I would like to dedicate Deathload to my son, Chuck, a man of countless talents and endless abilities. Al- though this work is not as deep, meaningful, or as brilliant as James Joyce’s Ulysses or Finnegans Wake, it did take many hours of research and dedica- tion to conceive, develop, and finish. I’m grateful for your example of unparalleled artistry, penetrating perception, and understanding of the unfathomable exigencies of this human experience. I’m glad to have you in my life.
Bursts of heavy artillery fire danced on the horizon as the staccato rumble of Saddam’s big guns rolled across the windswept desert toward them. Marine Lance Cor- poral Vincent Fazio, Jr. squinted into the rolling clouds of dust at the road ahead.
Vincent’s LAV-25 was the third Light Armored Vehicle in the convoy now highballing recklessly into heavy enemy fire. The armored unit was speed- ing toward Umm Hugul. The Marines were the iron fist of the thrust and Vince was beginning to get that sick feeling again in the pit of his stomach.
Operation Desert Storm was moving into high gear. Vince and his buddies had hoped the ground war would never materialize. Now reality was star- ing them in the face.
A shell burst off the road behind them. The LAV swerved erratically.
“Shit, that was close!” Vince’s buddy yelled as he was jolted against the steel struts of the vehicle.
Norm Kleinhsauer was wishing he’d stayed at the hardware store in Monet, Missouri. It was better
to be a live clerk than a dead Marine. He glanced over at his buddy.
“Hey, Vince? You scared?”
Fazio’s face, illuminated in a sudden shell burst, was tense. Tense? He was scared shitless. But what the hell, he was a Marine, wasn’t he?
Marines were tough assholes, square-jawed leather-necks. He could fake it as well as the next guy.
“Nah,” Vince shouted, glancing at his buddy, “I saw more action last year when I visited New York!”
Norm laughed as another shell whined over- head. Both ducked as the shell went wide, bursting well to their right. Vince liked Norman. He liked most of the guys in his unit. They’d learned to stick together, be a family. Not like his own family. His fa- ther was too rich, too powerful, too busy making deals and traveling to pay much attention to him. He’d been proud when Vince joined the Marines, though. Vince knew because he’d overheard Vince Senior bragging about him to an old pal in the CIA.
Vince had mixed feelings about his dad. The man could be heartless, cruel. He’d seen him break associates, destroy them without mercy, then laugh
about the way they’d squirmed and folded. Vince had learned to be tough. He’d learned from the best.
The first they knew of the Warthog was a wrenching roar behind and above them. Slow and ugly, the A-10 was one of the deadliest planes taking part in Desert Storm. The tank killer had a battery of high powered weapons which were already locking onto the convoy below. After the tragedy, the pilot swore he didn’t see the markings on the LAVs identi- fying them as friendly. But it was war. Crazy things happened.
Norm was the first to hear the plane closing behind them and turned. “Hey, guys? We got air cover!” he shouted as he strained to see through the smoke and sand swirls erupting around them. His as- sumption that the plane was friendly was accurate. The Iraqi Air Force had been decimated in the first few days of the air war. Now the multi-nationals owned the air. “Go get those mothers!” he yelled at the approaching plane.
As Vince turned to look back, the A-10’s two cannons fired a salvo striking the LAV and knocking it into the air. The vehicle landed on its nose with a violent thud, hop-skipping end over end half a dozen
times before skidding to a stop upside down. The Marines had been blown free and were lying scat- tered on the sand. All except for Vincent Fazio, Jr. He was wedged under the LAV’s front end, blood oozing from his mouth, his body crushed, his eyes open in a blank stare of death.
The young casualty was one of less than two hundred men killed in combat in the Gulf War. The men who would die because of Vincent’s death by friendly fire would reach into the thousands.
Phoenix Police Department 7:30 a.m. MountainTime August 19, 1993 First Day
The Phoenix Police Department’s Central Headquar- ters was in a modern four-story building located on palm-tree lined Washington Street in downtown Phoenix just west of the Court House. With its North and South Resource Branches, Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement and Vice Bureaus as well as a SWAT team and a Chopper unit with eight pilots, Law Enforcement in the state’s capitol had come a long way.
The rugged southwest territory had been the last to yield its lawless, chaotic lifestyle. In the 1880s and 90s, the Texas Rangers were so effective that most of the outlaws fled to Arizona where law en- forcement was inchoate. Desperados like Augustin Chacon, Bronco Bill, and the Black Jack Gang roamed free, robbing and killing, with just a lone sheriff and his few deputies to hold the line of law and order. A Colt .45 and nerves of steel were the
only weapons of men like Sheriff John Slaughter, Capt. Harry C. Wheeler, and Col. Emilio Kosterl- itzky.
