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  • Arturo was praying for death; praying to a Virgin he hadn't given a passing thought to in years. With each new slice peeled from his skin, salt was laid on the wound. He would scream until he passed out again...and again. He would still hear his screams as he regained consciousness.

    He had told them all he knew half a day ago: His partners, Sonny the cop and Macklin the Fed; Macklin killing the witness and his family seven years ago; killing off Tomas Santiago's people and taking over his business; blaming it all on the left over teenager from long ago.

    He knew no more. Either they didn't believe him or they just didn't care. No mercy for a traitor to the family. Now they watched and waited as he suffered. Too soon he would die and the vermin would be purged from their midst.

    They looked forward to finding the cop and the Fed. Their boss went back a long way with Tomas Santiago and his family. They had played together as children in their village. His first kiss was Tomas's sister Maria when they were both eight. He would take particular pleasure in making Macklin's pain seem endless.

    Arturo started one last scream before his prayer was answered. A vessel to his heart burst and blood ran out of his lips as his lungs gave a final push. He was the lucky one. His suffering on Earth was over. Now he had only to answer to his God.

    The five chosen ones received the blessings from their Capo. They knew what was expected of them as they bowed out of his presence.

    Other members of their cartel had located the Marshal named Macklin. He would be last on their list. They wanted the cop named Sonny first. Through contacts on the force they narrowed their search to the I.C.U. in St. Paul Metropolitan Hospital.

    The word had been passed. There wasn't a cop within ten blocks as they opened the unlocked door on the empty loading dock...
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