Down the Road: The Fall of Austin, страница 1
Down the Road: The Fall of Austin
Published by Permuted Press at Smashwords.
Copyright 2011 Bowie Ibarra.
This book is dedicated to Travis Adkins, whose encouragement and skill has helped me make my mark in the Zombieverse. Thank you for your support.
To Jacob Kier and the boys and girls at Permuted Press: Thanks for giving my stories a chance.
Special thanks to the Austin Police Department and the Travis County Jail.
To Daniel “Bo” Woodman. I envy your imagination and wit. Thanks for your attention to details in editing the story.
And eternal thanks to George A. Romero. Thank you for your inspiration and your cinematic works. People are walking as zombies en masse and even dancing as zombies around the world because of your works.
And to you, the reader: Thank you for giving my story a chance as well. I hope you enjoy it.
Tuesday, April 13th
Back alley near 6th Street
“You got the goods?” asked the man wearing the Dallas Cowboys hat. His voice echoed down the dark alley as the various clubs and bars of Austin’s Sixth Street pounded out their club vibe through expensive speakers.
“Why you ask me that, gringo?” replied the muscular and heavily tattooed Hispanic man standing by a large delivery truck labeled with the Grandma Smith’s Garden label. Grandma Smith was holding a basket of vegetables as if she had just made a trip to the garden in her backyard.
Knitting needles jutted out from the bun in her hair. Her image was an awkward contrast to the three goons sporting fashionable AK-47s as accessories, complementing their scarred, mustachioed faces.
“You have my cabbage?” asked the muscle man. The euphemism was not an attempt at humor, though Grandma Smith continued to smile despite the sour faces all around her.
Mr. Dallas Cowboys Hat pointed to his partner, who was standing next to him with two large briefcases. The briefcases were handcuffed to his wrists, signaling the dangerous importance of their contents.
“Open it,” demanded the large thug.
Mr. Dallas Cowboys Hat lifted one of the briefcases and pulled out a set of keys from the sleeve of his Starter Cowboys jacket. The thug eyed the keys curiously with eyes accustomed to taking in details, to observing the people and the world around him. Considering the merchandise they were dealing with, he had learned to observe everything. Even the slightest glance, shake or eye movement could give a person away. So far, the man could pick up nothing suspicious from Mr. Dallas Cowboys Hat and his partner.
Mr. Dallas Cowboys Hat opened the case, revealing stacks of hundred dollar bills wrapped in clean bank wrappers. In a show of trust, Cowboy threw a huge stack of Benjamins at the thug. The move might have been considered a bit arrogant, a subtle gesture of aggression, of territorial reclamation. Despite the very tense atmosphere, the thug chose to ignore the fact the move might have been an attack. This was a chess game, to be certain. Specific moves and protocol prevailed. But in his mind he vowed he would not let such an act go unanswered a second time.
Instead, he gave another command, laced with hints of a dare. A dare to defy him. A dare not to listen to him. “Open the truck up for me.” He whistled, calling forth his pawns to counter the possible attack, the play of subtle defiance from the black knight, or bishop. He directed his men to the rear of the vehicle, holding the thick stack of cash in his hand as he pointed, as if to show the location of more money like that which he held in his hand, an evil wizard controlling his minions through greed.
Mr. Dallas Cowboys Hat re-secured the briefcase and walked to the
Behind Grandma Smith’s grand matriarchal smile, in the interior of the vegetable truck, stood several crates of spinach and beets. Upon closer inspection, the spinach and beets were two days short of being rotten. A thug took the crates in front and stacked them on either side, out of the way. Eventually a path was cut to the back of the vehicle. The thug picked up a box filled with several bags of white powder hiding in the rear and brought it to Mr. Dallas Cowboys Hat.
The thug had fulfilled his part of the deal. It was now time for him to
Mr. Dallas Cowboys Hat began to free his partner from the heavy bonds around his wrists, unlocking them as the thug said, “I did my part. Now it’s your turn, holmes, to do your part.”
Mr. Dallas Cowboys Hat and the thug turned and looked at the man who held the suitcases, who was now shaking his head in frightful confusion.
“What part?” asked the man holding the suitcases.
The thug chuckled, realizing the man had no idea of his fate. “Thanks for the money, holmes,” he said, mocking the once-bonded man, watching Mr. Dallas Cowboys Hat remove a gun from his holster. Before his partner could react, he fired three shots from his pistol. His partner fell to the ground, hitting the worn and pockmarked pavement face first. Blood began to soak the dirt and water on the pavement near the belly of the dead money-man.
“Nice one, holmes,” the thug said, taking the briefcases. “Nothing like killing your own friend so I could trust you, eh?” One of his henchmen brought him the keys to the truck.
In one swift movement, a small squad of policemen jumped from the back door of one of the clubs. The alley had enough shadows at night for the inconspicuous surveillance cameras to go undetected. They were set up on the brick walls along the dank backstreet. The entire scene had unfolded before the cameras, viewed by the police from the safety of the club’s back room.
The policemen surrounded the tattooed gang members. The gang was outnumbered three to one, and only two of the thugs offered resistance. Both of them were gunned down with clean shots to the head.
