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Copyright © Edward T. Milligan, 2020

Cover Design by Donika Mishineva


All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. The events and characters portrayed are imaginary. Any resemblance to real-life people or locations are entirely coincidental. Names, characters, and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.


Excerpt from The Blake Cutter Detective Series | Book 3 


It was a calm, but humid night in South Florida as the luminous moon shone brightly amongst the starlit sky. A gentle breeze blew through scattered palms trees along a remote public use landing strip in the Everglades.   .
    At nine p.m., a twin-engine Cessna Turbo Stationair, arriving from Haiti’s Hugo Chavez International Airport touched down on the single 10,500-foot paved runway.  
    Ransom Oliver frequently used it because the airfield, built in 1968, was planned to be one of six runways that would make up the largest airport in the world. Construction essentially ceased in 1970 when environmentalist convinced the local government the operation of a major airport would bring unacceptable harm to the Everglades. But it was determined that removing the one already-built runway would cause worse environmental harm.  The single runway remained as built, but strangely isolated. 
     Subsequently, the airport was renamed the Dade-Collier Transition and Training Airport to support infrequent civil flight training by heavy airliners, US Coast Guard practice drops and general aviation IFR practice.  It was typically closed from sunset to sunrise, except for access approved by the Dade-County Aviation Department.  But with the right payoff of officials on the take, exceptions were made.  One had been arranged for the night the Haitian flight arrived.
    The Cessna taxied toward the parking ramp near the tower as the co-pilot radioed the driver of a black stretch limo to proceed to the ramp to receive four passengers.  Mob boss Ransom Oliver and his three-man entourage scurried to their transportation.
    Moments later, the four men sat in the limo with Ransom Oliver sitting on the driver’s side facing forward.  Oliver’s Haiti escort, Juan Pierre sat next to him. Joining them was his head of the local Miami syndicate, a middle-aged, well-groomed man of Cuban decent named Carlos Rendon.
    Rendon ordered the limo driver to pause momentarily so he could observe the departure of the Cessna for its return trip to Haiti.  
    As the plane gracefully made a 180 turn toward the runway, Rendon ordered the driver to bring the limo around so he could ensure the Cessna was airborne before they departed the grounds.  If anything were to go wrong, such as a surprise police arrival, the plan was for Oliver to be whisked out of the limo and onto the turbo prop plane before it raced down the runway for an abrupt escape. 
    As the Cessna’s turbo engine noise increased, the plane sped down the runway, lifted off the ground, executed a quick left bank toward the south, and ascended into the cumulus clouds. 
    Once the aircraft was out of view, Rendon nodded for the driver to pull away from the tarmac.  The driver took a quick right around the tower and drove in the direction of a wooded service road on the east side of the complex. 
    Along the road was a set of hangars and several supply warehouses on the east side of the airport complex.  The furthest warehouse from the road contained eleven crates of weapons smuggled into South Florida from the Caribbean.  It was covertly guarded by Rendon’s men around the clock.  
    A hundred meters past the buildings, the road led to the mostly unused, unguarded back gate secured with a chain and a rough service, heavy-duty padlock. 
    As the limo traveled with dimmed headlights, Rendon addressed Oliver.  “How was your stay in Haiti?”
    “I wasn’t there for a vacation,” Oliver replied. “We got done what we sat out to do.”
     The man swallowed hard.  It was late and Oliver appeared annoyed and tired. 
    Rendon knew irritability could lead to an aggressive action from the volatile leader. He took the hint and discontinued any attempt at trivial conversation.  He then snapped his fingers to gain the driver’s attention through the rear-view mirror, then pointed his thumb upward.  The driver then activated the privacy divider.
    “Need a drink, sir?” Rendon asked Oliver as he reached to open the limo’s well equipped mini-wet bar.
    “A martini, stirred,” Oliver ordered.”
     Rendon grinned and said, “We serve at your pleasure, sir.” He opened the hutch and grabbed two goblets, retrieved bottles of gin and vermouth, filled a metal shaker with two cups of cracked ice, added the liquors, gently stirred the martinis with a long spoon for forty-five seconds, then poured them both a drink.
