Authors: Eric Meyer
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #War, #Men's Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller, #War & Military
The helo came back again, and they looked up at the sky. It slowed nearby, and then moved away to the north. They heard it begin a new grid search, about five klicks away. Nolan looked back at Evers.
"So you're telling me you gave them a strong lead, and your people aren't interested? It's crazy."
He smiled. "It's politics. No one wants to play that game down in Florida, just in case they get their fingers badly burned."
"They'd sooner see New York get burned," Will said, his voice angry. Nolan recalled he'd lost a cousin when the Twin Towers went down.
"That's about right."
"They belong in hell!" John-Wesley spat out, "Sonsofbitches, they deserve everything they get."
"Except they won't be getting it. It's the folks in the Big Apple who're in line for a nasty surprise," Brad pointed out.
" Sonsofbitches!" he said again. He rolled his eyes, and his voice became a weird monotone, "Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned."
"Amen to that," Brad replied, working to keep a straight face. Ryder gave him a suspicious look. "You poking fun?"
Nolan decided it was time to go forward. "Okay, let's get this straight. We only have one possible lead, and that points to Miami. Law Enforcement don't want to get involved, in case they lose their Brownie points if it all goes wrong. So all that's left is us, have I got that right? We're the only team left on the field."
"Sounds about right," Will murmured, his voice laced with anger.
He nodded. "So we have to head for Miami. It's that simple. Evers, can you get us there?"
"Florida would be a long, slow journey in the Hummer. Pretty crowded, too. I mean, I could do it, but..."
"We'd miss them," Vega said, "They have a head start, and we can't even think about moving until this search ends. There's only one way we can head them off. An aircraft."
"Eva? What about Adolpho?"
"Forget it. He only ventures across the border on rare occasions, and I doubt he'd be interested. Besides, he was picking up a cargo and heading back for Cancun. He'll be long gone."
"Damn. Where can we obtain a light aircraft at short notice, no questions asked?"
"That'd be some trick," Evers chuckled, "Like I pulled with Jerry at DEA to take this Hummer. Pity it's not an aircraft."
Surely DEA snatches more than just vehicles?
"Do they have confiscated aircraft in your pal's DEA compound?"
He stared at Nolan, horrified at the way the conversation was going. "You're not serious? No way Jerry could pull off something like that. I mean, Jesus Christ, they'd go ape. An aircraft! Impossible."
"You could be right about that."
"Damn right," Evers confirmed.
"But we still need a plane, Danny. You have to get it for us."
"For Christ's sake, we're not even out of the desert yet."
"That's right. But soon these Border Guards will give up and go home to their wives, girlfriends, whatever. They'll assume they've lost us and end the search. They have people coming over the border all the time, so they won't waste any more time on us. When they've gone, we can leave and drive to this DEA compound. Do you have Jerry's cell number?"
He didn't answer for a few minutes, and Nolan waited him out. With a muttered, 'fuck this' he dragged out his satphone, found a place with line of sight reception through a hole in the netting, and put his finger on the speed dial. Nolan touched his arm to hold him back.
"One thing. Put it on speaker, so we can hear. There may be something he needs to know, type of aircraft, range, whatever."
He pushed a button, and they heard the dialing tone. He pushed another button, and the ringtone filled the interior of the Hummer. A voice answered.
"Jerry, it's me. Danny."
"Danny! How'd you make out with that Hummer? Pretty good off-road, right?"
"Yeah, real good. Listen, Jerry, there's something else I need."
"You? You mean you personally, or the Agency?"
A pause. "The Agency. The thing is..."
"Hey, listen. If it's Agency, just send in an official request. You know how it works."
"Yeah, but it's not so easy. We're in hot pursuit, Jerry. These are bad guys, terrorists, planning a big hit on US soil. There isn't time for a mountain of paperwork. We need to get to Miami real fast. If we miss them, we're looking at something worse than you can imagine. A lot worse."
"I hear you, Danny, but you know I stuck my neck out over that Hummer. I could..."
"If this comes off," Evers cut in, "think about it. There's a bunch of Islamic terrorists making their way across America, with a plan for a second 9/11. How do you think the White House will feel about the man who helped prevent it? You'll be a hero, Jerry, a real, live, walking talking hero. Lunch with the President, medals, you name it."
He's laying it on too thick,
It sounds like a con.
"Girls. They'll be falling at your feet. Pretty girls."
"You'll have your pick, a real live hero, no question. What pretty girl wouldn't want to hang on your arm?"
"What do you need?"
* * *
An hour later, the sun was rising in the blue sky. It was a beautiful, clear day, and the searchers had given up and gone home. They stowed the camo net in the trunk. Evers started the engine and drove a few hundred meters along the gully until they came to a steep, sloping ramp, just enough for them to get out. The Hummer was indestructible. It climbed the steep gradient like a mountain goat, and soon they were roaring across the sand and scrub, heading for the outskirts of El Paso.
