Dead Mules by Dave Folsom

A Charlie Draper Thriller

A Charlie Draper Thriller

Dead Mules by Dave Folsom/strong>

The First Chapter of Dead Mules by Dave Folsom. The entire book will be available on Amazon in late fall of 2014

Chapter 1

Chihuahuan Desert – Mexico- Texas

Alarico Damián Acosta sat in a 1994 Chevy pickup without air-conditioning. He stared east across the Rio Grande River at the State of Texas while desert sweat rolled down his back and soaked his shirt. The temperature on that July afternoon rose to one hundred sixteen degrees in the shade and shade was non-existent. He had turned off Highway 2 onto the Chihuahuan Desert sand, dodging cactus, the desert scrub, and a variety of desert creatures while driving east. Creeping to a point where he could see the river and the continuation of the desert on the American side, he stopped. It looked ideal and he grinned, pleased with himself.
Acosta had little money. He lived by stealing what he needed after spending five years of his young life in a Mexican prison. His employment skills were limited to manual labor, though he preferred illegal occupations as more to his liking. Therefore, he avoided work whenever possible leaving the more menial types of exertion to others. He preferred fast, easy cash whenever he could find it.
Even the truck was hot, ownership speaking, hotter than the outside air, though he doubted anyone would be looking very hard for it due to its age and condition. The paint was almost gone and rust invaded the sheet metal in every corner.
Five years of incarceration had hardened him while giving him plenty of time to think. It was during that stretch that he formed the idea. He had more than four of those years to perfect it and his plan felt solid when he finished his sentence at age twenty-six. The only hitch was to find a suitable location. That mission took another six months.
Sitting in the pickup, ignoring the heat and the dampness of his clothes, Acosta, smiled. Prison had made him crafty and withdrawn. His thoughts were his own and he shared them with no one. The other inmates considered him a little touched in the head and he did little to discourage the notion. After six months of beatings, verbal abuse and shower room exploitation, Acosta scored a new cellmate.
Pedro Ibarra was tall for a man with deep Hispanic ancestry. At near six feet, and weighing an unyielding two hundred and fifty-five pounds, every ounce was rock-hard muscle. Despite his size, Ibarra was good humored and easy going, to a point. That point, reached the first time anyone messed with Acosta, Ibarra put the man in the infirmary for six weeks with a laundry list of injuries. After that, Acosta did not have a problem.
Acosta was not used to someone sticking up for him, and later he asked, “Why did you do that, Pedro?”
They were in the prison cafeteria and Ibarra chewed a mouthful of pinto beans and salt pork before answering. He looked at Acosta, and said, “Because you are my friend, Alarico, no one messes with my friends.” It was that simple and Acosta made sure Ibarra was close by anytime they were out of their cell.
While he studied the terrain around him, Acosta mused about his generous friend, still locked up, and would be for another three months. He planned to be there, outside the lockup on Ibarra’s first free day. He wanted to watch the big man saunter through the sally port, liberated at last, and grinning wide. He promised his friend muchos dólares, and all the putas he wanted in exchange for his help and protection.
Acosta knew he would need a hombre grande during his negotiations with the cartel. The local jefe was a man who had murdered his share and would not hesitate to add to the count. He would be difficult to deal with, and Acosta wanted insurance muscle on his side.
He shifted in the pickup seat, rearranging his soda cracker ass into a more comfortable position, and went through his plan one more time. It came to him years earlier, in the middle of a cold prison night. Starting as a small tunnel under the Rio Grande River, somewhere in a remote area, hidden on both ends, and secure from prying Border Patrol eyes, it grew and expanded into “The Plan.”
Tunnels were not an original idea and Acosta knew it. The cartels and other enterprising individuals had tunneled under the U.S.-Mexican common border for decades. They were mostly hand dug, dangerous, and cave-in prone. In every case, months of hand excavation, cave-in deaths, inadequate ventilation, and American Border Patrol detection, resulted in a concrete plug. Few saw completion and even less an ounce of drug trafficking. Acosta’s prison library research told him all the problems. It was during these late night studies that he stumbled onto the answer.
Back in his cell, he woke Ibarra in the middle of the night, “Pedro, mi amigo, wake up!” he said poking the big man’s arm.
“What?” Ibarra said.
“Wake up, mi amigo; I have a plan that will make us both rich. We will drown in pesos and puta inside of a year.”
“What silliness have you thought up now?” the big man mumbled, having been the sounding board for any number of his cellmate’s schemes.
“It is not silliness, mi amigo. I have researched it carefully and it is foolproof.”
For the next couple of hours, they whispered together until Ibarra began to appreciate that his pipsqueak cellmate had stumbled on a nearly flawless system. Despite his initial skepticism, Ibarra realized that Acosta was right. They could move drugs in large quantities across the border at very little risk. All they needed was a buyer on the American side. “I know just the person,” Ibarra said, “my cousin who lives in Texas. He is an American citizen who already dabbles in drug trafficking. He is also very rich and can provide us money to purchase land on the Mexican side.”
“What about the cartels? They could become a problem.”
“Shit, man, within a year we will be a cartel.”
Acosta grinned at his large friend. “I like the sound of that, Pedro.”
Long nights of whispered secretive planning filled the months that followed until Acosta’s release. Riches beyond their wildest dreams drove both men to their limits, and made them stand for morning roll call heavy-eyed, and sleep deprived. After a while, the guards noticed but could not catch them at anything. The rule against talking at night only applied if caught. They made certain they were not.
On the day of Acosta’s release, they sealed the agreement. Acosta would come to the prison and pick up his friend Pedro Ibarra and then they would put their plan into effect. In the interim, Acosta would search for a suitable spot to implement their plan.

Acosta watched his friend Ibarra walk through the poterna into the open air for the first time in fourteen years. He knew his large amigo had killed a man in a bar fight. The fact the other man started the brawl meant little to the Mexican court and after a thirty-minute trial Ibarra gained a long span of free meals with steel barred and locked accommodations.
Acosta stepped out of his old pickup and shook his friend’s hand. “Ha pasado mucho tiempo, amigo mío. Es bueno verte libre al fin. It has been a long time, my friend. It is good to see you free at last.”
“Sí, mi buen amigo, it is good to be out.”
“Ah, you have been practicing your English, which is good. We will speak in English when we are alone to improve your accent. It will be valuable when we begin our little enterprise. Come; throw your things in the back. First we must find a cantina and after a couple of cold ones, a prostíbulo.”
“I think maybe both at the same time, quizás tan?”
“Si, mi amigo, I forget you have been away a long time.”

