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Authors: Victor Gischler

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BOOK: The Deputy
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CHAPTER TWELVE

The big-rig made a hell of a racket backing out over the rubble, scraping bottom, getting caught up on whatever I didn’t care to think about. The rig stalled, and I cranked it again, fought to get the thing into gear.

“Are you sure you know how to drive one of these?” She sat in the passenger seat, legs crossed, her hands bound by a power cord I’d ripped from a lamp.

I ignored her, bullied the truck into first gear and headed back to town. There was a pretty bad rattle somewhere under the hood and a grinding sound coming from the brakes. Roy would be pissed. Tough shit.

“What is my charge?” she asked.

“What?”

“You have to charge me with something if you arrest me.”

I thought about that a second. “Well, you shot at me for starters.”

“You broke into my room. Self defense.”

“Aiding and abetting the smuggling of illegal aliens. That specific enough for you?” I popped a Winston into my mouth and lit it.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Sure you don’t. You talk better English than the others.”

“I went to University of Texas El Paso for an accounting degree.”

“Hey, I bet you’re in charge of the smuggling. The ring leader. Big boss.”

“They don’t let women be in charge of anything where I come from. Can I have one of those?”

I leaned over and stuck a cigarette in her mouth, lit it for her.

“I want a lawyer,” she said.

That made me crack up laughing. Hard.

“This cord is too tight around my wrists.”

“Get used to it.”

She frowned. “Stupid redneck cowboy. You are in far over your head.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes. Soon you will see.” She smirked, puffed the Winston.

“You know what I think? I think you shook that sweet little ass of yours in front of Luke Jordan and got him killed. Who did it? Your boyfriend maybe. Who’s your boyfriend, Miss Thing? That honcho in the fancy black shirt, I’m guessing.”

“He’s my brother.”

“He’s dead.”

And that shut her up pretty good and quick.

I parked the rig in front of the stationhouse, hauled in the Mexican gal by the elbow. I was hoping Karl would be there, but the place was empty. I untied her and shoved her into one of the holding cells.

“Wait.” She came to the front of the cell, grabbed the bars and pinned me with a hard stare. “Did you mean it? He’s dead?”

“Yes.” I didn’t feel like rubbing it in, but I didn’t apologize either.

Her hand shot out, and she raked me across the face with her nails.

I jumped back, the flesh on my left cheek stinging.

“I will kill you,” she shrieked. “If it’s the last thing I do, I will see you writhing on the ground in agony. I will put a knife in your belly!” Her face was a mask of wild, animal rage.

“Lady, shut up.”

I slumped at the desk, found a box of tissue and began dabbing at my fresh scratches. She kept cursing at me in Mexican. She seemed pretty earnest about whatever she was saying.

I reloaded my revolver again and stuck the woman’s little automatic in my belt.

I picked up the phone to call Molly, but it was dead. I checked the line, made sure it was plugged into the wall. I went into the back room and tried the phone hanging on the wall next to the lockers. It was dead too.

Hell.

I didn’t know if this was a bad sign or just bad luck. Last year a giant thunderstorm had swept through the county and a lighting bolt had fried the main telephone juncture box for the whole town. Nobody could make a call for three days, and the town was too far out in the middle of Butt-Fuck Egypt for cell phones to work. Christ. Of all the times for the phone to go dead. I slumped against the lockers, rubbed my eyes.

It was nice and quiet in the back room away from the Mexican hellcat. I sat on the edge of the safe and finished my cigarette. There was probably some paperwork to fill out when you arrested somebody. A report. I didn’t even know the woman’s name.

I went back out front, stood in front of her cell. “Hey, what’s your name?”

She cursed in Spanish and spat at me.

“Oh, come on.”

The stationhouse door creaked open behind me and Karl walked in. Thank God. Karl was a giant jock prick, but now I could dump this whole mess into his lap. There was a good chance he’d whip some Miranda on me and I’d be in the next cell along side the hellcat, but at this point I just wanted to be done with it.

“Where the hell you been?” Karl said.

Karl was a good six inches taller than me and twice as wide, square chin like a block of granite, a hawkish nose that filled up his face. His hair was a dirty brown buzz cut. Teeth like a horse’s. He smelled like Aqua Velva.

He growled at me. “I’ve been here twice after you called. So what the hell is the big, fat emergency that you were all worried …” His gaze drifted past me to the Mexican lady in the cell. “Oh … shit.”

I turned back to the hellcat. “You can try your luck spitting at him for a while.” I turned my head to look back at Karl. “I guess I’d better explain—”

The fist hit me square between the eyes, and my head snapped back and bounced off the bars of the cell. I staggered, took another punch in the jaw, and my knees went rubbery. The room tilted, went blurry and my face bounced off the floor.

