Wheels of Death: Part 1
The first part of the serialized novel, Wheels of Death
Wheels of Death: Part 1
Dear readers and expats,
This is part one of a serialized novel, Wheels of Death. A part will be released once a week on Sundays.
The story follows a man named James “Jimmy” Stout, a career crook, as he entangles himself in criminal plots that pull him further and further into the underworld.
His adventures take him across the U.S., Mexico, Thailand, and beyond.
From the journal of TMS, dated July 17th, 2022 —
When you meet Jimmy the first thing your eyes lock onto is his left ear. He won't tell you how he lost the other one, but it could have only been by brutal and unnatural means.
He speaks to you with a large, booming voice — a voice that matches his physical frame — but he leans away to the right, never looking you straight in the eyes, never letting you see the unsettling scar tissue that ripples down the temple to the hinge of his jaw. It's the one thing he hides from you. I believe it's his one great shame, but paradoxically also his prime motivator, and without it he wouldn't have gotten as far as he has.
I was anxious the first time I met Jimmy. I had tracked him by the wake of his crimes for several weeks prior to our first handshake, so I thought I had a grasp of what kind of harbinger he was. But there was no way I could've known the ways that day would change me. The same was said by others who crossed him — but with that said, he’s not the stereotype you probably have in your mind. He has a sense of humor and natural intelligence that feel rare in our modern times. I’m unsure how else to put that.
You ever get the feeling that there's more to the world than what it seems? That something just doesn't seem right? That in the shadows there are men who pull strings that you will never touch, inking deals on ledgers that you'll never read, murdering for reasons that march into silent graves. That feeling motivated me in my study of crime. I did make progress connecting dots and breaking stories, but none of it compared to what I came to know about the true face of crime in this world after meeting Jimmy.
I knew about crime before — I made a decent living by studying its fault lines that run through the lithic body of our civilization: smuggling routes, cartels, money laundering, corruption, murder for hire — but I never knew it first-hand. Not until I got to know Jimmy and the motley band of thieves, killers, and fiends who cavort with him.
If I had to start over and do this all again, would I have talked about Jimmy's crimes? Would I have brought this heaviness onto me? Yes, I believe it was worth it.
I have often wondered if truly bad men are capable of doing good. This is the inverse of the question, “Why do good men do bad things?” — and after getting to know Jimmy, I know that bad men can in fact do good.
That's all I have to say about Jimmy for now.
Well, there is one more thing. After releasing details about Jimmy and his crimes, a woman by the name of Diane wrote to me. She claims to be Jimmy's ex-wife and that she ran off with their daughter, a girl named Anna Lee, about nine years ago. That's when he began serving time at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. She says that she has been in hiding and knows that Jimmy tried tracking her down after his release from prison. It's not explicit in the letter, but Diane does seem open to establishing a line of communication with Jimmy — given the circumstances of how his situation has evolved, no doubt — by using me as a proxy.
I'm in the process of corroborating the details of her letter now. I don't want to bring any of this up with Jimmy. Not yet, not until I know more. And I should know more soon.
I had the guy tied up with his back against the cherry red wall of this joint called Poncho’s Pizza, a stone’s throw from the US Customs Port of Entry and Ojinaga, Mexico.
The big rig idled in the dirt and gravel lot just waiting for me to hop in and take off. This wasn’t my first rodeo — I’d jacked big rigs before — but before I could roll out, I had to ring Bomba. He’d give me the word.
“I got the goods,” I said.
“Yeah, Jimmy, right on,” Bomba said. “You checked it all out, huh?”
Of course I had, dummy — I wouldn’t have called if this wasn’t the right truck. I kept that thought to myself.
“Permission to ride,” I said.
“Yeah, yeah, sure thing Jimmy. Just one thing first. I want the guy dead.”
That wasn’t part of the deal. I owed Bomba big — I knew that. But I had the rig. I did this job clean. This guy was just a two-bit mule. He looked about 45 years old, pot-bellied, mustache, probably got roped into this whole deal by his own debts. He didn’t need to die. After all this he could scurry back across the border and tell a story to all his amigos back home.
“You heard me, Jimmy?” Bomba said. “I want him trashed. I want his head brought to me. I want the Sinaloa to know how the Jalisco does things.”
“We had a deal,” I said. “I bring you the truck, you settle me up. That's what this was about.”
“It’s a lot more than that Jimmy. You know that. You know what I did for you inside the Big House. And you know what’s hanging over your head if you don’t come through for me.”
