5:00 a.m. – I run and cook scrambled eggs for breakfast. There is a pounding on the front door.
Me: Who’s there.
I am greeted by Jesse Wallace, and she isn’t smiling.
Me: What’s wrong with you, Detective Jesse?
J: Witnesses are starting to die, and it’s all pointing at you.
J: That Russian, Ivan Breshenko, that’s who. He had your card in his pocket. Your Tucson address was written on the back. Why don’t you tell me what the hell’s happening here?
Me: When did he die?
J: Come on, Green, I’m asking the questions here.
Me: Detective Jesse, when did he die?
J: Last night, at the border crossing.
J: He told the guard, ‘Tell them I can’t hurt them anymore.’ He said it three times, and pulled a gun and blew his brains out.
Me: He came to see me yesterday. He threatened me with a gun. He said the Mexicans bankrolling his company had his wife and his two girls. He needed something from me, but I couldn’t give it to him.
J: What did he want? This is no time to hold out on me.
Me: I haven’t held out on you, Detective Jesse. He wanted Valerie Heintz. The mob wanted her and he was going to trade her for his family.
J: So where is she?
Me: I’ll tell you the same thing I told Breshenko. I don’t know.
J: I don’t believe you.
Me: If I did know, I wouldn’t tell you, but I don’t.
J: Maybe you’d like to spend some time in lock-up to think about how you’re interfering with a police investigation. Maybe the feds would like to hold you for a few more days to boot. We can protect her.
Me: She doesn’t think so, and I won’t make that decision for her.
J: What did he mean when he said, ‘Tell them I can’t hurt them anymore?’
Me: He’s trying to tell them to let his family go, that once he’s dead, there’s no reason to harm them. He tried to do it where it couldn’t be missed. That’s all.
J: So, they’ll let his family go?
Me: They don’t let people go, Detective Jesse, you know that. It’s all part of saying, ‘remember what happened to Ivan Breshenko and his family; don’t you ever cross us.’ They do it because it works.
J: So how do we find them?
Me: Find them. Are you kidding? They’re here, in Tucson, in some barrio house, tied to chairs and blindfolded. We can’t prove they’re missing, more or less save them.
J: What am I supposed to do? Wait for their bodies to show up?
Me: No, you’re supposed to give me a little leeway and maybe I can save them.
J: Leeway. What do you mean; leeway?
Me: Where I’m from, it’s called trust, Detective Jesse.
J: If I trust you, will you stop calling me Detective Jesse?
9:00 a.m. – Jasmine’s number is busy; I head for South Tucson; her car is nowhere to be seen. I ring the doorbell; the door is open an inch; I hear a low moan. Jackie is lying on the bloody floor, her cheek smeared into the tile. She will not be pretty again for a long time.
Jackie: Help me.
Me: I’m calling an ambulance.
Me: Where’s Jasmine? Jackie, where’s Jasmine?
J: She got a call, from somebody named Jaime. She went to Mexico.
J: She left five minutes before they came.
Me: They? Who were they?
J: Two big men. Anglos. They wanted the key. They thought I was Jasmine. They tore my chain, but I didn’t have the key, I wasn’t Jasmine. They beat me. They wouldn’t listen to me.
Me: Who were they?
J: They said Eduardo sent them. They wouldn’t believe me when I said I was his aunt. They kept hitting me. I thought I was going to die. I will be pretty again, won’t I?
I carry her to the living room.
Me: Jackie, I’ve got to go. The ambulance is on the way. I’ve got to find Jasmine.
9:30 a.m. – I set the cruise for eighty and let my thoughts race. I am courting danger. What am I, some kind of reckless idiot? Let the police save the day; I don’t have to be the one. But that isn’t true, I am the only one who can save Breshenko’s family; I am the only one Jaime owes something to and I’ll use it to extract their lives.
11:00 a.m. – I’m in Nogales, Arizona.
Me: Hello, detective, it’s CB.
Jesse: Where are you? I got this Jackie and she’s not telling me a thing. She said you were here.
Me: Look, I have no time to argue with you. I’m crossing into Mexico in a minute. The thugs that beat up Jackie were sent by Eduardo Lopez. They thought she was Jasmine, but Jackie is Esme’s sister, Eduardo’s aunt. I got to go, so trust me, okay?
J: Okay. Be careful.
I pull my radio and place my gun and shoulder holster in the open space. At the gates of hell I am waved through without fanfare.
The gate is open; Eduardo’s low rider is parked to hold it in place. A man and woman, indoor servants, scurry out the front door. I pull the gun. I hear a series of spits, a silenced weapon. I push the dark door open; it swings with its heavy inertia until it hit something soft. I bend to the immobile Pedro. I hold a finger to my lips, and he stops the guttural attempts at sound.
