Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 36 Continued
Chapter 36 Continued
Outside, the sun was beginning to go down and an offshore breeze was finally cutting through the hot and hectic city. The shopping-mad tourists were heading home and the drinking-mad tourists were arriving. The mood in Tijuana was changing, like it did everyday at this time, from commercial cordiality to alcoholic depravity. The zebra-painted donkeys that pulled small carts along the avenidas so tourists could have some unusual pictures to take home to Iowa, were being replaced by other donkeys for another kind of entertainment that Tijuana was famous for.
Far away from the tourists, Laura sat with Davis, sipping iced coffees, inside a warehouse made of LA garage doors, waiting to descend into a tunnel underneath the barricaded Mexico-U.S. border.
While their host was away getting a refill, Davis set his coffee down on the floor next to his chair and looked at Laura. Her face showed a deep exhaustion. He’d loved her since the day they met, but now he also admired her courage and her insistence on surviving on her terms.
“Where do you want to live,” he asked her, “after this is all over?”
She closed her eyes and sighed.
“Thank you for asking that,” she said with a weary smile. “I need to think about the future. This craziness is going to end at some point and then I want to get old and fat with you. I don’t think we can go back to San Francisco, Davis. I’m sorry. With the Feds still looking for me—us, now,” she corrected, “we’re going to have to keep a very low profile. Do you have any ideas about where we can go?” She sipped at her coffee.
“Have you ever been to Idaho?” he asked.
“Idaho? I’m not even sure where that is exactly. I’m a girl from New Jersey. Potatoes, right?”
“Yes, potatoes,” he laughed softly. “I went there a couple of years ago on vacation. It’s beautiful and filled with folks who mind their own business and don’t ask a lot of questions.”
“Idaho? Filled with folks you say?” She sipped at her coffee, enjoying its coolness. “Do they sell these things there?”
The smile on his face was the one with which she had fallen in love.
“Yes, they sell these things in Idaho.” He was exhausted, but knew it was going to be a while before he would get any rest.
“Then Idaho is fine with me,” Laura said. “But let’s get through this tunnel first.”
From behind them, they heard a sharp whistle. Laura looked around and saw Lizard Boy waving, beckoning them to come over to the metal shed.
“C’mon, I think it’s time to go,” she said.
Lawrence Paxton walked slowly through the small plaza at the San Ysidro border crossing. He looked at the shattered windows of the McDonald’s and at the gouges in the facing of the Customs building. The ambulances were gone now and evidence collectors were literally crawling everywhere, scraping together the minutiae of the chaos, trying to find the order in it all.
Judging from the bloodstains on the pavement, it would be impossible to determine who had won this battle. Based on the body bags it was pretty much of a dead heat.
Paxton had already spoken with the surviving agents to try to get some sense of what had happened.
In the minutes after the gunfire had stopped, a small fleet of ambulances had swarmed into the plaza to pick up the bodies. Through a masterpiece of improvisational bribery and threats, not all of the ambulances took their charges to hospitals. Some sped off to warehouses nearby, where several dead and wounded mules were butchered to remove the condoms and balloons filled with heroin that were still resting in their guts. Several were smothered to quiet their screaming. The leftovers were later dumped into the Pacific. One poor soul eventually washed ashore in Imperial Beach. The state of his–or her—mutilation triggered a shark alert.
Paxton walked into the McDonald’s and sat down. It was closed. The employees and customers were being questioned. The local chief of the Customs Service joined him. It was his men and women who had taken the highest fatality count. He was not in a good mood.
“From what I understand, the plaza here was filled with your men,” said the Customs chief.
Paxton picked up a paper coffee cup, hoping for a salvageable sip or two. A cigarette butt poked through the surface of the cold liquid.
“We had three men here,” said Paxton.”We were trying to locate a federal fugitive wanted for questioning in the death of an agent.”
He didn’t care to spend the time and effort to fully brief this political appointee who sat there wearing the uniform as if he’d earned it. Professional courtesy was limited to fellow professionals.
Paxton continued. “The SDPD had some officers here, a couple of local bad boys, and a trio of interested parties from the Roncalli Family in New York.”
“All of them armed to the teeth, I understand. With all the guns you had here, this was bound to happen,” said the Customs chief. He was a man who believed that the way to end crime was to try to empathize with the predators and to disarm the prey. “Who shot first, your men or the SD cops?”
Paxton lifted up the coffee cup again and took a sniff. He pushed the coffee-soaked butt below the surface with his finger.
“Want some coffee? I can’t finish it.”
Never one to turn down something free, the Customs chief took the cup.
“Thanks.” He took a sip. “It’s cold.”
“Sorry. Anyway, the whole thing was started by some guys in a black van that was picking up the mules who had just strolled through Customs. They had a .50 caliber machine gun in the van. The SDPD and our people returned fire with their 9mm sidearms. That .50 caliber just sliced and diced everything and everyone.”
“Did the van get away? Did anyone get the license number?”
“License number? This wasn’t a hit and run.” Paxton wanted to wipe the vacant look off the man’s face with a shovel. “Civilians and officers were being cut to pieces and you want to know if anybody got the license number? Why? You want to cite them for littering? After all, they did throw about two thousand rounds out there.”
“Why are you mad at me? All I asked was a simple question,” said the Customs chief. He didn’t understand why the FBI agent was so upset.
“You got that right,” Paxton said, got up and walked away from the table.
Outside in the street things were beginning to move again. The border was reopening.