Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 15
We waited four days for los hermanos to return to the safe house.
Four very long days.
Pilar was a terrible patient.
I did everything I could to keep her in bed and off her bad leg-- everything-- but she refused to stay put. I found her walking around the house several times a day.
Still, her limp soon became far less noticeable and her stare regained much of its customary sharpness.
Pilar and I had just finished supper and were outside, enjoying the cool evening wind, when Diego and Manuel rolled up in an unfamiliar, battered white Ford Bronco.
Manuel, hands, arms, and khakis stained with dried blood, hopped out from behind the driver's seat and went around to help his brother down from the big vehicle.
The blood all over Diego's left leg appeared much fresher.
I jumped up to lend a hand.
Pilar walked the wounded man into the house.
His brother dropped down onto the crate she'd vacated. He fished a pack of cigarettes out of his hip pocket and lit up.
I sat on the other crate and looked at him as he smoked that thing right down to the filter.
He flicked the butt away and grinned at me.
“I'm okay,” he said. He pointed to his bloody pants. “No es mi sangre.”
The front room stank of tequila and blood sweat.
Diego's bloody pants sat in a heap at the foot of his bedroll.
The man himself lay still, grunting, as Pilar poured tequila over the outside of his left thigh.
The four inch gash was red and inflamed around a crooked line of improvisational stitches.
Manuel cursed and sat on his own bedroll.
Pilar gave Diego another splash of tequila, then set the bottle down.
“The work is not bad,” she said, “considering that he did these himself.”
I looked at Manuel. He looked through me.
“Manuel was driving, Mateo.”
He nodded, then got up and left the room.
“What happened?” I asked.
“They were discovered someplace they should not have been and had to fight their way out.”
“Did they find what we need to know?
Diego sat up and tried to reach his pants. Pilar picked them up and helped him get his wounded leg back into them.
“Yes,” she said. “Yes they did.”
It all seemed simple enough.
After a little trial and a fair amount of error, the brothers managed to find out where the Federales were holding Don Gerardo.
Their pickup truck and a good chunk of Diego's left thigh was the price they paid to confirm their information.
After Manuel returned to the room with some clean bandages and what remained of the rice and beans I'd made for supper he and his brother told their tale of misadventure. They talked right over each other, speaking faster than I could keep up with.
Diego produced a rough map he drew during the ride away from the facility.
Pilar waited until they ran out of wind.
“My father is being held in an old tuberculosis hospital the Federales use as a jail. It is difficult to approach without being seen and is heavily guarded.”
The map showed a large compound situated on a bluff, high above a thin strip of beach.
Diego pointed out the main hospital building-- which he said still housed patients-- and the two barracks longhouses flanking it. An unspecified number of small outbuildings lay scattered around the property.
To get onto the grounds we'd have to get through a gate and past the guard shack, all in plain view of the snipers in the water tower the Federales had fashioned into an observation station.
“And Don Gerardo is being held where?” I asked.
Pilar looked to Diego.
He put his finger down in the middle of the main building.
“Aqui. El esta aqui.”
We left late that night.
Diego and Manuel led the way in the Bronco while Pilar and I followed in the Pinto.
There would be no reinforcements, no support.
“We are enough,” Pilar had said.
We rode in silence as our vehicles cut through the darkness. There wasn't much to talk about. We'd been over and over the plan. The time for talking was over.
I thought about the small arsenal we had with us. When we reached the Federales' compound each of us would be armed with an automatic rifle and two handguns. I also had Antonio's revolver on me.
Pilar filled a leather satchel with extra clips while I drove.
I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding.
“You did not have to come, Mateo,” she said.
I made no reply.
Diego hit the gas, the sign that we were approaching the gate.
A spotlight came on up ahead.
I sped up, tailgating the Bronco. I could see the fence and made out a dark shape I took for the guard shack.
Diego floored it.
More lights came on and I heard men shouting.
Automatic gunfire broke out as the Bronco tore through the fence and crashed into the guard shack.
The brothers began to return fire even before their vehicle slowed and stopped.
I steered around them, heading for the main building.
The snipers peppered the Pinto, shattering the driver's side rear window and putting holes in the Bondo-reinforced body.
Our Pinto made it to within twenty yards of the building before the gunmen hit something important.
Pilar kicked her door open and sprayed the area in front of her with bullets.
I got out and hit the dirt running, stashing the revolver in my waistband at the small of my back.
Bullets hit the ground all around me. I fired back in short, uncontrolled bursts as I ran toward the building.
A pair of metal double doors swung open in front of me. I counted four Federales, backlit by fluorescent light from inside.
Pilar, running full out, shot all four in turn.
Two more of them bounded through the doorway, guns at the ready.
I let them have it.
We leaped over the bodies and slammed the door shut behind us.
