Close is not good enough this time…
Thomas Calabrese…It was the evening of December 28, 2016 and Glenn Garrison was scrolling down his list of potential resolutions for the upcoming year as he sat in the kitchen of his sparsely furnished one bedroom apartment in the Rancho Del Oro area of Oceanside. In the past he had always found something that was just out of his reach, but required him to exert maximum effort in the daunting quest. Sometimes it was just a matter of simple willpower like going on a raw food diet for ninety straight days, but only making it to eighty two before forgetting about his resolution and grabbing a chicken burrito on his way home from the fitness center. In 2008 Glenn set his goal of finishing in the top ten in his age group at the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, but ended up in nineteenth place after months of intense training. He always managed to put his failures behind him and move on with without regret or review.
This year, Glenn set his sights on the Badwater 135 mile ultra -marathon scheduled for July 21, 2017 in Death Valley National Park, California. This footrace is often billed as the toughest in the world. The course starts below sea level then traverses over three mountain ranges and finishes at 8,350 foot in temperatures that average 117 degrees. This race was so far beyond Glenn’s current physical capabilities that he set his goal as just finishing the grueling contest. He would start training next week.
The phone rang and when Glenn glanced at the screen on his phone, he didn’t recognize the number, “Hello.”
“Hi Glenn, its Jenny.”
This was a voice from out of Glenn’s past, Jenny was his’s ex-wife and he had not heard from her in over seven years. They originally met when he was a young Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton and she was trying to find her way in the world after leaving an abusive home in Escondido. Her father was an alcoholic and her stepmother was bi-polar who refused to stay on her medications. The relationship between Glenn and Jenny was more about co-dependency than it was about true love. Glenn was lonesome and too emotionally immature to be in a long term relationship and Jenny was too needy to take on the role and responsibilities of a supportive military wife. Their marriage made it through his first combat deployment, but could not survive the second. Jenny met a man who was fifteen years older than herself with a stable job who became the father figure that she desperately craved. When Glenn received the dreaded “Dear John” letter, he was serving in Special Operations with the Fifth Marines in Afghanistan. It was brief and to the point. Jenny said she was sorry and accepted full blame for the failure of their marriage, but she had found someone else and wished him all the best and a safe deployment. It took him a couple of years, but eventually Glenn relinquished the invisible burden of Jenny’s emotional baggage.
“Hi Jenny,” Glenn replied calmly.
“Surprised to hear from me?” Jenny asked nervously.
“Very much so.”
“Can we meet?” Jenny asked.
“Sure, something wrong?”
“It’s hard to explain over the phone,” Jenny answered.
“It’s too late to call in now so I’ll go to work in the morning and tell them I need to get off early.”
“I’ll meet you whenever or wherever you say,” There was more than a hint of desperation in Jenny’s voice.
“Where are you living now?” Glenn asked.
“In Scripps Ranch.”
“I’ll drive down,” Glenn volunteered.
“You’re doing me the favor so I’ll come to meet you… still living in Oceanside?”
“Yeah, still there,” Glenn answered, “You don’t need to drive all the way, how about if we meet in South Carlsbad, there’s a restaurant called Miguel’s Cocina, it’s off the Five at Palomar Airport Road on Avenida Encinas. How’s 1530 hours, I mean 330 tomorrow afternoon sound?”
“I’ll be there.”
Glenn went to work at Environmental Security on Camp Pendleton the next morning and told his supervisor, Ben Lucas that he needed to get off early to take care of some unexpected personal business, but did not elaborate. He arrived at Miguel’s Cocina at 3:25 and found Jenny was already waiting for him in the lobby. She was a little more mature in appearance, but just as attractive as he remembered with long brown hair and a naturalness that accentuated the best features of her femininity which were full lips, high cheekbones and dark eyes. Glenn’s initial impression was that the years had been good to his ex-wife.
Jenny said, “Thanks for meeting me.”
“No problem,” Glenn replied.
When they sat down in a booth, they found themselves staring at each other as a flood of memories from their past swept over them, but they both resisted the temptation to get nostalgic by reminiscing or making small talk.
