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Cotton FBI - Episode 12

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. What is COTTON FBI?
  3. The Author
  4. Title
  5. Copyright
  6. Prologue
  7. 1
  8. 2
  9. 3
  10. 4
  11. 5
  12. 6
  13. 7
  14. 8
  15. 9
  16. 10
  17. Next on Cotton FBI

What is COTTON FBI?

Your name is Jeremiah Cotton. You are a small-time cop in the NYPD, a rookie that no one takes seriously. But you want more. You have a score to settle with the world. And anyone who calls you “Jerry” will be sorry.

A new time. A new hero. A new mission. Experience the birth of a digital cult-series: Cotton FBI is the remake of JERRY COTTON, the most successful series of German novels with more than one billion copies sold, and it tells an entirely new story in e-book form.

Cotton FBI is published twice a month, with each episode a self-contained story.

The Author

Peter Mennigen was born in Meckenheim near Bonn. He studied art and design in Cologne before he turned to writing fiction. His novels have been published by Bastei Lübbe, Rowohlt, Ravensburger and other publishing houses. He also writes scripts for graphic novels and audio dramatizations as well as screenplays for TV shows and series.

Prologue

Three Years Ago

To put it bluntly, anyone contemplating suicide or hoping to find out what it feels like to have their throat slit open can get their wish in Knoxville, Arizona.

Knoxville is located somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, near the Mexican border. It can be hard to believe that this hick town of ramshackle wooden houses used to be an important place in the old days, back when cowboys drove cattle through the region. These days, the desolate outpost has become something of a collection point for wasted lives. Hookers, junkies, crooks — the entire spectrum of losers is well represented among the population.

The hub of local social activity stands right in the center of Knoxville, bearing the colorful name ‘Alligator Lounge’; of course, it’s a bullshit name, since there isn’t a single alligator in all of Arizona, except maybe one or two in a zoo. Maybe the name is intended to reflect the clientele that frequents the bar, often late into the night. They mill about aimlessly, waiting for unsuspecting travelers to drop into their snake pit of desperation and violence and volunteer to be cheated, robbed, or even killed, depending on the circumstances.

Until just recently, Special Agent Philippa ‘Phil’ Decker had had no inkling of Knoxville’s existence. All this changed one sweltering day in June, during an operation on Knoxville’s Main Street. She and a dozen other agents were crammed into three large Chevy SUVs parked along the street. The FBI agents had been assembled from five different bureaus especially for this assignment.

The sun blazed hot in the steel-blue sky above them. Although they had all long since taken off their jackets, they were still sweating so profusely that their clothes stuck to their bodies like a second layer of skin. The vinyl seats didn’t help matters much. The only positive thing about this hot, shadeless location was the clear view they had of the bar.

Decker and Special Agent Steve Dillagio were in charge of this operation. Zeerookah, the G-Team’s IT expert, was also in attendance, on one of his very rare assignments outside of headquarters.

The agents were waiting for their main objective to appear: a man named Loco Hernando, the younger brother of the drug lord Pablo Hernando, whose cartel controlled much of the drug trade between Colombia and the US. The FBI had been informed that Loco would be here today to personally oversee a deal. If this information was correct, then the odds were good that there was more to it than just a simple drug deal.

After observing the bar for five hours, the agents were running low on water as well as patience. To everyone’s relief, just after noon, the sound of an approaching vehicle gave them hope that the moment they had been waiting for had finally arrived. A large Hummer turned onto Main Street and rolled past the Chevys, stopping in front of the Alligator Lounge.

Three enormous muscular bodyguards dressed in black got out of the Hummer and looked around. They didn’t seem to be the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree, since the black FBI vehicles with their dark-tinted windows didn’t arouse their suspicion. Having determined that the coast was clear, one of them opened the rear door of the Hummer.

Loco Hernando got out of the vehicle. He was a wiry Colombian in his mid-thirties. Decker was able to identify him from the photos she had been issued. She was surprised by the way he was dressed. Even though the FBI dossier on him mentioned his extravagant taste in clothes, she hadn’t expected to see him wearing a pink designer suit. He disappeared into the dive bar, together with the medium-sized aluminum briefcase he was carrying and his heavyweight entourage.

