerked wildly in the sky, left then right, up, then down. But the missile just kept on coming. The missile impacted into the rear of the helicopter, just aft of the engine. They never saw nor heard it when it hit.  The little bird helicopter exploded into several pieces eight miles from Camp Inferno, killing all aboard.

The man who had fired the Stinger missile admired the fireball in the sky for a few seconds and then un-shouldered the launcher assembly and calmly walked over and placed it in the back of the waiting SUV. After closing the hatch he walked around and got in the passenger seat. “Did we Get all of them?” McRay asked from the back seat. The man turned around in his seat and in a crisp military tone replied “Yes Sir. Three Tango’s Down.” McRay put the phone to his ear “Yes Mr. Morales, all our loose ends have been tied up.” After hanging up the phone McRay tapped the driver. “Let’s get out of here.” As the driver put the vehicle in gear McRay looked out the window at the burning wreckage on the horizon. Just as he was about to feel some type of pity or remorse his phone chimed. It was a notification from his offshore bank that a wire transfer had been completed. McRay opened up the screen to read the amount. Ten Million US Dollars. Suddenly McRay forgot all about the burning wreckage behind them and smiled at the bright future that lay ahead.


The End.

Double-Blind (Chapter IV)

A Modern Crime Novelette



 D.E.A. Safehouse, Nuevo-Laredo

Reyes sat up in the bed. He was breathing easier now. The Doctor had given him some pills and put him on oxygen. There was a gentle knock at the door and Agent Kessler of the D.E.A walked in. Reyes felt his face get hot. “You guys should know better than to rough up a fifty-year old man like that, Jesus on the Cross!” Kessler took a chair by the bed and sat down “We are sorry Captain Reyes, we truly are, but it was necessary to make your men believe the cartel had snatched you to maintain your cover” Reyes smirked. “Hell, as good as your guys are, they should go work for the damn cartel!” Kessler laughed at the comment and started sifting through some photos and papers in a folder he was holding. “I have been thinking. How did you get to the girl I was with, Jasmine?” Reyes asked. “She has been an informant for the Mexican D.F.S. and the D.E.A. for the past year.” Kessler replied still looking at the papers in the folder. “You have to protect her!” Reyes sat up in the bed. Kessler noticed Reyes’ blood pressure spiking. “Easy their Captain. We have already pulled her from circulation. She will be living a comfortable life in the U.S. with a new identity by the end of the week.” Reyes took a breath and relaxed. After settling down he began examining the room. “Where are we anyway? I don’t recognize this building.” Kessler smiled. “I would hope you would not recognize it. We are here unofficially at the request of your President. We were assigned this place for its overall shitty appearance from the outside…” Reyes shook his head. “If I had a peso for every U.S. agency that has been in Mexico ‘unofficially’ in the last decade, I would be a rich man!”

Kessler leaned forward and placed some black and white photo’s on the tray table in front of Reyes. “”You have met with this man, correct?” Reyes looked down at the photo and pushed them away. “Before we get into any of that I want to discuss my terms again.” Kessler let out a breath and leaned back in his chair. “The lawyers have already shown you the papers. When we are done with this investigation and secured the indictments, you and your family will be placed in Witness Protection and moved.” Reyes shook his head. “Not good enough. I want guarantees on where we will go. I do not want to go the U.S., the cartels have just as much power there as they do here. I want to go to New Zealand.” Kessler smiled, trying to diffuse his frustration. “Captain we have already told you we don’t handle that part of it. But we did notate your re-location preferences when we passed it on.” Kessler watched as Reyes’ face got red and the numbers on his blood pressure reading begin to climb. “Pedazo de mierda mentirosa.” Reyes cursed under his breath.  “Look you are not doing anybody any good, especially your family, getting upset like this. We are going to honor our side of the agreement but we need you to honor yours, now tell me about the man in this photo, you have met with him before, yes?” Kessler tapped the photo with his finger.

Reyes took a deep breath and picked up the picture. “Yeah. I’ve met with him before. Chandler, Logan Chandler, that was the name he gave me anyways.” Reyes replied. “And how many times have you met with him?” Kessler asked, taking out a small notepad. “Twice. The first time was three months ago and the last time was just a week ago.” Reyes replied. “Are you scheduled to meet with him again?” Kessler asked, still scribbling. “Yeah in three weeks if I have information on the load.” Reyes replied taking a drink of water. “Do you have a location?” Kessler asked. “No. I have a burner number I call. They call back with time and place.” Reyes replied dryly. “Have you seen any of these men with Chandler?” Kessler laid out pictures of Jolt and Tarzan. “Nope. He did have a driver the last time I met with him but I don’t see him here.” Reyes replied laying his head back on the pillow. Kessler gathered the photos and put them back in the folder. “So tell me again what it is exactly what information this Chandler was paying you for.” Reyes let out an exasperated breath. “How many times am I gonna have to tell this fucking story?” Kessler’s smile faded as his frustration with this cranky corrupt mexican cop boiled over. “Look, we have been more than patient with you, not to mention generous. If we wanted we could turn you over your own agency on dozens of corruption charges but instead we have brought you into the fold to work for us. Now the least you can do is help us with the details…” Reyes sat back up in the bed. “They wanted specific intel on anything related to CJNG and only CJNG. Loads, Processing sites, names of command hierarchy, etc. and they paid really fucking good for this intel.  I mean unprecedented prices.” Kessler was scribbling again. “So who are these fucking guys anyways?” Reyes asked. Kessler finished what he was writing and closed his book. “Well, best we can tell they are all Private Security Contractors, all well-trained ex-military spec-ops types.” Reyes shook his head. “You mean Mercenaries?” Kessler got up and started for the door. “Yeah, except these guys are not your average opportunistic war profiteers. Something tells me they have an agenda in mind.” Reyes cocked an eyebrow. “What agenda?” Kessler opened the door. “That is what you are gonna find out for us Captain Reyes at your next meet.” As Kessler walked out the door he could hear Reyes yelling. “I never agreed to that! Dios te maldiga Kessler!” A big grin spread across Agent Kessler’s face as he walked down the hall to his office.

