Tom and Elias bounced around in the back of the pickup truck as they drove back to the city of Culiacán. Miguel 'Rooster' Gútierrez had decided to ride in the back there with them, and Elias yelled the question that had been troubling him, "So how do we begin to take the 'Lobos' down?"
"We were hoping that you could help us with that," was the answer. "Didn't you guys hear or see something that help us to find their safe houses, or where would be their next target?"
Elias shouted back, louder than necessary, "I had a bag put over my head while I had the living shit kicked out of me, so I'm sorry but no, I didn't have the opportunity to ask them about their future plans while we sipped cosmos and got our nails done!" he ranted. "I can't believe you idiots don't even have a plan! We're never going to make it out of here!"
Tom sat quietly for a few minutes, deep in thought. "I didn't hear anything about their safe houses or anything, but I did have the chance to observe Eduardo and his personality. He's a narcissistic sociopath. Although he's gone to such lengths to hide his identity, he wants the limelight. He wants to tell his story."
"Oh, so you're a psychiatrist now? How does that help us?"
"Well, if we don't know where to go to find him, maybe we can bring him to us."
Tom called up his new friend Lydia López to publish an article about the 'Lobos' MO as an attempt to dissect the boss's personality from afar. Tom instructed her to intentionally paint a picture of a weak and greedy individual that likes to deal out abuse on others in a vain attempt to compensate for a loveless existence. They also printed that he always remained in hiding because he was terrified of revenge from his victims and that he made his underlings take all the risks for his operation.
Before long, their little scheme worked and Lydia received a call from a man claiming to be Eduardo 'Lobo', and that he wanted to set the record straight on what kind of man he was, to correct all the 'embarrassing inaccuracies' in the published synopsis of his psyche.
Tom, Elias and Miguel's crew were there with Lydia at a make-shift headquarters in Miguel's grandmother's living room where they had set up their telephone tracing equipment. Lydia had been instructed to stretch out the conversation to allow them to triangulate the call to find his location. Fortunately that wasn't hard, as Eduardo wanted to talk.
She asked him known details about the 'Lobos,' and the caller responded with the correct pertinent responses to prove his identity as the infamous kidnapper.
She asked him why they slash off their victim's ears, and his reply was that they resort to such terror because 'the relatives, have the money, but they don't want to give it to me. I tell them, 'God will punish you and me. You for being so avaricious, for amassing the money and not being willing to give it up to save a relative, and then me for being covetous. I believe I am going to hell."
"Why don't you just turn yourself in? Try to redeem yourself?" Lydia cleverly asked.
"No way! You fools printed that I hide because I'm afraid of death, but I know I'm on a one-way path. If I'm afraid of anything it is jail and poverty, but I do not fear death, you can be sure of that."
After the conversation, the team rushed off to the location that they had gleaned. They found a mansion, which Miguel's men promptly proceeded to surround and cut off any way to escape. They encountered resistance in the form of some guards, but they were easily dispatched by Miguel's men who went in fast and hot, and Eduardo's men were caught by surprise. Tom and Elias trailed in behind, but Elias wanted to get in to try and capture Eduardo personally.
As the invaders searched the house, Tom and Elias went off down a large hallway. Suddenly Carlos 'Lobo' jumped out and shot a few rounds at them. Tom and Elias ducked for cover behind a large desk, but not before Tom got winged in the shin.
Elias whispered, "I'm going out there. Cover me."
Tom hopped up, providing covering fire, while Elias blasted his way forward, but Carlos escaped into a side room. Tom and Elias came after him in pursuit, clearing the house, room to room.
They burst into a sitting room and stumbled across a family, huddled together around an altar to Santa Muerte. The grisly skeleton with its fiendish leer, sardonically adorned as a bride on her wedding day, momentarily distracted Tom.
The son pulled out a shotgun to the screams of his mother and sister, but Tom shot him in the gut. He went down and Elias kicked the shotgun away.
They continued in their pursuit of Carlos until they came to one hallway that went to the left and another that went to the right. Elias whispered, "He's trying to escape, but we can cut him off." He pointed for Tom to go the right.
Tom hobbled along, moving from room to room, and soon he came face to face with a dead-eyed boy who looked to be about eighteen years old, brandishing a Kalashnikov, a black combat vest stuffed with ammunition clips, and a pearl-handled revolver.
"Aw, snap!" shouted Tom, as he rolled to the floor, while round after round of machine gun fire bounced off the wall behind him. 'Great,' he had time to think, 'we split off each going solo, where I have to run into the Rambo junior of the 'Lobo' operation.'
Tom may have been injured, but his enhanced spider abilities had partly come back to him. He flipped around the room with astonishing speed until he was able to kick the assault rifle out of the young guy's hands and fed him some fast and hard punches to the solar plexus. The gangster went down, the wind knocked out of him, and soon found himself disarmed and in a dicey situation.
Tom looked down at the youth, hateful memories coursing through his mind, of all the evil that the cartels and other criminals had wreaked on this place. He wanted to hate this violent young man, to bring poetic justice down on him, to end him. If you live by the gun, then be prepared to die by it.
Tom's nostrils flared as he examined the impassive teen, daring him to make a move, challenging him with his will to fight back, now that he had come face-to-face with death. After all, had he not executed plenty of people when the roles had been reversed?
Tom furrowed his sweat-covered brow, as he struggled against the beast that had been awoken inside his head. Where was this youth's violence? Why didn't he make a sound? A battle cry? A whimper?
