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Weekly Chapters

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

 

Dead Possum

 

Elizabeth Lo is not a small woman. She’s tall and large. Not fat, but big, the kind of person that would play center on a high school basketball team. A sedated Elizabeth was nothing but dead weight. Dead weight is not difficult to carry on solid ground. Moving dead weight onto a floating dinghy is not easy. Trunk took the first step onto the dinghy being careful to get solid footing before moving further. Trunk had her legs; Walter had her arms. Archie was sitting at the back of the dinghy, the outboard control arm in his hand.

“This woman needs therapy, not an international flight,” Chesed complained.

“When we get there, I’ll make sure that she gets it,” Walter said.

“Elizabeth needs to bury her son,” Chesed complained and folded his arms across his chest as he stood on the dock holding the line attached to the dinghy.

“We have a chance to leave and need to take it,” Walter replied coldly.

Chesed sighed, tried a tight lip smile, and failed.

“She will wake up in about three hours. She may be disoriented when she wakes. Make sure you’re beside her when she wakes up. We should be at the hotel by then,” Chesed said.

“Got it,” said Walter.

Trunk and Walter put Elizabeth down at the front of the dinghy, on top of a pile of spare life jackets.

Walter reached into his pocket and handed the keys to Mama Lo’s car to Trunk.

“Ten minutes past sundown,” Trunk repeated with a nod.

“That should do it. Make sure you hook him. Then take him on a nice long ride west,” Walter said.

Holly smiled when she thought of her husband wearing a long red wig. She would take pictures for sure.

“For now, meet us at the landing,” Archie said.

“On my way,” Chesed said.

 

As Colin Whitmer sat in his car waiting for Walter and Mama Lo, they were leaving the marina in a dinghy. From the parking lot the only thing Colin could see were the ‘sticks’, the tall masts of boats moving in the marina and the first row of boats. Archie drove his dinghy slowly until he exited the marina. Then he showed Walter how fast his Honda 15HP outboard would go.

Chesed and Trunk walked from the dock to the parking lot and Chesed’s car.

“You sure you’re OK with this?” Trunk asked Chesed.

“No problem. It’s just a drive down to Orlando and back.”

“With a woman who is being targeted by a killer,” Trunk reminded him.

“A killer that is about to go on a long ride west on Interstate 10. Meanwhile I’ll be headed south on I-95 and never the twain shall meet,” Chesed said confidently as he got into the driver’s seat.

“Thank you,” Trunk said.

“No problem, my friend.”

“One last thing. Walter will give you his gun. Hang onto it until you see me again,” Trunk said.

“Has it been used to commit crimes?” Chesed asked.

Trunk shrugged his shoulder. “Don’t leave your prints on it, just in case.”

Chesed smiled. A little danger was exciting.

 

 

Ten minutes after sunset, Trunk came into the marina parking lot from the street. He stayed low and weaved in and out of the cars until he got to Mama Lo’s car. He put on the long red wig. It was not a cheap fake that was itchy. Holly bought a good one.

 

While Colin Whitmer was glancing up from his phone every few moments to look at the rotating arms of the entrance turnstile of the marina, Trunk started the car and slowly drove away. The alert from the tracking device hit Colin’s phone while he was playing a game. It startled him and he fumbled his phone into his lap. He recovered and was able to see the back of Trunk’s red wig as he turned out of the marina. Colin started his car quickly and began to follow.

At the same time, Chesed and Walter were putting Elizabeth into a wheelchair at the Airport Marriott in Orlando. Walter gave the bellhop twenty dollars for finding a wheelchair. Seven minutes later they put Elizabeth into the bed of room 419.

Trunk drove onto Interstate 10 heading west. He put one of his Smittys onto the passenger seat. The other sat in the pocket in the driver’s door. He glanced back at the lights of the black car following him. If Whitmer tried a drive by shooting, Trunk was ready.

Whitmer kept his distance. He followed behind for almost an hour.

Elizabeth began to regain consciousness. It wasn’t a fast process but a slow one with lots of facial movements and eyeballs moving under closed lids. After almost five minutes, Elizabeth opened her eyes.

Walter’s smiling face was the first thing she saw. She squinted her eyes then returned the smile.

“Where am I?” she asked.

“Marriott Airport, Orlando,” Walter said.

Elizabeth squinted again then looked over at Chesed.

“You’re here. That’s nice,” she said.

Chesed smiled, “glad to see you again.”

“We’re going to Rio,” said Walter.

