B.H. La Forest


. . . If it were not for his military training, Munoz would have melted into the bush and disappeared. He always kept the phone turned low. Turning the volume down before tucking it in his belt was a simple habit he had acquired. Reluctantly, after placing the butt of the AK-47 on the ground, he yanked the phone from its clip and flipped it open. It was Ramos.

            Jorge Ramos had been worried when Munoz failed to answer immediately. When the connection was finally established, there was only silence. "Ruben? Are you there?"

            "I cannot speak now, Jorge. What do you want?"

            "Are you in the house? Is everything okay?"

            There it was again. Munoz was not an idiot. Ramos had asked if they were in the old house four times now—even before inquiring about the police activity. "Not at the moment, but I am on my way back there as we speak. Wait a minute or so, and I'll return your call from inside."

            Ramos relaxed, "Okay," and cut off the call.

             Munoz took one last look down the street. He was shocked to see armed men stealthily making their way toward Medina St. Even more surprising, the Levis and business suits he'd seen a few minutes before were gone. Each figure now sported some type of special uniform. He could still pick out those in white crime-scene jump-suits, but the others were wearing two kinds of SWAT garb. The only thing in common, the weapons they carried—shotguns and automatic weapons, and protective vests that made any chance for quick kills more difficult.

            With his confidence deteriorating rapidly, Munoz came close to making another, near fatal, error. Leaning even more over the chain-link fence—to sight-in the AK-47 on the advancing group . . . he was stunned when he heard the whack, whack sound of bullets smacking into a tree on his right. Munoz swung the AK toward the threat. It was a lone police officer he had seen walk by his position a few minutes earlier. He fired off a ten round burst, which flew through empty air where Jimmy Collins had been standing. Munoz pivoted fast, sending ten more toward the other approaching lawmen. In the seconds he had taken to fire at the lone gunman, the group had split into three teams of two.

            Smoke from the AK wafted in the heavy, humid air—unable to gain much height. When he peeked again, Munoz couldn't pick out a single figure. Zug Island Rd. appeared to have swallowed his enemies. The silence lasted but two or three seconds at most, and then loud explosions from 12 gauge shotgun blasts mixed with the distinctive sound of M-16 or AR-15 rifle fire and small arms gunfire.

 . . . Jorge Ramos and Hector Gómez were three blocks away, but the unmistakable chatter of an AK-47 easily cut through the damp morning air. Ramos had already dialed the first six numbers for the phone inside the house where his henchmen were staying. As-soon-as he heard the shotgun blasts, military weapons and the pop, pop of small arms, he spoke to Gómez.

"Head back to Jefferson, then make your way back to I-75, Hector." Ramos pushed the seventh number on his second cell, and started wiping down the phone with a silk handkerchief. He would wait before he tossed the burner onto freeway traffic up ahead. Just then, Ramos heard a tremendous explosion coming from somewhere behind their car. Turning in his seat, he had no trouble seeing the flames shooting high above the residential neighborhood. "Spectacular, Hector! I believe that was louder than the blast at the restaurant the other evening."

            "Si, creo que tienes razón, Jefe. Sorry," he added quickly in English. "You're right, boss."

            "That's okay, Hector . . . this time anyway. Our business in Detroit is finished, my friend Hector. Let's head south on I-75—get some breakfast on the way. I want to stop in Chihuahua Tuesday, and then to Villahermosa Thursday. . . ."