A really big gun

“Have you got somewhere we can speak in private?” Pete asked.

“Hold up, Bro,” Manny said. “What do you mean by crushing them? I don’t want to be shooting anybody.”

Pete looked Manny over. “That’s admirable, if a bit naive. Still, it can be done without bloodshed. This will be a robbery, not a hit. Can we please discuss this indoors?”

“Maybe we can use Hondo’s shop. We’ll have to ask him. They’re not in this mess with the Hip yet and they probably prefer it that way.”

“Who’s Hondo?” Pete asked.

“He’s with the LSS,” I explained.

“You’ll need more than the two of you on this job,” Pete said. “Can you trust the Soldados? I knew Gato and if he gave you his word he’d die rather than break it. I don’t know Flattop.”

I had no idea if Flattop was that kind of guy. I was inclined to trust him, but that wasn’t what struck me.

“Wait a minute. You’re not going to help us with this?” I asked.

Pete looked a bit embarrassed. “I got a little over enthusiastic this morning. I can provide the info—and I’ll need to be compensated for that—but I can’t be overtly involved. None of us in Nirvana can. It would endanger everything I’ve built.”

That was annoying, but not unexpected. There wasn’t much point in changing your name and fading into the background if you started making big moves in the game afterward.

“I’ll ask Flattop if he wants in. Since it’s a robbery, does that mean we’re going to get paid?”

“Oh yes,” Pete said, showing me his broad smile. “If you’re successful it will be a very large score. I’ll expect a small percentage as payment.”

That was helpful. I found Flattop and Hondo in the yard. Hondo was underneath the hood of my Comet while Flattop supervised from a comfortable chair nearby, a beer in hand.

“Mack, what’s up?” Flattop asked when he saw me.

“Hey man, Old Pete is here. He’s got a way for us to hurt the Hip. It’s a robbery with a big score, but we’ll need some help. You interested?”

Hondo was the first to answer, leaning out from underneath the hood. “Hell yeah, we are. Does it look like we’re turning away scores up in here?”

“What he said. As long as the plan’s solid, we’re in.”

I returned to the gate and waved Pete and Manny inside, making the introductions. Even though it was totally unnecessary when everyone could see the other’s names, it still felt right. Maybe that was just me and they were all humoring me.

“You’re the cat that has the cops in his pocket. Is that a skill?” Flattop asked.

“Maybe if this goes well, I can tell you. You’re the new head of the Soldados? I know El Gato Azul, he’s a good man. I was sad when I heard he went away.”

“You knew Gato?” Hondo asked. “I’ve never seen you around.”

“From a previous life, so to speak.”

Hondo obviously wanted to question Pete about that some more, but it was time see what the old man had for us.

“Let’s go in the back and you can show us what you’ve got,” I suggested.

The office in the back was crowded with the five of us crammed into it. Once we’d all found a comfortable spot to stand or lean, he started.

“I called in some favors today and after a few false starts, I found what we needed. The Hip move a lot of weight as distributors, and tonight is their re-up. They’ll be picking up approximately thirty kilos of weed from their suppliers… and I know exactly where the meet is.”

“Holy shit, thirty keys?” I exclaimed.

“Who is their supplier?” Flattop asked.

“Mexicans,” Pete said, shortly.

“Cartel you mean,” Hondo said. Pete nodded.

“Fuck, no,” Manny said, and I shared the sentiment.

I’d seen the videos, watched the Netflix series, all of it. I knew the Narcos were not to be fucked with. Bodies hanging from bridges, decapitations, you named it. The worst of the worst, as far as organized crime went.

“We can not get involved with the Cartel, Pete,” I said.

“No, you really shouldn’t. You’ll want to set up an ambush on the road the Hip use to leave the meet. Force them to stop and take the weed from them. The Cartel won’t know you’ve hit them.”

“This is crazy. What the fuck,” Manny was muttering, but the debate had started and he was ignored.

“How do you stop an up-armored Jeep?” Hondo asked. “A spike strip won’t work, it’ll have run-flats. It’s heavy as fuck and they can bash their way through any barricade or just go off road.”

“Where is the meet?” I asked. “If there are people around I don’t think we can pull this off.”

“That’s the best part. It’s out in the desert. Let me show you,” Pete said, uncapping his tube and pulling out a glossy map.

It was an aerial view of a section of desert, marked up with grease pencil. Dirt roads meandered across the map and the meet was marked with an X at a crossroads. It was hard to tell how high they were from the perspective we had, but rock formations hugged some of the roads.

“I know how we stop it,” Flattop said, getting our attention. “We just need a big enough gun. Put a bullet or two into the engine and it’ll seize right up.”

“That might work, what gun though?” Hondo said.

“Are you people fucking insane?” Manny screamed, silencing all of us.

“You’re really thinking of doing this? The Hip aren’t bad enough, you want to fuck with the Cartels?”

“Manny-” I started to say.

“No. I’m not listening to you, Bro. I’m out.”