“But I don’t have my passport,” she said trying hard to cut through the haze from the drug.

“It’s on its way,” Walter said.

“But it’s in my safe,” she said.

“Along with seventy-one thousand in cash,” Walter said.

“How did you?”

“I didn’t. I called a friend who does that kind of work. Your passport and the money is on the way here,” Walter said.

She was quiet for a long time as the fog began to clear from her mind.

“I need to bury my baby boy,” she said, and the tears came into her eyes again.

“If you show yourself, Whitmer will kill you,” Walter said in a soft tone of voice trying his best to sound comforting.

“But I need to bury my baby boy,” she repeated this time as a scared and desperate plea.

 “Fuck” Walter mutter under his breath.

 

It was another time when his condition let him down. As far as Walter was concerned, Sonny Lo was now just a dead body, no different from a dead possum on the side of the road. Walter based his planning on Elizabeth thinking like him. That was his mistake, a kind of mistake that happened more often than he expected. He was blinded by the opportunity to escape safely with Elizabeth. If Whitmer caught up with them, Walter wouldn’t hesitate to bury him. That’s the outcome he wanted to avoid and his motivation to leave.

But mistakes happen.

Two seats to Rio would go empty.

 

Trunk drove within five miles of Lake City before he took an exit and started the return trip east to Jacksonville, then down south to St. Augustine.

Trunk passed the first exit on his return route when he looked in the rearview mirror. The headlights from the black vehicle were gone.

“Fuck,” Trunk said as he floored the accelerator pedal and grabbed the pistol in the passenger seat. Once he had the gun checked and ready, he began to slow down.

“Let’s play a game,” he said as he put his finger on the lights control.

He waited, then waited more. He knew it was coming, the black car rushing past with guns blazing. In the dark he’d only get a second to react. If he missed it, he’d be dead. Then he had a good idea.

Trunk lowered all the windows. If he couldn’t see it, he might be able to hear it. And hear it he did. It was not that far away, and the engine was screaming its disapproval at being redlined.

Then he saw the faint glow from the dashboard of the black car in his rear view mirror. It was less than thirty feet behind him in the next lane. Trunk punched the light control. Everything went dark in the Tesla. He pressed the brakes hard. Whitmer’s car went flying past him. Trunk fired his gun three times. The first bullet hit the engine block and ricocheted into fire wall and then into the passenger seat. The second bullet went through the back seat and out the door on the other side. The third bullet went through the back window and hit the headrest of the passenger seat before exiting through the front windshield.

Colin Whitmer fired his gun twice but was caught off guard by the braking Tesla and both bullets went into the pine trees on the side of the interstate.

Trunk accelerated again until he was fifty feet from the black sedan. He turned his lights back on but just for a second, then dark again. He was smiling. Teasing an opponent is fun. He aimed his Smitty carefully. Three bullets later he removed the driver’s mirror from the black sedan. Whitmer responded by jerking the wheel so hard to the right he almost threw the sedan off the interstate.

As Whitmer recovered control and kept the sedan from going off the road, Trunk accelerated until he was beside him. As he raised his gun to shoot out a tire on Whitmer’s car,  Whitmer’s sedan smacked into the passenger side of the Tesla before going back into the slow lane. Whitmer fired his gun. The bullet came through the open passenger window and out the open driver’s window. His next bullet hit the headrest just behind Trunk.

“Fuck,” Trunk said. He adjusted his aim. Whitmer had a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel. Truck fired his gun. The first shot missed, as did the second. But the third hit Whitmer’s left hand.

One thing Trunk wasn’t sure of was what happens when you hit a driver’s left hand with a bullet. He got his answer, Whitmer jerked the wheel hard and his sedan smacked into the passenger side of the Tesla again almost taking them both off the road. Trunk turned the wheel hard into the sedan. Whitmer was screaming in pain and didn’t have his full concentration on driving. Trunk was able to push the sedan off the side of the road at a speed of seventy-three miles per hour.

Colin Whitmer fought to control the car as it went down the embankment of the interstate down into the irrigation gulley. But in a panic situation a lot of people concentrate more on the steering wheel when the brakes will provide a better return on effort. Colin had just started to slam on the brakes when the car hit the bottom of the gulley. That’s when Colin Whitmer’s life was saved by airbags. Sure he a broken leg, a concussion, facial lacerations, non-threatening internal bleeding, and two missing fingers. But he survived.

His lights were off and wouldn’t be discovered until sunrise the next morning.

He got off lucky.

