Located at 1012 N Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326
Open Sun-Thurs 11a-6p; Fri & Sat 11a-9p
Part 2 of a 5-part story called “A Cottonwood Kill.”
The Pillsbury Wine Company tasting room was immediately next door to Fire Mountain Wines. The Classy Alcoholic and The Classy Lady walked inside while trying to keep their cool. They were both nervous as hell but didn’t want the other to see it. The Classy Alcoholic grabbed The Lady’s hand to try and maintain their cover as a married couple vacationing in wine country. But something was off. He could feel her hand shaking and saw her eyes shifting back and forth. She wasn’t ready for this operation. He leaned in to whisper in her ear and she flinched.
“Relax,” he said. “I need you here with me. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you. But I can’t get through this mission alone. If you wanna get your man at the end of the day then we need to stick together.”
The Classy Lady nodded and wrapped her arms around him. She pressed her face against his chest and breathed in the Drakkar Noir he picked up at Walgreens the other day. She loved that smell. It reminded her of when she was a little girl and saw her uncles dressed up for drug court in their fanciest wife-beaters and solid gold chains with the Virgin Mary on them. She calmed down a bit and gave The Classy Alcoholic a smile. She was ready.
The couple walked up to the bar and looked at Pillsbury’s menu. The Classy Alcoholic scanned the room for the person he was supposed to be meeting and saw an elderly, gray-haired man wearing a guayabera and a fedora sitting with his back to them.
Pillsbury has been making wine from 100% Arizona-grown fruit for the last 15 years from their vineyards located in Cochise County. Their wines have earned numerous medals throughout Arizona and, in 2016, were awarded a Double Gold medal from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The drink menu offered a white wine flight, a red wine flight and a combination of both. There were five wines in each flight and they cost $10. If you wanted to keep the wine glass with the Pillsbury logo on it you’d have to pay $12.50.
The Classy Alcoholic ordered a combo flight for him and the Lady and paid the extra charge to keep the glass. He figured it would come in handy. The bartender poured a red wine for him and a white wine for her. The two of them sat on a couch in the back of the tasting room near the old man whose face was covered by the newspaper he was reading.
“Do you think that’s the guy?” The Classy Lady whispered.
“I don’t know. I’m gonna turn so I can show off my fake neck tattoo. If someone comes in here looking for the guy delivering the jewels I assume they’ll know he has the word ‘luscious’ tattooed on his neck.”
“You know how fucking stupid you look wearing a suit with a neck tattoo, kid?” the man in the guayabera said. The Classy Alcoholic instantly recognized the gravelly smoker’s voice before the man even showed his face.
“Lennix? I didn’t know you were on this mission.”
The old man lowered the newspaper. His leathery face was stuck in the trademark Lennix grimace that The Classy Alcoholic knew well. After decades of dodging bullets, grenades, attack dogs and diabetes the only thing that annoyed Lennix more than anything was having to give a fuck.
“I wasn’t supposed to be, kid. I’m on vacation! I’m retiring in two weeks and I’m burning off the last few sick days I have left. But when I heard the Bureau roped you into some ridiculous secret mission I had to come here and make sure your dumbass doesn’t get killed!”
“Excuse me,” The Classy Lady said, “but who the hell are you?”
“You don’t know Lennix? He works for the FBI too.”
“Him? But he looks like a middle school janitor who buys weed from the art teacher.”
Lennix threw his head back and laughed hard enough to trigger a coughing fit.
“You’re a funny one, Classy Lady. But I can assure you I’m more than capable of handling myself. I was running covert ops a whole decade before your parents ever got down to business in a Porta Potty at a Bon Jovi concert. I’ve been with the FBI, DEA, CIA and pretty much any other government agency that needs my particular set of skills. And if the two of you have any hope of brining in Jencarlos and Romeo then you’re gonna need me on your side.”
“Woah, hold on a second,” The Classy Alcoholic said. “Who are Jencarlos and Romero?”
The Classy Lady turned away and shifted uncomfortably. Lennix smiled.
“Ah, so your Classy Lady hasn’t given you the whole story on this mission.”
“I was told the identities of the buyers were classified, Lennix, you asshole. Clearly you don’t give a damn about confidentiality.”
“I can assure you, Lady, that if there’s one person in the world you can trust with confidential information, it’s The Classy Alcoholic. This man saved my life once so there’s no way in hell I’m gonna let you – or anyone – put him at risk by sending him into a dangerous meeting without knowing exactly what’s going on.”
