Busy weekend coming up, Mammonites, so I’m getting a jump on the Saturday post. Chapter Twenty-One now live. You can download all 21 chapters right here. You keep reading ’em, I’ll keep writing ’em.
Johnson would get his payday, part of the deal, you wanna keep the troops motivated, they gotta know if they hold up their end you’re gonna hold up yours. But Hernandez hadn’t been to war with Johnson, didn’t want any second string talent fucking things up. Julio, Roberto, Miko, Gomez, they’d all shed blood for Hernandez before, theirs and others.
“Johnson, you take the corner here,” Hernandez said as they got to the side of the condo building. “Watch the garage, watch the side door, you see that fuck coming out you put him down and call me, you got it?”
Johnson nodded, little relief on his face, Hernandez knowing he’d made the right call, pretty clear the boy didn’t want the bat in his hands with the game on the line. The condo was on the second floor. Guns out, now, Hernandez and Miko took the elevator, Gomez and Roberto took the stairs, just in case. Mid-afternoon, the building quiet, all Yuppie Anglos probably, a place like this, off doing their MBA bullshit or whatever.
Husam al Din was sitting in the easy chair in the living room, had been for almost an hour. When he arrived, he knocked on the door a couple of times, double-checked the paper he had taken from Lee. 2B, he had the right door. The hallway was empty, so he stood and listened for a few minutes. He had done this often enough that he knew what an empty room sounded like. It took a few minutes with the picks. The woman was a member of the American drug police, so she would be concerned with security. He opened both of the locks, though. He took the .22 from under his jacket and eased the door open, waiting another moment for any reaction. None. He stepped in and looked at the back of the door. There was a thumb lock she could throw when she was inside, one which no one could access from the hall. That’s when he knew for sure no one was home. She would lock that if she were here. He shut the door. He searched the rooms carefully to see if there was anything to learn, then sat to wait for a while for the woman to return, perhaps more to learn that way. He had the shears and the duct tape in the messenger bag on the floor next to him.
Roberto and Gomez went up the stairs quickly, Gomez moving into the hall first, then motioning for Roberto. The stairs came out one door away from 2B. The elevator was at the far end of the hall. They would have to wait a moment.
Hardin and Wilson watched from a table in the window of the coffee shop, saw Hernandez’s group come up Warren, Hernandez leaving the scrawny kid in the red polo shirt at the corner – the same kid Hardin had seen hanging around the last few hours, eyeballing the condo.
“Looks like you were right,” said Wilson.
“Paranoia pays,” said Hardin. “You see the Escalade anywhere?” He’d watched the black SUV turn off of Main, the kid following it down to the alley.
Wilson shook her head.
“So could be another guy or two we can’t see,” Hardin said.
“Yeah,” said Wilson. “Wrong time to make our play.”
“Sorry,” he said.
“For what?” she asked.
“Shouldn’t have been on the balcony. Dumb move.”
“Fuck that,” she said. “Water under the bridge.”
Hernandez cell buzzed again, then the ping that told him he had a text. It had buzzed a couple times as he walked up the street, but he wasn’t taking calls right now. But there were only a couple guys that would text him. Be a second before the elevator got up anyway. He checked his screen.
OWNER OF 2B IS A DEA AGENT
Shit. A trap? They bring this Hardin in to set him up? He hit the speed dial for Gomez. No answer. He was about to call Roberto when he heard the gunfire upstairs. Called Julio instead, yanked Miko out of the elevator and headed for the door.
Husam al Din had waited long enough. Very view papers in the apartment, nothing that told him anything. A few pictures, the same attractive woman in several of them, must be the drug agent. The woman would probably not be home until the end of the work day, and the building would be more crowded then. Probably not the time to have the kind of discussion he would need. He opened the door to leave.
Roberto was looking down the hall toward the elevator when he heard the door to 2B open behind him. He and Gomez both brought up their 9mms, but it wasn’t Hardin, wasn’t the woman, a slight man, a bag slung across his back. They paused.
