October 13, 2016
THE BOOK SHOPPE
Edward Osgood signed the UPS delivery man’s tablet and carried the package to his office. He used his pocket knife to cut the packing tape and found a sturdy cardboard box entirely sealed with still more tape. He slit the box open and removed a bubble wrapped copy of WALDEN; or LIFE IN THE WOODS. Edward gently lifted the plastic covered book and saw that it was indeed the 1854 edition first published by Ticknor and Fields in Boston, and was inscribed,
To my friend and patron, Ralph Emerson, Henry David Thoreau 1854
He would gladly pay the $15,000 the seller was asking.
At his desk, Edward pulled a checkbook out of the drawer, wrote a check on the account of St. Charles Rare Books and Maps, LLC for the asking price, and was addressing an envelope, when his office phone rang. He looked at the caller ID and saw Final Solutions blinking, so he pushed the button and connected the call.
“Good morning, Royce. Do you have something for us?”
“Yes, I do,” Royce replied,
“But I’m afraid that it’s one of those good news, bad news things.”
“Oh really, how so?”
“The good news is that it’s a particularly challenging assignment, one that will require all of your skills.”
“I like that, but what’s the bad news?”
“As you know, we both have agreed to take at least one assignment a year on a pro bono basis, and I think this is the one for this year.”
Edward and his team had agreed to the pro bono deal; it was a part of the rationale that justified their work as hit men. They would remove especially heinous individuals from society from time to time, and they’d never take an assignment if the target didn’t fit the Texas Test for justifiable homicide—“the son-of-a-bitch needed killin’.” They would never take out a target unless the three of them agreed that he/or she deserved to die. Shaky reasoning, but at least it gave some justification to this very profitable part of their business. Edward replied,
“Okay, let’s take a look at the assignment. Can you email the details?”
“They’re on their way.”
When Royce left the line, he went on the office intercom and said,
“Martha, can you and Pamela step into my office?”
Martha Long, the book shop’s office manager, immediately came back and said,
“I’m on my way. Pam just stepped out for a Starbucks’s and should be right back.”
Pamela Logan returned to the shop with a latte for each of them, and she and Martha came in just as Edward was printing out the email from Royce. He made three copies and handed both ladies a copy.
“This just came in from Royce. It seems we have a pro bono assignment.”
The three of them carefully read the email and finally, Pam said,
“Well, the bastard fits the Texas Test to a tee. I think I’ll enjoy wasting his ass.”
Martha, who was usually calm and serene, added,
“You’re right on; we seldom have such a clear-cut case. I vote we accept the assignment.”
Edward and Pam agreed, and then Pam looked at the email, and said,
“Royce is right. This assignment’s going to be a challenge, but if this stuff were easy, Girl Scouts would dump the cookie scam and do it. All we have to do is figure out how to get to a Mexican drug lord with a taste for young girls, and snuff his ass.”
“Let’s concentrate on the “get to him” part and the rest will not only be easy, but satisfying as well.”
Martha held the email up, and said,
“According to Royce, the original plea for help came from a Father Miguel Gomez, Padre of the village church, in a place called Ciudad Anahuac.”
Edward called up google maps and typed in the village name. He studied the map then said,
“Ciudad Anahuac is a small village about 40 miles southwest of Laredo, Texas, and Pedro Gonzales’s ranch surrounds it on all sides. Gonzales is the undisputed El Jefe, and according to Father Gomez, Gonzales takes a great deal of pride in personally deflowering the young girls of the village.”
“How did Father Gomez contact Royce?” Pam asked.
“Someone in the diocesan chancery in Ciudad Victoria apparently had some less than pious connections,” Martha replied.
“So Gomez reached out for help and is expecting someone to show up. Is that a safe assumption?”
“I’d say it is,” replied Edward.
“Then let’s be that someone,” Martha said.
The sun was burning down on the village square when the bus from Mexico City pulled up next to the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows. Several people got off, including a young Dominican Nun. She shaded her eyes and watched the bus head off to Nuevo Laredo, then , and especially as an international assassin. Today he was an old man who sold firewood and blended into the village background.
Pam was glad to be in the cool interior of the church. T, she saw a figure dressed in the black cossack of a priest, kneeling at the altar. Pam had been raised a Methodist and had no idea about the customs of the Catholic Church, but figured that a priest outranked a nun, so she stood silently until the kneeling man finished his prayers.
The priest stood, crossed himself, and turned to face the nun. He had a puzzled look, and asked,
“Sister, who are you?”
