I'm not sure what I'm going to call it, my working title is F*cked, but here's the draft of the first chapter.
Chapter One Jorge
Fuck with me and if you're lucky, I'll shoot you. If you're unlucky, I'll make you goddamn suffer first. Jamal Blake had pissed me off bigtime and so I was determined to make him pay.
He’d rented an apartment under an alias, thinking it would be a safehouse, but the unthinking pendejo had paid the deposit by bank transfer. If he’d paid cash, he might have lived. But he didn’t and as I had a tap on his bank account, I knew straight away he was up to no good.
After a few days of watching him, it was pretty clear what his plans were. I let him run with it because, you know, give a man enough rope. By the time he was ready to rob me, I was two steps in front – and waiting for him.
I heard him run up the stairs, chuckling all the way, thinking he'd outsmarted me. Entering the apartment, he threw down a backpack, slammed the door shut and bolted it before even realising he wasn't alone. "What the fuck?"
He posed against the door, running his hand through his hair in an attempt to look cool. It would have been a fine effort if his hand hadn’t been shaking. "Boss.” It came out in a frightened squeak and he had to focus to get a manly baritone going. “What are you doing here?"
I let him see the cricket bat in my hand. "I came for my coke."
He sprang at me but I was faster. Being built like a barn didn't help him because I've been in more fights than Tyson Fury. As he pounced, I stepped aside lightly and whacked him in the gut with the bat. As he collapsed to his knees, I punched him down again.
In the movies, he'd be up and ready to go again. In real life, not being able to breathe means it's game over. He was on the floor, gasping and retching, giving me time to bash him again. It was a light blow to the back of the head, carefully calculated to put him out but not kill him. I didn’t want him taking the easy way out.
When he came to, I had him gagged and strapped to a kitchen chair. His eyes bulged as he saw me rip holes in the top and sides of a garbage bag. "I don't mind splatter," I told him, "but this is my lucky shirt and I have a meeting after this."
He tried to break through the bonds but I'd used an entire roll of duct tape. That stuff is so awesome that it can hold a revving car in place - if the lamp post or gate you tether it to is strong enough - so I just waited until he figured out it was no use.
It took him a good few minutes, Jamal was always a slow thinker, but he got to it eventually. He sat there, the gag distorting his mouth into an O of surprise. With his shaven head and eyes wide open, he looked like a bowling ball.
I hefted the bat. "You really are a stupid son of a bitch,” I informed him. "Did you really think you could rip off twenty kis of my coke? And get away with it?"
He shook his head, denying it with eyes rolling frantically.
"Don't lie to me. You were supposed to process the consignment, not steal it." I was mad because I'd trusted him. "I gave you a job, money and responsibility," I reminded him. "A life of respect, handed to you on a plate, and you fucked me over at first opportunity."
He was jerking around, nodding hard. It wasn't agreement; Jamal was trying to buy his way out of trouble. Told you he was stupid.
"Yes, my coke is in your backpack," I sighed. "Giving it back won't help." But I set it aside, just to make sure it stayed out of the way. I didn't want my revenge messing up my product. "You betrayed me, you disloyal hijo puta and now you’re going to make amends," I told Jamal. "Your death is going to show everyone what happens when you fuck with me."
Jamal moaned and pissed himself. I guess he was remembering the stories of how my family deal with the people who cross us. Crucifixion, boiling, dismemberment; we're very versatile. For this one, I was taking a leaf from the classics.
"Do you remember how Al Capone dealt with Scalise, Anselmi and Giunta, the disloyal scum who were going to betray him?" I asked. He hadn't but he was eyeing my bat and getting the message. "Capone was quick-tempered and he had them finished off with a shot to the head." The chair was rocking again, convincing me he was visualising his future just fine. "I’m very patient and so you'll have lots of time to consider your mistakes."
Having laid it out for him, I swung the bat, bringing it down on his right wrist. “You shouldn’t have tried to steal from me, Jamal.” All the little bones shattered in an audible crunch but his scream was muffled by the gag. I gave him a second to pull himself together. "I don’t like thieves." His forearm went with a second swing. Then I shattered the elbow, his upper arm and followed through with a swing at his collarbone.
Intense pain is interesting because it silences. Step on a man’s toe and he’ll roar; smash it to pieces and all you’ll get is a squeak. Also, while a whacking load of it will paralyse you, it won’t easily lead to unconsciousness, especially if you stay away from bashing them on the head.
Even so, I was careful to give him lots of time to recover and when he turned blue, I removed the gag. "Deep breath," I told him. "We've a ways to go."
There are more than two hundred bones in the human body and I was aiming at breaking as many of Jamal's as possible. I worked my way up one side and then back down the other side. His knees, ankles, and shins were tougher but I play a bit of golf, so I reversed the bat and practiced my drive shot.
