The sun had already set when the helicopter hovered over the drop point in the desert next to a Border Patrol SUV. As the chopper leveled out and dropped to the open patch of dirt, Nick pulled open the door and handed the pilot the three communication headsets.
“Thanks, buddy,” Nick said to the pilot, then hopped onto the moist desert floor. The rain had subsided, but the ground was still patched up with a few standing puddles.
Matt and Dane followed Nick as he reached the two Border Patrol agents and held out his hand to a tall, lean agent with a thick curly mustache.
“Long time, Hal,” Nick said to the smiling man.
“Good to see you, Nick,” Hal Dixon said.
The helicopter’s rotors increased its velocity and the group turned their back to the chopper as it spit up pieces of the desert around them.
Once the chopper was airborne, Hal pointed to his partner and said, “Jessie Martinez.”
They all introduced themselves and Hal said, “We can take you through a compromised section of the border, but once you’re inside Mexico, you’re on your own.”
“That’s all we ask,” Nick said as nightfall closed in around them.
Hal looked up to the sky as if waiting for another chopper. “Where are the rest of you?”
“It’s just us,” Nick said.
Hal raised his eyebrows, then shrugged. “All right then, let’s go.”
They all got in the SUV, Hal driving and his partner in the driver’s seat. Nick and Matt sandwiched Dane in the back seat. Hal drove slowly through the desert avoiding cacti and sagebrush as they headed south.
Hal looked at Nick through the rear view mirror. “So you think you’ll get to Reynoso?”
“That’s the plan,” Nick said.
“You know he’s not easily found.”
“It’s okay,” Nick said, looking at Dane. “He’ll find us.”
Hal nodded. “I see. You’re bringing bait.”
Dane looked at everyone staring at him. “What? You told me that you were escorting me to that bar. Right?”
“We didn’t use the word escort,” Nick informed him. “We said you would take us to the bar. Once inside, you’ll be spotted and Reynoso will be notified.”
“We’ll figure it out.”
“Wait,” Dane said. “You don’t have a plan?”
“Oh, we have a plan. We’re just going to discuss it with you.”
“Why not?” Dane asked with an innocent tone.
No one answered as the SUV meandered through the desert, the headlights knifing through the night in front of them. A pair of yellow eyes glowed from behind a bush.
“W-w-what’s that?” Dane asked.
“Coyote,” Hal said.
Dane swiveled his head to examine what else might be waiting for him out there.
“Relax,” Hal said. “If you’re going into Reynoso’s bar, coyotes are the least of your worries.”
“Thanks,” Nick said sarcastically. “He needed a pep talk.”
The SUV rolled over one final lump of dirt, then came to a stop in the middle of the desert.
Hal pointed out the front windshield. “That’s our entry point.”
Nick couldn’t see anything but desert landscape.
Hal pulled a large handheld spotlight from his console, then left the SUV running and got out of the car. He walked into the path of his headlights and Nick and Matt jumped out to follow. Martinez stayed with the vehicle. As they walked along the packed earth, Nick looked over his shoulder and saw Dane lingering in the back seat. He curled his finger for the kid to follow them.
Dane stepped out of the SUV like a sheep in a den of wolves. He took tepid steps toward the group.
Hal aimed his spotlight at a metal plate that was painted tan to blend in with the desert floor. He bent over and yanked up on a latch and the plate hinged up exposing a giant four foot wide opening.
“A tunnel?” Nick asked.
Hal pointed the spotlight down into the dark aperture. “We just discovered it last week.”
“Why not fill it in?” Dane asked as he approached the group.
Nick and Matt stared at the kid who clearly knew very little about catching criminals. There was so much more to gain from tagging a smuggler once he’s inside the country, than forcing him to find a new entrance. Informants could be nurtured into offering much more than a single arrest. Controlling the border was always big picture.
Hal shined the spotlight on the interior wall closest to them and exposed the top rung of a metal ladder leading into the tunnel.
Matt pulled his Glock from his holster and stepped toward the opening. “Okay. Let’s go.” He crouched, then stepped down onto the metal railing, taking slow methodical steps down.
“You have a flashlight?” Hal asked.
“Yes sir,” Matt said.
Nick watched Matt reach the bottom of the steps under Hal’s spotlight.
That’s when the first gunshot was fired.
Read the story from the beginning here:https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4SY-vLe9ggkaXYzME9NSDlNeXM/view?usp=sharing