The Cartel (41 page)

At least Barrera didn’t stick the envelope into her panties.

The Tapias will take care of her, Eddie knows that. They’re not going to let her go back to the pole. Kind of a shame, though, because that is something that Eddie would truly like to see.

Not as much as he’d like to see Yvette Tapia out of that black dress she wore to the funeral. He bets she has a black bra and panties under that, and it’s
hot.
And he knows just looking at her that the husband standing there beside her isn’t delivering the goods on a regular basis.

Come to a cowboy, darlin’. Let me take you out of the gate. I’ll stay on a lot longer than eight seconds, I’ll tell you what.

Even the Zetas—who hated Alberto—showed up, and they’re here now, helping Diego figure out how to go up against the Evil Empire. It’s tricky, because Barrera has federal cops in his pocket, and politicians. They used to be in everyone’s pockets—one big, happy family—but that’s over now.

Martín says, “Before we can move directly on Adán, the ground has to be prepared. We have to get rid of certain powerful enemies in the police.”

“Won’t that alert Adán to the threat?” Ochoa asks.

They’re allies now, Eddie thinks. The old quid for the quo is in—the Tapias have allowed the Zetas to take refuge in Monterrey; in return, the Zetas have agreed to join in a war against Barrera.

It’s just the start, Eddie thinks. All the cartels will realign, and the relationships with the cops and the pols will shift. The deck is going to be reshuffled, and who knows where the aces and kings—the cops and the politicians—are going to end up? Right now they sure seem to be in Barrera’s hand.

Eddie notices how Martín has taken over the meeting. Diego is still the chief in name, but it’s Martín who’s laying out the strategy.

Martín and Ochoa.

“We’ll frame it as revenge for Alberto’s killing,” Martín says. “Let Adán think we believe that it was the police who betrayed us. By the time he figures it out, we’ll have eliminated some of his key allies and be ready to move directly on him.”

Yeah, Eddie thinks. Easy to say, harder to do. These aren’t some local city cops, these are high-powered federal police with their own security details, men who didn’t get where they are by being stupid or careless.

But we don’t have a choice, Eddie knows. The feds took a swing at Diego and missed, so they’ll have to try again. We have to get to them before they can, but it’s going to take real planning—surveillance of their schedules, habits, security.

A war is a lot of work.

And Eddie has a feeling that from now on there’s going to be nothing but war.


Roberto Bravo, the director of intelligence for AFI, parks his SUV outside his Mexico City home. Tomorrow is a day off, he’s going to Puerto Vallarta, so he’s let his bodyguard go. As he gets out of his car, a man steps up and shoots him twice in the head.

Less than twenty-four hours later the administrative director of the Federal Preventative Police, José Aristeo, chats with a woman neighbor on the sidewalk in front of his home in the exclusive Coyoacán neighborhood. Two men approach and try to drag Aristeo away from the woman into his car. When he fights back, they shoot him in the neck and chest.

At 2:30 the next morning, Reynaldo Galvén is coming home to his house in the rough Ochoa section of Mexico City. He chose this neighborhood because it’s close to police headquarters, and Galvén is dedicated to his job. When you’re an AFI commander with your own protection detail, you’re not too worried about muggers.

Commander Galvén, the number two federal police officer under Gerardo Vera, is a little drunk after a wet evening at his club, but it’s all right because he’s flanked by two bodyguards. They walk him to the door, wait until he has his key in the lock, and then walk back to the car.

They shouldn’t.

When Galvén opens the door a man points a .380 Sig Sauer pistol at him.

Galvén didn’t become a top cop because he’s weak. The first shot goes through his right hand, but he still manages to grab the gunman by the wrist and rip the gun out of his hand.

The assailant pulls a second pistol, puts eight shots into Galvén’s chest and stomach, and runs. The bodyguards sprint back, subdue the shooter, and call for an ambulance, but it’s too late.

Galvén dies in the hospital minutes after arriving.

The shooter, a thirty-two-year-old former Mexico City policeman, says under interrogation that the motive was robbery.

Nobody believes it.

Galvén commanded the operation that killed Alberto Tapia.


