Lucas had planned to move into the terrorist compound by 10:05 P.M. His grandfather’s watch, however, showed it was already 10:18 P.M., and they were still in the parking area of the “El Guaraguao” bar. By the time everyone got into their positions, it would be closer to 11:00.
The group was huddled in the shuttle around a small LED lantern that El Chino had produced, finishing the distribution of the weapons and ammunition that several of the men had gathered.
As promised, Michael had brought with him his cache of weapons. The jewel among them was a double-barreled, break-action shotgun.
Like its name implied, the shotgun opened in the middle, after the release of a lever-like catch behind its two barrels. The shooter could then discard the used cartridges, load two more, and close the weapon. It was a beautiful gun, its wooden stock elaborately carved with whimsical, curved designs.
“This is a Stoeger Uplander, double barreled, 20 gauge shotgun,” Michael said proudly, lifting it and showing it around. “If fired at a relatively short distance, it will put a hole in anyone it hits. It also requires little aiming, and makes a whole lot of noise, so even if you miss, you’ll probably scare a lot of people. It loads like so,”
Michael pushed the elongated lever behind the two barrels, and they dropped automatically, making the shotgun look like an inverted “V”. He took two wide cylindrical shells, and pushed one into each chamber. Then, he shoved the barrels upwards, and the shotgun "clicked" to its original shape.
He looked at Correcaminos. “You don’t have a lot of experience with guns, you said.”
Correcaminos shook his head.
The newscaster was—as was his custom—dressed slickly, too slickly, in Michael’s opinion—for a surprise night attack. He wore elegant long-sleeved, dark Nike sweats and black jeans that made him look more as if he was going jogging than into a fight.
His dandified appearance was deceiving, though. Correcaminos was tough, fit, and fearless, as many of his opponents had found out to their own misfortune.
“I don’t like guns,” he answered simply.
Michael stared at him as if the sportscaster had just stepped out of an alien spaceship, but to his credit, bit his tongue. Not getting a reaction, he continued to talk about his weapon.
“I am...entrusting...this to you because it’s a simple weapon to use. Take very good care of it. Just remember, after firing, you push this lever, break open the gun, let the spent shells fall out, feed two more shells, and close it again, like this.” Michael closed the open shotgun again with a snap. “Got it?”
“Notice that this shotgun has two triggers, one behind the other,” Michael continued. “Each trigger fires one of the barrels. Fire the one in the back first, then the other. At least, that’s what I do.”
“I imagine that is has a kick,” Correcaminos said, more than asked.
“You imagine correctly,” Negrón answered before Michael could speak. “I once fired one of those and didn’t grab it right, and it punched my cheek and kicked my shoulder!”
“Uhu,” Correcaminos answered doubtfully.
“So grab it well. But don’t jerk the trigger...the triggers. Squeeze them,” Michael continued.
“Squeeze the triggers,” Correcaminos had confirmed. “Okay.”
Lucas breathed in deeply, starting to grow impatient by the speed at which they were preparing. At that rate, the sun would rise before they were ready.
“Michael’s advice is good,” he said. “However, there are times when the enemy is heading directly towards you, and you won’t have time to consider if you’re squeezing the trigger properly or pulling it more abruptly than you should. In those cases, place it at hip level, point in the general direction of the men who are coming to get you, and pull the trigger. The buckshot will spread, and you’ll probably hit something. Anyway, the noise of the shotgun and what happens around the persons to which you fire will have as much of an effect as if you hit them. Okay?”
Correcaminos had nodded, while Gomez and the two security bodyguards--Myers and Ojeda--smiled.
Lucas turned to Doel, a Vietnam War veteran and the oldest man in the group.
“Listen, you don’t have to do this. You’re in your sixties,” he told him in a gentle tone. “Not that I doubt you…” he added apologetically.
Doel directed him a peeved stare.
“I think I can manage,” he replied in as dignified a tone as he could muster. He handed Lucas a colt .45 automatic which appeared to be in pristine conditions.
Lucas examined it with growing admiration. “Beautiful handgun. Do you have ammo for it?”
“It has an eight-bullet magazine inside, plus I have two other similar magazines in my pockets.”
“Great.” Lucas handed the weapon back to Doel. “Michael gave me one of his Glocks, and Archie, you got another one from the captain, right?” he added, referring to SWAT Captain Gomez.
“Right,” Archie responded, pulling the slide of his gun and placing a round into its chamber for dramatic effect.
“And the rest of you are all armed?”
“I’m not,” El Chino said from the shuttle’s front passenger seat.
“Here,” said Tavarez, the newest addition to the group. “You can have my gun. You know how to use it?”
El Chino dropped the gun’s fifteen round magazine out of the gun’s grip, made sure it was loaded, and pushed it back in. Then, like Archie, he chambered a round into its barrel.
“I think I can manage,” he said snuggly, repeating what Doel had said, his small dark eyes gleaming gleefully in the dark.
“Anyone else?” Lucas asked.
