Two weather beaten buildings, one a small gray house, the other a tin shed, sat dark and silent on the dry plain. In the
distance, several oil derricks stood like discarded skeletons against the morning sky. Medina waited patiently in his dark
pick-up truck parked in front of the battered shed. He wore his cowboy hat pulled down on his forehead and his dark eyes
scanned the distance as he watched for the American, Kip Cordon. Cordon was an American with big plans. Medina
would have to watch his step with this man because, if Cordon was not successful, he would have to move quickly to protect
his place with Paluto Limon.
Finally, a blue car drove towards the pick-up then stopped alongside it. Medina rolled down his dusty window and
looked down at the car's shaded glass window. As he watched, the window lowered slowly, revealing a blond man in a plaid
shirt sitting at the wheel of the car.
"You talk to the others?" Cordon asked and Medina nodded. "Are they with me?"
"You kill Limon and they have no choice," Medina answered matter-of-factly.
"I love free enterprise," Cordon said with a laugh. "I'll see you at noon." After Cordon slowly closed his window,
Medina rolled up his window and both cars drove away in opposite directions.
Later, Medina was part of a group of men gathered around the front of the shed. A few moments before, a limousine had
arrived and they were watching it expectantly. One of the men walked over to the car and opened the door while Medina
quietly stood nearby. A dark-haired man adjusted his sunglasses as he eased out of the car then straightened his white silk
sport coat. He casually walked around the front of the car to the other side where Kip Cordon was waiting.
"Cordon?" the man in the white coat asked as they shook hands.
"Limon?" the blond man asked in return before they walked away from the car and towards the shed.
"Let's look at the merchandise," Cordon said and Limon opened the door for them to enter. The hinges squeaked in
protest as the door closed behind them with a bang.
The only light inside the building was from the sunlight that filtered through the gaps between the metal slats that made
up the walls of the shed. They had only gone a few steps when Limon put his arm around Cordon's neck and jerked Cordon
back against him.
"That's how easy it is for me to kill you, Cordon," Limon warned as he touched the barrel of his gun to Cordon's temple.
"I know you're stirring something up with my men. I warn you, now is not the time." He pushed Cordon away from him
roughly and Cordon stumbled slightly before falling against a wooden crate.
"Open it," Limon ordered. Cordon casually walked around to the other side of the crate and as he lifted the lid, Limon
sauntered over to stand at the end of the crate. Limon looked down at the contents as Cordon took a military rifle out of the
box and examined it.
"You can't get stuff like that anywhere," Limon boasted as he turned to Cordon and moved closer to him.
"Right now, you need my merchandise and I need you to move it." Limon continued as he pointed his gun at Cordon's
side, "and when your eyes and ears get as sharp as your mouth then you can try again." Limon lowered his gun and slipped
it in his belt then turned to look back into the crate. "You got it, muchacho?"
A sound at his side caused him to look down and he saw the gun in Cordon's hand now pointing at him.
Outside, the group of men waited silently for Cordon and Limon to emerge, but at the sound of two gunshots, they
began to move towards the door. Before any of them could reach the door, however, it opened and Cordon walked out,
alone. He looked directly at Medina.
"You got a problem with that?" he asked.
"No," Medina said as he shook his head, "but Sanchez might."
"Sanchez's got his own problems," Cordon said then laughed and walked away from the silent group.
The siren stopped as the blue and white police car pulled up to the house in a crowded little neighborhood where
several other police vehicles were already parked. The sound of a helicopter-circling overhead covered the conversations of
both the police and curious onlookers. From another direction a dusty jeep also drove up and stopped a short way down the
block. A tall, slim man wearing cowboy boots, jeans, a western style, tan sports coat and a Stetson stepped out of the car. He
slipped off his sunglasses as he walked up to the scene and greeted a man in a blue suit. They talked for a moment and then
the cowboy walked up to the front of the house that was obviously the center of all the commotion.
Inside, a dark-haired woman was carefully looking around a small room. As she stood there, a uniformed officer walked
up behind her.
"Lt. Beaumont," he said and when she turned to look at him, he handed her a piece of paper.
"I need more," she told him after she read it. He nodded and left the room.
In the front room of the house, the man in the cowboy hat watched as two men zipped up a body bag.
"All right, I think we're pretty close to all done here," one of them said as they picked up the body.
"Excuse me, coming through," the other said as they moved towards the front door. "Give us a little space to work,
As the body was removed, the man in the cowboy hat turned and went through a door to his right. As he entered the
room, he came up behind Lt. Beaumont as she was slipping the paper the officer had given her inside her jacket pocket.
"Long time, no see, Joanne, " he said. She smiled at the sound of his voice then turned around to face him. Joanne
Beaumont and Levon Lundy had been partners for a while when they were first out of the academy. Time had taken them
different directions and, even though they no longer saw each other on a daily basis, their friendship had remained.
"Hey, Lundy," she answered happily.
"Congratulations on making Lieutenant."
"I always knew you had it in you."
"Levon, what are you doin' here?" A trace of good-natured accusation colored her voice as she looked at her former
"I was in the neighborhood. Dropped by to see about this homicide," he explained nonchalantly.
"Homicide? This is Major Crime," she corrected.
"Looks like a dead body in that bag to me, Joanne."
"Yep. Two of the Sanchez brothers. Part of Paluto Limon's gang."
"You folks ain't caught Limon yet?" Levon teased as an older man in a white short-sleeved shirt walked up behind him.
"Ah, creep's still pushing guns, arms, murder," the man explained. "All comes under Major Crime." He then stepped
aside to let two uniformed officers come in to pick up the body.
"How's it goin', Lundy?" he asked as the officers removed the body.
"Fair to middlin, Captain. How 'bout yourself?"
"Too many obituaries before breakfast."
Levon crossed his arms and stepped back slightly so he could look at both the Captain and the Lieutenant.
"Señor Limon cleanin' house, is he?" he asked.
"Well, if he is," the Lieutenant answered, "he's sure goin' about it in a strange way."
"Well, their big brother's Limon's right hand man," the Captain explained. "If what I hear is true, it'd be a big mistake to
mess with Mano Sanchez."
Outside, across the street, a bearded man safely watched what was going on from inside a little white house.
"Who could have done this?' the man demanded angrily as he moved the lace curtain aside in order to see more clearly.
