Jack Wesley Hardin’s
(the anatomy of a dope deal) #3


Stepping down off the porch, the moonless night painted my humble ranch a solid black-on-black as I felt my way through the dark toward my ‘69 Chevy three-quarter tow truck.  The Coyotes’ sad-sad-song clued-me-in that neither Johnny Law nor Senor Bandito were snooping around the ranch. These mangy critters are normally such shy creatures they would never sing out around people with nasty or bad energy. On the other side of the coin, they make terrible pets ‘cause they like to growl and foam at the mouth as they approach other pets or loved ones. An unbeatable combination, topped off by the fact that for some reason, wheelchairs really set them off.  I almost clipped a déjà vu up on the bulletin board of my mind then, but almost is almost, and only counts in horseshoes, so I let it pass until it came back around again and identified itself.

Just over a day had passed since the honeymoon trip south of the border to set up the buy with Gordo.  Although it was only 4:15 in the morning, there were chores to be done and game plans to be set-up, if not out-and-out orchestrated. The toxicity of the business end of the biz, and the taste of bad tequila flooded my brain as I jerked out in front of my dust on the highway. I had an engagement at the dog-fights being held at the Wagon Wheel Rut Saloon, at the far end of Pima County, Arizona, and I didn’t want to be late.

The blood and liquor began to flow for real at 5:00 a.m., before the desert turned into a 115 degree open sandstorm barbeque pit that never even served breakfast, much less lunch, unless it was what you threw up from the night before. And what I threw up was a reminder of my meeting the day before in Corborca with the pilots. The next step was to get a crew together to receive and secure three thousand pounds of kick-ass green delivered on one scary-ass-night ride by three Cessna 206s in just around three hours as the crow flies.  So 5:00 a.m. was a good starting time for me to find a few good men for a job already in motion.

Traces of daylight began to break over the dank humps of mountains in front of me.  At this hour the two-lane-highway was as vacant as a whorehouse on Christmas morning.  Mesquite trees, tall well armed sahuaro cactus, clumps of brush and various needle filled plants began to appear in my field of vision like a vast sea of rabid meth driven porcupines. The Rut’s two-story wooden frame building soon popped up in a sinister silhouette framed by a waning moon.  Lots of mesquite trees and ancient salt cedar trees encircled this shrine to the old west.  To locals it was the watering-hole in hell and their sports arena of choice all in one gritty package. Gunfights were a weekly feature since Arizona felt every decent citizen had the right to be armed at all times in case Mexico decided to retake its lost territory.  An elderly Chinaman took credit for proprietorship and donated more than his share of MSG to the local sheriff’s fund on a weekly basis. The only time a Sheriff’s car could come within five miles was when there was a suicide or accidental killing out back. That image brought back the deja blip of the vu I couldn’t quite grab hold of, but I remembered I’d had a bad dream about whatever it was that was out to get me, and someone knew I was going to die real soon.

The definition of decent citizen became blurred as I rolled to a stop among a parking lot of pick-up trucks. Tossing my Oaxaca’s best “Mexican cigarette”, I stepped out and was greeted by loud screams and cheers from the rear of the building.  Around 150 men and a few wicked women, formed a circle.  Tired wooden bleachers groaned under the excited patrons’ weight. The whole setup resembled a small bullring, but was in actuality a six-foot deep pit about 20-feet wide.  Loud growls and dust rose from the center of the jumping swaying mass of angry humanity and frothing dogs.

A glint of gold grazed my vision so I rolled my head off to the left and spotted A.W., a late 50ish ex-Irish ironworker crouched beside the bottom row of bleachers.  His block Stetson cowboy hat band, a string of gold $10 U.S. coins secured on a strap of leather, flashed wildly like a blinking Vegas neon sign proselytizing to the-night-before’s prize chumps, “GET IT NOW”, in the early morning sunlight. Two very young Chiquitas crouched next to him, screaming, while passing a glass vial full of Peruvian rock candy back and forth. The early pre-fight excitement had them dripping with sweat.

A.W., it should be pointed out, was the proud patriarch of a family known as “The Wild Bunch”.  Four sons and two daughters. To describe any of the six as extremely dangerous would be an understatement.  The youngest daughter Sheila was a professional bullrider that had left permanent scars on the outside of my thighs one wild night when she forgot (so she said) to take off her spurs before swinging into the saddle. I was living proof she couldn’t be thrown under any conditions. And I sure as hell had tried, but those damn spurs just left this poor bronco bucking forever and ever, whether he wanted to or not.  On this morning in question, however, it wasn’t his daughters I needed, it was his sons. They had worked with me before, and experience counted heavily in the heat of the beat of this kind of action.

I knelt down in the dust beside them.  A bottle of Jim Beam Kentucky bourbon, a large pile of crumbled currency, a pack of Camels, several half full glass vials with plastic fliptops all lay scattered at their feet. It was clear one of the fighting dogs in the pit was theirs.

We nodded to each other as Chiquita number-One passed me a vial to clean my sinuses with. The morning was rapidly accelerating. Unfortunately, towards an explosion; Chiquita number-Two tossed a vial at number-One, which is when the shit hit the fan. The vial bounced off her panting, sweaty chest, into the pit.  And a small white cloud exploded between the contestants!

