Bullets spanged off the tarmac around our feet as we ran. Luis turned his head to shout something at me, but instead of words, a spout of blood burst from his lips, and he dove face first into the blacktop. I stumbled to a halt, and knelt beside him, but he was already dead. I paused long enough to snap the chain from around his neck, and shoved it and the medal which hung from it into my pocket.
Then I was up again, running to the plane which waited for me sputtering at the end of the Estrellitas’ private runway, bullets snapping past me through the sultry Mexican air.
I fell into the open door, and Tomas thrust the throttle forward. The plane lunged ahead, and the roar of our takeoff was punctuated by the patter of bullets as they passed through the light body of the Cessna.
We landed on a small dirt strip just a few miles north of the border. I helped Tomas push the plane into the rickety hanger and peeled off a few bills from the roll in my pocket. “Patch the holes and change the numbers. I’ll be back a little after dark.” He nodded, the heat inside the tin-roofed hanger making his pock-marked face glisten.
The bar in San Antonio was dark and cool. Vicente waited in the corner booth. I paused at the bar, and traded Luis’s one year sober medal for a drink to his memory.
“I have already heard,” Vicente smiled through capped teeth when I sat down. He spun an antique gold ten pesos coin on the table between us, his good luck piece.
I tossed back the shot of Wild Turkey and tapped the USB flash drive against the table. “All here: account numbers, passwords, all of your late uncle’s business.”
“Then all that remains is the matter of payment,” the young man said.
By daylight I was back across the border and landing on a small dirt strip we had prepared a few weeks before. I made sure the car we had hidden started before paying off Tomas.
The crossing back across the border was uneventful, and by mid afternoon I sat at Dyer’s desk in the Federal Building in Austin, sipping his fine single malt scotch.
“I’m sorry about Luis. He was a good man,” Dyer said.
“Not that good.” We both grinned.
“Hell of a way to end a career.” Dyer poked his finger at my gun and badge, which lay on the desk between us.
“Retirement comes to all of us. Yours will be soon enough. Do like I did, get some time in the field before they put you out to pasture.”
“Too exciting for me. You just barely got out before the shooting started. Reports are that someone gunned down Eduardo Estrellita and his whole family and burnt down the villa. The Federales think it might have been a rival trafficante family. They must have gotten Luis at the same time.”
“Yeah, I missed all that. Was in Monterrey saying goodbye to Mexico, busy changing my trail just in case. Estrellita was a nasty piece of work, didn’t want my cover blown and him coming after me.”
“Well, whoever it was, they got Vicente, too. Left him propped in his booth at the Faro Bar in San Antonio, shot in the groin and left to bleed out.”
“Well, it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.” I tipped back my drink and stood.
“Too bad your last case was such a bust. It would have been nice to have gotten some convictions. As it is, another family will just take over at the top.” Dyer shook his head and smiled. “Gonna move up to your cabin in Montana? I hear it’s cheap to live there, a great spot for a guy on a government pension.”
“I might. Been thinking about the islands, though. I’ve put a little away, made some investments.” I rubbed the USB flash drive in my pocket.
As we shook hands my thoughts went to the antique gold ten-peso coin in my other pocket. It already was luckier for me than it had been for Vicente.
Michael Ehart‘s new fantasy novel The Tears of Ishtar has just been released. His personal modesty precludes boasting of his protean genius, dashing good looks and pleasant singing voice, which is, come to think of it, just another example of what a great fellow he is. He lives in the upper left hand corner of the US, where he dabbles in competitive brain surgery and is learning to dance like Tony Danza.