THE OLD WHORE (Chapter 21), A Novel of Cartel Wars
Submitted for your entertainment while I’m on walk-about.
Sime (The Butcher) Boukalas ran one of three Macedonian hit teams who worked for Costas Lygeros a Greek boxing promoter, living in Istanbul. They called him the butcher both because he had been a butcher by trade and because of his lack of discrimination when taking out a target. Innocent bystanders were fair game when Sime Boukalas went to work.
The Mexican job turned out to be one of the most difficult that he’d undertaken in his twelve-year career as a professional murderer. Language became an issue and none of the usual crew spoke anything close to Spanish. As a result, he had to dig deep in his rolodex and pull up people that he would not normally take on a job.
They had been in Mexico for two days when he sent the three young gunmen to scout a club that Costas Lygeros told him had promise for intelligence information that might aid them in their efforts to locate the drug kingpin that they were instructed to kill. While members of Cartel Mexico Nuevo Generación hung out in the club from time to time, there were low-level street dealers that peddled smack on the street in Mexico City. Nevertheless, Sime sent his men in to reconnoiter the place and get used to the environment.
Ilarion and Hristo spoke Italian, which was close enough to Spanish, and Matej spoke Castilian, which is the only reason that he got the job. Sime always felt that Matej was a bit of a loose cannon—by Macedonian standards.
Matej, Hristo and Ilarion walked down two flights of stairs to Club Doña Esperanza, a hip-hop dive in the La Merced district of Mexico City.
In the basement dungeon, the deep bass vibrated the steel fillings in their teeth and the oppressive humidity and heat told them that they’d be able to mix business and pleasure. Wall-to-wall people from their late teens into their twenties mashed hard to the beat.
Hristo felt more at home in the club than Matej and Ilarion, his country cousins. This was how he grew up, the atmosphere of the club inspired him to violence, and it felt like mother’s milk to him.
Squeezing and pushing the people in the surging mass, out of their collective minds on Ecstasy, Hristo found the unisex toilet. When he walked in, it took him a moment to get his bearings. The room was large, no privacy barriers. A corrugated metal trough for men to pee in had been pegged to the far wall, but a woman squatted there, perched on the urinal, relieving herself. Half a dozen porcelain thrones lined the other wall. A man sat on one, and a woman on another.
A girl washed her face in one of several sinks propped on a plywood platform, her short dress far too short to hide her sex.
Taking the opportunity, Hristo hurriedly unbuckled his trousers and attempted to mount her. The girl seemed surprised at first, but generally pleased.
Matej was three minutes behind his cousin Hristo and found him fucking a girl on a filthy sink, fast, almost frantic. The girl, her brain gone on drugs, encouraged his cousin, moaning as Hristo banged her head against a polished metal mirror over the sink with each thrust.
She started screaming with pleasure as she came, Hristo pulled out and back, reached down into the pocket of his trousers, now around his ankles, drew out a small semi-automatic pistol and shot her in the head.
Matej shook his head. Hristo only seemed to be able climax when he did it like that. Pulling his own automatic, he wasted the three other people in the toilet: One round each to the chest, one round to the head. Then he grabbed Hristo and helped him pull up his pants. They met Ilarion on the way out.
“Not again?” Matej couldn’t hear anything but he understood his cousin’s question. He nodded ‘yes’ and Ilarion grabbed Hristo in a playful headlock.
Matej shoved them both, motioning toward the way out. People began to gravitate toward the toilet because a girl started screaming. Even though most were too wasted to see the bloody corpses and understand that they were genuinely dead, some of them might not be. Eventually one of them would raise an alarm. He wanted to be out of the club by then. Even in Mexico these days, Matej felt certain that four execution style murders would catch people’s attention.
Out of the club and down the street, Matej punched Hirsto in the nose, but not hard enough to break it. “We’re here to work, not for you to practice your kinks on the locals. You’re supposed to be a professional.”
“You resist from here on or the boss will kill you and he will replace you, Hristo.” He turned and muttered under his breath, “Prilep punk.”
“Yes, I’m from Prilep, but where are you from? Trebishte! The women look like sheep in Trebishte or the sheep look like women. I’m not sure what the difference is.”
Ilarion, also from Trebishte, said, “It’s easy to tell. You put sheep’s hooves into the tops of your boots when you fuck them but not the women. Their feet are too big.”
It was an old Trebishte joke and made Matej laugh as he reloaded his pistol’s magazine from loose cartridges in his pockets. “Where did Sime get these pistols?”
Ilarion, who had accompanied Sime on the pick up said, “Sime told me that they came from the employer.”
“A .380 doesn’t have enough penetration. It’s as if they were concerned about collateral damage. We need to get something with a lot more punch if we’re taking on a drug cartel.” Matej groused, dropped the magazine from his weapon, checked the load, put it back into the grip and did a press-check to insure that he had a round in the chamber.
A police siren grew louder as they put distance between themselves and the scene of the crime. They walked casually away from Club Doña Esperanza and toward the Hotel Calinda.
