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Authors: A K Alexander

The Cartel

BOOK: The Cartel
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Book I

 

1969-1976

 

Calí, Colombia

 
CHAPTER ONE
 

Emilio Espinoza traced the scars across the undersides of his wrists, now white with time, but still visible. Not like the ones that remained on his heart.

 

Moving to the ornate wooden armoire, he picked up a framed photograph of his brother Antonio and his lovely young wife Lydia. He stared at his brother’s face, his eyes becoming slits of hatred. He closed them, and threw the picture across the room, smashing the frame against the wall, his hands balling into fists as his vision clouded with tears. Glass shattered into small splinters across the adobe-tiled floor. Pulling the photograph from between the shards of glass, filled with rage and despair, Emilio ripped it into pieces.

 

Antonio was the reason the scars upon his heart never faded. What a fool his brother was! Antonio had no idea of his brother’s true feelings toward him and Emilio planned to keep it that way—for now. But when he struck, Antonio would know. He would feel nothing but pain; the kind Emilio felt everyday of his life.

 

Emilio’s plans were long term. They had to be. He knew the desired effect might not come to fruition for years, perhaps even a decade. But he had plans and they had been brewing for nearly five years, since he was merely a boy of fifteen. He had been patient for this long. He would be patient for as long as it took.

 

He remembered that day five years ago so very clearly.

 

****

 

Emilio came home early from school, ditching because
he hadn’t studied for a test. He did not want Antonio to find out that he’d left school early, so he crept quietly up the outside back steps to the guesthouse, which was several yards away from the main quarters, a place where he knew he could hide out until the appropriate time.

 

He smelled the candles first. He smiled, knowing he was about to get a show from his Don Juan of a brother and some beautiful young thing. Antonio was known to bring women to the guesthouse and light a few rose scented candles, put on some soft music, and then, having set the mood, complete his conquest.

 

Emilio crawled along the balcony of the small villa, carefully rising up to peek into the window. The music playing--soft, low, romantic--the woman’s back toward him. Antonio held her close, stroking her long black hair, whispering something in her ear.

 

That hair, the lithe body. A shiver of delight slithered through Emilio as he watched in awe.

 

Antonio placed his hands on the woman’s shoulders and easily slipped off her dress, letting it fall to the ground. Emilio closed his eyes, ashamed to be watching. But curiosity and raging hormones opened them. The woman stood completely naked. Antonio swept her up and carried her to the bed and laid her down on the red sateen comforter.

 

Emilio felt the first painful tug on his heart when he saw her face as Antonio put his hands on either side of it and kissed her. Emilio blinked his eyes, shook his head and looked again. Antonio pulled back, reached over to the nightstand by the bed and poured her a glass of wine. It was then, as Emilio watched her drink the velvet liquid that he saw, understood and learned of betrayal of the worst kind. There, drinking wine, falling under his brother’s seductive spell, laid Marianna. His Marianna. The girl of fourteen who was destined to be is wife, his lover. Emilio loved this girl and she’d sworn her devotion to him. They had been nothing but lies.

 

His body, which had shivered with delight watching the show, now, shook with rage. The sweat trickling from his brow ran down his face and into his mouth tasting salty and bitter. He made himself turn back to the window and watch.

 

After he watched the two people he’d loved more than life do the worst imaginable to him, he ran into the cacao fields and vomited, ached and cried. His clothing wet from sweat created from his anger and the intense humidity sweeping across the overgrown fields. Finally, he stopped, and falling to his knees he threw back his head. “Marianna!” He bellowed her name over and over again in such agony that it silenced the birds across the valley set in between two mountain ranges.

 

How could she have done this? His Marianna? How could Antonio have done this? Emilio had loved Marianna since they were seven years old. Even as a child, he’d known that God had placed her here on this earth for him, only him. Seeing them together, watching as they grew into young adults together, Antonio knew this, and still, he had stolen her from him, betraying them both.

 

Brokenhearted and filled with vengeance, Emilio waited for her to leave the villa. He stalked her path until she reached the edge of the fields where he grabbed her from behind, covered her mouth with a hand stronger than even he realized. Knocking her to the ground, he wrapped his hands around her tiny neck and strangled her to death as she struggled, watching him with knowing and terrified eyes. Then, snatching her up, he carried her to the river where he weighted her body with large rocks and tossed her into the rushing waters. She had never been found.

 

Emilio had sobbed, distraught, filled with remorse, anger, and fear. His brother, unaware that Marianna lay at the bottom of the river, consoled him saying they’d find the lost girl and urged him to move on with his life. No. Emilio wanted no life at all. He was beyond caring for anything life could offer him. A few days after killing his love, filled with irrevocable guilt, desperation, and hatred, he slit his wrists.

 

Antonio found him lying in a pool of blood by the river, and frantically sent for the doctor, begging him to save his brother. Emilio lost a great deal of blood, but with time and care, was healed. When he was well enough and out of danger, Antonio screamed at him, “You are a fool! There is not a woman in this world whose life is worthy of taking your own.”

 

****

 

Now many years later he understood why he had
watched the entire seduction take place. He now knew why he had not bolted away at the first glance of her beautiful face, and why he bore the pain of seeing her in his brother’s embrace. He had to completely fill his heart with his hatred of Antonio, fill it with the rage of betrayal. He’d succeeded, and he’d learned to hide that hatred. Emilio was as smart and conniving as his older brother. After all, it was his older brother who had taught him how to be evil.