I couldn’t back out of our deal. It wasn’t like that with guys like Bomba. I saw how he did things in Leavenworth. You don’t cross guys like him. And we did have a deal — if I held up my end, my debts from inside would be settled up. I wouldn’t owe anybody a damned red cent, and with a clean slate, I could worry about finding my daughter.
“You know he’s already a dead man,” Bomba said. “If he goes back without delivering the dope, the Sinaloa will get him. They’ll get his wife and kids, too. Better you do it than them. At least this way his family still has a chance. Do the right thing, Jimmy. His head.”
Bomba ended the call. I slid the phone into my jeans pocket. My guts sank because I was sure the guy I had tied up didn’t understand a word of the conversation he just overheard, but I could see it in his eyes that he knew.
“You have a family?” I asked the guy. He tried to shrug his shoulders. He didn’t want to think about that right now.
I couldn’t do this out in the open. It was still daylight and traffic flowed through this part of Presidio at a steady clip — some of it going into Mexico, and more of it headed out.
I hooked my arms under his shoulders and dragged the guy across the gravel lot. I unlocked the semi-trailer and swung open one of its doors.
The guy was heavier than he looked. He was hardy, the kind of build you get from working long hours in the world, maybe a farm, maybe construction. He didn’t struggle when I lifted him up into the trailer’s darkness.
He closed his eyes. His muscles relaxed. He didn’t try to scream when I put the knife to his throat.
Like I said, this wasn’t my first rodeo.
But it was the first time I’d saddled up in a rig with a guy riding shotgun whose neck grinned so wide and red.
I couldn’t finish the job. Didn’t have it in me. I figured at some point along the way from this border town to Kansas City I’d find the juice. For now, I plugged up the guy’s neck with my socks. Thank the saints I wore black that day.
The rig popped out of Presidio, Texas — a border town stuck like a tick to Uncle Sam’s side of the Rio Grande — headed north on US Highway 67.
I glanced over at the dead man. His neck plugged up with my dirty black socks. No way to wash that out.
I pulled a stogie from a box I picked up in Mexico. My number one habano, Montecristo No. 4’s. I lit up and the nicotine cooled my nerves. The only way I could find some solace in this mess.
Me and the dead man weren’t the only two in the truck. Between us sat a pint-sized chihuahua. Its little pink tongue poked out the side of its half-cocked grin. He didn’t know what had been done to his master, he was just a pup. But you could see in the dog’s eyes that he knew the guy wasn’t coming back.
The cigar’s ash collected at the tip. I smoked off a third of it then tapped it off on the cabin floor. No sense in keeping this rig clean. It wasn’t mine, and by the time it got to where it was going, it would be some chump’s problem.
The dead man riding shotgun — I learned that his name was Jesus Santiago Gomez from Culiacán. At least that’s what his ID said. I didn’t know if that was fake or not. Didn’t matter. He was dead now.
Gomez’s job was to cart this shipment of fentanyl up to a Sinaloa Cartel contact in the Windy City. The junk was bagged, wrapped up, and tucked away in boxes of cheap space heaters. The kind that sold like hotcakes during winter in Chicago. Most of that city’s buildings were old. Not much modern heat. Those space heaters were life savers and at $20 a pop they did an OK job. Except the boxes holding these ones hid about 1 ton of fentanyl. Enough to put half of the USA out on the final nod.
Now that I’d taken Gomez’s job and was behind the wheel, this truck was headed to Kansas City. That’s where I’d hand it off to my amigo they called Bomba from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. These guys were Sinaloa rivals. And the Sinaloa wouldn’t like how this turned out so much. But that was the point. It was a way to show dominance. A pissing match.
It was high-noon and the Summer Solstice and the Chihuahuan Desert rolled out before the big rig like a dusty brown carpet. The sun beat the tarred asphalt of Highway 67 like an angry hombre on mescal. The rig’s engine purred and every couple miles a car whooshed by headed south to Presidio.
I liked Texas. Big and clean and orderly. Every time I clipped fifty miles I’d see a “Don’t Mess with Texas” road sign. “Up to $2000 fine for littering,” they read. I killed the stogie and didn’t litter. Dropped it in the styrofoam cup of sweet tea I picked up at Whataburger.
The cigar was a treat for the road. I didn’t know what the future held, but with nicotine-soaked veins, the muck I found myself in felt bright. Dead man Gomez rode shotgun, I had the pup in my lap with his dumb grin, and the wide-open arms of the Texan desert before me.
