John débuts in fine style with the hardboiled...
Día de los Muertos
“It’s a cake job Mitch.” Jack leans back in his porch chair sipping on a tumbler of Jack Daniels while puffing on a cigarette. The smoke blows from thick lips as he speaks reminding me of a car with a bad cylinder.
“Sitting in the back of a moving box truck with a suitcase loaded with hard currency just doesn’t sound too appealing. I’m supposed to sit there with no firearm? What‘s my function in all of this Jack?”
“You sit in the back and play ‘guard the money‘. It’s as easy as it gets and yes, the bad guys will be searching you so no gun, not even a back up pistol.”
“Who’s the back up and where’s the drop off point?”
“Dillon’s got a team assembled and will be situated around the drop area just on this side of the border near the Ysleta point of entry, but we’ll be taking the back roads in. When the doors open you hand over the suitcase over to one of Alfred Gomez’s men and from there we spring the trap. It’s as simple as it gets.”
“And you’re driving?”
“Of course. I‘ve got a few years more with the DEA than you so that gives me seniority and I‘m pulling it here.”
“Who else is in on this?”
“Johnson is leading this operation to bag Gomez. It’s a big deal and it’s all hush hush from the top on down. Only those in the know need to know so don’t go blabbing it to anyone. The entire DEA people are sitting on pins and needles on this one. We been wanting to bag that bastard for years now.”
“Gomez huh?” I’ve been with the DEA for ten years now, still stuck at the bottom of the totem pole. Nailing Alfred Gomez, one of Mexico’s most notorious cartel leaders, would sure as hell move me up the ladder of power and out of the Southwest. It might even land me a soft desk job somewhere in Virginia telling war stories around the water cooler. I go ahead and give in. I don‘t need Jack getting all the glory. I slam back my own glass of Jack Daniels feeling the amber fluid settling in my gut as a warm glow. “I’m in.”
A few hours into dusk, Jack swings by the pick up point where I’m waiting. I hop in the back and the door slams down and I’m bouncing around the darkness of the box truck, hoping to God that all the other agents are in place. I swear Jack is trying to make it as uncomfortable a ride as possible. The cool metal brief case is my only companion and I take a chance at looking inside. Within are bundled twenties and fifties and I thumb through and count the bundles. A cool quarter mill? Wonder how many strings had to be pulled to gather this much dough? I feel the truck making a few turns down sections of wash board roads before slowing to a stop. I pocket a few fifties toward my child support bill which I‘m late on. Nothing new to me and the loss can be attributed to accounting error. I’ve got more than three times the amount of the briefcase stashed away for my own retirement. Slapping the briefcase shut, I’m waiting for the door to roll open. I’m sweating my ass off waiting for the next moment and prepare to hand over the brief case before flashing my DEA badge.
I got the briefcase and the door rolls opens and quickly realize something’s wrong. I thought all of this would be happening out in the middle of nowhere, but instead I’m seeing the familiar green glow of the city lights of Juarez and a lot of busted up adobe buildings. This is not on the American side of the border. To make matters worse, a Mexican is standing there with a battered Winchester ’97 pump pointed up at me and adrenaline blasts through my body, just as he pulls the trigger. I doubled over from the hit to the gut. Rough hands grab hold and throw me to the hard dusty ground.
I’m gasping, trying to suck in life giving air and checking myself over, expecting to find blood running out of me before I realize I’d been shot with a bean bag round. Several other Mexicans dog pile me, quickly binding up my hands and feet with ropes. Jack is standing there chomping on a stick of gum with a wide smile.
“What the hells going on Jack? Some kinda sick joke?”
Jack smiles. “You sold out Mitch. Don’t try to lie to me. I got knowledge of every dirty shit thing you been doing. You’ve been working both sides of the fence taking payoffs from the local cartels. Remember that incident a few years back in El Paso? The incident where you gave heads up to the local gang and our buddies Chico and Roberts got killed doing that bust?”
