A different snippet…

I’ve had a lot of questions about the old man’s background, so I’m working on a novella that will bring some of that to light, this takes place in the 70s…

Here’s a sample. Comments/recommendations appreciated, especially if I’ve screwed up the Spanish.  Sigh…

On the Job Training

John spent two days going through intel feeds and bouncing ideas off Menendez before they finally came up with a workable plan. By using what Hector and the others had already established, they would become smugglers, supplying the cartel with things they were having problems getting. The two things identified up front were aviation gasoline, and precursor chemicals like acetone, caustic soda, and sulfuric acid. Fernando and Felix had found an F6000 stake bed Ford truck that was for sale and not in bad shape, so John pulled money from the operating account and gave it to them to buy it, and have it painted black.

Hector had managed to make contact with a low level supplier in the Medellin Cartel, and got a deal to deliver 40 barrels of acetone to Santana, Colombia five days from now. The supplier specified that the delivery must be made at midnight to Iglesia Cristo Rey, the church in town.

Pasquale and Fernando were arguing that they were going to be robbed rather than paid, when Hector finally said, “Enough! Since the truck is covered, we can put a couple of people in the back with guns.”

John said, “I can probably get something suppressed from Menendez, let me work on that tomorrow. The other thing would be a small car that could follow the truck—”

Felix laughed. “Well, we’ve got that Merc we stole…it would work.”

“You stole a Mercedes?”

He shrugged. “We were across the border, and it was just sitting there. Blacked out windows, big diesel in it, and it was running.”

Cronin glared at him. “Do I want to know the rest of it?”

“Bunch of enforcers, they were getting ready to go into a Catholic girls school. Pasquale took exception to that, and we kinda took…action to stop them.”

“Took action?”

Felix scuffed the floor with his shoe, “Um, yeah, action. We…stopped them, and they didn’t need the car anymore.”

He threw up his hands, “What the fuck else have you guys done?”

“Hey, we got the plates changed out, and it established our street cred here. It’s all good.”

“So that was justification?”

Hector said, “Enough for us. We don’t prey on children, unlike them. John, nobody knew who we were, and we ditched the other car in the river. We’ve heard it was a shootout between two sets of rival enforcers.”

Somewhat mollified, he got up, “Alright, but we’re supposed to be on the side of the law. I’ll check about some more weapons tomorrow.”

***

Duane Morgan, the CIA station chief, motioned Cronin in to his office. “John, what can I do for you?”

Shutting the door, Cronin walked over to the desk and stood at parade rest. “Menendez was supposed to help me with some off the books weapons, but he’s not here.”

“He was on the first flight out this morning. Something going on north of Mexico City. Coffee?” Morgan turned and poured a cup from the carafe on his credenza, and shoved it across the desk. “Sit…sit.”

Cronin sat and sipped the coffee gratefully. “Thanks! I’m still trying to get my feet under me over here. I almost hate to ask, but what is y’all’s relationship?”

Morgan laughed. “We actually get along. We’re in the same business, different tasking, but the same job. Stop the Commies and the drugs, in that order, at least for us. Menendez is a little more out there, and his priority is drugs, twenty-four/seven. What do you need in the way of OTB stuff?”

“Not sure, since I don’t know what you have. I was a weapons sergeant in Special Forces before I got into this, so I can run pretty much anything.”

Morgan rubbed his hands in glee. “Really? Maybe you can help us out a little bit. Let’s finish our coffee and I’ll show you what’s in the vault.” They talked about the states for a few minutes, and it turned out that Morgan was originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma and had gone to Harvard, been recruited out of there, and had been sent to Oxford on Uncle’s dime as a cover for two years in England, on loan to MI-5. Coffee finished, Morgan led Cronin down to the dimly lit basement, and a bank vault like door set in the far wall. “This is where we keep our stash. Myself, the deputy, and the Ambassador are the only ones with the combo, just in case I’m not around.”

He quickly spun the dial, then a second dial, and cranked the lock open. He reached in and flipped on the light, then scanned the floor and benches before entering. “Snake check. Sumbitches get in somehow, and I sure as hell don’t want to get bit. Rifles on the back wall, subguns on the left, pistols in the drawers on the right.”

