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As has happened so many times throughout history, the civilized world once again finds itself dealing with an enemy so relentlessly evil, so willing to undermine the fabric of society by slaughtering innocent civilians far from the battlefield, so unrepentant in their rejection of honor in the muddy trenches of war, that traditional military operations and intelligence gathering tactics cannot, and will not, prevail.
It is in these times that the righteous seeking justice must harken back beyond the modern ten commandments of the Old Testament and the five pillars of the Quran, back 2000 years before Christ and Muhammad, back to ancient Babylonia, where Greeks and Persians lived side-by-side under Hammurabi’s Code, a standard of law which dictates in no uncertain terms: An Eye for an Eye, A Tooth for a Tooth. In Latin, this is known as lex talionis. In English, the Law of Talion; or Retaliation.
Under these auspices, justice for the civilized world against murderous barbarians must be developed to stop the enemy dead in their tracks. To eradicate them from the face of the planet. To send them the way of the Nazis.
In order to succeed, those options must have the singular goal of identifying and eliminating perpetrators with the same level of moral consideration and compassion they show their victims. Which is to say, none at all.
In America, we should have...the Talion Unit.
CIRCA 2017 A.D.
These are the days of Jihad. Islamic fascism has the civilized world on edge. A new crusade forms.
Jihadists of the new Caliphate sow carnage upon innocent men, women, and children whenever and wherever they can, showing no mercy on their souls.
Using the Quran as their divine justification, the jihadists finance their operations with illegal taxes, clandestine oil sales, bank sieges, drug trafficking, and the bartering of female slaves.
In response, the global Coalition against the Jihad fights back with precision drone strikes, special forces raids, and land battles to reclaim the lost epicenters of the Caliphate; Mosul, Raqqa, and Aleppo.
While the actions have taken a heavy toll on the enemy, they have also sparked a sinister diaspora, sending the surviving jihadists on the run across the globe to engage independent martyrdom missions.
It is the season of the wolves.
It is the season of the hunters.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” - Ernest Hemingway
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” – Psalms 23:4
AUGUST 8TH | 11:56 PM
OUTSIDE OF NOGALES, ARIZONA
HALF MILE NORTH OF THE U.S. / MEXICO BORDER
From under the midnight shadow of a mesquite tree, nightvision binoculars sweep the badlands between America and Mexico. The man using them is a mid-30s former Army Ranger combat veteran, dressed head-to-toe in the latest digicam and military gear. Without lowering the binoculars he spits out a long stream of brown juice from the ball of tobacco stuffed in his lower lip.
The late-20s former U.S. Marine combat vet next to him shakes his head out of frustration.
MARINE: (whispering) “Dead quiet tonight.”
RANGER: (still looking through the binocs) “You’re goddamn right it is. After last week...they fuckin’ know better’n to come through here again so soon. And I’ll tell ya something right now...we find another group a them bastards runnin’ dope...sheeeiiit...” (spits again) “...you can take it to the bank I’ll empty another mag on ‘em. Plain and simple.”
MARINE: “Fuckin’ A.”
RANGER: “Gotta push ‘em back.”
Something stirs in the bush 50 yards out to their right. Marine lifts up the nightvision scope on his Colt M4 carbine. He glasses the area where the sound came from. Let’s off a short three-round burst that destroys a cactus. A second burst hits a boulder. Sizzling rounds ricochet into the distance.
RANGER: (looking over) “What’ya got?”
MARINE: (through his scope) “Rabbit.”
RANGER: “You get it?”
RANGER: “Silly wabbit...tricks are for kids.”
A voice crackles over their communication packages.
PARATROOPER: (via earpiece) “AZBR two to AZBR one, come in.”
RANGER: (clicking his collar to activate his mic) “This is AZBR one, go ahead.”
PARATROOPER: “We’ve got a beat on three bodies moving low and fast up through the Sanders Arroyo half a click east of our position...’bout a click, click and a half west of you. They’re not wearing strobes...I repeat...no...strobes.”
RANGER: “Ten-four. Let’s move in together and squeeze these bastards. We’ll pull out of our current position, take Burn Trail north, park above Coyote Gulch, then move in on them from the east while you press in from the west.”
