TALES FROM THE OLD STASH
Jack Wesley Hardin’s
(a smuggler’s memoir) #9THE FINAL EPISODE
My mind was flooded in thoughts when all ceased.
Like no sound.
The radio cackled with a Duck call to “Light up!” “Light up” was his cry.
I picked up my other radio and told the crew the same. Two opposing balls of fire leaped up. A coming roar exploded over us and was gone except for a downward spray of dust and small pebbles. Within a minute the Duck had made a 180 degree spin and shoved the plane straight down. Full flaps on our oversized custom wings brought the big bird down hard. The tail clipped the stack of burning wood dragging a trail of sparks and ember behind it. I pulled forward to meet the plane on our end of the field. Both fires were snuffed before Duck turned the plane around for use of the full length of the runway. The Kid opened the cargo door as I opened the passenger door. Duck remained seated. He immediately greeted me with a plastic tube in his hand. The tube led up to a plastic bag pinned to the top of the windshield. The bag was marked “Blood Plasma O Positive”, but it had a clear color to it. “Suck on this intern,” Duck gargled. He was always ahead of something. In this case, it was the early Camelback. Tequila was the doctor’s choice. A couple of quick pulls and that Mexican sweat bled off like a golden shower from an out of control kidney dialysis machine. He kept the engine running while both feet were hard on the brakes. Any outlaw pilot worth his wings would always keep the prop spinning in case an emergency arose.
Quickly tossing the tightly packed burlap bags of Mexican green onto the ground, we were finished within 90 seconds. Slamming the doors, Duck roared forward quickly disappearing into a pale dust cloud. We all stood still for several minutes, listening into the slight breeze, smelling for the unusual, rubbing the wooden handles of our guns for assurance of continued breathing or light panting. I pushed my radio button and told Gordo to reload the stacks of now smoldering wood. Gordo soon drove by with a large shrub tied with a rope dragging it behind his truck. This erased the tell tale tricycle tire marks in the sand.
Sangrita and the Kid stacked the bundles into my camper covered pick-up bed. The Kid had to kick the edges of the last bundles to close the tailgate. The snake was last seen twisting through the metal braces of the topper chewing on its forked tongue. The Kid’s eyes lit up when I told him to deliver this load to his dad’s place. They needed their brief healing moment together. No one but me knew the location of the stash house. The Kid was red blooded kin so I told him the magic password. He told me he had figured ole Dad was involved or he would still be “hanging around” with his torturers.
“Tonga, Tonga, speak”, I called into the mike. A sharp squelch preceded Tonga’s reply. “Tonga say road clear, but danger may come.”
I had to complete that riddle for a moment. I thoughtfully replied, “If you get rattled, let me know.”
Soon it was all-quiet. The coyotes cranked up again with a back up chorus of moonstruck owls. A light breeze kicked in. It began to gently move the oven like heat off the desert floor. Sangrita had slipped into the evening to patrol our perimeter. Gordo was down on his end, Zippo in hand (I hoped). I knew at the quickest it would be a two hour wait for Duck to return. The desert is at it’s most dangerous at night. This is party time for crawling, slithering, poison filled critters that crawl out of their bleach holes to feast and chomp on soft human flesh. Foot movement is advised.
It was the sudden ending of several close by coyotes that got us on alert. An hour and some had passed. Sangrita and Gordo quietly evaporated toward the silent coyotes. Dead silence is when your heartbeat is too loud.
Within a few minutes my radio spoke. It was Sangrita. “Coming to you, got a small problem”. I replied with two clicks on the transmit button. Then I got out with my hand on my gun. A crowd of darkly dressed small people appeared in front of me, flanked by Gordo on one side, Sangrita on the other. Wetbacks, illegals, unwanteds, whatever you want to call them, there they were staring at me like I was an American double cheeseburger.
Gordo ordered them on their knees. There were 24 men and women all wearing the same type backpack. There were two dark-skinned Mexicans that Sangrita had disarmed. They were the “Coyotes”, the guides that took part of the thousand dollar per person ticket to ride that these poor people paid to have a risky chance to get their small piece of the so-called American Dream. But tonight each one was paying for their part of the ticket by carrying ten pounds of Mexican green in their backpack. Two hundred and forty pounds. Of course Gordo voted to kill them and take the pot. Sangrita was sweeter; just take the pot was her pitch. Tonga, who materialized behind me, saw something we didn’t. He sniffed the air, shook his head and backed away into the night.
