Chapter 55: Zetas
I was an hour into my review of the data, and my mind hurt from being blown so many times. The depth of the reach these Zetas had was more than I could have expected. I was especially pissed at the FBI files; I knew some of these people, a few were on my task force. It wasn’t just field agents and lawyers, either. They had computer people, analysts, secretaries, hell there were even janitors on the list.
I was so into my review I’d barely eaten, which Marge noticed when she came in to get the dishes from breakfast. “Rose, you are pregnant, you need to eat often to help them grow strong,” she said. She left the fruit and other items that didn’t have to be hot and cleaned off the rest of the plates from the side table. “You guys too,” she said to Josh and Carl.
“We’re good,” Josh said as he finished off a Red Bull and tossed the can in the garbage.
“You need to sleep, too,” she said.
“Too much going on right now,” Carl replied. “Thanks for the breakfast, that was good stuff.”
“At least one of you ate my food,” Marge complained as she walked out. I started to eat the fruit bowl as I looked through the pile for the Drug Enforcement Agency. It and Customs/Border Patrol were the biggest piles, as I would expect for a smuggling operation. I was doing a quick sort, using Post-It tabs to sort them from least important (green) to most (red).
Suddenly, the door opened, and I was pulled from my chair and crushed into a broad chest. I relaxed into the smell of my mate, my cat purring inside at being together again. I didn’t like sleeping alone, I needed my big snuggle bunny. “You’re back,” I purred. “Why didn’t you call?”
“We’re under a communications blackout, everything has to be face to face. And you know I couldn’t stay away from my beautiful mate, love. As soon as the guys had things packed, they drove us back here.”
“They are upstairs. Robert and Renee were very upset by the information we shared, and they are worried about our Pack’s safety. They sent two teams of warriors with me, a dozen to help with securing this territory against attack, and eight more under Beta Daniel to help us with retrieving Charlie’s family. They have training in this type of mission.”
That was good, I knew Gunny, Lars and Jacob each had some training, but the others would be rookies at this. At least the Gila warriors had experience with the Cartels. I looked back at another couple, smiling as she broke free and ran over to me. “Congratulations, Rose, I’m so happy for you guys!” Maria was hugging me as Caleb came in and shook my hand.
“What are you guys doing here,” I said.
“We were sent along as part of the support team, I’m driving a large van. Wendy is here with the ambulance, and Doc is standing by back at Gila with the helicopter.”
“And the Alphas asked me to help with the people we rescue,” Maria said. “They thought since I had lived through being a Cartel captive, I might be able to help.”
My body stilled as I remembered Maria’s story, she had been a toy, a sex slave to the leaders of the Socorro cartel, and many of the leadership had abused her. “Maria… did Charlie… did he ever….”
She shook her head. “If he had hurt me, Caleb and I would be killing him right now. The Alphas wouldn’t take that away from us after what those men did.” She tucked herself a little more into Caleb’s side. “He was one of the few good ones. He pretended to use me, they forced him to, but he always did it alone and in a room. He would sneak me food when he could, he let me sleep. He was as close to a friend as I had.”
“He didn’t get you out, though.” I was still apprehensive about having Charlie around, he’d already betrayed people and I didn’t think I could ever trust him.
“We’re going to talk to him now,” she said. “Gunny said he found his mate, I’m shocked. Mountain lions are solitary, that’s why the Cartel liked to use them and rogue wolves.”
“We’re bringing Charlie and Patricia to the control room, his phone call should happen in about half an hour.” Craig sounded tired, I bet he hadn’t slept much last night with the threat to our Pack.
“We’re ready,” Josh replied.
“May as well sit down, they are bringing them here now.” Charlie was led in, they had him handcuffed, Patricia at his side. Fresh bites on their shoulders showed they had completed the bond. A few more people followed.
“Congratulations, Charlie, Patricia,” I said as Maria rushed up to them.
“Charlie!” She quickly stepped back as Patricia started to growl. “I never got a chance to thank you.”
“It’s I who should be apologizing,” he said. “Patricia, this is Maria. She was held captive by the Socorro cartel when I worked for them.” She dropped her hostility, the story of the Cartel war against the Gila and El Paso packs was known among the Alphas.
Patricia looked at her as she went back and introduced Caleb. “Your story reached even to our Pack. Congratulations on finding your mate.”
Craig looked around, things were getting pretty tight. “Gunny, Rose, Josh, Carl, Al, Jacob, Daniel, you guys stay with me and Charlie. The rest of you clear out, go freshen up or get some breakfast.” People started filing out.
