Dieter Countryman had lived a life he’d wanted. Like anyone, he had his regrets, but the pluses overshadowed the less shining examples. At least that was the narrative Countryman had long ago constructed for himself. Early on, duty and honor had sustained him, in those days when he was a greenhorn knee-deep in back-channel bullshit with the contras in Nicaragua–with their orders coming out of the basement in the White House where that chickenbird colonel loved to hole up. That was the time of the fabled Reagan era that delivered body blow after body blow to liberals and their precious ideas like job training for underprivileged knotheads and government monies to keep the nutjobs housed.
Reagan successfully cut those job-training programs, and as the resultant gang problem rose and the crazies were dumped on the streets, he’d bust the air controller’s union–themselves a bunch of hard-drinking, golfing goofs until then all for the Gipper–and whip the populace into fear and quiet frenzy about the God-forsaking Russkies and the Red Plague. While First Lady Nancy ran around Just Saying No and calling in her astrologer for late-night readings, as she trusted these charlatans’ mumbo-jumbo more than the mumbo-jumbo of polls.
And the chumps voted him in twice. And somewhere along the way duty and honor turned to cold cynicism in Countryman.
Countryman would have laughed, only now it wasn’t just the steering wheel shoved into his lower abdomen giving him discomfort. Burning alive was definitely not enjoyable. In these last few moments of his existence, as his flesh sizzled and the flames ate his extremities and his once-cool Bullitt Mustang, his deeds of death haunted his mind. He shuddered and died just seconds before the gas tank erupted. Projectile pieces of his car sheered off shrubbery and were blown into the air, briefly lit by the yellows and oranges of the explosion.
The flash of gas-fueled light illuminated the stern face of the tall man nicknamed Jeff. Dispassionately he watched the car burn from a ridge as he tried again to reach his shorter partner on his cell. Who again didn’t pick up. These two didn’t use voicemail and swapped out their mobiles for another disposable every six or seven days. Jeff was annoyed but not worried. After all, there had been times when neither of them had picked up. He smiled broadly, recalling the twin hookers at that house of pleasure in Union City. He didn’t answer for several hours. But he’d been off the clock. When both were on the job like now, they routinely checked in with each other. He considered this as he slung the rifle on its strap across his back, turning to leave his latest murderous handiwork behind. He paused, adjusting the rifle, and wondered should he be more than annoyed as he hiked back to his car.
Cyrus Kang knew he was in deep, but damned if he knew how to extricate himself. This wasn’t like being swept off your board by a big wave. This was like being sucked down by an undertow, aware it was happening, but you had to keep stroking and kicking, praying for that one chance to free yourself. He should have confided in his sister that he and Cenine were a thing, but it was pretty goddamn late to be worried about that. He had more immediate concerns, as he drove his Camaro along the 5 Freeway south heading into Orange County.