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY

 

In His Pocket

 

 “What the hell happened, Dennis,” Joannie said as she sat down in the wrought iron chair at Starbucks. A Honda with a loud aftermarket exhaust announced its presence as it drove past them.

“Huh? What are you talking about Joannie,” Trunk asked with a smile. He knew she wouldn’t be happy.

“Colin Whitmer is in an intensive care unit. His car has bullet holes, and I know you had something to do with it, Dennis,” she said with a ‘don’t bullshit me’ tone of voice.

“Joannie, I think of you like a sister. Ever since that night at the beach,” Trunk said with a smile. “But my sister is a cop and that means I can’t answer your questions.”

“Dennis, this is me. Now don’t fuck around, tell me what happened,” she said with an annoyed tone. “I’ve got the entire IA management team on my ass this morning,” she said. “Now what the fuck happened?”

“No, it’s not you that’s the problem. It’s your badge and your job and your duties. I don’t want you to have to violate them,” Trunk lied.

“Dennis, they are considering an arrest warrant,” Joan said.

“For what?” Trunk asked with a faked indignant tone.

“I don’t know…maybe attempted murder of law enforcement for a start. They’ll start the stack with that one and build from there,” Joan said.

Trunk took a sip of his coffee. He pushed the no-fat, no-whip latte over to Joan.

“Thanks,” she said. “You remembered,” she said with a smile.

“I don’t forget much if someone is important to me.”

Joan took a sip then put her latte down on the table.

“I know what you’re doing, Dennis, you manipulative little shit,” she said but not in a threatening way, more like teasing a friend.

“Sonny Lo was murdered. You need to check the guns you found in Whitmer’s car. Betcha get a match.”

“Already working on it, and by that, I mean bailing our asses out of this mess, Dennis. I called the lab right before I came here,” she said. “We better be right about this.”

“Think of it like this, Whitmer just killed Sonny. He’s operating on adrenaline. He wants to keep that high and finish the job, so he immediately goes after Elizabeth Lo. It sounds like a fifty-fifty that he dumped the gun from murdering Sonny. But I’m a contrarian. I bet he would keep it until he was finished, then dump it. Else he’s disposing of two guns instead of one. A thrifty person would see it that way. So would an efficient one. He was planning to be done with both Sonny and Elizabeth in one day so why go through the hassle twice,” Trunk said.

“Is that what you’d do?” Joannie asked.

Trunk laughed. “Fuck no, I’d want to be rid of the murder weapon as soon as possible. Dumping two guns? No problem. Beats death row if something goes wrong.

“Then we’re fucked.”

“No, we’re not, Joannie. That was just my opinion and we both know I may not use the same logic tree as other people,” Trunk said dryly.

Joannie started laughing, then quickly stopped.

“I’m sorry I laughed,” she said.

“It’s OK. I don’t process it as an insult, just the shocking reaction to the truth stated openly. Shock comics do it all the time,” Trunk said.

Joan gave Trunk a look that said an unword…’hmmm’.

“But why would he go after Sonny’s mother? He doesn’t strike me as a ‘kill the family too’ kind of guy?” Joan asked.

“He must have felt threatened by her,” Trunk said.

“She’s a fucking retired antiques dealer that looks like a retired stripper,” Joan said like it were fact.

“Antiques? I had no idea,” Trunk said looking Joannie straight in the eye with his head down, the way you do when you want someone to know there is a subtext to what you just said.

Joan leaned back in her chair for a moment.

“Oh, that makes a world of difference if she’s part of it too,” she said.

 

It was time for the offer.

 

“I’ve got an idea, but I need to talk to some people first. What if you could shut down a street level drug organization and all you had to do was let a grieving mother go spend the rest of her life somewhere else?” Trunk lied.

It was really Walter’s idea or as he explained it to Trunk ‘an inevitability’. He was trying to extract Elizabeth Lo from the mess and leave with the green-eyed redhaired beauty. He was aiming for happily ever after with a bow on it.

Without Elizabeth or Sonny, the business would grind to a halt over a week to ten days, until the last of the stash was sold by local dealers. It had already started. Felix was running out of product. There would be no Sonny and Body Bag to collect the kilos from the cartel next Wednesday.

“And take all of her drug money with her?” Joan asked.

“You don’t answer dumb questions, smarty pants, and neither do I,” Trunk said. “You couldn’t stop that even if you tried.”

“Just like that, shut down?” she asked with a serious tone. “No bullshit?”

“Just like that,” Trunk replied.

Joan got up from the table.

