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Chris Hernandez courtesy

Chris Hernandez is something of a renaissance man. He’s currently serving in the Army National Guard (with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan). He’s a police officer in a large south Texas city. He’s a published author and active blogger. And he’s also an occasional TTAG contributor (type Chris Hernandez in the search box at right). Chris’s latest, “Line in the Valley” was just published last week. It’s the story of trouble on our southern border in the Rio Grande valley, written by someone who’s been there and knows. Chris was was kind enough to send us the prologue. Enjoy . . .

Carlos Ramirez’s phone rang in his pocket, rousing him from a half sleep, half pleasant buzz. He put his beer down, lifted himself halfway off his recliner, reached past belly fat and dug his phone out. The caller ID showed it was his coworker and across the street neighbor, Andy Carter. Carlos slurred a greeting.

“Hey Andy, what’s up? Why you bothering me now, when you know by this time every night I’m into my tenth beer?”

Carlos’ wife gave him a dirty look from the kitchen as she washed dishes. She had complained about his drinking for years and threatened to divorce him more than once, to no avail. She was Mexican, devoutly Catholic and wouldn’t want to be stuck taking care of their kids alone. He knew she would never leave him.

“Sober up, pendejo,” Andy said. “You remember that little shithead Antonio Guevara you arrested last week? He’s walking around by the corner, next to the Melendez’s. He’s been looking toward your house.”

“Shit,” Carlos responded. “That little punk needs his ass kicked. Again. You see any of his little gangster friends with him?”

Nadie mas, hermano,” Andy answered. He was white, but like most of the white people in Arriago and all the white cops, he spoke fluent Tex-Mex Spanish. “Nobody but him. He’s been walking from the corner toward your house and back, talking on a cell phone.

“A cell phone? Who did he steal that from? When I arrested him he didn’t have a phone, and he gave me his house number to write on the blotter. That little shit can’t afford a cell phone.”

“He must have burglarized another car, or maybe one of his gangster homies gave it to him,” Andy said. “Who gives a fuck why he has a phone? I didn’t call to talk about his phone, I called to tell you he was outside in case you want Jesse to run him off.”

Carlos took another swallow from his beer. “Nah, I won’t bother Jesse for this. He’s the only one on duty tonight, he’s probably busy. I’ll go outside and run Antonio off myself. He’ll probably piss his pants and take off as soon as he sees me. And if he doesn’t, I’ll kick the shit out of him again.”

Andale Carlos, that’s what he needs. Call me if you want me to come outside and videotape it.”

“Go to sleep, hermano. Thanks for the call.”

Hasta luego.

Andy hung up, and Carlos struggled out of his chair. He went to his room and pulled on a t-shirt, then grabbed the flashlight and pepper spray off the duty belt hanging on his bedpost. He thought about it, then went to his closet and threw a .38 snubnose into a pocket. He doubted he’d need the gun for Antonio, but you never knew how stupid a wannabe gangster could be.

Antonio Guevara was the seventh grade, fourteen-year-old head of Los Nortenos, a middle school “gang” made up mostly of eleven to thirteen year old aspiring thugs who desperately wanted attention. Since annointing themselves gangsters, they had been trying like hell to make a name for themselves in the tiny Texas border town of Arriago. Being the oldest, Antonio naturally fancied himself the leader. He and his flock, all eight of them, had been making themselves royal pains in the asses to the town’s 2,400 residents. They had spent the last month spray painting wooden fences with their made-up gang symbol, bringing beer to school in backpacks, beating up terrified ten-year-olds and even talking trash to police every time they saw a passing patrol car. Arriago had real gangsters, but they tried to keep a low profile. The Nortenos wanted everyone to know who they were.

Carlos had caught Antonio breaking into an old woman’s car the previous week, and Antonio bowed up to fight. Carlos convinced Antonio that he didn’t want to fight a cop after all. Antonio hadn’t needed any medical attention afterward, but Carlos knew he would feel the asskicking for a few days.

Carlos walked toward the front door, past his sons playing Xbox in their bedroom, and told his wife, “I’m going outside to handle something, I’ll be back in a minute.” She asked what he was talking about and he ignored the question, walked out the front door and turned toward the corner, two houses away.

He didn’t see anything at first. His neighborhood was poor and overgrown with brush. Then, in the pale light of a barely working street lamp, he made out the baggy, rumpled outline of Antonio, standing half-hidden behind a bush.

“Antonio!” Carlos yelled. “You don’t live here! What you want, boy? Didn’t you get enough last time I arrested you?”

