I’ll be honest; because of my impatience, I could never do everything Michael does and be a competent spy. Michael is the type of person who believes you need a plan before you get into a situation. Someone gives Michael a problem. He decides he needs a cover, so he asks Sam to get him a cover. Then he decides what weapons he would use if he was still in the CIA and how to replicate them for the situation. Finally he’ll go to his location, walk around and figure out the best places to hide and how to escape, if he needs an escape. On the contrary anyone harming my clients or Michael, Jesse and—I guess—Sam would probably be shot or blown up if I had my way.
Michael is able to get out of a situation even if his plans don’t work out the way he intends them to. There are some times, however, that he finds himself unable to get of a situation. That’s where I come in.
Usually when I’m looking for jobs I either help out people in trouble or do some bounty hunting to pay the bills. I also have a soft spot for animals. While I don’t usually take on animal cases, this particular case broke my heart when the client, Noreen, told her story to me. She found me from a friend of a friend of a client who referred Michael to her. Noreen works as an undercover officer for Miami-Dade County Animal Services. It’s because of this anonymity that she escaped being filmed when Animal Planet taped their series of episodes centered on the department. She can walk anywhere in Miami and not be identified as someone who works for Animal Services. She’d been quietly working for months to shut down a cockfighting pit outside of Homestead. I talked to her at Sam’s favorite Cuban restaurant at a table inside the restaurant. It was a perfect place to talk about the cockfight pit; most everyone that comes to this restaurant eats outdoors to people-watch at Lincoln Road Mall.
“I had gathered all my evidence against the guy who runs the pit—his name is Juan, and he owned fighting roosters in Mexico before he immigrated to Miami-Dade County. I even had a search warrant ready to hopefully take all the roosters and hens off his property. When I was attempting to investigate Juan’s pit, somehow one of his men was tipped off about me coming to inspect the pit for animal abuses. Sometime during the night his men picked up the birds and took them to Monroe County. I need to catch Juan in the act to arrest him.”
“So that’s where Michael and I come in.”
“Yes. You’re the only two people that can help me arrest Juan.”
“What about the roosters?”
“I’ll make sure the roosters and hens go to a chicken shelter after you help me save them.”
I extended my hand; she shook it. “It’s a deal,” I said.
The next day I managed to get Michael away from looking at papers about his burn notice—again— to Sam’s Cuban restaurant to meet with Noreen. Michael had a lead on yet another guy that was involved in burning him. Since he couldn’t do surveillance on the guy himself, he sent Sam and Jesse to look after him. He looked irritated as I explained the circumstances involved in the case to him.
“Sorry, Noreen, I’m not interested.” He stood up and was about to leave the restaurant.
“But Michael, don’t you like animals?”
“There’s a reason I don’t have pets in the loft, Fi. They have the potential to either ruin important documents or get themselves hurt in the loft and, in the process, destroy important documents. I’m sure Animal Services will find a way to take this Juan character down.”
“I know you’re not rejecting this job just because you’re not comfortable with Spanish.”
“I’m not rejecting this job because I don’t know Spanish.”
I told Noreen that typically Michael has a hard time taking jobs unless you tug his heartstrings, so I asked her to find any picture of Juan working with his roosters around a child, if possible. Sure enough, Noreen pulled out a picture she took of Juan showing a child how to put a gaff on top of a battle cock’s spur. She took the picture while she was preparing her case against Juan. The rooster was missing feathers and wattles. Muscles were poking out of tears in the rooster’s skin. It was a disturbing photo.
Michael stared at me. I shrugged. Michael was on the job.
The following day Michael and I went on our day trip to Homestead in his Charger, alone. Sam and Jesse were still doing surveillance back in Miami. Michael’s cover for the cockfighting job was named Jake Brownell. Jake is a breeder of battle cocks and gambler from western North Carolina; he fled the state to evade arrest for possessing those battle cocks. And although, compared to Michael, I can speak Spanish fluently Michael decided to go in as Jake alone. I was forced to stay behind at the Charger with binoculars and my PPK (although I begged and pleaded with Michael to let me bring a rifle).
“No one’s going to believe a woman is a leader of a cockfighting pit.”
“You believe I can catch criminals for bounty on my own. I only take you along sometimes for my amusement.”
“Bounty hunting and cockfighting are different occupations. Typically women do not run cockfighting pits. Juan’s not going to buy you as a cocker. “
“I bring you this case, Michael, and I’m forced to sit out on the sidelines instead of getting into the action. You had better find a way to make it up to me.”
