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South Texas Tangle
by T.K. O’Neill
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
South Texas Tangle copyright © 2016 by Bluestone Press.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations or reviews.
Published in eBook format by Bluestone Press
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For information: Bluestone Press
1911 East Superior Street, Duluth, Minnesota, 55812
Jimmy Ireno was strung out on speed, bad freeway coffee and fear. But the big problem was the state trooper with the absurd wide brimmed hat, shovel-blade chin and linebacker shoulders, waiting at his window.
“Driver’s license and registration please, sir.”
Saying it nice and polite.
But those were the last words Jimmy wanted to hear anywhere, let alone the middle of flatlands nowhere, hundred miles south of San Antonio. Thing was, he didn’t have a valid driver’s license. Revoked last year for a couple of chicken-shit DWIs coming home from the clubs. Cops on that shift can be real assholes. And registration? Nothing like that in here. They run the VIN they’ll find the listed owner to be some long-dead Minnesotan or an incarcerated miscreant, maybe someone only exists on paper. That’s the system.
“Are you aware that your vehicle has no license plates, sir? Seems that the mounting hardware was, ah, substandard.”
Jesus, no plates?
And why was the cop dangling a gnarled-up garbage bag tie in Jimmy’s face? Did somebody back in Minnesota not know that screws work a lot better? Jimmy didn’t have a clue. And was also totally clueless about a lot of other things—like what the hell he was going to do now.
Looking up at the cop, Jimmy said, “What? No plates? Seriously? That can’t be right. They were on there when I left Minneapolis.” And coming up with the best lie he could think of on such short notice: “Someone must’ve taken ’em. Probably at the campground last night in Oklahoma. Some Mexicans were checking out the van, they must’ve—
“Your driver’s license, sir.”
But Jimmy’s really huge problem was the million dollars in small bills hidden behind the cheesy Chevy conversion’s simulated wood paneling. Jimmy and the cash were on the way to McAllen, Texas, just a short jaunt over the Rio Bravo from Reynosa, Mexico, a place where—Sam Arndt had told him—they might as well put up a sign: Cash Wash—Cheap. Come one come all to Javier’s Pawn Shop. Bills Cleaned Daily. We Don’t Ask No Stinking Questions.
Up ahead now in the near dark, Jimmy could see a green road sign in the splayed beams of the van’s headlights, fluorescent white letters spelling out Gamble Gulch Rd.
This was clearly an omen. And Jimmy believed in omens. It was all the impetus he needed. Reaching down like he was going for his wallet, Jimmy jerked the door handle, put his shoulder to the door and drove it at the cop’s chest. But the trooper, evidently no rookie, was standing far enough back that the door missed him by three inches. Despite his miscalculation, Jimmy continued his burst from the truck, raced by the surprised trooper, dove down the bank and rolled to a stop in the high weeds directly below the Gamble Gulch sign.
Jimmy Ireno could always run. And the trooper had a decent-sized gut hanging over his belt, making it unlikely he could catch up to Jimmy, now slogging toward a grove of trees, the image of a speeding bullet coming at his back filling his troubled mind. Once inside the sheltering foliage, Jimmy listened for the clomping of the cop’s long boots or the wailing of sirens.
Neither one came.
Patrolman Dan Henning of the Texas State Troopers watched the rabbit crashing and sloshing away from him down there in the brush. Then he slid his pistol back in the holster on his hip and began wrestling with greed. And soon the deadly sin got the best of him. Opportunity knocking like this and the fact he currently hated his life providing all the motivation he needed to take a roll of the dice at Gamble Gulch Road.
Henning knew any freak desperate enough to rabbit off and leave his vehicle behind had to be carrying something illegal—and in all probability, something valuable. Most likely drugs, but you never know for sure. Henning had collared more than a few of these smart guys hauling dope and guns along his piece of highway, none of them ever attempting to drive through without license plates, however. Reason it surprised him when the burnout took off. Hard to imagine anybody running contraband without license plates. And sure, chances were good some beaners had, in fact, stolen the plates, and were now out lifting new ones in someone else’s territory.
One man’s bad luck becomes another man’s good luck.
Henning got up inside the van. Took him less than five minutes to find the stashed cash. Wasn’t necessarily a bad job of concealment but Henning was a pro, had seen more than a few of these deals in his time. The side panels hardly ever matched up perfectly once removed. Real difficult to make it look like original factory condition on an old vehicle. And shoddy work got you trouble, no matter what the job.
So there it was, a piss pot full of cash in wrapped bundles, Henning’s reward for busting his ass trying to keep this one small slice of the country safe. Up until now, for all his efforts on this lonely stretch of Texas asphalt, only thing Henning ever got was a couple of half-ass pats on the back from Captain Theodor and one mention in the newspaper. And—oh yeah—occasionally a congratulatory fuck from his wife, Cynthia, the woman sometimes seeming like she actually enjoyed it.
Cyn. If only she’d embrace a little more sin, maybe they’d have a chance. Skipping church one time for some Sunday morning action would be a start. It hadn’t happened yet.
And if that wasn’t enough shit to deal with, lately it seemed like the sonofabitch Theodor was trying his damn best to keep Henning down, keep him from rising in the patrol. Yeah, Henning had those pissy citations for reckless driving—off duty—and maybe he didn’t always follow the book to the nad, but lately it seemed everything good he’d done in the past had become worthless. Okay, sure, there were a couple excessive force complaints and this and that, and then that one damn time a do-gooder snapped a pic of him getting a blowjob in the back of the patrol car—but who was it made the best busts out here?
Fucking Dan Henning, that’s who.
But what the hell, all that would be far behind him in the not too distant future. Just look at all the cash the rabbit left behind. Stuff was shouting out Hasta la vista, baby, loud and clear.
Cynthia Marie Mathews Henning felt light and airy, except for the tugging in her stomach when thoughts of her son came around. And now as the cool of dawn gave way to the heat of late morning, the elation of breaking free from Dan was fading with the dew. And as much as she believed what she’d done was necessary—mandatory even—second