After three days of emptying every tequila bottle within reach, interrupted only by short periods of debauchery, the two men were hung-over, cash poor, and still friends. Acosta pointed his pickup north with a sleeping Ibarra riding shotgun. He was anxious to show his friend the properties he had found abutting each other with the Rio Grande River slicing it into two parts, one on the Texas side and the other in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. He had gained ownership of the Mexican side quickly using the money supplied by Ibarra’s relative. The previous owner mistakenly believed he had cut a fat hog by selling the scrubland to a stupid young man.
The owner of forty desolate, hot, and windswept acres across the Rio Grande River on the American side was not so easy. Almost as crafty and more sophisticated in financial transactions, the Texas owner figured he had a sucker on the line.
The scruffy little Hispanic, who approached him with a buy offer, had bought two rounds of tequila for no reason. That alone put the man on instant alert. They talked about whores, women in general, and the merits of cold beer and good women, before moving on to business.
The man had inherited the forty-odd acres of Texas desert scrub from an uncle he had never met, a tract too small to farm or ranch on and too big for anything else. He could not afford the tax bill and was already five years in arrears. Cash strapped county officials were hot on acquiring the tract. He did not have much time to spare before the bureaucrats grabbed his property. The cantina negotiations lasted another two hours and more tequila before he agreed to sign over the land deed in favor of forty thousand American dollars cash.
The next morning, with both men hung-over and sweating pure tequila, they met again. Acosta had a cashier’s check for the forty grand and his drinking friend forked over the signed deed. Both men walked away believing they had screwed the other, which made it a satisfactory exchange.

“Ain’t it great!” Alarico Damián Acosta said. His enthusiasm was evident in his speech.
“Si,” Pedro Ibarra agreed. So, what do we do next?”
“We build two big metal buildings, one on each side of the river.”
“And then we directionally drill between them,” Ibarra said.
“You have learned well, mi amigo, soon we will be rich.”
“I also looked up directional drilling in my spare time,” Ibarra said, his newfound knowledge not lost on his partner.
“Time well spent my friend, and what did you learn?”
“It requires some expertise, and expensive equipment.”
“True, it does.”
“I know such a person.”
Acosta was not surprised. His partner looked big, tough, and dull, but only the first two contained truth. Underneath that exterior mask, the man hid a little used near Mensa brain. Ibarra played the dumb role to a fault, yet his cellmate suspected that from the start it was a ploy, useful in prison, but unnecessary on the outside. “Of course you do,” he said.
“I also suggest we start small with the buildings, no more than ten foot ceilings and a conservative size, say thirty by twenty. That would keep the casual observer from suspecting anything. Better yet, we only build a metal building on the American side, make it look like a loafing shed, and on the Mexican side we use old barn lumber to make it look like a starving rancher’s barn. Old semi trailers or railroad containers will work for storage.”
Acosta looked carefully at his former cellmate, pleased that he had made the right choice. “I think those are great ideas, mi amigo, let us make it so.”

They started on the Mexican side with a thirty by thirty building sided with salvaged and weathered barn boards that made the structure look like it had been there forever. Inside, it was modern in every way with heat, air conditioning, sewer, water, and a freshly poured six-inch concrete floor. From the river, it seemed, as it was intended, old, abandoned, and forlorn.
The American side was less problematic. The thick brush along the shoreline masked their building of a conservatively sized metal structure with dimensions slightly larger at forty feet long and thirty wide. This building had bathroom facilities, office, and sleeping quarters to satisfy the OSHA requirements for migrant workers. It took six months to complete. Also included were calving pens, crowding chutes and a branding area, none of which would see a bovine. It also had a ten by ten hole in the concrete floor, the purpose of which would come later.

“So how’s this going to work?’’ Ibarra asked after six months of construction.
“Simple,” Acosta said aware that his large friend already knew. “We pull the packaged drugs through by turning the large wheel there.”
They were on the American side standing in a metal building recently completed. In the middle of the poured concrete floor, a formed out dirt area had an eight-inch blue PVC pipe sticking out at a twenty degree angle to the floor. A quarter-inch wire rope fed down through the blue plastic pipe and exited at the barn structure on the Mexican side where it was attached to a similar large wheel.
“Seems kind of simple, how much do you think we can pull through in a day?” Ibarra asked, studying the mechanism.
“It’ll be slower at first until we get going, but in sight of a couple of weeks I’ll bet we average close to fifty to seventy kilos a day of the hard stuff with a little Mary Jane mixed in to cover expenses.
“Holy shit!” was all Ibarra could say when he mentally calculated the cash flow.
“Amen, brother,” Acosta said, “even at wholesale prices, the cash flow is staggering. We are going to need some armed bodyguards on both sides.”
“I know someone who would be perfect.”
“Where?”
“He’s still in prison, but I bet some cash in the right places would get him out.”
“Is he good?”
The best, he is an American citizen, a trained enforcer and one tough son-of-a-bitch.”
“All good qualities,” Acosta said.
“We are going to need mules on both sides, also.”
“True, but we will have no border crossing problems, no walking mules, no hiding the stuff in cars crossing into the U.S. through Border Patrol stations. Our mules will drive without having to cross the border and losses should be minimal.”
Acosta was not far from right. Inside of ninety days, they were taking in just under two hundred-twenty thousand dollars a month and needed a vault to store it.

It did not take long for Tomas Fuentes, head of the local Los Lobo Cartel, to realize his drug receipts were declining. He had doubled his mule count, the peóns who carried his drugs across the border for distribution in the U.S., and found his buyers were no longer interested. For the last couple of months, the U.S. Border Patrol seemed to know exactly where his shipments would be and confiscated them all. Worse yet some shipments had never reached the border, the mules gunned down en masse, and the shipment stolen.
When his second in command entered the room and said, “I have bad news my leader, we have lost another load.”
“And the mules…”
“All dead, not one survived.”
While mules, the cartel name for conscripted carriers of illicit drugs across the border into the US, were expendable to an extent, losing the numbers that had occurred in the last month was unacceptable. Fuentes exploded into a string of expletives at his chief of transportation, “God damn it, José, find those bastards and kill them all. These thefts must stop and stop now! If you do not do it, I will find someone who will, comprender!”
“Si, mi líder,” the man said and left.
The mules were a mixed lot and in a small way, José felt sympathy for them, but only a bit. He could not afford much empathy since many died during the trip or the American Border Patrol captured them.
Their only commonality was that they mostly spoke Spanish. Nationalities ranged from Mexican to Venezuelan and nearly every Central American country in between. Mixed in were a few Orientals, and some Middle European and an occasional Muslim. The Spanish-speaking mules were easy; they did as instructed with no qualms. Desperate to reach the U.S. where much work was available, they followed instructions. Many had young children with them in response to the new U.S. policy to allow illegals with children to remain in U.S. and evade deportation. It was inconvenient to keep changing mules but the numbers increased exponentially which simplified recruiting. The Orientals were willing but had trouble understanding either Spanish or English. The Middle Europeans and the Muslims stuck to themselves; gazed upon the coyotes with a distain that bordered on hatred and moved like snails. A mile into the trip one of the Muslims swore at him in Arabic, at least José assumed it was a swear word, and refused to pick up his load. José promptly shot him in the face with his old Model 1911 .45 caliber automatic and ended the rebellion. Everyone else moved. They left the body where it lay; bleeding into the Chihuahuan Desert sand knowing it would be gone before the new day. The advantage, José quickly discovered, was that rest of the mules did not hesitate, walking smartly the next few hours of the trip.
At two-thirty in the afternoon, five miles short of the U.S –Mexico border, a military armored vehicle with a fifty-caliber machine gun mounted in the bed appeared at the top of a sand dune a hundred yards away. José saw it and yelled at his comrades in the few seconds before gun noise reached his ears. It was the last thing he heard. Minutes later, a single man walked among the bodies and dispatched any wounded. He stopped at the prone figure of a young girl. He prodded her with the barrel of his AR-15. The girl yelped and the man grabbed the back of her shirt pulling her upright and stared into frightened tear-filled eyes. She was young, not more than fourteen, with a small amount of blood on her blouse. She seemed able to walk, so he prodded her along among the prostrate bodies while he finished off the others. His work completed he walked back to the armored vehicle, dragging the young girl behind. He threw her into their ride and they sped away. Moments later a dead mule silence fell over the Chihuahuan Desert.

