Getting down to the end of TGM- Sunset.
The usual caveats and as always, comments/recommendations appreciated!
Bucky Grant paced his office as Agent Spears sat at the small conference table watching him. “Dammit, I wish to hell John was here. He might have some ideas…I wonder if—”
Spears tinkling laugh interrupted him and she said, “Just call him. He may be retired, but I’ll bet he’d be happy to come down here and consult for a small fee.” She sipped her coffee and slouched in her chair as she watched Bucky scrub his face, then walk back to his desk. He glared at Spears. “Do you know how much this is going to cost us, Michelle?”
“Not my job, boss. That’s why you get the big bucks and the nice office. I’m just a poor little field agent. I don’t know nuffin.”
He glared at her again as he sagged into his chair and picked up the phone. He dialed and put it on speaker as it rang. “Cronin.”
Bucky leaned forward. “John, it’s Bucky with Agent Spears. I need to—”
“You need me to come down there, right? Hi, Michelle, how was San Diego?”
Spears laughed. “Educational, Captain Cronin. Educational.”
“When do you need me there Bucky? Tomorrow?”
Bucky sighed. “If you’re available, sure.”
“Okay, I’ll stay at the usual place. Be there sometime tomorrow afternoon. You working tomorrow, Michelle?”
“Sure am, Captain. And don’t forget to charge his ass for your time! Going rate is one forty an hour,” she said with a laugh.
Bucky growled, “Shut up, Michelle. John we’ll discuss your—” He looked up at Spears as he heard a dialtone. “Sumbitch. He…hung up on me.” He shook his head. “Damn old man hasn’t changed in forty years.”
Spears looked at her watch. “Time for me to get back to the class. If the captain has time, I’d like to have him give a little bit of history on this area.”
Bucky nodded. “Might as well. I’ll take that time out of your paycheck to pay his fee.”
Spears chuckled as she got up and headed for the door. “Whatever.”
Bucky leaned back in his chair and steepled his hands, Strange times. Maybe it’s time for me to go too. John…well, John hung on longer than I’d have thought possible, but he’s always stayed…flexible. And he never stopped learning. And he didn’t get shanghaied behind a damn desk either. With a sigh, he rocked forward and turned to his computer.
The old man pulled into the parking lot at the Laredo station after noon and got out slowly. Stomping his feet, he groaned as he stretched and rolled his shoulders, trying to loosen up, Not as young as I used to be. Used to be able to do this standing on my head. Now, not so much. He walked toward the office and heard someone calling his name. He turned and saw Spears trotting toward him, short blonde hair bouncing and a smile on her face. She hugged him, pecked him on the cheek and said, “Our savior is here!”
He laughed as he hugged her back. “Not my job, Michelle. But it’s good to see you. And you look like life’s agreeing with you.” She held her left hand out shyly, and the old man saw the wedding band on the ring finger. “You did the deed?”
She smiled. “Almost six months ago. Ron wasn’t happy with me going TAD, but once he realized this is what I want to do, he’s been fully supportive. And he just finished his CPA exam, and passed it, so he wants to start his own business. He’s thinking about specializing in ranches and ranch corporations.”
The old man smiled down at her. “Tell him to get up to speed on mineral rights and oil royalties if he’s going that way. Those two usually go hand and glove with the ranches. Now, what the hell is going on that Bucky wants me down here for?”
She shrugged. “I’ll let Bucky tell you. I need to get back on the line. But we are getting quite a few Muslims coming through the port in the last couple of weeks, and all of them seem to have the right visas, issued out of Mexico City.”
“Huh. Interesting. Bucky in his office?”
She nodded as she headed for the line. He walked slowly over to the office building, and stepped inside, waving to Margaret sitting behind the desk. “Hey, lady. The bad penny is back in town.”
She smiled at him. “Bucky’s hiding in his office. Coffee’s in the usual place, and it’s fairly fresh.”
He smiled. “I’ll get a cup on the way, this might take a while.” He headed down the hall, her laughter trailing him. He stopped in the mess, pulled a pot out and sniffed, Damn, it actually is fresh! He pulled a Styrofoam cup out of the holder and poured a cup full, then continued down to Bucky’s office. He knocked on the door frame, and Bucky looked up. “I’m here.”
Bucky motioned him in. “Shut the door if you would.” He got up and came around the desk, stuck out his hand and said, “I’m glad you were able to come down. Shit’s gotten really strange the last couple of weeks.” He pointed to the little conference table. “Let’s sit over here.”
The old man took a seat, leaned back and asked, “Who are the players that’ve got your worried? Sinaloa, Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacana, or the Gulf cartel?”
“Honestly, I’m not sure. All of the above?” Bucky scrubbed his face and continued, “We’ve seen a twenty percent drop in catches the last two weeks. I know the damn drugs are getting through, but I can’t put a finger on what we’re missing.”