3 weeks later – Near Monterrey, Mexico

Reyes was nervous. Sweat had begun to form on his brow and he felt nauseous. He did not know why he agreed to do this other than he did not want to go to a mexican prison for the next ten to twenty years. Corrupt cops had a lifespan of maybe a week inside if they were lucky. A Former associate, Lieutenant Juan Carlos Ramirez had been busted by an internal affairs investigation and got twelve years. Four days after he went inside they found him strung up in the showers, his cock and balls cut off and placed in his mouth and his intestines wrapped around his throat like a rope. The thought of it almost made Reyes puke. He took a drink of water. “I need another one of them sedatives.” Reyes asked Kessler sitting across from him in the van. “We need you focused and alert, not spaced out on xanax.” Kessler said. “Just take some deep breaths. Jesus, I don’t know why you are so nervous, you been doing this kind of shit your whole career!” Kessler laughed, looking at Reyes with a smirk. Reyes wanted to choke this conceited yanqui gringo. “I am nervous because these are obviously some serious people you stupid fucking pendejo! They think for a second I am a snitch and I am dead!” Reyes took another drink of water and wiped his brow with a handkerchief. “Look, just act and speak normal. Don’t push for anything, just let the conversation flow. Give them the information we gave you and that’s it. Your job is done. And don’t worry, We will be close by in case something goes wrong.” Kessler reassured him. “How will you know something’s gone wrong?” Reyes asked, his eyes wide. Kessler smiled. “If we hear a gunshot or if we find your body hanging from a bridge tomorrow, that’s how we will know.” That is what Kessler wanted to say to this slimy, piece of shit, but he didn’t. “Look, we can’t bug you, they are too smart for that, even with a cell phone, so if you don’t get out of that car in ten minutes we will close in, fair enough?” Color returned to Reyes’ face upon hearing that. He straightened his shirt, checked his hair in the mirror and got out of the van. Kessler watched him as he walked over and got in the car that was to take him to the meet. One of their guys, dressed up like a Mexican Federal Cop, would drive him there. After they had driven away he reached underneath the seat and took out a small flask of Johnny Walker Black. He took a long drink. Twenty years ago Kessler could have never lied to an asset like he had just done with Reyes, but who was he kidding? There would be no saving him if things went sideways. There would be no wit-sec to New Zealand. The only thing that awaited Captain Reyes at the end of this was a Mexican prison and most likely a gruesome death once inside. Kessler expected to feel something for the poor sod. Remorse? Compassion? No, he felt none of it. This job had twisted him inside out and made his heart a stony rock. Besides, Reyes had made his bed. He had made his choices. He was just another corrupt mexican cop. When he was gone there would be a thousand more fighting to take his place. It was a never-ending cycle down here. If these guys killed him, so what, it saved him a ton of paperwork. Just as long as he delivered the information the D.E.A. had given him to deliver, that was all that mattered.

The meet was to take place at a small cantina twenty minutes out-of-town. When Reyes arrived Chandler was already there. Walking in, Reyes noticed Chandler had taken a booth which afforded him a view of the front and back door plus the parking lot. “Am I Late Senor Chandler?” Reyes asked smiling as he sat down. “No, not at all.” Chandler responded. After a few moments, a young, petite waitress comes over and take their order. Chandler orders Pozole’ and a beer while Reyes, still nauseous, just ask for bottled water. “You sure you don’t want to eat something Captain? You look a bit peaked.” Chandler ask. Reyes smiles. “No. Thank you. I think I am trying to come down with something.” Chandler nods in understanding and scoots his chair away from him a few inches. Reyes laughs. “Don’t worry Mr. Chandler I don’t think it is catching.” Logan remains stone faced. “Well, no offense but I don’t want to take any fucking chances, I know how you like the whores…” At first Reyes was inclined to take offense, but then he laughed and realized this is just the way these Americans joked. The waitress came over and sat down the drinks, plus a basket of chips and salsa. “So what you got for us today Captain?” Logan asked. Without missing a beat, Reyes began reciting the story the D.E.A. had him memorize. As he talked a surreal feeling came over him as if he was sitting in an audience, watching himself perform. He suddenly became nauseated and had to excuse himself.

An hour later Logan, Tarzan and Luis were headed back to Camp Inferno. Logan sat  in the back seat with a digital camera scrolling though the stills. “He stayed in that van for twenty minutes then got in another car and came to meet you.” Logan studied the pictures. “I don’t recognize these dudes. They’re not contractors or agency. What about the plates?” Logan asked. “The van and the car were both registered to a leasing company out of Houston. I got my guy digging deeper on it.” Tarzan replied. Logan looked out the window. There was a storm rolling in from the east off the gulf. “What kind of information did he give?” Luis asked, turning around in his seat. Logan did not answer, he was still lost in thought looking at the approaching storm. Luis reached back and touched Logan on the shoulder, stirring him back to the present. “Hey, Logan, what did Reyes say?” Logan took a breath. “Same thing as last time, heavily protected convoy, twelve to sixteen armed men, blah, blah…” Luis turned and looked at Tarzan with a confused look. “Well whats wrong with that? Sounds pretty good to me!” Logan shook his head. “No Rookie, it’s not good. It’s pure bullshit. No way the CJNG is gonna transport the same way after losing 4 tons of fucking product.” Logan replied. “Well, what then? You think he’s trying to set us up?” Luis asked. “There is no thinking about it. I KNOW he is setting us up, the only question is WHY.” Logan replied as rain begin to fall from the storm. Tarzan turned on the wipers and Logan cracked his window. He loved the smell of fresh rain. “Snatch and Grab Job Coming up Tarzan, your specialty…” Logan said as he slapped the big South African on the shoulder from the back seat. Tarzan smiled and gave Logan the thumbs up. “No worries, we will snatch up that little piggy and make him squeal!” Tarzan replied laughing. Luis shook his head. These guys were born too late he often thought, They would have been right at home as 9th Century Vikings.

