Bullets and Lace Ch. 02

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For the next two days, I spent much of my time getting acclimated with the Minty Urbach PSG-1 sniper rifle I’d be using during the assault. Sighting through the Leupold Mark 4 scope, I couldn’t miss targets a half mile away. Of course, the targets weren’t moving around or shooting back. At Tampico, all hell would break loose as soon as I fired the first shot.

Ron Garrett worked with Cole Thornton on the Colt M-16 Machinegun, showing him how to fire short burst and walk the bullets into the target zone. Cole took to the automatic weapon like a duck to water. With his muscular build, Cole was quite capable of handling the heavyweight weapon for long periods of time with great accuracy. Even Ron was surprised at how well his protégé was doing.

The tropical storm had worked its way north, passing through Tampico but stalling out over Monterrey, one-hundred and fifty miles south of us. Ron monitored the weather radar screens whenever he got a free moment. Cole and I monitored each other, sharing sexual pleasures to relieve the tension! We weren’t getting much rest but we certainly weren’t complaining.

Tuesday morning, the storm dissipated as it passed through Laredo. The three of us packed up Ron’s Hummer, “Black Max” with everything we needed, including medical supplies, dried food and plenty of water. Garrett stowed three large aluminum cases under a tarp behind the back seat of the SUV. I wasn’t sure what they contained but I knew it was something special that he was planning on using. I just hoped it wasn’t something still in its experimental stages.

As soon as the sun set, the three of us left the Garrett Ranch. Ron was driving, heading for a place he’d picked out to cross the border into Mexico. We traversed the Rio Grande where it narrowed and ran shallow for almost a half mile. Picking up a secondary road, Ron followed it south until we picked up Highway 85. Kicking up the speed, Black Max sped towards Monterrey. Traffic was almost nonexistent, sharing the road with only a few semis and an old bus

Garrett bypassed Monterrey, trying to avoid the Policia as much as possible. Black Max would stick out like a sore thumb amongst the other vehicles on the road. Checking my watch, I tried to calculate how much longer it would take us to reach our destination. There weren’t any mile markers to go by, making it difficult for me to figure out exactly where we were. I was smoking one cigarette after another, trying to calm my nerves but all I was getting was a headache.

Stretching out on the backseat, I grabbed a nap, waking occasionally to look out the window. The moonlight illuminated the countryside and the road ahead. Ron and Cole chatted about the Hummer, more to pass the time away than anything. Villages along the highway were quite small, a half-dozen buildings at most, with very few lights burning.

At Ciudad Victoria Garrett pulled into an old rundown gas station that just had two pumps. I was dying to get out and stretch my legs but Ron ordered Cole and me to stay in the Hummer. I wasn’t sure why but I didn’t dare ask. Ron topped off both fuel tanks then hopped back in the vehicle without making any effort to pay anyone for the gas. Since he was so nonchalant about it, I wondered if the owner of the gas station might be one of his Mexican contacts.

Back on the road, Garrett drove another fifty miles or so before changing highways, turning us southeast towards Tampico. Thirty miles down the road, he changed highways again. Highway 80 was long and straight, passing through the desert and crossing over several railroad tracks. Clouds blocked out much of the moonlight, making the landscape difficult to see.

It was early morning when we turned onto the gravel road towards Tampico. Rocks, kicked up by the oversize off-road tires, bounced noisily off the floorboards of the Hummer. Garrett slowed the vehicle, switching off the headlights. We drove for a mile or so in the dark before pulling off the road and heading cross-country. A deep, rocky ravine hindered our path but it didn’t make much difference. Across the ravine and down in a shallow valley I saw the hacienda that I’d looked at so many times in the aerial photographs. It was Ground Zero! The Kill Zone!

None of us said a word. Exiting the Hummer, I made a run for a patch of tall, pipe-organ cactus to relieve myself. Ron and Cole made last minute checks on the guns while I took out a pair of night vision binoculars and crossed the ravine. Looking down at the hacienda I saw electric lights illuminating the house, which were powered by a generator sheltered in a building about thirty yards from the house. A late model Suburban and a Ford pick-up were parked near the house. Other than a few dead trees and another small storage building, the hacienda was completely out in the open.

I reported what I’d seen to Ron and Cole so we could finalize our plans. Since the downhill slope of the valley was heavily covered with cactus and rock we decided it best to get as close to our targets as possible. I’d position Konya Escort myself directly in front of the hacienda with Cole about thirty yards to my right with the Colt machinegun. Ron would be to my left, about twenty yards away, with the weapons he’d brought along for himself.