“While I was driving up here, I kept going over in my mind on what excuse I was going to use for what I did to you. Being young and naïve was the only one that I could come up with.”
“No excuses needed, we were both young… too young,” Glenn said.
“I walked out while you were serving our country and in danger and that was not right.”
“The long separation was difficult for you and I should not have put you in that position.”
“You’re being overly generous in your assessment of my behavior,” Jenny smiled, “but I appreciate the sentiment.”
Glenn was conflicted, on one hand he wanted to know more about Jenny’s current life, but at the same time he didn’t want her to tell him anything that would stir up feelings that he had struggled to put to rest years earlier, “How can I help you?”
“My husband’s company has a manufacturing plant in Tijuana. He was having a luncheon meeting with several of his business associates and went to the men’s room. He heard gunshots and when he returned, everybody at the table had been shot dead.
“Talk about being lucky,” Glenn sighed then quickly added, “Lucky for him, not the other guys…obviously, where is your husband right now?”
“He’s hiding in Mexico somewhere,” Jenny lamented, “He thinks that they may be coming after him next.”
“What kind of business is your husband in?”
“Plastics, injection moldings,” Jenny answered quickly, “Does that matter?”
“Maybe, maybe not, so you don’t have any idea why someone would want to kill your husband or the people that he was with?”
“Not a clue,” Jenny retorted.
Glenn scratched his head and looked away.
“My husband is a good man!” Jenny lashed out in defense of her husband.
Glenn replied, “I don’t know him so I’ll take your word for it. Does he know that you contacted me?
“Actually no, he told me not to talk to anyone about this.”
“But you called me anyway, why?”
“I don’t know,” Jenny replied.
“I think you do?” Glenn proceeded with a hunch,” something about your husband’s story doesn’t ring true, but you didn’t want to go to the police. I’m kind of surprised that I was still on your radar, though.”
Jenny sighed, “I know what kind of man you were and didn’t figure you changed that much over the years. Right now I need someone I trust to tell me the truth.”
As they were leaving Miguel’s Cocina, Glenn observed a car with two men parked in the loading zone. When he briefly made eye contact with the driver it further aroused his current suspicions so he pulled Jenny back inside the restaurant, “Did you see anyone following you when you were driving up here.”
“Why would anyone want to follow me?” Jenny asked
“I still might have a little PTSD left, but let’s play it safe,” Glenn called 911 on his cellphone, “I would like to report two suspicious men,” and after he finished giving a detailed description of the vehicle and its exact location, Glenn and Jenny slowly walked to their vehicles, “when the police get here, we need to get out of here quickly so follow me.”
“I’m getting scared,” Jenny stammered.
“Fear isn’t a bad thing,” Glenn commented, “It has kept me alive more than once.”
Two Carlsbad police cruisers arrived and blocked the car with the two men from exiting and Glenn and Jenny made their departure. Glenn got in his vehicle and Jenny followed him in hers and they drove east on Palomar Airport Road to the parking lot of The Crossings public golf course.
The police officers checked the identifications of the two men and apologized for the misunderstanding. After they left, the man in the passenger seat pulled out his cellphone, “We followed her to Carlsbad, but we’ve lost contact.”
“The voice at the other end responded, “She won’t be hard to find.”
Jenny left her vehicle at The Crossings and got in Glenn’s car and they drove down Interstate Five to Scripps Ranch. They stopped off at a local Wells Fargo bank where Jenny withdrew ten thousand dollars from her account.
“From now on, only cash purchases, no credit or debit cards,” Glenn instructed.
The couple drove to the library on Scripps Lake Drive and found two computer terminals and did an exhaustive search on the internet about the killings in Tijuana, but found nothing. When it became dark, they drove to Jenny’s neighborhood and parked a block away and cautiously walked toward her residence.
Glenn saw a vehicle with darkly tinted windows parked across the street from Jenny’s house and pulled her behind a hedge, “They have your house under surveillance.”
“Follow me,” Jenny led Glenn over the wood fences of two of her neighbors’ backyards before reaching the rear of her residence. She went to the side of the house where a key was hidden behind the trash cans and opened the garage entry door.