D.E.A Safehouse – 3 Days Later

Kessler was finishing up some reports when Hopkins, their in-house surveillance man and former CIA spook, knocked on the door. He was a tall, lanky fellow in his mid-forties who was one of the few in the office who still had a full head of hair. A career bachelor, he always was dressed to the nines, able to actually buy decent suits, not JC Penney off-the-rack specials.”Yeah what you got Hop?” Hopkins smirked at the abbreviation. Why the hell couldn’t people just say his whole name? He laid a folder on the desk and plopped down in a chair. “We put a revolving tail on them when they left Monterrey. They drove into Quetzalcóatl International where they split up into three cars. We had a one out of three chance so we stuck with Chandler. After playing ring around the rosy with us for two hours, which included taking a cab to the racetrack and getting on a bus to the library, he ended up here.” Hopkins pointed to a black and white photo of a house at 2713 Rosevine. Kessler stared at the photo. “OK, so he went to a house, Whatta we know about it?” Kessler opened up a roll of life savers and popped one in his mouth. He did not offer Hopkins one. “Well, not a lot. It and three more houses on the same street are all owned by a Construction consortium based out of Panama called OPTIMO TRADING Inc.” Hopkins took off his glasses and began cleaning them with a handkerchief. Kessler sat there waiting for the briefing to continue. “OK, so these mercenaries work for a construction consortium? What am I missing here?” Hopkins continued cleaning his glasses. Making Kessler wait for information he badly needed was the only way he could get back at him for abbreviating his name. It was office politics 101. “Hopkins!” Kessler’s frustration boiled over. “Ok, Ok, don’t blow a gasket!” Hopkins got up from his chair and walked around the desk. “When I saw the OPTIMO name it rung a familiar bell, so I went back to a report I remember EUROPOL put out last year.” Hopkins leafed through the papers in the folder and pulled out one marked CLASSIFIED with the heading Possible Foreign Intelligence Shell Companies Operating in Europe. Kessler read through the entire list and then looked up at Hopkins wide-eyed. “You’re telling me these Mercs are working for the CIA?” Hopkins nodded. “I called in one of my last favors for this and what I learned amazed even me.” Hopkins walked over and sat back down.

Sensing how big a favor Hopkins had just done him, Kessler loosened up the formality. “You wanna drink?” Kessler opened the bottom file drawer and pulled out a bottle of scotch and two glasses. “Sure, why not, it’s only ten in the morning.” Kessler poured each of them a mild snort. “So tell me what is so amazing about what is going on at 2713 Rosevine?” Hopkins sipped the scotch and leaned back in the chair. “Before I do, our prior agreement still stands, yes?” Kessler nodded. “Of course, mums the word!” Hopkins smiled. “OK, You joined the DEA in what? Ninety-One, Ninety-Two?” Hopkins asked. “March of Ninety-One, why?” Kessler replied arching an eyebrow. “Did you ever hear about a joint CIA/DEA-Operation called Hallowed Thunder?” Hopkins asked, taking another drink. Kessler shook his head in disbelief smiling.”You’re shitting me! The CIA and DEA actually worked together in a meaningful way?” Hopkins kept a solemn face. “Yeah. They did.” Kessler’s smile faded. “Doing what?” Hopkins stood up and walked to the window, which had been painted over with a paint the color of faded limes.”Consolidating the Cocaine trade in South America.” Hopkins replied still staring out the window. Kessler gave Hopkins a crazy look. “Consolidating? As in ensuring there is only one Cartel? One Boss?” Hopkins turned around and looked at Kessler for a long moment. Then the proverbial  light bulb went off.  “Holy Shit!” Kessler exclaimed. He felt as if he had just been punched in the stomach. Hopkins smiled. “I know it’s a bitter pill. Especially from the law enforcement side. But you gotta remember there are bigger things at stake here. After all, we are talking about an income stream that can prop up the entire U.S. Economy! Illegal or not, that is worth protecting.” Hopkins stopped at the door.”Now remember our deal Kessler. You never heard this. I was never here…” As Hopkins left the office Kessler reached for the wastebasket and vomited.

Just down the hall Captain Reyes sat in his “holding cell”, which was nothing more than a twelve by twelve square foot room with a locked door. He had been sitting up in bed reading a novel given to him by one of the agents, The Godfather by Mario Puzo when he began overhearing a conversation through the paper-thin walls that was taking place down the hall. The D.E.A. had made a mistake in choosing this location he thought to himself. In Mexico, unlike the United States, construction standards were lower. Only exterior walls were insulated, not interior. Combine this fact with the cheap sheet rock that was often used and Conversations had in rooms down the hall could be heard very easily, as if you were present in the room. Reyes took a pen and in the back of his book jotted down the following: Operation Hallowed Thunder.


To Be Continued…

Double-Blind (Chapter III)

A Modern Crime Novelette




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….



Double-Blind (Chapter II)

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:


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….

