Mole on a Mountain: Action/Adventure Short Story
Mole on a Mountain
The Cessna 210 zipped along at one hundred seventy-five knots over the Sawtooth Mountains. Tony wasn’t enjoying the scenery though. As soon as the plane landed north of the Montana-Canada border, he would be a dead man.
He had spent more than a year infiltrating a drug cartel in northern Mexico until he was asked to be part of the crew for this delivery of methamphetamine. He and the pilot had boarded the plane in the early morning darkness to wait for their team leader to arrive. When Marco showed up, Tony nearly shit his pants.
Marco had been more interested in getting the plane off the ground than in meeting his new partner and had gone directly to his seat next to the pilot and buckled himself in.
The two middle seats had been removed, leaving the two in front and the bench at the rear where Tony sat. The illegal cargo was stacked in the middle, the law on one side, the bad guys on the other.
It’s amazing, thought Tony. I arrested him in Denver for drug smuggling. He spent three years in a federal penitentiary. And he’s still an arrogant asshole.
"So you’re Antonio? Marco turned his head slowly and their eyes locked. In an instant, the two men were each looking down the barrel of their own FN five-seven semi-automatic pistol and into the barrel of another just like it.
Marco tilted his head toward the pilot. “Tito, Why is there a DEA agent on my plane?”
“ The pilot glanced over his shoulder. “I don’ know nothing about that, Boss.”
“Tony…. Antonio. I like the Spanish better. Let me remind you of my last words to you in Denver.” Marco turned farther in his seat and spoke with the passion of a stage actor. "Hope and pray, my friend, that we never meet again because the next time I see you, I will not hesitate, I will not even consider the consequences. I will simply kill you." Marco's finger tightened on the trigger.
FN Five-seveN Semi-automatic Pistol
“Boss, can I make suggestion?” said Tito. Without waiting for a response, he continued. “Little Cessna may not be best place for gunfight….if you want to live.”
Marco did hesitate and he did count the consequences. “It seems we are at a stalemate for now, Antonio.” Marco slid the gun back into his coat pocket and turned around. He lay his head back and closed his eyes. “Wake me if he tries anything, Tito.”
For the next few hours, Tony forced himself to stay alert. He scanned the cabin. Next to the stack of meth were three parachutes. That was the extent of the cargo.
The plane sputtered and drifted downward.
“Que pasa?” Marco snapped forward.
“Ice in fuel line, but is gone now,” said Tito.
Tony looked out the window. The peaks of the Sawtooth mountain range rose nearly to the plane’s altitude.
“Get us up higher,” said Marco.
“I can’t get no more altitude, señor. The air, it is too thin."
“Can we make it across?”
“I will try to fly around the highest peaks, but there are many.”
“Then turn us around.” Marco was sweating. He pulled off his coat.
“Hold on!” Tito strained at the controls. The side of the mountain took up their whole field of vision. The belly of the plane glanced off the rocky peak. Boulders bounced and rolled down the snow covered slopes to the trees beyond.
“They call you El Mejor for this?” Marco shouted. “Get us out of here.”
“Boss, I think I cannot do that.” Tito looked up at a steep angle. Marco and Tony followed his gaze. A stone wall, higher then the one they had just barely cleared, towered above them. A mountain lake, deep in a bowl and half covered with ice was all that lay between them and the sheer side of the peak.
“I set her down here, Boss.”
“Where? I don't see...”
“On the ice.” And Tito pushed the controls forward.
Tony didn’t waste a second. The next time Marco looked back was when one of the side doors popped open. Tony was out before Marco’s five-seven came up.
Tony struggled with the parachute pack while the frozen lake came at him like a locomotive. He tightened the straps, pulled the ripcord and the canopy filled with air. The Cessna smashed into the side of the peak and the sound reverberated around the stone amphitheater.
He was falling too fast. If he hit stone or ice at this speed there wouldn’t be enough left of him to scrape up and bury.
Movement caught his eye. Two other parachutes were descending toward the lake. The zing of a bullet passing close brought him back into the moment. He could attempt to land on the ice and climb down if he survived, or he could stay aloft and try to maneuver the parachute down the side of the mountain. Another zing and Tony was on his way.
His fingers were frozen. He could barely grip the steering lines. He crossed over a low spot of the peak and watched the alpine terrain sweep away. He shot down the side of the mountain, a juggernaut from danger into danger.
He passed the tree line and swooped toward a stand of leafless aspens. Branches ripped his coat and tore into the exposed flesh of his face. The point of a sturdy, broken branch punctured his thigh. He came to a swinging rest, twenty feet above the forest floor. Blood dripped from his leg creating a pattern of red dots on the snow below.
Shouts from above told him that Marco and Tito were having better luck than he. Tony unbuckled the parachute straps and dropped to the ground. The impact sent lightning bolts of pain through his torn thigh muscle.
He removed his shirt and wrapped the wound to stop the bleeding. He followed the downhill slope of the mountainside and shuffled his way through knee deep snow.
A clearing lay directly ahead, lit by the midday sun that glinted off ice cycles hanging from the roof of a decrepit barn. Voices drifted his way. HIs pursuers were searching for him inside. He took advantage of their wasted time and continued downhill.
