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“Uh-uh
... Captain,” the loader said in a dark, cave-deep voice.

 
          
“It
will cost you one thousand dollars, in advance,” Cazaux said. He extended his
hands toward the bundles of cash held by the head loader, motioning for the man
to toss him the money.

 
          
“That
ain’t the deal,” the head loader said. “We split the money later.” But Cazaux
hefted the AK-47—not aiming it at them, but the threat was clear—and the loader
counted out a thousand dollars in one-hundred-American-dollar bills from the
sliced-open packet and handed it to the black man.

 
          
“Work
hard, and it will be returned to you with substantial interest,” Cazaux said,
holding out his hand.

 
          
The
black man scowled at Cazaux, clutching the cash in his big hands. “I ain’t
paying you nuthin,’ man,” he said. “You got your own damned plane, man, you can
get me in.”

 
          
“Just
stick the nigger in with the rest of the baggage,” one of the other loaders
suggested with a laugh.

 
          
A
stern glare from the Belgian mercenary silenced the loader. “You will need a
passport for some of our destinations,” Cazaux said, “and it costs a lot to get
a good document.” He shrugged. “Part of the price of doing business.”

 
          
The
anger rising in the black man’s chest was enough to raise the air temperature
in the hangar several degrees.

           
“Trust
me,” Cazaux said reassuringly.

 
          
The
guy finally relented, handing Cazaux the money and hopping aboard the L-600.
The others were hustling toward the side hangar door as fast as they could.
They were sure the big black guy was going to turn up dead in a very short
period of time, like as soon as he closed the hangar doors.

 
          
“You
are the one they called Krull?” Cazaux asked the one remaining loader.

 
          
“Yeah,”
the black man replied.

 
          
“Is
that your real name?”

 
          
The
man hesitated, but only for a second: “Hell no, Captain. And I’ll bet you ain’t
no
captain
, either.”

 
          
Cazaux
knew the man’s real name was Jefferson Jones, that he was just paroled from a
Florida
state penitentiary, serving three of seven
years for armed robbery, and that he had a common-law wife and two kids. An
arrest for dealing drugs, no conviction, and an arrest for selling guns, again
no conviction. A small-time hood, dabbling in crime and so far not
demonstrating any real aptitude for it. Cazaux’s sources described this one as
a good worker, good with a gun, more intelligent than most foot soldiers, a
quick temper when provoked but otherwise quiet. “Good answer, my friend,”
Cazaux said. “I saw your dossier.”

 
          
“Say
what?” Big eyes growing wide with surprise.

 
          
“Your
records. I know you are telling the truth. Lying to me is fatal, I assure you.”

 
          
“You’re
the boss,” Krull said. “I ain’t lying to you.”

 
          
“Very
well.” Cazaux knew that Jones had used a variety of weapons in his years as an
armed thug, and Cazaux had chosen him, whether Krull knew it or not, over all
the other hirelings as a possible recruit. “You begin work immediately. Open
those hangar doors, close them after we taxi clear, hop aboard, then close this
door like so.” Cazaux showed him how to close and latch the large rear cargo
door, and Krull left to see to the hangar door. He had no trouble opening the
manually operated steel doors, and soon the warm
California
night air was seeping into the hangar. Time
to get moving.

 
          
“Prepare
to start engines,” Cazaux shouted forward to the Stork. “I want taxi clearance
right now. Report our position on the field as the Avgroup cargo terminal, not
this location. Let’s go.” He bent to make one last check of the cargo straps
before heading up to the cockpit.

 

 
          
Aboard an Army UH-60 Assault Helicopter
That Same Time

 

           
The image on the nine-inch color
monitor wavered as the helicopter passed by some electrical transmission lines,
but the picture steadied as soon as they were clear. “I didn’t hear you that
time, Marshal Lassen,” Federal District Court Judge Joseph Wyman, Eastern
District of California, said. “Repeat what you just said.”

 
          
“Your
Honor, I said that because Henri Cazaux is extremely dangerous, I must be
granted extraordinary latitude for this capture,” Chief Deputy Marshal Timothy
Lassen said into the videophone, a suitcase-sized unit strapped into the UH-60
Black Hawk’s helicopter seat across from Lassen. Lassen, age forty-eight, was
the number-two man in charge of the
Sacramento
office of the
U.S.
Marshals Service, Eastern District of
California. He was speaking on a secure voice/video/data microwave link to the
federal courthouse in
Sacramento
while speeding southward only one thousand feet above ground toward
Chico
Municipal
Airport
. Lassen’s lean frame was now artificially
beefed out with a thick Kevlar body armor vest over a loose-fitting black
flight suit, recently purchased from a mail-order catalog for this particular
mission; a black vest with the words u.s.
marshal
in green covered the bulletproof vest. His boots were scuffed-out survivors
of the Marshals Service Academy Training Course at
Quantico
,
Virginia
, and used since then only for duck hunting. He wore a plain black baseball
cap backwards and a headset to speak on the videophone over the roar of the
helicopter’s twin turboshaft engines.

 
          
Judge
Wyman had been summoned to his desk at
midnight
to issue an arrest and search warrant for
Lassen’s operation. Even distorted by the scrambled microwave linkup and the
occasional interference, it was obvious that the judge was not happy. “
‘Latitude’ is one thing, Deputy,” Wyman said irritably, “but your warrant
justification reads like something out of the frontier West.”

 
          
“I
think that’s a slight exaggeration, Your Honor.”

 
          
The
videophone system was full duplex, like a regular telephone, but it would not
easily tolerate interruptions— Lassen’s interjection went unheard: “I’ll buy a
no-knock and use of military
transport
aircraft for the raid, Deputy, but the gunship is out.”