Nervous, Decker drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. Now would be the ideal time to strike … if it weren’t for Loco’s driver, who had stayed in the vehicle. The bald man was sitting resolutely in the driver’s seat. His left hand was resting on the steering wheel, and his right hand was toying with an Uzi, as the agents could see through his open window.

This unforeseen situation sparked a heated debate among the FBI agents. Using their radios, they argued back and forth about how best to get Loco and his briefcase. Decker didn’t participate in the discussion. Instead, she took off her shoulder holster and opened the top buttons of her blouse.

Dillagio let out a whistle and Zeerookah’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets when the two men saw what she was doing.

“Are you crazy? I know it’s hot in here, but you don’t need to get undressed.”

“A woman’s greatest weapon … ever heard of it?” Decker had opened her blouse enough to allow a glimpse of her bra. “Every species has a weak spot. For men, it’s sex.”

“You want to play Venus flytrap in the lion’s den?”

“That is what’s known as a mixed metaphor.” Decker worked on a stubborn button. “But I know what you mean. I guess you could put it that way.”

“You do realize that if your idea doesn’t work, we’ll be visiting you in the cemetery?”

Decker ignored the warning and told the men what her plan was. Then she opened the door and got out. She pulled her pistol out of its holster and stuck it into the waistband of her skirt at the small of her back. Her plan was to get close to the man with the Uzi without arousing his suspicion and then take him out.

Before she made her move, she unbuttoned her blouse all the way. She thought it might be better to allow the driver a full view of her cleavage. Zeerookah’s jaw dropped open just a bit more. Dillagio swallowed hard.

Her colleagues were seeing more of her than they ever had before, but that was the least of Decker’s concerns. Mission first! Determined, she walked over to the Hummer.

The Hummer’s driver saw the woman approaching through his rear-view mirror. Although she was partially obscured by the vehicle, he could see that her blouse was completely open, waving in the hot breeze blowing in from the desert. His interest aroused, he concentrated on getting a better look. The unknown woman was tall, with a great figure and long legs. Based on what she was wearing, at first he thought that she was one of the local whores, the type of wench who would fall to her knees for a few bucks. This irritated him. He turned his head to look through the driver-side mirror, where Decker now appeared in full view. His eyes widened as he saw that she couldn’t be a whore; not only was she hot, but she had style … if you ignored the open blouse.

Casually, she placed a hand on the top of the door and leaned forward, sticking out her chest. The man behind the wheel couldn’t help but stare at the view Decker was offering him. Sweat was trickling down her skin, disappearing into her bra. He didn’t notice that her right arm was behind her back until she raised it in one smooth motion, Glock in hand. She pressed the muzzle of the gun against his forehead and smirked at his stupefied expression.

“F … B … I,” she said breathlessly, in her best Marilyn Monroe impression. “Lay your weapon down on the passenger seat, sweetie, and put both hands on the steering wheel.”

The man cursed through clenched teeth, but he obeyed. Decker signaled to the other agents, who hurried over to her. Dillagio placed handcuffs on the driver’s wrists.

Decker stuck her pistol back into the waistband of her skirt and walked over to the bar, buttoning her blouse.

She stepped inside the semi-dark dive, which was full of cigarette smoke and criminals of all varieties. It was a long, narrow room, with the bar on the left, restrooms to the right, and tables in the middle. The amenities were spartan: rickety chairs and well-worn tables. The unfinished wooden floor hadn’t seen a mop in ages.

Decker glided past tables and chairs, attracting the attention of a few of the customers. The men openly stared at her body, much to the disgust of their female companions. Disapprovingly, the women sized up Decker from head to toe.

Loco Hernando was standing at the bar with his back to Decker. With his hands in the pockets of his pink trousers, he was speaking in Spanish to a medium-sized man with broad shoulders, an angular face, and greased-back hair. In his Armani suit, highly polished five-hundred-dollar shoes, and silk tie, Loco looked like an LA drug dealer. The aluminum case rested on the floor beside him. Beside it was another case made of fake leather, which seemed to belong to Loco’s companion. The bodyguards were scattered around the premises.

Decker stepped up to the bar — the surface was filthy. The shelves on the wall behind the bar were filled with liquor bottles of all varieties. The barman asked her what she wanted to drink. She ordered water and was given a glass filled with a disturbingly brownish liquid.

Loco ordered two Jim Beams and clinked glasses with the man he was talking to. Decker eavesdropped for a while, hoping to hear something interesting. Finally, she reached behind her back, drew her weapon, and tapped the barrel on Loco’s shoulder.

