Falling out“T, this isn’t good man.” Rob whispers, while watching the group of ‘bangers’ climbing out of the back of a truck.
“Yeah, I kinda figured that one out already.” The sound of gunfire in the distance is unmistakable. Machine guns and other tools of war in use in a Mexican border town not very far away from this clandestine meeting T had set up through a dealer in El Paso. The group standing before T is a mixed bag of trouble, most dressed in jeans and fatigue jackets, some wearing sneakers, others, combat styled boots, but all carrying Kalashnikov’s or M-4 variants. The shortest and ugliest of them carries only a pistol on his hip. The badge of military leadership in most Central American countries.
“You Ted, Gringo?” asks the pistol carrying member of the group facing them.
“Yeah, I’m Ted. What’s up with all the back-up?”
“Don’t know you Gringo, but the Bruja say you malvado.”
“The Bruja? The American girl?” ‘Someone has been speaking out of turn, trying to cover her bases.’ He thinks to himself
“Si!, Loca puta thinks she own us. Say you wanna own us. We gonna own you.”
“You got it wrong. I don’t want to own anyone. I just want your Jefe to know that he is getting played.”
“Played? Who playing? We kill. They kill. No one playing.”
“And you guys are killing each other because the Bruja has been lying to Jefe Cortez. She is telling Jefe Jorge what you guys are going to do, and they come out to kill you. She is trying to get you guys to do to each other what she wants to do to the both of you, so she doesn’t have to get her hands dirty.”
“Why you say this? Whachoo want from us if you no wanna own us?”
“Nothing you don’t want. I have No Familia, just me and my brother here. Bruja wants us to do a job we don’t want to do. If you guys did to her, what she has been doing to you,,, That is all I would want.”
“That be why Bruja say you malvado. You want her dead, don’choo? And she know it.”
“Dead would work. Ruined just as good.”
“Ruined? No se la palabra.”
“Estropeado o arruinada” says Rob. “Habla espanol, a poco,” he follows up, knowing full well his grammar is off.
“Gringo loco peinsa que puede hablar! Que Raro!” the banger yells back to his gang. All of them laugh. Its not a friendly laugh. Rob understands enough to blush in embarrassment. “Muerta o arruinada,” he says, rolling the double r heavily. “Mi Jefe don’t like her. I don’t like her. She brings us nice guns, but wants more. I talk to Jefe. You say she tells Jefe Jorge what we do?”
“Muy mal. That get mi amigos dead. Go back, I talk to Jefe, I call you, Si?” he says, waving his men back onto the truck.
“I’ll wait to hear from you.” T says, then walks backwards to the car Rob drove here. Rob backs to the car as well, knowing that to turn may get both of them shot. Once back in the car, Rob backs out of the lot slowly, never taking his eyes off the truck of bangers. Back on the road, he heads for the border and back into El Paso. Crossing the border this late, they are ordered out of the car so a drug-dog can check it out. Not carrying anything, and having US ID’s, they are allowed through.
As they approach the hotel, T’s phone rings. The number is unlisted.
“Ted, just what the fuck were you doing in Juarez? “ Shouts Andrea Spencer.
“Not that it’s really any concern of yours, but I am getting intel that you won’t provide.” He says calmly, adjusting the truth to suit his need. He did get Intel in one sense, now knowing she had planted seeds in hopes of getting him killed if he approached the Cartels.
“You’re going to get dead if you go over there again. You don’t do me any good dead. And where the hell is Jim at? He isn’t with you, I know.” ‘She slipped, she doesn’t know everything. Her webs are breaking up’ T thinks to himself.
“G is still in Tucson. Again, not that it’s any concern of yours, but he is putting the polish on the new plane and flying system.” He figures she is likely aware of the new plane: he isn’t certain how, but she has means and has proven that despite her webs showing breaks. Even now, she has information flowing in or she wouldn’t have known they had just crossed the border. Playing that he is working for her is essential to his plan at this point.
“Is that what you guys are going to use, the new plane, not the warthog?”
“That depends on what I find out over the next couple of days.” He says, making a bid for a some lee-way in her harassment. “It may be a couple of sorties, or we could make it a royal flush, depending on what I find out. Give me some slack woman, and let me do what I need to.”