Sal Barrera wishes the mechanics would hurry the fuck up.

It’s already coming on eight and, as stupid as it sounds, he has a curfew. Adán has him on a tight leash, but what’s he going to do? Adán’s not only his paycheck, he’s also the
patrón
of the family, and if Sal has even a hope of getting back into the business he has to eat Adán’s shit and smile.

So Adán basically put him on house arrest, but now unc is off breaking in his young bride and Sal was able to get out on the pretext of running errands in the city.

One of them is to pick up Adán’s new truck, so he can ride around his
finca
like an old
gomero,
and now Sal hopes there’ll be enough time to run by a club and have a little fun before he has to haul back to La Tuna. Might as well have a fucking ankle bracelet on. Finally,
finally,
the wrench monkeys lower the hydraulics and roll the truck off the skids.

Sal gets behind the wheel, Edgar slides in the middle, and César gets in and shuts the door. “Where are we going? Mandalay? Bilbao? Shooters?”

“Let’s do Bilbao,” Sal says. César’s mother owns Bilbao, so they won’t get a bill. It’s early, probably too early for there to be any real talent yet, but he still has a couple of hours before the Lobo turns into a pumpkin, and some of these Culiacán girls still like the
norteño
pickup truck look.

He pulls out.


When Eddie left Diego at his safe house outside Cuernavaca, it got truly strange.

“Come see Santa Muerte with me,” Diego said.

“That’s okay.”

“It will bring you luck,” Diego pressed. “Her blessing for the success of your mission.”

Diego insisted, so they had to troop into the little shrine to kiss the Skinny Lady’s bony ass. Diego made Eddie toss her a twenty, and then they had to kneel while Diego lit enough colored candles to fill out a Crayola box. Then Diego dipped his arms into a bowl and came up with his hands dripping blood.


Human
blood,” Diego said.

“Uhhh, where’d you get that?” Eddie had to ask, even though he really didn’t want to know.

“From an enemy.”

Well, I’m glad you didn’t get it from a friend, Eddie thought as Diego smeared first La Flaquita’s face and then his own with the blood and started mumbling some kind of voodoo shit or something. Then he reached toward Eddie’s face, but Eddie backed away. “Yeah, no. I’m good.”

“Your mission will succeed,” Diego said.

Yeah, I know it will, Eddie thinks now, and not because I tipped La Flaquita but because I brought fifteen of my best guys to make goddamn sure that the mission succeeds.

Now he looks at Sal Barrera get into the truck. Kid kills two innocent people—including a girl—and gets a new sled.

Must be nice being a Barrera.

Eddie pulls the trigger on the bazooka.

The warhead hits the front of the truck and goes off.

The Lobo hops.


At first Sal doesn’t know what happened.

His head bounces off the top of the cab, and then he looks over and sees Edgar’s face stuck halfway through the windshield. The engine is on fire, shooting flame and smoke. César is rattling like he’s amped on some kind of super crank, and then Sal sees bullets punching through the window and the door.

He bails. Gets out and runs toward the garage, and then he sees all the guns pointed at him.

“Nooooo!”
he screams. Then,
“Mamaaaaa!”


“Mama”? Eddie thinks.

Bitch.

Picking up his AR, he aims at what’s left of Sal Barrera. He does this only because he promised Diego he’d do it himself, because there really isn’t a lot left of Sal, who tumbles to the concrete and gets up to run because his body hasn’t got the message that his brain already knows.

He tumbles again and then lies still, one arm stretched out in front of him, blood pooling beneath him.

People are screaming, shoppers drop their bags and run, the mechanics crouch beside other cars and watch wide-eyed. Eddie notices with approval that his guys are still firing—into the air—to frighten any potential witnesses.

If that doesn’t do it, the truck exploding does.


Adán picks up the phone and hears Sondra’s screams.

Over and over and over again.


It’s been a day.

Adán had people on the phone to tame journalists all day, to reiterate that it was the Tapias who committed the cop murders. All the early stories had blamed the “Sinaloa cartel,” and as the day went on and the national mood shifted, he had to make sure that the new stories referred to Diego Tapia specifically.

