Read The Border Lords Online

Authors: T. Jefferson Parker

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General

The Border Lords (26 page)

BOOK: The Border Lords
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Hood remembered Seliah’s surprising strength, her erratic and erotic aggression, her derangement. “If she’s not cooperative, look out.”
“I’ve read about their strength,” said Brennan. “And the aggression. Rabid dogs get violent, too. Foxes, bats, all of them.”
Hood punched off and called Soriana, told him the facts. Told him they needed to round up Seliah Ozburn and get her to Milwaukee yesterday.
“I’ll have people to her place in less than an hour.”
“Frank, if she’s got this thing, she’s very dangerous.”
“I understand that. We’ll subdue her.”
“What’s the word on Sean?”
Soriana said nothing for a long moment. Hood looked through the dining room and saw Itixa padding her way to the bar.
“About two o’clock today Sean wasted two young men in our San Ysidro house. Came up back side again, walked right by the exterior camera and smiled up at us. Didn’t bother to take out the surveillence system this time. He just barged right in and shot them. No shotgun anymore. He used a couple of those Love Thirty-twos you guys came up with. One in each hand. Eighty shots fired in probably about five seconds. Carnage. We got the whole thing. It’s his death sentence.”
“One of them.”
“We could use you here, Charlie.”
He was out on the nine twenty to L.A. the next morning.
 
 
Seven hours later Hood,
Bly, Morris and Velasquez were in the Ozburn home in San Clemente. Seliah’s car was not in the garage; the laptop was gone; there were a few clothes on hangers left strewn on the unmade bed. Hood and Bly poked around in the closet but couldn’t find the red slip-on sneaks or the Angels cap she’d worn to the restaurant a few evenings before. Or the cobalt blue robe for that matter. The mirrors were still covered or turned to the walls.
“What’s with the mirrors?” asked Morris.
“We’ve all been wondering that,” said Bly.
“Creepy, man.”
Morris and Velasquez tried to coax something useful from an older desktop computer in the spare room, without luck.
Hood had already been told what to expect here, but he wanted to see it for himself. He’d also learned that Seliah had changed the password for her laptop computer. No surprise there. He looked around the living room again, the curtains closed tight over the sun blinds and the house dark but uncharacteristically warm. Hood checked the thermostat and it was turned off. Seliah was gone as gone could be.
His phone buzzed. “Deputy Hood, Dr. Brennan. We couriered the blood sample up to L.A. yesterday evening. Seliah is positive for the rabies antibody. They’ll run other tests to confirm, but she almost certainly has the rabies virus in her, too. We have to assume she does.”
“Have you talked to the Medical College of Wisconsin?”
“UCI Medical Center can do the protocol right here in Orange County. Rodney Willoughby is willing to personally consult. In fact, he insists on it. But UCI can’t do the protocol without the patient.”
“We’re working on it.”
“She might have just a few days to live.”
Hood rang off and gave the other agents the news. Not one of them spoke. They stood looking down or at the thin line of sunlight coming through the window.
“I’m going to try again,” he said. He dialed Seliah’s cell number and got the recording so he left another message about what he had discovered in Costa Rica, and what Brennan was testing for. Then he sent her an e-mail, his third in the last two hours.
Dear Seliah,
 
The test came back positive for the antibody. They can do the Milwaukee Protocol up in Orange County. But it has to happen fast. As in right now. Please call me. Please answer this. Please come back from wherever you’ve gone, and bring Sean, and we’ll get you both to the hospital and treatment. You can win this, Seliah. You and Sean don’t have to suffer.
 
Love,
Charlie
 
A minute later she wrote back from her new e-mail address. “She’s back,” said Hood. “She’s back!”
 
From: Seliah [[email protected]]
Sent: Monday, October 24, 2011 3:24 p.m.
To: Hood, Charlie
Subject: this situation
 
Dear Charlie,
 
I can’t believe what has happened. I’m not sure I do believe it. But I’m not coming back for treatment without Sean. I’m going to work on him because if what you say is true then his infection is two or three weeks ahead of mine. Apologies for my quirky behavior last Wednesday. I didn’t appreciate you committing me to the hospital until now and I retract anything ugly I may have said. If rabies is what I have, I can tell you it brings some wicked evil thoughts into a brain. They are like nothing I’ve ever had. Stand by.
 