“Are you sure you’re missing shipments?”
“Yeah, intel is saying the deliveries aren’t slowing down to the dealers.”
The old man sipped his coffee and sniffed. “Well, what’s different?”
“Nothing, really. Other than—” He reached over and pulled a stack of reports to him, dug through them, and said, “Uptick in ambulances, probably double the number we normally see. Lots of sick females, term pregnancies, the usual. The usual number of busses, the occasional pop for a few ounces of weed, usually college kids.”
“What about produce or products?”
“Sides of beef, the usual produce and watermelons are big right now. Pumpkins too.”
“Spears mentioned a lot of Muslims.”
“Yeah, all with visas from Mexico City. I’ve got calls in on that, and been talking with the reps in Mexico City.”
“How are they coming across?”
“Busses, usually one small bag. Cargo underneath.”
“Cargo? And the dogs aren’t alerting?”
Bucky shook his head sadly. “Not really. No positive hits, or anything we can really hold them up for. And God knows these busses have had enough drugs in them over the years that a random hit or two isn’t unusual.”
The old man sipped his coffee and mulled what he’d heard. “Anybody unusual moving around? EPIC picking up anything?”
Bucky stretched, then slumped forward. “Not that I can tell.” He pulled another stack of reports over and shoved them toward the old man. “Here’s the latest take. There are a couple in there on persons unknown.” Bucky got up. “I gotta piss. You want more coffee?”
The old man finished his cup, holding it out. “Please.” He pulled the stack of reports over and started quickly scanning through them. By the time Bucky came back, he had three sitting to the side, as he finished the last of the inch thick stack. He picked up one of them and looked up as Bucky handed him a fresh cup of coffee. “Might be a player here. El Doc is apparently in the wind. He was last seen in Panama.” He took the coffee. “Thanks.”
“Some kind of chemist. Heard about him a couple of years ago. He’d supposedly figured out some way to wash the cocaine so there was no odor. I thought they got him down in Barranquilla, but maybe they missed, or he got bought out.”
Bucky took the report. “I didn’t think that was possible. I mean…what would keep the dogs from alerting?”
The old man shrugged. “Dunno. But apparently he was successful. And if he’s in the wind, he might be up here to undo whatever the chemical wash is, or train somebody how to do it. The other thing they might be doing with the busses is the old ant scam, or packing it in the cargo. I’m going to go down on the line and see if I can pick anything up. I need to get up and move anyway.”
Bucky nodded. “I’ll see if anybody has pictures of this El Doc. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
Two hours later, the old man was standing by the agent’s rest area when two ambulances started bulling through the line from Nuevo Laredo. He watched them as Spears walked up. “Here we go again.”
He glanced at her. “Again?”
“Yeah. Another damn emergency transport.” She sighed. “They’re probably going to just wave them through, as usual. Cursory pass with the dogs, but they carry narcotics, so we don’t normally—”
The old man interrupted her. “Is there a paramedic on duty?”
“I think so. Why?”
“Go get him or her. Move!”
Spears looked at him, then trotted off, speaking into her radio and looking for someone. The old man walked over to the Border Patrol supervisor. “I want you to stop both ambulances in the same lane. Tell your officers not to wave them through.”
The supervisor looked at him then asked, “Why?”
“There’s a hospital in Nuevo Laredo. Why would they need to bring them north in an emergency? Air evac has permission to fly south and pick up patients.”
The supervisor keyed his radio as Spears jogged back up to him. “Paramedic will be here momentarily. Celesta is a good one, and she’s fluent in Spanish too. Don’t need to translate.”
The small brown haired paramedic walked quickly toward them, a medic bag over her shoulder, as she got to them, the old man said, “I want you to get in the back and check the patient. See if there is really a problem. Do that for both ambulances.”
The medic looked at Spears and she said, “He’s the expert. Do what he says.” The three of them walked over to lane one, as the first ambulance pulled into the lane. The old man noted the second ambulance trying to edge into a different lane and nodded to himself, One or both of them are carrying drugs. I can feel it.
The lead ambulance kept trying to edge forward, and he stopped directly in front of it, putting his hand up in the universal sign to stop. The driver kept the lights and siren going, making it hard to see what the driver was doing. He yelled to Spears, “Shut him down!”
She jumped on the running board and started to say something and the driver pushed her off the running board. Without thinking the old man drew his .45, stepped to the side and took a bead on the driver. He stepped up and yelled at the driver to shut the vehicle off, as Spears headed for the back of the ambulance, her gun drawn. The driver’s eyes got big, and he turned off the lights and siren, but left the ambulance running. The old man told him again to shut the vehicle off, and the driver finally complied, looking back over his shoulder. The supervisor ran up. “What’s going on?”