Ilarion and Hristo went up to the room. Matej went into the Sanborn’s drugstore on the ground floor to buy a Coke and a box of confections that looked like American Twinkies, but were labeled as ‘Bimbo’s’. That Hristo murdered the girl bothered him. That he had murdered the others somehow did not, but killing activated his sweet tooth for a reason that he never explored with the slightest bit of introspection.
By the time he got up to the room, Hristo and Ilarion were watching a soccer game on the small, cheap hotel television.
Both Hristo and Ilarion were first cousins. As a third cousin, he felt like more of a shirttail relative, however blood counted in Macedonia and he had always been treated as a first cousin.
The hotel had a condo-like kitchenette and that’s where Matej gravitated to fill his stomach once he’d gone through half of the Twinkie Bimbos. He poured dry Zucaritas cereal into a bowl—dry, because they didn’t have milk, and drank his soda while he ate alternate bites of cereal and Twinkies. A rusty electric space heater vibrated heat by his feet.
Over the cheering of the soccer game, he heard sex in the other room. Sime, the boss, didn’t have the homicidal kink that Hristo did, but he loved to screw. Two minutes after the rutting noises stopped, Varvara walked into the kitchen wearing nothing but an oversized dirty white sweatshirt with Kosovar flag on the front, and the words Prishtinë, Republika e Kosovës arranged in an arc over the flag. Varvara’s hair had that sex mess look to it. Matej liked her a lot, however, she belonged to Sime, which put her off limits. Varvara was young, small and sexy in that bleached blonde trashy city sort of way that Matej, a country boy, found irresistible.
Varvara knew the effect that she had on Matej and rubbed up against him as she lighted a cigarette and let it dangle from her lip, cultivating that drooping, I don’t give a shit look, that she’d copied directly from Sime.
Varvara officially managed the intelligence on this job, though everyone knew that she was Sime’s self-propelled semen receptacle. As with both Sime and Matej, she spoke Castilian.
She positioned herself in front of him, reaching down, rubbing his swelling penis. Matej responded by lifting her sweatshirt slightly, and touching her pert nipples with both hands.
Sime, shaved head, no neck and handlebar moustache walked out of the bathroom, his hairy stomach bulging over brief underwear. He took one look at Matej with his hands up under Varvara’s sweatshirt and bellowed. He lunged for the bedroom, and Matej knew he had headed for his handgun.
Matej pulled the small semi-automatic pistol from his trouser pocket and emptied the magazine into Sime as he lumbered to grab the Sig 9mm pistol on the dresser. Sime slumped. Matej reloaded with a fresh magazine and put three more rounds into him.
Hristo, Ilarion and Varvara stood at the bedroom door, thunderstruck.
“Gather everything up. We need to get out of Mexico before this blows up.”
“But the job,” Varvara sputtered. “We have to do the job.”
“Do you know all the details?”
Matej knew that she didn’t because Sime never gave up anything until the last possible minute. Knowledge is power.
“Pack.” Matej demanded, “We need to be out the door in two minutes.”
The next day, they boarded an Aeroflot flight out of Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport on their way back home via Elefthérios Venizélos International Airport in Athens. Matej took Sime’s place on the team and by default, inherited Varvara. The newly minted couple joined the mile-high-club in the first class restroom of the Ilyushin-96-300 on the flight across the Atlantic.
They met in Athens.
The explanation to the employer, David Thorpe, from an embarrassed Costas Lygeros went something like this: Sime Boukalas, the Butcher, hadn’t explained details of the job to his crew, as was his custom. Mexican street thugs murdered him while he imprudently conducted reconnaissance of a suspected Cartel hangout without back-up of any kind. All operational criteria passed with him and the funds to facilitate the mission (in cash) went to the local banditry, who’d murdered him.
“They just clipped him at random?”
Costas replied, “It’s Mexico. The beaches are empty, no tourists. Cruise ships have stopped visiting Puerto Vallarta because of the drug cartel murders. They even kill the people who fly down there to spend money.”
“My guys got out of town. I don’t blame them. They didn’t hang around to be next of kin, and I didn’t think that you would want the police to ask questions with potentially embarrassing answers.”
“Did anybody obtain a police report?”
Costas just looked at Thorpe with a ‘you’ve—got—to—be—kidding glare’.
“No, I expect not.”
Thorpe asked how long it would take to spin up another similar operation, hoping that operational security wouldn’t require him to remain in Athens a day longer than necessary. The cloak of secrecy had begun to hang heavy on his shoulders because of the impossibility of delegation beyond the small circle of knowledge in that particular information compartment where ARDENT QUEST lived.
Costas Lygeros promised to get back to him as soon as possible. Thorpe asked for an estimate. Lygeros said, “No longer than two months.” The team who went to Mexico didn’t want to return and nobody else wanted to go to Mexico. The feelings among the Macedonian ‘consulting community’ were that if anyone as experienced, ruthless, cunning and tough as The Butcher, could be hewn down by mere street thugs that they’d prefer to take safer work, closer to home, in Beirut.