Authors: Chuck Hustmyre
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Hustmyre
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Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitious-ly. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organiza-tions, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.
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Cover Artist: Kelly Martin
Editor: Miranda McLeod
Printed in the United States of America
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Andy (whose last name must remain undisclosed) for helping me better understand some aspects of DEA's work in Mexico and the sometimes contentious relationship DEA agents have with CIA officers, whom they occasionally bump into south of the border. I would also like to thank Elci Ibarra Schneider for her help with the Spanish. And as always, I would like to thank my lovely wife, Kristie, for her unwaver-ing support.
The border between the United States and Mexico spans 2,000 miles, from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, California. Eighty percent of the illegal drugs smuggled into the United States come across that border. For more than a decade, Mexican drug cartels have waged open warfare with each other and with the Mexican government for control of the border and the "plazas," or smuggling routes, that run through it. So far, that war has claimed the lives of more than 80,000 people and left another 26,000 missing.
To assist the Mexican government in its campaign against the cartels, the U.S. government has spent more than $6 billion to train and equip Mexican police and security forces and has deployed hundreds of U.S. drug agents, mili-tary personnel, and private military contractors to both sides of the border.
Three black Chevrolet Tahoes raced down an isolated dirt road thirty miles south of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, leaving behind a swirling contrail of dust that turned red against the rising sun. DEA Special Agent Scott Greene sat in the pas-senger seat of the lead Tahoe and focused a pair of twelve-power Steiner binoculars on the two-story walled villa a mile and a half ahead. The villa was dark and there did not appear to be any movement inside or out. Scott keyed the microphone clipped to his vest. "X-ray in ninety seconds," he said. "No alerts." A pair of double clicks on the radio confirmed that the agents in the two trailing Tahoes had received the message.
Scott set the binoculars on the console and looked at the driver, a kid named Hitch, not even out of his twenties, with only two years on the job. He was a good agent, hard work-ing and eager, but this was his first cross-border operation and Scott knew he needed to keep an eye on him. Then he glanced over his shoulder at the agent in the back seat. Garza had been with DEA for ten years, the same amount of time as Scott. They had only been two classes apart at Quantico. Garza was a steady, solid, dependable agent. And he knew Mexico.
The three of them were dressed exactly alike, black 5.11 cargo pants, black ballistic vests, over which each wore a black cargo vest with lots of pockets. They had stripped off all of the patches from their vests that identified them as DEA agents. This was an unauthorized and illegal operation. Each agent also wore a black Nomex balaclava rolled up on his head like a skull cap, ready to be pulled down to hide their faces as soon as they reached the villa.
"You guys ready?" Scott asked.
"Fuck yeah," Hitch said, with all the exuberance and in-experience of youth. Hitch assumed that everything would go well and that by this evening they would all be tossing back beer and boasting of their exploits in Old Mexico. Scott knew better. A year in Afghanistan on a counter-drug task force had taught him just how fast things could go bad. He glanced again into the back seat. Garza just nodded. Yeah, Scott thought, he knows.
The two Tahoes trailing them each carried three agents. Nine agents total to snatch one man. The man who had helped orchestrate the abduction and murder of a fellow DEA agent. They were all motivated, all driven to succeed. There was no question about that. The only question Scott had was whether that motivation and drive would be enough to carry the day. He checked his watch. It was 6:00 a.m.
He had briefed his team two hours ago. Standing at the head of the conference table at the DEA Laredo Field Of-fice, Scott had opened a digital photo on the large flat-screen television mounted to the wall. The photo was a head-and-shoulders picture of a Mexican man in his thirties. The top of a police uniform shirt was visible in the photo, in-cluding the brass insignia of his rank pinned to each side of his collar.
"This is our target," Scott had said. "Sergeant Felix Ortiz of the Mexican Policia Federal. You all know him be-cause you've all spent the last three months busting your ass-es to dig up enough evidence to charge this scumbag with Mike Cassidy's murder. Unfortunately, you also know that the indictment we got on him is, for all intents and purposes, the end of this case. Main Justice has requested extradition, and the Mexican government has refused. Even with the death penalty off the table, the Mexicans won't budge. The bottom line is that the government of Mexico will never agree to extradite Ortiz to the United States."
