by William P. Wood


by William P. Wood


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Hector Molina controls Gangland. From behind prison bars, he rules a ruthless gang of renegades who deal in extortion, drugs, and death. 

U.S. attorney Claude Massingill is determined to expose Gangland. He’s got Molina locked up as a protected witness for a trial that’s sure to make headlines—and Molina couldn’t ask for a better hideout than the one the government is giving him. 

Now, Assistant D.A. Mike Swanson needs to penetrate Gangland . . .  and fast. He’s got to break through the federal fence, get to Molina, and convict the notorious prison ganglord of murder . . . before someone ends up dead. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620454787
Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 420
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

WILLIAM P. WOOD is the author of eight novels and one nonfiction book. As a deputy district attorney in California he handled thousands of criminal cases ranging from disturbing the peace to murder. He put on over 50 jury trials, many with multiple defendants.

Read an Excerpt


By William P. Wood

Dorchester Publishing

Copyright © 1988 William P. Wood
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8439-5705-1

Chapter One

First the doorbell rapidly chimed twice, and even before the soft notes faded, a harsh steady knocking began. Then the chiming doorbell sounded again.

Angie stepped away from the washing machine as quietly as she could. She dropped her armload of clothes to the linoleum floor, and realized her heart was beating quickly from surprise. I'm safe, she thought, I'm safe now, as the chiming and knocking went on and on.

She stood still, then tiptoed from the alcove off the kitchen that held the washer and dryer, over to the living room window. By standing against the wall and just barely pushing the curtain's far edge, she could see out to the brick steps and the front door. Two men stood at the door. Like mechanical pieces on a medieval clock, one pushed the doorbell, while the other, with a bored yet insistent raising and lowering of his knuckled fist, banged on the door itself.

She didn't know either of them. They both wore suits. Not very good ones, she thought. They looked like salesmen, maybe Jehovah's Witnesses.

The first rule was to watch for strangers; that's what Swanson told her. The second rule was always to ask for identification. The third rule was to call him. That was how she had to live for a while.

She heldthe curtain tightly. "Who is it?" she impatiently called out over the noise.

Like a signal, the chimes and the knocking stopped. "We're investigators from the D.A.'s office," said the younger one to her right, "and Mr. Swanson would like to see you right now."

The other man had his hands on his fleshless hips and he kept turning his upper body right to left, peering at the neighborhood. "It's real important," he said.

"Hold up some ID," she said.

The younger man reached into his coat and took out a black wallet-sized case. The other guy did the same thing. They held gold badges, stamped with the seal of Santa Maria County, toward the black slit between the window and curtain. In the spring morning's adamantine light the badges shimmered.

It was the same kind of badge Swanson had showed her, the kind he had. She unlocked and opened the front door.

The two men smiled at her. "Are you Angelica Cisneros?" asked the younger one. He used her real name, not the phony one she told everybody in this new city and wrote on checks and charge slips. She could have her real name back when this was over.

"What do you want?" she held the door by the handle, ready to close it quickly.

"Mr. Swanson says he's got to see you," said the younger man. They were both young, in their twenties, with white shirts, plain ties, and dark suits. The younger had sandy-colored hair and slightly protuberant eyes.

"I'm not supposed to come down until day after tomorrow," she shook her head angrily. "I'm busy now. I got plans today." Swanson had done this to her before. Come down now, he'd say, we have to talk. "Let's go over something you told me yesterday," he'd say with his breathless enthusiasm. Like a kid with a new toy.

The younger guy was casual. "He said it was very important. He said there's some problem with your testimony."

"I haven't testified."

"Your statement, whatever. What you've been saying about Hector Molina. Mr. Swanson said something's come up. He's got something for you to look at."

"Something big," said the other one, still looking around.

"He's going to make another arrest? He's got somebody?"

"We don't know. He just said he has to see you."

The other guy stopped looking around and stared at her. He had a thick neck and she noticed how the reddish-blond hair was combed carefully straight back, like half the cons and homeboys who came to visit Hector when he first got out of prison.

Her heart still beat too fast. Never going to be scared again, she had vowed, and now she stood in her own doorway, frightened because these two guys had come for her. She wasn't going to live like this much longer. Swanson had promised. Once they got Hector, it would end, finally.

"I haven't seen you two before," she said.

"We got thirty-six investigators. I'm Max," said the younger one as he pointed with his thumb. "This is Les. So. Can we go? We're supposed to hurry it up. Mr. Swanson's orders."

She stepped back from the door. Hurry it up. That was Swanson. Always in a rush. "Come in," she said irritably. Just two messenger boys. "He could've called. I'm going to call, tell him this is a bad day. I got a lot to do."