“This asshole was going to jump through. He knocked Spears off the running board. Spears is back there with the medic. Shut the second ambulance completely down too. I think we have a situation here.”
“Yes, sir.” The supervisor spoke quickly into his radio as he trotted back toward the second ambulance, and it soon went quiet too. The quick response team arrived and the driver of the first ambulance became very nervous as he was hauled from the driver’s seat.
The old man reholstered his pistol and walked slowly to the back of the ambulance, meeting Spears at the back doors. “Well?”
She had reholstered her pistol also and stood there watching Celesta work on the girl on the stretcher as the Hispanic male was pulled out the side door. As soon as he was gone, the girl on the stretcher started babbling quickly in Spanish, and Celesta looked up at them. “She is pregnant, so is the girl in the second ambulance. They were snatched off the street about a half hour ago.” She reached over to check the girl’s arm and said, “The IV is fake! She’s not even hooked up. She’s scared half to death.” Getting up, she came quickly to the back door. “I’m going to check the other girl. And you might want to think about getting them released back across the border.”
Spears climbed into the ambulance and proceeded to unstrap the girl, then help her to her feet. “Dammit, they took her shoes!” The girl said something, then got up with Spears help, and the old man saw that she was definitely pregnant.
He turned and headed for the second ambulance, just as Bucky came striding across the lanes. “Looks like they grabbed a couple of pregnant ones off the street. Need to get the dogs to go through both of these ambulances with a fine toothed—”
Celesta bounded out of the second ambulance. “This one is in labor. We need to get her out of the ambulance and get her ready to transport.” She looked around and saw the supervisor. “Robert, call Ambulancias SAITH and get them on the way. She’s got a while before she delivers, and wants to do it in Mexico, not up here.” She looked at Bucky and the old man. “Help me get the stretcher out. I want to get her out of the exhaust fumes and into the office where it’s cooler. Her friend should go with her.” They pulled the stretcher out, lowered it gently to the ground and started wheeling it toward the office, until another medic came running out and took it over. Spears and the other pregnant girl went with them, as Bucky and the old man watched the drug dog and handler come around the corner of the office building.
Bucky glanced at the old man. “I hope you’re right. Otherwise you’ve stirred the pot and there are going to be some upset CBP folks.”
“We’ll know shortly.” He pointed to the four men now handcuffed and being lead into the interrogation area. “They aren’t even dressed right. They’ve got the t-shirts on, but not wearing the normal pants medics wear.”
The handler with the drug dog came up with the supervisor, and he asked, “How do you want to do this?”
Bucky and the supervisor both looked at the old man, who shrugged. “Okay, external first, then put the dog in the ambulance.”
“In the ambulance?”
The old man nodded. “In it.”
The three of them watched as the handler ran the dog through a standard search, then brought him to the back doors. “Anything,” asked the old man.
The handler waggled his hand. “Not a true positive, but he looked like he wanted to alert a couple of times.” He commanded the dog into the back of the ambulance, and the dog moved forward then suddenly stopped. “That’s a hard alert,” the handler said.
“Interesting.” Bucky turned to the supervisor, “Better get some folks over here, this may take a while.” The supervisor nodded as the handler and the old man went back to the second ambulance, doing the same thing again. The handler climbed into the back with the dog, and he again hard alerted.
The old man climbed into the ambulance, pointed to the area where the dog had alerted, and the handler nodded. The old man lifted the padded seat panel up and whistled. “Take a look at this!” There were multiple kilos of wrapped product packed in the compartment, and the old man shook his head. “You’d have thought with this much product setting here, the dog would have alerted outside. Unless—”
“Unless what?” The handler asked.
“Unless the packaging is coated with something the dog doesn’t like. You got a spare pair of gloves?” The handler reached into his cargo pocket and pulled out a pair of blue nitrile gloves, which the old man took and put on. Taking one of the kilos out, he set it on the floor of the ambulance. “See what he does now.”
The handler got the dog to partially alert, and the old man mumbled, “Coated. Now the question is, with what.” About that time, Bucky stuck his head in the back and the old man picked up the kilo. “Coated. Gonna need to get the science boys involved.”
Bucky shook his head. “Dammit. That’s one more fucking problem I don’t need.”
They heard a siren in the distance, getting closer and the old man climbed out of the ambulance. “They gonna release the two pregnant ones?”
“Yeah, not their fault. Robert talked with his counterpart, and they’re good to go home. He’s pissed they’re running the ambulances through here like this. He’s afraid CBP is going to clamp down and not allow them across without an exhaustive search.”
“Too bad. They did their jobs, it wouldn’t be as big an issue.” The ambulance pulled up next to the office and shut off the siren, even as the two medics jumped out. The old man pointed to the ambulance, then at the two parked in the lane. “One of these is not like the others.”