Double-Blind (Chapter I)

A Modern Crime Novelette




15 miles south of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico – Present Day

Logan Chandler sat in the back seat of a glossy black Cadillac Escalade parked on the shoulder of Highway 1. He was watching the wind whip up miniature dust devils in the dry flats on both sides of the highway. The scene took him back to his childhood growing up in rural West Texas. Him and his younger brother would sit on the back porch waiting for one to appear so they could go chase it.”The wind is a real bitch today.” Luis the new driver commented, snapping Logan out of his daydream. Logan looked up but did not say anything to the kid. He found people who felt the need to fill quiet, serene moments with useless chatter annoying as hell. Luis was the newest member of the crew, coming on-board after their old driver, Mike T, had taken a gig in London guarding some rich asshole who had made his fortune in plastics. Luis had done a dime in the Army Rangers with two tours in A-stan, so he wasn’t completely green behind the ears. As Logan began to find interest again in the dust devils, two white trucks pierced the heat waves up on the horizon. As they passed Logan could see The Policia Federal Star emblazoned on the truck door and an officer in full ballistic gear manning a M-240 belt-fed Machine Gun standing up in the bed. The trucks made a wide u-Turn, both of them turning on their overhead lights with one parking in front and another behind the Escalade. Luis shifted nervously in his seat and began to fidget.”Take it easy kid, this is all for show.” Logan said flatly, a hint of aggravation in his voice. After a few minutes, an older, fat hispanic man got out of the passenger side of the truck parked in the rear and slowly walked up. After peering inside the window, he opened the door and poked his head inside, letting the over-heated air and stirred up dust flood the cab. “Gentleman, how are we today?” The Mexican policeman asked in perfect English, smiling broadly. Logan invited him inside to sir down. It took a moment for the man to maneuver his wide ass into the seat. While this was happening, Logan had to smile at his appearance. He resembled the stereo-typical fat mexican cop in a bad 80’s action movie. He was wearing a pair of Gold Oakley shades too small for his bloated face, with a crew cut of thinning salt and pepper hair. His shirt was unbuttoned to mid-chest exposing two large gold chains tangled in a mass of curly black and grey chest hair. Noticing the twin silver bars on his lapel, had to stifle a giggle as he responded “Fine Captain, and you?”  “Me? I am always good Mr. Chandler, always good!” The cop continued to smile revealing, not surprisingly, two gold teeth. After a few moments of silence, Logan sensed the cop was waiting on Logan to do something, so he casually reached under the seat and grabbed an overstuffed envelope of cash and handed it to him. The cops eyes lit up like a child in a candy store and he quickly started counting. After ensuring all of the Fifty-thousand dollars was there, the cop took the money out of the envelope, rolled it up with a rubber band and stuck it in his pocket. He then reached into his shirt and unfolded a small piece of paper. “The convoy from Culiacan will be here tomorrow night. We do not have a concrete time, but typically these things happen around midnight, sometimes a couple of hours later. Their Destination is a warehouse on the north side of town where they offload and prep for transport across the border. The semi-truck will be escorted by three to four smaller trucks. Expect between 12 and 16 armed men with automatic weapons and grenades. The estimated Load is four tons.” Reyes handed Logan the Map. Logan removed his sunglasses and quickly studied it, nodding his head with approval. “Are we clear on how you are to report this terrible crime?” Logan asked smiling. Reyes smiled back. “Of course. Two rival cartel’s fighting for control of the lucrative smuggling routes, nothing more…” Reyes replied waving his hand as if he was a magician willing the story into being. “We still on for next month?” Logan asked. Reyes smiled.”God Willing Mr. Chandler, God Willing.” As Reyes opened the door another blast of hot wind breached the cab. Logan and Luis watched Reyes walk back to his truck. “I will wager five thousand dollars right now that this time next month we will be meeting a different Police Captain.” Logan said as he placed the map in a small black portfolio on the seat. After the two trucks rolled by, Luis made a U-turn in the road and headed into town. “Why is that? Because you have to pay off more than one cop?” Luis asked innocently, looking at Logan in the rear-view mirror. Logan shook his head at the rookie’s inexperience. “No, because despite all of our precautions, the Cartel will eventually discover the leak and plug it.” Logan replied flatly. Logan caught a glimpse of two more dust devils dancing out in the flats like carefree children and again drifted away into his memories.

Fifteen minutes later they pulled into the driveway of  2713 Rose Vine, a modest two-story affair on the north-eastern side of town. The entire neighborhood had been built-in the nineties in response to the housing crisis for middle and upper management executives of the big three auto-makers. Of course the Big three had all but gone away in Mexico, but the houses still stood. The Company that owned this particular house (and the three across the street as well) was listed as “OPTIMO TRADING INC.” On paper, they were a consortium of construction firms in Mexico and Central America. Of course if one looked deeper they would find that Optimo was what folks in the agency called a “Paper Tiger” ie, a “Ghost Firm”, a “Shell Company.” One of hundreds the CIA had put into place beginning in the fifties to battle the rising surge of Communism in the Southern hemisphere. Logan and Luis walked to the front door and looked up into the small black bubble that was a CCTV camera. An electronic buzzing could be heard and Logan turned the door knob and walked inside. For all the landscaping and formal appearance of the house on the outside, inside, it was vacant and sparsely furnished. The only real furniture was in the dining room where a conference table, several chairs, a  large 60 inch flat screen TV and a whiteboard sat. As Luis was walking to the kitchen he noticed activity in one of the downstairs bedrooms that served as the Security room. Two geeky IT guys were arguing while sitting in front of a bank of CCTV monitors. When one of them saw Luis, he quickly slammed the door. As Luis and Logan walked into the kitchen to get a beer, they were met by the agency honcho, James L. McRay, known affectionately by those that worked under him as “Mr. Skeeter”. McRay was 53 years old and a dyed in the wool Company man. He had begun his career in 1981 and made a name for himself during the Iran-Contra affair, being one of the few agents that escaped with his name and job intact. Built solid and low to the ground like a tank, the last five years of desk jockeying had betrayed his athletic build, creating a slight paunch. Combined with his thinning grey hair and glasses, on the street one might assume he was nothing but an old, out of shape accountant. But Logan was not fooled. McRay was nothing short of a stone cold killer. It was said that during his “Counter-Interrogation”  training on the farm, which taught agents how to withstand and if possible, escape interrogation, McRay had killed one if his mock interrogators by stabbing him in the neck with a pencil. He claimed he did not know it was a mock training scenario. “So how was the good Captain Reyes?” Skeeter asked, sitting down at the kitchen table and opening a bottle of Budweiser. “Good. No surprises. He offered a map this time, which I thought was a nice trade for $50 Thousand Dollars.” Logan replied smiling, taking a sip of beer and sliding the map across the table. Skeeter laughed as he unfolded it. “And you were clear on how he was to report the hijacking?” Skeeter asked, looking at Logan over his glasses. “Yes. Two rival cartel factions vying for control of the lucrative smuggling routes…blah, blah, blah.” Skeeter nodded his head and sat down the map. “So are we all set for tomorrow night then?” Skeeter looked at Logan then Luis. “Oh Yeah we are ready.” Logan replied, leaning back in his chair drinking his beer. Skeeter nodded and shifted his gaze to Louis. “What about you? Logan tells me you have combat experience but have never did any kind of work like this?”  “No Sir, but I am a fast learner.” Luis replied with a nervous smile. Skeeter got up from the table, tossing the empty bottle of beer in the garbage and then looking at Logan.”You better run him through some live fire drills tomorrow with the rest of the team.” Skeeter walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs to his office. “Damn kid, you need to work on your confidence.” Logan replied, finishing off the beer. Luis nodded his head, embarrassed. “I am sorry man…” Logan interrupted him. “Don’t worry about it. Get your driver hat back on and let’s go meet the rest of the Hole-in-the-wall Gang.”