"Sanchez, your brothers are dead," a man standing beside him explained, "You can't help them. Come on, Manos,
better get out'a here."
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
A casket slowly rolled along the converyor, through the opening and into the receiving area as it neared the end of its
journey. The young man standing by the conveyor stopped the casket before it moved past him. Checking the packages that
came off the planes was a fairly unexciting job, but the hours were right and he actually liked wearing the simple uniform.
"Well, now, who do we have here?" he said.
An older man sitting at a desk on the other side of the small room answered, "I don't know, but I'd check the tag." While
his younger co-worker was looking for excitement, he was looking towards retirement and wanted his final days to be as
uneventful as possible. The young man took the slip of paper from the top of the casket and read it.
"Cordon," he said.
"Cordon?" The older man got up and began flipping through the papers on the clipboard he was holding. "Yep, I got it
here," he said as he walked over to stand next to the young man. "Body of Kip Cordon," he read off the paper. "His business
partner, Mike Hail, is here to claim him."
"Wanna open it up?" the younger man asked.
"Boy, if my Spanish reads right, this body has been rotting in the sun for three weeks."
"Could be a shipment of cocaine."
"Yep, could be cocaine, but if you open this box and it ain't cocaine in there, this place is gonna stink for a month."
The young man thought for a moment before he took the tag, stamped it and returned it to its place on the top of the
"Better luck next time, pal," he said. He gave it a shove and the casket moved through the opening on the other side of
the room and reappeared outside the building. Two men in suits reached for the casket as it moved towards them. They
pulled it off the conveyor and pushed it into the waiting hearse.
"We're real sorry to hear about your partner, Mr. Hail," one of the men said to another man who stood off to one side,
"Them's the breaks," he said as they closed the hearse and got into the car. Mike Hail watched the casket in the back
window as the hearse drove away.
It started out as a pleasant evening. Two young couples having dinner together in a nice restaurant, laughing, talking,
enjoying the evening as well as each other's company. Both of the men were Chicago police officers and they were not
partners, they were also friends.
"Hey, want some of this?" the younger man asked the girl next to him as he held his fork up in front of her. She smiled
slowly took the bite as she looked into his eyes and nodded in agreement. He watched her for a second; then broke eye
contact to look back at the other couple.
"Hey, I want to make something clear here," he said seriously. "This is not a good Parmesan, this is great Parmesan."
"Does he ever lighten up?" the other girl asked as they laughed at his mock seriousness.
"Sure," his partner said, "I think I even remember him smiling once." They all laughed again as the younger man
for a moment. When he turned back to face the group he was wearing eyeglasses with a large fake nose
"We're undercover tonight, right?" he asked.
"Incognito," his partner's girlfriend added as their laughter continued.
He abrupty stopped smiling and removed the disguise, however, when he saw a man in a dark suit enter the
partner turned to see what he was looking at and they both watched as the man walked right past the maitre d'
the restaurant then exited through the door leading to the kitchen.
"Who's that?" one of the girls asked.
"Somebody we've been looking for," he answered. He had tossed the fake glasses on the table and the mood had
dissipated. The two girls groaned as both men stood up, their attention now focused on the man who just
the kitchen door.
"Here, get a cab," the young man said as he handed his girlfriend some money, "get out'a here."
"Be careful, Joey," she said as they got ready to leave.
The two officers left the table and followed the man. They entered the kitchen with their guns drawn and walked past
people working there. The workers did not stop what they were doing and almost seemed to take no notice of the two
they moved towards a short hallway. As the two men entered the hall, they saw the man they were following go
door near the end of the hall.
"I'll radio backup," Joey said as they moved down the hall.
"Fine, but he's a spider, you want him to slip through the cracks?" They stopped at the door, their backs against the
their guns ready.
"There could be eighteen guys in there," Joey protested. "I'm calling backup."
Static from the radio Joey was trying to use alerted the men inside the room. Someone opened the door from the other
and immediately jumped aside when he saw Joey's partner raise his gun.
"Back up! Police!" Joey's partner ordered as the four men standing around a small table across the room looked over
door. One man raised his hands and another ducked down under the table. The two men standing on the backside of
table turned to the shelves behind them for cover, but one of them fired his gun as he moved and Joey's partner fell back
against the wall. As his partner slid to the floor, Joey jumped into the room holding a gun in each hand. The man then shot at
Joey and he returned fire. As the man then fell back, knocking over a shelf unit, Joey dived to the floor. His right shoulder hit
the floor as another man stepped from behind a stack of boxes to take aim at Joey. By then, Joey had already shifted position
and, laying on his back, shot the man who was thrown back against the stack of boxes. Joey once again shifted position
lay on his stomach and, keeping his elbows on the floor, took aim at a man hiding behind the shelf unit in the corner.
"No way out, Rick," he yelled.
"Eat your teeth, Joey," the man yelled back as he moved from behind the unit and fired at Joey. Joey shot back and the
fell to the floor. Joey stood up angrily, adrenaline causing him to take short, deep breaths.
"Who's next?" he yelled. "Come on, who's next?" He looked quickly around the room, holding his guns ready for
"Get on the floor!" he ordered. "Come on, get on the floor!" The man who still had his hands up and the man who had
been crouched at the edge of the table slowly moved to lay face down on the floor. Keeping his eyes and his guns on the
on the floor, Joey carefully stepped back to check on his partner. He returned one of his guns to its holster as he
door and looked down at his partner. He stepped over to his partner's side and crouched down next to him.
"Szabo?" he said as he put his hand on his partner's shoulder.
"Knew we could handle it," his partner said quietly. It was the last thing he said.
The office was quiet and dimly lit. The men at their desks were trying to look busy, but their attention was on the men in
their Lieutenant's office. Unfortunately, the door was closed so they could only imagine what was being said.
"Now, let's just say that what happened, happened," the Lieutenant was telling Joey patiently, "but before it bounces
back on us with cops getting hurt and so forth…." He paused as he sat behind his desk, trying to reason with the young
officer standing stiffly in front of him. Joey looked straight ahead as he listened to the older man.
"… someone made some phone calls and they asked for some favors," he continued while a third man sat to one side,
watching thoughtfully. "Now before it goes sour on all of us, we're gonna transfer you out'a here."
Joey reluctantly laid his badge on the Lieutenant's desk.
"We're gonna send you to Houston."
