Authors: K. T. Bryan
Tags: #Suspense, #Fiction
Today he used only two other SUVs, each carrying four armed men, each moving quietly along the two side streets running parallel to the street Rafael was on. They were all to meet at the next junction after he made the drop. He had fifteen minutes. If Rafael didn’t show at the intersection in time, his men would slaughter every man, woman and child on the block. Then they’d go after aunts, uncles, cousins. Extreme perhaps, but Rafe made sure no one crossed the SBC and lived. No one.
They were just cresting a hill when his driver suddenly stomped on the brakes.
Rafael jerked forward, his seatbelt cutting into his shoulder. “Chavez! What the hell?”
A rusted up Chevy angled across the road, blocking them. A peasant, tall with long flowing hair, dressed in filthy, ragged clothes, gesticulated wildly, screaming.
Chavez lowered his window. “He’s shrieking about his wife, and something about a baby.”
Sanchez had no time to suffer fools. “Dammit, do something!”
“You! Move your car.” Chavez stuck an Uzi out the window.
The peasant became more agitated, almost hysterical. He approached the car with his hands clasped, a desperate beggar. “Please. My wife. She’s bleeding…the baby is coming…” He put his face in his hands and shook his head, muttering pathetic pleas and sobbing. “
, they are dying. Help us. Help us, please.”
Odd. No blood shown on the man’s hands, nor clothes. If his wife were actually in trouble—“Shoot him, you fool! Ram the car!” Rafe slapped Chavez on the shoulder. “He’s lying! Dammit, shoot him!”
Chavez raised the gun, and at that instant the sobbing man grabbed the barrel of the weapon and rammed it butt first into the driver’s face.
Chavez howled as blood erupted from his nose and mouth.
Before Rafael could draw his own weapon, the peasant had a .357 trained mere inches from Rafe’s face. “Open the door slowly and get out.”
“Do you know who I am?” Rafe snapped the words in outrage as he opened the rear door. “You, whoever you are, are a dead man.” He said the words slowly, making sure the threat was not only heard, but omened.
“Uh, huh. Now let’s pretend you’re smart enough to follow orders. Señor Sanchez.”
At the mention of his name, Rafael’s simmering anger threatened his good sense. His hand reached for his gun.
The Uzi poked him in the ribs. He let his hand drop. “How do you know me?” If he stalled long enough, his men would soon worry, show up and kill this bastard.
“Put your weapon on the floor and get out. Your backup won’t show for eleven more minutes. And since I won’t endanger the civilians who live here, that means you have five, and only five, minutes before I shoot you.”
Chavez got out, cursing and bleeding. Rafael took his time. He ached to shoot this stranger in the head. “You seem to know a lot about me. Perhaps more than is wise.”
“Head of the SBC. Husband of Adoña. Father of Dreena.” The man looked directly into Rafe’s eyes. “Wisdom, I suppose, is a matter of perception. Now move.”
Fury that this peasant, this
, knew about his family nearly drove him back into the car after his gun.
“Now, now, Rafe. Let’s not be hasty.” The man put the .357 in his waistband and motioned with the Uzi. “Both of you. Strip.”
“I will not!” Rafe spat. This man was going to die a slow, painful death.
The peasant shot Chavez in the foot.
Chavez screamed and fell to the grimy pavement, then started shucking his clothes like a ten dollar whore. Damn fool.
“You have ten seconds.” He aimed his weapon, this time, at Sanchez.
Sanchez stripped. With each piece of dispatched clothing he planned this pig’s death. When his shirt came off, the man studied him.
“Nice tat. Impressive.”
Yes, Rafe thought with some ferocity, his canvassed torso, inked back to front in the brilliant and lustrous colors of a tiger’s coat, with front legs and paws running over his arms to his hands, was indeed impressive. But not nearly as impressive as his temper.
The man picked up their clothes and climbed into the SUV, leaving Chavez bleeding and Rafael holding nothing but his naked dick. Minus five million dollars in cash. Then the peasant, who was not a peasant after all, turned the vehicle the way it had come and drove off, giving them a two-fingered salute, and to Rafael’s amazement, a grin.
,” he muttered. He could not help but admire the audacity of a dead man.
Days of surveillance. Following, questioning, bribing. Laying low. Painstaking planning and a boatload of luck.
