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…