Read Decker's Dilemma Online

Authors: Jack Ambraw

Tags: #mystery, #military, #Subic Bay, #navy, #black market

Decker's Dilemma (19 page)

BOOK: Decker's Dilemma
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“Let's take a right at the corner,” Decker said. “We'll walk around to the back of the building. Maybe we'll be able to see what's going on from that vantage point.”

“As long as we don't go inside again,” Hack said.

“I just want to see what's in back. If we find navy parts stored somewhere, we'll know for sure that Agana's the one involved in the black market. There has to be another way into the place.”

Decker and Hack were about a half block from Agana's when Hack once again turned to look behind him. “They're following us,” he whispered to Decker.

“You sure?”

Hack glanced behind him. Ponytail and Baldy were closing fast. “Yes.”

Before Hack could give another warning, Ponytail struck Decker with a blow to the back of his head, dropping him to the sidewalk with a sudden thud. Hack turned to his right and saw Baldy's fist coming straight for his face. Hack head snapped back and he fell to his knees just as Baldy kicked him in the stomach sending him down to the sidewalk next to Decker. Coughing and wheezing, he looked up at Ponytail and Baldy looming above them.

“Don't come back here,” Ponytail said. “Stay away from Agana's.”

Ponytail was about to kick Decker in his ribs, but decided against it when Baldy nudged him and cocked his head toward the cop racing towards the scene. The thugs both turned on their heels and backtracked into Agana's. As soon as they were gone, Hack rolled over on his back and felt his ribs. Decker sat up, woozy from the blow to his head.

“I told you Ponytail liked you,” Hack mumbled.

“He has a funny way of showing it.” Decker rubbed the back of his head and tried to stand up. “Let's go to Jollibee. I need to sit down for a few minutes before we put Plan B into operation.”

“Forget Plan B,” Vega said, leaning over them. “Who were those guys?”

CHAPTER THIRTY

1750, Thursday, February 20

Decker squinted and focused on Vega's face. “A couple new friends. I don't think we made a good first impression. I have to say—”

Vega stopped him with a raised hand. “I told you not to visit Agana's. It's way too dangerous.” She turned, surveying the crowd of people milling around. “Let get out of here.”

She helped them to their feet and escorted the sailors across the street to a cafe. “I'm in no mood for small talk. Sit down, both of you.”

The two sailors complied and found a comfortable seat on a rosewood bench along a far wall. She got bags of ice from the waitress and took a seat across from them. “Here you go,” she said, handing them the ice.

“Thanks,” they said in unison.

“How did you know we were at Agana's?” asked Decker.

“I ran into Rusty by chance. He was acting weird so I knew something was up. He didn't want to tell me, but I got it out of him.” She shook her head. “You're lucky I showed up. Tell me what happened.”

Decker spent the next ten minutes detailing the note from Fortuno, his conversation with Rusty, and their motive for visiting Agana's.

“The Mahárlika, huh?” Vega said, skeptically. “That's just a legend Marcos started in the '60s when he first ran for president. There are plenty of those stories floating around, but I wouldn't believe everything you hear.”

“It's a rip-off from Marcos,” Decker said. “Agana's father was a buddy of Marcos during the war. Rusty thinks Agana uses the nickname Mahárlika to either get in good with Marcos or to scare people.”

“It's still just a name,” Vega said. “I don't believe it's some sort of secret society.”

“The Rolex 12 sounds believable,” added Hack. “We saw Mr. Fortuno wearing a Rolex watch.”

“Along with thousands of other people,” Vega said. “Just because he has a Rolex doesn't mean he's part of a secret boys' club.”

“Then why would Agana's men be so aggressive with us if they have nothing to hide?” asked Decker.

“Because you were trespassing,” said Vega.

“They could've just asked us to leave,” Hack sighed.

Vega crossed her arms. “You shouldn't have gone in there. I hope now you believe me. What did you expect to find anyway?”

“Something related to the missing navy parts,” Decker said. “Proof that Agana's in on the black market.”