Seliah
26
Bradley was led
into Narcotics Bureau Commander Miranda Dez’s office in the LASD headquarters. A sergeant held open the door for him, then closed it when Bradley had stepped inside. Bradley wore his uniform and no sling, although he was not scheduled back to work for two more days. He carried a trim briefcase that Erin had given him one Christmas, with his initials embossed on the smooth black leather.
Commander Dez came around her desk and shook Bradley’s hand. She looked as good as a woman could in such a uniform. Her hand was warm and firm. “Have a seat. Must be nice to have that sling off.”
“Yes, it is.” Bradley sat and set the briefcase on the floor. “The wound is healing up pretty well. Back to work in a couple of days.”
“We’ve never met, have we?”
“No. I’ve seen you in the cafeteria, and once at the court-house.”
She smiled. “I should have personally congratulated you on the Stevie Carrasco rescue.”
“I don’t feel like I did anything special. The whole thing felt like I was on autopilot.”
“I was involved in a shooting once. Afterward I couldn’t remember specifics. Couldn’t remember how many shots were fired, how many people were there. I couldn’t even remember the knife that was pulled on me. So, good job, Deputy Jones. You made us all proud.”
Miranda Dez was pretty and firmly built and when she smiled Bradley was reminded of his mother. When she didn’t smile he was reminded of her also. And when she spoke, walked, sat, talked. It was uncanny. It wasn’t so much that they looked alike.
Similar
, he thought,
not alike
. But the first time he saw her, in the HQ cafeteria, tray in hand, talking to one of her captains, Bradley had to watch her.
“Are you enjoying your work here?”
“Yes, I am. The best thing about it is the people I work with. I feel like I fit in.”
She smiled. “I know that feeling. Kind of like a big family. I know that’s been said before, but it’s true.”
Bradley nodded and looked at her. His mother had had a lovely face. Commander Dez’s face was lovely in the same way—slender, serious, eyes dark, ghosts contained. Then the smile, subtle and promising as a break of dawn. She drove a red Corvette and his mother had always loved red Corvettes, although she’d never owned one.
“What about you?” he asked.
“Me?”
“Are you enjoying your work here?”
“I live for this job. I don’t know what that says about the rest of my life. I do have some outside interests.”
“Children.”
“A boy and a girl.”
“Anything else?”
Bradley saw the little flash of darkness cross her face. He figured it meant either
no
or
none of your business
. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Clearly not my business.”
“I make jewelry out of old typewriter buttons.”
“Oh?”
“It’s lighthearted stuff. And I ride mountain bikes.”
Bradley smiled now.
“Why do you want to know that?” asked the commander.
“Every once in a while I meet someone and I want to know everything about them. It’s not necessarily a good quality. It puts some people on the spot. You are one of those lucky individuals.”
“Why?”
Bradley studied her quietly. “There is no why.”
Commander Dez sat back, glanced at her monitor, then looked at Bradley. “You asked for this appointment. What can I do for you?”
“I got a tip from one of my confidential informants a couple of days ago. He’s a Mexican national, comes and goes when he wants. He’s got Gulf Cartel connections south of the border and Mara connections here. He’s been reliable on the little stuff and now he’s on to something bigger. He says an American named Sean Gravas is going to buy a hundred new machine pistols. They’re American-made. The deal is being brokered by a cartel heavy.
Silenced
machine pistols. It’s going to happen somewhere in L.A.”
“When?”
“Soon.”
“Who’s Sean Gravas?”
“A crazy dude with a yellow airplane. Fabio in Harley gear. Guns, meth, Aryan Brother.”
Commander Dez looked at Bradley. “A hundred new silenced machine guns?”
“Pistols.”
“I didn’t think anybody made a silenced full-auto pistol.”
“They’re a new thing.”
“A whole new gun?”
“That’s what I’m hearing. Made in America,” he lied. “Fifteen hundred apiece.”
