Friday, July 9, 2021

The Courier - A Short Story by Sandra Olson

From the closed case files of detective James Ford

The alley running behind the old rusting metal building was dark and reeked of rotten smells coming from the overflowing dumpster tucked behind the closed seafood shop next door. The smell was nauseating and detective James Ford gagged when he walked by the dumpster.

It was after midnight and the main cross streets were quiet. Even the hookers and drug pushers had retreated for the night.

James crept up to the wall of the warehouse.. The window was encrusted with years of dirt and grime and all he could make out through it were shadows.

He and Phil had tracked a young man from Springdale, Arkansas to the city of Atlanta, Georgia but had been unable to locate him until today. Wyatt Allen’s father hired them to find him and bring him home.

A letter from Wyatt reached his parents last week telling them he needed help getting away from some drug dealers. Wyatt’s roommate had gotten him a job working as a courier. He’d delivered messages and money around the city, but now they wanted Wyatt to distribute drugs. Wyatt refused, but he knew too much about their operation to leave the business alive.

James located Wyatt’s address in an older part of the city but as they were exiting James’ SUV, they spotted two thugs wrestling Wyatt through the front door of his apartment building. They’d watched helplessly as Wyatt was shoved into a dented tan van and driven away.

James followed the vehicle but lost it as they wove through the busy streets of downtown Atlanta. Being unfamiliar with the city was a definite handicap.

They returned to the apartment to wait for Wyatt’s roommate Spike to make a move. When Spike finally left the apartment they’d followed him to this decaying side of town and the old warehouse headquarters for the drug cartel.

Spike was the one who’d gotten Wyatt involved in this business.. When Wyatt made the mistake of telling Spike he wanted out, Spike ratted him out to his boss, no doubt for a reward of some kind. Now Wyatt was being held for what James assumed was an attitude adjustment.

While James circled the building looking for a cleaner window, Phil waited for the police to arrive. They’d informed the local police of their mission earlier that day and been promised backup when the time came to rescue Wyatt. Phil sat in their rental car parked a block from the warehouse. Unfortunately now that the time had come, the police were being detained by a shooting-hostage situation on the other side of town.

Office Orland promised to send someone as soon as possible and insisted that they wait until the officers got there before making a move to rescue Wyatt, which was why Phil anxiously waited in the SUV for the backup.

When a loud scream came from inside the warehouse James decided he should attempt the rescue without police help. It wouldn’t do any good to wait for help if Wyatt ended up dead.

The smeared view through another dirty glass window gave him a glimpse of an office. A wooden desk and several filing cabinets stood against the wall.

Wyatt was tied to a chair in the middle of the room. The side of his face was covered in blood from a cut over his eye. Two men were in the office with him, his roommate Spike and a tall dark-skinned Cuban. The Cuban sported the tattoo of a black snake running down his neck and across his left shoulder. He glared at Wyatt menacingly. His thick hair was black and shaggy and there was a gun tucked into the back of his waistband.

Spike stood in front of Wyatt talking, but James couldn’t hear what he said.

When Wyatt started shaking his head ‘no’, the Cuban backhanded him across the face. Wyatt’s head snapped back and blood ran down his chin.

While James watched, a third man entered the room carrying a revolver with a silencer attached to the barrel.

This man also had the olive skin and black hair of a Cuban, but he was dressed in an expensively tailored black Italian suit. He’d obviously come from some sort of formal event and didn’t look pleased about this interruption. His hair was combed back and slicked down. He sported a narrow pencil-thin black mustache and a wicked gleam in his dark eyes. There could be no doubt he was the man in charge.

The tattooed Cuban spoke to the leader and nodded toward Wyatt waving his hands to emphasize his point.

It was hard to tell fromJames’ vantage point how badly Wyatt had been beaten, but his head lolled to the side and his eyes were closed. It was time to do something before they killed Wyatt. James took a step back from the window and bumped into someone. Whirling around with his gun drawn, he almost shot Phil.

“Sorry,” he whispered.

“My fault. I didn’t want to make any noise,” apologized Phil. “The cops said there’s someone on the way but it could be fifteen minutes or more. What did you see?” he asked, nodding toward the window.

“We can’t wait. It looks like the boss is here and Wyatt’s about to get shot.”

