Sunday, February 28, 2016


                                                      Chapter 4


            “Uranium,” Nick said.  “There was a brick of Uranium in the trunk of your car.”

            Dane squinted.  “What?”

            “Uranium 238 to be precise.”

            Dane suddenly became aware of his exposed arms.  “Isn’t that dangerous?”

            Nick nodded slowly.

            Dane held out his hands and said, “Am I . . . contaminated?”

            “No,” Nick said.  “The container was lined with lead for protection.”

            Dane’s shoulders slumped as he took in the information.  Matt sipped his coffee from the corner of the room and coughed.  The cue.  When interrogating a terrorist the good cop, bad cop routine was still a tried and true tactic.  But with a confused and intimidated teenager there was an entirely different approach necessary.  Good cop, better cop.

            Nick got up from the table and Matt slid into the seat next to Dane.  He pointed to Dane’s cup.  “That good?”

            Dane stared at the hot chocolate and appeared to absorb the enormity of his new world.  “So, that guy wasn’t a drug dealer?”

            It was a rhetorical question that Matt didn’t feel the need to answer.  “Tell us about this friend who introduced you to the Mexican?  Is he a close friend?  An acquaintance?”

            Dane glanced around at the bare walls, suddenly looking like an animal in a cage.  “Can’t I call my folks?”

            “What would you like to tell them?” Matt asked.

            Dane’s innocent eyes peer up.  “I could tell them I’m in trouble.  Maybe they could help me.”

            Matt took a long sip of his coffee, then gently placed it down on the table.  “Dane,” he said, “the two most important people in your world right now are inside this room.  We can do things for you no one else can.”

            Dane swallowed.  “Like what?”

            Matt smiled.  “We can open that door and let you walk out a free man.  No one else can offer you that kind of authority.”

            Dane was forced to imagine what his life would be like once he left the safe confines of the FBI.  Maybe imagine what was waiting for him.

            Matt waited for the reality to set in before he said, “He knows you can ID him.”

            Dane seemed to whither in his seat, looking like he wanted to curl up into a ball. 

            “He will want you out of the way,” Matt suggested, giving Dane the euphemistic version of his demise.

            Dane’s face melted into a fragile pool of despair.  His eyes darted between his hands as if searching for an exit strategy.  Matt was right there to offer it to him.

            “When you meet this Mexican again, you’ll—”

            “Wait, what?” Dane jerked back in his seat.  “I’m not going down there ever again.”

            Matt tapped the boy’s arm gently.  “When you leave here and go back home, you’ll be by yourself.  Yes, mom and dad might be around, but when you lay your head on the pillow, don’t even think about falling asleep.”           

            Dane’s face was frozen while staring off into the ether.  Matt played it cool and let the idea fester in the kid’s head. 

            “I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” Matt said.  “I’m sure you never bargained for this kind of drama, but the Mexican won’t forget about you.”

            Dane nodded faintly, but Matt could tell he wasn’t registering everything properly. 

            “How much did they tell you they’d pay you?  Ten thousand?”

            Dane’s eyes widened.  “How’d you know?”

            Matt shrugged.  “That’s the going rate for this type of mule work.”

            “Mule work?”

            “Well, that what they call it.  You’re a mule carrying their product into the states.  They risk the product, but that’s all.  You, however, risk everything.”

            Dane’s eyes kept wandering.  “Why would I even go see him?  I mean, I haven’t even told you his full name or given you a description.  Maybe this is a different Mexican person altogether?”

            Matt slipped his hand into his inside jacket pocket and came out with a photograph.  He placed it on the table and slid it in front of Dane.

            The kid dropped his head into his hands and began to sob.

            “I’m so sorry, buddy,” Matt said.  “But you’re on our team now.  And in this game, you can’t afford to be on the losing team."  


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