Matters of the Heart: Book 1, Chapter 4

Part I, Chapter 4: Back to Reality
by Elizabeth Johnston

Monday morning came early for Crockett, but as he waited for the taxi to take him to DEA headquarters, he noticed that the green Mustang was already gone from the parking lot.

He arrived at the building just as Costas was going in the door. “You’re here early Crockett,” the DEA agent said.

“Yeah, well I just couldn’t wait to see your smiling face again Phil.”

“You mean you just couldn’t wait to get your hands on the keys to that Barchetta again. The pencil necks wanted to put it into the disposal pile, but I convinced them to hold off for a bit. I kept it just for you Crockett.”

“You always were my hero Phil.” Sonny said as he opened the door.

They went inside and as they made their way to his office, Costas continued. “That’s very nice of you Crockett, but I expect something in return for all my troubles. Castillo’s unit has something going down with possibly tying Fuentes into a major drug smuggling operation. I want you to work with his people and keep us up to speed.”

He pulled a set of keys out his desk and handed it over. “We have enough evidence for the preliminary trial to keep Fuente’s assets on ice with what we already have, but I want to nail that bastard to the wall and shut the entire operation down for good. And if we can get something big on him, maybe he’ll turn over some of the top guns in Colombia – that’s what I’m really after.”

The look on Sonny’s face went stern and the timbre of voice hardened. He kept looking downward at the desk. “You thinking of letting him walk to get those names?”

“No way Crockett, not if it’s up to me. That man does time. I know what happened out there, and I won’t let him walk. And besides, the FBI plans to hit him hard on the kidnapping and extortion charges.”

He turned to face the man “That’s good Phil, ‘cause I might not want any piece of this if you were planning to let him off.”

“He’ll do hard time Crockett, if I have anything to do with it.”

“If Phil? I’ve heard that line from the feds before Phil. Excuse me if I don’t quite believe it any more.” He took a short pause and then continued. “So if you don’t plan to give him anything, why would he give up any names?”

“We don’t think he’ll wanna go down alone. We figure he’ll want to take some of his old friends with him just to make it a happy get together. And the harder we can hit him, the bigger the prize he might bring in.”

Crockett wasn’t too pleased by this turn in events. He wanted to believe Costas but he wasn’t too sure about this operation any more – past experience dies hard. Sonny had good reason not to trust the federal agencies, especially if there was any chance the CIA might decide to step in. In the past he had seen too many slimeballs like Fuente walk in exchange for providing the goods on bigger fish, only to see the them let off the hook for some bigger ‘national security’ reason. It was one of the reasons he had lost his faith in the system, and the final straw that made him throw down his badge 13 years earlier. He picked up the keys and headed out the door.

“See ya later Phil.” His voice wasn’t as friendly as when he had said hello, and was touched with undertones of sarcasm.

The ride to OCB in the sports car would have been a blast, but the conversation with Costas had left a bitter taste in his mouth. As he drove, he anticipated the reaction he would get from Castillo – it’s not your responsibility. He was ready to quit this whole operation right now, but he remembered the promise he had made to be true to himself. Pull it together Sonny, he counseled himself – don’t let it take you down again. Keep the faith man. Come hell or high water, Fuente will not walk. And that was another promise he made to himself.

When he arrived at OCB, he walked past the detectives’ desks and straight into Castillo’s office. He had decided on the drive over to put it directly on the line. “I want the truth right now Marty. Is there gonna be a deal with Fuente?”

Castillo, remained sitting at his desk and stared up at Crockett straight in the eyes as only he could, with a look as cold and true as hardened steel. “As far as I know, there’s no deal. I’ve already told the Commissioner that if Fuente is given a walk for any reason, I’ll walk too. He’s going down Sonny, one way or another. You have my word.”

Lieutenant Martin Castillo was the most honest and trustworthy person Crockett had ever known. If he gave his word, that was good enough for Sonny, but he still didn’t trust the feds, not even Costas.

The lieutenant stood up and walked around his desk to where Crockett was standing and shook his hand. “Good to see you Sonny. Glad to see that you’re as straightforward as always. I’d hate to think that you would try a subtle approach.”

“Ah you know me lieutenant. I’m about as subtle as a bull in a china shop.

