Sunday, October 17, 2010

Donovan Pike Podcast--Chapter 11

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Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 11

Pike and Drake rode separately in the back of different Hummers. The owner of that tortured bullfrog voice was ahead of them in the third vehicle.

A large Mexican man with a Beretta 93R automatic pistol sat sideways in the passenger seat, keeping the barrel pointed at Pike. No one spoke, and that was fine with him. He was trying to come up with a way to rescue Gemma.

The ride was short and the vehicles carrying Pike and Drake stopped side by side on a circular drive at the back of the house. Thanks to the spotlights, the entirety of the structure was visible. The size was even more impressive up close. There were many little flourishes -- gold filagree inlaid around the windows and the back door – that struck Pike as tacky. Knowing now who the owner was, Pike wasn’t surprised.

The brute with the Beretta motioned for Pike to get out. He obeyed, and found himself standing next to Drake.

“I was hoping they would drive you back to the jungle,” Pike said.

“Me too.”

A skinny man from Drake’s Hummer rapped on the door and it opened. Pike and Drake were led down a brightly lit hallway, decorated with framed photographs, jerseys and other memorabilia of American football.

“Who is this guy?” Drake said.

Their walk ended in a large room, cooled by silent air conditioning. Expensive leather furniture was arranged in a semi-circle in the room’s center. More football keepsakes were on the walls and bookshelves. In the corner of the room, a football sat atop a gold pedestal on a large wooden desk.

The door closed behind them. Pike didn’t hear a lock click. Not that it mattered. He didn’t plan to escape. Not until he got to a phone.

Drake lifted the football and slowly turned it in his hands, studying the writing on its pebbled surface.

“Super Bowl II,” Drake said. “He’s got Bart Starr’s autograph.”

He almost sounded impressed.

“Great. You two will have lots to talk about.”

The door opened. The big man with the Beretta from the Hummer came in first, followed by a short, fat man with skin the color of milk chocolate.

“It was the first football game I remember watching,” the fat man said. “I paid a lot for that ball.”

He waved the big man away. “It’s okay, Miguel. If they try to leave, shoot them.”

The fat man sat down hard in a big chair. He indicated that Pike and Drake should take seats on the couch across from him.

He gave Pike a menacing look, then collapsed in laughter. When he got his breathing under control he said, “You should see your face.”

“It would be better than what I’m looking at now.”

“Pike, it is good to see you.”

“You too, Nugget.”

Drake raised an eyebrow but didn’t speak.

With a grunt, the fat man leaned forward, extending a hand to Drake. Drake shook with his good hand.

“Pablo Edgardo Jimenez.”


“You a friend of Pike?”


Jimenez laughed again.

“This is something I can understand.”

“Stop it,” Pike said, “before you make me cry.”

“Still a badass. I could have used you on my crew back in East L.A.”

“You’re American?” Drake said.

“Nugget was a gangbanger,” Pike said. “Now he runs one of the world’s biggest drug cartels from Southern Mexico.”

“Far away from the prying eyes of your DEA,” Jimenez said.

“Your DEA, too.”

“Local officials are easier to bribe here, too.”

“Nobody knows how Nugget managed to get from Lincoln Heights to his current position.”

I know,” Jimenez said with a large smile.

A helicopter approached the property, growing louder as it landed near the house. Jimenez didn’t seem concerned. The conversation halted until the engine shut off.

“How do you know each other?” Drake said.

Jimenez looked at Pike for a moment.

“I saved his life.”

“After I saved yours, Nugget.”

“Some smugglers interfered with my, ah, distribution network.”

“They were smuggling Aztec artifacts,” Pike said. “I was trying to stop them.”

“Loco hombres. They thought they could get rid of us.”

“They almost did,” Pike said.

“But I fed them to my pigs.”

“You didn’t have pigs.”

Jimenez shrugged. Pike noticed his accent came and went. Probably depended on who he talked to.

“Why does he call you Nugget?” Drake said.

The door opened and a man Pike hadn’t seen before came in with a tray. He sat it down on the coffee table in front of the chair. The tray was heaped with golden crusted chunks of food and several small bowls of brightly colored sauces.

“He’s addicted to Chicken McNuggets,” Pike said.

“I fly them in from Cancun.” He gestured at the table. “Help yourself.”

It had been a while since they’d eaten. Pike and Drake dug into the food. It wasn’t great, or even very good. But it would get Pike through another day. That would be a day closer to finding Gemma.

Between bites, he said, “I need to make a call.”

Jimenez stood more gracefully than expected and made his way to the desk. He returned with a bulky black phone.

“Satellite phone,” he said. “After you make your call, I want to hear how you ended up in my backyard.”