The bat crushed bone and cartilage but with having a fantastic swing, we got lots of splinters breaking through the skin. With his heart pumping away, the splatter got as far as the walls. I was glad I had suited up.
Because I took paced myself, he was breathing great when I started on his ribs. That's when the odd splash became a constant spray. I'd whack, he'd cough, and so it got real messy real quick.
Twenty minutes later, he made an ominous rattle. I stopped, ready to give him a breather, but the weak son of a bitch died on me. Looking around, there was gore galore but the scene was still lacking that iconic touch. I wanted my message to send shivers of fear throughout the country, and this was too tame.
It came to me as I took in the fact that the window had escaped the splatter. I stepped back, took aim at his head, and got a terrific rain of brains. Inspired, I whacked a couple of times more, and got an eyeball to pop out. It was perfect. Quentin Tarantino couldn't have done better.
Rinsing the bat under the kitchen tap and packing it away with my makeshift poncho in a bag took seconds. Nobody was on the stairs, or in the hall, and I didn't attract any attention as I walked down the street. Thanks to a light rain, typical damn English weather, my hat, scarf and coat would obscure any CCTV.
A bus took me across town in fine anonymous form, delivering me right to a butcher’s dumpster. The bag went in, certain to be obscured by all the other gory refuse. The bat slipped into a sewer. Rounding a corner, I dived into the underground and fifteen minutes later, I was stepping into my office building, dropping off my coke and picking up my ride.
I'd treated myself to a Lexus just the week before and so it still had that awesome scent of new leather. With Shakira’s sultry voice keeping me company, the drive to the Boltons in Chelsea was a snap.
Kowalczyk House was rigged out with Greek columns, marble statues and a fountain big enough to float a battleship but the guards on the gate needed a shave. They were sloppy as well, checking under the chassis with a mirror but forgetting to look under the hood. They didn’t x-ray the present I’d brought, either. Lucky for them I was there for a friendly visit and so they didn’t end up piled up dead under the fancy hedge an artist had trimmed into a row of peacocks.
Fifteen minutes later, I wasn’t feeling so friendly. A starched-up butler had led me into the house quickly enough but he’d poured me a cheap vodka and fucked off, leaving me to kick my heels in a lounge.
The room was dominated by an ego wall, covered with photos of Kowalczyk with the rich and shameless. I counted two supermodels, three billionaire businessmen and a minor royal. There were also shots of his boat, his chopper and his racehorse. I patted a sofa cushion. Surprisingly, it was stuffed with feathers, not cash.
I didn’t like what I'd seen of the rest of the house much either. It was loaded with more marble, gold framed paintings and topped off with crystal chandeliers. It was way too sparkly for my taste.
In an effort to avoid permanent eyestrain, I was looking out at the garden. Eyeing a marble goddess, probably stolen from an ancient temple, I spotted a girl popping out from the leafy peacocks.
She wore a loose tunic of blue-green silk that covered her from neck to knees but evoked an aura of lushness. As she paused by the statue, I had to fight for breath. She was a heavenly vision, all right: long legs, a sweet swell of delicious curves and a cloud of copper curls.
The body was a dream but I couldn’t see if she had a face to match. The French windows were locked tight and as I pulled at the levers, rattled them, the girl darted across the gravel and dived into the house.
Shooting across the room, wrenching open the door, thinking I’d catch up with her in the hall, I collided with the butler. “Hell!”
The starch was frosty. “Mr Kowalczyk will see you now.”
I was cool, “Yeah, sure,” and very disappointed to see the beauty was nowhere to be seen. We trekked in silence across the hall, down a bling filled corridor and finally, I was ushered into an inner sanctum.
The room was just like the rest of the house, opulent and stuffed with expensive show-off bling yet cold, empty and lifeless. The owner, Eryk Kowalczyk, was pretty much the same. I took in the chalky skin, washed-out blue eyes, dull pale hair, and tell-tale pinched look around the thin-lipped mouth. Also, while he was no older than thirty, he was running to fat. His belly bulged and hung over his belt.
I didn’t take to him but I didn’t let it show. "Mr Kowalczyk, it's a pleasure to finally meet you."
The disrespectful bastard had kept me waiting and now he wasn't smiling or apologising as he should have. Instead, he offered a half-hearted handshake and waved me to a chair - leather, luxurious and comfortable but a far cry from the sofa setup by the window he used for VIPs.
He didn't dismiss his soldiers, either. Four of them, all packing, and hanging by the door where they could hear every word, instead of at a discrete distance as they should when men of respect meet.
I considered walking out but decided against it. Back home in Mexico, my rep meant only a man on a suicide mission would fuck with me but this was London and I was a newcomer.
