Here’s another teaser… I AM working on it. Just went over 50K words on the rough draft. Sorry I’m not further along, but that real job and now surgery have kinda interfered with my writing…
Hell in a Handbasket
The old man had called back in the county as he crossed the river, and was abreast of Fourteenmile Park when the radio went off with an all call alert tone, “All units, all units. Shots fired, off FM ten fifty three. Ward’s U-Haul office. Officers down. Apparent domestic…”
The dispatcher continued providing additional information, which the old man processed almost instinctively as he slapped the siren on and hit the traffic backers and eyebrow lights and stepped hard on the gas. Gadammit, why does it have to be a domestic? It’s always a damn domestic when things go straight to shit. Who is down, and how bad? Dammit Lisa we need details! Calmly the old man keyed the mic, “Dispatch, car four eight minutes out coming west on I-ten.”
He heard other cars calling in with ETAs and waited… Flipping over to the command channel he keyed the mike, “Sheriff, Car four.”
“Do we know who’s down?”
“Hart, and I’m not sure on the other one. I think it’s a city officer.”
“You’re going to beat me there, where do you want me?”
“We’ll set up a CP at the off ramp. Meet me there. It’s open out there, and I don’t want to get too close and get more officers shot until we get a handle on this.”
The old man thought, So are we potentially sacrificing two officers to protect the rest of us? We don’t have SWAT, but dammit, we need a better way to react. That’s right across the street from the metal recyclers. I’m in an unmarked, and it’s dirty. I wonder if I can just drive into the recycler’s yard?
The old man eased onto the service road short of the roadblock and CP, then sped around and came in from the north, as FM1053 wasn’t blocked in that direction. He glanced at the front of the office building as he pulled into the recycling yard, then around the back. Jumping out of his car, he popped the trunk and hauled out the MRAD and binoculars as Gil Reynos came from the warehouse at a crouching run, “Captain, are you crazy?”
The old man glanced at Gil, “Nah, we get officers down. We need them out. What do you know?”
Reynos said, “I’m not sure, but I think that’s Rojo Zablah’s truck over there. His wife works for Mike Ward as the office manager. She took the job when he went down for dealing. I didn’t know Zablah was out of Huntsville.”
The old man keyed the mic, “Dispatch, car four, possible ID on shooter is Ernesto Rojo Zablah. Possible new release from Huntsville.” He looked around the warehouse, “Do you know who else is over there? Any idea if there are customers in the building?”
Reynos replied, “I don’t pay much attention, but as far as I saw, it was only Mike’s truck, Dolores’ car, and Rojo’s truck. That’s what I saw after I peeked around the corner of the fence when I heard the gun shots. Well, that and the two police cars.”
“Gil, can you get me up on a forklift high enough to see over the fence? And keep me back in the center of the warehouse?” The old man asked as he loaded rounds into the magazine and slammed it home in the MRAD.
Gil started the forklift and slid the forks out from under the loaded pallet, spun it and picked up an empty pallet and raised it to waist height, “How about this Captain?”
The old man nodded, threw an empty bucket on it and hopped on the pallet. Assuming a sitting position, he braced the MRAD in a ready position, then made an up motion to Gil. As the lift rose, he made a stop motion, then directed Gil forward. After moving about eight feet, he stopped Gil, then made an upward motion again. Taking a sight picture, he kept motioning up until he had a clear view of the other side of the street and the building.
“That’s good Gil, now go get behind something solid.” Using the binoculars, he scanned the building’s front windows, seeing the bullet holes through the glass on the left window, a closed door, and a body slumped over the desk through the right window. He guessed the range at around 50 yards from where he sat to the front of the building. Keying the mic he said, “Dispatch, car four, I see one down in the office on the right side of the building. I see no movement inside the building.” Continuing scanning he said, “One late model dark brown F one-fifty, no plate. One small green car, make unknown, no plate visible. Both to the right of the front door.”
Dispatch replied, “Copy all car four.”
The old man keyed again, “One nineteen seventy-two Chevy pickup, white over green, to the left of the front door. One city car, number thirty two, no officer visible. Two-fourteen is parked outside of the city car, closer to the road. I can see Hart sitting against the right rear tire of the city car. No movement visible.”
“Copy all car four.”
The sheriff broke in, “John, you say you see no movement inside?”
The old man scanned back over the front windows and the door, “No movement seen.”