Kosterlitzky, known to American troops as the “Mexican Cossack,” was a colorful character who served in the Russian navy when a teenager and later in the Mexican army. Not only a rugged fighter, he was a noted linguist speaking six languages. In the early part of the 20th century, he served with the FBI as a spy for that agency.
To aid these peace officers, the Arizona Rangers was created in 1901. A paramilitary group of twenty-six men, the Rangers helped clean up the state, yank it wailing and bloody from the womb of anarchy, and usher it into the 20th century.
A precursor of the military-like structure of the modern police force, the Rangers were dissolved by the Arizona Legislature in 1909. As Phoenix grew and prospered due to the introduction of irrigation in 1911 and the railroad in 1926, the population in- crease brought the need for a more sophisticated law enforcement agency than the Sheriff’s Office could handle. No one dreamed of just how sophisticated this new police force would become or of the unique
qualities of some of the men who would make up that force.
Detective Manny Breen hadn’t been to bed in twenty-four hours. The pizza he’d wolfed at two a.m. on the stakeout felt like hot lead in his gut and the wanted felon they’d picked up had puked in the back seat of his car. Being a cop was a rotten job, and he loved it.
Due to heightened drug traffic, homicide detec- tive Breen’s eight hour shift had been increased two hours from ten p.m. to eight a.m., but the hours were a joke. He’d gone as long as five days without sleep while working on a tough case. As long as he was in the field, there was no problem. It was the paper work that slowed things down, the legal process, the muck and mire of bookings, arraignments, and court appearances. It was a pain in the ass. He resented it but it went with the job.
Manny Breen was thirty-two. He was born in Iwakuni, Japan where his father, a USMC Colonel, was stationed in 1961. Manny began studying Karate in Japan at the age of ten showing exceptional physi- cal talent. With a black belt by age twelve, the young
karate genius and kick boxer began winning tourna- ments and competitions, culminating with his first World Championship with the Professional Karate Association in 1977. Breen’s talent: incredible speed and power. He fought with a composure and econo- my of movement that most fighters could not achieve.
When fighting, Manny had been described as a man whose eyes were like two bullet holes in ice. Another physical feat adding to his exceptional abili- ties was achieved by a “State of Zen” technique en- abling him to drop his heart rate and blood pressure dramatically. While in this state of mental stillness, he was able to hold his breath for twenty minutes.
By the time he was twenty, Manny had won more titles and become the greatest karate champion in history. He enlisted in the Marines, taught karate and kickboxing to his buddies, and was in the Gulf War in 1990. Breen left the Marines in 1991. He joined the Phoenix P.D. as a detective in early 1992 and was still winning contests.
In superb condition, he ran ten miles a day after working out for two hours, a hard feat with his de- manding duties as a detective. His endurance was
legendary; three days without sleep had become a staple of his work habits.
Breen and his partner had arrived at Central Headquarters a little before 7:30 a.m. and while Manny had escorted the suspect to the third floor to book him, Lt. Joey Payne had taken the car to be sanitized. As Breen pulled his reluctant captive past the Desk Sergeant toward a holding cell, he was thinking he’d definitely gotten the better part of the deal when the suspect, a big, tough-looking Chicano, muttered something sacrilegious in Spanish, then re- fused to go another step.
A street fighter trained in the martial arts, the Chicano had always been more than a match for any three men in a brawl. A few hours ago, he’d had a humbling experience.
After receiving a tip, Breen and his partner had broken in on the suspect who’d taken a room at the Camelback Inn in Scottsdale and was engaged in a sexual marathon with his favorite hooker. He’d jumped out of bed bare-assed naked ready to fight. The last thing he remembered was seeing Manny
smile. He woke up an hour later with a terrible throbbing in his right temple.
“C’mon, c’mon, move it!” Breen said impa- tiently. The muscular, pock-marked Chicano didn’t budge but stood staring defiantly at his captor through sullen, half-closed eyes.
“Fuck you!” he muttered as he tried to kick Breen in the stomach. Breen grabbed his foot and twisted. The Chicano screamed in pain, hit the ground hard, and lay there moaning. Breen looked down at him and shook his head.
“Hey, champ, you’re in America now, Ameri- cans don’t talk that way, do they, Sarge?”
The Desk Sergeant, who’d been on hold, was about to answer Breen when his party on the other end of the phone returned and said something the Sergeant didn’t like.