The war on drugs has gone into bat-shit crazy high def. Technicolor, 3D, and in your face. It’s become a guided missile with no guide.
This so-called war has become embarrassing. Billions of dollars spent and so far the DEA has been as effective as a half-wit turtle trying to swim the Atlantic in a Cat 5 hurricane.
At any rate, the admiral is tired of getting his ass chewed by certain subcommittees. Neutralize the supply from the SBC, he said. The baddest of the badasses. If I get in, he figures I’ll be undercover for a year. I figure I’ll be lucky to live that long. ~~ D.C.
Dillon Caldwell let Sanchez sweat for two long, feverish days. While he waited, Dillon reread and memorized the thick, nothing-much-he-didn’t-already-know file the FBI, CIA, DEA, and Mexican government had on Rafael Dario Sanchez.
Insufficient. Inadmissible. Unconfirmed.
Not one single shred of hard evidence. Just miles and miles of dead ends and red tape.
Someone, it seemed, didn’t want Sanchez busted. But who? More to the point, why?
It was time to set up a meet.
Roberto’s was a grungy dive on a narrow street in an area where smart people departed long before dark. Even at this hour, the building’s pink facade stood out like a well-fed flamingo. Bright, neon-colored beer signs filled the grimy, smeared windows.
From outside the back wooden door, Dillon heard the clink of beer bottles, raucous laughter, and the Stones playing on the jukebox.
He’d parked the SUV two miles away, hidden in scrub, and watched by one of his men--armed with a Glock 9mm, a long-range rifle and an RPG just in case things got ugly. He could’ve left the Escalade and money behind, back in the States, but wasn’t quite sure how tonight would play out. While Sanchez might be cold and disciplined, humiliation had a way of boiling a man’s blood.
Dillon had made the cantina by nine-fifteen, and by nine-thirty, Rafael had ten armed men sitting inside the small bar. Eight outside.
Not great odds.
A slow trickle of sweat started between his shoulder blades. He’d have felt a lot better if he had a weapon. A gun. A grenade. Maybe a tank. Unfortunately, none of those options would go very far in instilling the trust factor he was aiming for.
With one last look around the rear lot, he entered through the cantina’s back door. When he strode into the main bar, time slowed, laughter ceased, eyes squinted, and suddenly he felt like he’d been thrown into a bad Western.
Beer, sweat, and guns. Not a single six-gun to be seen but a hell of a lot of AK-47’s, Uzi’s and an MP5 here and there. One AR-15 judiciously kept near the bartender.
Someone unplugged the juke.
Dillon slid into the booth opposite Sanchez. “Nice crowd,” he said, and waited for a gun to be shoved into his ribs or maybe the back of his head.
Sanchez stared at him for a long time. He wore a black silk suit, exquisitely tailored, a burgundy shirt and striped tie. He looked like any Wall Street executive until he pulled an impressive looking .44 Magnum with custom engraved ivory grips from a holster at his waist and laid it gently, almost reverently, on the scarred wooden table.
He had large hands, smooth with long fingers that moved with the grace and precision of the tiger paws which colored them. His body was trim, tall, with the Patrician features of Spaniard nobility. He wore long dark hair tied neatly back with braided leather. His eyes were so black, no line delineated between the iris and pupil. And his voice…his voice had the presence of a priest and the edge of a butcher.
“Four years ago, a close, childhood friend of mine invited me for dinner,” Sanchez began. “His wife asked to take my coat, which she did, and placed it in the foyer on a peg. We had drinks, talked. When I excused myself to use the restroom, my friend, a man who I loved like a brother, stole five hundred dollars from the wallet in my suit-coat. When confronted, he denied his action.”
Sanchez lit a cigarette. Exhaled. “Had he simply asked, I’d have given him triple that amount. I had a weapon and I tried to threaten my friend into telling me the truth. He would not. So I tied him and his wife to separate chairs. I sewed their mouths closed with a turkey needle and fishing line. If they could not tell me the truth, they could not lie either, you see?”
“Riveting,” Dillon said, feeling acid climb into his throat.
“I retrieved my money from my friend’s pocket and pissed on it. And then slowly, with much care, I sliced off his eyelids. To ensure, you see, that he would have to watch me rape, then mutilate, his wife. He tried to scream but could not. I did not kill him. To this day he will not speak.”