Antonio stepped out from behind the bush. Carlos saw that he had a cell phone to his ear. Carlos walked toward him fast, calling out, “Hey, I’m talking to you! What you doing here, pendejo?

Antonio yelled back, “Fuck you, lambiache!” and spoke into the phone. He didn’t back away.

Antonio was a punk and a coward. He shouldn’t stand his ground. Surprised, Carlos yelled back, “Ass kisser? Boy, you better run, because I’m about to beat you to death!” He quickened his pace, ready to whip Antonio’s ass again.

Before he made it out of his front yard the sound of racing engines came from around the corner. Carlos stopped, unsure what to make of it. He didn’t see light from headlights, he just heard engines. Antonio looked toward the sound and didn’t move. Carlos heard him say, “Aqui, aqui!” Right here, right here.

Two black Ford Explorers raced into view, screeched past Antonio and made the turn toward Carlos. Their lights were off. The lead Explorer covered the distance to Carlos’ house in two seconds and slid to a stop. The brake lights didn’t come on. The second Explorer skidded to a stop in front of Andy’s house. That one didn’t have brake lights either.

Carlos stepped back, turned on his flashlight and pointed it toward the Explorer in front of his house. The SUV’s doors flew open. Two men in ski masks jumped out, dressed in all black with AK-47 rifles, body armor and tactical vests. Carlos turned his light to the man who had come out of the back seat. The man shifted his body so that his chest faced Carlos, and raised his AK. He moved like a soldier, his actions quick and efficient.

Carlos took another step back. What the fuck is going on? Behind him he heard his front door swing open. He turned to see his wife standing at the front step. He looked back as two more men with rifles and gear ran toward his house.

The impulse to react finally worked its way through the alcohol. Carlos jammed his hand into his pocket and grabbed his pistol. Before he was able to yank his weapon free the man pointing the AK at him pulled the trigger.

A white-orange flash exploded from the rifle’s muzzle. The bullet hit Carlos to the right of his sternum, punched straight through and exited his back. His vision went grey. He dropped flat onto his back, struggling to breathe. He heard his wife scream “Dios mio!”, then more shots. The scream stopped, but was replaced by shrieks from his sons’ room. He turned his head and could just make out another man in black rushing through the door. Down the street he heard more shots, more screams. Andy’s screams.

He looked up. Antonio stood over him, flashed a gang sign and said, “See that, bitch? See what happens when you mess with Los Nortenos? Never fuck with me, bitch.”

Carlos couldn’t process this. His sons’ screams drowned in automatic gunfire. Slow, painful recognition worked through the haze of pain and alcohol. His family had just been murdered. He had just been murdered. This couldn’t be the work of Antonio and his band of preteen shitheads. They couldn’t do this. It didn’t make sense.

Antonio kicked him in the groin. Carlos’ body rocked from the blow, his blurred vision bounced, but he couldn’t feel the impact. He heard feminine screaming and could just discern Andy’s teenage daughter running down the street. Gunfire sounded, the scream disappeared as if it had never been there. Carlos saw the blurry, ghostlike image of the girl slam facedown to the pavement. He heard laughter and shouted comments in Spanish.

Carlos closed his eyes and tried to breathe. When he opened his eyes he barely saw the man standing over him holding an AK to his face. He heard Antonio’s voice, but couldn’t make out the words. He croaked, “Why, Antonio? Why?”

Antonio laughed. The man next to him said in Spanish, “Muevete atras.” Move back. Carlos didn’t understand him. He managed to wheeze, “No entiendo, no entiendo.

The man in black fired another round, from ten feet away. This wasn’t the first time he had shot a man in the head with an AK. He knew enough to stay at a distance so that the blood, bone, brain, skin and hair wouldn’t spatter back on him. Carlos never heard or felt the round. It hit beside the bridge of his nose and exited the back of his skull. The blast scattered shards of Carlos’ head across his lawn, spraying the yard with an arc of gore.

Carlos died without knowing that all seven Arriago police officers, and all seventeen Harper County deputies, had died with him. Or that their families had been killed. Or that the Arriago mayor, municipal judge and twelve firefighters had been killed. Or that the same thing had happened in every Texas town along a hundred mile stretch of border between Roma and Brownsville, within fifteen minutes of Carlos’ murder.

‘Line in the Valley’ is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

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    • JWM,

      If I understand you correctly, you suspect the hero of this story will be a larger than life, unbelievable superhero. I promise you that no such character exists in any of my books. My guiding principle is “ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances”.