It wasn’t until then that I realized Garrett had brought shoulder-fired rocket launchers, the Browning Automatic Rifle and his favorite Colt handgun. He was prepared for World War Three!

“Nobody does anything until I fire the first shot.” I declared, putting on my radio headset. “Let me take out one of the agents first. That’ll leave just one more we have to take out.”

“I’ll cover the outbuildings and the rear of the house with the rockets.” Ron asserted. “That’ll keep everyone close-quartered so they can’t scatter.”

“I’ll take out the Suburban and the pick-up.” Colt affirmed. “That’ll keep anyone from escaping.”

“Just make sure you both keep your cover.” I warned. “I don’t want either of you getting hurt, let alone killed.”

“You worried about us.” Garrett laughed, checking his headset.

“Yes, I am.” I confessed. “I want all of us get through this and back across the border.”

We separated at the Hummer with each of us taking up our positions on the downhill slope. We had an hour or better to kill before sunrise. Checking my Minty Urbach sniper rifle over one last time, I laid out ten cartridges on a cloth, spacing them equally apart. I wanted to be able to grab the ammo quickly without having to fumble for it.

“Hey Jennifer!” Cole called out on his headset radio. “You never did say how you felt about me.”

“You sure you really wanna know?” I laughed into the headset. “You might be disappointed.”

“I’d like to hear how you feel about him.” Garrett chimed in from his position off to my left. “Good or bad, it’d give me something to think about besides this cramp in my leg.”

“What would you like me to say?” I asked. “You want me to tell you that I love you?”

“No. I know you don’t love me.” Cole answered. “I’d like to hear you say you cared about me though.”

“But only if you really mean it.” He added. “I wouldn’t want you to lie just to make me happy.”

“Yeah Jennifer!” Garrett spoke up with a laugh. “Don’t feed the gay guy a bunch of lies just to boost his ego.”

“Damn it!” I exclaimed, raising my voice. “Cole’s not gay!”

That was the last thing I was going to say no matter how hard either of them coaxed and coerced me. I wanted to concentrate fully on the matter at hand and not be sidetracked by divulging my personal feelings about Cole.

With the morning sun rising up at our backs, we could see some activity inside the house. The front door opened and a man stepped out onto the front porch. Having memorized the pictures of the two agents, I knew the Hispanic man wasn’t one of them.

“Wait. Wait.” I whispered into my headset. “Everyone sit tight.”

Beads of perspiration were forming on my forehead but I hesitated to wipe them off. The three of us watched the Mexican walk out to the generator building and step inside. I barely caught a glimpse of one of the men we were after when he stood at the doorway of the hacienda. The shade of the porch’s roof had him too much in the dark to attempt a shot.

“Come on!” I exclaimed. “Step out you asshole!”

The heavyset man, former FBI agent, Roger Grissom took a step then stopped to light up a cigarette. Still, it wasn’t the optimum shot. One more step and he’d be a dead man. Just one more step!

“Cole.” I whispered into the headset. “You there?”

“Yeah.” Cole replied. “I’m here.”

“I love you.” I whispered, squeezing the trigger.

The bullet hit Roger Grissom at the bridge of his nose, taking the entire top of his head off. He fell backwards into the doorway, keeping the door from being shut. One of the shoulder-fired rockets took out the generator building and presumably the Hispanic man who’d entered the structure just moments before.

Short bursts of gunfire emanated from Cole’s machinegun off to my right. I saw both vehicles take direct hits, their tires blowing out and their glass shattering. Two Hispanic men and a woman ran from the house. All three were firing Tec-Nines wildly in our direction. My second shot took out the woman, hitting her directly in the chest. Cole took out both men with the machinegun, spraying them with several hits.

The storage shed exploded from a direct rocket hit. Ron fired several rockets into the hacienda, driving out the rest of the people. A half-dozen men scattered, all but one firing automatic weapons.

Darren Ballinger, the second agent we were after, was holding a woman by the waist, using her for a shield. Tall and slender, his head was unprotected by the much shorter woman. Just as I squeezed the trigger he moved but the bullet caught his ear, tearing the flesh from the side of his head. Infuriated, he shot the Hispanic woman in the back with his pistol. My next shot, quick Konya Escort Bayan and barely sighted in, blew out his chest.

Garret took off running down the hill towards the last of the drug operatives. His BAR firing wildly; he was taking return fire but luckily not getting hit. Taking out my Glock 45, I fired the weapon on a dead run, hoping to divert some of the shots away from Ron. Bodies dropped, bullet riddled from Ron’s Browning Automatic Rifle. The gun barrel was smoking and red hot near the muzzle.