Pike punched in the number for the satellite phone on the Triton.

Pug answered after two rings.

“It’s me,” Pike said. “How’s Professor Chapin?”

“Pretty good. Did you know he was a poker champ? I didn’t, until he had my 300 bucks.”

It was good to hear his friend’s squeaky voice again.

“Where are you?”

“About 8 hours out of Miami. You?”


“Need me there?”

“I don’t think so.”

“It’s weird that you called now.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because someone just called for you.”


“Dunno,” Pug said. “A guy. No name. Left a number.”

Pike gestured for a pen. Jimemez pulled a cheap roller ball pen from his pocket. Pike took a napkin from the tray and copied the number Pug gave him.

“I’ll be in touch. We’ll get together soon. Make sure the professor gets to a hospital.”

“If I make him do anything, it’ll be to play another game. I want to win my money back.”

“Good luck.”

Pike ended the call. He entered the new number.

“Pike?” the voice said.

“Yeah. Who’s this?”

“The girl will be in front of the Imperial Laguna in Cancun at 3 A.M.”

“Which girl? Gemma?”

“She’ll be there for three minutes. That’s your window. Then she’s gone.”

The call disconnected.

“What time is it?” Pike had lost his watch somewhere along the way.

“Just past ten,” Jimenez said.

“Who was it?” Drake said.

Pike didn’t answer. He had less than five hours.

If the caller wasn’t lying.

If it wasn’t a trap.

It didn’t matter. If there was a chance to find Gemma, he would take it.

“Nugget,” Pike said. “I need to borrow your chopper.”

To be Continued

© Mark Justice 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Donovan Pike Podcast--Chapter 10

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Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 10

Gustav saw the gun in Pike’s hand.

“Throw it down”

Pike didn’t move. Gustav pulled a pistol from his holster. It was a Ruger 3301. He aimed it at Gemma.

“I only need Dr. Crassberg,” he said. “It will not trouble me to kill the other one.”

Gemma was a little pale, but otherwise showed no emotion.

Pike tossed Drake’s gun to the ground.

Helton took a step toward Gustav.

“Hey, asshole,” the pilot said, “are you the reason my plane is on fire over there?”

“Yes,” Gustav said. He shot Helton. The pilot doubled over, clutching his stomach. He fell to the jungle floor.

A whimper came from Elizabeth. No one else made a sound until Pike spoke.

“I’ll remember this, Gustav, and I’ll make it right.”

Gustav holstered his pistol. “Very good, yes. You remember me, and please mention my name to St. Peter. You’re on your way to meet him now.”

Pike grabbed Drake’s arm, pulling the other man into the deep jungle growth. As soon as they were hidden, both men dived to the ground..

Bullets crashed above them.

“They’re aiming where we would be if we were stupid enough to still be standing,” Drake said.

“I was counting on it,” Pike said.

Before the enemy could rush them, Pike and Drake crawled to a group of thin trees. Drake did pretty well with his inured arm.

When they were behind the trees, Drake whispered, “Not much protection.”

“They’re papaya trees,” Pike said. “The jungle’s thick with them. Hopefully, they won’t have to stop any bullets. We just need the shelter for a minute.”

The shooting stooped. Men were coming. Someone used a machete to cut away the thick cover.

Two of the men in white appeared through a freshly-hacked opening in the green vegetation. The man in front held a machete in one hand and a lightweight machine pistol in the other. The man in the rear used both hands to carry his M249.

The path of the two Brotherhood agents took them next to Pike’s hiding place. Pike let both men pass by. He stepped from cover and got an arm around the throat of the second man. The second man made a sound that was somewhere between a shout and a gurgle. The first man spun around, raised the machine pistol and squeezed off a three-round burst. The bullets stitched a bloody line across the chest of the man Pike held. Pike reached around and clasped the trigger hand of the now-dead Brotherhood agent. The sound of the M249 was enormous. The man with the machete was nearly cut in two by the fire from the light machine gun. Pike held onto the gun and let the dead man drop. Drake bent over the other victim, recovering the machine pistol.

Pike headed back toward Gemma and the other Brotherhood men.

“Too many of ‘em,” Drake said.

“Not as many as a minute ago,” Pike said.

Pike followed the rough path that had been hacked by the machete. At the edge of the path he peered through the brush. Gemma and Elizabeth were gone. So was Gustav and most of the Brotherhood soldiers. Four men remained.

Pike stepped from cover and raised the M249. He held the machine gun steady until the four men were cut down.

Drake appeared at his side as the last shot was fired. Pike’s ears rang.

“Didn’t leave any for me,” Drake said.

