GOOD TILL THE LAST DROP - JIM WILSKY
A large figure leaned casually on the silver Mercedes, lit a cigarette and motioned him to move forward. Only the car’s parking lights were on giving off just a soft orange glow.
Tuck didn’t move though as he continued to scan the darkness. There didn’t seem to be anything but brush, rocks and a couple of stands of scrub oaks. He didn’t see any other lights, cars or men around but that of course didn’t mean a damn thing.
He’d never been to one of these deals yet where there wasn’t some sort of backup involved. Even with the Mendolina boys, who were generally well-behaved, there was someone else around. The Mendos and his boss Ramon Villareal had been doing business a long time, but still.
They were on top of a massive butte, maybe six miles west of town. Way off, the twinkling lights of El Paso could be seen splayed out behind the man motioning to him. The coyotes started up again in the distance, then abruptly shut off.
“Senior Rayfield?” The man’s accent was thick. “Ben Rayfield?”
“Sure, sure, that’s me. You got it?”
The man took a step towards Tuck and, with the help of a three quarter moon, he saw that the guy was probably six two or so. Put together well. He held nothing in his hands that Tuck could see.
“That’s probably good right about there, amigo”, he said with a palm up. In his other hand, which he held straight down along his leg, was his Beretta Storm, which was feeling real good right now. Again, he slowly looked around, searching for anything and everything.
The man stopped and grinned, big white teeth visible even in this darkness.
“There is no need for the gun and such unease. I believe we each have something for one another. No?” The big man pulled on the cigarette and then rubbed it out under his boot. “Without one prize, there is not the other, so let’s do business, eh?”
Tuck was staring at a particular clump of mesquite on his right. Was that movement over there just now or was it just his nerves? He looked back at the Mexican.
“Si?” asked the big man again and then shrugged.
“Sure, Si.” Tuck didn’t return the grin. “Mine is right behind me, a little ways down the trail. When I see yours, I’ll call them up here with it.”
Of course, there were no ‘them’ to call.
Hector, his partner for the last year on these deals, had been shot behind the left ear and disposed of earlier tonight. He wasn’t that bad of a guy really but it had been the only way to really do this right. No loose ends. He was way the hell out there with those coyotes right now.
So when he said he would call ‘them’ up here, it was only his girlfriend down the road waiting for his signal. She hadn’t minded so much seeing him kill Hector but had hated helping him dump the body in the desert. Typical, nobody wanted to do the grunt work.
She was anxious and excited, though. When he had left her in the car about thirty minutes ago and started walking the rest of the way up the winding road, she was ready to rock. Her eyes had been wide with anticipation.
As he trudged up the small rough road, he heard her whisper behind him.
“Please let me come up there with you.”
“Too dangerous, stick with our plan now and don’t go doing anything else but what we have talked about. Stay here and wait, okay? It’ll be alright now, darlin’.”
“Okay, okay. Call me when it’s time, baby.”
She watched him go up the road and disappear around the bend. Sitting in the darkened car, her job was to wait for the call. Checking the time, she looked in the rear view mirror and wondered one last time if she could do this.
Carly Walker was a gutsy, hard-edged little thing and just a downright mean bitch when pushed. She had the temperament of a copperhead but could also charm you into slapping your mother. At a mere twenty-five, she was hotter than Hell’s kitchen in the sack and a decade younger than him. All in all, a dangerous little package of sweets.
As he continued to make his way up the steep road toward the top, he realized that it was too late to back out now and that there would be no room for mistakes from here on out.
This deal tonight would be the job for Tuck. While Villareal had been good to him over the years, there wasn’t exactly a retirement plan with benefits waiting. You didn’t just decide to up and leave this line of work.
They were headed to Galveston right after this and it would be a long ass drive for sure, the rest of tonight and most of the day tomorrow. They would be driving her brother’s Challenger, though, a car that no one knew and nobody would know where they were headed.
Tuck and Carly had been planning this for awhile, right around when their relationship had gone from recreational fucking to living together full time. They were going somewhere where no one would find them. The ocean is a big, big place.
With money he had saved and squirreled away from over ten years in the drug trade, Tuck had bought a sailboat for a relative song. A bankrupt New Orleans real estate developer who had been devastated by Katrina had been desperate.
The forty-five foot Beneteau was a sleek beauty and Tuck had fittingly named it Carly Anne. It was docked in Galveston Bay, outfitted, ready and waiting. Even better, she was twice the sailor he was, having grown up as a fisherman’s daughter in Corpus Christi.
He was getting out tonight. This was it.
The man’s voice brought him back.
“I am Ezcuando, but people call me E.Z., as in easy.” The Mexican raised his eyebrows at this and grinned even bigger. “Our two employers have been doing business for a long time, many years, no?”
The big man just smiled and smiled.
“Why such hostility tonight, Mr. Rayfield?”
A coyote wailed and yipped from a little closer this time and a soft warm breeze came in gently from the south.
Tuck didn’t like all this talk. In the darkness and distraction, he had almost missed the top of another head rising slowly up and then back down in the backseat of the Mercedes.