“I don’t trust you right now Ted. My guts are telling me you are up to no good. Stay out of Juarez and I will give you intel.”
“I don’t need to go back. I set up some cameras to get what I need,” he lies, “and I will be flying a set of eyes in the meantime. I don’t trust you either. Send me what you have and I will see if it meshes with what my cameras are seeing. “ Rob is listening in and shaking his head. T looks at him with a raised eyebrow, asking ‘what?’, non-verbally. Rob taps his wrist twice, then twice again ‘More time!’ Nodding, he says “G will probably be headed this way at the end of the week, as long as he doesn’t have any more problems. Just in case, give us two weeks and send me good intel, and I will let you know what our plans are. “ Rob nods his approval.
She hesitates in her answer, “You’re pushing the envelope, but I will give you two weeks. I’ll send over some maps and paperwork on what I know. Just stay the fuck out of Juarez or I will have you killed.” And she cuts the call without waiting for a response.
“La Bruja Speaks!” says Rob. “I heard that threat at the end and wasn’t trying.” “See what I meant when I said I would have no problems pulling the trigger on that bitch?”
“I can see why you and G are tossing a coin over it. If I had more dealings with her, we would have to arm wrestle over it.”
Laughing “I would so lose that contest. Ya gotta make it fair, ‘cause you are going to be dealing with her obliquely over the next two weeks. That is, if the Cartels don’t get to her first.”
“I would love to be a fly on the wall at Jefe Cortez’s place right now. “Rob says, as he pulls the car into a space near their hotel room.
“I wouldn’t. Chances are Cortez is going to start shooting things in anger. Hopefully his boys will get him calmed down and thinking before he goes completely ballistic.”
“Aw shit no! Him going off the hook would tip our hand to her and we don’t know what cards she is holding yet.” Rob says, then adds. “And she has a lot more resources than we do; she’s been here longer to get set up with better eyes and ears than we have.”
“As long as Cortez keeps his cool, we’ll be okay. She may not trust me right now, but she really doesn’t have any reason to think I just jumped the shark on her.” A pause. “And right now, she thinks she set up an insurance policy against me, by feeding that bullshit to Cortez.”
“True. Calling us malvado gave those dogs over there a reason to listen, not a reason to shoot us on sight, like she had planned. She must be against the wall, because she isn’t thinking clearly; that’s what I see.”
“Oh, she is against the wall. That wall went up when California seceded. The clock is ticking now and she is hearing it, like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story.”
“Then my suggestion to buy more time was the right course. The longer this takes, the more desperate she gets, and desperate people do stupid shit!”
“It was and she will do something stupid. I only hope that she keeps it local and leaves our people in Tucson alone. I wouldn’t put it past her to take hostages.”
“If! And I mean this, IF she does, We won’t be arm wrestling over it; I will personally kill the bitch, and I will use my dullest knife to do so.”
“If it comes to that, I won’t argue against you in any way, and will help you get to her so you can. “ Opening the door of the car to get out, he says “Lets order pizza and see if the Witch proves good on her word about Intel. She may have something in her stuff I missed that’ll help us out.”
“Can do. Dominos or something local?” “Ask at the desk and see if they have a preference; I don’t. I’ll wait at the room and see if she or one of her boys shows up. “
Three days later,,,
“Yeah, it’s Ted. This Guiterez?”
“Si. Jefe wanna talk. Says you on to something.” “No. If he thinks I am onto something, let him fix it. I don’t want anything. If he talks to Jorge, the two of them can straighten out whatever the Bruja has messed up.”
“No talk to Jorge. To angry. YOU talk to Jorge. You go between and make it right. That what Jefe say.”
“If I have to do all the work, I may as well take her job. No one wants that.”
Silence on the other end for a second, “We see. You no take job. I talk to Alvarez, maybe Jorge listen to him.”
Not knowing that Alvarez is Jefe Jorge’s main man, like Guiterez is Cortez’s main man, T just grunts an approval.
“This finished soon Gringo? One way or other way. Si?”
“Yeah, it will be finished soon. One way or another.”
