Chapter 27

The phone rang. Rodriguez picked up the receiver. 'Policia de Ensenada,' he said. 'Yes, he's here. Hold the line.' He made a thumbs-up gesture and handed the phone to Carr. Kelly deftly picked up an extension line and cupped his hand over the speaker.

'LaMonica is going to be in the border parking lot, on the U.S. side, at about four P.M. today,' Mora said, speaking in low tones. 'You should look for a green Chevrolet with California license plate TRS714. That's T-R-S-7 -1-4. It'll be parked in the northwest corner of the lot. You may see me with him. When you arrest him, all I ask is that you make it look like I escaped; you could have someone act like he's chasing me. I'll run back across the border into Mexico. This is to protect my identity as the informer. I mean, like you owe me at least that much for setting him up for you. Agreed?

'One more thing,' Mora said. 'After you arrest him, I'd appreciate it if you could drop a story on him about how you found a load of cocaine in the trunk of the green Chevy; like a couple of hundred grand's worth. You could tell him you turned it over to the federal narcs or some such shit. The story would help to keep me cool.'

'I'll take care of it,' Carr said.

'Any questions?' Mora said.

'Is he carrying?'

'A.38 in his belt usually,' Mora said. He coughed. 'He lets his shirt hang out.'

'When you hear me holler 'Freeze,' ' Carr said, 'get away from LaMonica fast. If you are in a car, jump out. If you are standing near him, run like hell.'

'Got it,' Mora said. 'Say, tell me the truth, did you think I'd really call up and hand over Paulie the Printer?'

'Not really,' Carr said, looking at Kelly. 'It's a real nice surprise.

Kelly jabbed an extended middle finger at the mouthpiece of the receiver in his hand.

After a few minutes, Mora returned to his seat at the bar. The two men sat awhile in silence. The B-girls whispered to one another and climbed off their bar stools. As they approached the end of the bar, Mora waved them back rudely. 'We're not interested,' he said.

The bartender frowned at Mora. Mora threw up his hands. 'Go ahead,' he said. 'Buy 'em a drink on me. Business is business, right, amigo?' He pulled money out of his pocket and tossed it on the bar. The bartender smiled and poured drinks for the women.

During the next hour Mora made lively talk about other big scores, movie stars who he knew bought jewelry and furs from burglars, and his plans for buying a Hollywood discotheque. LaMonica half listened.

Finally the telephone rang.

As Mora spun his bar stool, Paul LaMonica grabbed his arm, 'I'll take it,' he said. Mora stared at him as if he wanted to protest, but said nothing.

LaMonica stood and picked up the receiver.

'George is home,' the bank manager said. The phone clicked. LaMonica repeated the phrase.

Teddy Mora jumped off his bar stool. He clapped his hands together. 'I told you everything would be a go. A one-hundred-percent go. We're heading for Hollywood.'

LaMonica followed him out the front door.

Kelly steered into the parking lot and cruised slowly. American tourists milled in and out of the enormous lot toting border-town souvenirs: cheap pottery, straw baskets, stuffed iguanas. At one end of the lot was a gate leading to a pedestrian walkway across the international boundary into Tijuana.

The green Chevrolet was parked at the end of a row of vehicles next to a high fence that spanned the perimeter of the parking lot. 'There it is,' Carr said.

Kelly wheeled the G-car into an open stall a few rows behind the Chevrolet. He turned off the engine. 'How do you think we should work it?'

Carr rubbed his chin for a moment. 'I say we let him get right up to the Chevy. That'll put him in the corner of the lot with nowhere else to go. You take the right, I'll take the left. Teddy will be able to run either way.' He looked at his watch.

Kelly pulled out his revolver and spun the cylinder. He snapped it closed. 'I'd feel a lot better if there weren't so many people in and out of this parking lot.'

'Me too,' Carr said.

Nothing much had been said during the brief trip from Ensenada to Tijuana. Teddy Mora pulled up to a stoplight on the outskirts of town.

'You're quiet,' he said, glancing at LaMonica. 'I get the same way when I'm right in the middle of something. It's probably just concentration.'

The light changed. Mora turned onto a road which paralleled the high chain-link fence that marked the U.S. border. Steering with his forearms for a moment, he lit a cigarette and puffed. 'A suggestion,' he said. 'I could let you out a block or so away from the border crossing. You could walk straight across into the parking lot and pick up the load. I could meet you up the street across from the tourist information center. That way we could avoid driving through the crossing point, making a U-turn, and driving back into the lot. You have to admit, if some border pig just happened to notice that kind of an act he might get a little suspicious.'

LaMonica leaned back in the seat. 'Good idea,' he said. 'But why don't you walk over and pick up the package? I'd rather drive.'

Teddy Mora sucked deeply on his cigarette. He spoke with a mouthful of smoke. 'Uh this car isn't registered to you. It might cause a problem at the crossing point.'

'Maybe you're right.' LaMonica rolled his window down to clear out some of Mora's smoke. 'We'll both walk to the lot to make the pickup.'

Mora fidgeted. 'Is there anything wrong? You haven't said shit since we left Ensenada. I mean if you think there's a better way to do this, just say the word.'

LaMonica turned to the other man. His expression was blank. 'As long as things go right, there's nothing to talk about.'

They passed through the border checkpoint with no problem. Mora drove less than a mile north, pulled over into the middle lane, and made a U-turn. They headed back toward the border.

LaMonica grabbed the steering wheel and tugged. The vehicle veered to the right shoulder of the road. Mora slammed on the brakes. 'I'll drive,' LaMonica said. He got out of the car and walked around to the driver's side. They exchanged seats. LaMonica put the car in gear and headed toward the parking lot. He stopped a few feet away from the entrance and got out of the car. At the fence he grasped the chain link and stared into the lot for what seemed like a long time. He climbed back in the driver's seat and put the car in gear.

Mora was pale. 'It pays to be careful,' he said. 'Paulie the Printer takes things one step at a time.'

LaMonica steered into the parking lot. Though he noticed the green Chevrolet almost immediately, he drove by it, continuing among the rows of vehicles.

Mora pointed. 'That was it. You just passed it,' he said.

Carr and Kelly ducked below window level of the sedan. They almost bumped heads. 'That sneaky sonofabitch is casing the lot,' Kelly whispered.

Carr peeked above the dashboard. He pulled his revolver out of its shoulder bolster. 'He's turning around … heading toward the Chevy. This is it.'

Kelly's gun was out.

LaMonica pulled up behind the green Chevrolet. A young woman was loading straw baskets into the trunk of a sports car parked next to the vehicle. He slid the revolver out of his waistband. 'Get out and get the package,' he said.

Mora stared at the weapon. 'Everything is cool,' he muttered on his way out the door. He ambled to the rear of the vehicle. Keeping his eyes on LaMonica, he reached into the right rear wheel well and fished around.

LaMonica climbed out of the car, holding the gun under his shirt. 'Is it there?' he said.

Mora pulled out a key and held it up. He winked.

Charles Carr kept low, moving between automobiles. Kelly flanked on his right two cars away. Finally, only

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