Cronin walked down the left wall, noting a number of AKs, an Uzi or two, and a couple of M-16s. On the back wall, he spotted a fat barreled carbine. Pulling it off the rack, he opened the bolt and chuckled. Morgan asked curiously, “You know what that is?”

Cronin snapped it to his shoulder, finding the crosshairs in the scope came readily to his eye. “Yep, and surprised to see it here.” Checking the bore, he ran the bolt and checked the trigger as he said, “De Lisle carbine. It’s a suppressed carbine firing forty-five rounds. I saw a couple in ‘Nam that the SAS had and used. They didn’t make a lot of them, so I wonder how it ended up here.”

Morgan shrugged. “No idea. You want it, take it.” Moving a box off the table in the center of the room, Morgan laughed, then opened the box, pulling out a deck of cards. “You want to see some strange shit, you ever seen counterfeit playing cards?”

Cronin laughed. “No, but it doesn’t surprise me.” He laid it on the table in the center of the room, and moved further down the line, finding an old Winchester trench shotgun. He glanced at Morgan and laid it on the table, then moved to the pistols. Most of them were .45s, but he found an old High Standard HDM, also integrally suppressed. Opening drawers, he finally found one with boxes of magazines, and took all of the .22 magazines, and a dozen .45 magazines.

Morgan said, “Menendez says you’ve got a FAST team down here, if you need more guns, take em.” He opened a drawer by the door, pulled out an old Navy seabag, and dropped it on the table.

Cronin picked out a couple of the nicer Browning High Powers, two more .45s, and went back and got an Uzi and two AK-47s after he checked all of them. Searching through the drawers, he found magazines for everything, and a drawer full of towels. Pulling one out, he wrapped the pistols in it, slid them into the bottom of the seabag, and carefully slid the carbines, AKs, and trench gun in on top of the towel.

Morgan said, “Fourth drawer has ammo. Don’t have much in the way of shotgun rounds, though.” Morgan idly opened the deck of cards then said, “Huh, that’s odd. These are all jokers. With a weird design on them.”

Cronin loaded up on 9mm, .45, and .22, and two boxes of brass cased double ought buck. “I can make do with this.” He took the playing card from Morgan and said, “You know, in ‘Nam, some organizations used these as ‘calling cards’. Left them on bodies of the VC.”

“Take some of them if you think you can use them.”

He threw a few packs in the seabag as Morgan pulled his .45 out of a shoulder holster, ejected the magazine, and worked the slide to clear the chamber. Handing the pistol to Cronin, he asked, “What can you do to make this one shoot a little better?”

Quickly stripping the pistol, Cronin shook his head, then went over to the pistols on the wall. Going through the .45s, he tested all of them, then picked up one he’d already checked. “Replace yours with this one. Yours is about shot out, and the trigger sucks. This one is at least solid, the barrel fits better, and has a much better trigger. If I were you, I’d bitch to your bosses about the shitty quality of your weapon and ask for a new one as a replacement, or just go out in town and buy one.”

Morgan cycled the slide, brought the pistol up, sighted on the corner of the room, and squeezed the trigger. He turned with a smile, “Oh yeah, that is much better! Thanks!”

Back upstairs, Cronin went into the cubbyhole he’d been assigned, and quickly put together a SITREP, including the planned delivery of the acetone in a couple of days. Once the embassy had closed, he and Morgan went back to the basement, and he retrieved the seabag, lugging it out to the car assigned to him and dumping it in the trunk.

***

Three nights later, Fernando drove the truck with the acetone up to the church at midnight, and Hector followed a block behind in the Mercedes with Cronin riding in the back seat, the darkened windows hiding his paleness, along with a watch cap pulled down over his blond hair. The De Lisle carbine on the seat beside him. Cronin suddenly said, “Stop here Hector. Matter of fact, turn into that side street, kill the lights and circle back to the corner.”

Fernando suddenly came over the earpiece. “Locking the mic button down now. I see a truck and a car coming down the street. Pasquale and I are getting out. Felix will stay in the driver’s seat.” They heard the doors open and close, and Fernando quietly talking to Felix, as Hector turned around and eased to a stop at the intersection a block away. Noting that there were no doors or windows on either side of the street, Cronin got out and stood by the driver’s door as they watched the car and truck stop next to their truck. A fat man got out of the back of the car, waddled over to Fernando, and asked if they had the cargo, as four more men got out of the car and truck.