Pot, meet fire.At four thousand feet, patterns emerge which aren’t clear from the ground. What looks like a patch of field a farmer is working, at four thousand feet looks perfectly circular, not just a field. Modern irrigation techniques for growing anything in a desert make those circular fields. Loaded with 6 dummy missiles, the ones with cornstarch filled heads, but two thousand very real 7.62 rounds for the machine guns, G is flying for shooting practice. Denny had set up a target range in the river valley the week prior by dragging a couple old cars out of the sand of the river bed. There isn’t much water in the bed this time of the year, but enough that the cars aren’t in what amounts to concrete, like they will be in another month or two. Tammy is in the hangar with G running some experiment on his auxiliary feed camera. She is being very hush-hush about it even now and won’t tell him anything at all. To keep things to herself, she did the work to the camera while he was eating with Denny, Rob’s second in command and his wife, Marla. His trust in her complete, he just shrugged, said ‘okay’ and played along.
The first pass went well. Two missiles shot and one hit the car, not just skipped off the hood like the first one did. When they impact properly, the cloud of cornstarch is impressive, but what happens in the cloud is even more impressive. It had shocked him two days earlier when he had seen it, but Tammy showed him the math of things and settled his doubts. A fifteen pound missile moving at twelve hundred miles per hour packs a tremendous amount of kinetic energy. Even with the rocket motor depleted, the body and warhead weigh eight pounds, and while not having the same kinetic mass, the effects are still impressive. What had shocked G was seeing the car he had just shot, flipped completely over on the cloud of dust from the dummy warhead! It looked just like the effects of an explosion. Tammy assured him that even his dud rounds are completely lethal and destructive. Having seen that car flip only confirmed the statement.
Hard banking back towards the shop to get his second lineup, this time for a strafing run, the three Solid Black SUVs racing towards the compound grabbed his attention.
“Tammy! You still out here?” he asks, not wanting to take his VR hood off while ‘in the air’.
“Yuppers. What up?”
“Get Denny, and two others. Get ‘em armed up and to the front. We may have company coming. They’re about a minute out.” He says as he ‘cancels’ his second run and descends to three thousand feet and starts a pattern around the compound. Tammy switches her monitors to his view to see what he is seeing, “aw-shit” she mumbles and runs for the Ranch-house.’
Flying in a flat, tight bank around the compound, cameras focused on the SUVs and the compound. He ‘sees’ Tammy and Denny come out of the front of the Ranchhouse. Denny heads to the driveway, Tammy heads back to the hangar. He sees two other figures flank out from the back of the Ranchhouse in opposite directions, but from three thousand, not knowing who they are, he hasn’t enough detail to make an identification.
“Denny, Jess and Roberta are getting in position, G.” Tammy informs him.
“And I am in pattern right above and watching. You gotta be my ears out there Tammy. I can’t see enough to know if these guys are getting ready to do anything stupid.”
“I’m staying right here at the door. I’ll let you know if we need an airstrike or not.” She sounds amused and stressed at the same time. Stressed because of the sight of the three SUV’s pulling into the driveway, amused by using the term ‘airstrike’ in conversation.
The SUV’s pull into the drive and park, not in line like G was hoping, but panned around at odd angles. “Damn! They will not make this easy on me if I have to go hot.” A person gets out of the middle vehicle and approaches Denny. The outer two vehicles have two people each get out of them, with doors left open and the person behind the door. They focus all the vehicles on Denny, but at different ranges. The middle one closest. If G needs to attack, he can get any two vehicles in one pass, but not all three. The chance of one escaping is high, and might require the speed of his plane to make it right.
“Damn it! I really wish I could hear what’s being said.”
“I can hear some, but be quiet so I can hear it all.”
Being quiet, G continues his circling overhead. Easing out his flaps, and dropping the throttle ten percent, he ‘slows down’ and maintains a tighter circle over the compound. At three thousand feet, his engines can be heard, but most people ignore the sounds of jets overhead. The agents on the ground appear to be following that pattern, as none of them are looking up.
“G, this isn’t good. They are asking where I am at and want me to come out. They are telling Denny to put the gun down and walk away.” A pause. “What the hell do they want with me?”
“Tammy, I don’t know, but I am of a mind to put one round in that middle vehicle. Do they look like they are about to go hostile?”
