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QUEBEC; THE PRESENT
From the street the house looked like those nestled around it in the suburban neighborhood dominated by snow cover that had at last started to melt. A McMansion with gables, faux brick, and lots of fancy windows that could have been lifted up and dropped just about anywhere. The leaves had long deserted the tree branches, eliminating any privacy for each two-acre spread had the neighbors been around to notice. Problem was the neighborhood, part of a new plot of palatial-style homes, had been erected at the peak of a housing boom now gone bust, so less than a third were occupied.
Caitlin Strong and a Royal Canadian Mountie named Pierre Beauchamp were part of a six-person squad rotating shifts in teams of two inside an unsold home diagonally across from the designated 18 Specter, the marijuana grow house they'd been eyeballing for three weeks now. She'd come up here after being selected for a joint U.S. and Canadian drug task force looking into the ever-increasing rash of drug smuggling across a fifteen-mile stretch of St. Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation land that straddled the border.
Beauchamp lowered his binoculars and made some notes on his pad, while Caitlin looked at him instead of raising hers back up.
"Something wrong, Ranger?"
"Not unless you count the fact I got no idea what we're trying to accomplish here."
"Get the lay of the land. Isn't that it?"
"Seems to me," Caitlin told the Mountie, "that the DEA got that in hand already. You boys too."
"It's task force business now. We need to build a case for a full-on strike."
"You telling me the Mounties couldn't have done that already, on their own?"
"Not without alerting parties on the other side of border, who'd respond by dropping their game off the radar, eh? When we hit them, the effort's got to be coordinated and sudden. That doesn't mean two law enforcement bodies working in tandem, it means two countries. And that, Ranger Strong, is never a simple prospect."
"So we've got to tell both sides what they know already."
Beauchamp shrugged. "Put simply, yes."
"I guess I'm just not cut out for this sort of game," Caitlin said and sighed.
The thunk of car doors slamming froze Beauchamp's response before he could utter it. Both he and Caitlin had their binoculars pressed back against their eyes in the next instant, watching six big men in black tops, black fatigue pants, and army boots approach the grow house from a dark SUV lugging assault rifles and what looked like gasoline cans.
"Uh-oh," said Beauchamp.
"Hells Angels?" asked Caitlin, following a bald pair of black-garbed figures who looked like twins.
"What exactly they doing here now, while there's people and drugs still inside?"
The Mountie moved his gaze back to her, his expression flatter than she'd seen in the three weeks they'd been working together. "Only one thing I can think of."
Copyright © 2011 by Jon Land