“Show me what I’m buying now and let’s get this done. Oh and hey, and tell your muchacho to come on out here, too. I want to meet him.” This time, he did grin and walked forward.
“Of course. Your product is in the trunk.” E.Z. chuckled. “Pena! Pena, don’t be so bashful and rude, come out to meet Mr. Rayfield.” Still the big Mexican smiled.
When Tuck got within ten feet of the car, he stopped again. The backdoor opened and the other man, bald and very big, was coming awkwardly out of the car. Tuck shot him in the chest as he straightened up. When Pena went down to his knees, Tuck fired again. The second shot hit him in the forehead, taking off some skull when it exited. Pena flopped face first into the dust.
He swung the gun almost casually over to E.Z. who stood at the rear bumper of the Mercedes, staring at him with big eyes. Tuck walked toward him slowly, freezing the man where he stood.
E.Z. thought about bolting briefly, but didn’t move. He licked his lips nervously but just couldn’t move his feet.
Without a word from either of them, two more chest shots came in rapid succession. The second round sent E.Z. backwards, landing flat on his back.
Tuck walked over to him and looked down. The man’s eyes were open but glazing over already and he was dying quick. He put an insurance shot in his head. The son of a bitch was still grinning.
He pulled out his cell phone and punched Carly’s number quickly. Time to roll. They had another buyer lined up for the Mendos’ coke tonight and as a kicker, they would have Villareal’s money.
By the time they were done, this would be a very profitable night. But this was where they had to really start hauling some ass, time was ticking away. His coke drop off to Villareal was supposed to be at midnight and it was ten-thirty now.
All he got was her voicemail. He stared at the phone for a second, then called her number again. This was not the time for her to freeze up on him.
A minute later when she still didn’t pick up and he couldn’t hear her car, the reality of what might be happening sank in. His thoughts were scrambled and a touch of panic was creeping in.
On his fourth call, he knew she wasn’t going to answer but he was going to leave a voicemail. This could still work.
She surprised him for the second time tonight.
“Hey, bayybee.” Her voice was way too sweet.
“Carly, where the hell are you?”
“I been gone for twenty minutes, sparky. After you cleared the bend, I just put her in neutral and coasted back down the hill real quiet like.”
He could picture her little smartass smile right now.
“C’mon, darlin’, I been hit in the side and I’m bleeding like a stuck pig. Please.”
“You’re shot? What about our Mexican friends, dead?”
“Yeah, but I need help bad. I’m hurtin’, hon. Please.”
There was a pause and he liked his chances.
“Well, shit, this is working out even better than I expected.”
“You can’t just leave me.”
“Look here, if you really thought that I was gonna be your first mate and sail around the world living out of some fucking boat, you’re an even bigger dumbass than I thought. I had enough of boats growing up - and enough of you after about two weeks.”
Another pause. On her end he heard wind and traffic through her open window. She was blaring some song on the radio, too.
“Oh, and you can have that sailboat if you can get to Galveston in one piece. This briefcase next to me has all I want and then some.”
“Please, Carly, I don’t care about the money or the boat, just help me.”
“So there it is, punkin’. You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone. Comprende?”
“’Sides, you got a helluva lot of blow there if you can just get it to our buyers. Of course, ol’ Villareal and the Mendos are both gonna be a little pissed off, though, huh? You need to think on that pretty hard and move your ass.”
“You just gotta help me, darlin’.”
“I ain’t gotta do nothin’. We’re all done, Tuck. Happy trails.”
The line went dead and he tried calling back, but it went straight to voicemail.
“Shit,” he hissed, looking at the Mercedes, then at the two dead men.
After getting the keys out of E.Z.’s pocket, he checked the trunk quickly. It was there, fifty kilos in 4 metal containers. They looked like large toolboxes.
He took I-10 heading to San Antonio. Along the way, he would stop as planned to make the deal just outside of Esperanza with two brothers, Harlan and Colt Bonner, who he knew from past dealings.
Tuck had lined this all up about a week ago but he had just called them to confirm. They said they would be waiting. They were spooky as shit, but he trusted these guys about as much as you could trust anyone in this business. Besides, this originally was going to be some additional cash as they pulled their disappearing act, but now it was all he had.
“Damn, that’s good stuff, Tuck.”
Harlan always did the talking. Colt never said much but he was always there and always watching. They were both big old boys, but Colt was a Rottweiler of a man. He had a way of looking at you that definitely got your attention, with his head lowered a little and looking like he was ready to kill you or eat you, or both.
Tuck and Harlan were sitting in the dingy, beat to shit kitchen of the old ranch house the two brothers shared. A single light was on over the heavy oak table in the middle of the room. Harlan held a small pocket knife and whistled at the slit-open kilo of coke. The toolboxes were lined up on the floor.
“We got us a deal, Tuck. By the way, where the hell did this come from?”