Gomez tricked this rig’s cabin out. I took a closer look at the figurine that sat on the rig’s dash. A mustachioed man with greased up black hair, like an old Mexican crooner from a western flick. I was no stranger to cartel superstition. This was San Jesus Malverde. The Green Jesus. Patron saint of the Sinaloa Cartel. Gomez was a Sinaloa mule through and through.
The narco-saint looked down and away from Gomez. Sad eyes and droopy chin. As if he mourned the loss of the mule. It gave me the creeps. So I yanked the figurine off the dash and tossed it under the seat.
“Final stop, Kansas City,” I said to myself. “It’s only a day away.”
I lit up another stogie and slipped into a nostalgic mood. The chihuahua curled up on my lap, rested its tired chin on my knee, and drifted off to doggy dreamland, wherever that may be.
Riding in the rig across the vast expanse of Texas gave me time to think.
I thought about what was important to me. Truth be told, that list was short. And on top of that list was my daughter Anna Lee.
She was eleven years old by now. What would that be, fifth grade? Right around now she might be studying her times tables with the other kids. Learning the names of clouds. Field trips to science museums.
A couple months after I got locked up, my old lady Diane took Anna Lee and ran off. Disappeared. When I got out I steamrolled through every one-horse town from San Francisco to Miami looking for them. Then I did it again. No dice.
Diane really tightened the screw on me. Not a word, not a phone call, and not a letter to let me know how my Anna Lee was doing. I hadn’t seen her for nine years. That ate me up every single day.
I don’t know how he did it, but Bomba was able to track them down. He showed me photos taken of Diane and Anna Lee going about their daily life. That’s what hung over my head if I didn’t get this job done the way Bomba wanted — their lives.
And if I did do what Bomba told me to do, once I was settled up with him, he’d tell me where my family ran off to.
Diane had no idea that I was fixing to come back to her life. Worse yet, she had no clue that I owed big debts to a cartel schmuck who had his foot soldiers out snapping photos of her at the market, outside of Anna Lee’s school, even in their bedrooms.
I didn’t feel good about any of it.
I hadn’t been sleeping well for weeks. I’d wake up sweaty from nightmares where horrible things would happen to my daughter, and these visions haunted me, followed me around like dark storm clouds. I couldn’t get away from them. No matter where I pissed or laid down my hat, they were there.
Poker players called this mindset tilted. Hijacking a fentanyl shipment from the Sinaloa Cartel then killing one of their mules — that was tilted.
But did I have a choice?
If I could pull this off, I had a chance to find Anna Lee.
Driving this rig gave me plenty of time to think, but too much thinking was a shock to the nerves. I needed a cigar to cool down, so I pulled another from the box and torched it.
I smoked through a half dozen stogies as I inched the rig across Texas. After the cigars, a few pit stops, and a long midnight nap, dawn arrived. The morning sun poked its head out from the eastern horizon and lit up the north Texan prairie. The chihuahua woke up along with the sun. Dogs didn’t know the difference between a good and bad day. They woke up the same to each one with a wagging hiney. I gave the mutt a rub behind his floppy ears and he loved it.
The land was flat up this way, same as down by Presidio, but the color scheme livened up from dusty brown to grassy greens.
Another thirty minutes and I’d be through Wichita Falls on US Highway 277, then hop onto I-44 north and into Oklahoma. I’d be in K.C. before supper time.
I knew damn well that Texas Highway Patrol lurked around these parts. They nabbed travelers on the final stretch of asphalt before leaving the state.
I pulled through Wichita Falls and was looping up to Burkburnett, the last Texan burg before the Okie border, and Gomez started buzzing.
Gomez was dead but his phone sure wasn’t.
I let it ring to voicemail.
A couple minutes later the phone started dancing again. It did the jig four or five times. Somebody wanted Gomez on the horn and bad.
I bit the bullet. Snuck my hand into the dead guy’s jeans pocket. His leg was stiff as a double shot of a reposado.
The screen just said, “Mi Amor.” My Love in Spanish.
I swiped to decline the call.
The phone rang again. I swiped. And then it rang again.
“Jesus H. Christ,” I said. “This bastard is relentless. It’s either his broad back home or a Sinaloa guy wanting an update. Either way, their guy is dead as nails and I’m not gonna be the one to tell them.”
