Cajun Justice – James Patterson, Tucker Axum

“Abra la puerta!” she screamed. Secret Service agent Cain Lemaire shot up in bed. He left behind the recurring nightmare loop he had already experienced too many times, awakening to the high-pitched shouts of a woman. “Open the damn door!” she repeated in a thick accent. These were not cries for help but the sounds of an angry woman demanding attention, pounding on a door down the corridor from his room. Cain blinked his eyes several times, struggling to read his watch in the darkness. The curtains were half open, but the sun was not yet out. He flipped on the bedside lamp and saw it was barely five thirty. Who is she? he wondered. And why is she banging on a door at this hour? She continued making a commotion in the hallway. He rolled out of bed and threw on a hotel robe he took from the closet. He grabbed his cell phone and government-issue SIG Sauer .357 off the nightstand, concealing the pistol in the outside pocket. The fully loaded gun was heavy, like a brick. It pulled noticeably on the robe.

He cracked open the door but didn’t see anyone. He opened the door wider, making sure to scan the hallway. He peeked to his left and right. A strong perfume permeated the air. The source was surely the scantily dressed brunette a few doors down. She had a large purse slung over her shoulder. When she turned to look his way, her gaudy oversize hoop earrings swung wildly. Cain recognized her. She was striking enough to have caught his attention the previous night. She had been sipping a cocktail by herself in the hotel bar when he’d passed by on his way to his room.

“Your friend kicked me out without paying me!” she cried out. She marched toward Cain in her shiny leather high heels. “Tranquila,” he said as he raised his palms to her, in an effort to slow her momentum. “Tranquila. No es un problema.” He knew her theatrics would draw unwanted attention. “Relax. I will fix this. Trust me.” “I don’t trust you! I don’t trust any of you! That maricón agreed to pay me.

He owes me six hundred dollars!” She pointed down the hall without taking her eyes off Cain. She had deep brown eyes that matched her hair, which cascaded all the way to her lower back. Cain assumed she was pointing to Special Agent Tom “Tomcat” Jackson’s room. Tomcat was married with two daughters but known within the Secret Service as a playboy. His ego was as large and developed as his physique, and this was just the kind of woman he’d pick to experience a dif erent side of the country. “Six hundred dollars?” Cain asked incredulously. “Yes!” She nodded. “Six hundred. This was not a date; it was a business deal.” Drawn to the disturbance, a uniformed security guard approached carefully.

His wrinkled face projected alarm. Cain got the feeling the sleepy security guard rarely encountered problems at the five-star resort. “Señor,” the guard said. “Is there a problem?” He spoke in English, but it seemed limited. “No hay problema. Todo está bien. Voy a arreglar esta situación,” Cain rattled off, perfectly trilling the r’s, the way his Spanish teacher had taught him. Señora Lana would be proud, he thought. She always told me my Spanish would come in handy someday, but she probably never imagined it would be to calm an angry prostitute. Cain’s conversational Spanish had also come in handy as a naval officer flying P-3 airplanes for counter-drug operations after 9/11.

That was a time when the American government was waging war on narco-terrorism throughout Central and South America. He’d grown up speaking Cajun French with his parents, but Spanish was a lot more useful these days. The woman continued arguing with Cain, switching back to Spanish for the security guard’s benefit. “No! No está bien. Ese cabrón me debe dinero.” Watching them interact, Cain sensed that the security guard knew the señorita. Cain overheard her mentioning the president, and that’s when he interjected. He had to. “I already told you: I will take care of this.” He walked toward Tom’s room and knocked on the door.

There was no answer. He knocked louder. “He’s a liar! Mentiroso! I know he’s in there,” she yelled. Cain reached into his pocket. Wrong pocket, he thought as he felt the steel of the SIG Sauer pistol. He fished for his BlackBerry in the other pocket. When he found it, he thumbed his password and telephoned his partner. He even placed his ear to the door, and could hear the faint tune of Tom’s “Smooth Latin” ringtone. Tom had changed it during their flight down. Tom didn’t pick up, and eventually the call went to voicemail.