Patricia was reluctant to go, but Maria took her hand. “It’s all right, nobody will harm him. Besides, I’m hungry and Marge is a great cook.” She looked back at Charlie, he nodded, and soon the room was quiet.
“Josh, how are we protecting us from being located during this phone call?”
“Relaying. His cellphone is in downtown Albuquerque right now, in a hotel near the Federal Building. Charlie, if you’re asked, you’re working with your FBI contacts to identify the best locations for your coordinated turnings. You’re looking for schools and malls with weak security that are farthest from law enforcement backup.”
“So, his phone will show up if searched to be at a cell tower there, but it’s actually slaved to our location digitally. Cell towers won’t track it, and we’re routing it through a few dozen sites to make it difficult to unravel if someone does detect the traffic.” He indicated a phone on the table. “It will come through here. The call will be monitored on headsets,” he passed them out, “but they are listen only. We need you to keep them on the line for at least a minute. That will allow our program to hack the phone system and figure out where they are calling from.”
“Sounds straightforward. Other than the time, anything I should do?”
“Don’t piss them off, whatever they tell you, agree with it,” Craig said. “As soon as we have their location, we’ll start planning and moving people into position.”
While we were waiting, I handed Craig the summary of people and started to go through the questions I had with Charlie. We had barely made a dent in it when the phone rang.
Charlie reached for the phone, Josh nodded and hovered over his computer. I put the headphones on.
“Good morning, Charlie. Did you have a better night than your mother did?” I could smell his fear at this.
“I’m working on it. You said I could talk to her.”
“In a moment. The boss wants a progress report, we can’t lose the momentum we had.” I could hear crying in the background, someone was coming.
“I’m working sources, I need to identify the right targets. Lots of people, preferably children, and far enough from law enforcement we can make a long attack and still get away. My plan is to hit multiple locations at the same time, so response resources are delayed and divided. Then I need to arrange logistics for us to get away, so we can do it again.”
“Don’t take too long. If you haven’t struck by tomorrow at midnight, your sister will pay the price. You remember what Juan used to do to women that he took a fancy to, don’t you?”
“Yes.” How could he forget that madman.
“Well, your sister’s fate will make that look like a holiday. Now talk to your mother.”
“Charlie? Baby?” His mom’s voice came over, she was crying and broken.
“Baby, don’t do this, not for…” I heard the sound of a slap and she cried out in pain.
“Take her back and teach her the folly of not doing what she is told,” the man said. Her screams got quieter until a door slammed. “And you, Charlie, you do what YOU are told or your whole family will share that fate.” The call ended.
“GOT IT,” Josh yelled. His computer was pulling up a road map, the program had identified the location of the cell towers that the phone was pinging. Using signal strength at each, he was able to narrow it down to a smaller area. “In the mountains, to the east of Patagonia, Arizona,” he said. Carl was already pulling up the location on his computer, the image on a large screen monitor we gathered around. Al, Gunny, Jacob and Danial all got up close. They got lucky, it was far enough out that the houses were spread far apart, tucked into the trees and rocks a thousand feet above the valley floor.
Gunny frowned. “It’s remote enough to be defensible, and only one road in and out. No doubt that is monitored closely.”
“We can’t do this in the day, Gunny. We could set up shop here,” he pointed to an area in the next canyon, “and move over the mountains to come in from the back.”
“It’s an eight-hour drive without traffic,” Josh chimed in. “You guys should get going, you go right past the Gila pack anyway.”
“We need eyes on it, we need to verify by sight or scent we have the right target,” Craig said. “Gunny, you and Lars will scout it for us in cat form. I’ll go with you, we’ll go to Gila first and pick up the helicopter. Al, your van is set up as a command post?” He nodded. “Park it here, at this trailhead parking lot. That’s our rally point. Get going now, anything else you need pass on to the Gila members, they can link when they get closer and get it to you.” They left the room.
“Wait, what about me,” Charlie said.
Craig unlocked his cuffs. “You’ll join them in the assault.”
“Me too,” Patricia said. Charlie looked at her pleadingly, but she wouldn’t have it. “I’ll join Maria and Caleb in the rescue and transportation, women won’t be as stressful to the victims.” He closed his eyes, then nodded. At least Charlie knew when to give up, I thought.
Patricia closed her eyes, then looked at Craig. “Ross wants in, but he wants to leave Lisa here to keep working the information we got.” Craig hesitated, but she was insistent. “Look, he’s my mate’s family, that makes it a Pack matter. He won’t back down.”
“Fine, he can go with Al.” They all filed out of the room, leaving us with the same problem we started with.
How do you win against an enemy as resourceful as this?