“Hell, they looked hostile as soon as I saw that first one. They haven’t shown any ID or anything.”
“Get behind that door. Denny will hit the ground when he hears me coming in. That first car is done for.”
Bumping that throttle back up, not waiting for an acknowledgment of what he told her, G drops into focus; the focus of combat that veterans call ‘The Zone’. Pulling the flaps back in, lining up on that first SUV, when his view is a thousand yards out, he drops that first missile and strafes a hundred rounds into it. Less than a second later, the whole area is a cloud of dust, and he can see Denny down, but crawling fast. The ‘agent’ that Denny had been facing prior was down too, but not moving. “I hit him, or Denny did, but that dude is out of the count for now. “The closer of the other two SUVs shows doors slamming, and no agents in view. Sparkling light on the ground near it show that windows have shattered, probably thrown from the first vehicle. The SUV he just shot is now on its side with a gaping ragged hole behind the passenger front tire. The further SUV shows the two agents in firing stances, but the angle of that stance shows that they are engaging a target away from the Ranchhouse and away from Denny. One flanker is taking fire. “Too close to take them on this pass, be back in a second my friends.”
Without changing throttle, he climbs straight up then rolls and loops over at four thousand feet. His chosen target is directly below and in front of him. Letting two more missiles fly as his sights line up on the middle of the top of the SUV, he pulls out of his dive. The second SUV is backing out crazily, adding more to the dust in the air that is dispersing on the breeze.
The destruction of the SUV is obvious even to G in the hangar. The noise of both dummy missiles center-punching the vehicle is like hearing a car wreck.
“G, they’re down and hurt bad. Roberta is going out to them. What should I do?”
“Keep ‘em alive. I want answers, and right now I have a shit-ton of questions. I’m gonna chase down our runners first and see where they head to, before they leave my range. Then I gotta land this thing. Don’t worry about blocking the road. I can see what’s out there.” He can see which way the fleeing SUV is going; not towards Tucson as he first thought they would, but towards Cascabel. “These guys aren’t legit, if they were, they would head somewhere where they could get back-up and more troops; not Cascabel.“ Checking fuel levels to see how far he can pursue them, and wishing he were in a plane that wasn’t so damned fast, he climbs to eight thousand feet and eases back on the throttle. Before the SUV gets to Cascabel, it turns right onto a dirt track road; one that heads back to I-10. Right through his target range. The temptation to wait for them to get towards the middle of that range and removing them from the equation frustrates him. He suspects they are from Andrea and doing her bidding: he suspects that bidding being to kidnap Tammy as leverage against Tick-tock. Not knowing for certain, he reins in his killing mood. ‘ It would be months before anyone found them, if ever, after the coyotes got to them. So tempting to keep them from getting back to her on what just happened. Hell, they are probably trying to call her,,’
Choosing to let the bad guys go, he follows them until they are mid-point between Cascabel and I-10 then loops it back around towards the compound. Four miles out and he can see the column of smoke. “Tammy, if you are still in here, what’s burning?’
“Not Tammy, it’s Jess. That last Suburban you killed caught fire. Guess you busted its gas-tank, and the rockets lit it. Denny is trying to clear the other one out of the way, and the Fire-department is on its way. Tammy is with Roberta and our captives at the house. Denny wants to know if you can you get that thing down and in here in the next few minutes?”
“Shit, I hope so. Hell, I have to; not enough fuel to stay up much longer. If the fire department sees this bird and that burning truck, it won’t take a brain surgeon to figure it out.” Looking at the road as he is approaching the compound, he sees that it’s clear, but the windsocks show there is a quartering breeze across it. “I guess I get to see how I land with a cross-wind. Get the door open. I’ll bring her in here under power so we don’t need to tow her.”
“On it G.” A few seconds later he hears the doors rumbling on their tracks. “This is going to require some finesse.” He thinks aloud. He can see the two fire trucks heading out of Tanque Verde; roughly ten minutes out, as he approaches the upwind side of the landing strip. With the wind being a mid afternoon breeze, not a gusting wind, he has little issue during his landing, and makes it into the hangar with a lot of judicious use of throttle, rudder and brakes. Jess, without being prompted, has a set of chocks ready to get under the wheels to help stop the bird in case the radio lag interferes. As Jess rolls the doors closed, the sirens of the Firetrucks are clear and close. “How did you know about the chocks, Jess?”