Pike dropped the machine gun.

“Empty,” he said. “And too damn heavy.”

“Hard to keep the barrel down?”

“A little.” Pike examined the dead men. Two of them wore holsters like Gustav’s. The guns were also Rugers. Pike stuck one of them in the waistband of his jeans and carried the other.

The sound of a helicopter came from nearby.

“Shit,” Pike said.

“Where’s Helton?” Drake said.

The pilot’s body was gone.

“Maybe he survived and crawled away.”

Drake examined the spot where Helton fell.

“He was gut shot. You see a blood trail?”

Except for the area around the four dead agents, there was no blood.

“It doesn’t matter,” Pike said. “It doesn’t help us find Gemma and Elizabeth.”

Pike walked back to the jungle path.

“Got a destination in mind?” Drake said.

“Wherever there’s a phone.”

Pike retrieved the machete from the dead man in the jungle. As it turned out, he didn’t need it for long. They soon stumbled across an old path, created by centuries of footfalls.

“Maybe this leads to an Aztec cell phone store,” Drake said.

“I liked it better when you were the strong silent type.”

Drake grunted.

Neither of them spoke again for almost an hour, when Pike noticed Drake’s ragged breathing.

“Let’s take a break,” he said.

“Don’t...need a break,” Drake huffed.

“Sure. But I do.” Pike sat down at the edge of the path and leaned against the trunk of a papaya tree. The butt of the Ruger dug into his back, so Pike pulled it out and set both guns on the ground next to him. Drake settled next to him, resting the machine pistol across his lap.

When Pike found a phone, he would call Pug on the Triton. Depending on where the ship was, they could hook up with him at the coast or Pug could send a plane for him. Then the search for Gemma could begin.

Drake was silent, until his breathing evened out.

“This what it’s like for you?” he said.


“Running around the world, pissing people off. Hiding in the jungle.”

Pike nodded. “Pretty much, Except for the hiding. I’m not a big fan of that.”

“Why do you do it?”

“Run around the world? Or piss people off?”

“You’re a rich kid. Shouldn’t you be clubbing in Miami or dating Paris Hilton?”

Pike didn’t answer for a long moment.

“I’ve only loved two things,” he said. “My freedom. And excitement. The only thing the money means to me is I get to live my life the way I want.”

Drake made a sound that might have been a chuckle.

“There was a time you loved something else.”

Pike stared at Drake, then shrugged.

“I was young. Gemma wanted to follow her dad into the business. I didn’t.”

“You always were a restless kid, Donny boy.”

“We need to have more of these heart-to-hearts, Dr. Phil. Really. I feel so much better.”

Drake stood up.

“Nap time’s over. Let’s move out.”

Pike stood, and the walk resumed.

They continued on the path until the sun went down. In the twilight, the path ended at a barrier of green.

Pike pushed the machete into the vegetation. It encountered an obstruction.

“A wall,” he said. He jammed the point of the blade in the ground and shoved the Ruger into his waistband next to its mate. He used both hands to feel along the wall. When he found the gate, he used the machete to hack through the undergrowth.

The gate was metal, flecked with rust, and locked.

“Doesn’t look very sturdy,” Drake said.

Pike kicked it. With a squeal, the latch broke and the gate swung open.

“They must not get many visitors from this side,” he said.

Pike let the machete fall to the path. He carried both Rugers as he stepped through the gate. Drake followed with the machine pistol in his good hand.

They were on the lawn of a large estate, standing on perfectly manicured grass. A massive house was in the distance, perhaps 300 yards away. A light shone from every window.

“I’d hate to mow this yard,” Drake said.

Pike headed for the house.

“Let’s knock on the door,” he said.

They had covered perhaps 50 yards when they heard the vehicles. Big trucks. Maybe Hummers. It was hard to tell. All they could see were headlights. Three vehicles stopped 10 yards away. The trucks were equipped with big spotlights. Pike squinted into the glare. He heard the familiar sound of a shotgun as a shell was racked into the chamber.

Pike looked at Drake. Drake shrugged. They both dropped their guns.

A voice on the other side of the lights shouted in Spanish: Who are you?

“Our plane crashed in the jungle,” Pike replied in the same language. “We just need a telephone.”

Someone else replied. In English. The voice was deep and guttural, as if the speaker had endured an injury to the throat. It was a voice Pike recognized.

“Donovan Pike? Is that you?”

Drake made that sound again, the one that might have been a laugh.

“Pike,” the voice said. “You have balls to come here, you son of a whore.”

“Of all the people I could get stuck in the jungle with,” Drake muttered, “I end up with Mister Charm.”

To be Continued

© Mark Justice 2010