     As they approached the back gate to the airfield, one of Oliver’s local henchmen used his key to open the padlock, remove the short chain, and swung the gate open.
    Rendon laughed and bragged, “The head of airport security sold me a copy of the gate key for a hundred-dollar and a set of racetrack tickets.  I had a dozen copies made for the whole crew.” 
    Oliver wasn’t much for giving compliments, so he shrugged it off, and asked, “Did you take care of everything as I instructed? Oliver asked Rendon. 
    As the limo exited left onto an access road leading to the main highway, the gate closed behind them.
    “Yes, sir. Twenty grand up front for six weeks of nighttime access, flight plan clearance, radar grid intelligence, airfield security and surveillance,” Rendon responded.
    Oliver declared, “We may need access up to three months. The cargo loads now will be transported in three separate shipments on two different vessels. Add having to transit thru Port-au-Prince and it’s a more complicated supply chain and longer distribution time. Find someone we can trust in the local port authority and have them come see me after we get settled.  Spare no expense on this operation.  Is that clear?” The tone of the question sounded threatening.
    “Very clear, sir.”
    As they entered the interstate, Oliver took a sip of the martini and offered, “Nice mix on the spot.  I’m impressed.”
    “Tanqueray number 10 . . . three hundred dollars a case wholesale and tax free . . . best in the business.” Rendon boasted.
    Oliver downed the rest of the goblet’s contents, took a relaxing deep breath and then asked, “So, did you find adequate digs for me?
    “We’ve found the perfect spot for your headquarters, sir. It’s an abandoned church complex on Miami’s south side.  We’ve been able to acquire it covertly for a decent price.  It’s completely off the grid.  We’re headed there now so you can check it out.” 
    Oliver leaned back on the seat for a quick catnap. He had been up since five a.m., and had met secretly with several rogue sea and airport officials in Port-au-Prince.
    Rendon grabbed his burner phone and punched in the number to Raul Acebo, another Cuban immigrant who was head of the Miami syndicate security team.  He and six of his men were standing by at The Lady of Saints Cathedral, an historic but long vacated Catholic Church complex located on the outskirts of a seedy district on Miami’s lower south side.
    After Acebo picked up, Rendon said, “Ray, this is Renny.  Boss is on his way.  We’re twenty minutes out!”
    “All clear here!” Acebo replied.
    “Rendon ended the call immediately.
    As they traveled the final three miles, Oliver briefed Rendon on his plan. “Sixty million dollars is being transported to the South National Bank for the hurricane relief effort.  My inside intelligence sources tell me they are bringing it in on an armored truck on a Sunday morning to minimize attention and encounter minimum traffic.  We will access the bank through the underground tunnel system.”
     Oliver added, “I see they’ve scrapped the old ways of delivering funds to the people.  Too many people didn’t get their money-for different reasons: identity theft, hacking into bank accounts, checks stolen from mailboxes, etc.  Radical leftists in Washington are trying to deliver relief in cash to individual state regions.  That’s where we come in, to make sure it never gets there.”
    Rendon eyebrows raised, “So you want to commandeer the shipment, Mr. Oliver?”
    “Not exactly,” he explained. “I’ve got a bigger, more efficient and covert plan in mind.  I don’t want to discuss it yet, but we’ll meet next week, and then I’ll lay out my thoughts. Getting sixty million in my possession will fund my arms distribution nicely.  We will be the biggest dealers in the Western Hemisphere. I need Sicaro in on this, for a reasonable share of the take.  I need him to get the stash out of Miami, through the Caribbean and down to Haiti to get it laundered through their system.  The setup is ready to go down there, and we have three months to finalize our plan on how we’ll get possession of the money, plus any gold bullion being held in the bank vault while we’re inside.”
    “Sicaro’s coming tonight, Mister Oliver,” Rendon said. “He should be here no later than an hour or so after you arrive.”
    “Splendid,” Oliver said as he relaxed in his seat. 
    The conversation continued until Acebo’s team observed the approaching headlights of the stretch limo and asked for verification.