“I guessed. Seemed like you may want to keep the bird from moving once you were inside. I am pretty certain you don’t have a parking brake on that beast.”
Laughing, in relief with the Eighteen being on the ground and himself out of the rig to see the damage he had inflicted, “Yeah, we never really thought about that side of things.” Getting his Segway rolling, he quickly shuts everything down and rolls outside. The Firetrucks pull in the drive as he bolts the hangar behind him and Jess. The first SUV is missing, and Denny is running a bucket-loader over the dirt where he had dragged it, scooping up dirt to pile around the burning truck; ‘trying to contain the fire’ and destroying the evidence at the same time. One of the fire trucks parks on top of the tracks left by the fleeing SUV, destroying that evidence. Jess whispers, “the two guys are in the house. The deader is behind the house. Roberta is saying this is her truck if anyone asks.”
“Thanks, They probably won’t ask me anything, but it’s good to have our stories straight.” G whispers back as they continue moving to the scene. One fireman stops them about fifty yards away, but G can see well enough that the top of the SUV has melted and the holes where his missiles went in, aren’t clear. It collapsed the frame of the truck at midpoint, making the whole vehicle look like a swayed back horse. Where the missiles hit the ground is directly underneath the truck and is not visible. G’s relief that the direct effects of his attack on this truck aren’t visible is palpable. Denny walks up to him and pats him on the back: it looks like normal affection between family, but in this case, is Kudo’s for a job well done. “When these guys leave, we’ll talk to our guests. I’ll get that other wreck taken out to the range later and burn it where no one will care. The guy I killed, we’ll bury out there too.”
“Tell me more later,“ G whispers “I want to know who sent these guys, but it can wait. I think I already know. “
The Fire chief mollified by Denny slipping him two gold coins inside the paperwork with the property insurance information, G is certain there will be no investigation why a fairly new Suburban SUV has a broken back and burned to its rims. There were some odd looks from the fire crew, but the truck had civilian plates, not government issued ones. With the firetrucks gone, G rolls around the backside of the house to look over the damaged truck and at the dead guy. The missile had hit just behind the front passenger wheel, and began its exit out between the front seats, destroying the transmission and driveline. The exit hole was a jagged rip running five feet, just missing the rear gas tank. “We need to look for the rest of the missile across the road later; No good leaving extra evidence lying around,” G says to Denny as they are looking everything over. The Dead Guy is under a tarp nearby, and G rolls over to him. Denny pulls back a corner and G’s heart skips a beat.
“You know him?”
“I wouldn’t say ‘know’, but we’ve met. That’s Agent Carlyle, I shot his Blackhawk out of the sky last year at Nogales. He’s one of the Lizard Queens people.”
“So, United States Federal agents? In The Peoples Republic of California? Refusing to show ID? Demanding to take into custody a crazy but lovable rocket scientist? Yup! Sounds like they were on completely legitimate business out here.” Denny quips.
“Lets get in and start asking the two inside what they know. I want a full picture before we send word to Rob and T about this. Andrea wanted leverage against T, but we just might give him some against her.”
“Ma’am, We’re headed back, the missions a bust. Two vehicles down, one person known dead and two possibly dead.”
“What the hell happened? You were up against some hippies to get one person. How’d that get fucked up?”
“Missiles fired from an F-18 flying overhead destroyed the two vehicles. No markings of any sort that we could see. It was in the air when we arrived and strafed us when Carlyle started getting heavy-handed with the guy they sent out to talk to us. That guy shot Carlyle, but the plane destroyed his truck. We started taking flanking fire from two small buildings then, and the plane came back and shot the vehicle that the agents were returning fire from. They were down but I don’t think they were dead. Morgan and myself got out of there to get word back to you. “
“Allowing that damned cripple to keep sucking air is getting expensive. If I didn’t need them, I would kill him.” She pauses, looking over some paperwork and maps on the desk. “Get back here. I’ll figure something else out.”
“Will do ma’am. One more point for you. I don’t think they were using real missiles. No explosions, just a lot of dust.”
