Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Transfer (4)

by Pa Rock

(Note: The following is the fourth part of a work of fiction that was initiated in this space on December 5, 2007. The second part ran on February 16, 2008, and the third installment appeared on February 23, 2008.)

The sun was just peering over the eastern horizon as Ricky Rios pulled the dark green Cadillac Escalade onto a side street on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico. He had been driving “the war wagon” since Hermosillo and was ready for breakfast and some hot coffee.

“Hey, asshole,” Ricky said as he reached across the front seat and shook his older brother. “We’re here. The international border is coming up.”

Edgar Rios stretched and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “So why did you stop, puta?”

“I’m hungry. Where can we get something to eat in this shithole??”

“There’s a McDonald’s on the other side of the border, little brother. We’ll eat there.”

Ricky shook his head in disgust. “I’ll need more than a breakfast sandwich if I am going to have to deal with Uncle Sal.”

“You’re the golden child. I’m the one that has to face the wrath of the old lion.”

“Really? Screwed the wrong whore?”

“Something worse. I killed the wrong Barraza.” Edgar reached into the backseat and retrieved his leather jacket. “Give me your passport,” he said as he peeled several hundred dollar bills from the roll in his jacket pocket. When Ricky handed him his passport, Edgar counted out ten bills and put them inside of the cover.

“Oh great. If this green boat doesn’t make us look enough like narco-terrorists, a passport full of cash ought to remove any doubt.”

“Shut your hole and just drive. When you get to the border pull into the outside lane.”

Ricky nosed the Escalade back out onto Mex 15 and continued to the international border. He slid the big car into the outside lane as Edgar had instructed, and dutifully handed his passport over to the grateful immigration officer who palmed the cash faster than one of Edgar’s whores could hit the mattress. After pocketing the cash, the officer held the passport up and carefully studied Ricky’s picture. “What is your purpose in visiting the United States, Mr. Rios?”

“Vacation,” Ricky answered matter-of-factly.

“And what is your destination?”

“Sedona, and maybe the Grand Canyon.”

“Excellent choices. Drive on through and enjoy your stay in the United States.”

“Excellent choices!” Edgar laughed as Ricky weaved his way through the barricades and into the Los Estados Unidos. “Enjoy your stay in the United States!”

“Asshole.” Rafe muttered.

“Careful. Uncle Sal wouldn’t like his favorite nephew disparaging one of our employees.”

“You’re the asshole, asshole.”

“McDonald’s is up ahead on the right. Park out back on the hillside.”

Moments later Ricky had located a spot that would accommodate the big vehicle. He parked it, pocketed the keys, and started to get out. “Leave the keys in the ignition and grab your bag,” Edgar said, almost too casually. “We’re trading vehicles.”

“Great,” Ricky said as he pulled the keys back out of his pocket. “Let me guess. I just drove a load of dope across the border.” His calm demeanor was quickly becoming as prickly as a Sonora cactus. “A prison record would be just the ticket for getting into medical school!”

“Hey, puta, what can I say? It’s the family business.” Edgar slipped on his leather jacket and retrieved his own bag as he got out of the car. “You will get into medical school the old fashioned way – with a large cash donation from Uncle Sal.”

“Asshole,” Ricky responded as he followed his brother into the McDonald’s.


After breakfast the young men returned to the spot where they had left the Escalade, a spot that was now occupied by a little red Miata with its key in the ignition. “Now that’s what I’m talking about, little brother!” Edgar exclaimed as he climbed into the driver’s seat. “Let’s hit the road!”

“So now that we have a really cool car, you get to drive?”

“I have the valid Arizona driver’s license, pendejo.” Edgar said. “We’ll be going through at least one border patrol checkpoint on our way to Scottsdale. There is nothing to be gained by taking unnecessary risks.”

“Risks like driving into the United States with a carload of drugs?”

“Cut me some slack, Ricky. I was too tired to be the wheel man.”

“Whoring takes it out of you.” Ricky was referring to a stop that they had made at a favorite watering hole of Edgar’s yesterday evening. Ricky had sat in the car and read a biology textbook that he had brought with him from Buenos Aires, while Edgar spent a couple of hours in the desert whorehouse entertaining the ladies and doing his own biology homework.

“Damned straight it does!” Edgar checked the mirrors and turned the ignition. The slick ride roared to life. “And let’s not be bothering Uncle Sal with unnecessary information, like you being behind the wheel at all. He’s going to be furious at me for letting you get off the plane in Mexico City.”

“That was my idea, remember? I wanted to spend some time with my brother.”

“You’re a fifteen-year-old puta, remember? If Uncle Sal pisses, it’s me that gets wet – not you!”


