If it hadn’t been for the earpiece, I never would have heard the radio over the snarl of the four-wheeler’s engine.
“Hillbilly, this is Plug,” Hank called.
I eased off the throttle and took one hand off the handlebars to key the radio. “Send it, Plug.”
“Can you push up to the top of that ridgeline just to the east of you and take a look to the south?” he asked. “Tell me what you see.”
“Sure thing,” I answered. It wasn’t like we had a set patrol route, or even any particular need to be anywhere. So far, this job had consisted of little more than long hours just hot-wheeling around the hills of southern Arizona on four-wheelers and the occasional pickup truck.
I gunned the engine and sent the sturdy little ATV surging up between the mesquites and the creosote bushes toward the ridge that Hank had indicated. It wasn’t a long climb, but it was steep and rocky, with plenty more sagebrush and creosote bushes that I had to weave around. But it still only took a couple of minutes to reach the top.
Halting my ATV, I stood on the running boards and pulled my binos out of the saddlebags. As I lifted them to my eyes and scanned the open ground to the south, I quickly saw what Hank had been talking about.
There were four figures trotting through the grass and brush in the next draw over. They were moving pretty quickly, and heading generally north. Given that Hank and I were the only ones out on patrol at the time, and all of Manuel Lopez’s ranch hands were either working around the house and barns, or watching the herds to the east of us, that kind of narrowed things down.
“Plug, Hillbilly,” I sent, keeping the binos trained on the four. “I do believe we have some uninvited visitors.”
“That’s what I saw, too,” he replied. “Just wanted to corroborate it. Meet you down below, and we’ll go say howdy?”
“Sure,” I answered. I wasn’t going to complain about actually having some work to do.
The truth be told, even though we were all experienced warfighters, with years of work in the military and some in the contracting world, we had perhaps been a touch naïve when we’d started up our little company. After all, we owned Praetorian Security, and we knew the score better than any of the soft-clothed financiers who owned most of the rest of the PMSCs out there. We could determine our own equipment, pick our own jobs, and find the jobs that would keep us in the thick of it, in the shit.
We were finding out the hard way that those kinds of jobs were few and far between, and often involved a lot more shady business to get than we’d necessarily expected. Most of the time, they were either outright illegal, or in some kind of gray area that tended to get all kinds of scrutiny, so the clients who had those sorts of jobs didn’t tend to be very forthcoming about them. We’d set up our little private Special Operations company, only to find that we didn’t immediately have clients running to our doorstep. Continue reading “Six Miles West of Nogales”