“Pack a bag, no telling how long we’re going to be gone,” Glenn suggested.
Glenn followed Jenny upstairs and she began packing then noticed that things were slightly out of place, “Somebody has been in here.”
Glenn looked out the window and saw the two men get out of the sedan, “They must have put sensors in here,” Glenn guessed, “Do you keep any weapons in the house?”
“My husband has a gun safe,” Jenny opened the doors to a wooden cabinet that hid the metal safe and pressed the combination on the keypad. Glenn took out two handguns and a box of ammunition for each of them and put them in Jenny’s clothing bag. He grabbed a Savage .308 hunting rifle and loaded it, “Wait for me in the backyard,”
Jenny ran down the stairs to the back of the house while Glenn stopped next to the front door. One of the men shot through the lock of the front door while the other man kicked it in. When they burst in, Glenn slammed the rifle butt into the back of one man’s head then shot the other in the chest. He pulled out his cellphone and took photos of the men’s faces.
Jenny was so visibly relieved to see Glenn when he came out the sliding door that she ran over and passionately embraced him, “I heard a gunshot….”
“I’m fine,” Glenn responded and in the moonlight, his ex-wife never looked more beautiful, but resisted the temptation to kiss her.
Mike Collier was sitting in a villa in Rosarita Beach, Mexico when CIA agent, Herman Bowden stormed in with a scowl on his face and his jaw clenched in anger “Two of my men just got killed at your house.”
Mike Collier asked, “What happened?”
One of the men in the room stood up, “We got the surveillance footage of the camera at the restaurant in Carlsbad. He put the photo of Glenn and Jenny on the big screen television.
“Do we know who this guy is?” CIA agent Bowden demanded.
“Glenn Garrison, he’s a former combat Marine who now works on Camp Pendleton,” The man answered.
“I want everything on him and I want it now!” Herman Bowden slammed his fist against the table then stormed out.
“He’s also my wife’s first husband,” Mike meekly interjected,
Baja Plastics had been working the Barron Cartel to smuggle drugs from Mexico and Central America into the United States. The CIA was providing protection for the shipments and using their share of the profits to fund their covert operations. When the Barron Cartel started drawing too much negative publicity from their other criminal endeavors, the CIA decided it was time to severe their unholy alliance. The plan was for a CIA assassination squad to ambush the Barron Cartel leadership at the restaurant. Michael Collier would go into seclusion, while rumors of his kidnapping would be circulated that a rival cartel was to blame. When the inevitable drug war cooled down, he would reappear with the explanation that he had been ransomed out of captivity.
The CIA hoped this subterfuge would eliminate two powerful players in the drug trade and allow them to bring up a smaller organization that would be content to take a smaller percentage of the action and would be much easier to control. These were the difficult parts of the plan, the easy component was supposed to be Jenny Collier, but it was turning out to be just the opposite.
Glenn switched plates on his car with another vehicle at a Park and Ride in Escondido then drove to Julian where the couple got a motel room at the Julian Country Inn.
Herman Bowden was sitting with Mike Collier on the patio and eating chips and Guacamole, “If your wife would have kept her mouth shut like you told her then we wouldn’t need to go to plan B.”
“Plan B, what’s plan B?” Mike Collier asked.
“She’s needs to take the ultimate siesta,” Herman Bowden joked.
“If that’s what I think it is, then no damn way!”
“You’re the one who said that your wife would do exactly like you told her.”
“We have to find another way,” Mike Collier pleaded.
“This is not a democracy 101, you don’t get a vote, but you do get a choice,” Herman Bowden said, “
“Your wife’s life or yours,” Herman Bowden smiled
Glenn and Jenny were in their motel room; Jenny was sitting in a chair watching the news while Glenn was lying on the bed staring up at the ceiling.
“Why do you think you were being followed?” Glenn commented.
Jenny turned down the volume on the television, “Did you say something?”
“No matter how many times I go over it in my mind, the only answers that make any sense are that those men were involved with your husband and they didn’t trust you to stay quiet.”
“What?” Jenny asked.
