CROSSING THE VINCENT THOMAS BRIDGE
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SCOTT L. ANDERSON
There was no other way to say it. He was a dirty agent.
But after over two decades working in the witness protection program, with less than a month to retirement, it was all going straight down the crapper unless this intelligence report that just came across his desk was accurate.
Agent Jerry Banks had always played the system. The skels that he lorded over had always been more than willing to cut him in on the action to keep from going back to the joint. The whole program was a joke. Did the idiots up in Washington actually think that you could take a career criminal, promise him immunity after he snitched off all his buddies, change his identity, move him to some backwater shithole, and from then on he was going to live a normal life like John Q. Citizen? Christ, what a joke!
But Banks had severely underestimated Jake Morrow. Morrow was most likely the biggest drug dealer that the U. S. military had ever called one of it’s own. A Navy SEAL stationed out of San Diego, Morrow had run a huge operation involving over fifty sailors stationed on the area’s many ships. Every time one of these naval vessels returned from an overseas cruise, one of Morrow’s contacts on board would be bringing back pounds of high grade marijuana, cocaine, or heroin. Morrow, a weightlifting fanatic, also had a big hand in the growing steroid black market. After earning an estimated 1.5 million dollars in only two years, Morrow had been busted on a sting operation and had been sentenced to fifty years at the Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks in Kansas.
Jerry Banks had cut a deal with Morrow to get him out of the slammer. To earn his semi-freedom he would have to roll over all of his major connections on the west coast. To keep his freedom, the ensuing busts would have to provide a sufficient bonus to Jerry’s retirement fund.
The problem, of course, was that Banks did this all without Washington’s approval. He had paid off the warden of the Disciplinary Barracks to keep Morrow on their roster while Banks carried out the drug busts. Agent Banks never planned on letting Morrow remain free. He also never planned on having a .357 magnum shoved into the back of his skull in the parking lot of Kansas City International only two hours after gaining Morrow's release. Banks had been forced to lay down on the greasy floor while Morrow's rescuer, a big cowboy redneck, had removed the cuffs from Morrow's wrists and had cuffed Banks to a Toyota.
Morrow had disappeared into the wind.
For three weeks Banks had heard nothing. Then this little bit of information floated to him.
The USS Dixie, a destroyer tender home ported out of San Diego, had been robbed one day before payday. Two white males had walked up the brow of the ship at approximately 0020 hours on a Monday morning, flashed their military I.D.s and had been allowed onto the ship. The finance officer had been on duty that evening and had been awaked by a knock on his stateroom door at 0120. When he answered the knock he was greeted by the sight of a large man with a rubber Richard Nixon mask on. Tricky Dick was holding a 9mm in his hand. He was ushered up to the finance office, which was already opened and the financial officer, Lt. Perry Palmer, was forced at gunpoint to open the ship’s safe which contained the payroll for the entire crew. A tidy sum of over two hundred thousand dollars. The two thieves had packed the cash up in plastic garbage bags, wrapped them up with duct tape, and had placed the bags inside of two large scuba diving bags. Duct tape was wrapped completely around the whimpering body of Lt. Palmer, and he was locked up in the office and wasn’t discovered missing until the following morning when he didn’t report for morning muster. Two lines were found leading from the main deck of the ship down to the water line.
Banks had two suspects in mind, which he was not presently sharing with authorities involved in the active investigation. This thing had Morrow and his redneck buddy written all over it. Tony Hendrichs, an old marijuana dealing buddy of Jake’s, who had been busted in the sting, had been stationed onboard the Dixie prior to his arrest. Hendrichs had been a Gunner's Mate, and one of his duties on the Dixie had been the cutting and issuing of keys on the ship. It all fit
If the civilian authorities arrested Morrow on this charge, everything was going to explode in Jerry’s face. He poured a generous amount of Chivas Regal over the ice in his glass and fired up another Marlboro while he dialed the number in Kansas. Colonel Morgan answered on the second ring.
“I’ve got an idea where Morrow is. What I what to know is if you can handle your end of the bargain if he’s where I think he is?”
Morgan sat up in the chair behind his desk. “What do you have in mind?”
“From what I can gather, he may be holed up in San Pedro, California. I’m planning on flying out there in about six hours, and if I find him, I’m going to try to bring him down with either a tranquilizer or stun gun. I’m going to have a flight crew ready to fly us straight back to Leavenworth.”
“I can lock him back up, that’s not a problem. But have you ever thought what would happen if he gets hold of the media about this? He has nothing to lose. I’d be fucked big time. And so would you, my friend.”