Dead Mules by Dave Folsom

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Audio Book for Finding Jennifer by Dave Folsom

Audio book for Finding Jennifer by Dave Folsom

Finding Jennifer Audio Book

Finding Jennifer Audio Book

The audio book for Finding Jennifer, the first Charlie Draper thriller novel, eloquently narrated by Joseph B. Kearns, is finished and available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes. Charlie Draper only took the job of finding the missing girl as favor. He approached it convinced that the hot desert sun had likely eliminated another unprepared hiker rather than a part of the Border Wars.

It didn’t take long to realize his error. Then it became complicated. In less than a day, he discovers that drug cartel members shot her and threw her into a volcano vent. The resulting trail leads into Mexico, where his actions bring on the wrath of the cartel.

The bodies start to pile up with a vengeance as he and his helicopter-flying Apache friend attempt to rescue the young women and prevent the revenge-determined drug alliance from killing them all.

Now available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes.

Amazon: http://ow.ly/zR0NL

Audible: http://ow.ly/zSDXa

iTunes: http://ow.ly/zR435

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Coyote Rules Book Video

Coyote Rules Book Video is available:

 

 

To start the video click on the picture above.

Take a look at the Coyote Rules Book Video, for the new Charlie Draper thriller.  Its available now on Amazon in paperback and as a Kindle eBook. Look for the paperback on Amazon.com or in you favorite online bookstore. The Kindle edition is available on Amazon. Look for other eBook formats later in 2014.

When Charlie Draper’s daughter asks him to find and help one of her employees, he does not take long to find the young woman. The Border Patrol arrested, and charged her with smuggling over five kilos of dope. The charges are not only serious, but come with mandatory prison time, if found guilty. When Draper hears her story, he is sympathetic but knows it will be difficult, if not impossible to assist her.  Her guilt is irrefutable. She fears for her family in Mexico if she gives the information to the authorities. Draper and DeCollado rush into Northern Mexico to save the young woman’s family.  They find themselves embroiled in murder, drug smuggling, and worse.

Coyote Rules

Coyote Rules

To purchase either paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com click here.

Check excerpts and other information on all of Dave Folsom’s books on his website.  Click here.

As always, comments, including praise and constructive criticism, are always appreciated.  A first chapter excerpt of Coyote Rules is included in the last post on this site.  Click here.

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Goodreads Giveaway

Check it out!  Goodreads Giveaway On March 30 through April 5, 2014.  Sign up for a free copy of the paperback edition of Coyote RCoyote Rules Coverules by Dave Folsom, available on Goodreads.  Here is the link:  https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/86549-coyote-rules

When Charlie Draper’s daughter asks him to find and help one of her employees, he does not take long to find the young woman. The Border Patrol arrested, and charged her with smuggling over five kilos of dope. The charges are not only serious, but come with mandatory prison time, if found guilty. When Draper hears her story, he is sympathetic but knows it will be difficult, if not impossible to assist her, since her guilt is irrefutable. Her family in Mexico is at risk if she gives the information to the authorities. Draper and DeCollado rush into Northern Mexico to save the young woman’s family, and find themselves embroiled in murder, drug smuggling, and worse.

The Goodreads Giveaway starts on March 30, 2014 and closes April 5, 2014 at midnight.  Don’t miss out!

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Winter in the Sonoran Desert

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC Desert JackrabbitWinter in the Sonoran Desert is a time of beauty and wonder.  It never fails to amaze those of us born in the North (Montana), who braved snow, ice, cold, freezing temperatures while bundled in enough clothing to stagger an ox.   Not so in sunny Arizona where winter temperatures drop to a frigid forty degrees  for a couple of weeks in December before rising back into more temperate figures.   This week a rock-hound friend and I spent most of a day exploring the mountains north of confluence of the Colorado and Gila Rivers.  This area is home to deer, sidewinders, numerous songbirds, a wide variety of lizards, small SONY DSCmammals, and a fine crop of wild burros, rarely seen, but evidenced by their prodigious droppings.

The geology of the desert is fascinating and includes evidence or extensive volcanic activity, huge deposits of alluvial material mixed together as if in a huge pot.

Blooming flora, which begins in early January and continues through April and May depending on the amount of moisture received is amazing to see and includes species not seen anywhere else in the world.

Take a look at the pictures included for some examples of winter in the Sonoran Desert.

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Coyote Rules is Published

Coyote Rules CoverCoyote Rules, number four in the Charlie Draper series is now published and will be available for sale on Amazon.com in Kindle format as of March 16, 2014.  The paperback version will be available for sale on Amazon.com by March 23, 2014.

When Charlie Draper’s daughter asks him to find and help one of her employees, he does not take long to find the young woman.  The Border Patrol arrested, and charged her with smuggling over five kilos of dope.  The charges are not only serious, but come with mandatory prison time, if found guilty.  When Draper hears her story, he is sympathetic but knows it will be difficult, if not impossible to assist her, since her guilt is irrefutable.  Her family in Mexico is at risk if she gives the information to the authorities.  Draper and DeCollado rush into Northern Mexico to save the young woman’s family, and find themselves embroiled in murder, drug smuggling, and worse.

An excerpt of Coyote Rules, the new Charlie Draper thriller, follows:

Dudaev sat in a cantina on the North end of Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, waiting.  His drink, an unenhanced soda, sat warm and untouched in a tall glass, his patience undisturbed by the lateness of his contact.  Two local putas approached him soliciting business, both of whom he shooed, and continued to wait.  He learned mental endurance in his early years, a trait useful in his chosen field, and necessary when dealing with members of the drug trade.  Dudaev fumed at the locals whose favorite word was mañana.

