Jorge' Cruz winced as the little FM two-way radio screeched in his hand. He had bought four of them at a camping store to make coordination between his teams easier. He was beginning to wonder if cell phones would have worked better but shrugged off the idea. Cell phones didn't work well in this scenario. He would need to call each individual team with a cell phone and he needed to talk to all the teams at the same time. He could have got the expensive ones with the walkie-talkie feature but that would have exposed them to credit checks and signatures and other bread crumbs for law enforcement to track them. He just wished he could get the squelch set right.
The radio screeched again before saying "Ah, eagle one, ah, Jorge' I just saw the, ah ... Jorge', why can't I just talk to you? I don't know how to do this military stuff. I just saw the Rizzo woman and her daughter go in the hospital. How do I tell you that with all that military bullshit? Ah, over."
Jorge' ground his teeth in frustration. He really needed this operation to go smooth. There was no doubt in his mind that Carlos would carry out his threat and make him scream. His crazy cousin had killed his own sister and all she did was call Carlos an evil demon. But, the Rizzo woman, or more accurately, the Connor woman that belonged to Rizzo, was the prize that got away. Maybe he could redeem himself completely with Carlos if he could snatch the woman and her daughter. He could kill the body guard and the enforcer gringo that worked for Tony Rizzo instead of trying to capture them. Capturing the woman and her daughter would be a lot safer. Capturing the body guard or the enforcer would be very dangerous.
"Forget the military bullshit Ramon," Jorge' said after thinking furiously for a moment. "Pepe, you have the pictures of the two gringos. Stay where you are with two snipers. When you see the gringos, eliminate them. The rest of you, get to the cars. I want to be ready when the woman and her daughter come out. Ramon, what car did they arrive in? Where is it parked? Did they have an escort?"
"Ah, Em, so I don't have to call you Eagle one?" Ramon asked. A moment passed before the radio screeched again and Ramon said, "Over."
"No, just answer me you stupid son-of-a-bitch," Jorge' yelled back on the radio and almost had a coronary when part of his reply was drowned by squelch when Ramon said, "Over." "Where's their God Damn Car," he screamed.
"Ah, Okay," Ramon replied. "They parked in the east parking lot. They were in a Dodge Escalade but the woman wasn't driving. She had a driver. There was another Escalade with her."
Jorge' looked at his radio as if the electronics had somehow malfunctioned. Putting the radio back to his lips, Jorge' softly said, "An Escalade is a Cadillac. Is it a Cadillac or a Dodge? No, never mind. Is Sanchez with you?"
"Sanchez is sitting right here," Ramon answered.
"Good, give him the radio," Jorge' said through clenched teeth.
A moment later the radio came to life with a different voice. "Sanchez here," the gravelly voice said.
"What kind of car did the woman arrive in?" Jorge said briskly.
"It was a Cadillac Escalade Jorge'," Sanchez replied.
"Thank you. Now shoot Ramon. No, no, wait until we are someplace less conspicuous. Then shoot him," Jorge' instructed.
"Yes sir Jorge'," Sanchez replied calmly.
"Good," Jorge' continued. "Now, we know what direction she will take when they leave the hospital. They will probably head straight back to her grandfathers. Since we know the most direct route, here is what we are going to do..."
Max and Clevis both tensed when the door opened but Jonas just smiled. He had seen the green glow through a crack in the door and knew that whoever was coming wasn't a danger.
"Hi Pam," Jonas said in surprise when the girl stuck her head in the room.
"Hi Mr. Gianni," the girl replied with a little uncertainty. "We came down to see you. Can we visit?"
"Anytime," Jonas said smiling at the young teen. "Pretty girls are welcome to visit anytime."
Pam looked over her shoulder and said, "He must not have been hurt as bad as the doctors said mom. He's teasing me."
Mary Connor pushed the door open and walked around her daughter to enter the room. She smiled tentatively at Jonas but answered her daughter. "That's what men do when they want to show how macho they are honey. Usually, the harder they try, the worse they are hurt." Mary looked intently at Jonas when she asked, "Are you really going to be okay Mr. Gianni?"
"I'm fine," Jonas said smiling. "In fact, I should be getting out of here today."
Mary looked at him like he was nuts, maybe literally. "You got shot five times Mr. Gianni. I saw that car hit you. You really should stay put until the doctors release you. There is no reason for you to show how tough you are."
"I'm not trying to show how tough I am ma'am," Jonas replied with a shrug. "I'll leave when the doc releases me but, other than some bruises, I'm nearly as good as new."
Mary looked over at Max. The bruising on the side of his face had faded from the purple black of fresh bruises to the greenish yellow of bruises a couple of days old. His arm was still strapped to his side. "How about you Max. Are you as good as new too?"
"No ma'am," Max replied fervently. "Jonas heals a lot faster than I do. I am well and truly broke and I'll stay where ever the doctors tell me."