Only a pendejo mistakes insult for ignorance and so I made sure he understood who he was dealing with. "Jorge Santos," and in case that didn't ring any bells, "I am head of Nuevo Laredo Import and Export Incorporated, London branch."
"I know," Kowalczyk sounded offhand. "It's a cover for the Zeta cartel. Your cousin, Arturo Vazquez, is the head of your organisation back in Mexico. I have heard of him."
Great. The implication that Arturo would have been welcomed with open arms stung.
"Your cousin wants to talk to me?" Kowalczyk rumbled.
As if I were a goddamn messenger boy! "No," I said quietly. "But I will tell him you spoke of him with respect."
There was a pause, and then Kowalczyk nodded. "All right. What is your business with me?"
It was abrupt to the point of rudeness but I kept my cool. Eastern Europeans don't smile much and Kowalczyk was known to be particularly sour. Or perhaps it was the stained teeth. “I am here on business but it’s a small matter. Mainly, I came because my club stands right next to yours. Being neighbours, I thought it was time we met.”
The pause was infinitesimal. “I see.” There was no life in those faded eyes. “I’ve heard of you, of course. It’s good to put a face to the name.”
It was grudging but I could live with it. “Same here!”
The lips stretched but it was more a rictus than a smile. All in all the man was a disappointment.
Eryk Kowalczyk had grown up unconnected but after a short period of working for a gang in Prague, he’d come to London. He’d learned his basics because he’d built up a good business for himself, based on the classic foundations of narcotics, women, and bootleg booze.
On paper Kowalczyk looked good but I wasn't getting that vibe that comes from power and success. The Armani suit would’ve been class if it had fit right but there was no sparkle in the man. I'd expected wolf and what I got was blobfish.
Kowalczyk didn’t have any manners, either. He should have offered me a drink, at least. As I was not dragged up from a Polish sewer, I smiled and presented my gift. "A small token of friendship." I handed over the case, opening it so he and his soldiers could admire the lighter inside. It was plain gold but what made it interesting was the inscription, plata or plomo.
I took it out and showed it to him. "I thought you'd enjoy this. It was Paolo Escobar's." Seeing Kowalczyk look blank, I explained. "That was his favourite line, you know. Silver or lead." Typical Escobar, it had explained his work ethic: you took his money and stood aside or took a bullet and let him step over your dead body.
"I know." Kowalczyk's voice was just like him; flat, dull and thuggish.
"The lighter was originally a gift from Pershing Kolikowski." But even the mention of Poland's biggest crime lord didn't seem to register.
"Thanks." He took the box and set it down. "You mentioned my club. There’s an issue?"
Right down to business. "Yes." I settled in the chair and realised right away he'd rigged it, cutting the legs short so that he dominated the room. It was a cheap trick and I didn't let it bother me. "Your club, The Grand, and mine, Bubbles, are back to back. There's just an alleyway dividing them."
"We had the land office round recently. They say there was an error in their documentation. The original property line was a little off." I brought out my phone and showed him the map. "Your private car space is on our property and our south wall is on yours."
Kowalczyk frowned. "Is that so?"
"It's no big deal," I assured him. "My lawyers tell me that if we sign an agreement to leave matters as they stand, the problem goes away."
"I don't like lawyers." His fingers tapped a cheery tattoo on the oak topped desk. "I can park on the street but you will have to rebuild your wall." He grinned, his lips pulling away from yellowing fangs. "You'll need to close your club."
I wasn't mad because in those few seconds I'd learned all I needed to about his character. Kowalczyk was a nasty piece of work, which was expected. He'd built a criminal empire, and you don't do that by being nice. What surprised me was that he was stupid. Wars cost a fortune and therefore cooperation is always a better move. "We're neighbours," I pointed out. "And we're in the same business. I would prefer to be allies."
His shrug spoke volumes.
“We appeal to the same demographic: young, wealthy urbanites, looking for a good time.” I’ve got a business degree from Cornell. “We could cross market, help each other along.”
“I don’t need your help!”
That took me aback. “Forgive me, sometimes my English isn’t up to speed.” It was a lie but I thought he’d misunderstood me. And, as I am all about business, I don’t mind making an apology if it nets me a nice profit. “What I meant was, we could support each other. Like, you might want access to some of our bands.”
His club, The Grand was dead compared to Bubbles because I had cornered the market on two dozen of London’s finest live music bands. While his staff could take breaks whenever they liked, mine were manning lines of patrons and working full out their entire shift.
“I don’t need you. My club’s better than yours.” Kowalczyk looked as if he were ready to spit. I’d always thought envy was green but the Pole was turning puce. “Anything else?” he raged.
"You're paying top dollar for your coke because you buy from middlemen." I played my ace. "Buy it direct from me, and you can make an extra ten percent. It'll be better quality too."
