The Bell 430 helicopter that was working with Grimm and his team flared at just the correct time and performed a picture perfect landing 100 feet from the men on the road waiting for it to make contact with terra firma. The men had remotely activated the sprinkler system a few minutes earlier so the dust and dirt wasn’t too bad for a desert landing without a pad. All the men had suffered much worse at landing sites during their time in the military and as Private Military Contractors overseas.
The pilot didn’t power the engine down since the prisoner would be quickly loaded and then the pilot would take off having been on the ground for less than two or three minute. The prisoner’s future was not Grimm’s concern any longer and he was satisfied with the progress they had made while the man was in their care. The only thing Grimm and the team wanted to know about was any information that would help them complete this part of their mission. Most everything else including their prisoner’s ultimate fate was mentally catalogued to be dealt with later when they had the time or preferably not at all.
Grimm and one of his men walked their prisoner toward the helicopter and climbed up into the machine. Guzman wasn’t wearing handcuffs and tethered to them by just his ankle bracelet. He had the walk and attitude of a man whose fortune had recently changed for the better. Grimm let his man climb in first and then Guzman wiggled his way onto the machine through the vibrating doorway. Grimm climbed aboard and moved as if he was going to sit next to Guzman but instead twisted his body and placed an auto injector at Guzman’s neck and depressed the trigger.
Guzman turned his head and stared daggers at Grimm. Grimm saw his mouth move but didn’t hear what he was saying. The noise inside the helicopter was almost deafening but Grimm could read his lips. “What the hell.” was drowned out by the overpowering noise generated by the helicopter and its huge engines in the brief seconds it took for the drugs to take effect and for Guzman to slump down in his seat.
Grimm and his man zip tied and belted Guzman into the seat and double checked for the third time that he was out and that there was no danger of him being able to get out of the seat. Grimm checked Guzman’s pulse and reached into a first aid box and removed a brand new blood pressure cuff. He quickly and expertly rolled the man’s shirt sleeve up and wrapped the blood pressure cuff around his upper arm and checked his B.P. Satisfied with the numbers he was seeing and their handiwork in securing him both men hopped down and cleared the area around the helicopter. When they got outside the designated safety zone Grimm turned to the pilot and gave him the thumbs up.
The pilot returned the thumbs up and immediately applied the power to take back off and move Guzman to his next destination. And while the sprinkler had prevented the landing area from becoming a sandstorm it still stirred up enough dust, dirt and debris that both the men on the ground were glad they were wearing Mil-Spec goggles to protect their eyes.
Satisfied that the helicopter was safely on its way both man walked briskly to their Suburban and rapidly left the area to return to their base at the garage and get back to work. Guzman had been very helpful which meant they had a ton of information to sort through to see if Guzman had been forthright with them or if he had fed them disinformation. If Grimm had to guess he’d put money on the fact that the information they had received was valid up to the time Guzman was caught. Even stale information would help the team get closer to their objective.
It was still a few hours till the end of the day but since Fuller was underground in his office/warehouse complex a watch was the only way to determine what part of the day it was. Sometimes the men and woman working underground in the complex would get hungry and look at their phones or a watch and realize more time had passed than they realized. That lack of noticing the time from minute to minute seemed for many to help the day go quicker and many found that they were far happier with their job than they had been working jobs up top. They also had a tendency to talk less about the weather since the weather was something that happened away from their work areas. Many an employee left work to find that it had been raining cats and dogs or snowing and they didn’t even know it.
Fuller R. Brown clicked his flashlight on as he entered the storage room. This area of his underground complex hadn’t been completed yet and didn’t have much light coming from the few temporary bulbs strung across the ceiling. In fact the few bulbs there were cast an eerie light that was a tad disorienting and Fuller never liked to enter the area without two tactical lights. If the power failed he wanted to make sure he could get back to the complexes main road without any problems. Fuller lived by the saying that two is one and one is none. With that in mind he and all his men carried two lights on them at all times and two lights in their vehicles wither they be trucks or the golf carts they often used.
This storage room was 30 feet long and 20 feet wide with 12 foot ceilings and it was where Fuller stored an assortment of items that he didn’t want anyone to see or think about stealing. Fuller had just spent the last 30 minutes putting air in a tire of a small forklift and installing a battery in the forklift that blocked the door. A series of simple inexpensive tricks gave the storage room another layer of physical security that would slow thieves down till someone figured out that someone was somewhere they weren’t supposed to be. A small hidden camera monitored the entrance to the room 24/7 and that video feed went to his personal DVR well as the monitoring station he owned. If something happened in the storage area that DVR would notify him within seconds. As an additional precaution the small but heavy forklift had a kill switch that rendered the machine inoperable unless it was activated.
Between having spent time in the military and owning numerous small businesses’ Fuller understood that it was a bad idea to allow anyone to steal from him. No matter what else happened he always took the time to make it hard if not impossible to steal from him and it was a point of pride that it had been 4 months since anyone had taken anything that he owned.
Everything Fuller did to prevent waste and theft was tempered by the reality that some people felt that it was their right to steal money or equipment from others and Fuller always made it as unlikely to happen as he could. The other personality trait that drove him crazy was people that wasted supplies or didn’t take care of stuff. Many an employee had been broken of that habit or had been shown the door for that reason. The forklift he had just moved also had a flash/bang placed so that someone accessing the battery area to get it running was likely to get a surprise in the form of a brilliant display of light and sound. He also found that having ex-military bad-asses that he trusted working for him acted as a very good theft deterrent. Not many people looked at his men and thought it was a good idea to piss them off and everyone understood how loyal those men were to Fuller and his company. A heavy equipment operator had been foolish enough to throw a punch at Fuller over a paycheck dispute and one of Fuller’s men had smacked the guy and broken his jaw. The resulting lawsuit was still making its way through the legal system and Fuller was worried that the insurance company was going to settle the lawsuit
The tactical flashlight lit even the largish room up like it was daytime and Fuller moved over to the shelving on the far wall. A single clipboard hung on a screw sticking out from the shelf. Fuller pulled the clipboard down and began to scan down the list to see where his supplies were at. After entering some notes into his cell phone he returned the clipboard to its screw and walked the room looking for signs of bugs, mice or rats. As usual the room was bug and rodent free so he reversed the process to close it back up.
As he sat in his gold cart driving back to his office Fuller smiled thinking that he hadn’t performed a decent equipment inventory in almost 6 months and he was in better shape than he had realized. Fuller lived by the philosophy that when you eyes are open you see what you need to see. For Fuller that meant that recently when he wasn’t looking for it supplies and equipment they he wanted or needed had been available at a good price. Being a man that valued a dollar he quickly snatched up any bargains he found on things that fit that bill and moved those items into one of his storage rooms to be dealt with later.
Fuller was a small businessman with quite a few irons in the fire. That meant that many of his prep supplies could be written off as normal business expenses or sometimes depreciated and then many much of the equipment and supplies would be tracked for accounting purposes as used, destroyed, stolen or broken. Occasionally it disappeared and miraculously re-appeared in a room like this one without anyone knowing or caring. The prepper lifestyle could be a very expensive interest.
When he pulled back into the space reserved for his golf cart he immediately called over to the maintenance tunnel to get his mechanic Eddie Robinson’s opinion on some things. Fuller had hired Robinson to work overseas. Like so many of the PMCs Robinson had done 1 deployment in Iraq and 1 deployment in Afghanistan and then transitioned to civilian life only to find he missed the action. So after serving his Country and prior to working for Fuller Edgar “Eddie” Robinson had taken his motor pool experience and used it to get into a Toyota/Lexus certified mechanic program in Texas. Then Eddie spent over a year as a certified Toyota/Lexus mechanic at a Dallas/Fort Worth dealership where he was bored to tears and jumped at the chance to go overseas make good money and inject some excitement back into his life. When Fuller quit the soldiers for money game Robinson went back to dealership work and jumped at the chance to come work for Fuller on the mine project. Eddie Robinson had extensive experience working on military vehicles and the Toyota/Lexus line of vehicles but didn’t know anything about servicing and repairing construction equipment so he was tasked under an experienced diesel mechanic as an apprentice.
Robinson watched and learned and was now a fair diesel and heavy machinery mechanic for someone that hadn’t gone to school for it yet. He found after hearing what Fuller was doing and why that he was more interested in the heavy stuff than working on someone’s everyday ride. He invested his time working at night and on weekend to complete an on-line program that would help him get into a diesel or heavy equipment program.
Fuller gave Eddie Robinson a list of repairs and other work he wanted done for the equipment he wanted in the shelter and it was up to Robinson make it happen. The man that had originally taken Eddie under his wing and had been his mentor was hurt in a motorcycle accident and was still only able to work part-time 3 months after the incident. Eddie promised Fuller a plan on how he’d get all the work done in addition to his other responsibilities and the call ended. One thing Fuller did exceedingly well was convey what his expectations were.
Fuller then rode over in his golf cart to the long term storage food plant that was down the road and checked to see how they were doing for inventory. He planned to ship a truckload of food to the Field site within a few weeks and part of the plan was to delay outgoing shipment to his regular sales outlets. That meant that if he needed product that it would be on-site and he could take it. It also meant that he would need to explain to his supervisor why he wanted the shipments dates quoted to be 1 week longer than it really was. By the time production ramped up in the next few days the company could crank out his personal order and be back on schedule.
The production manager was confused but had been unemployed long enough that what Fuller wanted Fuller got. Fuller’s job had saved the supervisor’s house by putting him to work and the supervisor was thankful for the faith Fuller had put it him. The employee discount on bulk food had also come in handy so the man readily agreed to what Fuller suggested.
Fuller traveled back to his office and turned his phone off. The dispatch center at the monitoring center had his private number to contact him if there was an emergency or something he needed to deal with personally. As he sometimes did he turned the light down and stretched out on his couch and drifted off to sleep. Funny thing how refreshing a catnap could be. He wouldn’t remember the dream when he woke up but he dreamed of an idyllic border protected by a fence that spanned the border’s length. The fence in his dream kept the American people safe from the influx of drugs and violence that made their way from Mexico, kept terrorist outside the borders of the US, forced those people that wanted to immigrate to obey the process set-up for that reason and respected the rights of landowners along the Border.
Good eye. I got the name from Blazing Saddles, that movie cracks me up. Good to see I'm not the only one old enough to have seen it.
Now that I think about it I know a wife and son that might enjoy it assuming it passes the content test.
Tim hadn’t seen or talked to Mongo since yesterday when he was setting up the travel trailer in the cave. Around noon Mongo had dropped by and introduced Tim to his co-worker, a man named Quinn. Quinn was part of the team that would help get the underground space up to the standards that Fuller had promised. Tim thought Quinn wasn’t likely an ex-military or PMC type at all. He was short, maybe 5 feet 6 inch and at least 50 pounds over his ideal weight. Even the few minutes that Tim had spent with him gave him the impression that he wasn’t very organized and his personal appearance wasn’t one that Tim associated with somebody that had been in the military. His shoulders had flakes of dandruff on them. He was shaved but had missed some spots like he had done it without the use of a mirror. His work boots looked like he had rescued them from a dumpster and had been patched with duct tape. But the thing that Tim noticed the most is that in the few minutes he had met him Quinn was looking for a pen he had misplaced and never looked him in the eye. It was a minor social gaffe that even small children are taught to do by their parents. After Tim had been introduced to Quinn he seemed to want to get someplace else and very quickly. Their introduction took less than 30 seconds before Quinn almost ran to the backhoe and started it up and checked the oil and lubed the piece of machinery with a hand held grease gun.
Mongo and Quinn had moved the equipment to the cave last night and both men hadn’t been seen since. Tim did hear the echo of their work truck as it left the cave going someplace to do something but other than that with the equipment all in the cave it was almost like they weren’t even there. Tim put the thoughts of the cave out of his mind and again focused on the work he was doing. Becky was at work and the kids where gone so he had the house to himself.
Yesterday Fuller had e-mailed over a work schedule and according to it the men were again transferring equipment from Fuller’s cave complex to Tim’s property. The schedule indicated that in the afternoon the men were going to begin to prep for some light demolition to increase the size of the vertical airshaft that would eventually have a steel ladder going up to the surface. To keep the user’s of the ladder as safe of possible the ladder would be surrounded by a steel safety cage which was becoming standard for this type of application. The airshaft ladder would provide an emergency exit as well as access to a small vertical tunnel that would allow them to get in and out of an observation/listening post located almost directly above the cave’s entrance.
The observation/listening post was to be a safe place to observe trespassers and defend the property against aggressive or dangerous intruders. Directly above the cave entrance a rough 6 by 12 foot area would be dug out till they hit solid rock. Then a concrete foundation would be poured to that height plus another few feet. Then the whole thing would be covered over with dirt and they would form and pour the pieces that would fit over the post and store them in a pile if they ever needed them. While Fuller would have preferred to have a full height post the limitations of keeping it undetectable were his main concern. He was also going to pour a full height post 50 feet away and the two observation positions would be linked with 36 inch metal culvert treated with waterproofing material and equipped with a trolley to move personnel and materials from one to the other.
The plan was that the shaft would be the main entrance and exit for the personnel that were on sentry duty if they needed it. The vertical shaft was wide enough to move injured people in baskets down to the main cave using a pulley installed at the top of the shaft.
Tim’s concentration was broken by the ring of his cell phone. He looked at the caller ID and saw it was Fuller. He set his pen down and answered the phone. “Fuller, how are you doing today?”
Over the other end of the line Fuller replied. As he sometimes did when he was excited his accent was a tad more pronounced. “Tim I just saw Mongo and he told me that the cameras picked up a good sized buck across the road on your neighbors property near the cave. I remember you told me that you don’t hunt and I was hoping you would give me a shot at that animal next Monday when archery season starts.”
Tim thought for a moment and then remembered that he had told a friend that he could hunt his acreage again this season. “Fuller I have a friend that hunts the property but I think I can ask Cole if he can hunt his property instead. I just tell my buddy that the deer are thin this year and that I asked Cole if he could hunt there so he was sure to get something. He wants the meat and could care less about rack and body size.”
Fuller listened and then replied. “Excellent I cannot wait to drop that animal. Mongo’s call gave me an idea and I made some calls. I don’t know if you know this but in your county you can erect permanent hunting blinds made out of any material without the need to pull a permit and the site doesn’t need to be inspected except for safety compliance. The woman at the county courthouse told me for projects that small they rarely have the bodies to sent someone out. That means we can pour the op/lp’s in the open and call them permanent hunting blinds and as far as the county is concerned that’s what they are. There are size restrictions and we need to keep them down to no bigger than 150 square feet and a width no greater than 9 feet. The bonus is that hunting blinds need gun ports so that solves another problem of trying to disguise it true purpose.”
Tim smiled at Fuller’s inventiveness. “Fuller that sounds perfect and I have no problem with you hunting here this season. Let me ask you this. Do you think we are going to need to move any of the op/lps?”
Fuller smiled even if Tim couldn’t see it. “I have a copy of the map here and it looks like we will need to move one bunker 50 feet or so and shift it a few degrees. While I was on the phone with Marge from the county I also checked and the road by the cave is actually not county maintained and belongs to your neighbor across the way. That’s why it doesn’t show up on the GPS and is such bad shape, and that means that we can also put a bunker right next to the cliff face and it’s legal as a hunting stand. If you go through the paperwork from your title company I think you’ll find that you have legal access to that road. Of course we need to change our plans around and get the door done before we let a county safety inspector on the property. I talked to Mongo and he and Quinn have changed the priorities from air, waste, water, door, bunkers and interior modifications. The new list reads door, bunkers, air, waste, water and interior modifications. I’m modifying the work plan as we speak and by building the door we can let an inspector onto the property without fear of him realizing that the mine has been re-opened.”
Tim paused as he was considering what he had just been told by Fuller. “What does that mean to our schedule? Is it going to cost us much time?”
Fuller replied to Tim’s valid question. “Well things down south have entered a slight lull and no new violence has been reported in the last 24 hours. Still no chatter about any major attack on US soil by terrorist yet. So we’re not in bad shape but just to be sure I’m assigning another guy to the site that should be free and out there by tomorrow. He’s the best welder I have and will help knock the door project out. In fact he saw my plans and made some changes I think are very good. His design is a very heavy base that can be added on to like building with an erector set. The main door frame is heavier but after he builds the frame and sets it we can face it and move to the next phase of the plan. That means instead of building the whole door we can erect the frame and face it and then move on. The materials for the door will be stocked in the cave and after they have made good headway on the other projects he can go back and finish up the door which makes our planning more flexible. His idea is that the frame will support 25 percent more ballistic protection than what I had original designed and yet go together in pieces instead of one piece. So if a piece is damaged they can replace it with one of the spares he pre-cut and pre-fit. He also thinks we should think about placing another door on the inside of the opening. It would cover the primary door and give us almost twice the ballistic and blast protection.”
Tim let that sink in. “So you’re saying we have two doors against each other that swing to opposite sides of the inside of the opening? Could we design one door to have firing ports and let in light and air and the other door that buttoned the place up? ”
Fuller answered immediately. “That’s what I’m looking at right now. In a non-NBC environment having the extra shooters is a huge benefit and obviously the added light and air is the bonus. If the dimensions worked out you could button up till it was safe and then open the outer door and move it out of the way and use the other door to gain the additional benefits of extra shooters and the light and air. The main door could still be almost closed behind the secondary door. I have an engineer looking at the rough dimensions right now and should know something tomorrow. The other option is to off-set the door more so that they can be independently of each other. Two doors cost quite a bit more money but the added benefit outweighs the cost and this system is much more flexible. I’ve integrated the idea into the defensive plans and it’s a winner. The second door would be at the bottom of the priority list but it is a very solid idea. Do you have any objections to changing the plans around to do it this way instead of the way we talked about?”
Tim answered almost immediately now that he saw the wisdom in the idea. “Not at all. I’d much rather build the op/lps in the open it is one of the places we were vulnerable to detection and now we’re going to built them with the full blessing of the powers that be. And, I like the double door idea with a scalable level of protection. That idea makes really good sense to me. I’d rather not alter the priority list but I get that we are short on time and need to get the bunkers done before the weather changes. I do have a question about Quinn. He seems unlike the other people that I’ve seen that work for you and I’m wondering why that is?”
Fuller chuckled. “Quinn is my powder monkey and he is very good. In fact he might be one of the top 25 best powder monkeys in the country. About 15 years ago he was working for a strip mining operation in Kentucky. A husband and wife team was making a documentary about the evils of strip mining that they thought would turn the world on its head and snuck onto the property to record a mountain being reduced to piles of overburden to get at the coal inside it. The husband was seriously injured while filming. During the shoot he turned from the blast area and a rock hit his camera and the camera hit him in the head and he suffered a traumatic brain injury. The mining operation blamed Quinn and settled out of court and the State of Kentucky banned Quinn from working there ever again. So he packed up his family and knocked around the country and has worked everyplace from the salt mines in Kansas to a gravel mine in Maine. The story on him was that he’s talented worker with a sorted past. I snatched him up last year and he’s been with me since then. I was told that he feels responsibly for the accident and hasn’t been the same since. He had a reputation as a safe explosives man but the taint of what happened has followed him around like a tail on a dog. By all accounts the accident was something he couldn’t have prevented. He did extensive safety training with the mine’s crew on-site and they all did area checks to make sure that the area was clear. I can tell you he is an artist with explosives and his safety record at my site is perfect. His wife told me the pain from that experience has caused a kind of social anxiety and he is funny that way. Just know that he is a top notch demo guy and give him some space.”
Tim understood that sometimes things happen to people that aren’t their fault and those experiences can follow them around for the rest of their lives. He’d make a point of remembering that the next time he saw Quinn. “I’ll try to remember that about Quinn. And thanks for the heads up about the change in plans. I’ll call Cole Smith and see about getting my buddy moved over there to hunt and let you know. We don’t want him on the property with everything going on anyway.”
Fuller thanked Tim and ended the call promising to send a copy of the revised work schedule. Tim hung up the phone and immediately called Cole Smith and explained the problem with his buddy and asked if the guy could hunt his property instead of the Field’s property. Cole readily agreed saying that another hunter on the property shouldn’t cause any problem. His neighbors had very little hunting activity on their land and the deer numbers were greater than optimal. Tim also told Cole about the revised work schedule and after hearing the good news about the OP/LPs and promised that Tim’s friend would have no problem getting a decent buck to fill his tag.