Fernando said they did, and asked where the money was. They heard a coarse laugh, and Cronin’s hair started standing up. He whispered, “Hector, hand me the carbine, please.” Hector pulled it out of the back floorboard, passing it out the window to Cronin, as the fat man snapped his fingers and told one of his men to check the cargo. Cronin leaned across the hood and stabilized the carbine, scoping the scene. He saw two of the men with what looked like AKs, and said softly, “Shit. Hector this…may go bad.”

The one sent to check the cargo hopped back down from the truck bed and nodded to the fat man, who snapped his fingers again. One of the guards opened the trunk of the sedan and brought a briefcase to the fat man, then stepped to the side, putting himself 90 degrees to Fernando. Fernando opened the case, quickly riffled through the money inside, and said, “Señor, this is not the agreed on amount.”

The coarse chuckle sounded again, and the fat man said, “Puta, this is all I pay.”

Fernando replied, “Señor, we contracted with the cartel for—”

The fat man smiled and Cronin centered the crosshairs over his nose. “Take it up with your contact. This is my territory, I make the decisions about what I pay. Not Medellin!”

“But, Señor, this does not even cover our costs,” Fernando protested.

The fat man pulled a pistol out of his pocket, pointed it at Fernando and asked, “Puta, it’s what’s in the case, or this,” as he waved the pistol. “Your choice puta, unless you think you can strike me down, before I shoot you.”

Cronin said softly, “Oh fuck this.” He took a breath, let half of it out, and slowly took up the slack on the trigger. As the fat man’s smile grew wider, he started pointing the pistol at Fernando again. The old man pressed the trigger, the De Lisle’s trigger broke softly, and the .45 round gave the fat man a third eye in his forehead. Pasquale butt stroked the stunned guard standing beside him, then leveled his AK at the other guards, as Fernando said, “Oh, you got struck down. I guess that answers the question of who is in charge.” Fernando strolled over to the sedan and asked politely, “Señor, where is the rest of the money?”

The driver stuttered out that it was in the other briefcase in the trunk, and Fernando walked to the back of the car and pulled the second briefcase out. He opened it on the trunk, riffled through the cash, then moved it to the first briefcase still in his hand. Closing the briefcase, the strolled back to the truck, then turned. “The cargo is now paid for. Bring your truck over and back it up to ours. Then you will transfer the cargo and be on your way. Is that understood?”

A chorus of, “Si, Señor, was heard, and they quickly moved the truck and backed it up to the bed of the F6000.

Once the cargo was moved, Fernando said, “Vámonos, muchachos!” The truck and sedan left, leaving the fat man’s body lying on the steps of the church. Fernando and Pasquale jumped into the cab, and Cronin heard him say, “Get us the hell out of here!” The radio suddenly went silent, as Felix started the truck and rumbled down the street out of town.

Cronin jumped back in the Mercedes and said, “Let’s go, Hector.”

Hector looked around at Cronin, “That was cold, John. Real cold. But it defused the situation.”

He shrugged. “That’s the bottom line. Wake me up in two hours, and I’ll drive the rest of the way back.” Minutes later, Cronin was sound asleep in the back seat.

***

They pulled back into the safe house a little after 0400, and crowded into the small living room. Fernando stood, bowed to Cronin and said, “Thank you for saving my life, Señor! I am in your debt.”

Waving it off, Cronin said, “Okay, that one was a tad touchy. How do we deal with shit like this going forward?”

Hector replied, “Pasquale and I will pay a visit to my contact that set up the deal. Trust me, that will not happen again, John.”

“Just get it handled. Speaking of handles, we need code names. I don’t want anyone using their real names on the radio, or anytime we’re interacting with the bad guys.”

A rumble of back and forths went on for a few minutes, as Cronin went to the bathroom. When he came back, Hector said, “I am Patron, Fernando is Rojo, Pasquale is Padre, and Felix is Norte. And you…my friend, you are Lobo.”

Cronin started to say something, and stopped. Then started again, “Uh, alright. But Lobo?