The contact, late by any standard, and regarded as a high-level member of the local drug cartel organization walked toward him unconcerned, as if her delay meant nothing.  He noticed the seven-inch heels first.  Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo, he guessed, expensive like the dress she wore.  Her pebble-colored, layered high-end outfit ended mid-thigh under an imported lambskin faux biker vest.  Shoulder length black hair with auburn highlights reflected the dim light when she stopped at his table.  Dudaev felt a chauvinistic moment coupled with surprise.

“I would advise you not to make any sudden moves, Señor Dudaev, she said.

Indifferent, Dudaev, stared at a tall, slim, beautiful Hispanic woman with a flawless dark complexion.  Despite her ageless beauty, her manner commanded respect and Dudaev’s distain for females waned a bit.  “And, why would that be, woman?  Certainly the Beretta I have aimed between your more than adequate breasts gives me a considerable advantage.”

, Señor Dudaev, you may think so, but you should consider the small red dot just above the second button on your shirt.”

Dudaev looked.  He could not help himself.  The dot was there, right where she said.  He knew what it was and it failed to faze him.  He raised his gaze slow since he knew the dot originated at a sophisticated telescopic sight attached to a sniper rifle.  It elevated his respect, albeit only a minute amount, for the woman and her organization.

“Okay, it appears we have a bit of a standoff,” Dudaev said, lowering the Beretta, slow and with purpose, laying it soft on the table.  He removed his hand, but rested it close to the gun.

“Good,” the woman said, “You are a wise man, Señor Dudaev, and a cautious one.  I respect that.  You appear to fit the profile we need.”

“That begs the question, what are you looking for?”

“I will answer that question after we get to know each other a little better.  First, my name is Consuelo Moreno.  I represent local business interests looking a special kind of employee with certain skills useful to our organization.”

“From what I’ve heard you have a number of employees in your organization that fit that description.  Why hire an outside contractor?”  Dudaev felt a twinge of irritation.  The woman was beating around the bush, a tactic that annoyed him and he considered walking away.

“The subject of our interest is an American, ex-CIA we believe, who has caused an unacceptable decline in our bottom line, in addition to being a pain in our ass.  He has thwarted two very expensive projects.”

Dudaev made no comment, but cranked up his fee by double in his mind.  Instead, he stared, face wooden, and waited for her to continue.  His history as a contract killer did not allow emotion.  He wanted the women to know ice water ran through his veins.

“We are prepared to pay you one million American dollars cash, in unmarked, untraceable hundred-dollar bills,” Consuelo Moreno said.

“Two million and you supply me a twin-engine jet to fly me anywhere this asshole is or goes,” Dudaev said, without blinking.

“Don’t be absurd,” Moreno said her voice cold.

Dudaev did not respond.  Instead, he rose to his feet as if the meeting was over.  The Beretta came with, but pointed at the table.

“One million, two hundred-fifty thousand,” Consuelo Moreno said, “and the jet.”

“Two and the damn jet.  It’s my only offer.”

“You think you’re that good?”

“I know I am.  Want to see a laundry list?”

“Is it a long one?”

“Damn straight, you’d be up all night reading.”

“Sit down, Señor Dudaev, I think we are close to agreement.”

Dudaev leaned forward, his eyes focused hard on the woman, his face conveying a brutal mask, enhanced by the angry scar, sending a chill through the woman.  “You agree to two million and we might be,” Dudaev said. “You fuck with me and the price goes up.”

“Put away your weapon, Señor Dudaev, I will consult with my partners, but I feel they will agree.”

“I will when you call off your sniper.”

Dudaev watched her every move trying to detect how she signaled the sniper.  He saw nothing.  He looked down and the red dot no longer decorated his shirt.  His mind running cold, he suspected the conversation lay on a digital recorder somewhere.

“Satisfied?” she said, noting his downward glance.

“For the moment; we haven’t settled the contract yet, though.” Dudaev felt angry, as if they were testing his resolve and, worse yet, his competence.

“You haven’t asked the name of the target.”

“Doesn’t matter, I get paid for the job, not who it is.”

“His name is Charles Draper.”

“So, I’ve never heard of him.”

“I can tell you this; killing him won’t be easy,” the woman said.

“None are.  That is why it costs two million.  What do you know about him, or do I have to find out for myself.”

“We know only that he has a daughter and a woman friend,” Consuelo Moreno said.  He lives somewhere in Southern Arizona in the U.S. but we haven’t been able to determine exactly where.”

“In other words, I have to find him myself?  I should charge you more.”

“That would not be wise, Señor Dudaev.  Look at your shirt before you say another word.”

Dudaev did not have to look.  The woman’s statement held a chill that he could not help but respect.  It surprised him that her words sounded almost sexual.  He stared into her dark eyes and said, “You make a convincing case.  I’ve decided a million two hundred fifty thousand would be more than fair.”

“Your decision, Señor Dudaev, shows your wisdom.  If you are successful, there could be personal fringe benefits.”

Dudaev filed the innuendo in his mind deciding its hint might be worth more than his monetary pay.

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WIP – Coyote Rules

Coyote Rules CoverCoyote Rules, A Charlie Draper Thriller by Dave Folsom

Writing a book, and the eighth is no different that the first, is an interesting process, one that after seven published works, I thought it would get easier.  Unfortunately, not, at least for me.  For example, the cover.  After multiple tries and hours playing with Photoshop, I succeeded in creating a cover that passed muster among my long-standing critics.  You will see it here and as always comments are encouraged and welcomed.  Selecting a title is another hurdle and one I depend on my beta-readers for consensus. As for writing, I’m reminded of a long ago creative writing professor, who when commenting on one of my short stories quipped, “as a story-teller you’ve come a long way, but a master of the English language you are not.”  I confess that he was likely correct and I’ve spent the last twenty-odd years trying to prove him wrong.  Only my readers will judge how well I’ve done.  Here’s a sample of the newly re-titled Charlie Draper #4, Coyote Rules. Charlie Draper #4 Coyote Rules I am hard at work on #4 in the Charlie Draper series of action, adventure, suspense/thriller novels, now re-titled Coyote Rules.  Determined to retire for the second or third time, (he has lost count) since his last adventure nearly cost him his life, Charlie is at home basking under the Arizona sun with nothing on his plate but a hungry gecko and looking out for Dog.  Almost content, which in Charlie’s world means bored, he receives a call from his adopted daughter, Gabriella.  With little else to do, he dusts off his seldom-used attorney’s license to lend a hand to Gabriella’s friend who is caught smuggling drugs across the United States/Mexican border. The first five thousand words or so appear here as a teaser. Comments appreciated if you have the time.  The other books in this series are Finding Jennifer, Sonoran Justice and Big Sky Dead.  They do not need to be read in any particular order as each is an independent novel.  Other books by Dave Folsom are Scaling Tall Timber, The Dynameos Conspiracy, The Zeitgeist Project, and Running with Moose. Find books by Dave Folsom here: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004G8153I http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/dave-folsom?srt=r&sze=10&refgrp=1&dref=1 http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/davefolsom Excerpts and more information is available on Dave’s Website: http://www.davefolsombooks.com