With me, it’s always about Karma. In old school, Karma was a big hit. It was a vindicator of the wronged. You know, do no evil, evil no do you. Their shit didn’t interest me, but I knew my shit was the main whisper among our prisoners. Gordo and I herded them into a near by dry gulch. Gordo explained to the head Coyote that their lives were on hold until our business was finished. Then they could continue their way down the path to Disneyland once we were done. He made his point when one of the three automatic handguns he had stuck in his waistband went off blowing his wallet out of his back pocket narrowly missing my left boot.
We stopped the bleeding of Gordo’s very hairy ass with a sanitary pad generously given to us by one of the women wetbacks.
I had to move quickly now. Every coyote and bandito worth their fur and bad odor were sure to have their ears up after this circus. Silently we melted into the available shrubs and joined the scorpions belly down, hammers back.
Tonga’s whispered voice shattered the momentary pall: “Two pickups, lights outs, men with rifles in the bed, slow go, not here to party.”
I looked at Sangrita and told her to tell the senor Coyote he would be the first to go if anyone of his party ran or wiggled their asses. It was an unnecessary warning though; the two veteran coyotes understood that death was on all sides here.
Within minutes the two dark colored pick-up trucks came into view. Their slowness caused their engines to strain under the human weight squatting and standing rifles pointing toward their invisible target. The two monsters circled the area around the small valley floor. I could see shadowy outlines of people jumping out of the trucks, jogging on foot beside the road. Spanish was their language of choice. How could this fucking mob beside me stay quiet? Damn, here comes that sticky ass sweet, burning my eyes. Then they sat for several minutes, dead-dead quiet. They were listening for anything. They would be the welcoming wagon for Duck if they discovered us. We knew they took zero prisoners. It felt like hours, but soon their motors cranked and off they idled into the night, back down the road they came.
A low moan went out in mass behind me. The coyotes were smiling and the furry ones went back to their lonesome songs. What is that saying, “When it rains it, well. . .start swimming!”
Duck’s quack barked across my radio. It was incoming again. I told Sangrita and Gordo to run light the fires, then turned and told the two coyotes to vamoose pronto. This caused an endless babble from the terrified peasants, who bowing backwards, faded into the night.
“Ground to Duck”, I punched in on the ground to air. “ Keep it super low. We’ve had visitors. I don’t see any lights in the sky west of you, so if you’re feeling frisky, bring it on home, Captain Duck.”
The fires burst bright in the silvery sheets of moonlight. There was that ten second roar of the Cessena engine followed by the sudden flash of the plane barely clearing the burning wood, it’s tail crashing down on the roaring pile scattering fire and wood behind it. The plane shuddered to a sudden dusty halt. The tail was totally ablaze, black smoke rising above its tip. I slammed the truck in gear and almost drove into the side of the plane, sliding sideways into the starboard strut, bending it a little.
Jumping out I got hit in the chest with a fire extinguisher, knocking me down. The Duck had opened the passenger door and bagged me. I leaped up grabbed the extinguisher and blasted the now blazing tail. A cloud of white smoke ebbed upward. Turning I saw Sangrita and rag ass Gordo tossing bales like popcorn. Duck flipped the rudders wiggling the back of the tail. Then pulled the yoke back and forth. The tail worked, but looked like charcoal, the metal cables glowing red.
Duck quaked out, “Be at number nine!”
A blast of air and sand stung as it showered us in a whiteout. The roar of the engine was full fucking throttle. A thick black smoke tail was left streaming from the rear, marking the path of the hurdling plane. Clipping the still burning pile on the other end sending a large fireball heavenly, the Duck was trimming cactus as he banked into darkness.
We moved fast. Sangrita and I tossed the bales into the back of the pick-up, dodging a very stressed out Diamondback striking out at each flung package.
Leaving Gordo and Tonga to clean up the mess, Sangrita and I bid farewell to flaming acres. Even the truck growled its relief as we pulled out. Third gear-four wheel drive felt like a sled gliding through the snow, as all eyes glued themselves on the road directly in front of us.
Sangrita was half hanging out the window, yelling, “Right”, “Left”, “Right”.
Ten or twenty years seemed to pass before my eyes like time always does when fear and Mexican sweat ooze from your pores. Suddenly there’s an explosion inside my door and we slide sideways, banging into a rock wall. Shifting to second, stomping the gas, I lunged forward. Looking to my left through the crushed-in door were two sets of beady dark eyes looking through a cracked windshield which was connected to a large pick-up truck that was attempting to crush us into a beer can. As I pulled free of the connection, bullets started poking spider-like holes in the windshield. A steady ping of shredding metal filled the cab. Insulation started raining down on us, looking up I could see the round moon through several new holes in my roof. No doubt these were our earlier inquiring visitors.