“Son of a Bitch. Jim was out on a practice run when you guys showed up. Get back here.”
“On our way.” Click.
‘A dummy missile destroying a full-sized truck. Those things loaded with real HE will be devastating.’ She thinks to herself. ‘I really need these guys on my side and bribing them, nor twisting arms is working.’
“They showed up to take Tammy, G blew the hell out of two of their cars, and followed the third to see what way they headed out. The two agents we interrogated were fresh meat; didn’t really know anything.”
“What happened to them?”
“G says ‘they died of their wounds’, but ligature marks tells me he killed them. I ain’t gonna argue with him, we couldn’t keep them and they were rogue by the simple fact they were ‘out of country’,”
“Good deal. No need to worry about what G did, so long as the bodies disappear.”
“The coyotes near the river will fatten up for the next week. They’re gone.”
“Then forget you ever saw them.” Rob says, then asks, “T wants to know if the Wing will be ready to roll soon?”
“Soon. Tammy and I are going shopping for the new rig tomorrow. G is packing things up so they will fit in the smallest space possible.”
“Good. Try to find one that has a belly tank or can have a belly tank installed. T says he wants to carry at least five hundred gallons of fuel for the birds; more preferably. Has Tammy let anyone in on what she is making yet?” “Not yet, but I know it deals with lasers. She’s been wearing her tinted eyeglasses around the shop.”
“And with her, it may be a weapon, or God only knows what.” Laughing, “she’ll tell us all when it’s near perfect by her standards.”
Denny laughing agrees with him.
“We need to talk.” Andrea says into her phone.
“We talk, you listen. Si?”
“It doesn’t work like that and you know it. I tell you where, you decide what and how.”
“That Ayer, hoy ascuchas. You dirty, and you make us dirty.”
“What’s this? You think I’m dirty now? What about all the guns I’ve given you?”
“Tu costo es demasiado alto. My boys dying to fight your fight. If you no listen, I talk to Cortez, Encontraremos una paz entre nosotros. “
“Peace!? You won’t ever find peace making deals with Cortez.”
“Deals? No, La Paz. No want my boys dying. He no want his boys dying. You want both of us dying. You listen. We meet, you listen. Si?”
She pauses, wanting to scream and yell. Wanting to find T and rip his balls off by way of his sinuses, but holds her anger in check and replies, “Where? When?”
“AeroJuarez. Mannana antes de las diez.”
“No, too far into Ciudad Juarez. I don’t travel that far out of country, and you know it.”
“That where we meeting, you there, you listen. You not there, you die when we see you. “ And Jorge hangs up.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. That fucker Ted has been talking to them, I know it for a fact now.” She says out loud as she dials Cortez’ number.
“The number you have dialed is no longer in service” says the annoying recorded operator’s voice.
Sitting for several minutes, seething, trying to gather her thoughts, she decides it’s time to call T and see if they can work a truce. It’s obvious that he has undermined her position with the cartels, but she still has need of his services if she can make amends.
“Hello?” T asks as he answers.
“You’ve been busy, Ted.”
“I don’t sleep much these days,” he responds.
“And that is probably a good thing seeing how you are playing with people that will happily kill you while looking you in the eyes.”
“Ah, well, there is that too.”
“Where can we meet. I don’t want our conversation on airwaves.”
After a minutes pause while he looks at a map,“Washington and North Evergreen. There’s a ball field there. I’ll be in the visitor dugout an hour after sunset. It can only be you or I walk away and let you deal with the guys across the river.” T says, looking across the room at Rob. Rob nods, gives a thumbs up and returns to sharpening his knife.
“I’ll be there.” And she disconnects.
“I thought you were going to use your dullest knife?”
“I decided I want to give her a lot of holes and a dull knife might get hung up. “ The knife he is sharpening is a double edged dagger with an eleven inch blade that tapers to a wicked point like a toothpick. The handle and hilt of blackened brass with heavy knurling for a good grip even if soaked, tapers back to another point like a spike: not a fighting knife, an assassins knife. Rob has owned this knife since he was in Vietnam; it was given to him by an Australian friend just before they parted ways during the pull out in seventy-three. “Just remember what I told you,,,”
“If I see you out of the corner of my eye, look at her tits or something so I don’t give you away. Got it.”