"He's out," Max said quickly. "We got to bring you to him. That's why he needs you right now."

She dialed Swanson's direct line at the district attorney's office. Max threw his hands up and Les moved his head left to right, taking in her living room and its clutter. "When's he coming back?" she said into the phone. "You don't know how long it'd take for him to get to a phone?" Max was pointing both hands at himself and mouthing, "We'll take you," with exaggerated faces.

"No, I'll see him myself," she said, hanging up. Max smiled.

"We'll take you right now."

"Everybody thinks they can come and tell me where to go when they feel like it," she said. "That's the way Hector does things, okay? Angie come here," she mimicked, "Angie bring me this. Angie get rid of this. I got to take it from you guys, from Swanson?" They don't care, she thought, watching their faces. The boss said fetch. "You mind if I change? That's okay?"

"Sure, that's okay," Max smiled.

She tromped to the alcove and picked the clothes off the floor and shoved them into the washer. Might as well get them done while she was out. Funny guys, she thought. All my life it's been funny guys.

But he wasn't funny. From miles away, another state, from a place she didn't even know, he could still reach out and disrupt her life. He would always do that. Until she stopped him. The sick longing crept over her again, as it had ever since she first went to Swanson. I'm hurting Hector, she thought, I'm hurting him bad.

She heard channels being changed on the television, rapid flipping of the dial, Max doing all the talking and his pal Les saying something low, short, tense. Funny cops.

In the small bedroom she shrugged off her old sweater and jeans. One of the few friends she'd made in this new city was old Mrs. Powell across the street. Maybe she should tell Mrs. Powell she'd be gone for a couple of hours. So what could she say? Lie again? The old lady didn't even know her real name. The lying stopped there, but she couldn't tell the truth. My husband kills people and I'm telling the D.A. everything I know? No, not even old Mrs. Powell with her five cats and empty bottles of cream sherry lying around would stay friends after that.

The guys in the living room were arguing. She thought she heard an open palm smacking something.

She finished dressing, brushing her hair quickly, tight hard strokes that pulled some of the black strands away.

"Okay? Let's go? I'm not waiting for you guys," she said. They stood in the center of the room. Max had one shoulder up, like he was about to block a smack from Les. Instantly, they turned to her.

"Don't you look nice. Very nice," Max said with a nod. "Don't you carry any money, a purse or something?"

"You got me rushing so much," she said, flustered. She was embarrassed that her eagerness to hurt Hector had been so nakedly exposed. She hurried back to the bedroom and plucked a brown purse from the disordered bureau. Now they were joking with each other when she came out.

"Can we go?" she asked sharply.

Max stayed with her as they stepped out and she locked the front door. Les walked briskly to a green two-door Impala parked in the street and got in the driver's side.

"He left the motor running?" she asked.

"Real big hurry, gotta go," Max answered like a little kid as they got into the car. He held the front seat aside so she had to sit in the back.

"You taking me home, too?"

Les finally spoke without turning his head on that thick neck. "We'll get you back. Can we go? It's our ass if we're late."

Angie slid as gracefully as she could into the backseat while Max hopped in beside Les and even before he had closed his door, the car jerked loudly away from the curb and jounced quickly down the street.

"Jeezum, I almost didn't get my leg inside," Max complained, bending down to check his shoe.

"Oops," Les said.

"You guys been together long?" she said to break the vaguely unpleasant atmosphere.

Max didn't answer immediately. "Three years. That's how long I've been with the D.A."

"Three years, four and a half months. We're like brothers, right? We act alike, we talk alike." Les shook his head. "What a crazy pair."

"I remember that old song," she hummed a little.

Max grunted and pulled a very wrinkled bag from under his seat. He took out an orange and began carefully picking bits of peel from it with a fingernail parer on his keychain.

"Got these fresh, out near where Mr. Swanson's waiting. They've got these fruit stands, bags of stuff, all fresh stuff," he said, his mouth a little twisted as he concentrated. "You want some?"

Angie shook her head. "I just ate."

"I like oranges, better than apples even. You get more juice in an orange. They're messy, don't get me wrong. Take an apple if you want to be neat and clean. Orange tastes better, though, 'cause of all the juice."

A thought struck her. "We're not going downtown? Swanson's not downtown?"

Les answered, "Look at him. Like a girl picking at that orange. Why don't you just peel it like everybody else? Stick your finger in it and peel it, don't play with it for Christ sake, look at that."

"Where's Swanson?" Angie felt nervous again and made a silent prayer that this fear would melt away someday, a sign that Hector's last and most secret power over her had finally been broken. "Where we going?"

"Out in the boonies, over the river." Max gestured vaguely with the fingernail parer. Half of the orange was exposed, a pulpy brain-like mass glistening in the broken peel. "He's out in the field."