 
          
“Your
Honor... Your Honor, excuse me,” Lassen said, repeating himself to successfully
interrupt the judge, “Henri Cazaux is the number-one fugitive on our
most-wanted list, with fifty-seven federal warrants issued for him to date. He
is an internationally known terrorist and arms dealer. He’s the biggest
gunrunner in southwestern
Europe
, his
efficiency and ruthlessness is putting the Italian Mafia to shame in southern
Europe
, and now he’s in the
United States
, where he’s been connected to several
attacks against military arsenals. He has stolen everything from Band-Aids to
glide bombs, and he knows how to use them all—he’s ex-Belgian Special Forces
and an accomplished pilot. He has the Marshals, the FBI, ATF, and the state
police outgunned in every category. We have to use military air just to even
the odds.”

 
          
Judge
Wyman shook his head at the videophone unit’s camera lens on his desk and
continued: “Use of deadly force? Use of military aircraft and weapons?
Dead or alive?
What is this, a vendetta?
I will
not
sign a ‘dead or alive’
warrant, Deputy.”

 
          
“Your
Honor, Cazaux is known to have killed four federal officers this year,” Lassen
said. “He hasn’t used anything smaller than an M-16 or AK-47 infantry rifle on
any of his victims, and one marshal was believed to be killed by a direct hit
by a forty-millimeter grenade, a weapon used for punching holes in walls and
bunkers. We identified the dead agent by recovering one of his fingers that had
been blown nearly a hundred yards away.”

 
          
It
was the judge’s turn to interrupt—Lassen stopped talking when he saw Wyman
talking, and the judge’s stern voice came through as soon as Lassen stopped
talking: “... have to remind me of any of that, Deputy,” Wyman said, “and I’m
very familiar with an M206 grenade launcher and its effects, thank you. I fully
understand how dangerous Henri Cazaux is. But the objective of a warrant issued
by this court is to grant legal permission to
arrest
a fugitive suspect, not carry out an assault—or an
execution.”

 
          
“I
assure you, Your Honor, my objective is to capture Cazaux and bring him to
trial,” Lassen said. “But I cannot accomplish this mission safely without
substantial firepower. Cazaux is a killer, Your Honor. He has demonstrated that
he will fight it out, kill any law-enforcement agents nearby, use the weapons
he smuggles for his own defense, even kill his own workers, rather than be
captured. He’s like a raccoon caught in a trap, Your Honor, except he won’t
hesitate to chew off someone
else’s
leg to escape. I need extraordinary powers if I’m to try to apprehend him. If I
don’t get them, I
will not
send my
men in.”

 
          
“Don’t
you give me ultimatums, Deputy Lassen,” Wyman said angrily.

 
          
“I’m
trying to emphasize how dangerous Henri Cazaux is, Your Honor,” Lassen
continued quickly. “I attached an FBI psychological profile. Cazaux was
imprisoned and abused by GIs when he was a child, and he turned to violence
ever—”

 
          
“Say
again, Deputy Lassen?” Wyman interrupted. “I thought Cazaux had never been in
prison?”

 
          
“As
a minor, he was caught on a U.S. Air Force cruise missile base in
Belgium
, selling hashish to
U.S.
security policemen,” Lassen explained. “He
was turned over to the Belgian authorities, but not before being imprisoned and
repeatedly raped by the guards for two days. I heard they even shoved
nightsticks up him. And he was only fifteen years old. He kills foreign
servicemen on sight, Judge—he always Tias. I think he’ll target my SOG troops
the same—” “I understand what you’re telling me, Deputy,” Wyman interrupted,
“but even though he may seem like one, I want him brought to justice, not
killed like a rabid dog. Don’t ask this court for the power of life and death,
then refuse to carry out your duties if you don’t get it. You want my signature
on a warrant, mister, you follow by my rules.

 
          
“I’m
deleting the ‘dead or alive’ condition—you
will
bring Cazaux and his men in alive, or you will explain to me and the
Attorney General of the United States why you failed to do so, and I assure you,
Deputy, your career and where you spend the night—at home, or in a federal
prison cell—will hang on your response. And you may use any military aircraft
to transport your agents and for
observation,
but they may not approach closer than five hundred meters from the suspects,
and they may not use their weapons unless fired upon by the suspects. Now, are
you going to abide by my orders, Deputy Lassen?”

 
          
He
had no choice. Wyman was the most cold-blooded of the federal judges and
magistrates in the District, and if
he
had
objections to any aspect of a warrant, it was best not to argue. The way was
still clear to do whatever it might take to put Cazaux out of business, but an
unwarranted death would mean the end of Lassen’s career. It might be worth a
twenty-year career for the chance to end Cazaux’s miserable life, but playing
by the rules was important to Timothy Lassen. Carrying a gun, a badge, and a
federal warrant made a man pretty big in some people’s eyes, and it was easy to
start believing that justice was whatever you chose to make it, especially with
sociopathic killers like Cazaux. Lassen was determined not to let his
Constitutionally mandated power corrupt him. Lassen was also determined not to
fuck up his career at this point, no matter who they were pursuing. Tall, with
an athletically lean frame and dark hair and brown eyes, Timothy Lassen had
been with the Marshals Service since 1970, and had several assignments in both
California
and
Oregon
. For eight of those years (from 1980 to
1988) he had served in the Special Operations Group (SOG). He was the SOG
deputy commander from 1988 to 1990 and then reassigned to the
Sacramento
office as Deputy U.S. Marshal in 1991.
“Yes, Your Honor,” Lassen replied.

BOOK: Brown, Dale - Independent 04
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