Suddenly, everything got quite…like a cemetery! Both of us looked around, looking for any signs of life. With the mayhem we’d dished out, no one survived.

Realizing Cole hadn’t come down the hill with us, I looked back up the hillside. He was leaning up against a boulder, his shoulder gushing blood. Panicked, Ron and I ran to his aid. Cole was barely conscious, muttering my name and saying he was sorry. He was pale, his face colorless, his eyes barely open.

“Grab the machine gun!” Garrett shouted, picking up Cole and tossing him over his shoulder. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”

A small, single engine plane flew over the ravine, not more than fifty feet above us. Stunned and angry, I fired at the aircraft, emptying the last rounds from the magazine. The plane nose-dived, its engine belching smoke. Clipping the dead trees, it exploded into pieces, sending debris everywhere.

“Damn!” Ron exclaimed, looking back at the wreckage. “That was a helluva shot!”

We clambered back through the ravine to the safety of Black Max. The back of Ron’s shirt was saturated with Cole’s blood. All I could think of was getting him to a hospital, any hospital.

Ron tossed Cole’s nearly comatose body onto the backseat of the Hummer. Reaching behind the seat, he opened up the medical supply case, taking out numerous items.

“Don’t just stand there!” Garrett shouted at me. “Go get my rocket launchers and whatever’s left.”

I didn’t want to leave Cole but I didn’t know what to do for him. Ron worked frantically on Cole, trying to get the bleeding stopped while I rounded up the rest of our gear. I watched as he gave him an injection, plunging the needle into Cole’s shoulder.

“You drive!” Garrett commanded, his hands covered with blood. “I’ll take care of your boyfriend!”

Behind the wheel of Black Max, I sped back towards the highway, throwing gravel and sand everywhere. At the junction of Highway 80, I turned north, almost losing control of the oversize SUV. It spun halfway around in the middle of the two-lane road, nearly killing the engine. Fighting the wheel, I managed to get it headed north. We had a long drive ahead of us, at least four to five hours.

Crossing over the railroad tracks at eighty miles an hour, I had Black Max airborne. Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw Ron wrapping our injured passenger in a synthetic blanket lined with aluminum.

“How’s he doing?” I shouted, looking over my shoulder. “Is he gonna be alright?”

“Keep your eyes on the road!” Garrett exclaimed. “And your foot on the gas pedal!”

I pushed Black Max as fast as she’d go, at times hitting speeds of over a hundred miles an hour. Traffic on the highway was hindering our progress so I took to the side of the road, hoping nobody ahead of us would pull off.

I kept thinking of what I’d done wrong to allow Cole to get shot. What was I going to tell his fiancé if Cole didn’t pull through. How would I live with myself, knowing I was responsible for an innocent man’s death?

My mind wasn’t thinking clearly and it was beginning to show. Sideswiping an old flatbed truck, loaded with fresh fruit, I swerved wildly back onto the highway, almost hitting a bus head-on.

“That’s it!” Garrett shouted. “Pull over!”

I wasn’t going to argue with the man, knowing he wasn’t very happy with my driving ability. I climbed into the backseat with Cole while Ron took over the driving chores. Cole’s color was still pale but his breathing seemed steady and normal. He felt warm but not feverish. The medical blanket was doing great, keeping him as comfortable as possible.

“HEY! HEY!” Ron exclaimed, looking down at his seat. “One of us is bleeding and it’s not me!”

Looking down at my right leg, I saw dried blood on my jeans. During all the excitement and adrenalin rush, I must have taken a stray bullet. Pulling my jeans down, I saw a deep gash on the outside of my thigh. It was more than a flesh wound but the bleeding was minimal. Seeing the wound got me started feeling the pain. Garrett tossed me a bottle of tablets, ordering me to take several. Within minutes, the pain subsided but I was feeling woozy. I fought to stay awake but the medication won out. I passed out, sliding to the floor of the Hummer.

That was all I remembered until we approached the border several hours later.

“Hang on!” Garrett shouted, shaking me awake. “We’re goin’ for a swim!”

The muddy water of the Rio Grande splashed up over the hood of Escort Konya the Hummer as we crossed at the same point we’d traversed the evening before. Several Border Patrol units were parked alongside the road when we climbed the grade up the hill. They didn’t make any attempt to stop us. The patrol officers stood by their vehicles, watching like they were expecting us.