  1. Thanks Dan and TTAG for promoting Chris’ work and blog. Everyone should check out his most recent post, though it’s not written by Chris, it’s very poignient and gives a very real world, on the ground perspective of the President’s new “War on Inequality”. He’s a marvelous writer and a very clear and nuanced thinker. I check his blog a couple times a week and I’m glad for every new post.

      • I apologize Chris. I read it a short while ago and for some inexplicable reason got the impression that it was written by an acquaintance of yours. How I got that impressions, at this moment, I don’t rightly know. Perhaps that it was out of IronMike and that I assumed it must be out of someone else’s experience.and that through your own experience that you thought it worthy of posting on your blog. Whatever the circumstance, it is a great and illustrative piece.

        I, too, have seen those things with my very own eyes. When the President says that no one would rather have a government hand out than a pay check, I have to disagree. I’ve seen far too many people that couldn’t wait to get laid off so that they could “collect”. When someone such as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick says that such individuals are merely isolated data points or, in his terms “anecdotes”, that don’t represent the current reality of the social welfare state, I have to call BS. They may indeed not be entirely representative of the entire population on the dole, but they are by no means an insignificant minority. To say that is to deny thousands of years of human evolution. There will always be a significant minority that will do whatever it takes to game the system in order to perpetuate their unproductive, spendthrift ways at the expense of those who make a diligent effort to pay their own way through the world.

        Anyway, Chris, if you ever find yourself in the Boston area, please do look me up. Robert and Ralph have my contact info. It would be my distinct honor and privilege to show you and yours around and to take y’all out to dinner.

        • No worries, Greg. I included a couple of stories other officers told me in that post, which is probably what caused the confusion. But yeah, I think anyone who claims welfare fraud is a small problem is intentionally deluding themselves.

          I was at Ft. Devens back in early 2012, before I published my first book and started blogging. If I go back to that area, I promise to look you up. Thanks for the offer, and for your interest in my writing.

    • Like many post-teen college students, who tend to be full of themselves, a bunch of us were sitting in a creative writing workshop, talking while we waited for the professor to arrive. We were pumped about the class and our talk naturally turned to what “good writing” meant. I recall only some of the proposed metrics, but they tended to artfully crafted, prose that illuminated the human condition, etc. One person even suggested that the harder it was to read it, the better the writing was – it had to challenge or it wasn’t good writing.

      The professor comes in and is setting up his materials on the desk at the front of the room and someone asked him what makes writing good. He didn’t look up, just kept arranging his notes and such and said, “good writers make you turn the page to read more.” A couple of us know-it-alls audibly scoffed at his definition – I was one of the doubters. The professor, in my mid-fifties, just looked at us and said, “some things are just that simple.”

      He was right. Go figure. That prologue hooked me.

      • Exactly. One of my all time favorite authors wrote about hunting in Africa, (it’s what hooked me). When you read ‘death in the long grass’ I could smell things, hear things.
        Peter Hathaway Capstick.
        Real page turners.
        This prologue by Mr. Hernandez looks to be a page turner.
        My only problem is kindle versus physical book.

  2. And this is something that those uneducated fucksticks on the Left honestly believe that strict gun control laws will prevent, or at least make more difficult to execute.

    Oh, those poor daft, deluded fools.

    This is exactly what happened, and continues to happen, in Mexico. And every other failed narco state south of our border — a border that continues to get more dangerous (despite their dystopian fantasies to the contrary) and that they fight desperately to keep porous as a fucking siv and insecure.

    Wouldn’t want to keep all those future DemoKKKrats out, either, now would we?

  3. Damn, is it strange I actually found myself angry at this?

    Fiction can follow reality, and I hate gangs more than anything on this earth.

    • I got that “let’s go down too Mexico and peck off some drug cartel members” feeling; a single man of my inclinations is want too get from time too time.

  4. Chris Hernandez’s writing reminds me of Bryce Towsley’s meat grinder “The 14th Reinstated.” Both authors have a penchant for describing grisly killings in excruciating pornographic detail that leaves me wondering if this style of writing wins adherents to the 2A cause. What does it say about professed gun rights supporters to be associated with this type of mindset? How can you reconcile the fact that most mass shooters fantasized about this level of gore and trained for it through video games (before acting upon it) with the meme that gun owners are moral and law abiding all the while they fill their minds with this? Doesn’t it reinforce the negative stereotypes of gun owners as blood thirsty fiends and remove any moral superiority we might have if we promote this type of gratuitous writing? Comments appreciated.