Drug traffickers, no less than guerrillas, “swim in the sea of the people,” rely on the people for protection and information, and he can’t afford public scorn.

So call after call went out, from “unnamed sources,” on “deep background,” giving the real inside story on the murders, that it was the Tapias taking revenge for Alberto’s killing, that Adán Barrera had nothing to do with them, that he was, in fact, furious with Diego—to the extent that it might cause a permanent rift in the organization.

And calls had to go out to the politicians, too, reminding them of their obligations, of the liabilities that were now on them, as well. They would have to choose sides, and they should choose the side that is obviously going to win.

Some, no doubt, think that will be the Tapias.

After all, they’re the larger organization, have more money, more
sicarios.
Diego and Martín are still at large, and Ochoa isn’t taking Adán’s calls, which is not a good sign—the probability is that the Zetas will align with the Tapias.

That leaves me with what?

“I need you to go to Michoacán,” Adán says.

“I can’t leave Carla right now.”

“She’s your mistress, not your wife.”

“I know who she is, Adán, thank you.”

“Just for a day,” Adán says. “Meet with Nazario, renew the alliance with La Familia. We need more men, he can provide them.”

“Nazario considers you a traitor,” Nacho says. “The devil, actually.”

“He’d make a deal with the devil if it meant beating the Zetas,” Adán says. If Nazario could separate his emotions from his best interest, Adán thinks, he’d join with the rest of them until they’ve sucked all the marrow out of my bones, and then pursue his vendetta against the Zetas. But he can’t—he believes he’s waging some kind of holy war against the Zetas, so he’ll side with me again.

El Más Loco, indeed.

Adán convinces Nacho to go to Morelia and then goes upstairs to talk to Eva. His young wife is understandably confused over how to feel about the murder of her father’s mistress’s son, but unabashedly grieving over Salvador.

She’s known what her father’s business is, but this is the first time any of it has really touched her directly, and now he has to tell her that they need to leave the
finca,
only the second home she’s ever known, to go to another house in another part of the state.

Diego obviously knows where this house is, he knows the security system, he hired half the guards, although Adán has already replaced them with Gente Nueva. But it’s not safe here, and now he walks into the bedroom to tell her so. She’s been crying. Her eyes are red and puffy.

“For how long?” she asks when he tells her that they have to leave.

“I don’t know.”

“Days? Weeks?”

“I said I don’t know,” Adán snaps, and then regrets his tone when he sees the hurt look on her face. He’s never spoken sharply to her before, and he has to remember that she’s eighteen and this is all new to her. “I just want to make sure that you’re safe.”

He’s tired. What he wants is a hot shower and a weak scotch and then to go to bed, because they have to be up and out very early. A caravan of state police is going to escort them to the next
finca,
one that Diego has no knowledge of. What he doesn’t want to do is explain to his wife the realities of the life that she was born into.

Adán pours himself the drink, shucks off his clothes, gets into the shower, and sits on the tiled bench. He sips his scotch and enjoys the buildup of steam loosening his tight muscles.

Finishing his drink, he stands under the spray.

When he gets out and goes into the bedroom, he sees that Eva has completely misunderstood his mood, his need, and is lying in bed in a blue negligee, ready to give him sexual comfort.

He can’t help thinking that Magda would have read him better.

She would have had the scotch poured and pretended to be asleep when I got out of the shower. But Magda isn’t here—she’s based herself in Mexico City now. Wealthy, independent, stubbornly insisting on paying him the
piso
to move tons of cocaine through Laredo, a long way from the traumatized girl he met in Puente Grande. She’s come to Culiacán twice, and they met in a house for afternoon trysts, but he misses her.

Now Eva will feel hurt and inadequate if we don’t make love, and the fact is that it’s been more of a chore lately. She’s so desperate to get pregnant, and the effort feels like just one more thing he has to do in his day.

“Eva, darling, we have to be up before the sun.”

“I just thought you were stressed…”

I am, he thinks. God, I am.

“…and that this would help,” Eva says.

“I’m sad,” he says, “and in mourning.”

Which was stupid and cruel, he thinks, because now she’s not only embarrassed but also ashamed.

Eva quickly turns her back.

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