I popped the SIM with a toothpick. Snapped it in two, rolled down the window, and tossed it out to the prairie. Did the same with the phone itself.
Right when I did, the “Don’t Mess with Texas” sign flashed in my mind, and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a patrol car idling — just waiting for any infraction of the law to pull somebody over.
A pair of gumballs lit up my side mirror. The siren rang out across the quiet pasture.
It was none other than Texas Highway Patrol.
The chihuahua snarled at the ruckus. Dogs hated that god-awful sound.
I had no choice but to comply. This wasn’t the movies. No way in hell a big rig could outgun a state trooper.
I pulled the truck over and came to a cool stop. The shoulder of the two-lane highway was barely wide enough for the rig. The engine idled and I eyed the trooper.
The trooper opened his door, stepped out, and spit a stream of chewing tobacco that pooled into the cracks of the tar. He took slow measured steps towards the big rig, stopping only to spit tobacco and adjust his cowboy hat. When he got to the tail end of the rig the trooper radioed the tags into dispatch.
I figured it would be a good time to light up another Cuban. Might not have another chance after this for awhile. I took a good hard look at Gomez and sparked the habano. This was bad. Real bad. Mexican national slumped over in the passenger seat, throat opened up, my own black socks stuffed in to soak up the blood.
Not a good look. No bluffing my way out of this one. Better to savor the last bit of life on the outside with a stogie, stay calm, and play the cards I’d been dealt.
The trooper tapped on the door. “Open her up,” he said with a long Texas drawl. “Hands where I can see them. And step out of the rig.”
I killed the engine and did as instructed. Opened the door nice and slow and showed my hands. Nothing in them — I kept the stogie stuffed between my lips. My feet touched down on the asphalt and the chihuahua hopped down with me. He nipped at the trooper’s pant leg like it was a ribeye.
“Get on now dumb dog,” the trooper said. He kicked the chihuahua hard enough to send it whimpering off back into the truck.
“No reason to kick a dog,” I said. “He’s just a runt.”
“Lucky I didn’t shoot the son of a bitch.” The trooper stepped closer to the truck. He couldn’t see what was sitting in the passenger seat. Not yet. “Anything you wanna get off your chest now, son? Before I search the rig.”
“Go ahead,” I said. “I couldn’t stop you if I tried.”
“Didn’t expect to find a gringo here,” the trooper said. “This rig’s got Mexican plates. I radioed the numbers in and Customs has got this truck being in Mexico as of yesterday. And here you are, a white boy. I thought I’d be face to face with a spic right now.”
“White as snow on Sunday.”
“Reckon something ain’t right with this situation,” the trooper said. “And you stink something devilish.”
“That’d be the stogie, sir.”
“Or like something died on you,” the trooper said. “Why don’t you look at me straight, son? You got a hearing problem or something?”
“I don’t, sir.”
“Then look at me straight. It’s unsettling to look on a man with a slant.”
He grabbed ahold of my jaw and turned my face. He saw what I was hiding.
“And look at your ear — what the hell happened with you there? Damn freak, gives me the heebie-jeebies to see something like that.”
I turned back, looking at him with the slant, so he couldn’t mock my scar.
“Show me your papers,” he said.
The trooper spit another stream of chew. His neck was a thick pale-white sausage and on top sat his head like a wrinkled meatball. He looked about fifty years old and road-tired. His eyes were snaky and flickered as they took in the details around him. A coal-black barreled .357 S&W revolver slept comfy in a holster strapped to his rawhide belt.
“Put that cigar out, son,” the trooper said. “I don’t like the smoke in my eyes. And fetch your papers.”
I did as I was told and dropped the cigar. Snuffed it out with my boot. I looked up at the big Texas sky and wondered what would happen next. Better to get on with it, I reckoned. Fate could never be denied, and it didn’t like delays.
“Yeah, you see,” I said. “I don’t have my papers.”
“You got a name?”
“James Stout,” I said. “But people call me Jimmy.”
“Well, Jimmy. You got an ID?”
“No I don’t, sir.”
“What you mean, son?” the trooper said. “You’re carting goods across the border, up through Texas, and you don’t have nothing with your name on it? What, did that little Mexican mutt eat your papers?”
During my life of crime, I dealt with plenty of cops. I learned that there were good and bad ones, I suppose like any profession. The good ones took their duty and oath to protect and serve seriously, and I respected them for it. But bad cops had one unmistakable tell — they reveled in crime. It excited them. They’d drool like a dog at the thought of sinking their teeth into something crooked.
