Justice Will Be Done
Thomas Calabrese — Retired Lieutenant Colonel Tyler Cash enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 1992 and retired in 2016 after a distinguished 24 year career. His last duty station was at Camp Pendleton as commanding officer of 1st Raider Battalion. He was on his fourth deployment in Afghanistan when his wife, Sarah, caught the flu and serious complications followed and she passed away in March 2015. Right after the funeral, Tyler put in his retirement papers.
His oldest daughter, Reese, was currently working in Boston for a computer software company and his younger daughter Alexis was married to an enlisted Marine and living at Camp Lejeune. The four bedroom family home in the Rancho Del Oro area of Oceanside was too big for Tyler, but he had too many memories there to let it go, maybe later, but not in the foreseeable future. He was currently employed as a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) regional supervisor and had just returned from a fire ravished area in Northern California.
Tyler made a slight detour to Carlsbad and picked up two turkey dinner meals at Boston Market and went home. His neighbor and friend, Enrique Koba usually watched his home and picked up his mail when he was out of town for work. He knocked on the door and Enrique opened it, “Welcome home.”
“Good to be back,” Tyler responded and handed the bag of food to Enrique.
“I told you that you don’t have to bring me something every time you come back,” Enrique smiled, “But I do love the turkey dinners from Boston Market.”
“I know…and you don’t have to watch my house and pick up my mail when I’m gone,” Tyler answered, “I just wanted you to know that I appreciate what you do for me.”
Enrique handed a stack of mail to Tyler, “Are you going to be around for a while?”
“Hopefully, unless an emergency comes up.”
“I’ll talk to you later,” Enrique said.
When Tyler got home, he sat down at the dining table and alternated eating his meal and going through his mail. One letter caught his attention. It was from Captain Ken Monroe, an officer that was under his command who was also a good friend. When Tyler opened the envelope, he saw that it was an invitation to Ken Monroe’s bachelor party. He mailed out his acceptance reply the next morning.
The eight current and former Marines met at Gateway Parking near the San Ysidro border crossing then took a private shuttle to Tijuana. Captain Monroe’s fiancée, Teresa Mendoza was Mexican and her family owned the La Querencia restaurant in Tijuana. A private dining room was reserved for the party with a special meal that included steak, lobster and authentic Mexican cuisine for the attendees. The men reminisced about old times and brought each other up to speed on what has happened in their lives since they last saw each other.
Major Andrew Larson asked, “How’s things at FEMA?”
“Alright, how bout’you?” Tyler asked.
“I had orders for Twentynine Palms, even found nice off base housing, then somebody got hurt during a parachute jump so now I’m leaving for Lejeune in 30 days.”
“All plans are subject to change, you learn that early in your military career,” Tyler reminded his friend.
It was festive occasion and Tyler was glad that he came. This was the first time since his wife passed away that he felt at ease in a social situation. He was usually the last one to arrive and first one to leave, but tonight Tyler never even looked at his watch.
Captain Monroe stood up and called out to his guests, “I’d like to make an announcement; well actually it is more of an introduction. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, this is my future wife, Teresa.” A dark haired beauty walked over and flashed a big smile. Captain Monroe passionately kissed her and the room bursts out in applause.
Someone in the back of the room called out, “She’s out of your class!”
“Affirmative on that,” Captain Monroe laughed.
After personally introducing the beautiful woman to several of the Marines, Captain Monroe approached Tyler, “I’m glad you could make it.”
“I’m honored that you invited me,” Tyler responded, then turned to Teresa, “I wish you all the happiness in the world.”
Teresa responded, “Thank you very much.”
Outside on Avenida Escuadron, three black armored Chevrolet Suburbans with darkly tinted windows pulled up and parked down the street from La Querencia. Eight armed men were in each vehicle. The bachelor party was ending so everybody began walking outside as a group to say their farewells. A minute later, five couples from the restaurant exited and unbeknown to Tyler and his friends was the fact that the men in this group were high ranking members of the Tijuana Cartel and the men in the vehicles were members of the rival Juarez Cartel.
The men exited the vehicles with automatic weapons in their hands and slowly walked toward both groups of people. Tyler wasn’t paying attention to what was happening behind him, but somehow caught a momentary reflection of a street light shining off the barrel of a weapon. It was only a millisecond, but it caught his eye just right and stimulated Tyler’s curiosity just enough to look over his shoulder to investigate. At that moment the men opened fire and Tyler yelled out, Gun!” and hit the deck, but it was too late.
A wave of bullets riddled everything and everybody in sight and two cars exploded in flames when their gas tanks were hit. Even after victims were shot, bullets continued to hit them. It was a massacre and the armed men showed no indication of stopping their assault or showing any mercy because when Tyler looked up, he saw that several of the men were reloading their weapons and were moving forward. Bullets were also ricocheting off the pavement and flying at awkward angles. It was like being stuck in a meat grinder and trying to avoid the blades.
