To Whet Your Appetite…

Here’s a snippet from The Devil You Don’t Know:

“If Larry was getting the heebie-jeebies, I was generally inclined to listen. I’d known Larry off and on for the better part of a decade; we’d been teammates as Marines, working with Filipino Recon Marines way back when, and then founding members of Praetorian Security. (Though the name had been changed a few months ago to Praetorian Solutions for marketing reasons that were completely opaque to me.) I’d been through the hairiest parts of my life so far with the big, bald galoot, and I trusted him with my life.

So far the trucks trailing us weren’t really doing anything squirrelly, aside from following us. It could be explained as just going the same way and not being in much of a hurry. But we were escorting this cargo for a reason, and I wasn’t going to dismiss a possible threat.

I studied them for a few more moments, then faced forward again, settling in my seat and keying my radio. “Security halt, one hundred meters.”

Nick was driving the lead vehicle, and replied with a terse “Roger.” There wasn’t really a turnout to use, but the shoulder on this part of I-19 was plenty wide enough. I wasn’t planning on anybody getting out who didn’t need to, anyway.

Nick steered his black Yukon off the road, followed by the front box truck. The truck’s driver obviously didn’t want to pull off the road; he kept driving straight as long as he could without passing Nick’s vehicle, but finally swerved off, bumping over the rumble strips to stop just behind Nick’s bumper. The rest of the convoy eased off the freeway and rolled to a stop.

The two pickups didn’t stop, but they did slow down as they passed us. The lead truck had its windows rolled down, and the guy in the passenger seat mean-mugged us as they drove by. He was Hispanic, shaved bald, and wearing a white wife-beater, with tattoos covering every inch of his arm and crawling up his neck. He stared at us with that machismo sort of challenging stare until he was past. Once they got ahead of Nick’s SUV, the trucks accelerated, and were out of view in moments, going around a curve and getting lost in the scrub on either side of the interstate.

“Well, that was about as subtle as a brick through a plate-glass window,” I observed. “Looks like you called it, brother.” Larry nodded as he kept his hands on the wheel and his eyes on the two trucks. Keying the radio again, I called, “Give it a couple minutes, then we’ll get back on the road. Keep your eyes peeled, gents. Looks like those two trucks that just passed us were taking an unhealthy interest.”

I got acknowledgements from the other two security vehicles. I avoided sneering at the term “security vehicles.” They were nice SUVs, sure—two Expeditions and a Yukon. But they were unarmored and we weren’t carrying anything heavier than 12-gauges, and that had taken some serious politicking (and, I was sure, backdoor palm-greasing) to get us permission to make the run in to Mexico with that much. We’d even had to violate our company policy and carry 9mms—Mexico doesn’t like any pistols bigger than that. I had an old and well-worn Browning HiPower on my hip, under my cover shirt.

If circumstances had been different, I would have turned down a contract to escort two box trucks into Mexico flat. Mexico wasn’t a good place for PMSCs, particularly ones with our reputation and operating procedures. But we’d been asked to take the job by very…persuasive people.

I waited for two more semis to blow past us before I signalled Nick. “Let’s go,” was all I said. He didn’t reply, but pulled out onto the freeway and accelerated. Behind us, Jim had pulled out as well, but was taking his time getting up to speed, blocking traffic so the rest of us could get moving.

I was keyed up, now. I hadn’t been comfortable with the job in the first place; assurances aside, I hadn’t been sure we wouldn’t wind up in a Mexican prison for the weapons. But now there was a credible threat that wasn’t the Mexican authorities, and we weren’t even over the damned border yet.”

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