The man did not. He dove to the floor in almost a summersault, right between Roberto and Gomez. Gomez snapped off a shot, missing the rolling man, hitting Roberto in the foot. The man had a gun out now, from inside his coat. Roberto knew if he went down he died. He leaned back against the wall, weight on his good foot, fired at the rolling man. But the man never stopped to aim his weapon, just bounced off the far wall and rolled again, back across the hall, Roberto’s shot punched into the drywall while the man snapped a couple of rounds into Gomez’s abdomen, Gomez stopped, looking down at himself like he was surprised he wasn’t dead, then started to swing his gun back toward the rolling man. The man kicked into Roberto’s bad foot, the pain fogging Roberto’s vision as he fired again. The round punched through the carpet, hit the concrete, whined down the hallway, Roberto tottering away from the wall, between the man and Gomez. The man fired again, one, two, three shots, firing from the floor almost vertically up into Roberto, one of the rounds tearing into his groin, two into his stomach, burning upwards. Roberto went down and the man shot Gomez twice in the forehead.
Hardin and Wilson looked up simultaneously. Gunfire.
“Your place?” Hardin asked.
“Has to be,” she said.
Across the street, Red Shirt was looking up at the building, then looking down the street, then pulling out a cell.
“Not gonna be any good way for you to explain this,” Hardin said.
“I know,” said Wilson. “I think I just became a person of interest.”
“Guess we should go,” he said. Hardin had left the black Honda he bought in Aurora a couple blocks north of the tracks. They headed for that.
As they turned up the sidewalk, tires squealed behind them. The black Escalade spun off Warren and up Main, the driver looking over and seeing Hardin, veering toward them. Hardin shoved Wilson up the street, behind a parked car, pulled one of the 9mms he’d taken from the Italians, braced his feet, sighted carefully down the barrel and put six shots in a cluster just above the steering wheel. The engine stopped racing as the driver’s foot left the gas and the car straightened out a little, slowing, nudging into the parked car next to Wilson.
Red Shirt was sprinting across the street, pistol out, ducking down. As he cleared a park car onto the walk and tried to bring his gun up, Hardin heard a shot, saw some spray off the kid’s hip, the kid going down, his gun rattling up the walk. Hardin turned, Wilson coming out of her crouch, her S&W in her hand.
All up and down the street, people where scrambling into stores, ducking behind cars, lots of cell phones coming out.
“Let’s take the SUV,” Hardin said. “Get a little distance, walk back for the car later.”
Wilson nodded. Hardin opened the driver’s side door, the Hispanic behind the wheel slumping out. Two in his head, at least two in his chest. He was gone. Hardin dumped him in the street.
He looked up. Wilson standing over the kid on the walk, the kid squirming on his back, holding his hands out in front of him.
“I got nothin’ ‘gainst you lady. I was after that other guy.”
“He’s my guy,” she said. She shot him in the head, put the S&W back on her hip, turned and climbed into the SUV.
Hernandez and Miko heard the shots from the far side of the building and jogged toward the corner. Got a view just in time to see the SUV blow north up Main, Julio down in the street, the kid down on the walk. They instantly turned and started walking west.
“Walk up a bit, call the LK crew out in Aurora, have somebody pick our asses up,” Hernandez said.
“This wasn’t any DEA sting.”
Miko nodded again.
“Gonna have to think on this.”
Miko nodded again. Nothing to say.
Hardin punched it, shooting up a block, turning in, winding through the neighborhood.
“That was a little cold,” he said. “The kid.”
“Yeah,” she said.
He waited. “You got a problem with that?” she asked.
He thought for a moment. “No,” he said. “No, I don’t think I do.”
Wilson’s foot nudged the backpack on the floor of the passenger side. She picked it up, looked inside.
“You want to know the bright side?” she said.
“Could use one,” answered Hardin.
She pulled the shrink-wrapped brick out of the backpack. “Now we’ve got the diamonds and at least a couple million worth of coke.”