A few hours later Becky and the kids came home and Tim told her what was happening while the kids were watching TV. She was happy to hear that the bunkers that were going to be used as observation and listening posts could be built without trying to hide the work. She felt that the more you tried or had to hide the more likely it was that someone would take notice. In her mind they were already hiding enough from prying eyes.
Grimm hated being in these places. One of the things he noticed about these drug cartel types other than their propensity for violence and the way they devalued human life was that many of them seemed to spend a lot of time and money visiting prostitutes. This brothel was called the White Rose and was located just outside Juarez. As brothels went it seemed classy if you didn’t mind spelling classy with a K. Outside it looked like a sprawling ranch house with 10 or 15 thousand square feet of space. But inside you were instantly transported back to a New Orleans brothel circa 1900. The red flocked wallpaper and leather settee’s gave the impression of another place and another time. Grimm hated the place but noticed that all the workers seemed well fed and didn’t look like they were sick or drug addicts as was common in the US. If he had to guess he’s put money on the fact that these women were trying to cross the border into the US and were threatened or coerced into become prostitutes by someone in the network of coyotes that worked this area.
As was customary the madam of the house who was all of 30 laid out the ground rules and told Grimm and his man that any rough stuff would be paid for with cash or blood. One look at the two oversized ex-luchadore looking bouncers would convince most patrons to take it easy for fear of having a very bad experience at the hands of the two bruisers.
Out in the parking lot before they had made their way inside Grimm had managed to get clear pictures of the two bouncers without their knowing it. Sparks had run their picture through a facial recognition program and Grimm and his man knew both men’s stories. Their records in the US were mostly bar fights and drunk and disorderly charges that they beat in court, plead out or paid fines for before being returned to Mexico and told not to come back. However in Mexico they were suspected of murder in 3 unrelated cases. Grimm’s experience had been that if a criminal is suspected in Mexico of being bad it most likely means he is really bad.
The brothel catered to middle to lower upper class clients and came complete with a menu. Grimm could pass for Hispanic without much problem but his partner was clearly Caucasian so they were casually dressed businessman from El Paso there to have a good time and celebrate a deal. They sat in the bar and smoked decent yet overpriced cigars and pretended to drink top shelf bourbon while regaling each other about this story or that. But there main goal was to find a guy that Guzman had mentioned that ran this place and was in the know. They had a name and nothing else and according to Guzman he ran the joint for the cartels. While not their most profitable enterprise they had access to scores of easily frightened woman trying to carve out a better life. No cartel employee ever stepped thru the door to be entertained here, this place was strictly for the tourists and the Cartel didn’t want the Gringos scared away by their men and woman.
A man entered the area from the back hallway that led to the restrooms. He quickly fished money from the till at the bar and headed back toward the hallway. As he turned to leave one of the bouncers called out to him in Spanish and received no reply to his question about lunch. The name was the one they had been given so Grimm stood and followed the man into the hallway. Grimm’s partner watched the two suspected killers while they watched a telenovela on a small TV in an office that faced out into the bar area. The office had a large one way glass mirror so the men could watch TV and keep an eye on what was happening in the bar.
Since the man looked like he was in charge of the operation and was addressed by the bouncer by the correct name Grimm was hoping that security was so bad that the man would enter his office and he could simply follow him in and ask him a few questions before deciding if they would snatch him.
Grimm followed the man down the hall and got his wish when the man opened an unlocked door at the end of the hallway. But before the man had a chance to close the door Grimm pushed his way in and turned him around and gave him a shot to the solar plexus. The man doubled over and tried to catch his breath while Grimm swung his weapon over and shot the fat idiot at the table eating fish tacos in the head. The suppressed 22 semi-automatic pistol barely made any noise other than the cycling of the weapon.
Grimm hammed up his best I’m from Texas accent. “Mex, I’m here to rob you so you better have some money lying around or I’m going to kill you slow. While the accent was unlikely to fool an American Grimm was hoping that the fake accent just might fool the man that trafficked in human misery and that man would led him to the infamous Rojo.
The man that Grimm thought was the manager looked at him from the ground with unfocused eyes. When Grimm had hit him the manager had lost his balance and fallen into the desk and hit his head. Apparently he was more of a talker than a fighter and wasn’t used to getting beat on or otherwise physically assaulted. He laid on the ground without offering any resistance or the trash talking these types were known for.
Grimm looked down as the manager tried to regain his equilibrium and stand up. “First of all I’ll be taking the money and then we can talk about what you need to do to stay alive. If you give me any problems I’ll be forced to get mean. Neither one of us wants that so just tell me where the money is there’ll be no problems and you’ll live. We robbed two other cartel businesses in the last 2 weeks and both the managers weren’t hurt or killed by your bosses. I understand one of the managers did have 2 fingers broken for not acting sad enough at the loss.”
The man slowly tried to form words. The effort was what Grimm had seen dozens of time from someone suffering from a mild concussion. “If you take the money I will be tortured and killed to send a message to the others.”
Grimm stared at the man in front of him trying to get to his feet. The manager was a plain looking Hispanic male that was in his late 30’s. If Grimm needed to pick out one feature to ID him it was that he was wearing a cologne Grimm had never smelt before and Grimm thought the cologne was repulsive. Other than the cologne he seemed like just another worker bee making a living off exploiting women. Grimm let a compassionate understanding look crossed his face. “I just mentioned that your boss’s gave the other two guys a pass. Well except for the broken fingers. I’ll tell you what. You give up the cash and I’ll take 20% of the money and give it to your family if they kill you. If you are injured anymore than having some fingers broken then I’ll deliver 10% of the money to you to do as you please. You can tell or not tell your bosses it’s your choice. They might just keep you alive to get their 10% back; they did the last 2 times.”
The unremarkable manager made his decision and plopped back down on his butt. The safe is behind the bookcase over there.” With that statement made he pointed toward the bookcase on the wall behind him. He still seemed dazed and no sooner than he had pointed to the safe location than he leaned over on his side and puked up what looked like eggs and bacon. The manger then used his two hands to give over the combination to the safe.
Grimm counted the flashing fingers and asked if he had counted correctly. “Is 34 correct?”
The manger seemed to be avoiding talking and simply flashed him the universal thumbs up. The manger then flashed another number and turned to Grimm.
Grimm nodded. “Is the next number 35?”
The manger again gave the thumbs up without uttering a word and flashed the next number.
Grimm again counted the fingers. “Is the number 36?”
The manager nodded at the question.
Grimm moved over and pulled flex cuffs from his pocket and quickly bound the manager’s hands. He then stuffed a clean bandana in his mouth and patted him down for weapons. The manager had a ragged looking 38 Special in his sock. The weapon was a disgrace. The pearl handled grips were cracked on both sides and there was surface rust on the hammer and the short barrel. Grimm opened the weapon and found that the bullets had corrosion on them and the cases were dinged up like they were reloads. He slid the cylinder closed and made sure that the empty chamber was positioned correctly and slid the weapon into the wide pockets of his pants.
Satisfied that the manager was under control he stepped to the door and locked it and turned toward the bookcase. As he did he pulled his phone from a pocket and dialed his partner’s number. The man answered on the first ring and Grimm gave him the one word code. “Secure.” With that he began spinning the dial to open the safe.
On the other end of the phone Grimm’s associate calmly checked to be sure that the entry hallway and the bar was completely empty. Satisfied that he was alone with the two security men he slid the pistol from his jacket pocket and screwed the suppressor on under the table. The two men were still engrossed watching TV and hadn’t been paying attention to him so he walked over to the door with the weapon along his body. When he reached the office he leaned in a shot both men in the face quickly. Since he was using a small caliber weapon he pressed the gun against their heads when he fired the second and third shots. The noise had been pretty quiet so he set the weapon down and quickly put on latex gloves. He took both men’s wallets and checked their pockets for valuables and satisfied himself that the room didn’t house a video system for the place. Satisfied that if they had a surveillance system it wasn’t in the security office he removed the suppressor and slid both pieces back into his pocket. The two handguns he found on the security guys he slipped into a small canvas bag he had brought with him.
He stepped out of the office and again scanned and listened to make sure nobody had seen or heard what he had done while closing the door. He then walked around the room and used a rag to erase any fingerprints they may have left. He had just put the rag back into his pocket and set the bag with the weapons he taken from the office on the table when the madam appeared from the front entry way.
She gave him a strange look. “Where are the 2 mens that work here?”
Grimm’s partner smiled. “They went to eat Missy. How about having a seat and you and we can talk to be sure you’re the right girl for me. Now I'm warning you, I’m not a rich man. In fact I only brought $500.00 with me.”
The woman’s eyes lit up briefly at the thought of what to her was a large sum of money. She like all the other girls was on a strict quota. The men from the US didn’t know it but failure to reach their weekly quota could cost them a beating or even their lives. The madam sat down. “I am the head girl. I can take good care of you.” She quickly sat and began giving him the rundown of what the afternoon was going to cost him and what pleasures he would be enjoying.
He was stalling for time so he asked questions and inquired about specific things he had only read about. The professional soldier had been in this type of place before but had never used the services of a professional and cover or not he didn’t intend to start now. He just needed to buy Grimm a few minutes to get things arranged in the office. “Darling I think I’ll have bourbon and then you and I can get to know each other better.”
In the office Grimm opened the safe and was surprised that stacks of $100 bills filled it from the bottom to the top. He quickly stuffed the money into a small canvas sack he brought with him. As he deposited the money into the sack he counted out roughly $65,000. “Anything else worth anything in here?”
The manager quickly answered his question. “Si, the coca, glass and the pills that make the men manly is in my desk. We sell it to the men here.”
Grimm smiled glad he was doing a small part to irritate the cartels by disrupting their business even if it was just a drop in the bucket. “Stand up Mex we’re leaving. And what is glass?”
“Glass is pure meth made by the Cartel’s labs down south. But please do not make me go with you. If I leave the boss will think I stole from him and kill me when he finds me.”
Within 30 minutes the manager of the house left against his will and better judgment. Grimm and his partner also rounded up the 10 woman that worked there and Grimm had been right. All the women had been “sold” to the house by coyotes that had been hired to get them into the US. Grimm asked and was told that the women ranged in age from 16 to 26. The girl that claimed to be 16 looked and acted younger, Grimm suspected that she had been told to say she was 16 if asked. The rooms they found the 7 girls not working were in the basement and a far cry from the incredibly tacky almost opulent rooms that the customers saw and that the girls worked in. The girls told Grimm that the manager wasn’t too bad and that the main beating and abuse came from the 2 security guards that they had killed. They did mention that they weren’t feed very much because the madam claimed that American men liked skinny woman. The madam told the men that she had worked at the house for 6 years and she was just trying to make sure that the girls met their quotas. From just talking to the madam for a few minutes Grimm thought that she had gotten to the point that she saw herself as a prostitute. She had been over the other women for the last few years and was allowed to send money home to her family in Central America. Grimm decided that the madam would be going with them on the off-chance that she had information that might help them in their quest to disembowel the Cartel. In that amount of time she might have useful information they could use. After they were done with her she might be released and returned to her family or not, it wasn’t his problem. Grimm and his men might be able to extract useful information from her but his men would never exploit the woman sexually like the Cartel had so she was safe from that trauma and further victimization.
Grimm offered all the women a chance to leave and gave them $2,000 in cash from the safe and took down their families address and promised to send another $3,000 within a month or so. All 10 of the women took the deal and gathered their meager possessions and fled into the harsh daylight free at last. If they were lucky they would stay out of Cartel hands and recover from what they had been through. If they weren’t they would end up dead from the Cartel or back in the life that the Cartel had trained them for.
While they had been clearing the rooms and gathering the girls up they had ran across a Policeman with his pants down in the room of the girl that claimed to be 16. It was a sad thing to see and if not for the threat of the Policeman who was wearing his uniform and had a weapon the men would have left the room to grant the young girl some much needed privacy. After they drug the screaming naked cop from the room the manager explained to Grimm that the local Police were paid bribes to let the Cartel operate the house. They were also given the services of the girls on a regular basis. Out of earshot of the Policeman the manger mentioned that the cops were very hard on the girls.
Grimm wasn’t amused at Law Enforcement corruption in general and after hearing how the local cops abused the woman he left the Policeman chained naked to the inside of the front door. He took his uniform, belt with his gun on it and his car keys. Before they walked out the door Grimm practiced a few of his moves that dislocated the dirty cops his arm and broke a handful of bones in his foot. Before he closed the door he whispered into the man’s ear and his screaming and pleading stopped.
The kitchen was staffed with men trying to provide for their families so they were trussed up in flex cuffs and Grimm left a computer generated note for the boss. It read.
“Hurt the kitchen staff and I will personally come back and kill you, slowly.”
Grimm, his partner, the manager and the madam left after loading up on fish tacos and some bottled water in the brothel’s kitchen.
Fuller stood next to a truck from his complex and watched as Mongo wrestled with the top to his thermos. It was 7am and one thing Fuller understood about Mongo after working with him under combat conditions was that if nothing dangerous was going on that he needed food and coffee in the morning or he could be irritable. Most sane men didn’t want a person like Mongo to get irritated and worked to avoid it. With the lid off Mongo poured the coffee into the thermos’s lid and reached into the box of doughnuts that Fuller had brought the workers. While Fuller knew that many of the men he had served with and worked with over the years treated their bodies better than the average civilian more than a few of even the health freaks broke down and would eat a doughnut or two without giving it much thought. Fuller had found that the doughnut standards very much depended on where they were in the world. Down south the expectations were Krispy Krème and not much else. Many of the men he had worked with were southern boys born and raised so they had a thing for the overly sweet confection from that establishment. Overseas he had seen feeling get hurt, grudges held and fights break out over stale Hostess mini chocolate doughnuts smashed into little pieces from the journey over. So this morning he swung 30 minutes out his way to make Mongo and the other guys happy and bring the good stuff. As he was driving over he thought for not the first time in his life how much easier it would be if he just broke down and bought a franchise.
Cole Smith’s younger brother walked over to the men snaring the doughnuts down. “Truck’s just leaving the plant. Let’s get ready.”
Mongo looked at the man as if he had stolen a puppy and stuffed the whole round filled doughnut in his hand into his mouth. Well it was more like 2/3s a doughnut and Fuller smiled. Watching Mongo attack a doughnut with coffee in his hand was a uniquely satisfying experience. The pure joy Mongo had for doughnuts and coffee made you think that everything in the world was as it should be. It was like watching kids absolutely have a blast doing something and you realize that civilization exists for these moments. Inspired by Mongo’s enthusiasm Fuller walked over and grabbed a crème filled for him and ate it while drinking a bottle of water.
Mongo took a long sip of his coffee and wiped his hands on his pants. He was excited about the pour now that he knew what his job was. He was ready when the truck pulled up to dump the concrete into the forms. Cole Smith was driving the truck and his brother stood next to the forms giving his dad directions while he backed the huge truck up. Fuller and Mongo understood that these men knew their stuff and didn’t waste time. Within 30 minutes the concrete was in the forms and all the air pockets had been purged. Mongo rinsed his hands off and headed back for another cup of coffee and another doughnut. Fuller had given the men at the site a dozen and would bet money that by the end of the morning that the box would be empty.
The holes excavated for the bunkers sat below ground level so that when they were finished and the roof was poured they would have just over 6 feet of headspace inside them. When completed they would protrude above grade 3 to 3 and half feet. It was more than Fuller wanted but having the bunker like fighting positions might prove extremely useful someday. As designed the bunker would have a foot of earth covering them and they could always pile more dirt on top of them if they needed it.
The bunker that was originally going to be directly over the shelter’s entrance was moved due to thinner than expected topsoil. After lamented the loss of that location Fuller was relieved that moving it 50 feet down the cliff face would still cover the entrance effectively and actually allowed them better sightlines for that side of the cliff. It also was faced with a thicker wall than they had originally designed. The problem was access to the bunker. All the bunkers were or would have a tunnel to access them. The location they were forced to use had very thin topsoil so that meant that they would need to improvise. And improvising meant they would need to borrow heavy machinery from Fuller’s complex and re-contour the area from the other bunker to the bunker that covered the entrance. The big machinery moving all that dirt around wasn’t an easy thing to hide on top of the fact that they would need to work out the drainage problem they might cause.
Satisfied that the pour was complete Fuller told everyone good bye and got into his truck for the 2 minute drive to the shelter to check up on the work being done on the door. After spending so much time in the service working beside and with an Engineering Battalion Fuller had searched for to compliment what the military had taught him about camouflage. It was one night watching TV that he realized that his military experience had caused him to forget that there was a professional that could help him. For over a hundred years humans had developed the motion picture and film industry as the modern high-tech incarnation of entertainment. Drawing from the ancient forms and legacies of theatre and dance the technology of filmmaking had ushered in an amazing world of make believe that allowed the viewer to be transported anywhere that man or woman could imagine.
It was then that Fuller had taken an interest in the set design for plays and movies. Since good set designs and builders working on a play or a movie could trick you into believing that movies shot on the set in Hollywood or in Canada were shot on location that is who he trusted when it came time to camouflage things. And after searching the previous year for a project at his underground complex Fuller had found the man he thought would make some magic and he was right. That man was going to do the same thing on this project with the cliff face and some other odds and ends later down the road. That man, the man he found last year was a set builder from Canada that was working illegally in the US and did unbelievable great work. He had worked on TV and movies sets for 20 years in Vancouver and had fallen for a girl from Seattle. Shortly after meeting her he up and immigrated to Washington State to live with her. Today the transplanted Canadian would be fashioning a cover for the entrance that would look like a pile of dirt leaning against the cliff face. That would allow anyone looking at it to assume it was something it definitely wasn’t while the welder built the door behind the movie set type facade. After the cover was completed it could be taken down and re-erected and touched up as needed.
Fuller pulled up the truck up to the shelter entrance and watched as the Canadian smoked a cigarette next to the opening. He looked over and waved to Fuller and Fuller waved back. Fuller slid out of the truck and walked over to the artisan. “How’s it looking Jacques? You getting it figured out?”
The blonde headed Canadian claimed Swedish ancestry and was tall and slender with big hands that were crisscrossed with scars from fighting or work Fuller didn’t know or care which. “The frame is going well and I think I matched the color of the cliff to a tee. The test batch of color is drying and should be ready within 20 minutes or so. With the color pre-mixed all you need to do is give it a good shake and load it into the sprayer and go to town. I’ll show your man Mongo how it’s done and unless you know what to look for it’ll fool most people even close up. The only problem I see is that temperature and humidity can alter the colors appearance slightly so no spraying below 10 Celsius which is 50 degrees on your scale. Also the humidity needs to be below 80% to get the material to bond correctly. After seeing the site in-person I’m estimating that I can have the frame built, covered and sprayed tonight and then we double check tomorrow to see if you and I are happy with the results.”
Fuller was happy to hear that by the end of the day that Jacque might have the cover to the entrance done and smiled at the tall Canadian. “That’s sounds good. If you get done early enough I’ll buy you and your girlfriend dinner. I know a place you’ll both like. I need to go in and check on Eddie and see how he’s doing so I’ll talk to you later on. Call if you have problems or need anything.”
Jacque nodded and threw the cigarette he had been smoking on the ground and stomped on it. “See you later.” Jacque then leaned down and plucked the cigarette off the ground and slid it into his pocket.
Fuller stepped through the opening and saw Edgar “Eddie” Robinson with a cutting torch in his hand. He cycled the oxygen paddle a few times to be sure he was happy with the torch’s operation and flipping his helmet visor down to trim of some steel off a 1 inch piece of steel on a brick topped table. Fuller turned away and shielded his eyes as the torch made contact with the steel and headed back outside to wait while the welder was working. Fuller had met people that had eye damage from welding exposure so he always left the room when there was cutting or welding going on if he could. Even with protective equipment he found the smell and the heat unnerving for some unexplainable reason. He waited a few minutes till he heard the flame go out and the gas being turned off by Eddie.
Fuller turned around and walked back into the cave. Eddie had his welding mask off and was using a ruler to check his work. “Eddie how we doing, any problems?”
Eddie stared at Fuller aware that he wasn’t a fan of gas welding or cutting with any type of torch. “Just cutting and building some of the anchors for the curtain. Powder monkey told me that he would blast my holes tomorrow as soon as the artist is finished up and the curtain is up so I want to have the area ready for him. Be a shame to go to all that work for the cover and then ruin it with a shot. The curtain is ready to be hung as soon as I get all these anchors cut and mounted and the track installed. Mongo and Quinn told me they’ll help me get the curtain up if I can get all the pieces sorted out. It’s a good thing Quinn is helping because I haven’t done this before and he told me there’s a trick to it.”