There is another round of spits; Jasmine’s voice rings out, Don’t you touch me. A rip of clothing; Jasmine yells, Give that back. A series of spits cut the air. I sprint through the room of silent knights to the closed double doors. The heavy door flies into me, knocking me to the floor; my gun clanks to a stop at the foot of a knight. I dive for it as a line of bullets cuts wildly across the wall and the line of knights crashes to the floor. One falling head smashes my hand, but I hold onto the gun. I aim. The sound of my shot reverberates off the walls. Eduardo disappears through the front entrance.
I am stunned that Eduardo stormed the gates of this fortress and got out alive. Two men lie in separate puddles of blood. There are bullet holes everywhere, in the walls, the furniture, the ceiling.
I hear the moan from behind me. Jasmine holds the old man’s head in her lap. Her blouse is ripped open. He is bleeding from a wound in the right side of his chest. I don’t know what part of my puritan life came to the fore, but the first thing I do is pull her blouse together and hook the remaining button at her throat.
Me: You okay?
She nods her head. Jaime opened his eyes. I have experience with his wound.
Me: You’ll live, Mr. Gonzalez.
Two men burst into the room, their gun arms rising. A great roaring No comes from Jaime, followed by quick Spanish. One of the men keeps his eye on me and the other bends over the old man. He reaches into Jaime’s pocket and pulls an envelope.
Mexican: Mr. Gonzalez says you are to take the girl to the airport. Her ticket to Seattle is here. She has a bank account and that information is here also. He wants her out of Tucson today. Can you do that?
Mexican: He’ll be all right. You must go.
Me: Not yet. To Lopez, I want Breshenko’s family set free, Mr. Gonzalez.
Lopez: I can’t let people be thinking they can use suicide to escape my debts, Green. It’s bad business.
Me: Then make a bad business decision for once. Please. No matter what you do, I will take care of Jasmine. She’s not for ransom. I’m asking a favor of you, that’s all it is.
Lopez: Be on your way, Mr. Green.
Me: To Jasmine, Let’s get the hell out of here.
She pulls on a golf sweatshirt while I drive down the hill.
Me: Eduardo got the key?
Me: Why didn’t you tell me about the key?
J: Willie said I must never tell anyone.
Me: Why did he give it to you?
J: He trusted me.
Me: Why? Did he figure out you were his daughter.
J: No, I told him. Two weeks ago. He was trying to make love to me.
No, it can’t be because Willie has attained some depth of understanding, some ability to see below the surface of his immediate closed world. No, true to form, Willie is saved from this last taboo by the fearful prurience of the young hooker. Willie, I didn’t know you.
I open Jasmine’s envelope as we wait at the border. Her plane leaves in two hours.
Me: We’re going to the airport.
J: No, I have to go to my apartment first.
J: My clothes. My stuff.
Me: Forget it. You have a million dollars from Jaime. Buy what you need when you get there. Your uncle doesn’t want you to be a prostitute. She is confused. Jaime, he’s your uncle. He’s not a good man, but this is a good thing.
We ride in silence until I exit the highway.
J: I was wrong not to tell Willie I was his daughter from the beginning.
Me: Yes, you were wrong, but we all make mistakes.
J: Maybe he’d be alive if I had told him the truth.
Me: No, Jasmine. Willie was courting trouble bigger than he could handle.
But I realize she’ll see the newspapers and figure out she started the events that led to Willie’s death. I try to cushion that future revelation.
Me: Jasmine, I’m not omniscient, Willie wasn’t either. Jaime Gonzalez with all his contacts can’t predict the future. Neither can you. We do what we think at the time is right, then we regret it, but we can’t change it.
Waiting for her flight, I call Becky. She will meet the plane and start the process of getting Jasmine settled. She asks if the case is over. I say, by the end of the day. She says she loves me. I say the same. But my mind isn’t on love.
3:30 p.m. – I call Jesse.
Jesse: Where the hell are you?
Me: I’m at the airport.
J: Meet me at the station. When I hesitate, Mimi’s then.
4:30 p.m. – She plops into the seat across from me.
Me: What’s up?
Jesse: You were wrong, Breshenko’s wife and kids showed up alive about ten minutes before you called. They were wandering in a wash in South Tucson.
Me: That’s great. It’s a pleasure being wrong.
She jerks her head up at the tone of my voice.
J: So where do we go from here?
Me: Breakfast tomorrow morning, and then a trip to the bank.
Me: Hey, a little leeway, Detective Je … Wallace. But this time bring some guys in blue with you, okay.