“Loco Hernando?”

He turned his head and found himself staring into the barrel of a gun.

“The FBI would like to have a word with you,” she told him with a smile.

Loco jerked his arm up, reflexively grabbing for the weapon concealed underneath his pink jacket.

“Don’t do that,” she told him in an ice-cold voice. “You wouldn’t live to regret it.”

Loco stared into her eyes. It was obvious that he was feverishly considering his options. Slowly, he let his arm fall back to the bar.

“Clever boy,” she said. “Keep your hands where I can see them. You, your friend, and I will be taking a little walk outside. Don’t forget to bring your briefcases.”

Decker, focused on Loco and the other man, hadn’t noticed one of the bodyguards coming out of the men’s room. The man’s reaction was automatic: Seeing someone aiming a pistol at his boss, he drew his own weapon and fired at her. The bullet lodged into the wall behind the bar. Although the bullet missed her, Loco’s fist did not, and he punched her squarely in the nose. She spun around and almost blacked out. Her legs buckled, and she dropped her pistol. Before she knew what had happened, Loco had grabbed a hunk of her hair and pulled her head back, ready to slam her face into the bar.

Most of the guests inside the Alligator Lounge hadn’t realized what was going on. They were frozen in place, staring, like dozens of statues. That changed abruptly when the front door burst open.

Dillagio was the first agent inside, shouting, “FBI! Everyone get down on the floor!”

Loco’s bodyguards opened fire. In response, the FBI agents began shooting at anyone holding a weapon.

Decker thought she was a goner when suddenly she felt Loco’s grip loosening. His hand released her hair as he dropped to the floor. Bottles and glasses shattered as a hail of bullets struck the bar. Glass and wood splinters rained down onto Decker. One projectile grazed her arm, leaving a red streak. She dove for cover.

Everyone was yelling and screaming, crawling or running for the door. After a few moments, the place quieted down again; the agents had won the upper hand.

Decker got up. Though still a bit dazed from the punch, she was able to stand again. She looked down and saw a puddle of blood oozing toward her feet — Loco’s blood. He was lying at her feet on the filthy wooden floor, drawing his last breaths. His eyes turned glassy as blood trickled out of his gasping mouth.

Zeerookah, not used to such excitement, was puking his guts out. He missed both the drug dealer’s death and the discovery of what his briefcase held: a previously unknown form of methamphetamine, now known on the street as Crystal Meth. For him, the only important thing was that the nightmare was over.

At least, that’s what he thought at the time.

1

Present Day

“Jeremiah.” Zeerookah walked up to Cotton’s desk, straightened up, thrust his double chin out, and closed his eyes. “Please, for the sake of our friendship, grant one last wish and shoot me, right here and now.”

“Are you sure that’s the right way to solve your problems?” Cotton said casually, still reading the memo he had just received.

“It’s the only way.” Zeerookah glanced around at the two dozen or so people in the enormous office; they were all sitting at their high-tech workstations, going about their jobs.

“Mr. High will be pissed off if the new carpet gets stained by your blood.”

“I’m ready to put an end to my existence, and all you’re worried about is the carpet? Okay, fine — I’ll find someone else to put me out of my misery. You can visit me in the morgue.”

The IT expert walked away. He almost ran into Special Agent Decker, who was on her way to see Cotton.

“What’s wrong with Zeery?” he asked her. “He’s acting so strange.”

“It must be the e-mail he received today — the same one High sent to me and Dillagio.”

“What’s it about — an operation?”

Operation isn’t quite the right word. We’re being sent out into the metaphorical desert, literally to Bumfuck, Egypt.”

Cotton looked confused. “Egypt? Are you being sent to Iran? Afghanistan? Mongolia?”

“Wrong, no, wrong again. We’re being sent out into the woods northeast of here; a place where you could wander around for days without seeing a soul.”

“Oh, really? What are you going up there for? Is the FBI going after moonshiners now?”

Decker took a breath and explained: “As far as I can tell from the e-mail, we’re supposed to be taking part in a sort of survival course. We’ll find out more later at the briefing.”

“Survival? You mean like plane-crash-in-the-wilderness type of survival? Why would you need to go so far away for that? We’ve got our own wilderness right here in the South Bronx.”

She grinned.

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