‘Shall we start again,” Crcokett asked with a smile. He went outside and knocked on the door and then opened it. “Hi Marty,” he said poking his head inside. Castillo came over, smiled and put his hand on Sonny’s shoulder. They sauntered over to the strategy room together. Trudy and Stan were there along with a couple of young detectives he hadn’t met before and a few others he recognized from the safe house where he stayed with his family and Rico after Fuente had gone after his son.

Sonny could see that the two young officers were fresh and eager which, for some reason, made him feel a bit uneasy. They reminded him of Bobby Riley and Jake Esteban, two young recruits he was bringing along when he worked with OCB. Bobby and Jake had wanted to make names for themselves early in their careers, and they ended up doing it the hard way. Bobby was now on the honor list of police officers killed in the line of duty and Jake became the first paraplegic sergeant on the Metro-Dade police force. Sonny still felt in some way responsible for them walking into that shooting. They were under his guidance at the time. The fact that they had lied to him about the meeting didn’t take away the guilt he had felt at the time. They were young and irresponsible – too eager, a lot like himself when he first started. He should have known they would try something foolish. But one thing he had come to grips with in the past little while was that you couldn’t punish yourself for other people’s mistakes.

Castillo introduced the young detectives as Frank Driscoll and Roberto (Tito) Cortillas. He started the briefing by asking them about a meet they said they had set that would lead right into the high levels of the Fuente organization.

Frank and Tito were excited about their first big operation. They tripped over themselves in their eagerness telling how they had arranged a cocaine buy from a ‘major’ dealer in the Fuente organization for that afternoon. Sonny was standing at the back of the room, leaning against the wall. He walked closer to the table and looked at Castillo and then at the two men.

“Where?” Crockett asked in an emotionless voice. His poker face gave no clue as to what was going on in his mind.

Frank and Tito looked at him and then at each other. They were wondering who this guy was, and looked to the lieutenant for direction. He nodded to them indicating that they should answer the question.

“On the 1:00 o’clock tour boat out of Bayside Marketplace.”

“How much?” Sonny asked in the same tone.

“One kee.”

“What’s the play?”

“We meet the dealer on the boat and exchange cases. It’s beautiful! He’s stuck on the boat for the rest of the trip. When we get back to the dock, we arrest him and take him back here for questioning and get the goods.”

There was an uneasy rustling of sound in the room from the more seasoned detectives. This was crazy, Crockett thought. He looked over at Castillo with a questioning look in his eyes, expecting him to say something, but Castillo remained silent. The lieutenant passed his files to Switek and signaled Sonny to meet him outside.

“Switek, take over,” he ordered as he left the room.

Leaving the room they could hear Stan’s voice in the background. “Alright ladies and germs, let’s get on with the show …..”

Castillo silently led them into his office and closed the door. As he walked over to his desk and sat down, Crockett blasted the man with what was on his mind. “What the hell’s going on Marty? You wanna throw away 25 G’s away on a sting. Or worse, let these two nurslings get themselves or some innocent bystanders killed. They’ll be lucky if the guy’s carrying a kee of sawdust, let alone nasal dust.” Castillo just looked at him and let him carry on.

Sonny paced the room. “A ‘major’ dealer in the Fuente organization?” he raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “Give me a break, lieutenant! Fantasyland is more like it.” He walked over to the desk and bent over it staring at Castillo. No ‘major’ dealer in the biggest operation on the East Coast is gonna sell one kee to anyone let alone a couple o’ weenies like that. This is such a classic set-up. You could video-tape it and use it in the how-not-to class at the academy.”

Castillo remained emotionless while he let Crockett have his say, and then responded in a calm voice. “And what do you think I should do about it Crockett?”

“I’m not the lieutenant here, Marty.” Sonny said continuing his pacing. He stopped and pointed at Castillo. “What are you gonna do about it?”

“I know there’s no tie in to Fuente with this, but because they brought him up, I can bring you in on it. I want you to mentor them.”

Castillo leaned back in his chair and folded his hands on his lap. “A lot of recruits have passed through this unit since you worked here. I’ve lost four people working undercover drug operations. The rest only stayed a short while before transferring out. They couldn’t take the tension and lifestyle of living and working undercover. I think it’s because they didn’t have someone take them through it.”

