I woke up flushed, slicked in sweat, much like I woke yesterday morning, the only thing lacking is the guilt. I lie still, resting my forearm across my eyes, my heart still racing from a very erotic dream of Jeanette, savouring the thought for a while. My lips are still sore, slightly bruised, I haven’t kissed anyone that much in a long time. Even with Stacy, I didn’t spend the night just making out with her, not since we were kids. A single slow stroke enough to revive the fevered dream clearly, almost painfully. Waking up so hard it hurt, a deep throbbing ache in my balls that made walking to the shower uncomfortable.
Standing under water as hot as I can take it, looking down at the cold water tap, knowing an ice cold shower isn’t going to help me this time, isn’t going to still this ache. Only Jeanette can ease this, and neither of us is ready to go that far yet, I don’t think.
Another slow stroke, the squeeze at the bottom making me wince, change direction. A drop of pre-come making me slick, making me want her even more, a desire so intense the water hitting my skin is cool in comparison. The dream of her, in vivid detail, her dark hair soaked in sweat flung behind her as she moans, straddling me. My hands on her hips, holding her steady, as she loses control, her back arching. I lean forward, bracing myself against the cool tile of the shower, my soaped hand keeping pace with Jeanette, my eyes closed tight, the vision of her so clear in my head I can almost taste her. Her hips bucking, as I thrust up into her, as she nears release. Every cry sharpening, growing louder, the flushed pink of her throat, down her chest to her belly. A perfect bead of sweat rolls across her nipple. My knees grow weak, my own breath in hoarse pants. My balls tightening painfully, the ache so deep and ill remembered that it makes me gasp. Her shuddering cries, as everything in her clenches and releases, in a deep flutter. She’s coming hard, and I follow after, the force of it nearly bringing me to my knees. Her name on my lips, resting my forehead on the cool tile. A final stroke pulling the last drops from me, the ache less, the desire for her deeper.
I stay under the hot water until it runs out, waiting for the guilt, for the sadness, that never comes. There’s only Jeanette. I feel happier than I have in a long time, in a way that can’t completely be explained away by sexual release after so long. I make coffee, still wearing nothing but a towel, pulling the phone out onto the back porch, digging her phone number out of my wallet.
Her voice is soft and sleepy, I didn’t even look at the time before I called her. Wince. It’s just a few minutes after six. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was so early. Just wanted to hear your voice.”
“It’s okay.” A huge yawn, and the rustling of covers. I close my eyes, smiling, thinking of her hair all messy from sleep, my own dream of her coming back to me vividly. “I have to be up in about an hour anyways. I don’t have a huge commute,” A soft laugh, almost a giggle. “So I’m spoiled, I get to sleep late.” Even from here, I can hear the grin in her voice. She wakes up happy in the morning.
“Go back to sleep, beautiful, I’ll see you later.”
“Thank you for calling me, Sean, it was sweet, I like hearing your voice too. I’ll get out as early as I can, so I can come see you.”
Her voice is drifting off already. “Call me when you’re done, and I’ll come pick you up. Go back to sleep, ‘Nette.”
I’m halfway through a second cup of coffee, still sitting on the back porch in nothing but a towel, when Alvarez shows up. The blue Hawaiian shirt with the big parrots again.
“We had another two last night, Vetter. They weren’t junkies though.”
He’s calling out to me from the kitchen, making a cup of coffee while I finish getting dressed. “It’s been a week exactly, and that’s what, thirteen dead now?”
“Yea…This is new, isn’t it?”
“The coffee maker…TWO cups, huh? Expecting company?” I don’t have to see him to know he’s leering. Alvarez can say something that from anyone else would be completely innocent, but he has this look. If he was serious about it, it wouldn’t be funny.
“And you have MILK in your fridge! This woman must be something special to have you buy groceries, Vetter.”
I know he takes sugar in his coffee, so, half shaved, I step out of the bathroom, pointing to what was another empty cupboard, ducking back into the bathroom before he can say anything.
“Sugar. You have sugar…and….damn. When do we get to meet this woman, Sean?”
He’s standing in the doorway of the bathroom, drinking his coffee, eating cookies. I had picked them up with everything else. “Tonight.” He frowns down at the cookie he’s just dropped into his coffee cup, letting out a sigh, and drinking it anyway. “She’s going to come by after work, so you’ll get to meet her tonight.” I let out a deep sigh, trying to settle my own nerves. I’m about to say something else, ask him to go easy on her, but he has his hand up, before I can even ask.