Before they arrived, Rendon filled Oliver in on the new control facility, “The main feature of the Lady of Saints Cathedral complex is a series of white, rectangular, stucco covered concrete structures erected in the late 1930s on a five- acre tract.  The complex is enclosed by tall hedges and further obscured from outside view by a fifteen feet high concrete wall encircling the back side of the complex.  The wall was constructed in 1953 to be a sound barrier against traffic noise from a nearby major highway.” 
    For our group, it would also serve as a bulwark against police or DEA raids. Across from the front of the complex there’s a vacant parking lot and several boarded retail buildings in a small strip mall that was foreclosed three years ago. The entire block has been graphitized by gang members.”
    Oliver nodded his approval so far. 
    Rendon continued, “The church property had been available for purchase or lease by the Catholic Diocese since 1989, when the last services were held there by the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami. Due to the complex being in such disrepair and catholic services being mostly relocated to uptown Miami, there had been no interest in acquiring a deed to the property.  Land and property taxes had skyrocketed in Miami-Dade County in the past thirty years. Projected cost for restoration caused the property to be abandoned. That’s why we got it for a fraction of its worth.”  
     As Ransom Oliver’s limo stopped in front of the complex, Acebo rushed out of the main cathedral with one of his bodyguards to greet the guest as they exited the limo and glanced about.  
    After a greeting and warm embrace, Acebo immediately ushered Oliver, Rendon, and Juan Pierre on a quick tour of the grounds and the previously mothballed extended buildings.  
    As they toured the acreage, Acebo nervously briefed Oliver on the security layering the local syndicate team had designed for Oliver and his associates.  It included a separated parking garage, large enough for four mid-size sedans or three stretch limousines.  
    Acebo led the group up three wide granite steps to the main entrance to The Lady of Saints Cathedral. Then, he walked them through the nave and down the center aisle between rows of pews to a set of offices at the rear of the chapel.  
    As Acebo opened the door to an expansive room built as a priest’s study, Oliver cut a smile of pleasure.  The new furniture was all top of the line. The study consisted of a large office with a desk and roller chair, two davenports, and four single cloth covered chairs.  Acebo opened another door to a twelve-by-twelve room with a queen-sized bed, a nightstand and two overstuffed chairs.  An oak door led to a half bath with a spacious shower.  No expense had been spared by the church builders in trimming the chambers with tiger striped, red oak cabinetry.  It had cleaned up well.
    Oliver was satisfied with the accommodations for his long term stay which he figured to be about six months.  
    But then he asked, “How do we get food to this place?”
    “It’s all been arranged, Mister Oliver?”  Acebo replied proudly. “We have three options as fronts for our guys, a pizza joint, an Italian restaurant and a Greek restaurant, all headed by our syndicate bosses who’ve increased their staff size to support this operation.”
     An hour later, a fleet of limos pulled around to the backside of the complex.  Ramon Sicaro, the drug lord of the gulf coast of Florida stepped out of the second limo and was quickly surrounded by his entourage of bodyguards and assistants.  He and his cronies were meeting with Ransom Oliver to devise a plan to partition the South Florida drug market while cooperatively using the only large complex in the Miami-Dade County that wasn’t on the DEA’s or ATF’s radar.
    Sicaro viewed himself as having equal statue with Oliver as a South Florida drug lord.
    Oliver did not concur.  
    Thus, they had differing purposes for the meeting. Oliver was only interested in utilizing Sicaro’s controlled port access as a transfer point for his load of cargo expected to arrive from China in the coming weeks.   
    Under dim security lights surrounded by complete darkness, Oliver walked out with Acebo to greet the group.  After niceties were exchanged, Oliver invited Sicaro to bring two of his henchmen with him.  Sicaro agreed the others would stay at their cars as lookouts. Oliver then escorted them to the office suite. 
    As the two leaders arrived at Oliver’s makeshift office and sat on opposite ends of the sofa, their security henchmen took standing positions behind their bosses. 