The two of them stealthily hurried to the nearest door and crept inside the building. It was dark inside, the only light coming from the open door leading into the office. They avoided that stream of light as they crept forward dodging boxes and old furniture stacked around the huge room.


“You little punk,” threatened the deeply accented voice of the man in the suit. “After all I did for you, you turn traitor on me? You know too much to leave now. You think I can just let you walk away?”

“I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” slurred Wyatt through swollen lips. His face was bruised and the cut over his left eye was bleeding. “I know you’d kill me if I talked.”

“What makes you think I’m not going to kill you right now?” threatened the man.

“Please…I just want to go home. I won’t even be in Atlanta.”

There was the loud sound of a fist striking flesh and Wyatt groaned.

“That’s not good enough. You work for me or you die,” said the man coldly. “Didn’t Spike and Rodriquez already tell you that?” He looked over at Rodriguez who nodded. “See, you’ve been told. So what is your decision? Work for me or die?”

Wyatt shook his head and strained against his bonds. “No, please…”


By now James was standing outside the office door with Phil staring at him across the lighted opening. With guns drawn they stepped into the light and faced the three men inside the room.

“Drop your weapons!” yelled James, pointing his revolver at the man in charge.. 

Startled, the men inside the room turned toward the door. Rodriguez raised his arm and pointed his gun at Phil. The man in charge simply raised his eyebrows and stared at the two men over the barrel of his revolver.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked, pointing his gun directly at James’ chest.

“Friends of Wyatt’s. Lower your weapons to the floor. Now!” ordered James.

The man in the suit laughed, “It seems to me we have what you Americans call a Mexican stand-off,” he scoffed. “You have two guns and we have two guns. Who will get shot first, I wonder?”

James glanced at Phil who nodded. He was about to pull the trigger when he heard a soft scraping sound behind them.


A loud voice called out, “Police! Put your weapons on the ground!” Three uniformed Atlanta police officers walked forward into the light. “Do it now!”

The two drug dealers slowly lowered their weapons to the floor and put their hands on their head. Spike hit the floor and covered his ears.

James and Phil holstered their guns and stepped back out of the way allowing the police to walk  into the room.

The officers collected the weapons and one of them pulled Spike to his feet.

Spike went quietly, allowing himself to be handcuffed. But as an officer attempted to handcuff Rodriguez, he shoved the officer back and rushed toward the door. The officer tackled him to the ground as a second officer grabbed Rodriguez by the arms.

After he was cuffed, Rodriguez was jerked to his feet.

The boss went with the police officers calmly, believing that his expensive lawyer would get him out on bail in a few hours. His disdain was obvious as they walked him from the room.

One officer began reading the three prisoners their rights as another herded Spike and the Cubans out of the building to the waiting patrol cars parked outside.

James hurried over to Wyatt and cut the plastic zip-ties that bound him to the chair. Wyatt slumped forward, barely conscious.

The third officer grabbed Wyatt by the shoulders before he fell to the floor. “I’ll call for an ambulance,” he said, grabbing a radio from his belt. James and Phil carried Wyatt to a battered sofa in the corner of the room. They lowered him onto the dirty cushions.

Wyatt opened his eyes. One was swollen almost shut and a huge bruise was forming around it. “Who are you?”

James smiled. “Your father sent us, Wyatt. We’re here to take you home.” 

The boy closed his eyes. “Thanks,” he whispered before he passed out.

Two hours later after Wyatt had been checked over at the local hospital, after the police questioned him and after he’d been given a heavy dose of pain medicine, he was released. The CT scan showed no concussion and the cut over his eye only required two stitches. He was battered, but basically all right.

James called Wyatt’s father and told him his son was safe. Wyatt was able to mumble a few drug-slurred words of thanks to his father before he fell asleep in the back of James’ SUV.

Phil drove them back to the hotel where they all succumbed to exhaustion.

Ten o’clock the next morning they went to Wyatt’s apartment to collect his things before they headed back to Arkansas. “I just want to get out of here and forget this ever happened,” he admitted sheepishly. “I can’t believe how stupid I was. I almost got myself killed.”

Wyatt’s eye was less swollen, but his face was still a mess. “I sure hope some of this bruising goes away before my mother sees it,” he commented after spotting his reflection in the bathroom mirror.  He grimaced. “Otherwise she’ll probably faint at the sight of my face.”   


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