doubted you'd be able to come up with the money. With anyone else I would have had some doubts about whether they could produce, but not Paulie the Printer. He's a man of his word. I've always said that and I'll fucking say it again.'

LaMonica turned his head to avoid Mora's morning-after breath. 'So let's do the deal,' he said. 'The sooner the better. '

Teddy Mora swept fingers through his sticky hair. 'I know where you're coming from; cops nosing around here after you. You're thinking why not get the thing over with? I'm with you one hundred and fifty percent.'

'Can we do it today?' LaMonica said.

Mora slapped LaMonica's shoulder again. 'There's no reason why not.' He ambled behind the bar and grabbed the telephone. He dialed. Words in Spanish…'Bueno, bueno,' he said and hung up the receiver. 'I've set up a meeting with my local snowman. I'll see what he says. If we can do the deal today, so much the better.'

'I'll come along,' LaMonica said, 'since I'm laying half the action.'

Mora shook his head. 'We both know that you have the right to negotiate — but I know my man. He'll shy away from doing any quick deal once he meets a new face. You know how dealers are. He'll want to have a drink and get used to you before he'll talk business. But he knows me. I can give him any number of bullshit reasons why I need to do a rapid-fire deal. Coming from me, he'll go for it. The man trusts me. We go way back. What I'm saying is if you want to come along, I'm all for it, but it will complicate what could be an easy wham-bam-thank- you-ma'am coke deal.'

LaMonica's hands were perspiring. Deliberately he wiped them on his trousers. 'I take it that you are ready to stand behind the deal. You're vouching for the connection? You're telling me that your man has cocaine and not powdered sugar?'

Mora folded his broomstick arms across his chest. He looked LaMonica in the eye. 'I am,' he said.

LaMonica's smile was sardonic. 'To me that means if the thing goes sour, you are accepting total responsibility.'

'I guess you could look at it like that,' Mora said. 'I'm putting up fifty grand just like you are, but I'm not worried. Sitting here looking you right in the eye, I can truthfully and honestly tell you that I am not in the least bit fucking worried.' He wiped an ash off the bar and folded his arms again.

LaMonica's hands touched the tequila bottle. 'Just so there are no misunderstandings…' he said. 'What I am saying is that if anything does go wrong, I personally will send you to the funeral parlor.'

Mora spoke without hesitation. 'Like I said, I'm not worried.' He looked at his wristwatch. His Adam's apple bobbed up and down for a moment before he spoke. 'While I'm meeting the man and putting things together, you'd better stay right here. Stay inside and don't go out. The cops have already been here. They will figure I've tipped you and told you to stay away from the joint. They would never think to come back.'

Teddy Mora dressed quickly in the liquor storeroom where LaMonica knew he slept on a cot. Mora walked back out into the bar area with a glass bottle of cologne shaped like a boot. He dabbed it on his neck immoderately. 'Leave it to Teddy,' he said on his way out the door.

Paul LaMonica drank another tequila. He felt an alcohol twinge in his stomach. He wished he had eaten breakfast.

Chapter 26

The Ensenada police station was quiet. Rodriguez mumbled into the telephone. Carr sat next to Rodriguez's desk. Fatigued, he tapped a pencil on his knee and stared at a calendar on the wall in front of him. He bit his lip as he remembered that he was supposed to have taken Sally to dinner the night before. She'd told him she had tickets to a play…or was it a jazz recital? Should he call her and apologize?

Kelly sat at a small desk in the corner. He sorted through the items taken from Sandra Hartzbecker's hotel room. 'Now what the hell do we do?' he said without looking up.

Rodriguez set the receiver down. He rolled his chair against the wall behind him. He stretched, and loosened his necktie. 'My men have checked every motel in town. Every one of my informants has been shown LaMonica's mug shot. No bites. Which in this small town means that someone is either hiding LaMonica or he's gone back across the border. If he can make his own phony I.D., he can slide across any time he wants.'

'I figure him for being down here,' Carr said. 'But I'm not sure what else we can do to find him. Teddy Mora is LaMonica's only connection that we know of. We've hit him and it didn't do any good.'

'We can hit him again,' Rodriguez said, 'but Teddy knows I don't have the pull to put him out of business. A Mexican businessman here in town fronted for his bar license because it's illegal for Americans to own property down here. Teddy is insulated.'

The telephone on Rodriguez's desk rang. He answered it. 'Hold the line,' he said. He handed the receiver to Carr.

'Is this Agent Carr?' Mora's tone was impassive. 'Teddy Mora here. I need to talk with you alone.'

'What do you want to talk about?' Carr said.

'Paul LaMonica.'

'I'm listening.'

'I don't like to talk on the telephone. Can we meet somewhere?'

'You name it.'

'How about the abandoned campgrounds at the south end of town.'

'I like public places,' Carr said.

'I understand,' Mora replied. 'How about the International Sports Book Office. Say in half an hour?'

'See you there.' Carr set the receiver down and lit a cigarette. 'Teddy wants to meet,' he said.

Charles Carr parked his sedan in a small parking lot situated between the riverbed and a prefabricated building the size of a gymnasium. He locked the car and headed in the front door. Inside, the structure looked like a warehouse except for a wall of betting windows with signs in both English and Spanish. Racing forms and newspapers littered the cement floor. Above the cashier's windows a man on an elevated walkway scratched Caliente race results on a green chalkboard extending the entire width of the building. Preoccupied Mexican and American men, only a few of whom were in groups, sat at the tables that covered the expanse of the floor. There was little discussion in the place.

Teddy Mora, dressed in a tan bush jacket and wearing wraparound sunglasses, sat alone at a table. Carr approached him and sat down. He smelled cologne.

'Do you bet the ponies?' Mora said without looking up from a racing form he was studying.

'Sometimes,' Carr said. 'When I get a tip.'

Mora dug a pen out of a flap pocket and circled the name of a horse. 'I like your style, Carr. You remind Teddy of the old days in L.A. The rounders in town knew that if you fucked with the feds you were likely to end up taking the bus to Terminal Island. The feds would do anything to sink you. Years ago I saw a couple of you fellas kick the crap out of one of Mickey Cohen's bodyguards in broad daylight right in front of a bar on Sunset Boulevard. After they worked him over, they arrested him for assault on a federal officer. The way you people came right across the border looking for LaMonica reminded me of the old days. I know it's against your rules for you people to come down here, but you did it anyway. Just like the good old days, I said to myself.'

'Where is Paul LaMonica?' Carr said.

'When Teddy called he didn't say he was going to turn him in,' Mora said. 'He just invited you to come down and talk.'

'Here I am,' Carr said.

Mora filled some numbers in on a betting slip. He shoved the slip into his pocket. 'I didn't call you down here to waste your time. I can offer you LaMonica on a silver platter if things can be worked out to my satisfaction.'

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