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Downstairs, in the first basement of the county courthouse, a chunky, balding, middle-aged man with a two-day growth of beard, and dressed in gray electrician's coveralls, struggled with a dolly as he stepped out of the service elevator. He motioned to the officer guarding the holding cells. The guard waved back and put his hand to his ear when the electrician yelled something at him.
As the man approached, the guard came around his desk and said, "I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you."
The man in the coveralls waved him off and said, "I just said the third floor shorted out again."
The guard shrugged and then said, "Well, we got no shorts here."
The electrician nodded and said, "Can I use that phone? It'll only be a minute, my partner's upstairs in some judge's chambers. Think it'll be okay?"
At that moment the basement elevator opened again and another electrician came out. He waved at his partner and then clenched both fists making a breaking motion.
"Like you said, Al. It's the damned wiring. It's old."
"Yeah, that's what I was telling the guard here."
The guard was heading back to his table when the electrician closest to him rammed a handgun to his spine.
"No trouble, now."
The second electrician ran up and stood by the cell occupied by the prisoner Gomez, who rose from his cot.
"You'll be out of there in a jif, mister. Okay?"
The guard, as ordered, kept his hands down and looked at the floor. "Now, if you don't have a key to that cell, you're in bad trouble. Do you have the key?"
"Yeah. Right-hand shirt pocket. It's a special key reserved for the feds."
"Good boy." The man called Al unbuttoned the pocket, grabbed the key, and tossed it to his partner, after which he taped the guard's mouth.
Unlocking Gomez's cell, Al said, "Too bad about the mustache, mister. You got to shave it off if we're to get out of here peaceful-like. Got something?"
Gomez showed him an electric razor, plugged it in, and went to work.
The first man turned to the guard again. "We're putting you in that cell, that's all. We've got to use those bracelets you got hanging there. No need to worry, we're not interested in shooting ourselves out of here."
Gomez stepped out of the cell and rubbed his upper lip. He looked questioningly at both electricians as if to say, "What's next?"
One of them said: "The federal marshals will be here in forty-five minutes to take you to the hearing." Reaching down to the dolly, he took out another pair of gray coveralls.
"Here, this is your passport."
Gomez quickly slipped on the coveralls on top of his prison garb and zipped them up. One of the men then walked to see the guard, who was sitting on the cot, staring at the floor.
"Hey." When the guard looked up, the man said, "Don't worry, you'll be out of there right quick."
The three took the service elevator to the main floor. With the clean-shaven Gomez leading the way, the two others pushed the dolly into a hallway closet.
As they reached the hall lobby leading to the nearest exit, the trio froze momentarily when they saw half-a-dozen county patrolmen running through the hallway. They waited a moment, looking around as more policemen came scrambling out of the building and into their cars parked in front of the courthouse. The three turned to the nearest exit, walked leisurely out of the building and into the main parking lot. Gomez climbed into the back portion of an old VW van and sat down.
They drove slowly toward the toll booth, where the parking lot attendant took the two dollars and checked off the van's license plate. The driver waved at the attendant and turned right, away from the downtown area.
As they did so, the driver checked the time: "We've got a thirty-five minute head start."
Gomez looked at him and then at his partner but said nothing. The second man smiled, pointed to a corner of the van, and said: "You'll find a pair of jeans and a beige guayabera shirt in the bundle there. Just your size, mister. I think the cowboy boots will fit, and that goes for the Stetson, too. Brand new, just got them this morning. Here, your brother said you might need this," and he handed Gomez a loaded nine-millimeter Browning automatic and two extra clips.
With this, he then joined Gomez, who had started removing his gray coveralls. The second electrician tapped the driver on the shoulder and said, "I'll spell you just as soon as I get out of these things."
The driver turned his head slightly and nodded. Gomez stared at the man giving the order. The man smiled at him. "We got ten thousand dollars from your brother to get you out. You don't know us, and we don't know you. Our orders are to drive to the first highway junction cutoff heading east. After that we're to follow your directions."
Ten minutes later, the van came to a stop at a roadside park, the driver got out opened the side door, and climbed in the back. His partner got behind the wheel and drove off.
