Authors‎ > ‎Thomas Calabrese‎ > ‎

Cold Ice Hot Steel

posted Sep 12, 2014, 8:17 AM by Ron Pickett

Cold Ice   Hot Steel

 

          Charlie Reese had an ice bag wrapped to ailing right knee as he lowered himself into his worn and faithful recliner.  A cold beer was setting within reach on the end table to his right. It patiently beckoned to be consumed. The remote control was cradled in his left hand. After a long hard day on the streets of Lincoln Heights, there was no place Charlie would rather be than right where he was. He had previously recorded the 1975 film, Hard Times with Charles Bronson and James Coburn and prepared to watch it. Even though he had seen it numerous times, it still remained one of his favorite movies. Charlie found it to be entertaining, relaxing and inspiring all at the same time. It helped nullify the negative effects of dealing with the dregs of society that were an occupational hazard of his job.

The phone rang and Charlie cursed the interruption. “Oh shit.”

When he saw who it was, he immediately answered it. “Hey Ben.”

There was a hesitation on the other end. “It's not Ben...its Wendy.”

“Hi Wendy. What's up?” Charlie immediately sensed that something was wrong from her tone of voice.

“Ben's been killed. I don't have any other details. You're the first person I called. Wendy cried. “I need to call his parents. I'll let you know when they tell me more.”

Charlie was dumfounded and speechless.  He couldn't process the information. It was too traumatic for his mind to accept. If longevity and shared experiences had anything to do with friendship then Ben was an invaluable part of Charlie's life. Their connection went back many years. They went to high school at Huntington Beach High and served in the Marine Corps together. After leaving the Corps they traveled around the world for six months before deciding to use their military experience and veterans' preference and applied for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Charlie was best man at his friend's wedding. Ben and Wendy left Los Angeles and moved to Arizona when Wendy's father became ill and needed some assistance. Ben took a job with the Maricopa Sheriff's Department and has been with them for the last three years. Charlie and Ben usually got together around the holidays and at least once a year went on a surfing trip. Hawaii was on their tentative schedule this time. They usually spoke on the phone two or three times a week as well. Charlie had acquaintances and associates, but Ben was his only friend.  Charlie knew there would never be another Ben Allison in his life again not only because he didn't have the time, but also because he didn't have the slightest inclination to let anyone ever know that much about him again. As different accounts of what lead to Ben's death became to surface, Charlie's grief slowly turned to anger.  What he heard would have been hard to believe except for the point that the feds were involved. That made incompetent, irresponsible and politically motivated behavior totally within the realm of possibilities and probabilities. Lieutenant Perino, Ben's shift commander told me. “I've got two years to retirement, a bad heart and I'm barely hanging on with my fingertips for my pension so if you want the truth, I need your word that you didn't hear this from me.”

“You got it.” Charlie promised.

“You would think that after the Fast and Furious train wreck, that the Feds would have learned their lesson and backed off, but instead they decide to do something even more reckless and dangerous.”

“Which is?” Charlie inquired.

“Jorge Ramos, the man who killed Ben works as an enforcer for the Benjamin Barmenta cartel. He bounces back across the border liked he owns both countries. When we catch him, we have standing orders to turn him over to ICE who releases him back across the border and then he comes back when he feels like it.”

“Why's that?” Charlie questioned.

“The current administration is trading weapons and immunity to drug dealers in return for worthless intel about any terrorist threats moving through Mexico and possibly coming across the border. This is the classic dog and pony show.  Instead of securing the border, they give weapons to hardened criminals in the name of national security. ”

Charlie went back to his motel and thought about what Lt. Perino told him. If he had any doubts they were put to rest the next morning as he watched Fox News. The Department of Justice had the unmitigated audacity to make a public statement on the day of Ben's funeral.  To get in front of the story, so to speak. The spokesman read a prepared statement; “The United States has been working with our Mexican allies to stop dangerous terrorists sneaking across our Southern border. This program has already shown dramatic results on the was against terrorism. The war against terrorism is a global and ongoing war and the United States can not do it alone so we are always willing to work with other countries to protect human life in the ongoing War on Terrorism.”