"No way, Lieutenant," Joey protested.
"Look, it's not forever now."
"Not without a grievance here."
"Listen to me. It's a reciprocal agreement we have with the HPD ….."
"Not without an appeal."
"……you'll still be a cop."
"In 5 or 6 months it'll play itself out," the third man said, trying to pacify the young officer.
"Now what are you talking about, Alderman, huh?" Joey complained. "Why don't you just burn the constitution while
you're at it? What did I do?" The Lieutenant got up and walked around to the front of his desk.
"Just go, Joey," he said as he moved away from Joey to open the door.
"What did I do?" Joey asked quietly as he left the office.
"You'll see, it'll play itself out. You'll see," he said as he closed the door.
Joey walked over to his desk and sat down. For a while he stared straight ahead, but after a moment, he glanced over
at his partner's empty desk.
"Hey, LaFiamma," one of the other officers said, "it wasn't your fault."
Joey looked over at him somberly, "The hell it wasn't."
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
The Chicago skyline stood proudly against the morning sky as Joey jogged on the street running along side the water.
Usually, jogging helped clear his thoughts but today the thought of having to leave Chicago was laying heavy on his mind. A
limousine slowly pulled up next to him as he ran. He only glanced over momentarily as the limousine began to keep pace
with him. The back window opened slowly revealing an impeccably dressed, dark haired man in the back seat.
"Joey," the dark haired man called. "Hold it a minute, Joey. I want to talk with you." Joey turned from the car without
responding and ran across the sidewalk away from the street. As he stepped onto the grass, he put his hands in his jacket
pockets and slowed to a walk. The man inside the limo instructed his driver to pull over and the limo came to a stop at the
curb. Joey was slowly walking down the other side of the small hill as he heard the limousine door close. He glanced back
but didn't stop. He knew the man would follow so when he reached the bottom of the hill he stopped to let him catch up to
"Look," the man said after he was standing next to Joey, "nobody likes to leave home. Okay?"
"Who the hell told you?"
"What's it matter? A guy can't have friends on the force?"
"Depends on who he is, right?" Joey said as he turned and jumped down the short step from the bottom of the
embankment on to the sidewalk.
"Hey, I pay taxes. I'm a businessman," the man said. When Joey turned to walk away, the man jumped down and fell
into step next to Joey.
"Yeah, right. Like the Bears are semi-pro." They walked in silence for a while then Joey looked over at the man.
"Uncle Mikey, is there something you can do about this situation?"
"I sent flowers to his funeral, your partner, Szabo's, but more…." his uncle explained as he reached up and put his hand
on Joey's shoulder. "This is bad what you got yourself into."
"What about Rick? He was dealing narcotics. Uncle Mikey, he shot a cop."
"He's under somebody's wing. Somebody heavy. You got a chance to get out'a this town. You wanna take advantage
of it. Understand?" They stopped walking and turned to face each other somberly.
"So that's the way it is, huh?"
"They got somebody out looking for you," his uncle said quietly. "I'm not supposed to know about it. You wanna watch
"Yeah." Joey reached over and hugged his uncle.
"Come on, I take you back," he offered as they walked together back to the limousine.
Kip Cordon was lying leisurely on black satin sheets in the quiet motel room. An attractive, dark haired woman moved
from the other side of the room to sit on the side of the bed next to him. He smiled at her then reached over to pull her close
to him and they kissed.
"You know, you're pretty good for a dead man," she teased.
"Kip Cordon's the richest dang ghost you've ever seen," he boasted as she sat up and began straightening her clothes,
preparing to leave.
"What'd ya do?" she asked nonchalantly as she buttoned her jacket. "Find some gold down there in Mexico?"
"Kinda. Moving something big and somebody bigger is gonna buy it."
"Well, you sound like you got yourself a new business."
"Just call it a hostile takeover of Paluto Limon's empire," he said as he rolled off the bed.
"You gonna miss being a private detective?" she asked as she put on earrings. He got up from the bed and walked over
to a window where he pulled the curtain aside slightly so he could look outside.
"Sure, about as much as I'm gonna miss being partners with that pea-brained husband of yours." He turned away from
the window to look at her.
"What did the great Mike Hail have to say when he found out I was dead?" he asked as he walked away from the window
and stood in front of her
"Well, Mike and I talk about as much as we ……uh ..… you know." She smiled coyly and looked up at him. He smiled
back then flopped down on the bed behind her and leaned on his elbow. She turned to face him and put her arm around him
as he reached up and put his arm across her shoulders.
"Now you listen to me, Rose Ellen. I'm gonna have a lot of money real soon and I'm gonna get out'a this place. I'll have
an island, a string of 'em, maybe, and I wanna take somebody with me. I need to take somebody I can trust. Do you
understand?" He slowly reached up and laced his fingers through the hair on the back of her head then pulled her head back.
"If you ever tell anybody that I'm alive, then you'll be dead." She gasped as he tightened his hold, pulling her face closer to
his, "… and I don't mean the kind of dead I am." The fact that Kip Cordon never stopped smiling as he spoke made the
warning ever more ominous.
She grimaced as he pushed her face to his then kissed her roughly on the cheek.
Outside, the motel was being watched. Mike Hail was parked across the street and though his binoculars he could read
the little red car's license plate, "ROSE LN". As he watched, the door to the room opened and Rose Ellen appeared in the
doorway. The man with her stayed just inside the door so Hail could not see his face.
"That your idea of going shopping, Rose Ellen" he said as a van pulled up to the motel and momentarily blocked his line
of vision. When the van pulled away, both Rose Ellen and Kip Cordon had left the motel room. Kip Cordon was in his car so
Mike Hail still had not seen his face and Rose Ellen was leaning into the driver's side window talking to him. Rose Ellen
straightened up and watched Cordon back away from the motel then drive away before getting into her car.
No longer interested in Rose Ellen, Mike Hail started the engine and proceeded to follow Kip Cordon's car. Cordon
drove casually a few blocks then turned right. Mike Hail followed easily at a distance. He watched the other car ease
carefully into the city traffic and continue straight for a couple minutes. Suddenly Cordon's car gained speed and began to
weave between other cars. Mike Hail continued to follow, weaving between the cars that had skidded to a stop after Cordon
had cut them off, and drove around them. Then Cordon made a sharp right turn from a middle lane cutting off another car that
had to swerve to a stop to avoid hitting him. Mike Hail drove around the stopped car and pushed the accelerator forcing his
car to catch up with Cordon's. As they approached a bridge, Mike Hail closed the distance between the two cars and
eventually was able to pull up along side the other car. He was looking over at the tinted windows when the driver's window
opened and Mike Hail finally got a look at who was driving.