“I’m almost seventy; I ain’t a spring chicken anymore and I want total surprise. I don’t want to think about having to fight it out”
“I’ll get her goat going so that she is angry and focused on me, but you gotta get in and kill her before she goes pulling iron on me.”
“She won’t have a chance to do that. I promise. But her sending goons to my home and trying to steal my sister,,, She will die, and I want it at my hands, not those Mexicans across the way.”
A quiet Wednesday night on the edge of the suburbs outside of Fort Bliss. The hum of the highway a few blocks west is the only real sound. With it being off season, the lights on the ball field are off, the visitors dug-out is bathed in shadow from the lights of the highway. T, sitting in the dug-out is all but invisible, light gray clothes to match the color of the block making up the dug-out. Nearby is an overflowing trashcan, garbage piled up, disguising Rob. It’s a perfect ambush site and is making T nervous. He can see all around him, but no one looking would be able to see him.
A small car travels around the road along the outfield, stops for a minute, then backs up and comes into the parking lot where Robs car is. Parking right next it, Andrea gets out; the interior light showing that she is alone. She looks into Robs car, verifying that no one is in hiding there, then approaches the dug-out. It’s obvious that she can’t see T yet, but she continues approaching, looking at the trash casually, without indicating any apprehension of it.
“I’m in here Andrea. Come on in out of the breeze and lets talk.”
As she walks into the dug-out, T makes sure to keep her between him and the trash. Rob made sure that what trash he is hiding under was stuff that wouldn’t make any obvious noise when he gets up.
“Ted, I should kill you right now for what you did to me. Both of the Cartels are meeting tomorrow for a peace meeting and I am supposed to be there, or they will kill me the next time they see me. You did that to me.”
“All I did was tell them truth Andrea. Nothing more. You’ve been playing them and now they know it. But you’ve been busy too. Sending Carlyle and some friends out to my families place. Wanting to steal my girlfriend away so that you could leverage me into doing your dirty work. Seems we are both a little dirty from this mess.”
“That was a mistake, I admit. I need insurance and you know it.”
“That kind of insurance is tricky to play with, and you know it. I don’t ever want to be so desperate that I have to resort to kidnapping and extortion to cover my ass.”
Another car comes into the area and both go silent while watching it. It’s just a local traveling home or to the store, and doesn’t slow down. The darkness covers them very well. T sees some trash moving in the corner of his eye and looks out on the ballfield.
“So you still need G and I for something or you wouldn’t want to patch this up? I’m just curious what you have in mind that you think you could still pull this together.”
“I only want you to take out Cortez. Leave Jorge alone. Cortez is more Indian than Spanish and his blood ties make him hard to work with. Jorge was born in L.A. and has almost as much American in him as I do. And he isn’t the hard ass that Cortez is. If I had thought it through months ago, that should have been what I had asked you for.” “I may have been more amiable to that then taking out both, but I am still not all that interested in helping you out. You still haven’t given me anything to work with. And you experienced that double edged sword of New Rules of Engagement recently so you know we are capable.” “I knew you were capable in Nogales after you took down Carlyle’s blackhawk. And now you have taken out Carlyle and another two of my people,” she says as her anger starts to rise. Catching sight of Rob, T quickly looks down at Andreas chest.
Mistaking his shift in view as something more intimate, she changes tactics. “Ted, we don’t have to go to war like this, we can work together.” She says in appeal for her anger. She gasps suddenly as the tip of Rob’s dagger protrudes out her chest, just above her left breast. Rob, slipping an arm under hers, proceeds on his “lots of holes” plan and rams the knife in her back in several places. Kidneys, spleen, liver, both lungs and heart are all pierced. A gurgling hissing noise is heard as Andreas body continues to try and draw breath, unable to do so with both of her lungs punctured multiple times. The smell from her sphincters relaxing is obvious. A trickle of blood escapes her mouth as Rob lowers her to the ground. Her eyes never leave T’s during the five seconds it takes Rob to kill her; eye’s that hold an unspoken question, never to be answered.