Castillo sat up again, opened the top left drawer of his desk, pulled out a small leather ID wallet and laid it down gently on the desk top. Crockett walked over, picked it up, flipped it open and looked at it. Then he stared suspiciously at his former boss. It was his badge, the same one he had thrown down on the tarmac 13 years ago.

“What’s this?” Crockett asked in a perplexed voice, though he had a pretty good idea what it meant. He gently caressed the shiny metal on the newly polished badge with his fingers, closed the wallet and laid it gently back down on the desk.

“I don’t think so Marty.” The uncertainty had turned to conviction.

He leaned his hands on the desk and stared straight into Castillo’s face with piercing eyes. “If you think I would even consider coming back here to work undercover, think again. I did that for fifteen years which, as far as I can figure, that was about fourteen years too many.” He turned around to leave, but before he could get to the door, Castillo continued in a low but firm and coaxing voice.

“I don’t want you to work undercover. I need someone to lead these people, to teach them, mentor them …. someone they can trust.”

Sonny turned back around and, glaring into the eyes of his former boss, he spoke in a definitive tone. “Forget it Marty. I ain’t comin’ back!”

Castillo matched his glare. “Think about it.”

The ensuing silence was deafening. Only Sonny could match Martin’s stare. Only Martin could match Sonny’s. The silence was broken finally by Castillo’s quiet request once more for Crockett’s help. “But in the meantime I could use your help on this one. If not, I either call the meet off and lose these men’s confidence or let them go ahead and they could lose their morale or their lives when it goes bust.”

“I didn’t come here to pull two toddlers out of the play pool, Marty. I came here to drown Fuente. You’ve got other people who can baby-sit for you.”

Castillo just continued to stare. The silence was once again deafening as each determined to outlast the other. This time, Castillo won out.

“Okay, Marty, okay. Just this once. Maybe these guys can come up with something besides a hairball. But you owe me one.”

“Done,” he replied in his usual monotone. “Just to let you know, Rico’s coming in tonight with something real on the Fuente investigation. I want you in on it.”

“Yeah, Gina told me. What’s it about?”

“We’ll find out tomorrow morning,” was all Castillo said. He got up from the desk and left the room with Sonny following behind. They headed back to the strategy room where Switek was just wrapping up the morning briefing.

“Swi, Trudy, Driscoll, Cortillas.” Castillo said as the group got up to leave. The people he named stayed put while the others left.

When Castillo introduced Crockett to the new detectives, they looked at each other with stunned expressions. Sonny Crockett was a legend to every aspiring young vice detective.

“Crocketts’s working the Fuente case for DEA,” the lieutenant explained. They’ve asked him to work with us on anything we come up with. I want him to take the lead with you on this one. How do you feel about that?”

Their reaction was effervescent enthusiasm. Castillo sat back and observed as Crockett smoothly coached the rookies, instinctively guiding them to a strategy that, in the end they felt they had developed themselves and that left their egos intact as the main players in the operation.

As he watched, Castillo thought, as he had done many times in past 13 years, about this man whom he felt closer to than any other person in his life save for Mei Ying, his wife. Crockett was a natural leader, more in touch with the people around him than Castillo knew he ever had been or ever could be, a leader who would be followed unquestionably into the valley of death. To his friends or to anyone in need, he was a rock to cling to, a security blanket to provide comfort when needed or a punching bag to absorb the anger and the blows. He commanded undying loyalty from the people who were touched by him, and the uncanny thing was that he didn’t even know it.

Martin realized that the success of the unit in his early years with vice had been largely generated by Crockett whose dedication to the principles that bound him and unswerving loyalty never faltered until disaster after disaster finally dragged him down into the depths of hopelessness. Thirteen years later he had pulled himself out of that pit. Somehow, he had to convince him to come back to OCB. He wasn’t sure whether he’d be successful or not, but this ploy of having Crockett mentor the new recruits was a good start, an opportunity he just couldn’t let lie.

The play turned out to be exactly what Crockett had thought it would be – a sting. Frank and Tito were on the tour boat, both expertly wired by Stan, with Trudy and Dan Henry onboard as backup. Crockett and Switek were cruising nearby in a cigarette boat ready to take action if and when necessary. Sonny was at the controls while Stan was listening in and keeping an eye on things.