 

As he looked out the large, paned window that faced the main house, Emilio vowed to seek revenge. He lived in that same dreaded guesthouse, the place where he’d watched his reality being pulled out from under him. But he didn’t mind. Living there meant he could never forget. And living there meant he had a good view of Antonio and Lydia’s bedroom, where he watched Lydia every morning as she took her coffee out onto the balcony. She dressed in sheer negligees, unaware of his watching eyes. She was gorgeous, truly magnificent. And she was part of Emilio’s plan.

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Costa Careyes, Mexico

 

The mountaintop fortress, surrounded by the lush green jungle, palm trees, and armed guards, had been constructed to take in the Pacific Ocean views on the northern stretch of Costa Careyes, Mexico. The best way to reach the villa was by a ponga, which took over an hour from Manzanillo and two hours from Puerto Vallarta, the two closest major cities. The villa was the kind of place that caused outsiders passing by on pongas to look up at with awe and wonder at those who resided inside. It was only a vacation home.

 

The morning passed quietly and was uncharacteristically brisk as Javier Rodriguez sat out back on the veranda overlooking the steel-gray sea below him, where waves crashed hard against the ragged edges of rocks etched into the mountain side by time. Looking a little to the north, he spotted fishermen heading out off the white sand beach in search of the evening’s meal. The calming scent of orange blossoms and the richness of the jungle’s soil combined with the ocean breezes and would normally have eased Javier’s troubled mind. Despite the lack of humidity this part of the world was known for, beads of perspiration trickled down Javier’s back. He was drinking his second cup of coffee when Antonio, his long-time friend from Colombia, joined him in the idyllic setting. Antonio’s dark eyes were alert, his black hair slicked back, and he was dressed immaculately in a white silk shirt and khakis. He sat down at the wicker-backed chair next to Javier, a slight smile easing across his genteel face.

 

“Ah, good morning, Antonio. I take it you slept well?” Javier set his mug down on the breakfast table.

 

“Of course. I always sleep well when I visit your home. The sounds of the ocean lull a man to sleep. Everything is comfortable here, and your servants are always so charming and friendly.” Antonio raised his eyebrows, his smile widening. He rubbed his fingers together and then, with slightly longer nails than most men, began easing his nails back and forth underneath one another.

 

“I apologize that I could not greet you last night when you arrived. Cynthia and I were busy with my father.”

 

“No need to apologize. I settled in quite nicely. How is your father?”

 

“He isn’t well. Cynthia has been spending a great deal of time caring for him. He doesn’t have long. If you’d like to see him while you’re here, he’s in the west wing of the house. I can take you there later.”

 

“If he’s up to it. It troubles me to hear that his health is failing. He was very good to me after my parents passed. I wouldn’t want to disturb him.”

 

“No. He would be happy to see you, Antonio. He loves you like a son. You remind him of when your father and he ran things. His memories are the only thing that I believe keep him alive.”

 

Antonio sighed and nodded. “Those days are past. The old generation is nearly gone. When your father dies it will be only you and me to rule over our growing empire. And I’m here to tell you, in order to see it grow as we hope, we must rule with ferocity and wield an iron fist!” Antonio slammed his own fist against the glass table. He laughed raising his head up and staring into his friend’s eyes.

 

“You’re a vicious man, Antonio,” Javier replied teasingly, although he meant every word. Antonio was a ruthless man, had been since childhood when they’d grown up together in Colombia. After secondary school, Javier had gone to the university in Mexico City and then made the decision to move to Guadalajara and pursue politics. He and Antonio had remained friends through those years and recently had begun collaborating in business together, and they conducted much of their business at Javier’s vacation home on the coast in Costa Careyes. Javier’s fear of his compadre matched his love and respect for him.

 

“Yes and no. I prefer, my friend, to think of myself as a realist. My father is dead and yours is dying. You’re the ruler here in Jalisco, and I believe it is very clear to all that I am the patrón. With good planning, you could go on to become the president of Mexico. The PRI is going through a crisis. Diaz Ordaz cannot even control the people,” Antonio said, referring to the current president. “Together, my friend, we’ll go far. But we need to be very clear on that. For our survival, it is vital for us to always work together and never against each other. Don’t you agree?” Antonio lit a cigar between his manicured fingers and exhaled puffs of the acrid smoke into the morning air.

 

“Absolutely.” There was no choice but to agree with his old friend. Even though Javier was the governor of the state of Jalisco, and the idea of becoming president interested him, it was Antonio Espinoza who ruled much of South America. Of course, he was not considered an official ruler, but in effect, he was clearly
seen
as the ruler, especially to those that it mattered to.

 

Antonio was the head of one of the wealthiest and largest coffee plantation families in Colombia. He’d taken over the empire at a young age, following the death of both his mother and father in a boating accident. Antonio had expanded that empire by also dabbling in illegal businesses, in which Javier took an active role.

 

“Our families have known each other for a long time.” Antonio leaned back in the chair, stretching out his legs.

 

“Of course, since our great-grandfathers.”

 

Antonio arched his neck back, gazing up at the volatile skies. “That’s why we have always remained like brothers and our business together is so successful. And now we have opportunities like never before.” He smiled again. “I see something ahead of us that will make us far more wealthy and powerful than either of us ever imagined. You see, my friend,” Antonio started, leaning in closer to Javier, lowering his voice, “there is a new wave approaching. The Italian mafia has ruled in the United States and Europe now for a long time. What they do not know is that there is competition on the horizon. And that is you and me.”

BOOK: The Cartel
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