Sausage Neck here? He was a bad cop. Worse still, he was excitable. I didn’t want to have him stumbling into any surprises.
“No, not this time,” I said. “I think it’d be best if I break it to you now, sir. There’s a dead man in that rig.”
The trooper took a slow step back and reached for his Smith & Wesson. His meaty fingers danced across the butt of the pistol and pulled it from the holster. He took a closer look inside the truck’s cabin. There he spotted dead Gomez riding shotgun.
“Now I want you to listen here, son,” the trooper said. “You keep your hands where I can see them. You take two steps back, turn around, and lean on up against that rig. You do that slow and steady just like I told you and you stay alive. You heard me?”
I did as I was told. The trooper patted me down and cuffed me. He took my phone from my jeans pocket and slipped it into his own. Then he moved me down to the asphalt and laid me face down.
“Now ain’t this some shit,” the trooper said. “Looks like I just stepped into a real cow-pie. I’m gonna need to call in some backup for this pile of doodie.”
The trooper poked around inside the truck.
“Jesus Lord have mercy,” the trooper said. “This ain’t no accident and no act of God neither. He was murdered cartel style. We sure as hell don’t want none of this around up here. But hell, they pay me to clean up messes, don’t they?”
The trooper radioed into dispatch for backup. He made a request for a specific trooper by name, Earl. Dispatch radioed back to wait 15 minutes and he’d be there.
“So here’s how this will go down,” the trooper said. “You’re gonna lay right there on the highway face down. I ain’t put you under arrest just yet, you’re just detained, but I don’t want you talking. I don’t wanna know what happened to our dead amigo in there. He’s a goner, and whether you done him, or his best amigo done him, that’s between him and the Lord at this point. Now I reckon this truck’s carrying goods of value. I’m gonna go take a peak. You stay put. I don’t want no bullshit. You seem like you know the score, I can tell just by your eyes.”
The asphalt had just been tarred over. The black stink still filled the cracks. My lungs took in deep breaths of it. I loved that smell since I was a kid. Whenever roadwork started and the air filled with the tar stink it made me happy. Better than mama’s sweet apple pie. When I was a kid I thought breathing it in made me tough. Sweet things were for softies.
After twenty minutes or so the backup arrived. I heard Earl step out of his patrol car and his boots clacked along the asphalt with cold mechanical precision. One of those boots soon pressed down hard on the back of my neck as if to crush a desert scorpion.
The two troopers got real chatty with each other, but I couldn’t quite make out what they were talking about. They ignored me completely. And it didn’t take them long to find the fentanyl hidden away in the space heater boxes.
After poking around the cargo the two walked back to greet me. Without a word they grabbed hold of my feet and dragged me across the asphalt, face-down, like the 200 pound rag doll that I was. They dropped my legs once they got me to the highway’s dusty shoulder. I ended up staring right square into a tumbleweed.
The two troopers stepped away and started chatting again. Again, I couldn’t make out the topic but I knew the score. These troopers were dirty.
Sausage Neck came around and stood above me. He radioed into dispatch. “Yeah, Carly?” he said. “This is Officer Downs again. Yeah, nothing to be concerned about here. Just stumbled on a truck shipping heaters up from Mexico. All clear, the driver checks out. Just some Mexican that didn’t understand English. You know how they are, Carly. Listen, I want you to make sure that the station’s stocked with Krispy Kremes. Me and Earl whipped up something of an appetite. All this hard work in the morning sun. OK, sweetie pie, alrighty, over and out.”
Sausage Neck squatted down so he could get a good look at me. He spit a stream of chew right in front of my nose.
“So listen up son,” Sausage Neck said. “This is what we’re gonna do with you. You’ve got yourself a whole shit ton of fentanyl in this here truck. I tested the stuff, came back positive as a queer in a toilet. And all that dope don’t hold a candle to that dead Mexican you’ve got in that there rig.”
Sausage Neck spit another stream of tobacco.
“So I guess you’re a bad egg,” he continued. “You know what we do with bad eggs in north Texas? Well, simple. One of two things. Toss them to the dogs, that’s option one. Or some of those old church ladies, they’ll mix up a rotten egg into some potato salad and bring it on down to a Sunday potluck. Mix up a bad egg with enough Miracle Whip and pickle and you wouldn’t know the difference. So, we’ve got two choices for you. The dogs, or the potato salad. Now that choice ain’t mine, I’m gonna leave that up to Earl. See, if it was up to me, I’d toss you to the dogs. There’s plenty of critters out here in this field that’d eat you up in a jiffy. And then we just take this dope off your hands. Problem solved. But maybe Earl will have another idea. Maybe get you mixed up in some god-awful potluck salad. I’m rooting for you, son. Give me a minute to go fetch Earl. I want to get this all wrapped up and finished soon.”
