Wolverine (3rd series) #8

Issue Date: 
January 2004
Story Title: 
Coyote Crossing - part 2

Greg Rucka (words), Leandro Fernandez (art), Studio F (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Rus Wooton (letterer), Leo Fernandez (cover artist), Axel Alonso (edits), Warren Simons (more edits), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

Lake, one of the two men involved in smuggling people into the United States, is questioned by Special Agent Aguinaga about the deaths of those inside the tractor unit. He doesn’t hold out for long before revealing that a man named Ritter is behind the operation. Cassie Lathrop introduces herself to the officer and shows him the picture of Wolverine, who she believes may have been the one who killed Lake’s partner, Merrick. Wolverine, meanwhile, pays Ritter a visit at his garage and beats on him to get information. Just as he’s questioning him, a mechanic called Mendes kills Ritter and shoots Wolverine in the face before torching the garage. However, despite being on fire, Wolverine attacks Mendes and forces him to reveal who else is involved. Cassie and the border patrol arrive at the garage and Cassie leaps into the flames after spotting Wolverine’s bike. It’s a mistake, though, and she succumbs to the smoke and flames. Wolverine rescues her and tells her that Mendes revealed that a man named Rojas is in charge of things on the other side of the Rio. Wolverine talks to Nestor about Rojas and gives him the low-down. Wolverine decides to swim the Rio and see Rojas personally. Cassie watches him swim across and waits for his return.

Full Summary: 

(El Paso)

In a police interview room, Special Agent Aguinaga interviews Lake about the nineteen people found dead in the trailer that he and his partner, Merrick, were using to deliver their cargo to the United States. Lake insists that he was simply there for the ride, to keep Merrick awake and keep him company. Aguinaga asks who arranged it but Lake holds his hands out and replies that, if that’s the way he’s going to start talking, then he wants his lawyer; maybe cut a deal. Aguinaga informs him that there were nineteen people found in the trailer, eleven men, five women and three children; the youngest being just six years old. He leans over Lake and tells him that’s nineteen counts of murder he’s looking at, not counting the gas station attendant or his partner, Merrick. Lake tries to make Aguinaga understand that he isn’t to blame for Merrick; it was the other guy, the guy with the knives in his hands, who locked him in the trailer.

Cassie Lathrop watches the interrogation through a one-way mirror, stern faced. Aguinaga tells Lake that, even if he didn’t kill Merrick, that still leaves twenty other deaths and, here in Texas, “You think this might be considered a capital crime?” Lake’s head drops. He knows he’s in real trouble and offers Aguinaga the same name he gave to Wolverine: Ritter. He informs the agent that Ritter put it together and has some contacts on the other side of the river, in those camps with all the Mexicans. Aguinaga tosses him a notepad and pen and tells Lake to start scribbling.

Soon after, Aguinaga heads outside into the sunshine and speaks with one of his officers, Len, asking him to ensure that Lake doesn’t get bail at the hearing. As soon as they have a warrant, he wants to grab Ritter. The officer understands and tells Aguinaga if he heard about the thing on Paisano Drive last night. Another three people were picked up, all carrying Jerry cans, pretending their cars had broken down. Of course, there never is a car to return to. As Aguinaga buys a drink from a mobile canteen, Cassie appears and introduces herself as being an officer with the BATF.

He asks her to refresh his memory, asking if they’ve met. She replies that she doesn’t think so. He asks if she’s one of Kelly Dean’s agents but she tells him she’s out of Oregon; Chris McNally being her S.A. Aguinaga knows McNally as he met him at Glynco. He asks why he sent her to talk to border patrol and Cassie tells him that she’s here on her own account. She’s been listening to the interrogation and says that she believes Lake is on the level about the other guy killing Merrick and hands him the sketch artist’s drawing of Logan. He asks what this guy’s connection is, and Cassie replies that she’s here to find that out.

Wolverine arrives at a rundown garage on his bike and asks a mechanic where Ritter is. The man replies that he doesn’t speak any English, so Logan converses in Spanish and finds out that Ritter’s in the back office. Logan thanks him and heads straight into Ritter’s office, finding him recumbent in front of the television set. “Who the hell are you?” he asks, as Logan wastes no time in walking over to him, grabbing him by the collar and hurling him over the table against the television, shattering the screen. Ritter holds his head and calls Logan a stupid little maggot, asking what wrong with him as he doesn’t even know him. Logan smashes him in the face, causing blood to spurt from Ritter’s nose and then grabs him by his shaggy grey hair. Ritter implores him to stop but Logan pushes his head down onto the table, as Ritter asks why he’s doing this.

Logan replies that he thought about trying to be subtle and clever about this, but then he realized he’d probably end up having to beat the crap out of him anyway so he’s saving himself some time. He throws Ritter back against the television set, giving him a real working over. “You’re insane,” cries Ritter, but Logan replies that this is him being perfectly calm. “Trust me, you’ll know when I go insane.” He edges the claws on his right hand towards Ritter’s face and, as he extends them further, he says Lake’s name. A little further, “Merrick.” Further still, “Who else?”

