After swiping the strand of hair away from her face, Erica smiles, then waves at a Marine in the distance holding an M16. A young Afghan boy is walking up to him and the Marine lowers his gun and looks down at the little guy.
Moments later there is loud bang and then Erica suddenly awakes from her sleep to the sounds of thunder.
It’s still dark in her bedroom but for the lightning that occasionally streaks through the dark sky. She looks at her cellphone and sees it’s 7:38 a.m. “Too fucking early on a Sunday.” She says as she gets out of bed and heads towards the kitchen to start the coffee.
After hitting the loo she walks back down the hallway to the kitchen to fill her cup up with coffee she hears her cell phone go off. She ignores it.
Erica pours a cup of coffee and walks into her living room to turns on the news. She sits down in her “comfy chair” as she likes to call the big and overstuffed armchair she favors. Erica takes her first sip with one hand, grabs the remote with the other hand, and flips through the channels to put on the news. First thing she sees is the American president’s bloated face and him talking about taking people’s children away from them, and how it will stop “the illegals” from “pouring” over the border from Mexico and into the USA. Oh and El Triple Seis, they are going to take over.
She chuckles to herself about El Triple Seis.
Back at El Jefe’s house…
“She didn’t answer.” Osito tells his twin brother, Alejandro. “Probably turned her cell off, it’s early. We’ll try again later.”
Although identical twins, Osito is the stockier one, whereas Alejandro is slender and a few inches taller. Could be why one played football and the other ran track in their school days. Alejandro still runs tens miles every morning at 5:00 AM, no matter what the weather is like.
It can be said Osito still pushes the sled because it’s how he trains all of their new recruits. He participates in all the exercise programs he runs with the recruits. All active soldiers are required to keep up with some sort physical regime, too.
“Yea, it’s early. Can I have some Cap’n Crunch now?” Luis, their older brother, asks. Luis is kneeling on the TV room’s floor watching cartoons. He pinches his index finger and thumb together over and over again next to his head, as he rocks to and fro in place.
Luis is 28 years old and has Savant Syndrome. He cannot function as an adult, nor can he color within the lines, or look directly at you, but numbers and hacking… he’s a genius.
“Si, mi amore. I will start making breakfast.” A short, hunched over, silver haired, old lady dressed in a black dress and knee high stockings, says to him.
“Thank you, Abuelita.” Luis tells her. Slowly Abuelita makes her way down a long pink marble hallway towards the kitchen.
Alejandro says to Osito, “So this woman masterminded this entire endeavor, brought back some fingers, a thumb drive, and told you she believes what you saw were schematics to a satellite?”
Osito replies, “Yup.”
“So you feel she may be the one to run security for our first ocean run?” Alejandro continues questioning.
“I have no doubt she can and I’ll be part of the team, too.” Osito assured his twin.
Alejandro places his hand on his chin, holding it while he nods his head slowly, squinting his eyes, and paces back and forth in a small area. Suddenly he stops and says, “Are those eggs and peppers that I smell?”
“I don’t smell Cap’n Crunch. I don’t.” Luis says as he stands up looking into the air and sniffing, “I don’t smell Cap’n Crunch.”
“First!” Luis yells and runs out of the TV room down the same pink marbled hallway.
Alejandro and Osito start pushing each other as they try to beat each other out of the TV room to the kitchen. Brothers…
After the men fill up with breakfast they kiss their Abuelita, thank her, and they head outside to a stone patio. It is there that Osito calls Erica again hoping she picks up.
“Yea?” Erica says not really paying attention when she answers her cell.
“This is Osito.” He informs her.
Now paying attention, she turns off her TV and says, “Oh, sorry. Yes sir?”
“El Jefe would like to meet with you today. A driver will be by at noon to pick you up. Be ready.” Osito tells her.
“Yes, sir. I will be ready, sir.” Erica says to him.
“Great.” He says and ends the call.
As the twins discuss their upcoming meeting with her, Erica scrambles to get ready and jumps in the shower. She can only assume it was about the mission from Thursday.
Once bathed she puts on a t-shirt, cargo pants, and military boots, she dazzles her ensemble up with small faceted earrings. The kind that records her whereabouts. The kind that reports back to James, aka, Professor H. That’s what Erica likes to call him. Makes him sound like one of the good guys in X-Men.
So James is an MIT Nanotech Engineer, and the first to harness and contain the self-replication of a nanotech device. Likewise, he has a way to activate deactivation of its self-replication. He has a crush on Erica. He thinks it’s a secret, but the team knows.
Team? Erica, after an Officer Discharge, became an Independent Contractor working for the ISSA.
The ISSA, International Secret Service Agency, is a privately owned company which offers private and military security and reconnaissance services to countries who are bound by International Law. The ISSA employs independent contractors and is a coalition of the most elite of former Special Forces soldiers, officers, and commanders from various countries such as the United States, Britain, Ireland, France, Norway, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Montenegro, India and Israel.
Anyway, Professor H., created many devices for Erica, including jewels that can record and pinpoint her location.
Erica puts on a little bit of blush-pink lip gloss, throws it in one of her cargo pockets, and waits for her pick-up. About fifteen minutes later and $45 million in fake money gambled from her cell phone app, she hears a knock on her door. She ends her game ahead and happy.