Salvador and Alberto Rios had been small-time drug runners moving inconspicuous amounts of “product” across the U.S. border twenty-five years ago. As the American appetite for drugs grew, so did the fortunes of Sal and Al. When a major deal gone bad resulted in the murders of Al and his wife, Bette, five years ago, little Ricky had been spirited off to safety with his Aunt Silvia in Buenos Aires where he could be raised away from the shadow of the growing criminal enterprise. Edgar, on the other hand, was already known far and wide as a dangerous and incorrigible seventeen-year-old at the time of his parents’ death, and he moved seamlessly into the family business.

Both young men knew that Salvador Rios was going to be livid that they had played fast and loose with Ricky’s safety by driving halfway across Mexico, but neither got too excited over it. Uncle Sal would calm down when they were safely inside his gated and guarded estate. He would be thrilled to have Ricky close by – Edgar’s reception, however, was likely to be more problematic.


Ricky sat back in a leather armchair in Uncle Sal’s study. He watched the ice float lazily in his scotch, acutely aware that Aunt Silvia would have a big, fat, Argentine cow if she knew he was drinking anything stronger that table wine. But what the hell, he was on vacation! Ricky was on the verge of becoming a man, whether Aunt Silvia was ready to admit that or not, and while he wasn’t into wholesale whore-hopping like his tireless older brother, he had experienced the pleasures of women – a couple right under Silvia’s own roof. Life is constant adjustment.

Edgar was anything but relaxed. Uncle Sal was speaking very quietly to him – always a bad sign – and staring intently into his eyes, alert for any bullshit. “You more than anyone,” Salvador said in calm, modulated tones, “should know the dangers that could befall a member of the family in Mexico. Was it necessary to take Enrique off of the plane in Mexico City and parade him across the country like a moving target in a carnival shooting gallery?”

“It was all cool, uncle. It was Ricky’s idea.”

“That’s right,” Ricky interjected. “My idea.”

“You live in a different world, Enrique. You don’t know the danger you were in.” Salvador turned to face his older nephew. “But Edgar knew.”

Edgar was withering under his uncle’s gaze. Salvador had his large hands on the table clasping his drink, but Edgar knew that any remark on his part that even hinted of disrespect could send one of Uncle Sal’s big hands careening off the side of his head. Edgar was a lieutenant in the family business – he knew firsthand the carnage that Salvador Rios was capable of wreaking.

“I guess that I’m just a tired old man, Edgar, but I am having trouble understanding just why you let your little brother drive a car loaded with half a ton of cocaine across the international border. Didn’t that strike you as somewhat…stupid?” Uncle Sal’s voice rose almost imperceptibly on the word “stupid,” and Edgar leaned backward quickly to what he hoped was just beyond the range of Sal’s deadly hands. Edgar knew that the border agent must have shared that tidbit with one of Sal’s other lieutenants. He would deal with the border agent later – if he could get back to Nogales in one piece.

“It was safe, uncle. We had the route and the crossing nailed down.”

“Mexico is never safe.”

“I had a job to do.”

“Yes, and the jobs you do involve risks. No one knows that better than me, Edgar. Our family has prospered beyond measure because we are not afraid to take risks. But Enrique is not to be brought into the mix.”

“He was safe, Uncle. I was with him the entire way.”

“That is not reassuring.”

“The last time I saw the bambino was more than two years ago. I wanted to spend some time with him. Ricky’s my brother for chrissakes!”

The big right hand launched, striking Edgar on the side of his head and knocking him across the room and onto the floor. Two of Sal’s “personal assistants,” Miguel and Patrick, stepped forward and carted Edgar off like a big bag of yesterday’s garbage.


Late that afternoon after Ricky had taken a long nap and soaked away his road weariness in a warm bath, he found a comfortable chair in a quiet corner of Sal’s shaded patio. He composed a quick text message to Aunt Silvia letting her know that he had arrived safely at her brother’s house, and assuring her that Uncle Sal and Edgar sent their love. He mentioned that Edgar had met him in Mexico City and they had decided to drive to Scottsdale together in order to catch up. Aunt Silvia might not be happy with that decision, but he was her only child and she easily forgave his bad choices – of which there had been very few in all of the years that he had lived with her in Buenos Aires. Ricky did not let his aunt know about Edgar’s stop at the whorehouse or the carload of cocaine that he had inadvertently driven into the United States.

Ricky was in the middle of a text to Rafael, his best friend in Buenos Aires, when Uncle Sal sauntered in and placed a couple of Negra Modelos on the small patio table. “How was your nap, Enrique?”

“Fine, uncle. I dreamed that I was at Grandfather’s house in Ensenada. I’ve haven’t been there since I was four, but the dream was so vivid. I looked in every room, and everywhere I went I could smell food cooking and the flowers – all of those fantastic flowers!”