The first electrician pulled off his coveralls. "You'll read about it in the papers tomorrow, but you may as well know now. At the time we were getting you out, there was a shooting somewhere in the downtown area. That got the county cops out of the courthouse, just as we figured."
The man then stuffed Gomez's prison clothes and shoes and the three coveralls inside the laundry bag. He took out a pack of Mexican Raleigh cigarettes and handed it to Gomez.
"We figured you'd want a smoke. Keep the lighter."
The three drove in silence. Twenty minutes later, they were on the old Military Highway and drove to the first road junction heading east again, closer to the Rio Grande. The driver slowed the vehicle, moved to the shoulder of the road and then drove straight into a cane field, gunning the motor as he did so.
The two men took their lead from Gomez. He led them across the highway, they clambered up a small irrigation levee, walked down to a clearing, and the three sat on the ground under a shady mesquite tree and waited.
They'd been there some five minutes, and Gomez was lighting his second cigarette, when they spotted a 210 Cessna flying in from the south. Snuffing out the cigarette, Lee Gomez motioned for the men to follow him; they walked toward the landing strip half-hidden by a healthy sorghum crop.
Once aboard, the pilot, quickly and expertly, veered the plane sharply to the right revved up the engine, and pilot and passengers headed for the Gomez ranch across the Rio Grande, some ten miles south of Klail City, Texas.
Within a few minutes, the plane circled the main house. Gomez looked down and saw his station wagon. Next to it stood one of the family's two navy blue Jeeps. As the plane prepared to approach the landing strip, he caught a glimpse of two figures running toward the second Jeep.
The twins, he said to himself.
The plane stalled somewhat as it banked but straightened itself again, and Lee Gomez saw Deaf-mute Farias, one of his farmhands, operating a backhoe near an irrigation ditch.
The pilot went easy on the throttle, and the Cessna glided in smartly as the two Jeeps headed for the plane. The electricians shook hands with Gomez as he slipped out of the plane. Arms akimbo, he waited for the Jeeps. Lee's brother, Felipe Segundo, was driving the one to his right, and he waved as he drove.
A workman in the back seat held on to his straw hat as the Jeep sped toward the lone figure. Lee Gomez then looked at the second Jeep and recognized the driver, his nephew Juan Carlos; the other twin, Jose Antonio, took off his wide-brimmed straw hat and waved at him.
Within seconds, the pilot taxied out, revved the engine again, and was airborne by the time the Jeeps came to within twenty feet of Lee Gomez. His brother glanced up at the airborne plane then jumped out of the Jeep. Suddenly, he pulled out a nine-millimeter Beretta and fired. The shot hit Lee Gomez above the right elbow and sent him spinning to his knees. The second shot struck him on the shoulder and this drove him to the ground, spread-eagled. As Lee Gomez turned his head, he saw his nephew Juan Carlos approaching, gun in hand. Conscious but going into shock, Gomez reacted instinctively and reached for his own nine-millimeter.
He never heard the third shot, nor did he hear the Cessna overhead lose speed, stall again when it banked to the right, and dive sharply into a plowed field. The plane crash was muffled somewhat by the surrounding sorghum and sugarcane fields as Felipe Segundo fired the fourth shot into his brother's face.
He turned the body face up, ripped open the guayabera shirt and pulled the bloody automatic from its holster. He shook some of his brother's blood off his left hand, released the automatic's spring mechanism, and caught the clip in mid-air. After this, he checked the firing pin. Sheared off, just as he'd ordered.
Juan Carlos Gomez pointed with his chin toward the body; Felipe Segundo then turned to the workman in his Jeep. "Morales, get out the tarp and roll don Lisandro in it. Juan Carlos, help Morales with the tarp."
His second son waited in the Jeep.
"Jose Antonio, remind Farias I want that plane ground to pieces. And Toni, shoot the pilot and the other two twice just to make sure." The youngster drove off.
Felipe Segundo Gomez turned to his other son. "Juan Carlos, I'll go see what the Texas TV stations are saying about the shooting at the parking lot."
The youngster grinned. "Maybe they'll have something to say about the daring escape, too."
He placed his hand on Juan Carlos's shoulder. "They'll have a time explaining that one, won't they? Well, on your way now."
The youngster laughed again and headed the Jeep toward the smoke rising out of the sorghum fields.