He didn't even blink. "No."
I'd approached him with respect, offered friendship, and the fuck had thrown it in my face. It took an act of will not to shoot him on the spot.
"You'll have to shut up shop," Kowalczyk sneered.
I wouldn't but I wasn't telling him that. It's stupid to telegraph your intentions. Kowalczyk wasn't very smart.
"Rebuilding that wall will take year." The lips thinned. "Even if you get permission, it'll cost a fortune."
“You can’t afford it,” Kowalczyk sneered.
It was beyond the line. “We Zetas have deep pockets.”
Another shrug. “You might be a power in Mexico but this is London.”
It was too fucking much. I had to grip the chair to stop myself from launching at him. The four thugs lounging against the wall chortled, openly enjoying themselves. That settled me. I didn’t flinch because they were dead men. I don’t tolerate disrespect, not ever. They’d be gone by sundown.
“I might buy you out,” Kowalczyk mocked. “If the price is right.”
“I’ll be sure to consider it.”
He didn’t even respect me enough to try and take me out. Keeping my temper in check was easy because the cabron would soon be six feet under. Kowalczyk liked partying, and if I blew him away in his own club, his terrified customers would run next door, into my place. I do like a win-win.
There was no point in staying but as I got up to go, she walked in. The tunic fluttered and rippled, drawing attention to the rich lines. To my delight, she had a face to match the poem of a body: huge hazel eyes, a little nose with an enchanting upturned tip and flawless skin.
One look was all it took. I saw her and knew I wouldn't rest until she was mine.
Kowalczyk was on his feet in an instant. "Persia." The way he drank her in told me he was solid. “Come here.”
The eyes flickered but after a long second, she undulated over, putting one foot in front of another as if she were strolling down a catwalk, curves shimmering under the silky dress.
He put a paw around her waist, pulled her in tight against his overfat gut and, looking me right in the eye, growled, "We're done. The answer is no."
He was a dead man, so I was ice. "I'll be seeing you."
She was so close, that her perfume drifted over, a sweet, rich, exotic scent that hinted at silk sheets and decadent passion. She didn't even look my way but his radar warned him I was coveting his woman. His fingers splayed, digging into her soft flesh and whitening as they pinched.
Curiously, she didn't say a word. She just stood there, as devoid of emotion as the statue in the garden as he mauled her.
“Where were you?” The question was loaded with entitlement. “I sent for you an hour ago and they couldn’t find you.”
“I was in the garden,” the low tones were distant.
The hand gripped her admonishingly. “Next time, take your phone.”
This wasn’t a wife or girlfriend, this was a possession. She looked like an angel but the ugly fingers claiming her told me she’d sold herself to the devil. I've a strong stomach but surprisingly, the knowledge revolted me.
Kowalczyk knew. The lips were a narrow line as he opened his mouth and screwed himself. "You're a loser. Do yourself a favour and go back to where you came from."
I had my hand on my gun before conscious thought kicked in. "What the fuck?"
The soldiers were between us a heartbeat later. Kowalczyk just talked on. "Everyone knows you're a fuckup. Your cousin got you the job. And when you got shot, by a fucking amateur, they sent a low-ranking flunky from Mexico to save your arse."
Fury flooded through me, turning the hot desire for revenge to ice. The insult was too much to bear. Death was too easy. I'd destroy him, rip him apart, bit by bit.
He mistook my silence for cowardice. "You can't take care of business."
"If you're quite done, I'll be seeing you."
He shrugged, completely oblivious to the underlying threat, but the girl's eyes lifted and locked on mine, little flecks of green and gold lighting up as she examined me. The swift appraisal packed a boxer’s punch. This was no empty-headed slut for sale; she radiated intelligence.
It decided me; I'd destroy Kowalczyk, ripping away the business he'd built, the house he was proud of, the celebs that flocked around him, and when he went into a pauper's grave, he'd go knowing I was boning his woman.
I nodded at her. “Be seeing you, too.”
The girl saw right through me. Her eyes narrowed with comprehension, the sparkle darkening. “I don’t think so.” Registering her disdain in every inch, she shrugged off Kowalczyk's iron grasp, threw back her shoulders and then, mockingly, she laughed. At me!
The stolid Pole and his goons had been bad enough but to have a girl mock me was the last straw. Somehow I got out of that house, her contempt haunting me as I tore out the gate. I don't remember the drive back but as I pulled up in my VIP reserved parking spot, the humiliation had seared into white hot need for revenge.
I was decided: as they shovelled dirt over Kowalczyk's corpse, she would be in my bed, screaming. I’d make her life hell and I’d see to it she’d suffer an eternity. I’d make the bitch pay.
FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED!
The Los Zetas Cartel series