They drove east out-of-town for around thirty minutes before coming to a small dirt road with no markers. “Stop here for a minute.” Logan said.  It was a cloudless day, with the temperature hovering around a hundred degrees. Heat waves danced on the highway and a blistering wind out of the south rocked the vehicle. “Before we go any further, I am gonna need your phone.” Luis nodded and handed it over. Logan promptly removed the battery and slipped it into a silver mylar bag with his. “You would be surprised at how high-tech the Cartels have become.” Logan said as he placed the bag in the center console. As they continued to drice in silence, Luis studied Logan out of the corner of his eye. He was a big guy, around six-four and two hundred and thirty pounds. He had light brown hair that was cropped close on the sides. He always wore a pair of Oakley Turbines and a sweat stained and ragged Multi-Cam ball cap with a subdued Texas Flag Patch. “You are going to come to a metal gate up at the top of this hill. Stop and I will call them to come meet us.” Luis nodded at the instruction. As they approached the fence and gate, Luis could tell right away it was of Military construction. Five minutes after Logan got off the phone with somebody called ‘Tarzan’, the unmistakable hum and chop of a helicopter could be heard on the horizon. When the helo finally landed on the other side of the gate, Luis had to do a serious double-take. It was a fully armed MH-6  little bird, aka “The Killer Egg.” The helo bristled with twin GAU-19 .50 Cal Gatling Guns and 2.75 inch Hydra rocket pods. The crew had also went the extra mile and painted a red and white shark mouth over the entire nose. As if that was not enough, a burly lumberjack looking guy with a full black beard down to his chest got out of the passenger side of the helo and unlocked the gate. Logan jumped out of the SUV and they both shook hands and embraced. After a few minutes of conversation, Logan came back to the vehicle. “Just follow them up to the camp house.” Logan said placing a pinch of Copenhagen in his lip. “What’s up with the helo?” Luis asked. “Oh, just a little added security. You gotta remember, we are playing in the cartel’s backyard here.” Logan replied smiling. “One of the many perks when you do contract work for the agency, right?” Luis asked. “Agency? What agency are you referring to Luis, the Employment agency?” Logan replied, taking off his sunglasses and giving him a wink. Luis smiled. “Yeah, that’s the one I mean.”


Captain Jorge Reyes was looking forward to a wild night with his twenty-three year old mistress,”Jasmine”. Of course that was not her real name, it was a “stage” name, but he like to call her that. Thursdays were always reserved for the mistresses, while the weekends were for the wives, in Reyes’ case, his third wife, Gabriella. Both women were half his age, but he stopped worrying about appearances long ago. The security team escorted him to the townhouse and took up positions around the block as he walked up to the front door and rang the bell. Jasmine answered the door in a Japanese kimono that was untied. “I was wondering when you were going to show up papi…” she purred. Reyes smiled and kissed her, smelling the cigarette smoke and tequilla on her breath. He then motioned for the security team to go in and clear the house. After a few minutes, the team leader gave the all clear to Reyes. He nodded, closed and locked the door and then followed Jasmine into the house and up the stairs to her bedroom, both of them shedding clothes as they went. Once they reached the bedroom, Jasmine led him over to the bed, laying him down flat on his back. At first she teased him by running her long nails over his hairy chest and stomach, scratching as she went. After a few moments, Reyes’ lust boiled over and he impatiently tried to take control, but she smiled and shook  her head, placing him back down on the bed. “Close your eyes and relax…” Reyes relented and closed his eyes, letting Jasmine play her little games. “You really are driving me crazy my love…” he said. After a few minutes, he felt her hands stop exploring and then suddenly, something stung him in the side of his neck. “Son of a bitch” were the only words he got out and then everything slowed down to half-speed. As he put his hand up to his neck to see what stung him, he suddenly felt dizzy. He tried to get up off the bed, but his legs would not respond. The last thing he saw before a warm blanket of black washed over him was Jasmine standing there naked by the bed with a syringe in one hand and a cell phone in the other. “Yeah, it’s done, come get this fat piece of shit out of my house.”

