Shopping at the Y
Tuesday afternoon, the Ninth of April: Parking lot of a grocery store in Los Lunas, NM
Stones was moving fast. It was a great day. Dr. Ben had given her a clean bill of health. Her training was going well and her strength was almost back. She was really realizing how bad off she had gotten now that her situational awareness was coming back. For a long time, she had just moved in a fog.
She’d been spending a lot of time up at her folks house lately. For the first time, she was really helping with the day to day operation of Black Sail West. Up ’til now, her entire focus had been on her work with Ralph at headquarters back in the Tidewater on the Maryland side south of DC. She had known her parents were involved, but the fact that they headed up Black Sail was a real revelation to her.
She had become excited over the far-ranging effects of the private black operation. She was learning how seriously Ralph and her parents took their seemingly illegal operations. It was a genuine surprise to find out that Jakob was the clear leader of the group and that her mother considered this ministry as important as her church.
As Stones worked out and got back into harness she became aware of her surroundings again—though the paranoid edge was not back. She didn’t know if that would come until she was on an op again. But it didn’t matter, she felt like herself again.
She was at the Y, the shopping center on the east side of the Rio Grande where Highway 47 forked off heading south to the bedroom communities across the river from Belen. She was picking up some jicama, avocados, and tortillas on her way up to the hacienda for supper with her parents.
As she had pulled into the lot after driving down 47 from Albuquerque, she had noticed three of the Chihuahuan trucks parked at the back of the lot next to Main Street.
The grocery store had been packed. Part of her speed was caused by the need to work off the frustration of being forced to wait in line because of the cashier shortage. Most of it was simply that she felt good again for the first time after over a year of recovery. It had been a very difficult year for her.
As her long legs ate up the pavement on the way to her radicalized Cruiser, she was scanning everyone in the area. On this side of the river, most of the commuting Anglos were not so visible. The majority of the people she saw were the working poor getting back home after their six am start up in town. It was strange to her that these very poor people didn’t seem to understand how much cheaper Wally World was up on top of the hill on the other side of the river.
Up north at the far end of the row, she saw a biker gesturing at a group hanging around the Mexican trucks. He was obviously very angry. He backhanded one of the men on the ear knocking him against the side of the middle truck. The rest of the men scattered, jumping back into their trucks.
The biker vaulted onto his bike and dropped the clutch. The back end slid around in a small cloud of dust and tire smoke as he headed down the row toward her. The man was small but his shoulders were huge—carrying massive sharply defined muscles that were rigid with anger. The leather band around his forehead was unadorned. The jeans and brown cowboy boots were well worn. He was wearing a black muscle shirt that showed off his arms and she read Ciclos de Ladrón emblazoned in white as he flashed past her at more than thirty miles per hour with the exhaust noise almost hurting hers ears.
The three trucks had scattered. One was already pulling out headed north past the Taco Bell. The other was cutting east past the bank and out onto 47. The third followed the bike down the row toward Stones. As it came near she heard, “It’s that bitch!”
She didn’t even have time to duck back as an arm holding a tire bat flashed out of the passenger window of the truck swinging at her head. She grabbed the wrist with both hands and pushed up with all her might. As the truck slid by with all four wheels locked up, she held on to the wrist feeling a sharp crack as the upper arm broke against the back of the window opening.
There was a scream of pain from the cab. The back of the truck opened and two men jumped out. One had a short length of heavy chain grasped in his right hand. The other carried another of those short truncheons that looked like the bats carried by truckers—supposedly for checking the tires. He wasn’t checking tires.
Stones whirled on her left foot connecting solidly with the hand wielding the chain—which went flying. She vaguely heard a crash as it smashed the window of the Accord next to her. But there was no time for that. She felt two strong arms wrap around her from the back imprisoning her arms.
She was held well enough for her to pick up both boots and smash the face of the second man with the bat. She brought her feet back down with as much force as she could muster into the shins of the one holding her. As he grunted in pain, she whipped her head back as she drove her elbow into her captor’s gut.
The head butting gambit failed entirely. The man was too short. But the elbow gained her enough room to throw back the left elbow much lower just above the man’s hip. There was a satisfying grunt, but the arms just tightened.
She flung her feet back out twisting her hips until she could firmly plant her boots against the side of the truck. She pushed out as hard as she could. The two of them staggered back over the hood of the Accord. The sharp nose of the car jabbed into the side of the captor’s left knee and it crumpled throwing both of them onto the hood.
She threw her legs up and over the thug and felt her shoulders crush his head into the sheet metal. The side of his head was bashed by the small, hard pile of chain and with a sharp grunt of pain the arms lost their grip. She was free— but twisting and falling off the hood on the driver’s side as she slid across the car. As she fell between the Honda and the old Taurus next to it, the passenger window exploded from the round fired by the man with the broken arm inside the cab.
Like a cat, she landed with her legs beneath her, pushing out into a sprint for the back of the car. She dashed back between an old Ford pickup and a full-size Chevy van and cut south back toward the grocery store. There were screams as she burst through a pack of high school kids and cut left between the cars to the next row.
