Julian “Jules” Rivera crouched in the scrub brush as he absentmindedly brushed a finger along his right eyebrow, wiping away the droplet of sweat before it could roll down into his eye, his shirt already plastered to him like a second skin from his sweat. He had been living in the hot Texas sun for three years, but having grown up in Montana, he didn’t think he would ever adjust to the heat. Unlike that asshole, Fish, Jules thought as he glanced to the man on his right.
Charles Fisher, his best friend, was crouched in the brush with him with not a drop of sweat visible. Jules was of the opinion that Fish, an Arizona native, could walk on the surface of the sun without breaking a sweat. He envied Fish’s cool. Of course, when Fish is freezing his ass off in fifty degree weather, I’m still walking around in short sleeves. Unfortunately, Vallecito saw a lot more ninety degree days than it did fifty, so…
Jules was pulled back from his private bitching when his earbud squawked. “We got a box van on the way,” Marsh’s voice came over the radio. Jules looked around and watched the other six men on his team become deadly serious. They had all heard the same report.
A moment later, a late model Ford box van, driving far too fast down the rough and washboarded dirt road, swung around the corner on the edge of control. The driver must have known he was in bandit country… and he was about to meet the bandits.
A jacked up Chevy pickup lunged across the road, blocking the truck’s path. They had picked this section of road for their ambush because the blind corner hid their presence until the last moment and the deep ditches prevented the truck from driving past their roadblock. As the van shuddered to a stop, another truck surged across the road behind, pinning their quarry in.
Jules and the other six men on foot came out of the brush on each side of the road in a fast-moving combat crouch, their deadly-looking semi-automatic rifles pointed at the driver and passenger. Their truck drivers joined them a moment later.
Sergio “Bell” Guzman yanked open the door of the box van and hauled the driver out and shoved him to his knees while Fish did the same with the passenger on the other side. With two high-powered rifles pointed at the driver’s head, Bell spoke to him in rapid Spanish. Jules let Bell handle it since he couldn’t speak a word of Spanish unless it involved getting drunk or getting laid.
Sure they had the situation under control up front; Jules motioned four of the guys with him to the back of the truck. The men took up station, two to each side of the rollup door with weapons at the ready, as Jules counted down from five on his fingers. When he gripped his hand in a fist, he quickly unlocked the door and threw it up before ducking to avoid a potential hail of bullets.
When no one fired, Jules stood up and looked into the back of the truck. Inside were twenty or more Mexicans crowded at the front of the truck, hunched over the children, all their eyes wide with fear. Jules had to grit his teeth to avoid gagging from the stench of human waste pouring from the truck.
“Fuck…” Jules muttered as his lips curled in disgust. “Somebody get Bell back here.
Jules lowered his weapon so it dangled nonthreateningly from his shoulder. “Tómalo con calma . No vamos a hacerte daño,” he said while making calming motions with his hands. He hoped he got it close enough that they understood they weren’t going to be hurt. Judging by the fact they still cowered at the front of the truck, he assumed he hadn’t.
Bell appeared at the back of the truck. “Fuck… I hate this shit,” he snarled as he took in the situation.
“Yeah. Me too. See if you can get them calmed down. Some of them look like they have been beaten. Find out if any of them are hurt and I’ll get them some water. It must be a hundred and fifty degrees in there,” Jules instructed. He then turned to the other men. “You know what to do.”
One of the men made a motion across his neck, then two gunshots echoed through the surrounding canyons, making the illegals in the truck whimper in fear.
With a grimace and a shake of his head, Jules walked to the Chevy and returned with a dozen cold waters. He and his men would have to go thirsty, but it wasn’t the first time they had given up their water... and it probably wouldn’t be their last.
“They’re a little roughed up and couple of the women were raped, but nobody is seriously injured. Not physically anyway,” Bell reported when Jules returned.
“Tell them this is all the water we have and they will have to share,” Jules said as he handed up the bottles.
Bell translated and the men nodded and smiled in thanks as they took the water.
“We’re loaded and ready to go,” Fish said as he stepped around the corner of the van.
“Okay. Let Marsh know we’re ready to roll. Tell him we have to make a delivery first and we’ll catch up. Bell, Fish, you’re with me. The rest can head on back.”
Twenty minutes later, Jules stopped the van just inside the Mexican border. “Let’s do this,” he muttered to Bell.
Jules and Fish dragged the bodies out of the back of the Chevy, letting them thud to the ground like so much meat. Bell hustled the people out of the truck and herded them around the truck so they could see the dead men displayed on the ground, a great gaping wound in each man’s head.
“You see that?” Jules snarled, stomping around the scared men, women, and children as Bell translated. “You see what happens when you cross into Forsaken 99 territory? You die. You will be gunned down without mercy as these men were. But I’m feeling generous today. You were just cargo, locked in the back of the truck like cattle. So I’m going to let you go. But if I ever see you in our territory again, you will end up just like these two men. This is your only warning. Now go.”
When Bell finished speaking and the crowd didn’t move, Jules fired two quick shots into the ground at their feet. That got them moving. As the illegals disappeared into the brush, Jules watched them go, his lips pursed hard together. “This is worse than the drugs,” he muttered.
“Yeah,” Fish agreed.
“Come on, let’s get the fuck out of here,” Bell said, slapping Jules on the shoulder. “I’ve got better things to do on a Saturday afternoon than stand around and watch the buzzards eat these bastards.”