The place looked well-maintained. The lighting was good and everything from the fresh paint job to the uncluttered hallway looked clean.
Shouts of alarm reverberated off the walls and hard tile floors.
A tall Federale with a bushy mustache rounded the corner, pistol in hand.
She shot him in the leg. He fell, screaming in pain.
We ran to him, dragged him into the nearest room, and shut the door.
“Donde esta Don Gerardo?” demanded Pilar.
He didn't answer her.
She pulled one of her pistols and put a round through his right hand.
He howled and cursed and growled at her, which earned him another bullet, this time in the shoulder.
She stomped on his wounded leg and repeated her question.
The guy continued to hold out on her.
She sighed and raised the gun again.
He threw his good hand out in front of him and mumbled something.
“Donde?” she asked.
He mumbled some more.
She nodded and got off his leg. I opened the door and checked the hallway.
“He is in the basement,” she said as we stepped out and closed the door. “Third room. Left side of the hallway.”
We found the stairs and headed down.
We barreled over the three Federales stationed in the stairwell and burst into the basement, spraying automatic rifle fire down the narrow hallway. Men hollered and returned fire.
It didn't do them much good.
Pilar, with very little help from me, picked off every man dumb enough to stand still long enough for her to send a bullet his way.
Smoke and dust filled the corridor as fluorescent bulbs shattered.
When the shooting stopped I dropped my empty rifle and drew one of the Rugers I was carrying.
Pilar said something I didn't catch through the gunfire echoing in my ears and moved down the hall. I followed.
We stopped in front of the third door on the left.
She kicked it in before I could ask about the plan.
Two men in good suits rather than Federale standard issue uniforms stood together in the middle of the room. The little man on the left had a full head of black hair and a big scar under his eye. The other was bowling ball bald and looked like he spent twenty three hours a day in the gym. Each of them had a huge, shiny, silver handgun pointed right at us.
Behind them, close to the unpainted cinder block wall, lay Don Gerardo.
His lifeless, bare torso showed obvious signs of torture-- welts, cuts, burns.
Pilar's knuckles went white. She pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened. A click. Nothing more.
“Bajas tus armas,” said the man on the left.
“Ahorita,” chimed in the bald guy.
She let go of the rifle. I dropped the handgun.
“Los Rugers tambien,” said the little guy.
I drew the second Ruger and put it on the floor. Pilar did the same with her two.
He waved his gun at us.
“Dar un paso atras y ciera la puerta.”
We took one step back. I shut the door, as ordered.
Pilar leaned her head toward me.
“Do you trust me, Mateo?”
“What the hell kind of question is that?”
She reached behind me and snatched Antonio's revolver from my waistband.
I took a knee.
She fired twice over my head, close enough to for me to feel the heat and shock of the discharge.
I heard a third shot. Both men fell.
The noise bounced off the cinder block walls, settling in my ringing ears.
I tried to stand. Pilar had a good grip on my shoulder.
“What gives?” I asked. “Let me up!”
I replayed the shooting in my mind.
Three shots. Two from the revolver. That third shot. It came between Pilar's.
I felt more of her weight against my shoulder. She wasn't holding me down. I was holding her up.
I grabbed her hand and stood, blinking to chase the disorientation. I looked her over. At first, I didn't see it. Then she shifted, just enough for the light to catch a shiny wetness on her stomach, above her left hip.
She stopped me before I could lift her shirt to check out the wound. Her face revealed nothing. No pain. No grief. No anger.
I tried to maneuver her to the wall.
“Sit down a minute, willya?”
“No, Mateo. If I sit down I will never get back up.”
I studied her expression, her eyes, and for a split second I saw defeat. She chased it right away, hardening her stare. I stared back, silently. There was nothing to say.
“We must move,” she said.
I stared for another few seconds, then picked up our guns and the ammo bag. There wasn't much left in it-- two clips, both for the handguns. We each pocketed one of them and I ditched the bag.
She gave Antonio's revolver back to me. I stuck it into my waistband and put my arm out for her. She took it, allowing me to support her.
I looked back at Don Gerardo's body.
“Did you want a minute, Pilar?”
“No, Mateo. He is not in there anymore.”
She took a minute anyway, then we turned toward the door.
The sounds of booted feet in the hallway stopped us short. A lot of them.
We looked around the room. No windows. No other doors. No other way out.
Someone out in the hall shouted orders.
“I am sorry, Mateo.”
I grabbed her by the front of her shirt and kissed her. Hard. She kissed back, her fingernails scraping the back of my neck.
It didn't last anywhere near long enough.
We drew our Rugers-- all four of them-- and moved to the door.
I pushed all thoughts of what lay on the other side of it from my mind.
Pilar nodded at me and yanked the door open.
We burst out of the room, four guns firing. Our primal roars sliced through the rumble of gunfire filling the hallway.--------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.