What Goes Around: A Hart Jones DEA Thriller

Mara Santos is stunning, educated, resourceful – and the desperate wife of ruthless Cartel kingpin Domingo Santos. Damaged and damned, she is ready to do anything to escape the pain of her life with Santos . Even helping put him behind bars.

Hart Jones heads up an elite department within Miami DEA. At 35, he is at the top of his game, steadily chalking up wins against the local drug lords, but it isn't enough. Hart blames himself for a deadly shootout that happened five years ago, in a failed attempt to take down Santos . Hart lost his brother and his best friend that day. He won't let go of the guilt or the grief until he finally brings down the man who pulled the trigger.

Mara, too, is haunted by her guilt from that day. She was at Dom's side when he took out the two DEA agents. She cannot forget Hart's scathing indictment of her association with Dom. Seeking redemption, Mara puts together a dangerous plan that will buy her freedom as it hands over Dom and the Cartel to the Feds. She approaches Hart as a mystery informant with valuable information about the Cartel. Mara knows the risk she is taking. She cannot trust anyone. She goes to Hart - the one man Dom cannot intimidate or buy. But there are a lot of powerful and dangerous people on Dom's payroll. Eyes and ears who keep Dom one step ahead. People Hart knows but should no longer trust. When Mara's true identity is revealed, she must prove herself to the man who condemned her, and everyone else.

Mara is the last thing Hart expected but exactly who he needs. She has the details about Dom's elaborate plan to create a new drug route through the Caribbean . As Mara and Hart ally against Dom, a deeper bond forms. But the stakes are too high for Dom and the Cartel to lose. Dom strikes back hard at the DEA, and the body count soars. Running low on time, luck and manpower, Hart must confront the unthinkable as he works to stop the Cartel's plans and keep Mara safe from the man who would destroy them both.

Prologue: 5 years earlier

There was no way out. Peering over the edge, Hart Jones pulled himself back, tight against the wall, feeling the burn of the blast as another round whizzed past him. They were out manned, outgunned, and in his expert opinion, out of luck. He shielded his eyes from the glare of the Miami sun as he looked across the cobblestoned courtyard, and sized up his options. The staccato burst of automatic weapons fire shattered the marble balustrade behind him, raining sharp fragments of stone down on Hart. Another indication that things were going from bad to worse, fast.

This was the lion's den if ever there was one. They were uninvited guests at the opulent estate of Dominic Santos, cartel kingpin and vicious son of a bitch . Santos was young, ambitious, and completely ruthless. He didn't make idle threats. Santos had warned the feds of the dire consequences if they made the mistake of trying to interfere in his affairs. And now here they sat, pinned down in his lair. Hart reconsidered his options, what few they were, again. He always said that when Dave and Tony were with him, he didn' t need luck. But he sure as hell knew he could use some right now.

His brother, Dave, shifted restlessly beside him. While the ammo had lasted, their position had been great for Dave 's aim. He had taken down enough of the bad guys to do some serious damage to the Cartel' s manpower. Tony was crouched down beside Dave, ready to make a break for it when the opportunity presents itself. If it ever fucking did. Hart grinned over at them, hoping he looked more confident than he felt. He didn't blame his boys for being nervous. Tony gave him a sideways look. “Jesus, Hart. Tell me you didn't expect this. Santos warned us what he'd do if we pulled something like this on him. He doesn't make idle threats. You know that! So what's your gut saying now?”

“That I can't wait to finally take down Santos and his whole damn Columbian cartel. We just gotta stick it out a little longer. Backup is on the way.” Except where the hell were they? Hart knew something was wrong but he needed to keep that to himself, because help was not on the day. Damn it. He has that feeling in the pit of his stomach. No one expects cops to be superstitious, but a lot of them are. Hart liked to say he ran on instinct. But his instincts were telling him that things weren't going the way they should be. Something very wrong was about to happen. Hart didn't care if that feeling happened out on the softball field, or when he was playing the last hand in a game of 5 card stud. But not in the middle of a take down with this particular Columbian drug cartel. Closing his eyes, he shook his head, hoping it was just a case of the jitters. Everyone got them sometime. He took a deep breath, forced himself to focus as he pushed the mass of sweat-soaked hair back from his forehead and opened his eyes. Nothing changed. The feeling was still there.