The Classy Lady turned sheepish. She didn’t know this Classy Alcoholic asshole she’d been putting up with was held in such high regard by a fellow agent.
“You really saved his life?” she asked him.
“Yeah but Lennix has hated being alive since the early 90’s so I didn’t exactly do him any favors.”
The Classy Lady let out another one of those smiles that took her by surprise. She knew she shouldn’t be smiling during such a serious, dangerous operation but she couldn’t help herself. And she decided to stop trying.
“Okay, fine, I’ll tell you what I know, Mr. Classy. Jencarlos and Romeo are brothers and international criminals tied to bank robberies, drug smuggling and gang murders all across the U.S. and Mexico. They’re the ones buying the diamonds from yesterday’s heist. Well…Romeo is. He’s the kingpin. Jencarlos is his younger brother and second-in-command but Romeo is the one I’m after. I’ve been tracking him all across the country for over a year and my intel says he’s in Cottonwood today.”
“So where did these guys come from?”
“Same place you and Lucius did. From nothing. They started out doing petty crimes like robbing liquor stores and paying for lap dances with Sacagawea dollars, which wasn’t illegal but the strippers absolutely fucking hated it. And at some point they decided they wanted more. They focused their talents on bigger scores and pretty soon they ended up being some of the most notorious crime lords in the country. They make a point of reaching out to the poorest neighborhoods and finding small time crooks that they can mold into organized criminals.”
“That’s how they got Lucius on board to transport those diamonds.”
“Exactly. A lot of these petty thieves see the brothers as heroes. They see a lot more potential in working for Romeo’s organization than they do in any of their other job prospects. Hell, you almost have to admire Romeo’s ability to go from a nobody to a major crime boss in just a few years. It takes a special kind of dedication.”
“I appreciate you telling me all this. I promise I’ll do whatever I can to help you bring Romeo in.”
“Thank you, Mr. Classy. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’m in need of another drink.”
“Go for it, Ms. Classy. I already paid for a whole flight.”
The Classy Lady walked back up to the bar and got another sample of Pillsbury’s white wines. The Classy Alcoholic watched her stride confidently across the tasting room and admired the way the edges of her dress swayed back and forth under her beautiful red blazer. He noticed how she crossed her ankles as she leaned across the bar to hold out her wine glass for the bartender to pour the next drink. The bottom of her dress rose slightly – no more than an inch, surely – as she leaned forward…but that was enough to show off an extra inch of her smooth, toned legs. She really was fucking gorgeous.
“You look different,” Lennix said, breaking his concentration.
“Yeah, I know. I’m fatter than the last time you saw me. Why you gotta bring up obvious shit?”
“That’s not what I mean, you idiot. I’m saying you look different around her. She brings something out in you that I haven’t seen in years.”
Now it was The Classy Alcoholic’s turn to look sheepish. He watched The Classy Lady pull her cell phone out of her blazer’s pocket and take a call.
“I’ve heard about her back at the Bureau,” Lennix continued. “She’s a lot like you. She’s smart, she’s driven and she’s stubborn as hell. Did you know this is her first time in the field? She has weapons and combat training but she’s always just been an analyst. Her career skyrocketed thanks to her ability to track Romeo down this past year when nobody else could. And somehow she was able to convince her asshole of a boss to let her join the mission with you because she had to see this assignment through herself. You’ve got a tough Lady by your side. Don’t let her down.”
The Classy Lady walked back to the couch where The Classy Alcoholic and Lennix were sitting while holding her hand over her cell phone’s speaker.
“Hey, guys, sorry, I have to take this call outside. I’ll be right back.”
The Classy Alcoholic continued to admire her as she walked out of the Pillsbury tasting room. Lennix saw the look in his eyes and knew just what was happening.
“Can I tell you something else, Mr. Classy? I think she’s starting to like you too.”
“I don’t know, Lennix. She was a bit of an ice queen when I met her.”
“Oh come on, you should know you’re not the kind of guy who ever makes a good first impression. You have to grow on people. Hell, I hated the shit out of you for six months after I met you.”
The phone inside The Classy Alcoholic’s suit jacket pocket started ringing. It wasn’t his phone because his ringtone had been “It’s Raining Men” for years now. This generic ring was from Lucius’ phone that he brought with him from Fire Mountain Wines. The diamond buyer was calling. He answered and tried his best Lucius impression.