None of the eight agents sitting around the long table spoke. There was no need to. What Scott had said was true and they all knew it.
"That's why we're going to Mexico to get him our-selves," Scott said.
Kat, the one female agent at the table, spoke up. "How do you know where Ortiz is?"
Scott looked across the table at her. Kat was in her thir-ties, half Mexican, half Anglo. She was an attractive, tough, and experienced DEA agent, an asset to his team. And she might or might not be dating Garza. In the six months since Scott had transferred to the Laredo Field Office as the new RAC, the resident agent in charge, he had yet to figure out all of the interpersonal dynamics of the agents under his su-pervision. Some things, he figured, he just didn't need to know.
"I got a call at eleven o'clock last night," Scott said. "The caller said Ortiz is holed up in a villa thirty miles south of Nuevo Laredo."
"Who was the caller?" a black agent named Jackson asked.
"He wouldn't give his name," Scott said. "All I could tell from his voice was that he was Mexican, older, probably fifties or sixties. But he seemed to know what he was talking about. He gave me a detailed description of the house where Ortiz is hiding out, including the GPS coordinates. He also told me that Ortiz is not alone."
"Meaning?" Garza said.
"He's being guarded."
"How many?" Kat asked.
"At least two," Scott said. "Maybe more. And they're with him around the clock."
"Los Zetas?" Garza asked.
Scott nodded. "That'd be my guess.
"No one said anything for a minute.
"You're talking about a rendition," an agent named Mil-ler said. He was in his forties and a little more cautious than the others.
"Yes, I am," Scott confirmed. "For a suspect involved in the murder of a DEA agent."
"Headquarters approved it?" Miller asked.
"No," Scott said. "Because I didn't ask."
Jackson pounded the table. "That's what I'm talking about. Fuck asking. Fuck headquarters. Let's just go get this sad sack son-of-a-bitch."
Scott looked at his team, making sure to make eye con-tact with each agent. "This is strictly unsanctioned. Volun-teers only. If you want to talk about it amongst yourselves for a few minutes..." Scott checked his watch.
"There's nothing to talk about," Kat said. "Felix Ortiz lured Mike Cassidy across the border to a meeting so Los Zetas could kidnap him. Those animals tortured and mur-dered him and cut off his goddamned head. Now we have a chance to get the son of a bitch who set Mike up." She stood. "The only question I have is what the hell are we waiting for?"
Two hours later they were here. Thirty seconds from the target and closing. "Brace yourselves," Scott said. He checked his seatbelt, then pulled down the balaclava to cov-er his face.
Hitch gunned the engine.
The sprawling two-story villa had a red tile roof and was sur-rounded by a high stucco wall. The Tahoe hit the wooden gate at thirty miles an hour. The gate exploded into a shower of wood. A chunk of it banged across the hood and cracked the Tahoe's windshield.
"Holy shit," Hitch shouted. Then he let out a loud Texas whoop.
The second Tahoe blew through the shattered gate two seconds behind them. An agent named Diego drove, Jackson rode shotgun, and an agent from Lafayette, Louisiana, who went by the nickname Cajun, sat in the back seat. The third Tahoe, with Miller behind the wheel, a twenty-something-year-old agent named Lundy in the passenger seat, and Kat in the back, had already broken off from the column, as per the raid plan, and was circling around to the back of the vil-la.
Hitch braked hard and slid the lead Tahoe to a stop in the courtyard. Two Cadillac Escalades were parked near the villa's extra-wide front door. The house was still dark.
Scott Greene threw his door open and was barely out of his seat when the front door of the villa sprang open and a barefoot man carrying an M-16 stepped onto the porch wear-ing nothing but boxer shorts and a stained wife-beater T-shirt. He looked a little bleary-eyed and unsteady. Which probably saved Scott's life because it gave him the extra few seconds he needed to bring his M-6 carbine up into a combat stance, so when the man on the porch let loose a burst of full-automatic fire in the general direction of the lead Tahoe, Scott was able to squeeze off a three-round burst that hit the man in the chest and dropped him.