As she arrived there, she heard the doors of the truck slam shut, a roar of a large bore V8 and squealing tires as the truck took off down the row in the parking lot. She cut back north and then as the truck slid broadside and roared down the row after her, she cut east through the two rows of cars and headed south toward the store again bursting through the small flock of kids who were just regrouping like a small flock of birds from the first passage.
Cutting east past a construction truck and crossing two driving lanes until she was in front of the Staple’s, she hunkered down between a Firebird on the left and a minivan on the right. She couldn’t see the truck, but she could hear it as it slid around a corner and headed back south down the original row where all the trouble started.
The window in the Firebird was open and she heard a soft, but strong— “Hey, lady! Need a ride?”
She glanced to her left. The driver of the Firebird was looking at her.—clean cut, muscular forearms, shaved head with a short-sleeved, blue plaid dress shirt and khakis.
He flashed a broad grin, “I’m not hitting on ya—I saw what you did to those Mexicans.” The smile vanished. “I thought it might help to getcha out of here for a few minutes. I’m ready to go if you are. I moved the front seat way back, you should have room on the floor with your head on the seat.”
She looked at him carefully. She wasn’t big on trusting strangers. She’d always had to take care of herself. But she was in a little over her head at this point. She was actually panting again.
He helped the decision. He leaned to the right and quietly popped the door open a crack. He spoke lowly and carefully. “I’ll start moving out and you duck in.” He faced forward again and the large V8 fired into a low throaty rumble. He gently blipped the engine revs a hair. The sounds were reassuring.
There was no feeling at all that this was a enemy or that it was just bluster. He knows what he’s doing. “I’m ready,” she said.
The black car started to ease forward. As the edge of the door slid by slowly, she pulled it open and slid herself into the footwell, solidly shutting the door after herself, and sliding low and ready to react as necessary. The car turned right and smoothly accelerated, up towards the Taco Bell exit.
She felt the car stop at the exit onto Main Street and cut across the street. Then swinging south into the parking lot in front of Walgreen’s, the young man moved smoothly through the lot and headed out west on Main toward the other side of town. The old Firebird accelerated very hard and the Y was quickly left behind.
He looked down at Deb and gave her a little twisted smile. “You can climb up now. My name’s Gerry.”
She twisted around into the seat, fastened the seatbelt and smiled at him, “I’m Deb. Thanks.”
“Not a problem.”
“Been readin’ too many comic books, or you’re just bored?”
“Naw, I like Mitch Rabb a little better, and I really enjoy Baldacci’s Oliver Stone.”
“Yup, Flynn’s good for a fluffy read. I agree about Baldacci. But most people have enough sense to avoid acting on those impulses after reading a novel.” Debbie looked Gerry over a little closer. There was a definite military flair to the hair and build—he didn’t miss a thing of his surroundings. “SEAL?”
“Gawd, no! Just a Marine on leave. I saw a damsel in distress, and thought I’d lend a hand if you’d let me.”
“OK, I’ll let it go,” she grinned, “but don’t you believe I believe that line o’bull.”
He smiled back, “I’ve been around a bit. What were you doin’ messin’ with Lupe’s boys?”
“The dude on the bike. Bad news. He owns a bike shop just south of Tomé hill. I imagine he was ready to mess up some of those boys. I’ve never seen them hangin’ in a group before. I suspect that’s a big no-no. He certainly looked less than pleased.”
Now he had her attention. I better be careful. “I’ve seen those trucks around. Who are they?”
“Men you want to avoid. Although I noticed you didn’t seek them out. Somehow you evidently hurt their feelings real bad.” There was no smile now. “Why were they after you?”
“I ran into them a couple of months ago in Belen,” was all she’d say.
That got his attention. “I’d heard rumors about a woman taking on three of them in the Walmart parking lot, but I certainly never expected anyone as gorgeous as yourself. I figured that anyone who could beat the crap out of three Mexican soldiers must be some huge bull dyke or somethin’.”
Stones looked him straight in the eye. “Let’s not go there,” she said flatly. “You better take me back to my car.”
“At your service, m’lady. My guess is that the boys are long gone—though I’ll bet they’re reluctant to head back to Lupe’s place. ”
Gerry looked around and there was no one in the area as he crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande. He whipped the wheel, gunned the engine, slid the back end around in a cloud of smoke, and headed back to the parking lots at the Y.
“Thanks for the entertainment. ”
“Glad I could help,” she said with a large smile. It was good to be back with an operator. She felt the familiar edge of alertness settling around her like a glove. It didn’t feel bad.
“Do they know your car?” He was more than a little concerned about that. “I don’t want them waiting for you.”
“No, I’m pretty sure they don’t. The three in Belen weren’t looking around when I left. And I was nowhere near the car when they went by me just now. Plus it doesn’t look very threatening.”
“Just a little PT Cruiser.”
He laughed out loud, “You’re kidding! These things are a piece of junk. How do expect anyone to take you seriously?”
“I’m not worried about that, big boy. Besides, I’m not sure you could keep up with me on the road anyway.”
“OK, I’ll mind my own business—but I’ve never certainly heard of a Cruiser that could keep up to a Caravan let alone a real car.”
“This one’s got the equivalent of a Tesla Electric drivetrain to help things out a bit.”
“I wish I could see that.”