“He what?” the Sergeant said in disbelief. His face flushed with anger as he shouted into the re- ceiver. “You tell him he’d better fucking well find it, it’s evidence in a fucking felony! If he fucking lost it, then he better fucking find it!” He slammed the re- ceiver down and looked at Manny. “Do you believe this? That numb-nut asshole in Property lost 10
pounds of crack! He’s not smart enough to steal it, that’s why I know he lost it. Jesus!”
Manny looked at his prisoner. “He’s the excep- tion,” he said, indicating the Sergeant. Breen reached down and yanked the Chicano to his feet. Holding a tight grip on his captive’s arm, he forced the limping Mexican down the hall toward the squad room.
Bleary-eyed detectives on the 8 a.m. homicide shift were just arriving in the squad room struggling to get the left side of the brain to catch up with the right side. Strong coffee usually did the trick.
A gaunt, older detective sitting staring blankly at his typewriter looked up. A holdover from Breen’s late-night shift, his eyes were bloodshot and his five o-clock shadow seemed to deepen as he spoke.
“Hey, Breen? You psychic or what? You beat the spread by one point!” He slammed the carriage return on his beat-up Smith Corona and leaned back in his chair.
“So pay up,” Manny said as he shoved his pris- oner again. The Chicano stopped and turned, shoot- ing him another challenging look. Manny knew he
was anxious for a second shot at him but he wasn’t in the mood.
“Who misses four straight free-throws?” the older detective said with a scowl. He turned to an Asian-American detective sitting at the next desk who was helping an elderly male mugging victim look at mug shots.
“Hey, Ho? You see the game?”
“No, I was watching MacNeil Lehrer,” the Asian said without cracking a smile.
The older man, Det. Pratt, shook his head and looked over at Manny who was still involved in a face-off with his suspect. “We should send this Jap back to Osaka. Who do you like on Saturday?”
“Suns by five,” Manny said.
“Never happen, the Suns can’t do jack-shit since McLeod left.”
Det. Ho, the slightly built Asian detective, looked over his horn-rimmed glasses at a fresh-faced rookie who was observing the ritual. Ho nodded to- ward Pratt. “Why does he keep calling me a JAP? Isn’t that a Jewish American Princess?”
The squad room erupted in laughter at the pun as Manny’s partner entered carrying an antique rifle.
A stocky man with a slight paunch, Joey Payne was munching a day-old prune danish. “Gun dealer in Prescott had this in a back room,” Joey said, “you get this one, I’ll give you a week’s pay!” He threw the rifle to Manny who caught it with one hand as the older detective turned to Ho.
“Fifty bucks says he can call it,” he said.
Det. Ho looked at Pratt. “I may be Jewish, but I’m not stupid.”
Manny was several feet from the Chicano who was standing with his hands cuffed behind his back. As Breen dropped his eyes to examine the rifle, a cop passed them pushing a black pimp in front of him. Seizing the opportunity, the Chicano jumped high in the air, tucked his knees to his chest, and swung his cuffed hands under his feet. He landed with his hands in front of him and grabbed the cop’s service revolver.
The trick had taken a split-second, but as the Chicano turned to fire, Manny broke the man’s kneecap with a swift kick, then knocked him out with the butt of the rifle. As the Chicano writhed in pain on the floor, Breen casually continued his exam- ination of the weapon.
“This looks a lot like the Mini rifle used in Eu- rope in 1851 ... but I’ll go with the 1853 Pattern En- field British Army, muzzle loading percussion rifle, 9.577 caliber...” Manny looked up. “Am I close?”
“Son-of-a —-!” Joey said, his mouth hanging open. “How’d you do that?”
“Lucky guess,” Manny answered as he tossed the gun back, then looked down at his groaning pris- oner.
“I meant the kick, how’d you do that?”
“Beats me, Joey, my feet go crazy.” Manny knelt down and yanked the moaning dealer to his feet. “Where’d you learn that trick, huh? Teach me that trick, pretty-boy!”
“Fuck you!” the Chicano mumbled as he tried to put weight on his leg, cried out in pain, and crum- bled to the floor. Manny shook his head. “Your vo- cabulary may hurt you socially.”
The rookie watched as Manny disappeared with his prisoner through the door leading to the holding cells. He turned to Det. Ho. “Pretty tough guy.”
Ho looked at the rookie. “You might say that.” “What was that stuff with the rifle?”
“Manny was a gunnery sergeant in the army,” Det. Ho said —-
“We keep tryin’ to find a weapon he can’t I.D.”, Det. Pratt cut in, finishing the sentence.
“Not yet,” Pratt said, then wistfully, “but there’s always a first time.
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