"Cordon! You bastard! You're alive!" he yelled. Kip Cordon smiled and casually aimed a gun out the window.
"Yeah, but you're not," he said as he pulled the trigger. Mike Hail slumped across the steering wheel, his foot still on
the accelerator. His car swerved to the left, crossing oncoming traffic, and went off the side of a bridge, falling into the water
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
As usual, things were busy at Chicken's restaurant. Chicken was the owner of the restaurant as well as the recipe for,
possibly, the best barbecue in the area. He was walking around the restaurant, coffee pot in hand, filling empty coffee cups
and greeting his customers, most of whom he knew by name. He walked behind the counter and spoke to couple more
customers before stopping in front of Sgt. Lundy.
"More coffee, Levon?" he asked.
"I ain't got time, Chicken. McLaren wants me to pick up somebody at the airport."
"You workin' on that Sanchez murder?"
"Nah, Lt. Beaumont's folks are handling that."
"Lieutenant? That wouldn't be Joanne Beaumont?" Chicken laughed as he thought about Levon's former partner.
"That Joanne sure was smart and the hardest workin' white woman I ever seen."
"Yeah, well, right about now she's hard workin' looking for Mano Sanchez."
"Bad, dude," Chicken said, suddenly serious.
"You know 'em?"
"Yeah, he's been in here a couple times. I always wanted to arm wrestle him."
"Well, when we pick him up, I'll be sure to arrange a match for you downtown." Levon raised his arm, keeping his elbow
on the counter, and Chicken grasped his hand.
"You got a deal."
"Take it easy, Chicken," he said as he put on his hat and left the restaurant.
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
The plane from Chicago touched down on time bringing a disgruntled young police officer to Houston. The pilot kindly
warned the passengers that the local temperature was 94 degrees and the humidity was 90 percent. As the plane rolled up to
the gate, Levon was walking through the busy airport.
"Mr. Lundy, White Courtesy Telephone. Mr. Levon Lundy, White Courtesy Telephone."
When he heard the page, Levon went directly to an information counter and picked up the receiver to the white phone
sitting there. A young woman working behind the counter watched him as he took the call.
"Lundy here … …," he said into the receiver. "Yes, Ma'am, his plane's just come in … … Yes, ma'am, … I can take him
anywhere you like … … Yes, ma'am, … we'll be there real soon." He didn't hang up the phone, he just pushed the button to
disconnect the call.
"THE Levon Lundy?" the young woman asked. He looked over at her and smiled.
"Uh, huh. What time do you get off work?" he asked. She smiled back and returned her attention to her work.
"Airport paging." The voice at the other end of the phone caused Levon to return his attention to the task at hand.
"Yeah, I want to page someone, please."
Joe LaFiamma was frowning angrily as he walked down the concourse with his hands in the pockets of the coat that
was necessary when he left Chicago.
"Passenger LaFiamma, you can meet your party in the baggage claim area. Passenger LaFiamma, to the baggage claim
He looked up impatiently, and then hurried to the baggage claim area where Levon was patiently waiting. Joe walked
up behind the Texan and stopped.
"You waiting for me?" he said abruptly. Levon turned around and smiled.
"How ya doin'," he said and extended his hand. "Levon Lundy, Houston police."
"Don't ever broadcast my name again. Understand?" Joe ordered then, ignoring Levon's outstretched hand, walked
past him to retrieve his suitcase. Levon's smile vanished as he turned to watch him.
"If it was mine, I wouldn't like it neither," he replied coldly. "You might wanna change it to something more American."
Joe stared at Levon stonily as he grabbed his bag then followed Levon out of the airport.
Levon's dusty gray jeep was waiting just outside, right behind a shiny white Rolls Royce and a sleek, red sports car. He
walked around to the driver's side and pulled the cardboard sunshade from the front windshield while Joe put his bag and
coat in the back.
"Hey, is that thing really necessary," Joe asked impatiently.
"Nope, don't make no difference," Levon answered calmly as he folded the sunshade then got into the jeep. As Joe got
in, Levon turned on the radio.
"Are you serious?" Joe asked at the sound of a country-western song. "Do we have to listen to that?"
"Helps me think," Levon explained as he pulled away from the curb and drove out of the airport.
"Where we going?" Joe asked after a while.
"Yonder," Joe repeated as he looked away in disgust. "Figures."
The air was warm as they drove through the city. Joe took little notice of the surroundings, mostly staring straight
ahead. A traffic officer stopped them as they came off the freeway. Joe watched with increasing impatience as a horse
drawn wagon and then several riders on horseback passed in front of them.
Joe looked over at Levon as if to ask "Is this for real?"
"Welcome to Texas." Levon replied with a satisfied smile.
While Joe and Levon sparred, another visitor arrived in Houston. He walked over to a white convertible in the covered
parking lot and removed the hidden key from the wheel well then dropped his bag in the back seat and got into the car. A
brown envelope was sitting on the passenger seat. The man picked it up and looked around carefully before opening it and
taking out the contents. The envelope contained a revolver and an 8 x 10 picture of Sgt. Joe LaFiamma.
Levon drove directly to a crime scene already crowded with various police vehicles. As he and Joe got out of the jeep,
they could see a car being pulled from the water. Joe followed Levon as he walked up to an unmarked car where an
attractive woman in a tailored suit and a man were standing watching the proceedings.
"Here he is, Ma'am," Levon said, then intrduced her to Joe. "Lt. McLaren, commanding officer."
"LaFiamma," she said as she shook hands with Joe, "glad to have you with us."
"Lieutenant," he responded. She watched the crane for a moment as it set the car on the ground before giving her full
attention to Joe.
"Okay, I'll witness it now," she said. The man who was standing next to her stepped in front of Joe.
"Raise your right hand, son," the man instructed. "Do you solemnly swear to uphold the laws of the sovereign state of
Texas and to enforce those laws without regard for life or limb to the best of you ability, so help you God?"
"Yeah, sure," Joe replied. The man moved away and the Lieutenant stepped closer to Joe.