To Be Continued…

A Border Redemption (Chapter V)

A Western Novelette

Part 2 of the Border Trilogy

Chapter V

La Voyant Ranch

It was a few hours before dawn and the cabin was dark and quiet. Everybody was fast asleep except the three men on watch at the windows. Creed had been on guard for an hour when Eve came over and brought him a cup of coffee and some fried cornbread. “My mom’s recipe.” she whispered, brushing her hair back from her eyes. Creed admired her beauty in the dim shadow of the candles. “Thanks. How’s Tick?” Creed whispered in reply. “He’s resting. The bleeding has stopped but he still has a fever.” Creed noticed the look of concern on Eve’s face. “Will he be OK you think?” Creed asked. “The fever worries me. It means there is an infection. He really needs a Doctor.” Creed just shook his head in frustration. “You think we can get out of here soon?” Eve asked. “I hope…” Creed did not finish his sentence as a sound outside caught his attention. “Pssssst” Creed got Knowles attention at the next window and Grissom’s at the back. Instead of talking Creed pointed to his ears and then outside. “Eve go take cover by the bunks and keep that revolver handy.” Creed whispered. Eve nodded her head and quickly moved over to the bunk with her waiting mother who already had a shotgun loaded and ready. Knowles, Grissom and Creed all shouldered their carbines and went on high alert at their windows scanning the area. It was a moonless night, and with the combination of the pre-dawn hour, the darkness outside was a sheet of complete blackness. Creed cleared his mind and listened. There! The sound he heard earlier, a rustling. Creed slowly cocked the hammer on his carbine and aligned the sights, scanning with the barrel of the gun. The sound, as best he could tell was coming from in front of the corrals next to the barn. Movement in the shadows! Creed aligned the sights and right before he squeezed the trigger Grissom whispered. “Hold your Fire! Coyotes! They are eating on the dead horses!” Creed let out a sigh of relief and relaxed the hammer on the carbine and withdrew the barrel back inside.

Creed shot a glance over to Grissom, who was smiling. “I guess we forgot there was half-a-dozen rotting horses out there!” Creed smiled at the remark. He glanced over at Eve and Sarah who were also smiling in relief. “Well since we are all up now, I think this calls for some coffee.” Rojo said, climbing out of his bunk. Creed was just about to say “I would love some” when the cabin exploded in gunfire. Knowles and Grissom were already calling out targets before Creed could get back behind his carbine. “Looks like they got reinforcements!  I count six guns back here!” Knowles yelled as he returned fire. “I count eight, No! Make it Ten! Jesus! Where did they all come from?” Grissom exclaimed as he returned fire as quickly as he could. By the time Creed had drawn a bead with this rifle, there were upwards of twenty mounted gunman surrounding the bunk house. Splinters of wood flew as bullets pierced the cabin. The women yelled in sheer terror as bullets impacted all around them. Rojo quickly herded the women into a corner away from the windows. He then took one of the mattresses off the bunks and laid it over them. He repeated this with Tick. “They are setting up some kind of barricade back here!” Knowles yelled as light first appeared outside and things could be seen more clearly. “Same thing in the front!” Creed replied. Creed watched in horror as three wagons were rolled into place not twenty yards from the bunk house. “Ammo!” Grissom yelled. Rojo crawled over and retrieved the saddlebag Knowles had brought and flung it over. “This all we got?!” Grissom looked up in distress. “Si!” Rojo replied. Grissom shook his head in disgust and continued firing. After the wagons were rolled into place, Newton and his posse stopped firing. Creed likewise ordered everybody to cease-fire. After a few moments, Creed watched two men ride up and dismount behind the wagons. Directly, a voice pierced the silence. “This is John Randolph speaking. I need to speak to the man in charge in there.” Grissom and Creed looked at each other in amazement. “This is Creed La Voyant Speaking Randolph.” Creed yelled out through the window. “Listen son, this thing has gotten way out of hand. I don’t want to see anybody else killed. So here is what I propose: You hand over the nigger and the mexican and we let Sarah and Eve go back home safe and sound.” Randolph replied. Creed shook his head in disbelief at the gall of Randolph. “That dirty sum-bitch!” Grissom exclaimed, shaking his head. “Tell me something Randolph, how many people out there know why you want this land so bad?” Creed asked. There was a long pause. “Well, I guess now, just me and you.” Randolph replied amused. ” Go ahead and laugh, you’re finished Randolph regardless what you do to Rojo and Tick, you  are still going down for all the evil you have done in this town! Right now John Lewis is in Austin at the State Attorneys office with a certain black ledger, sound familiar?” Creed replied. Five minutes passed in silence. The next voice was that of the hired killer, R.T. Newton. “OK Indian, you have heard the offer, either you send out the nigger and mexican and we let the women go or we just blow you all to hell, your choice. You got two minutes to decide.” Newton held up several sticks of dynamite wrapped together with a long fuse for all to see to give a visual aid to the seriousness of the threat.

Feeling like he needed to stall for time, Creed quickly answered. “One of the men you want is badly wounded and cannot be moved…” Newton could be heard laughing. “Oh Yeah, the gut shot nigger, forgot about that. That’s OK, you can just lay him out here and we will finish him off…” Creed’s anger boiled over immediately. “I’ll be damned if I will! And you all can go to hell!” Newton continued to laugh. “OK, have it your way. It is everybody’s funeral in that cabin in exactly one minute.” Rojo immediately stood up. “Tell him I am coming out, but only after the women are allowed to ride off safely.” Creed and Grissom traded glances, frustrated. “We don’t have a choice kid. The bastard has us by the balls.” Grissom whispered. Suddenly Sarah stood up. “Tell Randolph I want to talk to him face to face.” Creed looked at Sarah for a long moment. “It’s risky.” Grissom replied, looking at Creed then at Sarah. Creed paused and then yelled out. “Sarah Patterson wants to talk to John Randolph, face to face. I am sending her out, unarmed. Everybody hold your fire!” “You are trying my patience kid!” Newton replied from behind one of the wagons. Without warning and with the boldness of a lioness, Sarah burst out the door before Creed or Grissom could stop her. “John Randolph stop hiding behind your attack dogs and come out here and face me!” Sarah yelled out, her face red with anger. “Knowles, you and Rojo keep a sharp eye out back there, they may try something!” Grissom whispered. Meanwhile, Eve was glued to the window, watching her mother intently.