“T, snap out of it. Help me out here. “ Rob says roughly, as he rips her blouse open. “Get her wallet out of her purse. Take all the cash and credit cards and toss the rest in the dumpster.” He says trying to make the scene look like a robbery or attempted rape turned murder. T pulls a pair of vinyl gloves out of his pocket, finds her wallet, which is a mans wallet in the back pocket of her pants, and does as Rob told him. The taste of bile in his mouth as he fights nausea after watching his enemy die so silently.
“Take my car. Go back to the hotel, get a shower and get drunk. I’ll be back by morning.”
“What are you doing?”
“ Changing the plan and fudging the trail. Going to take her across the border and then come back. I’ll grab a cab or Uber. By the time she is located and her effects found, no one will have any clue what happened. Local PD will write it off as a robbery gone bad.” Rob uses some of the trash he had been hiding in to wrap up Andreas corpse and keep what little blood there is off of himself. Moving her to her car, T still in mild shock, he says. “T, this is the easy part. The hard part comes later when you see her in your dreams again. Come on brother, pull your shit together.”
“Something she said earlier just took on new meaning for me Rob. She said that ‘these people will gladly kill you while looking you in the eye.’ I just watched her life pass right out of her face while doing just that, looking her in the eye. Are the cartel people really so ruthless?”
“T, many of them are worse. We don’t need to go into it right now, though. I need you to get moving before our being here attracts attention. I need to get her over the border before rigamortis sets in and I can’t move her out of the car.”
“Why across the border? This place would work just as well, wouldn’t it?” T asks as he slowly pours out a bottle of hydrogen peroxide while Rob cleans his hands and knife.
“Yes and no. We know that she has talked to the cartel leaders by phone and I believe she has been threatened by them. If someone higher up decided to play those calls back, heard the threat and her body was found on that side, then the whole thing gets swept under the rug. No Federal Agent works across the border alone, because there is no chance of the government backing them up over there.”
“Get going, I’ll meet you back at the hotel in the morning if not sooner.”
“You Gringo Ted’s brother?”
“Yeah, his brother.”
“You do this?” Guiterez asks, pointing down at Andrea’s body. Rob had pulled her out of the car in an alleyway behind an old boarded up strip-mall. She was propped up between two small staircases leading into the backs of the building. In appearance, her body looks like a drunk or druggie sleeping it off. Daylight will soon give lie to the appearance.
“Yeah, I did that,” holding open his jacket to show the knife he used. “She tried to kidnap my sister to make Ted take the job of killing the Jefe’s.”
Guiterez walks up to Rob with his hand out. “You my brother now too, Gringo. She bad news the world no need.” Rob takes his hand and they hug one armed quickly. Leaving without another word said, and not feeling the need to watch his back, Rob drives Andreas car several miles away, ditching it, leaving the keys in the ignition. It won’t be there come noon, and will be scattered amongst several used parts suppliers in a week. Walking towards the border, he calls for an uber pickup at the border.
Rob arrives back at the hotel just before the sun breaks the horizon. T is sprawled belly down across his bed with an empty bottle of Jim Beam laying on the floor. The room smells like a brewery with a hint of vomit. Rob sits in the one chair of the room and stares at the back wall. ‘T, this is the easy part. The hard part comes later when you see her in your dreams again.’ Plays back through his mind.
“They never go away T. You live with them, but they never go away. They will visit you when you least expect it, and they never sleep. I’m sorry you have to learn that fact, but now you really do have to learn it. And learn to live with it.”He says quietly to his sleeping friend and near brother. “You and G have had the benefit of not seeing their faces, but now you have that ghost that dwells with you forever. I’m here if you need me bro, don’t ever forget it; even when the ghost is screaming your name in the middle of the night and it seems like she is going to drag you into hell with her.”
He gets up, walks to his bag and pulls out a flask. “I know it isn’t the answer, but damned if it doesn’t help. At least this one I don’t have to live with. She’s all yours; I didn’t see her eyes.” He sits back in the chair, and without saying another word, slowly drains the flask, while watching the world outside the hotel window come to life.
Still working on things, strangely enough, the lockdown isn’t helping get more writing done. The whole situation has created a dilemma I need to work around or into current storyline. If it hadn’t made such a dent in things social and economically, I’d leave it alone.