“Where you going?” Trunk asked.

“To try and save my job. If this works, I owe you one…a big one,” Joan said.

“No, you don’t owe me shit, Joannie,” Trunk lied.

“Stay out of sight until I get an answer,” Joan said.

Trunk smiled. Joannie in his pocket felt good.

 

    

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

 

Forty-Two Million Reasons

Sonny Lo was not a well-liked or well-respected man. Many considered him a dog on a leash, one held by his mother. The nearly hundred people who turned out for his funeral were there for Mama Lo and no other reason.

Even the cartel sent a man, and they usually don’t attend funerals except for their own. Ernesto Ortiz was there to express his condolences on behalf of the cartel and to assess whether there was a business interruption. Mingled in with the attendees were two undercover narcotics detectives.  Sitting in a van across the street from the church, a police photographer was capturing people who attended the funeral, in pics and 4k video.

Imagine how surprised Becky Lowenstein was when her rabbi turned up at the funeral of a drug dealer. There must have been some kind of mistake she reasoned and didn’t take pictures of Chesed. Even when he exited the church at the side of the grieving mother and in the company of several known criminals, she did not take his picture. Still, he was on the videos, but nobody would look at those unless something very unexpected happened. They just wanted the list of attendees. Chesed’s name would conveniently be missing.

Becky asked him about it two weeks later and was not surprised to learn he was helping a mother work through her grief. What surprised her most was that he knew Elizabeth Lo.  

Ernesto Ortiz sat quietly through the funeral inside the church. He remembered when his brother died. The cartel man came to speak to his mother and his words doubled her trauma. To lose a son and then be threatened is not going to be an easy time. Still, that is why Ernesto was there.

The ride out to the graveside was a solemn and an unnecessarily slow procession. The funeral company tried to hire police to manage the traffic. Much to their surprise the sheriff’s department refused to provide this as a paid service. ‘We don’t do drug dealers’ was the response they got.

The result? The back half of the procession was caught by a traffic light and forced to catch up. The front half slowed down to wait for them, but it was a long light and on a busy street they couldn’t slowdown that much or pull over and wait. This resulted in half of the funeral procession driving at high speed to catch up. A few pedestrians marveled at the sight, one stoned teenager laughed, and several children asked questions, a couple of which resulted in significant discussions about mortality.

Walter stood next to Elizabeth Lo on her left, Chesed was on her right. Trunk and Holly stood behind them holding hands as the gravesite ceremony began. Trunk was not happy about having his guns back in the car.

“Did you like Sonny?” Holly leaned over and whispered.

“No,” Trunk replied quietly.

 

It was after they lowered the casket down into the ground and all the words were said by the priest that the individual condolences began. Elizabeth Lo looked like a shell-shocked refugee, a dullness to her eyes that was noticeable. Her responses came from tearful eyes and were often accompanied by sobs and unintelligible. Chesed was being as polite as possible to everyone who came up to offer their condolences. However, after about ten people, it was apparent that Elizabeth was not handling it well.

“She’s not ready for this,” Chesed said.

“I know. We need to leave,” Walter confirmed.

Chesed thanked everyone for their condolences but explained that Elizabeth needed rest. Many were shocked at the condition of a woman that was often described as ‘one tough son of a bitch’ and other crude compliments.

While they were walking back to the limousine Ernesto Ortiz came up to them.

“We need to talk,” said the man with a business degree from the University of Texas, Austin.

Elizabeth was crying and Ernest’s words made it worse. Chesed put his arm around Elizabeth.

“Hello, my name is Walter Johnson,” Walter said as he stepped forwards and extended his right hand.

“I know who you are,” Ernest replied as they shook hands.

“Let’s have a private conversation, away from police listening devices and cameras,” Walter said as he motioned with his arm for the two of them to walk away from Chesed and Elizabeth.

“That’s the problem with a graveyard,” said Ernesto as they began to walk away. “Directional microphones have nothing to block them. Fortunately, I have my car.”

Ernesto Ortiz has good taste in cars. The dark blue Lucid Air EV sat like an unassuming pretty blue sedan.

“I’ve read about these,” Walter said. “Not too shabby.”

“Zero to sixty in under two seconds,” Ernesto said.

“That can either save your life or take it,” Walter said as he buckled his seatbelt.

“So far, it’s done neither. But it’s nice to know the power is there if I need it.”

“Indeed,” said Walter.

Ernesto drove the car slowly as they exited the graveyard.

“How do you know they haven’t tagged this car?” Walter asked.