Dave spoke, trying to hide the fear in his voice. “This ain't the time to go cowboy on us, bro'. We're almost out of ammo and I don't want to be part of the grudge match between you and that bastard, Santos. Tell me you got a plan, ok?”

This wasn't the first time Hart found himself in a tight spot. But it was possibly the worst he'd been in so far. At 30, Hart Jones was a rising star in the ranks of the DEA. His instincts were excellent, and his calls were usually dead-on. He demanded a lot from the men on his team, but Hart demanded more of himself than anyone expected. He knew he was accountable for what happened at the end of the day. That meant he brought his boys back home, alive. Every sinew of his six foot frame was solid, toned, taut, ready. For moments like this, when he would be calling on everything he had. He kept his mind focussed on the moment, here and now. Every decision would be made by instinct, adrenalin and years of training. He hadn't lost a man yet.

“Don't worry. I got a plan and it ain't about gettin' your sorry ass shot off. Not today. ” He managed a sliver of a grin as another hail of gunfire erupts. Assault rifles rained bullets down on them. Tony chose this moment to make a break from the others, who split up as they covered him.

Hart wiped away the steady stream of sweat rolling down his face. It wasn't from the heat. An icy shiver edged up along his spine. He swallowed, hard. Think past the fear, damn it! Focus on finding Santos and his men. Get inside their heads, figure out their next move. He could see Tony's dark head peering stealthily around, getting ready. They didn't call Tony the get-away guy for nothing. When he did break out, Hart swore Tony could outrun anyone or anything, even a Glock 9mm. He'd better have his running shoes, ready, though, because it wasn't going to be such a cakewalk today.

And then all hell broke loose with the next burst of gunfire. A Where are the damn reinforcements? @ Hart could remember thinking, trying to get out from where he was pinned down. The cartel firepower was so relentless he couldn = t get a look out from his position to check on his guys. Dave and Tony could look after themselves, but this was too much. There were shouts and then Dave's voice yelling " Tony' s hit!"

Hart's first thought was " How bad?" His first instinct was to get over to his guys. He broke out of his spot, racing between the bullets as he hurled himself across the expanse of courtyard, to dive down behind a marble fence with Dave.

“Where's Tony?” Hart asked, breathing hard.

"He got past that first wall over there, but they winged him and he's down, behind that ..." Dave pointed across the open expanse of the courtyard to a small stone balustrade. Hart winced. It wasn't much protection. Tony might as well be a sitting duck.

"Tony! You still with us, buddy?" He yelled across the deafening ricochet of bullets. There was no reply. Hart yelled again. "Hey, Tony!" Again, there was no reply. Hart tried to conceal the growing sense of dread he felt from Dave, but it was no good. Dave could read him like a book, because he had known Hart all his life. They were brothers.

Dave knew this situation was all wrong. They were pinned down, waiting for back up that was never going to come and save their asses. He flashed his brother a weak grin. "You better get me out of here in one piece, or Sofia will have your hide!"

Hart made himself look Dave in the eye and gave him a strained smile. “You're my brother. I'm getting us outta here. No one dies on my watch, ok?” That was the last thing he wanted to think about. Sofia. Dave and Sofia had only been married a couple of years now, and they were expecting their first child. Hart remembered the promise he made to her on the couple's wedding day, that he would send Dave home to her, breathing and in one piece, every night. He knew this should be no different than the same promise Hart made to himself for all the officers who reported to him. But it was. Because this was Dave. Even though all their lives were his responsibility. No one died on his watch. No one was going to die now. He looked around again for some way to get out, but there was none. All the access points were covered by Cartel guns. And his side had run out of ammo.