Coyote Rules

Chapter One

Northern Mexico

Fiona Cardeno stood beside her car gripped in icy fear.  The hot Mexican morning sun beating on her shoulders did little to ease her panic.  The derelict garage and used car lot in front of her contained an eclectic collection of vehicles of questionable ownership.  Most damaged with missing hoods and crumpled fenders, a few on the front row sat whole and roadworthy.  Surrounded by rusting woven wire stapled to rotting wood posts topped with sagging barbed wire, the yard corralled a varying assortment of partially disassembled vehicles.  The garage, a dilapidated frame building fronted the road with a single overhead door sitting askew and half open, exposed a cluttered interior.  Situated on a dead-end road a mile north of Altar, Son, Mexico, and surrounded by miles of harsh Sonoran Desert on every side, the business resembled a junk yard in financial distress.  It served different illegal purposes, including a drug transfer activities and a gathering point for walkers waiting for a coyote guide to lead them across the steep, treacherous landscape between Altar and the United States border.  Today’s group included a diverse group of old and young Hispanics, male and female, including a child not yet walking.  Fiona knew if they reached the border, evaded the hawk-eyed Border Patrol, sophisticated cameras, radar, and ground detectors, the walk to civilization on the U.S. side was another twenty rugged miles.  She saw a ragtag group knowing it was likely most would not make it alive.

Fear rose in Fiona’s throat while she watched two armed and tat-covered men oversee the final modification of a two-year-old Buick she drove to work in Ajo, Arizona.  The day was Tuesday, the morning after she received the call, a once a week ritual over the last few months.  A raspy deep tone, the same one each time, striking frozen dread into her breast, his words directing her to the junkyard once again.  There she waited, while they loaded the Buick with drugs.  The process completed, her task was to drive it across the border into the United States.  During the day, while she was at her desk working at a job she loved, the Buick would disappear for a few hours and returned in time for her to drive home.  On the selected day for her trip north, the vehicle contained drugs destined for American consumption and when she returned that same night American dollars were secreted somewhere in the car.  She did not know where, nor did she want to know its location.  The cartel was careful and required she carry contraband one day a week on varying days.

Fiona, a so-called ‘anchor baby’ by virtue of her mother’s repeated border crossings when her baby’s birth was imminent.  Her mother’s efforts to make the delivery happen north of the border successful, Fiona became an American citizen, the first in her family.

Now grown, Fiona recalled her elation when the hospital in Ajo phoned a week after she sent in an application.  The Personnel Director tried without success to communicate with her mother who spoke not a word of English.  The poor man went through a confusing dialog with her three older brothers, all named Jose, before the trio, in a collective discussion, realized Fiona was the one he wanted.

Fiona grew to age five in Mexico, but her American citizenship allowed her to attended school in Arizona by staying with relatives.  She became bilingual and spoke fluent English and Spanish.  At nineteen and the proud recipient of a nursing assistant certificate after extra schooling, Fiona searched for a job.  Ajo General Hospital’s call was her first response.  She answered the phone hesitant, afraid of unknown trouble. Instead, the man offered her a job because they needed a competent nursing assistant who could converse in Spanish.  Fiona accepted and worked less than three months before the cartel, in the form of a young man she knew from childhood, accosted her.

Different now, older, meaner, and covered with gang tats, he told her if she refused to mule drugs and cash across the border, her family would suffer consequences, threatening a long-term nap in a sandy desert unmarked grave.  He followed with a hint about her personal safety, mentioning rape and worse.  Terrified, Fiona agreed, and lived in fear thereafter.

The cartel furnished a car, modified in ways she did not want to know.  At first, she traveled empty, a move designed to get the Americans used to seeing her and the car.  After a two-week dry run initiation period, she made one loaded run a week, on alternating days as dictated by the cartel.  At first, the American workers at the border crossing checked her close.  Drug sniffing dogs and pointed questions analyzed her car and her responses, but as time passed, the checks became routine. She started to know the agents and sometimes they would simply wave her through, especially when traffic was heavy with workers travelling north to work.  Fiona did not know how many others like her made similar trips with contraband, but suspected many.  The difference in her mind was that she loved her birth country and only participated under threat.

After two months of her once a week deliveries, Fiona pulled into the line at the border crossing on a sunny, cloudless July morning.  The agent working her line was new, serious, and thorough, spending extra time with every car despite a long backup of traffic.  When it was her turn, he walked up to the car stiff and without a hint of welcoming.  A wave of guilt ran through her breast.  Her hands gripped the steering wheel tight and guilt sweat gathered on the small of her back.

The agent peered into her window and said in a flat tone, “Good morning.  What is your destination today?”  His voice neutral, he looked young, probably early twenties, but he did not sneak second glance at her as most young men did.  He stared instead into her eyes as if looking for guilt.  Fiona felt certain he could see it.

“Miss?” the agent said when Fiona did not answer.

Fiona could not speak.  It was as if her throat closed and nothing came out except a hopeless look.  She saw her world collapse when the agent signaled for a working German Sheppard dog.  The dog made one circle around the car and alerted at the left rear quarter panel.

“Miss, I need you to get out of the car,” the agent said.  His voice turned all business as he directed her to open the driver’s door.  “Please get out of the car, Miss,” he said again.

The rest became a blur as her mind flashed to an end of her job, and her dreams; her life as she knew it faded to black.  She felt rough hands as two female agents pulled her from the car, handcuffed her, and guided her inside where they searched her person before moving her into a cell for processing.  When the steel door slammed shut the finality of it struck like a knife in her chest and tears rolled through smeared mascara.  She struggled against it; but it was futile.  She began to cry.

 ***

Charlie Draper sat on his front porch watching the sun peek over granite topped mountains miles distant from his perch.  The yellow orbit peeked between two volcano chimneys sitting in a gun-site formation.  Early morning shadows played around towering saguaro cactus and mistletoe-infected palo verde trees.  His favorite time of day, he watched first rays of a new morning chase away the dark.  Dog liked it as well, lying with his head between his paws and eyes half closed.  The Sonoran Desert woke with cactus wrens, geckos, and other desert creatures darting about on a never-ending search for water and nourishment, ignoring the man and his dog.  George, an over-sized gecko, who came every morning at the same time while developing a taste for white bread, sat on the porch railing waiting for his morning treat.  Draper supplied it on any morning at home.  Grasping the quarter-slice, the lizard ate half or so, before scampering off to his well-hidden lair with the remainder.

Draper’s sat with feet propped against the ironwood porch railing and his chair leaning back against the thick stucco wall when his ringing cell phone disturbed casual musing.  He waited to the third ring before looking, debating, not wanting to move.  When he saw Gabriella’s name he dropped his feet and answered.

“Hi, Babe, what’s up?”