There was an angry buzzing in my ears, and my vision went hot red before fading to darkness.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

I blinked, shook my head and tried to clear the cobwebs.

Someone was slapping my face.

“Wake up, asshole.” Karl sat on my chest.

His voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a dark well.

He slapped me again. I winced, tried to pull away, but he had a fistful of my shirt. He hauled me up and dropped me in a chair, hovered over me like an avalanche ready to happen. He took the revolver from my holster, took the little automatic from my waistband too.

“Give me my gun,” said the Mexican from her cell. “I want to shoot him in the belly.” “Shut your yap, bitch,” Karl said. “You’re the one fucked all this up in the first place.”

“I told you it wasn’t my fault,” she said. “This cowboy deputy took the keys from Luke Jordan and threw everything off.”

Karl went through my pockets, found Jordan’s keys. He took his cuffs, slapped one bracelet around my wrist, and cuffed the other to one of the cell bars. “I’ll be right back.”

The hellcat shook the bars. “Let me out of here.”

“Nobody goes anywhere until I get a lid on this. Now shut up and sit tight.”

Karl left through the front door. I tugged on the cuffs just for the heck of it, but I knew it was no use. I slumped in the chair. A ragged sigh leaked out of me.

“You are dead, cowboy. You are sitting there dead.”

I didn’t have anything to say to that. She was probably right.

“You should just have kept your nose out of it,” she said. “You had to be a stupid hero cowboy cop.”

“Hey, at least I didn’t jam a bunch of people into the back of a truck. They could suffocate back there. And it’s hot as hell.”

“Spoken like a typical stupid
gringo
. The fact that these people are willing to risk death to come to your country should tell you something. The poorest man or woman living in one of your ghettos is far better off than thousands just on the other side of the river. You people know nothing of real poverty.”

“I don’t have any political answers for you,” I said. “Maybe you folks need to work on getting your own country together. That’s not my concern. What happens in this town is. What happens to Luke Jordan is my concern.”

“In a few minutes, nothing will be your concern anymore.”

I jerked on the cuffs again. “Shit.”

Karl had left me my Winstons and my Bic. I lit one, tried to puff myself an escape plan.

The hellcat came to the front of her cell. “Give me one of those.”

“Go to hell.”

She went back to cursing me in Spanish.

Karl came back through the front door. He was so red, I thought cartoon steam might shoot out of his ears. He loomed over me, and I felt the hate vibes radiating off him.

“What the fuck did you do over there?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

His backhand spun my head around, little colored lights in front of my eyes. My teeth hummed with the impact. I tasted blood, spit, and it dribbled down my chin. For a split-second I thought he’d broken my jaw. I felt along my back teeth with my tongue.

“I don’t want any more bullshit, you little turd.” Karl flicked my forehead with a thick finger. “You get me?”

I nodded and massaged my jaw. It would be okay, but it would be sore for a while.

“What happened?” asked the hellcat.

“Billy Banks is lying over there with an axe in his neck. All our cargo is gone.”

Cargo. That’s what they called human beings.

“Where?” she asked.

“How the hell would I know?” Karl jabbed my chest with a finger. Hard. “You’d better start talking, kid.”

Kid. The son of a bitch was only eight years older than I was.

The hellcat shook the bars again, belted out some kind of desperate animal frustration growl. “Will you please open this fucking cell?”

“Just simmer, missy.” Karl rubbed his face, blew out an exasperated sigh. “This ain’t gonna work, man. It’s all fucked up. No way we can hide all this. The town’s going to wake up soon and start asking questions and Billy’s over there drawing flies. Somebody’s going to have to take the fall on this.”

The hellcat’s eyes narrowed. “You’d better not be looking at me, big man.”

“No, you’re not believable,” Karl said. “Christ, what’s Krueger going to do? Where is he anyway?”

“The cowboy,” the hellcat said.

“The what?”

“Him,” she said. “Pin it on the kid.”

That woke me up a little. “What?”

“Hey, that’s not bad,” Karl said.

“Nobody’s going to believe it,” I said.

“Sure they will. Hell, we can even pin Luke Jordan on you. Shit, that might just work.”

“Why the hell would I kill Luke Jordan?”

Karl bent down until we were eye to eye. “Damn boy, you’re just plain dumb, ain’t you? Maybe we’ll ask Doris, see what she knows about it.”

“You can’t use Doris to get to me,” I said. “She’s gone to her sister’s.”

“That’s even better.” Karl smirked. “She leaves you, and you take it out on Luke.”

“Why the hell would I do that?”