RANGER: (spitting tobacco juice) “AZBR three, I want you to loop from the south, block these slick sonsabitches from behind...that way they can’t skeedaddle back to whenst they came.”
GREEN BERET: “Got it. You want us to report into Border Patrol?”
RANGER: “Hell no...I want this one. ‘Sides...there’s nine of us ‘n three of them...we can handle it without no goddamn Border Patrol.”
GREEN BERET: “Check. AZBR three out.”
Ranger and the Marine get up, sling their rifles, grab their go-bags full of tech and gear, start walking towards their dark green Ford F-150 where two other middle-aged men are smoking cigarettes.
One’s leaning on the tailgate. The other’s standing a few feet from him, left hand holding his Marlboro, right hand resting on his holstered Smith & Wesson M&P Core 9mm. Both are dressed in the latest and greatest from modern military surplus websites.
RANGER: (to the two other men) “Let’s giddyup...three on the move up the arroyo.”
Both men take another pull on their cigarettes, drop them, crush them under their boots, and mount up in the back of the pickup, signaling their ready to roll by slamming the tailgate shut.
On the back are three stickers: Arizona Border Recon (AZBR); Minutemen Militia; “Nuke the Hajj!”
Marine hops into the passenger seat. Ranger gets behind the wheel. Starts the engine. Throws it into gear. Peels out, leaving a thick dust cloud rising up behind them.
Three strangers in a strange land move in single file through the rugged terrain with polished skill and relative silence. They opt for a typical five-second, battlefield spacing pattern. Step on each other’s tracks, masking their number. Shift off the path as the shadows dictate. Use the wind pattern to mask their already cloaked scent. Climb up and over a set of boulders the size of Smart cars as only skilled mountaineers can. They are comfortable in Mother Nature’s unforgiving embrace.
Light of the full moon does not reveal their covered faces, hidden ages, or intentions. All that can be seen are their dark grey silhouettes against the indigo landscape of the desert around them.
They sweep effortlessly like fatal phantasms along the western edge of the arroyo. A rattlesnake warning fills the air somewhere in front of them. They give the reptile a casual cushion of space without slowing. Natural threats no longer register on their internal scales of fear.
As they pass the snake the trio is hit with a nonlethal flashbang grenade. The piercing audio and light waves momentarily disorient them but does not panic them. Two of the trio drop to their chests and lay prone on the ground, disappearing from sight.
The third in the back could easily peel off, but doesn’t. Instead, he takes a knee next to a thornbush, allowing one of the three portable searchlights filling the air to land on his chest, then slowly work its way up to his face. He uses an outstretched hand to shield his eyes.
From somewhere on the other side of the blinding light comes a harsh voice.
RANGER: (yelling in Spanish) “Do. Not. Move! Desert Hawks Arizona Border Recon! We are armed and are detaining you on behalf of the United States of America. Do you understand?”
MAN ON HIS KNEE: (still blocking the light with his hand) “Entiendo...entiendo.”
MARINE: “Damn right you understand.”
GREEN BERET: (via earpiece) “Moving in on ‘em from the south.”
RANGER: “Check for weapons.”
PARATROOPER: “Watch out for hypo needles!”
The trio stays still in the dirt. They don’t move. Don’t flinch. They know better than to get in the way of a good battleplan...especially when it’s unfolding exactly like their handlers said it would.
A convoy of three Ford pickup trucks drives at highspeed down the dirt road heading back to the glow of the nearest town.
They accelerate around blind bends and blast up and over hilltops as only those who are intimately familiar with these winding roads can.
They sweep around a long curve, lift up and over a rise, then come to the top where their headlights illuminate the mile-long dip in front of them.
Up ahead, parked in the middle of the road with its red and blue lights swirling is a single white Border Patrol truck parked diagonal across the road, blocking it.
The three Ford pickups slow down and come to a stop about 100 feet away from the trucks.
The Ranger and the Marine stare out of the front windshield trying to see who it is.
MARINE: “They’re gonna wanna take ‘em in themselves.”
Ranger looks in his rearview mirror. Silhouetted in the lights of the F-150 behind him are the two other militiamen, one on each side of the trio of ziptied illegals they caught trying to cross.