After a few minutes, Randolph came slowly walking out from behind the wagons, two armed goons following him. He stopped ten feet from where Sarah stood. “OK Sarah, here I am, what’s on your mind?” Sarah took a deep breath and stared at Randolph for a long minute, the anger seething out of her. “John Randolph for the last six years I refused to believe the truth about what happened to my husband. But then yesterday as me and my daughter were comforting Marshall Prescott’s widow and she told me the rumors that were going around town about you, I realized how big a fool I have been. I refused to acknowledge the truth about what you really are Randolph.” Sarah had a look of utter disgust on her face. “And what am I Sarah?” Randolph asked, an impatient smirk on his face. “A Murderer.” she spat., glaring at him. Randolph chuckled. “You know every man who has ever accomplished something great in life have had accusations thrown at them. The Carnegie’s, The Rockefeller’s…” Sarah interrupted him. “Oh For God’s sakes Randolph! Stop your illusions of grandeur! You are nowhere close to an Andrew Carnegie or John Rockefeller! You are a lucky tin pan who turned into a crook, pure and simple. You have lied, cheated, extorted, bribed and murdered to get where you are and I hope to see you swinging by the end of a rope before all of this is over! And if you think me and my daughter are simply going to crawl away like whooped dogs while you and your goon squad murder those brave men in there you are sadly mistaken!” When Sarah finished her speech, you could have heard a mouse fart. Everybody, including his own men, were now looking at Randolph to reply while Sarah stood there with her arms crossed, a look of stern defiance on her face. Visibly agitated and embarrassed, Randolph took two-steps toward Sarah. As he raised his hand as if he were going to strike her an arrow burst out of his chest from behind, spraying Sarah with blood. Randolph’s eyes went wide as he looked down to see the black flint head  protruding from his chest. “Indians!” Randolph’s men yelled as they dove under wagons and Gunfire erupted from every direction. Grissom quickly went out and grabbed Randolph and Sarah and pulled them back into the bunk house. Creed took one look at Randolph and knew he would not live long, the arrow was too close to the heart. Knowles and Rojo had already took up positions at the windows and were firing at any of Randolph’s men that were still out in the open. Creed yelled at Rojo who was manning the back window. “How many riders back there?”. “I count ten, no twelve!” Rojo replied. Creed smiled. His uncle had been true to his word. He had returned, and in the nick of time.

It did not take long for the two dozen mounted braves to over run the disorganized posse. A large majority of the men were farmers and merchants that had no stomach for killing. Most dropped their guns and ran for town while others cowered under wagons and whimpered like children. Knowles put on his hat and holstered his pistol. “I am gonna go out there and make sure all the men who surrendered get treated fairly. Gotta have some semblance of Law and Order round here.” As Knowles walked out the door, Creed, Grissom and Rojo walked over to Ticks bunk. All three men removed their hats as they approached. They all knew from the way Eve was crying that he was gone. “When did he pass?” Creed asked quietly. “About the time the fight started.” Eve replied as she hugged him. Creed’s heart swelled with grief. Tick was the one who had found him wandering in the desert after his parent’s were slaughtered over three years ago. He had been the kindest to him out of all the men in Diaz’s gang, often sharing his breakfast and supper with him. Creed reached over and gently closed Tick’s eyes and then covered his head with the bed sheet. “Do you know what his real name was?” Eve asked, looking at all three men, all of their eyes wet with tears. “Tick was all we ever knew.” Suddenly Sarah’s voice broke the stillness. “Confess you son-of-a-bitch! Confess your sins before you go to meet your maker!” Creed jumped up and was surprised to see Randolph on the floor, still alive, with Sarah towering over him, shaking a cocked revolver at his head. “Confess you had a hand in murdering my husband and Marshall Prescott in cold blood! Confess right now!” Randolph’s face was ashen gray from the blood loss, his eyes going white as they rolled back in his head. His tongue, hanging loose from his mouth like a sick dog.  “Sarah.” Creed said in a clam and quiet voice. Sarah, surprised, spun around to face Creed, the revolver still in her hand. “Stay out of this Creed! That Bastard, That Monster, is going to confess!” Sarah’s face was contorted with hate, her eyes red and swollen from crying, her hands shaking from anger. “Sarah, how about we put down that gun before somebody else get’s hurt. He’s gonna be dead in a few minutes anyway Sarah, there’s no need for it…” Creed hoped he was making sense. After a few moments he took a deep breath as Sarah lowered the gun and handed it to Creed. Sarah then dropped to her knees in front of Randolph, who by now had died from massive blood loss. Between the great sobs and wails Sarah would try to speak but her pain was so great Creed could not make it out. Soon Eve came over and kneeled down with her mother and held her. Looking over at Randolph and then at Creed, Eve comforted her mother. “He’s dead mama. He’s dead. He will never be able to do this to anybody’s husband or Father ever again.” Both women cried for several minutes as Creed took a blanket and covered Randolph’s body.