Banks took a hard hit on his Chivas. “Now you listen to me you gutless little shitbird. We can make this all go away if you don’t run around like a schoolboy pissing in his pants. As soon as I get Morrow back to your prison, you get him down to the hole and make it look like a suicide. Slash his wrists or string him up so it looks like he hung himself. But for shit’s sake don’t beat the son of a bitch to death and then say that it happened during a cell extraction like they did to that convict in Oklahoma. That’ll bring to much heat. You got me?”
Morgan was silent for several moments. “Banks, what happens if you can’t take him? What if he doesn’t come easy?”
“Then we’re double fucked. I’ll put him down and as soon as I contact you, report him missing on the next count. Report him as escaped. That’s all we can do. The investigation will be worse that Watergate, but it’s our only option.”
“Make goddamn sure you get him, Banks,” Morgan hissed in the phone.
“You just do your job, I’ll do mine.” Banks slammed the phone down and grabbed his intelligence folder.
The reports on Tony Hendrichs showed that he had purchased a home in the San Pedro area while he was stationed at the Long Beach Naval station. A records check also had shown that he owned a deep sea fishing rig that was kept in a slip in Long Beach harbor and was regularly hired out for charters. Pretty impressive for a E-6 in the military who’s ass was now sitting in the brig.
Banks, on a whim, had placed a call to a Naval Investigative agent in Long Beach who had done a quick stakeout at the house. Banks had given him a bullshit song and dance story about how he had information that drugs were possibly being dealt to sailors on the navy ships in the local shipyards by some shipyard employees living at that address.
Although there was not a lot of activity around the house, the one occupant the NIS agent had seen was definitely yardbird material. Big pickup truck covered in NASCAR stickers and the perp himself was all redneck. Right down to the cowboy hat and boots. Fucking bingo!
Banks glanced at his watch. Might as well call flight ops now and get that flight going to Long Beach. No need to put off the inevitable. He slammed down another shot. The stress was getting to him, his bottle of liquor was getting dangerously low and he was starting to feel it’s effects, but a couple of toots of blow would help take the edge off that. He pulled out a replacement bottle of Chivas and threw it in his briefcase with the file, his service revolver, stun gun, and tranquilizer pistol.
A Lear jet that had been confiscated by the government from a high rolling smack dealer was waiting on the tarmac. Banks had taken a seat facing the rear of the aircraft so that he wouldn’t be observed cutting his lines on the side of his briefcase and taking shots of Chivas straight out of the bottle.
As the jet taxied toward the hanger in Long Beach, the agent checked the clip in his .45 caliber service weapon and placed it in the holster on the back of his belt next to his handcuffs. He put a spare clip in his jacket pocket along with a blackjack and a stun gun. He didn’t really want to get that close to Morrow. Better to bring the big moose down with the tranq gun.
The jet stopped with a sudden lunge as it entered the hanger and Banks toppled over into the aisle. “What the fuck?” he shrieked.
The pilot looked out through the cockpit door. “Sorry, sir, I’m not use to the brakes in this rig. They seem to real touchy,” said the young pilot.
“I’ll show you touchy, asshole,” muttered the agent.
Banks gathered up his jacket and briefcase and headed towards the open hatch where the pilot stood by. “Uh, excuse me, sir.”
Banks glared at the officer. “What now?”
“Your nose, sir. You have something right here.” The pilot made a wiping motion under his own nose.
Banks wiped his nose with the back of his hand and saw a dusting of the coke he had been snorting on the flight. “Oh. Yeah. Thanks.”
A generic government four door sedan sat outside the hangar with the keys in the ignition. Banks fired it up and turned the dome light on to check his map for the directions to the suspected house. Had to cross the Vincent Thomas toll bridge over to San Pedro, follow the road into town, stay on the main drag for about seven blocks, take a right and head up the hill. Not too bad. If things went smooth, he could pop Morrow, cuff him and load him in the trunk, and be back here to load him up on the jet within a half an hour.
Banks reached over and took a pull off of his bottle. Shit! He quickly pulled the jug down as he met an oncoming San Pedro police car. Better cool it here. Wouldn’t be a good time to get a driving while shitfaced charge.
Banks took a right and started up the hill as he squinted at the houses and mailboxes for street numbers. There it is! He maintained his speed and went down another block before he turned around and parked about a quarter block away. There was a pickup in the driveway. No lights on in the house, but he could see the blue flickering light of a television set through the closed curtains. He got out of the car, put the tranq gun down the front of his pants, and crossed the street and began to walk down the dark sidewalk.
The house was just your basic rental shack. Square little dump with a living room in the front, kitchen in the back, and two small side bedrooms off to the side. Banks walked down a little further and crossed back over. Walking up to the side of the pickup, he took a quick glance in, nothing besides empty Heineken bottles. He reached in and opened the glove box. Just a couple of maps. He ducked down and and crept into the back yard. With his flashlight he looked into the two garbage cans. Same thing in there. Lots of beer bottles, pizza boxes and buckets from the Colonel. Nothing to show who might be inside.