RANGER: (looking at the Border Patrol truck) “Over my dead body. Them sumbitches ain’t taking nobody in. We snared ‘em. We’re collecting on ‘em.”
MARINE: “I don’t recognize the driver.”
RANGER: “Pro’ly some greenhorn just got in from New Mexico. Sit tight. I’ll go talk to ‘im.”
2. THE SIN-EATER
AUGUST 9TH | 3:47 AM
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
CLARK COUNTY DETENTION CENTER
Sage green eyes behind red-tinted Matsuda sunglasses stare at dried blood stains on the concrete floor.
The eyes belong to 44-year-old American Ja Hu Guerra. His first name - pronounced Jay Hugh - was passed down to him from his maternal great grandfather, a redneck from Florida who lived like a wild man until he disappeared hunting gators in the everglades, just the way he wanted it.
Ja’s leaning forward off the concrete bed. Both boots on the ground. Elbows on his knees. Alone.
His once cherubic face is now nicotine-lean, the defined angles highlighted by three-day stubble outside of his thick sideburns leading into an untrimmed beard and thick Civil War goatee. Long dark-blond and silver hair is swept back loose with water and kept in place by the natural oils collected from two days without a shower.
He’s wearing a beat-to-shit black leather jacket he’s owned for 20 some-odd years, a wrinkled dark-grey Honeybadger shirt, wellworn black jeans, well-travelled dark-brown boots.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d mistake him for the lead singer of a death metal band waiting to take the stage. But you do know better, and the only instrument he plays is the kind that puts bad guys to sleep. Forever.
A veiny hand at the end of his wiry arm reaches into a hidden jacket pocket. Lifts out a small, half-smoked cigarillo. Tucks it into his thin lips. Clicks the lighter embedded into the corner of his watch.
The glass doors open and in walks a 35-year-old American woman of Israeli decent. She’s dressed in an impeccable gray suit carrying a burgundy alligator-skin briefcase. Looks like someone you’d see in the pages of Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed list. As she approaches the front desk, the late-20s female booking officer on duty looks up from organizing paperwork.
OFFICER: “How can I help you?”
The woman lays her briefcase on the counter. Uses her right thumb to open the biometric lock. Opens the lid. Pulls out a white business card with the Pinkerton logo: single royal blue eye; royal blue triangle off-centered on the bottom-left; tip of the triangle touching the center of the pupil.
The information on the top left of the card reads:
FREIDA: “I’m here to secure the release of an inmate in your custody.”
OFFICER: (setting the business card aside) “Name of the inmate?”
FREIDA: “Mr. Ja Hu Guerra.”
The officer types the name into the console in front of her. Waits. Reads the screen.
OFFICER: “You’re aware that Mr. Guerra’s being held on public intoxication...disturbing the peace...destruction of public property...public fornication...assault with a deadly weapon...and last but not least...resisting arrest.”
FREIDA: “Yes, I read the arrest report.”
OFFICER: “Then you’re also aware that bail was set at one million dollars?”
FREIDA: “Yes, but we’re not posting bail.”
OFFICER: “Well unless you’re here to break him out of jail, I’m not sure--”
Freida pulls out a single piece of paper from her briefcase, sets it down on the counter.
The officer spins it around, reads it, looks up at Freida.
OFFICER: “Is this some kinda joke?”
FREIDA: “Article two, section two of the United States Constitution grants the President power to issue pardons for any and all offenses.”
OFFICER: “This an official presidential pardon?”
Freida nods ‘yes’.
OFFICER: “For Mr. Guerra?”
Freida raises an eyebrow, nods ‘yes’ again.
OFFICER: “Who the hell is this guy?”
FREIDA: “If I tell you...I lose my security clearance. I lose my clearance...I lose my job. And I’m one of those lucky people who actually really, truly, genuinely loves my job. So...”
OFFICER: “I’m gonna have to get my Watch Commander to approve this.”
FREIDA: “It’s either that or wake up the President. Whichever it is...please hurry. We’ve got a plane to catch in an hour.”
As Freida and the Watch Commander come around the corner, three guards in riot gear are preparing to storm Cell #4.
WATCH COMMANDER: “What the fuck’s going on?”
OFFICER #1: “Sonuvabitch lit a ‘gar in there and won’t put it out.”
