Just Another Empty Threat -Bk 3

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Chapter 4

She stood in the middle of the room, catching her breath. Jose stood next to her. He hadn’t been more than a couple of feet since they entered the building. He wasn’t tired but he was growling low expletives, not at her but at the man who lay dying at his feet. The floor was awash in blood, gore and other bloodily fluids that she didn’t want to think about. Her shoes were ruined.

She looked over her shoulder and down the hall to see Felix firing his gun into one of the rooms. The man was more impressive than she could have imagined. She knew he had skills, he had to have to get to where he was, and she’d seen him in action when he’d rescued her from Bruno, but this was different. This was vastly different.

They had entered the building through the retail front. It was night and the shop was empty of customers and staff, but that was just the façade. Only once they were through this that they entered the real commercial area. The back of the building was much larger than the front indicated and stretched long and narrow. There were offices and a production space, all busy with people as the plant ran 24hours seven days a week.

This was the hub of the Harbanero Brother’s production and packaging. Here they cut the product that Cordoba sold them and made it ready for distribution. The production floor ran the length of the building with a large open space to the iron roof. There were long tables and workers stationed on either side weighing, and then bagging the product ready for sale. The offices were grouped at the entrance and had large windows that looked down on the workers. The place was a hive of activity.

But the workers weren’t alone in the building. There were guards holding semi-automatic guns on the production floor and, she knew, at various lookout points too. Plus, the Harbanero’s men were naturally well armed with their personal pistols, knives and whatever else they deemed necessary. It was an important facility for the organization and, as such, was well guarded.

Getting in had been the easy part, thanks to Martin. He’d hacked into the security feeds, cloned the cameras, and deactivated the sensors so that the warning protocols were disabled. Once they hit the building though, their presence was obvious, and the surprise was quickly lost.

The men inside were well trained, and the lack of advanced warning didn’t fluster them. Their weapons were at the ready, and they didn’t hesitate to use them. They lost a number of men as they entered the building but less than they would have if they had been prewarned. Felix had waited with her until they had a foothold and then they had entered together. Stepping over the dead, he had one hand on his walking cane and the other on his weapon as she had followed with Jose behind her.

It wasn’t that she had underestimated his skill, it was just that she’d assumed that his handicap would have been more of a hindrance. It was true that he was slightly more cumbersome with his movement, but he made up for that in accuracy, firing speed, and sheer brilliance or overt confidence or luck or whatever that was. Jose was as skilled as Felix but having the disadvantage of having only one leg made Felix seem that much more impressive. He entered the building with his gun blazing, every shot was a kill shot, and he was able to clear the room in less time than the group of men who traveled with them.

It was remarkable to watch him. He reminded her of a predator, a lion or a wolf, he gave off the same air. He made it look so natural, so easy, and effortless. His gun was an extension of his body and he seemed to be able to anticipate the bullets that came towards him and with minimal fuss avoid them. She saw his clothes move and the plaster board and wood shattering as the bullets hit the walls behind them, but he untouched. She couldn’t help but wince with the sound and the knowledge of the danger, but he stood tall and moved forward fearlessly.

He took control of the situation. His commands to the men were instantly and unquestioningly obeyed. They rallied behind him and seemed to rise and to push further with his presence. It was more than impressive. It was an undeniable display of his leadership, station, and the respect he demanded. He was the man in the room and that fact was indisputable. The other men, the defenders, stood no chance against him and the knowledge of that showed in their faces.

She had followed in the space between Felix and Jose. However, with those two surrounding her, there wasn’t much left to shoot at. But she held her gun right and took shots at those who were shooting at them. She hit nothing but that didn’t matter. At this point, it was more important that she was there than what she contributed. She could prove her worth after he accepted that she had a right to be standing next to him.

And now Felix was clearing the offices of the last of the men while she stood over the wounded Luis Harbanero with Jose at her side, gun at the ready, just in case they missed someone. She was wearing a bulletproof vest and he had also insisted that she wear clothing that was reinforced with some sort of fiber and panels that offered a certain level of protection. She hadn’t minded, mainly because the clothes weren’t bad looking, and it had made Felix a lot happier about the situation. Plus, Jose agreed, so she really had no choice.

Felix looked up and found her, he gave a small nod of his head before he turned back and disappeared into the last office his gun fixed in his hand. That small nod meant a lot to her. He wasn’t rushing to her side. He knew where she was and was trusting that she was safe enough to carry on without her. He wasn’t hovering over her. It was a good sign and something that she could build on.

She glanced down at her ruined shoes. There was something wet oozing through her toes. It was true that she had failed to kill anyone but that didn’t mean she wasn’t in the splatter zone. It was lucky that the clothing she wore was black and didn’t show the blood, but the shoes were soaked in blood. She resisted the urge to crinkle her nose.

She had never seen anything like this. She had never killed anyone before and, prior to this, she could list the number of dead people she’d seen on one hand. The training that Juan had provided her had been through on the use of weapons and how to kill but didn’t dwell on the psychological effects of the act. She didn’t want to feel weak, but the reality of the situation was very different to the theory. These men were dead, not playing dead, and not going to get up and go home anytime soon.

The shoved down the emotions that threatened to ruin everything for her. If he saw her like this, he would want to protect her and take her away from the source of her anguish. That wouldn’t end well. She needed to be strong if she was going to be his equal, not only for him but for his men’s benefit as well. If they saw any hesitation in her actions, she would never command their respect. Standing next to him was not only his decision but relied on the men accepting her presence. Without that she might as well stay home and knit.

A soft gurgling noise from Luis brought her attention back to the man that was bleeding out at her feet. They knew that he would be here and had timed the raid around that information. Taking him out was the objective. Crippling the operation was a close second but that wouldn’t hurt Cordoba as much as the message they were sending with Luis Harbanero.

“Why?” he wheezed, “We did everything.”

She knew what he was referring to, and he was right. She had renegotiated the contract between the Harbanero’s and Cordoba when she had arrived in the city, and yes, they had needed some encouragement to agree, but once it was signed, they had adhered to the new arrangement. Thus his confusion was founded and it was the point.

Felix wanted not only to disrupt the operations of Cordoba and their partners but he also wanted to seed fear and mistrust. He wanted those who worked with the cartel to think it was Cordoba who had targeted them. By the time they found out that she was no longer trusted by Juan, it would be too late. A rumor that Cordoba didn’t honor agreements and killed their own, was far more destructive to an organization that a few kilograms of destroyed product.

For that mistrust to grow they needed to have Luis’ dying breath to his brother be a message of betrayal. Enrique was the more volatile brother and less intelligent. He would jump through the hoops they were constructing and come to the conclusions that they were carefully placing before him. Then he would shout it to anyone and everyone who would listen. And if they were careful, the Byrnes Family wouldn’t be associated until the story had gained momentum and enough credibility that the fact that she was now with Felix would seem irrelevant.

They needed the people who worked with and for Cordoba to be screaming at the injustice of their actions and then fuming over their inaction. If they could provoke them enough, then Juan would have no choice but to have to make an appearance to sooth tempers and to demonstrate their ability to protect their people and product. This would require his personal presence.

It was their best plan. It was their only plan. It had better work.

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