Monday morning was filled with catching up on small tasks until Karen and FBI Agent Matthew Payne came into my office. After the introduction and coffee, Agent Payne got straight to the point.
"Dale based on Scott Fernandez's information we were able to get a warrant and arrest Carlos Lazcano and a number of his subordinates. The issue is Scott told Carlos he was coming to you for the money. One of our informers in the cartel has told us the Cartel is looking for Scott and you."
"Shit, that’s just what I need. How serious is this?"
"It's pretty serious; we are talking about a Mexican drug cartel here. Typically, I would suggest we put you in a government protection program; but I think in this case, you have better security procedures than we have. However, we will be working with your security team to keep them up to date."
"Karen, you and Max keep me in the loop on everything. Agent Payne, thank you for your help and feel free to contact me at anytime."
"Thank you Dale, and the same applies, any question or concerns contact me right away."
After Agent Payne left, Travis and I went over to the conference room to go through the debriefing. The debriefing was grueling and exhausting and when we finished we were starving.
I glanced at Max, "We are headed to the little deli downtown for lunch. Can you see if Greg in daycare would like to join us, please?"
Max just smiled. "Of course, Sir."
As the four of us headed downtown, I noticed another black INS SUV following us.
"Max, find out what the guys in the other car want for lunch as well, please."
Max shook his head and started talking into his earpiece. All I heard at the end is, “Make sure Karen knows and everyone, be on high alert."
"Max, everything ok?"
"Everything should be fine sir; we are being watched by four Hispanic males in two separate cars. Either they are really bad or want us to notice them."
Travis was fidgety. "Should we cancel lunch and head back to the office?"
I just sat there for a second. "Max, have they acted threatening at all?"
"No sir, not at all, as a matter of fact I am pretty sure they want us to know they are there."
"Let’s have lunch as planned and ask Karen to send over a couple more guys just in case."
Travis gave me the look. I knew he was more worried about me than himself. "Trust me babe, we’ll be okay. I can't see any benefit to them attacking us here in downtown. I think they are just watching us; trying to scare us."
"If you say so, Babe. Max, give me a side arm." I love when Travis is protective.
We headed into the deli and got a table. A few minutes later, I noticed Karen and a couple of others come in and sit at tables. They didn't even look in our direction. Half way through our lunch, I noticed Max stiffen a little, reach into his jacket, and loosen his side arm. I looked up to see a very distinguished Mexican gentleman standing at the end of our table.
"Senior Ryan, my sincere apologies for interrupting your lunch but I was wondering if I could have just a moment of your time."
I set my fork down and looked at him for a second. "I am at a disadvantage. To whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?"
"Ah, pardon my rudeness. I am Mario Sanchez, I represent Herberto Lazcano, Don of the Lazcano Family."
"Well Mario, you will understand my reluctance to have any sort of dialogue with the Lazcano family. The family has caused me enough trouble already. However, since you came all this way I will listen to what you have to say. Max, would you ensure Mario and friends are not armed, please?"
Max stood up and frisked the four Mexicans. People in the deli began to get nervous and fidgety. "Max, Greg, will you excuse us for a minute please."
"Of course, Mr. Ryan."
"Mario, please have a seat. I figure we only have a few minutes before someone contacts the local police."
"I am sure your friends in the FBI, in the car outside, will take care of that. Besides, I only need a few moments of your time. Senior Lazcano sends his regards and wishes you to know that he does not have any ill will for you. The unfortunate situation with Scott Fernandez is not your fault and also is not your concern. We only want to know where Fernandez is and we are willing to go to any length to find him; any length at all. Do you understand?"
I chuckled a little. "Are you threatening me, Mr. Sanchez? Think carefully before you answer, The Lazcano family has been an annoyance to me since Scott decided to drop into my back yard a few months ago. I have done nothing to involve myself in the affairs of the Lazcano family, nor do I wish to. However, if any member of the Lazcano family even thinks of harming any one close to me, I will bring the entire weight of my very powerful company to bear on you, That, Sir, is not a threat, but a promise."