Charlie knew the catch phrase  “War on Terrorism.”  was overused and misused. The American government knew the best way to stretch the boundaries of its ever expanding authority was to instill fear in its citizens. Fearful Americans will gladly give up their rights and freedoms if they feel they are being protected. It was not only an underhanded dirty political trick but a national disgrace.

When Charlie tried to find Jorge Ramos, he was told that he was being held in a federal detention center, undisclosed of course.  When it was time to head back to Los Angeles, Charlie stopped by to see Wendy. “If you need anything...anything at all, you call me...no matter what time or what it is and I'll be here.” Charlie promised.

“I know. You were Ben's best friend and he loved you.” Wendy replied.

“I loved him too.” Charlie swallowed hard as he choked back his tears.

“I saw you talking to some of Ben co-workers. Don't do anything stupid, Charlie. Nothing is going to bring Ben back and I couldn't take it if something happened to you too.”

Charlie flashed a boyish smile. “Me doing anything stupid. Why would you think that?”

When Charlie got back to Los Angeles, he immediately went to see his personal physician and asked him to write a letter to the Sheriff's Department requesting an indefinite medical leave of absence for excessive stress. Charlie needed to devote his full attention to the matter at hand.. Over the next thirty days, Charlie called everybody he knew in the law enforcement community asking for information about Benjamin Barmenta and Jorge Ramos. When he got what he needed, he moved to the next step.  Jack Hannity  had worked at the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department during the same time frame as Charlie and Ben. He was also a former Marine as well. He was a top sniper in the Corps and worked at that position with the Sheriff's Swat Team and was the best shot Charlie had ever seen. There was a botched hostage situation in Boyle Heights where two innocent residents were killed when the on site commander got impatient and ordered Jack to take out the suspected kidnappers of a small girl. The problem was that in the rush to enact the rescue a number on the warrant got inverted by a careless or hurried clerk. Instead of 879 it read 789. Even though there was supposed to be a recording of the radio transmissions, it mysteriously got lost or was purposely destroyed. No one could be sure which. The bureaucrats needed a fall guy in a hurry to stall any outside investigations by the FBI so the County Board of Supervisors quickly offered Jack a full medical retirement for PTSD if he admitted he may have misunderstood the order. Jack knew the system well enough to know that shit floats to the top when it comes to leadership while truth often gets flushed down the toilet. He already had a few disciplinary reprimands in his record book so he could leave now with a pension or wait to be fired later on a trumped up charge and end up with nothing. Jack Hannity now resided in Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Charlie was surprised when he drove up to the gate of the spacious estate.  He pressed the intercom. “Charlie Hood.”

The gate slowly opened and Charlie drove up the long driveway to the front of the sprawling single story home. Jack Hannity was wearing shorts, flip flops and a faded blue t-shirt as he walked out to meet Charlie He was lean, relaxed and had a welcoming smile on his face.  “Its been too long.”

Charlie replied. “Yes it has.”

As they walked inside Jack offered his condolences.. Sorry to hear about Ben. He was one of the good ones.”

“One of the best actually.”

Two large muscular Pitbulls, one black and white, the other, gray and white were lying down on the floor when Charlie entered. They raised their massive heads in curiosity.

“Go back to sleep. He's a friend.” Jack told them. The dogs immediately complied.

“It looks like you 're doing pretty well.”

“No complaints.  You mean this place? It belongs to one of the casinos in Laughlin. Some professional gambler lost it in a high stakes poker game. They were using it as a comp for high rollers who bring their families with them. You'd be surprised how much property casinos own around the world.”

“Why are you here.? You're not a high roller. At least you didn't used to be?” Charlie asked.

“Far from it. I do various assignments for the casinos when they need me. I have a pension so I don't need the money so I take this as part of my compensation package.”

“Ummm” Charlie shrugged.

“Its nothing illegal. Let me rephrase that. Its kind of like that gray black white area that could be legal depending on your perspective. I help trusted employees and valuable guests of the casinos who run into legal difficulties or problems with the law. I try to convince complainants and witnesses that a financial settlement is more in their interest than a long drawn out prosecution and court proceeding. And once in a while...very seldom...I kind of put the wheels in motion where a report gets misplaced permanently.” Jack rationalized with a sly grin.