The drapes were pulled tight on both bedrooms and the bathroom. The back door appeared to have had the window knocked out of it and had been replaced with a piece of plywood. He tried the door, it was locked tight. Banks crept back up the driveway to the side of the living room. The curtain to the room had about a inch to spare at the bottom of the window, just enough for the agent to attempt a look inside.
Sitting on a ratty sofa, while she drank a Mountain Dew and munched on some pretzels out of a bag, was a woman wearing nothing it appeared, other than a T-shirt and a pair of panties. She seemed to be alone and it didn’t look by the decor of the place that the house was occupied by too many people. The living room had a couch and old recliner and the TV, that was it. Shit! The agent’s instincts told him that this might have very well been a wild goose chase. Better check it out though. Banks pulled out his badge and walked up the front steps.
He gave the door an official rap. Through the door’s window he saw the woman stand up and walk to the door. She looked out out quizzically and Banks flashed his badge. She opened the inner door but kept the screen door latched. The TV was blaring. Some made for television movie produced for idiots just like her.
“Can I help you?” She was bleach blond, white trash, wearing a Raiders shirt that was cut down to show some ample cleavage and which barely covered the worn white panties she had on. Banks glanced down, he swore he saw a glimpse of her bush.
“Uh, good evening, mam. Sorry about the late hour. I’m Special Agent Jerry Banks. We had an attempted burglary at the Bank of San Pedro and one of the suspects has been reported in this area. I’m conducting a door to door check to see if anyone in the neighborhood has seen anything out of the ordinary.”
She glanced back into the living room and turned back and smiled at Banks. “Hang on a sec, I need to turn that damn thing down.” As she walked back into the living room, Banks noticed what a fine ass she had.
The television shut off, bathing the room in darkness. Sudden movement. The coke and booze had delayed and clouded the agent's response time. Holy shit! Something was charging the door. Banks fumbled for the tranq gun as a fist exploded through the mesh of the screen door and drilled the agent directly in the nose. Banks felt the cartilage snap as he staggered back and fell down the short set of steps. Jake Morrow charged out the door, down the steps, and kicked Banks savagely in the stomach as the agent tried to regain his feet. Banks blindly tried to grope through the grass to find the tranquilizer pistol, but Morrow punched him twice in the kidney, and then reached down and grabbed Banks by the throat and front of his belt and proceeded to actually military press the agent over his head with a maniacal scream and then slam him down across the metal handrail of the steps.
Banks came down across the handrail on his sternum and felt something crack. A cloud of red was crossing his vision and he felt himself beginning to black out. Morrow now had him by the front of his shirt and was raining one handed punches to the agent’s head. Banks’ survival instincts were trying to kick in but all he could do was feebly try to cover his arms around his head in an attempt to ward off the blows.
“Get some, get some, get some, get some, motherfucker!’” Morrow was screaming. He let go of Banks who slumped to the ground and began kicking him savagely in the ribs. “Get up and fight me you fucking pussy,” screamed the frustrated Morrow.
“The police are on their way so you better just stop that right now.”
The Cowboy ran up behind Jake, wrapped his arms around him and twisted him away from Banks.
“Goddamn it, Jake. We gotta get the fuck out of here”
Jake broke free of the Cowboy’s grasp and took a wild roundhouse swing at his friend who quickly ducked and moved out of Jake’s range punching range.
“Jake, stop! It’s me, goddamn it.”
Jake stopped in his tracks and stared at his buddy and then down at the battered and bloodied agent, who was now face down in the grass and not moving. If the Cowboy hadn’t stopped him, Banks would surely have been beaten to death.
“I’ve already called them, they’re on their way.”
The two men turned to see a large Hispanic woman, her rotund body illuminated by her porch light, standing in the front yard of the house next door. “I’ve already called,” she repeated.
Cowboy jammed some car keys in Jake’s hand. “You go! Take the truck. Me and Angel will get our gear and take his car.” He pointed down at Banks. Turning Jake towards the truck, he gave him a light shove. “Go! We’ll meet you at the boat.”
Jake gave Banks one more solid kick to the ribcage of Banks for good measure, “You were lucky this time, you prick,” and ran to the truck.
“Angel, grab the bags and let’s haul ass.” Cowboy rolled the agent over to search for his car keys. Banks had his Colt .45 in his hand and reached up and jammed it into the Cowboy’s chest.
The force of the slug blew the Cowboy up and off of Banks and deposited him on his back . A large red blossom stained the front of his embroidered cowboy shirt. He never heard the screams of Angel and the woman next door.
