The usual caveats apply. And I ‘really’ need a new computer… sigh Lost 1000 words and had to rewrite today because the damn computer locked up… Grrr…
Comments and recommendations appreciated.
Now with edits from the comments…
Aaron leaned back in his office chair and chewed on the end of a pencil as he stared at the computer screen numbly. A knock on his door snapped his head around and he saw FBI agent Osborne standing in his doorway. “Damn Jason, you look like shit! Come on in.”
Osborne came in, shutting the door behind him, before he slumped in the chair beside the desk. “Been running my ass off. I was up in Midland, and figured since I was relatively close I’d give you an update on Ortega. Been sleeping on an Army buddy’s couch for the last week.”
“Couch? What…the Fibbies broke?”
“Nah, but they’re not going to authorize four hundred a night for a damn Motel Six. You’re not looking real sharp yourself.”
Aaron stretched and scrubbed at his hair. “Been up since oh one hundred. Guy took a dive off the top of a derrick out in the patch. First deputy on scene suspected drugs, and I had to drag a judge out of bed for a search warrant. Got it and we spent the rest of the morning tearing the place apart. Found Meth and some other shit that I don’t even know what it is, plus arrested another guy for drugs, after he freaked during the onsite interview and Danny picked up on his pinpoint pupils. Dude claimed since he was from Colorado, his drugs were legal.”
Osborne laughed. “Figures. That’s kinda what I’m working on too. Lots of drugs seem to be moving into Midland area from New Orleans. I got sent up to work a CI we’ve got up there.”
“Yeah, lots of money floating around up there, and guys working doubles for the OT money, among other things. So what about Ortega?”
“He threw the entire ring under the bus! He really did know the ins and outs of that whole ring! Hines, Wong Pi, and about a dozen others have been arrested on a variety of charges, and they busted two chop shops in Gretna, and three in the LA area.”
“And the squad has recovered almost three million dollars’ worth of high end vehicles between New Orleans and LA. Needless to say, you’re not getting him back.”
“I can neither confirm nor deny…” They both burst out laughing. “So, about these drugs.”
Aaron nodded. “We’re primarily seeing them coming from El Paso. I wasn’t aware of a New Orleans connection.”
Osborne shrugged. “Apparently the New Orleans crowd wants to get in on the big money that is running around up there. We got a guy pretty high up in the distribution network, and the numbers are significant, especially in the Meth and Fentanyl.”
“Same down here, and hydro marijuana out of Colorado, although that mostly goes to Dallas.”
Osborne yawned and stretched, and Aaron said, “Stop that. Hey, you got time for lunch?”
Looking at his watch, Osborne replied, “Sure. I don’t have anything until I meet my CI tonight. No fast food, please!”
“How about Mexican,” Aaron asked as he got up and grabbed his hat.
Osborne got up slowly, “I guess. Don’t know that I’ve really had any good Mexican food.”
“Fort Bragg most of my time in the Army. And law school was east coast too.”
“Nope, can’t get any decent stuff east of the Mississippi. C’mon, we’ll go get some good Mexican.”
Fifteen minutes later, Aaron parked in front of Miguel’s and said, “You’re in for a treat.” He didn’t hear an answer, and glanced over to see Osborne sound asleep, leaning against the window. He poked him, “Hey, we’re here!”
Osborne jumped and mumbled something as Aaron opened the door and got out, with Osborne slowly following him.
Miguel seated them in the back corner and brought teas and chips and salsa asking, “You need a menu?”
Aaron nodded. “New guy. He’s never eaten here.” As Miguel turned away, Aaron added, “Big portions, so beware. Are you okay? You zonked out pretty hard there, Jason.”
“I’m just tired. Don’t meet with the CI until late, he’s a second shift guy, and I have other casework to do, so I’m kinda burning the candle at both ends. I get a chance to sleep, I do it.”
Aaron nodded as Miguel came back with a menu, asking, “Aaron, you want your regular?”
“Sounds good.” Osborne looked at him curiously, and Aaron added, “Taco, beef enchilada, and a pork tamale, rice and beans.”
Looking up Osborne said, “That sounds good.”
Miguel asked, You want red or green sauce?”
“Red or green?”