“Hi Dad,” Gabriella said, in a tone that alerted Draper in an instant.

“You sound stressed,” he said.  “Is anything wrong?”

“I’m not sure,” Gabriella said, “let me tell you about it and see what you think.”

“Shoot.”

“We hired a nursing assistant about three months ago and this morning she didn’t show up for shift.  Up to now, she’s been regular as clockwork; hasn’t missed a day.  I called her home in Mexico and they said she left for work.  She’s a good employee.  This isn’t like her.”

Draper could hear elevated concern in Gabriella’s voice.  He felt certain his adopted daughter’s missing employee sparked memories of her captive years in a Mexican cartel-run house of prostitution.  “What’s her name,” Draper asked.

“Fiona Cardeno,” Gabriella said.

“Have you called your Mom to see if there’s been an accident?”  Draper knew Gabriella considered County Sheriff Molly Henderson her mother and Draper her father since her rescue her from Mexican banditos when she was seventeen.  Now almost twenty-two, Gabriella finished nursing training at the University of Arizona and found employment at the nearby hospital in Ajo.  Her reasons were twofold, and included Draper and Molly Henderson nearby as well as her marriage to one of Molly’s deputies.  After Draper initiated legal adoption making her an official daughter, his relationship with the Sheriff, off and on in the past, was, for the last year, very much on.

“Of course; there’s none reported.”

“You know there’s not much Mom can do other than the usual checks without more information.  Your employee could have returned to Mexico or, for one reason or another, been detained on the Mexican side.”

“I don’t believe that.  Fiona has not missed a day of work since she started.  I’m certain if there was a problem she would have called.”

Draper was familiar with the look he knew Gabriella shot at him through the phone.  Her tone told him it was the same one used when she considered something he said obvious.  “I’ll make some calls, Babe.”

 

Finding the young woman was not difficult.  He started with Homeland Security and after a couple transfers, ended up with Customs and Border Protection at the Lukeville border crossing.  The agent who answered said, “Anders,” in an impatient tone.  Draper identified himself as an attorney looking for a client.

“I’ve never heard of you, Mr. Draper, are you licensed to practice in Arizona?”

“I am,” Draper said.

“I don’t find you on our list.” Anders said.

“That’s likely since I don’t normally deal with border issues as an attorney.” Draper said, in truth.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Draper?”

“I’m looking for a young woman who has been reported missing and I was wondering if she’d been detained at the border for some reason.  She is an American citizen living in Mexico and crosses the border at Lukeville every day to work at the hospital in Ajo.”

“Name?” Anders said.

“Fiona Cardeno.”

“Hang on a second,” Anders said.

The phone went dead and Draper assumed he was on hold.  No music played to confirm it leaving him waiting in silence.

After several minutes, as he contemplated hang up and trying again, Anders came back on.  “We have a young woman by that name in a detention cell.  If you are an attorney you best get down here because she is in considerable trouble.”

“What’s the charge?” Draper said.

“I can’t tell you that, you need to come down here with ID and confirmation that you are an attorney and that she’s your client.”

“On my way,” Draper said.  “Do not interview her until I get there.”

“Can’t guarantee that,” Anders said.

 

The drive to Lukeville from Draper’s place took an hour in his old Lincoln.  He parked in a crowded lot and walked into a modern building with offices, a waiting area, and uniformed personnel staffing a counter busy with border crossers with questions and problems.  He took a place in line behind a Hispanic family.  The agents looked haggard and stressed by the numbers of bodies lined up before them.  An agent seated at a desk saw him, and walked up to the counter.  Draper recognized him and struggled to remember his name.

“Charlie Draper, right?” the man said.

“Yes, thanks for helping.  I’m sorry; I can’t come up with your name.” Draper said.

“No reason you should.  We met once a couple of years ago up in Tucson.  Diego Cruz.  What do you need?”

“I understand you have a young woman in detention for some reason.  I’m an attorney and I’ll like to talk to her.  Her name is Fiona Cardeno.”

“I’m glad somebody is here to help her.  She’s in a bundle of trouble.”

“What’s the charge?”

“We have her for transporting illegal substances into the United States.  She had coke, heroin, and a small amount of crack hidden in the car she was driving.  Agents are still processing it but it looks in the neighborhood of several million bucks worth.  This ain’t no small deal.”

“Can you put her in an interview room so I can talk to her?  If you are talking to her I want it stopped until I’ve advised her.”

“You have a smart client.  She hasn’t said a word,” Cruz said.  “Let me check where she is.”

After a delay of ten minutes, Cruz returned and said, “Follow me, Counselor.”

Cruz led Draper through a maze of sterile hallways painted off-white.  They turned into a hallway lined with steel doors with small barred windows and electronic locks.  The Border Patrol agent stopped at one and punched a keypad to unlock the door.

“Sorry, but all the interview rooms are busy so you’ll have to talk to your client here.  There’s a buzzer on the wall you can push when you are done and we will set you free.”

Draper heard the door lock behind him while looking at a small room with a built in benches on the walls for seating.  The room lacked comfort in any form.  The color mirrored the hue everywhere in the building.  A window-sized mirror on the wall reflected a young Hispanic female – Draper guessed late teens – dressed for work in hospital scrubs.  Draper knew the mirror was actually a one-way window through which someone monitored everything in the room.  His client sat miserable on the bench, her world crushed and future stark.  Her face streaked with tear-smeared mascara and terrified eyes, she saw Draper and tears began anew.  Fiona Cardeno would have been pretty under different circumstances, but on this day, she looked downtrodden and helpless.

“Miss Cardeno,” my name is Charlie Draper.  I’m an attorney and I’m here to help you.”

“I told them I can’t afford an attorney,” Fiona Cardeno said between sobs.

Draper sat on the bench next to the young woman and said, “I’m also Gabriella’s father.  She asked me to find you and see what I could do.  She’s worried about you.”

Draper’s statement made the young woman cry more and Draper waited, letting her get a grip her emotions.  He thought about the options the young woman faced and none looked promising.  Without a doubt, drug trafficking charges sat on the horizon, with refutation difficult.  A crime like this one, if proven, could result in serious penalties.  The charge was Federal and included mandatory prison sentences as well as stiff fines for the guilty.

Minutes later, she became quiet, staring at the floor.  After a few moments she looked direct into Draper’s eyes and said, “I knew there were drugs in the car, but they said they’d hurt my family if I didn’t drive the car through the border.  They also threatened to kidnap, rape me, and force me to work in a casa de putas if I did not comply.  I didn’t know what else to do.”

Draper was familiar with casa de putas, Spanish for houses of prostitution, and the conditions under which they operated in Mexico.  The thought made him shudder.  His adopted daughter, Gabriella, spent three years captive in one only to escape into the desert where Draper found her.  Draper felt anger knowing the threat to the young woman was real and difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.