“Don’t worry so much, Sean. You know I wouldn’t embarrass her.” When Alvarez grins, you’d never think he could be serious. When he’s serious, you’d never think he could grin. “You two are doing all right? You’re okay?” He’s swirling his coffee cup around, watching me carefully as he says it. Alvarez doesn’t miss anything. Ever. Watching for even the slightest hint of emotion, every give away and “tell” closely noted, in case I’m maybe lying to myself. Which he would then confront me with, to keep me from getting hurt. I just nod at him. He reads me for another moment, before drinking his coffee along with the sodden remains of his dunked cookie, in one pull.
“Come on then, let’s go and see what we can find out about our two murdered dealers.”
The coroner lets us in, closing the door quietly behind us. We don’t have any authority to be there, this isn’t our case. It’s still not anybody’s case. The cops look at it as a “NHI”. No humans involved. As long as dealers and junkies are the only ones getting killed, and no one else is getting in the way, the cops would let it keep going like that. Alvarez hands the coroner a bag with the breakfast we picked up on the way here. It still amazes me that the man can eat at times like this.
“I took some closer pictures of the tattoos, I figured you might find those interesting.” The coroner’s walking over to a laptop, bringing up the pictures of the tattoos. ID’s don’t mean anything. ID’s can be forged, and names change so fast that if you were to rely on that alone, you’d never know who anyone was. This is a little more permanent. A tattoo on the inside of the thigh, which stands out, against the rest of the tattoos on their bodies, by the fact that it’s well hidden. An identity marker.
“They’re Colombians.” I’ve seen the mark before, like a cattle brand. Which isn’t too surprising, given that these ‘soldiers’ are considered property by the cartel that, in effect, owns them. I’d be willing to bet that the brand is that of the Vega cartel.
“Can you print out a copy of this for us?” Alvarez asks the coroner.
“I’ve already done it.” He already has them in an envelope for us. “I put in the test results for the heroin they had on them at the time, in case it comes up later.” I guess he’s trying to get copies of as much evidence as he can to us, before the bodies, certain not to be claimed, are destroyed, any evidence along with them. “I’m guessing we’re going to see a lot more of this?”
“It’s going to get pretty messy, I’m guessing.”
“I guess I better make sure no one takes any sick leave. No one’s going to be coming down here officially, are they.”
Alvarez and I both turn to look at him at the same time, knowing he’s not really asking a question, but wanting to answer him anyway. I turn back to the screen, letting Alvarez answer. “No one wants this case. We’re it. Just let us know when you find something we might be interested in. Hell, even we’re not officially here.”
“So you figure Brubaker’s starting to go after Vega, and that he had the two dealers killed. Who’s he using? That looked professional, to me.” We had to wait until lunch, when we could get away from the office for a while, to talk freely about the killing of the two dealers. Nine millimeter to the back of the head, execution style. No signs of a struggle, and the bodies were dumped in the same warehouse area that we found the other dead junkies. From the amount of blood at the scene, they were clearly killed elsewhere. This was a little bit more than a drug deal gone wrong.
“I think professional is exactly the right word to use here, Vetter. I think Brubaker’s still using muscle from the CIA, a wet works team. Whether he knows who he’s targeting or not is another question, but he has to suspect.” Alvarez puts his coffee cup over a stack of napkins on the picnic table. We’re at a small park, across from the office, eating lunch. It’s strange not being able to talk in the office, about something we should be able to talk about. About something the DEA should be interested in, but, strangely, isn’t. “Two of the three DEA agents that turned up dead went out the same way, shot in the back of the head. I think Brubaker’s kept ties with those CIA agents, and he’s using them to clean up the trail between himself and that 1993 theft.”
“The CIA was in on that too, Alvarez.”
“I think they might be working both sides. Maybe Brubaker doesn’t know that. Maybe Vega doesn’t either.”
“What happened to that third DEA agent, I wonder? Where’s he in all this?”
“You do ask the interesting questions, Vetter. No clue where the third agent is, which is pretty interesting in itself, isn’t it? Makes you wonder just how much he knows.”
“And who Brubaker is worried about him telling.” If all he can do to save himself is give up what he knows, who would Brubaker kill to keep that knowledge from getting out? Just the original $270 million would have been enough for a lot of people to be willing to kill over. It wouldn’t get any harder for a man that was willing to kill anyway, especially not when the payoff was so high.
“Let’s look at that, at who he might have told, figuring we’re right about this. This agent is loose somewhere, and in hiding.” Alvarez starts doodling on a piece of the paper bag that lunch came in, while we talk. The diagram gets more and more complex as we go, but it has it’s own clarity too, once you know the motives involved. When you know that people will cross each other so easily for the kind of money involved, especially these people, who are so used to doing that already. “Because he knows Brubaker had the other two agents killed.”