“I'm happy for you and don't take this the wrong way, but I really don't give a shit if you're breaking, bending or twisting the hell out of the law. I got other things on my radar right now.”

“Right. Enough of my delusional ramblings. You're here because of Ben. Where do I fit in?”

“I'm going after Ben's killer. I came here because I needed your specializes skills, but I see you got a sweet deal here so I'll make other arrangements. I'll be seeing you.” Charlie got up to leave.

“Hold on, Charlie! What I do to pass the time during my tarnished golden retirement years is a diversion not a calling. Ben was my friend and despite being a hardheaded son of a bitch so are you. You came all this way to tell me something so put it out there before I tell my dogs that you're a pork chop.”

It is sunset and it has cooled off a little. Jack put his two dogs in the back of his SUV.  Charlie got in the passenger seat.

“Pitbulls are the dogs of choice for drug dealers. I volunteer for an animal rescue group. Sometimes we'll get a call when dogs are abandoned in the desert. I was on duty when the call came in. When I found Danny and Thor, they were about an hour away from crossing over the rainbow bridge. I brought them to the vet where they put them on IV's and cooled them down with ice.  It was touch and go for a couple days them until they started to recover.  When they were well enough I adopted them. I'm not comparing my dogs to Ben, don't get that impression. I'm just saying that men like us have to do what our hearts tell us to do otherwise we'd never be able to face another day.”Jack explained.

 When they got to the Marina, Jack let his dogs out and they immediately ran to a boat and eagerly jumped in.

Jack started the boat and drove a mile down river. He put a swim vest on each dog.”

“Charlie didn't say anything, just smiled and watched.

“Go!”

Danny and Thor jumped into the river. Jack started driving upstream as the dogs swam against the powerful current.

“I never get tired of watching their power and determination. There is no give up in them.” Jack smiled. “Their whole life is about not disappointing you.”

By the time they reached the Marina, Danny and Thor were completely exhausted.

“I'm impressed.” Charlie said.

 Later, Charlie and Jack are sitting at the dining table and going over files and photos of Barmenta and Ramos.

“What do you think?” Charlie asked.”

“It's possible. Let me show you something.”

Charlie and Jack walked to the back of the property where two metal security containers and a metal security office were setting under a large desert camouflaged tarpaulin

“I like to keep my equipment in these containers. It's easier to move them around this way.”  Jack explained as he unlocked the doors to all three. The containers are filled with various weapons and boxes of ammunition. The security office was a workshop.

“You sure got a lot of toys.” Charlie marveled as he took it all in.

“It's amazing how much stuff a person can accumulate over the years when he's not paying attention or doesn't have much of a life.” Jack said. “If we're going to do this then we'd better find the right tools for the job.”

Several hours later, “I really like the Barrett fifty cal, but I think for this particular soiree, we need something lightweight. Jack pulled a rifle off its wall mount. This is an M-25 SOCOM, a variation of the M-21 which is a modification of the old reliable M-14.” Jack opened a drawer and pulled out a narrow box and opened it. “Some shooters prefer the Bausch and Lomb tactical scope. Personally I lean more toward the Swarovski Z6.  We'll use OPS suppressors.  Here's one thing I've been fooling around with.” Jack open a freezer door.

“If you're getting an ice cream bar then get me one too.?” Charlie said.

“I don't think you want to chew on this.” Jack smiled and pulled out a small box. He opened the lid and held it up for Charlie to see.

“What is that? Frozen bullets.” Charlie asked.

“Nothing gets by you, does it?” Jack joked. “They hit their target and disintegrate.”

“You're one devious son of a bitch.”

“I'll take that as a compliment.” Jack smiled. “I've got Kimbers, Berettas, Tim Wessons. Do you have any preference for a handgun?”

“I'll stick with my HK P7.” Charlie answered.

“What about this?” Jack opened a drawer and pulled out a weapon.

“That looks like a Glock 18 to me.”

“Right again.” Jack pulled out a drum magazine and inserted it. “We can do fam-fire tomorrow morning.