Just as I got in front, my side mirror shattered, then the whole mount sparked and blew off. I stuck my head out the window; looking back I saw a man standing on my back bumper pointing a handgun at me with a death grip on my topper. Shaking the gun at me, he snarled and threw it away. I could hear him forcing the camper tops back door open. I started to jerk the steering wheel back and forth when I heard a scream that gurgled out pain. Locking my brakes a flailing body flew over the hood landing with a couple of rolls, then sitting up facing us.
There are things in life the soul does not forget. The nasty rattler had locked onto el stupido’s face making him look like he had an elephant trunk for a nose. This was a reptile’s wet dream. We were suddenly knocked forward by the rear pick-up crashing into the back of us pushing us over Reptile Man.
Slamming it back into gear we pulled ahead of our pursuers. “Give me your gun Jack, quick,” Sangrita snapped. “Chinga su madre.” She rolled out the window, on top of the cab and let loose a bitch’s fury. Twenty-eight bullets later our friends were no longer there. It was peaceful the rest of the way, except for a couple of minutes when Reptile Man became untangled from my rear end.
Two down, one more to go! Number nine was the scariest of all the places. As far as I could ever tell we were the only ones that ever had used this place. It took an Air Force Radar Operator to select this one. In old school, radar had trouble picking up any air traffic at less than 500 feet. Satellites were too busy spying on Russia and the Twin Towers stood tall. Between Tucson International Airport and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base was a small strip of desert complete with dirt road. The runways of each were only five miles apart from each other. Their runways are parallel. Oh yeah, Interstate 10 runs through the middle too. So on final approach Duck might be the hummingbird between Eagles. That is a F-16 Fighter Jet on the right and a American Airlines 727 Flight 819 on the left.
I decided at the stash house to take Sangrita and the Kid because Tonga and Gordo had so much tangled shit to chop their way through their arrival time was too hard to predict.
It was around midnight by the time we got there, and Duck was due any minute. Planes were landing on either side of us as we sat in the truck under a mesquite tree. Then Duck’s garbled voice croaked across my very dusty ground-to-air radio just as the world around us went black. I mean black hole black. But within a matter of seconds the Airport and the Air Force Base blinked twice and relit. The city lights around us were gone but the lights on the mountains were still there until the magic moment was interrupted by the quack of the Duck: “Blink the goddamned lights, I’m coming down!”
Despite knowing better, I turned them on and off in a second. A minute passed when a silent winged craft thudded down, engine off. We raced to the plane as it rolled to a stop. The front by the prop was smoking.
“Hell’s bells!” he quacked out, “I hit some damn power lines, almost crashed; the damn prop sliced through it like it was spaghetti. It bent the other strut too. Now, maybe the shaking will quit.” Duck was almost speaking normal by this time, and I noted fear does some strange shit, even to strange people.
We loaded the pick-up, which was now minus the snake, which we had left in a can. To this day whenever I see a rattler, I can’t help seeing the Reptile Man French kissing that cold hearted critter.
The Duck had sliced through the Tucson inner city power supply. Looking at the battle worn airframe I asked Duck, “Need a ride home?”
In response, he slipped on his stethoscope and leaned against the engine hood, placing the tubed end on the metal. Listening with great interest he suddenly snapped to attention, quacking, “There’s life! Back to my Hospital!” Then jumped in, cranked the engine, spun the plane around and quacked out to the gods of instant buzz, “On Dancer, on Prancer, and a fucking good night to all you other fucks too.”
To my amazement it lifted off in a cloud, trailing smoke behind itself and misfiring all the way. When last seen it was running cars off Interstate 10.
Needless to say we too were gone, but not in a trail of dust. A few minutes later we were coasting west on Interstate 10. No one spoke for awhile. I glanced over at my two young friends, but they were fast asleep. Well who could blame them? It had been a strange and twisted evening. I pulled off the Highway down the dirt road by A.C.’s ranch. I stopped, not disturbing my passengers. The moon was dropping in the West and the stars began to brighten, forming an incredible tribute to eons of existence. From this moment of awe. I realized I’d lived another day and made a nice piece of change to boot.
Headlights flashed around the corner. It was Gordo and Tonga. They rolled to a stop. Tonga spoke first. “Sadness, Jack, the bandits took their revenge on the poor devils we helped across the border. They are all dead.”
Gordo shook his head sadly. “Malo madness, Jack. This life makes no fucking sense.”
For once I was without words. Gordo pulled out a cigarette so we all took one. As I lit up a small shower of meteors daisy-chained across the heavens, the ending of one, beginning another. Then the coyotes began their mournful wail, possibly saluting and welcoming the newly dead to the other side.
© 2008 Jack Wesley Hardin
|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), this abbreviated version of Mexican Sweat (the anatomy of a dope deal) has been serialized in Smoke Signals as a memoir from those early years.
The full version of the book will be published next year.
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