No Borders, No Boundaries: A Hart Jones DEA Thriller
EXPLICIT LANGUAGE AND VIOLENCE
It's more than revenge when a ruthless Colombian kingpin leads a Mexican cartel against the DEA agent who cost him everything. Ex-Colombian druglord Domingo Santos is back. He lost way more than his money could buy when Hart Jones blew his Miami project to pieces. But Dom has found a deadly new game to play in Mexico. And he only plays to win.
Hart has more at stake now, and he's been waiting for this grudge match to continue. His involvement with Mara Santos, Dom's ex-wife, has grown much deeper than either expected, and despite many people's disapproval. Hart doesn't care. He would fight to the death for her, because she's gone that far for him, and they both know Dom is coming back for them. They just don't know when.
In response to the surge of violence along the border by the cartels, Hart is sent to El Paso to head up an elite team. As factions form, loyalties shift, and the most powerful cartels seek their claim to control the drug trade in Mexico, a terrifying new force emerges. Brutal killers with combat training, Los Zetas are predators that have no enemies which Hart and his team discover in a deadly confrontation.
From here Dom fires the first shot. Now he's going to take back what was taken from him, and he's bringing some powerful new friends into his fight. He's joined forces with the most vicious drug cartel in Mexico . Together Mexico is theirs for the taking, and they've sent Hart his own personal invitation to join the fun.
Prologue: Calexico Border Crossing Dec. 15 2010
No way around it, there was going to be a body count. That's what happened when you put together a bunch of guys with itchy trigger fingers, along with some serious firepower, then let them stew in the blazing sun for a few hours. Adrenaline and bullets made for a lethal combination. But as the powers that be had told Hart Jones and his crew, there was no other choice. So now the team waited it out, sweating bullets at the Calexico border crossing.
Hart wiped the sweat off his face and pushed back his unruly mess of brown hair, sopping wet. It was December, but down here it felt like July. And just to rub it in, everywhere he looked, there were palm trees instead of pine trees. The men were crammed into their stakeout positions, suited up with an extra twenty pounds of Kevlar protective gear, and getting antsier by the minute.
“Christ, man! How long do they expect us to sit out here and wait?” Ramon Ortiz rubbed the scruff of his beard as he checked the scope on his DEA order M6A2 semi-automatic carbine. Again. When it came to relationships, Ramon had a better track record with guns than people.
“Long as it takes,” Hart muttered. “So you'd better watch out and you'd better not cry.” It was the week before Christmas and there weren't a lot of happy faces around him.
“Santa Claus better fucking come to town already! That's all I've got to say,” Duncan Kelly cursed across their earpieces.
“They give the orders. We follow them.” Shit. Hart knew he didn't sound like he bought this any more than the rest of his team. He did better at calling the shots than taking orders. But this time, given the circumstances, some major heavyweights had gotten involved on both sides of the border. Once politicians got into the mix, things just seemed to take on a life of their own. As Hart had learned, those guys always seemed to have their own self-serving agendas. All Hart hoped was that he and his team weren't going to go down in a blaze of glory to make some guy up on the hill look good.
“Remember, we're looking for a Chevy Avalanche, US plates, grey.” He needed to keep his guys focused. It had taken time to build this team, to handpick the men and the personalities. These men were among the very best the Agency had to offer, with a formidable blend of experience and skill. But what mattered most was how they worked as a team. Their ease with and respect for each other. Hart knew he was damned lucky to have this elite group. He hadn't forgotten, he would never forget, what went down with Santos and his crew more than a year ago. The hell he still went through of losing his team.
But he wasn't the only one suffering lasting reminders. Thousands of miles away in Miami was the one person who knew Domingo Santos best, and who had put her own life on the line to put him away. Until he was found, until he was dead, Mara Santos, Dom's ex-wife, would have no peace. It wasn't so much the fact that she had fed Hart's team juicy details about Dom's illegal activities and turned State's evidence, so much as she and Hart became lovers. That had gone over like the proverbial lead balloon with everyone, particularly Santos . Only everyone else wasn't ready to shoot them on sight for it. While Hart knew he couldn't predict Dom's next move any better back in Miami, and his team there was doing a great job keeping watch over Mara, he sure as hell didn't like the miles between them. Chatter on his earpiece snapped Hart out of his reverie.
