At Providence's Gate
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Chapter Twenty Three


     A few miles north of Laredo the land is large and the people are few and far between.  After her success at the border, she traveled a bit down a dirt road and came to a mobile home that sitting off the road all alone.  There were no cars in the yard and no dogs to bother her so Ina pulled in and parked next to a water hose.  She sprayed the inside of the Hummer H2 for about 30 minutes, completely soaking the inside but in the process eliminating any evidence of blood. 

After the blood was gone, Ina meticulously picked up every piece of skull and bone she could find. Much of it washed out with the blood but there were some small bits of what used to be Chris Manning lodged in some corners and crevices.  Ina removed all she could find.

Back on the road, she tried to telephone Matt to share the wonderful news with him.  She was apparently between cells however and was unable to make a connection with her mobile phone.  Oh well, she thought, all is well with the world.  Ive got my diamonds, daddy got his money and I got my man.

Ina pulled into the first rest area she could find after crossing into Bexar County.  It was almost 5 pm, seven hours after the untimely demise of young Chris Manning.  Ina was quite confident her phone would work now.

In his office at police headquarters on Buena Vista, Matt was meeting with Maggie and Dan.  The events of the night before had breathed new life into the investigation.  Jeff Begleys hostage taking and subsequent shoot out had put the San Antonio Diamond Exchange case on the front burner again. 

This morning the chief asked me what I needed to solve this case, Hammond told his other team members, Know what I said?  Both Wong and Foley shook their heads, No.  Told him I needed two more detectives, one with the intuition of Miss Cleo the psychic and the other who is able to talk to the dead, like that guy John Edward on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Dan chuckled a bit and Maggie allowed a smile to appear on her otherwise depressed face, Whatd he say Boss? Dan asked.  He told me that tomorrow we get Michaels and Cortez since I used them without authorization last night.  I think its a good thing Im retiring soon.

As the three started talking about delegating responsibilities and setting up a list of tasks to perform, Matts mobile phone rang.  He flipped it open and barked his usual greeting into the phone, Hammond.

Got them! he heard Inas voice say.  Is that so? Matt replied in a matter-of-fact manner.  Yes. I saw Chris Manning getting on a Greyhound Bus this morning.  He was dressed as a woman and was carrying an aluminum case.  Didnt you say Nick Soto told you the diamonds were in an aluminum case? 

Matt got a distant look on his face that and said, Why didnt you call me then?  Well, uh, my cell phone battery was dead. Besides, you know you wouldnt have let me go down there to get my diamonds back. You would have called the Department of Public Safety or the Texas Rangers and Manning and my diamonds would have been in Mexico City by now.

What about him? the detective said, using the pronoun instead of the name so his team members would not get suspicious.  Manning? Ina said. Yeah  Oh, hes deader than my battery.  Shit! In Laredo?

In Laredo.  Meet me at the airport.  Leave now.  Bring picture ID and dont forget your passport. Ina ordered Matt.  Now? he answered.  Before 6:20 pm.  Our flight to Mexico City leaves at 7:20 pm, Ina said.  7:20! Okay, Ill be there, dont worry, everything will be okay.

Matt closed his phone and by the look on his face, Maggie would have sworn he had just been talking with a ghost.  Everything, okay? she asked.  Well, uh, something came up all of a sudden, private, er personal business.  Uh, I gotta go and help a er friend who uh is having some problems with uh her, I mean his son.

With that Matt pushed his chair in and was walking out the door. What about the tasks and assignments? Maggie shouted.  Oh yeah, Foley, handle that willya? Foley waved at Matt and said, Sure thing, boss, Ive got it covered.  Matt continued out the doorway.

Just then Officer Sam Washington rushed into the room and asked for Matt.  Maggie explained he had a personal emergency to take care of.  Damn, said Washington, this is something hed really be interested in.  Foley stood up and said, well, if its about this case you can tell me, Matt put me in charge, Dan said proudly.

Take a look Detective Foley, the young officer said, handing him a copy of a fax.  Well, Ill be damned! Laredo PD just IDd a dead Chris Manning, dressed like a woman, blonde wig and all.  Bullet behind left ear, no sign of the diamonds.  Wow, said Maggie, sounds almost like a gang style hit.  Yeah, with a large caliber weapon though, said Foley.  Like a big old 44 magnum? asked Maggie.  That would do it. Said the young detective.

Maggie retired to the desk shed been sharing with a woman detective who was currently in the field.  Pulling a legal pad out of her attaché case she began making a list.  It contained the words, Laredo, 44 caliber, him  got them, and 7:20.

Next she called the San Antonio International Airport and spoke with the head of the police detachment there.  She requested he fax over the names of each flight scheduled to depart at 7:20 pm and said she needed it ASAP.  Within five minutes the fax machine rang and a coversheet addressed to Maggie Wong appeared, followed by another single sheet of paper on which was written Mexicana Flight 1333 Destination Mexico City   Southwest Airlines Flight 654 Destination Lubbock.

Quite sure that Ina and Matt would not be skipping the country by way of Lubbock, she called her boss, Dennis Stuart in Dallas.  It was 6:55 pm.  She explained her suppositions and told Dennis she felt very strongly about them.  Dennis told her she would really look like an idiot if she was wrong and asked if there was one officer on the SAPD she could trust to keep his mouth shut.  Well, up until last evening and today there was, his name was Matt Hammond, she answered.