“I brought this with me,” Michael said, opening the palm of his hand and showing what looked like a tiny, silver toy pirate’s gun, no larger than a thumbnail.
Negrón eyed it with both wonder and disdain etched on his face. “What is that? he asked. “A G.I. Joe accessory?”
“That, my friend, is the smallest gun you will ever see in your life. It just fires these tiny powder cartridges. No bullets.”
Michael held up a transparent plastic bag that held probably fifty minuscule, cylindrical cartridges, each with a short vertical wire sticking out of its end.
“This is its ammo. The cartridges are so small, that you have to grab the stick attached at its end to fit one into the gun’s chamber. After that, you cock the gun’s hammer, and press the trigger. It won't kill or wound anybody, but it makes a terrific amount of noise, like a little cannon. We may find it useful during the fight.”
Tavarez barked a short, sharp laugh.
“A lot of good that will do! I brought this,” he said as Michael was about to reply, pulling out of a small duffle bag a fairly large metallic cylinder. “This is a noise suppressor. A silencer for you moviegoers. When I attach it to my Remington sniper rifle, the only noise it makes is like a loud ‘click’. The captain also has another noise suppressor. It used to belong to my sergeant, Sergeant Cordero, before he was killed at the Grand Laguna Hotel, trying to rescue the hostages from the terrorists.”
Tavarez's statement wasn't completely true. Cordero's noise suppressor had been for handguns. The one brought that night by Gomez was for rifles. But his story brought the kind of dramatic effect that Tavarez loved: Cordero's weapon--a part of it, anyway--being used against some of the same people who had killed him. A sort of "justice from the grave".
Lucas looked at Gomez, who confirmed with a short shrug that he was carrying another silencer. It was evident to Lucas that the SWAT captain felt uneasy with Tavarez’s cocky self-assurance.
Lucas and the captain exchanged a look where Gomez quietly agreed to keep his enthusiastic friend in check.
“I also have a few flash-bang grenades, which we can use inside the house, plus two smoke canisters,” Gomez added. “I smuggled them out from our supplies.”
“It’s the advantage of being a SWAT captain,” Tavarez said, already relishing the fight ahead of them.
“So we’re all set,” Lucas said to the group, trying to end the gun talk. “We’ve already reviewed what each of us is going to do. Let’s stick to the plan. Remember, we basically have guns, and a couple of rifles. They probably outnumber us four to one, and have AK-47s.”
“We have each other. That should be enough,” Michael said with sincerity and too much bravado.
“Everyone knows how to use the PTTs, the voice communicators?” Lucas asked them. He pressed the button on the small radio-like device hanging from his left hand before anyone could answer. “Can all of you hear me?”
They all nodded except Negrón, who pressed his communicator button and said, “Can you hear me now?” mimicking the old Verizon commercial.
“Good,” Lucas said. “Let’s go around, and make sure everybody’s PTT is working properly.
“I don’t have one of those,” El Chino interjected. “I have one of these, though,” he said boastfully, showing a massive Bowie knife.
“I’m sorry,” Gomez said, pressing his button at the same time to test his communicator, “I didn’t bring any more. But you won’t need it, if we follow your plan.”
“I hear you loud and clear, over,” Tavarez said in a dramatic tone, using his PTT.
“Same here,” said Correcaminos.
“I hear__” Negrón began to say, but Archie interrupted him with his communicator.
“Hush! We already know how much noise you can generate.”
Negrón smiled. Then he held up his hand, signaling for everyone to remain quiet, as his cell phone began to vibrate.
“Yes?” he said after he answered, listening for several seconds. “And he…he’s alive? Thank you.”
He turned to everybody else.
“That was my secret contact,” he said, stressing the word “secret” to make it sound more exciting. “The ambulance has picked up Francisco, and they’re taking him to the airport.”
“And he’s alive?” Doel asked.
“Why would they be taking him to the airport in an ambulance if he wasn’t?” Correcaminos interjected, directing an exaggerated look at his friend as if he was mentally impaired.
Archie, who had received another call a few seconds after Negrón, finished listening and hanged up. “It’s confirmed, Francisco has been picked up.”
“Thank God,” Lucas said. “So now it’s our turn to deal with these people. Anybody else needs to check his PTT?”
“I hear everybody,” Myers, the security man confirmed in a quiet voice, but was heard clearly by everyone else through their earpieces.
“So do I,” said Ojeda. He looked at everyone, smiled, and added in a proud, slightly accented voice, “Boricuas para siempre!”
“Boricuas para siempre!” Doel repeated through his inter-communicator.
Hazard, the Governor’s bodyguard and the only one who had kept quiet until that moment, stretched his right arm in front of him, urging the others to join hands, basketball team style.
“Boricuas para siempre!” he said through his PTT.
All of the others picked up the cry, grinning and looking at each other nervously.
“Okay,” Lucas said. “Let’s do this.”
(Chapter XLIII will be posted on Thursday, September 17)