Ron drove several blocks before turning into the Laredo Medical Center facility. Looking back at Cole, I saw his condition hadn’t changed any. He was still breathing! He was still alive! Medical personnel placed Cole on a gurney, rolling him into the emergency room. My legs were numb, rendering me incapable of walking. Ron carried me inside, placing me on a table across from Cole.

“See if Cole’s alright.” I mumbled, still woozy from the drugs. “Make sure he gets everything he needs.”

“I’ll worry about Cole.” Ron asserted. “You just lay here and be a good girl.”

Two nurses and a doctor worked frantically on Cole, getting him stabilized and tending to his shoulder wound. Pulling the curtains closed around them, shut off my view of what was happening. I drifted off, not waking until early the next morning.

It was still dark outside when I awoke. My eyes were bleary, my senses numb from medication. I could barely make out the figures of two men sitting by the window. One of the men was Ron Garrett. The other was Gerald Barnes. Both were whispering, doing their best not to disturb me.

“Hey.” I muttered, getting their attention.

“Well! Look who’s awake!” Barnes laughed, approaching the bed.

“Cole. How is he?” I asked, reaching out to grasp Gerald’s arm.

“He’s ok.” Gerald replied. “He’s lost a lot of blood but he’s gonna be fine.”

“Don’t lie to me.” I muttered, tears streaming from my eyes. “I wanna see for myself.”

“Later.” Garrett affirmed, putting his hand on my shoulder. “You need to rest.”

“You guys really kicked some ass!” Barnes stated with a grin. “Ron told me about you shooting down an airplane with a machinegun! I’d loved to have seen that!”

“I wanna see Cole.” I mumbled, wiping the tears from my eyes.

“Not right now.” Gerald asserted. “His fiancé’s with him. She’s making arrangements to have him flown back to Washington on her father’s private jet.”

All I could think of was getting out of bed and looking for Cole but the pain medication was getting the best of me. It wasn’t until noon when Gerald put me in a wheelchair and pushed me down to Cole’s room.

He was awake, lying flat on his back. I barely glanced at his fiancé, anxious to get alongside Cole’s hospital bed. He turned his head, extending his left hand to reach for mine. I broke down and balled like a baby, realizing he was going to be alright. Cole squeezed my hand, pulling me close. Neither of us said a word with everyone standing around us. I sensed Cole was as worried about me as I was about him.

Wiping the tears from my face, I composed myself before meeting Cole’s fiancé. Angela Spencer was a tall, slender woman and very attractive. Her shoulder-length blonde hair was exquisitely styled, her makeup impeccable. Dressed in expensive attire, she emitted an air of wealth. She expressed her appreciation for my helping get Cole back safely. Telling me about her plans to have Cole flown back to Washington had me seething with anger. I simply nodded my head and gritted my teeth to avoid saying something I shouldn’t.

Later that afternoon, Gerald made arrangements to get me released from the medial center. I thought about stopping by Cole’s room to say good-bye but thought it best not to. Ron Garrett met us in the lobby, helping me out to my car.

“Ron’s going to have you stay with him out at the ranch for a couple of weeks.” Barnes stated, closing the car door. “Let me know when you get back home. I’ll bring you your money.”

“Ok.” I muttered, nodding my head. “Make sure Cole gets everything he needs, will ya?”

“Sure.” Gerald replied with a smile. “I’ll look after him.”

Ron drove me back to the ranch. The pain medication was wearing off but I didn’t feel like taking anymore drugs. Feeling the pain brought my senses back to normal.

Helping me step up into the travel trailer, I asked Ron for a cold beer. Reluctantly, he opened one up for me.

“Go ahead, say it.” I grumbled, taking a seat on the couch. “I know you wanna chew my ass out.”

“It’s none of my business what you do.” Ron affirmed. “I just can’t understand how you can tell a guy you love him, then just walk away without so much as saying good-bye.”

“Cole’s better off with Miss Spencer.” I responded. “She’s got wealth and power. She can do a lot for him.”

“Horseshit!’ Garrett exclaimed. “You’ve got wealth and power! You just don’t realize it!”

“Ron…let’s drop it. Ok?” I countered, hobbling off towards the bedroom. “Cole’s history.”

Over the next two weeks, I thought about Cole constantly, wondering if he was recovering from his shoulder wound, wondering if he and Angela had set a date for their wedding and wondering why I was wondering about him so much. It was driving me crazy, keeping me awake at night. I thought about calling him, dying to hear his voice but since he hadn’t called me, I fought off the urge.

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