Tyler saw his friends lying motionless and knew that they were seriously hurt, but he couldn’t reach them to render aid and even realizing that he had been hit three times. As one gunman moved closer, Tyler grabbed the dead body of a woman and pulled her over him. The gunman walked among the wounded and killed them. As he stepped over a body, Tyler reached out, grabbed him by the ankles and yanked him off his feet. Before the man could react, Tyler grabbed him by the hair and viciously slammed his head into the pavement three times to knock him unconscious. He grabbed the man’s weapon and began returning fire and killed seven men before he was shot two more times. In the distance, sirens could be heard and growing ever louder as they approached. This was the signal for the remaining shooters to retreat as Tyler summoned his remaining strength, got to his feet and shot two more men in the back and they fell dead in the street.
The last thing Tyler saw before he passed out was seeing Captain Monroe and Teresa, hand in hand, both dead and covered in blood. The funerals of his friends took place while Tyler was in the hospital, undergoing several surgeries to repair the serious damage the bullets did to his body. Six weeks later, he was discharged from the University of California Hospital, San Diego, a level one trauma center.
“You are an extremely lucky man, you were shot seven times and at least three of the bullets would have killed anybody else,” Doctor Novak stated in amazement.
“Maybe you’re just a better surgeon than you think,” Tyler joked.
“No, that’s not the case. I’m extremely aware of my limits and this is more about you than my abilities. The people who came to visit you told me that you’re the toughest man they know. That might be true, but you’ve got a long rehab process ahead of you. My parting medical advice; realize your limitations and don’t push yourself past them. It is a slow and methodical process coming back from serious traumatic injuries, not just physically, but mentally.”
“Thanks Doc for putting me back together,” Tyler knew he was lying when he added, “I’m a former Marine, I always follow orders.”
Enrique Koba picked up Tyler at the hospital, “Your daughters have been calling me every day, they want to come back and take care of you.”
“Sorry about that, I’ll call and tell them that I’m fine. My plan is go to my rehab appointments and take it easy,” Tyler responded.
“Did you say easy?” Enrique smiled, “You’re talking to me now, I know your definition of easy.”
When Tyler got home, the first thing he did was go online to find any news stories about the shooting in Tijuana and surprisingly there wasn’t anything to be found. Since he was still on indefinite medical leave from his job at FEMA and his agency was part of Homeland Security, he had a few contacts that he could call on. John Suarez was a former Marine and current analyst who specialized in Mexican and Latin American criminal and terrorist activities.
“I’d rather not talk over the phone,” John Suarez commented.
“Name the place,” Tyler suggested.
The two men met at Bertha’s Latin Cuisine on Twiggs Street in San Diego’s Old Town. Tyler was using a cane to steady himself and he made his way and over the table where John Suarez was already sitting, “I already ordered for the both of us, is that alright?”
“Fine,” Tyler responded.
When their meals came, they ate in silence and when they were finished, Tyler said, “I need to use the men’s room,” and got up from his chair.
John Suarez responded, “I don’t know what you’re planning, but whatever it is…be careful.”
Tyler knew that John wasn’t referring to his use of the restroom, “I will, thanks.”
When Tyler returned, John Suarez was already gone, but there was a thick manila envelope setting under his plate.
These were two experienced and cautious men who knew how the system worked. If either of them were ever questioned under oath, they could honestly say that they never discussed or gave anything to each other.
Tyler took precautions to make sure that he wasn’t followed on his way home by exiting the freeway, going a couple blocks east or west then returning to the onramp. When Tyler got home, he looked in the envelope for the first time. He had been in the military long enough to know how missions went completely off track when bureaucrats got involved and this was another example. The information that John Suarez gave him was conclusive proof that the CIA was working the Juarez Cartel to help track down a group of Middle Eastern terrorists in Mexico. Officials in the U.S. government designated the investigation an issue of national security and therefore were able to keep it out of the media.
After careful deliberation, Tyler came to the conclusion that the Juarez Cartel leadership was using this unholy alliance as an opportunity time to eliminate their competition. This strategy was often implemented in Afghanistan and the death of innocent civilians was considered acceptable to accomplish the mission.
Tyler medically retired from his position in FEMA and focused all his energy and efforts on getting ready. Once he was cleared for low impact exercise, he started swimming at the 14 Area pool on Camp Pendleton from 0600 to 0800 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings he attended yoga classes. In the afternoons he would go to Iron Sights Target Range in Oceanside to practice with his weapons. Two months after he was shot, Tyler enrolled at the Red Dragon Martial Arts studio in Vista which was owned by Jim Hathaway a former Marine Corps self- defense instructor and expert in several different disciplines of hand to hand combat.
After a particularly exhausting sparing session, Jim took off his headgear and caught his breath, “Just what the hell are you training for?”
“I just like to stay in shape,” Tyler deflected the question.
“No offense Colonel, but I know the difference between staying in shape and training for a mission,” Jim smiled.
“Are you up for a couple more rounds?”
“Just take it easy on me?” Jim inhaled, “I don’t want my students to see me all beaten up, it is bad for business.”