OFFICER #2: “Oh he’s gonna put it out...” (testing his tazer-rod) “...trust me.”
Freida forces her way to the front of the line. She looks inside. Sees Ja staring at the floor. Smoking.
She knocks on the glass. He looks over. Sees her. Takes one more pull. Spits on the concrete bed next to him. Gently lowers the tip of the cigarillo into the spit. It sizzles out.
He puts it back into his hidden pocket. Stands up.
FREIDA: “Open the door please.”
Watch Commander signals something into the camera above them. Hallway fills with a loud buzz. Heavy locks unlock in multiple places in the wall. Metal door slides open.
Ja steps out through the smoke. Passes the officers without looking at them. Follows Freida down the hallway and around the corner.
Smoke continues filling the hallway. Smoke detectors sound off. Sprinklers activate, spraying water everywhere, further inflaming the officers’ tempers.
BLACK SUV | IDLING
Ja opens the door, steps inside, sits down. The leather bench seats are across from each other, one on each side of the vehicle, like a limousine.
Freida gets in on the other side, sits across from him.
Driver behind the wheel throws the vehicle in gear, floors the accelerator.
BLACK SUV | DRIVING
FREIDA: (looking him over) “Long night?”
JA: “I’ve had shorter.”
Freida opens her briefcase. Pulls out a newspaper. Unfolds it. Flips it around so he can see it. Headline reads:
Two Dead Americans on African Freighter Identified as
Ex-Seal Team Six and Ex-FBI Profiler
- Drugs Found in Room -
It’s a small article. The kind most people see but don’t read beyond the headline.
FREIDA: “Would this happen to be the match that lit your fuse?”
Ja looks at the article quickly, then back to her.
JA: “First time I’m seeing it. Who was it...Sean?”
Freida nods ‘yes’.
JA: “Somebody ice ‘em?”
FREIDA: (nodding ‘no’) “Self-inflicted.”
JA: “Slamming heroin?”
Freida nods ‘yes’.
JA: (cynical) “Flame that burns twice as bright, right?”
FREIDA: (jaded) “Rate you’re going you should flame out in another month or two...which means we should start training your replacement right now.”
JA: (shaking his head ‘no’) “Nah...I come from good stock. I roll until it’s metal on metal.”
FREIDA: “Do as you like. We’re all professionals here. We don’t have time to drop you off at Betty Ford or Hazelden. Nor do we have time for emo therapy sessions about how you’re one of the most talented profilers we’ve ever seen...how you’re worth saving...etcetera etcetera. You may be all that, but you’ve also got a wicked element in that soul of yours that’s unravelling from the inside out. And we don’t have the luxury of caring about you personally. You’re a resource. A weapon in the war on terror. And like any weapon, if you fucking jam in the trenches...we will replace you in a heartbeat.”
JA: “This coming from you or Ares?”
FREIDA: “Me...although Ares is furious about having to burn yet another pardon on you. That’s four...which is four more than anyone else. I know you’re his golden child but I’m here to tell you that you’ve burned your wick to the base.”
Ja looks out of the tinted window at the streaking cars and buildings as the black SUV accelerates through traffic.
FREIDA: “That said...whoever you were with last night has great taste in perfume.”
JA: “Isabel. Pornstar from the valley. Sweet girl, actually.”
FREIDA: “Why’d you say actually? Are you implying that just because she debases herself on camera for the entire world to see that she actually shouldn’t be expected to be a sweet girl?” (smiling) “Are you a misogynist, Mr. Guerra?”
JA: “Shut the fuck up. What’s next…a lecture on white male privilege?”
She laughs, allows the air to clear a bit.
FREIDA: “I think the message coming through is we’d all be better served if you opted to ease your throttle back a bit in between contracts.”
She lets the advice settle in as she checks an incoming email.
JA: “So what’s the real reason you got me out when you did?”
Freida takes a long look at him. Does her best to gauge if she should stick with the serious approach, or try to lighten the mood. She opts for the latter.
FREIDA: “I got you out because your name was dug out by the computer as one of three most able to complete the mission.”
He smirks, lets out a subtle laugh, keeps staring out of the window.
JA: “Rambo Two.”