“The flowers are still there. We have gardeners and landscapers keep the grounds up, but the house is empty. There hasn’t been any food cooked there since your grandfather died.”

“I remember the funeral. That’s probably the last time that I was in Ensenada.”

Salvador Rios sighed as the memories of quieter times in Mexico began to seep into his consciousness. “ I was there for a weekend last year, but Mexico is becoming very dangerous.”

“I know that you think Edgar put me at risk by letting me get off the plane in Mexico City, but our drive up was really tame. I even managed to get in some studying while he was on a recreation break.”

“Your brother is a fool, Enrique. His foolishness, in fact, is the reason that I have brought you here.”

Ricky took a long pull from the Negra Modelo before responding. “I wondered about that. I am in the middle of a semester of study. Four more weeks would have freed my mind to enjoy more of Phoenix.

“This couldn’t wait.” Sal turned and signaled to the muscle leaning against the patio wall. “Patrick, please get Edgar.” Having his nephew brought to him by the anglo, Patrick, would add just the right touch of humiliation to the scene. Salvador understood the theatrical aspects associated with respect, and Edgar did too.

“The last time I was here we ate at a really great place over in Tempe.” Ricky didn’t believe in the need to be subtle in the presence of family, and his directness was one of the traits that Salvador Rios appreciated most in his youngest nephew.

But Salvador was also direct. “We are eating here this evening, and after the excellent meal that Rosita is preparing, you will be leaving.”


It was at that moment that Patrick marched Edgar onto the patio and up to the table. He stood at attention as Edgar seated himself, and then backed off into the shadows of the wall. Edgar’s demeanor radiated contempt, but he displayed the good sense to remain silent. Salvador leaned back in his chair and gave an almost imperceptible hand sign to Miguel who stepped forward and handed him a small black cigar and a box of table matches.

“Gracias, Miguel.” Salvador glared at Edgar as he lit the cigar. Miguel took the box of matches and faded back to the wall.
Edgar knew without looking that Uncle Sal’s bodyguards were also focused on him. Patrick had summarily relieved him of his piece before bringing him to the patio. Patrick was a dead man.

“Edgar,” Salvador calmly began, “I have just informed Ricky that he is leaving here this evening. Would you care to tell him why?”

“Thank you for allowing me to speak, uncle.” Edgar was also calm - calm but angry. He words were measured, leaving his mouth in short quiet bursts, like so much well controlled spit. “You see, Little Brother, I delivered a message to the Barraza family. It was a bold move, one that should have inspired at least a small amount of appreciation from Uncle Sal.”

“You were drunk – and stupid.” Salvador kept his voice level. “There are cur dogs living on the streets of Phoenix with more sense.”

“Your respect for cur dogs is well known, uncle.” Edgar raised his gaze to meet the eyes of Patrick who stood his post in the shadows. “But the reputation of the Rios family was not built by mongrels whose main duty is to stick their noses up their master’s butt.”

“You are stepping on very thin ice, nephew. Those ‘mongrels’ of whom you speak so contemptuously, are ferocious in their fealty to me and our family. They are smart men – men who follow orders.”

“We all follow orders, uncle.”

“Do we?” Salvador mused. “I wonder.” The family patriarch took a long drag off of his cigar, flicked the ash, and then blew across the cigar’s red tip. “Place your right hand on the table, Edgar. Palm up.”

“You want to burn me? I intend no disrespect, uncle, but this family depends on my hands. I will not be made the fool in front of my little brother and those two slabs of stupid meat standing by the wall.”

“Very well.” Salvador blew the new ash off of the cigar. “Patrick.”

The young bodyguard stepped forward without hesitation and placed his right hand on the table, palm up. Salvador Rios slowly put his cigar out on the center of Patrick’s hand. The smell of burning flesh mingled with the aroma of the cigar – and killing Ricky’s appetite. Patrick never flinched or made a sound.

Ricky, who was beginning to feel like the line judge at an especially grueling tennis match, interrupted at this point. “What is going on, Uncle Sal?”

“I’m showing Edgar what ‘following orders’ looks like.” Salvador took his penetrating gaze off of Edgar and focused on his mistreated bodyguard. “Thank you, Patrick.”

“No problem, sir.” The young bodyguard gave Edgar the briefest glare of superiority as he turned smartly and returned to his post by the wall.

“Now, Edgar, place your right hand on the table, palm up, and leave it there or by God I will personally sever it from your arm – with a very dull knife.” Salvador was becoming insanely calm. Ricky recognized the dynamic between his uncle and his brother for what it was – a pissing contest – and Edgar was getting hosed.

This time there was no hesitation. Edgar angrily slammed his right hand down on the patio table. He reached into his pants pocket with his left hand and produced a slim pocket knife, a weapon that undoubtedly been christened in blood. Edgar slammed the knife down next to his extended hand. “Be my guest, sir!”