A chill whispered through Dillon’s chest. It wasn’t the words, but the demeanor by which Sanchez said them. This kind of evil did not discriminate. Dillon had thought he’d meet fury. He hadn’t. In fact, if apathy was the glove in which evil slipped its hand, then Sanchez wore the challis well.
Dillon leaned back wondering what the man’s weakness was. If, in fact, he had one. “You keep your friend supplied in Ray Bans?”
“You find me amusing?” Sanchez stubbed out his cigarette and leaned back against the booth, managing to look both offended and pleased.
“I don’t find you…anything.”
“Perhaps that is your mistake.”
“Look around you.” Dillon angled his head toward the middle of the bar. “How many of those men are yours? How many are mine?”
Sanchez glanced around, and for a moment uncertainty played across his features. Then he laughed. “Yours?”
Dillon shrugged. “Warring cartels and all. Plus, I do have five million dollars.”
five million dollars.”
“Not at the moment.”
Sanchez searched Dillon’s face with those opaque eyes. “I wonder. Will you beg for your life or pray for God’s mercy when I kill you?”
Dillon gestured to the bartender and wondered what this man knew of mercy. “Mind if I have a beer?”
“A drink before death. A bit cliché, perhaps,” Sanchez inclined his head, “but not unexpected.”
“Glad to be predictable. I’ll take a Dos Equis.”
“Make it two,” Sanchez said to the bartender. “Would you like a steak as well? Or a cigarette perhaps?”
Dillon didn’t bother to answer.
A moment later, two bottles of beer clapped the table simultaneously. The sound ricocheted around the still-quiet room.
“My patience is wearing thin. Where is my money?”
Dillon took a long pull on his beer. “And here I thought Mexican hospitality insisted on pleasure before business.”
“If we were here for pleasure, I would have killed you by now.” Sanchez slid his palm across the grip of his .44. “Who are you working for?”
Dillon would have preferred the slam of a fist. A demand. Macho posturing even. Anything other than this mild civility. The way Sanchez absently caressed his weapon made Dillon want to carve the other man’s arms off at the shoulder. “I work for myself.”
“How do I know you’re not DEA? ATF? Federales? A rival cartel?”
“Why would I return your money if I were?”
“Why would you not?”
“A man could disappear forever with five million dollars. Surely that buys a little trust?”
“And a bullet in the head doesn’t worry about such things.”
Dillon eased into a smile, provoking. “You don’t want to do that.”
Impatience finally erupted on Rafael’s face. Intrigue tempered it. “And why the hell not?”
“First, because you still don’t know where your money is. And second,” Dillon pulled out a small gold locket from his front shirt pocket. Dangled it like a pendulum. “I believe you gave this to your daughter last year on her third birthday. Dreena must miss it terribly.”
Rafael’s perfect, golden features blanched white. His eyes bulged in fury.
Dillon clapped the locket into his open palm, thinking ah, so there’s the rage. Sanchez’s family, or at least his child, was his weakness. “She’s a beautiful little girl. Sunshine and strawberries.”
As Sanchez stared at the locket resting idly against Dillon’s hand, his face took on an impressive tic. “I am going to kill you.”
“Uh, huh. So. Here’s the deal. Four days ago I bypassed the small army and high-tech security surrounding your fortress of a home. I went in. I went out. Not one of your men saw me. You won’t find me on your video surveillance.” Dillon leaned forward and said in a soft, intimate voice, “I have been in your home. At night. I took this locket from your child’s neck while she slept. If I can get to her once, I assure you I can get to her again.”
Sanchez grabbed his gun. Pointed it at Dillon’s chest. “Not if I kill you now.”
Dillon sighed and leaned in toward the barrel of the .44. “You could. But you won’t.”
Rafael thumbed the hammer back. “No amount of money is worth my daughter’s life.”
“Exactly,” Dillon said. “I can protect her. I can teach your men how real security is run. And as a show of good faith, I’ll return your money, and of course, your Escalade.”
Disbelief overshadowed rage. Contemplation replaced wariness. “You are either an insolent fool, or the most unfearing man I have ever met.”
“I’m not the one who was left standing naked in the street.”
Sanchez leaned back against the worn leather upholstery. Stared. And let out a big laugh. “Insolent
unfearing.” Still smiling, he leaned forward and said, “You ever do something like that again, I’ll fucking kill you.” The smile never left his face. It never met his eyes either.