“Expensive alarm system makes a racket if anyone comes within six inches of the car. It also sends me a text message and films it,” Ernesto replied. “For the money they better do something intelligent,” he added.

“Yeah, I read these cars are expensive,” Walter said.

“Two fifty.”

“Damn. Is it worth it?” Walter asked.

“Not yet.”

Ernesto turned onto Beach Boulevard and headed east towards the Atlantic Ocean.

“Elizabeth is in no condition to run anything,” Ernesto said.

“I know, that’s why I’m stepping in,” Walter lied.

“You? I know your history. You’ve not done this kind of work before,” Ernesto said.

“Is it difficult to make sure people aren’t stealing from us? Is it hard to check quantity and collect cash? Do you I think I can’t handle problematic customers?” Walter asked.

“How do you deal with a street level dealer that is skimming?” Ernesto asked.

“Make them an example on how to disappear permanently,” Walter replied. He wondered why Ernesto was asking easy questions.

“What do you know about the cop that’s in the hospital?” Ernesto asked.

“He murdered Sonny and was coming to kill Elizabeth. We took him on a wild goose chase and he got frustrated. Thought he was going to shoot her while she was driving. He had to deal with a colleague of mine instead,” Walter said.

“Dennis Trunk,” Ernest said.

Walter did not respond.

“Why did he kill Sonny?” Ernesto asked.

“Payroll dispute. He wanted to double his commission,” said Walter.

“They told him no? That seems risky,” Ernesto said.

“They agreed to a fifty percent increase.”

“So why did he kill Sonny if he just got a raise?” the man from the cartel asked.

“Because Elizabeth took a contract out on him. There may have been a problem filling it. That’s my best guess so far,” Walter said.

“Why didn’t she ask us for help?” Ernesto said.

“Pride? Reputation? Decisive action keeps everybody in line. This is just my take on it and I could be wrong,” Walter said.

“Are you romantically involved with Elizabeth Lo?” Ernesto asked.

“Yes,” said Walter. “Does it matter?”

“To me? No. To the cartel, yes.”

Ernesto Ortiz turned into one of the gated communities off Beach Boulevard. The man at the guardhouse smiled when he saw him.

“Back so soon, Mr. Ortiz?” the man in the uniform with a name tag reading Arthur said.

“Yep, just needed to pick up a friend,” Ernesto said.

“Take care,” Arthur said as he pressed the button and the arm blocking the road raised to let them enter.

 

The subdivision had some very large and impressive houses near the front where anyone entering could see them. As they moved away from the entrance, the million-dollar homes gave way to more affordable one measured in the hundreds of thousands.

It was a big white stucco two story with gray trim around the doors. The windows had matching gray storm shutters in case of a hurricane. Ernesto pressed the button on the sun visor and the door to the large garage opened. Ernesto pulled in next to a BMW X5 SUV. There was also a Toyota Highlander on the other side of the BMW.

“Welcome to my home,” Ernesto said with a smile and a chuckle.

They entered into the house through a laundry room then into the kitchen. There was a very pretty woman in his thirties sitting on a large sofa watching television at an unusually high volume and with close captioning turned on.

“That’s my wife. Don’t mind the noise, she’s partially deaf, been that way since birth,” he said.

“Your wife is very beautiful,” Walter said with a smile.

“I married way out of my league,” Ernesto said with a laugh.

“Good for you,” Walter replied.

“Let’s go upstairs to my office.”

It was an interesting staircase. No banister, no rail, just thick slabs of what looked like glass that jutting out of the wall.

Ernesto entered a room that was filled with tables. On the tables were boxes of cash, and there were two old women running them through counting machines. Walter estimated the money to be between a quarter and half a million dollars. A door connected to another room.

In it were two men sitting in front of a collection of computer screens, each broken into quadrants displaying live feeds from security cameras. Walter noticed that they were not all just around the property. One of them was showing the gate where the entered. Another showed a different gate. Several of the screens showed men with guns slung over their shoulders and one leaning against a patio post next to the pool smoking a cigarette.

Walter wondered why Ernesto was showing him his operation. He found out soon enough.

Ernesto took him through one more door and into a nicely furnished office. A futuristic steel and glass desk captured, looking like it dropped out of a science fiction story.

“You like modern furniture. So do I,” Walter said.

“Yeah, I love it. Fuck all that old shit. Wood rots, fabrics that get old and stink. I’d rather deal with rust,” Ernesto said with a laugh.

“Me too.”