Fuller looked at the pile of steel sitting on the ground of the cave. That sounds like a good plan. Anything you need help with other than me buying lunch and delivering it?”
Eddie stood and thought a minute. “No, I think I’m good. If I need anything I’ll let you know and I’ll take the usual for lunch.”
Fuller replied in a jesting tone. “Sometimes if a man is thinking about lunch before most are eating breakfast it means he’s unhappy with his job. Eddie, are you unhappy with your job?”
Eddie looked at Fuller. “No it’s not that I’m just hungry. Mongo was in the shower forever and I ended up skipping breakfast. I’m hungry, so if it seems like I’m cranky it’s because I am.”
Fuller nodded at the reply. He had shared living space with Mongo before and the man was a shower hog. “I got some filled chocolate doughnuts in the truck. I didn’t offer because you told me you’re trying to eat better and drop a few pounds.”
Eddie asked suspecting he knew the answer to his question. “Where are they from?”
It had been 14 hours since Grimm and his man had taken the manager and the madam from the White Rose brothel on the outskirts of Juarez. Grimm had been to Juárez at night many times before and guessed that by the time his assignment was done that he’d be to the rough and tumble border town numerous times until he was sick of it. For Grimm spending time in Border towns was difficult and reminded him of the various third world countries he had spend time in. In the US/Mexico border towns the disparity between the two cultures and countries’ wasn’t lost on him.
By the time they had gotten across town and checked into a seedy motel it was afternoon and their plan was to wait until dark and then have their pilot pick them up out in the desert away from prying eyes. The trip from the White Rose was uneventful and with their prisoners trussed up in the back of the vehicle Grimm’s partner drove while Grimm studied a map of the city.
That was over 12 hours ago and now they were holed up in a seedy motel across town and waiting for their ride back to civilization. And if you have been to the poorer parts of Juarez you understand that a seedy motel outside Juarez after dark made any Holiday Inn in the US look like a penthouse at the Four Seasons. Their motel did have one thing that Grimm liked and that was the desk staff was very uninterested in who did what to whom and why as long as they got cash up front and you didn’t trash the room too bad. Grimm did worry about the Cartel or their corrupt cops reaching out but he was betting literally his life and the lives of the others that the Cartel would assume that the crazy gringos had fled back over to the United States.
It made sense that the Cartel would assume that the men that committed murder in their place of business and robbed them of a safe load of money would run back to the US like the devil himself was chasing them. For generations men and woman from both sides of the Border had been stepping over the international border between the United States and Mexico and causing trouble and then retreating back over the border. Thieves and bandits had been doing it successfully forever. Just prior to World War I General John “Blackjack” Pershing led an expedition into Mexico attempting to capture or kill the notorious Mexican bandit/revolutionary General Pancho Villa. The 10,000 troops and support personnel led by General Pershing ventured over 350 miles into Mexico but failed to get Villa.
Over time a lot of things have changed but one thing seems to have stayed the same. Mexican Nationals were doing bad things in the US and fleeing back over into their homeland and personnel representing the best interest of the United States were being sent into that country to ferret them out.
Grimm had planned that this trip would take less than 24 hours but their Bell 430 helicopter had a mechanical issue at take-off. Since they were safe for the time being Grimm decided risking lives in an operation this important didn’t make sense and ordered the problem be fixed before the helicopter headed into Mexico to pick them up.
Grimm’s phone rang and his pilot spoke to him. “the problem’s fixed Mr. Lally and I’m 10 minutes out of the airport. I need a pick-up point for your charter.”
Grimm mentally pulled up a map in his head and scrawled through his options. “If it works for you we can be at the González International Airport in an hour.”
The pilot replied to the information he had been given by his leader. “I’ll see you at Gonzalez Airport in an hour. Also I’ve arranged a complimentary drink service for you and the rest of your party.”
“Thank you we’ll see you then.’ Grimm disconnected the call and took the battery out of his phone. He turned to the other 3 people in the room. The helicopter would be transporting their prisoners farther south and then smuggling his partner and himself back into the US. “We need to move so I’m going to let you use the bathroom and then we need to get moving. I don’t need to say this but failure to comply with each and every order from us will result in a negative consequence. Does that make sense?”
Both prisoners nodded their head and stood to use the bathroom not knowing how long the trip would be. Their helicopter would not be going to the Gonzalez International Airport, that was code and told the pilot which pick-up point they would be at and when. And the pilot stocked the helicopter at all times with ice cold bottled water and sports drinks so the beverage service comment was code for drugs that would safely render the prisoners unconscious.
The people including Grimm all visited the grimy and sticky bathroom and relived themselves. Then it was back into the vehicle and a 20 minute drive to the pick-up point.
Inside the vehicle the madam whose real name was Mariposa looked at Grimm. “I have twin boys that are, how to you say four. If you do not kill me and leave me someplace the boss’s can find the body they may be harmed. So even if I do live they are in danger.”
Grimm looked at the woman and decided that she was younger than the age she had given him and was a pretty good liar. In the brothel he just assumed that the mixed signals he had gotten about her truthfulness were partly from the stress of the situation. But, the lies she told herself and others around here to survive had become a part of who she was now. If she lived and stayed away from the life the shame she felt about sleeping with men and woman for money meant that she would be lying for years about her time in the brothel. “One of the other girls told me that a pregnant co-worker watches your boys most of the time. Is that correct?”
Mariposa nodded. “Yes, she is staying in a small casa they own not far from our work. Men still like to visit her at work even in her condition. But during the off-hours she is allowed stay there for the peace and quiet. While there she watches the children of the woman that all live there.”
Grimm nodded surprised that she had asked about the boys sooner. He also heard her use the term work in the present tense which might mean she still saw herself as a prostitute. If he hadn’t found out through another one of the girls then the boys would have had been in danger from the Boss or Boss’s that ran the place. Grimm replied to Mariposa’s statement “I asked one of your co-workers to take the children with her. I gave her money and after we’re done with you and it is safe she will be paid more money for keeping them safe while you were gone. If she does as I told her she will be OK. If she betrays me to the men that you used to work for I told her I will be forced to hunt her down and kill her. Your children are safe with her, I give you my word.”
Mariposa swallowed so hard Grimm heard it. Here she was forced to take the word of a murderer she knew killed two men at the casa and only he knew where her precious boys were. From some time here life had been a living hell and only thing that made it bearable was the time she was allotted to spend with the boys. She had been forced almost 6 years ago to live this life and the transition had been a rocky one filled with pain, tears and blood. After awhile the tears refused to come but the pain in blood had become constant in her life. Doing what she did, where she did and for who she did meant her chances of escaping the life weren’t good at all. She assumed that she would be killed violently at the hands of either a customer or someone in the organization. And here she was again, a man she didn’t know dictating to her the life she was to live and it had been that way for her every minute of every day for almost all her life. Her beautiful twin boys were the only shred of happiness she had since the day they were born 4 years ago. Before that the last good day she had was the day before the coyote had taken her from the group being smuggled over the border and brought her to the casa. “I trust you because I have no choice. Please make them safe and I will pray for their happiness and safety.” With that she bowed her head and began to say a silent prayer. The safety and happiness of the twins were her first request. After that she admitted to God that she had been bad and committed too many sins to count and asked for his understanding. If and when she had the opportunity she would find a church and do it the right way. It had been a long time since she had talked to a Priest other than at work and that Priest was not a very Holy Man.
They arrived just as the helicopter came into view and 5 minutes later they were off and running toward the south
As soon as they were strapped in the passengers were injected with the drug that would put them under and both quickly fell into a very deep sleep after a token compliant about what had happened. Grimm and his partner Sparks checked and then monitored their vitals and found them within the acceptable ranges. Before they would cross the border back into the United States they needed to drop the prisoners off at an out of the way airfield. There they would meet with the plane that moved their prisoners farther south toward the interrogation site.
_ __ _ _ _
Fuller shifted and rubbed his knee trying to work the cramp out of his knee. When he stood up he wiped the sweat from his forehead with a bandana that had a vaguely camouflage pattern. He, Mongo and Eddie had been walking the areas that the locator service had marked that let him and the other men know where any utilities lines were buried. They told the locator people that they were in the process of planting trees and without any further curiosity the service had sent a woman to mark the areas to avoid digging into critical infrastructure like natural gas, power, water and telephone lines.
The female employee of the locator service had been to the property twice in the last 2 weeks and they went ahead and had her mark the area around where Tim planned on planting trees and bushes for an orchard. She also marked the area around the front entrance and down the front property line for the additional ‘landscaping’ they would be adding soon. She had been very understanding and repeatedly thanked them for being responsible and having her come out instead of just digging willy nilly like many people still did.
Jacques, Fuller’s set designed from Canada via Seattle had done an amazing job building the cover for the mine’s entrance and when the woman from the locating service was over in that area near the private road Fuller walked beside her and made small talk hoping that she didn’t get too close a look at the cliff face or the exceptionally well disguised opening. The cover was painted to match the rock face but if it was touched someone might realize that it was a cleverly disguised ruse.
He was excited about the work they had done on the opening but if things ever got bad the new bunkers would be comfortable year round. In the fall and winter it would keep the wind off them and let them use a small electric heater for when the Midwest winters could make hunting or keeping watch a frigid experience. But with the last few years recording lower than normal temperatures Fuller was convinced that this bunker could be manned 24/7 and 365 days a year without many problems. In the warmer months of the year the bunker should stay a comfortable 65 degrees or so and all year round it would protect from rain or snow. But right now in the fall with the temperature an unseasonable 75 degrees the air in the concrete structure was stagnant but a comfortable 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Fuller decided that he needed to find a sealer or paint that would let the effects of the earth’s temperature moderate the bunkers temperature but keep the summer humidity and dampness out. The beautiful thing about this point in time was that chemical engineering had kept pace with the blistering pace of progress. That meant a very good product was out there he just needed to find the one that would met their needs the best.
2 hours later Fuller glassed the area around the electronic call again to search for coyotes. After seeing the quality of deer in the area and getting excited he decided that he would manage this area just as he did his property in Texas with Tim’s permission. And while the Texas deer do OK with the limited water and lack of quality food other than his food plots the deer in this area looked very promising to a man used to Texas deer that were sometimes described as rangy. Also in this area of the country the deer didn’t have to compete with the feral hogs that had gotten out of control in his part of Texas. Those dam hogs were a menace and could do serious damage wherever they went. One of the many problems Fuller had with them living nearby was that they ate almost anything including small deer and that complicated his deer and wildlife management program. And if that wasn’t bad enough they also ate crops and tore up land so that it needed to be repaired. So on his property Fuller made a serious effort to control the feral hogs to the point that it was almost impossible to find one on his property. Unfortunately for Fuller many of his neighbors hadn’t yet invested the resources to push the animals out or eradicate them. From the stories Fuller had heard many ranchers and farmers in his area were content to merely manage them and accepted the damage they did as their cost of doing business. The feral pigs were considered smart and with a birth cycle that made them prolific breeders the key to keeping them in check was to always be looking for ways to kill or capture them. They were a problem that if not properly controlled quickly grew out of hand.
The one problem he was concerned with here on the Field’s property was the coyotes. Like many of the areas throughout the country people were far less concerned with the pesky vermin than they had been in previous decades. In the area around the shelter it appeared that hunting pressure on the wiley animals was pretty lax. So to counter that trend Fuller had set up in the first fully complete bunker to call and put some coyotes on the ground. He had his scoped and suppressed AR-15 sighted in at 100 yards to accommodate the short field he was working in. Suddenly he caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye and swung the low power scope over to see if he could spot something that needed to die. In the brush at the tree line he could make out a coyote that was sniffing the wind and trying to decide if it wanted to investigate the rabbit distress call. Fuller could make the animal out but the shot would be thin. The coyote wasn’t moving but a branch or piece of brush obstructed his shot.
Fuller was comfortable taking the shot and began to go through his routine just like every other time he had a moment to think and plan a shot. The expensive trigger on his custom AR broke clean and smooth, Fuller knew as soon as the bullet left his gun that it was a miss. It was then that he caught another flash of movement in his scope and canted the weapon over quickly to see what had been moving and drawn his attention. Standing less than 10 feet away was another coyotes and for some reason the first suppressed shot hadn’t scared it off. This coyote was in plain view and Fuller squeezed the trigger without thinking about it. The view through his scope told him that the bullet did its job and he saw the animal crumple to the ground and lie motionless with the exception of a rear leg twitching.
Fuller understood that he’s need to check the 1st spot and make sure the shot was as bad as he had feared. He took his rifles and his shooting seriously so each and every time he missed a shot he was capable of he worried about losing his edge. Shooting was thought to be a perishable skill and he had been very busy in the last year and had neglected to practice much with any of his rifles in. He vowed to himself to rectify that oversight moving forward
He let the call run another 10 minutes to be sure he couldn’t call in anything else and trudged out of the bunker carrying a camp chair, his rifle, a backpack and a small cooler with water and a sandwich. He carefully set the chair and the cooler down and walked over to where the first coyote had been. He was surprised that there was a decent blood trail. He had hit his target just not very effectively. He followed the small droplets of blood on the ground for 50 yards and then decided enough already and headed back toward the golf cart he had used to get from the mine’s entrance after grabbing the coyote he had killed.
Grimm looked down at the compound in the rural dead end of the Mexican State of Sonora. The general area was only serviced by a rough gravel road that by US standards was fit for ATV and motocross enthusiasts. Using a combination of 21st century toys and gadgets the ‘smart’ people back in their operations headquarters had determined that there wasn’t anyone within 10 miles of where they were except them and the people they were watching. And that lack of people that could stumble upon them or notify the compound of their presence allowed Grimm and the team to focus on the mission and expend less resources looking over their shoulders.
He snuck a quick peek at his small GPS figuring and then rechecking the altitude of their primary over watch position. During the operation 2 men with precision rifles would be keeping an eye on things from above and one of the men would be watching thru his high powered scope where Grimm was now laying. The anticipation of the coming festivities brought a smile to his face. If someone had actually seen the smile they might have noticed that the smile reached his eyes and might even convey a real sense of joy or happiness. Grimm was lying on his stomach next to the new guy they called Tex and watching the activity in and around the training camp below. The intelligence people had gotten this one right on the money the first time and Grimm could feel the growing excitement. For him growing excitement meant he was hyper focused on the operation and making sure in his head that the plan was solid and avoided as many potential problems as possible. He had learned early in his military career that plans seldom went exactly as hoped for and he would adapt on the fly just like he always did. The reason Grimm was such a force to be reckoned with was that he was extremely flexible once action started.
The intelligence reports had been correct and the compound was a training facility for the El Paso/Juarez Cartel. It specialized in training drug, weapons and money sniffing dogs just like they did in the US and around the world. By learning what the dogs were capable of and learning methods of fooling their incredible noses the Cartel was that much closer to closing the technology gap. Well if you consider using animals to do work that no human or machine could do technology. The staggeringly large amount of resources expended by the US on Border protection and anti-smuggling efforts cost the Cartels 10s of millions of dollars every year in the form of lost profit from seizures and arrests and abandoned loads. If the Cartels transporters could fool the well trained dogs here then they could conceivably fool the dogs that the various Law Enforcement Agencies in the US employed against them. That success would mean that the Cartels could more successfully get their extremely profitable products over the Border into the US and in turn sneak their profits back south and into the hands of the Cartels.
But unlike the precautions that were afforded to the canines in the various US Law Enforcement Agencies only a small crew of guards saw that the valuable animals didn’t fall into competitor’s hands or were harmed in any way. They had a small contingent of what appeared to be trainers who were assisted by a handful of handlers. The small staff seemed to be well taken care of and had access to luxuries like cable TV, good food and some alcohol in the form of beer during the week. Satellite images had shown women being driven into the compound every Friday night and a drunken party taking place. Archived satellite data allowed the experts to determine that the women were part of the Cartels prostitution operation. The 9 men that guarded the facility seemed more interested in staying in the shade and away from the dogs. Those guards understood that the dogs were more valuable to the cartel than they were. 2 of the well armed guards were on duty around the clock and worked in 4 shifts that were 6 hours long. The rest of the time they did what they wanted and seemed to be on call at all times. It looked like on the weekends when the woman or girls they couldn’t tell from the images were delivered that they were also allowed to drink and enjoy the company of the sex workers.
Mariposa, the Madame they had taken with them from the Juarez brothel had told the interrogators about the place. Last year she had been shipped to a city called Hermosillo in Sonora and worked in a brothel there during the week. But every Friday she had been loaded into a truck with other women and driven 4 hours to the camp. She explained to the interrogators that she felt the reason she had been moved to Hermosillo was specifically for the camp’s use. That seemingly minor piece of information had turned possibly important when she mentioned that they trained dogs there. And while they might have assumed at first they were training fighting or guard dogs the mention of the smaller breeds known for their keen smell changed everything for them. As they researched the operation it became obvious that this was no run-of-the-mill doggy fight club training outpost. The information turned out to be very useful and had made people in Grimm’s organization very happy. Since all the Mexican Cartels were known to be difficult to infiltrate by outsiders using this as a work around seemed to be the best way to acquire the information and intelligence that the various groups needed to avert further troubles along the Border in the El Paso area. The more they understood about each and every aspect of the Cartel organization the better things would work out in taking the organization down permanently.
10 days before when they had done the job at the brothel in Juarez and after their detainees had been flown off into the Mexican night Grimm was surprised that his boss had called him to congratulate him and his team for the outstanding job they had done. He was very surprised to be told that the prisoners they had captured would be turned over to a secret temporary interrogation center located on a private island near the country of Belize in Central America. Even working outside the military the adage that said that people should be treated like mushrooms held true in the organization. Grimm and his people were often kept in the dark and feed bullshit.
The story his direct superior told him was that a US investor with the dream of leaving the US and living the tropical island lifestyle had bought the remote and undeveloped Caye. His plan was to build a semi-intimate island resort that catered to the solidly middle class on the 400 acre Caye. There he planned to spend the rest of his years drinking umbrella drinks and trying to get lucky with the lonely female tourists that appreciated a man with some character, some money and some gravitas. Complications at the island’s building site with labor and materials, the lack of additional capital after the mortgage crisis and other financial set-backs in his life shut the project down and had left it half completed. Finally lingering trouble with the IRS in the United States insured that if the resort was ever completed that he wouldn’t be a part of the ownership team in any way shape or form. The island’s developer was forced to surrender his dreams and he and the IRS worked something out. In exchange for signing over the rights to the island and its half completed resort to the US Government he was able to avoid jail time. He wasn’t happy with his change in circumstances but was ecstatic to avoid prison time which had been a very real possibility for him. He came to the brutal realization that it was better to be broke and have his retirement ruined than to spend time even in what they called a country club prison. A Federal Penitentiary was still a prison and all that entailed.
At the island the prisoners would have their initial and main interrogations done there by a top flight team that had decades of experience and had proven themselves again and again with subjects captured in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern vacation spots. The small secluded island off the Northeastern coast of Central America measured less than 400 acres and insured a great deal of privacy. The main interrogation area had features that had proven to significantly increase the probability that the subjects would succumb under the intense psychological pressure that would encourage them to open up. This carefully researched and meticulously crafted environment helped encourage the subjects being interrogated to respond to the methods the center used. It helped speed up the process of getting them to divulge information that the teams needed to turn the Border Crisis around and bring it to a decisive end. But even in the perfect environment and using the most successful methods the subjects were terrified at what might happen to their families and friends if the Cartel knew what they were doing. That threat of violence made the job on the remote island much more challenging.
The Cartels were notorious for their psychopathic brutality and the lack of humanity that allowed them to use, torture or kill anyone that they believed was a threat to their international multi-billion dollar business. The Cartels simply didn’t tolerate anyone or anything that undermined their business in any way. They had bribed, threatened, tortured and killed Mexicans at every level of their society from politicians and judges to policeman and guys that picks up the trash. Many Mexicans regarded the Cartel members with ice cold fear. And that ice cold fear meant that the interrogations were as complicated and difficult as the ones involving the Islamic Fundamentalists who thought that their actions would insure their entry to paradise. But in the last decade the interrogators had learned a few things about getting information from people that were highly motivated to thwart their efforts. The main advantage that they had now was that the guidelines were significantly more flexible than they had been under those circumstances. Like Junior on ‘Swamp People’ says, “This here’s no joke”. For the detainees on the island pain with the very real threat of violence and death were options this time around since there wasn’t anyone looking over the interrogators shoulder.
