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Secondary Solutions

by Gary Clifton

“Okay, listen up.” DEA supervisor Glen Chism’s gravelly voice filled the crowded squad room. “We got four places to hit tonight. As usual, not enough agents to suit me and, tonight, the weather’s in the toilet. I’m gonna try to hit the meth lab, the one that the MS-13 cutthroats operate out on Southview. We’ll go with Jackson, Rizolli, and the new guy there. Sorry, rook, I forget your name.”

“Wilbur Frakel, sir,” replied a slightly-built, twentyish man sitting alone at the back of the room. He squinted over thick-lensed glasses.

“Yeah, Wilbur, sorry. You’ll take the surveillance van and park as close to the door as possible. Those maggots were smart enough to set up in a commercial building on a spacious lot. Hard to get close. Wilbur, the instant somebody — anybody — shows up, you call for help. Jackson and Rizolli will act as backup in the old F150 somewhere close by.”

“Yessir,” Wilbur replied in a voice barely audible.

“And, Wilbur, as we learned from headquarters this afternoon, some damned psycho has managed to trap and slaughter a half-dozen operators in MS-13 meth labs in St. Louis and Kansas City in the past month. Be alert, and be damned careful, understand?


Around the room, doubting eyes turned to study this quiet newbie, most wondering how he managed to get hired, let alone survive the academy. A thunderous clap of thunder rattled the windows, causing most of the curious to jump.

Agent Jordan Jackson, a twenty-year veteran, sat at one side, next to agent Suzy Rizolli. Rizolli, two years out of the academy, was dressed in her version of undercover garb: a sweater two sizes too small and a miniskirt that might cause indecent exposure on a public street. Rizolli’s well-conditioned body accentuated the outfit. Both nodded when Chism completed his instructions.

Jackson ran the back of his hand down Rizolli’s bare thigh. ”Psycho, MS-13 murderers? Crap, good Samaritans.” Tall and slender, his gray flecked hair was shoulder length in standard dope cop mode.

* * *

Rain was still falling in rolling sheets, making visibility nearly impossible. Wilbur pulled the van to within thirty feet of the only door of the rundown building. As a caution, he cut the engine, killing the wipers and any movement from his van. He’d chance seeing movement at the door in the limited light if anyone showed up.

A block away, squeezed behind a dumpster, the completely steamed-up windows of the F150 blocked any view from outside. Inside, Rizolli’s miniskirt hung from the rear-view mirror. Jackson’s cowboy boots were wedged on the dash. The two-way radio beneath the seat was turned to minimum volume.

An hour passed. Wilbur’s eyes grew heavy from the steady strain of watching the door in the darkness. Blinding rain continued unabated.

Then, suddenly, a Corvette roared onto the deserted parking lot, jerking to a halt at the door. Two occupants climbed out, ignored Wilbur’s van in the rain, and approached the door. One held a cellular flashlight while the other fumbled with the door lock.

Wilbur dug out the microphone from the van’s glove box. “Jackson, Rizolli, two men entered the door. Come quick.”

For the next several minutes, he repeated his request for help. No one returned his call. Finally, he stepped out into the rain, buttoned his raincoat, and cautiously approached the meth lab door.

In the F150, Jackson and Rizolli were sharing a cigarette. “You hear radio traffic?” Rizolli asked. She reached down and turned up the radio volume.

“Oh hell!” Jackson said sharply. He grabbed the microphone and called Wilbur several times. After receiving no answer, he called for any unit to respond to Wilbur’s location. Several units reported they were on route.

Jackson had just exited the F150 at the meth lab door and was zipping up his fly when cars began arriving. The mass of headlights illuminated Wilbur, standing in the rain, hands in his pockets. Behind him, the door was ajar, light from inside outlining the door.

“Wilbur!” Jackson shouted “Back off. We’ll handle this.”

Jackson and just-arrived supervisor Chism, pistols drawn, brushed past Wilbur and into the building. In seconds both burst back out the door. Jackson vomited on the pavement.

Chism choked on his words. “Great God, call forensics down here!”

* * *

The squad room clock announced 5:02 A.M. The crowded room was quiet.

Chism stood up front. “My God, they’d been ripped apart... entrails strung around. We’ve gotta form a task force to find this monster, or monsters. Wilbur, tell us again what you saw.”

Wilbur sat quietly. “In the dark and rain, I saw two unlock the door and go in. Nobody came out. When I approached, Jackson and you showed up. You know the rest.”

Chism said thoughtfully, “Musta been waitin’ inside.”

“Maybe so, sir,” Wilbur replied, barely audible.

Chism added, “The killer wore a raincoat to shield his clothes from any evidence. It was tossed on the floor.”

No one spoke.

Jackson and Rizolli were sitting at one side of the room. Rizolli’s hair was askew. Her miniskirt was on backward.

Jackson stood. “Anyone who gives a damn about somebody or something erasing a pair of dirtbags operating a meth lab, raise their hand.”

Nobody responded.

Jackson spotted Wilbur sitting quietly in the back row. The mild-mannered rookie’s eyes were glazed as if half-asleep. Then Jackson realized that Wilbur’s vision was fixed on Rizzoli’s miniskirt. As he stared, Wilbur’s gaze shifted slightly to him. The penetrating eyes were something Jackson had never seen before.

He recalled the image of Wilbur on the meth lab parking lot when flashing lightning and headlights briefly illuminated him. Had Wilbur been wearing a raincoat? Then he realized those splatters he’d just spotted on Wilbur’s sneakers were deep crimson red.

Jackson slumped in his chair, desperately trying to come up with a wiseacre comment. None came.

Copyright © 2020 by Gary Clifton

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