“Yo. ‘Sup? Dis Lucius…dawg.”
“You got my diamonds?” said a man’s voice on the other end of the phone.
“Damn right, fool. I got that shit. You gonna meet me or what?”
“I was gonna…till I realized that you ain’t Lucius.” The look on The Classy Alcoholic’s face was enough to make Lennix realize something was wrong. “Somebody told me Lucius had a neck tattoo that said ‘Luscious.’ But then I saw you in the Pillsbury Wine tasting room and I saw the letter I on your neck isn’t dotted with a crown. That’s a typical Mexican thing.”
Shit. The Classy Lady must’ve forgotten to dot the letter I with a crown instead of just a dot. He didn’t realize it because you can’t exactly look down at your own neck.
“So I don’t know who the fuck you are but here’s what’s gonna happen,” the man on the phone continued. “You’re gonna bring the diamonds to the Arizona Stronghold Vineyards tasting room across the street. You’ll come alone. No weapons. And just so you don’t get any crazy ideas, I bagged myself a little bit of leverage.”
There was silence for a beat. The Classy Alcoholic knew exactly what he was going to hear next but for a brief second he hoped he was wrong. He didn’t want it to be true…
“Help me, Mr. Classy! HELP!”
It was The Classy Lady’s voice. Just as he expected.
“Don’t you touch her, you piece of shit! If you hurt her I swear I will fucking kill you!”
The man on the phone chuckled.
“Don’t threaten me, kid. Not unless you want me to take your girlfriend and send her back to you with a total butterface. She’s hot. This chick’s a nine. But she’ll be a three at best when I’m done with her. So bring me my diamonds right the fuck now.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“They call me Jencarlos. But you can call me ‘Daddy.’”
The phone went silent.
“Lennix, get the FBI here. Tell them Jencarlos is at Arizona Stronghold Vineyards.”
The Classy Alcoholic went for the front door but Lennix grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back.
“Don’t go out there, Classy.”
“Fuck you, Lennix! He has The Classy Lady. I promised I wouldn’t let anything happen to her. I have to get her back!”
“Of course you do, asshole, but you can’t just walk into a dangerous situation without a plan. Romeo’s the man in charge but Jencarlos is the crazy motherfucker who does all the dirty work. He’s the one who shoots guys in the face when the brothers need a rival or a witness taken out. Romeo doesn’t even get close to that shit but Jencarlos won’t hesitate to pop you and The Lady right in the middle of Main Street if he wants to. That’s who you’re up against right now.”
The Classy Alcoholic’s heart rate was jacked to shit but he took a breath and listened to Lennix.
“Alright, so tell me what I need to know about this guy.”
“He’s got even more impulse control issues than you do, for one. He’ll have his piece pointed at you the second you walk in the door so don’t give him a reason to use it. He’s cocky and he runs on raw emotion. But he follows his big brother around like a puppy dog because he doesn’t have the self-confidence to make any big decisions himself. Jencarlos thinks small.”
“Okay, I can work with that.”
“One more thing. I can assure you The Classy Lady isn’t with him. She’s offsite and if he sees any of my agents he’ll give the order to have her killed. If we want to get The Lady back it’ll have to be just you and me. You walk in the front door and stall him. I’ll sneak into Arizona Stronghold’s tasting room through the back.”
“Okay, that’s perfect. No one will suspect you’re a government agent because you look like Santana’s older brother who somehow did twice as much acid as he did.”
“Fuck you, Classy.”
“Fuck you too, Lennix. I need you on this. Don’t let me down.”
Lennix nodded, adjusted his stupid fedora and walked out of the Pillsbury tasting room. The Classy Alcoholic took his wine glass with the Pillsbury logo on it into the bathroom. He broke the bowl and base off of it, leaving only the thin, crystal stem with sharp edges on either end. He carefully slid the stem under his left sleeve until it was fully hidden under the dress shirt’s cuff. Moments like these reminded him why he never wore short sleeves.
The Classy Alcoholic walked out of Pillsbury Wine Company’s tasting room and eyed the Arizona Stronghold Vineyards tasting room across the street. He knew he had to keep his promise. He wasn’t going to let anything happen to The Classy Lady.
To be continued…