Aaron replied, “Give him red. I don’t think his taste buds can stand the green.”
Miguel chuckled. “Two regulars coming up in a couple of minutes. If you need anything, let me know.”
Osborne dipped a chip in the salsa, took a bite, and whistled, “Damn, that’s got a bite to it!”
Laughing, Aaron replied, “It’s homemade. Nothing here comes out of a can. We joke that Miguel has his abuela chained to the stove in the back.”
“Ah, kinda like the places in the deep south where the older black ladies do the cooking.”
“Exactly! You can’t beat the quality or authenticity of the food. I do miss good fried chicken, greens and cornbread.”
Osborne chewed thoughtfully for a minute, then looked up at Aaron. “Any idea where the drugs came from that you found this morning?”
Aaron laughed. “Not from your guy. This stuff was straight out of El Paso. There’s a gang over there that is directly connected to Sinaloa, but they keep getting stuff across the border, probably through Big Bend. They have runners that deliver it to the patch, or to somebody that works on the patch at where the hell ever they are staying. We don’t have enough officers to police the county, much less run these guys to ground. Even with DPS helping, and the local Ranger doing his best, we just can’t stop all of it. City guys have gotten rid of a couple of local dealers, but they’re like cockroaches. Stomp on one, another ten pop up out of nowhere. It’s all about money.”
“Yeah, that’s what we try to do is follow the money. I’d bet when you the tox screen back, the other drug will be fentanyl. That’s probably thirty percent of what the CI says is being pushed up in Midland and Odessa.”
“Damn, these people really do have a death wish, don’t they?”
Osborne shrugged. “It’s apparently a huge high. They used to cut heroin with it, but they were killing addicts right and left. Then somebody realized you could get a high just with it, and they were off and running. It’s like Meth, easy to do in a lab, and the cartels are producing it by the ton, along with Meth.”
“Shit. That’s all we need. I wish the oil companies did a better job of drug screening!”
“Ah hell,” Osborne sighed. “They try, but the boom is going strong and they need workers. Not saying all of them look the other way, but enough of them do. That’s why we’re out here digging on this. The workers are making enough money to pay for the good stuff, and the cartel knows it.”
Aaron yawned. “Yeah. Listen, I hate to do this Jason, but I need to get back and finish up the paperwork.” He waved to Miguel, miming signing the bill, and Miguel brought it quickly. “But I will spring for lunch.”
Osborne smiled. “I’ll get the tip. I’m also going to talk to the SAC and see if we can cut you in on the stuff the CI is giving us. Maybe it’ll help you with your problems.” He pulled a five out of his wallet and asked, “This enough?”
“Sure.” Aaron dropped a twenty on the bill and got up, groaning. “Oh my aching ass.”
Twenty minutes later, Osborne pulled out of the parking lot, heading back to Midland and Aaron shook his head, Damn, I almost feel sorry for Jason. He’s getting bounced all over hell and gone, and I’m betting he’s got more shit going than our entire department.
Walking back into the office, he sank into his chair with a groan and wiggled the mouse to wake up his computer. Staring at the report he’d been working on, his thoughts drifted back to the scene that morning, The body, Weinstein? Yeah, Weinstein lying on the ground at the base of the platform, obviously dead from the impact with the drill floor before he bounced off it. He’d chalked what he thought was the impact site, taken swabs, pictures, and then pictures of the body. As he flipped back through them on the computer, he noted which picture needed to go in which section of the report and started slogging through plugging them in.
The sheriff surprised him. “Aaron, you awake?”
“Uh, sure. Just buried in this damn report.”
The sheriff shook his head. “I was wondering. I knocked, then called your name and you didn’t respond.”
“Just trying to get this right. Did we hear back from Doc Truesdale yet?”
“Nope, and probably won’t until tomorrow. And who knows on the Tox screen. That could be a month or longer. At least it went to DPS and not the Feds.”
Aaron looked up curiously, “The feds are worse?”
“Try years! We had a case that it took five years to get the tox screen back on. By the time the perp went to trial and got convicted, he was released for time served.”
Aaron chuckled. “So, note to self, don’t send anything we need in a reasonable time to the Feds.”
