From the streets of Mexico to mountains of Wyoming, Juan Velasquez does what is needed to survive and to prosper. His belief in the rule of law is trumped by his belief in the pursuit of justice, a trait that is passed down to his daughter, Elizabeth, and his granddaughter, Elaina.
Assassination within Juan’s family triggers a homicide investigation that sets off a chain of events leading to betrayal, kidnapping and more death. Deception and devotion become confused and while loyalty has benefits, it also has a cost. When Juan disappears during his unofficial search for the assassin, Elaina deciphers details that could lead her to him. Hesitant to share the information with authorities she sets out on her own, aware that in the undercover world, life is a masquerade and the path to the truth is complex.
Short of breath from his quarter mile run, Manuel pounded on the door. “Alejandro! Trouble is coming!”
“How long do we have?” Alejandro opened the door for Manuel, and then barricaded it behind him.
“It is Jorge. He is not far behind me,” Manuel panted. “At the pub, I overheard two of his soldiers. They were waiting for Jorge and said your name. You know there is talk. Because of the following that has assembled behind you, he wants you gone. There is fear that you weld too much power and could challenge him.”
Like his brother, Alejandro, Manuel was a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico. Manuel, however, lived in Texas and worked for the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Alejandro lived with his son, in the house where the brothers had been raised.
An accomplished gun smith, Alejandro occasionally spent his time as a runner for one of the larger street gangs in the area. Although the brothers had chosen different paths in life, their loyalty to each other overcame their philosophical differences and their ability to surreptitiously share information had helped them both more than once.
Fourteen-year-old Juan climbed down the ladder from the loft where he had been sleeping. “Hi, Uncle Manny. What’s going on, Papa?”
“Trouble might be coming.”
Manuel helped Juan’s father lift the kitchen table, move it three feet to the side and raise the trap door that was almost invisible in the center of the wooden floor. Alejandro dashed to his bed, grabbed the quilt, and shoved it into Juan’s arms.
“Down you go,” he directed. “Don’t make a sound. No matter what you hear, stay there until Uncle Manny or I come to get you.”
As Juan climbed down the steep steps to the small enclosure, Alejandro pulled a wedge of cheese and a container of orange juice from the refrigerator and grabbed the bread from the counter. He handed them down to his son, along with three bottles of water and a flashlight.
“Take this. It might be a day or even two before it is safe.
“I can fight.” Juan said.
“Not yet, my young warrior. There is no more time for talking.”
“Are they coming to kill you, Papa?”
“No. I think they are coming to recruit me, or maybe to try to frighten me. Now climb inside and be silent.”
Just before the trap door closed, Alejandro noticed Juan’s book, The Works of William Shakespeare, lying on the table. Juan had been using the book as the basis for a code he was working on so that his dad and his uncle could send messages, without fear of interception. Alejandro grabbed the book and tossed it through the opening before pushing the wooden cover back in place. Then he and his brother moved the table back above it.
Alejandro slipped a revolver into his belt behind his back and pointed to the loft. “Go up and wait. It is better if Jorge thinks I am alone.”
Manuel climbed the ladder, as Alejandro turned off the lights and went into the bedroom to wait.
Only minutes later, Juan felt the vibration from the thud of the front door slamming against the wall. Followed by two men, Jorge strode inside and in a hoarse voice hollered, “Amigo, it is Jorge! We need to talk!”
When Alejandro walked from the bedroom to greet his uninvited guests, he was met with an explosion of gun fire. Juan closed his eyes and pressed his hands to his ears. He was afraid that this time, his father would not lift the cover to his sanctuary.