Frank and Tito approached the mark casually. Act as though you’re in control and in the stronger position, Crockett had told them – make him want to do business with you. Stan eyed a small speedboat hovering nearby, following the tour boat. The driver looked older than his partner and seemed familiar in some way, but Stan couldn’t quite see his face. He noticed that the driver was eyeing the transaction through high-powered binoculars. “Get ready to fry some fish for supper Sonny,” he conveyed playfully.

Immediately after the exchange of briefcases, the speedboat raced up to the tour boat and the mark hurled both briefcases to his partner and jumped onboard himself. Sonny powered up the cigarette and within minutes had overtaken them. The speedboat and its obviously inexperienced driver were no match for Sonny and the cigarette. God this was fun. He hadn’t run a good boat chase in years.

But then the young man from the tour boat pulled a gun and aimed it at Crockett. His partner screamed at him and grabbed his arm. The gun went off as the speedboat raced around erratically with no one at the wheel. Crockett had seen the action coming and swerved quickly, ducking his head at the same time. These bimbos were more dangerous or stupid than he thought. He felt the errant bullet whiz by his head, grazing the side of his forehead – too close for comfort, that one. It took the fun out of it – time to reel them in.

The older man regained control of the boat and slowed it to a stop. As Crockett pulled up alongside, he and Stan could hear the driver admonishing his partner in colorful Spanish. The kid seemed apologetic and distraught. Stan climbed aboard and ordered them to shut-up, put their hands in the air and turn around. Sonny’s jaw dropped when he saw who was behind this scheme. No wonder it had been a hairbrained operation.

“Ah Sonny, mang. You peddling vices again, mang. It’s good to see you – you’re looking great mang.” The skinny, balding older man who spoke with a heavy Cuban accent was obviously nervous, but he fumbled on. “And Sonny, you can forget the fifty bucks you owe me. I think I can habitate without it.”

“Izzy, Izzy, Izzy,” Crockett repeated as he shook his head and smiled, trying hard not to laugh. “This is how you welcome me back to Miami? What would I do without you to brighten my day Izzy? You’re in it big this time …. mang. Oh, and Izzy, I don’t owe you fifty bucks.”

Isidro Moreno and Sonny Crockett went back a long way. He had been Crockett’s chief informant when he was with vice. Somehow, the crazy little Cuban always seemed to know what was happening in Miami’s criminal subculture. It was a love-hate relationship, with the love outweighing the hate in the later years, though neither would admit to it. When Izzy had found out that Sonny was in trouble with Fuente, he was the one who found the information needed to rescue Crockett from the drug lord’s sadistic little party. Sonny wouldn’t forget that, but he wasn’t going to let the little weasel off the hook on this one. He needed to know what Izzy knew about the Fuente organization.

On the way back to OCB Crockett told Driscoll and Cortillas that informants were the most important tool the police had in fighting the drug war in Miami, and explained how important it was to develop a good relationship with a few snitches. The he gave them a brief run-down of how he was planning to deal with Izzy. First , he would make Izzy sweat for a bit and then bleed him for everything he knew about Fuente and his organization. And then he’d send him out to get more information. Maybe he’d even give him the fifty bucks that he knew he didn’t owe him.

Izzy and his young partner were sitting in the interrogation room at OCB when Crockett came in with his two proteges. Izzy had always been into some questionable scheme or other, but never dealing drugs, and so it hadn’t surprised Crockett when the ‘cocaine’ turned out to be icing sugar. Sonny wondered what this was all about.

Crockett was a master at getting the particulars from informants. Driscoll and Cortillas watched silently, keeping their amazement well hidden as Crockett demonstrated his unique methods of interrogation and obtaining information.

The young man turned out to be Izzy’s nephew, Alberto, who had found himself at odds with some rather unsympathetic gambling racketeers and needed some money to keep from having some serious damage to his body. Uncle Isidro was just helping out a family member.

As for Fuente, Izzy had heard that he was still running things from prison, and had every confidence that he would beat the charges. Izzy didn’t know why though, and yes he would find out whatever he could and let Crockett know right away.