"I want to stop at the D.A.'s office," she said. "I want to go there first."

Max turned in his seat so he was staring at her, holding the orange in one hand. "Why?"

"I just do."

"Sure, right. We'll go there."

Les nodded his head rapidly. "You want to tell me why we're going there?"

"She wants to."

"So we get our asses chewed for hauling in late?"

Max sighed. "We'll go, if you really want to, but we're going to take a lot of grief from Mr. Swanson for being late. You know him."

She bit a nail. Damn the panic that made her afraid all day, in the supermarket, even walking over to see Mrs. Powell. Hector can't hurt me now, she repeated, he's locked up, he's gone. I'm dancing on him. "Forget it then. It can wait."

"No, no, you want to go, we'll go. You tell me where to go," Les said.

"Take me to Swanson. Forget it."

Max munched on sections of the orange, squishing the pieces in his mouth with squeals of pleasure.

Angie put her head back. Leave these poor guys out of it, they're just errand boys, they don't need your problems, too.

She opened her eyes and noticed that the backseat floor was littered with stale bits of popcorn and torn Kleenex tissue. A child's broken yellow plastic cup rolled indolently at her feet. She leaned forward.

"I thought these cars had radios in them."

Max pointed at the radio. "You want to hear something?"

"Leave it off," Les said. "I'm enjoying the peace and quiet."

"I mean radios you talk into," she said, "like cop cars."

"He doesn't like music." Max finished the orange, took out a very large white handkerchief and wiped each of his fingers.

"That ain't music, buddy boy, that's hard on the ears, is what it is. He's got this racket going day and night, day and night. It gets on your nerves, right?"

"You guys sound like you're married," she said, because they sounded so silly, bickering about peeling oranges and playing the radio. "That's the way my husband and I used to fight. Except he'd hit me."

Max grunted again and Les chuckled. "Well, see, this is a county car, not a cop car, so we don't get that kind of radio," Max said with a shrug.

Outside, the streets passed in an unrolling procession of green lawns, tall stately old elms and oaks, squat new houses, and three-storied Victorians crowded together like displaced great ladies. Angie couldn't keep track of the street names flowing by as Les drove through every yellow light, slowing down only the slightest for stop signs. He weaved through the sluggish traffic, changing lanes constantly.

"You're going to get a ticket, you drive like that," she said.

"We'll fix it," Max waved it off.

Even with her window rolled down, in the confines of the car, the smell of the sweetish balm holding Les's hair slickly in place and the ineradicable tobacco smoke driven into their clothes made her a little ill.

"Swanson must have told you guys about Ralph Orepeza," she said, biting another fingernail. She liked talking about Hector's affairs, revealing them to the world and letting the world put an end to them.

"Sure. Everybody heard about him. Ripping off a drug project, big bust, lots of new stuff," Les said.

"I didn't know he was yours," Max said with real interest.

"All mine, every bit. I gave him to Swanson. Mr. Orepeza's an associate of my husband, I mean, he's going to be my former husband soon's I can divorce him. I told Swanson all about this guy, he's running this drug rehab place, he's snagging all the money, you know, grants and state shit, and he's giving it to my husband. I nailed him up and down."

Max whistled and shook his head, "Well, Mr. Swanson didn't give us all those details, of course. Jeezum, you're a pretty brave little lady."

"Right, give me a break."

"No, I mean it. She's pretty brave, isn't she?" Max asked Les intently.

"Sure, sure, she's brave."

"I'm not surprised, you know, he didn't give you the whole picture," she said. "I figure he trusts you guys, but he's always telling me, this is just between us, don't blab to anybody, just me. He's a real funny guy, he's always asking how my kid's doing, like he cares about her, how she feels. Sometimes, you know, I don't get him, okay? He's like this big overgrown baby boy. Then he's all serious and asking about my kid." But it wasn't Swanson who filled her thoughts. It was Hector. "Either of you two married?"

"Not no more," Les said.

"So, listen," she said, leaning to the front seat, her head almost between the two of them, "tell me if this sounds right. I can't even get a divorce from that bastard. He's some kind of special witness or something and they've got him somewhere with a new name and everything and I can't even find out where he is. I know he's snitching off everyone. Makes me sick. See, I'm not a snitch, it's different with me."

"Way different," Max agreed. "Way, way different."

"So they won't even tell me where they've got him now. So my kid, she's six now, her name's Cecilia, I got her living with my folks in L.A. He wanted to see her. They were going to make sure he could see her, and I go, fuck that. He's not having anything more to do with my kid."


Excerpted from Gangland by William P. Wood Copyright © 1988 by William P. Wood. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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