Mario nodded. "Senior Ryan, I fear you are being too hasty. We are asking you to cooperate in our internal investigation into our associates in Seattle. Unfortunately, Senior Fernandez involved you into our affairs and now I must insist that you help us find him."
"Mr. Sanchez, I don't have the slightest clue where Mr. Fernandez is hiding and I have no interest in cooperating with anyone involved in your criminal organization. Now, if you don't mind, I have a meeting to attend at my office. Good day to you, Sir."
As I stood up, Mario stood as well and held out his hand. I just turned and walked away. As soon as we got in the car, my phone rang. "That was quick, Karen."
"Dale, we have a tail on them and the FBI got the whole thing recorded. I am increasing security on you until we get a handle on this."
"Okay, I also want every shred of information we can gather on the Lazcano Family. I want to know all members and know associates both here and in Mexico. Karen, make this your priority."
"We are already on it, Dale. I’ll see you at the office."
I closed the phone and looked at Travis. "Babe, what the hell is going on here?"
Travis cocked his head and looked at me for a second. "You are becoming a very powerful man. Powerful men have powerful friends and powerful enemies. You do know this is not going away, right?"
"I know I just don't know what to do about it. I feel out of control."
Travis just smiled. "You are doing exactly what you’re supposed to do about it, have your people look into it and get you more information."
The rest of the ride back to the office was fairly quiet; once we arrived Karen met us in my office. The architect I hired was waiting in the outer office. We went over the plans for the new pool house, which had two apartments sharing a common game room that opened onto the pool. The drawings were very good and I was impressed by the way he was able to keep the feel of the house and the garden yet had basically added an entire new house. The Gatehouse was very different and designed to house security personnel. The third floor was an apartment that I had asked him to design for Max. I had noticed that Max spent more and more time with me and I knew that had to be taking a toll on him. If he had his own apartment on site, he could be nearby if needed, but have a little more down time. The second floor was comprised of four one-room studio apartments for additional security personnel. This I was going to leave up to Max's discretion to use but after the little debacle at lunch I was thinking of drawing up a contract with INS to provide more on site security permanently. The first floor was a recreation room with a home gym and a security office that I was thinking would be manned 24 hours a day. Karen and Travis reviewed the plans. Karen was thrilled with the gatehouse and Travis was happy about the pool house. It will allow us to keep the guys close but give us a little more privacy. I approved the plans and construction on the gatehouse would begin immediately and expected to be complete in about six weeks.
The rest of the day was spent catching up on emails and paperwork. By the time five o'clock rolled around, I was physically and mentally exhausted. When Carl, Travis and I got home, Rick was just getting dinner ready with Shane. David and Cat where sitting by the pool. I grabbed the plans and headed out to the patio table while Travis grabbed a bottle of wine and some glasses. I went over the pool house plans with David and Carl and told them I was expecting them to take up residence in the pool house. They both were thrilled. The gatehouse and my plans to have a 24-hour security team in place overjoyed Max. We had dinner poolside, and during dinner, I decided to broach the security issue.
"So, by now everyone has heard that the Mexican Cartel has me, and us, in their crosshairs. As you saw, I am beefing up security and trying to keep your safety in mind. I would like Max and some of the security officers at INS to train anyone, who wants it. That includes weapons training. David is already trained and I am sure will help out with the training as well."
"Of course Dale, although Carl with a gun is kind of scary."
Carl gave him a scowl. "I will have you know that I own, and am, very capable with a Sig P226."
"Okay, Carl. Don't go postal on anyone. I will also see what it takes for everyone to get a concealed carry permit. Now, I am not a gun advocate, but I think in this situation we need to be able to defend ourselves against some very dangerous groups."
Rick looked up. "Dale, after the whole Scott thing I don't mind having a gun nearby but I am not really comfortable carrying one."
