Operation No Sanctuary

A Jonathon Stone Mystery Short Story 

A gang war erupts in East LA between neighborhood gangs and the notorious MS-13 gang from San Salvador and a Mexican cartel from Tijuana is right in the middle of the conflict. CIA Agent Jonathon Stone is assigned the operation. He joins a crime task force to try to stop the violence and capture the cartel leaders. Along with FBI Agent Jodi Shannon, he pursues the elusive Raul Romero, the cartel kingpin who he has been after for a decade.

Drug trafficking, gang shootings and politics all play a role as Jonathon battles the sanctuary city LA which seems to protect the innocent and the guilty.

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Excerpt

The next morning came quickly. I made it to the back patio with my coffee just in time to catch the first ring of my cell phone. Wiley was controlling the calls, taking roll and passing along the weekly code word. Sometimes I got confused with this process but Wiley had my back. The regular agents used the code regularly. Me, not so much.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” Russ said in an authoritarian voice. “Before I get too far into the briefing, I want to talk directly to Agent Stone.”

That comment got my immediate attention. I could hear him asking Wiley if I was there in the background.

Russ continued. “Last night we had two murders in East LA. I know that’s not very unusual but the LAPD and now the FBI are trying to identify the deceased. The victims had false IDs on them and the documents were excellent forgeries. In fact, they were so good that the FBI got called in and they traced them back to one of our old ops. The IDs were made by the Romero Cartel in Tijuana. They are a merciless group of thugs and they are right in the middle of a drug war with a gang in LA.”

He paused for a second. “Agent Stone, this is the group you were chasing several years ago in Mexico. The Feds have a meeting to set up a task force at the FBI office downtown LA at two this afternoon. I want you to get involved. We have to stay to the sidelines on this one. Oh, and Agent Jodi Shannon is in charge of the FBI portion.”

I could hear someone on the other end chuckling. That damn Wiley. He knew about Jodi and my history.

“I would love to snag Raul Romero,” I said.

I remember Romero, I thought to myself. In 2006, I was involved in a gun sting. We were selling guns through straw purchases, trying to trap Romero’s Cartel into using the guns for their illegal activities. Unfortunately, the op went sideways and the guns wound up back in the states. We concluded that Romero got tipped off someway about the sting and resold the weapons to gangs in Southern California. This deal in LA could give us another shot at Romero.

That afternoon I checked through security at the LA Federal Building and was directed to a conference room on the second floor. I slowly opened the door to find at least a dozen people already seated. I saw Jodi in the front with a man dressed in a LAPD uniform and another guy in a suit. Probably FBI.

It sounded like Jodi was taking roll. She saw me and smiled. I halfway raised my hand in acknowledgment and took a seat in the back of the room. Except for Jodi, I didn’t recognize anyone.

On the side wall was a map of LA with a big red ‘X’ and a bigger map of Southern California next to it. After studying the LA map a little, I noticed an area painted in blue and another area with a green ‘X’ that I recognized as the City of Whittier.

Also there were two rows of pictures next to the maps. The first row had only two pictures which I assumed were our two victims from the murder yesterday. The second row had four pictures. The last one caught my eye. It was Raul Romero, the cartel kingpin. I turned in my seat to face the front as one by one people introduced themselves. We had the whole alphabet here. We had people from the ATF, a guy from ICE, a DEA guy and, of course, the LAPD and the FBI. I sat there trying not to make eye contact with anyone. I was there for observation but that didn’t last long.

Jodi had the floor. “I want to thank everyone for attending on such a quick notice. The quicker we get on these murders the better chance we have to resolve this case.”

Then she turned and looked straight at me. “We have a new member of the task force I would like to introduce.”

I shook my head slowly no.

“Agent Jonathon Stone from the CIA will be joining us. We think his involvement with the Romero Cartel can be invaluable especially south of the border. Everything we know now points to the Romero Cartel from Tijuana.”

A man at the front table raised his hand.

“Yes, Agent Lopez,” Jodi said, acknowledging the man.

“Are we sure that we want the CIA involved in this? I know from the DEA’s point of view, we can handle the Mexicans. Besides we already have people in place there that can give us live intel. We are all set up to handle both sides of the border. Besides, the CIA can’t work domestically.”

Agent Lopez had a good point in a perfect world. With my division involved, that changes the game but Lopez didn’t know that. I wish Jodi had let me sit by myself in the back.

Jodi got a big frown on her face but didn’t say a word. I had to jump in on this and try to keep my cover.

“I need to say something about my role. I am here to just add information if it’s needed. I will not be a part of the active task force. I was involved several years ago with the Romero Cartel in a gun sting so I know the players in the cartel, that’s all.”

Now it was Lopez’s time to frown. He wasn’t going to give up.

“Mr. Stone, I think that the DEA can handle this. We don’t need someone coming in and blowing everything that we have going against the cartel.”

“I understanding what you’re saying, Agent Lopez,” Jodi said. “We will be careful not to expose the DEA’s position on this. I would like to introduce LAPD officer, Jerry Martin. He will explain our working theory on what we’re faced with. Officer Martin.”

A tall officer with a large brown hat stood up from the table and took Jodi’s place at the podium. “Thanks Agent Shannon. I am in charge of the LAPD gang unit. We believe we are in the middle of a gang turf war. The Romero Cartel has become real aggressive in the last six months. Their MO for years has been to supply drugs and guns to the small, individual gangs in Southern California. The gangs, in turn, distribute their drugs in their own neighborhoods.”

I surveyed the audience. Lopez was staring directly at me. Something was up with this guy. He must feel I’m going to intrude on his turf.

“We believe two things happened. The MS-13, the Salvadorian gang, has started taking over various areas in LA and eliminating the gang members. We understand from informants that they want the drug trade all to themselves,” the LAPD officer continued.

That sounds like a regular gang war to me.

“The other thing that happened was the establishing of the sanctuary areas in the state. That’s where Romero comes in. He is taking advantage of it by crossing people from Mexico with forged documents and getting them into safe zones. These guys are setting up businesses and using those as fronts to distribute drugs, guns and false documents. Also, because of the sanctuary status, we have a problem getting warrants for wire-taps to try to pin them down. As long as these guys stay squeaky-clean, they are home free.”

Jodi interrupted. “The FBI believes the MS-13 guys were having their way with the small gangs in the neighborhoods. Now the cartel is moving in to protect their distributors.”

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