The integration center understood that getting the information that they needed was going to be difficult and take time. And time was one thing they were in short supply of. Finding the instigators and stopping the Border Crisis was now one of the most important priorities in the U.S. intelligence community as well as the FBI and Homeland Security. The longer it went on the more violent it would become. After all the Cartels were waging a war against the most powerful nation in the world. In the grand scheme of things a continuing Border Crisis made the US look weak. And everyone knows looking weak just gives some people the impression that they can hurt you.
Timely access to that information was vital to Grimm and his team as well as the other teams doing the same or similar jobs they were. After the detainees had given all the relevant information they had and the interrogators were satisfied they would be moved further along the line to their final destination. For some that might mean a new life free of cartel influence, or confinement till the crisis was brought under control. For the most ruthless and dangerous of them they would likely end up floating in the Caribbean Sea in International Waters.
All this was important because less than 24 hours after their arrival the manager of the brothel had opened up and had given the integrators a name of the man that he reported to. The information had checked out and was being analyzed. As an insurance policy the brothel manager had compiled files on every Cartel member he had ever had contact with or had heard about. His hope was that the information stored on a secure internet site might discourage him from being tortured or killed in the event of a problem. A smart man doesn’t live in that life without doing what he can to insure that he lives long enough to retire comfortably at a fairly young age. And as far as the manager knew nobody had full retired from the Cartel life in decades. The way to get out of the Cartel he belonged to usually meant violent death. You worked and hoped for the best knowing that you weren’t likely to ever see retirement. A dispute, a discrepancy, a rumor that you talked to Law Enforcement/Military or a power shift marked you for brutal torture and death. If you were lucky your death was quick and clean but good deaths in the Cartel were the exception and not the rule. Many men, woman and children had been brutally tortured before their eventual murder for seemingly small transgression.
Those files were quickly retrieved from their internet safety deposit box and analyzed for relevant leads in the case. Bits and pieces from that treasure trove were passed to Grimm for his next assignment after the canine facility. And that next assignment was the kidnapping of a mid-level Cartel member who called himself ‘Sergeant’. Like many cartel members at one time he wore the uniform of his Country’s Army. A few of the various analysts had speculated that the Sergeant might also be known as the infamous ‘Rojo’ that they were very interested in. Their analysis was based on the fact that the Mexican Army had different color rank insignia for all classes of troops and according to them red was the color of a Sergeant.
Grimm remembered being excited as he read thru the file synopsis for the “Sergeant”. He was looking forward to getting back to work. Kidnapping dog trainers and destroying animals wasn’t really anything he had any interest in. But the disruption to the Cartels business might force them to make some ill-advised moves. They had bits and pieces of information about the ‘Sergeant’ that was less than a year old. For a professional like the ‘Sergeant’ or a man like Grimm’s a year was an eternity but it just might give them a few threads they could pull to get a bead on their quarry Many Cartel members altered their habits on a regular basis to stay ahead of International Law Enforcement and their rivals who killed people without a seconds hesitation. But with a few breaks and the resources that the team had access to a misstep or two might just be all they needed to tighten the noose.
Grimm had spent enough time in the US Armed Forces that he had learned to deal with the various mental issues that could affect men and woman that had served their Country in combat. Of all the things that he had done and seen done interrogations remained the one thing that still gave him emotional issues. Four years earlier an emerging crisis had forced him to interrogate a Taliban asshole that had critical information in the area near Tora Bora in Afghanistan. It wasn’t his decision to make and he was simply following orders however misguided they were. While he talked to a specialist over a Sat phone he was forced to use a rusty hammer that was missing a claw to break a man’s fingers one at a time till he gave up the information that they needed. He respected the commitment to the mission but felt that the torture didn’t fit his warrior philosophy.
The information they got led to the death of a bomb maker and his assistants in Islamabad three days later. But dreams of the screams from that night still occasionally disrupted his normally restful sleep. They were by far the worst dreams of his time in the service and after he has one he would wake up in a pool of his own sweat. After that he let his superior know that he wouldn’t ever do it again orders or not. He’d intimidate, bully, cajole, threaten, menace and even kick someone in the ass or point a gun at their head and threaten to shot them but he wouldn’t actually interrogate them if it involved any form of torture. His boss knew that and accepted that even Grimm had things he wouldn’t do for his Country.
Grimm carefully slid back over the hill and out of sight from below and made his way to the small camp just behind the next bend in the ground. They had been watching the compound in the searing heat for 2 days and had video and copious notes on how it operated. According to the sat images the next day Friday would mean a visit from the man they assumed was in charge of the camp and maybe other camps or operations as well.
The man they assumed was the leader of the camp had been nicknamed Scar for the very noticeable a ragged scar that stretched from temple to temple. They hadn’t seen him in the 2 days they had been watching the camp but the satellite images they had been sent indicated that he would make an appearance tonight. Grimm and his men hoped that taking the leader as well as the rest the team minus the security detail might mean that they could gave the interrogation team other useful subjects to work on. Grimm didn’t know how big the interrogation facility in the Caribbean was but he intended to do his best to fill it its capacity.
Grimm’s team was supplemented on this assignment by another of the other teams that was working the Border Crisis in the El Paso/Juarez corridor and the surrounding areas. Grimm had been assigned the task of leading the combined teams and he looked up at the men assembled in front of him. Grimm was a natural leader and men and woman just naturally followed him and strived to make him happy. It was time to re-brief the men so they could get mentally ready for the task ahead of them and re-check their equipment. Grimm was confident that they would do their job without any problems. These men had been around the block so if a problem did arise they would know what to do. “Our original plan is the on-track. We wait till Scar enters the camp and the party starts up. At 0300 we knock the guards out and take over moving from back to front. If we get lucky the wind will be in our face and the dogs we will be quiet. But just in case make sure everybody gets doused with the scent killer. After the camp is secured we wake up the driver who will be drunk in the main house and get the ladies back in the truck and moving away from the camp. The two men that are assigned to act as decoy guards will tell them that the “Boss” is on his way and if they are caught it would be very bad. Nobody wants to ever see a Cartel Boss let alone have to explain why they did something wrong so they’ll light out like their pants are on fire. We tell them to keep it quiet and make sure we have all targets drugged and bound. The final count is the site manager, 9 guards, 3 trainers, 2 handlers and 4 technical guys and 1cook. That’s 20 targets plus Scar that we need to drug and move so stay sharp and if a problem creeps up let me know as soon as you can. The driver and the girls get out and nobody else. Any questions? Good. Double check your equipment and get some rest. We’ll be moving by 0100.”
The men understood the pep talk was over and the men that had been assigned watch made their way to their positions while the rest the men headed off to check their equipment and get some rest. It was going to be a busy night so a nap was always a good idea.
Over the last 10 days men and equipment had rotated in and out of the mine and Fuller declared that the site wasn’t done but it was ready to take in refugees if circumstances dictated it. To celebrate the achievement Fuller had arranged a party in the mine that had been turned into a large NBC shelter. The guest list for the Grand opening was Mongo and 3 other men that had worked on the shelter. Fuller had a history with the four men from the work detail and he trusted them implicitly. The other guests were the Fields minus their children and the Smiths with theirs. The Fields children were still too young to understand the necessity of not telling anyone about the secret space so they would spend the night with their grandmother.
The crisis along the Border had tapered off in intensity and Fuller’s people from Texas had all returned home. Fuller and his security team had designed a website that was restricted access for his clients that helped assure that they were updated constantly about what was going on with the Crisis and could reach him or one of his senior people 24 hours a day. Every single one of them had a security assessment done for them and their families to analyze where they were vulnerable. After the assessment was done the results were discussed and they were briefed about adding additional security precautions to their everyday lives to reduce the change that they became of victim of the violence that centered on the El Paso and Juarez border areas. It now seemed that the notoriously dangerous city of Juarez had imported their problems to the El Paso area and if it wasn’t for the proliferation of Texans permitted to legally carry concealed handguns the problem would have even been worse. Crime in El Paso had abruptly risen and that reduced the quality of life for all the area’s residents.
The previous week one of the leading internet homepages reported that the Texas Department of Public Safety reported that applications for their Concealed Handgun Licensing Program were twice what it had been the previous year. The Department of Public Safety spokesman in Austin confirmed that the Border Crisis had been responsible for the staggering increase in interest in that program. The Texas Department of Public Safety also released guidelines to involve citizens of the State help Law Enforcement with the problem by reporting suspicious activity to the Texas Fusion Center. Many of the new program’s guidelines were loosely based on various actions taken after the 9-11 tragedy by New York City’s leaders. Parts of the program shared with the public included committing to install and monitor more cameras in the El Paso area as well as increasing officer hiring for all communities and Counties near El Paso. The program committed additional resources from the Texas Department of Public Safety including reassigning 30 Texas Rangers to the area in an effort to increase the areas safety. Those additional measures supplement the commitment from the US Government in the form of assigning more agents and other resources to the Border Patrol and Homeland Security in the areas most affected by the Crisis. The website reported that sources had implied to them that Homeland Security was committing another 3 Predator B UAVs to the Texas and New Mexico region to aid in controlling the flow of illegal’s and drugs into the Country. One of the computer modeling scenarios that Homeland Security had run had pointed out the fact that a serious disruption in the flow of income to the Cartel in that region was an effective way to insure that management was replaced. New management might see that the situation had gotten out of control and replace members that supported the collision course that threatened to destroy them. The White House and the Department of Homeland Security were unwilling to comment about the Crisis other than to say they were committed to getting it under control and bringing those responsible to Justice.
The report also mentioned that gun dealers in Texas, New Mexico and the other affected states had seen a rush of both first time handgun buyers as well as additional interest from those that already owned a firearm. Ammo was hard to come by in both States and even Law Enforcement officers were forced to order their ammunition from a source outside the States.
Tim and Becky Fields hadn’t been in the shelter in almost 2 weeks and both were looking forward to getting to see what progress had been made and get an idea of the supplies and other resources were there. Mongo would be grilling up his Huli Huli Chicken, Cole and Rita Smith were bringing the sides and the Fields were in charge of the dessert. Becky had told Tim that she was making two different desserts to make sure everybody’s sweet tooth was completely satisfied.
Finally the day of the shelter’s Grand Opening was upon them. In true Fuller fashion he had arranged a big reveal like they did on all the reality TV shows. Tim had seen everything from when they ripped someone’s house down to the studs and re-did it in 3 days to when they turned a plain looking woman into a made over hottie complete with a new haircut and color to compliment her new wardrobe and excellent accessories. Tim & Becky Fields standing beside the Smiths and their boys were led to the edge of the cave.
An oversized canvas painter’s tarp covered the entrance and after a 5 second count down the tarp was dropped. The main entrance had been cleared of everything and it was plain to see even from just the entrance that changes to the cavernous space were startling.
Tim considered Cole Smith a master of the understatement and he quickly summed up his feeling about the transformation of the cave from the mouth of the cave. And contrary to Cole’s normal speech pattern the words seemed rushed as they floated out of his mouth. “Holy Shit! This place looks stronger than a brick outhouse.”
Rita smacked her husband’s shoulder. “Coleman Smith, watch your language there are ladies present.”
Cole came out of his brief trance. “Please excuse my language ladies. I was taken back a moment there.”
Becky smirked and turned toward Cole who was standing 5 feet from her at the cave’s entrance. “Cole I think I speak for all of us when I say we appreciate you using the word outhouse instead of shithouse. And Rita you have to admit that even the front door is impressive.”
Rita smiled at Becky her partner in crime. “Impressive is one word to use. That door is almost bigger than massive.”
With that statement the two couples and the Smith’s boys stood in awe of what they were seeing.
The first thing they noticed is the huge door made of layers of concrete and steel that sat against the inner wall that must have been 3 feet thick. Judging from the hinges imbedded in the floor and bolted to the wall the door weighted tons. Lots of tons since the opening to their shelter were big enough to drive a semi thru. The surface of the heavy, heavy duty door that faced the outside of the shelter looked much like the cliff wall and from a few feet it would have been difficult to tell the door from the rock that surrounded it.
As the group walked farther into the mine Tim noticed that the ceiling of the mine had been painted white and was covered from end to end with what looked like chain link fence. The guests noticed that every 10 feet or so a square block of metal was stuck to the rock with what looked like a threaded bolt. Rows of new lighting lit up the space like a department store and between the paint and the new lighting it was hard to believe that they were in an underground space.
Fuller smiled at the look of shock on the face of Tim and Becky Fields, because they had just barely crossed the threshold of the shelter and already they were amazed at the way the shelter work had progressed. “Little different from the last time you were in here I bet. I hired a few cousins of one of my guys to come up here from Kentucky to help us out with the ceiling. I will admit I’m pretty proud of that door. In fact that door will stop anything up to and including .50 BMG and then some. It’s modular so we can just use the frame and the rebar reinforced concrete outer layer. That makes it easier to open and close but if there is a problem we can slid the steel plates into the frame and increase the door’s ballistic protection. The roof has what they call roof anchor bolts that have been driven into the rock and help stabilize the roof. We also used mining mesh which is similar to welded wire fence, it helps stabilize the strata. The bolts keep pieces from breaking off and dropping on your head. They put friction on the length of the bolt and anchor the rock in place. The mesh just increases the overall safety of the area again by catching what gets dropped. Both your mining engineer and mine told us he was happy with the mine but during either a nuclear event or an earthquake these steps will increase the mine’s safety factor and help mitigate the risk of a catastrophic collapse. We also added the 8 inch steel I-beam frame over the entrance to add rigidity to everything. Our protection factor from collapse is above average for where we are and what could conceivably happen. The safety measures are slightly over engineered just like they should be.”
Tim Fields just stared at the work that had been done in such a short period of time. “Wow, Fuller this is even better than I was hoping for. I mean it’s not like we’re a mile underground or something. In fact didn’t you tell me that the reasons the rooms were long and not wide is because it’s so close to the surface?”
Fuller nodded his head up and down as he answered the question. “Well the way I see it is that I may end up sheltering here someday along with everyone else. You should understand that the people that would be here are more than just clients and employees. Some of these people are families and friends of mine and they deserve every opportunity to wither any disaster that heads our way.”
Fuller followed behind the Fields and the Smiths as they wandered further into the mine. To the right of the door some material had been taken out and a space maybe 8 feet tall and 10 deep and been blasted from the wall.
Tim looked over at the area that had been blasted. It ran the entire length of the first room “Fuller I see we made some improvements to the original footprint.”
Fuller walked toward the area to the right of the entrance. “We coordinated with blasts at the Smith quarry and increased our space. Those areas nearer the door will have a rebar and concrete wall constructed and be housing and a combination break area/laundry room for the security team. The area at the very back will be an armory to store weapons and ammo in. Also if you look at the far wall we have constructed floor to ceiling shelving to store materials. It also houses all the water purification equipment and supplies. ”
Tim and the group had been so impressed with the sheer bulk of the entry door, the ceiling and the recently opened up area to the right they hadn’t even looked over there. Tim and the group now saw that the entire length of the wall to the left of the entrance did hold heavy duty shelves that looked like they could support a small car easily. A few of the shelves already held various boxes and equipment on pallets.
Tim was taken aback by the transition he was looking at. Before the idea of what he had accomplished seemed almost enough to protect his family and friends and now as he looked over the cavernous space he realized that he had been far short of what he really needed to do the job the right way. “Fuller this is unbelievable. I cannot wait to get into the other areas and see what you did there.”
Fuller smiled and held out a flashlight and depressed the tactical tail switch twice. With that 3 white electric golf carts came bounding from the far side of the mine. Mongo and the other two of Fuller’s guys were driving. Fuller waited while the carts covered the short distance. After the carts pulled up and stopped the men hopped out of the carts and Fuller addressed his guests. “Ladies and Gentleman our electrically powered, earth friendly conveyance awaits. For this part of the tour I would ask that you keep your hands and other body parts inside your assigned carts at all times.”
The assembled group chuckled at Fuller’s little joke as they took seats in the carts. Fuller slid behind the wheel of a 6 passenger cart and Mongo slid in beside him. The Fields and the Smiths gravitated to his cart and got on. The Smith boys took their own cart and the other two Fuller employees took the last cart. Fuller looked back to make sure everyone was ready and seeing they had all boarded their carts he took off. At what Tim thought might be the carts top speed they were across the room and into the inner area of the mine. Fuller led the other carts to a wall to the left of the wall that divided the room and stopped.
Tim looked at the smaller room and was again surprised at the progress that had been made. The ceiling and walls had been painted just like in the larger room and the wire covered the ceiling. But the attraction in this area was the food preparation area.
The back wall of the area had two insulated doors which had what looked almost like window air conditioners anchored above them. Tim and the other guests assumed the doors led into a walk-in freezer and refrigerator. Next to it an opening large enough to accommodate a forklift stood door less. Tim and the other guests would guess that this was an area reserved for storage food and other foodstuffs. Shelves lined most the wall except for the two station hand washing sink complete with hands-free knee valves and the sinks for washing dishes that was attached to the commercial grade dishwasher. 10 feet from the wall and parallel to and in a row was a commercial stove that looked 6 or 7 feet long, a char boiler grill and a flat grill. The area to one side had 2 long stainless steel prep tables like you see in a restaurant. Glass fronted steam tables on wheels fronted the entire food prep area to allow food to be served to a largish group cafeteria style. Near the steam tables were plastic racks on a 4 wheel trolley that Tim assumed were filled with plates and glasses.
Fuller let the equipment speak to the level of commitment he had for this part of the project. For the guests seeing the blank canvas of the space barely being utilized to where Fuller and his team had brought it was sure to be a little of a shock. Hell, Fuller had seen the work progress and even to him the transition was pretty amazing.
Satisfied that the impact of the converted area had been absorbed he continued the running monologue of the mine’s improvements. “I bought a truckload of equipment from a closed down restaurant in Texas last year. The equipment was enough to serve up to 150 people at a time so we will be installing a full commissary including soda machines and a soft serve ice cream machine. We also ended up with 2 commercial grade coffee machines and an off-brand chocolate fountain. Now this area is a week or two from being what I would call operational but in a pinch we could use it to serve a large group if we had to. Eventually I thought we might enclose the area with walls and tile the floor and back walls. I had help designing the layout from a friend that designs restaurants. He seems to think we could serve over 100 people in about 45 minutes depending on the entrees.”
Cole Smith stared at the kitchen area and spoke. “Fuller, I was a little leery of what you could do with this place but my lack of faith was in error. From what I’ve seen so far you and your crew have done an outstanding job. You mentioned that there is still work to do and I’d like to help if I can. So my question to you is if you can use an old man with bad knees and lower back issues to help get this project wrapped up? Did I mention that the boys have good knees and strong backs and where I go they go?”
The Smith boys smiled at their father recruiting them for the effort but their dad had taught them that preparing for the possibility of problems in the future was the responsible thing to do so they were both more than willing to help.
Fuller nodded at Cole to show that he appreciated the gesture. “Most the dangerous and hard stuff is done but the answer is that we could use some help on a few things like getting the walls up and getting the tile laid. We’d appreciate the help and I want to show you the living quarters because there we have some issues. If everybody can hop back in the carts we’ll head there next.”
As the group was heading toward the carts Tim asked. “Fuller you and I spoke about air, water and sewer when we agreed to this deal. Any progress in those areas?” Tim climbed into the second row of the 6 passenger cart as the rest of his group piled on.
Fuller took the driver’s seat flipped the ignition on and after double checking everybody was aboard took off. “We added some additional bathroom stalls and you’ll see them in the living quarters. The air was a concern so we delicately blasted out the vertical shaft we were using for fresh air and installed an enclosed ladder to the surface and the air filtration equipment. It can be quickly sealed up so if any NBC event occurred then we’d button down the hatches and ride it out breathing clean and safe air. The sewer issues were more difficult and we engineered a solution using a sealed vertical shaft and pumps to take the material up to a holding tank and that in turn will allow the material to flow into septic tanks and into an inadequate leaching field. It is a crude solution that we’d only use in an emergency situation. To keep from having to utilize that inadequate system we have a number of portable toilets here including drums of the chemicals needed and the pumps and wastewater tanks. Today for instance we will be using them just like the guys have been for the last few weeks. Water storage is still being worked out but right now we have a 3000 gallon truck coming in with a Buffalo and some additional tanks that give us maybe 7000 gallons of storage capacity. I think we need to install some underground tanks and I trying to get financing to start a bottled water company at my mine. When we initially bought the equipment for the water plant I would buy a smaller system as a back-up and store it here for emergencies. So between what we have for purification we’re in good shape. The thing that concerns me is our water storage immediately after going into the shelter. I’m working the problem and I’m convinced we’ll find solutions.”