“From now on do not speak to anyone unless I’m here.  I’m not a criminal attorney, but I know somebody who knows good ones and I’m going to call him now.”

Draper dialed a number he knew ended in Washington, DC.  After three rings, a female voice answered, “Congressman Randall Markham’s office.”

“Is he in?  This is Charlie Draper.”

“Mr. Draper, he’s always in for you.”

“Thanks, Shirley; I’d rather talk to you, but I need the Congressman’s help.

“Sure, I know, always an excuse.  Just a minute, I’ll put him on.”  This time he heard music while on hold.  It lasted less than a minute.

“Draper, you son-of-a-bitch, you only call when you want something.  Don’t you know I have five hundred thousand other constituents with problems as important as yours?”

“I do know,” Draper said, “but none of them owe me for their job like you do.”

“Just because you eliminated my predecessor doesn’t mean I owe you, but I am willing to listen,” Markham said.

“This is a simple request.  I need a damn good criminal attorney with immigration background.”

“Still trying to save the world, I take it.”

“Somebody has to,” Draper said.  Draper spent the next five minutes covering his problem.

“Listen,” Markham said, “anything I can do to help, call me.  The best I know is someone you’ve met.  His name is Dan Gallardo.  He’s been specializing in immigration law besides being a damn fine criminal man.”

“I do remember, four years ago, in Phoenix, right?”

“You’ve got it, tenacious as hell and damn smart.”

“Thanks, Randy; I’ll give him a call.”

Draper hung up and looked at Fiona Cardeno who sat staring at him.  Draper got up and walked over to her.  He sat, took her hand, and looked her straight in the eyes.

“Can I call you Fiona?” Draper asked.

“Yes, please,” she said.

“Fiona, I am not going to lie to you.  The charges against you are serious, difficult to defend given the circumstances, and the current attitude about drug smuggling.  Nevertheless, that does not mean we cannot help you but it may take some time.  Therefore, I need you to be strong, truthful, and cooperative when asked, but do not talk about your case to anyone other than the attorney I am about to call and me unless one or the other of us is with you.  Okay?”

“Okay,” Fiona Cardeno said.

“Start at the beginning and tell me what happened,” Draper said.

Fiona’s story mirrored ones Draper heard before, that of the cartels using innocents to transport drugs using intimidation and fear coupled with threats to family and friends.  Unfortunate natives like Fiona were a throw-way delivery service if caught, abandoned and forgotten, replaced before the ink dried on the smuggling charges.

When Fiona finished, Draper called Dan Gallardo.

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Big Sky Dead on Goodreads Book Giveaway

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Big Sky Dead has been entered into the Goodreads Book Giveaway and two paperback copies will be given away to lucky winners. Sign up starting June 1, through June 15, 2013 to win at Goodreads. Click here

Mark your calender to make sure you don’t miss out.

Here’s a little teaser: Charlie Draper takes on what seems like a simple assignment. Check on a missing DEA agent. He does not expect to find him dead; dead on the floor of a drug manufacturing house. Frustrating weeks of digging into the lives of a small town in Montana uncovers drug trafficking, human trafficking and murder for hire, leaves the local Sheriff gunned down, and Draper with a major headache. Then he begins to suspect all the mayhem is a ruse for the real objective. Charlie receives help from his friend DEA agent Alejandro Jones and together they uncover a diabolical plan to destroy the United States.

Giveaway sign up to win dates are June 1 -June 15, 2013.  Sorry, eligibility is limited to  readers in the U.S. and Canada.

Read the first Chapter here: Big Sky Dead – Chapter One.

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Big Sky Dead Book Video

Big Sky Dead book video is available:

To start the video click on the picture above.

Take a look at the new book video for Big Sky Dead, the new Charlie Draper thriller available now on Amazon in paperback and a Kindle eBook. Look for the paperback on Amazon.com or in you favorite online bookstore. The Kindle edition is available on Amazon also with other eBook formats coming in the near future.

For paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com click here.

As always, comments, including praise or constructive criticism, are always appreciated.  A first chapter excerpt of Big Sky Dead is included in the last post on this site.

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Excerpt from Big Sky Dead

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For those of you who are followers of my Charlie Draper series the latest book, Big Sky Dead will be available in paperback and Kindle in the next couple of days at Amazon.com.  Click here.  Number 3 in the series, the following is an excerpt of the first chapter of Big Sky Dead, a suspense thriller that takes Draper on a wild ride of drug trafficking, human trafficking and murder for hire in rural Montana.

Chapter One

Eastern Montana

 The man on the floor was dead; very dead, if there was such a condition.  Dead was dead; nothing he could do about it.  Sheriff Roscoe Hornsby’s twenty-year-long law enforcement career exposed him to a cornucopia of recently deceased individuals of all ages and sexes.  It told him a medical degree and a flock of health professionals would not get this one up.  Three large caliber wounds to the upper chest made that fact clear as spring fed water; a bit of overkill though, Hornsby thought, wasted ammunition for sure and suggesting a elevated level of anger on the part of the shooter.

“Is he dead, Ross?”  The voice came from the front door and belonged to Randall Ruskin, owner of the house and several other rentals in town.  “I told you something wasn’t right.”

“Randy, stay the hell outside like I told you,” Hornsby said, stepping through the debris-covered floor while drawing his weapon.  He had been Sheriff twelve years and he had drawn his Glock not more than a dozen times.  There had never been a need outside of sapping a belligerent drunk.  Of those, he had plenty; cowboys, itinerant farm hands, and sheepherders all with a craving for the bottle during those rare winter times when there was little else to do.  Sore-headed, hung-over, and sheepish, Hornsby crowded them into his single twelve by twelve drunk tank/jail cell and let them sleep.  On a busy Saturday night and a full tank, he handcuffed the overflow to the oak railing across the front of the office and let them snore on the hardwood floor.

The man’s body lay sprawled on his back, arms outstretched in a slowly expanding pool of dark blood in the middle of a furniture-void living room.  The holes in his chest marred a much-washed red Carhartt t-shirt worn over faded tan Dickies.  The Sheriff guessed the man’s age at about forty to forty-five with light brown thinning hair and streaks of pre-mature gray; a stranger though, not a local.  No hint of recognition rose in Hornsby’s mind to block the vision of hours of paperwork.

The room was far from empty; it contained the makings of a sophisticated chemistry lab and dozens of plastic-wrapped and mailing tape secured packages.  Hornsby guessed cocaine, which he knew cooked crack or sold as an inhalable powder.  Hornsby had seen a lot of coke and knew this pile represented over a million dollars in potential revenue; definitely enough to kill for.  A nearby table sat covered with a variety of chemicals, most of which had potential to lift the roof off the house if miss-used.  He recognized the ingredients for cooking meth.  In Chicago, they were as plentiful as household cooking oil.  In Montana, anhydrous ammonia, used everywhere as a soil enhancement during farming, also provided a plentiful ingredient for meth manufacturing.