Cain tried to turn the door handle, but it was locked. He looked at the upset woman and the security guard. He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m sorry, but nobody answered.” The prostitute became more enraged. “Voy a llamar la policía. La policía! Police!” she threatened. “I want to file a police report. Now!” The guard was sympathetic to the señorita’s threats to involve the police—he was muttering something about how the American officials invaded the hotel like locusts and acted as if they owned the place. They were speaking Spanish faster than Cain could follow, but he picked up key words and understood their body language.

The guard unclipped his radio from his belt and keyed the mic. “Necesito el gerente. Ahora por favor.” The security guard had urgently requested the hotel manager. It wasn’t the first time this manager had been called because of an agent’s actions. How’s he gonna respond this time? Cain wondered. Chapter 2 The hotel manager, with every strand of his jet-black hair perfectly in place, rounded the corner and approached in his charcoal suit. Two additional security guards flanked him. Tomcat ain’t skating out of this one . Cain returned to Tom’s door.

He knocked much louder this time. No response from inside the room. He redialed his colleague, but still no answer. I’ve gotta do something before this blows up and the police are called. This situation is escalating quickly and is about to get way out of hand. Cain knew he would have to deal with Tom later. It wasn’t the first time he had covered for his partner during an overseas trip. Tomcat’s antics were an annoyance and distraction from the real reason they were here: to provide maximum protection for the American president. The manager extended his hand, which Cain shook. “This lady is very distraught.

She claims your friend owes her six hundred dollars.” “Sir, I have no idea what happened between her and my colleague.” “She would like to file a police report,” he added. Cain grimaced. Prostitution was legal and regulated here, but this was still poor PR. “I know this much: it won’t look good for the hotel or the Secret Service if we involve the police.” The manager signaled his agreement with a slow nod. “I don’t have six hundred dollars,” Cain said, “but I will pay the lady what I have.” He looked past the manager and directly at her. “No es un problema.

Yo te pago.” He walked into his room and toward a pair of slacks strewn over the chair in the corner. He picked them up and caught the sweet scent of a Rocky Patel cigar—a reminder of his time the previous night at a chill jazz club near the hotel. Rummaging through the front pocket, he retrieved his leather money clip—a wedding gift from his father. It was engraved with the initials CML, and below that was the inscription Micah 6:8. In his money clip were a Virginia driver’s license, a governmentissue travel card, a personal Visa card, and roughly three hundred bucks in a mixture of American dollars and pesos. He walked back into the hallway, where they were eagerly waiting. He stripped the money from his clip and showed her his limited funds. She pointed to his wrist. “El reloj,” she requested.

“Absolutely not,” he replied. “Give me your watch,” she demanded. “Or all six hundred dollars.” “This watch was a gift from my wife. De mi esposa!” he said in forceful Spanish, now losing his patience with the prostitute. There’s no way in hell she’s getting the Omega Seamaster Claire gave me! “Este o nada.” He raised the cash again in a nonverbal take-it-or-leave-it. “A little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing. Algo es mejor que nada.” She snatched the money out of his hand.

The manager had witnessed him pay the woman, and then instructed the guards to escort her from the hotel in a discreet manner. He turned to Cain. “Mr. Lemaire, this is a five-star hotel—” “Yes, it is,” Cain interjected before the manager could finish his sentence. “You run a beautiful hotel.” The manager smiled at the compliment. “And we have many VIPs staying here. Everyone’s safety and comfort are my primary concerns.” “Mine as well. Second to the president, of course.

” “No more problems, please.” The manager’s words were more like a demand than a request. “You have my word,” Cain replied. “But tell your security guards to keep her far away from us this week. She’s a bomb ready to explode, and we don’t wanna be anywhere near her when she does.” Cain went back into his room, closed the door, and glanced at his watch. It was almost six. Early sunrays poured into the room. He was still tired from staying up late to finish all his paperwork for this presidential visit. The security assessment had to be sent to the intelligence unit in DC for final approval.