“And what if you found something?” asked Vega.

Decker looked at Hack and shrugged. “I hadn't thought that far ahead. I wanted to find out what Agana has stored at the back of the building.”

“Leave the detective work to the police,” Vega said, surveying the building across the street. “What's the inside like?”

“It was empty,” said Hack. “Just a waiting area. The door to the inside was locked. We weren't invited in.”

Vega raised her eyebrows. “So what do you think is around back? The river runs behind the building.”

“I looked from base,” Decker said. “He's got a large fence around a piece of property between his building and the river. I bet he's got stuff stored back there.”

“I don't know,” Vega said, skeptically. “I can't imagine he'd be keeping material out in the open.”

“But what if he is?” Decker urged.

“It wouldn't get us anywhere,” Vega said. “I couldn't report it to my boss. He'd fire me for snooping around where I shouldn't.”

“We don't have to tell anybody,” Decker reasoned. “I'm trying to find out what happened to Kippen. I know it's not Agana's men. They weren't on the ship. But if I can prove that someone is dealing in stolen navy parts, I can go to investigators.”

Vega stared out the window at Agana's. “If we do this, you guys have to follow my lead. Do as I say at all times. My job is on the line. Got that?”

They both nodded in agreement. Hack rubbed his jaw.

Vega stood and put her hands on her hips. “Don't worry, Hack. I'm in charge now.” She turned towards the door. “Follow me. Let's take a left, walk a couple blocks north and double back. We'll take a quick look behind his building and get out of there.”

Ten minutes later they were walking along a narrow strip of land that separated the back of the buildings from Shit River. As they approached Agana's building, Vega suddenly stopped. “We've got a problem.”

“I think we've got more than one,” Decker said.

“True,” Vega agreed. “But take a look at the fence.”

“I told you it was big.”

“It's at least fifteen feet high. Maybe higher.”

“Let's turn back,” Hack said. “We'll never climb it. It's cinder block with nothing to hold onto.”

Vega sized up the obstacle. “It'll be easy. We'll use each other to climb over.”

Decker exhaled loudly. “It might be possible. Hack, you be on the bottom.”

“Why me? You're taller.”

“It has to be you. You're more solid. A perfect anchor.”

“I don't care who's on the bottom,” Vega said. “I'm on top. I need to be the one that takes a look.”

“Okay, it's settled,” Decker said. “Hack, you're the anchor. I'll get on your shoulders and lift Vega over the fence.”

“She didn't say that,” Hack said.

“Come on, guys,” Vega urged. “We haven't got all day.”

Hack relented and anchored himself bent at the knees with his back against the wall. Decker put his feet on Hack's knees and then climbed onto his shoulders facing the wall. Vega laughed at the sight. “I wish I had my camera,” she smiled.

“Hurry up,” Hack said, uneasily holding his balance under Decker's weight.

“Okay, okay,” Vega said. “But how I am supposed to get up there?”

“Start climbing,” begged Hack. “My ribs are hurting.”

She easily made it perched on Hack's knees. “Now the hard part,” she said. After a few false starts, Vega made it to Hack's shoulders with the help of Decker reaching around with his right hand to pull her up.

“Now I can climb,” Vega said. “Stay still.”

Vega grabbed Decker's shoulders and shimmied slowly up his back. With a lunge she got her left knee and then her right to his shoulders. Decker took his left hand and slowly pushed her upwards until she grabbed the top of the wall.

“Got it,” she whispered. “And get your hand off my ass.”

“It's the only thing I can hold onto,” Decker protested. “What do you see?”

Vega didn't respond. She kept her attention focused on the scene in front of her. A moment later Decker felt her shift her weight.

“See anything?” asked Decker.

Vega squirmed on his shoulders. “Shit.”

“Sorry, my hand slipped.”

“It's not that.”

“What then?”

“They know we're here.”

“Agana's men?”

“Yep, I saw them exit the building. I'm coming down.”