The house itself showed unremarkable, plain construction, ranch-style, three-bedroom rambler with the third bedroom the size of a large walk-in closet.  Several years beyond needing a complete remodel, the dated structure classified as either a low-rent income producer or a bargain-priced fixer-upper.  Hornsby cleared the rest of the house following his Model 23 Glock .40 through each room.  The two larger bedrooms contained expensive grow lights and a sophisticated watering system nurturing a robust crop of multi-aged marijuana.  Behind the grow tables the sheetrock walls were water-stained and speckled with dark spots of black and green mold.  Careful not to touch anything, Hornsby surveyed each room with a cop’s eye without finding anything of interest.  Back in the living room, Hornsby searched the man’s pockets for identification and found zip.  Unlike current television programs, he lacked a fully staffed forensics lab.  Anything that was not obvious would require the Tri-county Medical Examiner’s office touch, a minimum of two hours away.

Sheriff Hornsby, an Undersheriff and three deputies, represented the law enforcement presence in one of Montana’s larger counties area wise, but with the least amount of population.  The nearest city of any size sat sixty miles east in another county.  Antelope County sat in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, with the eastern half in the Great Plains and the western half dominated by the Crazy’s, a heavily forested, steep-sided mountain range scraping tall into the state’s famous Big Sky.  Covering over five thousand square miles, the county could count a scattered population of twelve hundred, a quarter of which were over sixty-five.  Primary income came from large ranches where cattle and sheep outnumbered the fiercely conservative inhabitants ten to one.  In years past the crime rate hovered near zero, but recent statistics mirrored most big population centers.

Hornsby surveyed the front room again and it reminded him of his long career as a Los Angeles police detective.  Only the surrounding prairie and lack of water felt different.  The home sat a half mile south of town on a wind-swept, ten-acre plot of scattered prairie grass, sagebrush, and barking prairie dogs.  Over recent years, the renters had been mostly transient workers, single cowhands and an occasional older retired couple.  The rent barely covered the upkeep but Ruskin advertised it as valuable income property while looking for a cash-flush stranger seeking a bargain.  So far, none had appeared.  Hornsby stepped onto the porch, closed the door, sealed it with crime scene tape, and prodded Ruskin down the stairs onto the driveway.

“I need to get in there.  It’s my place,” Ruskin complained.

“No you don’t, Randy, it’s a goddamn crime scene.  Nobody goes in there until the ME gets here from Lewistown.”

A black Lincoln, raising clouds of prairie dust skidded to a stop in of front of the driveway.  The car had tinted windows causing the Sheriff to draw again and put both hands on his county-issue Glock while he stepped behind his patrol car.  He held the gun at his side waiting.  When the Lincoln’s door opened, he lifted it up and pointed it at the car.  A black Lincoln and a dead body behind him in the house, demanded caution and he growled, “Randy, step behind me, Goddamn it.  Do it now.”  When Ruskin did not move, he shouted, “Now!”  Ruskin moved.

The man in the Lincoln stepped out following raised hands, slow, as if he knew the Sheriff would shoot if he made a wrong move.  “Sheriff Hornsby?” the man said, “your office said you’d be out here somewhere.”

“And who the hell are you?” Hornsby said, his Glock not wavering and still pointed at the stranger’s chest.

“Appreciate it if you’d lower that cannon, Sheriff, I’m on your side.  My name’s Draper, Charlie Draper.  I believe you were told I was coming.”

“Got some ID, Mister?  You’d better, because I’ve never heard of you.  If you don’t I might be inclined to shoot your ass right here and now.  So, reach for it nice and slow and if you get anywhere close to that piece under your left shoulder I will kill you where you stand.”

The stranger stared at first and Hornsby tensed, ready to shoot.  The man had hard eyes, dark, displaying no fear and appeared to be analyzing the situation.  He stood tall; Hornsby guessed well over six feet, enough weight to make him difficult to handle when it came to a street fight and a sense about him that hinted at a good deal of hand-to-hand combat training.  He had on faded jeans, black cowboy boots, and a dark blue sport coat that hung loose from wide shoulders.  His face deeply tanned, the beginnings of age lines at his eyes indicated he would never see forty again.  Hornsby decided he was not going to take any chances; a single false move and he would shoot.  Any mess he would clean up afterward.

“Sheriff, I’d really hate it if you shot me, so let me tell you I am armed; I’m Federal and here to help you.  I’m going to pull back my coat and show you my gun.  I will pull out my ID with two fingers of my left hand and lay it on the roof of your car where you can reach it.  Okay with you?”

“Okay, but do it slowly.  Just so you know, you won’t be the first asshole I’ve shot; and I won’t hesitate to shoot you,” Hornsby said.

“I believe you, Sheriff.  I was told you were a no nonsense son-of-a-bitch.”

Hornsby watched close as the stranger pulled back his sport coat and exposed a leather shoulder rig with a quick-draw holster holding a black handled Glock.  He could not be sure but guessed a .40 or .45 caliber.  He looked like someone who would carry a serious weapon.  With two fingers, the man picked a leather ID case out of his shirt pocket and laid it carefully on the roof of the Sheriff’s car.

Hornsby reached for the case without taking his eyes off the stranger, opened it and glanced at it.  It looked legit, with a federal seal, identifying a Charles Draper as a federal NSA agent (retired).

“Says here you are retired,” Hornsby said.

“I still do occasional contract work,” Draper said.

“So, what’s so goddamn important in my little county that it brings a fancy federal spook clear out here in the boonies?”

“We have an undercover DEA agent that has been here a couple of months and hasn’t reported in when he should have.  My job is to find him and extract him.”

“You got someone I can call to confirm what you say?  This is rural Montana; we’re particular about feds snooping around without letting us know what’s up.”  Hornsby’s Glock had not moved off the center of Draper’s chest.  With dead body only yards away, his cop’s instinct would not allow him to lapse into carelessness.

“They were supposed to notify you that I was coming, but it appears somebody dropped the ball,” Draper said, “so who would you believe if they called you in the next few minutes?”

“Here’s my problem, friend; I’ve got you armed to the teeth, a dead body behind me in a house full of drug manufacturing equipment and no backup within thirty miles, so I’m not sure I’d believe the freaking Governor, if he called, which I doubt he would.  So this is how this is going to go down; I’m going to come around the car with my .40 Glock pointed at your chest and I’m going to ask you nice and polite to put your hands behind your neck so I can handcuff you.  You make even a twitch the wrong way and I will shoot you dead.  Then we’ll see if your story checks out and if…”

Hornsby felt a searing pain though his chest in the instant before everything went dark.  He did not feel the gun drop out of his hand nor the impact of the ground as it smacked him in the face.  Randall Ruskin who stood silent behind the Sheriff during the conversation with the stranger, screamed when a second shot rang the prairie air and dropped him to the ground in the instant following the Sheriff’s collapse.

To find out more about Big Sky Dead and other books by this author click here.

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