If there was one thing I despised, it was the metaphors that cops loved to spout off when they had a perp on the ground. The Texas trooper took the practice to strange new heights that I couldn’t quite grasp. Rotten eggs and potato salad and Sunday potlucks with old church ladies. Whatever that was supposed to mean, it was likely bad.
The chihuahua yapped inside the rig. He was going nuts and you could hear the stress in his yelps. Then he whimpered. A real sad, long whimper. I couldn’t see what happened to the pup, but he was in pain.
Here was the score. Things looked grim but I wasn’t going to let two rotten cops take me under. I could deal with prison — but I had a hunch that’s not where I was headed if these two had their way.
I could stay laid down on the dirt or I could get up and fight. The odds were stacked against me but I didn’t care. If I was going to meet up with Gomez at the Big Enchilada in the sky I wanted to do it on my own two feet. I had to play my last hand.
In one smooth move I rocked my knees and chest with as much as I could muster. I popped up and somehow got back on my feet. I stumbled back a couple steps but my heels dug in and caught my balance. Then I snuck to the front of the rig and hunched down, my sights locked onto Earl.
Sausage Neck was in the back of the trailer scoping out the fent. Earl was all alone and had stepped half-way up into the rig’s cabin. He wouldn’t see me coming.
I heard a loud slap, like a racket slapping a tennis ball, and I realized that was Earl hitting the chihuahua. That’s what set me off.
Earl was tall and thin as a beanpole. I waited for him to step down from the cabin. Then I rushed him head first like a battering ram. He turned right before I smashed my shoulder into his ribs. I caught a glimpse of the shock in his eyes before I leveled him to the asphalt.
The chihuahua hit the ground, legs splayed out, and yelped trying to catch his balance and his breath. It was Gomez’s pup, so I figured it understood commands in Spanish. “Vamonos,” I said. “Vamonos, vamonos!”
The chihuahua scurried its paws across the asphalt and hit the field running. It didn’t look back.
I had to move quick. I had Earl on the ground and the tables had turned in my favor. I started kicking the bastard’s sides hard and fast like I was a birthday boy whacking a piñata. After a half-dozen kicks Earl was a wheezing mess. He struggled to suck wind.
Earl was down for the count and I stood above him like I was a champ in the ring. One big problem. My hands were still cuffed up behind me.
Sausage Neck would be back any second. I squatted down and wiggled Earl’s pistol from its holster. Two ticks later and I had my hands on a matte-black SIG SAUER P320. I had to aim it from my backside. It made things awkward, but gave me better odds than eating dirt. My fingers tangoed with the trigger and like a pimple-faced chump feeling up his first pair of knockers I shot off an early round. It zipped across the Texas prairie and hit nothing but air.
Sausage Neck heard the gunshot and waddled out from the trailer to take a gander. He spotted the absurd sight of me waving a pistol from cuffed hands. I might as well have been doing stand-up comedy. Sausage Neck was red and in tears laughing so hard. He got hold of himself when I spun around and fired off another round. He drew his .357 S&W and trained it on my melon.
“Now you put that pistol down son,” Sausage Neck said. “Or I’m gonna shoot you down right here.”
I shot off round three. A big, fat miss.
“You couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn,” he said. “Now cut the Mickey Mouse shit and get your ass back on that ground.”
Sausage Neck fired at me. The round whizzed inches from my left ear. I heard the lead sing like a falsetto in the opera. The trooper was a skilled shot and there was no sense in testing his aim again. I dropped the SIG and then dropped to my knees. Sausage Neck trotted over and planted his boot in my backside. My face hit the ground hard in defeat.
Before long Earl was back on his feet. Sausage Neck waved him over and the two troopers both took turns kicking me like I was a sack of beans. Their boots came in hard and fast. They started with the kidneys then worked up to the ribs and then my face.
The shades were drawing down on me, and as my world dimmed my mind’s eye pulsed with images of cut-throat Gomez, the mustachioed figurine San Malverde, and the last time my arms held Anna Lee.
The kicks kept on coming and just like that it was lights out.