    • It’s quite simple, the intention is what separates the two sides. One side fantasizes about the destruction of human life in a killing spree on the whim of their horrendous and disgusting mental processes.

      The other side fantasizes about saving, and helping themselves or others through the use of force. They seek to preserve the lives of those around them, and fantasizing in a similar way prepares them in a sort of way to deal with the event, and more importantly, is an acceptance of the situation they will find themselves in.

      It is simple to take this story at face value as a fantasization of violence and gore, a “pornography” of sorts, but remember, this is a prologue. It is supposed to draw you in and set up the story. Maybe you should read the rest of the story before deciding what this truly is.

    • UR,

      This is really just a novel, not a political statement. I didn’t write it to win 2A supporters, or to revel in gore. I wrote what I think is a realistic portrayal of a limited attack on our southern border. I left lots of gory details out, but as a soldier I’ve seen real deaths in combat and as a cop I’ve seen real murders. While I didn’t write “pornographic gore”, I also didn’t sugar coat the violence.

    • Alright then, comment: self-referrent-overanalysis much?

      What you found “pornographic” I found technical. Go read and enjoy.

    • UnderReview: No.

      What makes you think that the anti-2A civilian disarmament folks attribute ANY sort of morals to us, much less moral superiority? Remember, they think we are the people putting all their children in mortal danger every day.

  5. Guys, I really appreciate the comments and interest. Just to clarify, the book is only available as an eBook at the moment, it will be in print hopefully in about 6 months. For anyone who buys and reads, I ask that you please leave a brutally honest review. And if you’re interested in more of my writing, please drop by my blog, Thanks everyone, especially Dan and the rest of the TTAG staff, for your interest and support.

    Chris Hernandez

    • Here’s my brutally honest review of the prologue. I was fine with it until the last paragraph. The premise of the story seems to be that a drug cartel launches a “Pearl Harbor” assault against 100 miles of our southern border, slaughtering hundreds of police officers and thousands of other friends and family, all in a single coordinated attack. The premise is tactically and strategically implausible, laughably so. First, it would necessarily involve hundreds of assassins, a small fleet of vehicles, thousands of other people supplying minute by minute intelligence as to the current location of every single target, and it would involve a massive invasion across the border–all without a single alarm being raised. I cannot imagine that operational security or the level of coordination could be maintained. Professional armies in Europe in both World Wars were unable to do so, and to suggest that a bunch of mostly untrained narco terrorists, some with minimal military training before they went over the wall, is ludicrous. And strategically such an attack makes no sense whatsoever. We already know that the US government, through the DEA and the ATF has been cooperating with the Sinaloa cartel of decades–why would it bite the hand that feeds it hundreds of millions of dollars in drug profits every year? Because you know what the response would be–every cop within five hundred miles would be in the area by dawn the next day, followed closely by the US military and a fleet of fully armed drones. The border would be effectively an armed camp through which no drugs could travel. And although corrupt, there is no way that the Mexican Army could avoid full scale assaults on every known drug hideout in the country; not to do so would result in massive economic sanctions and a loss of US business. To be blunt, any cartel that did anything anywhere near as outrageous as this would be committing suicide.

      Since I can’t buy the premise, I won’t buy the book.

      • Mark,

        The issues you raise are also addressed in the book. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the situation isn’t as simple as it seems from the prologue, and the questions you asked are also asked by characters in the book. If the book isn’t for you, no worries, it’s not for everyone. Thanks for the comments.

    • My only comment (critique?) is with the last two paragraphs. Not so much their content, it’s a novel. And looks to be a damn good one.

      My thought is that there is a heckuva change in viewpoint in the last two paragraphs. Up until that point the voice was Carlos’. At the third paragraph he’s dead. The rest, while crucial to the point of the prologue, is something that a dead/dying man wouldn’t stop to think about or even have a reason to think about. It might have been better served with a full on viewpoint switch to the shooter or Antonio…

      That said, good work. I’m off to Amazon 🙂

      • Pierson,

        I changed to an omniscient observer perspective after Carlos says, “No entiendo.” I struggled with that part, but decided it was the best way to write that particular scene. If it makes you feel better (it does for me), that’s the only part of the book where I use that perspective. All the rest of it is seen through the eyes of the guys on the ground. Thanks for your comment, and I really hope you enjoy the book.

