Rating: NC17 for violence, murder, gunplay, adult themes. For safety’s sake, this will apply to ALL chapters. There will be no smut in this fic. There will be references, but references only, to rape, murder, mutilation in places
Copyright © December 2006 xxxevilgrinxxx
Hernandez had supplied me with one more tie in with the bigger picture, the name of the lawyer that represented not only Rodriguez and his assets but that had handled Carl’s meth lab case. John Richards was a partner in the LA firm of Fulton, Miller and Kline, a very exclusive law firm that catered to a clientele made up of aging studio executives no longer in the business. Or no longer involved with an official business.
I didn’t have the access now to look into the firm as much as I would like to, and to be honest there wasn’t much that I could do. I was small time, and this wasn’t even a DEA case. It sure wasn’t my case. The feds were the only ones with the pull to handle this and I had to trust that Holloway knew what he was doing. Everyone had to have some sort of connections, or nobody could do what we did. It rankled that I could do nothing about the larger picture though.
I didn’t learn much about the firm, but it confirmed what Holloway had said; this was a lot bigger than just El Paso. There were people with money, power and influence that backed it, enough to keep it quiet. Would it be enough to make it all go away afterwards? Enough to buy off the FBI? It didn’t seem right to me; it wasn’t right.
It was late afternoon when I cleared the history and shut off the computer, and left the internet café. I could do nothing from that end, the feds would have to do that, but I could act from this end. I could see it finished from this end.
The diner was quiet when I pulled in, just as the sun started to go down. Even the air seemed frozen. The kid that had waited at the door when I had last gone to see Hernandez slouched against the doorframe now. His arms crossed as though he were waiting for me to show up. It was the one beside him that made me edgy. He could be no older than eighteen, and he was just as lanky and unfinished as the first kid was but his eyes were dead. Emotionless and cold, like a shark. I had no doubt that I was looking at a killer, that he was a kid didn’t change that any.
The younger kid peeled himself off the doorframe as I pulled my car to a stop and he crouched down beside my window before I had opened the door. “Mr Hernandez say he won’t meet you here. Say he want to see you down by the river.”
It had to be something serious if Hernandez didn’t want to talk about it here. We had talked about damned near everything here, out back in the alley. This was bad. Or perhaps these two were going to take me down there and leave me with a bullet in my head. I looked over to see where the other kid had gone, only to find that he had reappeared at the rear door of my car without having made a sound.
I had to trust in Hernandez. No choice, in or out for good. “Lead the way.” My skin crawled as I looked in the rearview mirror to keep an eye on the kid with the lifeless eyes. He appeared still and calm, but you could feel the intensity in him. The kid scared the hell out of me, plain and simple, and I was almost glad when I pulled around the back of a decrepit rusted hulk close to the river.
Dead eyes stayed by the car and the other walked just ahead of me in through the open mouth of the abandoned warehouse. After the ride down here I should have been happy to see Hernandez, but I wasn’t. If anything, Hernandez looked even more terrifying than the kid that stood watch out by my car.
The warehouse was dark and dank; what little light there was slanted in through broken out windows and reflected on the lake of water that glistened with oily rainbows over most of the floor. Hernandez stood against the far doors in a small pool of light from a rusted hole in the roof. I eyed him warily as I approached; his face was harder than I had ever seen it, his mouth a hard slash.
He was dressed in black and if I had to take a guess at it, I’d say the only thing he carried was a set of lock picks and the card to his lawyer if he got caught. He had a videocassette tape gripped in his hand, hard enough that his knuckles shone white through his dark skin. “Ramon.” His voice was clipped as he greeted me, and it made me uneasy; an angry Hernandez was not a man to take lightly.
I watched him as he swallowed and fought for control over his anger. He let out a string of muttered curses in Spanish, just under his breath, before he passed the tape to me. He wiped his hand on his pantleg as though he had just touched something filthy. I didn’t ask him where he had been or if he had tossed Rodriguez’ trailer because I already knew the truth of it. Hernandez would never leave this to someone else, he would never tell anyone else what to look for, and so he had taken care of it himself.
“What is this, Hernandez?” My heart ached, because I already knew; it killed me to know. Hernandez stared coldly at me for a moment before he huffed out his breath and looked out through the door close to us.
He had turned away from me, and just as I was beginning to think he had no intention of speaking, he began. His voice was quieter than I had expected it to be. “There were all sorts of tapes. I wasn’t sure what it was, so I picked one at random and popped it into the VCR.” He was quiet again for a few minutes that stretched out in the silence, before he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a few pieces of paper, with a list of what looked like trailer numbers, and a woman’s first name beside each.
“They have anywhere from five to twenty women that they keep at the trailers at any given time. When they’re getting ready to move them, the women are held in one of the back rooms of the bar, I didn’t find out exactly where, it’s referred to as ‘the cage’.” I thumbed through the pieces of paper that Hernandez had written on when he had cased Rodriguez’ trailer. If this was up to date there were seven women being kept in trailers at the moment and three more women being held in ‘the cage’, awaiting ‘buyers’. There were dates and times beside the names of the women in ‘the cage’. I assumed they were times for transfers.
My stomach churned painfully. This is probably how Anna Maria dropped off the map, or Danno would have continued to see her, and probably would have put two and two together and got her out. The names on the list burned into me; I closed my eyes and still saw them. It didn’t matter that, like Amy, the names weren’t real. Every name meant another person, another woman.
Hernandez’ knuckles popped loudly in the quiet. “Tell me you’re going to stop this, Ramon.” He needed me to tell him.
I stepped closer to him so that he would have to look at me, and lifted the tape up. “This is going to stop, Hernandez. I swear to you, it will stop, no matter what has to be done.” I meant it too; I didn’t care how far I had to go. This wasn’t just about the feds either. We were confronted with something so awful that it couldn’t just be handed off and walked away from. I told him how long we had before the feds were likely to step in, that we had a couple of days.
“When it’s time, you come for me, Ramon. When it’s time to finish it.”
I had seen pain in Hernandez only once. He had come to me to give what information he had about heroin dealing, after his son had died. Left to his own devices he would have killed every single dealer until he got to the top. He would have rotted in prison for it of course, but I don’t think he would have considered it a bad price. It didn’t have the same depth, but pain is pain, and what he had seen had hurt him, more than that it had offended him. I had no illusions about what Hernandez was, about what he still was, but he would never have anything to do with this.
“Take Marcus with you.” I tilted my head, unsure of who he meant; neither of the boys had used names. “The one by your car.” For the first time Hernandez cracked a grin; my uncertainty must have been written all over my face. “If it goes down, you can count on him. Trust me; you’ll never even see him.”