FREIDA: “Figured I’d give you a softball this early in the morning.”
She reaches into a cooler next to her. Pulls out an ice-cold can of spicy Tecate michelada.
FREIDA: (handing him the can) “This is against my better judgement, but a little hair of the dog goes a long way towards you getting some sleep on the plane.”
JA: (taking the can) “Appreciate it.”
He cracks the can open. Takes a long sip. Savors the taste.
Freida opens her briefcase, hands him a holstered Colt M45A1 CQBP.
FREIDA: “They almost didn’t release it to me this time.”
JA: “Can’t say I blame ‘em.” (grabbing the handgun) You mind if we swing by my apartment so I can grab--”
FREIDA: “Your go-bag’s in the back.” (sips her quad espresso) “Let me know when you want to hear where we’re headed.”
JA: (lighting a Marlboro) “You seen one valley, you see ‘em all.”
FREIDA: “You’ve never seen anything like this before, Ja.” (steely eyed) “Trust me.”
3. TRUE AT FIRST LIGHT
AUGUST 9TH | 5:46 AM
OUTSIDE OF NOGALES, ARIZONA
“So when you meet those who disbelieve in battle, strike their necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either confer favor afterwards or ransom them until the war lays down its burdens.”
– Quran 47:4
The matte black AgustaWestland AW119 Koala chopper sits silently on a patch of open desert.
A gust of wind swirls the dust, momentarily blurring the Pinkerton logo on the back of the chopper.
CHOPPER | PARKED
Other than the pilot, Ja’s alone, lying asleep on one of the two plush leather bench seats directly behind the pilot. He’s wearing his red-tinted sunglasses and the exact same wrinkled clothes he had on in the SUV. On the floor next to him, his boots and his holstered Colt.
The pilot sees two ATVs coming around a bend, heading for the chopper.
He reaches back and shakes Ja’s shoulder, waking him.
PILOT: “Rise and shine, my man.”
Ja opens his eyes, a bit groggy. Struggles to remember where he is, what he’s doing.
JA: (sitting up) “Where’s Freida?”
PILOT: “Already down in the arroyo. Said to let you sleep a little while longer...till the ATVs come back to get you.” (opening the lid on his coffee thermos) “Want a cup?”
JA: “No...thanks. Gives me the shakes.”
The pilot fills his mini-cup with steaming black coffee filling the cabin with the aroma of roasted coffee bean. He looks out at the sunrise. Blows on the coffee. Takes a small sip.
PILOT: “Sure is pretty out here.”
Ja looks out of the tinted window at the ATVs as they pull up and park on top of the long shadows of the helicopter blades.
He pulls out a prescription bottle of mil-grade amphetamine pills. Opens it. Takes the last two. Washes them down with his saliva.
JA: (mumbling to himself) “Yessir, better than a shower and a hot cup of coffee.”
PILOT: “What was that?”
JA: (to the pilot) “Nothing...” (to himself) “...just a quote from my favorite movie.”
PILOT: “So you’re a Pinkerton, too?”
JA: (putting his boots on) “No. Work for myself...subcontract to the Pinkertons.” (lacing them up) “Pinkertons are hired by the Department of Homeland Security.”
PILOT: “So Freida’s your client?”
JA: (slipping his gun holster on) “More like a partner.”
PILOT: “And what is it you do for them?”
JA: (runs both hands back through his hair) “Analysis...assessment...some other things.”
JA: “That’s one word for it.” (reaching for the door handle) “Thanks for the lift.”
PILOT: “Good luck down there.”
The chopper door opens, letting Ja out. He shuts it, walks over to the idling ATVs.
Sitting on the first one is a mid-50s sheriff who’s shaken to the core. Not afraid. Disturbed. Which is saying something. Takes a lot to disturb a veteran sheriff. A lot.
Sitting on the second ATV is a 20-something deputy whose face is ashen. He’s trying to hide it but it’s obvious he’s still working very hard not to vomit again.
JA: (putting out his hand) “Sheriff.”
SHERIFF: (shaking Ja’s hand) “Thanks for getting out here so quick.”
JA: “You can thank Freida.”