Manny left the office and the garage.

“Pussy,” Hondo said.

“Come on, man. He’s got family to worry about,” I said.

“Some people just aren’t cut out for the game,” Pete said. “Everything in life worth having comes with risk.”

“Damn right,” Hondo agreed. “For half a mil in weed I’m willing to take a lot of fucking risk.”

I hadn’t done the math, but he was right. It was a shitload of money. That was just the wholesale price. After we marked it up it’d be even more.

It took us a good forty minutes of back and forth to hash out the plan. We matched the section of desert on the aerial photo to a big map of southern California and found it. If the Hip took the obvious route from the meet to the highway our ambush would catch them. If they didn’t, we were screwed. We all agreed that we couldn’t risk the Cartel getting caught up in our ambush. Even if we killed them all it could come back to haunt us.

The final missing pieces were all gun-related. We’d need rifles and a big gun to stop the Jeep.

“We can buy rifles and ammo from Tio,” Flattop said. “I know a guy we can bring in to stop the truck. He has the gun and we can trust him, but I’ll have to convince him first.”

“Pargo?” Hondo asked. Flattop nodded.

Time was getting tight. It was a 2.5 hour drive to the meeting spot, and the meeting was at 2am, just over five hours away.

“You’d better go convince him, then,” I said.

Flattop nodded and left.

“Mack, as much as I have a personal stake in you being successful here I still need to be paid for this. I’m thinking 10%?”

“You trippin,” Hondo objected. “$50k for some maps?”

“It’s not just the maps,” Old Pete objected.

“He’s right, Hondo. Pete really came through for us here. Ten percent seems fair to me, that leaves ninety to split between us.”

“Whatever. We’ll need to pay Pargo and get the rifles from Tio, too. This shit’s going to be expensive. If we have to toss the rifles afterward, real expensive.”

I couldn’t help but agree. I wasn’t sitting on a ton of cash right now. If we pulled this off and got away with thirty kilograms of weed, I still wouldn’t be rich. I’d have to figure out a way to move that much weed.

While waiting for Flattop I left the garage to get some air. I was unsurprised to see Manny’s Crown Vic was gone. Honestly, it was probably for the best. If he was smart he’d stick to the light for a few days to a week to make sure we hadn’t brought the wrath of the Cartels down on our heads. If he saw on the evening news the cops investigating our gruesome murders, he’d know to keep his head down.

It was forty minutes before Flattop returned, and all three of us were getting nervous as precious time ticked away. He entered the shop carrying a black duffel bag and followed by an older man that I didn’t recognize, dressed all in black and carrying an oversized plastic case.

“Pargo”
Mutually Allied With: Lyle Street Soldados

Pargo was an olive skinned guy, muscular and serious looking. His forearms and knuckles were covered with what I recognized as prison tattoos. He looked us all over.

“Pargo,” Pete said, giving him a respectful nod which was returned.

“This the crew, then?”

“Yeah, Pargo. Pete’s not coming though.”

“Pete’s out of the game,” Pargo said, and set the case down by his feet. “That’s what he tells everyone. What you doing here, old man?”

“The Hip grabbed my girl last night, trying to get Mack here. They didn’t really hurt her, but I can’t let that go unanswered. Weren’t you out too?”

Pargo nodded ruefully. “The streets will suck you back in, esse. Watch out.”

“Yeah, I know.”

With the last member of our crew present, we went over the plan. Flattop had acquired three AK-105s from Guillem, along with three magazines for each one. The rounds could theoretically punch through the laminated glass of the Jeep, but it might take a few. Also stuffed in the bag were four radio handsets, large and clunky. We’d need them. Tio had even thought ahead enough to mount flashlights on each rifle. We’d need them out in the desert.

Stuffed in the bottom of the bag were ratty-looking black tactical vests with deep pockets for the rifles’ magazines. They weren’t armor, but were pretty handy.

Flattop passed out the rifles and spent a few minutes making sure I knew how to use it. It wasn’t difficult, really. I might not be very accurate, but wasn’t that why these things had a full-auto switch? I brought up its stats.

Kalashnikov AK-105 (C) Ammo (5.45x39mm): 30/30
Handling: C Damage: C Serial: None
Penetration: C Accuracy: C Value: ???

That brought us to the star of the show. Pargo laid it on the desk and opened it to show us. A truly enormous black rifle broken into several long pieces was disassembled and nestled in thick foam. He showed us one of the rounds. It was thick, heavy and nearly as long as my extended hand.

“Fifty caliber anti-material rifle,” Pargo said. “One or two shots will kill the engine. They won’t have enough armor to stop this.”

I was sad that Pargo wouldn’t let me pick it up or even touch it, so I didn’t get to see the stats. He didn’t want anyone messing with it before it was needed.

With that, we were ready to go. Pargo had brought his ride, an ancient white Ford Bronco with peeling paint. It fit all five of us and our equipment. We dropped Pete at his bridge and were on our way.