Mortal Prey

Free Mortal Prey by John Sandford

Book: Mortal Prey by John Sandford Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Sandford
Tags: Fiction, Suspense
concrete ditch that everyone in Los Angeles called a river.
    Down the river, if there’d been water in it, and you’d been allowed to boat it, and if you’d followed it far enough, you’d come to the Port of Long Beach—which is where the Lawtons berthed their sailboat. They got to the boat in a red ’96 Jeep Cherokee with a surfboard rack on top, down I-5 and the 710, rather than down the river.
    The Lawtons grew a little weed under lights, kept a couple of red-striped cats, and Michelle read mystery stories and made tangerine marmalade and worked part-time in a chain bookstore, while Tom took meetings on his screenplay. The screenplay involved the shadowy world of flesh smugglers, who ran human cargo into the States against the best efforts of outmanned and outgunned American law-enforcement officers, played by one or both of the Sheen brothers, although Tom’d take Jean-Claude Van Damme and a chick named Heather if he had to.
    The few people who’d read the screenplay suggested that it wasn’t realistic enough. Not enough violence, they said. Not enough brutality. A mailroom guy from ICM told Tom around a Garden Veggie sandwich in a bagel joint that it could use a little sexual and racial schtick. Maybe the human cargoes should be Chinese sex slaves, and he could try to sell the product to Jackie Chan.
    What pissed Tom off was that he and Michelle were smugglers of human flesh. Neither one had ever owned a gun or had more than the briefest encounters with officers of the law, for the good reason that they smuggled only one person at a time, never anything but Americans, and those persons always had good documents, which they brought themselves or Tom supplied through a Persian guy from Pasadena who made really good Texas driver’s licenses.
    The Lawtons weren’t overwhelmingly busy as smugglers, but their rates were high and a body a month pretty much covered their nut.
    THIS PARTICULAR BODY was a woman, who would come across on Wednesday evening. She had her own ID, and it was good, Tom’s manin-Mexico said.
    At Wednesday noon, the Lawtons took their boat, the Star of Omaha, out the Long Beach channel. A six-or eight-knot breeze was blowing across the Islands, and they cut the diesel, put up the sails and headed south, taking their time. They weren’t going to Mexico. They were going to a spot fifteen miles off San Diego. Crossing the border was the job of their Mexican contact, a guy named Juan Duarte.
    Duarte owned a twenty-two-foot Boston Whaler Guardian, with a haze-gray hull, just like the American Coast Guard, but without the Coast Guard’s bow-mounted fifty-caliber machine gun. The hull color, which was standard, was the closest thing on earth to the Romulans’ cloaking device—from twenty feet, on a dark night, it was invisible. Juan put the body in the boat, waited for dark, then idled up the coast to a spot distinguished only by its GPS coordinates. He found the Lawtons with their sails backed, quietly waiting, a couple of cigarette coals glowing in the dark. Though the Star of Omaha ’s hull was white, they were very nearly as invisible as the Whaler.
    “Dude,” Duarte called, using the international sailboat hailing sign.
    “Juan, how are you?”
    Juan tossed a bowline over the sailboat’s foredeck and Tom used it to pull the two boats together; the Lawtons had dropped foam fenders over the side to keep them from knocking too hard. The body threw a bag into the sailboat, then clambered up and over the side into the sailboat’s cockpit.
    “Nice to see you,” Tom said, nodding at her in the dark. The body nodded back; she could smell tobacco on him, a pleasant odor. Michelle passed a small package to Juan: “It’s an olive-wood rosary from Jerusalem, for your mom. It was blessed in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Mt. Calvary is. Jimmy brought it back,” she said.
    “Thank him for me,” Juan said.
    “You good?” Tom called down to Juan.
    Juan held up a hand, meaning that

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