That reminded Jonas of what Ben was able to do with Han when Han was wounded. He wondered if he could do the same thing with Max.
"Joe, how about it? Can we help Max heal?" Jonas asked in his mind.
"I think we can do that," Joe said in Jonas's mind. Jonas thought he could hear the smile in the words. "After all, he was injured in My service. Ask him to sit beside the bed and I'll work through you."
"Max, you are looking a little worse for wear," Jonas said smiling at the big man. "Why don't you sit here by the bed? Maybe a friend of ours can help you a little. He suggested it."
Max's eyes got round as he stared at Jonas. Jonas nodded then nodded again towards the chair next to the bed.
Max sat in the chair next to the bed stiffly. He looked like he was bracing for a blow.
"Relax Max," Jonas said gently. "I heard people heal better when they are relaxed." He watched as the big bodyguard's shoulders slumped and his body rested against the back of the chair. Jonas felt Joe's presence intensify and he softly said, "Just think about your arm first. Think about what if feels like when it isn't damaged. That's it Max. Just feel the pain fade and the damage melt away." Jonas was aware of Clevis watching the two of them with eyes the size of saucers.
Pam's breath caught and she elbowed her mother in the ribs excitedly. She quietly asked, "Did you see it that time? It's almost like he glowed green. It was stronger than what I saw yesterday. Did you see it that time?"
"Maybe," Mary whispered slowly with a puzzled frown. Mary relaxed and continued in a near whisper, "I couldn't really see anything. It was more like ... I don't know honey. Not really a green glow but something green around his eyes. Maybe..."
Jonas looked up at the mother and daughter still standing beside the door. He clearly heard their whispered exchange. "Mrs. Connors, Pam, you are among friends here and there is nothing for you to fear. I would appreciate it if you didn't tell people about what you may see or hear." He hesitated a moment before saying, "Or what you think you see. It would interfere with my new job."
"I thought you worked for my grandfather," Mary said as she walked to the foot of the bed. Her raised eyebrows turned the statement into a question.
"I did until Sheila and Liz were taken," Jonas replied quietly. The memory of that night and the cry's of his wife and daughter seared through his mind for a moment before he was able to steady his emotions. He felt the peace he was used to feeling when he was in the garden. "Thank you Joe," he said in his mind. "Thanks for letting me lean on you." He didn't get a reply but he could almost see Joe's thin shoulders shrug in dismissal of the help and his enigmatic smile.
Mary could see the pain almost pulse across his face. Her heart went out to him. She hurt for him and felt ashamed for causing his pain to resurrect. Then she saw the pain fade and his face turned almost serene. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "Who do you work for now?"
Jonas smiled at her and said, "For now, why don't we just say my current employer is quite a bit farther up the food chain than your granddad. Can we leave it at that?"
Mary glanced at Clevis and Max then back at Jonas. Her brow wrinkled in concentration as if she were trying to put together a puzzle. She turned to Clevis and said, "You're a detective. Do you, ah, work for my granddad on the side?"
"No ma'am," Clevis said emphatically. "If I could prove what I think I know about your grandfather, I'd put him in jail. The same goes for Jonas here," he said waving at Jonas. "I'm a policeman and if I can prove anyone broke the law then I'll do my best to charge them for their crime. However, knowing and proving are two very different things in our legal system. Until I can prove something, Jonas and your grandfather deserve the same protection as any other citizen."
Mary only nodded and looked at Max. "You do work for my grandfather," she said flatly. "As far as I know you are not involved with any of his, ah, business dealings. You are his body guard. Is that correct?"
"Yes ma'am," Max said straightening in the chair. He worked his jaw and twisted his neck as if to test his muscles on the side of his head.
Mary's eyes widened. It looked like the bruising had faded slightly. They looked like they were several days old.
"I am only his body guard and if you're wondering why I'm with Jonas, well, partly because Mr. Rizzo ordered me to be with him. Mr. Rizzo sent me with him when you were kidnapped. After we got you back he asked me to make sure he stayed safe. Your grandfather is an honorable man." He glanced at Clevis and qualified the statement, "Despite what some people think he's an honorable man. He feels he owes a debt to Jonas and wants him protected until he can protect himself. Jonas is getting out of the hospital today so I'm supposed to make sure he gets back to your granddads in one piece."
"Speaking of that," Jonas cut in. "I appreciate you coming down to visit but you shouldn't have. The cartel has men watching the hospital. They are planning an ambush when I leave today. They probably saw you arrive at the hospital so you could be a target too."
Mary waved off the concern and said, "We came in one of granddads reinforced Escalades with body guards. We have a second Escalade with us and another four guards. We'll be OK."
Jonas shook his head emphatically. "Are you willing to risk Pam's life on that?"
"But, I wanted to see you too," Pam said quietly.