Fuller stopped the cart at the far wall away from the room’s entrance and stopped. This is the area we assigned as living quarters and the problem we have is breaking it down so all the guests would have their own enclosed space for sleeping and procession storage. Of course both the Fields and the Smiths have assigned areas that have additional space since without you we have no shelter. But for everybody else not assigned to the security detail I’m stumped. I’ve talked about using a bunkhouse concept were woman and men and separated and bunk with the gender peers. But we would have children in the mix so certain families couldn’t be broken up. Our other idea was to divide the space into rooms that could sleep anywhere from 2 to 5 people but the space would be more like a prison cell than a hotel room and some of these people are used to living in first class. Also we need clinic space for the health care providers to insure that the injured and sick have a comfortable place to recuperate.”
Becky fields had always had a good eye for space and dimensions and chimed in. “Fuller, what if you used the opposite wall to the left as we face the commissary and added some rooms there? That would still leave a large common area and allow you to stretch the space out on the two walls. The clinic needs to have space that backs up to a wall to keep the drug supply safe and the wall next to the systems rooms look like they have the space.”
Fuller looked at the wall next to the systems rooms amazed that he had overlooked the potential of the idea. Becky I think that just might work. We could gingerly blast out some room like we did up front and then we could blast medical supply and drug closets into the rock. I’ll talk to the engineer but I think that just might work.” Fuller turned to the crew with an apologetic look on his face. “Sorry guys I should have figured that out two weeks ago. Mongo if we blast that area out how long would it take to clean the rooms back up?”
Mongo smiled his big man everything’s cool smile before answering. “Boss we might be able to clean it back up in say 2 or 3 days. So say add on 3 days to the finish date and we should be OK.”
Fuller smiled. The damage repair would be easier than he had thought it would be. “Tell you guy’s what. When you get this project done I’ll buy you tickets anywhere in the US, or should I say the lower 48 and give you all a week off with pay.”
Mongo looked at the other two men standing beside him. “Sounds good to me.”
The mechanic whose name Tim always forgot smiled. “That sounds like a deal boss. My wife and I could use some time together. I haven’t been home 2 nights in a row since we started this project and she is getting cranky.”
Fuller nodded. “Gentleman we have a deal. Now let’s get the grill fired up and bring in everything else so we can eat. I’ll explain how everything else works and answer questions while we’re getting the food ready.
Fuller answered all the questions that the Fields and the Smiths threw at him. Rita Smith had an idea that had some potential and the boys thought they knew where they could buy a truckload of tile seconds that couldn’t be sold to the public.
Somewhere in Sonora
The appointed time showed on Grimm’s watch and thru his night vision scope he could see his man sneak up behind the slightly drunk guard and kill him in mere seconds. The stealthy warrior gently pulled the inert man toward the shadows to insure that the body wasn’t prematurely discovered.
Grimm swung his gun toward the bunkhouse and flipped the power switch to the shotgun mike back on. He adjusted a knob and the sound of snoring came thru the headset. He paused and strained his ears listening to hear if anyone was awake or fooling around with the girls. He then swung the parabolic microphone over to the guard that was still pacing around the corner from the bunkhouse. Grimm could hear the slight almost non-audible sound of another of the team slipping into position.
In his right ear he heard two quick clicks that were the sign that the second guard had been killed and that his body had been hidden from view. Now that the two drunken guards were dead the team would be neutralizing the other guards who were all in their bunkhouse sleeping off the effects of the alcohol they had consumed in the previous hours.
Sparks slowly slid the infra red camera attached to a cable under the door and scanned the room looking for movement. In the far corner he could just make out a guard on his back with one the prostitutes straddling him and slowly wiggling around.
He carefully reached down to his radio and squelched it once; he then waited 3 seconds and repeated the process. The signal meant that he had targets that were awake and that he was remotely activating the white noise generator. He palmed the remote and hit the button on the lowest sound setting and waited while the generator started to quietly fill the air with ambient noise meant to mask any sound they made inside the barracks. All of a sudden Sparks heard a foot scrape the ground and by the time that he had turned around a woman had appeared from around the corner of the building. Sparks saw the shocked look on her face and as she was starting to scream the expression on her face changed and she collapsed to the ground. Sparks realized that one of the other team members had clocked her in the head. He looked back down to the monitor and the couple was still gently swaying to a beat only they could hear.
Sparks felt the other team members as they gently touched him on the shoulder to let him knew they were there. He slid the camera to the jamb side of the door and waited while the men lined up for the slow motion dynamic entry. They had talked about this and after watching earlier in the night decided that being sneaky might in this case be a waste of time. They planned to have the first two guys go thru the door as if he was slightly drunk and move toward the man that was awake and his companion. The room was dark so the little light spilling from the bathroom was overpowered by the darkness of the large room.
The lead man walked into the room with another of Grimm’s team and headed toward the corner of the room. Their gait was unsteady and one was cursing under his breath in slurred but authentic sounding Spanish. When the man reached the bed occupied by the night owls one leaned over and quickly placed a pillow on the man’s head and shot him with a suppressed 9mm pistol. His partner whacked the prostitute in the head with an Asp before she registered her surprise and had the opportunity to scream. The sound of the aluminum Asp striking her head sounded imperfect and neither man wanted at the moment to speculate that maybe just maybe she had been struck just a tad harder than was healthy. The two men that slipped into the room behind them wore NVGs and all the other off-duty guards had remained asleep.
The first man into the room pulled a square of heavy plastic from his cargo pockets just as the dogs began to occasionally bark. They could have smelled the blood or maybe the wind had shifted and they had caught the unfamiliar scent of the attackers but regardless of the reason the men all understood that they needed to finish up in here and get to the main house before someone went to check on their K-9 charges.
The four men stood over the victims holding a pillow topped with the plastic to keep the splatter from messing their uniforms. Each man now was wearing NVGs and at the signal each man covered the heads of their subject and pulled the trigger of the suppressed weapon twice before moving on to the other sleeping guards. One of the men threw the prostitute from inside the guard’s bunkhouse over his shoulder. She had alcohol on her breath so a shot of booze would be poured on her and the other girls told that she had passed out. The girl that had been conked at the door to the barracks was carried to the truck also. For her the story would be that a guard was drunk and got rough with her. In her profession chosen or not it was par for the course. The time from opening the door to all the people in the room being dead or unconscious was less than 45 seconds. The men slid toward the door and out into the open courtyard that separated the guard’s bunkhouse from the main house.
By now the dogs were beginning to get restless and the team could hear them pacing in their concrete and fenced enclosures. The animals had sensed that something wasn’t quite right and a few were barking occasionally. The barks were timid and Grimm guessed that if the dogs barked at night that they had been beaten or otherwise abused to stifle the habit. In this case they could have saved the trainers and handlers some wear and tear by alerting them that something wasn’t right but you pay your money and you take your chances.
As the team entered the house they walked into a mostly dark yet spacious sitting room off the entry hall and scanned for bodies. The house was small enough that they might share rooms so if a couple wanted privacy they could be anywhere in the house. The sitting room was empty except for the man they had seen driving the truck sleeping on the couch. They covered his mouth and injected him with the drugs that would knock him out for 30 minutes or so. The team continued on into the kitchen where they found a trainer pawing thru the open industrial sized refrigerator. His back was to the men so they simply touched their special modified stun gun to his neck and caught him as he collapsed to the Mexican tiled floor.
The rest of the operation went smoothly. As they suspected Scar had the room at the end of the hallway and he was knocked out with the super fast acting drug. His plump female companion was woken up and told to dress quickly and quietly. She was then escorted to the truck by one Grimm’s team that spoke very good Spanish. The men then entered the rooms of the trainers and handlers. The process of drugging the man and threatening the woman was repeated when there were companions in the room and within 10 minutes all the trainers and support staff were in a drug induced sleep and all the girls were in the truck awaiting permission to leave the compound.
The dogs posed a different type of problem. Grimm was told that he was to muzzle the dogs and walk them along the evacuation path to the pre-dug graves. Then his task was to be sure each and every dog was euthanized in a quick and humane manner and the graves were as undetectable as they could be made.
The dogs were excitable when they entered the kennel areas and they were forced to shot the dogs with a very mild sedative to insure the team’s safety. The dogs were muzzled with the equipment they had brought with them and the trainers and handlers would lead them on the march as soon as the team revived both the trainers and the dogs.
Grimm was happy when each of the contingent of trainers and handlers was revived that they accepted the story of them being US Military and that they would be questioned and released. They were told if they were helpful enough that they would be granted temporary status and allowed to stay in the US. They explained that the job of the trainers and handlers meant a long time away from home so the Cartel had chosen men without close family ties. All were under the false impression that the information they had would be enough to allow them to stay in the United States permanently. For many escaping the poverty and violence of Mexico seemed like a dream come true.
Scar was the exception. He looked pissed off and no matter how his men reacted to what they thought was good news a scowl never left his face. Scar was also the exception in that he had what looked like a valid passport from Israel. His Spanish according to the team member with the best Spanish betrayed a Spanish accent more in line with Barcelona than anywhere in Mexico, Central or South America.
The cadre of trainers were given water and told to drink to counter the effects of the alcohol they had all consumed and the drugs they had been given. After each and every man had consumed a liter or more of water the handlers and trainers were shuffled to the kennels to take charge of their dogs.
The two kilometer walk was uneventful till they paused at the pre-dug grave and two of Grimm’s men took the leashes from the Cartel’s K-9 training team. One of the trainers saw the grave and began to sob which upset the dogs as he was led away toward the extraction point.
The two men caught up with them 10 minutes later as they all sat and waited for their ride. It was then that Sparks told Grimm that Scar had requested to talk to him privately.
Sparks led the man in flex-cuffs to Grimm who waited to hear what the Cartel minion had to say for himself.
The man in front of Grimm introduced himself in English. “My name is George and I’m with the Agency. My cover is that I was an Israel K-9 trainer and I’ve been on-site for 8 months gathering intelligence on the Cartel’s operations. If you’ll call Sidney Buckman in Washington he’ll vouch for me and he can arrange my de-brief. I can give you the extension if that helps at all.”
Grimm studied the man and felt that his story might be true. Grimm just felt that the story seemed authentic and frankly the man had little hope of pulling a fast one on a trained US soldier. “George till we get a handle on you and get you vouched for you’ll be treated the same as the others. We will be keeping a close eye on you to make sure you stay safe but other than that there isn’t anything I can do till we get orders. I sure you understand that, and if you are who you say you are I apologize for stepping on your work.”
With that Grimm focused on the sound of the approaching helicopter that would again take the men they had captured along the path to their Caribbean vacation spot.
The grand opening of the shelter was an unmitigated success. While Fuller had gotten the mine in habitable shape there were still some work to be done. The dehumidifiers were in but only one of the three units was hooked up to the power and operational. While the other two were close to being ready to run the single one that was operating was doing a decent job of keeping the humidity under control and at a manageable level.
The kitchen was still in the process of being set-up and it would be another week or so till it could effectively feed a large group. Fuller had mentioned after the group had all eaten that he had added some items to their inventory that would arriving by truck within a few weeks but didn’t disclose what those items were.
The concrete walls to enclose the security contingent’s quarters and the armory would be done within days as soon as Cole and Rita Smith’s sons could schedule a few days off from the concrete plant.
But all in all the Fields and the Smiths were excited about what they had seen and the progress that had been made in such a short amount of time. The master inventory sheet that listed all the Long Term Storage food and other items that would be stored in the shelter told both families that Fuller was committed and serious about the project. Based on a 2000 calorie a day per occupant allowance they would be storing close to a year’s worth of food in the mine. And things like salt, pepper, spices and honey were stored in 5 gallon pails and by the pallet.
Another of the advantageous aspects of Fuller being aligned with the Field’s and the Smiths was that he had access to wholesale and bulk pricing on a wide array of items. One of the things they had access to on a wholesale level was firearms and ammo. Now that things seemed a little strange Tim understood was that he needed to be spending more time enjoying shooting instead of some of the more frivolous time sucking things like watching mediocre TV and surfing the net researching things he already knew or didn’t have serious interest in.
He was waiting on Mongo to make a delivery to the house of some items that he had ordered thru Fuller. Tim saw Mongo at the front gate in a company pick-up so he got up from his desk in the office and headed thru the garage to receive his latest order of goodies.
As usual Mongo was his effusive self and began the conversation as he slid from behind the wheel of the truck. “Special delivery. I think you’re going to be happy with what I bought you. Fuller adjusted your order and instead of 2 of the production ARs your getting two 1/2 MOA spec. guns from a respected custom maker that we just inked a deal with within the last few weeks. Within the next month or so all of our rifles will be replaced by this model and the old ones will be moved to our surplus inventory or sold off. He thought it might be good to have your rifles be the same model all ours. He told me that if that isn’t OK with you that he’d understand and have your 2 replacements for you within 3 days. Oh, and Fuller threw in the .308 uppers at no charge.” With the good news Mongo slid the two plastic storage cases from the back seat of the crew cab pick-up and moved them around and set them down on the tailgate.
Tim had heard of the manufacturer. They had made their name building custom 1911s and two years ago had entered the highly competitive and popular AR market. With the explosion of interest in ARs it made the once highly lucrative 1911 pistol market look stagnate so it seemed a wise and forward thinking transition to bring their operations craftsmanship and attention to detail to black rifle enthusiasts. As Mongo opened the case Tim just stared. While most ARs looked similar to every other AR made the difference was in the craftsmanship and the accuracy these rifles processed over their mass manufactured competitors. “Mongo that is one serious looking piece of American engineering. And I always intended to buy a .308 upper down the road.”
Tim stood transfixed by the potential of the rifle that lay in front of him on the trucks tailgate. From the factory targets laying on top of the rifles it was clear that they were capable of more accuracy than he was capable of utilizing. It just reinforced the knowledge that he needed to brush up on his marksmanship.
For a full minute Mongo just stood beside Tim and let him take it in. Then as if the spell had been broken Mongo spoke. I shot mine yesterday at the range in the complex and it is one sweet shooting firearm. If you’re not sure you want to keep it bring it over and we can show you what it can do. Trust me that is the finest AR I have ever shot. We’ve been told by the experts that the coating on all the interior surfaces make it just as dependable as any other AR on the market.”
Tim looked up as he gently caressed his new toy. “Mongo I’ll call Fuller to thank him for the present and I’m keeping these rifles. Do you have some paperwork for me to finish filling out?”
Mongo smiled and reached into the truck. He brought out one an aluminum clipboard that closed to keep documents and paperwork from getting wet or dirty. He lifted the lid and pulled out a .380 pocket pistol and a spare magazine and placed them on the truck’s tailgate. Then he pulled out the Federal paperwork and searched around inside the cab of the truck to find a pen.
Tim handed over the pen he almost always kept clipped to his shirt. “Looking for one of these?”
Mongo nodded and took the offered pen and began the process of finishing up the paperwork to comply with Federal regulations concerning the legal transfer of a firearm. Not surprisingly Fuller processed a Federal Firearms License (FFL) that gave him the right to buy and sell firearms for profit. That FFL meant that Fuller had access to wholesale pricing for any currently manufactured or sold firearm. It also enabled him to receive wholesale pricing on other firearms related accouterments and ammunition.
Mongo looked up for a moment and twisted his wrist around to relive a cramp. “Shakespeare was right about killing all the lawyers, he just forgot that the politicians and then bureaucrats and the paper pushers should be next. Dam paperwork is a pain in the ass.”
Tim chuckled at the big man’s comment. He was no fan of excessive Government intrusion and was always happy to hear that his views about the state of the system were shared by others. Tim felt that he had morphed from a socially moderate/fiscally conservative Republican to more of a Libertarian that believed that less government was the only cure to many of society’s ills. And for as long as he could remember he thought that less was more when it came to Government.
After a few seconds Mongo resumed the painstaking task of filling out paperwork. Tim knew from listening to Fuller talk about it that when it came to filling out paperwork for firearms transfer that it had to be perfect. With that in mind he kept silent while Mongo did his thing.
After a few minutes Mongo quit writing and reviewed his work. Satisfied with the effort he handed the clipboard and Tim’s pen to Tim and pointed to where he needed to sign. “Sign here, here, here and initial here.”
Each place he needed to sign had a sticker with an arrow on it and Tim signed as directed. Fuller had already run his name thru the national Federal background check and was granted approval to complete the transaction. The original form 4473 he had completed was attached by a paperclip. Along the top it had a hand written note that said ‘Proceed’ and was followed by a set of numbers and letters. On the third page in the blank area the two rifles were listed along other 2 spaces that were for the uppers said ‘other’. Tim assumed that meant that his NICS check had been completed and approved. So with the background check passed and the paperwork done the one remaining obstacle to owning the guns on the tailgate was a check which Tim had in his pocket. Tim handed the check to Mongo who took the check and folded it and placed it inside the storage area of the clipboard. Mongo then remembered the pocket pistol and the spare magazine he had placed on the truck’s tailgate and reached over and retrieved both items and set them back into the clipboards storage area along with the paperwork they had just completed.
Mongo then reached into the truck’s back seat again and pulled out two long boxes that Tim assumed held his .308 uppers. He handed Tim the two boxes. “We’re good. Take these and I’ll bring the rifles in.”
You got it. You thirsty? Need something to drink?”
Mongo began moving toward the garage. “I’m good. Mind if I use the restroom?”
“Hey whatever you need. In this house we richly reward people that bring us guns. It’s almost a tradition.”
The two men walked into the house and chatted about the work at the shelter. Now that the Open House had taken place and the principles had seen what had been accomplished Mongo was again able to share what was going on there. Tim enjoyed hearing about the progress and noticed the pride that Mongo took in his contribution to its completion.
Grimm watched the video for the 15th or 16th time. Their target a Cartel middleman called ‘Sergeant’ was shown eating at an outdoor café in Juarez. The video indicated the place was up-scale restaurant located in a high priced shopping distract. Yet the video showed no one else with the exception of the ‘Sergeant, 10 visible bodyguards that ringed the location providing a strong deterrent to anyone that would dare to assault the Cartel bigwig and a stunning brunette that was in fact beautiful enough to be a model. The accompanying report from their Intelligence Division listed the companion as a professional model that was a Columbian citizen. She was rumored to be getting ready to land a contract with a US based cosmetics firm with International reach which could launch her into the ‘supermodel’ category.
As Grimm watched their interaction it was clear that they were friendly and intelligence from two different sources mentioned that their 5 month relationship was intimate. Grimm was stunned that such a beautiful and well paid model would be spending time with a man she obvious know was involved in the drug and human smuggling trade. Unbeknownst to her in the last 24 hours she had been reported to the State Department and was now officially unable to legally enter the United States. Grimm smiled at the fact that the almost supermodel that had laid down with a dog was going to find that she awoke with fleas.
He was proud of someone in their organization for their out of the box thinking in partially de-railing the woman’s career. It was a lever that at some point in the very near future they might be able to use to convince her to provide Grimm’s Organization with useful information about their target. It drove Grimm crazy that these bad people were treated either as Kings for the amount of power they wielded or malicious Dictators that had the power of life or death over so many good and decent human beings.
The video source or method was not identified but the video ran for 30 minutes and toward the end of the video a middle aged man was allowed to approach the couple’s table and sit with them. While the video showed both men talking they constantly shifted their heads around and at times covered their mouths to reduce the chance of their conversation being analyzed by lip readers. The report also indicated that the table was surrounded by impenetrable wall of white noise and other listening counter-measures that made recording the conversation almost impossible.
According to the report a jumbled recording was being run thru channels at the Agency to determine is anything useful could be gleaned from it. They also were searching thru the database to figure out who the visitor was but even with current technology that could take a while and there was always the possibility that the visitor wasn’t in anyone’s system.
So Grimm sat and watched the video hoping that watching it would lead to some type of inspiration. The café was a possibility for a quick extraction but overcoming the 10 man security force was dangerous and their target was rumored to sleep in 5 or 6 different places. They had the technical specifications of the Mercedes that carried him around but as expected it was armored and would be very difficult to snatch him from. While it would be possible to take him from the car the chance of losing men was very high. Much too high for Grimm’s taste. Grimm was effective, that’s how he got this assignment but he was also a notorious for his eye toward risk mitigation when it didn’t adversely impact the work. He prided himself on keeping his team safe and returning them intact both mentally and physically. So gun battles with Cartel bodyguards were something he was going to avoid at all costs.
