Border Crossed - Cover

Border Crossed

Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 12

To his credit, Ruiz moved fast. It took him only two hours to have a Mexican army jet do a high-level flyover of the hills, locating a villa in a dip in the side of the large hills west of town, on the western side facing the opposite side of the hills from Juarez. Taylor was a little surprised by the pictures he saw. The location would have been terrible for a forward operating base like the ones he operated out of in Afghanistan. It was basically in a mini valley, with higher ground on all sides. If it was under attack, it would give the assaulting force a massive advantage.

That, however, was probably not the way the cartel saw it. With the way the ground was situated, it was practically invisible unless you climbed up to it, were in the hills above it, or in a plane. The cartel had done a good job camouflaging it from the sky, but not so good that it was invisible, especially if you knew it was there and were looking for it.

Ruiz also managed to get a squad of twenty soldiers to reinforce his tactical team, giving them the firepower to take on whatever the cartel might have in there. Still, it was best not to spook them, so they worked out a roundabout trip up the eastern side of the hills, so they could come down silently from above, setting up their attack.

It was dark as they climbed over the hills on foot, leaving their vehicles on the other side to keep from drawing attention. Ruiz and his men were lagging behind, letting the army guys take the lead, since they all had night vision equipment, allowing them to make their way across the rock-strewn ground without breaking their necks.

Thankfully, Taylor and Whitaker had driven their vehicle, which meant they had their own gear. The last thing Taylor wanted was to have to hang back like Ruiz, while the army guys did all the fighting. They’d probably get the job done, but they were focused on shutting the cartel down, not making sure they got Matthews.

One of the army guys held up a hand, and they spread out. They’d made it to exactly where they planned, looking straight down into the compound, where everyone seemed to be completely oblivious to their presence. There wasn’t a lot of lighting in the compound itself, probably to protect the guys wandering the grounds or up on the walls with night vision, but the villa was lit up like a Christmas tree.

For guys trying to be inconspicuous, they were suddenly not doing a great job of it. Sure, the lights weren’t enough to draw attention if you weren’t in the hills, but if you were above them, the compound stood out like a sore thumb.

“Let’s take them,” Taylor said.

Taylor was itching to get this done, to take care of Matthews once and for all.

“Not yet,” Ruiz said, appearing next to him.

Taylor made a face. He owed Matthews. The man had lied to him, used their friendship, and escaped twice. It was too dark for Ruiz to see his expression, but the crafty police Captain seemed to feel Taylor’s frustration anyway.

“We need to wait,” Ruiz continued, keeping his voice low. “Our friend at the auto shop mentioned a high-level Vargas lieutenant arriving tonight. They’re already on the ropes, scrambling. If we catch this guy, we can dismantle their entire Chihuahua operation. He’ll know the parts of the operation we don’t, and hopefully, his bosses decide this area is too much of a problem and give it up.”

“Someone else will just move in,” Taylor said. “A border area like this, there’s too much money for no one else to try it.”

“True, but that doesn’t mean we just let them do it for free, right?”

“I guess not,” Taylor grumbled.

He knew Whitaker would agree with Ruiz. She had that cop mindset. For Taylor, he had a job to do and he wanted to get it done. But ... this wasn’t his operation. The army guys answered to Ruiz, so if he said to wait, they waited, and there wasn’t much Taylor could do about it.

For the next hour, Taylor watched the compound through the night vision scope on his rifle, observing the activity in the compound below. Armed cartel guards prowled the perimeter, their assault rifles not leaving any questions about what they were up to. He counted at least fifteen that he could see, probably more inside the villa itself. It seemed like a lot, but these guys had probably been down in Juarez and pulled back here as the cartel started shutting things down.

Movement in an upstairs window caught Taylor’s eye. Adjusting his scope, Taylor zoomed in ... and saw a face he knew all too well. Anger boiled up inside Taylor, seeing Matthews this close and having to just sit and wait, but he kept it in check. Barely. Whitaker laid a hand on his arm, a subtle reminder to stay focused.

Inside the villa, Matthews was pacing, gesturing animatedly as he spoke to someone out of sight. A bodyguard, maybe.

“He’s right there,” Taylor said to her. “He’s going to leave while we just sit up here, and we’re going to lose him, just like the last two times.”

“If someone bigger is coming, they’re coming to see Matthews. He’ll still be there, and Ruiz is right. Matthews might be our target, but he isn’t our problem. He was working with the cartel, but they were the ones who built the tunnel and brought in Matthews to protect it. The bombing was done in their name. Shutting them down is just as much our mission as getting Matthews.”

“I guess,” Taylor grumbled.

Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait much longer. Faint at first, and then more noticeable, they heard the sound of rotor blades spinning. Another moment later, a sleek, dark helicopter flew over the top of them, gliding through the night and dropping into the compound. As its engine began winding down and the rotors started to slow, the side door slid open and a man in an immaculate suit stepped out. Behind him came four men outfitted in tactical gear, each carrying an assault rifle.

Taylor glanced at Ruiz and saw him make a subtle hand signal to the army lieutenant. It was time.

Without a word, the soldiers rose and fanned out, moving swiftly down the slope with their weapons up. Taylor and Whitaker followed close behind. Below them, the cartel’s perimeter guards remained oblivious, most of them grouped together and smoking as they talked.

At an unseen signal from the lieutenant, gunfire erupted from the advancing troops. Bright muzzle flashes lit up the darkness as they fired into the unsuspecting cartel members below. Shouts of panic and pain rang out as the guards scrambled for cover, some dropping motionless while others returned fire blindly toward the hills.

Chaos descended on the compound. Men poured out of the villa, adding to the cacophony with wild bursts from their AK-47s. The army squad kept advancing, firing short, controlled bursts that dropped more cartel fighters with every step. Grenades arced through the night air and detonated in thunderous blasts, shattering windows and pockmarking the villa’s stucco walls.

Taylor stayed low, moving from cover to cover alongside Whitaker as they pushed toward the main building. He snapped off shots when targets presented themselves, but otherwise let the Mexican soldiers take the lead.

They reached the perimeter wall and stacked up next to a wrought-iron gate. On the lieutenant’s signal, two soldiers stepped forward and blew it open with a breaching charge. The soldiers went first, pouring through the breach, with Taylor and Whitaker following close behind, ahead of Ruiz and his policemen.

Inside, cartel gunmen were positioned behind parked vehicles and concrete barriers, trying to stem the incoming tide. The soldiers returned their fire, but with more discipline.

Taylor snapped off two quick shots, dropping a cartel fighter who leaned out a little too far from his cover. Soldiers flanked left and right, clearing out makeshift firing positions.

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