SHERIFF: “Fair enough. Look...’fore we head over there I wanna warn you that--”
JA: “With all due respect, sheriff, please don’t say anything about what you’ve seen down there. I don’t want it to influence my initial walkthrough of the scene. And just so you know, I’m thanking both you guys in advance right now for all your help. This is obviously a team effort. But from the second we get over there, I go to another level of focus that I honestly can’t control. I won’t talk for hours until I’m done collecting everything I need. Lotta people think I’m being rude or acting like some kinda prima donna. It ain’t that. I’m just doing what I do...fair enough?”
SHERIFF: (nodding ‘yes’) “I can appreciate that.”
JA: “Good...let’s head over.”
The sheriff fires up his ATV. Deputy does the same. Waits for Ja to climb on the back. He doesn’t.
JA: (to the deputy) “Sorry dude, but I uh...I don’t ride bitch.”
The two ATVs pull up at the top of the hill where the dirt trail begins its decent into the arroyo.
They stop just in front of the barricades and police tape blocking the trail. There are small clusters of cops, sheriffs, border patrolmen, and other investigators standing around looking impatient and pissed off at having to wait to do their job.
Ja throws the ATV into park, gets off of it. His sage eyes immediately lock onto Freida who’s standing next to a drone pilot controlling the drone overhead.
She looks over at Ja as he walks up, looks back to the screen streaming the drone footage.
FREIDA: “It’s all yours.”
Ja nods ‘ok’, reaches down into a forensic bag. Grabs a couple large evidence bags and a few pairs of surgical gloves, throws everything into an empty Jansport backpack.
He slips the backpack on, along with a pair of surgical gloves, then reaches into a hardshell camera bag, pulls out a Leica Q digital camera. Turns it on. Snaps a couple quick test shots.
He walks by Freida, ducks under the tape, heads down the hill.
A wide beam of fresh sunlight is illuminating the entire arroyo for the first time.
He starts snapping high res photos and video as he makes his way down there.
Three charred Ford F-150 pickup trucks are still smoldering down in the middle of the road exactly where they stopped the night before. Driver side window of the front and rear vehicles have .50-caliber bullet-holes. All three trucks are bullet-ridden on the passenger sides. Shots appear to have been fired from multiple distances and angles. All of them very precise.
Points of contact from unknown explosive devices are grouped in the same areas of the trucks: engine blocks, tires, gas tanks.
Tactical assault training.
Nine bodies of the Desert Hawks militia are lined up, chest-down, in the middle of the road. Each of their hands are bound behind their backs. All of them decapitated, with the heads placed on the dirt out in front of the bodies. Each head is propped up, facing outward. A few have tipped over.
Jihadist battlefield behavior.
Black pools of blood have collected underneath the dead men’s open necks, waistlines, and any other bullet and shrapnel wounds they incurred in the ambush. A couple of the bodies having gaping exit wounds on their chests. Another one is missing the left arm from the shoulder down.
Fifty caliber. Supporting assaultrifles. Controlled explosives.
Ja walks along the right edge of the trail like a kid not wanting to step on a crack. Reaches the location of the bodies first, takes a ninety-degree left turn out into the dirt road. Keeps a clean line, analyzing the bootprints, shell casings, and blood patterns strewn about the landscape.
Outgunned. Outmanned. Outmaneuvered.
He squats down in front of the bodies and heads, balancing himself to keep his knees off the dirt. He casts a long shadow from the rising sun over the row of bodies. Takes a mental note of the where the sun is behind him. Looks up at the vultures in the sky. Back down to heads on the ground. They’re all pointing towards the rising sun.
East, towards Mecca.
He gets his first close look at the heads themselves. Eyes have all been gauged out, jaws stuffed with something organic. He already knows what it is. Not because he can tell from this angle but because he’s seen this type of carnage before.
Parisian police reports of the Bataclan carnage.
He snaps a few shots, some video, pockets the camera. Lays out a large crime scene plastic bag. Reaches out with both hands, lifts the nearest head up off the ground, places it gently back onto the plastic bag, laying it on its side. Opens the stiff jaw enough to removes what inside, confirming it.
Scrotum and testicles.
He sets them down on the plastic bag, runs his finger alone the edge of where the skin was cut on the neck. It’s a long, single, clean line. Not the short, jagged edges from a boxcutter or a combat knife.