 At sunrise Charlie and Jack went to an isolated area in the desert where targets are set at various distances. There is also makeshift urban combat course.

“I own this property. I come out here to practice.” Jack said

There are paint splatters on the plywood partitions and metal barrels. “You doing paintball too?” Charlie asked

 Helps keep the senses sharp.” Jack answered. “Kind of fun too especially when I invite the looney survivalists.”

For the next two hours, Charlie and Jack went through different scenarios with their weapons then made the appropriate adjustments in their strategy and equipment.

While firing the M-25, Jack reminded Charlie as he sighted in. “B.R.A.S.S. breath, relax, aim, slack, squeeze. The ice projectile hits the bullseye and explodes. “You just might almost be as good a shot as me.” Jack laughed.

The next morning as they sat at the dining room table. “We need to get us a SUV,  Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon, something like that. Charlie suggested.

“I know a car lot where we can pick one up. Pay cash, no questions asked.”

“What about getting into Mexico?” Charlie asked

There's a crossing in Yuma that I've used before. We'll go through Algadones then its about sixty miles to Mexicali.” Jack added.

“You don't have to do this. You've done more than enough and I owe you big time, but I'll take it from here.” Charlie said. “This is my fight, not yours.”

 Jack protested. “You're going have to shoot me if you don't want me coming with you and even then I'll be dogging your trail. I'm already in the mindset for combat. I can't shut down just like that. My PTSD won't let me besides if I don't go with you, I might end up shooting up a mobile home park. You don't want that on your conscience, do you?”

A Fed Ex truck delivered a package for Charlie that afternoon.

“Is that what we're waiting for?” Jack asked.

Charlie opened the package and quickly scanned the contents. “Yup, latest intel on Ramos and Barmenta sent by an unknown and disgruntled FBI employee.” Charlie grinned. “We should leave in the morning.”

A large motor home arrived just before sunset and parked off to the edge of the property.

“Who's that?” Charlie questioned.

“That's Roger and Myra Donaldson. He's a retired Marine. They volunteer at the animal rescue too. They takes care of my dogs when I leave town.”

Next morning, it is still dark when Charlie and Jack finish packing the Ford Expedition.

“I'll tell Roger we're leaving and that they can move up to the house. Pick me up at the gate.” Jack said. “Let's go boys!”Danny and Troy followed Jack as he walked to the motor home.

Charlie is parked down by the gate when Jack walked up carrying two mid size boxes. He put them in the back of the SUV. “It looks like its going to be a nice day for a road trip. Hit it, Compadre!”

Charlie and Jack made good time on the road from Lake Havasu to Yuma then looked at each other when they got to the border. They didn't have to verbalize it because both men knew there was a distinct possibility that this could be their last time on American soil then crossed into Mexico.

Charlie had the list of places in his latest intel package of where Jorge Ramos liked to frequent in Mexicali. Three days passed and they were still not be able to locate their target. They were sitting in their vehicle across the street from a restaurant called. Senorita Bonita.

“I really hate surveillance.” Jack grimaced as he shifted in his seat.

“I told you that you didn't have to come.” Charlie replied.

“Is that the way its going to be?”

“What?”

“Every time I make a casual comment about something, you're going to throw that back in my face.” Jack said.

“Probably.”

Well, its not...”

Charlie quickly interrupted. “Take a look.”

Two black Cadillac Escalades pulled into the parking lot. Four thuggish looking men got out of the first Escalade and scanned the area. Two men stepped out of the second  Escalade and did the same. Several seconds pass before Jorge Ramos got out. He was wearing a shirt that was unbuttoned to his navel and several gold necklaces hung around his neck. His wristwatch was gold and diamonds and looked like it was heavy for him to lift. Jorge Ramos liked to flaunt his wealth and power. He loved the excesses that came with his position.

“There he is, Mr. Inconspicuous.” Charlie observed. “Being paid by the Americans and buying off the Mexicans. He's got a sweeter deal than you.”

“But he'll never be able to pull off the open shirt look like I can.”

The seven men walked into the building. The drivers of the two Escalades stood guard next to the vehicles.

“How do you want to do this?  Wait for them to come out?” Jack asked.