Dez looked at her computer monitor. Bradley watched her. He remembered watching his mother as she read to him, way back when he was three or four, remembered the warmth of her body and the timbre of her voice and her smooth, strong, emotional face registering the moods of the tale. Her beautiful face. Mysterious and thrilling. With a smile like the dawn. He wanted to own it. Even back then. He had vowed to own it. And when it was taken from him just a few short years ago, he had vowed to avenge her, and this he had done.
“Fabio in Harley gear,” she said. “That’s funny. Tell me more about the guns you say he has.”
“Apparently the silencer works very well. You can put fifty rounds into a body and all you hear is the clothes and meat tearing.”
She gave him a hard look.
“And according to my man, a hundred of them are about to change hands in L.A.”
Dez pushed away the mouse and sat back and looked at Bradley. “Why didn’t you go to your sergeant with this?”
“He’s patrol and you’re narcotics.”
“Guns aren’t narcotics.”
Bradley shrugged and let his gaze settle on her face again. “Here’s what I think, Commander. I like my guy. I take care of him and he takes care of me. If he’s right, then Sean Gravas is going to buy a hundred machine guns from Gulf Cartel enforcers, somewhere in Los Angeles County. If we make the bust, then, well, that’s a good thing. More than good, Commander Dez. Spectacular is what it would be. A hundred automatic weapons that won’t hit our streets. A hundred and fifty grand forfeited to us. Picture
that
. Picture a hundred of those shiny new puppies laid out before you, and your photo in the
L.A. Times
and out on all the wires. I think that you should bitch-slap the Gulf Cartel and their Mara errand boys who are polluting this city. You should be the one to step up and take some credit. It’s about time our citizens realize that the Gulf Cartel is right here in L.A. pushing their drugs to our children.”
She broke out laughing. It took a while to end. “You’re more than a little funny, Bradley. You should be in media relations.”
He shrugged again. He was secretly proud of the way he’d already blamed this thing on the Gulf Cartel. He knew that there was no practical way for American readers and viewers to distinguish Gulf Cartel cutthroats from any others, nor did they really care. A
narco
was a
narco.
“No,” he said. “I would not do well in media relations. I have too much respect for the truth, and better things to do with my time. But I have a confession to make.”
Bradley leaned forward and held her gaze and spoke in a softer voice. “I’ve seen you more than once in the cafeteria. Half a dozen times at least. And each time, I could hardly take my eyes off you.”
“Oh, brother.”
“I don’t mean it like that. Listen. Why couldn’t I take my eyes off you? I thought that we had something in common. So I did just a little poking around. That shooting you were involved in left three people dead—two creeps and the other narc you were undercover with. You killed them both and got knifed pretty badly for your trouble. You were half bled out but still breathing for your partner when the medics got there. He didn’t make it to the hospital. It took you a month to get back to your brand-new desk job. You know what all that says to me? It says you’re a kick-ass lady and you put it right on the line. So you deserve the best. You say you live for this job? Then take it up a level. We need all the heroes we can get. Just look around you.”
Her stare was flat and penetrating.
“I’ve always had luck, Miranda. And I believe in sharing it with people I feel strongly about.”
She shook back her thick brown hair and smiled, a cagey and knowing thing. “I get what you’re about, Bradley Jones. And don’t call me Miranda.”
“Yes, Commander.”
She sat back and studied him. “How old are you?”
“Twenty and a half.”
“I see you’re married.”
Bradley nodded and said his wife’s name out loud and felt the predictable flutter in his chest.
“Children?”
“Someday.”
“Do you plan on staying with us?”
“Absolutely.”
“Why did your mother claim to be a descendant of Joaquin Murrieta?”
“My mother had an active imagination.”
“Was it an excuse for what she did?”
“She was proud of what she did.”
“I felt sorry for her.”
“Why?”
“She seemed compelled to act. Almost against her will.”
“That’s a popular theory.”
“Is it only a theory?”
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