I’m staggering. The worlds a twisted blur and I retch my guts out. Set up, and no one knows we’re here except for Jack. Or is this a set up to force me into confessing? For years now I had collected money, made deals, traded information to the cartels allowing some big shipments across the borders for pay. Were there agents waiting nearby, recording the exchange of conversation?
“Its nothing personal I assure you. It took me time to put this thing together. A few contacts and chats with the local cartels, a little internal networking. The laws in the US are just loaded with loopholes so I couldn’t chance turning you in. I made a promise to Chico‘s wife I‘d personally get the guys responsible. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was you.”
“I have money. I can pay you big.” I rasp, my throat’s dry like it’s been swabbed with cotton.
Jack kneels down. “This is the difference between you and me. I’m the good guy and you’re the bad guy. The bad guy is supposed to get his in the end, and this, my friend, is the end.” He stands up and starts to leave, but then turns back to me.
“Oh…one last thing…”
“Fuck you, Jack.”
“Not in a million years, Mitch. That money in the suitcase…” He wipes his nose with thick fingers. “I also found your stash of bank accounts. You sure made a shit-load of money, my friend. I took the liberty of taking it and split some of that with the widows, you know for their kid’s college funds when they get old enough. The rest I gave to your new friends here. It’s hush money kinda thing. Thanks for helping out, and I‘ll let you guys get acquainted.” He turns and strides away, like Humphrey Bogart all slick and smooth.
Of course, I knew what he was talking about. The El Paso gig just went sideways and a couple of DEA agents were killed. I made a ton of money off of the bad deal and just so happens the Latino gang that murdered Chico and Roberts, also worked for Alfred Gomez’s Cartel group. I don‘t want to die and beg the Mexicans standing around me to speak with Alfred Gomez.
“He has no wish to speak with you. He only says you are bad for his business.” A couple of Mexicans take hold of my feet then drag me off into a near by warehouse filled with blinding lights and stacks of bundled marijuana slated for shipping into the US. In the far corner is a large vat that’s been painted several shades of opaque pink and thick pipes are plumbed in and out of it.
The bigger Mexican kneels down, flashes a gold-toothed smile. “Senor, I have nothing against you, but your amigo was very clear in what he wanted.”
“I have money.” I’m sure Jack could not have gotten to all the money. “Right here in my pocket, I got some.” I’m nodding my head towards my trouser pocket.
He eyes me with suspicion, leans over and digs his fingers around in my pocket. He holds up the few fifties. “You are joking, yes?” The others laugh at the small joke.
“No, I got more in an account but it’s in El Paso.”
He eyes the money. “You have none. Your friend said this. This is good for a funeral amigo. I will bury you in a prominent plot reserved for the town’s politicians and cartels. Let me see…” He furrows his eyebrows in thought. “…a name… Zapata… Jose Zapata, for your gravestone. We will celebrate you on Día de los Muertos.”
I spit a chunk of phlegm at him. “Fuck you!” I scream repeatedly, while the other two Mexicans hook my feet up to an overhead hoist and slowly I’m raised up. I’m thinking their going to beat on me like a Piñata, but it’s the large vat I’m swinging over. It’s filled with a liquid that emits a wave of caustic stench that‘s familiar.
They lower me in head first and I’m screaming out every obscenity known to man, until the fluid begins to burn. I’m thrashing about trying to get away from the new agony that’s tearing at my skin. I’m screaming bubbles and muffled curses into an angry hissing void of hot pins stabbing and tearing at every nerve in my head, and the skin blisters. All I can do is watch the acid turn red and melting flesh floating away to the murky bottom before I’m blinded. I’m lifted out of the stew pot, left hanging to wither in agony for a few moments before being dipped in again. I realize that the dying is going to take a while.
BIO: John Thompson currently lives in New Mexico. He works the ungodly grind by day and becomes a chain smoking writer at night. He has stories and poetry published or forthcoming in such publications as Yellow Mama, Adobe Walls Poetry Anthologies, RuneWrights Best Served Cold: An Eye for an Eye Vol 1, Science Fiction Trails, Static Movement Press Anthologies Undead Space and Noir to name a few.