As for Fuente’s operation, Izzy had heard that someone named Sanchez was moving in to take over. No he didn’t know who this Sanchez was or what he looked like, but he was powerful and ruthless. And he was supposed to be in Miami already. Yes, Izzy would definitely find out more and get back to Crockett with the goods on that too.

Before he booted them out, Crockett had two more pieces of business.

“Alberto, I could bust your butt right now. For starters, how about shooting a federal agent, illegal possession of a firearm, obstruction of justice, theft of police property. Want me to go on?” It wan’t really a question. “Unfortunately, stupidity isn’t a crime, or we could book you on that one too. Do you know what they do to pretty young men like you in prison Al-ber-to?” He pronounced each sysllable of his name slowly and with emphasis.

Alberto said nothing. He just looked at his unlce with a look of fear in his eyes, and then hung his head, tears rolling down his cheeks.

“I’ll let you go this time because you’re a relative of Izzy’s, but just remember that Frank and Tito here are your best friends, and best friends don’t keep secrets. So if you hear of anything you think they might want to know, you talk to them – okay? If I find out you’re holding back on anything, I just might have a change of heart.” He patted the young man on the cheek gently as he smiled sarcastically. “Okay?”

Alberto was still quaking, but the look of relief that came over his face was almost comical. Yes he would tell his good friends everything he found out.

Secondly, Crockett opened his wallet and threw a Ben Franklin on the table.

“Have you got change Moreno?”

“Crockay… you know me. I’m just a poor hombré. Where would I get change lie tha..?” he replied as he eyed the bill with lust.

“Ah hell, Izzy, take the whole thing. But just you remember, mang, I never owed you the fifty. And I don’t want to hear that from you or anybody else ever again or else. You’re gonna ruin my reputation on the streets. This here is just payment for services to be rendered – comprendé amigo?”

Then he had the young detectives escort them out while he buried his face in his hands and had a good laugh.

By this time it was past six, and he decided to head back to the Vitus II. It had not been such a bad day after all. The afternoon bust made him think about some of the good times he had had when he worked Vice. Had Marty set him up on this one, he wondered. Naw, Marty wouldn’t do that … would he? But what would he have done had Sonny not been here to help those kids out? He picked up his jacket and headed out the door.

As he drove into the marina’s reserved parking lot he noticed the green Mustang was there. Maybe he could talk to Jess again – start over. He was thinking about that as he headed down the dock to his boat, and didn’t notice Jack bounding down to meet him until the dog was nudging his hand.

“Well hello there Black Jack.,” he said as he scratched him behind the ears. At least someone is still talking to me.”

Jessica sauntered slowly down the wharf to meet him. She had been thinking a lot about what had happened on Saturday and what the future could hold. Heart and head – they never seemed to get together. Sonny used to say that. Someday she wished they would. She knew that she still had strong feelings for this man, that it hadn’t been and wouldn’t be just a casual sexual relationship. The head said drop it now – the heart said go for it. Like the first time they met, the heart won out.

As she approached him, she reached out to hold him and draw him near. “Damn you Sonny Crockett,” she whispered in his ear. She drew her head back and said with a sigh, “To hell with the risk.” She hugged him again, this time tighter. “I missed you so much.”

“I missed you too, Sunshine,” he murmured tenderly.

He grasped her and drew her even more closely to himself. As their bodies entwined in passionate embrace, his lips met hers in a sensuous kiss, a kiss to make up for all the years they had been apart. Their embrace ended only when Jack nudged between them, at last seeking some attention for himself. They looked at him and laughed, and patted his massive head. Then they strolled back towards the Mountain Mist, arms wrapped around each other, with Jack waddling behind. Their conversation belied the meaning and intensity of what had just happened between them.

“What happened to your forehead,” Jessica asked.

“Ah, it’s just a scratch, he replied.

“Are you hungry? I kept some supper …….”

Later that evening on board the Vitus II, Sonny heard the alarm on his watch and realized it was 10:30. He had been planning to meet Rico at the airport tonight, but it was too late to leave now – the plane would be landing in a few minutes. That’s okay, he thought, he would see him in the morning. He took off his watch, turned off the alarm and disappeared under the covers again. Tonight belonged to him and Jess.