     Acebo’s men flanked Sicaro’s guards as Acebo came forward with a portable humidor.  He stepped in front of Sicaro and opened it, revealing a purple velour interior lining.  He invited Sicaro to take a cigar from the box.  It held the best Cuban cigars wrapped in Spanish cedar sheets.  A wide smile emerged on the face of the Cuban native.
    “Thank you, Mister Oliver,” he said turning to Ransom.  “You are all class, my friend.”
    “I believe in providing hospitality to my guests, even in austere environments like this, “Oliver replied, as Acebo moved to extend the cigars to him. 
    Sicaro then spoke. “You have a nice setup here.  Perhaps we can work together in a way that would be mutually beneficial.”
    “You mean you want to share this locale with me?” Oliver asked.
    “My joints are coming under greater surveillance in the last few months.  I need a better staging area.”
    Oliver told him, “I’m not staging any transactions out of here.”
    Sicaro replied, “I’m just talking about getting my trucks to proceed to the secluded backside here and conduct loading.  We’re talking no more than ten minutes per transfer or drop.  If you can facilitate it, I’ve got some big help I can give you.”
    “I’m listening,” Oliver said with a stern look.  He was concerned Sicaro was indicating knowledge of some vulnerability in his operation.
    Sicaro briefed, “I need your runners to stay out of my region on the gulf coast.  It’s causing me security concerns because I don’t know who’s cleared and who’s not.  I had to turn off a delivery from Haiti last week because we ran into guys in our area we didn’t recognize.  I figured it might be your people, but I couldn’t take a chance it wasn’t.   It cost me about thirty kilos amounting to five million dollars.”
    Sicaro knew confidential informants had become a threat to his operation.  He had a system of background checking his own clients but not accepting transfers from other syndicate groups. 
    Oliver asked, “So, how do you expect me to use the same ports and shipyards?”
    “I can provide you something you don’t have . . . security from surveillance.  The feds are now using satellite communications and drones for surveillance.  I have spotters who are well trained and using the same software.  When they’re in our area, we know they’re there.”
    Oliver leaned forward with eager interest, “Keep talking.”
    “If you keep your guys from running drugs in my territory, I’ll ensure your cargo is cleared through customs and border patrol. At the least, I can call your folks and get them to turn it off.”
    Oliver cupped his chin.  He had not worked with Sicaro or any of his protégés before, so he felt skeptical.  But he also recognized the potential revenue stream from scaling his operations by reaching out for assets not in his possession.  
     “I may well take you up on it,” he said.  “But we need to clearly define the lines.  We won’t do it tonight.”  Oliver suppressed a fatigue-laden yawn. 
    Sicaro signaled his bodyguards to leave the room.  After they exited, he moved over to Oliver and said, “Ransom, I really need better security.  The Feds are surveilling the ports and I don’t have lookouts and snipers. I have the tech stuff to sniff them out, but my manpower’s committed to the Keys. I think we both take advantage of the revenue stream if we work together.”
    Oliver responded, “I will see what I can spare.  With that explanation, Oliver felt more inclined to entertain the possibilities. “Send me a wire message with your requirements and we can discuss it when we meet next.”
    Sicaro pressed, “Can you give me an idea what day we can meet next week?” Sicaro asked.
    “I have three shipments of cocaine and weapons due to arrive at the Port of Miami from Havana via speed boat this following week.
    “I don’t know if it can be next week.  I’ve been gone and I have other serious business to attend to in this area next week,” Oliver told him bluntly.
    What Oliver didn’t want Sicaro or anyone not in his immediate network to know was he was scheduled for a business trip to a coal mine in Bei’an, Manchuria the following Wednesday.





Blue Smoke

A good cop never goes past the line in pursuit of justice. But when Miami Police Detective Blake Cutter's wife is killed in a mafia-planted car bomb intended for him, his need for justice and revenge will take him past the line.

When Penelope Lane is kidnapped by assassins, no one knows if she’s dead or alive. Blake Cutter must risk his career and ultimately his life to find her… the woman who holds the key to justice for his late wife’s murder.               

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