“Pam took a step closer, and replied,
“I’m the answer to your prayers, Father.”
Several possible scenarios crossed Father Gomez’s mind, but he was still puzzled.
“Are you saying that God sent you?”
“No, but Royce did,” she replied.
It took a moment, but he took another look, and said,
“I asked for an avenger, and he sends a nun?”
“Yes, father. God works his wonders in many ways. Don’t question his methods.”
Father Gomez sighed.
“Do you realize that Don Pedro has hundreds of men to protect him? How can a young girl like you remove him?”
“My friends and I are very resourceful. If you can help us with some details about Gonzales’s ranch, we’ll take care of the problem.”
Father Gomez sighed again, and asked,
“What do you need to know?”
“Does anyone from your congregation work at the ranch?”
“Si, several such parishioners, and all have lost a daughter to this monster.”
“I’d like to meet with them. Can you arrange it?”
“I can. Do you plan to sleep here in the church?”
“If you have room for me.”
“There are rooms for nuns, but none have come since Don Pedro closed our school. We will have our evening meal after Vespers, and you can meet with them then.”
After the evening service, which Pam quietly observed, Father Gomez led her to the kitchen, where two women were serving a meal. He introduced her to Maria Lopez and Angelina Cortez. He explained to the women that Sister Irene was an Irish nun sent by the Bishop to deal with Pedro Gonzales. Both women were skeptical, but agreed to help in any way they could.
Pam explained that she was sent to gather information on Gonzales, but had no way to take action. Pam asked if there was ever a time when Gonzales met with his key men, and both women agreed that there was only one time each month, and then, for only several hours. On the last Sunday of each month, a meeting was held at the ranch, which everyone attended, even his contacts in the United States, and that would be this coming Sunday.
Pam nodded, and asked,
“Does he allow servants to be present?”
“No, he holds the meeting in his study and dismisses everyone until it ends.”
After dinner, Pam retired to her room where she dialed a number on a throwaway cell phone. It rang near a campfire on the edge of town, and the old man with the burro answered.
“Pamela, what have you learned?”
“Next Sunday afternoon Gonzales and his lieutenants will meet alone for several hours. There will be no servants on hand. If we’re going to hit him, that’s got to be the time and place.”
“Yes, and it will allow us to not only take the head off the snake, but we’ll be able to skin the whole snake. That will make it less likely that one of Gonzales’ men will decide to anoint himself El Jefe.”
“Is there anything else we need?”
“No, your work here is done. Take tomorrow’s bus to Nuevo Laredo, and dump the habit before leaving Mexico. Check into the Hilton and wait for me. I’ll take care of the rest.”
On Saturday morning the old man and his burro walked slowly onto the Ranch of Pedro Gonzales. The ranch hands were busy going about their chores, and no one paid him any attention. The man watched cautiously and figured out the location of Gonzales home, and carefully added his load of firewood to the large stack along the back wall of the building.
As he stacked the wood, he carefully hid the warhead of a Maverick air to ground missile deep in the pile. He attached one of the burner cell phones to the warhead, then led his burro back to the village. He hitched the burro to a rail in the square and walked the mile and a half to his camp site. After eating some of the tamales he’d bought in town, he settled in for the night.
The next morning he cleaned up his campsite and changed into jeans and a leather jacket. He followed a dry arroyo until he found the Polaris four-wheeler, then loaded it with his gear. He drove the Polaris to a wooded ridgetop with a clear view of Gonzales’s ranch house. He pulled a pair of high powered binoculars from the four wheeler and settled in to watch and wait. Shortly after noon, a convoy of trucks pulled into the parking area, and a dozen well-dressed men were greeted by Gonzales and invited in. Edward gave the men time to get settled, took another look to be sure there were no servants in sight, and then placed a call to the burner phone.
126 pounds of high explosives were detonated just along the outer wall of the building. Edward watched as the smoke slowly cleared, and saw a thirty-foot crater where the building had once stood. He smiled to himself, then rode the Polaris north toward the Rio Grande.
Later that afternoon he and Pamela sat in the Hilton’s bar and watched the latest news concerning the massive explosion that had wiped out one of Mexico’s major drug lords and all of his crew. The talking heads were speculating that they were the target of a Mexican Airforce missile, and so far, no one in Mexico City was offering a denial.
Edward Osgood tapped his glass against Pamela’s, and said,
“Here’s to burro-borne warheads, high tech armament with a low-tech delivery system, and the world’s a far better place as a result.”
Old man and burrow image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to knottsinprint.blogspot.com
Categories: Flash Fiction