“Exactly. And since we’re not going to get anything back today, why don’t you call it a day, Aaron. The guy y’all arrested got a lawyer and he’s no longer answering questions, so the report can wait until tomorrow.”
Aaron rocked back in his chair. “Thanks, Sheriff. I’ll admit I’m a bit tired.”
Turning on his heel, the sheriff said, “Now git. Fresh tomorrow is better than where you are today,” as he walked out of Aaron’s office. Aaron shook his head, shut the computer down and headed for the house.
The blaring of the emergency alert tone jerked Aaron out of a sound sleep and scared Kaya, who woke up crying. Aaron sat up, picked up the phone and looked at the alert scrolling across it, even as he crooned, “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay,” as he tried to comfort Kaya.
*FLASH FLOOD ALERT. PECOS RIVER FROM ANGELES TO IRAAN 4PM-10PM DUE TO HEAVY RAINS ABOVE/WEST OF ANGELES. LOWLYING AREAS MAY FLOOD QUICKLY AND WITHOUT WARNING.*
Aaron juggled Kaya and the phone as he thought about where it might impact them, and realized the Pecos was the northern border of the county. He shut the alert off and flopped back on the bed, cradling Kaya, who was finally calming down, Nothing I can do about it. It’ll either happen or it won’t, and from what John said, it doesn’t happen very often.
A half hour later, the phone rang, and he rolled over with a groan and hit speaker. “Lo?”
“Lieutenant, this is Lisa in dispatch. Sheriff is doing a callout. Flooding on the Pecos. A truck was knocked off the highway eighteen bridge. Sheriff requests you meet him there.”
That snapped Aaron completely awake, and he replied, “I’ll be there in fifteen.” He hung up and quickly began putting his prosthetic sock on and fitting his leg as he heard boots coming down the hall. He heard the old man telling Jesse to just change shirts, and be ready to go in five, as Jesse opened the door. “You got the callout, too?”
Jesse nodded as she quickly stripped off her blouse, “Yeah, we’re going to load horses and do a search downstream.”
“Papa, Matt, and I. Felicia is going to watch the kids until we get back.” She pulled her uniform shirt out of the closet and quickly buttoned it, then stuffed the tails in her jeans. She picked up Kaya, “Come on, girl, time for you to go see Aunt Felicia.”
Aaron was fighting to get his boot on the prosthetic and snapped, “Why are y’all going and I’m—”
Jesse held up a hand, thinking. “Jose is going to need help coordinating at the scene. You’ve been through the incident command course and we haven’t, so you can keep this rodeo under control. We’ve done search and rescue from horseback before, and you haven’t, nor have you trained for it.”
Aaron subsided. “Ah…you’re right. Sorry.”
The old man stuck his head in the door, “Y’all ready? C’mon Jesse, we need to get horses saddled.”
Jesse gave Aaron a quick peck and said softly, “We’ll be careful.” She was out the door, and he heard her talking to Felicia as he swung his gun belt around his hips as he headed for the car.
He headed for the front door, smiled at Felicia as he went by the kitchen and said, “Thanks for covering for us.”
Felicia nodded. “De nada. Go!”
He got in the car, started it and pulled onto Hwy 18 heading north. As he passed the back of the house, he saw Felipe backing the trailer up to the corral as the old man led Diablo out. He keyed the mic. “Dispatch, Car Four. ETA five mikes to the bridge.”
Dispatch replied, “Copy Car Four. Search coordination is on Law One.”
“Car Four.” He dropped the mic and stepped on the accelerator, noting the black clouds now much closer and he could see sheets of rain falling off to the northwest.
The old man chivvied Diablo into the trailer as Jesse finished putting the saddle on Buttercup. Matt and Felipe were saddling the gray and the chestnut, even as the old man grabbed a tattered county map out of the side pocket of the truck. Once the horses were loaded, the old man looked at Felipe, “You don’t have to go, Felipe. This is on law—”
Felipe shrugged, “Señor John, I know I don’t have to. But to maybe save a life? I will help.”
The old man smiled. “Thank you. Let’s load up.” Looking around, he saw Cruz standing tentatively by the corral, “C’mon Cruz. I need somebody to ride herd on the truck while we’re out searching.”