“Please sit down,” Ernesto said motioning to one of the two chairs in front of the desk. Walter sat down in the chair that adjusted itself to him slowly molding the cushion to the shape of his ass.

“Memory foam chairs?” Walter asked.

“That’s right. It’s wonderful. Best mattress I’ve ever slept on. You should try one,” he said.

“I will,” said Walter. “Tired of waking up with a backache.”

 “I’ve got something for you,” Ernesto said.

He walked over to a walk-in closet and retrieved a nylon gym bag. He handed it to Walter. Walter unzipped it. As expected, it was full of plastic bags containing drugs. He estimated it at about three kilos.

Walter was not happy about this development. He was hoping to disappear with Elizabeth before the next shipment was due to be collected. He realized that Ernesto was testing him to make sure the operation would continue running until Elizabeth recovered.

“Thank you,” Walter said as he looked at the contents of the bag again.

“That’s three kilos. Ten is the usual quantity. But with Elizabeth in her current state, it’s better that we proceed with caution,” Ernesto said.

“I understand. I’ve got Elizabeth under the care of a psychiatrist to help her,” Walter said.

“Yes, the rabbi. That was a surprise, a rabbi and a psychiatrist.”

“It is a unique combination,” Walter confirmed. “But he’s good at his job…both of them.”

“Are you Jewish?” Ernesto asked.

“Me? No. Are you?”

“No, I was raised catholic, but it didn’t take. I stopped going when I was a teenager. Just pisses me off it took me that long to figure it out,” Ernesto said.

“Figure out what?” Walter asked.

“That they were full of shit.”

“Oh,” Walter said. He decided to change the subject as religion tends to set people off and a cartel member is not someone a rational person would detonate. “So, what is the schedule for product and cash?” Walter asked.

“It would have been next Wednesday, but I wanted to make sure there was no business disruption with the funeral and all.”

“Understood,” Walter said. “Can we have a frank discussion?”

“By all means, Walter. What’s on your mind?”

“I’m going to start testing your product,” Walter said.

“For purity?” Ernesto said with a big smile on his face.

“No, for fentanyl. They have fentanyl test strips that work just like litmus paper or a pregnancy test. I want to make sure we’re not killing our customers,” Walter said.

Ernesto laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Walter asked.

“Take a look at the product. Look closely,” Ernesto said.

Walter opened the bag and took out a zip locked bag containing the drugs.

“What do you see?” Ernesto asked.

“Drugs,” Walter replied.

“Yes but look closely. Do you see powder, or do you see crystals?”

“Looks like crystals to me, if I remember my last chemistry class correctly,” Walter said.

Ernesto smiled. “Crystals mean there has been no adulteration of the product. The only way to introduce fentanyl is to crush the crystals into powder and add it to the mix.”

“So, this is clean and pure?”

“As pure as it gets,” replied Ernesto. “But I admire your commitment to your customers. I would strongly suggest you use the strips to test the product your street level dealers are selling. If there is adulteration of our product, it’s happening with your personnel.”

“Thanks for the education,” Walter said.

“No problem. Now it’s my turn to have a frank discussion. What is your relationship with Dennis Trunk?” Ernesto asked.

“He’s just a guy I’ve known since he was a kid,” Walter said.

“Dennis Trunk helped one of our senior people in their attempt to leave our employer, after stealing a significant amount of money,” Ernesto said.

“From my understanding they failed, and Hugo Lopez was killed,” Walter said.

“Yes, but there is the problem of forty-two million dollars that is still unrecovered,” Ernesto said.

“I assume access to the money died with Hugo,” Walter said.

“It may well have, but my employer transferred the responsibility for the debt to Dennis Trunk as he was instrumental in Hugo’s plan. Did you know that they started a cartel war between us and the Tijuana cartel? More than a handful of people died to cover up their escape plan.”

“Wait a minute,” Walter said, “you really expect Dennis Trunk to be able to give the cartel forty-two million dollars?”

“Actually, I don’t expect that at all. But my employer does.”

“This doesn’t end well,” Walter said.

“If past experience is any guide, we’ll take whatever he can provide and take his life in exchange for the rest,” Ernesto said.

“Why are you telling me this instead of just grabbing him?” Walter asked.

“This is a test, Walter. If he runs, we learn something important about you, and the debt becomes yours. If he stays, he’ll die unless he hands over forty-two million dollars.”

“Fuck,” Walter said.

“Yes, that sums it up nicely. My employer has been fucked and they are planning to share the fucking.”

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