"These are yours. Lease, keys, and your shield," she said as she handed him the items. "Welcome. Good Luck."
The Lieutenant then turned her attention to Levon who had been nonchalantly leaning against the hood of the car.
"I'll want a work up on this situation here," she told him.
"Do we know who's vehicle it is?" he asked.
"Mike Hail. I think you'll find him inside it. You know, it might be interesting to reference this against the Cordon
"Yes, Ma'am" She left and Joe stepped up to stand next to Levon.
"What's going on here?" Joe asked. "Are we working together? Is that what's happening?"
"That's what it looks like, isn't it," Levon answered. Joe turned away and started to walk over to the car that had been
pulled out of the water.
"LaFiamma!" Joe stopped and turned to look back at Levon.
"Leave the details to them boys over there. They'll tell us what we got."
"That's not the way I work," he insisted and continued over to the car, already on the job.
"Lord have mercy," Levon said with annoyance as he straightened up and reluctantly followed him.
Joe had reached the passenger side of the car and was looking inside while a uniformed officer stood next to him.
"Find any make on this guy?" Joe asked the officer.
"Yes sir. His name was Mike Hail. He was a private investigator."
"Driving this?" Joe scoffed as he began to walk around to the front of the car.
"Boy's from out'a state," Levon explained to the young officer as he leaned back against the hood of the car and
crossed his arms.
"You know him? Where he lived?" Joe asked as he walked past Levon to the driver's side of the car.
"I heard of him, that's all."
"What's this Cordon killing?" Joe looked inside the driver's side window at the body.
"Hail's partner. I recall he bought the farm some time last June. That's all I know."
"Cause of death?" Joe asked as he lifted the man's arm, noticing the expensive watch on his wrist.
"Looks like a single large caliber slug," an officer told him. Joe walked back to the front of the car to confront Levon.
"P.I. Drives a hundred thousand dollar car. His partner dies. He dies. And you can't tell me nothing about it."
"Cordon died in Mexico," Levon explained. "We never had no file on it here. And this is Texas. There's a lot of money
here. You want me to know the stats on every man who owns a hundred thousand dollar automobile? Come visit me in 1999,
I'll have it memorized by then." Levon snickered and, as he walked away, a car backfired causing Joe to duck down. Levon
turned around and smiled at Joe's reaction.
"Just a car backfiring, LaFiamma. You scared a' somethin', maybe you ought'a tote a gun."
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
Kip Cordon walked into the dark room and grabbed a chair. He picked it up and dropped it down loudly before sitting down next to the bed where a man and woman were sleeping. Medina turned to look at Cordon.
"I came over as soon as I got the bad news," Cordon said calmly.
"What bad news?" Medina asked.
"That Mano Sanchez is still out there 'cause you screwed up."
"Get out'a here," Medina told the girl next to him, "viasay." She got out of the bed and left the room while he reached over and picked up a pack ofcigarettes from the nightstand. He took one out, lit it and then slowly blew out the smoke without looking at Cordon.
"Did I make a mistake … or wasn't I supposed to get Limon and you care of Sanchez?" Cordon asked. "See, when I go after somebody they get dead. Stop turning away from me like a scared woman and meet my eyes," he demanded angrily and Medina reluctantly turned to look at him.
"Mano's car was parked out front," Medina explained. "My men went in and blasted and leveled everything that moved in that house."
"And Manos wasn't in there," Cordon finished. Medina turned away again.
"Look, you got one week to find Sanchez," Cordon said as he stood up and turned to leave.
"Or what?" Medina asked. Cordon stopped for a moment then turned around to look at the man once more.
"You're a smart boy," he said with a smile. "You figure it out."
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
"Where we headed now, Lundy?" Joe asked impatiently as they drove through an upscale residential neighborhood.
He hardly noticed the neat, brick sidewalk lined with trees in the center of the boulevard.
"I figure'd we'd start at Hail's house and talk to his wife."
"Let me get this straight. First Hail's partner, Cordon, dies and then Hail dies."
"That's about the size of it."
"They must'a been into something big"
"Sounds like it, doesn't it."
Levon pulled up into the driveway of a large white house with bushes over laden with flowers along the front. They
walked side by side up the walkway, neither going to let the other be the first to the door. Joe rang the doorbell and then
Levon knocked. They glanced at each other for a moment then took out their badges as they waited.
"Houston police," Levon explained as both he and Joey showed their badges to the clean cut, attractive young man who
answered the door. "Ms. Hail in?"
"You wanna come back later on," the young man asked with just a trace of annoyance. "The newspapers called. She
took it kinda hard."
"We'll wait," Joe said as he pushed past the young man and entered the house.
"Well, wait in here," young man told him then stepped aside to let Levon follow.
Joe and Levon walked into a nice front room and looked around as the young man walked past the room. The top of the
piano sitting near the window was covered with photographs all in different frames.
"Didn't nobody ever teach you to show some respect for a grieving widow," Lundy asked as he removed his hat and set
it down next to the pictures.
"First I want to know she is grieving," Joe said as he glanced at a picture of Rose Ellen Hail, "then I'll show her respect."
Levon picked up a picture of Mike Hail and Kip Cordon. "Um, huh. So that's Cordon, huh," he murmured quietly. He set
the picture down just before the young man returned.
"She's resting right now and I'm not gonna wake her up," the young man informed them.
"How long have the Hail's been married?" Joe asked.
"I don't know."
"You know anybody'd want to kill Mike Hail?" Levon asked.
"No." Levon took a deep breath and reached for his hat as Joe walked over to face the young man.
"Well, house boy," Joe asked sarcastically, "tell me what you know about Kip Cordon's death."
"I can tell you that the front door is right there," the young man goaded. Levon quickly put his hat on and, clearing his
throat, walked over to Joe.
"What do you do for Ms. Hail here, huh?" Joe demanded as Levon put his hands on Joe's shoulders to guide him away
from the impending confrontation and towards the front door.
"Uh, much obliged to you." Levon offered quickly as they walked through the doorway.
"Sure got a way with folks, LaFiamma," Levon commented after the young man had closed the door behind them.
Neither Joe nor Levon took notice of the white car that slowly drove by the house as they returned to the jeep.
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
Cordon's reluctant partner, Medina, was kneeling in front of the candles, his hands folded in prayer, a worried look on his
face, when a hand on his shoulder interrupted his meditation.