“That’s part of the agreement, boys. You remember us talking about that right? I don’t know and you don’t know. It’s better that way. Everybody walks away happy.” Tuck grinned at Harlan and then looked across the kitchen at Colt. The dead look he got made him keep talking. He looked back at Harlan.
“This is a one time special offer, Harlan. This is just between us boys. I’m out of the game, headed to California after this. Never saw you tonight.”
“You still working for that motherfucker Villareal? I hope this is his.”
“Not after tonight. After tonight, I ain’t working for nobody.”
Colt, standing in the shadowed doorway of the kitchen, shifted slightly and Tuck glanced at him again. The silent brother held a pistol grip Mossberg shotgun that was pointed down at the floor, for the time being at least.
It was silent in the room, except for an old wall clock that was hanging crooked but ticking away above the refrigerator.
“Alright, Tuck, like I said, we got us a deal. We’ve always been straight with each other and ain’t nobody gonna know about this. Colt, get the man his money.”
Colt backed into the darkness behind the door and walked down a hallway out of sight.
This was where the shit would blow up if it was going to.
Harlan had no weapon, except the small knife and Tuck had already looked around the room closely when he first walked in. Colt was the only wild card here and he watched the hallway. His gun, which he had openly shown them both with raised hands when he first arrived, lay on the table in front of him.
“You’re in trouble, Tuck.” Harlan’s voice was low but held no menace.
“No, I’m good. I’m just wanting to get this done and start things fresh.”
“That wasn’t really a question.” Harlan was watching him intently.
A door shut somewhere in another room and he heard Colt coming back down the hallway.
It wasn’t Colt, though. She came around the corner with a smile, eyes sparkling and hands on her hips.
“Why, you ain’t shot at all. You lied to me, Tuck. But I knew you’d make it here. Hell, you had to, or you’d just be walking around with your dick in your hand.”
“You little fuckin’ bitch.” Tuck glared at her, trying to hide his surprise.
“Hold on there, buck, that really ain’t the way you need to be talking to me right now. That just ain’t right.” She crossed her arms and smiled even bigger. Colt now came into view, standing behind her in the doorway.
“Harlan, what the fuck?” Tuck looked over at him and slapped his hands on the table.
“Look, Tuck, it’s nothin’ personal here. She just made us one helluva offer a few days ago. Called us right out of the fuckin’ blue, she did.” Harlan shook his head sadly back and forth.
“They get a free kilo of coke for making you go away and a lower price than yours for the rest. That money of Villareal’s just wasn’t quite enough for me after all.”
Harlan held a finger up.
“But then,” Harlan continued as if he she hadn’t said a word, “then, I got to thinkin’ about the whole thing. Yessir, I remember getting worked over bad by some bitch about ten years ago. She tried to fuck with me, steal from me and almost got me killed to boot.”
He gazed over at Carly and he was smiling now.
She was still looking at Tuck for a moment until his words had sunk in, then her eyes quickly ticked over to Harlan.
“You even resemble her...but she was way hotter than you, sis. What really pissed me off about the whole thing was that I never caught her. Never got that satisfaction.” Harlan’s face hardened.
“Now hold on, wait just a fu...” Her voice had a little tremor to it.
“’Member that, Colt?”
“Yeah, I remember that. I sure do.” The voice behind Carly was deep and gravely. He raised the Mossberg behind her and touched her back with it.
“Tell you what, Harlan, just let me take a little of Villareal’s money, whatever you think you can spare me. You can have the coke and this bitch, until you get tired of her or wear it out.” Tuck was making the only play he had. They would both probably be dead in seconds anyway so what the hell.
She stared at Tuck hard, gritted her teeth and then looked back to Harlan. Once again, all that could be heard was the old wall clock ticking the time away.
The Carly Anne was docked in Veracruz for now, but the newly-hired captain was busy getting ready to pull out tomorrow morning. Destination unknown, it was never shared until the boat got under way. The owner had headed into town last night and still hadn’t returned. The captain didn’t think much of it. It had been like that for months, wherever they stopped.
Enrique was a happy man, though. He had been rescued from a very bad situation in Galveston, hired away from a charter fishing operation that was smuggling drugs on the side. He wanted nothing to do with drugs.
The owner of the Carly Anne had approached the boat quietly from the starboard side.
“Ah, you surprise me.”
“Gotta keep you on your toes.”
Enrique was glad to have his boss back. The owner scared him a little and he couldn’t really explain why, but for the most part, the boss was good to him. The other, though, he didn’t like being alone with that one. He was still sleeping below, but he would be awake soon. The man snoring below was a bad man, big and bad.
He never said much but he had a way of looking at Enrique that made him very, very nervous.
BIO: Jim J. Wilsky is a central Illinois native with a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling. He has written over 200 published and unpublished short stories in the genres of mainstream, suspense, crime, westerns, and historical fiction. His work has appeared or has been recently accepted by Yellow Mama, Darkest Before The Dawn, Mystercial-E, Hardluck Stories and Mouth Full of Bullets and others, as well as several print publications. He is supported and strengthened by a wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters. Check out his blog Word Counts.