Today's Reading

The Basque says, "We got to get to the boat."

"All in good time, my darlin'."

Rafik lowers himself down onto his haunches, his face on a level with Dez's. He says, "Hear them cars, chef? We're outnumbered."

Dez says, "What d'you know about California?"

Rafik blinks several times. "Pardon?"


Rafik repeats that. "California."


"Dunno. Scenic, I hear. They make wine. Silicon Valley. Hollywood. Pretty girls."

"What I'm thinking," Dez speaks softly. "Lot of pretty girls in California. A strapping young man such as meself could do quite well there."

An American, a Texan, stumbles out of the house and hisses, "Shit on a shingle! That intel was fucked!"

Dez thinks: Fourteen in. Eleven out. Three to go.

"Plus," he says to Rafik, "there's a vibrant music scene. Buy myself a better guitar, find a band or two. Could be a laugh, yeah?"

The men flinch and hunch low as, beyond the compound, Djamel M'Bolhi's men begin firing automatic weapons at the great gates. Dez knows the gates are lined with metal and they can't shoot their way in. Djamel M'Bolhi's men know this, too, but they're a little panicky.

The Basque wipes sweat off his haggard face. "Won't hold them forever."

Dez says, "Won't need to," and touches one of the buttons on his remote control.

It takes a lot of petrol to own a fleet of eleven antique cars. It takes a lot of water to maintain a splendid lawn of green grass. Dez did some Reconnaissance before the Shot-Caller from Elsewhere led the team into the great house. He used the lawn-maintenance water hoses, a drum of gasoline from the garage, and one of those oscillating garden sprinklers and set it all up outside the great gate. Now, with the push of a button on his remote, Dez activates the sprinkler, which sends out a fine, arcing fan of petrol, covering the seven cars and the two dozen criminals outside the wall.

The thugs sense a threat but misunderstand its nature. Several fire at the oscillating sprinkler. Their muzzle flash interacts with the petrol now drenching their clothes and their hair, and hanging as a fine mist in the night air. The sparks from their guns ignite the gas and immolate them.

Some fall. Two stagger around, screaming, fully engulfed in flames. One of them fails to release the trigger of his Uzi, and pirouettes, spraying his own men and the seven Jeeps with bullets.

It's pandemonium outside the compound.

Inside the compound, Dez says, "Plus, there's surfing. Never tried surfing. Might be fun."

The team members hear the screaming and the sporadic gunfire outside the gate. They eye one another in wonderment. The Basque says, "Contact the boat."

Dez squints up at him. "Soonish, squire."

Two more men emerge from the house, panting, guns to their shoulders. Dez thinks, Fourteen went in, thirteen came out, one to go. Sitting, looking serene, he smiles up at the Basque and shrugs.

"You think we can hold this position forever?" the Basque demanded.

"Don't need to hold it forever. Thinkin' of retiring. California, maybe."

The Swede grits his teeth and nods sagely. "A lot of pretty girls in California."

"What I was just saying. Also, surfing."

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