“Weren't you just bitchin' around sitting on your ass?” Charlie responded. “Let's get this show on the road.” and got out of the vehicle, put in his wireless earpiece in and started walking toward the restaurant. “Com check, copy?”

“5 by 5, loud and clear.” Jack responded.

“Take out the drivers when you hear me say, How's the food in this place? If you hear shooting then come in blasting, otherwise wait until I get Ramos to come outside.”

When Charlie entered the restaurant, he walked toward the large table where Jorge Ramos was sitting. He was stopped when he got within ten feet by Jorge's bodyguards. Charlie Hood had a gift or a curse depending on your perspective, he understood criminals. The more incorrigible they were, the less of a mystery they posed to him. In the few seconds Charlie had seen Jorge Ramos, he already knew what kind of worthless scum he was and what he needed to do to pull off his bluff.

“Easy fellas.” Charlie smiled and pulled out his badge. “A mutual acquaintance told me where to find you. I got something you''ll be interested in.”

 Another corrupt American. Ramos thought. “What mutual acquaintance?”

Charlie laughed. “I'd rather not mention his name in public, but do the initials ATF or DOJ mean anything to you?”

That's all Jorge Ramos needed to hear. “What do you have for me?”

“It's outside, I'll show you.” Charlie answered.

More guns, Jorge thought. “Lead the way.”

Charlie looked around the dining area. “How's the food in this place?”

Jack opened the cooler, pulled out a magazine and loaded it into the M-25. He quickly aimed and took out the two men with quick successive shots to the heart. “Done.”

Charlie heard the acknowledgment and quickened his pace. He was followed by all seven men. As soon they got outside, Charlie heard Jack's voice. “Take two steps to the left.  Charlie slowly complied. “I' ll take the four on the right. The other two and Ramos are yours.” Charlie nodded.

As soon as the first man got hit, Charlie drew his HK and shot the two men on the left. In less than three seconds, six men were dead and Ramos was the only one standing.

“Look into my eyes and tell me what you see? Charlie asked.

“Don't kill me!” Jorge pleaded.

“If you looked into my eyes, you'd see the end.”

End? End of what?” Jorge was scared out of his mind.

“End of your life.” Charlie calmly stated.

“Do this. We need to get out of here.” Jack said.

Charlie shot Jorge in the left knee. When Jorge screamed in pain and grabbed his leg. Charlie shot him in the other knee. Jorge fell to the ground in excruciating pain.

“Ssssshhh.” Charlie put his index finger to his lips. He stepped on Jorge's throat and slowly crushed his windpipe. While Jorge choked to death, Charlie shot him in the groin then calmly walked over to the vehicle where Jack was waiting. “You didn't tell me you were going to do that.”

“No mercy for the merciless.” Charlie responded without emotion. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“Why would I have a problem? I just wished you would have let me in on it. I know how to shoot guys to make them suffer too.” Jack smiled.

“Let's go...one more stop.”

Charlie and Jack drove past the fenced estate of Benjamin Barmenta and parked in a secluded area about a mile away.

They began preparing for the assault. Jack opened the two boxes. One was filled with C-4 explosives, the other had blasting caps and timers. “I thought I'd bring these just in case.”

“We might be able to find some use for it.”

Charlie was the not type of man to overlook details because of carelessness. He knew that even if his intentions were honorable, that would only carry him so far. Cemeteries were full of men who thought they were doing the right thing. Jack and him would still have to execute if they were going to survive. They set two blankets on the ground and began putting matching equipment on each one.

“You're not taking the ice bullets?” Charlie asked.

“They work alright if you got a cooler nearby. In this weather we only got a three to five minute window to use them. I think we should switch to the RIP's, full metal jacket.”

“Radically Invasive Projectiles.” Charlie agreed. “From cold ice to hot steel..good call.”

“I'm not going with the Glock 18..I need accuracy more than rounds per seconds.”

“Glock 18's out.” Jack said.