Matt got in the front, and Felipe and Cruz got in the back, as Jesse came running from the house, a bag in hand. She piled in as the old man started rolling out of the yard, and pulled the bag open, “Radios. They’re on our normal channel and all charged. That way Felipe and Cruz can be kept in the loop.”
The old man nodded. “Good call, Jesse.” He glanced at Matt, “Tell dispatch we’re going to start the search around Imperial Reservoir, hopefully at the three ninety-one bridge.”
Matt pulled his county radio off his belt and relayed that to dispatch, as the old man turned off Hwy 18 onto a dirt road, then followed it to another road then turned north. “Tell ‘em we’re going to leave the truck south of the bridge over the Imperial Canal on twenty-five ninety-three with Cruz.”
They got to the bridge and the old man turned the truck and trailer around, then stopped. They unloaded the horses, and quickly mounted up. Looking up at the weather, the old man grumbled, “Figures. We’re gonna get wet. I think we can get to the three ninety-one bridge without too much problem, at least right now.” He led off, as they cut cross country, and arrived at the little bridge in about ten minutes. Water was running across it pretty rapidly, and lapping a couple of feet up on each side.
Pulling up, he said, “Jesse, you and Matt go up this side. I think I can get across. Felipe, you can stay or come with me. Your choice.” He turned Diablo and settled himself in the saddle as he clicked the reins. Diablo took a couple of steps in the water, then cantered across quickly, with Felipe following on the chestnut. He keyed his radio on Law One. “Incident command, search is starting northwest on horseback from three ninety-one bridge.”
He heard Aaron say, “Roger, Captain. Be advised, appears one pickup truck was washed off the bridge up here twenty-five minutes ago. Unknown number of occupants. Foot search from the bridge is in progress. Ward and Crane have officers on scene on foot.”
“IC, we copy. We are on both sides of the river. Starting toward your location now.” He glanced at Felipe as he loosened his lasso and looped it around the saddle horn. “Yell out if you see anything, no matter how small. We’re only going to have a few seconds to respond.”
“Si, Señor.” Felipe held his lasso in his hand as he guided the chestnut up the riverbank, following the old man.
Ten minutes later, the old man heard the alert tone on his radio and stopped, letting Felipe catch up, “Search teams located one survivor. Total of three were in the pickup, two male, one female. Survivor has not seen either since truck was knocked off bridge, survivor was passenger in right seat in truck. Male Caucasian, blue shirt, blue jeans, driver. Female Hispanic, red blouse, white jeans, in middle seat. Ages believed to be seventeen-eighteen.”
The old man glared at the radio, “Shit.” He double clicked the mic, as Felipe murmured something under his breath, and they continued to ride as close to the bank as they could. They had gone about a half mile up the river when they were confronted by a wall of brush that went all the way to the bank, and the old man keyed the personal radio, “Matt, Jesse, we can’t get close to the bank over here. Do you see us?”
Jesse answered, “I think so. Are you at the top of the bend?”
“Yep, I’m going to leave Felipe here until I can get back to the bank. Looks like a couple of hundred yards.” Felipe nodded as the old man trotted off looking for a way around the trees.
“Okay, we’ll ease along and watch both sides. Lots of debris in the water.”
“And it’s moving pretty fast. Looks like it’s getting higher too.”
Felipe chimed in. “Si, very fast. And dirt too. Very hard to see anything.”
The old man finally circled around the trees and found a chute to get through the brush, and came out a few hundred yards upstream from Felipe, he keyed up, “Felipe, circle around and follow the trees, there is a little notch that you can get in to get back to the water.”
Felipe turned his horse as he keyed the radio, “Si, Señor. Coming.”
The old man saw Matt and Jesse riding slowly up the opposite bank, and waved. They waved back and continued plodding along. Felipe had just gotten back to the bank and the old man turned back up river, when Felipe yelled, “Señor, something red on that…tangle.”
The old man said, “Where?” Even as he shook out a loop. Then he saw a snag floating past and caught a glimpse of a swatch of red and threw his loop, even as Felipe did the same. Both ropes sang as the snag hit the ends of their ropes, and Diablo snorted as he dug his hooves in. The old man said, “Back, slowly.” Pulling on the reins, Diablo backed up, straining against the pull as Felipe backed the chestnut alongside him. Once they got the snag out of the main current, Felipe said, “Señor, I can hold if you shorten lasso.”