I nodded. "Rick, I don't want you to ever do anything you are not comfortable with, and that goes for everyone here. What’s for dessert?"
Everyone laughed a little. After we were done eating, everyone helped clean up and I cornered Rick in the kitchen.
I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one could hear me.
"Rick, Travis's Birthday is coming up and I really want to do something nice for him but I have no idea what."
Rick laughed. "Carl!" He yelled out.
Carl came into the kitchen and I was very confused. "What's up guys?"
Rick looked at us with a very mischievous grin. "Dale doesn't know what to do about Travis's birthday."
Carl laughed. "Well, not to fear we are already on that. We figured you would want to throw a surprise party so we arranged with Cal and Ellis to have the party at their place. They will invite you and Travis to dinner as a cover. Rick already has a menu planned and I have started the guest list."
I just shook my head. "What do I have to do then?"
Carl patted me on the back. "Buy him something expensive and shiny and make sure he gets laid that night." He walked out of the room.
We all laughed.
"Rick, how is school going?"
"Really well! I am having a blast and the Chefs keep telling me I am way ahead of my peer group."
"I am happy to hear that, Rick. You and Shane?"
Rick blushed and looked down. “I am head over heels in love that man."
I smiled and hugged him. "It's a great thing, isn't it?"
I heard a fake cough behind us. "Should we be worried?"
Travis and Shane where standing there, smiling at us. I laughed. "We were just talking about how lucky you two are to have found the two of us."
"Is that so?" Travis chuckled. "Babe, Shane has an interesting idea to solve our cartel problem."
"What have you two been cooking up?" I was seriously intrigued.
Shane pulled a stool out and sat down.
"Dale, you do realize you own the largest private paramilitary force in the world right? Why don't we go on the offensive?"
I nodded. "I can understand how this would seem like a good idea, Bud, but we can't go and attack Mexican civilians on Mexican foreign soil. We have to follow international law to the letter if we want to stay in business."
"I know, but hear me out for second. What would happen, if something we were hired to protect got stolen by the same cartel we are dealing with?"
"Typically we would have our insurance company reimburse the client for their loss after we requested the Mexican officials to recover the stolen property for us. It's all very cut and dry. The only time I would ignore our contract and international law is if it was a kidnapping of a client we were hired to protect or one of my own people."
Shane nodded, "Exactly."
I stared at him for a second. "Shane, what exactly are you proposing?"
Shane smiled. "How about a vacation to Mexico for a couple of us?"
Rick and I both shouted "Hell, no!"
I shook my head. "Shane, I am not using any of you as bait. The risk is too great."
Just then, Max and David came around the corner.
Max stopped in his tracks. “Sorry. Dale, did I interrupt?"
"No, Max. This discussion is over. Actually, Shane, tell Max your hair brained scheme and he can tell you how it won't work." I stomped out of the room and went to my office. Travis followed.
"Babe, I think you are over-reacting a bit."
"Over-reacting! Do you have any idea what these people do to people like you and Shane? These guys scare the piss right out of me. In addition, I am the one that has to act like the leader and that I am not afraid of anything. Do you want to know what scares the crap out of me? Great guys like Max would jump in front of me and take a bullet for me. And, Shane is willing to risk getting tortured for me. Why?"
"Because everything you do, you do for us." Shane was standing in the doorway. "Dale, you have invited us into your home and made us a family. None of us has any obligation to each other but we all love each other unconditionally. You did that and I will do whatever it takes to protect you."
David was standing beside him. "We all will, Dale. Shane's plan is crazy but there are some elements to it that could actually work. I am not asking you to implement the plan. Only let Shane, Max and I put together a real plan and then look at it.
I sat there staring at them all for a good thirty seconds. I knew Max and Shane where getting uncomfortable. David was unflappable and Travis could see right through me. "Okay, fine. Work up a plan to keep in our back pocket as a last resort."
Everyone just nodded and left, except Travis.