Dennis told her to confide in that redheaded kid, Foley, after all he was the acting supervisor of the team.  Too late for that, said Maggie, that flight should have started boarding ten minutes ago, wed never make it in time.

Dennis, if Im right, Ina and Matt will be landing in Mexico City at 9:59 pm tonight with about five million dollars in diamonds.  Youve got a half million dollar reward for their return, said Maggie, Dont you have some Federales south of the border who would appreciate a hundred grand for detaining two Americans at their airport police station until your investigator arrives?

Ill do you one better than that, Maggie, replied Stuart, You get Foley to go along with you and Ill rent you guys the fastest Lear sitting at the San Antonio Airport..

Foley said he was game but didnt like the idea of keeping it a secret from the brass.  Maggie convinced him that theyd be back in time for his next shift to start so he agreed and signed out of the squad.  As Maggie and Dan were exiting the building, her mobile phone went off, she answered it with, Wong, a la Matt Hammond.

As soon as you get to the General Aviation Terminal youll be flown in a top of the line Lear jet for a three-and-one-half hour flight to Mexico City, Dennis said on the other end of the line.  Thanks boss, Maggie said pushing the red end button on her phone.

We need to be there now. She shouted at Foley.  Foley saw Sam Washington getting into his cruiser and yelled, Wait up Sam. Scrambling into  the police car, Foley said, Airport, General Aviation, step on it.  As he flipped on his flashing lights and sounded his siren, a smiling Sam Washington said, What do I look like, a Checker Cab?

It took less than ten minutes for the lead-footed officer to go from Buena Vista Street in the middle of downtown to the terminal where a warming up private jet was waiting for Maggie and Dan.  Another five minutes showing authorities their IDs and they were airborne at 7:55 pm.

Three hours and ten minutes later, the Lears pilot announced an arrival time in Mexico City of 10:25 pm, a mere 25 minutes after the Mexico City Federal Police took Ina Walstein and Matt Hammond into custody and placed them in the airports modern lockup. A Colonel Martinez met Maggie and Dan at their aircraft and drove them to the airport police station.  Once inside he told Maggie he just got off the phone with Senor Stuart and he had her package locked up and guarded by two of his best men.

Maggie breathed a sigh of relief and hugged Dan. I wont be happy until I turn those rocks over to Mr. Walstein and get his check for five million dollars, she said, but I see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Colonel Martinez did have some bad news for the two Americans though.  It seems Ina was refusing to waive extradition and it would be necessary to transfer her to the womens prison in the city.  Dan looked at the savvy Mexico City police officer and said, Well, you dont blame her, do you?  Not at all Senor Foley, he replied. 

I dont get it, said Maggie, Why would she prefer a Mexican prison to an American one?  Mexico has no death penalty, Maggie, Dan replied, and theres a good chance a good lawyer will convince the judiciary down here not to send her back.   

Maggie told Colonel Martinez shed like to talk with Ina and then get Sergeant Hammond and fly back to San Antonio as quickly as possible.  Martinez said, Perhaps youd like to hear the story your sergeant told us first, after all, when your Detective Foley reads him your famous American Miranda rights he wont say a peep.  Not if hes smart, said Foley.

Martinez told an incredible tale, but it was one that might get the highly decorated 28-year veteran of the police force a free ride.  He received a tip that Ina had the diamonds and was leaving the country with them. Since he had been having a romantic relationship with her, he felt he could persuade her to do the right thing.  There wasnt enough time to convince her at the airport, but he felt the nearly three-hour flight to Mexico City would give him time to point out the error of her ways and they could get on the next flight to San Antonio.

He tried and tried to convince Ina she was wrong and then she finally blurted out that she had murdered Chris Manning to get the diamonds.  It was then Detective Sergeant Hammond said he realized she would never return to the United States of her own free will.

Poppycock! said Maggie, Now lets get this over with Im tired and I need a rest from this interminable case!

As soon as the door to the windowless lock up opened and Ina saw Maggie step through its portal she began to act out. What is the meaning of this outrage? she screamed at the top of her lungs.  Those diamonds are my property!

Maggie Wong explained to Ina that actually and technically those gems were the property of Great Western Indemnity Company because the San Antonio Diamond Exchange had received a check in the amount of five million dollars for their loss.

It was as if Ina had not been listening as she shouted, I insist you let me out!  Maggie shook her head and walked four cells down where Matt was incarcerated.  How about you Matt, you want out too? she asked.

The veteran police detective simply looked up at Maggie and said, How did you know? Well, Matt, I only was sure about you and Ina being involved since last night when I saw her drive to your house after 1 am.  I was surprised when you gave her a chrome 44 magnum.  Was that the murder weapon, Matt? She said looking straight in Hammonds eyes.

     A spark of anger almost replaced the despondency that had filled Matt since being locked up.  Then Maggie related exactly how she knew what she did and Matt looked up at her and said, Trust no one.

     So I guess in a very real sense you are an accomplice to capital murder, Maggie stated matter-of-factly.  Maybe I am, he replied.

     Dan and Maggie were the only passengers on the return flight to San Antonio, them and an aluminum case full of shiny stones and some green papers, Matt Hammond deciding to take his chances with the extradition process as well.