“Okay,” He quickly walked Diablo back toward the river, taking up the slack and repositioning the dally on the saddle horn while Diablo was still on solid ground. “Come on up, Felipe.”
Felipe replied, “Coming, Señor.”
Once Felipe had repositioned, they back up in unison again, and dragged the snag into shallower water. It rolled over, and Felipe said, “Madre Dios,” as the young lady’s body came into view. She’d been trapped in the limbs of the snag and was obviously dead.
“Let’s drag it as high as we can. Then we’ll try to recover the body.”
“Si Señor,” Felipe said quietly.
As they backed further, the personal radio went off, “Papa? Did you?”
He reached for the radio, “Yes, the girl. She’s signal seven.”
A quiet “Damn!” came back. The old man slid off Diablo and slogged to the snag, then gently untangled the young girl, finally lifting her off the broken limb that had penetrated her stomach. He winced as he saw the extent of the injury, and covered her as best he could, then carried her back toward the horses.
“Felipe, pull my slicker off, will you? We’re going to wrap her in that.”
“Si Señor,” he pulled it loose and got down, then spread it on the ground and took the girl gently from the old man and laid her on the slicker while the old man shook the chestnut’s then Diablo’s lassos loose. The old man came back carrying the lassos to see Felipe gently smooth the girl’s hair out of her face as he said a prayer over her then crossed himself. Both Diablo and the chestnut backed quickly away from the blood smell, snorting and neighing softly.
The old man pulled off the county radio and keyed up, “IC, we have one female meeting description of missing person. She is signal seven.”
Aaron came back, “Roger, Captain. Intentions?”
The old man looked around, then keyed up. “Uh, tell Ward County I need a transport vehicle to come down three ninety-one to the bend before the bridge. We’ll transport the subject there.”
There was a pause, and a different voice answered, “Rescue twenty-one is enroute. ETA fifteen.”
“Roger, Rescue twenty-one, be advised code one response. We are on horseback.”
“Rescue twenty-one, roger.”
The old man mounted up and said, “Felipe, can you lift her up to me, face down?”
Felipe closed the slicker reverently, then rolled it gently over, picked up the girl and handed her up to the old man as he held Diablo still. He placed her across Diablo’s shoulders, and the horse snorted and shivered. “I know you don’t like it, Diablo. But we’ve got to do it.” He looked at Felipe, “You want to come with me, or continue searching.”
“I will continue, Señor.”
Felipe crossed himself and then mounted as the old man rode back toward the track he’d seen coming around the woods, as the rain started pouring down.
A little before midnight, they all gathered in the kitchen, after the pickup had been recovered and found to have the third body still inside, seat belted behind the wheel. Felipe and a wide-eyed Cruz sipped coffee and sat quietly as Aaron told the one survivor’s story. “Apparently, the driver stopped on the bridge trying to figure out what was going on, and the other two were taking cell phone video when they realized it was a wall of water. Before they could get off the bridge, what he thought was a tree trunk hit the truck and just pushed it over the bridge railing. He said he managed to get his seatbelt off, and that’s the last thing he remembered until he was on the bank, a quarter mile downstream. Ortiz found him, and literally carried him back to the bridge.”
The old man described finding the young girl, and credited Felipe with the assist, but never mentioned the wound in her stomach, figuring that was something only the family needed to know. Jesse, Matt, and Felipe described their fruitless searches, and finally getting all the way up to the bridge. The old man had finally caught up with Felipe, and laughed about barely being able to contact Cruz to bring the truck and trailer. Cruz admitted he was scared to drive the truck and trailer on the caliche road, and said that was why he took so long.
They were startled by a knock on the back door, and Yogi and Boo Boo jumping up barking, as the old man shushed them. He opened the door to see the sheriff standing there. “Come in, Jose. You want a cup of coffee?”
The sheriff shook his head, “No, saw your lights on, and just wanted to stop and say thanks. Everybody did good, and Aaron, the staties and the Ward and Crane county folks were impressed by your handling of the incident command post. Don’t bother to come in tomorrow. You deserve a day off.”
With that, the sheriff turned and went out the door, closing it softly behind him.