A lone sheriff’s department vehicle showed up just ahead of the Harmon-Dominguez trucks. The firefight had been over for just over an hour. There were fire-trucks and ambulances just behind the sheriff’s vehicle. The deputy pulled up, got out, took a look around at us, walked over to the shattered cars and trucks full of bloating MS-13 corpses, and went back to his car without a word. The other first-responders went to deal with the overturned semi. The wrecker was half an hour behind the ambulances, who ended up just bagging up the bodies and driving away.

When the Harmon-Dominguez convoy finally got there, they slowed way down and hesitated for close to five minutes, hanging back a good hundred yards from the scene. When they finally crept forward to the crashed box truck, they were slow, hesitant, and gave off the appearance of staring fearfully at the sheriff’s department vehicle. I just shook my head.

We’d been contracted because some of the people Renton works with thought that Harmon-Dominguez was a front company for Mexican cartel interests. They wanted some inside reconnaissance, and we were it. And maybe my perception was colored by that knowledge. But these guys just seemed extra nervous around law enforcement, as they carefully backed up to Harold’s truck and opened the back doors of the new box truck.

Of course, if the sheriff’s deputies noticed, they didn’t budge out of their white-and-green car to do anything about it.

It took a while to get the cargo transferred. Harold got in the new box truck, but the original driver stayed with the wreck to get it towed away. The rest of us were already in the two new trucks that had come to pick us up.

Harold came over to my vehicle. “Okay, we’re loaded back up,” he said. “We can get back on track now. We’ll have to move quickly to make up lost time.”

I just shook my head. “No, we’re going back to Tucson,” I said. “After what just happened, we need to reset.”

He got a little bit of that panicked look in his eyes. “We can’t afford the time,” he said.

“I don’t care,” I replied. “We just got fucking ambushed. Your schedule is dead. We were hired to ensure your safety, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’ve got to take the time to re-examine our plan, possibly re-route, and take additional measures to lower our profile and harden ourselves as a target.”

Harold was fidgeting now. “I’m telling you, we have a very strict time-schedule!” he insisted. “We have to get back on track!”

“Better that it gets there intact than doesn’t get there at all because it got intercepted by MS-13, now isn’t it?” I asked. I motioned toward the border to the south. “If you are really that intent on going, go. You won’t have an escort, though, because we’ll quit before we’ll half-ass security for the sake of your timeline.”

That made him look positively sick. The prospect scared him badly enough that he seemed to crumple right in front of my eyes. He slumped back to the box truck without another word.

Of course, I was bluffing. I just had to delay our departure to the south until we could get our toys from The Ranch, and link up with Renton.

I made eye contact with Jim, who would be leading the way back north, and nodded. He waved, and we started back to Tucson.

The drive was short and quiet. Larry and I were thinking over the implications of what had just happened, and we didn’t know the Harmon-Dominguez driver who’d brought the truck down, so there wasn’t much conversation. He didn’t need to know any more than Harold could tell him.

When we got to the Harmon-Dominguez warehouse on the north side of Tucson, we pulled our trucks up and retreated into the little side office we’d annexed as a “security office.” We didn’t do much more than re-stock ammunition and recharge radio batteries; there wasn’t much to do right away. We did spread out the map and start looking for other options route-wise; the I-19 to Nogales was apparently compromised. Unfortunately, there wasn’t another legal crossing short of Yuma, and going the sneaky way wasn’t going to go over well with Harmon-Dominguez.

We’d been there all of about two hours when my phone rang. It was Clyde. “Jeff, we just touched down in Tucson. Got all your goodies. We’ll be by the private aviation terminal when you’re ready.”

“Good deal,” I replied. “Hang tight for the moment. The Godfather’s on the way and we’ve still got to figure out just how things have changed and how we’re going to handle this.”

“I’ll be here,” he answered. I dropped the phone on the table and went back to the maps and imagery.

Snippet the 5th

Peter Nealen

Peter Nealen is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. Since he got out, he's been writing, authoring many articles and 24 books, mostly Action/Adventure and Military Thrillers, with some excursions into Paranormal Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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