All the information he had right now was invariable leading him back to think that the key to the operation might just be extracting information from the stunning girlfriend. If they could figure out where the ‘Sergeant’ the most vulnerable it might help Grimm formulate a plan that was workable.
Grimm slept on it and while he was working out the next morning he decided that the girlfriend would be approached and offered a deal. It was Grimm’s operation but for turning loyal family members and underlings against their family member or their boss there was a team that excelled in the art.
After his grueling workout he showered and made the call to bring in the ‘Closer’. By calling the ‘Closer’ and her team he risked compromising the operation but under the circumstances the risk seemed to be warranted. He waited and while the phone connected thru the chain that would help disguise the ‘Closer’s’ actual whereabouts he thought that if she balked at the request he’d have to call Jackson or do the approach himself. Not a very appealing prospect.
“What’s up asshole? Unless you called to get an address to ship my 50 BMG sniper rifle to I have nothing to say to you.” She paused to hear what Grimm was going to say.
“My, aren’t we bitchy today. Got a job for you and we can discuss that rifle you’re so sure I owe you. In fact if you take the job and complete it to my satisfaction I’ll owe you two of those rifles not just one. So, you interested?”
She hesitated just a moment. “I heard about your current assignment and I’m in. Get off your ass and order those rifles and the optics and add another 5000 rounds of match ammo for the 50 and e-mail the meet time and place. I’m out of the country and need 24 hours to get to you if you’re where I think you are. That work for you?”
Grimm smiled and calculated how the 24 delay might affect the mission. “I’ll order the stuff and see you in 24 hours. Don’t forget your Imodium.” He prompted hung up not looking forward to seeing the ‘Closer’ in less than 24 hours. Grimm and the ‘Closer’ had a history and it wasn’t the good type.
24 hours later Amanda Close as she had been called since she had left the Agency and offered her unique skill sets to other organizations within the US Intelligence Community strolled into the coffee shop in the El Paso suburbs looking like just another attractive suburban dweller seeking a dose of caffeine to get her morning jump started. She saw Grimm sitting in a booth looking moody which was basically his default setting when meeting with Amanda Close.
Amanda veered toward his table and plopped down heavily despite her athletic 140 pound weight. Under his breath but not aloud Grimm thought ‘Dam Close’. Every since she had given some bad intelligence in Iraq years before every time he saw her, heard her name or thought about her he remembered the 2 men that had lost their lives from a mistake she had made. “Mandy you’re looking good. How’s work?”
Amanda ‘The Closer’ Close stared at him and replied. “It’s work and I’m staying busy. Now if we can dispense with the catching up can we talk about why I’m here? Jackson was closer and is working for less than I can afford to. Why am I here? We have history and I understand that you are not a big fan.”
Grimm appreciated the abruptness that had earned the ‘Closer’ a reputation as a no nonsense and professional operative. She was motion and constant activity and that translated to results almost unequaled in her chosen occupation. “Your target is the girlfriend of a certain Mexican Cartel guy that I need to snatch. She’s a Columbian model that is on the cusp of breaking into the big time but has recently fallen into the unable to enter the US category. I thought you might be able to isolate her and give her a talking to about the company that she is keeping. Sort of like a professional come to Jesus talk. You know the kind where she is unhappy but agrees to help us get our man. Or she can cope with a permanently stalled career and hope that her man doesn’t get downsized and she has to replace him with another from a long list of psychopaths and sociopaths that know who her last boyfriend was. You might want to mention that we can very easily ruin her ability to work in Europe also. If she cooperates it means getting her career back.”
Close looked at Grimm. She didn’t keep many notes; she was mentally cataloging details from what he had just said that would later be useful to the mission. “I can work with that. So you want me to talk to her in Mexico or con her into coming into the US?
Grimm looked at the barista as he scanned the room and turned back to Close. “If she gets into the Country then she might just stay and that’s a problem for me. If it was up to me I’d snatch her if I could and sent her to the center. Let them work her up and then detain her till this thing was over. After that I’d ban her from US soil for as long as possible. Generally models have short careers so every day she is out of the business it reduces her chances of getting back on her feet.”
Close didn’t smile. “I’d like to ruin her also so I know what you mean. This P.C. stuff is such a pain in the ass. But let me talk to her and see if she is any use to us or if she reports the approach to your guy and go from there. Is she currently under observation by your people or anyone else?”
Grimm nodded. “We are keeping a very loose watch on her. Cartel counter-intelligence and counter-surveillance is very good so we don’t want to tip our hand. You’ll be operating with a small window and when she is out and about she has at least two handlers at all times. We think that she shops at some of the cities up-scale stores on Mondays and then gets lunch with a friend or two. She isn’t known to have been in the US within the last 6 months so the approach will have to be done in Juarez.”
The Closer was silent for 30 seconds. “I think Juarez is one of the 5 worst places I ever been or worked but we’ll get it done. Thanks for the opportunity to balance the scale with us. I think about those guys every single day of my life.”
The satellite music that had been playing over the speakers in the coffee shop suddenly went silent and they heard the sound of a newsperson. “Again this just in. we are reporting that 50-100 cars and trucks at the Texas Pinnacle Mall outside El Paso are on fire and local Police ask that all patrons evacuate the area and that local residents allow emergency responders to get to scene to bring the blaze under control. We have no information about any injuries or deaths at this time but have been promised that we will be updated every 15 minutes by DPS. The picture you are seeing is a live feed from our traffic copter and shows the blaze in the southern section of the parking lot. Police have not issued any statements and we are unsure if this event is tied in any way the recent spate of Cartel violence against US targets. The Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) is asking anyone with information about his incident to contact the Texas Department of Public safety’s Fusion Center. ”
Amanda Close aka ‘The Closer’ closed her eyes and shook her head. “G, what are these idiots thinking? I can almost understand the resentment in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all we did invade their Countries. And working for al-Qaeda or the Taliban isn’t always a choice. Those people are led by zealots that have a far different worldview then we do. Combine that with extreme Nationalism on top of their fervent religious motivations and there are going to be impressionable people that gravitate to their cause. They are far enough away from us that it might seem that they can win. But the Cartels are just South of us and have access to everything information wise that we do. They either have accepted that they will fail and be destroyed or have another agenda. Or maybe they think that someone will step in and rescue them from the wrath of the US.”
“You ready to go to work?”
Amanda Close just smiled. “Of course I’m ready. I do my best work when I’m pissed off.”
Grimm watched Close leave the coffee shop after having received a file detailing the target and the mission she was to carry out. Now all that information was inside her tablet sitting behind multiple layers of NSA encryption. Now she could review the specifics of the job at her leisure. With her gone Grimm headed back to the idled manufacturing plant his team was using as a base of operations in Juarez. The derelict building had sat empty for a year which in the factory town of Juarez wasn¡¯t very common. It was a textile manufacturing facility and small by Juarez standards with maybe 25 employees at peak production preparing for the Holidays. Prior to last year when the owner had been killed by Cartel protection enforcers it had been in continuous operation for 15 years turning out private label intimate apparel for plus sized woman. The plant sat outside the city alone without any neighbors and provided a great place for their covert needs. One young soldier with perfect Spanish and a Juarez accent had been brought in to act as a go-between the factory and the local Police looking for bribes. He was teamed with a member of the group that Grimm was part of to provide a tactical option if it was called for. The men lived at the factory 24/7 and never left the building for any reason.
Grimm drove into the building just as the overhead door had moved enough to accommodate the non-descript work truck he was driving. As soon as the truck cleared the door he hit the button to stop to upward progress of the door and then hit the button again to lower the door. He quickly parked the truck and swung out of it and headed inside. Grimm walked through the entry door and gave the password to a semi-dark and seemingly empty room. A man drifted from the shadows and walked toward him carrying a well worn looking AK-47. While the firearm appeared to be past its prime the internal components were less than a month old and had been installed and tested for reliability by a highly competent Military armorer. ¡°Grimm, bad news the cops want to meet with someone in charge to work out an increase in the fees we¡¯re paying. I told them that I¡¯d have someone call them today. I told them we aren¡¯t doing anything other than watching the building for the owner but they didn¡¯t believe us and implied they needed more money.¡±
Grimm growled out his reply. ¡°Down here the cops and the criminals are the basically the same. Can¡¯t trust any of them. Give me the number and I¡¯ll call the guy.¡±
The Marine handed the number to Grimm and returned to the room where they had set up the cameras that continuously monitored the entrances to their base of operations as well as the road that led to their location.
Grimm angrily dialed the number and was told by a surly cop that the protection fees had increased and that as of next week they would expect the additional payment in their weekly envelope. Grimm agreed and told the corrupt cop that he¡¯d make the arrangements and that the money would be in the bag. One thing that being in the military had caused him a great deal of aggravation was that it seemed like in his world everyone had their hand out wanting more and more money. He had read a book about one of the Mexican Cartel bosses and thought that he might enjoy certain aspects of the way he did business. When he wanted something he was known for giving people the choice between sliver or lead. The smart ones he paid off, the not so smart ones were given the lead they had been promised. Grimm decided while he was on the phone that the surly cop would have a very unpleasant meeting with Grimm as soon as their overall mission was completed. While the cop was one of thousands corrupting the system in Mexico he was the one that had been foolish enough to annoy Grimm on the day that he was working out his unresolved feeling about Amanda Close. Now that he had determined that the corrupt cop was going experience some pain he felt slightly better knowing that in his own small way he was making a difference. Grimm was very cognizant of his fighting and self defense skills and very seldom allowed himself to act in any manner that would force him to hurt someone but this was slightly different. If the Cartels and the corrupt cops feared the citizenry this problem might resolve itself. Or maybe not, who knows?
With his weekly bribes negotiated Grimm turned to the work at hand. He started by re-checking the address and delivery information that ¡®Closer¡¯ had given him again. He then resumed his work on the plan to snatch the next person on their list based on the latest intelligence from the interrogation facility off Belize. While the Sergeant whose code name was ¡°Deuce¡± was important at this particular time the teams and Grimm in particular were always updating their files and operation plans to reflect the very latest information that they had gathered. The information gathered and analyzed originated from their efforts, properly motivated detainees as well as other collection methods that utilized both electronic and human based resources. He then switched gears back to the task at hand and since he was a proficient at multi tasking he invested 2 continuous hours of going thru the information they had based on what could be called loose surveillance of the girlfriend of the man referred to as the ¡°Sergeant¡± or Deuce. The Sergeant¡¯s girlfriend/model had some potential to be used to betray her boyfriend and feed them his location as well as location layouts and such. As he reviewed the video and surveillance photos a modification to the plan began to formulate itself in his head. He was curious to see what Close had to think when she arrived from wherever she was. But until she arrived he was stuck so he turned his attention to another smaller project on his plate. Amanda was out roaming the streets of Juarez getting a sense of the city and its inhabitants. She really immersed herself in her job, it was one of the reasons she was so dam good at what she did.
After the 2 hours he pushed the work away and turned his attention back to making sure the .50 caliber BMG rifle and ammunition that was part of Close¡¯s payment had been arranged to make their way to their final destination. The accurate and highly destructive .50 caliber sniper rifles were a specialty item and wouldn¡¯t be available for a few days so he called support and confirmed that the .50 caliber match ammo had been ordered and see when they expected it to be delivered to the cut out address that ¡®Closer¡¯ had given him. Needless to say she had given a place to send the equipment that was not her real address. He had sent her items before and they often were delivered to Utah or northern Nevada. He didn¡¯t think she would want to lug a package this large across the Country so if he was a betting man he¡¯d guess that she was based out of (bug-out-location) or had a cache somewhere in Central or Northern Idaho.
Close¡¯s ex-husband had retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff¡¯s Department (LASD) and Grimm knew that a lot of officers from the LAPD and the Los Angele¡¯s Sheriff¡¯s Office had grown tired of the chaos, Political Correctness and high taxes in California and had relocated to Idaho. The trend had extended to ex-firefighters from Southern California¡¯s that had done their time and retired or been granted disability. From what Grimm had heard many areas in Northern Idaho now had more than their fair share of ex-first responders looking for second careers or enjoying the abundance of activities the State offered. The area was well known to be a Sportsman¡¯s Paradise (non PC terminology) complete with mountains and plenty of lakes and streams. So it had a reputation for good hunting & fishing, good skiing regardless of style and awesome snowboarding. Between that and a cornucopia of other sporting opportunities it attracted outdoor enthusiasts from around the Country.
For a while Idaho had been wrongly characterized in the Media as a haven for hard core survivalists, militias and radical racist organizations including a Church or two that espoused racism as part of their core beliefs. In the last 10 or 15 years the State had welcomed many ex-Law Enforcement members and ex-Firefighters to their fair State and many of the racists had been effectively marginalized, displaced by Law Enforcement activities and criticized by an outraged press and a fearful public.
But where ¡°Closer¡± hung her personal Kevlar Body Armor and collection of firearms wasn¡¯t his concern. He needed her help so to make sure that the deal that he agreed to stuck he re-checked to insure that the weapons/ammo and other gear she had requested was available and ready for her teams use.
For Grimm being face to face with her seemed almost surreal. They had been very close before the faulty analysis that led to an ill-advised raid on the suspected home of a high value target (HVT) in Iraq. That bad intelligence had led Grimm and his team into a seemingly quiet neighborhood that was on the edge of Sadr City in Baghdad. The Branches of the US Military took pride in their night fighting capabilities so when they drove up to the possible HVT¡¯s house it was almost pitch dark. They arrived in the huge 8 wheeled Striker vehicles and quickly retrieved their target from his home without incident. They had even taken the time to defer to local custom and had brought along female soldiers to watch over the woman and children to insure their safety.
The impressive Striker vehicles tipped the scales at almost 40,000 pounds and driving the oversized Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) was a skill that would determine the final outcome of the ill-fated mission. The raid went perfect but by the time they had piled back into the protective vehicles an innocent man was in flex cuffs and sobbing in the back of their Striker. Another Striker on the mission took a corner too wide a block from the raid¡¯s location and rolled off into a drainage canal. The Striker vehicle sat almost on its side and was impossibly stuck so the crewmembers piled out and made their way to the other two vehicles. Everyone escaped the water without drowning despite the weight of the gear they were wearing. However while the other team was exiting the water a group of locals aligned with Radical cleric Muqtad¨¡ al-Ṣadr engaged them and sent some fire their way. That¡¯s when the mission got dicey.
While losing men was part and parcel of War it was the fact that bad driving caused the injuries(2) and KIA¡¯s(2) that pained Grimm the most. He had a well deserved reputation for strenuously supporting and protecting the men and woman that worked with or for him and losing people just conflicted with his self-image of a warrior. Leaders lost men but to be truthful anyone that had ever worked with Grimm felt that he was above the inconvenience of that basic tenet of leadership during wartime.
In his mind Grimm¡¯s intimate relationship with Amanda Close ended that morning as Grimm received updates on his wounded Brothers and paid tribute to the men he had lost for lack of an effective and well trained driver. One of the men wounded in that raid outside Sadr City recovered within a few months as was returned to active duty. The other was sent to Germany and eventually ended up getting discharged from the Service for Medical reasons.
Now each and every time he thought of the time they had spent together he remembered that he called her ¡®Dam Close¡¯ for a reason. Shortly after the failed mission and before he had adapted to the loss of his men he generally referred to her was much crasser manner. It was no way to refer to a female under any circumstance let alone one that was also serving her Country to the best of her ability so he had modified it to ¡®Dam Close¡¯. But seeing or even talking to her stirred up the memories of that time in an active Combat Zone. Right here right now an unpleasant attraction conflicted with resentment that she had been part of the faulty intelligence that had led to his men¡¯s deaths. The sensation confused him and reminded him that he had truly loved her. Grimm was not a man prone to or comfortable with the dark specter of love in his life. On a certain level he assumed that love made you weak and vulnerable and Grimm wasn¡¯t weak or vulnerable. He never had been weak by anyone¡¯s standards and never would be. As he pondered his feeling he realized that he had been daydreaming for 10 minutes just wondering what Amanda would look like dressed in the battle attire she was always wearing when they had been on friendlier terms. For some strange reason he had thought at the time that the thick and uncomfortable IBA vests looked hot on her. The gear she wore covered enough of her body that her figure was all but unrecognizable and except for her face she might have been confused for a man. He also wondered if she had re-married since then. Did she have a boyfriend? Did she still care about him? Had she ever loved him like he had loved her?
¡°Dam, dam, dam.¡± Grimm uttered aloud into the empty room he was using in the heat and grime of Juarez. He turned back to the work he had been doing and added another 1000 rounds of the match grade .50 Caliber BMG ammo to his order and confirmed the modification to the order and went about his business. The rifles, optics and ammo were going to cost the Government just south of $50,000 US. He pushed the problems that he was going to have from the numbers guys out of his mind and watched the clock with enthusiasm. The sooner he could get to the gym and get a workout in the better.
10 miles away in a posh shopping district outside Ju¨¢rez the Closer relaxed as a middle aged Mexican woman washed her hair. As the stylist massaged the shampoo thru her hair she gossiped about many things in decent English. Finally the woman rinsed the shampoo from her hair and applied the conditioner and turned the water off while the salon product did its job for a few minutes. The whole time she had been in the chair the Closer had very gently directed the conservation toward letting the woman impress her with some of the shop¡¯s more interesting and well known clientele. They were at the wash station that was separated from the rest of the establishment and were completely alone. As the Closer had hoped the woman briefly spoke about the stunning model that they took care of every other Tuesday morning. The pride in having such and beautiful and connected client overrode her discretion and she gave up the information without a seconds thought. It was just too juicy for the stylist to resist talking about. Since the stylist was older she didn¡¯t seem to be intimated by talking freely about a woman with ties to the Cartel. If she was intimidated or fearful of reprisal for gossiping a little about things that didn¡¯t concern her she didn¡¯t let it show one bit. That gossip let Closer know that Marina the girlfriend/model of the Sergeant was scheduled for an appointment in 3 days with the stylist right next to Closer¡¯s stylist. It wasn¡¯t as good as she had hoped but it would have to do. As the stylist turned the water back on and adjusted the temperature the Closer considered what she would ¡®accidently¡¯ spill on the beautiful woman to get her to the bathroom where they could have a private chat. She would wait to see what Marina wore to her appointment and go from there. Closer really didn¡¯t like model types and the whole mononymous name thing struck her as overly pretentious so she was looking forward to their meeting.
Fuller stood in the Field¡¯s kitchen drinking coffee with Tim and eating cake that Becky had offered him as soon as he and Mongo had cleared the doorway. Mongo sat at the table eyeing his piece of chocolate cake while he drank his coffee from his Aunt in Hawaii. Fuller¡¯s phone rang and after looking at the screen he answered the phone and stepped away from the others.
After a few minutes Tim glanced over at Fuller and saw that his face had noticeably paled and then a look of frustration passed quickly across his face. He closed the phone at his ear and set it down on the counter. He seemed to be holding something big back and ready to explode.
Tim stared back over at Fuller. ¡°You look like a man that isn¡¯t amused. Is everything OK?¡±
Fuller almost looked ready to spit. ¡°Can we turn the TV on?
Tim had an ominous feeling about what he was about to see. ¡°Sure.¡±
The other three adults followed Tim into the living room while he grabbed the remote and switched the flat screen on. After the unit powered up Tim flipped to his favorite news channel knowing that what he was about to see would upset him.
The TV showed live coverage of a massive fire in a parking lot then panned out to reveal the men and women that were attempting to control the inferno. The TV had been on less than 15 seconds and the talking heads were spewing and speculating just as two vehicles exploded and sent a fire ball into the sky. The explosion also forced firefighters to back up farther from the fire to insure their safety.