  6. Across the river in Ciudad Juarez, Policia take out full page ads in El Diario when they quit the force hoping they and their families will be spared. For safety, the publishers of the Mexican newspaper have moved over here to El Paso. They are highly sought targets in Juarez.

  7. Wow! That prologue was so compelling that I just bought both of Chris’s books and can’t wait to read them.

  8. While fictional, it really highlights the utility of those BAR reproductions from SHOT.

    Edit: i will buy your book if the little shit also dies equally as graphically. Your ability to create loathsome characters rivals George Martin.

  9. Powerful stuff Chris! It amazes me how truthful this could be (maybe has been). It is a brutal reminder that not everyone with years of tactical training will come out alive after a fight. I do love the detail you put into that prologue, it put me in that story. I have been in situations where people next to me were shot and killed (in Iraq) and I… yep. Thank you.

    • Avenger,

      I was on a convoy escort team in Iraq, and boy did that suck. We got lucky and never lost anyone though. In Afghanistan we lost guys on several missions, and it’s no fun.

      Thanks for your comments, and for your service.

      • Everyone who has been over there knows that in a cluster f with no front line, convoy escort is not a rear echelon job. Glad you made it back.

        The writing looks good. I’ll have to get a copy. If you’re interested in other authors who’ve turned real world experience into a good career – David Drake, John Ringo, and Michael Z Williamson are all excellent.

        I really like Drake’s approach. Anyone who has been deployed will instantly relate.

  10. It’s not often that writing can make me cringe and cause a strong emotional response, and this scene did it. Great job Chris. I’ll definitely check this out.

  11. After reading that prologue, I had to buy. I look forward to reading it, and I don’t.

    As a lifelong resident of Texas, I have been aware of cartel activity in the state for years, and it scares the hell out of me. These people have no morals, no human decency. They have been kidnapping, raping and murdering US citizens for years.

    As interesting as the story sounds, I anticipate it being a difficult read. It hits just a little bit too close to home.

  12. I haven’t read the book, and I’ll have to read Chris’ blog posts and such, but I have lived on the border too and I the idea that we’ll be invaded by Mexico is very far fetched.

    But you know what isn’t far fetched and is happening right now? The border is being militarized by yet one more rapidly expanding federal police force with no accountability. I think Conservatives naively vote for anything that says “border security” or “fence” on it, and what anyone who lives there can see is that the main feature of this added money is lots more agents with benefits and they’re not accountable to anyone.

    In December I was in Brownsville TX and crossed the border twice *on foot*. So I’m waiting with skinny jeans and no jacket with passport in hand for over an hour to cross back into the US. And the agents are still asking me snarky questions about who my employer is and why I’m being so quiet and stupid petty stuff that is none of their business. And they know they can because no one wants to get detained. Look we need border security, but what we’re getting is a version of the same thing the TSA represents with more guns, attitude, mobility. Oh and pensions, and corruption. I’m amazed that so few Conservatives are concerned about this, and just fan the flames of crisis to drum up piling more money in and don’t even care where it goes. But there’s only one place in will go, and that is more armed agents roaming around. And from what I can see they have a lot of lattitude to do whatever the hell they want.

    I’m tired of border alarmism that is far more likely to destroy our freedoms, including our gun rights, than it is to increase our safety.

      • Ok. Sorry if I sounded a bit amped up. I wish people understood that not all border areas are the same. I’ve driven parts of it in TX in the valley, worked next to it, and walked over it and along it a good bit, and I hope soon to bike one the more remote but fascinating parts of it that few know or see very soon.

        Here’s a great book I just read that shows that the “War on Crime” that came to be in the wake of John Dillinger and the sensational crimes of the midwest (and not over organized crime in the East) in the 30’s was the intentional pretext for the rise of the FBI. It was part and parcel of the New Deal and the omnibus crime bill of 1934 (which I believe included the national firearms act). It should be required reading for all of us. Some things never change. The crime wave really never was a wave, but the FBI is forever.

        And the ATF and all the other federalized police forces explicitly followed the FBI model. I see the same thing happening with CBP. They’re the TSA with more authority and space wander in, and more citizens to harass. And like the TSA at airports, what they’re providing is security theater at Conservative’s explicit request. I’m a Conservative and I don’t like what I see in the Rio Grande Valley in South TX.

        • No worries, this is a subject plenty of people are passionate about. All I can really say is that this novel isn’t a political comment on how we handle our border. It’s a story that’s very limited in scope, told almost exclusively from the perspective of a few guys involved in the fight to take one town back.

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