“You just keep pretending you don’t know.”

“I’ll talk,” I said. “You try to blame all this on me, and I’ll sing like a fucking barbershop quartet.”

“You’re not going to say jack shit.” Karl drew the Glock from his holster. “You were killed trying to escape.”

Oh … shit. I felt my sphincter twitch. The bottom dropped out of my gut.

“Shoot him in the belly,” the hellcat shouted.

“Shut up,” Karl snapped. He pointed the pistol.

I tried to think of something, say anything to make him wait. My mouth was so dry I couldn’t make words come out.

“You can’t do it like that,” the hellcat said.

“I’ve got this handled, okay.”

“Idiot,” she said. “You can’t shoot him for escaping if he’s handcuffed to the cage.”

Karl lowered the pistol. “Damn, you’re right.”

He dipped two fingers into his shirt pocket, came out with a pair of small keys on a ring and tossed them at me. I caught them on reflex. I held them up. The handcuff keys.

“Unlock yourself,” Karl said.

“I’m not going to help you kill me.”

“You want to die like a man on your feet, or like some squirming coward?”

“I don’t want to die at all.”

“Tell you what,” Karl said. “Sit there and give me shit, and I’ll belly shoot you like the
senorita
wants. Do what I tell you, and I’ll make it quick and clean.”

I stood, pushed the chair away with my foot. A quick death wasn’t much comfort, but damn if I would just blink at him like some idiot coon hound and wait to be shot. I’d unlock the cuffs and then make some kind of play, jump at him, try to catch Karl off guard. Anything. I didn’t have a prayer, but a one in a million chance was still a chance. I unlocked the cuff on my wrist, braced myself to spring.

“I’m gonna put this shot right between your eyes, kid. I’d say sorry, but frankly I’m just not that sorry.” He squinted, sighted down the barrel at my face.

“Drop it, Karl.”

Karl froze. The new voice startled me.

“I said drop it.”

Karl began to turn his head to look at her.

“Do
not
turn around, Karl. Stay still and put the gun down.”

Karl muttered curses under his breath. “You don’t know what’s going on here, Amanda.”

“That’s true,” Amanda said. “But I’m pretty sure I just heard you describe how you were going to murder Toby here, and that’s definitely not in the handbook. Now, put the gun down please.” She stood with a two-handed grip on her automatic.

Amanda was athletic and thin, tan, almost as tall as I was. Brownish red hair cut short like a boy’s. The khaki deputy’s uniform hid sinewy girl muscles, like a tennis pro might have, but I knew she got hers from rock climbing and long distance cycling. I’d seen her score perfect marks on the gun range and armlock truckers twice her size when things got rowdy at Skeeter’s.

Karl didn’t put the gun down. She kept her Glock on him, and he kept his on me. I stood as still as stone and tried not to piss myself. The hellcat watched from her cell with big brown eyes.

“I’m waiting, Karl.” Amanda’s pistol never wavered from him.

“Okay, but you put your gun down too, and we can talk about this.”

“That’s not how it works, and you know it, Karl,” she said.

“This is bullshit.”

“Karl.” Amanda’s voice was calm, just above a whisper. “I’m going to give you three seconds to drop the gun.

Three seconds went by and nobody moved.
Bang.

The shot nearly made me crap my pants.

Karl dropped his gun and went to the floor face down, squirming and cursing a blue streak. “You fucking cunt. Oh, fucking shit! You shot me in the ass, you bitch. Damn, that hurts.”

“Just stay down, Karl. Toby, get his pistol.”

I grabbed it.

“Oh, you complete fucking whore.” Karl was making fists and groaning between outbursts, his eyes crushed closed against his ass pain.

Amanda took a step closer, spared me a glance. “I got your message, but when I tried to call, the phone was out. Didn’t think I’d be shooting anyone today.”

“It’s been that kind of night.”

She said, “Karl, I’m going to grab one arm and Toby’s going to get the other, and we’re going to drag you as gently as possible into the cell, okay? Then we’ll fetch Doc Gordon. You give us any trouble, and I’ll put another one in you. Understand?”

Karl nodded. His face was a sweaty grimace.

We hauled him into the vacant cell, dropped him on the cot and locked it.

“Toby, put that chair over by the far wall and have a seat.”

I did what she told me.

She slapped one cuff on my wrist, the other to the radiator.

“Oh, come on.”

“I don’t have time to hear your story right now, Toby. Sorry. Can’t take any chances. We’ll see what happens when I get back with the doc.”

“Great.”

She jerked a thumb over her shoulder at the hellcat. “You can start by explaining who the hell that is.”

BOOK: The Deputy
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