Double-Blind (Chapter I)

A Modern Crime Novelette

 

 

I.

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…

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