Banks rolled back onto his stomach, pushed himself up onto one knee, and began firing wildly in rapid succession at Morrow as he was backing down the driveway. The sound of the firearm and the slugs hitting sheet metal and glass was deafening.
Jake dropped down sideways on bench seat of the truck and stomped on the gas, as the truck shot out of the driveway, across the road, and into a neighbor’s Camaro, setting off its car alarm. Jake sat up and threw the gear shift into forward and tore out of the driveway and down the street, taking out the side of a El Camino as he raced by it.
Banks staggered to his feet, popped out his empty clip, and slammed its replacement home. Looking down at his feet, he saw the lost tranquilizer pistol, but as he reached down to retrieve it, he was suddenly driven back down to the ground.
“You killed him you son of a bitch!” Bank was once more down on his back as the punches pounded down on his face from the ring covered fists of the enraged woman. Blindly reaching up, he jammed the tranq pistol under Angel’s jaw line and fired the dart. She screamed as she grabbed at her throat and rolled over onto the grass. Banks had put enough dope into that dart to bring down Morrow, a steroid monster. Shot into a woman Angel’s size would probably fry her brain and put her into a nursing home and eating Cream of Wheat.
Banks once more staggered to his feet. Neighbors were pouring out the front doors of their houses and the agent had to fire two rounds over the heads of two men to back them away from his car. They turned and hightailed it down the street.
Banks jumped in his car and glanced up at the rearview mirror. There was so much blood across his head and face that he couldn’t even see where it was coming from. He looked like he had been in fire fight, as did the neighborhood. Bodies were sprawled across lawns, cars were destroyed, their alarms screaming as loud as the neighbors. The agent looked backed down and saw a man coming down the street carrying what looked like a shotgun. Banks threw the car in gear and floored it. The man tried to get out of the way but was knocked airborne by the force of the impact and crashed into the windshield, shattering it, before he rolled off the side onto the street.
Jerry kept his foot right down to the metal. He had heard the Cowboy tell Morrow to meet him at the boat. He had to have meant Hendrichs’ boat that was moored over in Long Beach. The fastest way to get there was the route that Bank’s had just used. Over the Vincent Thomas Bridge.
The truck was dying fast. By the time Jake blew through the tollbooth for the bridge, steam was pouring up from the shot out radiator and the engine was screaming like it was running out of oil. A slug must have pierced the engine somewhere and all the idiot lights on the dashboard were lit up. He was a quarter of the way up the incline of the suspension bridge when the engine gave up the ghost. Jake wrestled it over to the side and jumped out. He started running up the bridge.
Car were flying by him as he ran. You could hear the sounds of the police sirens all the way onto the bridge. Sounded like they had called out for reinforcements. Jake was almost to the top of the bridge when he looked back over his shoulder and saw Banks in his sedan breeze through the same tollbooth that he had just ran.
Jake stopped running. He had no gun, his weapon was back at the house with the Cowboy and Angel. He was defenseless out here all alone.
The sedan screeched to a halt. A bloodied and battered Special Agent Banks jumped out of the car and sighted his pistol at Jake. He was holding his side and gasping like a big fish who had just been pulled up onto a dock after a hard fight.
“Put your hands where I can see ‘em, motherfucker.”
“You look like shit, Jerry. Better get to a hospital.”
Jake put his hands on the top rail of the bridge and hoisted himself up, balancing himself by holding onto the one of the huge cable supports.
“I said freeze, asshole,” screamed Banks.
“What are you going to do now, Jerry? If you shoot me and I fall in the bay, how are you and Morgan going to explain how I wound up dead in Long Beach harbor when I’m suppose to be sitting in Leavenworth?”
Jake could see from his vantage point the blue lights of the police cars as they came racing down the turnpike towards the bridge tollbooths. Cops. Prison.
“Morrow, if you turn yourself in, I promise, I can make this all go away. But we don’t have much time. It has to be now.”
“Go fuck yourself, special agent.” Jake stepped off the bridge and disappeared into the night.
“Goddamn you, Morrow.” Banks ran as well as he could in his condition to the side of the bridge and looked over. It was total darkness. He could barely see the water. It must be damn near a two hundred foot fall to the waterline from there.
Banks could hear the screaming of the brakes and tires coming from the police cars, but he didn’t turn around. He kept staring down at the water, looking for any sign of Morrow.
“Let me see some hands! Right now!”
Banks didn’t turn around or raise his hands. “I’m a government agent,’ he said wearily
“I said show me your hands, goddamn it!”
All these years. All these years and it comes to this, thought Jerry Banks. Jumping like Morrow just did flashed through the agent’s mind. Fuck that! He was afraid of water.
Special Agent Jerry Banks spun and raised his pistol.
Scott L. Anderson