"Medina, comme es tas?" Medina knew the voice. He turned his head to look up at the man behind him.
"Sanchez," he said.
"I hope you are praying for the man that killed my brothers. I wanna know why they were slaughtered."
"I don't know anything about it."
"You tell Limon I wanna meet him here tomorrow night. Aqui, mañana."
First threatened by Cordon and now Sanchez, Medina was not comfortable with his new business arrangement.
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
"So, where're we headed?" Joe asked Levon after they had left the home of Mike and Rose Ellen Hail.
"We're going to the office of them two dead private investigators, Cordon and Hail, LaFiamma."
"I wanna make something clear," Joe said impatiently. "It's not Laa-Fee-Amma," he said, exaggerating the way Lundy
pronounced his name. "It's Lah-Fi-Aamma. LaFiamma."
"It must mean something in Italian, huh?"
"Can you hear the difference?" Joe held his ear lobe as he continued. "It means 'the flame'. The flame?"
"Boy, you tweak your ear like that in this town, you're gonna draw some kind of fire, sure enough," Levon said with a
The argument continued as they entered the elevator in the office building where Cordon and Hail's office was located.
"The name Lundy, I suppose that means something?" Joe asked.
"Yeah, it was gonna be the eighth day of the week," Levon answered. "Come after Sunday ... Friday, Saturday, Sunday,
Lundy. He didn't need it though."
"I assume you're taking about God?" The elevator doors opened and Lundy stepped out of the elevator into the
reception area of Cordon and Hail's office.
"Yeah," he said absently, as he looked around the empty room, "so he threw it out." As Joe followed Levon out of the
elevator, they heard the sound of a heated discussion and quickly moved to the closed doors on their right. Joe stopped
Levon from entering.
"I go through the doors first," Joe insisted as he opened the door.
"Be my guest," Levon acquiesced with an amused smile then followed him into the office.
The office was large and bright. A young Asian woman stood in front of a large desk surrounded by six or seven men
who seemed to be all taking at once.
"You folks belong here?" Levon asked. They all stopped talking and turned to look at the detectives.
"Sawatdee krup," Joe said as he put his hands together and greeted them in their own language while bowing slightly.
"Where'd you learn that Thai talk?" Levon asked Joe as the group began to talk among themselves once again.
"There's lot you don't know about me, Lundy," Joe answered quietly as he showed his badge to the group. The young
woman visibly relaxed and smiled.
"My cousins," she explained, "they have come to protect me when I tell them what happen to Mr. Hail, yes."
"I understand," Joe said as he and Levon walked over to group. "We're trying to find out who killed him. Did Mr. Hail
keep a day book .. a calendar .. a record of people he met with?"
"Mr. Hail no keep notes," she explained. "Everything he carry inside his head."
"Can you tell us what case he was working on?"
"Always he was looking for a man who kill his partner, Mr. Cordon."
"He find out who that was?" Levon asked.
"I not know. Also, there was the infidelity."
"You mean adultery?" Joe asked.
"Yes, adultery case."
"Cordon keep records … files?" Levon asked.
"Yes, I can send them to you."
"Mr. Cordon and Mr. Hail, they no work the same," she said slowly. "Mr. Cordon not like Mr. Hail, and Mr. Hail not like Mr.
"Right. They were different?" Levon asked.
"No. How do I say so you will know?" She crossed her arms in front of her with her fists clenched. "Mr. Cordon and Mr. Hail always angry at each other."
Joe and Levon both looked at each other as they each came to their own conclusion.
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
Lt. McLaren looked up from what she was working on and sighed as she looked out at the people working outside her
office. She took notice of Sgt. Lundy who was sitting sideways at his desk, staring thoughtfully into space while he turned a
pencil over and over in his hands.
"Lundy?" she called. He looked over at her and she indicated with a backward nod of her head for him to come to her
office. He left his desk and walked over to her door where he stopped and leaned back with his shoulder up against the door
"How was your day?"
"Same as any other. 12 hours long, 'bout 18 inches wide." Levon spoke quietly, the stress of a long day evident in his
"You know what I mean," she said as she leaned back in her chair. "What do you think?" He thought for a moment
"What I think? I think he talks funny, acts funny, dresses funny. But I don't care, cause I don't look at him. I think he's
gonna last about 3 days. But you know what? That don't make no never mind, I'm gonna do my job." She smiled slightly and
paused a moment before answering him.
"About a week ago he lost his partner. They were at the door … LaFiamma held back … a piece of equipment messed
up … the partner died. He blames himself. He wants to atone, so he wants to do it all."
"Makes it kinda hard to relate to him, ma'am."
"Then I suggest you try to express your grievance in a manner you think he'll understand." She nodded slightly then
looked down at her desk, returning to her work.
"Yes, ma'am," Levon said and returned to his.
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
The stereo was going full blast while Joe was doing pushups so he barely heard the knock at the door through the
"LaFiamma?" a female voice called from the other side of the door.
"Yeah," he answered and the Lieutenant entered his apartment.
"Ah, Lieutenant," he said without stopping, "the highways are insane, it's too damn hot and, if there're any good Italian
restaurants in this damn town …" He paused and looked over at the Lieutenant, his eyes traveling from the toe of her high
heels to her eyes. She stood with her arms crossed, holding a slim briefcase, as she looked down at him.
"… I haven't found them," he finished as he stood up and turned off the stereo. "Look, I've known dead men with more
initiative than this guy Lundy. Okay?" he continued. "I mean, it's like his mind is in orbit. What's his trip anyway?
Remembering the Alamo?"
"Not quite." She took a file folder out of her briefcase and handed it to LaFiamma.
"Two years ago Lundy was working on a case against a couple of land developers from out of state. They didn't like it.
There was an anonymous call … a threat … but Lundy kept pressing." Joe opened the folder and looked at the papers inside
as he walked behind the Lieutenant, across the room and into the bathroom.
"One morning his wife gets into her car to go buy a bottle of Scotch." She paused for a moment as she remembered.
"But, that's another story…" she added softly. Joe listened to her as he reached for a towel and draped it around his neck
then opened the folder again.
"…turns the key in the ignition and, well, you see," she finished as he looked at a picture of a burned vehicle.
"Tough job," Joe said as he handed the folder back to the Lieutenant.