The two former Marines went at it again, throwing punches and kicks at one another until Tyler caught Jim with a vicious kick to the solar plexus that brought the instructor to his knees. When he was home, Tyler worked diligently at becoming proficient in the Spanish language. Every week, he received the latest Intel reports on the Tijuana and Juarez cartels in an envelope with a bogus return address. Not a day passed that Tyler was not preparing himself in one way or another. Nine months after the death of his friends, Tyler rented a small one bedroom apartment in one of the worst areas of Tijuana’s infamous red light district, near the intersection of Constitucion, Callejon and Coahuila streets. Even the resident manager warned him, “This is not a safe place for Americans.”
Tyler responded in perfect Spanish, “That is why I chose it.”
Tyler stayed in Oceanside from Monday to Friday afternoon then went to Tijuana. He walked the streets of Tijuana, scouted the area and made mental notes of people and activities. When three men saw Tyler walking alone, they approached him on a dark street and one of them said, “Do you have any money?”
Tyler quickly evaluated the situation and knew what he was going to do even before he opened his mouth, “I was going to ask you the same question.”
As soon as the man made the slightest movement to reach for a weapon in his shoulder holster, Tyler was on him in a split second with cat-like quickness, grabbed the weapon and pulled the trigger before it even cleared leather then pulled it out and shot the other two men, then disappeared into the darkness. The following weekend, two corrupt cops attempted to shake him down, “You are in the wrong area of town. There is a fine for that offense,” The cop said.
“How much?” Tyler asked.
“How much do you have?” The second cop asked.
Tyler reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of money and showed it to the police officers.
“We’ll take it all,” The first cop said.
When Tyler backed away, the second cop warned, “You can give it to us or we can take it off your dead body.”
“You sure that you want to do it that way?” Tyler asked
When the cop reached for the money, Tyler grabbed his wrist and snapped it. The other cop reached for his weapon and Tyler kicked the man in the knee then grabbed the weapon and shot both men.
Over the next few weeks, Tyler made himself an easy target for the some worst criminals and predators in Tijuana and when they took the bait, he made them pay dearly.These were just training exercises as he prepared himself for the main offensive which would happen on the one year anniversary of the death of his friends.
With the Intel from his secret benefactor and his own scouting patrols, Tyler was ready to hit the Tijuana and Juarez Cartels on the same day. He used his connections with a private contractor that he met while he was in the Corps to ‘weapon up’. When he left his apartment, the vehicle he bought from a Mexican national was loaded with automatic weapons, satchel charges and light anti-tank weapons.
The sun went down and darkness slowly creeped over the dimly lit area. Tyler fired the anti- tank weapons from across the street and three armored SUV’s exploded in a ball of flames. When two dozen men ran out of the warehouse, Tyler opened fire with a M-60 machine gun. He jumped back into the car and raced past the warehouse and threw out two explosive charges at the building and when they detonated, the building was obliterated. As he drove off, Tyler said to himself, “One down.”
Two hours later and he was ready for the second part of his plan. Several rogue CIA agents were in the house when they heard a series of explosions from outside. One of the men exclaimed, “What the hell is that?”
The head of the cartel ordered his men to investigate, “ Go!”
A dozen men rushed outside and were killed by an IED (improvised explosive device) Bullets riddled the house and everyone dived for cover. After three minutes of non-stop firing, the men who had not been killed rose to their feet and looked around. Two Americans were among the survivors and just when they thought the assault was over, Tyler burst through the door and shot the remaining cartel members and faced off against the CIA agents.
“Colonel Tyler Cash, I told them that you weren’t going to let this go,” First CIA agent said.
“You should have made your deal with the Devildogs (nickname for Marines) instead of the devil,” Tyler said.
“You can kill us, but you know that nothing will change, somebody else will just take our place and it will be business as usual,” Second CIA agent commented.
“Your friends died, people die every day. It is just one of the costs of freedom and national security,” First CIA agent said.
The Second CIA agent looked at Tyler and commented with a smirk, “You’re not going to shoot us. It’s not your style.”
You’re right, I can’t kill you like this,” Tyler holstered his weapon with his right hand while inconspicuously reaching behind his back with his left, where he had another weapon hidden in his waistband.
Both CIA agents quickly drew their weapons, instinctively seizing on their reprieve, “You’re a foolish Marine with a stupid code of conduct,” First CIA agent commented.
The second agent laughed, “We on the other hand will kill anybody who gets in our way. It’s a lot easier our way,” Second CIA agent added.
“Better to live with a code of honor than to die without one,” Tyler smiled and was prepared for the inevitable.
Before either man could fire their weapon, Tyler pulled out the hidden weapon in a flash and shot both men in the foreheads, “I don’t have any problems shooting you in self-defense though.”
It was a night of Cash and Chaos in this border town of Tijuana, Mexico.
Two days later, Tyler was at the Miramar National Cemetery and knelt down next to the gravesite of his fallen friend, Captain Kenneth Monroe and said a personal prayer, “Our father in heaven, Holy Spirit and Son, protect this noble man as he protected so many others. Justice will be done. Amen.”