At four AM Charlie and Jack moved within two hundred yards of the Armenta compound. They got down into the prone position and scanned the area with their rifle scopes. Two armed guards were on a walking patrol. Charlie took out the man on the left, Jack got the one on the right. They got up and moved closer. A guard stood at the front gate, Charlie got him. A man on the roof was neutralized by Jack. Most snipers use the lower “triangle of death” throat down to both nipples. It was a bigger target. Charlie and Jack were good enough to use the upper triangle. Eyes down to the lips with the nose as the bulls eye.  They slowly opened the gate and quietly moved inside. At this time they pulled the masks down over their faces, leaving only their eyes and lips exposed. When they got to the back of the house, they looked through the window. Charlie and Jack set their sniper rifles behind a large trash can, pulled out their handguns and entered the house through the back door where four Mexican women were working in the kitchen. Charlie pointed his gun at them then said in Spanish. “Ni una sola palabra.” which roughly translated to; not a word. Jack pulled out several disposable flex cuffs and motioned for the women to sit down. He secured their ankles and hands then put a piece of duct tape over their mouths.

Charlie and Jack walked through the living room to the staircase. A guard just stepped into view as he prepared to walk downstairs. When he saw Charlie and Jack, he reached for his weapon, but it was too late. Charlie and Jack shot him simultaneously. He tumbled down the stairs and landed with a thud on the marble floor below.

             Benjamin Barmenta had told his men to keep the noise down when he was sleeping. He'd find the person responsible for waking him up and make him suffer. Barmenta rolled over in his custom made double king size bed with the Egyptian linen sheets and tried to sleep off his hangover. He kept saying he was going to drink less, but the only thing that he liked almost as much as alcohol were young innocent girls, preferably the ones traveling alone from San Salvador or the Dominican Republic. Last night he had too much of both. The girls had only two ways to go after Benjamin Barmenta had raped and abused them, death or prostitution.  They were nothing more than disposable commodities to him placed solely on this earth for his deviant and perverted pleasures.

The shock went all the way to his bones. What the hell was that! Benjamin Barmenta thought as he hit the floor.  When he looked up, he saw a man in a mask standing over him.

“Your wake up call, Sir.” Charlie said as he dangled the taser in his hand.

Jack was standing guard at door, looking up and down the hallway.

“We're going to take a little trip.” Charlie said.

“I'm going anywhere!” Benjamin Barmenta protested.

Charlie tasered Barmenta again. He screamed in pain. “How many times do you want to do this? I just put new batteries in.”

“You're a dead man!” Benjamin Barmenta threatened.

“How does that work? I've got the gun and you got nothing. It seemed that you're a lot closer to death than me, but you're entitled to your opinion.”

Jack said. “Ask him where he keeps his money.”

“Oh yeah.” Charlie said. “The money.”

Benjamin Barmenta pointed to a closet door. Jack opened it and saw the entire room filled with stacks of money.“You don't even lock it up?”

“Nobody is crazy enough to steal from me.” Barmenta growled.

Charlie handed his backpack to Jack. “Fill it up.” then to turned to Barmenta. “Get dressed.”

Jack took out their ammunition and explosives, put the money in the bottom of their packs then repacked them.“Our packs aren't big enough.”

Charlie pulled a sheet off the bed. “See how much you can put in this. Don't make it so heavy we can't carry it.”

Benjamin Barmenta was moving as slowly as he could.

“If we wanted to kill you, you'd be dead by now.” Don't make us change our minds.”

Benjamin Barmenta quickened his pace After he was dressed, Charlie secured his hands behind him with plastic restraints. “Check our exit. See you in the kitchen”

Jack swung the sheet filled with money over his shoulder and left the room. Charlie walked over to the closet and filled his pockets with money. He pushed Barmenta to the door, using him as a shield. Charlie pulled out a C-4 charge, set the timer for ten minutes then tossed it back into the open closet of money.

When Charlie and Barmenta got to the kitchen, Jack was standing next to the fearful women and looking out over the courtyard.

“Take Barmenta, I'll be right behind you.” Charlie said. “I'll carry the money.”

Jack walked outside and grabbed both rifles then came back in and handed one to Charlie. “Don't take too long.”