The thrill-hungry crowd roared its approval, but a power boost to the woofies changed the script.  Both dogs quit fighting, started sneezing, then went straight up in the air, snarling and bearing their fangs at their fans and began a strange desperate search for more fuel.  Immediately clearing the pit.  The evil white witch had struck again, turning the once cheering mob into a hysterical stampeding herd of save-my-ass, fuck-you, running–from-the-devil, repenting-Christians.  Gunshots rang out from the Mexican side.

I grabbed A.W.’s left arm as he grabbed his money off the ground. His right was preoccupied firing back at the Mexicans with his 45 caliber Colt. The dogs were busy dining on the old Chinaman’s leg and one of his oriental bodyguard’s arms.  Now this was the true Arizona meaning of a Tequila Sunrise.

Soon the Wagon Wheel Rut was only a thick cloud of dust in my rear view window. A.W. reached into his jean jacket top pocket and produced a siesta cigarette (smoke it and you can bet it’s time for a siesta), but before he nodded out I asked him, “What about your dog, A.W.?

A.W. sucked in a couple of long hits, and laughed, “If the Chinaman didn’t shoot him, he’ll run over to those two young whores’ house and kill chickens until I rescue him.  He knows better than to snort my shit.  But the dog’s well-bein’ ain’t what brought you to see Old Irish today.  What you need, Jack?”

“Well”, I explained, “I need to round up a ground crew, and I was hopin’ your sons would be available.”

“Always available for you, Jack.  And always for a fair price.  How much are each of my boys worth to ya today?”

A few haggled miles later we agreed on five thousand a piece for all three catches, paid in cash the morning of the landings.  After all that fun, A,W. was generous enough to volunteer his ranch to unload at, for another five thousand, of course.  Three of his sons were working as stunt men at the Old Tucson Western movie set where Steve McQueen was shooting what would turn out to be his last movie. We could’ve sure as Hell used Steve on the team as well, but The Reaper refused to cut him a new deal; unknown to the world at that time, he was dying of cancer.

There was one other small hitch in the game plan. A.W.’s youngest son Billy — yeah, we called him “Kid”, as in “Billy the Kid”, bong-brain – he was deep in the Mexican sweat again.  His worthless but charming ass stuck in jail in Nogales.  Nogales on the Mexican side.  He had been practicing gynecology on a certain Mexican Federale’s wife, so freedom was more than just another word for he and Bobby McGee to feel good over.  In fact, though he found it hard to talk about, A.W. believed the Kid might already be deadmeat because macho Mexican Colonels had that kind of power, and had no compunctions against using it for personal vendettas, especially when their wives were addicted to outlaw gringo ramrods. It had only been a couple of days since the Kid got nailed, so they were probably still cranking up the electronic phone wires to give his ramrod more than a few rings of consciousness, so time was definitely of the essence.

A man with no balls is useless on more than the obvious levels.  So mi amigo Gordo’s border etiquette was going to be put on call again.  I brazenly told A.W. “No problem”, though the minute I said it I had the feeling that understatement was more of an overstatement on the state of the state we were about to break into.

First things first though.  We had to go back to the Rut and thread our way through the wreckage of the parking lot and several ambulances.  Plasma bottles looked like miniature red piñatas on sticks.  Inside, a band was wailing on some old Hank Williams Fellé gumbo, getting loose for their next saloon gig while shooting beer mugs off the heads of trapped-behind-the-lines illegal aliens; just another fun filled afternoon event that helped unite two cultures into one hands-across-the-border love-fest, dudes.

After this morning exercise the thought of food began to possess my chili-pepper fueled soul, so it wasn’t long before I was tooling down South 4th Avenue in South Tucson, and pulled up outside my favorite restaurant Mi Nidito.  South Tucson, for the uninitiated, is a city within a city, encompassing several square miles inside the city limits of Tucson.  It has its own mayor, police, town council, all 100% Mexican. With the blessing of these fine public servants we used to land our weed laden Cessenas right down on their streets, and unload our cargo in a fiesta type environment, complete with mariachi bands and taco stands, but that’s a bong break for a different time with more Kid free time in the equation, amigos.

Gordo and several other associates from our most recent trip south of the border were having Huevos Rancherous with me inside. Not only passing the guacamole around the table, but several paper sacks; one of which had five-thousand-dollars for the Federal Commandant in Hermosillo, Mexico, for aviation fuel and airstrip rental.  As I pointed out on our last trip south of the border, all aviation fuel in Mexico is controlled by The Federales. The second bag of money had two thousand dollars in it to buy – you guessed it – Billy the Kid’s freedom.  One of Gordo’s aunts’ husbands’ brothers’ sons cousins was a guard at the Nogales Jail.  Even as we ate up all our breakfast burritos, arrangements were being made to get his ass out before they could string him up.  According to the plan, Gordo would walk across the border into Mexico, carrying the money with him, since no one searches you coming into the country on foot.  Then after cleaning up the Kid’s Mexican sweat he would catch a train to Hermosillo and pay off the mordia (bribe) to the Federales.  It seemed like a good plan at the time.

To Be Continued…

#2 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=1340

#1 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=10


Jack Wesley Hardin is the nom de plume for a legendary Private Investigator involved in some of the biggest and most controversial high profile criminal and civil cases in the United States. A television series is presently being developed based on his exploits and involvement in those cases. A one time college football star, gonzo NFL linebacker, Green Beret, soldier of fortune, and hippie John Wayne on the Mexican side of the law (in the good ole days of his spent youth), Mexican Sweat (the anatomy of a dope deal) is a memoir from those early years that will be serialized in Smoke Signals. Stay tuned.



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