With a quiet cool smile, the thugs’ leader dropped the suitcases and put his hands behind his head. It was something he had done multiple times since his youth. Nothing new.
From the ground, the murdered partner was rising. Sitting on his rear, he pointed a pistol at the thug.
“Face the truck and drop to your knees,” he said, standing.
The thug did, chuckling, and fell to his knees with his hands across the back of his head.
“Good job, guys,” he said. “Good job.”
“My name’s Mike,” said the man wearing the Dallas Cowboys hat. “Mike Runyard. And thank you.”
“I know who you are,” Mike said, training his gun on him while his partner removed the blood packs hidden under his clothes and threw them on the ground. “You’re Hector ‘Sleepy’ Arana. You’re a big part of the MS-13 problem we’ve been having here in town.”
“And we just bagged you, shithead,” said the fake and bloodied partner, taking each of Sleepy’s wrists and placing them in handcuffs.
“Well, one thing I know, holmes,” Hector ‘Sleepy’ Arana said with pride, “What goes around comes around. You know?”
Travis County Jail, 11th Street
Within hours, the gangs were processed and their tattoos were photographed and documented before they were put up in the highest security section of the jail.
Two jail guards led Hector ‘Sleepy’ Arana to his temporary holding cell. The amount of cocaine in the truck easily amounted to a federal violation, and within the next few days he would likewise be transported to a federal prison.
The inmates in the cell block did not take kindly to his presence. Insults and threats were hurled with the confidence and skill of an opera tenor delivering a solo to a captive audience at the Metropolitan Opera. The w
Hector ‘Sleepy’ Arana was a street king in Austin, a drug runner of the highest order who had the power to get things done with a snap of his fingers. And everything he wanted done always got done with a cruel
efficiency. But in prison, any and all power and influence he had before was lost. Despite his confidence and his strengths and allegiances outside of prison, he was just a lowly new entry into the barred and concrete cages. His power was in his words, so he proceeded to put them to work with the guards delivering him to his pen.
“So what’s going to happen to me?”
“Shut up,” said one of the guards.
“You’ll be here temporarily until you’re transported to the federal prison in Beaumont.”
“Lopez, you’re not supposed to talk to the inmates.”
Nick Lopez knew that fact, as his boss, Deputy Officer Jeanette Coleman, let him know on an almost daily basis.
“Lopez,” she would say, “You’re a real fuckup. You know that?” She was a real hardass—a bull dyke with a blonde mullet sitting atop a freckled feminine face balanced on a body built like a Sherman tank. (And it probably hadn’t done anything to endear Lopez to Coleman when Lopez called her “sir” the first time they met.) “Your duty list is never complete. Ever. You’re never at your post during prisoner transitions. I really need you to improve your internal review rank or I’m shit-canning you. You hear me?”
You eat shit, Nick thought.
Nick’s own home held no solace. His wife was a constant nag.
“You can do better than being a security guard for Travis County, Nick, and you know it.”
Evening dinners, on nights they even had a chance to have one together as a family, usually degenerated into discussions about how Nick could be making more income for the house.
“Theresa, can we just eat dinner and talk about something else?”
“I’m tired of living like this.”
Their apartment was just off of IH-35 near William Cannon. It wasn’t a bad location compared to the place on Riverside where they used to live. The combination of college kids and day laborers honking their horns at exactly six-thirty every morning was not indicative of a place they wanted to raise their young daughter—the same daughter who was now five years old and seated at the same table he was getting an earful at.
“Let’s just be thankful for what we have,” Nick would beg, attempting to disarm the assault.
“I am thankful, but you could be doing a lot more.”
Nick really just wanted the conversations to stop. It was hard to fight in the first place because she was right. He had become very comfortable with his job, and despite earning a Criminal Justice degree from Texas State in San Marcos, he remained at his job. He was the only one from his family who had a job. Hell, he was the only one from his family who graduated from college. He wanted more for his future than a life on the streets, and he especially wanted more for his baby girl, Laura Jane.
Laura Jane, his precious girl, sat in her chair, scooping food from her bowl. She silently watched, anxious at the negative energy resonating in the room. She could not understand why her parents were yelling at each other; she just wished it would stop.
“Please, Theresa. Let’s just eat.”
The only solace he could find each and every day was reading to his baby girl, his little princess, each night before she went to bed. It was the perfect way to begin each night shift at the jail, where he was now directing Hector Arana to his cell.
The iron bars of the cell door clanked shut. A small box on the front of the cell was unlocked, and Hector placed his bonded wrists through the door. Nick began to unlock the cuffs.
“Oye. Puedo ayudar, amigo,” Hector whispered, weaving a web, tempting the fly. “Oyiste.” It was a measured offer for help. Hector was always very intuitive, and he somehow sensed Nick’s need. The perpetual frown Nick wore from the moment they met. The slumped shoulders. The sadness in his eyes. Hector had found a possible mark, and he wanted to make sure his seed of trust, his vie for an inside alliance, was planted.
As the guards walked away, Deputy Officer Coleman turned to Nick
and asked, “What did he say?”