"That's right. So when you tell me all the things that are your problems, I really wonder if you can cut it. You see,
Lundy is the way he is because he thinks the way he was, was what killed her. No, he doesn't press anymore, he doesn't
want anyone else to get killed."
"So, what to you want me to do," he said solemnly as he stood directly in front of her, "like him, change him, or what?'"
"Why don't you try trusting him?"
"Come on, Lieutenant," he said as he moved closer to her, " I don't even know if this guy speaks English."
"Then I suggest you try to find a way to get through to him in a way you think he'll understand."
"LaFiamma?" Neither the Lieutenant nor Joe reacted to the voice outside the door.
" …. thought I'd come by and help you rustle up some……," Levon said as he opened the door and stepped inside the
"I was on my way out," the Lieutenant explained and turned to leave.
"Ma'am," Levon said as she walked past him. He eyed Joe warily, the hint of an accusation hanging in the air. Joe
merely shook his head then turned away without saying anything.
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
Although the music was loud, it was nearly drowned out by the laughter and conversation coming from the crowd of
people at Gilley's. Levon and Joe slowly made their way through the crowd towards the bar.
"Tell me, Lundy, this square dancing," Joe asked, "is that where the boys dance with the boys?"
"Why don't you mosey on over here and get your tasseled loafers shined?" Levon countered as they both walked up to
"Hey partner," Levon said to the bartender, "give us two tequilas and two beer backs, please." As they waited, Mickey
Gilley walked up to Levon and hit his arm.
"Levon!" he said. Levon smiled broadly as he turned around to shake Mickey's hand.
"Hey, Mick. How ya doing?"
"Pretty good …. Who's this?"
"This here's my new partner from Chicago."
"I want you guys to have a good time, have a lot of fun but, remember, if you break anything, you buy it," Mickey told
"All right, take it easy." He walked away and Levon turned to lean up against the bar.
"Not many Indians in here, Lundy," Joe said as he looked around the room. There was a band on the stage and couples
filled the dance floor.
"Much obliged," Levon said to the bartender as he set two shot glasses and two bottles of beer on the bar front of them.
"LaFiamma, I suppose there's something I ought to tell you about me," he paused and sipped the tequila.
"You mean there's something to know, Lundy?"
"Where I grew up, it was out there in the country, we was poor. We were so poor that if it moved we tried to hitch a ride
"Lundy, we were so poor if it moved, we ate it," Joe countered as he took a drink of the tequila.
"Man grows up that way," Levon continued, "there's certain things he's sensitive about. You understand? You might
wanna watch your step with the Lieutenant."
"Why? Is she married?"
"Single, far as I know. You might say I'm just concerned about her. You know what I mean?"
"She's a cop. She can take care of herself."
"Boy, I don't think we're plugged into the same socket here."
"Well, Lundy, why don't you find yourself an electrician."
"You know what?" Levon said as he straightened up and repositioned his hat. "In about eleven seconds you're gonna
be picking my boot heel out'a your teeth."
"No kiddin Lundy. You're that….." Levon chose that moment to take a swing at Joe, who blocked it with his left arm.
He then hit Levon with the same hand and then connected with Levon's jaw with his right fist.
Levon straightened up and first punched Joe in the stomach with his right then landed a hit on the side of Joe's face
with his left. Joe backed up a step, still slightly hunched from the hit to his stomach and Levon grabbed his shoulder, pulling
him up as he prepared to hit him again with his right. Joe ducked and Levon's punch hit the man standing directly behind Joe.
"Sorry, man," Levon said and someone else hit him from the side.
"Lundy, you sucker!" Joe laughed and the same guy then punched him in the stomach and he doubled over, turning
away from the punch. Another man then took a swing at him causing Joe to fall and then slide across the floor. The fight was
beginning to spread and Joe ran into Levon who had been defending himself from more than one attacker. They both stood
up and resumed their fight while the fight turned into a brawl as it continued to spread through the crowd. Levon and Joe
moved through the crowd swinging at each other while the other brawlers instinctively moved out of their way. Joe grabbed
Levon and pushed him into a table sending bottles and glasses flying. Levon rolled over Joe and off the table. Joe then
picked up a bottle and raised it back just as Mickey Gilley got up on the stage and fired a shotgun into the air. The crowd
immediately quieted down and he had their attention.
"Hold on. Hold on," Mickey told the crowd. "This is a private fight between Levon Lundy and the Yankee. I want
everybody to stay out of it. It's gonna be settled fair and square."
Levon looked at Joe who was still holding the bottle in the air like a weapon.
"LaFiamma, the man said fair and square."
"I know, I know, I know," he said as he put the bottle down then took another swing at Levon.
Levon ducked and the fight resumed. Eventually the two of them fell through a side door and tumbled outside.
Exhausted, they continued to swing at each other lamely. Levon landed a punch to Joe's midsection and when he doubled
over, Levon hit his back, forcing Joe to his knees.
"Had enough, Levon," Joe said as he looked up at him.
"No. Help me up." Levon reached over to pull him to his feet but after a few punches Joe was back on his knees and he
half-heartedly hit Levon's knee, which forced Levon to drop to his knees as well.
"I remember you," he said as took another swing but Levon blocked the punch and Joe began to laugh. "Cotton Bowl
.... Aggie quarterback. You threw that intercept on the final play. I could have completed that pass."
"You couldn't complete the hand-off." They both took one more swing and as their fists connected they both sat back
their heels, exhausted.
As they look at each other, breathing heavy, they both begin to laugh. A truce?
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
A priest's words echoed throughout the dimly lit church. There were very few people attending the service and Mano
Sanchez sat alone near the back. Medina took off his hat as he entered the church then slowly walked up the center aisle. He
entered the row where Sanchez was sitting and sat down next to him.
"Where is Limon?" Sanchez asked Medina.
"He's coming." Sanchez was not aware that someone had entered the pew behind him until a hand reached around and
covered his mouth. A second man came from his other side and held his head while Medina pulled a knife from inside his
coat. Mano Sanchez's cries were muffled as the life slipped from his body. He only struggled a few moments and then his
head dropped and the men holding him released his body.
"Adios, Mano Sanchez," Medina said.
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
Joe and Levon were bantering as they came down stairs into the service area for the police vehicles.
"Want you to be real careful what you say around this boy." Levon warned.
"What's the big deal?"