Vega slid down Decker's shoulders and jumped to the ground, rolling twice and stopping inches from falling into the river. She sat up and watched as Decker jumped off Hack.

“There were four of them this time,” she said. “Let's go back the way we came. It's the shortest distance to the street.”

The sailors turned but saw two of Agana's men coming towards them.

“The other direction,” Hack yelled.

They turned and stopped in their tracks. Two more Agana henchmen were coming from that direction.

“We're trapped,” Hack said. “Maybe we can take two of them but not four.”

“Where's your gun?” asked Decker.

“At home. I'm off duty.”

“We're trapped.”

“We're not trapped,” Vega said calmly. “There's a way out.”

Decker shook his head, realizing what she had in mind. “Oh no, we're not going there.”

“Would you rather stay and fight?” Vega asked.

Decker took a look at the four men closing in on them. “I can't believe I'm going to do this.”

“Do what?” asked Hack.

“Last one in is a chicken,” yelled Vega as she dived head first into the murky waters of Shit River.

“That, my friend,” said Decker, pointing to Vega. “And we'd better follow.” He jumped as far as he could into the brown water. Hack followed with a splash.

Three heads bobbed at the surface. Four men stood openmouthed at the shore. “Let's swim for it,” Vega urged. “Go south with the current and stay underwater for as long as you can.” She put her head underwater and disappeared.

“I'm not doing that,” Decker said. “I'll just swim.”

A shot fired in his direction changed his mind. The two sailors dove underwater and swam as hard they could. Neither one opened their eyes. After what seemed like minutes, but probably only several seconds, Decker popped his head above water. Hack was already treading
water.

A few seconds later Vega appeared clutching a blue plastic five-gallon jug. “I ran into this,” she laughed. “Let's float a while and head to shore. I doubt if they followed us. I can't even see Agana's anymore.”

Five minutes later the three friends made it to shore with the help of two young women doing laundry on a concrete patch that skirted the river. The sailors didn't know what the girls were saying, but they were sure they were laughing at them. Vega thanked the women for their help and stood dripping wet wringing out her hair. “Let's go to my place and get cleaned up.”

They made the eight block walk to Vega's apartment with little conversation. She greeted a group of small boys playing dice near her apartment complex's entrance. “Give me some money,” she said to Decker.

“It's all wet,” he replied, grabbing his wallet.

“That's okay. How much you got?”

“Two hundred pesos and change.”

“That'll do,” she said, taking all of his money. She turned to the two boys and spoke something in Tagalog. The boys smiled and ran off down the street.

“What was that for?” asked Decker.

“They're going to buy t-shirts and shorts for you guys,” she said. “And ice cream for themselves. I told them to let their mother know where they're going. They obviously didn't listen. Typical boys.” She glared at Decker and Hack.

“So who's first in the shower?” asked Decker.

“Let's flip for it,” suggested Hack.

“No way,” said Vega. “This is one time when I must say it's ladies first.”

The two sailors shrugged and followed Vega through a side entrance to her apartment complex. They stood in a small courtyard surround by a wooden fence. Vega kicked off her shoes, removed her socks, and pulled her shirttail out of her jeans. “You're not wearing those clothes in my house,” she warned. “Strip down out here. No one can see you. But don't take everything off,” she added. “I've got neighbors.”

Vega and the sailors undressed down to their underwear and piled their clothes in a smelly heap on the patio. “I'll be quick,” she said, turning to unlock her door.

Fifteen minutes later she emerged from her apartment freshly showered and holding a plastic trash bag. She wore a clean pair of white shorts, a blue t-shirt, and flip-flops. She had a big blue towel wrapped around her hair on top of her head. “Next,” she smiled.

Decker clapped his hands and headed indoors. Vega frowned at Hack. “How does he get to go first?”

“He won the coin toss,” Hack said.

“Your coin or his?”

“His. Why?”

Vega shook her head and gave Hack a sympathetic look.

BOOK: Decker's Dilemma
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