“Roger, we tried the phone, and it’s either off the hook or busy. Got the telco confirming which it is.”
The old man dropped the binoculars and pulled the MRAD into a shooting position, using the scope for a closer look into the building. He recognized face and the grey hair of the body in the right office as Mike Ward, “Confirm ID on one signal seven. Scoping now.”
“John, I’m going to drive my car closer and pull in behind two-fourteen. And we have confirmation that Zablah was released yesterday from Huntsville. Telco confirms line is active, we’re trying to get a judge’s order to break the call.”
The old man put the scope on Hart, and did a double take, it appeared Hart’s lips were moving! “Dispatch, car four, believe Hart is still alive!”
He heard a siren start, then a car accelerating toward the building. As he swept back up to the building, he saw the front door crack open and an arm with a pistol extended from it come out of the door. He saw the gun fire, transitioned a foot to the right, saw a chest and head, thinking to himself, Hundred yards, one point four inches high, so half that, twice the rise. I’m maybe ten feet up… He held one button lower on the shirt in the scope and pressed the trigger on the MRAD, sending one round through the door.
He rode the recoil and saw the door partially open but couldn’t see the arm or the gun anymore. His ears were ringing, and he realized he’d forgotten to put his ear protection in. Looking frantically around, he yelled, “Gil! Gil? Get me down from here!”
Gil stuck his head up and the old man waved to him, motioning down. Gil ran over and started the forklift, lowering the forks and the old man jumped the last few feet to the ground, “Thanks Gil, you might have just saved a life.”
With that the old man charged out of the warehouse, out the gate and across the road, MRAD in hand, as more cars and ambulances slid to a halt. Officers fanned out over the property, with the sheriff leading the charge toward the front door. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Doc Truesdale bound out of the back of the ambulance and run crouching to Deputy Hart’s body.
The old man shook his head, trying to clear his ears, but couldn’t hear anything, so he took a position at the front of two-fourteen, placing the MRAD on the hood and drawing his 1911.
Three hours later, Clay Boone walked over to the old man, “John, can you hear me?”
The old man turned, “Kinda. I got in too big a hurry, didn’t put my earpro in. Paying the price now. That damn MRAD is loud in an enclosed space! Ears are ringing and I’ve got a helluva headache!”
Clay shook his head, “I’m right here, you don’t have to yell.”
The old man sighed, “Sorry. You need anything else from me?”
“No, but you might want to talk to Jose, apparently ‘Big Hair’ over in Houston did a breaking news bumper on their channel about how Pecos County had shot down a poor disabled Mexican who was negotiating to turn himself in to law enforcement. Hope you paid your CLEAT and TMPA dues.”
The old man rolled his eyes, “Not again… Yep, those dues are automatically paid every month from the bank account. Thanks a lot Clay. You got everything you need, right?”
Clay slapped him on the shoulder, “Yeah. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a good shoot.”
The old man walked over to the sheriff’s car, seeing the sheriff leaning against the front fender, phone to his ear, and a scowl on his face. The sheriff held up a finger, asking the old man to wait, as he completed the phone call, “No, I have nothing to say at this time. The investigation is still underway. No sir, the investigation is being conducted by the Texas Rangers… No sir, you’d have to contact Austin for that information.”
Closing his phone with a snap, the sheriff turned to the old man, “Well, let the clusterfuck begin. Apparently the phone call the perp was on was with his counsellor from Huntsville on how he could give up without getting shot. Apparently she couldn’t be bothered to actually tell anyone in authority what she was doing, and I made a decision based on what you saw.”
The old man said, “Crap. How much trouble are we in?”
“Dunno yet. Hell, we had no way of knowing. I’ve got a bullet hole in the windshield to show for driving up, and I’m glad you took the shot when you did. We’ve got five dead because Dolores didn’t want to lose her job.”
Shaking his head, the old man replied, “Yeah, I guess city got that on the follow-up after the 911 call, right? But why shoot Mike’s wife? Laura wasn’t…”
“Wrong place at the wrong time. Keenan didn’t even get a chance to go to his gun. He was killed with one shot to the throat before he even got to the door. Mark never even had a chance to get to his pistol in the drawer either. Looks like Laura was trying to get her pistol out when she was shot, since that’s the pistol we found lying on the counter next to the phone.” Rubbing his hands over his face, the sheriff said, “Turns out the original call was to city by Dolores mother. She heard them arguing this morning, then Rojo calling somebody about getting a gun. When he left, she called 911 and reported it, but the officers originally responded to the house, not Mike’s place.”