“Grey Avalanche? There's gotta be a million of those around. They couldn't even get us a partial on the plates? C'mon!” Tyrell Baker might have been the youngest member on the team, but he had an excellent point. Hart didn't like that his team might as well be looking for a needle in a haystack at this juncture. SUVs were a common choice for running drugs and guns across the border. This particular make and model were chosen because GM had a manufacturing site in Mexico . Not that GM was actively building cartel vehicles. The vehicles being produced were hijacked on the assembly line and customized to meet the needs of the cartels. It was far easier to build the specialized hidden compartments in places like wheel wells as the car was still being constructed, and the pieces were being fit together. Money, drugs and guns - all had their own secreted space, accessible only by some combination of buttons or switches.
“I hear ya, kid,” growled Paul Rodriguez. “Maybe we won't be out here again next year if we take back the some of the damn guns we keep giving ‘em.” If anyone knew just what they were up against, Paul did. One of the most senior DEA agents on this assignment, he'd worked several major operations against the Cartels, notably Operation Xcellerator, Gunrunner and Project Coronado. He knew what worked, and more importantly what could go wrong. Taut, focussed, his grey eyes and grim expression flashed a “don't fuck with me” sign from a mile away that kept the team and pretty much anyone else in line. He'd been the one to bring Hart up to speed when the assignment came through. And he was one of the handful of people Hart genuinely respected.
So now they waited, in a dusty little border town, watching for a massive shipment of firearms to cross the border back in to Mexico. Calexico was strategically located, a prime link between interior Mexico and the major cities along the west of coast of the US and Canada , with a population that was over ninety percent Latino. More than 60,000 people passed through daily. . Across the border was the town's Mexican counterpart, Mexicali . And just over two hundred miles up the road was LA. Sun, fun, drugs and guns.
Calexico could have been just another bordertown. But it wasn't. Because the traffic crossing back and forth had become a major security issue. Over the past 12 months, the level of violence by the Mexican cartels had escalated to a point beyond anyone's projections. The situation was, unofficially at least, out of control. There was a battle for control over the most lucrative regions along the border as the cartels had aligned themselves into two opposing groups. But the alliances were volatile and uncertain, the fallout from increased local military and police operations utilizing American assistance. Violence erupted as the drug organizations splintered.
Since May , the DEA had started picking up increased traffic coming through the Tijuana Cartel's access point in Calexico. Cocaine, and a lot of it, was making its way right up through the LA corridor. Which meant a lot of money and guns were making their way back to Mexico . With the head of the Tijuana cartel in prison, and some pretty bad infighting decimating the remaining leadership, it didn't make sense that the small, fractured cartel was suddenly turning itself around. Then some intel via a trusted confidential informant, or CI, gave the DEA a head's up on a shipment coming through Calexico. Sure enough, they nabbed a specially outfitted SUV with storage compartments filled with cocaine, having a street value of nearly a million bucks. The bust had netted a lot of drugs, but only a bottom feeder load driver.
Six weeks later, the CI came to them with another tip. This time, they followed a customized Volkswagon to a safe house, where they netted 60 pounds of pure cocaine and some heroine, along with the guy who ran the safehouse and the load driver. The guy who ran the safehouse had over a hundred grand in cash and cases filled with AK-47s and AR-15s, ready to be modified into assault rifles by the flick of a switch, for the driver to take back. But even under prolonged interrogation, the driver refused to give up where the weapons came from. Regardless, it was another successful bust, and now both the DEA and the ATF had their focus back on the Tijuana Cartel.
There were a couple more busts, nothing major. For a while, there was a dry spell. Then their CI got a third tip. No question this was looking too good to be true. But the CI was looking to cut a deal for a new life and a new identity. He wanted out. He was being fed intel from a border agent allegedly getting payoffs from the cartel. Which, unfortunately, happened more than anyone wanted to admit. And the border agent was telling him because he liked the feeling of the money lining his pockets and he liked to talk when he got drunk. This time, he was getting a huge payoff. That meant the bust, if they netted it, would be a whopper. Like Santa Claus come early. What mattered most was this would be a real shot at tracking a major guns shipment back down to Mexico . Of course the ATF had been kept in the loop. With a chance to redeem themselves after the lackluster success of Operation Gunrunner, the brass at the ATF had less asked and more demanded that the DEA call in their best agents for this one. That was why Hart was here, now.