Had it not been for Tom Jackson, I might’ve gotten another hour or two of much-needed sleep. He stood at the window and looked out at the ocean. Palm trees were lightly blowing in the wind, and in the greater distance, fishermen were casting traditional rope nets. With the exception of that señorita, this port city seems like a peaceful place, he thought. He closed the curtains and grabbed his encrypted Dell laptop. He fired up the computer and reviewed the president’s classified schedule. The Summit of the Americas was a high-profile international conference, and protecting the president took its toll on the agents. A medical researcher commissioned by Congress had concluded that for every year an agent was on presidential protection duty, he aged two years. Cain’s sandy hair had no signs of gray, but he was still always struck by how much older he looked than others in their late thirties. It was genetics, he reasoned—the crow’s feet surrounding his light-green eyes—coupled with a career as a naval officer and a Secret Service lifestyle that required endless travel, too little rest, and the stress associated with the dread that you could miss the one attack that would throw the free world into chaos.

An assassin had to be lucky only once, but agents had to be prepared all the time. They were willing to trade their lives for the president’s. Cain had thought the navy was bureaucratic, but the Secret Service was even worse. It was a draconian agency with strict rules and unwritten guidelines. Cain didn’t like the administrative BS or the office politics, but he didn’t mind the rigorous schedule. He enjoyed seeing new places and found comfort in belonging to a warrior family, even if it was at times described as “dysfunctional.” As Cain read the notes emailed back to him from the intelligence unit, he heard a knock at his door. He suspected it was the señorita again. He slammed the laptop shut and tossed it under a sheet on his bed. He opened the door, but it wasn’t the señorita.

It was a face he recognized all too well. Chapter 3 “Thanks, Cain. I owe you one.” The brawny agent invited himself in. Tomcat was wearing swim trunks and a T-shirt that advertised the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State was his alma mater. “You coward!” Cain exclaimed. “You were hiding in your room.” “Nah, man. I swear.

I was taking a shower.” “Bullshit! I didn’t hear the shower. Besides, if you weren’t in there, you wouldn’t know that you owe me one. And it’s not just one, Jackson. It’s three hundred.” “Tell me you didn’t pay that whore three hundred!” “Do me a favor. As long as I’m footing the bill, don’t call her a whore.” Tom rolled his eyes. “Always the gentleman.” “Quite frankly,” Cain continued, “I’m surprised she’d sleep with you for so little.

” Tom laughed defensively while lifting his shirt. “Have you seen my abs? Women pay me.” “Pull your shirt down. The entire service has seen your six-pack. Plus, your pasty skin’s blinding me without my sunglasses.” Cain wasn’t ready to let him off the hook so easily. “Why the hell weren’t you answering your phone? What if I had needed you for real?” “I told you, man. I was in the shower. I couldn’t go to breakfast smelling like sex, especially in this nice hotel.” “The manager came up here with two security guards.

They escorted your date out of here. I swear, I’m done covering for you. This was worse than Itaewon—” Tom smiled. “Korea was a blast.” “How would you even know? You were so wasted I had to carry you all the way back to the hotel.” Tom laughed. “You remember too much shit!” “It’s a blessing and a curse. With you, it seems to be more of the latter.” “Come join me,” his partner suggested. “They serve great Bloody Marys at the poolside bar, and I’ve got two complimentary vouchers.

” “POTUS is wheels down in less than twenty-four hours. You can’t drink.” “Twenty-four hours? That’s plenty of time to sober up. Get dressed. Come on. They might even have some grits and those French doughnuts you like.” “I’m skipping breakfast, and certainly the pool. The local police are coming, and I’ve gotta address some security concerns before POTUS arrives. You’re free to join me and do your job.” “Nah, I’m good.

You’ve got this covered,” Tom said. He turned around and left Cain’s room.

.

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