The DEA compound had once been a farm, confiscated when the owners fell behind with their mortgage and decided to change their crop to Mary Jane. There were several large wooden barns, and close to them the long, brown ribbon of a dirt strip. Evers saw Jerry Jackson standing outside the largest of them and stopped the Hummer close to him. He turned his head to speak.
"You guys wait here. This needs to be discreet. I mean, an aircraft! Fuck!"
Evers smiled, climbed out, and greeted his friend. "Nice to see you, Jerry."
Inside the Hummer, Brad Rose called out to Nolan, "Boss, how can we keep the theft of an aircraft quiet?"
He smiled. "I don't know, Brad. I guess the trick is to start the engine and don't look back."
"That sounds like some plan," he murmured.
Evers chatted to his friend, and they opened the barn doors enough to drive the Hummer inside. Nolan eased the SUV through the narrow space. Inside was like a dimly lit Aladdin's cave. He stopped the engine and climbed out to look at the spoils of the drug war. Vehicles, jeeps, a couple of limos, a WW2 vintage Willys Jeep, speedboats on trailers, even a helicopter, a Robinson R44. There was a couple of single engine Cessnas, four seats, cheap and plentiful for clandestine cross border missions. Even a Pitts Special, in classic bright yellow livery. Pretty, but sadly, they needed more than one seat. Behind the Pitts they could see a pair of props peeking out between the parked aircraft. The fuselage was hidden under a canvas tarpaulin.
"What's that over there?" Nolan pointed at the hidden aircraft.
Jackson squinted through the gloom and shrugged. "It's been there ever since I can remember. You want to take a look? I can go check the manifests, see what it's all about."
They threw the canvas off the fuselage and stood back to admire what had been hidden beneath.
"It's a Rockwell Twin Commander," Will said at once, "I flew a few hours in one of those. Except it was more modern. This must be fifty years old, if it's a day."
"Sixty one, to be precise," Jackson told them, reading from a manifest, "They had the bright idea of using it to fly people across the border. She can carry eight pax at a pinch, and they set out to make a packet of dough from well-heeled wetbacks. Trouble is, she came from the air force. They didn't remove the IFF electronics when they sold her on. The smugglers flew low to avoid our radar, but it made no difference. We were able to track her almost to the inch, poor dumb bastards."
"Does she still fly?"
"She flew in here, but that was," he consulted the book, "Yeah, two and a half years ago. That explains why I didn't know anything about her. I wasn't here then. But you can't take that one, no way."
"Why not?" he looked bemused, "Because it's too dangerous. It hasn't been checked out. There could be a hundred problems with her."
"Dangerous," Will smiled, "You know we're going up against Ricardo Montez?"
"Danny told me, yeah."
"Believe me, that's what you call dangerous. We'll take her."
"If the engines start," Jerry Jackson warned, "and I'd give odds against that."
"A fair point," Will agreed, "but it's all you have here to carry six people to Miami, so we'll have to get the motors started, one way or the other."
They looked around at Evers. "You want to come with us?" Nolan asked him.
He smiled sheepishly. "I reckon it's time to stand up and be counted. Yeah, I'm coming. Besides," he pointed at Vega, "If Granddad can make it, I can."
The Cuban gave him a macho, Hispanic scowl. Clearly, Evers had some work to do on his people skills.
"Rafael trained in Special Forces," Nolan pointed out.
"He did? Well, what about her?" he nodded at Eva, "She's a woman."
"She's kills people, Danny. She's damn good at it."
He reddened. "Uh, right." An expression of fear betrayed his terror, but he fought it back and brightened, "So I need the experience. I'm coming along."
Will shrugged. "You want to join us in hell, it's up to you."
"We are all sinners, and shall burn," John-Wesley grated, "The Lord said, '
hen death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death'. You should beware of what you wish for, Mr. Evers."
"Hallelujah," Brad murmured. Ryder caught it and glared at him.
"Praise the Lord," Will whispered. This time it was more 'sotto voce', so he didn't hear. Nolan grinned.
So did Eva. Later, while Bryce, Rose, and Ryder were checking out the control surfaces, she joined him in the cockpit where he was watching the gages. She brought with her a faint female odor. It was slightly arousing, even mixed with the familiar old aircraft tang of avgas, lubricants, leather, and rubber.
She’s probably the prettiest girl
who's ever graced this shabby old cockpit,
he thought to himself.
He was in the left-hand seat, which had an old flying jacket draped over the cracked leather squab. He looked away from the bewildering array of dials and switches, all of them analogue. Some of the glasses on the gages were cracked, and a few of the black Bakelite knobs were missing, leaving just a brass stub. However, so far as he could tell, everything that should work, did work.
"Your man, Ryder. He takes his religion seriously. Very seriously."
He glanced at her and read concern in her face. "He does that."
"You shouldn't take it too lightly. I saw the look he gave Brad."
"Me too. I think they know where to draw the line. I hope they do."
"Be careful of him. I wouldn't want him to kill you."
He looked up, surprised. "There's plenty have tried, and I'm still breathing. You shouldn't worry about me."
"But I do."