"I'm trying to get him to do a tune-up on my jeep."
"So get one of these other mechanics to do it," Joe said as they walked around parked cars.
"LaFiamma, let me put this into language even you will understand. When it comes to automobiles, Vic's like one of
them Renaissance painters."
"Only a hick like you would compare Da Vinci to a grease monkey." They walked up under a car on a lift that was being
worked on by a man in overalls. The man did not seem to notice them.
"Hey, Vic. Any chance of a minor tune-up today?" Levon asked. The man didn't answer; he didn't even look at them.
"It'll only take a minute," Levon added, but the man just continued to work.
"What is this?" Joe asked.
"How 'bout later on in the week?" Levon asked.
"Hey bud," Joe said as he grabbed the front of the man's overalls and pulled him away from what he was doing.
"Easy, LaFiamma," Levon cautioned.
"You got a personality problem or something?" LaFiamma demanded. "We're trying to enforce the law here." As he
looked at the man he noticed his name badge.
"You're Mariano?" He turned to Levon. "Hey, Lundy, this guy here is Mariano. He's a real Italian."
"Yeah, I know LaFiamma."
"Listen, by any chance you wouldn't be from Palermo? Your family, I mean? You see, cause I happen to know the
Mariano's from Palermo."
"No," the man said slowly. "We're the Mariano's from Lubbock."
"Come on, LaFiamma," Levon laughed, "we gotta move it." He put his hand on Joe's elbow, but Joe pulled his arm away
"Listen. My name's Joe LaFiamma," he told the man. "I'll be seeing you around, okay, Pisano?"
"Hey," Vic said as they walked away, "it's Mare-e-ano."
"Right, right," Joe conceded.
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
"We found Hail in his Rolls Royce but Lundy, here, doesn't know anything about the man's partner," LaFiamma
explained as he and Levon walked down a hall, one on each side of a third officer.
"Cordon's last gig, he was after this guy by the name of Enrique Paluto Limon," the officer told them. "Got a spider
tattooed on his face. You want surface to air missals, helicopter gun ships or exotic weapons, Limon'll boost it for you or
smuggle it into the U.S. or out of the U.S."
"You got a picture of him?" Levon asked as they entered a lunch area with vending machines and small tables. They
stopped at the vending machines and Joe dropped coins into the drink machine.
"Nah, we got nothing," the officer told him. "He's been around since '81. There's a lot of law enforcement who would
like to have a look at him, but, no, nothing."
The man pounded the front of the machine causing it to drop the can Joe had selected.
"So, anyway," he continued, "the way it figures is that Cordon finally draws a bead on him, Limon, then he disappears
into Coahuila which is in the north of Mexico. So, two to three weeks go by and word comes that the Federales have found
this body in the desert." He sat down at the table and after Joe and Levon sat down, he finished his story.
"Cordon, right? Okay. The guess is: Cordon finds Limon and Limon offs him. So Hail has Cordon's remains flown back
to Houston and he buries him. Look, there's a moral here, okay. I mean Paluto Limon is one unpleasant dude, he was a real
heavyweight, but Cordon and Hail, they never watched each other's back."
"Imagine Cordon cuttin' out for Mexico like that to collar someone like Limon," Levon said as they left the building and
walked over to his jeep.
"He was just doing his job," Joe explained.
"All by his self? Makes you wonder if he lost a wing nut."
"If Hail had been any kind of a partner, he would have went with him."
"Yep, they both might have bought the farm then."
"Well, they both might have pulled through," Joe said. "Look, the way I see it, Hail finds Paluto Limon and tries to collar
him for killing Cordon. Limon wacks Hail, too. Now, if Hail can find Limon and draw him into the open, so can we."
"The way I see it," Levon said as they reached his jeep, "Hail was investigating this adultery thing, and finds out who's
cheatin on who. It's one of them who wacks him. We oughta find out who them is." He slid behind the steering wheel, while
Joe remained standing next him.
"The trouble with that theory, Lundy, is it doesn't include Limon."
"Boy, when there's a woman involved, it don't need to."
Joe looked away, staring into the distance thoughtfully.
"You gonna get in, LaFiamma? Ain't no great place for a tree."
As Joe walked around to get into jeep, Levon turned on the radio.
"We really gotta listen to this, huh?" Joe asked, but Levon didn't answer. As the jeep drove away, they didn't see the
white car in the distance begin to follow them.
"All right," Levon said. "You think it's Limon, I think it's this adultery case Cordon's secretary mentioned and I know just
the lady to talk to."
- - - - - ooo - - - - -
"Look, there's two kinds of marriages," Joe explained to the attractive woman sitting across from him and Levon.
"There are those that would overlook an infidelity and there are those that would want to know everything about it. Does that
narrow down the field a little bit?"
"Oh, by about 50 percent," she said with a sly smile and a slow drawl. "Is it an unfaithful husband you're looking for
or an unfaithful wife?"
"Well, it's someone Mike Hail was investigating. We don't know who."
She turned to Levon and touched his hand lightly.
"Look, darling," she explained softly, "people trust me. My column depends on it. They expect me to hint, gives my
news its flavor, but they don't expect me to tell." She leaned back in her chair and looked at both detectives. "Sorry," she
"Well, you're first amendment rights are very questionable here." Joe told her. "If you're withholding any thing …"
"I….?" she protested with a slight laugh as she leaned back and looked at Joe and Levon like they were a lunch entree.
"Withhold ….? My…My…"
"That idea was a waste of time," Joe insisted as they walked toward the front door of the restaurant.
"You mean she wasn't ticklin' your knee, too. What do you know about the first amendment?"
"A lot. I went to law school for a year."
"Couldn't cut it, huh?"
"Hey, man, we went up there because you thought this adultery thing tied into Hail's murder. I gave it my best shot."
They stopped just a few feet away from the open door and turned to face each other.
"We're gonna have our first argument," Levon said sarcastically.
"I wanna make something clear with you. You're either with me or against me. I get in any situation, I wanna know I'm
not gonna be there alone."
As they argued, the car that had followed them from the police station pulled up outside and stopped in front of the
"Husband cheating on wife. Brilliant!" Joe said then turned to leave. Levon hesitated a moment then followed him out
the door. As they came out, the car sped away.
"Fine," Levon said, "we'll just drive your idea around the block …why don't we."
- - - - - ooo - - - - -