Creed walked outside to find his uncle, Spotted Rabbit and Marshall Knowles conversing over the body of four dead men. Creed recognized one of them as R.T. Newton, Randolph’s hired gun. He guessed the other three were part of his outfit. “These four refused to lay down their weapons, fought it out and died like the dogs they were.” Spotted Rabbit spat. “Bury them with the rest.” Creed said as he surveyed the carnage. “How many dead?” Creed asked Knowles. Knowles shrugged. “I would guess around thirty, but I haven’t counted. What about Inside?” The look on Creed’s face told Knowles and Spotted Rabbit all they need to know and both bowed their heads in respect. “What about Randolph?” Knowles asked. “About ten minutes ago.” Creed said softly. “Good riddance.” Knowles replied coldly. “Tick was one tough sumbitch to have survived that long gut shot, most men would have died within an hour or two.” Knowles said as he put a plug of tobacco in his cheek. Creed nodded his head in agreement. “Well, on the bright side we won’t have to go to the trouble of a trial or building another damn gallows.” Knowles said smiling. “But, we still have a problem with Spotted Rabbit and his outfit being wanted renegade indians who have escaped an Indian Reservation. By law, I should arrest them and have them transported back to Mescalero. But hell, the way I see it, what you done here today makes up for all that Spotted Rabbit, so here is what I am going to do. I am gonna get on my horse and ride into town for a few hours. When I return, I want you and your boys Gone, and by Gone I mean out of Texas, comprende?” Spotted Rabbit nodded and turned to go talk to his braves. Knowles and Creed walked over the Barn where his horse was stabled. “I expect to hear back from John Lewis and the State’s Attorney’s office any day now.” Creed said, tightening up Knowles saddle straps. “Yeah, it’s a shame that bastard Randolph won’t be able to stand trial for the murders.” Knowles replied. “Yeah, but the main thing is the people who were taken advantage of in this town will get justice. That ledger proves he cheated this town out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hopefully a judge will give that money back to the people who were cheated.” Creed replied as Knowles mounted his horse. “I hope so Creed. Now don’t forget. Your Uncle and his outfit need to be gone. Preferably Mexico.” Creed nodded and Knowles lit out for town. Creed walked over to find his Uncle readying several horses. “I knew I would see you again Uncle.” Creed said smiling. Spotted Rabbit smiled back as he holstered a rifle in a saddle scabbard. “What are your plans?” Creed asked excitedly. “We will ride South.” Spotted Rabbit replied. “And you? What are your plans Nephew? To become the next Texas Oil Tycoon of Shafter?” Spotted Rabbit eyed Creed and smiled. “Honestly Uncle I have not thought about it. I just want to get things made right for the people who live here.” Creed replied. “Well with John Randolph out-of-the-way I am sure things will start to improve.” Spotted Rabbit replied. “And do I have you  and your bow to thank for that?” Creed eyed his Uncle smiling. Spotted Rabbit just smiled and mounted his horse. “Until next time Nephew!” Spotted rabbit yelled raising his hand as a red cloud of dust billowed into the air and thirteen riders and two loaded mules headed south to Old Mexico.

6 Months Later

Mayor John Lewis, Creed, Grissom, and Marshall Knowles sat outside at a picnic table under a large Elm tree in front of the main house. “So with the ledger, The State’s Attorney General was able to take it before a judge and seize all of Randolph’s cash and assets?” Creed asked. “Well, of course Randolph’s family is fighting all of this in court, but the bottom line is yes, that is exactly what he did. Plus the judge awarded all the business owners that Randolph had extorted all these years large cash settlements.” Lewis replied. “What about Sarah and Eve?” Creed asked.”The judge awarded them the silver mine that Randolph stole from her husband three years ago and a very large unspecified cash settlement.” Lewis replied. As Creed listened, his gaze shifted to the small hill behind his house where he had built a memorial for his dear friend, Tick. It consisted of a polished wrought iron fence and gate with a beautiful marble bench and a Tombstone, six feet high. The inscription on the tombstone simply read “Tick  1860-1903. A True and Noble Friend.” As Creed looked at the Memorial, his gaze shifted farther into the distance, where several oil derricks could be seen dotting the landscape. “Creed, excuse me, are you OK?” Lewis asked. Creed suddenly snapped out of his daydream. “Ah, yes. Sorry, I drifted off there.” Creed said smiling. “I was asking about the ranch, how are things going?” Lewis asked. Creed looked at Grissom to take over for him, still lost in his daydream. “Well, we have five wells producing right now and have plans to drill three more by years end.” Grissom said smiling. “Outstanding!” Lewis responded. Obviously happy at the revenue that was going to eventually produce for the town.”And Marshall Knowles, do you have any information on the band of renegade indians that attacked three months ago?” Knowles shot a glance over at Creed who was still lost in thought. “No, last I heard they were seen in Old Mexico.” Knowles replied with a smirk. “Well, let’s hope they stay on that side of the river.” Lewis replied standing up, signifying the meeting was over. All men shook hands and the Mayor and Marshall Knowles were driven back to town by their personal driver in one of the first Model T Fords in Shafter.

Creed and Grissom stood watching the automobile for quite a while, both of them amazed at the contraption. After a few minutes, Eve came from the house and coming up behind Creed, put her arms around his waist. Creed turned around to face her and smiled. “And what did our Good Mayor have to say?” Eve asked. “Oh, just that Randolph’s assets have been seized by the State and all the people in town that got swindled, including you and your mom, are going to be made whole.” Eve’s face lit up. “Oh Creed! Mom is going to be so happy!” She started to hug Creed and Creed suddenly recoiled, afraid he might hurt the growing baby inside her womb. Both of them looked at each other and grinned. “It’s OK, you’re not gonna hurt the baby!” she whispered in his ear. He smiled back and hugged her, lifting her off her feet and spinning her around as she giggled in delight. Suddenly in the distance, a loud explosion could be heard. As they all three turned around, they saw a fountain of oil spraying into the air out of one of the derricks. “There she is Creed! What did I tell ya! Number three hit!” Grissom yelled laughing, “Come on Boy!” Creed gave Eve one last kiss and set off toward the derrick, he and Grissom running at full sprint toward the derrick. Eve stood and watched them for a long while, the black oil raining down on her in a mist. She had never been so happy in all her life. She put her hand on her belly and felt the baby give a small kick. Eve smiled as she walked back to the house, content for the present and the future.

The End