Illicit Cargo

Excerpts from Illicit Cargo

Before heading back to the station he drove into the junkyard to take a look at Lanco’s old warehouse. Turning off of Anaheim Street, he wove his way through the maze of narrow streets. There was a third-world flavor to this potholed sprawl, home to a few aged wrecking yards, cargo container storage lots, and abandoned cinder block buildings where aficionados gathered for clandestine Saturday night cockfights, and where the detritus of failed enterprises and pathetic lives gathered together as if by a pact of mutual defense. Paper and rags lay where the breezes had carried them against the broken-down fences surrounding the mostly deserted properties. Shake knew the area well; while a uniformed officer he had driven through it on every shift.

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From several yards away, the stench of decomposing flesh was overwhelming. Shake, covering his mouth and nose with his handkerchief, approached the door of the empty container, empty except for the bloated body of what appeared to be a white male. Eyes protruded from the now blackened skin of the head. Traces of fluid bubbled from the nose and mouth. Trousers and shirt were stretched tight over the swollen body. As far as he could tell the victim had been someone of means. The clothing was of good quality. Swollen ankles bulged over Italian leather shoes and around the dead man’s distorted left wrist the second hand of a gold Piaget watch swept eerily around the dial.

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The helicopter, working in conjunction with the patrol boats, was now hovering over the fishing boat. They could see three crewmen on deck. The boat was steered by a fourth man in the small wheel house. Parco switched on the public address system, “This is deputy Parco. Turn your boat around and proceed into the harbor. If not, we will take action.”

The boat continued heading south at what the deputies estimated was full speed. Parco repeated the command, this time in Spanish, “De la vuelta a su barco y prosiga hacia la bahía. Si no, tomaremos acción.”

The boat’s crew showed no sign of complying. In the helicopter Moreno turned to Clements who sat in back of the other two, his weapon pointed at the suspect vessel. “Fire a couple of shots. See if that changes their minds.”

Clements fired once. Although the shot was well over their heads, two of the men on the boat dropped to the deck, another disappeared into the cabin while the boat continued its flight south. Clements fired a second shot. The boat again failed to respond. Moreno turned to Parco, “Time to alert the Coast Guard. We’re going to need a lot of help on this one.”

“Jesus Christ.” It was Clements staring down at the deck of the fishing boat. “They’ve got a rocket launcher.” Moreno peered down. “Shoot the bastard.”
Clements took aim at the crewman on board the fishing boat whose shoulder launcher was pointed directly at the helicopter. The men fired their weapons simultaneously. As the man with the rocket launcher fell to the deck of the fishing boat, the helicopter, struck in the fuselage by the rocket, plunged downward crashing into the La Paz. The patrol boats, which had approached within two hundred feet on either side of the putative fishing boat, barely escaped damage in the explosion that followed. Within ten minutes nothing visible was left of either the Mexican boat or the aircraft except for bits of miscellaneous debris floating on the ocean’s surface. No one on either craft had survived.

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