Fuller began talking over the commentators. ¡°An hour ago the fire you are watching broke out in the parking lot of the Texas Pinnacle Mall outside El Paso. 8 people have been transported to the hospital so far and over one hundred cars have been destroyed with at least another 100 severly damaged. One of my security guys in Texas knows a guy that is an ATF investigator in Dallas/Fort Worth and has been scrambled as part of the investigation response team. He is telling my guy that they are already telling him that the fire was deliberately set. He was told 20 gallons of fuel in four 5 gallon jerry cans were dumped around the parking lot. The first vehicle that transported the fuel was a newer pick-up and they think that it contained additional fuel to fuel the blaze. After the fuel was dumped they moved into a stolen minivan and tossed road flares from it till they hit a pool of fuel and then zoomed off. Mall security has video of them but they appear to be wearing face altering masks, sunglasses and had their hats pulled over their face. What very little they can make out indicates that the perpetrators might be Hispanic or Black. Now whether they were Cartel affiliated or not remains uncertain at this point. I¡¯d bet money that this was another retaliatory Cartel operation designed to instill fear into Americans and damage the El Paso economy. People that live or work near the Border in and around El Paso will be screaming for blood.¡±
Tim nodded at Fuller¡¯s outrage because each and every time the Cartel successfully pulled something like this it took money out the Border regions economy. El Paso was now especially vulnerable after all the recent incidents there. The loss of residents, jobs and tourism dollars was just the tip of the iceberg. It could easily influence some people to re-locate from the El Paso area or other Border areas fearing Cartel violence just like the Cartel violence that has plagued Border towns in Mexico like Juarez. Border towns like Juarez have clearly been taken over by the Cartels and the local Police and the governments have clearly lost control. As a result the residents live in fear and thousands of regular citizens have been murdered. Authorities there often attribute a murder or murders to having some sort of connection with the Cartel and drugs. Regardless many people viewed the carnage taking place as tragic regardless if the victim had Cartel connections or not. Living anywhere that type of chaos isn¡¯t for most people and if they can they moved someplace else to keep themselves and their families safe. ¡°Fuller are you thinking of loading your people up into the buses up again and moving some people around?¡± Tim asked Fuller.¡±
Fuller pondered the question for a minute before replying. ¡°No, I don¡¯t think so. All the other indicators are pointing toward this being another blip on the radar that will not affect our people. If there is any good news it is that the US Government will allocate additional resources as the chaos continues. Now if another incident happens then I¡¯ll re-evaluate that statement and most likely recommend transfer. I¡¯m also worried about the in incident we had Tuesday night.¡±
Tim stared at Fuller waiting for a more detailed explanation if fuller was willing or able to share.
Fuller realized Tim had no idea what he was talking about. ¡°Sorry, Tuesday night a group of 3 men were on my property in Texas. With the internal checkpoints located not far from my place we get people passing through hoping to slide past Border Patrol on a regular basis. But my guys followed the tracks with the dogs and either they were scouting a route around the internal checkpoint or they were up to no good. I firmly believe in controlling the Border and that we as a Country we deserve to know who is entering our Country. So we notify Border Patrol when we get someone on the property that shouldn¡¯t be there. For the illegal¡¯s that transverse the property we have water stations to insure they have water and don¡¯t die from dehydration. We also have 3 call stations that can be used to summon help for someone that is sick or injured.¡± Fuller paused as his phone rang again. ¡°Excuse me a second.¡± He stepped away and answered his phone.
Mongo was watching the TV now and attacking his cake like he hadn¡¯t seen cake for a year. As Mongo gathered up the last of the crumbs he looked up at Becky pleadingly.
Becky smiled and reached for his plate. ¡°Mongo you need another piece?¡±
Mongo smiled and held his plate up to her. He then turned around and resumed watching the coverage of events in El Paso.
Fuller had heard the codeword and moved outside through the garage to talk. ¡°Go on.¡±
Grimm waited as he heard the man he had called move through a few areas till he was someplace that he could talk freely. ¡°Fuller my name isn¡¯t important and I cannot say it over the phone. But your friend Mongo lost a molar to me sparring in the sandbox a few years back. I¡¯d like to meet with you briefly to discuss a favor I need. If you want to get my name from Mongo and clear me through Sparrow on a landline then I¡¯d appreciate it. After you get me vouched for if you could call me back I¡¯d appreciate it.¡±
Fuller replying instantly. ¡°I¡¯ll do that. Is this a good number for you later today?¡±
Grimm was happy to hear that the ex-Marine was taking him seriously despite not giving him his name. ¡°This phone will be with me till we meet.¡±
Fuller nodded. ¡°Good enough.¡± Fuller then ended the call without saying goodbye. He scratched his head curious to know who the stranger was and what he wanted. He immediately summoned Mongo outside and got the name of the man that had knocked out one of his teeth. With the name now known to him he then dialed a number he knew by heart and waited for Sparrow to answer. Sparrow might know what the man they called Grimm wanted. From what Mongo had said this Grimm was a serious as they came.
Fuller¡¯s attention returned to his call as the phone was answered. ¡°This is Sparrow, this line is not secure. Please enter your code into your keypad.¡±
Fuller entered the 10 digit number than hit the pound key. A series of clicks and then another person came onto the line. ¡°This line is now secure. Information, request or authorization?¡±
Fuller swallowed quickly. ¡°Request information for code named Grimm. I was contacted by subject Grimm 15 minutes ago at this number.¡±
Fuller was shifted into a hold queue and a string orchestral version of the Rolling Stone¡¯s classic ¡®Paint it Black¡¯ came over the line. The version was richly infused with Cellos and started out with an undertone of foreboding and progressed to an almost downright giddy conclusion. All and all a nice break from anything Fuller had listened to in quite some time. He pulled his secondary smart phone and quickly hit the app to indentify the group. 30 seconds later the song was over, his app had done its job and indentified the performer and he had book marked the band.
Suddenly the line came alive again. ¡°Authorized at 33, confirmation D3. I repeat, authorized at 33 and the conformation is D3.¡± Then just as quick as the woman had gotten on the line she was gone. The Sparrow Authorization Protocol (SAP) was affiliated with or ran by the NSA, they had used the caller¡¯s digital voice print to ID the caller and access if he was currently on a mission for the Armed Forces or US intelligence.
Level 33 meant that they requested that he give all the assistance he could. And from time to time in the past he had assisted various US Agencies or the Military and had never ever gotten a clearance this high. In fact most active and past service members and Intel geeks didn¡¯t even know about the protocol and 33 was even higher than authorization he had gotten while acting as the head of a PMC supplying them with information from Iraq. There was no doubt that Grimm had some serious pull. A mental chill instantly struck Fuller and he quickly brought it under control.
Fuller waited 5 minutes and called the number on his caller ID. Grimm answered one the first ring and gave Fuller a time and place to meet. The GPS coordinates for the met were on his Texas property and the time was in 12 hours.
Fuller closed his phone and went back inside. He explained to the Fields that he needed to return immediately to Texas. Outside in the truck he explained to Mongo that he had an important meeting in Texas and asked him to tag along. He also mentioned that the meeting required back-up and asked Mongo to provide him with over watch.
Mongo just smiled. He was always was up for a little fun.
Fuller Part 19
Fuller and Mongo made their way to the County Airport for the short flight back to Texas. Since taking up business interests in the Kansas City area he had bought a ¼ share of a well maintained Beechcraft Super King Air 350. Fuller had held a Pilot’s License since he was in high school just like his father had before him. The uptick in aviation choices available to civilians in the 60s meant that many middle class business owners could now buy small planes and afford to learn to fly them themselves. Since Fuller’s family had been ranchers and owned large tracts of land it only made sense to utilize airplanes to get around to their somewhat remote holdings.
Fuller had bought out the other shares of the aircraft 10 months previously and now owned it free and clear without the annoying inconvenience of sharing the airplane with others. While the additional outlay of cash was significant he felt that having exclusive control over the aircraft was justified since it allow him to more closely monitor his business interests near Kansas City. And while his Super King Air first took to the skies in 1991 the aircraft had been meticulously maintained and the interior had been updated within the last 5 years so it was exceptionally comfortable while retaining a high degree of functionality. The older aircraft boasted an updated avionics suite but the best feature of the aircraft in his opinion was the aftermarket noise canceling system that significantly quieted the noise level in the cabin. The upgraded avionics, the functional interior and the noise canceling system made flying in the aircraft very similar to one of the newer models of the same series. Those newer planes would have cost significantly more money than he had paid.
Since Fuller had learned to fly two decades earlier he had experience in numerous aircraft and still loved the power and speed of the twin engine turboprop. The older model turboprop had an average speed of just north of 300 MPH meaning that the 682 Nautical Miles trip home would consume just over 2 hours allowing him plenty of time to make the meeting with the man they referred to as Grimm. Mongo had accompanied him on the short flight and filled him in what little he knew about the warrior he had shared some time with.
Touching down on his personal airstrip on his property in the Super King Air felt like going home and for the hundredth time he was thankful that he had been in a position to purchase this property. As Fuller taxied the turboprop toward the large metal building that served as the site’s hanger he saw Hector in one of the many work trucks that the property owned. Even from this distance he could see the glow of the cigarette hanging from his employees lips. He made a mental note to remind Hector for not the first time that smoking near the hanger was prohibited.
Fuller and Mongo waited as the engines died down before unbuckling and climbing from their seats. Then they carefully walked through the small aisle in the cabin to grab their bags and exit the plane. As their feet touched the ground Hector pulled the truck up to within 40 feet of the plane and slid out of the truck and walked toward the two men.
Hector was Mexican by birth and a Naturalized US citizen by choice. He whole heartedly embraced his adopted Country and acted as a volunteer in each and every Election that he was eligible to help with. “Mistor Fuller, good to have you back. Any bags I can get for you?”
Fuller was moving toward the truck. “Hector we’re good and it’s good to be back. Now tell me did you toss the butt or is it in the truck’s ashtray.”
A look of embarrassment crossed his face at having been caught smoking near the hanger again. “I placed the butt in the ashtray after I stepped on it. Sorry Mistor Fuller. Nicotine, it is a terrible habit.”
Fuller watched the man and could tell the he was contrite despite directly violating one of the standing rules of the property. “Hector I heard of a woman outside of El Paso that uses hypnosis to help people to quit smoking. A friend of mine used her and has been smoke-free for 6 months. I’ll pay for the appointment because if you keep on smoking near the hanger I’m going to have to fire you. You willing to go to see the woman and save your job or what?”
Hector nodded his head up and down as he answered his boss’s question. “Mistor Fuller I think I would very much like that. Can you e-mail her contact information and I will set an appointment and go see her. Sorry about the smoking near a hanger.”
Fuller threw his bags in the truck’s bed and turned to face the man. “Hector you’re a very good foreman but if the others see you flaunting the rules then it will undermine your authority and we can’t have that.”
Hector nodded that he again understood that he alone was responsible for the dilemma he was in. “I’ll take care of it boss.”
Fuller slid into the driver’s seat as Mongo placed his bag in the bed of the truck and waited for Hector to slide to the center of the bench seat the three men would be sharing for the short ride to the house. The men passed the short drive in silence each immersed in his own thoughts.
At the main house Fuller and Mongo headed toward the armory in the basement and after Fuller opened the vault door the men stepped in and started arranging and checking the equipment that they would need for the upcoming meeting with Grimm. While Grimm had been vetted it was always a good idea to have something they didn’t need as opposed to needing something they didn’t have. Both men stripped off their shirts and placed soft Kevlar vests over specially designed t-shirts. They then redressed and checked the weapons and equipment they would take to their meeting.
The short range encrypted radios would allow Mongo on overwatch to listen to every word that was said between Fuller and Grimm from where he would be watching the meeting from 300 yards away. Mongo was satisfied that the new AR he had recently gotten in .308 would be more than enough gun for the task and had made sure that his scope zero hadn’t been knocked off during their trip. Just to get every bite of accuracy from the weapon Mongo replaced the ammo in the magazines with Match Grade ammo that he had brought from Kansas City with him. He had printed groups that were easily less than 1 MOA with the ammo so he knew it was accurate and dependable.
The process of getting geared up and ready took almost 45 minutes and the two professionals rechecked everything multiple times and then had their partner re-check their work to insure that everything was just so.
Fuller pulled his farm truck to the coordinates that Grimm had given him and switched the truck off and climbed out. The ground was dry and he kicked it hoping for rain like many farmers and ranchers almost always were in this part of Texas.
Fuller turned around and a rough looking man stood 10 feet away just staring at him in the clear moonlight. “You must be my appointment. I’m Fuller, thanks for making the meeting convenient to find.”
Grimm almost smiled at the man’s sense of dry humor. “Fuller I’m the man they call Grimm. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me on short notice. You cleared me through the Sparrow so you now know that I’m working for our side.”
Fuller took another step toward the man they called Grimm. “You got high marks from Sparrow so I guess the question is what favor you wanted to ask me about.”
Grimm nodded appreciating the direct manner of the ex-Marine. What I’m going to tell you is so far above Highly Sensitive that if word got out it might cause an International Incident or two. I trust you can be trusted to keep this confidence and reveal it to only your associate Mongo. If fact if you want to pull him off that rifle on Crow Mesa I’d like to talk to him at the same time I talk to you. He can verify my identity and you’re going to need his help.”
Fuller nodded. “Mongo said you were very good.” Fuller turned his head to insure that Mongo could hear him through the microphone underneath his collar. “Mongo, come on down.” Fuller turned back to Grimm. “Let’s give him a minute or two.”
Grimm silently nodded his agreement.
The two men stood quietly waiting while Mongo moved down the slight rise lugging his new AR-15.
A few minutes later Mongo appeared from around a clump of bushes and walked up to the men. “Grimm, you look good. You sure I’m cleared for this briefing?”
Grimm replied without hesitation. “I have a certain amount of flexibility in these manners. I need help and the two of you offer the very best opportunity for me to get the job done and done right. Moving on, the information I’ll be sharing with you is very sensitive and I need your word that you will not discuss this with anyone for any reason without my express permission. This mission is rated way above the Mission you guys did East of Kalar in ‘06. Any questions about my security expectations?”
Both men looked at Grimm and nodded their heads back and forth.
Grimm continued. “Good. I’ll cut to the chase. I need access to the hanger on the ranch for 7 to 30 days. I’d request that all personnel working here be given some time off or transferred to other projects for that duration. I can bring in people to do their jobs that have high enough clearance to insure mission integrity. I’ll make sure that they can do what needs to be done on the property to keep it running properly. If compensation is a problem we can work something out.”
Fuller nodded. He was fairly sure that the request related to the problems on the Border and the less he knew or thought he knew the better it was for everyone involved. “I might need to offer some paid vacation or cash bonuses to a few of the ranch employees. One I can move to Kansas City and he can be useful there. I’d ask that you cover that cost along with anything that you damage, destroy or lose. Other than that Mongo and I can clear the place out in 10 hours, maybe less.”
Grimm replied to the offer. “I appreciate it. If you can write down what needs to be done while you’re gone that would be helpful. Also we need to know of any expected deliveries that are coming up. Things like Propane, feed or any scheduled maintenance.”
Fuller pondered the question and then spoke. “I can defer most of what’s coming up other than well maintenance and the Vet coming out in a week or so. I can bump the Vet to tomorrow and you’ll almost have the place to yourselves after that. Does that work for you?”
Grimm stuck out his hand and the men all shook. “Thanks guys we appreciate the help. If you don’t mind when we leave we’ll likely abandon some equipment that you might find useful. You can give Mongo my number and I’ll call when we’re done. I’ll text an e-mail address you can use to get that project list to me as well as get a hold of me. It will be more secure than cell phones for anything that isn’t time sensitive. Also you had an incursion on the property last week. That was a few of my men looking over the property out to make plans for our stay. Sorry I couldn’t let you know prior to their walk. I will say that your guys did a hell of a job tracking their movements. You have a good crew Fuller, I’m impressed.”
Fuller smiled. “Thanks for the compliment and good hunting. Oh Grimm, make sure your guys keep an eye out for snakes. If they haven’t done Desert Training recently you might want to remind them that they should always use appropriate precautions. I’ll send a map of the areas with the most snakes so they can keep from getting bite. If they do get bite All Saints Hospital is by far the best at treating snake bites within 100 miles.”
Grimm cracked a smile and turned to walk toward the brush. “Snake is good eating, thanks for the heads up. I’ll have my guys keep an eye out.” Then he simply faded back into the brush where he might have come from. When he was just past the bushes they couldn’t hear a sound he made.
Fuller and Mongo walked to the truck that would transport them back to the main housing and the training facility that sat near it. They didn’t dare speak of what was going on in the open air of the Texas night or inside the truck which was regularly left unattended on the property for fear that someone might hear them. They both understood that it was very likely that Grimm already had men in place on the property. If he did they would be watching and listening to everything happening on the property. And Grimm could have tracked Mongo up the Crow Mesa or the team that breached the property last week could have placed listening devices anywhere including the truck they were driving in.
When they entered the main house so that Fuller could send the 3 ranch/security team members away he simply told them that he needed the place for a few weeks and made the arrangements for them to work at the underground office complex in Kansas City. At first the men were hesitant so he offered to let them take vacation or go to the mines and receive a $500.00 a week cash bonus. Like many people the prolonged difficulties with the economy had bred into them an understanding that it was often advisable to get while the getting was good and all 3 men took the offer to work out of town.
He said they could spend the night and that he’d call them when he was ready for them to come back to the property. He then headed to his room to get a few more things from his closet that he would be taking back to with him. When he went to his room he found two bundles of 100 Dollar bills that were banded and said $10,000 on the band sitting on his dresser. Next to it he found a tube with 20 one ounce gold Eagles. Grimm paid his men pretty well and the money might off-set the expenses of clearing the place out. The Gold was likely a bonus he hadn’t asked for and hadn’t expected.
After his nighttime meeting with Fuller and Mongo Grimm walked briskly for 20 minutes using the stars to guide him till he came to a rough path that bordered Fuller’s property. He then moved to the South and quickly found the area he was looking for. He took the camouflage tarp off the dual-sport 650 cc motorcycle lying on its side and propped it up. The motorcycle was painted a muted tan that blended in with the ground in the area and was striped in a darker tan. But the really nice thing about this bike compared to others he had used in the past was that it was equipped with electric start and was outfitted with a special noise reducing exhaust system. He didn’t want to use any light so he climbed on and thumbed the starter after activating the switch that kept the headlight and taillights from giving his presence away.
He would use regular roads to get him to the Border and then head over the Border crossing using fake papers showing that he was Michael Conner from Miami, FL. He had been using the Government issued passport and D.L. for 6 days so as of tomorrow the papers would be burned and he would effortlessly assume another identity. From the Border crossing he would make the short trip to the abandoned factory outside Juarez.
After a 40 minute wait in line he was waved through with just a quick query or two from the Mexican Authorities. While on the US side efforts to keep guns, ammo and money from flowing back over into Mexico posed no problem for the savvy operator. He made sure he was carrying less than $1000.00 in US currency and the clothes he had worn were brand new and had never been exposed to any weapons, ammo or explosives. The Border Patrol had long been using canines to supplement their human collogues due to their ability the sniff out all manners of contraband and Grimm couldn’t risk standing out in the chaotic crowd flocked to the International crossing.
At the entrance to the warehouse the guard on duty reported no one had been seen anywhere within the protective zone. Grimm thanked the man for his report told him to keep alert and headed to his rack to take a quick 15 minute nap to refresh himself after the ride back. While the motorcycle rode extremely well it still fatigued him a little and he had paperwork to get done.
25 minutes later Grimm was in the area he used as his office and scanning his e-mail. The leadership off this organization had e-mailed that he was to expect a visitor at the warehouse. What his job was and how Grimm was expected to use him wasn’t given in the e-mail. The man they referred to as Kitty would have an encrypted thumb drive that would explain everything that Grimm needed to know about him and his duties. Grimm picked up the phone on his desk and dialed the security station. “Lep, we’re expecting company sometime within the next few hours. Let me know when our guest arrives.”
Over the other end of the phone which was used solely as an inter-building communication tool Lep replied. “You got it.”
Grimm set the phone back into its cradle and continued to peruse the e-mails from operatives in his organization, analyses and his boss’s.
Two hours later he was writing requests for the work that he needed done at Fuller’s property when the phone beeped at him. “Grimm.”
Over the phone the man on guard duty spoke. “We got a Hispanic male walking toward the front of the property flashing the code with a flashlight. What are our orders?”
Grimm assumed that this was the man they had been expecting but caution was a watchword of the business they were in. “I need both of you to gear up. Vests, long guns and pistols. I’ll be there in 3 minutes. Let him into the entry hall and follow protocol. Take your time and be careful just like always.”
“On it.” With that the security man hung up to carry out his assigned task.
Grimm quickly closed down his laptop and threw his vest over his body and strapped on his pistol belt. He then grabbed his M-4 and just as he was moving toward the hallway he remembered that he had taken the fighting knife that was always strapped to his pistol belt off to sharpen and forgot to return it to his hip. So he backtracked and grabbed the knife and slid it into its scabbard and moved at a slow jog toward the front entryway. And while Grimm moved quickly through the dimly lit hallways and rooms he always was attentive to the amount of noise he was making. The room before the front hallway he slowed and quietly moved toward where the other men would be. His M-4 then came up to shoulder and he was ready should he need to use the weapon. At the corner he peeked around and saw that the security guys had the subject facing away from his position as they had been instructed. The two men were spaced apart and pointing their rifles at the late night visitor. Grimm knew that the rifle’s safeties were off and if need be either man would not hesitate squeezing the trigger to protect them all and the mission.