Domingo Santos stroked his goatee and surveyed the carnage, watching as his men closed in on the federal agents. He had expected as much from that pain in the ass Hart Jones, just not so soon. What the hell did they think they were doing, trespassing on his private estate? They weren't going to find anything for their troubles today. He had made sure of that. Hart Jones was one tough cop, but he was making too much trouble for the Cartel, which meant he was making too much trouble for Dom, and the empire he had built. Dom had given the feds clear warning. There was only one thing to be done now.

Dom's agate eyes glittered beneath dark, sardonic brows. He wasn't happy with the losses he'd sustained. His men were lazy, and they needed to be better trained, or better disciplined for what he paid them. These three agents were still alive after what even he considered to be a brutal firefight. Ahh, but wait. Dom studied the courtyard carefully. One of the agents was down. That left only two. And they weren't firing back. Pushing up the sleeves of his black silk Armani shirt, Dom smiled in grim satisfaction. They were ripe for the picking.

A stunning young woman stood just off to Dom's side, watching intently. Tall and lithe, her skin glowed with the natural gold of regular exposure to the sun, but it was the glow of skin that was kept pampered and protected. Her hair fell in shining amber waves past her shoulders, shimmering with highlights. A provocative mannequin, she was dressed in form-fitting turquoise linen capris, and a matching bustier trimmed with rhinestones further accented her obvious assets. She toyed absently with the massive emerald ring on her left hand, while a platinum tennis bracelet on her delicate right wrist glinted blindingly in the harsh sun.

"Stay here, and watch the hunters become the hunted," Dom growled. She remained where she stood, silent, unsmiling. Her wide blue-green eyes followed Dom and her cool, polished exterior, belied nothing at Dom's taste for blood sport.

Dom pulled his Glock 9 from a shoulder holster, and signalled his men to follow him. The compound layout had been specifically designed for his protection. He knew where to hide, and where to seek. The outcome was already decided. He would allow one agent, their leader, Jones, to live. So that he could go back with his tail between his legs and warn the damn DEA, FBI, and everyone else to stay the hell away from Domingo Santos and his cartel.

"Come out, come out where ever you are," Dom called out, his voice a sinister sing-song.

Hart felt the cold fingers of fear snake along his spine. He saw that same fear echoed in Dave's eyes.

We're not getting out of here alive, are we, bro?" Dave whispered. He was shaking, but he didn't want Hart to see. Domingo Santos had them both. Dave had read the reports, he knew the risks. Signing up for this takedown had been his choice. But here, now, with bullets flying and Tony down, it was so much more real. Nobody was coming to get them out of there. All his life he had followed Hart's lead, but now it was time for his big brother to tell him the truth. Dave was shaking, letting the fear inside himout, to write itself across his face. “I am really scared, man. I don't want to die. Not now. Not before Sofia had the baby.” Dave could see his whole life ahead of him. He wasn't ready to go. Not yet. Please, not yet.

Hart had two rounds left. But Dom didn't know that. He thought they were out. Not that it really mattered anyway, because there were a lot more than two of Dom's men to take out. Hart rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes, willing a solution to come to him. So far, it seemed that the only way out of this maze was the way they came in. He shook his head. No, there was always another way, another option. He just wasn't thinking it through right. He'd find them another way out, even if he had to make it himself.

"What do you want, Santos? You know you got us pinned down, and one of my guys is hurt. Name your price!" Hart called out into the courtyard.

Dom stopped. A smile crossed his saturnine features. Was the hot shot from the DEA trying to make a deal? Dom knew enough about Hart Jones that this cop didn't make deals with drug lords like him. He made deals with gutless informers, those fools who got involved, then got scared and wanted out. Then he used that information to build an impressive track record of take downs.

