'As a matter of fact I was with the police department in Houston for a number of years,' Lockhart said.

'Oh, really?' Teddy said. 'That's probably some real hot and heavy shit back in good 'ol Houston. But down here it doesn't mean frijoles. You see, cops ain't welcome in here. This is a foreign country, my man. American cops like you are just run-of-the-mill assholes down here.'

A hairy man at the bar belched like a foghorn. People laughed. Lockhart tried to force a smile, but couldn't.

'Is there somewhere where we could speak in private?' Lockhart said. He held his breath.

'No,' Teddy said. More laughter.

Lockhart glanced around. Everyone stared. 'Some bogus traveler's checks have been passed in here,' he said. 'The man that is probably responsible uses the name Roger Brown. He has gray hair and a missing little finger. Do you know him?'

'Yeah, he was here just a little while ago,' someone said.

Lockhart turned toward the voice. 'Do you know where he went?'

'He went out to take a shit and the bears ate him.' An explosion of laughter.

Teddy joined in the merriment. 'That's right,' he said. 'The motherfuckin' bears ate him.' Suddenly Teddy Mora stopped laughing and leaned across the bar. His face was within an inch of Lockhart's. 'Now why don't you get the fuck out of here before we lose our sense of humor.'

Lockhart stepped back. He shuffled out the door into the parking lot. His car was gone. There was automobile glass on the ground where he had parked it. He let out a deep breath. 'Damn,' he said out loud. He rubbed a sleeve across his forehead and headed straight back in the door. He marched directly to the bar. 'I want to use your telephone,' he said to the bartender. 'Someone has stolen my car.'

Another burst of laughter. Teddy Mora ignored him. He poured drinks.

'Dammit. Is there a telephone here?' Lockhart said. Suddenly, a hand that smelled like motor oil was over his mouth. His legs flew forward and he was on the floor. Someone was grabbing his gun. Something crashed over his head.

Chapter 24

The hospital room was furnished with a pair of beds with hand cranks and a couple of nightstands. The cubicle's solitary window framed nothing more than an alley wall.

Lockhart's eyes were blackened and there was a line of fresh stitches protruding from his upper lip. Both arms were in casts. The Texan spoke slowly, without emotion.

Because of the smell of disinfectant, Carr felt like covering his nose as Lockhart staggered on with his tale. Every few seconds the security man's tongue would dart out to moisten his swollen lips, and then he would continue. Earlier, he had asked for water and Kelly had helped him drink. Rodriguez, leaning against the wall, made notes in what looked like a patrolman's traffic-citation book.

'I regained consciousness on the road near the turnoff to Teddy's Bar,' Lockhart said. 'A man driving a truck picked me up and brought me here. I passed out again when he pulled me up by my arms.' He blinked a few times and took a deep breath. He exhaled. 'That's the whole sorry-ass story, I'm afraid. They just plain got the best of me.'

'Would you like us to phone your office?' Carr said.

'Thanks anyway,' Lockhart said as if in a trance. 'That won't be necessary.'

'Do you think you'd be able to recognize any of the men who beat you up?' Rodriguez said.

Lockhart licked his lips. 'Motorcycle hounds,' he said. 'All I remember is leather jackets, beards. The whole thing happened so fast…' He turned to Rodriguez. 'They stole a gun I had with me, as well as my wallet and I.D. I guess that's illegal down here.'

'That's okay,' said the officer.

A raven-haired nurse entered the room. She poked a pill into Lockhart's mouth and held a glass of water to his lips. The pudgy man drank, then closed his eyes.

The cops left the room and walked through a small office and out the front door. They stood around Rodriguez's squad car for a moment.

'They really worked that poor guy over,' Kelly said. 'They must've taken turns on him.'

Rodriguez beamed as he rubbed his hands together fiendishly. 'It's just what I've been waiting for, boys,' he said.

'Howzat?' Carr said.

'An excuse to kick Teddy's door in,' he said. He swung open the door of the police car and vaulted his lumberjack frame into the driver's seat. Carr and Kelly followed him into the vehicle. Rodriguez started the engine and slammed the car into first gear. He made a U-turn and sped south along the main road. On the way through town, Rodriguez snatched the microphone off the hook on the dashboard and barked commands in Spanish. By the time he had reached the edge of town he was followed by a pair of squad cars loaded with uniformed officers.

Nearing the turnoff to Teddy's Bar, Rodriguez slammed on the brakes. He pulled off the road onto a soft shoulder. The police cars stopped directly behind him. The officers, young men in khaki uniforms who appeared as fit as infantrymen, piled out. They put on their hats and formed an informal line next to Rodriguez's vehicle.

Rodriguez pulled a newspaper from underneath the driver's seat and stepped out of the car. He spread the paper out on the hood of the car. With rough pen strokes, he drew a diagram of a building. Above it, he wrote 'Teddy's.' He gave instructions and the officers nodded. Rodriguez said, 'Vamos,' in a harsh voice. The young officers removed their hats and hustled back to their squad cars.

Rodriguez stepped to the rear of his vehicle and opened the trunk. He pulled out the Thompson submachine gun and checked it. Having done this, he got back in the car and arranged the weapon so that it rested against his thigh, barrel pointed to the floorboard. He started the engine and edged back onto the highway. He pressed the siren button and flicked the switch for the red light. The other squad cars did the same. The raiders raced down the dirt road at full speed, creating an enormous dust cloud. Kelly fastened his seat belt.

'You boys follow me in the front door,' Rodriguez said. 'Teddy is yours.'

Carr nodded.

The police cars skidded to within a few feet of the bar's front door. The parking lot was littered with motorcycles. The officers piled out. Rodriguez, tommy gun at port arms, trotted to the front door. With one mighty kick, he knocked the door fully off its hinges. It fell forward like a gangplank. He sprang inside. 'Pendejos!' he said. 'Manos arriba!' He fired a machine-gun burst into the ceiling. Customers screamed and dived for cover. Plaster fell. The officers rushed in and slammed people against walls. Everyone was frisked.

Carr found Teddy Mora ducking down behind the bar. He reached across and seized the man's collar with both hands. A forceful pull brought him over the bar. Carr dragged the struggling man out the back door. Mora came to his feet swinging. Carr blocked a left and punched Mora squarely in the jaw. The bartender fell to the dirt. As he scrambled to get up, Carr stabbed a knee into his chest. Mora dropped to the dirt again. He gasped for air.

Carr put his hands in his pockets. 'Told you I'd be back,' he said.

Mora moaned.

'Now I'll ask you again,' he said. 'Where is Paul LaMonica?'

It was a minute before Mora caught his breath. Hands rubbing his stomach, he sat up. 'I don't know,' he said.

'Okay,' Carr said, 'then here's what happens next: the police will camp out in front of this place. They don't like you. They'll be happy to put you out of business, altogether. '

'I didn't say I wasn't willing to cooperate,' Mora said. 'I didn't say that when you talked to me in L.A., and I'm not saying it now. I just don't know where LaMonica is right now. I can't tell you something I truly don't know.'

'Is he in Mexico?' Carr said.

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