Ritter is petrified and is about to deny knowing anything but Logan prompts him, demanding he reveals the whole network, both sides of the river. “You don’t understand, “Ritter replies, “I only dealt with…” Blamm! A gunshot takes out Ritter and Logan turns to look at the perpetrator, only to be shot himself in the face. As he falls besides Ritter’s body, the mechanic turns away, holding the gun, and begins to cover the whole garage with gasoline. With the gas canister spent, he takes a match and drops it, walking calmly away, leaving Ritter and Logan to perish in the flames. He doesn’t expect what happens next!

From out of the flames, Wolverine leaps at him. Although himself on fire, he uses his experience to block out much of the pain this causes. He grabs the mechanic round the waist and tackles him to the ground, holding him by the throat and raising his claws above his head. With flames lapping all around them, he warns the mechanic that he can’t stop him and now he’s gonna die here, or he’s gonna talk. He has little choice.

Soon, the noise of sirens is heard over the fire and Wolverine sees several patrol cars approaching. Outside, Aguinaga orders Len to contact the fire department pronto and Len replies that they’re on their way. Another officer sees movement inside the garage but Aguinaga orders no-one to go inside until the rubber men arrive. Cassie takes a look at Wolverine’s bike and knows he’s inside. With little regard for her own safety, she rushes through the flames, with Aguinaga powerless to prevent her. She makes her way though the building carefully but the smoke begins to get too much for her and she covers her mouth. Seeing Ritter’s burning body, she realizes this was a bad idea and starts to succumb to asphyxiation. Suddenly, through the golden glow of flames comes Logan with his hand outstretched and telling her to go with him.

He leads Cassie to the back of the building, where there is a hole in the wall, presumably made by Logan himself as the mechanic lies outside unconscious. “So what is it, Klamath girl? You stubborn or suicidal?” he asks. Cassie splutters as she takes in clean air. “That’s what I thought,” he replies. He takes Cassie’s gun and tells her that the mechanic killed Ritter and then set the fire. His name is Mendes and says he works for a man across the river by the name of Rojas. Logan’s hair is partially burnt off and his flesh still smokes but he is totally coherent and reaches inside Cassie’s jacket. She is surprised but Logan only wants her badge. He reads the details; “Cassie Lathrop, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; shoulda figured.” He hands her credentials back and turns away. “Logan, wait!” she cries and he turns back, surprised that she knows his name. He places his face right next to hers and tells her to stop following him; he isn’t who she thinks he is.

Back in El Paso, at the Cerveza Fria, Logan asks Nestor what the deal is with Rojas. Nestor is settling down to his food and replies that he’s asking the wrong guy. He’s on the wrong side of the Rio for that information. Nestor doesn’t know about that stuff. What he does know is that there’s a lot of money tied up in smuggling. These people flee their homes, their countries and are desperate to begin with. They’ll pay whatever price to get across. “Even though they’re broke,” says Logan.

Nestor continues to say that this is why the coyotes like the ones who already have family in the States. They can tap them two or three times for money; once to get across the border, then again to cover expenses, food and clothes and then a third to get them to where they want to be, a plane ticket or a bus fare. “Or the trucking fees,” adds Logan, opening a can of beer. Nestor says that a lot of the migrants, though, as he says, are poor, poorer than dirt and desperate to go through with crazy things like trying to swim the Rio. From what he hears, those are the ones Rojas goes for, those who will do anything and who don’t have a family; don’t have a way of getting money.

Logan asks if it’s to do with drugs. Nestor says that’s the rumor. Rojas is big with heroin, or so he hears. He goes through the migrant camps on the other side of the river and gets himself some volunteers to swallow some balloons with promises to get them across. Wolverine stands and says that burns him. “What does?” asks Nestor. Making people worth less than drugs he replies, that burns him. He pulls on his jacket and tells Nestor that he thinks he’ll go for a swim.

Under a clear sky with the moonlight bathing the land, Wolverine runs towards the river, ducking down to avoid being seen by a border patrol car headlights. He scales a large fence and sits on the riverbank, removing his boots. In no time at all, he is in the river, holding his boots above his head and swimming towards the opposite bank. From further along the riverbank, a pair of night vision binoculars pick him up. Agent Aguinaga asks Cassie if she sees anything, but Cassie replies that she doesn’t and hands him the binoculars, asking if they can get out of there; she’s cold. Aguinaga tells her that he’ll give what Mendes said to the Mexican authorities; they’ll look into the Rojas angle. Fine, says Cassie, as she looks out of the car window towards the river. “I’ll see you when you get back,” she whispers to herself. Aguinaga asks her if she said something, but Cassie replies that it must have been the river.

Characters Involved: 


Cassie Lathrop

Special Agent Aguinaga

Len and other El Paso border patrol officers





Citizens of El Paso

Story Notes: 

Glynco, Georgia is the home of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Issue Information: 

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