Nick felt a bit nervous at the query, mostly because he had quickly considered the offer in his mind. He felt caught, exposed as the prison inside man he was. Perhaps that was why the thug nicknamed ‘Sleepy’ had singled him out, took the chance to offer an alliance even in front of Nick’s boss.
But it was clear Deputy Officer Coleman did not know Spanish. So Nick responded, nonchalantly, “He asked when chow is.”
Disturbance Call at Riverside Apartments
“I’m still tired,” Derek said, sitting weary-eyed in the passenger seat of the white and blue Austin Police Department cruiser. The passing scenery went by almost completely unnoticed.
“Didn’t you have a Red Bull before we came in?” Mike asked, behind the wheel.
“I did, but then the wings fell off. They never tell you that part in the commercials.”
“You should know that already; just like how McDonalds doesn’t tell you Big Macs make you fat, but everybody knows anyway.”
“Its more the fries than the burgers.”
“Well, a combination, you know?”
“I swear they put MSG on those damn fries. I can’t stop eating them.”
“The point is, who would actually put ‘our stuff is bad for you’ in their marketing campaign?”
“Probably you, Mr. Honest Abe.”
Mike chuckled. “Shut up, dude.”
Officer Mike Runyard and his partner Derek Tucker had been on the clock for only thirty-one minutes, and already Mike knew it was going to be a long night. He knew Derek was going to evade as many calls as he could—maybe even try to convince Mike to cover for him while he slept.
Their adrenaline from the big bust the night before hadn’t worn off all through the day, making it very difficult to catch any sleep. Now they wished they had used some pharmaceutical sleeping aids. The duo was in line for commendations, as well as several other privileges from administration, but Mike didn’t dare ask for the day off. He felt it would make him look like a pansy, requesting someone to take his shift just because he had exerted himself the night before.
Oh, poor baby, he mused, did you actually have to do your job last night? Does that make you think you deserve a day off?
The bust turned out to be the biggest bust in the history of Austin, which also made it the biggest in Travis county. It was actually on par with many of the large busts on the border. It was quite a boost for the department’s morale. The Austin American Statesman had interviewed Mike and Derek briefly before they hit the beat. It was nice for the department to have such positive exposure compared to the highly visible lawsuits by the ACLU, LULAC, and other alphabet soup organizations fighting for citizen’s rights against alleged violations by the Austin Police Department.
Mike turned the cruiser onto Riverside.
“Did you ask for nights?” he asked.
“We always work nights,” Derek replied.
“I could do for a day shift myself.”
“Nothing happens during the day but car wrecks.”
“People get murdered during the day, too.”
“You mean they find murders during the day.”
Mike passed the Taqueria Vallarta #3. Derek licked his lips and said, “Hey, we should eat there for dinner break.”
Mike didn’t answer right away. He was preoccupied trying to make sense of the night and day shift differences. Further, he realized his previous assumption had been correct—that Derek was going to be useless today. Hell, he was already thinking about food and was coming across as edgier
“I mean, I guess those bank robberies count for something,” Mike finally said.
“There are high speed chases at night. I’ve seen them on Fox’s World’s Craziest Car Crashes.”
“I’ve never had one at night.”
“You’ve never been in a high speed chase ever,” Derek jabbed.
Taking a deep breath and ignoring the subtle cutdown, Mike turned the cruiser onto Willow Lake Drive.
Something caught Mike’s attention as they turned the corner. “Oh, Taco Bell. Let’s eat there instead.”
“You’d eat corporate Mexican food over authentic Mexican food?” Derek challenged.
“It can’t be authentic unless we’re in Mexico.”
“You don’t have to be in Mexico for it to be authentic.”
“I’m just tired,” Derek repeated, as the cruiser pulled into the apartment complex. He grumbled, “I swear, if these people, whoever the hell they are, if these people fuck around, I’m kicking their ass.”
“Don’t talk like that, man,” Mike said, switching the ignition off before stepping out of the vehicle. He clicked the CB on his shoulder. “864 to dispatch. We’ve arrived at Riverside Apartments. Over.”
The CB quickly buzzed its response. “10-4. Proceed with caution. Over.”
“I’m going to proceed with a boot up someone’s ass. That’s how I’m going to proceed,” Derek said. He was like a grumpy old man. The canned caffeine overdose was doing him no favors. Mike could see Derek shaking a bit. Not from fear. Derek had a handle on that. But from a caffeine high. It was easy for Mike to see that Derek was on a hair trigger. He only hoped the coming situation would not set him off too bad.
“Would you cool it?” Mike asked.
“I’m cool. I’m cool.”
The two walked past the F building. The apartment complex wasn’t sprawling by any means, but it felt cluttered. The buildings were in line, but set up at odd angles, creating a kind of disjointed landscape of curves and sharp angles. A feng-shui master would have a fit at the “secret arrows” and “negative energy” created by the random placement of the structures. They were old buildings, probably built in the early eighties, and had seen better days. Off-white paint was chipped from the stucco and the roof tile was old and worn. Apartment windows were covered in a thin white crust from years of spray washing with hard water.