“Those men at your house were professional assassins.”
Jenny tried to come up with a plausible rebuttal, but when she could not, she turned up the volume of the television and ignored Glenn.
Two hours later, Glenn and Jenny were in separate beds with the lights off when Jenny whispered, “Over the years I’ve had my reasons to be suspicious of my husband’s activities, but I foolishly chose to ignore my instincts because I had a comfortable lifestyle…that being admitted, I am still not prepared to give up on my husband just yet.”
“Did you ever see the movie, The Godfather?”
“Are you asking me if I want to watch a movie on pay per view?
“In the movie, the Corleones were trying to figure out who was the traitor to the family and couldn’t decide whether it was Tessio or Clemenza.
“Which one was it?” Jenny asked.
“It was Tessio, but my point is; Don Corleone told his son Michael that whoever wants the meeting is the traitor because it is an ambush.”
“I don’t know what that cinematic bit of trivia has to do with this situation,” Jenny snapped back.
Next morning, Glenn and Jenny were eating breakfast at Granny’s Kitchen in Julian when Jenny’s cellphone rang. She looked at the screen and saw it was her husband and showed it to Glenn.
“Remember what the Godfather said,” Glenn reminded her.
“Hi Mike, are you alright?” Jenny asked.
“I found a way to get back across the border, where are you?”
“I got nervous being home by myself so I took a drive; I’m staying at the Julian Country Inn.”
“What room are you in?” Mike inquired.
“It will take me a few hours to get there, stay inside and don’t go anywhere. I‘ll see you around six this evening, I love you.” Mike said.
“Me too,” Jenny had a tough time saying the words.
Mike Collier turned to Herman Bowden who was sitting across from him, “Is that good enough for you? You know where she’s at now; go do what you need to.”
Herman Bowden took a long gulp from his Five Hour energy drink, “That’s only part one, you’re coming with us to make sure that things turn out properly.”
Mike Collier swallowed hard as he looked at Herman Bowden and the two armed men standing behind him and knew that arguing the point was not in his best interest.
It was five o’clock in the afternoon and Glenn and Jenny were sitting in their car with a vantage point of their motel room, but hidden from view, “I guess we’ll know soon enough,” Jenny said apprehensively.
“I guess we will,” Glenn calmly replied.
Jenny cellphone rang and she answered it, “Hello,” and listened for a few seconds,” I’m in the room …I’ll leave the door open.”
Ten minutes later a car pulled into the parking lot and stopped by the front entrance and two men got out from the back seat and walked to the rear of the motel.
Glenn got out of the car with the rifle and set his elbows on the trunk to steady his aim and watched the men through the scope. When they got to room 105, they quickly looked around to see if anybody was around then slowly opened the door and entered. It only took them a few seconds to realize that the pillows and clothing setting in the chairs that they shot to pieces were decoys. When they exited the room Glenn shot both men and they fell to the ground.
Herman Bowden and Mike Collier patiently waited in their car for their cohorts to return. When the barrel of a pistol was pressed against Herman Bowden’s head, he quipped, “If I had to guess I’d say that was the wildcard, Glenn Garrison.”
“I’m tempted to splatter your gray matter all over this car’s exterior, but I have something else in mind,” Glenn twisted Herman’s Bowden’s head and snapped his photo and a photo of Mike Collier with his cellphone, “I’ve got your photos and the photos of your dead men and when I leave here I’m going to put them on a website that will send me sporadic reminders to change my password. If I’m not alive to change the password, the photos will be sent to various law enforcement agencies, the media and posted on the internet. I don’t really care what this is all about, but I’m willing to bet my life that you don’t want that kind of publicity. My question is; do we go our separate ways or do we both go down in flames?
The CIA agent smiled, “My response is simply; Semper fi, Marine. Our business is concluded as far I am concerned.”
Herman Bowden drove off and Jenny caught a brief glimpse of her husband’s ashen white face as he mouthed the words, “I’m sorry.” She would never see her husband again…no one would.
For a man who had grown content with Almost There as a description of his past resolutions and relationships, Glenn Garrison couldn’t have picked a better time to exceed his expectations.