“Sir, I’m going to need you to strip naked.”
“You’re kidding right?
“No sir. I’m sure you understand we have security protocols that we must follow.”
“God dam, this is bullshit.”
Grimm added to the conversation in a meaningful way. “Beats the hell out of taking two 5.56 rounds in the head from close range. Where’s the drive at?”
At the sound of Grimm’s voice the man they suspected was a fellow operator turned toward the shadows that hid Grimm. “Good point sir.” He held his hand open and Grimm could make out the outline of the thumb drive in his hand.
Grimm slightly altered his point of aim to compensate for the movement. “Good, now get naked.”
He immediately began stripping his clothes off and didn’t stop he was standing in the buildings entryway buck naked. His clothing stood in a pile a few feet from his feet and the drive remained in his right hand.
One of the security guys spoke next. “Sir, for security reasons we will be flex cuffing you and scanning you with equipment to insure that you aren’t harboring any listening or tracking devices.”
The man nodded that he understood and moved his hands behind his back. “Hey, you’re the boss.”
The security man moved in while he replied to the statement. “Actually the man pointing the rifle at your chest is the boss.” He then quickly and professionally affixed the restraints to the stranger’s wrists.
The security man then scanned the stranger with gear that detected devices that would transmit either audio or location. The other security man left to go back to the security desk to keep an eye on the surrounding area and make sure that no one had taken interest in them or their warehouse. He would also confirm that the thumb drive was legit and had come from their organization.
While the security man rechecked the scanners Grimm received a coded transmission from the security station over the radio on his belt. The drive was legit and they would need Grimm to open it.
Grimm lowered his weapon and spoke to the two men standing 15 feet from him. “He’s clear. I’m Grimm and I run this little part of the show. You can get dressed now. ”
The man was silent as waited to be cut out of the restraints. The security man slid behind him and using special cutters snipped the cuffs setting the man free. Their visitor rubbed his wrists without thinking about it. He then began to quickly get dressed and within 60 seconds was adjusting the lace on his shoes.
Grimm had caught a glimpse of his face as he re-dressed. The fury was etched on his face but by the time he had finished getting dressed and looked over at Grimm the look of outrage had been replaced by a serious look of indifference. But as he spoke his voice betrayed his anger at his treatment. “It’s your place. You want to lead the way?”
Grimm almost growled at the man. “You got a problem I’d be happy to step on the mat to settle our differences.” He paused to let the challenge sink in. he wasn’t one to tolerate being given a hard time by a visitor.
“We’re good. Can we get moving? I’m on a clock.”
Grimm led their newest man through the building to his work and living space. The other security man was standing there holding the thumb drive. Grimm took the drive without saying a thing and plugged it into his encrypted laptop. After typing in a security password the machine started humming and indicated that it was ready to be viewed.
“Have a seat and let me take a look at this.” Grimm examined the information and was somewhat surprised that the man sitting beside him wasn’t actually part of his operation. The briefing indicated that they were to act as support for the man’s mission. Grimm read the next page and turned to look at the man he had humiliated. “File says your going undercover to get close to a Cartel guy named Lee. Strange name for a Cartel shot caller.”
“Lee is the only name we have for him. The guy has been in the organization for 10 years that we know about but intel. on him is thin. That grainy picture is from 4 years ago and I’m to be his newest big cat handler. He has a collection of 5 Lions, 3 Tigers and a Puma. My Uncle in Missouri had a big cat rescue sanctuary when I was growing up. I spent 5 summers helping to take care of them. Lee’s regular handler had a health issue and is the hospital waiting for additional testing to be done to determine what is wrong with him. Now I’m no Doctor but I happen to know what is wrong with him and we’ve arranged that he should be away from work for another month or so. My cover says that I spent a few years in a private zoo in Florida. It was roadside attraction that has been out of business for 4 years since the owner died of a heart attack in the lion enclosure and was eaten. After that the Tax people came around looking to seize assets and all the other employees scattered. Most of the employees were illegal’s and are thought to be really hard to get in touch with. The man’s son is in jail in Michigan and in a medically inducted coma. My uncle gave me an updated tutorial and my accent is almost perfect so we’ll see what happens.”
As Grimm further reviewed the files he realized that while the man’s manners were a tad abrasive he had guts. Lee was thought to have personally tortured and killed dozens of men while ordering the torture and killing of over 100 others. This Lee was a seriously messed up paranoid guy and anyone that agreed to enter his compound willingly was either extremely confident in their skills or extremely stupid. Grimm assumed that Kitty was an on the books intelligence operative. “What do you need from us?” The man looked Grimm in the eyes.
“A little equipment, an encrypted phone and help exiting the compound if it all goes sideways.”
Grimm looked at the man. “That we can do. Are you hungry? One of the security guys is a pretty good cook.”
Kitty took Grimm up on his offer of something to eat and ate a hearty meal being the condemned man he might be. After he was done he asked Grimm he if had someplace that he use to catch a quick 45 minute nap. Kitty was walking into the lion’s den and in fact might actually be literally walking into a lion’s den and wanted to make sure that he was as fresh and alert as possible before reporting to work at Lee’s compound.
Fuller showed him to the room down the hall that the other operators used to catch some rack time when they were working on the Mexican side of the Border. And while the accommodations at the warehouse were lower than the standards one would expect from at a low budget motel in the US the bunkroom was outfitted with new cots that were surprisingly comfortable.
The building wasn’t heated so there were additional Mexican style blankets on the cots to stave off the chill that permeated the warehouse in the evening and at night this time of year. Grimm assured Kitty that before the team had moved in the entire building had been sprayed for bugs and that a contractor had stayed in the place for 5 days to kill as many mice and rats as possible before throwing the rodent carcasses into a portable incinerator that he brought along to complete the task. All and all when the man they called Kitty saw the room he was just thankful for a safe place to catch a quick nap.
Grimm smiled and noted that the man was asleep by the time he had exited the room. A full day of travel and the days of anxiety over his assignment had put him under tremendous stress. As Grimm moved back down the hallway he hoped the man was up to the task. If Kitty wasn’t good, lost focus or panicked he would be dead within a matter of days. He was at risk from both one of the big cats that Lee kept as pets or Lee the Cartel boss that would kill anyone and everyone that threatened his lucrative business, his family, his freedom or his life.
With Kitty safety ensconced in the bunk room Grimm wandered back to his area and returned to his laptop. He confirmed by encrypted e-mail that Kitty had made the meet and that Grimm understood what their duties were in regard to Kitty’s mission to infiltrate the mysterious Lee’s compound. Earlier he had received a text from Close confirming that she had some news and that she was heading in to share it with him later that night after looking at some rental property. The obvious code was meant to convey that she or her people would try to get eyes on the property or properties to confirm that the locations given by the girlfriend/model were good. He was glad to hear that they would be taking care of that since she and her team were sometimes much better than his people were at blending in.
While Grimm and his men were very good at their job they sometimes alerted people to their military training and that could give them away. Sometimes Grimm thought that the team’s problem was their exceptionally high level of fitness. Along with the athleticism and fitness they seemed to radiate a sense of confidence that came from their cumulative skill sets. And Grimm’s team had skill sets galore. They could operate just about anything that moved on earth from a motorized skateboard up to and including huge earth movers used in mines and the construction cranes that loomed over cities from coast to coast. On water they had trained with and piloted every type of boat with the exception of container and bulk carriers. Two of the men had undergone crash courses to operate mini-subs and Coast Guard Cutters. In combat with either weapons or firearms each and every one of his men had been handpicked for their exception talent at taking the fight to the enemy and winning. They were in a serious business and the cost of coming in second was death.
To counter some of the visual and behavior tells that they leaked Grimm had consulted a cultural fashion expert to insure that each and every item of clothing the men wore didn’t peg them as undercover Special Operators. She made sure they didn’t get into the habit of wearing tactical khakis and riggers belts that might tip off anyone that they were military, covert agents or PMC. But still Grimm accepted that Close and her people were head and shoulders above what he and his men could do in most parts of the world. They blended in to the landscape and it took a real professional to spot them.
For the most part Close and her people were masters of the understated. They resembled actors in that they studied cultures and figured out the best way to integrate themselves into their surroundings despite often not being fluent in the local language. Their appearance and clothing was secondary to their demeanor which they matched to video of indigenous people going about their lives. If they were in a war torn region they became the stoic survivor just trying to get through the day coping with the daily upheaval in their lives and loss. If they were in a beautiful tropical island they were the happy go lucky ex-pats enjoying every benefit island life could provide or the workers catering to the every whim of the crass and rude tourists that they resented on a certain level. Close and her team were consummate masters of disguise and traveled with kits that enabled them to integrate into their surroundings effectively. Additionally they kept computer files full of facts and details that were germane to locals and all had adopted an extensive knowledge of soccer a sport followed by almost every country in the world with the exception of the US. Reliably most Americans only had a passing understanding of soccer and on more than a few occasions someone in Close’s team had used their soccer notes to score trust from someone that was unlikely to grant it otherwise despite an accent that might not be perfect.
Grimm hoped that Close had managed to extract a location from the girlfriend and that in the next few days he could snatch this idiot and move on to the next job. Preferably back in the US since he had never been a fan of Mexico. The sheer enormity of the everyday corruption that took place in the Country and the out of control Cartel fueled violence saddened and angered him. More than a few times he thought that maybe instead of Iraq that the US should have invaded Mexico and routed out all the corruption and set the country on the road to responsible government that truly represented & benefitted the people. At least if they had invaded Mexico then a fair number of service people would have been able to communicate with the locals in their de facto ‘official language’ of Spanish. In his defense invading a neighboring territory or country was as a natural as breathing and had been happening since the dawn of time.
Since Grimm had submitted all his necessary paperwork and requests to the people that needed them he elected to walk upstairs and get some PT in. It would clear his mind and if he was honest one of the best ways that he knew of focusing on a problem or a complex situation. To Grimm the act of working out had been something he had been doing so long it was done without thinking about it. That left his mind to wander across the different challenges he was currently facing and gain useful perspective that often led to workable solutions. He enjoyed this gig much more than when he had been in the direct employ of his Country. Back then he was told what to do and when to do it and not much else. He did as he was ordered but in this arrangement he oversaw almost all aspects of the mission and frankly he trusted himself more than some random superior officer that faced concerns about how a mission might impact his/her career. Between the career implications of making decisions and political and legal angles Grimm had figured out that good mission were often replaced by missions of questionable worth but were inherently safer than getting the job done as it should be done.
Grimm strolled through the warehouse and made his way to the room they used for working out a floor above his quarters. The only good thing about the area they used to work out in was that it didn’t smell like dirty feet and that it didn’t face the road. Other than that the place was dam near more trouble than it was worth. The contractor that set the warehouse up hadn’t been able to find any decent used weight equipment for sale so they basically had the old reliable like jump ropes, incline boards, chin-up bars and the oldest treadmill Grimm had ever seen. From the scuffed and scratched Aqua Marine paint he suspected that the machine had been produced in the 50’s or 60’s. Regardless of its age it pretty much worked so he did 30 minutes of intense stretching and then climbed on board to try to break the machine.
The men Grimm worked in the field with were steely eyed professionals and took a great deal of pride in their level of fitness. These men understood the stark reality of what they did and felt that being in prime physical condition might someday be the difference between life and death. Just as or more importantly they felt that being in prime physical condition might someday save the life of a teammate. If someone was wounded on an operation being able carry or move them to safety might mean the difference between their teammate living or dying. One thing this team did very well was look out for each other since they didn’t have the full support of the US Military or US based Law Enforcement at their back supporting their unofficial mandate to crush the person or people responsible for the violence in the US. When they were active in Mexico they even were more exposed to problems. They had to worry that if they were arrested or captured by the Authorities wither it be the Military or the local, State or Federal Police they stood a chance of being sold to the Cartel they were sworn to disband. At that point the State Department and its notoriously anemic political wrangling would do them absolutely no good. If they were caught and turned over to the Cartel their short future in the hands of cartel psychopaths would consist of torture, pain and a slow agonizing death.
So these people who were so dependent on their physical fitness had started a pool estimating how long the ancient treadmill could stand up under the use of the men in the team. The buy-in was $50.00 US and 4 of them had ponied up a Grant and speculated when the old piece of equipment would finally give out. Grimm had put his money on the speculation that the machine would still be operational in 2 weeks but the rest of the bettors were less enthusiastic about the machines chances. In fact starting tomorrow which was technically today since it was after midnight the first bet for epic failure had been chosen. Grimm had been using the machine as much if not more than the others and he would bet money that it felt exactly as it had when they had set up shop in the abandoned textile manufacturing plant. Despite the machines apparent age it was build when American workers took pride in their work and the manufacturers built things to last almost a lifetime. So as Grimm did his routine he had confidence that the machine would take a licking and keep on ticking. After all it used to be the American Way before cheaply made low price china junk flooded the market and merchandise of questionable repute became the norm. It was in that timeframe that many Americans learned the theory of planned obsolescence.
It wasn’t enough but after working up a weak sweat Grimm decided to head back to his quarters and finish up his work out. He liked being near the encrypted computer and his high tech spy phone so he usually did most of his gym time in his room.
Close knelt over the man on the sidewalk and checked to make sure she hadn’t killed him. The obviously drunk or stoned street guy had approached her and demanded her money and her phone and then threatened to hit her with a brick. In a blur of motion she knocked the man out and stepped back as he fell to the ground. She looked quickly at her nails to see if she had just ruined the pedicure that she had gotten earlier in the day and saw in the dull light that she hadn’t broken or chipped a nail. The dark red fingernail polish might draw attention to her so she would likely remove the polish within a day or so. Still it was nice to have spent time being pampered like a regular woman despite the problems it could cause.
She had been lucky that he hadn’t smacked his head and been killed. She then gingerly opened his mouth keeping her fingers exposed as little as possible to make sure that if he regained consciousness or was possible faking it that he couldn’t bite more than the tip of one finger off. She often kept a good flashlight in her hand when she was in dimly lit places and used the one in her hand now to look inside the man’s mouth. His mouth was what you would expect from a person that had fallen out of the mainstream of the often impoverished population of Juárez. One molar had a poorly filled cavity that looked like a kindergartener with ADD had done the work and two teeth were broken and sat next to a pus filled pocket were a tooth was missing. Close was satisfied that the man didn’t work for the Cartel directly. He could very well be someone they hired for odd jobs but his physical condition and the impression that she was getting was that he was what she thought he was.
His breathing rhythm changed abruptly and she stepped back as the funkiest breath she had ever smelled enveloped her making her wish that she had trusted her instincts and just kept on walking after the man was on the ground. She then pulled back his shirt and took a deep breath to see what her nose could tell her. A tickle on her arm told her that the man suffered from either flea or lice infestation and she quickly stood up and smacked at her wrist hoping to kill the offending parasite before it and its friends could migrate and colonized her body. She then took a moment scrutinized the man’s clothing piece by piece. The ragged t-shirt was blue and had advertising for a beer she had never heard of. The man’s athletic shorts were badly worn and she noticed that the tip of his junk was exposed at the leg. “Gross dude. Would it kill you to buy a pair of underwear?” Now she noticed the overall ripeness that was now detectable as a slight breeze moved the foul smell directly at her. Close covered her nose quickly for a second and then continued her inspection. She was satisfied that the man she had just dropped probably wasn’t working for the cartel and that her cover was intact. She pulled out a money clip she traveled with and was ready to slip the money into the man’s pocket but thought a moment and reconsidered. She reached for and pulled her phone from her pocket and quickly dialed Grimm. She quickly explained what had happened and asked that he sent his two guys down the street to pick the man up and take him back to the warehouse just to be sure her initial assessment was correct. After she completed the call she used the darkness around her and blended back into the shadows of the store in front of where the incident had occurred. She hated this sneaking around on dark streets bullshit but waited patiently for help to arrive.
It was at that moment standing in the shadows that she thought she might have an idea about how to find the network that was causing fear and destruction inside the US border. She smiled as she stood motionless and scanning the surrounding area for anyone that might be moving around and might have noticed the exchange. She was semi-confident that Grimm would like the plan. It was brute force and not eloquent at all but frankly after he heard the security arrangements that their target had in place the idea would look much better than the other options available to the team. She would need to get plans of the homes where their Cartel asshole slept at night. That was the key; hopefully one of them would have the right design and construction to make her plan viable.
Minutes later a pick-up truck they used at the warehouse rounded the corner and the two security guys jumped out and quickly threw the man into the bed and threw up the tailgate blocking him from the view of casual observers. Close was already in the cab sitting in the middle of the bench seat and waiting when the men hopped in and they were off. The whole transfer had taken less than 15 seconds.
Close cleared her throat. “Sorry to mention this guys but when I was checking to see if he might be a cartel guy disguised as a homeless guy or if I killed him I felt something on my arm. So he might have fleas or lice.”
The man driving chuckled. “Don’t worry before we put him in a room we’ll strip him down and hose him off. Our first aid supplies include a wide variety of treatments for lice and other parasites. If you’d care to assure yourself that your bug free we can grab you a box and you can shower and we can hunt up some clothing for you.”
“I’d like that but I don’t have any clothes that will fit me at your warehouse. Honestly lice just freak me the hell out. But hey we’ve all worked in some less than clean places and lice are one of the easiest to get rid of. Last time I got head lice I tried the mayonnaise thing and it actually worked.”
The driver pulled into the lot for the warehouse and within moments they were under the roll-up door and parked in what might have been at one time the shipping department. “Grimm guessed your sizes and we picked some stuff up. No undergarments but some jeans in a few different sizes and a variety of tops including t-shirts and sweatshirts. He did remember your exact shoe size so we got 3 different pairs and some white socks.”
Close mumbled out loud. “That Grimm seems to think of everything. Thanks guys I think I’ll take you up on your offer to get a shower and change clothes. Just thinking about lice makes me itch.”
The driver’s smiled. “Yah me too. Last time I made it back home my girlfriend’s little sister’s school had a lice bulletin go out and I must have spend 15 minutes every time I saw her combing through her hair looking for nits and lice crap. She thought it was funny so I never told her that I treated myself a few times just to be sure I wasn’t infested. The stuff let a slight odor and she asked me a few times if I had changed my cologne.”
Close slid over on the seat to the door and swung out. “What did you tell her?”
The driver stopped and looked at her across the hood of the truck. “I’m ashamed to say that I told her that I was taking antibiotics for a sinus infection I got while deployed and that they made my sweat smell slightly different. I didn’t know what else to say and panicked. I never lie to her except for work. I’m very careful what I tell her so she doesn’t get scared. That lie haunts me every day; I’m going to come clean when I get back home next time.”
Close smiled at the young ex-soldier. “You might want to bring a gift to help the process along. Jewelry and purses always work on me.”
The driver stood thinking for a moment. “I might just do that. Thanks for the advice mame.”
Close laughed slightly as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper and a pen. She scribbled something on it and moved toward the driver on the other side of the truck. “You’re welcome; they call me Close by the way. Call this number and ask for Victor. Tell him.”
She stopped and retrieved her phone from her jeans. She scrolled down the list of contacts and stopped at one and hit send. After 20 seconds the phone was answered. Victor it’s Close. I’m going to put a friend on the line and he needs a tier 1 bag for his girlfriend. Genuine, no knockoffs.” Close listened to the man on the other end of the call. She was shaking her head up and down agreeing with whatever he was saying. She hit the mute button on the phone and turned to the driver. “Kid, where you from?”
The driver answered. “Milwaukee.”
Close unmuted the phone and spoke into it. “Victor he’s from Chicago. And throw in the wallet and keychain too.” She again hesitated. “Perfect, I’m giving you over to him to get a shipping address.”
Close handed the phone over after hitting the mute button. “You have a mail drop I assume.”
“Yes I do.”
“Good, give that to him and the purse is on me. I’ll bill it to this job.” She turned to look at the other man. “What about you? You have a girlfriend?”
The man sheepishly looked at her. “Two actually.”
Close smiled. “Well give Victor an address to ship one to and give it to the funniest one. I know you’re young and while sex is fun a woman that can make you laugh can be a joy forever.”
The other man from the truck moved over to the driver and waited for his turn with the phone. “Thanks Close. We appreciate it.”
Close nodded. “No problem, now hurry up I have work to do.”
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