The others all laughed, and Fernando said, “El Lobo came out tonight. And thanks to you, we are all still here. Lobo.”

Three hours later, Cronin finished the last of his SITREP detailing the events from last night, and took it down to communications at the Embassy, then headed to his car. Passing Morgan’s office, he stuck his head in, “I’m out of here. We got back from an op at oh four hundred. I’ll be in tomorrow.” Morgan nodded and Cronin left for his apartment.

Once he got there, he managed to get one boot off, and passed out on the bed, one foot still on the floor.

Comments

A different snippet… — 20 Comments

  1. The Spanish reads correctly, if I can trust some rusty memories, and the restrained politeness also fits. That was one heck of a medium-level cred to establish for dealing, luring in the bad guys with brutal but straight business. Very good snippet, and some good background for ‘El Lobo Blanco’. Makes a good tie-in to chaos in the later books, because a vengeful ghost is coming for them.

    One change I’ll suggest is “As the fat man’s smile grew wider, he started dropping the pistol and the De Lisle’s trigger broke softly.” to become “As the fat man’s smile grew wider, he started dropping the pistol. The De Lisle’s trigger broke softly with a light pull.” It needs something to separate the fat man’s anticipation and intent to shoot from John shooting first.

  2. I’d suggest a mention of test firing the weapons.
    And I had to go look up the De Lisle carbine. That is one cool weapon.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Lisle_carbine

    In this paragraph,
    The fat man pulled a pistol out of his pocket, pointing it at Fernando and asking, “Puta, it’s what’s in the case, or this,” as he waved the pistol. “Your choice puta, unless you think you can strike me down, before I shoot you.”
    I would change pointing to pointed to asking to asked.
    Then it would be “pulled” “pointed” “asked” and “waved.”

    Good read.

  3. Check the model on the truck. I was thinking that prior to 1973 would have been F650 between 73 and 77 would have been L600

  4. Carl- Per my research, in 1968, a Caterpillar V8 diesel was introduced, becoming the first medium-duty Ford conventional to offer a diesel engine. To distinguish diesel versions, Ford added an additional “0” to the model designation, introducing the F-6000 and F-7000.

  5. And it was going so well….
    Two suggestions, one typo and a modernism.

    *****
    ‘He laid it on the table in the center of the room,’
    Suggest –
    ‘He laid the De Lisle on the table,’
    *****
    ‘Opening drawers, he finally found one with boxes of magazines, and took all of the .22 magazines, and a dozen .45 magazines.’
    Suggest –
    ‘Opening further drawers, he finally found one with boxes of magazines, and took all of the .22s, and a dozen of the .45s.’
    *****
    ‘Closing the briefcase, he strolled back’
    *****
    ‘”…How do we deal with shit like this going forward?”’
    Must be the world’s first use of the phrase ‘going forward’.
    *****

    Damn good read.

  6. ‘Riffling and riffled should be with one f…
    Puta, is female…puto is male and would be more correct in this context…
    Nice snippet…

  7. I have no input, but I just love this stuff! Hurry up will you? I just planted a contemporary of mine today, and at 81, I can’t wait too long!!!

  8. Riffled/-ing is correct: that’s what one does with paper products.
    “The old man pressed the trigger…”: I thought Cronin was young(er) in this one.
    Àgree with FrankC: “He layed the De Lisle on the table”.
    Whole-heartedly agree with Rev. Paul-over way too soon, and very enjoyable reading!

  9. Second vote for a short blurb about testing the weapons. In other parts of the overall story, John makes a point of checking the zero on borrowed or issued firearms (e.g. the trip to Arizona).

    Excellent snippet. Looking forward to sending you more money.

  10. Love it. Eveveryone else has noted other issues, now fixed. I think that the sentence should run: Cronin snapped it to his shoulder, finding _that_ the crosshairs came readily to his eye.

  11. JLM- I’ll sort that one out.

    Len- Good point, working that in

    John- That’s a good point.

  12. Not real clear at this point when these are supposed to be taking place, but the according to the font of all internet-based truth and wisdom, Wikipedia, the Medellin Cartel was founded in ’76. So I have to wonder when they really popped up on the radar.