Long blade. Machete. Maybe a sword. Someone who knows how to use it for this purpose.
He exchanges the tainted gloves for a new pair, sets the old ones down next to the head.
He looks over the bound hands on the body. Takes photos and video. Reaches out, lifts the clothing back. Leans in, closely examining what was used to bind them. Electronic wiring from a car. Or a truck. He looks over at three F-150s. One of the hoods has been popped up.
He moves across the nine bodies, one by one. Takes his time with each of them. Looking for anything and everything else they can provide. Details. Ideas. Possibilities. Random thoughts.
He combs each of the bodies for details and when he’s done the last thing he does is remove their cellphone, which he slips into the large pocket of his backpack.
By the time he gets to the three trucks they’ve stopped smoking. He moves around their exterior, interior, front, back, sides. Combs every detail. Takes photos. Videos. Notes. Sketches.
From the burned interior of the final F-150, he pulls out a blackened, partly melted International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) Catcher device, which he carries like a briefcase.
He looks up at the top of the hill to signal Freida that he’s done. She cuts the tape, letting loose the local forensics team and law enforcement to do their jobs.
The sun is directly overhead as they march down the hill passing Ja as he walks up it. Each of them offer a respectful nod to his patience and professionalism. His eyes are on the ground, focused in thought, face filthy from the sweat mixed with dirt. A layer of dust lightens his dark clothing.
JA: (setting the IMSI case down) “Definitely not cartel.”
FREIDA: “So we’ve got a contract.”
JA: (grabbing bottle of water from a cooler) “Hundred percent.”
He drains the entire bottle, nods back over to the dead men.
JA: “They have a FOB?”
FREIDA: (nodding ‘yes’) “Forward operating base is a small rented house over in Sasabe, ten miles from here. I had a couple police units lock it down right before you landed. They’ve got a robot being brought in from the county. And I called in a new K9 handler we just hired to sweep the FOB for explosives. Her name’s Lozen...goes by Lo.”
JA: “She officially in the unit?”
FREIDA: “Consider this her trial run. She does well, a full-time offer will be made.”
JA: “Let’s chopper over there right now. Any word from Border Patrol?”
FREIDA: “They recovered a single stolen truck with their missing guns, badges, and uniforms twenty miles east along the border. Everything was torched. Nearest recon point is a motel and a gas station. I already have their videos feeds for the last twenty-four hours funneling back to our cloud.” (looking down at the case in his hand): “Stingray?”
JA: “Yeah...we need to get Erick on it right away...make sure he also gets the GPS coordinates of the killbox in the arroyo.”
FREIDA: “Done...did you two smooth things out after--”
JA: “Not yet.”
FREIDA: “It better not get in the way of this contract.”
JA: “It won’t.”
He cracks open another bottle of water, pours it over his hair, face, neck.
JA: (flashing her a shit-eating grin) “We’re professionals.”
FREIDA: “I’ll call Ares right now and let him know to send over the K.O.C. contracts...along with a couple of blank national security letters.”
JA: “When the soonest we can get everyone down here?”
FREIDA: “I’ll have the full Talion unit on the ground here in six hours.”
JA: “This one’s gonna move quick, so make it four if possible.”
FREIDA: “Not possible but I’ll do my best.”
JA: “I’ll head over to Sasabe to sweep the militia’s FOB...then I gotta get something eat. I'm so hungry I could eat the ass end out of a dead rhino.”
FREIDA: (unimpressed) “Point Break.”
JA: (holding up two fingers) “Utah...gimme two!”
FREIDA: (she laughs, nods at the Mexican Federale smoking a cigarette) “What about him?”
JA: “I’ll talk to him in the chopper on our way over to Sasabe...then I’ll send him back over here.”
Ja reaches into his jacket, pulls something out, tosses it to her. She catches it, looks in her hand. It’s the empty prescription bottle for the mil-grade amphetamine. She looks up at him, unamused.
JA: “Is what it is...” (climbs onto the ATV) “...gotta have it.”
Ja starts the ATV. Throttles it. Takes off towards the Mexican Federale.
She watches him, unsure of whether or not to feed the beast.
© 2017 Christopher S. Swan
WGA Registration #1892541