She opens the door and there stands a tall man with very blonde hair and pale skin, dressed in a tailored black suit. Erica asks, “Would you be my ride?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He says in a very deep voice.
She locks up behind her and follows him down the stairs of her apartment to the first level where a Pharmacia is. She waves through the window that separates the Pharmacia from the stairs that lead up to several apartments in the building. The woman behind the counter waves back.
The giant opens the door to the back seat of a military style Hummer. He then takes out a small step stools to make it easier for her. Erica appreciates it and uses the steps. “Thanks.” She says and he replies with, “You’re welcome.”
The rest of the ride was silent. All the better because she had nothing to talk about and enjoyed the scenery along the journey to wherever the hell they were going.
Turns out he was taking her to Ensenada, a port city on the Pacific coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, and to a beautiful beach home.
“Did I under dress, Drago?” She asks the tall pale man, trying to open him up using a Rocky IV reference.
“My name is Levushka, and it is not a black tie event, if that is what your question is.” Drago replied to her flatly.
She sticks her tongue at him. He saw it from the rear-view mirror, but doesn’t care.
He drives up to a large white rod iron gate painted white. A Los Poderosos soldier guarding it, of course. He nods at Levushka, punches in a few numbers on a keypad and the gate opens. The Hummer drives through and the gate closes behind them. There before them is a pale pink stucco house, with white shutters and rust colored clay shingled roof. The gardening was amazing, as was the security. The Hummer then stops in front of a grand stairway that leads up to another white rod iron gate with yet another soldier.
So Levushka opens the door for Erica and outside is the little step stool. She just jumps out.
Levushka nods at her, closes the door and says to her, ” Ok, go up the stairs, they will take you from here.” And with that he climbs back into the Hummer and drives off.
Once up at the gate, another guard opens it up and lets her into a courtyard. He says to her, “Take a seat over there.” He points to a fountain of Neptune and around it are cement formed benches that had sea shells stuck here and there in them. Erica picks one and sits.
Luis went outside and sat on a bench next to hers. “Hi, I’m Luis.” He says to her.
“Hi, Luis. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Erica says to him not sure what to do or if this is who she was meeting with.
“He’s my favorite kind of God. Did you know there are lots of Gods?” He asks her.
Erica realizes Luis is a precious and unique sort of individual and takes it from there, “Well, out of Sea Gods I can think of about, um… fifteen of them.”
“Wow!” Luis says with eyes wide open. “There are at least 17 of the Sea Gods. I love the sea and my favorite one is Neptune. I like seashells, too. Did you see the ones in our benches?” Luis asks her with excitement.
“Yes, Luis. Those were the next wonderful things I noticed!” Erica answers him.
Luis looked directly into Erica’s eyes and asks her, “Which one is your favorite? Do you have a favorite? Mine is Neptune.”
“Yes, Luis, I do have a favorite one, and I bet you one hundred pesos that you can’t guess who it is.” She says to him giving him a challenge.
He puts his hand to his mouth as if he has to be quiet. Then smiles under his hand, looking down at the ground. Luis takes his hand away from his mouth and takes a deep breath. “If I were Neptune and saw a pretty girl like you, I bet he would think you are a Goddess. So I want to believe it’s Salacia!” He says with hopeful eyes.
How can you say no to that? How?
“Can you read minds, Luis? That’s not fair, you know how to read minds.” Erica tells him as if she is amazed and hands him one hundred and ten pesos.
“No, I don’t know how to read minds. Or hear them. I like math, and computers, and Neptune!” He tells her so innocently.
“Well, you figured me right out, didn’t ya?” She asks him.
“Like math, huh?” He asks her trying to dissect her sentence.
“Exactly like math, Luis.” Erica answers him with a smile.
Alejandro and Osito are looking out of a window watching Luis carry on a conversation with a strange woman. Clearly he feels comfortable with her and it’s obvious she knows how to speak to him. “She’s got a special nack, I’ll say that.” Alejandro observes.
“C’mon, let me introduce you.” Osito says pulling on Alejandro’s elbow. Osito was more eager than Alejandro to get out there and see her.
The two walk out to the fountain area, Osito says, “Hello, Erica, I see you met our brother, Luis. This is Alejandro. El Jefe to the rest.”
She stands up.
Alejandro takes Erica’s hand and kisses the back of it and says, “Charmed.”
Yea, she wasn’t expecting that, but went with it. “Likewise.” She lies to him.
“So you brought back some fingers. Where are the people that were attached to them?” Alejandro asks.
“Shot dead, blown up, burnt to a crisp.” Erica answers.
“Oooookay.” He replies, then asks, “Did you know who they were before you took their fingers?”
“Yes, sir. I studied everything about El Triple Seis. I realize, Sir, that Tomas Espinoza is still out there. If given the opportunity I would like to finish the job. You know…Tomas.” Erica tells Alejandro.
Alejandro looks over at Osito and asks him, “Where have you been hiding this jewel?”
Osito looks at Erica and sees a diamond.
Alejandro went right for it and tells her, “I have a job which requires strong security and we were hoping you might be interested in it after you take out Tomas.”
“Tell me about it, Sir.” She tells him.
“Sure, but come on inside. Let’s have a drink and discuss it.” Alejandro tells her.