"Are you playing let's make a deal? I don't like the kinds of deals you make, Jones!" replied Dom. "They're bad for business. My business. So, not today." Dom crept closer to the enclave within the courtyard where Hart and Dave were hidden. He could make out the tops of their heads now, just through the leaves of the hibiscus bush.

"I'm serious, Santos. Here's the deal. You let my guys go. Both of them. You don't need them, so just let them go. You keep me. We both know I'm the one you want." Hart saw the stunned look on Dave's face, and shook his head. He needed to negotiate with anything he had, including himself. If he could get Santos to let the others out of this hellhole, he would count that as a win and go from there.

"That's the trade?" Dom responded. "You for them? Ha!" But Hart had his attention now. What else did the big-shot cop have to say?

"Damn it, Santos! I'm the one that's been bringing your operation down. You got me, you got some serious bargaining power. Just let my guys go. Because you know that if you don't, I swear I will make your life even more miserable than I already have." Shards of desperation edged the southern drawl in Hart's voice.

" No, I don't think so, Jones. You're not in any position to make deals with me," replied Dom. He silently motioned his men to go around the bushes, and flank the enclave where his captives were. "You see, I'm too big now for you to fight. I'm not afraid of you, or the DEA. Not anyone. Because if I can't buy you, I don't want you."

Hart's patience snapped. " That's right. You can't buy me, Santos. Not like you buy your thugs, your lawyers, your women." With that he looked across the courtyard at the blonde, the kingpin's wife, the contempt in his eyes raw. "They don't love you. What makes you think they are loyal? Right?" He called across to Mara. "For drugs, for jewels, for fancy clothes you sold your soul to the devil?" He knew it was like throwing kerosene on a fire, but maybe it was then that Hart realized he and his men were as good as dead. And if that were the case, he wasn't going to give Santos the satisfaction of begging for mercy. He owed it to his boys.

As Santos saw things, Jones had just overstepped his bounds. Dom didn't like losing face infront of anyone. He'd had enough. It was time to teach Jones a lesson. He needed to wait for just the right moment.

It came when Dave adjusted his position. As he turned, he saw Dom's face staring directly at him, the Glock levelled at his chest, ready. And in that instant, Dom fired.

For Hart, the nightmare began in slow motion. He heard the roar of the gun, then watched as Dave fell back, his hand reaching at the blackened hole in his chest where the bullet had ripped right through. He didn't remember throwing himself across to try and catch Dave. He heard a voice screaming, and it was his. Dave was wordless. Dave was dead, his green eyes staring lifelessly up at the brilliant blue Miami sky. Shock ran like cold waves through Hart's body. It numbed his mind, dulled his reactions. He could barely register what had just happened. He gathered Dave's lifeless body in his arms, pulled him to his chest. What had he done? Oh, God, what had he done?

But there was no time left to answer that question. Dark shadows blocked the sun as Dom and his men stepped into the enclave. Hart was surrounded.

"And then there was one," Dom's voice was pure menace as he looked down at his captive. He registered the shock on Hart's face. " Mourning your fallen comrades, Jones? They won't mourn you. But then, they won't have to. I have other plans for you." Nodding to his men, Dom ordered " Take him!"

The men grabbed Hart by his arms. He tried to wrestle free, but they pinned his arms behind his back. He struggled harder, almost pulling loose, and then one of the men aimed a well-placed kick at his rib cage, knocking the wind and the fight from him. Through a haze, Hart felt himself being dragged across the courtyard, shock ensnaring his mind.

"Take the bodies and put them in the van along along with Jones. Drive them to the location I gave you. Call the feds, then leave. Do this right or else you can join Jones' friends in that van," Hart heard Santos order his men. Bodies. No, it couldn't be true. Don't let it be true, Hart thought. But he knew in his gut that they had got Tony, too. Then the side of a gun whipped his temple, hard, and there was only merciful oblivion.

Copyright 2013 A.C. Biswas

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