Sunday, November 04, 2012

The sixth chapter of my new novel. Thanks for reading, and all comments are welcome. 
Wayne C. Grantham


Mars had placed a couple of cartons with the material evidence, as well as the photos, video discs and reports in the trunk of his car. It included the autopsies, all the ballistics findings and his and Regis’ daily reports. He had made copies of everything and stored it in the rear of the HumVee. He’d also removed the HumVee from the police garage and hidden it a storage garage in which he kept his classic car and a lot of hobby stuff.
He wasn’t sure how long he could stall Horiuchi about the HumVee, but he planned to put him off as long as he could. He still hadn’t given the vehicle a proper going over.
His arm was feeling better, but he knew it wasn’t healed enough to go climbing around in the rear of the HumVee, not to mention sliding underneath. And he didn’t want to trust the job to anyone else, now that Regis was gone. He could end up charged with obstruction of justice, if this term can be said to mean anything these days. He knew that turning over everything would man that neither the Rodriguez, nor the MacDougal murders would ever be solved.
He was pretty certain that he was supposed to have died in the car crash along with Regis. He’d better watch himself.
The normal morning haze had burned off earlier that usual, and Mars drove down to Otay Mesa in the warm morning sun. It would be a nice day for flying.
After Mars checked in at the Otay Border Patrol Base and was directed to the guest lobby, he was met by Lieutenant Eddie Yarborough, the pilot who would be flying patrol that day. They were walking toward the helipad together when Horiuchi came out of a separate door and joined them.
      “Thanks for letting me ride a1ong,” Mars said to Yarborough. “I've been curious about the Border Wall for a long time.”
      “Commander Leeman says you ride along,” Yarborough said without turning his head, “You ride along.”
      “I’ll flap my arms if you need help.” Mars added, trying to answer the hostility with a little sarcasm.
“Lighten up, you guys.” Horiuchi assumed the unlikely role of peacemaker. “Let’s make an easy day of it.” Then, to Mars, “Where’s the package you’re going to give me?”
“Oh, it’s in the trunk of my car.”
“Your car?” Horiuchi stopped Mars by grabbing his arm.
“Ow! Dammit!” Mars pulled away and rubbed his wound. He had left the sling at home to make the day easier to deal with. I was just shot in that arm a few days ago!”
“You were supposed to bring that HumVee!”
“Oh, sorry.” Mars showed remorse; smiled apologetically. “I haven’t gotten it back from that shop. I’ll get it to you.”
Horiuchi tried to keep a lid on his anger. This was all supposed to be over today. He decided to take it up with Captain French as soon as he could.
      Yarborough climbed into the helicopter and took his seat. Mars followed. He couldn’t keep from wincing a bit as he pulled himself up into the rear of the copter. Horiuchi directed him into a seat behind the pilot and showed him the seat belt. He sat in the seat next to Yarborough.
“What's on the agenda for today, Horiuchi?” Mars said as Yarborough started the warm up and went through the preflight checklist. “Find and kill some smugglers?”
      “Special detail,” Horiuchi said simply, watching the preflight operations. This wiseass cop won’t be mouthing off much longer, he thought.
      By way of tying up more loose ends, Horiuchi intended to be the only one who survived this flight. Then, he’d be able to gather all the evidence together and take it up to Sacramento.
      “I have to see this impenetrable Wall,” Mars muttered to himself as the helicopter lifted off.
As they flew over mountains east of Chula Vista, the helicopter leveled out over a forty-five foot concrete wall that extended in a virtual straight line as far as could be seen. On the California side, the wall was smooth and featureless, save for ten-foot high spray-painted graffiti covering most of the lower face. The graffiti gradually became sparser as they flew east, out into the less populate eastern part of San Diego County. On the Freestate side, the wall was artfully painted with realistic-looking flowers, trees and snow-topped mountain peaks, as if to make an artistic statement and disguise an ugly, distasteful edifice. The art too, disappeared as they flew east.
      Horiuchi turned around in his seat to address Mars, shouting over the sound of the engine and the rotors. “President Kennedy started building the Wall back in '23, just before he was killed in the explosion of the West Wing. Construction was suspended until California finished it as far as the Arizona border in ’32.”
      “To keep illegal aliens out, wasn't it?” Mars replied, looking out the open door on the right side of the craft.
      “It was just before Thorsen swindled Baja California from Mexico. Mexicans and other illegals were sneaking into California by the thousands.”
      “It was the terms of the loan, Horiuchi, old pal,” Mars reminded him. Signed and notarized. The Mexican president didn’t have to accept that loan under Thorsen’s terms. Thorsen didn’t twist his arm.”
      “Thorsen stole Baja,” Horiuch said angrily. “President Zorillo’s was backed into a corner. His people were starving.”
      “Because of his policies and those of his predecessors.” Mars completed the thought, wryly. “So, now the Wall is more to keep Californians in, eh?” He laughed.