Charlie cut the restraints on the women. He took the money out of his pockets and dropped it on the floor. “Escapar corriendo.” which translates to run for your lives. The women grabbed as much money they could and ran out of the house. Charlie took out another C-4 charge set the timer for five minutes, threw it behind the stove, grabbed the sheet full of money and left.

Charlie caught up to Jack and Barmenta in a couple minutes. They were only a hundred yards from their vehicles when they heard the first explosion,.The second one was only a  minute later. A ball of flames lit up the morning skies.

“I hope you know a good realtor because you're going to need another house.” Charlie commented.

Jack was scanning the area behind them with his rifle scope to see if anyone was following. He saw four all terrain vehicles racing toward their position. “We got bogeys headed our way.”

“Did you actually think you could get away!” Barmenta laughed.

Without hesitation, Charlie raised his rifle and took aim, Jack did the same. They shot all four men off their vehicles. “I kind of thought we might have a slim chance.” Charlie stated matter of factly.

When they reached their vehicle, they put the money and Barmenta in back and drove to the border. When they got within a mile of the crossing, they pulled off the road.

Charlie pulled Barmenta out and handed him a sheet of paper. “Read this.”

Jack had his IPhone out and prepared to record it.

“No way! I'm not going to read this.” Barmenta vehemently protested.

Charlie put the barrel of his handgun to Barmenta's forehead. Read it and go free. Deny and Die.”

Barmenta knew he had no choice so he began to read. “I am Benjamin Barmenta. I am a drug trafficker. Agents from the United States government have been trading weapons for information with me. My organization has been using these weapons to conduct illegal activities and kill American citizens.”

“Got it.” Jack tapped Barmenta on the shoulder. “You got a real future in public service announcements.”

“One more thing and you're done.” Charlie said. “We need to give you an official termination notice compliments of the American people.”

 Benjamin Barmenta was found walking naked down the highway by a chicken farmer. His head was shaved and painted fire engine red. The initials ATF were carved into his chest and DOJ into his back.

Charlie and Jack approached the border crossing.”Where you coming from?” asked the Border Patrol agent.

“San Felipe, fishing trip.” Charlie responded.

“Are you bringing in any agricultural products”

“No. Didn't even bring back the fish we caught.” Charlie answered.

“Have a good day gentleman”

Jack was driving and Charlie was gazing out the window. “Stop!”

Jack hit the brakes. “What?”

Charlie got out and walked down a ravine. When he came back, he was carrying an injured Pitbull. The dog was jet black with dried blood all over him.

“How did you see him in that ravine?”

“I don't know if I did. I just knew he was there.”

Over the next three weeks, things changed quickly, both in Mexico and Washington. After Armenta's statement aired on YouTube, he became a liability, a disposable one. The official cause of his death was a self inflicted gunshot wound. The current administration went into severe damage control as various incompetent government agencies began investigating unaccountable government bureaucracies. UPS delivered a large box to Wendy Allison. It had two million dollars in it. There was no return address, but she knew who it was from. The animal rescue group that Jack volunteered with received an anonymous donation for the same amount. Jack was as surprised as everyone else...or so it seemed.

Charlie was packed and ready to head back to Los Angeles.

“No reason to rush back.” Jack said.

“I've been down here almost a month. Don't tell me you're not getting tired of looking at my ugly face by now.”

“You would think I would, but surprisingly no.”

“Don't worry, I'll be back. Good friends are too hard to come by. ” Charlie extended his hand. “You're the man.”

“Right back at you. You know you should have kept some that money. Cost of living in LA is pretty high.”

“It was never about the money.” Charlie said. “You didn't keep your share either.”

“Look around, I got everything I need. More money would only complicate my otherwise simple life.”

“Where's the dogs?” Charlie asked.

“Playing in the pool.” Charlie yelled out.” Let's go!

Three Pitbulls are swimming in the pool when they heard the command. They climbed out and came running.

Charlie opened the door to his vehicle and the black dog quickly jumped in.

“I could probably find a home for that dog if you wanted to leave him behind.” Jack teased.

“That's not going to happen. Take a life...save a life...its all about the balance.”

“Amen to that brother.” Jack nodded.

Charlie placed his right hand on the dog's head. “Let go home, Ben.”

 

THE END

 

 

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