Some of the guys had made noises about being home for the holidays and family commitments. Hart got that. Hell, he finally had his own reasons to be home for Christmas. But apparently Scrooge was in charge now, and no one was going home until this assignment was over. The team members were expected to keep their heads in the game so that they made sure they made it home in one piece. Hart knew from experience what happened when you let your guard down. He had the bullet wounds on his chest, fresh scars still livid pink, to prove it. Though he had managed to blow the druglord's coke and trafficking corridor sky high, nobody ever found the body. Domingo Santos, Colombian kingpin and ruthless son of a bitch, was still somewhere out there. Hart knew that, as sure as he knew he would not rest until he saw Santos buried six feet under. Until then, he would trust his instincts, and hope he was ready for Santos ' first move.
As he felt the rivulets of sweat pooling uncomfortably in his protective gear, Hart mentally reviewed the game plan for the umpteenth time. He and his team of five would keep watch on the U.S. side of the border crossing for the vehicle identified in the anonymous tip. A light grey Chevy Avalanche. No licence plate. No other details.
Once they had the SUV in their sights, Hart's team had been instructed to track it through the line. They would count the number of people visible, but expect others to be hidden. Which brought him to their current problem. How would they know they had the right vehicle? They only had an approximate window of time for the ETA. The one thing they did have, however, was a name for the driver, which netted them a photograph. They had no other details about any passengers. The trick would be to id the driver from far enough away. Once they did that, things would go down fast. They would radio their man working Customs and Borders duty to handle the vehicle. He would have it pull over, a routine inspection. But if this SUV was carrying guns, there would be nothing routine at that point. They would need to prepare for resistance, which would mean weapons drawn, shots fired. That posed a major problem given all the other cars and people around. Sixty thousand people a day crossed the border here. The collateral damage would be enormous. It sure as hell wasn't Hart's definition of acceptable risk. But the people he had to take orders from were insistent that Hart and his team could pull the vehicle over, then contain the people in it before there were any casualties. Hart didn't like it, he didn't know how they were going to pull it off, but they'd been given no choice in the matter.
After waiting more than three and a half hours, Duncan laid eyes first on the SUV. “I got it!” he whispered loudly. “Coming up the middle lane, about ten cars back. Behind the blue pickup truck. There's a white van in the lane beside it so I can't get a good view just yet of who is driving.”
“What other vehicles are around it?” asked Hart, training his sights on the middle lane in what was literally a sea of vehicles. There it was. A grey Avalanche.
“Blue pickup truck in front, white cargo van lane to the left, black SUV lane to the right, beige Camry behind,” confirmed Rodriguez. “FYI there is another black SUV about three cars down, middle lane.” Just like red cars attracted speeding tickets and police, black SUVs carried either law enforcement or the guys they were after. Rodriguez was giving them the heads up, and time to prepare.
“Anybody visually confirm this guy is the driver we want?” Hart asked.
“Roger that.” It was Duncan . “We have a visual now. It's our guy.”
Now Hart had to call it. “Listen up everyone. The ball is in play.” Then he contacted their man working customs. “OK Roberto, you're up. Middle lane, behind the blue pickup truck. Keep it cool, like we talked about. Remember, we got your back.”
Roberto Calzon was young, ambitious and a really good fit for this kind of work. Of them all, he had the most dangerous job as the guy who had to pull the suspects over, but he hadn't even balked at it. Tall, tanned, and fit, he looked calm and in charge as he stopped the cars and questioned the drivers. And as adrenaline deteriorated into stress, he was just irritated enough to pass for an overworked, underpaid government employee.
“This is it. Be ready to move.” Hart sent out the command.
When the Avalanche pulled up to the checkpoint, Roberto stepped out of the booth and walked over to the driver's side. Hart had reassured him that the team would have him in their sights, that their laser sights would be targeted on the vehicle. “Driver's licence, please,” he asked as the window rolled down. And that was when everything went straight to hell.
Copyright 2013 A.C. Biswas
Return to BOOKS