Ricky suddenly stood up and backed away from the table. “Will somebody please tell me what the fuck is going on?”

Salvador picked up Edgar’s knife and opened the blade. “Your brother fired a hand-held rocket launcher into the Barraza family’s summer home.”

“You?” Ricky stammered.

“Me.” Edgar said smugly. “Edgar Rios with the big cajones!”

Salvador slowly shaved the black hair from his thumb with Edgar’s very sharp blade. “Leon Barraza plans to stuff those cajones down your throat and watch you choke to death on your exaggerated machismo.”

“You killed Benito!” Ricky was yelling. “Benny was my friend. We went to school together. He wasn’t some shit-for-brains drug dealer!”

“He wasn’t supposed to be there,” Edgar said. "The word was out that Leon and Jose were holed up there for the weekend with a couple of whores. ”

“And you were too drunk and stupid to pass up an opportunity like that?” Salvador was now peeling the hair from his other thumb.

“I’m a young man, uncle. I drink when I want, but I am not stupid! And I am not some sniveling coward who lets the world walk all over him.” That shot was aimed at Patrick, whose only response was a brief smile.

“You killed Benito!”

“Yes, I killed Benny – and his whore - and the next time I will kill Leon and put his head on a stake in Uncle Sal’s front yard!”

“Her name was Gloria, asshole, and she wasn’t a whore – she was his girlfriend!”

“Did you know that Enrique and Benito had remained friends all these years?” Salvador asked.

Ricky was shocked. “How did you know that, uncle?”

“I know what I have to know to protect this family.” Salvador put the knife down and focused on Ricky. Leon Barraza and I dealt you and Benito out of the conflict after your parents were killed. We had a gentlemen’s agreement, one that all of our lieutenants, including Edgar, was well aware of.”

“I didn’t know Benny was in that house.”

“You didn’t know he wasn’t.”

Ricky was beginning to sense why he had been pulled from school in Buenos Aires and hustled off to Phoenix. He leaned over the table and placed his hand on Uncle Sal’s, a display of emotion that was unusual among the men of the Rios family. “Is Leon Barraza going to have me killed?”

“An eye for an eye, Enrique,” Salvador sadly responded. “Edgar killed their youngest, and now Leon feels that he is duty bound to kill ours.”

“So I’m to die.” Thoughts of medical school, marriage, and raising a good family - a proper family - in South America were evaporating before his eyes, like the morning mists on the Rio de la Plata.

“Hopefully not. Leon is a reasonable man, and he knows that you are no more to blame than Benito was. But he has to play the game in a very serious manner.”

“It’s a game?” Rage was not an emotion that came naturally to Ricky, but suddenly it was coursing through his body seeking an outlet for an explosion.

“Leon called me Sunday and said that he is placing a contract on you for one million dollars. It begins at midnight tonight and will be in effect for one year. Just to make certain that I understood your peril, he read me your address from one of the letters that you had sent to Benito.”

So it’s like hide-and-seek,” Ricky said looking at his watch, “and I’ve got eight hours to hide.”

“It’s been taken care of.” Salvador pushed himself back from the table and started to get up. “A truck will pulling into a truck stop on I-10 at 7:30. When he leaves, you will be on board – along with young people from several prominent families.”

“A truck? I’m to get in some stinking truck and go where?”

“To a very exclusive school. That’s all the information that I can share, that, and you will be safe.”

“And if I’m not.”

“If any harm comes to you, Enrique, much blood will be shed. That is a promise, a vow to God. You will officially disappear tonight, and when you are returned in a year our family issues with the Barrazas will be resolved.”

“No, sir. I’m going back to Argentina. I have friends there who will help me out. Does Aunt Silvia know what you are doing to me?”

“Si, my sister knows – and she is pissed. Bus she also knows that the Barraza family will not rest until they even the score. If we can make you disappear for a year, Leon Barraza will save some face and our issues will have been resolved through other measures.”

“Listen to Uncle Sal, pendejo. By the time you complete your year at the special school, the Barraza family will be in tatters. That I promise you.”

Ricky grabbed the pocket knife off of the table and held it above Edgar’s outstretched hand. “You are the stupidest asshole on the planet!”

“Easy, puta. You can’t frighten me.” Edgar smiled at Ricky and Uncle Sal. He kept his hand spread wide beneath the blade. “I’m the killer in this family.”

The rage found its outlet. Ricky screamed and brought the knife down with a swift vengeance. Edgar jerked his hand out of the way, just avoiding the blade. He was in the process of yelling “Mother of God!” when Salvador’s huge right hand caught him on the side of the head and sent him sprawling across the floor for the second time that day.

Patrick laughed out loud.

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

Are you going to begin by publishing the novel or screenplay?

Right good write!