The sunshine faded and clouds claimed their territory. Wind came down the mountainside carrying sheets of snow. Tony stumbled over grave markers that had become part of the forest floor. What survival story did these people have to tell? He would never know. He had his own survival to think about.
A piece of thick tree bark served as a shovel. Tony piled snow as high as he could. Bloody patches marked where he had crawled, pushing the bark ahead of him like a bulldozer. He dug out a cave in the snow dome and covered the doorway with the tree bark.
Inside, his own body heat slowly raised the temperature to a survivable level. He unwrapped his leg and cleaned the debris out of the wound by the light of his cell phone. The wind roared and whistled through the trees outside while Tony slept on a bed of melting snow.
When he woke, the bleeding had stopped, but the pain was intense. He checked his cell phone. The battery was half spent. As soon as he stumbled into a spot where there was service, his coordinates would be available to anyone at the DEA who might be monitoring him.
Tony set out again in snow that reached to his thighs. The trees stopped at the edge of a set of wind swept train tracks. The coating of rust was a blanket statement regarding their disuse, but they had to lead somewhere.
Hours later, dragging his injured leg, he came to an abandoned switching station. On the sides of some of the train cars, he could still read, Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad.
Tony checked his phone. No service was available. He was about to power down, but the signal changed to Service Available. It was a weak signal, but it was something. He dialed the DEA, San Diego Division. He knew Rhonda, the receptionist who answered, and he rattled off the basics of his situation. When he stopped, the call had been dropped.
A bullet ricocheted off a nearby caboose. Tony took shelter behind a long row of train cars. Marco and Tito were running toward him. They were still several hundred yards away, but he had little time to hide. He struggled uphill into the forest until he found an outcropping of rocks.
He ducked down and watched the two men approach. Tony reached for his five-seven. It was gone, a casualty to his parachute landing in the trees, no doubt. The two men checked the train cars and gave up for the night.
They built a fire and used an old bucket to melt snow. Tony had been ignoring his need for water, but it was becoming a crisis. He knew better than to try eating snow for hydration, so he melted small amounts in his hands and tipped it into his mouth. After they had their fill of water, the two men continued along the tracks.
He descended the slope and helped himself to the remainder of the water in the bucket. It was getting dark, so he climbed into one of the train cars and slept.
He awoke to the sound of train car doors being opened, corroded rollers and rails screeching their protests. Tony scrambled up a pile of rotten crates at one end of the car.
The ceiling was rusted through and he climbed out onto the roof just as the door opened. He tread as lightly as he could, but his injured leg caused him to limp.
Holes appeared around his feet. Bullets zinged past him on all sides. He leapt to the next roof, and the next and the next. He dropped down between two passenger cars and slipped inside the first one. Marco and Tito ran beside the cars and looked in through dusty windows. They stopped outside the car in which he hid.
“Boss, lets give up and get the hell out of here.”
“That man stole three years of my life. This is the showdown, and he will die before this is through. But you go ahead. Take off, it’s fine. I can get this guy on my own.”
“You serious, Boss?”
“Dead serious. Now get going before I change my mind.”
The crunch of gravel under boots faded as the man walked away. Tony closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable, but the sharp pop of a single gunshot still made him flinch. He heard the body collapse onto the gravel.
Tony’s cell phone vibrated. A text message had come in. He read it and knew what he had to do. He made his way to the end of the line of train cars.
“Marco? Can you hear me? He waited.
“I hear you, Antonio.”
“I can’t go on anymore.”
“Meaning what, exactly.”
“My leg is injured. I’ve lost a lot of blood.”
“So what do you expect me to do? Call the paramedics?”
“Let’s walk out of here together, and I’ll give you anything you want.”
“I want three years of my life back.”
Tony stepped out into the open. “I can’t give you that, Marco, but I can promise that you will never be caught again. I’m already inside the DEA. I can be your own personal mole. How about it?”
Marco stepped out at the other end of the line of cars. “You are a treacherous liar, Antonio. But your offer is intriguing. You and me together with this kind of arrangement could take over the cartel. Hell, we could own Mexico.”
“Yes, an alliance. You win. I win. Isn’t that really all that matters?”
Twelve men and women of a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team slipped out of the trees and fell in behind Marco. But the drug smuggler’s attention was on Tony.
“Why did you shoot Tito,” said Tony.
“He wanted to leave without you. He was soft. If they had caught him, he would have talked far too much about me.”
“Are you sure Tito is dead?”
“Of course. I’m not a novice at this business. I shot him in the head at ten feet.”
“You can drop the gun, Marco. It’s over.”
“What do you mean, it’s over?”
“Drop the gun,” barked one of the DEA Team.
“Marco froze. He held the gun out to his side. “You are right, Antonio. It is over.” He swung the gun around on level with Tony’s head, one last chance to claim revenge. He squeezed the trigger. Two shots were fired. One from Marco’s gun and another from one of the DEA agents.
Tony limped forward and stood in front of Marco who held his shoulder where he had been hit. “I think I can keep one of my promises to you, Marco.”
The drug smuggler spit in Tony’s face.
“Because of that full confession to murder, you won’t have to worry about ever being caught again.”