A real soldier would have fought back. A hardened gangster would have bared his teeth and expressed his implacable hatred in defiance of a grisly demise. But this boy did nothing. A great, slow doubt spread through Tom's brute mind. Why was he fighting this child? Sure, the child was a killer, but he was also a victim, having been manipulated by adults that were crueller than devils.
Tom stared steadily at the boy. He was aware of the threat this boy posed, knowing more ways to kill a man than Tom could imagine, but with his rising doubts came the redirection of his anger. Again, it was the greedy cartel bosses, the drug dealers, the kidnappers and the corrupt politicians and police officers that were to blame.
As Tom struggled to sort out these thoughts, he kept a firm grip on his pistol, and had the young gang member made a move, he would have died right there. But Tom was not, and did not want to be, a murderer. He waited for another thirty seconds for some sign of menace, to feel some sort of pain inflicted by his enemy. When neither came, he took a step back, and the adrenaline feeding his pumping heart began to slow down.
As Tom exhaled and inhaled with regular deep breaths, his transgenic nature began to fade into the background. He squinted his eyes as he tried to concentrate these thoughts. Yet he saw no reason to fight this child, who made no movement to offer him battle. As neither did he make any attempt to escape, Tom considered striking up conversation.
"Me llamo Tomás."
Elias rushed down the hallway, his assault rifle perched on his shoulder as he covered all escape routes for Carlos. As he came around the corner, he found him trying to get out a window. He shot him in the leg, and Carlos went down in pain. "Going somewhere? Now where is Eduardo?" Elias demanded.
"He got away," Carlos panted and laughed. "Someone must have tipped him off you were coming. You see, my friend? We own the information. We own the police! You can't trust anyone."
"You're preaching to the choir, padre." And Elias proceeded to unload his magazine into Carlos. "That was for a beautiful mother and her innocent son." Elias spat on the body as he walked away.
Elias returned to find Tom, holding his hostage at gunpoint. "His name's Raphael," said Tom, "and I think he might have information that can help us."
"You can't trust his intel," quipped Elias. "Ice him and let's get out of here."
"No, he knows of Eduardo's safe houses," insisted Tom. "And even if he didn't, I wouldn't just shoot him."
"And why not?" Elias intensely asked right in Tom's face. "You think this little punk hasn't already murdered lot's of children and innocent folks? You think he would show you any mercy if it was the other way around? No way. He's trash and he should be disposed of."
"Is it lawful to take a life, to save a soul, or to destroy it?" asked Tom. "We have to think of ourselves and our lives after all of this, Elias. Will we be able to live with ourselves once we've returned to a peaceful community?"
"I will sleep like a little baby."
"Well I'm very happy for you, but if there's a chance to save this kid, then I'm going to take it. And I'll take a chance on his information, too."
"Don't you get it, Tom? These people lie. They just lie, all the time. They don't even know how to tell the truth anymore."
Tom turned to Raphael. "Listen. This life is short and filled with agitation. You need to make some changes or you're going to die. It's that simple."
"But the gang is my family. I don't have anything else."
"No, listen to me. A family without love is not a family. A family without love is just a business, and it is not worth it to kill yourself over a business, because in the end, the loyalty in a business is to the money, not to you."
"Well, do you really believe that someone like me could have a real family?"
"Yes, yes, to start. And you have to look for good values to live by, so as to have guidance in your life."
"That's true." Raphael thought quietly for a good few minutes. "I will tell you the locations of Eduardo's safehouses, where he keeps his money and his other secrets."
Elias and Tom went back through the house to join up with the others when they entered the room where Eduardo's family had been hiding. There, his son was lying on the couch, bleeding like a stuck pig, while his mother and sisters panicked and screamed.
Upon entering the room, the mother ran up to Tom and attacked them, "Look! Look at what you have done!"
"¡Señora! Señora. It's okay. We are doctors. We will help your son. Calm down. Your son will live." Tom ran over to the boy to begin an assessment. "It's okay. It's okay. Just lay back."
Elias held back, watching the scene with a scowling face.
"Elias! I could use a hand here buddy." Still Elias stood, rooted in the same spot in the doorway. "Elias, come on! This is what we do! But I need your help!" The rising panic in Tom's voice got through Elias' brooding facade, and finally he reluctantly walked over to the patient.
Tom was busy trying to apply pressure to the wound in an attempt to slow the bleeding. Elias took charge. He called to Miguel, "This kid needs to get to a hospital. Call an ambulance! Okay, what have we got?"
Tom smiled inwardly, but then focused on his limited training as a corpsman. "He's sustained a GSW to the left flank. Probable injuries to organs are the spleen and small bowel."
"Okay, keep up that pressure! Here, use this tablecloth as a bandage." Elias tore a piece off, and after passing it to Tom, pulled out his pocket First Aid kit. "Here, I have a hemostat here." He tore open a pack of QuickClot and Tom helped him pour the chemical powder into the wound. "Now keep up that strong pressure for at least five minutes."
"Do you have any analgesics in your little fanny pack, there?" Tom tried to keep his spirits up.
Elias pulled out a morphine sulcate and administered it, causing the boy to relax somewhat.
The EMT's arrived and the boy was taken to a hospital, where Miguel's guards, along with Tom and Elias accompanied. Tom explained what they had done so far, and his observations of probable spleen damage. At surgical exploration, they found that he had a through-and-through laceration of the spleen, and the surgeon arrested the bleeding by finger compression of the splenic hilum while it was being mobilized. A splenectomy was eventually performed because the bullet went through the hilum.
The boy survived.