Someplace in here I’m sure there’s a whole book, and I might turn it into one someday, but this is more a throw away discussion between Will Diaz and RJ as they’re heading out to help monitor an undercover drug buy related in my soon to come novel, Dead Friends. The story is true, though I’ll deny it ever happened.
Hope you enjoy it.
We waited five minutes then walked out to the pickup RJ was driving. It actually belonged to his brother Walter, a red and white Ford F-150. We’d borrowed it for this operation. Our piece of the plan was simple. We’d drive out of town, and head south on 285 to the state line. We’d pull over and stop there. That put us a few miles from the buy and positioned us to get in and support the overwatch team. We had all our gear behind the seat to include my recently acquired AK-47.
“How often have you done this?” RJ asked me.
I shook my head, watching the traffic of Antontio move past. We pulled out onto the road to drive south ourselves. Too many times. “The wildest surveillance we ever did had nothing to do with drugs.”
“Oh?” RJ said.
“Pickup on the side of the road,” the sheriff radioed, not on the Sheriff’s channel, but the backup tactical channel. It turned out Radio Shack had some encrypted stuff, and we’d spent money on it. As Romeo Romeo passed it, it pulled out to follow. Red in color. “Looks like a Chevy S-10.”
“Make out a plate?” RJ asked.
We had to wait a few minutes. I assumed they were trying to close the distance between them. Finally, we got our answer. “Oh, it’s Jose Gomez,” the Sheriff radioed. “He’s checking his water.”
“Copy that,” I radioed back.
“Jesus, we’re getting paranoid,” RJ said.
“You were saying,” RJ said.
What was I saying…. “Oh, sorry about that. It was a case that happened at Fort Riley. Actually, it started off the post. There’s a lake up there that’s popular with soldiers. Good fishing, good boating, and the water is warm enough to swim in. There are some nice beaches along the shoreline and nice places to grill and tan. t’s called Milford Lake, and it’s a low rent piece of heaven on Earth.”
RJ checked our six and then turned back to watch the front.
I was looking in the direction Max would be. There were a couple of miles between us, not to mention plenty of trees and a small hill or two. The only way I could have seen him was if I were Superman.
“Sounds nice,” RJ said.
“Damn straight it’s nice. Anyway, there’s a bridge that runs across the lake, and one of the more popular pastimes is to walk or drive across it.
“So one fine day two soldiers were off, and they’re walking across that bridge. They were about halfway across when all of a sudden, one of them doubles over in pain, stumbles to the railing, and falls over the side into the water. He hits the water and never comes up.”
I thought I saw something in the distance, looked like a coyote or a dog cross the road. I hadn’t thought about coyotes. I knew there were dogs in Oritz. I hoped they hadn’t been alerted to the overwatch team. Dogs barking might make someone wonder why.
“You’re kidding,” RJ said.
“No. His friend called 911 right away, and Milford Fire Rescue shows up with boats and divers and found nothing. Water was pretty murky so that they didn’t find anything right away wasn’t surprising. What is surprising is bodies tend to float, and even if this one didn’t, it was mid-summer, and you’d think a corpse would come up within a day or two because of decay. Nothing ever did.
“That’s when we started getting a little suspicious. They put his friend on the old polygraph, and he passed it with flying colors. So we started watching his widow. Oddly, when she thought someone was watching, she was a dutiful window. The moment she thought no one was looking, she was partying.”
RJ nodded, a grin on his face. “The guy was still alive.”
“The guy was still alive,” I confirmed. “It seems they were deep in debt. His credit score was a joke. Hell, he owed points on his credit score. What they were after was his GI Insurance.
“The trouble was, without a body washing up, Uncle Sam wasn’t in any real big hurry to pay up. So his wife winds up going home and gets a job.”
“Did they find him?” RJ asked.
“Well, a living dead man can’t just walk in someplace and get a job. I mean you have to present your social security number, and a lot of outfits do a background check of some sort. Imagine finding out you hired a dead man. That’s bound to raise a few eyebrows.
“So, he turned to a life of crime, walked into a 7-11 and tried to rob the place. It didn’t work too well for him. There was an off-duty deputy sheriff in there who took him down.”
“Good for him,” RJ said. “I wonder what he thought finding out he’d arrested a dead man.”
“Well, I don’t know what he thought, but we have a couple of other names for what he tried to do. Words like ‘Defrauding the Government,’ and ‘Desertion.’ But it worked out for them, you know. They charged his wife with aiding and abetting, and they both now have free room and board at a Federal Hotel for Criminals.”
“Let me guess.” RJ slowed as we approached the state line. “The guy was a diver.”
“Right on the money, Hermano. One of the things that made us think he might not be dead was that a few months before, he’d gone through a scuba school. We found charges on his cards to buying scuba gear and such. While he never confessed to it, we suspect he hand a tank, mask, and flippers secreted down below. He falls into the water, swims to them, and put them on. Then while fire and rescue are coming, he just swam away.”
RJ shook his head. “Pendajo. Parkers Law.”
“Parkers Law.” We catch crooks because they don’t plan on getting caught.
“Makes sense,” RJ said. “But what about his friend?”
“When they told his friend that he was still alive, the guy was dumbfounded. It turns out he was just an unwitting witness, a pawn in this little game. He passed the polygraph because he saw the guy double over in pain, stagger to the railing, and then fall into the lake and not come up. What he saw, was to him the truth. He had nothing to do with the crime, or anything else. He believed what he’d seen.”
Well, there’s that small piece. Still a little rough, but hope you liked it.