As Detective Kermit Griffin watched Peter Caine walk away into the shadows of the rooftop, he wished there was more that he could do for him. Caine was a good, honest cop, unjustly framed by someone unknown. Personally, and professionally, Griffin had known Caine for too many ears to think the man would wait for someone else to find the killer of his ex-girlfriend. Peter had a strong sense of loyalty that had saved Griffin’s life in the past; now Griffin had a chance to pay him back by distracting for ten minutes the U.S. Marshal Jim Garrison who was leading Caine’s manhunt.
Griffin knew Garrison so much better than Caine suspected. Their first run-in had been long before Griffin joined the 101st Precinct. Jim Garrison, the man hunter, was the man who Griffin had frustrated by running away to the big city and the protection of Captain Paul Blaisdell.
“So, your guns, Mr. Griffin, they are satisfactory?” The loadmaster, Pablo Enrico asked around the wad of smokeless tobacco in his cheek. Close by was a bucket with stains around it from where he missed when spitting. He wore a new tee shirt proclaiming “Nacogdoches Heritage Festival 1989” tucked into worn corduroy pants, and battered leather boots. In his mid-fifties, he looked younger, and only the gray in his hair betrayed his years.
The building was dimly lit by the hot sunshine coming in through upper windows. Dock workers and loaders drove past the mostly-closed door, shouting orders as they loaded the containers into the huge ships moored at the Port of Brownsville, Texas. It was a gateway for moving cargo from Mexico and the United States.
The slender, dark-haired man, wearing black jeans, matching tee shirt and a leather jacket placed the submachine gun back into the straw inside the box. His eyes hidden behind a pair of reflective wraparound shades, Griffin nodded. “They look fine. As the manufacturer promised, one hundred and fifty submachine guns with enough ammunition to take out a presidential guard.”
“Only if you wish El Presidente to be in small pieces when you are done,” Enrico replied knowingly.
“They won’t be used against my president,” Griffin replied callously, holding out his hand for the clipboard that Enrico held against his chest. “And this is a legal shipment, no less. I gave you the paperwork from the Feds. Where do I sign?”
“Here, here and here.” Enrico pointed to the forms.
“These are all the permits?” Griffin asked, flipping through several sheets of paper, “Usually there are more pages—“
“The U.S. government has cut out the paperwork, Mr. Griffin,” Enrico beamed. “It is part of the, what do you call it, the Paperwork Reduction Act!”
“About the best thing that’s happened this year.”
“Yes, but not as good as it used to be,” Enrico said in a familiar tone. “Remember when we sent those boxes to Salvador – “
Griffin held up his hand in protest, looking over his shoulder at a young man standing against the wall. “Let’s not talk about the past with company here, Enrico! Everything we did in the last couple of years has to be forgotten, compadre.”
“Forgotten? Is what you do now so different, working now for yourself? The governments in Nicaragua, El Salvador, they still need guns. We could make a lot of money – “
Griffin shook his head, stopping him. “Those days are long gone. Forget them. Our government has changed its policies—“
“There are still mercenaries in Latin America who will buy anything you sell,” Enrico said hopefully. He squirted a mouthful of tobacco juice towards the door. It missed. “They know who you are, Mr. Griffin. Your reputation is bigger than… bigger than the Presidente!”
“I know. That worries me,” Griffin replied looking around the warehouse. “It’s gotten too high.”
“How many years you been doing it, Mr. Griffin? Being a mercenary?” Enrico asked, watching him shrewdly.
“Since the Jurassic era,” Griffin replied with a tone of finality in his voice. “By the way, who is that boy?”
“I must introduce you!” Enrico beckoned. “Juan! Come over here.”
The lithe swarthy young man with dark eyes was already heading for them, his face alight with curiosity.
“Mr. Griffin, this is Juan Perez. He is my nephew up from Mexico.”
Juan held out his hand eagerly.
Griffin didn’t respond for a second studying him from behind his dark glasses, then reached out reservedly, his face expressionless. “Glad to meet you.”
Too late. The young man had withdrawn his hand angrily, his skin flushing a deep red. His back stiffened and he stepped back, thrusting his fists in his jacket.
Stupid gringo, Enrico thought. Now Juan would be annoyed and rightfully so. Griffin knows better than this. Why is he being a problem? “My Juan has come to work for me,” Enrico boasted, clapping him on the shoulder. “He lives with me in the new house.”
“What did you do before you came up here?” Griffin inquired.
The young man shrugged. “A little of this, a little of that. I was a federale for a time, but I decided to hang out here instead.”
Part of the Mexican police force? Griffin thought, startled. What the hell was the boy doing working for his uncle on the docks? “Police work didn’t agree with you?”
“I want to get rich,” Juan said uncompromisingly. “There is no money in police work.”
“So, you work for me, eh, to get rich? There were too many regulations, and not enough cash in Mexico, eh?” Enrico joshed him, giving him an affectionate cuff. “Now, it is just work, work, work.
“I get back to work now,” Juan said with a tiny nod at Griffin. He walked back to the boxes, his body stiff with anger.
“A hot-blooded young man,” Griffin observed.
“Si. Aren’t they all?” Enrico shrugged. “He works well, and eats like a horse. The ice box, it is always empty.”
“He looks well-fed,” Griffin said reflectively, his eyes studying the boy. Then, with a tiny shrug, he turned back to Enrico. “So, you have the permits.”
‘The containers go onto the boat as soon as the winch is repaired, maybe in an hour or two. They should arrive in… seven days, maybe eight days, down in Trinidad.”
“Good. The buyer’s got a shipper down there.”
“It is not…how you say it? Not your responsibility then?” Enrico asked, taking back the clipboard.
“My responsibility ended when your boy nails on the top,” Griffin said with a shrug. “I’m quality control on this job.”
“That is indeed my boy,” Enrico said with a touch of pride. “Do not worry, Mr. Griffin. It goes out tonight. Relax. I will take care of it. Haven’t I always?”
Griffin flashed a smile. “You have indeed. I missed you when you were on vacation to that festival.” He waved to the emblazoned shirt.
Enrico spat another mouthful of tobacco juice. “So did the harbor master, Martin. You’d think that I was gone a month instead of a week. I had to start to pack.”
“Si, to a new house.” Enrico noted Griffin’s frown. “I will tell you the address and phone number when I was certain of it. Soon.”
“Make sure it’s soon,” Griffin grumbled. “I may have other work for you shortly.”
“I will be in touch,” Enrico promised, wondering why Griffin was being terser than normal. It couldn’t be the gun shipment. This was not the first time Griffin had shipments out. In fact, this was the smallest in years.
“Then I’ll leave it up to you,” Griffin said, his tone shifting to preoccupied. He looked around and gave an unconscious sigh.
“What is it, Mr. Griffin?” Enrico asked boldly.
Griffin glanced at Juan, then at the door. “I’m just restless, Enrico. See you later.”
“Adios.” Enrico watched Griffin walk out into the doc area, and knew there had to be more than just restlessness. Were the guns the problem? He saw Juan staring out the door, and thought that Griffin had handed that badly. His nephew would be out for blood after Griffin’s snub, and Enrico didn’t think the gringo even realized it.
He’d have to talk to his nephew. Juan didn’t know what he was dealing with in Griffin either. Mercenaries who had lasted as long as Kermit Griffin were more dangerous than rattlesnakes. He wasn’t being his normal self either; that made him doubly dangerous.
Enrico shrugged fatalistically, and headed back to the boxes. He had to finish with them before they left on the boat.