      “Anyone can leave California anytime,” Horiuchi said even louder than needed over the whine of the engines. “We’re controlling imports of goods detrimental to California's economy.”
      “Your boss’ taxes are so high that nobody can afford to buy any of that stuff.” Mars said though his continuing chuckle, “He certainly wouldn’t want to see an infusion of money into the California economy. Money, that is, that isn’t in his control.”
      At this, Horiuchi unbelted. He got out of his seat and pulled his sidearm. He leveled it on Mars’ chest.
      “Keep your hands on the armrests,” he said.
      “I didn't know you'd take it so personally,” was Mars’ retort.
      “This is where you get off, asshole! Get outa the seat belt.”
      “I figured there was something up your sleeve,” Mars said as he slowly reached for the buckle. “So, it was you who killed Regis. You’re not satisfied that I survived the shooting that killed my partner, so you set this up. A rat like you wouldn’t be satisfied until every loose end was dead.”
      “Keep your hands away from....”
Mars opened his seat belt just as the helicopter veered suddenly to the left, throwing Horiuchi slightly off balance. Mars, producing a he small knife he kept in his waistband, grabbed Horiuchi's wrist while reaching to stab Horiuchi’s throat. Pain shot through his left arm, but he held onto Horiuchi’s right, keeping him from bringing his handgun to bear. The sudden motion of the helicopter caused him to miss with the knife, which slid along Horiuchi’s cheek, cutting a deep gash from his jawbone to near his eye.  Blood spattered on the metal and glass of the cabin. He let the knife go in favor of steadying himself against the edge of the side door opening of the craft.
“God dammit, Yarborough!” Horiuchi yelled. “Keep this fucking thing steady!”
Yarborough was turning to chase an aircraft in the distance in front of the helicopter.
Horiuchi and Mars fought over the pistol while the copter banked hard to the right, throwing the grappling men toward the open door on the left side of the copter. The two men grabbed and held onto whatever they could, while they struggled for control of the handgun.
      Up front, Yarborough continued to maneuver the helicopter while he spoke into his mike, reporting in.
      “Bogey! He’s flying low, in a southerly direction. I'll intercept.”
      He switched frequencies on the radio. “Unidentified aircraft. You're flying in restricted airspace. Please turn to a northerly heading immediately.” He repeated the message. “Unidentified aircraft. Leave the area immediately, in a northerly direction or you will be fired upon. This is the California Border Patrol.”
Yarborough flashed a look at Horiuchi. “Fine time you picked for that! I gotta deal with this guy.”
“I have him visual. He's not turning. He's going for the border. Closing.” Yarborough spun the copter to follow the single-engined plane.
The pilot of the Cessna watched as the pea-green helicopter turned to line up on him. He unbuckled his seat harness and popped the door latch. The moment he saw the rocket light, he threw himself out of his plane, pulling the ripcord of his chute as soon as he cleared the plane. As soon as the chute opened, he began pulling toward the Wall. He was barely clear when his aircraft exploded. The shower of debris and burning avgas showered past him, missing him by mere feet. Fortunately, his chute was undamaged. He pulled as hard as he could to try to land on the Freestate side of the Wall.
While momentarily holding Mars against the side of the copter, Horiuchi saw the flier hit the silk.
      Horiuchi yelled at Yarborough, while still grappling with Mars. “Shoot the bastard out of the air!”
      The pilot of the destroyed aircraft watched while hanging from his parachute. He could see the helicopter bring its weapons to bear on him. He drew a sidearm. He fired several rounds.
      While Yarborough tried to aim the copter's Gatling, the windscreen shattered, fragments flying around inside the helicopter. Horiuchi ducked; Yarborough’s body snapped back in his seat. He bled from several deep lacerations in his upper chest and face. The helicopter tilted and dove out of control. Horiuchi, still holding his sidearm and wrestling with Mars, struggled into the copilot's seat. Grabbing the yoke with his left hand, he tried to control the copter.
      Mars gave Horiuchi room to try to stabilize the aircraft, while keeping his gun pointed in what he hoped was a safe direction. Just as Horiuchi began to stabilize the craft, one of the landing skids raked along the top of the Wall, causing the craft to tilt and slide downward. The copter twisted and the tail rotor hit the Wall, making the helicopter spin even more wildly. The craft slid down the Wall and crashed to the ground, its fall slowed somewhat by the still-spinning main rotor. Sometime during the plunge along the Wall, Mars was thrown from the copter. His fall was broken several times by the branches and boughs of a tree. He finally landed on the ground in some brush a few hundred feet from the copter’s final resting place.
      Horiuchi, cut up and dazed, rolled out of the broken craft onto the rocky ground. Dazed, but not hurt beyond cuts and bruises, he quickly checked Yarborough whose neck was broken, retrieved his handgun. He looked around for Mars’ body and not seeing it, stumbled away, following the Wall toward the west.

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