I finish Alvarez’s thought. “And knows Brubaker is going to kill him. So, to protect himself, who would he tell, Alvarez? Maybe this third agent told Vega who ripped him off. Get Vega to kill Brubaker, and save his own skin that way. The kid bothers me, though.” Jeremy Brubaker, the kid killed in what looked like a heroin overdose in the university parking lot. The first victim, along with his girlfriend.
“You think maybe this third agent could have tried to contact the kid as well? Maybe threaten him?” Alvarez’s doodle is forgotten, as the diagram taking shape in our heads gets a little clearer. He rips it up carefully, dropping it into the last inch of coffee in his paper cup. At any other time I would have thought the gesture a little ridiculous.
“Or tell him what his dad was involved in. What did the kid do at the university anyway?”
“He was with the university paper, Sean. You think this third agent might have gone to Brubakers’ son, and told him about the 1993 theft, to try to force his old man’s hand?”
“If Brubaker had the other two DEA agents assassinated, and the third man was in hiding, maybe those were the only options he had left. Vega, and Brubaker’s kid. He’d probably know enough not to trust the CIA.”
“So, let’s say the kid finds out about his old man. Does he confront him? Maybe threaten to publish something in the paper? That would be a pretty huge story, if it broke wide open.”
“You think Brubaker might have killed his own son, or had him killed, Alvarez?” It started to make sense from that angle. “Make it look like an OD. The grieving parents want to cover it up, and, having an in with the DEA, he can keep it covered from that angle. The university wants it covered up, because it’s a black mark against them, having two kids die of a heroin overdose on their property.”
Alvarez finishes the thought. “To the cops, it’s no-humans-involved, so they’re not going to get involved either. If anyone does figure it’s murder, it can be easily tied to Vega, on the flimsy evidence of the purity of the heroin alone.”
“Where does knowing all this, or guessing all this, leave us, Alvarez?”
His face grows cold and hard again, the cheerful Hawaiian shirt with its parrots seeming very out of place. “It leaves us, as DEA agents, in the very strange position of hoping that a drug cartel will take care of the problem for us, Vetter. The DEA may step in, once it knows Brubaker is dead, and the DEA can come out squeaky clean, but I wouldn’t trust them with the information now. I definitely wouldn’t trust them with it, not while Brubaker’s alive. Who knows if someone will leak it to him. I won’t risk my wife, my family.”
All I can think of is Jeanette. Beautiful Jeanette. I wipe my hand over my face, knowing I’m shaking, feeling cold and pale, no matter how hot it is out here. I don’t trust myself to speak, feeling the lump in my throat, the knot in my chest, and knowing my voice will break if I try to say anything now.
“And I won’t risk anything happening to that young woman that’s made you remember you’re still among the living, Sean. We wait, and we watch. And, if Vega kills Brubaker, maybe the DEA will be interested in taking care of Vega. Sometimes, maybe the cops have it right. No humans involved.”
We have to stand by, and let a drug cartel in, because that’s the best option at getting a more dangerous man out. It’s a strange situation to be in.
The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur, filled with as many mindless tasks as I could take on, none of which I could concentrate on. All I could think of was Jeanette, and how much she’s starting to mean to me. I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that I was already falling for her. I’ve lost once, more than I can bear. I can’t go through that again. I won’t lose Jeanette too, I won’t. If that means that we do things Alvarez’s way, and let Vega take care of Brubaker, I can live with that.
I threw myself into clearing out my house, when Alvarez, Adriana and the boys came over. At least with everything still in boxes, it was pretty easy to clear around it, moving stuff out of the way, and clearing a path for furniture to be set up in some sort of order. Adriana took over that, having us move pieces all over the living room until our shoulders ached, and Alvarez said enough was enough, the couch is going to stay where it is. The movers, when they packed up the house in LA, had labeled enough of the boxes that getting them at least into the room they should end up in was pretty easy.
I had to grab Sandro, running through the house yelling, and hold him still and quiet, when my cell phone rang.
“Jeanette.” It’s hard to hide the smile in my voice, at the sound of her. Everyone in the house, except for the squirming Sandro, goes quiet.
“Dan is shooing me out of here, Sean.” She’s giggling over the phone for the moment, as someone, I’m assuming Dan, laughing, is yelling ‘Out!’, in the background.
“I’ll be with you in a minute, ‘Nette.”
I bit my tongue, as I hung up, the words “I love you” very nearly uttered, as I hung up the phone. Every time I spoke to Stacy, before I hung up, I told her I loved her. I don’t think it was just the habit that had me nearly say those words out loud to Jeanette. I’m falling for her.
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