"I know honey but you and your mom just don't understand," Jonas said starting to feel a little frustrated. How could he protect innocents if they wouldn't stay where they were safe? "We aren't dealing with the run of the mill bad guys. Someone from another Family or even a rogue gang would still operate within certain guidelines. They would still have some constraints. The cartel doesn't recognize any constraints. They are an evil stain on humanity worse than anything men have seen in generations. They don't care how many they kill or what they destroy. Their boss is even worse."
Mary shot a startled look at him. "I don't understand. I mean, I understand how they can be called an evil stain on humanity. They are probably that and more. What I don't understand is how you can say their boss can be worse than what you described?" She narrowed her eyes as a thought occurred to her and she glared at Jonas. "Who do you work for? Are you working for the government to get my grandpa?"
Jonas sighed. He looked at Max and Clevis but they just looked back at him and shrugged. Jonas closed his eyes and silently prayed, "Joe, I don't want to lie to her. The way I see it I only have two options. I can tell her I can't tell her or tell her the truth. Do you have a suggestion?"
"It would make her aware of the real danger all of you face if you told her the truth," Joe answered. "Also, it never hurts to let innocents know that I am still watching over them. It will be up to her to decide if her faith is real or something she only brings out for church. Judging from how she has taught Pam, she may surprise you."
Jonas opened his eyes and looked at Mary and Pam. "I was killed when my wife and daughter were killed. God gave me another chance at redemption so I can be with Sheila and Liz, my wife and daughter. That chance requires me to use my skills..." Jonas glanced at Clevis before continuing. "I am required to protect the innocent people that are threatened by evil. I guess that means I am an agent of God. He calls people like me Protectors. The thing is, the Adversary also has agents. Joe, ah, God calls them Red Agents and they are the epitome of evil in this world. There are other men that are evil that need to be stopped but a Red Agent is a whole order of magnitude beyond them."
Mary was stunned. She shook her head trying to figure out which question to ask. She wondered if Jonas had become unbalanced by the trauma of losing his wife and daughter. She shook her head again and decided to ask a question that was most distant from the surreal. "Why is a, ah, Red Agent so much worse than another very evil person? Isn't evil simply evil?"
Jonas shook his head and said, "First of all, I am not unhinged because of what happened to my family. I could tell that was what you were thinking from your aura. Seeing and reading auras are one of the skills God gave me to do this job. The difference between an evil person and a Red Agent is actually pretty simple. An evil person is usually motivated by a personal trait. Greed may cause them to do evil things try to satisfy that greed. Lust may cause them to do evil things to satisfy their hunger. A Red Agent starts as an evil person but they gain patronage from the Adversary, or what you may call the Devil. They get many of the same attributes God grants his Protectors but the real difference between a Red Agent and an evil person is their agenda. They are no longer simply focused on satisfying their own hunger. Their agenda continues to satisfy their own desires but includes attacking structures that are focused on raising people up. Think of the Spanish Inquisition. The Catholic Church was a beacon of light during the dark ages but a Red Agent attacked the structure within church and caused the evil we now know as the Spanish Inquisition. Think of World War Two. How can men kill the millions the German's executed simply because they were a different race or religion? A Red Agent was involved. Red Agents infect other evil people and cause more Red Agents. Think of them as an infection in the human body except it is in humanity's body. I don't know if all the Mexican drug cartels have a Red Agent running them but I know the Cordova Cartel does. I have two goals. First is to protect the two of you, and all innocents to the best of my ability. Second, I must stop the Red Agent."
Mary looked at Jonas in consternation as she pulled Pam against her side and hugged her. His story was startling and frightening but she didn't know if it was true. They had been kidnapped and Jonas had rescued them. Maybe he had a concussion from being hit by the car at the airport and was hallucinating. She looked at the detective.
Clevis simply nodded at her.
She looked at Max and her eyes widened. The bruise on the side of his face was almost gone.
"Mrs. Connors," Max said thoughtfully. "I can't say his story is true based on knowing for sure but, I was with him when we left Mr. Rizzo's home to come rescue you. He was being guided by something that wasn't normal. I'm not talking about the way the traffic just seemed to open in front of him either. That was scary enough. He was driving over 100 miles per hour most of the time and he went right through stop signs and red lights without even slowing. There was always an opening. If he had slowed we wouldn't have arrived at the airport in time. If he had tried to drive to the hanger where the jet was we wouldn't have been able to stop them either. I don't think there was any way to know which hanger it was to start with but he did. He went to the runway instead. Everything he did from the time we left your Granddads until we stopped the jet was critical. I don't think we had even 30 seconds to spare. If he had slowed for one red light we would have been too late. The trip to the airport alone would have made a believer out of me. What he did after the jet was stopped, well; there was no doubt in my mind after that. I believe."
Mary let out a long breath and nodded. "Okay, say I believe you. What do we do now?"
"You don't do anything," Jonas said. "We try to get you home safe and you stay there until this issue with the cartel is finished."
Mary nodded again and she said, "Okay."