I SAID SOMETHING and I wanted to say something else, but held my tongue. I heard a sound invasive as a sliver. It came from behind me and I knew it well enough. In exactly ten seconds I would dive to the floor and bullets would scream over my head from behind the thin closet door in back of me.
I’d had fourteen years living on the edge as a green beret and even the muffled sound of a cocking M-16 existed as a part of my being. Yes, I played a part in all this. I knew what would happen. Why then, you ask, would I want to say something to the woman in front of me?
Well, the sister I’d lost track of twenty years before stood there calmly holding a Glock nine. She didn’t hesitate as a rule, but I’d just finished calling her “Sis” and it stopped her, hopefully long enough. I bet my life on it.
Carmine’s mouth curled in a bitter twist and she said, “Roland, I can’t believe you’re a Fed. You engineered this?”
“You knew it was me?”
“Now I have to kill you.”
“Actually, no,’ I said, and dived for the floor
Her gun followed my motion and I heard the roar and felt pain at the same moment. Got a lung, but missed her heart shot. A half-second later, holes appeared in the door behind where I’d stood as the M-16 cut loose. Carmine went down in its hail of bullets and smoke.
I coughed as blood began to fill the lung, but managed to cry out weakly, “I’m down.” I couldn’t get my breath, but I knew the symptoms and I also knew I’d live if they got me to the hospital in time.
My agent partner ran through the door, first checking to see that Carmine had nothing further to say and not being sure, put a shot between her eyes. The woman much too dangerous to take any chance with, Bob had to make sure. We knew she’d lived for the thrill as much as for the money. We also knew she was as cool a customer as they made them.
I had no regrets. I lost her twenty years ago. I’d stayed good, gotten into a career that used my military skills while Carmine had turned evil; drugs, selling illicit weapons and especially murder. In a sense I could understand. We were the last of our family and every one of them had met violent death. Happens in some families. You don’t get used to it.
This goes back and the story is worthwhile if for nothing more than the object lesson; trust nobody. I’d tell it now but I needed medical attention, something like removing a slug from my right lung.
Bob Ratchett, my second, got on his cell, gave our position and requested an ambulance stat. It seemed like only seconds later I heard the wail of an ambulance siren, but things began to fade about then. I heard Bob shout, “Rol, don’t leave me.”
Unconsciousness has a way of doing that. I woke up four days later in a private room with an armed guard outside the door, my chest taped and flying on some neat drug they’d pumped into me. Guess the department didn’t want to take a chance on a loose end popping up and finishing the job. That kind of made me man of the hour.
I mean it. Assistant Director Burke sat quietly in the chair near my bedside. He glanced up as I woke. “Feeling better?” he asked.
“No pain,” I said.
“I should think not.” He smiled at me. “Good job, but I don’t recall getting shot as part of your job description.”
“It’s in there somewhere.”
“Feel like talking?”
“I can manage.”
“Good. Bring me back to the warehouse part. We have the rest covered.”
“We got his part. Your turn.”
“Okay.” I proceeded to put it together in my mind and launched my five-minute dissertation. “As special hitter for Carlos Magana, Carmine left virtually no trail, so when we put surveillance on the warehouse hoping we’d get the final evidence to put him away, I didn’t have a thought that we’d catch up with her. I think the “E” in her middle name meant “Elusive.” Then I had a thought. I’d been bait before.”
“I knew it was dangerous. Carmine had no compunction about murder, but she hadn’t seen me in many years and I felt relatively certain she didn’t know I was FBI. She might or might not recognize me, but I hoped she would. I set it up with Bob to infiltrate the closet behind where I could stand while Carmine got the drop on me. On entering the room she would naturally stand in a position facing the closet.
“Now, I’d checked that closet out at a different time and it wasn’t wide, but it had depth and I figured Bob could easily fire through the door and take her down. I really counted on her recognizing me and I know it isn’t department procedure to handle things that way, but I believed it was the only way we’d get her.”
Burke sat attentively still.
“When she came through the door, I yelled, “Sis!”
She had her finger on the trigger, but she had enough control to look at me and it dawned quickly who I was. The rest is history.”
“Except that you have taken one of my best agents out of commission for a few months.” But he smiled.
“I’ll make it up to you. Is Carlos in the bag?”
“You’ll have to. And yes he is.” He got up, uncharacteristically mussed my hair and left the room.”
Bob came in. “How you doing, buddy?”
I looked out the hospital door at the assistant director’s retreating back. “I think he loves me.”
“Don’t kid yourself.”