“I will, Fi. I will.”
I had dropped Michael off a short walking distance from the cockfighting pit. The Charger and I were hidden behind some trees, about a mile or so from Juan’s pit. The pit was open enough that I could see the action from afar with my binoculars. Michael had walked in the area and from his wild gesturing I knew he was in his Jake Brownell cover. He was pointing at battle cocks in what I believed was an attempt to get into one of Juan’s cockfighting matches. Some of Juan’s men patted Michael down to make sure he wasn’t armed. Juan then led Michael to an area where about 20 or so battle cocks were penned. Juan and Michael talked for a little bit. Apparently the language barrier wasn’t an issue with them. I guess his cover went over.
Then Michael pointed at one of Juan’s cocks. There was a pause. Juan was yelling at Michael. His men grabbed Michael’s arms. Michael must have pointed at one of Juan’s favorite battle cocks he was not willing to part with in a cockfighting battle.
Juan’s men tied Michael to a post in the cockfighting pit. They were punching him until he collapsed against the post. I waited for some sort of signal from Michael, either a signal he was okay or a distress signal. He didn’t respond at all. I couldn’t wait any longer.
Michael’s original plan was to initiate a cockfight and then, once I saw it was in progress, I would call Animal Services. First I called Animal Services. “Hello?” I said in a Southern accent. “I was driving past this farm and I heard a lot of yelling and roosters squawking. I don’t know what’s going on but please help!”
I hopped in the Charger, thankful I didn’t have to hot wire it to start it. I drove out of the woods and stopped short of the cockfighting pit. I slid the PPK behind my back. Then there came the hard part: How do I rescue Michael from Juan and his thugs with only a PPK?
There was a piece of lumber on the ground near the cockfighting pit—I think it fell off one of the battle cock coops. I picked it up and quickly but quietly moved into the open space where Michael was tied up. I quickly knocked out one of Juan’s thugs with the piece of lumber. The two other thugs came towards me. I ducked the one on my left, knocked out the one on my right and returned to knock out the thug on the left. I dropped the lumber and saw a skinny dagger lying on a table. Using the skinny dagger, I ran to Michael, who was still out of it, and started cutting him free. As soon as I was cutting him free, Juan pointed a Smith & Wesson M&P in my face. Must have been a gift from one of his corrupt police buddies. I stopped cutting Michael free.
“Are you with this man?” Juan asked me, in Spanish.
“I am. Why does it matter?” I responded to him in Spanish as well.
“Are you police?”
“Does it look like we’re police?”
“Why are you here? You two don’t look like the gambling type.”
I sighed. “We’re here. For a friend.”
“Well, you can die for your friend.”
I pulled out my PPK. “Well, you can rot in jail for what you’ve done to those poor roosters.” I shot the PPK and broke the pen of one of the roosters. Sure enough, and to my luck, the poor rooster—he wasn’t as badly injured as the other roosters—started pecking and clawing angrily at Juan’s feet. This game me enough time to free Michael, help him up on his feet and place him in the passenger seat of the Charger before Animal Services came to Juan’s compound.
Michael and I drove back to the Charger’s previous hiding place to make sure Juan didn’t escape his compound before Animal Services came. By the time Animal Services came and Juan was still preoccupied with the battle cock, I drove the Charger back to South Beach.
Juan got off lucky. If Animal Services didn’t need him alive, he would have had two bullets in his head.
I had to meet up with Noreen after the cockfighting bust. Noreen and I met at the Cuban restaurant, alone; she thanked Michael and I for making the bust possible and paid the two of us for our services while I apologized for Michael being too out of it to meet with Noreen again. I promised Noreen Animal Services would not hear of Noreen paying us money.
I went back to the loft after meeting with Noreen. Michael was in bed. I had a cloth soaked with cold water over his head and ice on his chest and stomach. I went to the fridge and pulled out some blueberry yogurt and a spoon. I opened the yogurt, sat by Michael’s side and fed him yogurt.
“Thanks for saving my life, Fi,” Michael weakly said.
I smiled and fed him more yogurt.
“I may not agree with the way you do things, but sometimes your way of doing things works.”
“Shh, Michael. You’re still hurt.”
I kept feeding Michael yogurt until he threw aside the wet cloth and ice to exercise.