Bucky nodded. “No shit. The Ambulancias SAITH unit is a completely different style, and with a different paint scheme. Their medics were dressed differently too. Robert!” He motioned the supervisor over. “These other ambulances that have been going through, do they look like these, or like the Ambulancias SAITH one?”
The supervisor pointed to the two in the lane. “These. We seldom see the Saith folks up here.”
“Okay, you want to write this incident up?”
Bucky chuckled. “Robert, neither one of us needs the credit. Your folks did the actual work, so they—” The old man was jogging down the southbound lanes, and Bucky shook his head. “Now what?” The two of them followed as the old man stopped a semi just before it exited the lane. “John what the fuck are you doing?”
“Get the dog over here. I think he partially alerted on this truck or trailer. I couldn’t tell which.”
“It’s going southbound for God’s sake. Why would—”
The supervisor made a call, and the handler and dog came trotting over. The old man said, “Full search on the truck. I think the dog hit on something, like that partial he did in the back of the ambulance.” The bewildered driver had shut the truck off and climbed down with his paperwork in hand. The old man took it, and flipping rapidly through it, started chuckling. “A load of turkeys? To Cancun? What sixteen hundred miles, and two days in transit.”
A spate of rapid Spanish followed, and the old man smiled. “Oh, I don’t doubt you will deliver them, and you picked up a sealed trailer in Oklahoma City.” The handler caught his eye and gave him a thumbs up. “But I’m sorry to say we will have to examine your cargo. Do you have the keys to the trailer?”
More voluble Spanish followed, along with the driver shaking his head. The old man turned to the supervisor. “Robert, I hate to ask, but can we get some bolt cutters and the forklift over here?”
He nodded, pinched his nose, and walked off talking on his radio as Bucky and the old man looked over the trailer. “Where did the dog alert?”
“About mid-point on the trailer. But it doesn’t make any sense. Why would anybody be carrying drugs into Mexico?”
“Damn good question.” The forklift showed up, and he instructed the driver to pull off the stacked pallets on one side. Once that was done, he climbed stiffly into the refrigerated trailer and poked around, then turned and said, “I think only the back eight pallets are double stacked. Looks like single stacks beyond that. Any way we can get these two off,” he asked, pointing to the ones in front of him.” The officer said something into his radio, then held up 2 fingers as the old man looked at the pallets, Butterball? Those aren’t bad turkeys. Huh, 48 turkeys per pallet…that’s… a bunch of turkeys in here. He shivered in the cold and moved back to the open door as two more officers came over pulling a pallet jack. He got down and let them shove the pallet jack up into the trailer, then one of the officers climbed in and used the pallet jack to pull the next stack back where the forklift could get to them.
A couple of minutes later, the pallets were sitting on the ground and they could see that the rest of the truck was not stacked two high. The old man climbed back in the trailer, along with the handler and the dog. “Can you put the dog on top of the pallets?”
The handler looked down and chuckled. “Don’t have to. He just alerted on this pallet.” He yelled down to one of the officers, “Need the bolt cutters.” He got them and cut the banding on the pallet and the two of them worked the top off the fiberboard box. The old man leaned in and dug a frozen turkey out of the box, handing it to the handler, then took another one and walked to the back of the trailer.
He dropped that one to Bucky, then got down out of the trailer, pulled out his pocketknife, and cut the wrapper off the turkey as he said, “Interesting. No markings like I’m used to seeing on turkeys in the store.” He examined the turkey and finally reached into the cavity. Bucky saw his eyes go wide, and the old man started cussing and trying to get something out of the cavity. He finally managed to pull a wrapped bundle out that was oddly rectangular in shape. “Well, well, well, what have we here?” He slit the blue plastic wrap and fanned a stack of $100 bills, then held them down for the drug dog, who immediately alerted on them.
Bucky pulled the money all the way out of the wrapping as the old man laughed. “Gotta be drug money. I’m betting this trailer would never have gotten to Cancun. And somebody is gonna have fun now.”
Bucky whistled. “Ten grand.”
“So potentially four hundred eighty thousand dollars in each one of those boxes.”
Spears walked up. “Both of the preggers girls are on their way back home. Whatcha got, boss?”
Bucky laughed. “A little project for you.” He handed her the ten thousand in $100 bills. “All of these turkeys need to be checked for money, and once that’s done, they need to be stored.”
Spears jaw dropped, she looked at the old man and asked, “Is he…really, you’re serious?”
The old man grinned. “Yep, just pulled ten grand out of that turkey’s ass. Since I’m just a consultant, that’s a job for you real agents. Have fun…oh, and you might need a jacket, it’s cold in that trailer, since you’re going to be there a while, considering there could be a bit over seven million bucks in those turkeys.”