The old man leaned on the car, head in hands, “Then how the hell did we get involved? I never heard anything over the radio?”
“Gil made the second 911 call, and that’s what we responded to, well that and Hart’s call to dispatch. I wish I knew how Hart got in the middle of it. He didn’t put anything over the radio until he was shot, and he’s still in the OR, as far as I know. He damn near bled out, and would have if he hadn’t had that little blow out kit in his pants pocket. He got that tourniquet on and high enough on his bicep that he was able to get the brachial artery shut before he passed out.”
The sheriff groaned as he pushed off the car, “Go home John, there isn’t anything else you can do here. Clay’s got your statement and you walked the positions with him, right?”
“Yep, he’s got the rifle and the one spent case too. You need me to come in tomorrow?”
“No, take the weekend off, I’ll see you Monday. I’ve already called the reserves in and the auxiliary are manning the hospital until we get a status on Hart. For what it’s worth John, you probably saved my life with that shot, and I appreciate it!”
The old man nodded and walked slowly back across the road to his car, and drove to the ranch. Yogi was overjoyed to see him, and almost knocked the old man down when he stepped out of the car. Dragging his bag out of the back seat, he stepped up on the porch, dropped the bag, and sagged into the rocker on the porch.
Yogi whined, shoving his head under the old man’s hand, and the old man ruffed his fur, “You and me Yogi. You and me. It’s us against the world isn’t it pup?” Yogi barked, and the old man chuckled, “I wish I had your outlook on life pup. You’re happy if you get fed, and get to chase things around the yard. No worries, no stress, and a warm place to sleep.”
The old man woke up as the ten o’clock news came on, and he listened to ‘Big Hair’s interview with the earnest young counsellor from Huntsville, about how conflicted Zablah had been, and how he was trying his best to give up if she’d just been given a little more time. Time, it’s always about time. What about the time it took him to kill three people including his wife and the mother of his children, then shoot two cops? What about their time? What about the time it took him as a felon to get a gun. Why were Hart’s lips moving if he was unconscious? Why did I pick that particular time to scope him? It’s always time.
The old man trudged off to bed, giving Yogi one last pat as he sent him to his dog bed.
Monday morning, the sheriff called a staff meeting in the conference room, and the old man was surprised to see Mrs. Randall, the county lawyer that had worked with the sheriff’s department before, also in attendance. He eased into the back of the room, cup of coffee in hand, and leaned against the wall as the sheriff started the meeting.
“I think everyone is aware of the good news, Deputy Hart is alive and will recover from his wounds!” The attendees gave a low cheer at that news as he continued, “Services for Officer Keenan will be Wednesday at Sacred Heart, and they’ve asked us for three pall bearers plus vehicle escorts. Also please make sure everyone has their mourning bands on their badges all week please. Now I’d like to turn the meeting over to Attorney Randall, she has some follow-up on what you may have seen on the news about how we shot down a man trying to turn himself in. Mrs. Randall?”
Nancy Randall stood up and the old man smiled, remembering their conversations during the trip to Alpine. She nodded, “Ladies, gentlemen. A little more information. As you may have heard, we were accused of shooting down a man who was trying to give up. What the young counsellor over at Huntsville must not have remembered is that all those lines are monitored. When the actual transcript of her final call with Ernesto Zablah was completed, it was pretty apparent she’d fallen under his spell for lack of a better word. He was asking her to meet him and get him out of trouble, and the last thing on the tape is the pistol shot, followed by the Captain’s rifle firing and her crying after she screams his name.”
The old man noticed a number of people wincing at that as Randall continued, “There was no attempt by her to notify anyone higher in her chain that she had him on the phone, much less what he’d already admitted to her that he’d done. Apparently he believed his wife Dolores was having an affair with Mike Ward, simply because she’d said she had to go to work, rather that cater to him Friday morning.”
She shook her head, “When the transcript was released, it seems one individual at a Houston TV station was very hot to trot to get a copy, but now that he has it, I think we’ll see the story concerning Pecos County die a quick death. I’ve contacted the station management about getting a retraction or correction to the story, but I doubt that we’ll get it.
She sat down, and the sheriff continued the morning meeting as the old man slipped out the back door to go back to his office.
Hope y’all like it, and the usual disclaimer… Haven’t done any editing, proofing, etc…