Contributor: Gary Clifton

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Eighteen years I'd been on the job. The convenience store guy had just taken my 89 cents for a pack of Juicy Fruit. This bozo in a hoodie barged in and busted a cap in the ceiling. I shot him through the left ear - permanent rehab. My second round shot the big toe off another customer. DEA decided the head shot was hunky-dory, but one extra toe equated to one year's assignment in Mexico. Go figure.
So along with twenty million other souls, 55,000 cops, and 60,000 taxis, I'd done 11 months, one week, and three days in teeming Mexico city, assigned to the Mexican Federal Judicial Police. Washington called it "Operation Interdiction." "Operation Screw-up" was a lot better fit. Federales and dope war in Mexico - think Moses holding back the Red Sea. Every Federale carried a .45 automatic and was quick to use it. My assignment was to watch and duck - near as I could figure..
I'd finally beat Montezuma's Revenge, but I still slept with pistol in hand. I crept around expecting to die of ptomaine from bad food, or be assassinated by a fat cab driver, or a cartel flunky, or a traffic cop. But what the hey, that would have been too easy. Headquarters had a more diabolical recipe.
Mother of all mistakes, some clown from Washington called. "Ludowsi, we're sending you a rookie for two weeks assimilation." Before I could even cuss, he hung up. The flight arrival info arrived instantly by email.
The kid was young, blond, and had a Masters in Spanish Literature from an ivy league school. "You ain't gonna be able to understand a damned word these locals say," I explained. It was like an English translator from upper Volta trying to communicate with an English speaking ATM - pretty tricky stuff.
"Do we have an assignment today?" the Rook asked, not having heard a word said about the language thing.
"Yep, we're going to ride in the back seat of the Comandante's Cadillac. We follow two dopers from the U.S. side, and seize the cash and dope they accumulate from selling their trunk-load of pistols to dope dealers and the like. Welcome to Operation Interdiction."
"Pistols in the trunk? How do you...?"
"We opened it last night and wrote down the serial numbers."
"What about the Fifth Amendment?" the Rook's eyes cloned my ninth grade algebra teacher.
"You would be referring to the Fourth amendment which zeroed out when you flew over the Rio Grand," I gestured to the north.
"What a strange place." He'd learn soon enough "Strange" didn't quite make it.
Commandante Carlos Alvarez waited on us at curbside. He stepped out, corpulent, manicured nails, and a beautiful head of black hair with matching mustache. "Nice to meet you, Rook," he said in unaccented University of Texas English.
After three hours of watching the slimy duo peddle guns in a hundred places, Carlos leaned back and said in English: "They're down to no guns. They took on very little dope...oughta be holding a wad of cash." I immediately knew the Federales had already swooped up the dopers' customers, kicked the dogshit out of them, confiscated their money, guns, and what have you, then clapped then in that dungeon they called a jail.
"I'm ready for lunch," I said. "End this when you want...we're only ornamental."
So a gaggle of Federales blue lighted the hapless pair down, dragged them out of their Mustang, kicked some preliminary ass, and had then face down on the asphalt in three seconds. "Oh oh, lizard-skin boots...Justin's I'm afraid," I raised up in the back seat, better to see.
"Boots?" the Rook asked.
I probably should have given the kid a head's up. "Rook," I said. "See that green haze back to the North?"
"Yeah," the Rook craned his neck to the rear window.
"That's smog. Hell of a problem down here." The explosion of two gunshots pinned the tail on my comment.
"Murder!" The Rook whirled back to the two dopers, pulled a pistol from his boot, and started out of the Cadillac. The two dopers lay in a spreading ring of crimson, dead as good manners.
"Get your ass back in here and hide that hog-leg. Carlos is walking over here with that .45. A word from you, he puts one between your eyes, then I cap him and try to ram the Embassy gates with this Caddie."
"He'd shoot us?"
"Only if you run your mouth."
"Murder, Dumbrewski...murder."
"It's still Ludowski, dude. Murder is a term with variable meaning. Sit, understand?"
The kid stuffed the pistol out of sight just as Carlos leaned in. "Sucker tried to grab my pistol. Y'all see what happened?"
"Naw, me 'n the Rook was lookin' at the puta over there...short skirt."
"You see?" Carlos asked the Rook, eyes still in detached death mode.
The Rook shook his head like a dog with a snake, eyes wide as silver dollars. Carlos walked away, stuffing his .45 in his waistband. "My God, what sort of hell have we gotten into?" the kid's voice cracked.
"Hell? Slick, that's two sorry dope dealers who won't be in a San Antonio school yard peddling smack next week."
"What will they do now?" He was still trembling.
"As soon as they get us gone, they're gonna get them lizard boots...and if there ain't too much blood on them blue jeans, they'll take their britches they keep the Mustang." I raised up for a better angle.
"The bodies...what...?"
"Oh that. They'll haul them up on that mountain yonder for the coyotes to eat."
"My God, they shot 'em for" the Rook's eyes were still astounded. "Why not just leave them in the street."
"Hellfire, Rook, didn't them academy mopes teach you any etiquette? Leaving bodies in the street ain't civilized."

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Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has over thirty short fiction pieces published or pending with online sites. He has an M.S. from Abilene Christian University.
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